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I hear time and time again, Christians can't prove the bible is authentic because they don't have a chain of transmission.

 

I would like to know what is a chain of transmission exactly? In a sense aren't the NT manuscripts a chain of transmission? Aren't they copies of copies of copies of the original transmitted down to us?

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A chain of transmission would be as follows:

 

Jesus taught X who taught Y who taught Z who taught...all the way until the present day.

 

It's basically a list of teachers starting from the Prophet and ending with the last person.

 

The NT manuscripts aren't a chain of transmission.

 

We do not know who translated the Gospel of Matthew into Greek if Christian tradition is to be believed. We do not know whom John the Apostle taught, i.e. we do not have any names. We do not know who transmitted the Gospel from Luke. 

 

To give you an idea, this is what we have with Christianity:

 

Jesus--->Matthew---> ???????????????????????

 

Jesus---> Peter----> Mark ---> ???????????????????

 

Jesus ---> Paul ----> Luke ---> ?????????????????

 

Jesus ---> John ---> ???????????????????????????

 

This is not enough. What we want is complete chain that goes all the way up until this day. Moreover, this chain of transmission has to be scrutinized. Is everybody's identity known?  Did they actually meet? Thus, a chain of transmission would not just be taken at a face value - otherwise anybody could just put a bunch of names of together. 

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We have manuscripts as early as the second century. These match the rest of the manuscripts copied down through the centuries. The NT has been quoted from the first century fathers that is in the modern day NT. Isn't this reliable enough?

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As for manuscripts, let's keep in mind that the early century manuscripts from the second century are really just tiny fragments. They are not full manuscripts - they don't even come close. They are just tiny scraps of papyri.  

 

Let's also take into account that some early manuscripts have certain key passages missing. For example, early full manuscripts lack the ending of Mark that is found in the modern day NT. The famous story of the adulteress is not found in early manuscripts. The famous saying, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" is lacking in early manuscripts. Certain passages from Luke which say that Jesus was carried up into Heaven and they worshiped him are lacking in early manuscripts. There are a lot of missing passages in addition to the ones I mentioned, which makes one wonder how authentic the transmission process really was.

 

The NT is known as the living text because scribes used to alter the text in order to harmonize the text and to combat heretics for theological purposes. This in turn corrupted the text no matter how noble the intention was. 

 

Yes, the NT has been quoted by the early church fathers but where is the chain of transmission? Is that too much to ask? From whom did the early church fathers learn? Where is the link to the past? Are you telling me that nobody bothered to record from whom they learnt, especially when there were many different, competing Christian fractions running around, each one claiming something different? 

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As for manuscripts, let's keep in mind that the early century manuscripts from the second century are really just tiny fragments. They are not full manuscripts - they don't even come close. They are just tiny scraps of papyri. 


 

Yes that’s true. However these fragments are witnesses to the modern NT we have today confirming these fragments of inspired writing are still the same.


 

 


 

Let's also take into account that some early manuscripts have certain key passages missing. For example, early full manuscripts lack the ending of Mark that is found in the modern day NT. The famous story of the adulteress is not found in early manuscripts. The famous saying, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" is lacking in early manuscripts. Certain passages from Luke which say that Jesus was carried up into Heaven and they worshiped him are lacking in early manuscripts. There are a lot of missing passages in addition to the ones I mentioned, which makes one wonder how authentic the transmission process really was.


 

These isolated verses in no way contradict the rest of the bible, neither are they used as proof texts. Meaning we don’t depend on them to prove Church doctrine.


 

 


 

The NT is known as the living text because scribes used to alter the text in order to harmonize the text and to combat heretics for theological purposes. This in turn corrupted the text no matter how noble the intention was.


 

That’s interesting. Can you please provide some examples?


 

 


 

Yes, the NT has been quoted by the early church fathers but where is the chain of transmission? Is that too much to ask? From whom did the early church fathers learn? Where is the link to the past? Are you telling me that nobody bothered to record from whom they learnt, especially when there were many different, competing Christian fractions running around, each one claiming something different? 


 

What’s the difference whether we had a chain of transmission in this case or not? It doesn’t matter about the details of how it was transmitted. What matters is we have the complete NT from the 1st and 2nd century saying one thing and the modern NT saying the same thing. I don’t understand why this would not be sufficient proof to cast away all doubts?

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That’s interesting. Can you please provide some examples?

 

http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/reli1.htm (The text on this site is not structured in a nice manner (for example, a lot of bullet points), but resist the urge to just skim through it and make sure to read it.)

 

http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/reli2.htm (Better structured. Should be an easy read).

 

http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/original.html

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What’s the difference whether we had a chain of transmission in this case or not? It doesn’t matter about the details of how it was transmitted. What matters is we have the complete NT from the 1st and 2nd century saying one thing and the modern NT saying the same thing. I don’t understand why this would not be sufficient proof to cast away all doubts?

 

No, it isn't. What we are interested in is how did the church fathers get the information. If we cannot trace that trail of information back to Jesus, peace be upon him, that means there is a big question on the source of their information. It honestly baffles my mind how not even a single chain of narration has been recorded. 

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"These isolated verses in no way contradict the rest of the bible, neither are they used as proof texts. Meaning we don’t depend on them to prove Church doctrine."

 

Those passages are significant. I don't care if they are used to prove Church doctrine. The fact that such passages are missing from early manuscripts means that they were added to later ones.  It shows that Christians were willing to add to their text. If an original does not have something written in it but you decide add something to it, then you have corrupted the text. This is simply put unacceptable. It casts doubt on the whole transmission process. 

 

 

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No, it isn't. What we are interested in is how did the church fathers get the information. If we cannot trace that trail of information back to Jesus, peace be upon him, that means there is a big question on the source of their information. It honestly baffles my mind how not even a single chain of narration has been recorded. 

I read those websites. There were a few good points made but unfortunately some very weak arguments that are easily refutable.

 

We don’t have to have a trail of information in order to ensure the original source is correct. You’re assuming “guilty until proven innocent” which is unfair. The facts are the multiplicity of manuscripts, combined with the church father writings combined with an unbroken chain of apostolic succession is enough proof. You have to remember there were mass persecutions of Christians for generations. Do you think these people would be willing to die for a religion they were unsure of because they didn’t have records of a trail of the source?

 

Even now the furthest back any bishop can trace his lineage is probably the 16th century at most. Why doesn’t this bother us Catholics? What’s most important is we recognise the person is being consecrated by an authentic bishop as did the previous generation and the previous so on and so forth. The ordination of a bishop was always done in front of witnesses. Don’t forget the bishop is a very important figure, he is like the mayor of the town. It would be very easy to recognise the mayor passing his office to his successor. Do we need a trail in order to know with certainty President Barack Obama is in a direct line of succession starting with George Washington? No we all can recognise the passing of office without it.

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Yes, the NT has been quoted by the early church fathers but where is the chain of transmission? Is that too much to ask? From whom did the early church fathers learn? Where is the link to the past? Are you telling me that nobody bothered to record from whom they learnt, especially when there were many different, competing Christian fractions running around, each one claiming something different? 

This is a clear case of ultra-skepticism. If you’re going to question the sources used by the Early Church Fathers and disregard the fact these Fathers lived in different countries and their quotes just happen to be consistent and the same universally, then my friend it’s you that has the problem not them. You might as well question your own “weak” and “strong” chains of narration for the Quran. How do you know these chains are liable? There could have been lies interjected? No doubt you will answer if a lie was inserted it would be inconsistent with the other chains and therefore obvious. Same standard applies; the Church Father Writings are consistent with each other as well with NT manuscripts. We have a consistency in biblical and extra biblical manuscripts. The corroborating evidence only strengthens the case. If that’s still not good enough for you, oh well then nothing will ever be.

 

Why can’t you believe a chain of transmission was not kept? There was no need for it just as there was no need for the gospel writers to sign their work. They were circulated among many regions and countries. Think about it, they found a fragment of St John’s Gospel in Egypt dated 125 A.D. that’s approx. 35 years after the gospel had been written. For it to reach Egypt in this short period of time when considering the inferior technology back then tells us the popularity and impact this Gospel had made.

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All credit goes to Holy Quran that provoked the awareness about the authentication and chain of transmission of Quranic verses and Hadith. Best example of such thing is Sahih Hadith which means that that Hadith is referred that has strong agreement about its genuineness while weaker ones are not called Sahih. 

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Think about it, they found a fragment of St John’s Gospel in Egypt dated 125 A.D. that’s approx. 35 years after the gospel had been written. For it to reach Egypt in this short period of time when considering the inferior technology back then tells us the popularity and impact this Gospel had made.

 

There is a difference between 'popularity' and 'truth'.  

 

Paul, a contemporary of Jesus but who never met him, wrote before any of the gospel writers and does not corroborate their stories.  The genuine letters of Paul, as opposed to those purported to be written by him, is at odds with any n umber of the claims made in the gospels.  The so-called gospel of John is either nice sounding myth or plain nonsense.  It was written some 70 years, at least, after the death of Jesus in an are area well away from Jerusalem which was still largely a smoking ruin.  

 

Paul's writing also contain inconsistencies as he builds on previous writings and stands at odds with the gospel of Mark which makes no mention of the so-called resurrection.

 

Matthew was written for the sole purpose to distant early Christians from Judaism and Luke/Acts written, much later, is another example of anti-semetic polemics ... whatever happened, it's all the fault of the Jews.  None, that is no one, no author of the NT was an eye witness to the events to which they claim knowledge.  

 

So before any have a crack at the Qur'an some might need to take a good hard look at the real Christian tradition and not the one they have been told to accept by the Church.

 

Quite simply, there is no so-called 'chain of tranmission' pertaining to the Bible.  It is a hodge-podge mixture but together by those who thought it was a good idea at the time.  

 

The Qur'an was recorded very early by those who personally knew the Prophet, peace and blessing upon him, at least within a decade and probably much earlier.  

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Paul, a contemporary of Jesus but who never met him, wrote before any of the gospel writers and does not corroborate their stories.

I beg your pardon but that is a ridiculous statement!

 

The essence of Paul’s message is Christ died and rose from the dead. The essence of the four Gospels is Christ died and rose from the dead. It doesn’t get more corroborating than that...

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All credit goes to Holy Quran that provoked the awareness about the authentication and chain of transmission of Quranic verses and Hadith. Best example of such thing is Sahih Hadith which means that that Hadith is referred that has strong agreement about its genuineness while weaker ones are not called Sahih. 

Sweetheart with such beauty as yours I'll believe anything you tell me, lol :)

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Peace be with you all,

 

I think we have to agree that in terms of the Islamic understanding of a chain of transmission the Bible (and virtually every other work of history) is without it. The evangelist Luke for example, at the onset of his Gospel states the information he presents is what was delivered from "eyewitnesses" and "ministers of the word." He does not specify who these eyewitnesses are and apparently does not feel the need to. Furthermore, his work is being addressed to a particular Theophilus, in what was "publishing" in the ancient world, if you could not afford to hire scribes to do your copying, you would lend out you work to others to read and copy themselves. These copies would then be passed down to others, and so on, but again we do know who Theophilus passed his copy down to or whether Luke himself lent it out to others. We can of course infer who the sources may have been but in the end there is no succinct list of transmission. Contemporary Muslims will take this admission to mean the NT, and presumably all other works of history, need to be put aside. I think this is much to rash, the shere antiquity of the NT and the fact that it often contains much earlier sources means it is worth listening to.

 

The NT was written well within the living memory of Jesus of Nazareth, where one can still learn from an Apostle, or hear an eyewitness share their experience of a miracle Jesus performed. And as much as many would like to believe the Apostles disappeared from history, they did not. The "Twelve" constantly appear in the NT as an authority over the deposit of teachings Jesus left them. When a controversy arises over whether new converts need to be circumcised, Paul hands the judgement over to the Apostles in Jerusalem. We know from early sources that the Jews of Jesus' time already had a very developed system or oral transmission that involved rote memorization and verbatim transmission. It's not hard to presume that first Christians who were themselves Jews would have taken this drilled in mechanism of memorization and applied it to the teaching and works of Jesus. In the end we have all the elements necessary to reasonable believe that we have an accurate transmission. Scholars will quibble what happened to Mark's ending and whether the pericope of the Adulteress was originally in John's gospel, but they are in agreement that such things as Jesus being crucified under the procurator Ponitus Pilate are beyond dispute, yet it is precisely with this point that Muslims are at odds with us.

 

The textual scholars would not agree in the least with Ibn Kathir's speculation that a young disciple of Jesus was miraculously made to look like him so he could be crucified in Jesus' place. And despite the Quran's isnaad, what are we to make of passages that suggest Jesus turned clay birds into living ones, or that a table descended from heaven with food on it? You see, the whole issue is much more complicated than methodology because ultimately we are not dealing with historical issues but theological ones. It wont matter that a particular passage or saying of Jesus can be proven historical beyond doubt, because if it contradicts the Quran then it *must* be false. So although I find the discussions interesting ultimately the whole debate is a moot point. 

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