Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015

This is a guest post by Dr. Justin W. Bass regarding his recent debate with well-known atheist, Dan Barker. The debate topic was “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?”

“I discovered that there is no evidence for Christianity” –Dan Barker (Losing Faith in Faith, 69).

Dan Barker wrote these words in 1992 in his first book Losing Faith in Faith recounting his de-conversion from a fundamentalist Christian pastor to a promoter of atheism and free-thought.

Dan first came out publicly as an atheist on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1984. Since that time he has been a preacher of atheism and free-thought as a kind of “reverse penance” (Losing Faith, 10), he says, for all the years he proclaimed the gospel.

At 15, he accepted a calling from God to live and preach for Jesus Christ. He was a self-admitted fundamentalist from the beginning believing “every word in the Bible is God-inspired and inerrant” (Losing Faith, 28). He was also taught that liberal and atheist writers were “evil servants of Satan attempting to distract believers from the literal truth of the Bible” (Losing Faith, 29-30). He describes a fundamentalist (himself at the time) this way: “A true fundamentalist should consider the English version of the Bible to be just as inerrant as the original because if we admit that human error was possible in the translation, then it was equally possible in the original writing.” (Losing Faith, 176-77).

Dan ended up attending Azusa Pacific College majoring in Religion. He describes Azusa Bible College as a “glorified Sunday school” (Losing Faith, 22). In the one apologetics class he took, he admits, “I don’t remember that we delved very deeply into the evidences or arguments for or against Christianity” (Losing Faith, 22).

Although Dan states it was the lack of evidence that convinced him Christianity isn’t true, it seems, from his own admission, that he was not exposed to Christianity’s hard “evidences or arguments” before he turned to atheism.

Dan and I debated the topic: “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?” on June 6th of 2015 sponsored by The Bible and Beer Consortium. After that 3+ hour debate, reading all of Dan’s books, and watching at least 40 of his other debates, I have come to the conclusion that Dan is still rejecting the same “glorified Sunday school” version of Christianity that he rejected over 30 years ago.

I am grateful to know Dan; I’ve found him to be kind, brilliant, and an experienced articulate speaker. I appreciate his willingness to come to Dallas to debate. We had a great time at dinner together the night before the debate. We asked our waitress who she guessed was the atheist and who was the Christian. She thought Dan was the Christian and I was the atheist!

While I like Dan as a person, for over 30 years he has been fighting against a fundamentalist caricature of Christianity and misrepresenting many of the facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and one of the primary purposes of this article is to correct many of those misrepresentations.

Dan’s “glorified Sunday school” version of Christianity is highlighted throughout his arguments in Losing Faith in Faith (1992), Godless (2008) and his most recent book Life Driven Purpose (2015). Just for a moment, let’s consider the sources he cites in these books.

In his discussions of Jesus and Christianity, Dan cites only two scholars who are credentialed and professionally teaching in the field of early Christianity: R. J. Hoffman and Bart Ehrman. In contrast to these two sources, Dan questions Jesus’ existence. He parts ways again with Bart Ehrman, arguing that the Jesus story was cut from the same cloth of pagan religions.

In writing on Jesus and Christianity, Dan cites only these other sources: John Remsburg, J. M. Robertson, W. B. Smith, Barbara Walker, G. A. Wells, Randall Helms, John Allegro, Hugh Schonfield, Earl Doherty, Robert Price and Richard Carrier. A review of their credentials quickly reveal that the majority of them are inadequate sources for Jesus and early Christianity.

Just to give one example: Barbara Walker is included in Dan’s “other scholars” (Godless, 270-72) and is his primary source when arguing in Losing Faith and Godless that the Jesus story is a fanciful patchwork from other pagan religions. Walker though only has a degree in Journalism and publishes other books on knitting. In fact, James White challenged Dan in their debate on using Walker as one of his chief sources on Jesus and Dan agreed he would remove her from later editions of Godless.

That was very honest of Dan to admit that he erred in using Walker as a source, but why did Dan not cite anywhere in his books James Dunn, E. P. Sanders, John P. Meier, N. T. Wright, Paula Fredricksen, Dale Allison, Martin Hengel, Richard Bauckham, or really any of the other 6000+ scholars professionally teaching in relevant subjects of early Christianity?

With sources like the ones Dan relies on, you can see why so many facts get misrepresented in his writings and speaking regarding Jesus and ancient history.

Let me just give 7 examples from our debate where Dan got his facts wrong about Christianity and/or ancient history. I have provided clips below for the relevant exchange for each one of these 7 examples. I recommend watching the exchange first and then reading my comments.

1.) Did Nazareth Exist during the Lifetime of Jesus?

Debate Exchange 1 (1:19:41–1:25:44)

From the beginning of his opening speech, Dan stated that the city of Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus, to support his case that Jesus was a legend. Dan also made this argument back in 1992 in Losing Faith in Faith (p. 191) that Nazareth didn’t exist before the second century. However, archaeological discoveries have definitively proven that Nazareth did, in fact, exist at the time of Jesus. Bart Ehrman says, “Many compelling pieces of archaeological evidence indicate that in fact Nazareth did exist in Jesus’ day and that, like other villages and towns in that part of Galilee, it was built on the hillside, near where the later rock-cut kokh tombs were built. For one thing, archaeologists have excavated a farm connected with the village, and it dates to the time of Jesus… Jesus really came from there, as attested in multiple sources” (see more here and in Did Jesus Exist? 191-97).

The first argument Dan made that Jesus is legend was completely at odds with the facts.

2.) Josephus and Tacitus on Jesus

Debate Exchange 2 (1:45:26–1:48:03)

In this exchange, Dan actually denied that Tacitus was talking about Jesus in his famous passage about “Christus” being executed under Pontius Pilate in Annals 15.44.

Here is John P. Meier on the passage in Tacitus: “Despite some feeble attempts to show that this text is a Christian interpolation in Tacitus, the passage is obviously genuine. Not only is it witnessed in all the manuscripts of the Annals, the very anti-Christian tone of the text makes Christian origin almost impossible” (A Marginal Jew, Vol 1, 90.). It is a fact that the majority of Classicist and Biblical scholars agree this passage in Tacitus is referring to Jesus (cf. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the NT, 42-43).

In addition, Dan repeated a false statement I’ve heard him say many times: “There was a Judas the Christ, a Theudas the Christ…” As I demonstrated to him, nowhere in Josephus’ writings is anyone called “Christ” except the two passages referring to Jesus.

More shocking was Dan’s claim that the passage in Josephus where he refers to James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” (Ant. 20.200) was not authentic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Dan has been arguing this since 1992 where he wrote in Losing Faith (p. 363): “This is flimsy, and even Christian scholars widely consider this to be a doctored text” (cf. Godless, 258; these inaccurate discussions about Josephus and Tacitus are left virtually unchanged from 1992 to 2008).

Here are just a few examples from world renowned authorities on Josephus:

  • “Few have doubted the genuineness of this passage on James. If it had been a Christian interpolation it would, in all probability, have been more laudatory of James”
    (Harvard Loeb Series on Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 496 fn. a).
  • Robert Van Voorst in his book Jesus outside the NT (p. 83): “The overwhelming majority of scholars hold that the words ‘brother of Jesus, who was called Christ,’ are authentic, as is the entire passage in which it is found.”
  • “The passage about James has generally been accepted as authentic.”
    (Louis Feldman, Josephus, the Bible, and History, 434)

Van Voorst sums up where the vast majority of scholarship currently stands on both Josephus passages about Jesus: “In sum, Josephus has given us in two passages something unique among all ancient non-Christian witnesses to Jesus: a carefully neutral, highly accurate and perhaps independent witness to Jesus, a wise man whom his persistent followers called ‘the Christ’ (Jesus outside the NT, 103-104).

Again, Dan has his facts about Tacitus and Josephus completely wrong.

3.) Did Paul Believe Jesus’ Resurrection was Physical or Spiritual?

Debate Exchange 3 (1:03:30–1:05:41)

Debate Exchange 4 (1:52:00–1:56:00)

Whether or not Paul believed Jesus’ appearance to him was bodily or only spiritual was debated throughout the night. Dan agreed that as a Pharisee we know that Paul would have believed in the bodily, general resurrection of all believers at the end of the world (cf., e.g., Daniel 12:1-3).

What Dan disputed was that Paul believed Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to him was physical, bodily. He argued primarily based on the Greek word ὤφθη that it was a spiritual, visionary experience.

Dan is correct that sometimes this word is used for only a visionary or spiritual experience, but it is not true that it is never used of a physical, bodily experience.

Here are just a few examples: The word is used in Luke 24:34 (“appeared to Simon”) and even Dan agrees that Luke is presenting a physical, resurrected Jesus (see Luke 24:36-43).

In addition, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament it is used for physical appearances in Gen 46:29 LXX (Joseph appeared to Jacob), Exod 10:28 LXX (Moses appeared to Pharaoh), 1 Kings 3:16 LXX (two prostitutes appear before Solomon), 1 Kings 18:1 LXX (Elijah appeared before Ahab). So this Greek word alone cannot decide the issue either way.

What was most shocking is Dan’s claim that the NIV reading of 1 Corinthians 9:1 is a “bad translation.” Here is the NIV: “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” This is verbatim from the Greek (οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα;) and also every other English translation of this verse. The translation Dan is most familiar with, the KJV, has it this way: “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” Dan even said in our exchange that the “Greek does not say ‘seen’” in 1 Corinthians 9:1. The Greek word is ἑόρακα which comes from the word ὁράω which means “I see.” It is in the perfect tense in 1 Corinthians 9:1 and so “have I not seen” is the correct translation.

What is definitive in this particular debate is the use of the word ἀνάστασις (anastasis) which Dan admitted is the word for physical resurrection. Dan also said throughout the debate that Paul never used this word in 1 Corinthians 15. He had also stated this in his book Godless (p. 294): “The word ‘raised’ is egeiro, which means ‘to wake up’ or ‘come to.’ Paul did not use the word resurrection (anastasis, anistemi) here, though he certainly knew it.”

This is again completely false. I pointed out in our exchange that Paul uses this word for Jesus’ resurrection in Romans 1:4 (ἐξ ἀναστάσεως (anastasis) νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν) and he later in the debate admitted that Paul in Romans then meant physical resurrection.

But he was not willing to change his view on 1 Corinthians 15.

However, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses the Greek word ἐγείρω (egeiro) and ἀνάστασις (anastasis) synonymously to refer to resurrection all throughout 1 Corinthians 15.

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead (ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται), how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν)? But if there is no resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν), not even Christ has been raised (ἐγήγερται); and if Christ has not been raised (ἐγήγερται), then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain… But now Christ has been raised from the dead (ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν), the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν)” (1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 20-21).

Notice how Paul uses anastasis throughout and also how Christ’s being “raised” is the “first fruits” of the general “resurrection (anastasis) of the dead.” The general resurrection of the dead is agreed by Dan to be a physical, bodily resurrection at the end of the world, so it can hardly be debated that this is not how Paul, a Pharisee, also viewed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:20-21).

In short, Dan is incorrect, Paul did believe (not just in Romans) in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus physically, bodily rose again from the dead and appeared to him.

4.) The 500 Eyewitnesses

Debate Exchange 5 (00:57:52–1:03:30)

The evidence of the 500 eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:6 (“After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep”) played a large role in our debate. Let me reiterate what I said in the debate. It is agreed upon by all teaching scholars in the western world (6000+) that Paul believed that Jesus appeared to these more than 500 eyewitnesses, but scholars are not unanimous on how Paul got this information (First hand? Second hand?…).

It is also agreed upon by all teaching scholars (Ludemann, Dunn, Ehrman, etc.) that this creed Paul is quoting in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 dates to within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death.

Dan dates the creed to 2 years after Jesus’ death (Godless, 293).

Dan though in his writings and in our debate said that the distance from Jerusalem to Corinth made it unlikely for them to travel to interview any of these 500 eyewitnesses. However, I pointed out that we know for a fact that Peter and James (and Paul) traveled from Jerusalem to Corinth frequently and Dan did not dispute that point.

We also know that Paul’s credibility was on the line with many false teachers in Corinth and so if these more than 500 could not be corroborated it would have greatly hurt Paul’s reputation.

In addition, Paul mentions that some of these 500 “remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Why would he say this and how did he know this information?

Josephus makes a parallel claim in his writings, arguing that 23 years after an event he is describing people who are still alive “to prove” what he is saying (Ant. 20.266). Paul is making the same claim to the Corinthians about the ‘still alive’ of the 500 eyewitnesses. Go to Jerusalem and interview them, Paul was saying to the Corinthians, many of them are still alive!

5.) “Contradictions” in the Resurrection Accounts

Debate Exchange 6 (2:15:40–2:19:15)

I want to emphasize this exchange about the differences in the resurrection accounts in the Gospels because Dan has spent so much time on this in his writings and public speaking.

Dan has a list of what he considers contradictions between the 5 resurrection accounts we have in the New Testament, from Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

But as you can see in our exchange, I demonstrated that what they agree on is far more important than the ancillary details they disagree on. They unanimously agree on the fact that the tomb was empty, Mary Magdalene was there, at least one angel was there and that Jesus rose from the dead! What these other ‘on the surface’ inconsistencies demonstrate definitively is that an historical event of colossal magnitude did occur. What was that colossal event?

Dan also argued in a previous clip above that there is legendary development in these stories. For instance, in Mark there is one angel, in Matthew there is an earthquake and an angel, in Luke and John 2 angels, etc. The only problem with this theory (as I noted in our exchange) is that our earliest witness, the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (written within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death) recounts over 500 witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. The four Gospels maybe account for around 20 eyewitnesses. So the legendary development works in reverse in this case.

6.) Dan’s One Alternative Explanation

Debate Exchange 7 (2:07:00–2:13:30)

I presented 7 facts concerning the historical Jesus and the rise of the Christian movement in the first century in my opening statement that are agreed upon by all full-time teaching scholars in the Western world (6000+) whether in Classics, History, or in Early Christianity. And I argued that the best explanation of these 7 facts is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead and therefore is Lord of all.

Throughout the night, Dan only gave one possible alternative explanation that would, even if true, explain only one of my 7 facts. He admitted before he shared this explanation that the hallucination hypothesis (which is the leading alternative explanation among NT scholars today) is “weak.” Instead, Dan proposed a theory found first in the writings of Robert Price. You can watch the clip above, but Dan essentially argues that because Peter felt so bad about his denial of Jesus after his death, he had an experience that convinced him Jesus was still alive. But as I said in the debate this in no way answers why someone like Paul would become a follower of Jesus and I pressed Dan for evidence for this theory and he gave none.

Ultimately, this was just something Robert Price just made up out of thin air and Dan is carrying on Price’s imagination.

7.) Even if Jesus rose from the dead, Dan would still not accept Him as his Lord.

Debate Exchange 8 (2:36:00–2:50:10)

This last 15 minutes of the debate was the most important exchange of the night. I recommend watching this 15-minute clip with undivided attention. Not only does Dan admit that the resurrection of Jesus does explain the 7 facts I presented “perfectly” (and he never presented an alternative explanation besides Price’s unsubstantiated theory about Peter), but he also made the shocking declaration in his closing statement that even if Jesus rose from the dead and there is a God, he still wouldn’t accept him as Lord.

In all Dan’s books, and in all the debates I have watched with him, I had never heard him say that even if Jesus rose from the dead, he still wouldn’t confess Him as Lord. This was I believe the first time he stated this publicly. And I think it reveals a lot.

It reveals mainly that the evidence and arguments really don’t matter in the end because even if Jesus did rise from the dead this still wouldn’t convince Dan. Many atheists and agnostics told me after the debate that they disagreed with Dan on this. They said they wanted to know if God exists and if Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and of course they would confess him as Lord if He did. This statement by Dan clarifies another shocking statement he has made over the years, but first in his book Losing Faith (p. 331): “Speaking for myself, if the biblical heaven and hell exist, I would choose hell. Having to spend eternity pretending to worship tyranny would be more hellish than baking in eternal flames. There is no way a Bully will earn my worship.”

I don’t think Dan in any way represents all atheists with these shocking admissions, but I do think he represents a certain segment of unbelievers. Many atheists and agnostics, I believe, are open to the evidence and would no doubt change their views if convinced God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. However, it is important to realize that there are also many unbelievers like Dan who no matter what evidence is presented to them, in fact even if Jesus actually did rise from the dead and appear to them, they admit they would still not believe and would choose hell over worshipping God in heaven (see Luke 16:31). These kinds of statements do break my heart and I still pray for Dan and hope and believe he will come back to his Savior and Lord before the end.

C. S. Lewis wrote, in my opinion, the greatest chapter on Hell ever written. His conclusion to that chapter is an appropriate ending to this article: “In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: ‘What are you asking God to do?’ To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To Forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does” (Problem of Pain, 130).


Debate on the Resurrection of Jesus

An informal debate on the resurrection of Jesus, which began as a continuation of comments on my blog, “Can We Still Believe the Bible?” (http://danielbwallace.com/2014/03/24/can-we-still-believe-the-bible/), has turned into a formal debate. I think you’ll find it most interesting! Here’s the link:



Gregory-Aland 1761: A Gospels Manuscript?

We have a team from CSNTM working at the National Library of Greece in Athens this summer. A big team—from seven to nine people at any given time. The work is both exhausting and exhilarating. Handling precious documents all day long, while trying to produce accurate, aesthetically-pleasing photographs, can be emotionally draining work. But every new day the teams are ready for more.

digitizing st NLG

Counting Quires

One of my tasks is to count quires. A quire is, medievally speaking, eight leaves or four double-leaves (bifolia) laid down, then folded vertically in the middle. These leaves then form a quire and they are sewn into the binding at the crease. Some scribes numbered their quires by writing, in very faint and small ink, the number of the quire on either first page (recto) or last page (verso) of a quire. Then, when it came time to stitch all the quires together they would know what order they would go in and assemble the book. But not all scribes wrote out these quire numbers, and even for many who did later book-owners trimmed the pages, inadvertently cutting off either the entirety or a portion of the quire number. And often, they wrote in red ink—the kind that fades so badly that it is now invisible.

There are three ways to identify the number of leaves in a quire quickly: (1) notice and document where the quire numbers are; (2) notice where the sewed strings are (always in the middle of the quire); and (3) feel the pressure of the leaves—if a leaf wants to go to the left, it belongs with the previous quire; if it wants to lay flat, it begins a new quire.

There are problems with each of these methods, but it’s essential that the quire counts are done while examining the manuscripts instead of via photographs since the latter approach eliminates the third method for determining quire counts. The binding may be tight, and the strings won’t show up in the photographs, which makes approach #2 difficult to accomplish. Frequently, a magnifying glass is used to determine if the strings are there, but this of course can only be done while examining the actual manuscript.

An Interesting Feature in GA 1761

Gregory-Aland 1761 posed an interesting problem. It’s a manuscript of Acts, the Catholic letters, and the corpus Paulinum (including Hebrews). The first quire reveals no number, but quire 2 has the number κε or 25. The numbers are then seen on every quire and they are in sequence without any gaps, going all the way through μθ or 49. Only one leaf is missing in this entire manuscript, which is unusual. Normally, at least a few leaves are missing from a manuscript, even one as late as the fourteenth century (the date of GA 1761).

Since the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, Germany is the de facto cataloguer of the Greek NT manuscripts, they list this manuscript as an “ap” document—that is, Acts and Catholic letters (a) and Paul (p). They do not indicate that anything is missing, although one leaf is absent. However, judging by the quire numbers far more than one leaf is missing—184 leaves to be exact! 184 leaves is the number for the first 23 quires (since the second quire in the extant manuscript begins with ‘25’).

What was originally in this manuscript? One’s immediate hunch would be all four Gospels, and that turns out to be correct. With an average of 360 words per leaf in the extant manuscript, 183 leaves would be required for the Gospels. Thus, this manuscript was originally an eap, with ‘e’ standing for evangelists or εὐαγγέλιον.

Examining quires and counting the number of leaves in them is largely neglected by institutes that own manuscripts as well as by New Testament scholars. But it is the fastest way to determine if a manuscript is complete or is missing leaves—and where they are missing. Now, with digital images, many of the quire numbers are visible. When CSNTM prepares a manuscript, we routinely list the quires by number, Greek letter (if visible), and number of leaves. Below is what this information looks like in CSNTM’s ‘prep doc’ for GA 1761:


1.1–8, 2[κε].9–16, 3[κς].17–24, 4[κζ].25–32, 5[κη].33–39 [short quire], 6[κθ].40–47, 7[λ].48–55, 8[λα].56–63, 9[λβ].64–71, 10[λγ].72–79, 11[λδ].80–87, 12[λε].88–95, 13[λς].96–103, 14[λζ].104–111, 15[λη].112–119, 16[λθ].120–127, 17[μ].128–135, 18[μα].136–143, 19[μβ].144–151, 20[μγ].152–159, 21[μδ].160–167, 22[με].168–175, 23[μς].176–183, 24[μζ].184–191, 25[μη].192–199, 26[μθ].200–207. Rest is paper MS added later.

We are documenting a number of features in these manuscripts, as we have traditionally done, which will help those who study them get some help in reading the texts. For example, for all continuous texts manuscripts, we provide a scripture index showing on what pages each book of the NT are to be found. Some of the incidental material is idiosyncratic, but the scripture indexes especially should be useful for researchers. For this particular manuscript, below is what is provided:

1a–52b: Acts
52b–53b: information about Luke and Acts
54a: hypothesis for James
54a–59a: James
60a: hypothesis for 1 Peter
60a–65b: 1 Peter
65b–66a: hypothesis for 2 Peter
66a–69b: 2 Peter
69b–70b: hypothesis for 1 John
71a–76a: 1 John
76ab: hypothesis for 2 John
76b–77a: 2 John
77ab: hypothesis for 3 John
77b–78a: 3 John
78ab: hypothesis for Jude
78b–80a: Jude
81a–82b: hypothesis for Romans
82b–102a: Romans
102a: subscription: written from Corinth through Phoebe; stichoi mentioned.
102b–103a: hypothesis for 1 Corinthians
103a–120b: 1 Corinthians
121ab: hypothesis for 2 Corinthians
121b–134a: 2 Corinthians
134a: subscriptio: written from Philippi through Titus, Barnabas, and Luke
134b: hypothesis for Galatians
135a–141a: Galatians
141a–142a: hypothesis for Ephesians
142b–149a: Ephesians
149ab: hypothesis for Philippians
149b–154a: Philippians
154ab: hypothesis for Colossians
154b–159a: Colossians
159ab: hypothesis for 1 Thessalonians
160a–164a: 1 Thessalonians
164b–165a: hypothesis for 2 Thessalonians
165a–167b: 2 Thessalonians
167b–168a: hypothesis for 1 Timothy
168a–173b: 1 Timothy
173b–174a: hypothesis for 2 Timothy
174a–178a: 2 Timothy
178ab: hypothesis for Titus
178b–181a: Titus
181ab: hypothesis for Philemon
181b–182b: Philemon
182b–183b: hypothesis for Hebrews
183b–: Hebrews
183b–199b: title: “the letter to the Hebrews” (Paul not mentioned as author)
200a–207a: abbreviations
208a–219a: non-biblical text, paper, later hand
220a–243b: third hand, paper text, later hand, non-biblical
244a–250b: fourth hand, paper text, non-biblical

The work at the National Library progresses well; we will soon wrap up our first of two summers here. And in the end, we will provide approximately 150,000 high-resolution images of c. 300 manuscripts and over 700 pages of documentation. When all the manuscripts we are digitizing at the National Library are photographed, we will post them on csntm.org, along with all the prep docs. This has been our custom since the beginning, though CSNTM continues to refine its digitizing standards and prep doc information.


A New Gospel Manuscript in Athens?

In my last post I mentioned a newly discovered apostolos manuscript, found glued to the inside of the front and back covers of a codex (NLG 2676). This blog is about another manuscript inside another codex. This time the codex is Lectionary 1816, a 12th century parchment manuscript of the Gospels with 154 leaves. The National Library of Greece in Athens assigns it the shelf number 2711.

The new discovery, however, is not a couple of leaves glued to inside of the covers; rather, it is several reinforcing strips glued to the inner margin of bifolia (double-leaves) near the beginning of the codex.

The reinforcing strips are from a parchment manuscript which was a two-column text. It was probably written in the 12th or 13th century. The strips are found on bifolio 2a–5b, leaves 2b–3a, leaf 4a, leaves 4b–5a, and leaf 6a.

Some of the strips have only one or two letters of material per line, while others have as many as six letters per line. One of the strips is at the beginning of the line, revealing the initial letters on each line of the column.

So far, sections from Luke 1 have been identified. One section is apparently from Luke 1.57–61. The image is below.

NLG 2711_new MS strip_Luke 1

Binding strip in NLG 2711

(iPhone picture)

The text of this strip is as follows:





τι ε
















Reconstructed with the surrounding text (with the number of letters in brackets), we get:

1) πλησθη ο χρονος του τε- [18]                                    Luke 1.57

γειν αυτην, και εγε- [15]

ννησεν υιον. Και ηκου- [17]

σαν οι περιοικοι και [17]                                            Luke 1.58

5) ηση [??]………….ο-

τι εμεγαλυνεν κς το [16]

ελεος αυτου μετ αυτης, [18]

και συνεχαιρον αυτη. [17]

και εγενετο εν τη ογ- [16]                                          Luke 1.59

10) δοη ημερα, ηλθον [13?]

περιτεμειν το παιδι- [17]

ον· και εκαλουν αυτο επι [19]

τω ονοματι του πρς αυ- [17]

του Ζαχα- [7??]

15) ριαν. και αποκριθει- [16]                                            Luke 1.60

σα η μηρ αυτου ειπεν [16]

οὐχι αλλα κληθησεται [18]

ιωαννης. και ειπον προς [19]                                     Luke 1.61

αυτην οτι ουδεις εστιν [19]

20) εν τη συγγενεια σου ος [18]

καλειται τω ονοματι του- [—]

Please excuse the formatting of the above reconstruction. I think you can get the idea though, especially since these letters are at the beginning of a new line.

For 17 of the 21 lines, the text is clearly from Luke 1.57–61. And there is no other text that even comes close. It surely must be that this is that passage throughout the strip. The average line (not counting lines 5, 14, or 21 since their quantities are unknown) is 17 letters long, running between as low as possibly 13 up to 19 letters. But four lines are a puzzle.

Problems for Identification

First, line 2 has γειν for κειν(?)—in τεκειν, an unattested reading.

Second, line 5 begins with ἠση. Whether this is one word or two is not known, but either way it does not fit in with Luke 1.58 at all. What should be on this line is οι συγγενεις αυτης ο-. The smooth breathing (ἠ) indicates the beginning of a word, which eliminates the possibility (remote as it was anyway) that the scribe’s eye skipped over a column or two of the manuscript of his exemplar and wrote ηση (the end of κληθηση in Luke 1.76). Further, whatever he is doing, he seems to pick back up with the οτι of 1.58, since it is split over two lines with the τι beginning line 6. Another possibility that should be ruled out is a spelling change: although οι and η sounded alike in this era, as did υ and η, it would be both completely unattested and not in character with the rest of this strip for the scribe to have written ἠ σηγγενεις instead of οἱ συγγενεις—a double misspelling! This solution simply looks too convenient to be convincing. The breathing, however, is not a problem since medieval scribes routinely mixed up the smooth and rough breathings.

Third, line 10 is unusually short, with only 13 letters. Now, it is just possible that the scribe wrote εν τη ογδοη τη ημερα over the two lines. This is both unattested and a nonsense reading, but the repetition of eta in four words successively might have caused a kind of dittography. This would bring the line to 15 letters. Alternatively, the scribe might have added εις το before the infinitive on this line, thus creating an 18-letter line. But this, too, is unattested.

Fourth, the 14th line seems to have had only του Ζαχα- on it, for the ρι that begins line 15 has the acute accent, indicating that it is part of Ζαχαρίαν rather than αποκριθεισα—which in any event is unlikely both because of the disruption this would cause to the surrounding lines and because of the very unnatural word break. But if line 14 only has του Ζαχα-, it is a seven-letter line. Why so short? One could understand line 14 ending with Ζαχαριαν, since the next verse could begin a new section. But why break the last word of v. 59 over two lines?

For these four problems, I have no ready solution. I hope that one or two of the readers of this blog will be able to offer an explanation to these conundrums.


There are 29 extant double-column Greek New Testament manuscripts from the 12th to the 14th century with Luke in them, only five of which are lectionaries. Most likely, this is the 30th such manuscript and probably a minuscule rather than a lectionary (based strictly on statistical probability). When all the photographs of the strips in NLG 2711 are made available, surely more text will come to light. Perhaps the other strips will also resolve some of the issues we have already mentioned, and help us come to firmer conclusions about what, exactly, this manuscript is, and why especially it deviates from Luke 1.58 so radically at one point.


Update from Athens: New Apostolos Manuscript

8 June 2015: There are eight of us from CSNTM in Athens right now. We’ve begun the process of digitizing New Testament manuscripts at the National Library of Greece this summer. CSNTM has a contract with the NLG to digitize all their NT manuscripts—over 300 manuscripts altogether! The director of the NLG, Dr. Philippos Tsimpoglou, is a visionary with energy, drive, innovation, and desire to bring the NLG into much greater prominence in the international discussions about ancient texts. CSNTM is very grateful to Dr. Tsimpoglou for this key partnership in digitally preserving and making accessible 150,000 pages of biblical manuscripts.

I have spent more time in Athens than in America this year, preparing manuscripts for the photographing teams. In the process of documenting each manuscript, I have come across some exciting discoveries—many of which were already known to the library, but not all. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung in Münster, Germany is the official cataloguer of Greek NT MSS. And until INTF has catalogued a manuscript, it is generally not known to New Testament scholars. To date, we have found at least ten manuscripts that are not yet catalogued by INTF. In this blog, I want to discuss an apostolos (Acts and Catholic Epistles) manuscript that is glued to the inside front and back covers of a lectionary.

NLG 2676—known to biblical scholars as Lectionary 1813—is a 12th century Gospel lectionary, written on beautiful vellum, with 240 leaves still extant. It has ornate headpieces for each of the Gospels, produced by a true craftsman. Glued to the inside of the front cover is a manuscript leaf of a decidedly different character. Written in a professional but rather utilitarian hand is a two-column paper leaf. A leaf from the same manuscript is glued to the back inside cover.


Front Inside Cover of NLG 2676

(picture taken with iPhone)


1 John 3, 5

This paper manuscript is written in a later hand, 13th or perhaps 14th century. On the front inside cover three columns are visible. There is a vertical crease after the first column, which is our first clue that what is extant is a bifolio (or double leaf). The left column begins with 1 John 2.29 and ends at 1 John 3.3a.


The text is as follows:

] ην εξ αυτου γεγε-            [2.29]

] ιδετε ποταπην α-             [3.1]

]δωκεν ημιν ο π̅η̅ρ̅,

θ̅υ̅ κληθωμεν.

] . ο κοσμος ου γινω-

] αγαπητοι. νυν τε               [3.2]

] . . μεν. και ουπω

]ρωθη τι εσομεθα

]μεν δε οτι εαν φανε-

] ομοιοι αυτω εσομε-

] οτι οψομεθα αυτον,

]… και πας ο εχων                 [3.3]

]πιδα ταυτη επ


The next two columns are from the same page; the text is 1 John 5.11b–15 in the first column and 1 John 5.18b–21 in the second. The left column of this page gives us the full lines so that we have firm evidence of how much text would be written on each line (they average 19.5 letters). The gap between 1 John 3.3 and 1 John 5.11 tells us that the bifolio is not the middle double-leaf of the quire, but is the bifolio prior to the midpoint. This is due to the fact that (1) there are approximately 30–31 lines per column (only 17 of which are extant), (2) there are approximately 600 letters per column, with two columns per page (and four per leaf), and (3) 1 John 3.3b–5.11a would involve approximately 250 lines or 8 columns. Thus, the gap would involve two columns per page, four per leaf, eight per bifolio. Therefore, this is the bifolio just before the midpoint of the quire.


The text of 1 John 5.11b–15 in this fragment is as follows:

η, εν                                                 [5.11]

ο εχων τον υιον …. τη ζω-           [5.12]

ην. ο μη εχων τον υιον του

θ̅υ̅, την ζωην ουκ εχει. ταυ-   [5.13]

τα εγραψα υμιν τοις πι-

στευουσιν εις το ονομα του

υιου του θ̅υ̅. ινα ειδητε ο-

τι ζωη αιωνιον εχετε. και ι-

να πιστευσητε, εις το ονο-

μα του υιου του θ̅υ̅. και αυ-      [5.14]

τη εστιν η παρρησια ην ε-

χομεν προς αυτον. οτι εαν

τι αιτωμεθα κατα το θελημα

αυτου, ακουει ημων, ο εαν           [5.15]

αιτωμεθα, οιδαμεν οτι ε-

χομεν τα αιτηματα α

ητοικαμεν ……


Although this MS follows the Byzantine text, it has a rare variant of the aorist subjunctive πιστευσητε (049 218 945 1751 2374) instead of the present subjunctive πιστευητε in v. 13. It also has what may be a unique variant in v. 15, ητοικαμεν instead of ητηκαμεν. In the era in which this manuscript was written, the pronunciation of οι and η would have been identical. But the spelling alteration is most likely due to the scribe’s faulty memory as he repeated to himself the word he saw in his exemplar before writing it down.

Acts 3

The paper glued to the inside of the back cover is also a two-column bifolio, with the first two columns on the left side, followed by a vertical reinforcement strip, with text (which would have been used to strengthen the joint between the two leaves), then one column on the right. This bifolio is in worse condition, with the residue of ink from another leaf, along with the intrusive reinforcement strip, covering a large section of the text. Further, the original script has been written on top of in certain places, making the task of positive identification a bit tricky at times.



Back Inside Cover of NLG 2676

(picture taken with iPhone)

The text begins at Acts 3.1; χω]λος εκ κοιλιας (Acts 3.2) is visible on the what appears to be the third or fourth line in the far left column. This goes through Acts 3.5a (ο δε επειχεν αυ–). The second column picks up at v. 8 (the second line reads αλλομενος και αινων) and continues through v. 10. After this, it gets confusing. The next line appears to begin with a rubricated and enlarged epsilon. That would normally indicate a new section of material, whether it be the next paragraph in Acts, a new lection (if this is a lectionary), or perhaps the beginning of a commentary section. The word looks like εξομολογ…, so we should expect it to say something about confession. The string of letters doesn’t seem to match anything in the NT, nor is it the beginning of a lection. Further, the letters look as though they are written on top of others—yet there’s a mismatch between the under-text and upper-text. The whole thing is a puzzle. I invite any readers who may have access to better tools than I do while away from my library to offer their solutions to this conundrum. It’s probably an easy solution that is simply escaping me at the moment.

There are 57 known apostolos minuscules from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries that have both 1 John and Acts in them. Tentatively, this manuscript is the 58th, but we will most likely need to resolve what comes after Acts 3.10 on the backside to make that a definite assertion. Nevertheless, it’s always a thrill to find another manuscript of the New Testament. It is not uncommon to see manuscripts carved up and used as binding leaves in other codices. Obviously, it is unfortunate that a manuscript would be cannibalized, but many such manuscripts have been partially preserved by gluing them to wood-and-leather covers. Without such treatment, they might not have been preserved at all!


For Further Reading

The following tools are helpful for those who are fascinated by Greek New Testament manuscripts but are not sure how even to begin studying them—either online or in the flesh. This is a very basic bibliography (we didn’t want to overwhelm you right from the beginning). This is not a bibliography for New Testament textual criticism per se; rather, it is intended to be a primer on examining the manuscripts.

Aland, Kurt, et al., eds. Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, 2nd ed. Volume 1 of the Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung (ANTF). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994.

Since 1963, the K-Liste has been the standard tool for comprehensive knowledge about Greek New Testament manuscripts. It lists every extant manuscript with content, date, dimensions, columns, material, leaves, and location. It also has a convenient section of conversions between Tischendorf’s and Gregory’s systems, and Gregory’s and von Soden’s. In the back of the book is a list of all the sites that have Greek NT manuscripts, listed by city and library, along with the shelf number. For those who wish to see actual manuscripts, this is the indispensable bible on Bibles. It has been and continues to be updated as an online version, which has many useful search features.

Cavallo, Guglielmo, and Herwig Maehler. Greek Bookhands of the Early Byzantine Period: AD 300–800. London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.

The standard resource on the professional scribal writing of manuscripts in the early Byzantine period.

Cavallo, Guglielmo, and Herwig Maehler. Hellenistic Bookhands. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008.

The standard resource on the professional scribal writing of papyrus manuscripts in the Hellenistic period.

Elliott, J. K. A Bibliography of Greek New Testament Manuscripts, 3rd ed. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

This is the standard first-stop for a comprehensive treatment of what has been written on the various Greek NT manuscripts known to exist. Written by a meticulous scholar, who leaves no stone unturned, Professor Elliott’s Bibliography is must reading for going deeper with each manuscript. Perhaps what is most surprising in the volume is how many manuscripts don’t even have a paragraph written on them yet—about 80%! But if there’s a publication, dissertation, or obscure journal article about a given manuscript, Elliott includes it. That so many have nothing on them indicates that there is much, much more work to be done.

Gardthausen, V. Griechische Palaeographie, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1913.

Another classic that has stood the test of time.

Hatch, W. H. P. The Principal Uncial Manuscripts of the New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939.

Another classical text that set the standard for dating Greek majuscule manuscripts of the New Testament.

Lake, Kirsopp and Silva. Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200. 10 volumes(!). Boston: 1934–1939; Index (Boston, 1945).

For getting the scripts of dated manuscripts up to the beginning of the thirteenth century, there is nothing that compares to Lake and Lake’s 10-volume set. It’s also extremely difficult to come by. If you can find it, let me know—I’ll buy it!

Metzger, Bruce M. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography. Oxford: OUP, 1981.

This is the best primer on getting into Greek biblical manuscripts (both New Testament and Old Testament). It’s a classic text, with several plates and characteristically Metzgerian detailed discussions. Help is also found in dating manuscripts and collating them.

Parker, David C. An Introduction to New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts. Cambridge: CUP, 2008.

A breathtaking array of secondary literature and primary insights on NT manuscript study from Great Britain’s leading active NT textual critic.

Roberts, C. H., and T. C. Skeat. The Birth of the Codex. Oxford, 1983.

The standard introduction to when and why the codex book-form came into existence and later become the standard book-form in late antiquity and the middle ages.

Thompson, E. M. An Introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography. Oxford, 1912.

A standard introduction which, though dated, still has much useful material.

Turner, E. G. The Typology of the Early Codex. Philadelphia, 1977.

Eric Turner was one of the great scholars of paleography, papyrology, and codicology. His opinion is always sober and never to be treated lightly.

Turner, E. G. Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

The long-time standard against which all other works on ancient book-making have been measured.

van Groningen, B. Short Manual of Greek Palaeography, 4th ed. Leipzig, 1967.

And a third classic that is quite useful for dating manuscripts.

These ought to be enough to get any bibliophile started down a path of rich discovery and illumination.

Several other important volumes could have been listed as well. These are intended for those whose interests are not just in the texts of the biblical manuscripts but in all aspects of those manuscripts.


Pro-Life: The Right Side of History

Guest blog by Dr. Justin Bass

“One of the chief features of the state of Peace we now enjoy is the killing of a considerable number of harmless human beings.” —GK Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows

When it comes to the controversial issue of gay marriage, we regularly hear the statement from gay marriage advocates, ‘You’re on the wrong side of history.’ They mean by this that those who believe that marriage has been definitively defined by God (Gen 2:24) and Christ (Mark 10:5-9) as the union of one man and one woman are behind the times, draconian, and need to join with the rest of humanity progressing towards a marriage defined by the culture trends of the moment. The fickle winds of the culture do happen to be blowing towards gay marriage at the moment and if the Supreme Court redefines marriage later this year, we will in coming years witness the cultural winds blowing towards polyamorous marriages and same-sex ‘thruple’ marriages and even new ideas for ‘marriage’ our culture’s imagination has yet to invent. This is the slippery slope that even the Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito asked about because if there is no limiting principle by which we define marriage, then there is no legal reason to deny polygamous, polyamorous and even couples in various forms of incest the right to marry.

The situation in the early 1970s is very instructive here in the case of abortion. Soon after the case of Roe vs. Wade, the culture was also saying in so many words to those who were pro-life ‘You’re on the wrong side of history.’ And yet over 40 years later, we see that the pro-life movement is stronger than ever and the majority of the people you will find at 40 Days for Life or praying outside of abortion clinics are millennials. In fact, Gallup recently found that the number of Americans who identify as pro-choice is at a record low (41%). Wendy Davis led a campaign last year with the mantra she was fighting for Texas women’s reproductive rights, but when Texas women went to the polls, they voted overwhelmingly against her. Texas women did have a choice and they chose Life.

Moreover, just as Ryan T. Anderson, in his early 30s, is one of the leading voices defending traditional marriage, so too are the leading voices rescuing babies from destruction; young men and women using their gifts, talents, backgrounds and influence to stop our modern day holocaust (around 55 million babies murdered and counting since Roe). Lila Rose, in her late 20s, is the president of Live Action devoted to ending abortion and building a culture of life. Lila was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for more “creative extremists.” She is definitely a creative extremist as she has gone undercover to many abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood organizations exposing sexual abuse, racism, assistance to sex traffickers, sex-selective abortion, and infanticide. She has even been responsible for a number of workers being fired, clinics shutting down, and countless women choosing Life.

In addition, we have seen abortion clinic after abortion clinic close down over the last decade all across America. In 1991, there were 2,176 surgical abortion clinics in America which is the highest number of clinics since Roe. As of 2014, there are only 582 left! 87 clinics closed in 2013 alone and I have personally witnessed since 2011 the abortion clinics in Texas drop from 42 to less than 20! In the states Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming — just one clinic remains. The abortion rate even hit an all-time low in 2011 since Roe. Every state that has seen this significant decrease in abortion clinics has seen a corresponding decrease in the number of abortions annually.

Why has the majority of our culture, especially the younger generation (who are no doubt moving more in favor of gay marriage), been moving more towards a culture of Life and against abortion? Here are some contributing factors.


The Ultrasound and even 3D/4D imaging has allowed an entire generation of mothers (and fathers) to watch their baby grow within their womb even to the point of seeing them smile and even clap! Just hearing that strong, on average 150bpm, heartbeat has saved many lives. A famous example is Governor (running for president) Chris Christie who converted from Pro-choice to Pro-life after hearing his daughter’s heartbeat. Despite all the debates about personhood, it is an undeniable fact that all 327,653 abortions Planned Parenthood performed in 2014 stopped a strong, healthy beating heart.


The more our culture is educated on the science of embryology and what actually happens during an abortion procedure the more likely they will be pro-life. Even the late great atheist Christopher Hitchens said: “I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept ‘unborn child’ is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well-conceived human baby, one that isn’t going to be critically deformed (or even some that are) will be able to survive outside the womb earlier and earlier and earlier, and I see that date only being pushed back. I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one.”

And as far as the brutal nature of the procedure, read how a former abortion doctor testifying before congress described a late term abortion. “The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you.” 55 million little faces are staring back at all of us.

When is the Baby a Baby?

In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial birth abortion that involved cutting the baby’s head in two, sucking his or her brains out and now in 2015 at least one state has stopped the procedure that dismembers a baby inside the womb during a second trimester abortion. You’d think all 50 states would be against dismembering babies wouldn’t you? Apparently only one is.

79% of pro-choice advocates believe abortions during the third trimester should be illegal.

But why? Why is it nothing but a medical procedure (even “women’s health”) to abort a baby at 15 weeks, but it is murder that should be illegal at 30 weeks? What is different about a baby at 15 weeks vs. a baby at 30 weeks? If viability is the dividing line then all abortion should be illegal after 20 weeks as we have record of babies surviving even at 21 weeks outside the womb. But the vast majority of pro-choice advocates still want abortion legal during the second trimester (13-28 weeks). The fact is there is no clear dividing line (like conception) for the pro-choice advocate and so they inevitably have to argue that the women’s choice must trump the baby’s right to life.

This irrational line was made even more abundantly clear in the case of Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor, who put babies to death minutes after they exited the womb. Gosnell was found guilty of 3 counts of first degree murder as he snipped the spines of 3 babies minutes after they were born. Gosnell also performed numerous third trimester abortions and parts of those babies were found all over his clinic. But in all these cases the law said he did nothing but perform “a medical procedure on fetuses” because they were still inside the womb. Madness!

A young atheist mother named Jennifer Fulwiler was staring at her newborn baby one day and realized in that moment the bankruptcy of the atheistic worldview, and gave her life to Christ. We need the culture to see these babies’ faces. Sometimes they do need to see dead faces looking back at them like the former abortion doctor mentioned that still haunts him, but we must constantly be putting the beautiful living, smiling faces before them as well. Being for Life, especially for the lives of precious children, is always the right side of history.

May God give us more “Creative extremists” to fight for them.


Ladies, You’ve Been Duped! The Myth about Abortion Giving You More Freedom

It seems to me that Mother’s Day is an appropriate time to talk about abortion (at least, that’s when I started writing this blog). We honor our mothers because they bore us for nine months, brought us into this world, nurtured us, trained us, disciplined us, and loved us unselfishly. On this day, I say, “Mom, I love you! You have been a magnificent mother! You have imparted wisdom, encouraged me to be strong in the faith, and prayed for me diligently—especially that I would marry a wonderful, godly woman (your prayers have been answered far beyond what you ever dreamt, Mom!).”

I wish that all mothers were half as good as my own mother or my children’s mother. The most horrific tragedy in America is that since Roe v. Wade over 58 million babies have been aborted in the United States. Statistics on women through the age of 45 are shocking: three in ten of them have had an abortion. This is nearly ten times the number of deaths that occurred in the Nazi gas chambers, and is almost equal to all the deaths that occurred during WWII. In the next few years, we will pass the statistic of the carnage of that most unspeakable war of all time.

What seems to be really tragic is that the one person who, by her very nature, is designed to be a giving, nurturing, unconditionally loving individual (have you ever heard someone say, “Only a face a father could love!”) is a mother. Thirty percent of them are going against their own natural inclination by aborting their children.

Now, this blog could be a rant against the women who have had an abortion. Some may think I’ve already done that. But that’s not the focus of this piece. A surprisingly high number of women who have had an abortion simply don’t know the facts. They need to be loved, counseled, and gently guided—not hated! Instead, I want to offer two theses that seem to me are not normally part of the discussion about abortion.

Thesis 1: Abortions Contradict the Physician’s Basic Principles

“First, do no harm” has been claimed as a part of the Hippocratic Oath for a long time. Actually, Hippocrates did not quite say this in his Oath, but he did make the promise “to abstain from doing harm.” What is not well known is that the Hippocratic Oath also specifically spoke against abortion: “I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroying the child.”

Almost thirty years ago, I witnessed a debate between Kerby Anderson (now president of Probe Ministries) and one of the most notorious abortion doctors in Arkansas. The debate was held on the campus of the University of Arkansas. Kerby, who has degrees in zoology, science, and bioethics, used one basic argument that blind-sided the physician. Rather than use the Bible at all in his argument, he argued from the physician’s handbook: “First, do no harm.” His basic thesis was that a physician is required to save life, not destroy it. As the moment when a zygote is considered a human being was (and is) being hotly debated, Kerby pointed out that physicians are required to give the benefit of the doubt to life.

The physician began to throw out pages and pages of notes that he was going to use in the debate—all presumably against a would-be Bible-thumper. But Kerby argued instead from the realm that the physician knew well.

One of the great ironies of our time is that so many physicians are calloused to this basic principle. What did it take for them to decide to perform abortions? During WWII, the Nazis began to kill Jews and other undesirables by firing squads. But the soldiers soon chafed at the horror of what they were doing. A new plan needed to be into place. Doctors were brought in. They started by giving these undesirables lethal injections. They were required to wear their white gowns, and do the job in an antiseptic environment that resembled a medical clinic. This was intended both to make the ‘patients’ less suspicious and to ease the conscience of the physicians. Also, the propaganda machine of the Nazis went all out to speak of the Jews as a “cancer” on Europe that needed to be cut out. This change in the method of execution worked to some degree, because the government knew that physicians would be naturally reticent to murder. The question I have is, What has happened in the years since WWII that has created an environment in which physicians who perform abortions no longer need to pretend that their actions are some sort of noble act—as that which cuts out a ‘cancer’ to save the mother’s life? The collective moral compass in western society seems to have broken.

Thesis 2: Abortions Empower Men, not Women

The main thesis of this blog—and the one that is hinted at in the title—is that abortions empower men, not women. In many respects, it has actually shackled women. The cliché, “Why buy the cow when you can get milk for free?” has been mothers’ advice to their daughters for years against premarital sex. Those with the Y chromosome know this adage instinctively. But until Roe v. Wade, there was always a second argument: “You don’t want to get pregnant before you’re married!” That second argument kept many girls from going all the way before their wedding day. With improved birth control methods, things changed. But even if such were not used, or if they didn’t do their job, after Roe v. Wade the second argument has become increasingly muted. Girls began to think that if they got pregnant they could just have an abortion. Problem solved. Or so it seemed.

Upon closer reflection, the sexual revolution and Roe v. Wade have put in bold relief mothers’ first argument—“Why buy the cow when you can get milk for free?” More than any technological advance, the Supreme Court’s pronouncement has granted men greater freedom to use women as they saw fit. If their girlfriend gets pregnant, the mantra now is, “Just get an abortion!” Rather than abortion being pro-choice for women, it is really con-responsibility for men. The pressure to have sex before marriage—which almost always comes from the guy rather than the girl—has gained incredible momentum since 1973. In short, Ladies, you’ve been duped! The dissolution of a man’s responsibility hardly translates into greater freedom for you. You’ve been used. And you need to stand up and say, “No more!” Your dignity as a human being depends on it.

For further reading:

Randy Alcorn, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments Expanded & Updated (Multnomah Books, 2000)

The first review of this book on Amazon is written by “Groovy Vegan”—a woman who descries herself as “a non-Christian, non-religious, feminist liberal.” Her praise of the book shows that Alcorn uses science, rather than the Bible, as his principal argument. It’s a good read for anyone who is considering having an abortion.

Randy Alcorn, Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers, revised edition (Hendrickson, 2012)

Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway, 2009)

Peter Kreeft, The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 1983)


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