Secular Humanism boldly proclaims that the events recorded in the Bible are not historic. But using those same standards, neither were Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu or most historic people or events.
The oldest surviving manuscript of Plato’s documents dates to 895 AD. The Codex Oxoniensis Clarkianus 39 was copied more than a thousand years after the death of Plato. It is incomplete, containing only the first six tetralogies.
We only have references to Socrates in the works of Aristotle and Plato. There is no other evidence that Socrates ever existed.
Sun Tsu wrote around 550 BC, but the old fragments of the text are the Yinqueshan Han Slips, almost 5,000 bamboo fragments which contain pieces of 13 chapters of the Art of War. The Yinqueshan Han Slips date to approximately 140 BC.
The writings of Julius Caesar come from two manuscript sources, Amsterdam 73, 2nd quarter of the 9th century, written at Fleury and Paris lat. 5056, 11-12th century, written at Moissac. http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2011/01/08/the-manuscripts-of-caesars-works/. In addition, there are hundreds of references to Julius Caesar in other works, but these manuscripts are all much later. We have statues which purport to be a good likeness of Julius Caesar, but there is no way of verifying this.
None of the writings of Alexander the Great still exist in any form. His memory is preserved in works of art, such as statues, paintings and architecture. Many others wrote about Alexander, with the most well-known of these biographies being the work of Plutarch, where he compared Alexander with Julius Caesar in a book call Parallel Lives. Parallel Lives was written by Plutarch in the 1st century AD 350 years after the death of Alexander. The oldest existing MSS of Plutarch is the 10th century AD.
We could continue, but these five examples show the condition of the evidence for the most well-known and well-documented of the ancients. I do not mean to imply that this lack of evidence means that we should not trust the evidence that exists, or doubt the existence or deeds of these men. Quite to the contrary, this seems to be excellent material on which to base a highly accurate history of the time period.
And once we have established standards for evaluating history, we can then apply those same standards to other documents. First we look at the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is found in fragments of cuneiform tablets. It exists in several different ancient languages, Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Old Babylonian and Babylonian. Some of these fragments are the oldest written documents known to man. Our versions are pieced together because there is no entirely complete copy. The seventh century BC library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal contains a nearly complete copy and this is the version most modern translations are based on. One very important detail is the variations in the texts. This variety has led to the conclusion that the Epic of Gilgamesh was a political story and the story changed to fit various political climates.
While the Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of gods and goddesses and superhuman feats, its emphasis seems very modern. It is entertaining. It is interesting. But it also establishes a caste system. It clearly shows that those who not members of the nobility (the gods and goddesses) are nothing more than what we call serfs, slaves with the responsibility of providing for the nobility. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the nobility (the gods and goddesses) had powers you could not resist.
Second, we examine the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Probably better known than the Epic of Gilgamesh, there are complete copies of the Book of the Dead written in various tombs. It also has great variety among the various tombs. The Book of the Dead is earlier. The later versions used by the Egyptians us known today as the Book of Gates. Unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh, these were not written as political propaganda for the lower classes. Few people would ever see these tombs after they were sealed.
Perhaps there was some attempt by the priests to hold political power over the families of those who were being buried. They might have allowed a small number to view the walls before sealing the tomb. But the family members of those who were buried and the priests writing out the words on the walls believed that these spells had some power over death.
Unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh, where a simple understanding of human nature seems to answer the question of why was this book written, the Book of the Dead is written by and for people who were not only obsessed with the afterlife, but convinced that their magic charms could somehow achieve immortality.
These very general conclusions about these historical documents using standard techniques and methods have nearly universal agreement. However, when we apply the same method and techniques to the Biblical documents, a tsunami of prejudice and bigotry attempts to overwhelm the evidence. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide us with vellum, papyrus, and pottery documents which match the Masoretic text we have used for over a thousand years and date to within only a few centuries of the original authors. This is far more reliable than any other ancient document.
The Old Testament is quoted by the Church Fathers and Josephus, with copies as old as the 2nd century AD. It is translated into Greek (LXX), Latin (Vulgate), Ethiopian (Coptic), Syriac (Peshitta), and we have copies of each of these.
The Roman government executed an Empire-wide campaign to burn and destroy every copy of the New Testament and to kill everyone who possessed a copy of it. In spite of this, we have thousands of copies of the NT, fragments dating back to the first century and complete copies of the NT dating the fourth century AD. There are more eyewitness records to the events of the New Testament than any other ancient person or event, including major battles.
Why do people who claim to believe in science change their standards, their method of evaluating evidence, when they examine the evidence supporting the Bible?
One thought on “The Death of Science Part 5 — The Double Standard”
What a wonderful post! So often those who know little of either claim science and the Bible disagree, when in fact the one complements and confirms the other, over and again.