Friday Aftetlife Report



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 and sects.

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 from Wikipedia.



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.

Read Michael's blog...