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Posts Tagged ‘Dan Brown’


A Christian's Pocket Guide to How We Got the Bible (Pocket Guides)Another free book I got at the RTS Alumni and Friends lunch was How We Got the Bible: Old and New Testament Canon and Text by Greg Lanier. It is part of the Christian’s Pocket Guide series by Christian Focus books.

As the title indicates this is a brief introductory study into understanding why the books in the Bible are in the Bible and whether we have an accurate text. Modern scholarship and the media have been busy to undermine our confidence in the Scriptures, and Islam has also been at work to distort people’s view of the Scriptures.

Lanier briefly summarizes the need for this information. He addresses these questions in 6 chapters, though the last is just a few pages as he offers concluding thoughts. He wanted to provide a brief, non-academic book so lay people can have answers they need when challenges to the canon or the texts arise, and they do.

Canon has to do with which books belong, and don’t belong in the Bible. Textual criticism has to do with understanding which texts are the best, or most accurately reflect the original manuscripts.

He begins with understanding the Bible as a Divine Deposit. There have been books that have been discovered that some argue should be in the Bible. Novelists like Dan Brown have had popular stories that argue that the Church has conspired to keep these books out of the Bible. How can we know that these “lost books of the Bible” aren’t really part of the Bible?

Muslims often argue that the Church has changed the Bible since the rise of Islam since they think Muhammad is one of God’s prophets. They want their understanding of the Bible to supplant historic Christianity’s understanding of the Bible.

He defines Scripture as:

“the inspired deposit of writings received as divinely authoritative for the covenant community.”

This is an important definition. We believe they are writings that have been inspired or breathed by God. They were received by the covenant community. This is a distinctively Protestant view. We do not think the Church formed the canon, but rather received it. Scripture is also a covenant document intended for God’s people to know who He is, who we are with respect to Him, what He does for us and also what He requires of us. The first chapter unpacks these ideas in a succinct and clear fashion. It provides the foundation for the next 4 chapters in which he addresses the canon and then text of the Old and then New Testaments or covenants.

The question of the Old Testament canon identifies differences not only regarding “lost books” but differences between Protestants, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox with regard to the Apocrypha. Protestants recognize the Jewish canon, those books recognized by Jews as divinely inspired covenant documents. He explains the three-fold shape of the Old Testament: Law, Prophets and Writings. Law, or Torah, came first and relates the giving of the Old Covenant. The Prophets apply the covenant to the people in later times, and hold out the promise of the new covenant. These cite the Law as divinely inspired. Many of the prophets will also affirm the message of earlier prophets as divinely inspired, as well as often claiming such inspiration for themselves in prophetic formula. The writings contain sections also found in the Law and Prophets.

In terms of the Apocrypha there is little evidence that those books, or additional chapters were understood by Jewish communities as divinely inspired. In the early church there was little agreement about them. This means a few people may have included some of them but most did not. Augustine, for instance, affirmed all found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Eastern Orthodox Church followed his lead. Jerome used them as helpful but did not admit them as authoritative. This view held in the Roman Church until the Council of Trent which declared they were part of Scripture.

The Protestant churches have followed Jerome in finding them (possibly) helpful but not authoritative for faith and life. Some, like Calvin, thought they could be helpful. Most Protestant Bibles don’t contain them, and they are not generally read by most Protestants.

Moving to the text themselves, Lanier discusses the kinds of manuscripts we have and how they compare with one another. Another factor is the translations of the Old Testament we have, which themselves are over 2,000 years old. Those would be Greek, Samaritan, Aramaic, Latin and others. As a result we have many manuscripts and fragments to compare and find the best to form the texts that serve as the basis for our modern translations. The God who inspired the Old Testament texts also preserved them sufficiently for us.

Lanier then moves on to the canon of the New Testament. Contrary to Dan Brown’s fictional assertions, there was no council to form the canon. The canon is those books that were used and recognized by the early church. In this he discusses the centrality of the gospel, or new covenant, eyewitnesses, oral and written records. Unlike the books we find in our Bibles, these “lost books” were not received and recognized by the early church. Those who affirmed them we recognized as heretics. There are some books that the early church did use, like the Didache, which they found helpful but never recognized as inspired and authoritative. We see this from how the church fathers write about them.

from NT Bad Arguments

We then move into the question of whether we have the right words. He brings up former Christian and current skeptic Bart Ehrman. He can’t thoroughly refute Ehrman’s arguments, but generally refutes them. He mentions the Muslim doctrine of tahrif al-nass which states that “Jews and Christians have intentionally corrupted the text. As a result the NT doesn’t mention Muhammad (let’s ignore that it was written 500+ years before Muhammad). The text that Muhammad affirmed in 600 is older than many of the manuscripts we have today. Their doctrine is an illogical red herring.

He begins with discussing where our English Bible comes from. This refers to the formation of the Greek texts used in the vast majority of translations. We return to the large number of manuscripts available to us that have been found in archeological digs and copies by scribes. The relative number of differences is small, and largely insignificant. He discusses scribal errors and corrections, as well as how the better copyists provided marginal notes which help us as well. We also have ancient Latin, Syriac and Coptic translations.

He does all of this efficiently. He doesn’t ignore issues or sweep them under the rug. He instead shows how we’ve worked to find the oldest and best manuscripts to get closest to the autographs using a variety of sources. Integrity is revealed in our footnotes where the most significant issues in our translations are there for all to see. Lanier handles the task well and understandably. You won’t be an expert after reading this, but you’ll have a good idea of how to address many of the most significant objections raised.

I will close with his closing thoughts.

  1. We should be clear on what Scripture is in the first place.
  2. We should have confidence that we do have the ‘right’ OT/NT books.
  3. We should have confidence that we have the ‘right’ words of the OT/NT.

“How did we get the Bible? The answer to this question driving this book is clear. ‘Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,’ and the written deposit has been transmitted in the covenant community with high integrity, by the providence of God, ever since. Through these Scriptures, we are all, now, witnesses of these things: Christ suffered and died and on the third day rose again, so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins may be proclaimed to all the nations.”

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I remember sitting in the movie theater when I was 13, watching the trailer: “In space no one can hear you scream.” What a line! I had to see that movie. A legendary series that saved the movie studio was born. Ripley was the heroine, a strong woman in a world of men fighting the perfect killing machine. But she wasn’t just fighting the Alien, she was fighting “the company” who mysteriously knew about this creature and wanted to use it for military purposes.

Though the first two movies were very different (Ridley Scott’s was a suspenseful horror film that slowly turned up the tension while James Cameron directed a non-stop action movie) but both were successful. The two that followed lacked a strong hand at the helm. The third, suffering from numerous re-writes and directorial changes. Its confusing vision resulted in the worst David Fincher movie every. One thing it did reveal was that the Alien borrowed some DNA from its host during incubation. The series, like the original Jurassic Park, struggled with the tendency to separate science from ethics. The pursuit of how or if blinded humanity to whether it should be done.

There was really no where for the franchise to go after Alien Resurrection, unless you wanted Earth to become extinct. Enter Ridley Scott and the decision to go back instead of forward.

He began with Prometheus whose main characters were Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and a synthetic named David. The rather convoluted story with a proto-Alien involves an alien race first seeding (panspermia) planets and then destroying the life they produced. Scott, who is reputed to be an atheist, avoids many who resist creation with this ridiculous premise. Dan Brown’s novel Deception Point floats the same theory. The problem is, where did the aliens come from? So you may explain life on Earth, but not LIFE. The movie ends with Shaw (another strong female lead) and David flying off in our “creators'” space ship with a payload of the virus intended to destroy life on Earth.

Alien: Covenant begins with Weyland and the newly created David prior to the trip on the Prometheus. David is nearly human, reflecting his creator in a reflection of Adam’s creation by God in His image. We see glimpses of David’s arrogance after he plays Wagner’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla. He wants to throw off his creator’s shackles.

The location shifts to the future, post-Prometheus, on the ship Covenant. It is headed to a far off planet to colonize it. During a recharging stop, an accident occurs which wakes up the ship’s crew and loss of life including the captain. Most of the 200 colonists are safe in cyro-sleep. and the 1,000+ embryos are safe as well. We are introduced to the new captain (a Christian or person of similar faith) as well as the original captain’s surviving wife. The captain is dogmatic in his orders, fearing they, like the company, won’t respect a man of faith. If there is a mistake to be made, this man will make it over the course of the movie. The grieving widow? She is the strong female lead similar to Ripley and Shaw. There is a new synthetic, named Walter, who looks like David and is also played by Michael Fassbender. Improvements have been made we learn by depriving him of David’s creativity.

While outside the ship performing repairs one of the crew is outside the communications’ buffer and receives a transmission. They soon discover it is a human being singing Country Roads by John Denver. Tracking the transmission they discover a closer planet that seems even more suitable for human life. With a crew afraid of cyro-sleep the captain decides to investigate, and so the fun begins.

There are a number of twists and turns in the film as we discover the ship that once carried Shaw and David, and a new way to “catch” the alien virus. So there is some novelty in the midst of the familiar. Now stranded on the planet, they are rescued by David and slowly discover what David has been doing since being stranded on this planet. Like man, he is a creation turned destructive seeking to destroy his creator. Apparently everyone hates humans in Scott’s universe. We discover that David has turned the virus which produced proto-aliens into the form of alien we see in the original films. We also see the Captain who fails to destroy David after his collusion with one of the proto-aliens, fall for the trap David sets for him so the alien we are all familiar with finally appears.

The movie has a shocking ending after Daniels and and Tennessee kill an alien that inexplicably shows up on the Covenant. The movie ends as it began, with Wagner’s piece playing. The gods have entered Valhalla to continue the quest to destroy humanity.

I thought is was a good movie with enough new material that it was not stale and predictable. It also had enough similarities that it felt like an Alien film rather than a generic science fiction thriller. Ridley Scott had to walk a tightrope similar to that of J.J. Abrams with the new Star Wars triology. It was not as good as the originals, but that is a high bar. It was certainly better than Alien III and Alien Resurrection (not difficult). Rather than being built around Ripley (Signorney Weaver) this series of movies is built about Michael Fassbender even though they have a different strong female lead in each film. It is not as confusing as Prometheus and more enjoyable.

 

 

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Monday, 6:30 am:  Park my car in the satellite parking at Orlando International Airport.  My day began at 5:15 as Charlie Peacock serenaded me awake.  As I sit on the bus heading to the terminal I encounter the first of many surprises.  I usually fly Southwest (terminal A) and am the last guy on the bus.  This means It always starts on Terminal B.  Flying Delta today, which is terminal B.  The bus goes to Terminal A.  This … was a sign.

Not checking any bags so I get my e-ticket and all is well.  The line at security is short, so all looks well.  Key word: looks.  The line is short, but not moving.  Slugs have moved faster.  The problem?  Not enough security personnel. Occasionally they open the “family” and “handicapped” lanes to overflow.  They keep opening different sections, and I’m always about 2 feet way too far.  I … am … stuck (patience is a virtue which I possess in small portions- Patience Deficit Disorder or PDD for short).  I end up next to a family whose flight is earlier than mine.  “Don’t worry, they know you’re hear.”  Of course, you can’t hear an intercom here, so if they were paged they’d never know to tell the TSA guy “that’s me!”  I notice the line on the far left moves much better, and suddenly they open an overflow line there- off like a rat!  I’m now in a line that is moving  much faster.  Though I’ve got farther to go than said family, I’m through security well before them.

8 am.  “Final call for flight ### to Cincinatti.”  While talking on cell with CavWife I see the family running down the hall barely making the gate in time.  I am glad for them, not realizing this is nearly a glimpse of my future.

Atlanta, 10 am-ish.  I am reminded of my experiences at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  If I have a long layover it is the next gate.  If a short one, I have to run through the tunnels with the flashing neon lights talking back to the intercom messages about Passenger Cavman “I’m coming as fast as I can!”  I have a short layover, and anticipate running.  Oh yeah, I’m in Concourse A but need to get to B.  I notice that though I have a low # I’m near the end of the concourse.  Since I have a high number in B, I think this is a good thing.

I notice all the good restaurants here, hmmm, I may have time for dinner on my way home.  Down the escalator to the train, only to have it close mere seconds before I get there.  No time to lose (or say ‘hi’ to the Pioneer Woman who’s also supposed to be in Atlanta for a book signing) so to the moving sidewalk.  As I begin to walk down Concourse B, I notice the #s are in ascending, not descending, order.  I once again have to make my way along the length of the concourse.  Merely an annoying inconsistency, since I had enough time to sit down before they boarded my flight.

(more…)

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