Tag Archives: Newsweek

Kurt Eichenwald: wilful ignorance of New Testament scholarship so severe, it’s a sin

Dan Wallace is the best-known evangelical expert in New Testament manuscripts. He wrote a strong response to a non-scholarly article from a journalist, which appeared in the far-left Newsweek.

Intro:

Every year, at Christmas and Easter, several major magazines, television programs, news agencies, and publishing houses love to rattle the faith of Christians by proclaiming loudly and obnoxiously that there are contradictions in the Bible, that Jesus was not conceived by a virgin, that he did not rise from the dead, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The day before Christmas eve (23 December 2014), Newsweek published a lengthy article by Kurt Eichenwald entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” Although the author claims that he is not promoting any particular theology, this wears thin. Eichenwald makes so many outrageous claims, based on a rather slender list of named scholars (three, to be exact), that one has to wonder how this ever passed any editorial review.

Best snip:

Error 1: Gross Exaggerations that Misrepresent the Data

I will address just one issue here—the notion that the original Bible is unknowable. Eichenwald claims:

“No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”

So, none of us today has read anything except a bad translation that has been altered hundreds of times before it got to us? Although Eichenwald enlists Bart Ehrman as one of the three scholars he names in the essay, he has seriously overstated Ehrman’s argument. At one point, it is true, Ehrman says in Misquoting Jesus, “Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals.” Here he is speaking of Greek copies of Greek manuscripts. Nothing is said about translations. At many points he admits that the vast majority of the changes to the text of the New Testament were rather minor over the many centuries of handwritten copying. And in the appendix to the paperback edition of his book Ehrman says, “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” But Eichenwald makes it sound as though all translations current today are bad and that we can’t possibly recover the wording of the original text. The reality is that we are getting closer and closer to the text of the original New Testament as more and more manuscripts are being discovered and catalogued.

But let’s examine a bit more the actual statement that Eichenwald makes. We are all reading “at best,” he declares, a “bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.” This is rhetorical flair run amok so badly that it gives hyperbole a bad name. A “translation of translations of translations” would mean, at a minimum, that we are dealing with a translation that is at least three languages removed from the original. But the first translation is at best a translation of a fourth generation copy in the original language. Now, I’m ignoring completely his last line—“and on and on, hundreds of times”—a line that is completely devoid of any resemblance to reality. Is it really true that we only have access to third generation translations from fourth generation Greek manuscripts? Hardly.

Although we know of some translations, especially the later ones, that were based on translations in other languages of the Greek text (thus, a translation of a translation of the Greek), this is not at all what scholars utilize today to duplicate as faithfully as possible the original wording. No, we have Greek manuscripts—thousands of them, some reaching as far back as the second century. And we have very ancient translationsdirectly from the Greek that give us a good sense of the Greek text that would have been available in those regions where that early version was used. These include Latin, Syriac, and Coptic especially. Altogether, we have at least 20,000 handwritten manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic and other ancient languages that help us to determine the wording of the original. Almost 6000 of these manuscripts are in Greek alone. And we have more than one million quotations of the New Testament by church fathers. There is absolutely nothing in the Greco-Roman world that comes even remotely close to this wealth of data. The New Testament has more manuscripts that are within a century or two of the original than anything else from the Greco-Roman world too. If we have to be skeptical about what the original New Testament said, that skepticism, on average, should be multiplied one thousand times for other Greco-Roman literature.

What of the differences among these witnesses? To be sure, there are more variants for the New Testament than for any other piece of ancient literature, but that’s because there are more manuscripts for the New Testament than for any other piece of ancient literature. Consider the King James Version compared to virtually any modern New Testament translation: There are about 5000 differences in the underlying Greek text between these two. The vast majority of the differences cannot even be translated. The KJV is based on significantly later manuscripts, yet not a single cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith is affected by the different variants.

The title of Eichenwald’s section that deals with manuscript transmission is “Playing Telephone with the Word of God.” The implication is that the transmission of the Bible is very much like the telephone game—a parlor game every American knows. It involves a brief narrative that someone whispers to the next person in line who then whispers this to the next person, and so on for several people. Then, the last person recites out loud what he or she heard and everyone has a good laugh for how garbled the story got. But the transmission of scripture is not at all like the telephone game. First, the goal of the telephone game is to see how badly the story can get misrepresented, while the goal of New Testament copying was by and large to produce very careful, accurate copies of the original. Second, in the telephone game there is only one line of transmission, while with the New Testament there are multiple lines of transmission. Third, one is oral, recited once in another’s ear, while the other is written, copied by a faithful scribe who then would check his or her work or have someone else do it. Fourth, in the telephone game only the wording of the last person in the line can be checked, while for the New Testament textual critics have access to many of the earlier texts, some going back very close to the time of the autographs. Fifth, even the ancient scribes had access to earlier texts, and would often check their work against a manuscript that was many generations older than their immediate ancestor. The average papyrus manuscript would last for a century or more. Thus, even a late second-century scribe could have potentially examined the original document he or she was copying. If telephone were played the way New Testament transmission occurred, it would make for a ridiculously boring parlor game!

One of the most remarkable pieces of illogical reasoning in Eichenwald’s essay is his discussion of corruption in the manuscripts. Every single instance he raises presupposes that he knows what the original text said, for he speaks about what text had been corrupted in each instance! And more than once he contradicts his opening gambit by speaking authoritatively about what the original text actually said. In short, Eichenwald’s opening paragraph takes exaggeration to new heights. If his goal is to shame conservative Christians for holding views that have no basis in reality, perhaps he should take some time to look in the mirror.

If I were going to give people any advice about investigating religious truth claims, it would be this – for goodness’ sake, look to formal academic debates featuring scholars like Dan Wallace, Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, Stephen C. Meyer, Michael Behe, etc. and their opponents. You will get a lot more out of a formal academic debate with fixed-length speeches than you will get from any left-wing sermon written by a journalist in magazines like Time or Newsweek.

If you want to hear a good debate between Bart Ehrman and Peter Williams, then click here for my summary and a link to the audio from Apologetics 315.

UPDATE: Mathetes points me to another response from noted New Testament scholar Michael Krueger at the Canon Fodder blog.

Round-up similar to Neil Simpson’s or Binks WebElf’s

I have too many news stories, so I have to do the Neil Simpson / Binks WebElf thing.

Students sent home for patriotism

Excerpt:

On any other day at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Daniel Galli and his four friends would not even be noticed for wearing T-shirts with the American flag. But Cinco de Mayo is not any typical day especially on a campus with a large Mexican American student population.

Galli says he and his friends were sitting at a table during brunch break when the vice principal asked two of the boys to remove American flag bandannas that they wearing on their heads and for the others to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out. When they refused, the boys were ordered to go to the principal’s office.

[…]The boys really had no choice, and went home to avoid suspension.

H/T Jerry.

Obamacare will cause you to lose your current health insurance

Excerpt:

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system.

H/T ECM.

Democrat says that tea-party protesters are a terrorist threat

Excerpt:

Rep. Andre Carson gathered Capitol Hill reporters around him and told the tale of racial slurs and menacing crowds on the verge of hurling rocks at the congressmen.  Our first few videos showed the congressmen coming out of the Cannon Office Building, walking down the steps and into Independence Avenue from various angles.  None of those videos revealed the racial hatred Rep. Carson conveyed to reporters that day and none of the videos showed a mob rushing or in any way impeding the congressmen. When Rep. Carson gathered reporters around him to spread the myth of racial slurs being hurled “fifteen times” he painted the protesters not just as racists, but as a terrorist threat.

The link has the video of the Democrat explaining his view.

H/T ECM.

Newsweek up for sale

Excerpt:

The Washington Post Co. is putting Newsweek up for sale in hopes that another owner can figure out how to stem losses at the 77-year-old weekly magazine.

[…]The Post Co.‘s magazine division had an operating loss of $29.3 million in 2009, compared with a $16.1 million loss the year before. Newsweek sold about 26 percent fewer ad pages in 2009, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. That percentage decline was consistent with the industry average.

H/T ECM.

Which cable news network has the worst media bias?

Why I think that MSNBC is the most biased channel

Listen to Ed Schulz, who works for MSNBC, as he takes a call from a mildly critical caller to his radio show. (H/T NewsBusters)

See, an outburst like this is why I am not at all convinced that left-wingers would protect the rights to free speech of those who disagree with them. It seems to me that there is some fundamental disrespect for the human rights of others that is grounded by the secular-left’s worldview.

Here’s another left-winger, Tamarin Hall, from MSNBC. (H/T Hot Air)

Here’s another MSNBC left-winger, Rachel Maddow. (H/T American Power Blog via Blazing Cat Fur)

News Busters has more detail on Maddow’s reaction to Obama’s Cairo speech here.

The best one of all is here at Hot Air, in which Newsweek’s Evan Thomas is interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC! Thomas says, “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.”.

Check out this interview by Keith Olbermann, also of MSNBC, with Steven Crowder.

Well, it’s not really Keith. So this video is fake, but accurate.

Contrast MSNBC with FoxNews

Contrast the fawning over Obama you see on MSNBC, with Charles Krauthammer on Fox News. (H/T Hot Air)

Krauthammer is too moderate for me, but at least he’s a journalist, not a sycophant.

The Western Experience

Here is a more even-handed reaction to Obama’s Cairo speech from Jason at the Western Extern Experience. He has a round-up of stories from Lebanon, Palestine and Iran that shows what is really at stake.

Here are a few of the more disturbing headlines:

This is what Obama should have talked about, but didn’t. Appeasement didn’t work for Chamberlain or Carter, and it won’t work for Obama.

What’s at stake?

The Washington Post reports that drug cartels use submarines to move massive amounts of drugs into the United States. The write that “U.S. officials fear that the rogue vessels could be used by terrorists intent on reaching the United States with deadly cargos”. Maybe Obama should be focused on defending the United States instead of apologizing on our behalf in order to send tingles up the legs of MSNBC talking heads.

Will Obama’s speeches deter aggression of this sort? Or will they be viewed as evidence that no reprisals would follow such an attack?

UPDATE: Muddling Toward Maturity links to a substantive refutation of Obama’s Cairo speech by Caroline Glick writing in the Jerusalem Post.

At last some honesty on global warming alarmism

You may have read something about the NYT article a while back that discussed the brilliant scientist Freeman Dyson and his opposition to global warming.

Excerpt from the NYT article:

Dyson may be an Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources, but he brooks no ideology and has a withering aversion to scientific consensus.

…IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with Salon.com that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism.

Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”

Well, the NYT got a fascinating letter to the editor in response to their profile of Dyson. The letter came from a graduate student at Harvard named Monika Kopacz.

The letter is excerpted in First Things (H/T The Weekly Standard):

It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.

Remember, in 1975, the leftist magazine Newsweek propped up the global cooling as the crisis-du-jour.

Excerpt from an article from the Business and Media Institute:

It took 31 years, but Newsweek magazine admitted it was incorrect about climate change. In a nearly 1,000-word correction, Senior Editor Jerry Adler finally agreed that a 1975 piece on global cooling “was so spectacularly wrong about the near-term future.”

Even then, Adler wasn’t quite willing to blame Newsweek for the incredible failure. “In fact, the story wasn’t ‘wrong’ in the journalistic sense of ‘inaccurate,’” he claimed. “Some scientists indeed thought the Earth might be cooling in the 1970s, and some laymen – even one as sophisticated and well-educated as Isaac Asimov – saw potentially dire implications for climate and food production,” Adler added.

Journalists, lacking marketable skills, support socialism. They believe that their word-smithing skills are more worthy than the practical skills of engineers and entrepreneurs. Socialism is their way of regaining the accolades they lost once they left the safe confines of the public school classroom.

Any myth that will allow the government to seize control of the free-market must be supported, regardless of the evidence. And the same thing applies to Darwinism. Only in this case, the target is not the free market, but the church. And the goal is not redistribution of wealth, but autonomy from moral judgments and moral constraints.

For more on scientific opposition politics masquerading as science, see here.