Text Criticism –dueling books

Text Criticism” is an academic discipline devoted to the study of ancient writings. Text criticism is best known as the study of handwritten manuscripts from before the age of printing. In particular, the most studied and most controversial work in the world of text criticism is the New Testament.

Text criticism got its start when translators noticed differences between manuscripts. Translators would compare manuscripts and find instances where they would have to choose between manuscripts for passages with differences.

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Josephus on James the Just

Josephus was a Jew who became a leader in the Jewish rebellion of AD 69. He was captured and ended up working for the Romans as a slave translator during the siege of Jerusalem. After being defeated and humiliated by initial Jewish victories, the Romans had called old General Vespasian out of retirement to lead the army that crushed Judea. While the siege of Jerusalem was going on, word came from Rome that the Praetorian Guard had arranged a new vacancy in Rome (Emperor Vitellius had been murdered after 8 months of rule), and they wanted Vespasian to come to Rome and become Emperor. Vespasian left his son Titus in charge. Titus befriended Josephus.

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Oxyrhynchus

A huge trove of papyri were excavated in the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus in the period from 1898 through 1914. From time to time new batches of these precious artifacts are presented by the team that is inspecting, cleaning, photographing, transcribing and translating this hoard. There is much work remaining to do, and unknown discoveries lie ahead.

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First Thessalonians

I am writing to oppose an anti-Christian tall tale that says the New Testament is full of Pagan ideas. There are several logical arguments against this popular anti-Christian slander. I want to concentrate here on just one source of good information. This post is to consider some of the evidence provided by St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians is my choice for this exercise because it has been overlooked but it sheds a lot of light that should be helpful in considering anti-Christian allegations. Thessalonians I is commonly acknowledged among historians, even anti-Christian historians, to be a genuine writing of Paul, and, crucial to my argument, the consensus among both Christian and anti-Christian scholars is that it may be dated from 51 or 52 AD. This provides a fatal flaw in theories about the “evolution” of Christian thinking over time.

Matters such as the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity are commonly alleged by anti-Christians to have developed over three or four generations, incorporating ideas from Pagan culture in the process. Nope.

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New  religionsgeschichtliche Schule

Religionsgeschichtliche Schule is a term that has dominated the study of Christianity in academic circles for 150 years. It is translated from the German as “History of Religions School.” In this case it means ‘school of thought’ rather than a physical place, and is a reference to a group of influential scholars. They are important because most of their core ideas are still going strong on the internet and are currently taught in the Religious Studies Departments of many universities. 

A number of bad ideas got their start with the religionsgeschichtliche Schule, including “Pagan origins” of Bible stories and the idea that the divinity of Jesus developed late in the history of the Christian movement.

A colloquium was held at the University of Edinburgh a few weeks ago, titled “Varieties of Theism in Antiquity, and amounted to a series of new scholarly papers presented by a group of academics who celebrate the countervailing views that have debunked the ideas of the original religionsgeschichtliche Schule.

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