What can we learn about the Bible from the study of archaeology? Are there any discoveries in particular that shed light on the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth? What are we to think of skeptics who refuse to believe in the historicity of biblical stories unless they are confirmed by archaeological evidence? Michael Horton discusses these questions and more with Craig Evans, author of Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (originally aired May 5, 2013).
“I realized how trapped a lot of people are in a very narrow and very limited understanding of what Scripture is, what the Gospels are, what biblical history is. And what happens is we take this very limited and narrow view, a very modern view I might add, and we impose it on these writings from 2,000 years ago and further back, and then we wonder why they don’t seem to measure up to our expectations.Craig Evans
“Ours is the age of a printed book, mass produced. Ours is an age of video recording and so we know word for word when somebody said exact order of events. And that’s not the way stories were written down. They were interpretive. They were supposed to be. That’s how Jesus taught his disciples, so that’s how they taught others. That’s how the Gospels were written down. And so, you get this modern view that creates a bit of a gap between what the Bible really is and what we think it really should be.
“Bart Ehrman exploits that because that’s the same fundamentalism in which he grew up; and so, he reached a point in his life where he felt that the Bible didn’t measure up to those expectations. He couldn’t trust it anymore. And so, that’s what concerns me because there could be other Bart Ehrmans in the making as it were. And so, my mission is to make that clearer in talking to students, ‘Look. You can trust the Gospels. The Bible manuscripts are excellent. You just need to know what kind of literature.’ And that’s so important in proper biblical interpretation. You just need to know what kind of literature it is and quit measuring it by our modern standards right now—standards which no doubt in the future will change. When the Scriptures are understood, then you can have confidence in them and not be distracted by these other things.”
TERM TO LEARN
The science of textual criticism deals with (a) the making and transmission of ancient manuscripts, (b) the description of the most important witnesses to the New Testament text, and (c) the history of the textual criticism of the New Testament as reflected in the succession of printed editions of the Greek Testament. The art of textual criticism refers to the application of reasoned considerations in choosing among variant readings.
The results of the practice of textual criticism have differed from one generation to another, partly because the balance in the quantity and the quality of witnesses available has gradually altered owing to the acquisition of additional manuscripts, and partly because theories and procedures of evaluating textual evidence have varied over the years.
(Adapted from Bruce Metzger, “Preface to the First Edition,” The Text of the New Testament)