a scribe’s scribblings: a log (11)

As I prepare to copy the Bible by hand, I’ve been reading a bit about the work of the scribes in ancient times who copied Scripture long before the invention of the printing press. To say they were meticulous is a grand understatement. Consider this excerpt from the Talmud on the subject:

“A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew. These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals. Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex. The length of each column must not extend over less than forty-eight, or more than sixty lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters. The whole copy must first be lined: and if three words be written in it without a line, it is worthless. The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color and be prepared according to a definite recipe.

“An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least to deviate. No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him. … Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; between every word the breadth of a narrow consonant; between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; between every book, three lines. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.

“Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him. …

“The rolls in which these regulations are not observed are condemned to be buried in the ground or burned; or they are banished to the schools, to be used as reading books.”*

[Selah]

Three thoughts leap to mind …

We can have profound confidence in the integrity of the Biblical text as it has arrived to us today.

What care we ought to have with the word of the Lord.

What level of, and evidence for, such confidence and care for what God has said is there in my life?

* Source: How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot (Baker, 2003); pp.133-134, who is citing from Frederick Kenyon’s work ‘Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts’ (Harper, 1958).

links to 4 items worth your time

1. The History of the Bible, Animated [4 min. video; National Geographic]

“… making the Bible available to the masses …”

2. ‘This Little Light of Mine’ Shines On, a Timeless Tool of Resistance

“You can’t just sing ‘This Little Light of Mine.’ You gotta shout it …”

3. The Gospel Work of Song

“Singing is part of what it means to be human.”

4. The Decline of American Christianity Is Real but More Complicated Than It Looks

“… this so-called decline is a bit more complicated than it might seem at first blush …”

links to 10 items worth your time

1. Can Israel and Jordan cooperate to save the dying Dead Sea

“… the Jordan River isn’t the only biblical-site-turned-environmental-disaster.”

2. America’s New Religions

“Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning.”

3. How N.T. Wright Stole Christmas

“As it turns out, Wright is no Grinch. He didn’t steal Christmas. What he stole was a false Christmas, a de-contextualized and apolitical Christmas. But we shouldn’t have bought that Christmas in the first place, and should have been embarrassed to display it so proudly on the mantle. Good riddance, and Bah humbug.”

4. Gun-shy About Committing to Church

“Surviving spiritual abuse means I’ve had to learn to balance my wariness (especially if I sense a leader is practicing those familiar old power games) with a commitment to remain vigilant about allowing bitterness to take root in my soul. I don’t try to silence my internal critic during a church service or gathering, as this voice serves an important role in helping me to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. However, I work to listen for the things that harmonize with that critic by seeking to worship God in community, be present with others he’s placed in my path, and serve without feeling the compulsion I once did to say ‘yes’ to every request.”

5. Becoming Poor and Finding Friendship on the Margins

“We assume God’s friendship is enough as we seek to make friends with God’s people: the poor, the suffering, the lonely, and all those who cry out from their hearts for mercy. This is how we live out Christ’s good news on the margins.”

6. Resilient Kids Come From Parents Who Do These 8 Things

“… resilience is a behavior learned through explicit lessons and examples, one that teaches kids how to, among other things, better handle stress, understand that rejection is not a comment on their entire existence, and view setbacks as things that don’t need to sideline them for good.”

7. ‘A Witness That They Were Here’: Los Angeles Honors 1,457 of Its Unclaimed Dead

“They are the forgotten people of Los Angeles — 1,457 people, to be exact. Old, poor, homeless, babies born premature and abandoned. They may have died alone, but they were buried together, in a mass grave, and were honored together this week in an interfaith ceremony that has been an annual ritual in Los Angeles for more than a century.”

8. Attention is not a resource but a way of being alive to the world

“… conceiving of attention as a resource misses the fact that attention is not just useful. It’s more fundamental than that: attention is what joins us with the outside world. ‘Instrumentally’ attending is important, sure. But we also have the capacity to attend in a more ‘exploratory’ way: to be truly open to whatever we find before us, without any particular agenda. …

“So, as well as attention-as-resource, it’s important that we retain a clear sense of attention-as-experience.”

9. Millennials experience work-disrupting anxiety at twice the US average rate

“Nearly one in five US workers are debilitated by anxiety or depression, and the rate only climbs when you zoom in on younger generations.”

10. How Modern Technology is Bringing Ancient Writings to Light

“Powerful imaging tools are enabling researchers to see inside scrolls too fragile to unroll and recover texts too faint to see, making thousands of illegible manuscripts readable again.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles I’ve found to be interesting.

Apologetics, archaeology, manuscripts & Mark’s Gospel: Earliest Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Apparently Found

“Craig Evans, who is most certainly a careful scholar, has announced the discovery of a piece of Mark’s Gospel that may well date to 80-90 A.D. making it by far the earliest portion of any NT book yet found. … We must await the publishing of the materials and the evidence for these claims, and then the vetting of the claims by peer scholars, but thus far, it looks like Craig is on to something big!”

Children, divorce & parenting: ‘Kids Are Resilient’ and 7 Other Lies Divorcing Parents Should Stop Believing

“As a former divorce mediator, and current couples and family mediator, I have heard every excuse that parents use to feel better about breaking up their family.”

Climate, ecology, global warming, nature & pollution: Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says

“A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. ‘We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,’ said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science. … Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.”

Deception, false claims, heaven, lies & personal testimonies: Boy Says He Didn’t Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book [required reading]

“Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.”

God, suffering & the problem of evil: If God Is in Control, Why Does Bad Stuff Keep Happening? [essential reading]

“You can never look at the way the world is and read God’s purposes off from the way the world is. It’s always more puzzling and confusing than that. … Part of our trouble is that in the Western world, we’ve assumed that God is, as it were, the celestial CEO of this thing called the universe incorporated. And then, as one of Woody Allen’s characters says: ‘I sort of believe in God, but it looks like He’s basically an underachiever.’ In other words, He’s not a very good CEO, He’s not good at running this show. But actually, the world is much more complicated than that. It’s not simply a machine or a business with God as the CEO. God is involved with it in ways which it’s hard for us now, particularly in the modern world, to grasp.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church growth: Let it Grow – Advice on Church Growth by Tim Spivey

“Each church’s journey is different, and it’s hard to get down to the level this can be talked about. However, someone needs to put on the table: The reason some of us aren’t growing is because our soil is sick.”

Google: Get More Out of Google [infographic]

“Here are some crucial tips for refining your Googling …”

Discipleship, gospel, salvation & the sinner’s prayer: The Gospel of Sin Management and the Loss of Discipleship by Jeff Clarke

“When we reduce the gospel story to salvation and salvation to personal forgiveness and forgiveness to a plan of salvation that focuses exclusively on getting people to make a decision (what Dallas Willard referred to in The Divine Conspiracy as the gospel of sin management), we essentially de-storify the gospel of Jesus and offer people what proves to be a serious mutation. We move from the birth of Christ to the death of Christ and forget the in-between life of Jesus. As a result, we end up living as though the middle section (i.e., his teachings, miracles, healings, and other kingdom-of-God-has-come indicators) has no inherent significance and salvific import …

“When we couple this with our North American preoccupation and unhealthy interest in numbers, we end up trying to compel as many people as possible to make a decision (whatever it takes), but only end up presenting a powerless, lopsided, half-story. However, our methods of persuasion ask people to make a decision, not for Christ alone, as the goal of the gospel, but to avoid hell (fire insurance), make us happy, help us find a mate, heal our marriage, etc, setting people up for failure. Then we add up the ‘salvations’ as though numbers indicate success. …

“However, by reducing the story of Jesus, a story that calls people to a life of devoted discipleship, to a system of salvation that only asks people to make a decision, we effectively short-circuit the power of the gospel.”

Manuscripts & preservation: Papyrus Conservation Videos

“… two videos on papyrus preservation. The first describes the work of Leyla Lau-Lamb, the principle papyrus curator at the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection. he second video from the British Museum records the restoration of a Book of the Dead scroll which was pasted to a sheet of paper.”

Miscarriage: Letters to My Unborn Children: the Silent Grief of Miscarriage by Shawn Collins

“Our first pregnancy in 2004 ended in a miscarriage right after Easter. Through my wife Kristine’s five subsequent pregnancies—another miscarriage in 2004, healthy girls born in 2005 and 2008, a third miscarriage in 2010, and a healthy girl born in 2011—I wrote letters to my children to reflect on these experiences. These letters extended my lifelong habit of journaling about both formative and mundane events in my life.”

Galatians: what’s the earliest evidence?

 

Think for a minute as to just how little you really know about your ancestors. Consider further how little you possess that was written by them or about them. Precious little, isn’t it?

Take one my great-great grandfathers as an example. Though I’ve researched him for well over a decade, I’ve never uncovered anything written by him and only one thing written about him by someone who personally knew him. Aside from brief comments as to his sons and sons-in-law and where he and his wife lived in their latter years and died, a short note by one of his grand-daughters, penned probably fifty to seventy-five years after his death, simply reads:

“Grandfather Smith was sheriff of Bledsoe County [Tennessee] about 12 years – before the [Civil] war. Was a fine horseman – liked his mint julips & ladies. Staunch Democrat. Well off before the war. Was disabled from a horse falling on him. Disability and age disqualified him from service in the Army. Was arrested by Union men and sent to prison in Ohio for year or so.”

Though we be blood kin, that’s nearly all I know about the man. How I’d like to know more! And though I have no doubts as to the accuracy of which his grand-daughter’s remarks about him, I know this, too, from her remarks: with few exceptions, within just a handful of generations, all of us are all but forgotten.

Such an observation puts into perspective just how remarkable it truly is that well over 5,000 ancient manuscripts are still extant today of portions of what we know as the New Testament. That anything, much less a significant amount of material regarding the teachings of a single man who lived on the other side of the planet two millennium ago, still remains today is nothing short of astounding. But exist they do and among those writings is a letter we known today as “Galatians.”

The man known as “Paul” most likely penned Galatians in the late 40’s A.D., within twenty years of the death of Jesus Christ This letter, or portions of it, are represented in a number of manuscripts today, the oldest one containing it on its entirety being known as “P46.” Being one of the oldest of the Greek New Testament manuscripts, P46 dates from between 175-200 A.D. And so, P46 was penned (in Egypt) within roughly 125-150 years of Paul having originally written Galatians.

There is precious little reason to doubt that P46 contains virtually the exact same wording as Paul’s original letter. We can have complete confidence that the wording we have of Galatians in our Bible today is the wording Paul first chose.

Where is P46 today? It’s divided among two collections, one at the University of Michigan and another in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland.

Would you like to learn more? You can learn a great deal about P46 at the University of Michigan’s site. You can even see a photograph of Galatians 1.1-5 in P46 on that same site.