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Necessary Considerations Regarding Scripture

The Christadelphians present their faith as a “logical faith” that a person discovers as a result of a personal examination of what the Bible says. It is not portrayed as a result of emotion or a religious experience and should not be because of the easy acceptance of a church tradition (despite having their own traditions). Faith is asserted to rest on the authority of scripture which is believed can be proven. This is primarily done by appealing to fulfilled prophecy. Given particular emphasis is the return of the Jews to Israel in 1948. Another prophecy which is often used is a prophecy in the Book of Daniel which refers to a succession of four empires.

The whole position rests on the sufficiency of scripture. In practice, though, a few convincing passages doesn’t prove much. A person has to investigate deeper than that before that position can be considered sound. Some of this is considered on the section on the Bible. For instance the Bible is not a book, but rather is two libraries of books, the Old Testament and the New Testament. One passage alone doesn’t prove the whole. It requires a complete knowledge of the Bible to be easily able to answer such questions. It also requires some examination of how the canon was compiled and how it came to us and whether in that process the Bible alone was the position adopted or is a subsequent later position. The evidence favours the second position as does internal evidence from the Bible itself.

If we accept these premises we have to then consider in what form the Bible is sufficient. Most Christians do not ascribe infallibility to the translators and therefore they are considered inerrant in the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Since all translations are compiled from the originals as far as possible we have to ask how accurate the originals actually are. Although we don’t have any originals, there is no lack of ancient copies of the New Testament particularly in libraries around the world. Although there is no absolute way to prove accuracy of transmission there are more ancient copies of the Bible than most other ancient books. These do not totally agree with each other and so what the translators do is compile from these a text that is considered to be the most likely from which to translate. This can be based upon the age of the texts available or the common consistency between the majority of them. A common claim of newer translations is that they use material unavailable before. Some claim certain modern texts discovered such as the Codex Sinaticus and Codex Alexandrinus although older are less accurate.

Having a weight of texts also helps answers questions about whether the Bible has been altered to bolster religious views. Scholarly opinion as a result does reject certain passages and some modern Bibles leave out certain verses in older translations. An example is 1 John 5v7-8 called the Comma 

Johanneum which supports the mainstream Trinitarian formulas. Again without having originals no one can totally prove what we have matches the originals. Some light has also been found in such discoveries in recent times of ancient copies of Bible books such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These have found differences to be minor, but included as scriptures such books as the Book of Enoch (which the Ethiopian church still accepts) and the Book of Jubilees in large quantities.

The next factor is that the languages in which we read the Bible are not the original languages. Even though people today speak Hebrew and Greek they are not the ancient forms in which the Bible was written. Scholars continue to debate and refine their understandings of the ancient languages and so the Bible is today translated from a compiled text considered nearest the original and using dictionaries based upon the best current understanding of the languages. This has to take into account not just dictionary word meanings, but also the context and sense of passages. In other words the semantic pragmatic nature of language. It also has to be done within the fact that these differ in rules between languages. All translations in some way are a compromise which carries the possibility of bias of understanding of the translators. This is especially relevant to the Christadelphians because many of their doctrinal claims are based upon arguments regarding the root meanings of words.

To independently search out the truth as advised by Christadelphians therefore leads to discussions about having the right translation, using concordances to look up root words and is far more involved than simply reading the Bible in a modern translation. This is why a common approach to converting people is based upon a course called “Learn how to Read the Bible Effectively” where it can take 12 weeks to be ready to start.

In fact to objectively and independently search for truth the Christadelphian way is the kind of work that a scholar would try to accomplish in a lifetime. And that’s to be ready for baptism. It’s a hopelessly complex method for most people. It postulates a God who requires scholarship for salvation.

That’s not taking into account The Importance of Interpretation.






Christadelphian Quotes

You lay a great stress upon facts throughout your letters, and are incessant in your demand that I should attend to them. This is good; but facts have to be rightly put together, and then you must have all the facts. I do not think you put the facts rightly together, and you leave out some, I am sure.

(Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian Pioneer, quoted

by Ruth McHaffie in Brethren Indeed)

The Spirit of liberty, based upon the law of faith, is the Spirit of Christ; and this spirit all the Sons of God are privileged to possess, and having it, to breathe. I claim the right of exercising this privilege, as well as my contemporaries; and I require of them that they should do to me as once they loudly required others to do to them…

(written by John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphians, when he was against creeds in 

The Apostolic Advocate magazine, August 1836)

(John Thomas, from Apostacy Unveiled, p. 137,

quoted in The Christadelphian Magazine, January 1906)

Must a man never progress? If he discovers an error in his premises, must he for ever hold to it for the sake of consistency? May such a calamity never befall me! Rather let me change every day, till I get right at last.

(from a letter written by John Thomas in 1848, quoted by Robert Roberts, in Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work)

Do what is right; be valiant for the Truth; teach it without compromise, and all lovers of the Truth will approve you. For all others you need not care a rush!

(from a letter written by John Thomas to Robert Roberts and published in The Christadelphian magazine, February 1866)