The following is just a meditation on things I’ve heard in the past few months. I’d been joking over them with some friends, and thought it worth sharing.
Yes, people have actually used this argument. It’s fallacious for a few reasons:
For one, the Bible itself is not necessarily an old book, but a collection of old books, some older than others.
For another, the very idea that the accuracy of a book is negated by its age is quite obviously fallacious. Should an astronomer be banned from ever quoting the works of Isaac Newton because they’re old books? Should a literature major be banned from quoting the works of Chekhov because they are all old books?
Furthermore, if what a book teaches is negated for being old, then how old would a book have to be in order to be considered irrelevant? Fifty years? A hundred years? A thousand years? A million years? At what point can we consistently say a book is no longer relevant based solely on the fact it’s “old”? Is this something which can truly be measured by age? Again, this argumentation is clearly fallacious.
Yes, sadly, I have also had this thrown at me as a reason to reject the teachings of the Bible.
Let’s ponder on just how fallacious this thinking is: does the state of death of an author negate everything he has ever written? Should we throw out the teachings of Galileo, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein solely on the fact that the men themselves are dead? Let me put it this way: if a local meteorologist reports that Monday’s high was in the 70’s, then the next day he passes away…does that make it untrue that Monday’s high was in the 70’s? Does a fact automatically become untrue simply because the person who stated it has died? Of course not. Again, obviously fallacious.
This is actually a common argument by some against the Bible: either that it was written by men, or that it was written by fallible men. Unfortunately for them, most Christians are already aware of this. Read the book of Jeremiah and see why Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” Read the psalms and tell me the psalmist wasn’t like any other person who’s ever lived.
The fact is, it is not the men themselves that make the words of scripture infallible – it is the source of their words and teachings, which is the Lord our God.
I think these people need to study the difference between translation and manuscript history. A translation is merely taking a text and rewriting it into another language, whereas transcription is the copying of a text for use.
Let me put it this way: John 1:1 reads in the original language:
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
It has been translated in various ways in the English, but in all ways (save for the Jehovah’s Witness’s NWT) it means the same thing. It has likewise been translated every which way in every which language, but still maintains the same meaning. Even if it were mistranslated or the original context had to be explained to someone, the original language would be the same. To put it another way, if I wrote the sentence “I went shopping,” the original context and wording of that sentence would remain the same no matter how many times it was translated.
If someone wishes to argue manuscript history and how the various books of the Bible have been copied by scribes down throughout history, that is one thing. If they want to say we shouldn’t believe the Bible because of so many translations…well, that thinking is fallacious to begin with.