Hold It Together Dancer – Bible is Intact & Accurate
Every year around the time it begins to get really cold outside, my wife looses her mind. It is our annual plunge into everything Christmas. Now if she could get all revved up on December 1st or so, that would be one thing, but the Christmas invasion starts some years as early as May.
Yes, you heard me correctly, May!!!
For the last 20 plus years, we have an agreement to save the marriage: Nothing Christmas, no music, no movies, no decorations - EVEN IF THEY ARE ON SALE, from January 31st through May 1st.
I instituted this respite for sanity and the love of all things not red and green. I had really wanted to make it November 1st or even Labor day, but she hung tough. She would give me the spring window, but that is as far as she will go. She says NASCAR only breaks for three months and I should be grateful that she turns it off at all. To this I reply that if God wanted us to celebrate the first advent of the Christ all year long, He would have given us clear direction in the Scriptures.
Even though she has the Christmas music station blasting away on Pandora in June, I am allowed to hold off forced participation until the first frost, which can come anytime in October or November.
Now before you start pointing and calling me Grinch, let me assure you when the time is right I always plug in and get into the reason for the season. In our house the holiday spirit continually surrounds the birth of the Christ child, the nativity, the Shepherds, the Star, all of it.
With Christmas being my wife’s Super Bowl most of the year, we do enjoy the fun stuff with Santa stories as well. Two of our more recent traditions include the movie Elf, (com’on, who doesn’t love Bob Newhart as Pappa Elf the Master Tinker?) Then there is the Disney special “Prep and Landing” about the elf crew that prepares for Santa’s arrival.
Prep and Landing is relatively new as far as Christmas traditions, debuted on ABC December 8th, 2009. The show is a computer animated half-hour holiday special that follows Wayne the elf, after being passed over for a promotion, continues to do his job in
a half-hearted attempt as the Prep Specialist for Santa. Quirky one-liners from this special have become normal speak in our everyday life.
In the climactic scene Santa’s sleigh is coming in way too hot for smooth landing. The nervous reindeer are yelling at each other, are they going to make it or are they going to Biff it? Just before they somewhat crash land on “Timmy’s” roof, Blitzen turns and says “Hold it Together Dancer”, a line that has now become famous in our household. We say it to each other all the time in any and all circumstances when one needs to mellow out and chill.
The power in the house goes out: “Hold it together Dancer”
The credit card bill arrives much higher than expected: “Hold it together Dancer” Slow-Poke the inattentive Driver is in the left lane doing 50 MPH: “Hold it together Dancer”
You step on the scale Monday morning after a buffet blow out weekend: “Hold it together Dancer”
Someone says the Bible has been handed down so many times, it can’t be what was originally written. And what about the original manuscripts? How can we believe what is in the Scriptures?
“Hold it together Dancer”
Yeah, that last one really gets to me.
So, in a mellow and chill way, let’s look at what we know to be fact, what we know to be true.
We move forward with the question: Are the Books Intact or not?
Okay, let’s assume that the books included in the Bible were authored by inspired prophets and apostles. How do we know that their original works remain intact, that when we open up the pages we’re actually reading what Moses and Peter actually wrote?
The process was not overly complicated, follow the simple trail, you don’t even need a seminary degree:
- First, early on, the books were so loved by the people they took great effort to set the books apart for safe-keeping. The Old Testament books were committed to the hands of the priests who served in the house of God.
So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests... who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord... – Deuteronomy 31:9.
This “ark” is not the boat, but a gold-covered chest where the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments were also kept. Think about it, the lid was a slab of pure gold. They called it the mercy seat where they said above which God’s very presence dwelt. This sounds to me like a very secure location to keep the Old Testament. They even had a name for this room, it was known as the Holy of Holies. So the evidence points that the Scriptures of the Old Testament would have been kept so carful and maintained with incredible integrity.
The New Testament books—the apostles’ writings—were committed to the churches. Those books where in high circulation and evidence points to high safeguards in place. Much of the content would have been known by early Christians as they would speak out the gospels and letters. Even Paul was giving instructions about the writings:
After this l has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea – Colossians 4:16
- Second, the books were meticulously copied with strict warnings about meddling with the text.
The Old Testament warning:
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it... – Deuteronomy 4:2
The VERY SERIOUS New Testament warning:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are de- scribed in this book – Revelation 22:18-19
- Simply look at the history surrounding the copies. Anyone who really wants to investigate the facts would look into the people who's job it was to duplicate the words, sentences and paragraphs.
The original Bible manuscripts, like other ancient documents, were written on perishable papyrus and leather scrolls which meant they had to be copied to be preserved for later generations. This gave rise to a new class of professional: the scribe.
The scribe’s job was to accurately transmit and transcribe the Biblical text to ensure it would pass along to succeeding generations. The scribe followed painstaking processes to ensure he got this right. In fact the words “painstaking” do not really do justice to the level of effort this job required. Here is the basic job description straight from history: Count every letter of the text. Copying no word or letter from memory. Destroying the page and starting over if more than three mistakes were made—minor mistakes, like an omitted letter.
So let’s ask the obvious: Have Any Original Manuscripts Survived?
None of the original Bible manuscripts, the papyrus and leather scrolls on which the prophets and apostles wrote, have been handed down to us. But that doesn’t mean we have to doubt the authenticity of the Bible’s content. You should understand that no original manuscript of any ancient classic remains. No Plato, Homer, or even Shakespeare. Everything you’ve read by, or about, these authors has been based on copies. As mentioned elsewhere, ancient manuscripts were written on perishable materials. Copies were the only way to preserve the works.
But if we can trust we’re reading the original Iliad or Hamlet based on the copies handed down to us (and scholars spend their lives doing that), we can also trust with confidence we’re reading the original books of Moses and Paul. For one thing, more copies of the Biblical books have been passed down to us than copies of any other ancient works. Compare these figures:
New Testament Copies - 15,000
Old Testament Copies - 12,000
Homer (Iliad) - 643
Herodotus - 75
Livy - 27
Caesar - 10
Plato - 7
Think about this for a minute, additionally earlier copies of the Biblical books have survived than ANY other ancient works (“earlier” in terms of the time gap between the originals and the first surviving copy). Compare:
- New Testament: 25 years, Homer (Iliad): 500 years, Herodotus: 1,400 years, Caesar: 1,000 years, Plato: 1,200 years
That’s right, only 25 years separates the survival and yet you don’t hear people in the public University questioning the legitimacy of Homer. (Humm, could it be something spiritual happening here? More on that later.)
Bottom line, God simply may have had his own reasons for not preserving the originals:
- Ironically, many copies may have safeguarded the message better than one original. If one original was in possession of one scribe, he could change it at will. But with multiple copies in circulation, copies that can be compared, any single alteration would be apparent and stick out like a sore thumb.
- The originals may have become idols. This happened to a bronze snake Moses fashioned in the desert as part of a miracle (Numbers 21:4-9). Centuries later it was being worshiped and had to be destroyed. Can you imagine what would happen if someone had the original copy of Romans written by Paul? I can see people lining up daily at some shrine in the middle east to see if they might get some of Paul’s mojo to rub off on them if they would be in the presence of the original manuscript.
- Third, we can trust we have the original writings intact because they were regularly read by the faith communities, so that their content was well-known. This is the real no brainer. The folks kept talking and talking and talking about the greatness and completeness of the Word of God.
The Israelites were commanded to teach the Scriptures to their children daily (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) and to read them publicly on national occasions (2 Kings 23:2, Deuteronomy 31:10-11).
The New Testament churches centered their worship services around the reading and teaching of the apostles’ writings.
For these three reasons: the original books were set apart for safekeeping, meticulously copied, and regularly read — we can be rock solid confident the authentic writings have been handed down to us intact.
Side Note: Counterfeits
Some phony writings did circulate among the churches in the early centuries. Charlatan authors and wanna-be fakers would attach an apostle’s name to some bogus documents to gain an audience or some needed street cred for some peculiar theology or just to make a profit. In such cases, where the apostolic authorship of a book was in question, the content of the book usually revealed its counterfeit nature rather easy peasy.
One such faker book was the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which purports to present Jesus’ childhood miracles:
- At five years old molding clay sparrows, clapping his hands, and giving them life.
- Using his hands to lengthen a board in Joseph’s carpenter shop.
- Healing a young man who has cut off part of his foot with an axe.
- Angrily telling another boy, who has bumped into him while running through the village, “You won’t continue your journey”—and the boy drops dead.
- Also smacking dead a teacher who disciplines him
- And smacking blind some villagers who give him a hard time
But anyone familiar with the authentic Gospels can straight up detect the bogus nature of these accounts:
- The Gospel of John says Jesus performed his first miracle when he turned the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee at the beginning of his ministry at about age 30 (John 2:11, Luke 3:23). So no boyhood miracles, period.
- Nowhere in any Gospel does Jesus strike anyone dead or blind or anything bad. It goes against his teaching (Luke 6:27-31).
These phony books are sometimes called the pseudepigrapha (pseude = false, epigraphē = inscription or title). Another potential scholarly way to state it would be “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”). Others titles such as the Gospel of Judas, the Acts of Paul, the Gospel of Barnabas, etc. have all been tossed and found as bogus.
Even today, every once in a while some author or publisher will run out with one of these books to the public, claiming some “lost Gospel” has been found—and urging people to purchase it from them. But It wasn’t “lost”—the church has been aware of it for centuries. And it’s not a Gospel—just someone wanting to make a buck. Nothing has changed.