THE REV. KNOW IT ALL’S “GUIDE TO READING THE BIBLE, THAT BIG BOOK ON THE COFFEE TABLE.” Part 13
WHOSE YOUR DADDY? MORE PROBLEMS WITH SCROLLS
When we read a modern book, we never worry that it’s not an exact copy of the original. The original may have typos, but who asks, “Is this an exact copy of the original?”
Not so with books before 1450, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press. Before that, books, were all hand written in codex form (turnable pages) or on long scrolls of animal skins or papyrus. But, paper and animal skins decay and must be recopied. Put yourself in a time when there were no computers, Xerox machines, cell phones, printing presses, electric lights, central heating, or eye glasses.
Imagine that it is the year 600 and you are an underfed, overworked scribe, a slave, or after the fall of the Roman empire, a monk. Lets call you Brother Cuthbert the Near Sighted. You don’t get a lot of sleep, or a lot of food. You’re dying for a cup of coffee, but it hasn’t been invented yet. Water is usually bad, so the morning pick me up is beer or wine with a crust of stale bread for dunking.
By six in the morning you are sightly mellow. It’s cold. Your fingers are numb. His Grace, the Duke of Schmendrick, Lord of the Manor, wants a new copy of the Bible, in the original Greek and Hebrew, not your best subjects in school. There you are, in a cold, dark scriptorium (writing room) trying to read and copy the entire Bible by the light of an oil lamp. I bet you are going to make a mistake or two in the almost one million words in the Bible.
So it happens, that you leave out a whole section of the 8th chapter of the Book of Armaments. Well, the Lord of the Manor won’t notice anyway. He is illiterate. He has just bought a new coffee table anticipating the eventual discovery of coffee and needs something impressive to put on it. A year later, you are finished with what will become the famous Schmendrick Manuscript.
After you fall over dead in the scriptorium at the advanced age of 48, with you your goose quill pen clutched in your ink stained fingers, the Duke decides to give presents to his three lovely daughters, Berta, Gutrun and Brunhilda as they go off to their respective marriages to the royal houses of Lotharingia, Neustria and Franconia.
In their new homes, these fair maids, in their joy at having each bagged a monarch, begin to spend his money by endowing all the local monasteries with a copy of the Bibles with which their dear father, Duke Schmendrick had sent them off, never to see them again, much to his personal relief. (The girls were good eaters.)
So the Schmendrick Manuscript (circa 600AD) has made a lot of “baby” manuscripts, all of them missing a large chunk of the 8th chapter of the Book of Armaments. The original, 3rd century, more accurate Hebrew and Greek manuscript which you, Brother Cuthbert, mistakenly placed on the top shelf of the chapel broom closet where it has lain untouched until after the Second Vatican Council when a few walls were knocked out to make a combination Confessional Room and Yoga Center. And, Lo and Behold! There is an addition to the Hebrew text of the Book of Armaments that no one realized was there.
Most of the handwritten Hebrew texts don’t have this missing section, but this one does. Though it is the less common manuscript, it is still the better manuscript. This comes as no surprise to the Catholic Church, because the Latin Text has always had the extra section of the Book of Armaments. The Disputed Verses, as they are called in academic circles, were translated into Latin 300 years before Brother Cuthbert took to napping in the scriptorium, forgetting where he had left off copying.
Non-Catholic Bibles leave out the Disputed Verses because, for almost a thousand years no one knew about the better, older Hebrew manuscript hidden in the chapel broom closet, way back and toward the left, which has the missing lines. (This also explains the wandering ghost of an early medieval monk who walks the cloister at midnight muttering in broken Hebrew, as if looking for something he has misplaced. But I digress.....)
Bad manuscripts sometimes make lots of babies! Just because something is or isn’t in most manuscripts doesn’t mean it was in the oldest manuscripts. This is exactly the problem with Bibles like the King James Version and the Luther Bible. They depended on later, inferior manuscripts that the budding, over-excited scholars of the Renaissance rushed into print. We have access to better manuscripts now, and the Official Latin Text, called the Vulgate, has always been based on these better manuscripts.
Are you thoroughly confused? I hope so. So are most Biblical scholars. Once again, if you believe that all we have is the Bible, you are in big trouble. You must have tired long ago of my saying this, but without competent authority, it is impossible to determine what is truly Biblical.
God gave us the Bible and at the same time He gave us somebody to take care of the Bible. Someone has to be able to say that the phrase “faith alone” is in the letter of James, but not in the letter to the Romans, because there will always be some wise guy who comes along and tries to convince the world that the truth is otherwise. And, you guessed it, that someone given to us to safeguard the Gospel is none other than the Bishop of Rome, the Successor to St. Peter, known to friend and foe alike as,
Biblical principle # 12 The fact that the Bible has human errors in it only diminishes the truth of the Gospel if there is no other source of the Gospel than the Bible.
PS For the humor impaired: there is no Book of Armaments in the Bible. There is no Schmendrick Manuscript, but there used to be a Lotharingia, Neustria and Franconia.
PPS When I say gospel in this context I am not talking about Matthew, Mark Luke and John. I am talking about the whole wonderful story of God’s love for humanity, from Adam all the way to the present time. That love has a name: It is Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, whom you can get to know here and now, The Bible and the Church are His witnesses, and He is truly really fully present under the form of Bread and Wine in the Holy Eucharist. He wants to give you Life and Life more abundantly. Why not get to know Him and give a chance? It’s really very easy to start. Just stop, bow your head, close your eyes and ask Him to take charge of your life. It’s a prayer He is always ready and willing to answer.
I’m done now. Here are all Rev. Know-it-all’s principles for reading the Bible:
THE BIBLE EXISTS TO TEACH US GOD’S WAY OF DOING THINGS, HIS CHARACTER, HIS PRINCIPLES AND HIS PROMISES.
THE BIBLE IS NOT A BOOK. IT’S A LIBRARY.
YOU CAN’T BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE BOOKS IN THE LIBRARY WITHOUT A COMPETENT TEACHING AUTHORITY TO HELP YOU.
THE BIBLE IS NOT A SELF INTERPRETING HISTORY BOOK. IT IS A COLLECTION OF BOOKS WRITTEN BY GOD FOR HUMAN BEINGS TO HELP US TO KNOW, LOVE AND SERVE GOD IN THIS WORLD AND TO BE HAPPY WITH HIM FOREVER.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE NUMBERS. HEAVEN HAS AN ARITHMETIC MORE MEANINGFUL THAN EARTH’S.
THE BIBLE DOESN’T EXIST TO TELL US THE FUTURE, OR GIVE US STOCK TIPS OR SATISFY OUR SCIENTIFIC CURIOSITY. IT EXISTS TO EQUIP US WITH THE THINGS NECESSARY FOR OUR SALVATION AND REDEMPTION.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE WITHOUT TRADITION.
MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE READING ABOUT BEFORE YOU DECIDE WHO YOU ARE READING ABOUT.
AS YOU READ THE BIBLE DON’T ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT A WORD MEANS UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS.
THE BIBLE IS ABOUT PEOPLE, NOT PLASTER SAINTS.
KNOW THE STORY BEFORE YOU READ THE BIBLE
- THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE ORIGINAL BIBLE
THE FACT THAT THE BIBLE HAS HUMAN ERRORS ONLY DIMINISHES THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL IF THERE IS NO OTHER SOURCE OF THE GOSPEL THAN THE BIBLE