View Full Version : Who Edited the Bible?

1st August 2012, 10:15 PM
When I was in sixth grade, one of my teachers won an award from a local news station in Nashville. One spring afternoon an anchor and a camera crew came bustling in the door to interview the class. I was one of four students interviewed for the spot on the news broadcast. Some spoke of the teacherís kindness, others of her dedication. Unfortunately for me, a cat caught my tongue and I didnít have much to say. I waited until the following Monday to see my interview on television. My heart was crushed when I didnít appear anywhere in the news spot. An editor left my terse interview on the cutting room floor.
When the producers of the show put the piece together, itís no wonder why my interview didnít make the broadcast. My contribution wasnít particularly profound or noteworthy. I didnít say anything unique. It didnít fit what the producers wanted to say.
A number of modern scholars take a similar view when it comes to the study of the Bible. Whether it is the Old Testament or the New, a number of people believe that the Bible is not the Word of God, but an ancient religious document that has undergone substantial editorial work. A number of Old Testament scholars believe that the Hebrew Scriptures were the official product of the religious establishment in ancient Israel. It isnít hard to find big names in New Testament studies that believe the same about the New Testament and its place in the early church.
There is a rich history of human beings who have volunteered to edit Scripture. For example, Thomas Jefferson believed the teaching and ethics of Jesus were the purest the world has ever seen, but also believed that the purity of Jesusí teachings had become encrusted with religious dogma and had been embellished with supernatural stories. Consequently, Jefferson removed everything he considered to be an addition to the teaching of Jesus. The fruit of his labor was The Jefferson Bible, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels. No miracles. Nothing supernatural. The tragic story ends with Jesusí tomb being sealed shut.
Jefferson wasnít the first person to edit the Bible, nor would he be the last. From the earliest days of the church to modern scholarship today, human beings have taken up the editorís pen. One of the first to do so was Marcion, a native of Pontus (northeastern Turkey) in the second century AD. His Bible consisted of a heavily edited version of Luke and ten of Paulís epistles. Believing that the God of the Old Testament was an evil, self-contradictory deity who could never be the Father of Jesus, he made the necessary editorial corrections to make the Bible fit his personal beliefs. Abandoning the Old Testament and mutilating the New, Marcion carefully tailored Scripture according to his own convictions.
As strange as it may seem to many people in the pew, a similar attitude pervades modern scholarship. Many critics, rather than taking the New Testament at face value, instead concoct a portrait of Jesus and then force the text to fit their preconceived notions. The best example of modern editors determining the original words of the New Testament is seen in the Jesus Seminar, a collection of mostly left-wing scholars who produced a work entitled The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Any reference to Jesusí deity was removed. In fact, they claim that none of His words in the Gospel of John were truly His. Every syllable uttered by Christ is claimed to be nothing short of fabrication. Much of the other gospels are the same. Only about 18 percent of the words spoken by Jesus were really spoken by Him. The rest were put into His mouth by others in the early church who were interested more in personal power than in the Word of God.
We can quickly detect the biases of scholars like those in the Jesus Seminar. Working under the guise of objectivity, they clearly have no intention of performing scholarly, sober research. They begin with the presupposition that Jesus couldnít have been divine, then push all other information through that filter. When they rule out any possibility of Jesusí divinity at the very beginning, it any wonder why they dismiss Jesusí claims?
Lest we forget about the Hebrew Bible, scholars in the past 250 years have attempted to trace the editorial activity of the Old Testament. In the 1700ís, the French scholar Jean Astruc (1684-1766) mused whether the names of God could be a clue to different documents in the Old Testament that were later edited together as a whole. The German scholar Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) believed that the Old Testament was composed of roughly four different documents named J, E, D, and P. J was the work of the Yahwist (Jawist in German), whose document can be identified by the use of the name Yahweh. The E document uses primarily the name Elohim. The D document is the work of the Deuteronomist, a writer who wrote Deuteronomy and whose work influenced the books of JoshuaĖ2 Kings. P stands for Priestly, a writer who composed the sections of the Bible dealing with the religion of Israel including the priesthood, tabernacle, and temple. Thanks to the advances of modern scholarship, we can determine that the Old Testament is nothing more than a compilation of different documents into one. No inspiration, no authority, and certainly no personal God. Was the Bible really edited this way? Does the evidence support this conclusion? Not at all.
While the JEDP theory is still very influential, it is also dying. It is based on 18th century scholarship that has failed to incorporate modern evidence. Imagine picking up a two hundred year old science textbook written before the invention of airplanes, television, automobiles, or even the discovery of the atom or DNA. It would be worthless for a modern classroom because we have progressed far beyond 18th century understanding of the sciences. The same goes for our understanding of ancient literature. Since the days of Wellhausen, we have come to realize that ancient scribes did not perform the large-scale editorial work of which the Old Testament is frequently accused. Scribes in the ancient Near East reproduced religious documents as faithfully as possible. Accuracy was of paramount importance. But in
order for the JEDP theory to work, this fact must be conveniently ignored.
Some things are better left alone. Nowhere is this more evident that with regard to the Bible. One of the great problems with different views of the Bible is that some are ready to say that the Bible is the end result of a long period of editorial activity. Worse, some take up the pen of the editor for themselves. Taking a page from Thomas Jeffersonís book, they carefully cut out everything that does not suit their tastes.
Before we point fingers at others, we must take a hard look in the mirror. Are we guilty of volunteering to edit Scripture? Everyone will say ďnoĒ at first, but pause to think about it for a moment. Are you guilty of selective obedience? Do you ever find yourself fudging on any aspect of the Christian life? Are some commands just too tough to follow through? By failing to apply any portion of Godís Word to our lives, we are explicitly declaring that the section in question does not apply to us (cf. Deut. 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19). The spirits of men like Marcion and Jefferson can live within any human heart, no matter how many times a week we attend church or how much money we put into the collection plate.
Christians everywhere may be confident that the Bible we cherish is not the editorial product of ancient scribes or power mongers in the early church. But we also have to take great care in handling the Word. The Bible is a glorious whole, ďprofitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousnessĒ (2 Tim. 3:16). If we cannot accept all of it, then we cannot have any of it.

source - Dewayne Bryant