Monday, January 08, 2018

Nothing new under the (skeptical) sun

The Swiss Protestant divine,
Louis Gaussen (1790–1863) 
Sometimes it’s useful to remember that most of objections to the Bible have been raised before. It provides some perspective, especially to those just made aware of some sensational objection and now feel they’ve been duped or had things hidden from them. In fact, most criticisms of the Bible have been raised (and answered) long before we came along.

Today I found one pertinent to this blog from a 160 years ago that bears remarkable similarity to a now well-known criticism leveled in our day.
From 2005: “What good is it to say that the auographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.” (Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 7)
From 1841: “What matters to me (it would have been said [by one objecting to the Bible’s inspiration]), the assurance that the first text has been dictated by God, eighteen hundred years ago, if I have no longer the assurance that the manuscripts of our libraries contain it in its purity; and if it be true (as we are assured,) that the variations of these ancient transcripts are at least in number, thirty thousand?” (François Samuel Robert Louis Gaussen, Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, 86.)
Noting the similarity does not answer the objection, of course. For that, you’ll have to read more of Gaussen’s book linked above. But for some, just knowing that an objection is not new and earth-shattering can help calm a person down.


  1. Reminds me of back in school. I'd be working away researching this or that, and I would get so excited because I would think I had found something original - some new insight or observation. That excitement would always only last the week or two it would take me to find that some dead German had already said it about 200 years earlier.

    I think people would do better to remember this as a general rule. Just yesterday, for example, someone here contested W&H's position on the pericope adulterae by pointing to segue language at the beginning and end. Maybe I wasn't giving that poster a sympathetic reading like I should, but it sure sounded to me like they were offering that objection with the confident assumption that it would have been news to Hort.

  2. WH in fact did respond to the "segue language" in their lengthy (pp. 82-88) discussion of the PA in their "Notes on Select Readings", p.88 (italics added for emphasis of the phrase in question):

    "It becomes clear that the Section first came into St John's Gospel as an insertion..., having originally belonged to an extraneous independent source. That this source was either the Gospel according to the Hebrews or the Expositions of the Lord's Oracles of Papias is a conjecture only; but it is a conjecture of high probability."

    Whether one accepts that position or not, the point is that Hort did address the issue, and considered even the 7.53-8.2 portion to have been part of an earlier source document from which they speculate it may have been taken.

  3. Consider this quote in light of the recent post about Letis attributing origin of the doctrine of inerrant autographs to Warfield and Hodge (a claim that is made by others as well, Letis just happens to be the one this blog recently mentioned).

    Not only was Gaussen defending essentially the same doctrine that Warfield later would, but he was answering charges against it that were being made by others before he wrote this book, ostensibly in response to even earlier presentations of the same view.

  4. I remember being very impressed when I was in high school after reading all the old testament references to Christ Josh McDowell found. I later found that they could be all lifted from Hebrews and Matthew!

    It's not just Biblical studies. I work in Cryptography. When I first started, I twice came up with what I thought were clever ways of attacking our crypto systems, only to find one was discovered in 1970 by Walt Diffie, the inventor of one of the crypto systems (and thus doesn't work on any keys used in real systems), and the other was discovered by Fermat in the 17th century (and our keys take that into account as well).