Chapter 2–The New Testament: Trustworthy and Reliable
There are abundant copies of ancient manuscripts containing the New Testament, including more than 5,000 written in Greek. This is better evidence than for any other ancient text, including works by Homer and Caesar. A popular skeptic says that there are more variants than there are words in the entire New Testament. Regardless of how these variants are counted, no essential doctrines are affected. Meanwhile, it has been shown that modern Bible translators are honest in their work, especially when certain problematic passages are considered. Just having a good translation is not enough, as the reader must understand the words according to what the original author meant, not what the reader interprets them to mean. Finally, some skeptics like to introduce “contradictions” to show the unreliability of the Bible, but these difficulties generally can be explained when the context is taken into consideration.
Discussion Questions Chapter 2
1. Do you think a skeptic would be convinced about the Bible’s reliability if autographs of the biblical books actually existed? Why or why not?
With so much evidence available to support the authenticity of the Bible, why should anyone believe that discovering the autograph of any book of the Bible would change the mind of the skeptic? For instance, there are thousands of New Testament manuscripts readily available; most biblical scholars say we do, for the most part, have the original words of the vast majority of the New Testament. Then, even if we did have an autograph, what would keep the skeptic from claiming that it has been manipulated over the past 2,000 years? It’s a no-win situation. Certainly “faith” is not all that is needed to accept the reliability of the Bible, for the evidence is very strong that the Word of God can be trusted.
Article for Additional Research
2. While the KJV includes the longer version of 1 John 5:6-8, modern English versions of the Bible put the questionable words in a footnote. Why did these modern translators decide to do this rather than just keep the words as a support for the Trinity?
In 1611, the King James Version translators just had the Textus Receptus as a New Testament source to translate, which included those extra words. However, so much more information has come out since that time. In fact, 1 John 5:6-8 is the proof that biblical translators are honest in their efforts to present the Bible as it really is. To have kept the extra words as support of the Trinity would have been deceptive, so the notes put into modern translations such as the English Standard Version and the New International Version are honestly telling the reader all the pertinent information for that text.
3. What does the telephone game have to do with the accuracy of the Bible? What is a good response to someone who uses this example to show why the Bible is not trustworthy?
The telephone game does not compare to the transmission of the biblical text for at least three reasons:
- This is an oral game, but the Bible was written down. The different manuscripts can be put side-by-side and compared for accuracy. The memory of the biblical scholars is not required to put together a good translation of the text.
- The biblical scholars are not limited to hearing what they were told by the previous player. They have the ability to go back to the first player in the game and check what was said versus what was rendered later. (Remember, the game is used as a critique of the transmission of the text and nothing more.)
- The players in the telephone game are not motivated by accuracy. Nothing rides on their recollection, and the game has more entertainment value when the transmission is completely garbled.
Article for Additional Research
- The Bible Translated, Retranslated, and . . .Changed. No Chance (Off site, STR.org, regarding Aunt Sally’s elixir story referenced in the book.)
4. A variety of different biblical prooftexts are used to support the LDS position on a variety of doctrines. What are some things to consider when a Latter-day Saint uses a verse to support his or her point of view?
There are a number of problems that take place when a verse is pulled out of its context. Take, for instance, 1 Corinthians 15:29, a common prooftext to prop up the doctrine of baptism for the dead that is not biblical. In addition, what the rest of the Bible teaches must be considered. Thus, when James 2:20 and 26 are used to show how “faith without works is dead,” we can consider the many other passages on this issue and put everything together. (Works accompany genuine faith.)
Articles for Additional Research
- Common Bible Prooftexts used by Latter-day Saints
- 10 Common Mistakes Latter-day Saints Make When Interpreting the Bible
5. Suppose you asked your Mormon friends to read the Bible in a modern translation so it would be easier to understand. What do you think the pushback would be? If your friend agreed, which book of the Bible would be a good place to begin? Why?
Many Mormons may be resistant when asked to read a Bible version outside the King James. Here is my course of action. First, I ask if they have ever read a modern translation. More than 90% of the time, the answer is “no.” Then, I ask if they would be willing read a modern translation side-by-side with the KJV just to see how they compare. If they hesitate, I then ask why they think reading a modern translation is so dangerous. Using these questions, I like to have the Latter-day Saint rethink their objection to a modern text that could possibly help them understand what archaic passages in the King James Version say. Again, the goal is to get the Mormon to read God’s Word and see for themselves what it says.
As far as a good place to begin, I suggest the Gospel of John because it is filled with so many references to mere belief as what God requires (see John 6 and 10). The book has 21 chapters, so just one chapter a day means the entire Gospel can be read in three weeks. It’s a great place to start.
If the person is daring, I recommend the Book of Romans. Here is an article that talks about my challenge: Latter-day Saints: Would you be willing to take the Romans Challenge?
What did LDS leaders say about the Bible?