This was the headline on a Daily Beast story last week: “One of Jesus’ Most Famous Lines Wasn’t in Original Gospels.”
I’m sure it had the intended effect on its target audience: Those who don’t believe the Gospel and those who don’t want to believe.
The fact that the headline is misleading, inaccurate and not “news” is beside the point. Remember, the name of the publication is “the Daily Beast.” Think about it. What kind of mind names a “news” organization, which the Daily Beast is not, to give the devil his due in the publication’s nameplate?
So, what’s the “scoop” all about?
Much about nothing.
It all comes down to something Bible scholars have known for a long time. What is believed to be the oldest manuscript of the Gospel of John doesn’t include a story familiar to almost all Christians.
That, of course, doesn’t make it the most complete manuscript, nor the most accurate, which it is assumed to be by some. After all, how could it be the oldest, most complete and accurate if it doesn’t have a story found widely in so many others?
I wrote about this familiar passage recently – the one commonly referred to as “Jesus and the woman taken in adultery.” I approached the passage differently from most others – drawing from the biblical context of the passage – found both in what we call the Old Testament and the New – since it represents such a critically important link between both.
But let’s think about the many ways a legitimate passage of the Bible could be found in later manuscripts and not earlier. One needs to remember that all writing in the Bible was originally done by hand, for the simple reason there were no printing presses. Every manuscript had to be created or copied. None of them is signed. They are not often dated. No one knows who edited them, who was responsible for their care, and why they were preserved or not.
What believers in Jesus accept is that the Word – all of it, unexpurgated, not added to, not subtracted from, in its original, pure, perfect state – was inspired, written and preserved by the God who gave it to them.
The Hebrew scribes exhibited great care to preserve not just every word, but every jot, or yod, or tittle, or nikkud, as Jesus would say. Those who copied the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible scrolls paid the greatest attention to the minutiae of detail and such marks attached to each consonant throughout the entire text – the simplest stroke. They even numbered every letter, word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, section and scroll to ensure that the total equaled that of the text being copied before allowing it to enter the Temple or synagogue.
That was not necessarily the case when non-Hebrew scribes preserved with non-Hebrew traditions what would later become known as New Testament Scripture. That’s one reason the oldest preserved New Testament manuscripts might not be the most complete or accurate, while the oldest Hebrew manuscripts found read exactly as their modern counterparts do.
What is the real purpose of these speculative, sometimes sensational reports about the authenticity of the Word of God? It’s to raise doubt. Why would non-believers be so interested in provoking skepticism? Because they don’t want to be accountable to God. The main reason people reject God is because they don’t want to be accountable to Him and to His Word.
God has every reason to prove His Word.
It’s explained in Hebrews 4:12: It’s persuasive. It has the power of truth: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
So, who are you going to believe – the fake news or your Holy Bible?
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