Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Bible Is the Word of God Debate - My First Cross-Examination Answer

Either Saaib doesn't really understand or is ignorant of what Ehrman says, he is being disingenuous, or we're having communication problems, but I don't understand his denial, from his first rebuttal:
He started refuting Bart Erhman and wrote an essay on it. What I made was an entirely different argument
Yet here he seems to circle right back to Ehrman's objections, which my first rebuttal wrecked, and Saaib has offered no counterargument.

If I hold a copy of the NASB in my hand, I will have no problem in saying that this English text, in here, is 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God. As for which language, the Word of God is meant to communicate to “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7:9).
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and there exists a stream of MSS testimony in those languages. It was translated into Greek in the LXX in the 1st century BC and a separate but overlapping stream of MSS evidence exists for it.
The NT was written in Greek, and textual streams are in place for Greek and then translations later made into all sorts of languages like Latin, Coptic, Syriac, etc.
All of these MSS were taken into account when the NASB was translated into English. All of these MSS were collated, compared and contrasted, and combined to form the standard text we have today. In Greek, that’s the NA27. The NA27 might be hard to find in Pakistan, where Islam's dominance means free thought and exchange of ideas is suppressed, but it's readily available in the USA.

Saaib again demonstrates here his ignorance of textual criticism of the Bible and the history of biblical MSS. Sure, he can cite this or that person, a couple of whom are well-known and several of whom are random people. Sure, he can make arguments from authority without providing those authorities' substantiating argumentation. How does any of this help his case, though?

Thus, Saaib, I will be able to present to you a document which according to me is 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God. No matter whether you agree with me, I will be able to do it.
This turnabout should illustrate the double standards inherent in Saaib’s position. For his own part, he makes naked assertions that the biblical authors didn’t in fact write the books they purportedly wrote. Not that historical, traditional sourcing is inerrant or infallible, but should there not be some argument given to rebut that understanding? Simply arguing that it’s implausible that Moses wrote his own obituary because that would require supernatural intervention doesn’t help anyone, least of all Saaib. Why? Saaib is a theist, as I explained earlier. God can do that if He wants. Don't argue like an atheist.
How could a mere man remember so much? He was inspired by God, as explained earlier.
How could a man’s writing style differ during different parts of his life? The same way yours does when you write a letter to your mother when you’re 11 years old and when you write a theological debate entry when you’re 60.
So what else do these men have? We have yet to see any argument, just authorities.

As for how I know that the Bible is the Word of God, I presented several arguments in my opening statement. Saaib is running out of time to address them substantively. He has not done so; he has merely waved his hands and said “no, that’s not right” or in some cases offered incompetent arguments which he did not rescue from the defeaters I offered, even though he had the opportunity in his second statement.

Due to his ignorance of textual criticism, Saaib may have gotten lost on the idea of “a copy”, as he says in his question. Nobody is claiming that any one extant MSS copy is the Word of God. The quality and preferability of a given MSS copy depends on various factors, including its age. Older, ie, closer to the original writing is better, all other things being equal. However, all other things are never equal. What textual stream it comes from matters. Whether it contains unique or rare readings matters. Etc.
Textual criticism is complicated and I don’t pretend to be anything close to an expert, but I do know enough to know that Saaib is offering to us a line of double standards and poor thinking.

I’ve already done this, but in the hopes of getting through to Saaib, let me reiterate.
How does Saaib know that he has 100% the unaltered, pure Word of God? I know he thinks he does, but let’s discuss some points of doubt.

How does he know that:
1) Mohammed correctly repeated what he heard from Jibril?
2) Mohammed's companions correctly heard him?
3) These companions correctly remembered what they heard over the course of decades?
4) Those that listened to the companions correctly remembered?
5) These guys correctly wrote it all down?
6) Important parts of the written documentation wasn't lost at some point?
7) Satan didn't influence one or more of those who wrote down what he remembered to write down some false things? (Indeed, Mohammed himself recited revelation from Satan and later recanted it.)
8) Uthman didn't have any evil ulterior motives when collecting all the Qur'anic MSS?
9) Uthman didn't burn the wrong MSS?

There are all these places where any critic who took on naturalistic presuppositions could "destroy" the idea of Qur'anic reliability. The point is that Saaib has to trust God to preserve what he wanted to say, and I'd like to ask him, when he is arguing against the debate resolution, to stay consistent and allow me to trust God where we cannot speak from direct observation and evidence, about deep history.

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