Monday, April 13, 2015

Matt Slick Errs on Textual Transmission / Textual Criticism Again

Matt Slick has again (The Bible Thumping Wingnut, Episode 61, around 30 minutes into the episode) erred on the topic of textual criticism.

Unfortunately, Mr. Slick seems to be confused about the transmission of the New Testament compared to the translation of the Old Testament. His comment about adding up numbers seems to be based on something Mr. Slick has heard about the process used by the Masoretes (and it doesn't even appear to be accurate regarding their process). It does not describe the Christian process, especially not in the early Christian period. Early Christian textual transmission was, as far as we know, not done by professional scribes and did not include letter-counting techniques (such as those later used by the Masoretes) to ensure the reliability of the copies. These facts don't undermine the reliability of the New Testament text, but making errors in this area may undermine the other valid points that Mr. Slick is trying to offer.

Additionally, Mr. Slick repeated the same error regarding how textual variants are counted (which we already corrected here).

It's great that Mr. Slick is going to be debating a Muslim on the divinity of Jesus soon, but it seems likely that these issues of textual transmission will crop up in apologetics with Muslims (as they frequently do), and it would be good for one of Mr. Slick's friends to help get him straight on these issues before then.

*** Updated 4/13/2015

By the way, Mr. Slick should probably update his own web pages once he realizes his mistake. This same repeated error about how to count variants appears on at least the following pages of :

That same page also claims "Furthermore, the New Testament is approximately 99.5% textually pure. This means that of all the manuscripts in existence they agree completely 99.5% of the time." That's also not the case.

This page claims "The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure." Even if Mr. Slick decides he has some insight into textual transmission, he should presumably harmonize his own pages.

This page also claims (similar to Mr. Slick's comments on the show): "Similarly, the Greek writers of the New Testament would copy the biblical manuscripts. By default, every letter also has a numeric value. When the copies were done, the copyists would add up the numeric values of the words copied and compare them to the original copy. If there was an error, the copy was destroyed and a new one was begun. This was done with both the Hebrew and Greek writings of the Bible. Therefore, the Bible was copied with extreme care." That's not an accurate depiction of the New Testament transmission. It seems to be taken from some information regarding the extreme care the Masoretes took in copying the Old Testament, but even then it's not quite right.

The page also mentions the accuracy of the Isaiah scroll in the Dead Sea scrolls compared to the Masoretic text. It's true that the texts were very close. Not all the scrolls share that same closeness, however, especially in Jeremiah. So, it might be good to provide some additional information and caveats regarding the reliability of the Masoretic textual transmission.


Tim Bushong said...

I was just wondering: In the past has he shown himself to be correctable in this area of study?

Kitt said...

i am excited that you are writing this. It is very important to use our evidence correctly.. Perhaps you have seen the list " arguments creationists should not use"? I hope someday there would be a similar one for historical arguments. The issues regarding the Isaiah scroll and the "reconstruct the whole New Testament after it is destroyed without x number of verses from church fathers" are the two that come to mind, but I am sure you could think of others. I think it would be great if someone would develop a list of arguments not to use, or doubtful arguments regarding historical matters in regards to basic apologetics and the protestant-roman catholic debate. There is powerful evidence for the christians position, we should carefully check our sources, esp for arguments that seem too good to be true. Perhaps the warning against the focus on conspiracy theories in beginning of white's controversy comes to mind. Is this something you have done or could do?

michael said...

Off on another trail, what seems obvious to me about the issue of textual criticism is the reality that Our God is the One True God, living and active in His Word and we are made in Their image and likeness.

The Apostle Paul wrote through Luke in Acts 20 commending the Ephesian elders and us as well seeing the book of Acts is our Christian History to the Only True unchanging and Living God AND to the Word of His GRACE.

Jesus said as recorded in the Gospel of John that His sheep "hear" His voice and follow Him. Jesus did teach we should pray asking God to not lead us into temptation and deliver us from evil, too!

Here we are today centuries later faced with these chanllenges, questions and issues about the accuracy of Biblical text.

My question is is God blind, deaf and dumb and incapable of communicating with His people for whom He sent Christ to die and died. was buried and rose again from the dead? Christ became one hundred percent man, is alive and is the Resurrection and the Life to which we were born again to live with.

You would think with the reality of both Jesus and Paul, not to mention Peter writes that the Scriptures are the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are saying we have received Eternal Life as a gift and it seems ever so logical and reasonable that the gift Giver would not lead us astray into heresy and writings that are not inspired?

Oh well, when you have time on your hands and the ability to study textual criticism I suppose questions about God's perfect ability to make promises and have them put down in written form will arise. And I hasten to say, all for not.

mlculwell said...

Michael wrote:we are made in Their image and likeness.
If you mean God manifest in the flesh? Then yes! If you mean:" a trinity of three persons"? Then you are as wrong as wrong can be and have simply interjected your tradition.

I would say God is not incapable but what you have proven with your qoute is that we can be incapable of understanding God and his word.