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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Comments

Charles E Flynn

The Church is, in mystical terms, the Bride of Christ. If someone tells you that he accepts Christ but rejects his Church, ask him if he knows any man who has never had any reservation at all about anything done by his wife.

Dr John James

I think engendering a love for, and loyalty to the Church , "in spite of everything", as one holy priest used to say, is a vital piece of catechisis in these times.
There is little sense, amongst many Catholics, of the Church being given a divine mandate both to teach, and dispense, the means of holiness and salvation.
There is a widespread suspicion that the Church is seeking to limit my freedom, constrain my intellect and "control" my behaviour.
I say " in spite of everything", because I think it just amazing that God does entrust to the Church, and more broadly to humanity, what is entrusted.
The Blessed Sacrament is, in a sense, the example, par excellence, of God's trust.
Jesus stays with us, but at the same time exposes himself to all the indifference, and poor treatment, we human beings are capable of serving up to God.

john ignacio

As any child, or adult, who has played Chinese whispers can attest...within the span of a few short moments that which one person says can morph into something very different. Scientists call it "cumulative error". The amount of cumulative error which must have amassed over thousands of years, compounded by language changes and translations, interpretations, etc. must be staggering. To suggest that those who are into Jesus and not the church have somehow drifted further from what Jesus meant...is without basis. Can you prove that in the mind of Jesus the church was not the unity of people who believed in Jesus...sans the bricks and mortar and books and priests? Would you know the mind of Jesus any better than you knew the words of the first person to utter the Chinese Whisper? As you note...the house is spiritual, and it was the apostles who decided it needed to be 'concrete'. Are you certain that's not the first error in the chain of whispers? None of us can ever know.

JP

Well, yes John, we can say this about those who are not "Into" the Church.

The finding of such documents as the Dead Sea Scrolls has shown tht even with hand-copying, Scripture has travelled through the centuries virtually undistorted.

When Scripture tells us who we are to turn to for absolution of sin, for teaching, for God's word,and on whom we are to build the Church, we can be sure that this is what we are supposed to do.

So did Jesus write the Bible? No, he didn't, but his actions and words were put into written form rather quickly. His meanings can be corroborated with non-scriptural writings such as the Didache which comes, I believe from the 2nd century.


Justin Geldart

Amen! The Church is the Body of Christ, so cannot be separated from the Lord Jesus.

Here is a blog I posted recently along the same lines if you are interested:

http://justingridveritasluxmea.blogspot.com/2011/01/your-love-for-church-shows-your-love.html

God bless

TeaPot562

One must remember that 98%+ of the Church are non-ordained lay persons. The "Church" is NOT exclusively the priests, bishops, etc.
One can also see from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that abuse of authority sometimes occurred even in the First Century Church. (See Luke 12:45-48.) Gospels and Epistles were typically written to address problems in the early Church.
TeaPot562

Daniel Fink

This was a great opportunity to speak about the seldom discussed (at the parish level) doctrine of "theosis" or "divine filiation", based upon Jesus' discourse. Instead, Father laid the groundwork for our soon-to-be-hired "pastoral assistant" by focusing on the choosing of Stephen, etc.

Dale Price

As any child, or adult, who has played Chinese whispers can attest...within the span of a few short moments that which one person says can morph into something very different. Scientists call it "cumulative error".

Seriously? I'll put this as gently as possible: in the most neutral sense of the term, you are ignorant and know not of what you speak. There is no intellectually credible way to compare the transmission of ancient texts--religious or otherwise--to a game of "Chinese whispers." It's not a matter for "scientists"--it's a matter of historiography.

Christy

"To suggest that those who are into Jesus and not the church have somehow drifted further from what Jesus meant...is without basis."

I used to feel the same way, John, and went from irregular church going to none at all over several years. In truth, during that time I drifted further away from Jesus.

Since returning to regular church going and the sacraments, I've felt a great difference spiritually, and absolutely love attending Mass and other services with, well, my neighbours, my community, because that's who the other people are attending church. It's difficult to maintain the unity with others who believe in Jesus without the bricks and mortar, or to put another way, a place where we can gather together in His name.

john ignacio

The second century...fully 100 or more years after the death of Christ? If 5 minutes can make all the difference in Chinese Whispers, what can 100 years make, or 1 year, or a month?

@ Dale...can you make no argument sans ad hominem? What know you of my knowledge? Have we met? I think if you spend a few minutes and look, you'll see that there's plenty of research on how people perceive reality and how they write about it and how easy it is to drift from the truth. I'll leave the research to your intellectual credibility.

@ Christy...your experience is but one. That constitutes no significant sample. I attended church my entire youth and i'm much closer to Jesus since I left the church...and yet I would not suggest that as proof.

Nan Wagoner

The "Church" is the whole body of Christ, not a particular organized institution, edifice, or something to "attend". To define "Church" as a particular organized institution, edifice, or something to "attend" is limiting and may distort the biblical meaning.

Daniel Fink

John,
Why do you stop at the apostles constructing a visible Church as the beginning of a corrupted message? The knowledge of Jesus himself has been handed down to you. In your manner of critical thinking, what you know of Jesus must be as corrupted a message as the idea of a visible Church. You can see where it leads. Unless one accepts with faith that, for instance, Christ fulfills His promise to protect revelation, including the abundant New Testament evidence of a visible Church, they are farther from Christ. Jesus becomes simply what the unchurched individual wants him to be.

Carl E. Olson

Nan: And how do you know the "biblical meaning"? By reading the Bible? And how, exactly, did the Bible come down through history to you? Was there any particular institution and any particular people involved in the process by which the books of the Bible were written, recognized as part of a canon, defended as such, and preserved as such?

In other words, the attempt to divorce "The Church" from the Catholic Church, as if the former had no concrete, historical form, is to go against historical fact and common sense. It clearly goes contrary to the witness of the New Testament itself, which identified the Church as a particular body of disciples gathered in order to adhere to "the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42), having particular offices and functions (deacons, presbyters, etc.), and being led by specific men chosen by Christ (Peter, the head apostle; cf. Matt. 16:16-20), as well by the apostles as a whole (cf. Acts 1:15ff). And so forth and so on.

Carl E. Olson

@ Dale...can you make no argument sans ad hominem? What know you of my knowledge? Have we met?

John: Your initial comment revealed more than enough for Dale to make his valid point: "There is no intellectually credible way to compare the transmission of ancient texts--religious or otherwise--to a game of 'Chinese whispers.' It's not a matter for 'scientists'--it's a matter of historiography." The fact that you simply resort to an ad hominem response while complaining of his supposed ad hominem response further demonstrates the vacuous nature of your "argument", which doesn't reveal any serious knowledge of the nature of historical study and the specific nature of the Christian Scriptures.

Dale Price

@ Dale...can you make no argument sans ad hominem? What know you of my knowledge? Have we met? I think if you spend a few minutes and look, you'll see that there's plenty of research on how people perceive reality and how they write about it and how easy it is to drift from the truth. I'll leave the research to your intellectual credibility.

You are correct, I don't know you. However, I tried to take the sting out of it by saying "ignorant in the "most neutral sense"--i.e., a lack of knowledge. Still, I will reformulate:

Your argument is ignorant. Remarkably so, actually. Again, your argument as to modern perception studies is still wildly inapplicable. You are trying to analogize from 20th/21st Century European/American standards of perception and memory to ancient cultures, which had radically different standards and approaches. Thus, your analogy drops dead before it takes a step.

Focusing on the Biblical scriptures (because no one ever gets their boxers in a wad about whether our copies of the Iliad are reliable (though they are)), ancient Semitic scribes had much better developed memories than we do. Even the medieval Europeans had more impressive memories. In each case, they had to. They were quite capable of memorizing without error exceptionally long discourses. You see this today in Islam, with the hafiz able to recite the Koran from memory. Without error.

Greco-Roman and Jewish historians of the 1st century were quite solid in the way they spoke with eyewitnesses--in fact, eyewitness testimony was what distinguished history from chronicling, which was considered a lesser discipline. An especially good explanation of this can be found in Warren Treadgold's "Early Byzantine Historians," which includes a discussion of the earliest Greek historians, such as Thucydides, who insisted on the importance of eyewitnesses. Since the earliest texts of the NT are in Greek, and even the text itself points out the use of eyewitnesses (e.g., the beginning of Luke, John 20) this is significant.

Another reason the silly whispers analogy drops dead is that we have exceptionally good evidence of transmission of sacred texts without significant error. The Dead Sea scrolls demonstrate that the Masoretic text from 1000 years later was preserved intact, with minimal changes. More to the point, we know where the texts have been (rarely) interpolated with marginal glosses that we can discern from comparing other texts (a/k/a textual criticism).

The argument that the real Jesus was lost through something approximating whispers is something worthy of bad fiction, not historiography.

I'd be happy to read on modern perception studies. I'd ask that you please take some time to peruse studies of ancient history and cultures.

J R

"So did Jesus write the Bible? No, he didn't, but his actions and words were put into written form rather quickly. His meanings can be corroborated with non-scriptural writings such as the Didache which comes, I believe from the 2nd century."
[...]
"...you are ignorant and know not of what you speak. There is no intellectually credible way to compare the transmission of ancient texts--religious or otherwise--to a game of "Chinese whispers." It's not a matter for "scientists"--it's a matter of historiography."

Messrs. Price, Olson, "JP," et al:

Are any of you familiar with the work of biblical scholar Bart Ehrman?

Something to consider:

http://books.google.com/books?id=sxNgpHuQdf4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=bart+ehrman&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=lA7cTbTaN4rcgQfN7p3pDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=copies&f=false

Turns out Mr. Ignacio *might* be on to something?

And somehow, comparisons to the Dead Sea Scrolls don't quite cut it...

Carl E. Olson

Yes, I am very familiar with Ehrman and his various popular works seeking to cast doubt on the historical veracity, authorship, motives, etc. of NT manuscripts and early Christian beliefs (although the Ehrman books I own are his more academic works). Here is one fine response, by Dr. Ben Witherington III, to some of Ehrman's claims; here is just one small excerpt:

We [Witherington and Ehrman] also disagree rather strongly on the degree of flux in belief and in the handling of NT documents early on. It is simply not true to say that many of the primary Christian doctrines were not affirmed widely until centuries after the time of Christ. It is also not true that any such doctrines hang on only late copies of this or that NT book. When it comes to the issue of textual variants, the development of the textual tradition, and the theological import of such variants, Bart simply over-reads the evidence, or as the British say, over-eggs the pudding.

Now I think I understand why he does this. He rightly gets peeved with those fundamentalists who want to stick their heads in the sand and say, there are no such issues or problems even in the least. But an over-reaction is just that--- an over-reaction. Throughout this book, the real boogeyman that Bart is trying to refute is fundamentalists who hold to a certain wooden and very literal view of inerrancy which hardly takes ancient historical considerations into account at all. I would actually have as many problems with the same people as I have with Bart’s views.

He also does not do justice to a reading of these texts in light of ancient genre, conventions, purposes, history writing and the like, but for very different reasons. The reasons seem to include that he is a ardent convert from fundamentalism to a very narrow and all too modern form of historical critical analysis of these texts-- a form that starts with an inherent skepticism about the supernatural among other things, and assumes that critical thinking equals the ability to doubt this, that or the other ancient datum. I call this justification by doubt. It is no more a valid starting point for evaluating the NT than blind fideism is. Indeed, I would argue that to actually understand an ancient author you must start by giving them the benefit of the doubt and hear them out, doing one’s best to enter creatively into their own world and thought processes before understanding can come to pass. To approach the text with a hermeneutic of suspicion is to poison the well of inquiry before one even samples the water in the old well.

And another noted and prolific NT scholar, Dr. Craig Blomberg, writes:

A second supposition necessary for Ehrman's case is that the non-professional scribes that he postulates did most of the copying of New Testament documents until the fourth-century, when Constantine became the first emperor to commission new copies of the Bible, did not do nearly as careful a job as the professional scribes that he postulates did most of the post-Constantinian copying. Not only are both of these postulates unprovable (though certainly possible), the actual textual evidence of the second and third centuries, though notably sparser than for later centuries, does not demonstrate the sufficiently greater fluidity in the textual tradition that would be necessary to actually support the hypothesis that we cannot reconstruct the most likely originals with an exceedingly high probability of accuracy, even if that probability remains in the high 90s rather than at 100 %. ...

Ehrman offers no supporting arguments for his claims that if God inspired the originals, he both could have and should have inerrantly preserved them in all subsequent copies. It would have been a far greater miracle to supernaturally guide every copyist and translator throughout history than to inspire one set of original authors, and in the process it probably would have violated the delicate balance between the humanity and divinity of the Bible analogous to the humanity and divinity of Christ. All that is necessary is for us to have reason to believe that we can reconstruct something remarkably close to the originals, and we have evidence for that in abundance. No central tenet of Christianity hangs on any textually uncertain passage; this observation alone means that Christian textual critics may examine the variants that do exist dispassionately and without worrying that their faith is somehow threatened in the ways that Ehrman came to believe.

Read the entire piece.

Dale Price

So I'm being pointed to a google search. Well, I stand *refuted.*

It would be nice if you could advance an argument, J R, instead of pointing me to your google-fu. Even summarizing the salient points of the book you regard as a source would be helpful.

From a cursory review of your search term-highlighted pages, it does not appear that Ehrman is arguing for "Chinese whispers" or similarly anachronistic arguments about modern memory studies. Be that as it may, I think Carl has nicely summarized the limits of Ehrman's hypotheses.

To respond more directly, the Masoretic text/Dead Sea scroll argument is *quite* relevant, given that neither was the product of professional (read "Imperial") scribes. We see early Christians--Origen, Jerome--studying with Jews, so it is not a stretch to consider their scribal approaches are similarly reverent. Also, there is an independent cross-check on a lot of the New Testament material--the Church Fathers, who were fond of quoting great big gobs of it in their writings.

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