Chapter 4: The Bible

15 March 2006

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In this chapter, Krueger provides a critique of the Bible. He questions the value of biblical prophecy, but this is an area in which I am not well-versed. My opinion is that prophecy cannot really be used as an argument for or against Christianity, because there are too many factors to consider. In any case, I don’t think that prophecy fulfillment is required to establish the truth of Christianity.

In any case, his critique of the Bible is unsatisfactory. He basically mentions 12 major factors for why we should not trust the Bible, but almost all of them are completely exaggerated.

The Time of the Bible

Many of the factors Krueger mentions are only considered to be problems these days- they were completely common for documents written in ancient times. This includes secular histories, such as those of Josephus, which scholars use to actually determine what happened in ancient times. If the problems Krueger mentions really are such big problems, then so too are those ancient secular documents which almost all scholars seem to trust and rely on.

For example, Krueger complains about the anonymity of most of the books of the Bible, but it was very common for books to be written anonymously in ancient times (such as Tacitus’s highly regarded Annals). And, in any case, good circumstantial evidence can lead us to the likely authors of all the books of the Bible. 1

Krueger also complains that the Gospels were written “decades” after the life of Jesus. But this is by no means worse off than almost anything found in ancient times. And a few decades is still within the time-frame in which there were eye-witnesses. Furthermore, Christ’s ministry took place in the first century, when Jews were extremely skilled at memorization, and preserving the words and deeds of Christ would have been viewed as vital by Jewish Christians.

Next he complains that we don’t have the original documents, only copies of copies. But to expect anything different simply absurd. Moreland points out the vast discrepancy between the Bible and other ancient secular works, after analyzing a table listing 16 ancient works, and their manuscript evidence:

“A brief perusal of the table indicates that for a representative sample of ancient historical works, we possess only a handful of manuscripts which are, on the average, one thousand years removed from their originals.

In contrast to this, the New Testament documents have a staggering quantity of manuscript attestation. Approximately 5,000 Greek manuscripts, containing all or part of the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible done by Jerome from 382-405) and more than 350 copies of Syriac (Christian Aramaic) versions of the New Testament (these originated from 150-250; most of the copies are from the 400s). Besides this, virtually the entire New Testament could be reproduced from citations contained in the works of the early church fathers. There are some thirty-two thousand citations in the writings of the Fathers prior to the Council of Nicea (325).

The dates of the manuscript copies range from early in the second century to the time of the Reformation…” 2

Says John A. T. Robinson: “The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.” 3 Krueger tries to make manuscript evidence look like a weakness for the accuracy of the Bible, when in actuality it is a powerful strength.

Krueger also complains that there are “thousands” of manuscript variants. But he drastically exaggerates his case, for save perhaps the few examples he mentions, manuscript variants are not really a concern at all. Says Blomberg:

“All kinds of minor variations distinguish these manuscripts from one another, but the vast majority of these variations have to do with changes in spelling, grammar, and style, or accidental omissions or duplications of words or phrases. Only about 400 (less than one per page of English translation) have any significant bearing on the meaning of the passage, and most of these are noted in the footnotes or margins of modern translations and editions of Scripture (unlike the KJV)…. But overall, 97-99% of the NT can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt, and no Christian doctrine is founded solely or even primarily on textually disputed passages.” 4

Other Complaints against the Bible

Krueger claims that the early church encouraged forgery and burnt opposing material, but he offers few examples. Furthermore, he does not explain, even if he is right about the church’s tendency to forge, why it is that we could not analyze the Bible and decide which verses were most likely forged and which were not.

He also claims that most of the books of the New Testament are “known” to be forgeries, but he provides absolutely zilch as far as evidence for this claim. He also complains about the supposed literary dependence of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but this is in no way a problem even if it is true. Furthermore, he mentions concern with the development of the Canon, but for this issue I refer elsewhere. 5, 6

Krueger contends that the Bible contradicts known facts about nature and the ancient world. For all of his claims of falsehood and contradiction I refer to Tektonics.org and Christian-thinktank.com. These websites satisfactorily answer the objections made by Krueger.

However, in any case, must we assume that the Bible is free from error in order to be a committed Christian? I would say not. As long as the story of Jesus Christ is told with relative accuracy, and we have reason to believe that He is the Son of God and rose from the dead, then a strong foundation for Christianity is already laid, and the supposed problems mentioned by Krueger are irrelevant.

Conclusion:

Krueger’s complaints against the Bible are oftentimes quite exaggerated. For example, he brings up the issue of manuscript evidence, but the Bible is actually by far the best attested ancient writing we possess. That he would make an issue of this actually borders on deception. The Bible is in much better shape than Krueger would ever admit.


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NOTES:

1. Holding, Gospel Dates; Gospel Authors; Gospel Freedoms, found at http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_02_02_02.html

2. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, p. 135 See book review.

3. Robinson, Can We Trust?, p 36; cited from Geisler, Why I am a Christian, p 148

4. Craig, Reasonable Faith, p 194 See book review.

5. Holding, Canon Fire, found at http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_02_01_01.html

6. Holding, Canon Fire II, found at http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_05_01_01.html




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