Pew Research just released a poll showing the percentage of Christians in the U.S. has dropped by 16% in just the last decade. What is going on? Some of it may relate to the huge push many critics are making to discredit the New Testament by focusing on issues such as no original manuscripts exist or variants in the manuscripts we do have. While this is an ‘answering critics’ video, because of the Latter-day Saint perspective, we have a unique view of this situation, and have a lot to offer the world of Christians that may be weakened in their faith by these arguments, and so the video can also be viewed at times as an ‘evidences’ video as well. Also addressed and answered are a number of verses in the New Testament that are used to attack Latter-day Saints.
Okay, so in the last video we talked about the Old Testament and challenges that can come to faith from different things with the Old Testament. Now, we’re going to talk about the New Testament, and this is actually being attacked a lot more, which makes sense when you think about its role there. And at times, it can actually feel like this might even be an Evidences video on some of these things, and you’ll see what I mean as we go along.
Let me start with a shocking chart that just came out recently from the Pew Research Center. Take a look at this screen. If you look at the last decade, the percentage of people in the United States that call themselves Christians, identify as Christians, has dropped from 77% to 65%. Dramatic change, 16, 17% drop. Protestants, 16% drop. Catholics, 17%. Latter-day Saints have actually held up. No drop. In fact, growth in numbers, but population’s grown as well, but something’s happening. Something’s happening.
Now, take a look at this next chart. This came out in Easter 2017 over in England. The BBC did this research piece and put this article out. Resurrection Did Not Happen, Say a Quarter of Christians. That was the headline. And look at the graph here. All Christians, when it says do not believe, 25% right there, do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to comprehend this. And then, even look at the one up right above it, 40% of all Christians will believe in the resurrection, but not as the Bible says it. So again, what is going on?
Look at the second graph from this study at the BBC on resurrection, life after death, for themselves. One-third of Christians in the survey do not believe in resurrection, personal resurrection. So again, what is going on?
So let’s talk a little bit about this. We’ve talked about the new atheists when we did the Old Testament video. Really, there’s been three waves over the last century, and this third wave is extremely intense on the impact it’s having. Look at the last decade. Now, there’s a lot of these secular influences in our society today, obviously, but this is being really influenced significantly by many of these publications and things that have been coming out. And it really started in a sense, this third wave, with the Jesus Seminar in the mid-eighties. Robert Funk pulled together all these scholars and said, “We’re going to get to the bottom line. What did Jesus actually say, the historical Jesus, and we’re going to vote on this with colors.” They used red for Jesus said it for sure. Pink was kind of possibly. Gray, most likely not. And black, definitely not. Kind of a voting system. And they would tally it up and it was a great PR move.
In fact, it was kind of considered a fringe movement in a sense by mainstream biblical scholars, but the media loved it. They picked up on it. There’s a lot of primetime pieces even that would interview these people. And in fact, you may have heard about the Lord’s Prayer. They said, “Our Father,” those are the only two words that got a red rating, essentially on there.
So it really stirred the pot a bit there. In fact, the founder Robert Funk, who passed away … And then the Jesus Seminar kind of folded after his death, which was in 2005. But this went on for a couple of decades. They met twice a year. They did some publications out here on what they thought Jesus really said, but listen to this. This is Robert Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar. He said this about Jesus:
He says, “We should give Jesus a demotion. It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine. Jesus’ divinity goes together with the old theistic way of thinking about God. The plot early Christians invented for a divine redeemer figure is as archaic as the methodology in which it is framed. A Jesus who drops down out of heaven, performs some magical act that frees human beings from the power of sin, rises from the dead and returns to heaven is simply no longer credible.” He says, “We must find a new plot for a more credible Jesus.” That’s the founder of it, and he handpicked who was going to be part of these scholars that did this.
Now, some of their guidelines they would use in doing it was no miracles. Miracles would be … So, it’s all naturalistic approaches. No Jesus … No actual claim to be the Messiah, to be resurrected, any prophecies, usage of Old Testament references were deemed invalid. A thought must run against the social and religious grain of the day to be accepted. The parables or sayings need to be exaggerated, humor, or paradox to be considered. Even Gospel authors must not group sayings or provide context affecting interpretation.
So, only 20% of Jesus’s sayings they claim to be having come from Jesus, not a single word in the Gospel of John. Of the deeds that Jesus did, only 10 of the events were given a red rate, 6%, with a high level of confidence. So, really quite staggering there.
Now, this gave birth … One of the people coming out of this was Bart Ehrman. You may have heard of Bart. He’s very famous, lots of publications there. He used to be an Evangelical Protestant. He’s now agnostic, and he publishes like crazy on this. He goes around on speaking tours, and is very powerful and persuasive in the way he talks about some of these things. He always talks about, “We don’t have anything. We have copies of copies of copies.” That’s kind of his famous thing that he says.
Well, let me show you a screen. If you take a look at this screen … I took this right off of an atheist website. I put it onto a timeline, but these were the bullet points that he had labeled. And he’s got the references there, many of them coming from Bart Ehrman. But, Problems with the Manuscripts. Okay And on this website, it says, “Here’s why I think the New Testament is a fairy tale.” And so, “No original manuscripts of any New Testament books written in the Apostle’s hands remain,” none. “No surviving manuscripts from the first century.” “The oldest manuscript,” they call it P52, “dates to the second century, a hundred years after events it relays and only a credit card-sized fragment.” That’s the size of it. “Not a single complete manuscript dating earlier than the fourth century.” “94% of surviving manuscripts date to the ninth century or later.”
“The thousands of later manuscripts we do have contain hundreds of thousands of variations and discrepancies. Some simple spelling errors, some intentionally produced by Christian copyists to deliberately alter earlier and rival Christian beliefs that existed in the existing manuscripts.”
Okay, now take a look at this slide here. What you don’t see is how this compares to the other ancient documents that we have. It’s stunning when you do a comparison on there. So, here are some famous ones that we don’t question, listed with the New Testament at the bottom. So, if you look there, the closest competitor would be Homer’s Iliad with 643 copies. We’ve got 24,000 New Testament manuscripts. We often quote the Greek manuscripts, which are about 5,800, and then the Latin came next with 10,000 Latin manuscripts there.
But then also look at the time lapse on some of these. Caesar, Plato, 1,300 years elapsed, 7 copies of it. So, 30 years on some of those with the New Testament. Even the full manuscripts, we would put something closer to 300 years or so on there, which is still a long time. But on a comparative basis, it’s the most compelling and strongest we have of anything. You still are left with having to exercise faith. I’m going to mention that in a second.
Now let’s take a look at this graph. This is having to do with variants. Okay. So if you look here … In fact, you’ll find these graphs all over online. This one I thought was very helpful the way they labeled it. 400,000 variants approximately. And so, a variant is any time where you’ve got discrepancies between manuscripts. We see these right in the Gospels, right? We try and harmonize the Gospels in a sense, but even if it’s a spelling error and it’s replicated in copies, that’s considered a variance. So there’s a ton of variance over time here, but the ones that are only meaningful are 4,000. The ones that would be actual viable are only 2,000, which means 1% variant. If you were to do this with Homer, Iliad’s Homer, it’s about 5% there.
And also, it does help you, with all these manuscripts and the variants, it does help you to craft together … They call it textual criticism, trying to get back to the original from this. It gives you a lot to go on. And so, there is a lot of confidence we can get back to many of these early things, even though we don’t have the original manuscripts because of all this. And you think about an auto crash and all these eyewitnesses, you’re not going to have verbatim, word-for-word of every single person that saw that. In fact, if you did, wouldn’t you think there was some kind of collusion going on? So, it can actually help. So these are some of the arguments you can use to talk about these things.
So here’s a quote here from Robert Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar. He said, quote, “Why did the Spirit not provide for the preservation of original copies of the Gospels?” And I think that’s a good question, and it reminds me of another question. Why did God take back the gold plates? Literally, that came in my head when I was thinking about that question from him. I thought, this sounds very familiar in some ways. So, God wanted it to remain in the realm of faith, in my opinion, on these things as well. In fact, the Resurrection, how are you going to prove the Resurrection?
I love this quote from Elder Maxwell. Let me share this here. “It’s the author’s opinion that all the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, will remain in the realm of faith. Science will not be able to prove or disprove holy writ. However, enough plausible evidence will come forth to prevent scoffers from having a field day, but not enough to remove the requirement of faith. Believers must be patient during such unfolding.”
And I believe the Book of Mormon, for me, is one of the plausible evidences of the Bible, interestingly, when you think about it. The miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon … Watch the Match It video I did on there. But for me, it’s evidence of the Bible. And in fact, we’re told that in Mormon 7. Look at this on the screen, verses 8-9. But it says “This [the Book of Mormon] is written for the intent that ye may believe the Bible.” Those are some powerful words if you think about it.
And I want to show you another thing. Now, this is a quote from Hugh Nibley. This was a letter to his mom from the war front. Now, Hugh Nibley’s not a prophet, but think about what he said here. “The potential power of the Book of Mormon is something to move mountains. It will only take effect when everything is pretty far gone, but then it will be dynamite. That leaves room for optimism.” So, I think that’s kind of a cool thing. I don’t know exactly what he meant with all that. But, for me, I just think that’s really cool, when we think about some of these things we’re talking about here.
Then, one last thing. 1 Nephi 13 talks about how, again, this will be a convincing of the Gentiles that the records of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb are true. And then, it will also restore these plain and precious things. We’ll be taking about that in a minute. And think about the amazing things we get from the Book of Mormon. So much more clarity on the Plan of Salvation, that the Fall was a good thing. You don’t get that at all from the Bible. That’s a very critical understanding there about the atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s not just for sins, it’s for our pains and sorrows, that type of thing, our pre-mortal life, infant baptism, the mode of baptism, covenants, a lot more detail about covenants. There’s so many critical things.
Okay, the next thing I want to share is actually on these plain and precious things. And in fact, Alexander Morrison, he used to be Elder Alexander Morrison of the Seventy, great Bible scholar, wrote this book, Turning from Truth: A New Look at the Great Apostacy. And then, actually, I’m going to really recommend if you’re interested in this stuff, How the New Testament Came to Be. This was at the 35th Sidney Symposium, and Elder Morrison submitted a paper there, and you can get it online. I’ll link that in the program here. But I want to share a few things from it.
So, this first one here, he says, “I must part company with Ehrman … “, so this is Bart Ehrman he’s talking about here. We’ve been going through that throughout the video. ” … when he claims that ‘orthodox’ scribes, though they clearly made errors and made some changes deliberately, did not do so out of malice. Nephi wrote that someone or more likely a group of people, ‘have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious,’ and that this was done so ‘they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.'”
And remember, also, in another section by the way, it says that this happened before they went out to the masses, essentially, to the Gentles. It says, “It seems certain that most of the changes that have significantly corrupted the scriptures came early in the Christian era, before the end of the first century when many variations on the Christian message were wide-spread. There are indeed many allegations by second-century Christian writers that others were corrupting the scriptures, and with malice of forethought,” or premeditated in other words. “Tertullian, the first Christian Father who wrote in Latin and who lived and worked during the last half of the second and early third centuries wrote extensively about a number of heretic Christian sects, including that of Marcion. Of Marcion, Tertullian wrote, ‘He expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the scriptures as suited his own subject matter. He,’ continued Tertullian, ‘mutilated the Gospel according to Luke, removing all the narrative of the Lord’s birth and also removing much of the teachings of the discourses of the Lord.”
Okay. And then, “Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon at the end of the second century AD, claimed that the followers of Valentinus, perhaps the most influential of the Gnostics, changed the scriptures ‘by transferring passages and dressing them up anew and making one thing out of another.'”
“Clement of Alexandria railed similarly against another Gnostic sect. Charges of deliberate falsification of the scriptures flew thick and fast. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth in the late second century, complained that his own epistle had been tampered with, and added ruefully, ‘Small wonder then if some have dared to tamper even with the word of the Lord Himself when they have conspired to mutilate my own humble efforts.’ Without going into more detail, it is clear that allegations of scriptural tampering and downright forgery were common in the second century of the Christian era. No individual or group was immune.”
Then he goes on to say, “How could this have been done? Several categories,” and he goes into detail in the paper on these: Misinterpretation and subsequent wresting of the scriptures, reinterpretation of the scriptures, changing the meaning of the words, deletion or substitution of words or ideas, and forgery of the text. This is just a great paper.
And then he concludes, “It is most probable, I believe, that the great and abominable church which …” Now, let me pause for a second. Look on the right. Stephen Robinson, great Latter-day Saint scholar said … I love this. “Membership in the great and abominable church is based more on who has your heart than on who has your records.” I love that.
And I will actually just even say too, as a side note, he actually said that this tampering could have even been the canon along the way, controlling the canon. And we know there’s a lot of lost books that are mentioned in the Bible, but we don’t have. The video I just did on Enoch is a great example, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found out how much tremendous impact it had on the New Testament, but yet it didn’t get canonized and then went underground for however many … 1,600 years, or whatever. Something like that.
So, okay, back to what Elder Alexander Morrison said, “It is most probable, I believe, that the great and abominable church, which maliciously corrupted the scriptures early in the Christian era, was actually not a single entity but a coalition or at least a conglomerate of people who rebelled against God. Those who called themselves Christian but rebelled against the leaders and quarreled with their fellows, who practiced idolatry, who wallowed in mysticism, who could not fully leave Judaism, who betrayed other Christians (as occurred many times and may have resulted in the death of Peter and Paul), and who responded to persecution by craven recanting of their testimony of Christ –those and others like them ensured that the infant church would receive a fatal blow, such that the mystery of iniquity would prevail. The deliberate corrupters of the scriptures surely are found among this group.”
Okay, now, for some of these variants that we talked about that are substantial. These are on Ehrman’s top 10 list. This first one will be particularly interesting, I think in a positive way, for Latter-day Saints. 1 John 5:7 is often pointed out as a great pointing to the doctrine of the Trinity. All right? Three Gods in one. If you look on the screen here in the middle, the verse, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.”
So, this is what Alexander Morrison said, “In 1515, the Dutch humanist Erasmus produced the first printed, not-hand copied, edition of the Greek New Testament. He did not include 1 John 5:7–8 because it is not found in any Greek manuscripts prior to the sixteenth century, though it is found in the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate. It was added my Latin translators in the late fourth and early fifth centuries … A fury broke out among theologians. Erasmus was denounced, accused of tampering with the doctrine of the Trinity. He replied that if the text found in the Vulgate could be found in any Greek manuscript dated earlier than the Vulgate he would be glad to include it in the next edition of his Greek New Testament.”
“Ehrman proclaims that someone manufactured such a text by copying out the Greek text and substituting the Latin text found in the Vulgate for the passage in question, translated into Greek, of course. This was presented to Erasmus, who dutifully included it (what scholars call the Johannine Comma) in his subsequent editions. Interestingly enough, these Greek texts provided the form of the text used in producing the King James Bible so familiar to us today, even though it’s not found in the ‘oldest and best’ manuscripts of the Greek New Testament.” So, it’s in your King James Bible today, and this is the story behind it. So, it’s quite fascinating.
Now, for a variant that is not as fun to hear about, the other way. So, ” … consider the famous story of the woman taken in adultery, found in John 8. It’s portraying Jesus as both wise and compassionate, but Ehrman contends it suffers from one erroneous problem: it was, he says, ‘not originally in the Gospel of John or in any other of the Gospels. It was added by later scribes, was inserted perhaps in the late fourth or fifth century.’ Many scholars do and did indeed believe that the story was a well-known oral tradition about Jesus and at some point was added to the text of John’s Gospel. But it is not found in what Ehrman calls ‘the oldest and best’ manuscripts of the Gospel of John, including all the earliest Greek manuscripts.”
So, now, what’s oldest and best is also subjective since we don’t have the original manuscripts. “Further, oral tradition based on eye witness observation have their legitimate places, and whoever added to the story to the printed record may in fact had done so under inspiration, thereby not only enriching the record with good intent, but also reflecting an actual event and a solid truth which had not yet been written down and had long been a factual part of the oral tradition widely-accepted by Christians.”
And so if we move on to the next category … So, oral tradition. And this is something that Bart Ehrman, he talks about. First of all, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know that there was a lot more writing going on potentially back then. So, it wasn’t just with the oral tradition. But oral tradition was a big deal, and Bart Ehrman, when he talks about this, he talks about the game of telephone. And this is how he riles up the audience and say, “Just think about that game of telephone. You’ve played it before.” And he says, “This is a mess. The Bible is a mess because of the game of telephone.” That’s basically how he communicates that.
But there’s some big problems when you think about this. So, first of all, it’s using presentism. Back then in that oral culture, this was taught to kids, to memorize … This was a way of passing things down, especially critical things. You would memorize. And this was a part of passing information down, particularly sacred information. And even think about us today. Think about your cellphone. I was thinking about this the other day. How many phone numbers do I have memorized today compared to when we didn’t have cellphones, if you’re old enough to remember back then? You used to have a lot more memorized back then, right? Because you had to on there. So, it’s an interesting thought there. So, it’s not fair to compare it in that sense there.
Also, telephone is done secretly, right? That’s the way that it’s … Without any accountability. That’s not the case with this. This was done in a public forum in a sense, and correction could be had and would have been had. And the last thing, also, is that telephone is done with meaningless kind of absurd things often. This had to do with your salvation. These were things that were very critical, so it’s apples to oranges when you’re comparing in a sense that. So, it’s a little frustrating that some hone in on this oral nature of things.
Now, I do want to show you that this is fascinating. Look at this. This is from 130 AD. This is a quote from a bishop showing how oral tradition was valued at the time of Jesus. This is a quote from him, “But I shall not be unwilling to put down, along with my interpretations, whatsoever instruction I have received with care at any time from the elders, and stored up with care in my memory.” He says, “I asked minutely after their sayings.” After this, it says, “For I imagine that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.” So here, he’s literally saying that the oral was even more powerful than the written. Interesting.
Okay. Now, to apply that to something that really really matters here is, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15. This is really, they think, the earliest interaction there with … The earliest saying of a creed of the Christian church, in a sense, a tradition passed on that would have been memorized. And look at this, the way this is worded by Paul. Now, this is Paul Rezkalla at the Gospel Coalition is writing this about what Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
So, Paul says, “For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared …” And all this. So, this was passed on.
Now, “The language of received and passed indicates Paul was relaying an oral tradition. Paul received this creed from the church leaders in Jerusalem in the 30s, and this exchange is recorded in Galatians 1:18-20. The elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus.” Well, that’s pretty powerful I think.
Okay. Let’s talk for a second about source criticism. Now, this is kind of a big deal. This is something that people try to destroy faith with, and they’ll point to the Book of Mark and they’ll say, “The Book of Mark is the shortest and therefore it’s often thought of as the first.” The first is the shortest, and then Matthew and Luke use that and then embellished the story from that. And they specifically focus on the ending of Mark, there’s a controversial ending from verses 9-20 were not in the earliest manuscripts. And this becomes a big deal because at the end of verse 8, the woman discovered this empty tomb. And it’s not an angel, but it’s a man there that tells them that Jesus has risen, but you don’t then get the resurrection appearances and the apostolic commission there. That’s in those verse 9-20.
So, you can see how this then lays out to try and discredit or say that the Resurrection was embellishment later that happened. Okay. So, let’s talk about Mark maybe not being the first necessarily, and then also the great evidences of the Resurrection, and then that ending of Mark that is particularly important for Latter-day Saints. I’ll mention why in a second.
Okay. So, here is Robert Millet who did a great … I’ll link this. He’s a professor of ancient scripture at BYU here, and this was published BYU Religious Study Center. So, he said, “Though it is a common presupposition of some biblical critics to prefer the shortest document as the oldest, thus assuming that the longer ones contain embellishments and additions, is it not just as reasonable to suppose that Mark, having before him the longer Matthew or the longer Luke, chose to prepare an abbreviated Gospel, placing less stress on sermons and parables and more stress on the movements and actions of our Lord?”
William R. Farmer argued, “There are at least twenty topics that Matthew and Luke have in common. These cannot be explained through a dependence upon Mark, because Mark does not contain several of these topics. Also, all the church fathers who mention the sequence of the Gospels indicate that Matthew was written first.” And I really found this interesting, is “The earliest statements regarding sequence was made by Clement of Alexandria who indicates that both Matthew and Luke were written before Mark, and there is a question of the relation between the historical spread and the development of the Christian Church. So, Matthew is the most Jewish Gospel in the canon. Luke is, too, also very Jewish. But Mark is the best adapted of the three for Gentile readers who are not acquainted with Palestinian culture.”
So, doesn’t that make sense that that would be the last one written as the Gospel expanded out to the Gentiles? There’s that. I mean, that’s really quite a fascinating thought there. Okay.
So, I thought this was great. This is from crossexamined.org, and they have this piece Brian Chilton did on 10 Reasons to Accept the Resurrection of Jesus as Historical Fact. I’m just going to breeze through these really quick and just point them out. But the first one, “The first eyewitnesses were women.” Okay. “In Greco-Roman culture, a woman’s testimony wasn’t even admissible in court.” To the Jews, two women have to equate to one man. “Minimal facts concerning the Resurrection”, there’s five key facts that nearly all New Testament scholars will agree to on this regardless of all these manuscripts.
“Transformation of early disciples. James, the brother of Jesus, was a skeptic. He became one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church after the Resurrection.” Paul, you know, persecutor, becomes … You know his story. “Embarrassing details of the Resurrection,” in addition to the women, he had to have someone from the Sanhedrin provide a burial, the same Sanhedrin that executed Jesus. And also, the disciples were fearful and fled, which would be embarrassing. Also, look at what he said here in this, “Willingness to die for what was known. Many people will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for something they erroneously invented.”
Okay? “Documentary evidence,” lots of that that we have in the scriptures. He lists them there. “Circumstantial evidence,” the changing of observing baptism, which was death, burial, and resurrection, the Lord’s Supper, Sunday worship, that was a big move. “The Missing Motive,” power, greed, and lust, those are the three big motives and none of those can be found here. In fact, power, just the opposite. They preached against greed and lust the other way.
“Enemy Attestation of the Resurrection.” The Romans or Jews would have gladly taken the body out to show the Christians if they could, you know? And lots of different parts there. And then “Multiple post-resurrection eyewitnesses,” and you can see them there. My favorite is the 500 disciples listed in 1 Corinthians 15:6.
Okay. Now to address the ending of Mark problem there again. So, those last eight verses that make it sound like the … Or, it’s the last 11 verses, I guess, 9-20, that make it sound like there’s no witness to the Resurrection. Okay? So, Jeff Lindsay did a great piece on here, and this was published in Interpreter. Long paper that he did. And I just got a couple of little snippets out of here I want to share. But this is also important for Latter-day Saints because the apostolic commission was given by Jesus to the Nephite disciples. Mormon reports it in Mormon 9 and uses similar words. And so, there’s a tie to the Book of Mormon here that I’m going to mention some key parts to this, as well. But this is used to criticize the Book of Mormon, as well.
So, here’s what Jeff Lindsay said, “Over 95% of the existing ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament have the longer ending of Mark. The problem came with the relatively recent discovery of the two oldest surviving manuscripts, both of which end at Mark 16:8 and lack the longer ending.” Then he says, “While they are the oldest, they are clearly not the oldest manuscripts that were used and quoted by early Christians. Dozens of ancient sources provide evidence that at least multiple portions of the longer ending of Mark were known and used in the Christian community before these others came into existence in the fourth century. In fact, both those manuscripts provide evidence that the copyists were at least aware of an alternate ending for Mark.” One has, actually, an unusually large space after it on there. So, it’s interesting.
And, “They both came from the same Alexandrian school, the same scriptorian, and so should not be considered as independent witnesses against the longer ending.” And then, “The case for the longer ending in Mark includes an impressive array of insights, individual words, themes, grammatical patterns, parallelisms, fascinating multi-dimensional approach.” He gives several books, resources you can look at on this, and he quotes from these. I’ll give you just a quick one here.
Craig Evans, the Dean of the School of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University, talked about one of these books and he says, “I have for my whole career held that Mark 16:9-20, the so-called ‘Long Ending’ was not original. But in his well-researched and carefully argued book, Lunn succeeds in showing just how flimsy that position really is.”
Now, look at the last one. Snapp, his book, and look at the very end of that. “But in terms of content, it defies logic, as Snapp observes, that Mark would end the Gospel with the women fearful and silent, as if they had disobeyed the commandment to tell others about the resurrection, when it was well-known in the Christian community that they …”, look at Matthew 28, ” … that they had shared that information.”
So, this is Lindsay’s conclusion, and I’m not going to read this whole slide, but I really want you to just look at the thing I inserted there in the middle so you can actually see these words. I think this is very powerful to see Irenaeus’ … This early Christian father. This is in 177 AD, and he’s quoting from the long ending of Mark. So, this was centuries before these other manuscripts that are creating the problems. Obviously, it was around, okay? And then he even talks about this Marcion who is mutilating the scriptures and even shortening them. I thought that was really quite interesting.
And in fact, Book of Mormon Central did a piece on this related to the Book of Mormon, and their last two comments were, it says, “Whether it was originally part of Mark or not, Mark 16:15–18 likely reflects authentic words and teachings of the resurrected Lord in the Old World. If the resurrected Lord gave these words to His apostles in Galilee, it is reasonable to believe, as Moroni states, that the resurrected Savior gave the same teachings to his twelve Nephite disciples in Bountiful. Even though the English translation was possibly influenced by the King James words, Moroni’s source was not the Gospel of Mark. Rather, Moroni was drawing on the teachings of Christ recorded among the Nephites. Thus, the authenticity of the words of Jesus is not ultimately dependent on the authenticity of the ‘long ending’ of Mark. Indeed, belief in the authenticity of these words in the ending of Mark may, on the other hand, benefit from the testimony of the Book of Mormon.”
I did do a video on Book of Mormon word choice, and I would suggest this is if you want. This is a great example of maybe what could have even happened, is that the Lord could have easily instructed Joseph through inspiration to have had those words because those are the words of our day, for the apostolic commission on there as a way to instruct how this was communicated in our day and language that we would understand, just as the whole text of the Book of Mormon. And I go through that in that video.
Okay. So, now, there’s also a growing trend of Jesus being a myth, okay? And there’s a crazy debate online with over a half a million views between, believe it or not, Bart Ehrman and then another guy who says Jesus is a myth … What’s his name? Robert Price. And they … For two and a half hours. And Bart says, “Boy, I’m usually trying to tear down the divinity of Jesus. Here, I’m trying to just prove that he existed. Not that he’s divine, but that he existed.” Okay.
So, I love what Robert Millet said here about this. He said, “Another history of religions …”, that’s what they call it, ” … approach to the Gospel consists in stressing similarities between the Gospels and other contemporary documents, and in so doing minimizes the uniqueness of the canonical books. But what is it that one has established when one demonstrates that the idea of a ‘virgin birth’ was known to the Greeks, that many Greeks accepted the idea of a God-man, that the crux of many of Jesus’ sayings is to be found also among Jewish rabbis before the first century AD, or that the concepts of martyrdom and ascension into heaven were not new to the world of Jesus of Nazareth? Latter-day Saints are blessed with an understanding of the plan of salvation that informs our thinking regarding antiquity. We know that Christ’s eternal gospel has been preached from the beginning, and that Christian prophets have taught Christian doctrine and administered Christian ordinances since the days of Adam. Should we be surprised that elements of that doctrine or semblances of the ordinances or rituals, albeit in fragmentary and even apostate form, should be found in cultures throughout the world?”
So that was helpful and interesting. Okay. Now, we have the blessing of Joseph Smith translation there, and it’s not like Joseph is going back to what the original manuscripts necessarily were said, but getting inspiration on what the Spirit was directing education-wise for us to understand this inspired commentary, essentially on the documents that we have.
Two quick quotes on that. This is on the Church website, under history topics. “Joseph Smith also made smaller changes that improved grammar, modernized language, corrected points of doctrine, or alleviated inconsistencies. As he worked on these changes, he appears in many instances to have consulted respected commentaries by biblical scholars, studying them out in his mind as a part of the revelatory process.”
And then here is an article in the Ensign in ’97, “The Prophet did not translate the Bible in the traditional sense of the word, that is go back to the earliest Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to make a new rendering into English. Rather, he went through the Biblical text of the King James Version and made inspired corrections, revisions, and additions to the Biblical text.”
And he never really quite finished. They were finished in 1833, but then he kept updating throughout his life, essentially, as he learned line upon line, too, and went through that process. Or, as the saints did, maybe, in updating different things.
So, last couple quick things. Some verses used against Latter-day Saints. Of course, the end of the Book of Revelation, right? John writes, “No man should add to this book or the plagues will be added onto his head from this book.” I went through this in the Not Christians, Why? video for seven minutes, at the 12 minute mark, and I also talk about the development of the canon. Bottom line is, there was no Bible, there was no New Testament when John wrote this whatsoever. It did not exist for a long time after that. So, obviously, he was talking about his own book. But that’s a great video segment to watch.
Okay. How about John 1:18, “No man has seen God at any time.” Joseph Smith’s revision of this, or inspired version, he says, “Except he hath borne record of the Son.” Look at this early Christian father, Irenaeus, in 180 AD, about how this verse should be read, “For no man hath seen God at any time unless the only-begotten Son of God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” That is quite interesting.
Okay. And then look at this here. So, lots of occasions where the Lord did appear. Here’s Moses in the middle there. “So, the Lord spake to Moses face-to-face as a man speaks to his friend.” So, right in the same Bible, we have this huge contradiction there. We have no problem with this. Okay.
And then I just love this last part here. Look at the underlined part from this theologian here. He says, “The pleasant surprise of those who survive this appearance from God, the problem of how a God can adequately show Himself to humankind without harm is a conundrum that is never really resolved in the Bible.” So, I talk about that in the Restoring Original Christianity video, and how our understanding of how transfiguration works.
Okay. So, John 4:24. And I’m not going to read all of this. If you want, actually, the Greek, if you look down towards the bottom, the two Greek words. So, this is what actually is in the Greek, it just says, “God’s Spirit.” And the JST resolves this issue by saying, “For unto such hath God promised His Spirit.” And this talks about how God is life, God is love, or these different things. Anyway, you can read that. It’s, I think, an interesting one.
Peter and Paul’s Paradoxical Passages on Women, it was an amazing talk. I’m going to just put this up. Lynne Hilton Wilson, I mentioned her book in the Women and the Priesthood video, Christ’s Emancipation on Women. This was given in the FairMormon Conference in 2018. Phenomenal talk, addressing a lot of these challenging passages on women in there. And I’ll show you this one slide, though, that I thought was really helpful, she brings up here, is, “Did the author mean this? Was this a specific problem? Is this message consistent in scripture? What do other translations say? Did Joseph change this verse? What was the question for this answer? Is this in harmony with the restored gospel?”
But I do have to read this C.S. Lewis. This is my favorite quote from C.S. Lewis, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the real foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
And then my closing quotes here, just how we should reverence the Bible. Alexander Morrison, how we should look at and respect it, honor it. Robert Millet says we should take a critical look at these critical positions, and we don’t need to swallow them because of, especially, our understanding. And then President Hunter, I love what he said. The last sentence, “We can be modern without giving way to the influence of the modernist. If it is old-fashioned to believe in the Bible, we should thank God for the privilege of being old-fashioned.”
Hope you enjoyed the video. Subscribe for more.
Other videos on this channel that may be helpful in conjunction with this video:
Old Testament Issues That Unnecessarily Challenge Faith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VPB0…
Understanding Book of Mormon Word Choices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwkWB…
John Hall at 2007 Fairmormon Conference – The Problem with Tampering with the Word of God: As far as it is translated correctly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSz4T…
35th Annual Sidney Sperry Symposium at BYU – 7 Presentations on How The New Testament Came To Be https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…
Turning From Truth: A New Look at the Great Apostasy by Alexander Morrison
How The New Testament Came To Be: The 35th Annual Sidney Sperry Symposium by BYU Religious Studies Center
How Wide The Divide: A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation by Stephen Robinson
Pew Research Center – In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace: https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/i…
BBC News Article – Resurrection Did Not Happen, Say Quarter of Christians https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-3…
Alexander B. Morrison, “Plain and Precious Things: The Writing of the New Testament,” in How the New Testament Came to Be: The Thirty-fifth Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, ed. (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2006), p1–26 https://rsc-legacy.byu.edu/archived/s…
Robert L. Millet, “The Historical Jesus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective,” in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2001), p171–96 https://rsc-legacy.byu.edu/archived/h…
Jeff Lindsay’s article in Interpreter on the disputed long ending of Mark: https://journal.interpreterfoundation…
Book of Mormon Central on the disputed long ending of Mark and its relation to the Book of Mormon: https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.or…
David Seely, Aug 1997 Ensign, JST: Plain & Precious Things Restored: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
Church Website – History Topics; Joseph Smith ‘Translation’ of the Bible https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
Clyde Williams in Oct 2006 Ensign, “Plain and Precious Truths Restored” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
10 Reasons to Accept the Resurrection of Jesus as an Historical Fact at Crossexamined.org: https://crossexamined.org/10-reasons-…
Helpful related Fairmormon links:
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.
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