Was Jesus married?

In 2012, a papyrus fragment with Coptic text on it hit the headlines, primarily because it appeared to include the phrase ‘Jesus said to them: “My wife…”‘. It attracted more attention than it might otherwise have done because it was endorsed by Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. But in something like the biblical studies … Continue Reading

Textual variants in the gospels

In my previous post, I highlight the problems with sensationalist claims that new manuscript discoveries lead to uncertainty about central Christian teaching or understanding of Jesus. Here I have listed the major textual variants in the gospels, and added my own short comments on them. The comments here are my (reasonably informed) observations about the … Continue Reading

Hunting for the text of the New Testament

Last week I tuned into the BBC programme ‘Bible Hunters’ about a number of characters who had unearthed (sometimes literally) ancient manuscripts of the New Testament which had, apparently, radically changed our understanding of Jesus’s ministry and teaching and early Christian understandings of it. Perhaps naively, I had hoped to enjoy a stimulating exploration of … Continue Reading

What is central to Christian belief?

One of the things that has marked recent disputes in the church, both nationally and internationally, both formally and informally, is the question of what is central to Christian faith, and over what can we agree to live with difference with a clear conscience. Although this discussion can seem tiresome, it seems to me that … Continue Reading

Is the NT mostly forged?

Attacks on the reliability of the NT have moved in recent years from focussing on the question of historical reliability to the question of how the NT documents were written, handled and included in what was to become ‘Scripture.’ This is because of the continuing discovery of earlier and diverse manuscripts, and the related discipline of textual criticism.

Chief amongst the antagonists has been Bart Ehrman, about whom I wrote here in connection with the BBC’s ‘Beauty of Books‘ which began with a critique of Codex Siniaticus.

Last month, Ehrman’s latest work Forged was published, claiming that the majority of books in the NT were actually written by people other than the ones later attributed to them. Renowned scholar Ben Witherington has written a detailed eight-part critique of Ehrman’s book; links to all parts can be found here at the last one and I include the links at the bottom of the page here. They are really worth reading if you have the time, since they offer a great education in the facts of early Christian writing, and assumptions in the wider first-century world. But I cite his

Continue Reading

Was the text of the NT ‘unstable’ and ‘evolving’?

The BBC started their new series ‘The Beauty of Books’ looking at two epoch-making books, the Winchester Bible (from around 1100) and Codex Sinaiticus, from around 350. Sinaiticus is hugely significant, since it is the earliest complete Bible, and was the fruit of the stability for the Christian faith in the Roman Empire resulting from the Constantinian settlement. (Janet Soskice’s Sisters of Sinai about its discovery is supposed to be a ripping read.) You can view the manuscript for yourself in amazing detail at its website.

The programme highlighted what an extraordinary technical achievement its

Continue Reading