The Bible is verbally inspired- down to its very words?
We have copies of these writings, none of them completely accurate.
How does one ascertain what the originals of the Bible said,
given the circumstances that:
1. they were inspired
2. we don't have them?
Interpretations of texts of scripture?
consider,....hundreds, or even thousands of ways people interpret the book of Revelation-
or consider all the different Christian denominations, filled with intelligent and well menaing people who base their views of how the church should be organized and funciton on the Bible, yet all of them coming to radically different conclusions (Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Appalachian snake-handlers, Greek Orthodox.............and on and on.
Texts do not simply reveal their own meanings, Texts are interpreted (just as they are written) by living, breathing human beings, who can make sense of the texts only by exploring them in light of their knowledge.
Traditions were modified, words of the tradition were put into their own words...Each of the authors was human, each of them had a different message, each of them was putting the tradition he inherited into his own words.
It has been clear to most scholars since the nineteenth century that Mark was the first Gospel written, Matthew and Luke both used Mark as one of the sources for their stories about Jesus. This means that it is possible to compare what Mark says with what Matthew and/or Luke say and by doing so, one can see how Mark was changed by later authors. Later authors borrowed Mark's sentences wholesale, but on other occasions they changed what he had to say, sometimes radically. Mark portrays Jesus as in deep agony in the face of death...his soul was "sorrowful unto death," falling on his face in prayer....on his way to be crucified his is silent the entire time, he says nothing....until the very end he calls out in anquish, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Luke had this version of the story available to him, but he modified it. He removed Mark's comment that Jesus was highly distraught, as welll as Jesus's own comment that he was sorrowful unto death. Rather than falling on his face, Jesus simply kneels, He is not silent on the way to his crucifixion but speaks to a group of weeping women, while being crucified he is not silent but asks God to forgive those responsible, "for they don't know what they're doing." Rather than asking God why he had been forsaken--there is no cry of dereliction, he instead prays in full confidence of God's support and care: "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit."
Mark wanted to stress that God works in highly mysterious ways, and that seemingly inexplicable suffering (Jesus in doubt ..why have you forsaken me?).....???
Luke wated to teach a different lesson...Jesus was not in despair, he was calm and in control, knowing what was happening to him, why it was happening, and what would occur later. Maybe Luke wanted to give and example to persecuted Christians about how they themselves should face death, in full assurance that God is on their side despite their torments ("into your hands I commend my spirit")...?????
The idea that Luke changed the text before him--(gospel of Mark) does not put him in a unique situation among early Christian authors. This, in fact is what all the writers of the NT did, along with all the writers of all the Christian literature outside the NT- writers of every kind everywhere. They modified their tradition and put the words of the tradition in their own words. John's Gospel is quite different from each of the other three (he never has Jesus tell a parable, or cast out a demon; and in his account, unlike theirs, Jesus gives long discourses about his identity and does "signs" in order to prove that what he says about himself is true.) The message of Paul is both like and unlike what we find in the gospels (he doesn't say much about Jesus's words or deeds, for example, but focuses on what for Paul were critical issues, (that Christ died and was raised from the dead.) The message of James differs from the message of Acts; the message of the Revelation of John differs from the message of the Gospel of John; and so forth. Each of these authors was human, each of them had a different message, each of them were putting the tradition he inherited into his own words.
When Luke prepared his gospel and used Mark as his source, it was not his intention to copy Mark, he planned to alter Mark in light of other traditions that he had read and heard about Jesus. In numerous places, the scribes altered the tradition they inherited; and on occasion they did this in order to make the text say what they felt their tradition should say. The scribes changed scripture the way we all change scripture, every time we read it. They, like we....were trying to see how the words of the authors' text might have significance for them, and how they might help them make sense of their own situations and their own lives.
If the full meaning of the words of scripture can be grasped by studying them in Greek and Hebrew...doesn't this mean that most Christians, who don't read ancient languages, will never have the complete access to what God wants them to know?
And doesn't this make the doctrine of inspiration a doctrine only for the scholarly elite, who have the intellectual skills and leisure to learn the languages and study the texts by reading them in the originals? What good does it do to say that the words are inspired by God if most people have absolutely no access to these words, but only to more or less clumsy renderings of these words into a language, such as English, that has nothing to do with the orginal words? Even if God had inspired the original words, we don't have the original words. The doctrine of inspiration was in a sense irrelevant to the Bible as we have it, since the words God reputedly inspired had been changed and in some cases lost. The reason for God to inspire the Bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place.
portions of the above writing has been quoted from:
Misquoting Jesus by, Bart D. Ehrman
Learned Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German and French- majored in English literature and field of textual criticism. World class bibical scholar, authority on the history of the New Testament, the early church, and the life of Jesus. Chairs the Department of Religious Studies and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.