The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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Unauthentic Texts in the New Testament

Apart from the problem of canonical books, there is a related problem about the contents of the books themselves. Many texts in the Bible were later insertions into the original (or more correctly, most ancient) texts but were, in many cases, left in there due to "tradition". We will look here at three of the more famous bogus passages in the New Testament.

The Johanine Comma

We will start our example with one passage that has today been taken out of the Bible but was once left in the scriptures long after the compilers knew it was not a part of the original text.

The eminent printed editions of the Greek New Testament (at least until the end of the nineteenth century) was refered to as the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus as we have seen was a faulty text based on late and unreliable Greek manuscripts. However due to the accolade it received, it remained the main Greek New Testament text used by scholars and translators until the end of the nineteenth century. [1]

It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that the evidence accumulated became so overwhelming that Christian scholars has to reluctantly admit that the Textus was inaccurate and based on manuscripts written far later than the period of the original texts. [2] So for a period spanning four centuries the Textus Receptus, faults and all reigned supreme. But it did not go unchallenged.

Edward Gibbon(1737-1794) in his most famous work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1788), pointed out that the church fathers defeated heretics by forged testimonies. These fathers went so far as to alter the text of the Holy Scripture itself. He pointed out one passage in particular:(which can still be seen today in the King James Version)

I John 5:7-8 (KJV)
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. And there are three that witness on earth, the Spirit, the Water and the Blood and these three agree in one.

This passage, known as the Johanine Comma, had long been used by Christians to prove the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity. Gibbon pointed out that this text (the italicized portion above) was never quoted by the earliest church fathers, nor does it appear in any Greek manuscript earlier than the fifteenth century. And even among these late manuscripts, there are only three that have this addition. In fact the earliest appearance was in Latin manuscripts around 400 CE and its earliest quotation was from the western theologian Priscillian (late 4th century CE). In short it was a later dishonest insertion into the Bible.

Why then did Christian scholars continue to accept it although it was obviously false? Gibbon claimed that Erasmus knew the passage was false but kept it out of prudence and that both the Catholic and Protestant Churches stuck to the spurious text out of "honest bigotry". In other words, the churches were trying to defend the doctrine of the Trinity by fraudulent means! [3]

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Other Unauthentic Texts

Since the end of the nineteenth century the Johanine Comma is no longer included in modern translations of the Bible. However there are still passages in the Bible that continued to be included in these modern translations (although nowadays they are mostly placed in bracketts) although all evidence point towards them not being in the ancient manuscripts.
  • The first passage is the story of the woman taken in adultery which was included in the Textus Receptus in John 8:1-11. This passage however is absent from the earliest manuscripts. Nowhere does it appear in the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus and most of the later Greek manuscripts also omit it. In some manuscripts it appears not in the gospel of John but in Luke (after Luke 21:38)! All the earliest translations of the Bible, the Syriac, the Coptic and Armenian versions are all agreed in not including the passage. The passage was unknown to Christian writers before Ambrose (340-397) and Augustine (354-430). These considerations show conclusively that we have here another late and fraudulent insertion into the Bible. That it is still not taken out from the Bible today is a modern example of what Gibbon called "honest bigotry". [4]

  • Another passage that is known to be a late insertion is Mark 16:9-20. This passage is found neither in the Vaticanus nor the Sinaiticus. It is also noticeably absent from the Syriac and Armenian manuscripts. One can perhaps understand why Christian theologians are hesitant to throw this passage out, despite the compelling proofs of its lateness and lack of authenticity. The fraudulent passage in Mark is the very portion that describes the resurrection of Jesus. Another case included under "honest bigotry" and" pious fraud".

  • Of course modern textual critics have found even more passages and verses in the traditonal text that are bogus or (to use a more neutral term) unauthentic. We gave examples for around 100 such verses elsewhere in this website.

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1.Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p170
Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p186-187
Martin, New Testament Foundations I: p166-168
2.Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p33
3.ibid: p29-31
Howell-Smith, In Search of the Real Bible: p12
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p274
Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: p101-102
4.Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p130
Howell-Smith, In Search of the Real Bible: p13,60

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