The Bible eternally unchanged and unchanging?

…not according to this article:

If 40 percent of Americans refuse to believe that humans evolved from earlier hominids, how many will accept that the book we know as the Bible evolved from earlier texts and was not handed down, in toto, by God in its present form?

The fossil evidence for human evolution is permanently on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Hard evidence that the Bible took its present shape over centuries will be on display for the next 11 weeks, from today through Jan. 7, across the Mall at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

They are rarer than dinosaur bones, these fragments of papyrus and animal skin that tell the Bible’s story. With names such as Codex Sinaiticus, the Macregol Gospels and the Valenciennes Apocalypse, they evoke lost empires and ancient monasteries as surely as archaeopteryx and ceratosaurus conjure up primeval swamps and forests.

The Sackler’s exhibition, “In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000,” is one of the broadest assemblages of this material ever brought together in one place. “It has not happened before, and we will not see its like again in our lives,” said guest curator Michelle P. Brown, professor of medieval manuscript studies at the University of London.

For example, we have the Unknown Gospel and the Codex Sinaiticus:

Among the writings that ultimately were not accepted into the Christian canon, the Sackler shows a 2nd-century fragment of the Unknown Gospel, which includes the story of an attempt to stone Jesus, and a 3rd-century papyrus known as the Sayings of Jesus, including this one: “Jesus says: A prophet is not acceptable in his own country, nor does a physician work cures on those who know him.”

As Christians were establishing what was in and what was out, they began compiling the New Testament in a book, or codex. In the physical and ideological heart of the exhibition are two stained parchment pages of meticulous Greek script from one of the most celebrated: Codex Sinaiticus, discovered in 1859 at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert.

Ever since it came to light, Sinaiticus has been a pivotal document — and a theological challenge — for scholars like Ehrman. Together with a few other documents, it forms the basis for the most authoritative modern versions of the Old Testament in the original Greek.

Ehrman noted that its version of the Gospel of John is missing the story of the woman taken in adultery, the famous parable in which Jesus says to those who would kill the woman, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” He and many other textual scholars believe the adultery story was not introduced into John until the Middle Ages.

None of this is surprising or disturbing to any but fundamentalists who claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God that has not changed since God inspired the authors to put His Word to paper. After all, the Bible is a collection of texts most of whose authors are unknown, lost in the mists of time. Moreover, the manuscripts were, until the advent of the printing press, copied and recopied by hand.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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