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Old 31st January 2013, 10:17 AM   #1
CplFerro
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Do the "Dead Sea Scrolls" prove the Bible wasn't altered?

Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:25 AM   #2
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Well, some Italians sat down a few centuries after the hero of the illiterate Arab goat-herders died, and decided which scripts were in, and which scripts were out. What they thought it had to do with them is beyond me. If you don't allow the original owners of the story to make the choice themselves, indeed you alter their choice, it is difficult to see how you can then claim that the result is cast in stone in perpetuity, and unalterable.

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Old 31st January 2013, 10:40 AM   #3
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Does it matter?
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:42 AM   #4
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Quote:
Is this true?
Apparently not. From Wikipedia:

Quote:
The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
As gently as possible, I suggest you do a web search with "Dead Sea Scrolls" as your term. The DSS are fragments, mostly tiny fragments--hard to make an argument from timeless changelessness there.

Then I would suggest you do a similar search with "History of the Canon" as your term--it truly bothers some people that the original, 1611 edition of the KJV contained the "Apocryphal books".

If that has not used up all of your spare time, I would suggest you look at comparative, and parallel, translations. There are sites that put up several translations side-by-side. Even if you are limited to English, it can be entertaining to compare, say, the NJV with the NEB, the NKJV, and other examples of the tendentious and sectarian history of the bible.

Short answer: No, the DSS do not demonstrate that the bible has never been altered.
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:57 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
Err...when was the Bible supposed to have been written, exactly?
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:00 AM   #7
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The times of its writings, maybe?
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:15 AM   #8
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what would a possible proof look like?
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:25 AM   #9
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There isn't any consensus on the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they're so fragmentary that little remains of them.

I'd wager that they're fraudulent documents.

So no, if I were a Christian I would not consider them to be evidence of the Bible's unchanging nature.
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:48 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
Which version?
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Old 31st January 2013, 06:50 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Which version?
Well, Gawdzilla, the KJV seems popular enough. I've heard of some people insisting it's the only valid verson. If the KJV fell it would be a blow to Christianity.

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Old 31st January 2013, 06:51 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by dafydd View Post
Does it matter?
It does to me, dafydd. If the source of the Bible is hopelessly muddled by historical waters it would be that much more difficult to be a Christian.

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Old 31st January 2013, 06:58 PM   #13
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Why would contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls in any way affect the attempt to follow the teachings of Christ?
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Old 31st January 2013, 07:18 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
That's nonsense. Think about the old testement and its well characterized documentary formulation.
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Old 31st January 2013, 08:47 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
There isn't any consensus on the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they're so fragmentary that little remains of them.

I'd wager that they're fraudulent documents.

So no, if I were a Christian I would not consider them to be evidence of the Bible's unchanging nature.
"fraudulent documents"????

By whom? For what purpose? Some group, more than two-thousand years ago, went to all this effort to discombobulate modern day Christians?

Carbon_dating_the_Dead_Sea_ScrollsWP
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:22 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
No. Not by a mile.

http://www.biblica.com/bibles/faq/11/
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:23 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Well, Gawdzilla, the KJV seems popular enough. I've heard of some people insisting it's the only valid verson. If the KJV fell it would be a blow to Christianity.

Cpl Ferro
No biblical scholar in the world would take the King James Version seriously.

Ridiculous.
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Old 31st January 2013, 10:28 PM   #18
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:32 PM   #19
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Goodness, there are entire books that we know existed but were edited out of the bible. Common knowledge of some of these books even made it as far as the middle ages and were referred to in church art. Also there are the countless translation errors that cropped up over time. The most popular of these being Moses and his "horns of light". The artists really had a blast with that one!
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Old 31st January 2013, 11:40 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
"fraudulent documents"????
Which is more likely, that these are somehow genuine divinely inspired fragments or fraudulent documents?

Originally Posted by Gord
By whom? For what purpose? Some group, more than two-thousand years ago, went to all this effort to discombobulate modern day Christians?
No one seems to be sure of who is the ultimate author of the Dead Sea Scrolls, so who knows for what reason they were written for?
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Old 1st February 2013, 12:05 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
No one seems to be sure of who is the ultimate author of the Dead Sea Scrolls, so who knows for what reason they were written for?
The reason looks pretty obvious, whatever sect that lived there needed its own version of the "sacred" text.
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Old 1st February 2013, 12:29 AM   #22
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Versions of the Biblical myths pre-date the Bible by centuries.

Epic of Gilgamesh

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Old 1st February 2013, 12:41 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
It is a strawman argument. The way I know it at least. The dead sea scrolls (supposedly) show that nobody altered the Old Testament (!) in order to make it fit the New Testament. You know, prophecies, their fulfillment and stuff. The thing is, it is just not a very wide-spread argument (to say the least) to claim that the Old Testament was altered to make it fit the New Testament.

ETA: Technically, I guess, it is correct to say that noboby changed the prophecies and "prophecies" in the Old Testament to make them fit with their fulfillment and "fulfillment" in the New Testament. But ... So what?

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Old 1st February 2013, 02:20 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
No one seems to be sure of who is the ultimate author of the Dead Sea Scrolls, so who knows for what reason they were written for?
OK, it's time to 'fess up. I know that every one of those 1400 documents is a fake, because I wrote them!

In 1949 as I happened to be passing through Wadi Qumran, I thought: "what a hoot it would be to plant some fake 'ancient biblical documents' in that cave over there!".

Luckily I happened to have on hand some old papyrus fragments that I had found, which I figured might fool any 'experts' who tried carbon dating them. So i scrubbed the original texts off, grabbed my KJV, and started writing feverishly. In just a few hours I had produced 7 fairly convincing manuscripts. I then stuffed my creations into clay pots, popped them in the oven for a few minutes to 'age' them, and finally sneaked into the cave to 'plant' the pots - looking like they hadn't been disturbed for thousands of years.

As I left the cave I chuckled at the great practical joke I had just played on the archaeologists who were digging there, but little did I know what a hit my fake scrolls would be. Nobody suspected a thing, and the 'experts' pronounced them to be genuine. So of course I just had to keep up the pretense, revisiting Qumran several more times between 1951 and 1956 to plant over 70 fake documents in various languages and styles.

But why stop there? I found another 20 caves in the area, and salted them as well. Having run out of KJV text to quote and getting tired of thinking up new ways to twist it, I started inventing non-biblical texts with historical, legal and calendrical themes. I even included some 15 letters from soldiers, and 35 financial documents including marriage contracts, land deeds, and bills of sale. I also expanded my media types to include parchment and copper scrolls, stuffing some into leather waterskins or purses instead of clay pots (others I just left out to rot).

Of course all good things must come to an end, and for me it was at the Cave of Abu Shinjeh. This time I really outdid myself, producing a cache of 40 Aramaic papyrus fragments (mostly Samaritan legal documents), inscribed seals and coins, and the skeletal remains of 205 people. I won't go into how I came up with those skeletons, except to say that I finally realized the joke had gone too far...

So there you have it - all the Dead Sea scrolls are really fakes, the ultimate author is an anonymous internet poster, and he only did it for the LOLs.
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Old 1st February 2013, 05:35 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
Which is more likely, that these are somehow genuine divinely inspired fragments or fraudulent documents?
Are those really the only two options? I think the precise connotation of the word "fraudulent" may need unpacking at this point.

If the scrolls are fragments of 2,000-year-old documents recording the genuine but mistaken beliefs of a community living in Qumran, which had been copied (albeit not perfectly) from older documents, and so on, would they be fraudulent?
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Old 1st February 2013, 06:05 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post
There isn't any consensus on the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they're so fragmentary that little remains of them.

I'd wager that they're fraudulent documents.
Eh? You mean they're not really scrolls, that they weren't found near the Dead Sea, or that they were not written two thousand years or so ago?
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Old 1st February 2013, 06:10 AM   #27
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@mudcat

As to fragmentary, the Isaiah Scroll is 736 cm long, and its text exhibits differences from the wording of the canonical Masoretic Text currently in use by most Jewish communities.
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Old 1st February 2013, 06:22 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
OK, it's time to 'fess up. I know that every one of those 1400 documents is a fake, because I wrote them!

In 1949 as I happened to be passing through Wadi Qumran, I thought: "what a hoot it would be to plant some fake 'ancient biblical documents' in that cave over there!".

Luckily I happened to have on hand some old papyrus fragments that I had found, which I figured might fool any 'experts' who tried carbon dating them. So i scrubbed the original texts off, grabbed my KJV, and started writing feverishly. In just a few hours I had produced 7 fairly convincing manuscripts. I then stuffed my creations into clay pots, popped them in the oven for a few minutes to 'age' them, and finally sneaked into the cave to 'plant' the pots - looking like they hadn't been disturbed for thousands of years.

As I left the cave I chuckled at the great practical joke I had just played on the archaeologists who were digging there, but little did I know what a hit my fake scrolls would be. Nobody suspected a thing, and the 'experts' pronounced them to be genuine. So of course I just had to keep up the pretense, revisiting Qumran several more times between 1951 and 1956 to plant over 70 fake documents in various languages and styles.

But why stop there? I found another 20 caves in the area, and salted them as well. Having run out of KJV text to quote and getting tired of thinking up new ways to twist it, I started inventing non-biblical texts with historical, legal and calendrical themes. I even included some 15 letters from soldiers, and 35 financial documents including marriage contracts, land deeds, and bills of sale. I also expanded my media types to include parchment and copper scrolls, stuffing some into leather waterskins or purses instead of clay pots (others I just left out to rot).

Of course all good things must come to an end, and for me it was at the Cave of Abu Shinjeh. This time I really outdid myself, producing a cache of 40 Aramaic papyrus fragments (mostly Samaritan legal documents), inscribed seals and coins, and the skeletal remains of 205 people. I won't go into how I came up with those skeletons, except to say that I finally realized the joke had gone too far...

So there you have it - all the Dead Sea scrolls are really fakes, the ultimate author is an anonymous internet poster, and he only did it for the LOLs.
Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-rilliant!
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Old 1st February 2013, 06:36 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by truethat View Post
No biblical scholar in the world would take the King James Version seriously.

Ridiculous.
I don't think the people we're talking about are "biblical scholars." There are people who believe the King James version was directly inspired by God. For example:

http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Bible/KJB/inspired.htm

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Please don't be deceived, the King James Bible is God's preserved AND INSPIRED Words. If your pastor doesn't believe that the King James Bible is inerrant, preserved, infallible and inspired, then please find a Christ-honoring church.
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Old 1st February 2013, 08:10 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Well, Gawdzilla, the KJV seems popular enough. I've heard of some people insisting it's the only valid verson. If the KJV fell it would be a blow to Christianity.

Cpl Ferro
That would be news to the Catholics. they don't use the KJV
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Old 1st February 2013, 09:04 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Mudcat View Post

No one seems to be sure of who is the ultimate author of the Dead Sea Scrolls, so who knows for what reason they were written for?
There aren't any original writings in the Scrolls (as far as anybody can tell from what are basically a large bundle of fragmented parchments). They're all copies and rewritings of older stuff. Without printing presses, endless copying was the only way to preserve and spread important texts.
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Old 1st February 2013, 09:33 AM   #32
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This reminds me of the specious "If monkeys evolved into humans, why are there still monkeys?" argument.

The Dead Sea Scrolls may be the oldest copies of the Old Testament books that we have, but that doesn't mean newer copies were derived from them, and should match. The Dead Sea Scrolls were copied from other copies. Rather than being in the direct line of succession, they may be offshoots of the main line, and subject to all the errors, revisions, and redactions, intentional or not, that all hand copies accumulate. They certainly aren't originals of any kind.

Besides, what are the chances of any church or synagogue revising the KJV or Torah now? Religious authorities have always claimed those were divinely inspired, so how could God have gotten it wrong?
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Old 1st February 2013, 09:35 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear All,

A common Christian claim is that the Bible has never been altered from the time of its writing until today. I've heard it said that the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls proves this. Is this true?

Cpl Ferro
Trivially false. The Bible was necessarily altered at least twice: once at the Councel of Nicea, were what we now consider "The Bible" was established, and once (for each language other than Greek and Aramaic) into whatever language you're reading it in. These can be considered justifiable alterations (the first to remove false documents, and the second to allow people to understand it), but they ARE alterations and therefore prove that claim false.

Quote:
Well, Gawdzilla, the KJV seems popular enough. I've heard of some people insisting it's the only valid verson. If the KJV fell it would be a blow to Christianity.
As I understand it, the KJV was translated with an emphasis on making the text sound good, rather than accuracy. No serious Biblical scholar, of any sect or none, that I've encountered uses the KJV. Most laugh when you mention it.

Quote:
It does to me, dafydd. If the source of the Bible is hopelessly muddled by historical waters it would be that much more difficult to be a Christian.
It's going to be enormously hard to be a Christian, then. The most honest way around this is to learn the original languages the various books in the Bible were written in, and to read any extant copies of the rejected works you can get your hands on--again, in their original text (preferably accurate copies of the original document, such as clear photo-quality scans or the like, because marginalia can be just as important as the text). If you're unwilling to do that, you are relying on fallable people to translate the words at minimum--and if you read the Bible only, you're relying on whole committees of fallable people to pick your reading for you (if you think they're devinely inspired, read up on your history).

This will require a great deal of work, and the project probably won't yield results anyway.
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Old 1st February 2013, 09:39 AM   #34
SonOfLaertes
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
That would be news to the Catholics. they don't use the KJV
He was referring to Christians.


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Old 1st February 2013, 09:46 AM   #35
CplFerro
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Originally Posted by Monketey Ghost View Post
Why would contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls in any way affect the attempt to follow the teachings of Christ?
Dear Ghost,

If the DSS were significantly different, it would erode the foundation Christians have in their Bible, I would think. Of course, in that case the DSS could be chalked up to being a corruption of the original, but it would be one less avenue for showing how the Bible has been passed down unaltered since the beginning.

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Old 1st February 2013, 09:47 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
This reminds me of the specious "If monkeys evolved into humans, why are there still monkeys?" argument.

The Dead Sea Scrolls may be the oldest copies of the Old Testament books that we have, but that doesn't mean newer copies were derived from them, and should match. The Dead Sea Scrolls were copied from other copies. Rather than being in the direct line of succession, they may be offshoots of the main line, and subject to all the errors, revisions, and redactions, intentional or not, that all hand copies accumulate. They certainly aren't originals of any kind.
That's a good point, Sherman, thank you for bringing it up.

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Old 1st February 2013, 09:58 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear Ghost,

If the DSS were significantly different, it would erode the foundation Christians have in their Bible, I would think. Of course, in that case the DSS could be chalked up to being a corruption of the original, but it would be one less avenue for showing how the Bible has been passed down unaltered since the beginning.

Cpl Ferro
But the Bible that Christians are most concerned with is the New Testament.
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Old 1st February 2013, 10:51 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Trivially false. The Bible was necessarily altered at least twice: once at the Councel of Nicea, were what we now consider "The Bible" was established, and once (for each language other than Greek and Aramaic) into whatever language you're reading it in. These can be considered justifiable alterations (the first to remove false documents, and the second to allow people to understand it), but they ARE alterations and therefore prove that claim false.
I see this canard all the time on Skeptic sites, that the canon of the Bible was set at Nicaea - it must be a false meme. The Council of Nicaea of 325 was important for establishing the Nicene Creed (not quite the same as the one said in churches today, which was finalised at the Council of Constantinople in 381), for opposing the Arian heresy, and for fixing the date of Easter. We have the proceedings, and we know that the canon of Scripture was not discussed. So it is factually incorrect to say that the canon of the Bible was fixed at Nicaea. Incidentally, there were two Nicean Councils, but the Second Council of Nicaea, in 787, was all about icons and again didn't discuss Scripture.

The story of the closing of the canon (or canons - I think the Old and New Testaments should be considered separately) is far more complicated than that, and it's known that different Christian groups had different texts which they considered holy. It's generally accepted that the canon of the Old Testament was closed by about the end of the second century AD, and that of the New sometime by about the fourth or fifth centuries. The first extant source we have which lists all the books of the New Testament, though (IIRC) not in the usual order, is a letter from Athanasius of 367, but nobody knows where he got the list from. There are lots of interesting debates about how certain writings came to be considered 'Scripture' and others not, but as far as we know there was never a moment when a group sat down and rubber-stamped the consensus. The confusion with Nicaea might have arisen because a young Athanasius was at the Council (in a junior capacity, as bag-carrier to Alexander bishop of Alexandria), or perhaps because the Creed was fixed there.

tl;dr version: The canon of Scripture was not fixed at Nicaea. In fact they never discussed it there.
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Old 1st February 2013, 02:20 PM   #39
Dinwar
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Originally Posted by CplFerro View Post
Dear Ghost,

If the DSS were significantly different, it would erode the foundation Christians have in their Bible, I would think. Of course, in that case the DSS could be chalked up to being a corruption of the original, but it would be one less avenue for showing how the Bible has been passed down unaltered since the beginning.
Again, it demonstrably hasn't remained unaltered--it was altered at least twice.

And you really should take some time to learn your history. A major problem the early Church faced was the fact that different congregations considered different texts cannonical.

In other words, a follower of the Bible that knew enough to appreciate the Dead Sea Scrolls wouldn't have their religious faith shaken because the existence of other gosples from that time is common knowledge. The exact texts are interesting, but their existence is something knowledgeable Christians are forced to accept once they learn the history of their religion.

Originally Posted by sleepy_lioness
I see this canard all the time on Skeptic sites, that the canon of the Bible was set at Nicaea - it must be a false meme.
I wouldn't say false, as much as biased. I was raised Roman Catholic, which is where I got the statement (it's something the priests said a few times when I asked why the creed had the name it did). You obviously know far more than me--my data comes from a half-recalled handful of conversations two decades ago--and I appreciate the correction. I do know that other groups have different cannons--the Greek Orthedox Church certainly is wildly different, for example (I'm not a fan of their iconography, to be honest; too stylized for my taste). That's rather central to my point: it takes a remarkable absence of historical knowledge to support the notion that the Bible hasnt' been changed through the ages.
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Old 1st February 2013, 02:31 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Trivially false. The Bible was necessarily altered at least twice: once at the Councel of Nicea, were what we now consider "The Bible" was established, and once (for each language other than Greek and Aramaic) into whatever language you're reading it in.
Agreed that it had to change, but what changeD at the Council of Nicea?
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