A friend of mine tagged me in a debate over the meme here, where as you can see, the message is this:
- The King James Version is the brain child of 8 guys from The Church of England
- We don’t have the original manuscripts of any biblical text, and the 8000 we have are all different. They are not trust-worthy.
- Christians today believe that this mumble-jumble text they call The Bible, is the word of God.
- Conclusion: Christians are stupid.
As I couldn’t make a comment that would be acceptable both for a Facebook comment and for an informed answer, I decided to bore the world with this long text that deconstructs a meme that is not worth your time or attention.
But… if you want to see how memes take half-truths, old data and old political quarrels and make a big media splash today… feel free to read on.
As the meme author, I make no apology for insulting the world. This is a stark contrast to the meme. This text can even be rude but only to mirror the rudeness of the meme by revealing the manipulative nature of such baseless creations. Things can get messy here very soon. I will be reading between the lines and point out issues that are non-issues today, thanks to the hard work of archaeologists, experts in Ancient Middle-Eastern studies, linguistic experts and some other big-name titles that I won’t bother remembering at this time.
The KJV: Made in Church of England
This is true. As an isolated fact it stands to scrutiny whether someone likes it or not. This is an undeniable fact just as 1+1=2. But isolated facts without a narrative are pointless by the very fact that they are robbed of a context from which they derive meaning. Such de-contextualized facts are great tools for manipulative reasoning… of which this meme has very little, as it has no reasoning at all. See, I told you this will get messy.
Historically, England parted ways with The Vatican and Catholicism because King Henry wanted a son, but his wife couldn’t conceive, so he had to move away from Vatican in order to legally divorce his wife and marry another one who could give him a son. Henry jumped to protestantism because he could divorce.
For things beyond my interest (and yours here), The Church of England (TCE) needed a bible that was… well, de-catholicized. Enter the KJV.
The logical fallacy is that if it was funded/created by TCE, then it must be unreliable. Now if we look at this claim (which isn’t new by the way), the origin of the thought would be those who didn’t like England going Protestant… and that’s the Catholics. It is an old claim/accusation which had a very political background.
So… following the logic of the argument that “If something is politically created, it is not to be trusted”, the very attack on the KJV because it’s a TCE creation is invalid because it is a political claim. In other words, listening to a politician smearing another politician because he/she is a politician is a self-defeating argument because it is made by yet another politician.
Not having the original manuscripts is a reason to dismiss the Bible
This is a very strong claim. It is also reasonable to a passerby. However, it is another logical fallacy to dismiss the reliability of ancient texts because we don’t have the originals. This argument is done on the basis of silence-of-originals, but since we don’t have the originals, naysayers cannot make a scientific claim that what we do have is false. There is nothing to compare the manuscripts to deem them false. To know that something is a fake, you’d first have to know what the real thing is… but since nobody has the originals, nobody can claim that the manuscripts of today are fake… whatever that means.
On a more down-to-earth level, there are several reasons why the claim is false, mostly because of old information and poor to no effort in critical thinking.
First, the KJV translation was made by some 47 translators. Not 8. They all cross-checked each other’s work. But even if it was 8 people… so what? How many people do you need to translate the New Testament, that counts some 700 pages and took about 7 years to translate? It’s really not the number of actual, hands-on translators. It’s the process of controlling and editing the outcome that counts, and KJV for its time was… OK. The fact that after KJV we now have a New KJV (NKJV), and NASB, and NIV, and ESV… is a clear-as-day that the KJV was not sufficient material to work with.
Regardless of what people had back in the KJV days, we now have close to 30.000 manuscripts, not 8000. And while they aren’t carbon-copies of one another, there is a huge overlap.
Statistically, from all the manuscripts, and all the chapters and verses contained in all 30.000 of them, there is about 99% overlap. Considering that these manuscripts span over centuries, a 99% agreement between all 30.000 is A HUGE overlap.
If I print out this text, and then it gets copied over and over again so other people can read it while waiting for a bus or a train, and then over time the original printout is lost, has there been a loss of message? And if 2000 years later in some bizarre coincidence archaeologists unearth a dozen copies of this very text, and from all the copies there is 99% overlap, what did actually change? Will those discrepancies be enough to completely distort the meaning of this text? Will this 1% be stronger and more meaningful than the 99% of the text that is the same in all copies?
Yes there are differences in the manuscripts. About 1%. To grab ahold of the 1% and dismiss the 99% is a big statistical mistake. Scientists today claim that because humans and apes have some 96% of the same DNA, that we are obviously related. How come then that a 99% textual accuracy is not enough for naysayers to admit that these manuscripts do convey the original message, at least 99% accurately? The counter-argument here would be that the 4% difference in DNA makes the difference between you and a chimp. But the 1% difference in manuscripts boils down to punctuation and scribal/copying error. The Hebrew, Greek, Latin texts differ in spelling basically. Not so much in meaning. US English and UK English differ in nuances. But I’m yet to find an American to be at a loss in London because of a language barrier.
21st Century Christianity believes in fairy-tales
The King James Version is old news. It’s from the 17th century. A lot has changed in the past 400 years.
But before we get into what the past 400 years brought, let’s just point to one thing: Plato’s original writings are all gone. The oldest copy we have dates around 900 AD, and I believe it is in Arabic. That’s 1300 years AFTER Plato’s death. And we have a few of them, I think 10 or so copies. Statistically, Plato’s texts we have are not Plato’s at all. So we should just dismiss them as fairy-tales of the middle ages. Homer’s Iliad also didn’t survive. The oldest manuscript we have is some 800 years after Homer. So the copies we have today are also made up by some middle ages folks. Except… the city of Troy was discovered thanks to Iliad.
We discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. They contain massive portions of the Old Testament. Some of the fragments date back to 3ct BC. With that most of our Old Testament today jumped in textual reliability upward of 1000 years. Textual comparison shows that very little textual deviations happened between the Isaiah book of the 3ct BC – 1ct AD. In other words, what people in the time of Jesus read and knew as the book of Isaiah, is very close to what we have had as The Book of Isaiah all these years. The textual preservation is fascinating.
We discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, containing huge recoverable portions of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This was a discovery of the 19th century, well past the KJV era. The 19th century was interesting time for bible scholars as many other old versions of the biblical texts got discovered in old monasteries and junkyards across the Mediterranean lands. The oldest complete Bible we have today dates around the 4th century. That’s 300 years after the original texts were written. Compared to any other ancient literature, the Bible has a goldmine of manuscripts to work with.
While there are unpleasant differences (largest one being the Gospel of Mark and it’s short ending vs a more widely accepted long ending that mentions handling of snakes and such stuff), the core message of who Christ is, what he’s done, why it happened and how it affected the jump-start of what we now call Christianity is far from disputable.
All the manuscripts from the New Testament are in sync with the core Christian message: If we’d ever had the chance to see the eternal God face to face, that was in Jesus. In Jesus we had the perfect representation of God in our time and in our physical world. He came to reveal himself to us as a gracious God, full of love and understanding, but quick to turn tables and expose hypocrites. He showed us God and Godliness. He was God and Godliness. Based on Christ’s faithfulness to the mission of salvation, we now have a clean slate. God holds no grudges and waits for us with open arms. We have life in eternity (whatever that Eternity may mean and look like) with Him. But he won’t force himself on us. We do have the freedom of choosing to be with God or without Him. As this choice affects our eternity (again, whatever that may look like), each person has his/her own decision to make: respond to this free gift of salvation with a vibrant, outward-living by following the teachings of Christ faitfully preserved in the Bible, or reject eternity with God (however that may look like). God has bridged eternity through Christ to come and be one of us, but we still have the chance to say NO to him.
We may find it uneasy, but when put to scrutiny, Christianity as a belief system has solid foundations in textual criticism and historicity. What various fractions of Christianity have believed throughout the centuries is another matter. What people who call themselves Christians do today is another matter. The Bible in fact is very clear on this issue. I can call myself a rocket scientist but if I can’t show anything to back up my claims I’m a crackhead. I can call myself Christian but if my life has no qualitative difference from any other peson on the street… I’m a crackhead. The apostle James in his epistle (which may be the very first New Testament book, dating about 44AD) says “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.” Point being, you can’t claim to be a Christian without a changed life. About the meaning of a changed life… well that’s another story for another day, and beside the point here.
The oldest New Testament fragment discovered dates 90-120AD. Considering that this early of a manuscript gets extremely close to the actual source/originals of any texts should speak volumes about the historical reliability of the bibles we now have.
The New American Standard Version, which goes after word-for-word accuracy, gets up to some 95% verbatim accuracy to a cleaned up, synchronized standard Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that take in consideration all 30.000 odd manuscripts.
Lexical experts devote their entire lives to this discipline and the very fact that Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton… all the ivy league universities have theology studies and biblical studies should be a clear enough evidence that the Bible isn’t some mumble-jumble made-up story from yahoos of the middle ages.
Christians are stupid
Calling a group of people stupid because they have a religious belief system without indulging to honestly take a look at the beliefs and why they believe them, is being a religiously stupid person.
Taking a relic such as the KJV and attacking Christians today because of it is like taking a medical book from the same time and go after doctors today. A lot has changed in the past 500 years and I wholeheartedly invite people to embrace the now and let go of the past. Those old battles re-fought today are as ludicrous as Don Quixote’s battles with windmills.
The meme takes a charged but rather old political debate and transplants it into the 21st century to make a quick judgement on people today. It holds the same relevance as England taking an angry, militant stand against Spain because the Spaniards attacked England some 500 years ago. It is the same as going to Germany and calling every person you meet on the street a nazzi. It is the same as going out on the streets and calling every black man and woman an animal and a slave.
The level of rudeness and stupidity actually is equal to a non-engineering, non-math person ridiculing the existence of i. i is an imaginary number that squared, equals to -1. For anyone with at least a bit of math knowledge such a claim would be ridiculous as we all know that if you square a number you always get a positive number. But, this imaginary number, marked simply as i, is a mathematical reality and is widely used in electrotechnical calculations of oscilators and coils. So making a meme against the i is more or less on the same level of obnoxious stupidity as the meme I’m talking about here.
People should refrain from passing judgements on matters they know close to nothing about. If nothing else, a quick peak at Wikipedia (that’s the least one can do) will give ample information about any subject.
So what’s the deal with the meme?
Bottom line: It’s created by a halfwit. It’s an old political debate that is nowadays pointless for the world. It may hold some ground in the UK and the Protestants vs Catholics football hooliganism, but that’s about it.
It holds no historical accuracy about the way Bibles are translated nowadays, and it jumps to conclusions without any consideration for facts. This meme really deserves absolutely no attention and caries no weight in any reason-based conversations between atheists or believers.
I am sorry that I have wasted your time in deconstructing an empty nothing. You could do good to yourself if you’d read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (an attorney) or Evidence that deserves a verdict, by Josh McDowell. These are the stepping stone books toward understanding the accuracy of biblical documents and how numbers stack up quite well in favor of Christianity.