Tag Archives: understanding the manuscripts

Bible: Inspired Incoherencies Part 2

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

In Part 1, we examined the textual nature of the New Testament, along with some examples of the incoherencies within. The understanding that God’s revelation cannot be inconsistent was developed through multiple evidences and at this point, one should realise that the Bible as we know it, is very dynamic. In this article, we’ll be looking at the ramifications of Paul’s writings versus an entire Book in the New Testament. Meaning then, that there exists a major inspired incoherency, note, I’m using the term, ‘inspired’ here, very loosely. Our journey today begins in the Epistle to Corinth, specifically, in the 2nd Epistle, Chapter 12, we read:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.  And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—  was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. – Verses 2 – 4.

Paul’s epistles were authored between 50 AD (beginning with 1st Thessalonians) and 65 AD (his death). As opposed to the New Testament Gospels which were largely authored between 70 AD (if we take into consideration the Q theory) and progressed until 125 AD (Papyrus 52). The dating of the Pastorials and the Personal Revelation of John (The Book of Revelation), has spurious dating and therefore would require a dedicated article to convey a holistic understanding of those texts, for now, let’s continue examining our current topic at hand. With the information given, it is then understood that Paul’s epistles were clearly completed before the development of the New Testament Synoptic Gospels began. We also have to take into consideration that manuscripts were not as quickly transmitted as they are today. Often times a manuscript would be written by a single scribe (usually the author himself) and delivered where it was read and kept safely. Unlike in today’s world where something can be copied in a matter of seconds, to be able to write, let alone read and spell was a significant skill set that a majority of the world did not possess. One must understand that textual transmission is relatively new to the world, as opposed to thousands of years of liturgical transmission (i.e. oral and aural). With that in mind, at the time of the Pauline letters (circa 1st century CE), the main method of transmitting data was primarily liturgical. Therefore with the advent of manuscripts, instead of making instant copies to distribute, the manuscripts would often be read out to persons, and perhaps when it became feasible (depending on the importance of said manuscript), a scribe would copy it meticulously.

Paul’s letters are often, generally classified into two types, as is testament by the manuscripts we possess today. Paul or his scribes would write a letter and address it to a Church in a particular city, cities or none at all. His letters were therefore either either direct (individual) or chain (circular). Direct letters would be directly specified to one named Church, e.g. 1st Thessalonians, as opposed to a letter where it was not directed to any Church, the title being left blank, later to be filled in by a scribe at that city, these are called circular letters. One example of a circular letter would be the Epistle to the Ephesians. For a more indepth understanding of the textual nature of a circular epistle, see the following excerpt from Reformed (Calvinist) Theologian Louis Berkhof:

Now if we examine the internal evidence, we find that it certainly favors the idea that this Epistle was not intended for the Ephesian church exclusively, for (1) It contains no references to the peculiar circumstances of the Ephesian church, but might be addressed to any of the churches founded by Paul. (2) There are no salutations in it from Paul or his companions to any one in the Ephesian church. (3) The Epistle contemplates only heathen Christians. while the church at Ephesus was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, 2:11, 12; 4:17; 5: 8. (4) To these proofs is sometimes added that 1: 15 and 3: 2 make it appear as if Paul and his readers were not acquainted with each other; but this is not necessarily implied in these passages.

In all probability the words ἐν ̓Εφέσῳ were not originally in the text. But now the question naturally arises, how we must interpret the following words τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν και πιστοῖς; etc. Several suggestions have been made. Some would read: “The saints who are really such ;” others: “the saints existing and faithful in Jesus Christ ;” still others: “the saints who are also faithful.” But none of these interpretations is satistactory: the first two are hardly grammatical; and the last one implies that there are also saints who are not faithful, and that the Epistle was written for a certain select view. Probably the hypothesis first suggested by Ussher is correct, that a blank was originally left after τοῖς οὖσιν, and that Tychicus or someone else was to make several copies of this Epistle and to fill in the blank with the name of the church to which each copy was to be sent. The fact that the church of Ephesus was the most prominent of the churches for which it was intended, will account for the insertion of the words ἐν ̓Εφέσῳ in transcribing the letter, and for the universal tradition regarding its destination. Most likely, therefore, this was a circular letter, sent to several churches in Asia, such as those of Ephesus, Laodicea, Hierapolis, e. a. Probably it is identical with the Epistle ἐκ Λαοδικίας, Col. 4:16.

At this point, one should be able to understand the dubious nature of the transmission of earlier New Testament manuscripts. Our next point of discussion, logically, should be to understand how this historical lesson on the transmission of the aforementioned manuscripts plays into the quote from 2nd Corinthians. However, before we do so, a point must be noted: God by definition is all knowing, for example, God can’t claim to be all knowing and at the same time, not know something (that is to be ignorant). As previously mentioned in Part 1, there is a verse which mentions this specific quality about God:

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints. – Bible : 1 Corinthians (14) : 33.

It is quite ironic that Paul states this, as he is at fault for possibly one of the bigger theological contradictions that we’re about to see. Recall Paul’s statements:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.  And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—  was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. – Bible : 2 Corinthians 12 : 2 – 4.

How is all of this relevant? What is the point I’m trying to make?

The fact of the matter is that, the Personal Revelation of John (the Book of Revelation) draws on what John (not the John from the Gospel of John, but John of Patmos), allegedly heard/ saw from Jesus the Christ. It so happens that what Paul tells us he is unable to say, that he is not permitted to tell, that John of Patmos a few decades later (based on the more plausible Domitianic date of 95 AD),  writes about those same things. Yes, Paul says it is unlawful to mention the inexpressible things about paradise and then we have John of Patmos, tell us those very ‘inexpressible things’, to the extent that John’s personal revelation makes it into the New Testament as canonical scripture. To properly understand this, let’s examine what John Gill, in his exposition says on this issue:

heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter; to instance in particular things, which be then either saw or heard, as some have done, is bold and daring; as that he saw the divine Being with the eyes of his understanding, the several angelic forms, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, and the glory and beauty of the souls of departed saints; and heard the harmonious music of each of these happy creatures; had a view of the book of life, and was shown the order and method of divine predestination; was let into the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles, and the change that will be on living saints, and heard the whole account of the dispensation of things, in the church of Christ to the end of the world: the things were unspeakable, never yet related, and so not to be known: they were such things which the apostle himself, when out of the rapture, might have but very inadequate ideas of, and such as he was not able to put into proper words and language to be understood by others; and which as he heard them not from a mere man, but from the Lord, so no mere man was able to utter them, none but he of whom he had heard them: and besides, whatever conceptions the apostle might have of them himself, and how capable soever he was of expressing them; yet they were not fit and proper to be told in the present state of things, being no part of the counsel of God relating to man’s salvation, the whole of which he faithfully declares; and yet were necessary to be heard by him, in order to establish his faith in the Gospel, to animate him in his ministry, and fortify his mind against all the afflictions, reproaches, and persecutions, he was to meet with for the sake of Christ. The phrase seems to be the same with (wrmal rvpa ya) , “it is impossible to say it”; and of such like secret things in paradise, or the world of souls, the Jews say that

“they are hidden, and which (hbytkb twlel Mywar Mnya) , “are not fit to produce in writing“;”and so these were such as were not lawful to speak out, (glwssaiv) (anyrwpinaiv) , “with human tongues”, as Justin Martyr says {z}; they were not in such sense “unspeakable”, as not to be expressed by any; for they were expressed either by Christ himself, who was glorified in human nature, whom the apostle might now see and hear, or by some angel or angels, or they could not have been heard by the apostle as they were; but they were such as before never been spoken to any mortal man, and so could never have been spoken by any; and though they had been spoken to a mortal man, yet they could not be spoke by him to others; for though when he heard them, his human soul, for that present time, might conceive and take in much of the nature and meaning of them, yet they were such as he could not express by words, and represent to others by speech after the vision was over, and especially at this distance: not that it was sinful to have done it, if he could have done it; or that the things themselves were of such a nature, that it would have been criminal to have rehearsed them; but rather that it was impossible to do it, at least fully, since they might greatly regard the glory of the divine Being, and the worship paid him by the heavenly inhabitants: or could it be done in any tolerable manner, it might not be altogether convenient and proper in the present state of things; since the worship of the upper world lying in praise without prayer, might not be so fit to be related, lest it should be imitated by saints on earth: and seeing what the apostle heard was ineffable, and not to be spoken by himself; no credit is to be given to those spurious things called the Revelation and Ascension of Saint Paul, in which the author or authors of them pretend to tell us what these things were.

Therefore the entire Book of Revelation, which almost exclusively deals with unseen events in both heaven and earth, was not to be spoken about. Even Paul did not write it, yet today millions of Christians have it in their possession, information which according to Paul are “things that no one is permitted to tell“. If no one is permitted to speak about those events seen and heard in heaven, then why is it in the Christian Bible? Doesn’t that seem odd to….anyone? In the very first chapter of the Book of Revelation (John of Patmos’ personal revelation) we read of unseen things that no one was permitted to tell (events in heaven):

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

This leaves us with several conclusions:

  1. Paul lied as God allowed the Book of Revelation to be written, thought of as scripture and widely produced for roughly 1800 years.
  2. God lied and told Paul he was not permitted to write it, but then let’s some unknown John on a remote island write it.
  3. Both 1 and 2 are wrong and the Personal Revelation of John (the Book of Revelation) is an interpolation, a fraud and should be removed from the Biblical canon, as it had been before, see:

    The Alogi, about A.D. 200, a sect so called because of their rejection of the logos-doctrine, denied the authenticity of the Apocalypse, assigning it to Cerinthus (Epiphanius, LI, ff, 33; cf. Irenaeus,Against Heresies III.11.9). Caius, a presbyter in Rome, of about the same time, holds a similar opinion. Eusebius quotes his words taken from his Disputation: “But Cerinthus by means ofrevelations which he pretended were written by a great Apostle falsely pretended to wonderful things, asserting that after the resurrection there would be an earthly kingdom” (Church HistoryIII.28). The most formidable antagonist of the authority of the Apocalypse is Dionysius, Bishop ofAlexandria, disciple of Origen. He is not opposed to the supposition that Cerinthus is the writer of the Apocalypse. “For”, he says, “this is the doctrine of Cerinthus, that there will be an earthly reign of Christ, and as he was a lover of the body he dreamed that he would revel in the gratification of the sensual appetite”. He himself did not adopt the view that Cerinthus was the writer. He regarded the Apocalypse as the work of an inspired man but not of an Apostle (Eusebius, Church HistoryVII.25). During the fourth and fifth centuries the tendency to exclude the Apocalypse from the list of sacred books continued to increase in the Syro-Palestinian churches. Eusebius expresses no definite opinion. He contents himself with the statement: “The Apocalypse is by some accepted among the canonical books but by others rejected” (Church History III.25). St. Cyril of Jerusalemdoes not name it among the canonical books (Catechesis IV.33-36); nor does it occur on the list of the Synod of Laodicea, or on that of Gregory of Nazianzus. Perhaps the most telling argument against the apostolic authorship of the book is its omission from the Peshito, the Syrian Vulgate. But although the authorities giving evidence against the authenticity of the Apocalypse deserve full consideration they cannot annul or impair the older and unanimous testimony of the churches. The opinion of its opponents, moreover, was not free from bias. From the manner in which Dionysiusargued the question, it is evident that he thought the book dangerous as occasioning crude and sensual notions concerning the resurrection. In the West the Church persevered in its tradition ofapostolic authorship. St. Jerome alone seemed to have been influenced by the doubts of the East. – The Catholic Encyclopedia, Book of Revelation.

These inconsistencies never seem to end, in Part 1 we dealt with verses and chapters being contradictory, this time we’re dealing with an entire Book. The inconsistent nature of the Bible therefore has been demonstrated among verses, chapters and books, thereby constituting the Bible itself as an inconsistent, ‘scripture‘.

Further Reading:

wa Allaahu Alam,
and Allaah knows best.