What is an autographical text?

We don’t agree. There are some consistent strands and some solid history but there is also a lot of fiction and consistent strands of competing theology.

We agree in general. I don’t think I suggested otherwise. Identifying scripture is different from interpreting it. Hermeneutics vs textual criticism. My question is how do we know what an autograph is? And why do some point to hypothetical documents from the first century which no one has for the NT despite how fluid we know the composition of many Biblical works actually is. So I think we are talking past one another a bit here.

When you have one witness for most material because the gospels are literarily depend by upon one another, this doesn’t work. Aside from a very generalized picture, one anonymous composition 45 years after the events isn’t enough in and of itself to establish historicity on a lot of details. Not to mention internal analysis suggests further caution.

The atheists I encounter on the internet don’t think Jesus even existed so marrying Mary Is not even possible.

I remain unconvinced women played ‘huge role’.
I think Jesus, and possibly apostles too, valued women. But the rest of society was extremely misogynistic. Jesus didn’t manage to change that. So I’m not sure what point are you trying to make here in regards to women as witnesses apologetic.

I think that’s why it was a pretty big deal that women are mentioned as much as they are … and it is an important thing, no?, that after the central event of our entire faith has just occured, it is women (a woman) attending it, believing it, and then effectively being apostles to the soon-to-be male leadership and other apostles of the early church! I think N.T. Wright (and others) have noted that if one were making up tales or embellishing stories, they probably would not have had their earliest reverred figures being upstaged by women. So it’s the unexpected nature of it in the midst of such patriarchal culture that helps us resolve for its authenticity.


To the best of my memory, no one here has ever made this argument. And certainly the Bible says nothing positive or negative about the theory of evolution. Just like it says nothing about nuclear fusion which powers the sun that God created.

These types of arguments have some merit but they are not the nail in the coffin some apologists think. I’ll offer four points on why:

First, all Paul’s writings come 20 year before the first gospel (Mark). We have no idea how widespread and heavily used any gospel is in its first 50 years of existence. Oral tradition was still preferred by some in the second century. Take 1 Clement who I think quotes the OT hundreds of times. If Mark was written in Rome 20-30 years before Clement of Rome wrote, is it a bit odd he doesn’t cite it once? I am not convinced Mark was written in Rome though but this is a common position. The gospels became so popular in world history, sometimes we anachronistically assume they were just as important when first written or served the same apologetic focus some apologists use them for today. Mark we at least know was copied by two separate evangelists in relatively short order so it had some dissemination and popularity. I do think narrative criticism implies Mark was written to Christians though.

Second, there is no evidence the women at the tomb are serving any apologetic function. Sure they are first but Jesus appears to his male disciples. They guarantee the tradition. In Corinthians 15 Paul lists male followers. But this is all besides the point because Mark ends at 16:8 with the women telling no one. The reader (or hearer) is left with that task. But we know earlier Jesus predicts he would appear to his disciples after his death so we can accept Mark thought this occurred.

Third, Mark is more than a historical account and is a very complicated gospel filled with literary features. I don’t agree with all Richard Carrier says but the gospel of Mark is an enigma at times:

And the fact is, Mark’s gospel is full of similar and quite blatant reversals of expectation: James and John, who ask to sit at the right and left of Jesus in his glory (10:35-40), are replaced by two thieves at his crucifixion (15:27); Simon Peter , Christ’s right-hand man who was told he had to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow” (8:34), is replaced by Simon of Cyrene (a foreigner, the exact opposite of a disciple—and from the opposite side of Egypt no less, a Jewish symbol of death) when it comes time to truly bear that cross (15:21); instead of his family as would be expected, his enemies come to bury Jesus (15:43); even Pilate’s expectation that Jesus should still be alive is confounded (15:44); and contrary to all expectation, Christ’s own people, the Jews, mock their own savior (15:29-32), while it is a Gentile officer of Rome who recognizes his divinity (15:39). Thus, it is simply more of the same when Mark decides to say it was the male disciples who abandon Christ (14:50 and 66-72 vs. 14:31), while it was the “least” among them, mere lowly women, who attend his death and burial, who truly “followed him,” and continue to seek him thereafter (15:40-41, 15:47, 16:1). Indeed, Mark ends his gospel with the mother of all reversals, with the women fleeing in fear and silence , and not delivering the good news (16:8), the exact opposite of the “good news” of the “voice crying out” of the “messenger who will prepare our way” with which Mark began his gospel (1:1-3). All of this sure looks like literary license to me. It is brilliant fiction—deeply meaningful, but fiction nonetheless.

I don’t agree its all fiction. Of course we can complicate this and dispute the centurion professing Jesus as the son of God because that could be irony! He may be mocking Jesus who died so soon after being crucified! Matthew and Luke don’t see it that way but I don’t force Mark to fit with redactional elements of later gospels literarily dependent on his work. Irony finds it way into Mark where the enemies of Jesus often say truthful things that mock him. But the women at the tomb could be little more than a literary feature of Mark about role reversals. My point is not that none of these things are not historical, but that Mark is a work filled with literary features, chiastic structures (2:1-3:6!), role reversals and irony. The apologetic doesn’t work as well as thought considering women do not serve the apologetical function that apologists need them to nor can we be sure Mark intended his story of the women at the empty tomb to be an apologetic against historical naysayers. That is an anachronistic reading of the text.

Foruth, women had a very important role in early Christianity. In the earliest literature we have, Junia, a female, is declared an apostle by Paul, despite how uncomfortable this makes any Christians after him feel. Phoebe was a deacon and benefactor of many people including Paul. Priscilla and Aquilla are Paul’s “co-workers” in Christ. I mean Romans 1:1-16 is filled with references to women working hard for the Lord. Priscilla and Aquilla are also mentioned in 1 For 16:9. Nymphas has a church in her house in Colossians 4:15. Luke 8:3 :Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Mark 15: Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Christians used women and their status in households to transmit and reproduce itself. Many early Christians were indebted to women as the authentic letters of Paul show him to be.

I do not think the early church were modern egalitarians by any means, but women played a vital and important role in the spread of early Christianity and the earliest material we have is the genuine Pauline corpus which calls one an apostle and one a deacon. They were benefactors of the early church so honoring and appeasing them with role reversals in a tomb story is a possibility. My point is the actual life-setting of the gospels and early church trumps the needs of later apologists and even critics like Celsus who later says it all depends on the testimony of one women.

If you put all four of these points together, I am not convinced the “women at the tomb” apologetic is very strong or convincing of anything. Some of them alone illustrate this point. Nor can it be used to show Mark did or did not invent the tomb story whole cloth.


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It’s certainly an important and positive thing. The only problem is thought, after women played their role, it seems like they were put in their place afterwards. It looks to me like Mary Magdalene was intentionally overlooked. And do you ever wonder why there are stories of her being a prostitute? And it isn’t just atheists believing such things @Terry_Sampson I certainly knew Christians thinking it to be true as well. Perhaps it was invented to further diminish role of women.

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Maybe Dr. Schrader will help change that. I’m excited to hear about her work from the links Christy brought to our attention. And she herself speaks to some of this in her interview that I linked up at about post #54 above.

This happens in the New Testament in the writings of Paul. Once the ball got rolling, some of those after him changed their tune. The circumstance goes from the Christian movement trying to survive the social setting of a crucified messiah right after it happened to wanting to be socially acceptable. So women probably had to be put back into their place. I identified what I believe are trajectories in the Pauline corpus on women here.

If this Mary thing is true then we also see that Mary the Tower was given a stature on par with Peter’s by at least one community.


Yeah - I think I see things your way too. Or at least it seems plausible as Elizabeth Schrader postulates that there could have been that active influence in a redactor’s decision to dial back attention given Mary Magdalene.

Hello Vinnie! How do you keep faith in Jesus despite all the contradictions in Scripture? Thank you


I became a Christian and remain one due to personal experiences while reading about Jesus in the Gospels, not because through a careful study in my high school years I realized a 2,000 year old anonymous text written 40 years after the nature-defying, miraculous events it reports are all demonstrable true. God is sovereign and speaks to us how he wants and through whatever method he chooses.

Does the presence of an error in one of my physics textbooks render it all suspect or useless? Of course not. What about five inconsequential errors? The answer is the same. I recently read Matthew Kelly’s ’ The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity ’ and he mistakenly referred to butterflies as emerging from a cocoon instead of a chrysalis–a mistake I have also made. Does this terminology snafu render everything else in the book suspect or useless? Absolutely not! Mere errors in the Bible do not necessarily undermine its trustworthiness. Now if a physics textbook is observed to start making a significant number of errors when it came to actual physics content, since composing such information is its central purpose, one would rightfully be skeptical of the remaining text. If the Bible starts getting a bunch of things completely wrong about God and salvation when properly interpreted, then we would have cause for alarm.

I could equally ask inerrancy advocates the same question to be honest: "How do you keep faith in Jesus despite all the contradictions in Scripture?"I mean there are so many one famous apologists made an entire “encyclopedia” of them! Instead of trying to harmonize them all away with linguistic and mental gymnastics, I just admit what they are and move on. It wasn’t easy at first. I went through a tough deconstruction process and stepped away for a while. Took a long time for God to break through. I am slowly building a website with writings aimed at that group of Christians.



I have been researching the three conversionss stories of Paul and have been consulting various academic commentaries on Acts. I came across some stuff from Pervo and Attridge in Hermeneia that I may supplement that I wrote about Acts with:

The translator of Acts soon discovers that the conventional text (N-A27/UBS4) represents what its editors view as the earliest recoverable text, based on that reading which best explains the origin of the others, rather than a fully intelligible Greek composition. This is a worthy objective, but it does not provide the translator with a finished product. In part because of the abun- dance of Greek evidence,5 these editors are extremely loath to engage in conjectural emendation.6 They also assign quite limited value to patristic and versional evidence. With both of these views this commentary dis- agrees.7 Caution, unfortunately, has become a prominent characteristic of the standard editions in recent decades.

The abundance of data from Greek mss. does not exclude primitive corruption, since the base was quite slender until c. 250, a period in which many copies were lost or destroyed as a result of persecutions.9 A full textual base derived from complete mss. does not emerge until the fourth century ce, at which point editorial activity can be conjectured or identified.10 Despite its patent difficulties, patristic evidence can be useful because the date, provenance, and tendencies
of its sources are relatively identifiable.11 Versions can preserve old readings eliminated from the Greek tradi- tion by standardization. When translations represent- ing widely separated geographic areas, such as those in Latin and Syriac, agree, the probability that they reflect a similar Greek prototype rises.

The text of Acts is less secure than that of Luke, for example. At a number of points it appears to be corrupt. Possibilities include 1:2; 2:43; 3:16; 4:25; 5:13; 6:9; 7:46; 9:25; 10:11, 30, 36; 12:25; 13:27-29, 32, 34, 43; 14:8; 15:21; 16:12, 13; 19:13-14, 25, 40; 20:6, 24, 28; 21:15-16; 22:30; 24:19; 25:13; 26:16; and 26:20. These require either conjectural emendation, resignation, or strained efforts to support unlikely readings. Explanations for the difficulties vary.

The chief textual difficulty is the existence of different editions. One hundred and fifty years of arduous labor and vigorous discussion have not resolved the questions of the so-called Western Text (hereafter D-Text),14 a phe- nomenon that, although not limited to Acts, is particularly acute for this book. The prevalent view is that the D-Text of Acts is generally secondary. There is sufficient material with consistent qualities to label the D-Text of Acts as an “edition.” The task has long been to provide explanations for (1) the origin of this edition, (2) its date and provenance, and (3) its purpose or tendency/ies.

Those who work through the most recent edition of the D-Text prepared by Marie-Émile Boismard15 will come to doubt that the D-Text represents a single tradition or type, but one can identify enough features to postulate a profile that probably derives from a person or circle active in the mid-second century, probably in Asia Minor. That conclusion derives from the examples of D-Text readings in the Acts of Paul and a heightened interest in the role of the Spirit.16 The D-Text represents, in several ways, a transition between the mentality (and theology) of the canonical Acts and its apocryphal successors.

It is abundantly clear to me God had zero interest in preserving inerrant autographs. One wonders why his followers are so intent on assuming he wrote them that way in the first place.


If we are critical about the interpretation that biblical scriptures are inerrant autographs, we should also be critical about the various hypotheses presented in academic publications. Your example is from an interpretation of the texts called Western tradition (D-text). I am not an expert of the topic but happened to read about the topic and also a translation of Codex Bezae Cantabridgensis (the main manuscript of the so called Western tradition) when studying Acts. Many hypotheses about the origin and textual variants of the D-text have been published in academic publications during the last 100+ years. There are still competing views and hypotheses, although each supporter of a hypothesis tries to present her/his pet hypothesis as the correct interpretation.

What is a fact is that there are minor textual differences between the D-text and the current understanding of the most original version (‘standard’ text). Also, there are minor textual differences between the Greek and Latin versions of Codex Bezae. As the differences are minor (usually just an addition of two or few words in a passage), I do not think that the minor textual differences are important. What it does show is that after the first century, there were several slightly differing textual variants of the NT scriptures circling in the world. I agree with you in that God did not seem to have a great interest in preventing the differing textual variants from circling in the world.

IMHO, the differing textual variants point towards an important message: the focus of our attention should be in the matters revealed by the biblical scriptures rather than the biblical scriptures themselves. The biblical scriptures have value because they give information about God, His will and His great plan of the salvation of those who believe. In that sense, biblical scriptures are just an instrument.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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