FRAGMENTS OF ERROR: Creation Ministries International (CMI) Errs Yet Again on Textual Criticism

FRAGMENTS OF ERROR: Creation Ministries International (CMI) Errs Yet Again on Textual Criticism

© 2018, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

It is safe to assume that the various functionaries of Creation Ministries International (CMI) feel a great deal of frustration over the fact that their well reasoned arguments for young-earth creationism are not accepted by professing Christians who are supposed to view the Bible as the very word of God.  Perhaps they are even more frustrated when such Christians do not even reject CMI’s arguments but ignore them completely, as if CMI were just whistling in the wind.  If so, they can understand our frustration at CMI’s refusal to consider the facts brought to their attention about textual criticism.

We have discussed this matter in detail on a number of occasions.  In principle, there is nothing wrong with textual criticism, the practice of comparing the extant manuscripts of the New Testament[1] to determine which is the reading in the autograph[2] at each point at which variant readings exist in the manuscripts; in fact, it is a good and necessary thing to do.  The problem is that the paradigm assumptions that govern the way NT textual criticism is done were designed to insert errors into what is proclaimed to be the original NT text.[3]  Although these paradigm assumptions are demonstrably wrong, they are slavishly followed by almost all evangelical scholars, who thereby destroy the concept of Biblical inerrancy[4] and erode the authority of the Bible.  They are in turn followed by other Christian teachers and leaders who are non-specialists in TC and blithely accept the “consensus.”

Regrettably, CMI has followed and promoted this sort of textual criticism with a Pavlovian consistency, thus undermining the Biblical inerrancy they profess to uphold.[5]  The latest in this lamentable litany is the ironically titled “Fragments of Truth explains why the Bible can be trusted” by, yet again, Lita Cosner, posted on the CMI website on May 1, 2018.[6]  There is nothing substantively new here, but the same old tired errors.

First, Miss Cosner tells us that the early NT manuscripts “go back to early Christianity, and may bear witness to the earliest copies or even the originals of the New Testament documents.  Because papyri could be in use for hundreds of years, even a third or fourth-century manuscript could be evidence of a second or even first-century reading.”  Actually, since scribes were trying to pass on the Bible accurately, every manuscript can – and does – bear witness to the original copy, albeit through a chain of transmission.  Meanwhile, the early papyri were done extremely sloppily and are filled with obvious errors and they contradict each other right and left; in fact, most, if not all, of those of known provenance seem to have been ripped up and thrown in to the garbage by their original owners; they did not seem to think these manuscripts were so good.[7]  It seems beyond merely foolish, therefore, to base one’s view of the original NT text on these “sloppy copies” rather than on the overwhelming majority of manuscripts, which were produced very carefully.

Second, Miss Cosner tells us that

The manuscripts do not differ in important ways.

In reality, the differences that exist and are incorporated in the Nestle-Aland critical NT text that she clearly seems to accept as the best NT text puts errors of fact, science, and geography into the Bible; has theological problems; omits important theology; makes the Bible look silly; and makes Jesus seem deceptive, if not an outright liar.[8]  There are Christians who believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God who consider these very much to “differ in important ways.”  One wonders what CMI is thinking here.

The final point surfaces how muddled CMI’s thinking on this issue is.  Miss Cosner says,

The volume of manuscripts means that even if someone wanted to change the message of, for example, the Gospels, there would be no way to do so, because they would have to displace the hundreds of copies already in circulation.  The only two significant variants affecting a whole section—the long ending of Mark and the story of the woman caught in adultery—show that the attempt to insert something into the manuscript tradition leaves clear evidence.

So according to Miss Cosner, “there would be no way” for a meaningful change to infiltrate the manuscript tradition (to the point of changing the message) since it would “have to displace the hundreds of copies already in circulation” – but she believes that the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) and the “long ending of Mark” (Mark 16:9-20) did exactly that; apparently there was a way, after all.  Certainly, the “long ending of Mark” does change the message, from one with no resurrection[9] to one with an actual physically risen Jesus. And it is found in 99.95% of the extant manuscripts of the Gospel According to Mark – so it certainly seems that the passage has “displaced the hundreds of copies already in circulation” which had what Miss Cosner believes is the original reading.  Meanwhile, the Pericope Adulterae is found in 85.6% of the extant manuscripts of the Gospel According to John.

So, which is it, Miss Cosner?  If a meaningful change cannot infiltrate the manuscript tradition, as she claims, then Mark 16:19-20 and the Pericope Adulterae are authentic, which she denies.  But if they are secondary readings,[10] as she claims, then a meaningful change can infiltrate the manuscript tradition, which she denies.  This sort of intellectual farrago cannot be taken seriously.

Nor is there any reason to do so.  In point of fact, both Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 are authentic and original to those Gospel books.[11]  In fact, we have already debunked Miss Cosner’s arguments against these,[12] so her claim that “clear evidence” was left that these passages are not authentic is about as accurate as the claim that there is “clear evidence” that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old.

In sum, then, we would suggest that CMI follow Dirty Harry’s advice, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”[13]  You are very good at scientific creationism.  Leave textual criticism to those who study it as carefully as you do scientific creationism and are not misled by liberal paradigm assumptions so that they undermine inerrancy.


Endnotes

[1] Textual criticism can be and is done on all matter of ancient writings, and is not limited to the New Testament, but that is our focus here.

[2] The autograph is the original version as it came off the pen of the author himself.

[3] Tors, John. “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism (In Manageable, Bite-Sized Chunks).” At https://truthinmydays.com/a-primer-on-new-testament-textual-criticism-in-manageable-bite-sized-chunks/

[4] Tors, John. “Textual Criticism and the End of Biblical Inerrancy: Follow-up Comments on the Tors/Costa New Testament Text Debate (Part 1).” At https://truthinmydays.com/textual-criticism-and-the-end-of-biblical-inerrancy-follow-up-comments-on-the-torscosta-new-testament-text-debate-part-1/

[5] Tors, John. “Creation Ministries International and the Three-Headed Monster: Why the Monster Wins.” At https://truthinmydays.com/creation-ministries-international-and-the-three-headed-monster-why-the-monster-wins/

[6] Cosner, Lita. “Fragments of Truth explains why the Bible can be trusted.” Posted on May 1, 2018. At https://creation.com/fragments-of-truth.  (Accessed May 2, 2018.)

[7] Tors, John. “GIGO: Unearthing a Decisive New Tipping Point for Textual Criticism.” At https://truthinmydays.com/gigo-unearthing-a-decisive-new-tipping-point-for-textual-criticism/

[8] Tors, John. “‘Ignorant of his Devices’ Creation Ministries International (CMI) Errs Again on Textual Criticism.” At https://truthinmydays.com/ignorant-of-his-devices-creation-ministries-international-cmi-errs-again-on-textual-criticism/

[9] If the Gospel According to Mark ends at 16:8, all we have is an unidentified “young man clothed in a long white robe” (Mark 16:5) who claimed that Jesus rose from the dead, whereupon the women fled from the tomb and “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8b).  No one would – or should – believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the basis of that assertion, nor should he base his eternal destiny on it.  Without post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, we cannot believe that He rose from the dead, and not even the apostles believed without that proof.

[10] A variant that differs from the original text and was inserted at a later time in one of the manuscript copies.

[11] For the best treatment of the question of the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, see Lunn, Nicholas. The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publishers, 2014.  Regarding the authenticity of the Pericope Adulterae, see Tors, John. “A Call for Serious Evangelical Apologetics: The Authenticity of John 7:53-8:11 as a Case Study” at https://truthinmydays.com/a-call-for-serious-evangelical-apologetics-the-authenticity-of-john-753-811-as-a-case-study/.

[12] Regarding Miss Cosner’s arguments against the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, see Tors, “Creation Ministries International and the Three-Headed Monster,” op.cit.  Regarding Miss Cosner’s arguments against the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11, see Tors, “A Call for Serious Evangelical Apologetics,” op. cit.

[13] “Dirty Harry” Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in “Magnum Force”

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