How accurate is the text of the New Testament?

January 1st, 2020

The original documents that make up the New Testament had a limited life. Since there was no printing in those days, copies were made by hand, and copies of copies, and so on. So how reliable was the copying? If you investigate this question you’ll find an enormous range of answers.

Sceptics will tell you there have been so many changes in transmission we can’t have any confidence in the text. The early church has altered what was written, they say, to suit their doctrinal agendas, and copying was like a game of “Chinese Whispers” (excuse the racism, but that is the term often used) where the message is distorted as it is transmitted.

On the other hand, christian apologists say we have so many more copies than any other ancient manuscript, and this allows us to verify that copying has been accurate, there are few doubtful words and no christian doctrine is affected by the uncertainties.

How can we get a handle on the truth between these two extremes?

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The Exodus (book review)

December 29th, 2018

What should we make of the story of the Exodus in the Old Testament?

Two million people escape slavery in Egypt after a series of savage plagues, with God leading the way. They escape the pursuing Egyptian army by walking through the waters of the Red Sea, which God miraculously parts, then closes on the army drowning them all while the Israelites gloat.

God miraculously provides them with food and water in the desert, gives them his laws including the Ten Commandments engraved on stone, but only after killing 3,000 of them for worshiping an idol. God also sends other punishments for disobedience – fire, an earthquake and venomous snakes, but also helps the Israelites kill their enemies.

All in all it is a violent and supernatural story, but eventually the Israelites reach their destination, the Promised Land of Canaan.

The story is foundational for the Jews and important for christians. But many find it unbelievable. Some disbelieve in the supernatural, some have problems with the violence of a supposedly loving God, some cannot believe that 2 million people were involved. Some sceptics use the difficulties in the story to argue that the Bible is unhistoric and christian belief baseless.

These sceptics are supported by most historians and archaeologists, who say there is no evidence for the events portrayed.

A new book by Richard Friedman takes a fresh look at the Exodus and charts a course between the extremes of scepticism and faith.

I was given this book as a Christmas present, and I have finished it already, so that gives you an idea that I found it absorbing and easy to read.

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“I don’t set much store by signs and wonders, but ….”

November 12th, 2017

Aussie novelist Tim Winton is without doubt my favourite writer. I especially love That Eye the Sky, a novel of a family that is put under pressure by a serious car accident, and finds relief in unexpected places. It has been made into a film and two stage plays.

And it turns out that so much of the storyline is taken from real events when Tim was just a boy, something that was maybe miraculous, and which made a deep impression on him and his whole family

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Strong evidence of God?

July 31st, 2017

What would be strong evidence for God?

Some look outwards to the universe or inwards to ourselves, and argue that God is the most plausible explanation for the beginning and the design of the universe, or for human consciousness, freewill, rationality and ethical sense. Others point to Jesus, the man who was God, his miracles, claims and resurrection.

But I would guess that most people would like to have a personal revelation – God appearing to them or healing them in some irrefutably miraculous way.

And I can’t help feeling that Jackie Pullinger offers food for thought for these people.

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Book review: A Fortunate Universe

February 17th, 2017

I have been waiting for this book for a long time, and while it isn’t perfect, it doesn’t disappoint.

The so-called “fine-tuning”note 1 of the universe has been the subject of much scientific investigation and philosophical thought since it became apparent less than 50 years ago. Aussie cosmologist Luke Barnes has written and talked about fine-tuning more than most in recent years, so I was excited to see he had put it all together in book form.

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That nagging feeling that you’ve been wrong all your life

July 19th, 2016

Mark Bauerlein is Professor of English at Emory College. He has written books on modern culture, and written articles for several popular American magazines. He has been called one of the Independent Women’s Forum’s “favorite intellectuals”.

And five years ago, after more than three decades as a comfortable atheist, Mark converted to christianity. What happened?

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Holy story-telling Batman! It’s Invent-a-Jesus!

September 21st, 2015

Batman & Robin

A lot of book have been written about Jesus. It’s not really surprising. An obscure boy from nowhere becomes perhaps the most influential person who ever lived. A third of the world believes he was divine.

And so the books keep rolling off the presses – or off the keyboards these days when anyone can be a published author. Everyone can have an opinion about Jesus!

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Is the human mind evidence of God?

October 27th, 2014

Looking at the stars

We human beings are aware of ourselves in ways that robots and computers are not, we can think in ways they cannot, and we firmly believe some things are truly right or wrong. Granted humans have evolved by natural selection, science finds it difficult to produce an explanation of these facts – how does a set of physical processes lead to such non-physical outcomes?

These matters have therefore formed the basis of arguments for the existence of God. So I am naturally interested when a non-theistic philosopher and a non-theistic blogger find there are good reasons to question the naturalistic explanations.

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Book review: CS Lewis vs the New Atheists

March 27th, 2014

Book cover

I didn’t have high expectations of this book. I’m not that much interested in the so-called new atheists, nor in those who argue against them. And I think the world probably has quite enough books about CS Lewis.

But I am interested in the philosophical arguuments generally. And I am a great fan of Lewis – he was a very formative influence on me as a teen and young adult. So I thought I’d read the book more or less for old times’ sake.

I’m glad I did.

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