The Telephone Game and the Bible

phone.jpgMany people are familiar with the telephone game often used with kids to show the challenges and importance of clear communication.  It usually works with a message being given to one person, who has one chance to pass it along to another person, who does the same for the next person, and so on.  By the time it gets to the end the message is usually hilariously (?) garbled.

Sometimes skeptics will use the telephone game analogy to criticize the writings of the Bible, and of the Gospels in particular.  Their premise is that the message was transmitted orally for at least a couple decades (and, by their often convoluted reasoning, many decades), so of course it got changed many times before it was put to paper.

But that game is different from how the oral transmissions that make up the Bible in many key ways:

  1. The Bible wasn’t translated just one-on-one.  There were many witnesses and many people who heard and recounted the events.  People would catch errors instantly.
  2. They didn’t get just one try.  In the telephone game you only get one chance, but in real life – and especially with the New Testament – Jesus probably gave the same message many times, and people repeated it many times with overlapping audiences.  Again, errors would be caught quickly.
  3. Transmitters were well trained in memorizing stories.  People in that culture – especially Jewish men – were trained to memorize things well.  Many Muslims memorize the whole Koran even in our times.
  4. The message being transmitted wasn’t insignificant.  These people thought they had the words of life, and they worked hard to communicate it carefully.  And they often risked their lives to communicate this message. A good analogy I heard was that if a group of cancer patients went to hear someone describe how they could be cured, they would be inclined to pay close attention and to collectively document the information accurately.
  5. The New Testament writers had the benefit of the Holy Spirit to guide them.  I don’t think the Holy Spirit is actively involved in too many instances of the regular telephone game.
  6. Paul’s letters and others were firsthand accounts of events, so no oral tradition was involved.  And we can be highly confident that the original writings were accurately transmitted to us.

A more detailed perspective is available here.

I was surprised to see an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies note that he actually uses this game to teach college students about the Gospels (a link came to my site from his blog via the “related posts” section).  I didn’t realize his background before my first comment, then read more after he responded.  Here’s one of my replies (his words are in italics):

—–

I’ve used the telephone game to teach the gospels a number of times, but it troubles me.

A college prof thinks that is a good way to teach anything? Sad.

On the one hand, of course teaching the gospels by playing the telephone game makes perfect sense: what we have in the New Testament today does not reflect what actually happened in 0 to 35 C.E.

Hmmm . . . if you know what “really” happened perhaps you could enlighten us as to what that was and how you “know” it.

Second, even after they were written down, the stories were copied by scribes who altered the text—textual transmission is just as subject to changes as oral transmission.

False. Even pagan skeptics like Bart Ehrman concede that we know with > 99% confidence what the originals said. The system works, that’s why most Bibles footnote that the ending of Mark and the story of the woman at the well were not in the earliest manuscripts.

Ehrman just makes up a new rule that says that if every copy wasn’t perfect then the originals couldn’t have been inspired (we call that “making God in your own image”).

If you take the two most divergent manuscript streams you still get the same thing: Orthodox Christianity.

However, it is worth nothing that textual transmission may leave alternate editions that permit comparison—to my knowledge historians won’t be able to compare existing texts to oral tellings until they have time machines.

Of course. That’s why you should always assume the opposite of anything ever recorded by anyone.

One can illustrate this point by playing the telephone game: read just a single verse from one of the gospels and have the students pass the message up and down the rows by whispering it to one other.

As noted in my first comment, that is not how the Gospels were transmitted. In theory, you could go to a professor of religious studies and they’d enlighten you as to how it really worked.

So, for instance, we shouldn’t read the gospel of Matthew with an eye to the extent to which it preserves the original message of Jesus, but with an eye to the problems his community was facing some 40 to 60 years after Jesus died, and how he hoped to resolve those problems by writing up some new propaganda.

First, that dating is all wrong. It is easy to demonstrate that the most logical case for the NT datings has the Gospels being written before 70 A.D.

Second, it is hard to imagine someone actually reading the Gospels and coming to that conclusion. Over 25% of the Gospels focus on the Passion Week. How does that represent some solution to an unrelated problem?

The problem is that we are sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior. His death on the cross paid the price for us.

You might want to trade in the religious studies gig for fiction writing.

False teach Chuck Currie wants war with Syria

Hateful, libelous, pervertedradical pro-abortionist, false teaching, race-baiting Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie seeks a new level of hypocrisy with his hawkish piece A Difference Of Opinion On #Syria.  Because random wars with President Obama is super cool but Iraq as really, really bad — even though Bush went to Congress, gave the UN a few dozen chances, got a coalition of nations to help, etc., and Obama did none of that.

But what would you expect from a Leftist politics-disguised-as-religion fake like Chuck?

The UK has a great idea — I hope they follow through

Via BBC News – Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces. What a great idea.  Of course the Leftists will hate it, but this isn’t censorship — that is, unless you think it is censorship that porn providers aren’t allowed to send unsolicited porn to your mailbox.  Think about it.

Yeah, it may make some people uncomfortable to have to opt-in, but I don’t really care.  This will help keep poison away from children — and adults.  This is at the root of so many societal problems.  If government should have a role in our leaves, this should be one of them.

Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces

 

David Cameron: “In the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children”

Q&A: UK filters on legal pornography

PM urges firms to block abuse images

Minister hails ‘web porn’ progress

Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced.

In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales – in line with Scotland.

Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was “corroding childhood”.

The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.

Analysis

Seven years ago David Cameron told a Google conference that politicians should encourage companies to change, not over-regulate them.

Today, he announced he had reached agreement with the four biggest ISPs on pornography filters, after some behind the scenes tussling.

But he hinted that if search engines like Google didn’t agree to a blacklist of search terms, he would legislate.

From Downing St, he can supplement the art of persuasion with the smack of firm government.

Back in his opposition days, Cameron made waves presenting himself as a man on the side of parents against firms that sold chocolates at checkouts and children’s bikinis.

If he can mould a similar image in Downing St, as a PM doing battle with big business on behalf of fellow parents, he will be more than happy.

Mr Cameron also called for some “horrific” internet search terms to be “blacklisted”, meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.

He told the BBC he expected a “row” with service providers who, he said in his speech, were “not doing enough to take responsibility” despite having a “moral duty” to do so.

Service providers make money off porn.  Of course they will hate this.  Too bad the U.S. won’t have the guts to do it.  It would be a great campaign strategy for a conservative.

Even unions are learning to hate Obamacare

Even those that blindly supported Obamacare, such as unions and religious organizations, are learning how destructive it is.  Unions think it will destroy the 40 hour workweek.  Those that passed it wouldn’t dream of being covered by it.  Sarah Palin was obviously right about the “death panels.”  And so on.

Mark Steyn does a great takedown of it in Obamacare’s Hierarchy of Privilege:

 It requires a perverse genius to construct a “health” “care” “reform” that destroys everything from religious liberty to full-time employment, while requiring multitudes of new tax collectors and other bureaucrats and ever fewer doctors and nurses. The parallel public/private systems of Continental Europe cost about 10 percent of GDP. The Obamacare monstrosity blends all the worst aspects of a private system (bureaucracy, restricted access, co-pays) with all the worst aspects of a government system (bureaucracy, restricted access, IRS agents) and sucks up twice as much GDP, ever less of which is spent on “health care” and ever more on the intervening layers of third, fourth, fifth, and sixth parties.

I don’t know, but I’ll find out

question-mark.gifA favorite updated for your reading pleasure.

The title contains seven really important words for evangelism and apologetics (defending the Christian faith).

1 Peter 3:15-16 gives the following command to Christians:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

So we must be ready to graciously explain why we believe in Christ. But there will always be questions we don’t have the answers to. Sometimes when we get stumped we resort to poorly made arguments such as “Because the Bible says so!”  Or worse yet, we avoid conversations completely because we are afraid of looking bad.

But when we don’t have well reasoned answers to share we should not make them up. This is a corollary to the advice about the first thing to do when you have dug yourself into a hole (Stop digging).

Consider the following benefits of being willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

  • It is a humble response. You burst the stereotype that Christians are smug know-it-alls who aren’t willing to listen.
  • It takes pressure off of you, and most importantly, gives you the confidence to engage in conversations without thinking you must know everything.
  • It keeps you from giving bad answers. Remember that one bad argument can undermine ten good arguments. Skeptics will seize on it and use it to justify their position.
  • It gives you time to prepare better answers.
  • It lets you make an appointment to come back later to talk about God. This is invaluable, as you can approach the person later and say, “Remember when you had that question about ______”
  • You will build your own confidence when you research the issues and realize that we’ve been answering tough questions with intellectually satisfying answers for thousands of years.
  • By taking the objection off the table temporarily, you can shift back to the Gospel, as in “While I can’t answer that right now, here is what I do know . . .”

Of course, you may use different words to convey this. You might say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it and get back with you. Thanks for giving me something to think about,” or something similar. The main thing is to humbly convey that you listened to what the other person said, that you don’t have a ready answer and that you care enough to do some research and get back to them.

Keep in mind that just because you don’t have an answer right then doesn’t mean that Christianity isn’t true. If the essentials of Christianity are true (e.g., Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), then they are true regardless of whether someone can explain them or not or whether someone wants them to be true. All you need to know is where to go find the answers to the tough questions. You can maintain your confidence in what you do know to be true. In fact, when we respond graciously to critics we come across more confident than if we get overly excited and emotional.

This works on other topics as well, such as pro-life reasoning.

Hat tip for parts of this: Stand to Reason

Roundup

Women’s morphing need for male investment — a interesting analysis of women and men, how they are behaving and why.  Sadly, so many women are opting for sleeping around now with no intentions of marrying, thinking they can still marry a great guy years later on their terms.  Bad idea.

This is a terrific and free online resource — An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.  They should teach these to everyone in school.  Hat tip: Apologetics315.com.

Family Terrorized as Michigan Teachers Support Colleague Who Molested Boy —  the guy is lucky to be alive.  He molested him for three years!  One time should be enough for life in prison.  Any guesses as to the political party of teachers from Michigan who support a child molester?

Oberlin College Hate Hoax Exposed — Uh, if there is so much real racism like this why do these spoiled Obama supporters have to make things up?  These things are more common than you’d think.  Click the link to see a long list of them.  And consider how malicious and hypocritical the perpetrators are.  They make minorities think the situation is much worse than it is. And for what gain?

Arab Spring: Worst Soap Ever — A terrific summary of how (deliberately?) badly Obama has handled foreign affairs.  Where are the protesters?

If Obama Had A Son He Would Not Look Like Christopher Lane — Nothing from the White House.  Jesse grudgingly said it should be “frowned upon.”  This was obviously the worst kind of racism, yet the media is virtually silent.

Last Friday a young Australian was gunned down in Duncan, Oklahoma.

The facts are terrifyingly banal. Lane, who was in the United States on a baseball scholarship to East Central University in Ada, OK, was visiting his girlfriend in Duncan, OK, and decided to go for a jog. At some point he passed a house containing three young men: James Edwards, 15, Chancey “Baby Drake” Luna, 16, and Michael Jones, 17. They were bored – bored is what they told police — and decided to kill him. With Jones at the wheel they followed Lane in a car and, police charge, Edwards shot him in the back with a .22-caliber revolver. Edwards and Luna have been charged with murder, Jones as an accessory.

The critical part of this story involves the race of the killers. At least two of the killers, Edwards and Luna, are described as black.

This event has an interesting parallel to the Trayvon Martin case. The primary killer in this case as identified by police, James Edwards, has an internet presence eerily similar to that of Martin. He created a ganster-wannabe image, brandished weapons, etc. And like Martin, all three are “children.”

There the similarity ends. When George Zimmerman was attacked by Martin he was fortunate enough to be armed. Lane was not that lucky. And when Martin was shot, President Obama nearly injured himself getting in front of television cameras to proclaim his solidarity with Martin supporters. “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” he emoted. (As an aside, I think that is probably true as Obama has treated the nation exactly the way Trayvon Martin treated George Zimmerman, he’s sitting on its chest and bashing its head against the metaphorical sidewalk.)

It was committed purely because of race. The blood is on the hands of the race-baiting people who are milking Trayvon’s death for profit and to foster division.

“On July 15, days after the George Zimmerman verdict, Edwards tweeted “Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!:) lol shit ima keep sleepin shit! #ayeeee.”

“Woods” is a derogatory term for white people.”

George Zimmerman was not racist. This crime clearly was, and in the killer’s own words he was attacking whites because of what he “knew” about the Trayvon case. So Sojo should run about 10 times the stories on it as they did for Trayvon, right? Or do they think blacks aren’t capable of self-control?

More here.

And three days before what police call the indiscriminate shooting, the suspect, 15-year-old James Edwards Jr., tweeted, “With my n****s when it’s time to start taken life’s” — a line from the Chief Keef rap song, “I Don’t Like.”Back in April, he tweeted, “90% of white ppl (people) are nasty. #HATE THEM.”

Russia defends anti-gay law in letter to IOC — Good for them!  The law is about not letting people push pro-LGBTQ lies on children and about adoptions.  It is tragic that we haven’t done the same.

Teens and Unrestricted Access: Time to Repent — Do you give your kids unrestricted Internet access? If so, you need to stop.

How Do Mother Butterflies Avoid the Poison? — As if the caterpillar ==> butterfly thing wasn’t enough, they do many other things to mock Darwinian evolution.

A great response to the case where Christians are punished for not providing services to gays:

My friends, the case of Elane Photography v. Willock has been decided. As I tell you regularly, you will be made to care.

The case centered around Elaine Huguenin, a Christian in New Mexico who owned a photography business. She was asked to provide services to a gay commitment ceremony between two lesbians, Vanessa Willock and her partner. Ms. Huguenin and her husband declined to provide their services because they are Christians and the orthodox tenets of their faith tell them that marriage is between a man and a woman. See e.g. Matthew 19.

Vanessa Willock, in an act of spite and retribution, decided to file a discrimination claim and punish Mrs. Huguenin for adhering to her religious beliefs. In a very profound decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Christians, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and others must surrender the faithful practice of their religion in the name of citizenship.

In fact, Justice Richard Bosson in a concurring opinion, wrote,

At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others…. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people…. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.

Note that the tolerance is one way. In the name of tolerance, Mrs. Huguenin can be compelled by state power on pain of punishment to provide her services to Ms. Willock against Mrs. Huguenin’s several thousand year old orthodox religious beliefs, but Ms. Willock is under no obligation to simply tolerate those who disagree with her and find someone who is happy to provide the service.

Ms. Willock proved herself vindictive. Imagine other angry gay rights activists willfully and consciously trying to seek out Christian photographer to either make them comply or drive them from business. Given Ms. Willock’s actions, and the actions of other gay rights activists in Oregon, Colorado, Kentucky, and elsewhere, this is not a hypothetical, but a reality.

. . .

That Christians should be allowed to refrain from providing goods and services to gay marriages they oppose is something supported by 85% of the American public. It unites men, women, blacks, whites, hispanics, conservatives, moderates, and a fair number of liberals. This battle may be lost, unless the United States Supreme Court steps in and reverses, but this decision gives Christians, Muslims, and orthodox Jews the ammunition to win the war for religious liberty. No longer is coercion of the religious by gay rights activists a hypothetical.

A small band of gay rights activists will not stop on the one way street of tolerance. My friends, whether you want to believe or not, you will be made to care. New Mexico shows again that gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible. You will not be allowed to opt out.

There is one organization at the forefront of this. That is the Alliance Defending Freedom. They represented Mrs. Huguenin and are considering appealing to the United States Supreme Court. They need our financial help to keep this going. I’ve given them a financial contribution and I hope you will to. They are lone and brave warriors in this fight against the left. They need every penny they can get.

Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant, then seeks to silence good. We must fund the fight for Truth and Light.

The blind men of Sodom are most persistent.  Shame on those who elected people who let this happen.

This is great!

Muslim

Toodledo: Silly name, great app

One of my most-used apps is Toodledo.  Yeah, the name is silly. But it works really well. And yes, you actually have to pay a whole $3 for it, but it is worth it.

One of the best things about apps like this is that you can access and share lists from multiple devices.  I mainly use it on my iPhone, but it is also a constantly open web page on my PC.  And my wife can share the app and the lists on it.  Little things like grocery lists are much easier now.  You can add things whenever you think of them, and put them in the rough order of how they are laid out in the store.  It seems like overkill at first but it is worth it.  And we can both use it at the same time.

I also have to-do lists for:

  • General things
  • Travel checklist — there are 40 possible things I might pack for a given trip.  No wonder I used to forget things!
  • Gift ideas
  • Target / Wal-mart / Lowe’s
  • Names  of people I meet (I try to type them in right away, and that alone helps me remember them)
  • Ballroom dance tips (things I think I’ll remember after a lesson but often forget)
  • Workout lists
  • Work tasks
  • Movies I want to see
  • More!

If you don’t use an app like this I encourage you to try it.  It will make your life much more organized with minimal cost and time requirements.