The Authority of the Bible
A reply by the Rev. Michael Cocks, New Zealand.
Victor, I entirely agree with your stand that belief should
not be in a religion, but in what can be established by
properly observed experience, established in a court of
law, or from scientific endeavour. And that is why I have
been supporting you for a good many years. I
do not wish here to defend the teachings either of the Catholic
church or that of ten thousand other wildly differing denominations
But I cannot accept some of the claims you made
last week about the Bible. For instance you claim
that nobody knows when the books of the books the New Testament
were written. This is not correct. There is general agreement
amongst scholars of all persuasions that St Paul’s
letters were written between 50 CE and before 70 CE. Similarly,
that the Gospels were written after the Fall of Jerusalem
in 70 CE and before the year 100. Readers can confirm this
You also suggest that all the New Testament “should
be regarded as a secondary source and as hearsay.”
This is not correct: we do have first hand contemporary
evidence in the New Testament. It is provided by Paul. No
one doubts that he was a real person. No one doubts that
several of the letters attributed to him are indeed his.
In Galatians for instance (his first letter) he refers to
his Damascus Road experience, how he went into Arabia for
three years to absorb the implications of it and how he
then went for the first time to Jerusalem to meet Peter
and James the brother of Jesus, and spent a fortnight with
them. Everything that he wrote was on the assumption that
his own and the disciples’ resurrection experiences
were real. I think that his testimony would be treated with
respect in a court of law.
You seem to imply that Pope Sixtus V changed the Bible we
now have “to suit the politics of his time”.
This cannot be true, since Sixtus was changing the Latin
translation of the Greek New Testament called the Vulgate,
and he was doing this to get the Latin translation closer
to the meaning of the original Greek. (We can confirm this
in the Wikipedia article). Apart from the Catholic Douai
translation, no modern translations are from the Vulgate.
They are all from the original languages.
In the field of Biblical studies, I would not in the first
instance appeal to the authority of highly prejudiced proponents
of a particular view of reality, such as Arthur Findlay
and Peter de Rosa, but rather find out whether there is
a consensus view of scholars of various religious or humanist
persuasions. We may not get certainty this way, but we would
be on safer ground.