Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How does the BBC get away with this tripe?

Roger Bolton - I think it's the same bloke who does Feedback on Radio 4 - has produced an absolute stinker on the BBC website: The Rival To The Bible.

It's difficult to know where to start, it's such a monumentally lazy piece of journalism: ill-informed, dripping the author's prejudices, poorly researched. It starts off well enough with a short history of St Catherine's Monastery on the slopes of Mount Sinai. Thereafter it just about avoids blaming an albino Opus Dei operative for personally ripping out the apocryphal bits of the Codex. Only just, mind...

I've taken a leaf out of Fr Z's book and show the original with my take on it in red:

Firstly, the Codex contains two extra books in the New Testament. [They are not in the New Testament – the New Testament was set by the Church in the 5th century and formalised at Trent. They have never been in the canon]
One is the little-known Shepherd of Hermas, written in Rome in the 2nd Century - the other, the Epistle of Barnabas. This goes out of its way to claim that it was the Jews, not the Romans, who killed Jesus, and is full of anti-Semitic kindling ready to be lit. "His blood be upon us," Barnabas has the Jews cry. [so does Matthew – did you read the bible, any bible, before you wrote this?]
Had this remained in subsequent versions, "the suffering of Jews in the subsequent centuries would, if possible, have been even worse", says the distinguished New Testament scholar Professor Bart Ehrman. [but then again, they might not. They had a rough enough time as it was. They still do at the hands of another people with another book, but hey, this is the BBC so we won’t look under that particular stone]

And although many of the other alterations and differences are minor, these may take some explaining for those who believe every word comes from God. Faced with differing texts, which is the truly authentic one?
Mr Ehrman was a born again Bible-believing Evangelical until he read the original Greek texts and noticed some discrepancies. [More fool him]
The Bible we now use can't be the inerrant word of God, he says, since what we have are the sometimes mistaken words copied by fallible scribes.
"When people ask me if the Bible is the word of God I answer 'which Bible?'"
The Codex - and other early manuscripts - do not mention the ascension of Jesus into heaven, and omit key references to the Resurrection, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has said is essential for Christian belief. [Mark and John don’t mention the Nativity of Jesus, as any fule kno. Does that imply he wasn’t born?]
Other differences concern how Jesus behaved. In one passage of the Codex, Jesus is said to be "angry" as he healed a leper, whereas the modern text records him as healing with "compassion". [and? Is it possible to be angry and compassionate at the same time. The author clearly isn’t married, nor has he children, nor any discernible human relationships of any meaningful kind if that’s what he truly believes]
Also missing is the story of the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned - until Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (a Jewish sect), inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone. [and?]
Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". [So every witness statement on which one judges evidence must be EXACTLY the same. Make that condition and the legal system for one will grind to a halt. ]
Fundamentalists, who believe every word in the Bible is true, may find these differences unsettling. [as I said above, more fool them. Scripture can only be interpreted in the light of the fullness of faith and with authoritative judgement.]
But the picture is complicated. Some argue that another early Bible, the Codex Vaticanus, is in fact older. And there are other earlier texts of almost all the books in the bible, though none pulled together into a single volume.
Many Christians have long accepted that, while the Bible is the authoritative word of God, it is not inerrant. [That would be the Catholic view and that of most Christians and of course it depends what you mean by inerrancy. In the sphere of hermeneutics it has a very specific and carefully defined meaning - unlike the intellectual slop on offer here] Human hands always make mistakes. [though none more than the author of this piece]
"It should be regarded as a living text, something constantly changing as generation and generation tries to understand the mind of God," says David Parker, a Christian working on digitising the Codex. Others may take it as more evidence that the Bible is the word of man, not God. [or perhaps the inspired Word of God promulgated by men? Or had that possibility escaped you?]
I'm near the point where the only bit of the BBC output I'll be able to stand soon will be the Shiping Forecast.

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Blogger Ponte Sisto said...

You would certainly be a safe pair of hands to keep Fr Z's blog going for when he's on his hols!

I think Bolton also presents the "Sunday" programme on R4. I can't be sure as I hate the thing and try not to listen to it. As we are talking of the BBC, does anything surprise you? At least Ch4 are honest about their Christianaphobia.

BTW I couldn't find you listed in the Best Religion Blog awards. There are many pages to plough through (the search facility is naff) and I may have just missed you; however, if you've not been nominated, may I do so, or would you prefer not to enter the rat race?

9:38 PM  
OpenID berenike said...

Actually the Catholic view is that Scripture is entirely inerrant.

"For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. "
Providentissimus Deus

This is not to say, as St Augustine points out, that there may not be mistakes in the copies we have.

Apropos the article: yeah, the Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas. So obscure they're only published in Penguin Classics.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Resurrection is essential for Christian belief? Finally, an endorsement of that talented theologian Paul of Tarsus.

The thing is, once you've read this sort of thing in a story where you know the story, as it were, you realise there is almost no point in reading anything in the papers. One would get a couple of correct "facts" and none of the truth out of this story alone. So what's the point in trying to learn about anything else out of the papers?

9:49 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...


That's very kind but that's just the sort of thing to puff up my already puffed up ego. I had a look through. Big Catholic presence, isn't there? That was heartening.


Yes, inerrant, but not in the sense the Prods would mean. I found a good synopsis on New Advent that I'll have to find again that defined it strictly and gave the limits to error.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Mac McLernon said...

Excellent fisk, Paulinus. I agree with you about the Shipping Forecast!

2:15 PM  
Blogger Joe of St. Thérèse said...

My own humble opinion, the apparent "contradictions" further prove the Truth of the Bible, quite frankly if everything were EXACTLY the same, you'd assume someone copied from one another. In any text there should be varying differences from author to author.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Joe of St. Thérèse said...

which does not change the Bible being the inspired word of God.

10:52 PM  
OpenID berenike said...

6:00 AM  
Blogger The Cellarer said...

My two pennyworth on the Beeb

10:19 AM  

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