The Bible’s Unholy Origins
by Robert L. Johnson
Many rank and file Christians sincerely believe the Bible is a direct communication from God to man. I know I used to believe it was when I was a Christian. And from recent conversations with many sincere Christians I know this is currently true for many believers. Once it is proven to our God-given reason that the Bible is strictly a man-made collection of mythology the mind loses yet another shackle of “revelation” and is soon on its way to full freedom and progress.
The Bible was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God. It has nothing to do with God. In actuality, the Bible was VOTED to be the word of God by a group of men during the 4th century.
According to Professor John Crossan of Biblical Studies atDePaulUniversitythe Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (274-337 CE), (a bust ofConstantineis pictured below) who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, needed a single canon to be agreed upon by the Christian leaders to help him unify the remains of theRoman Empire. Until this time the various Christian leaders could not decide which books would be considered “holy” and thus “the word of God” and which ones would be excluded and not considered the word of God.
Emperor Constantine, who was Roman Emperor from 306 CE until his death in 337 CE, used what motivates many to action – MONEY! He offered the various Church leaders money to agree upon a single canon that would be used by all Christians as the word of God. The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the “word of God” into existence. (I wish to thank Brian Show for pointing out in his rebuttal to this article that the final version of the Christian Bible was not voted on at the Council of Nicaea, per se. The Church leaders didn’t finish editing the “holy” scriptures until the Council of Trent when the Catholic church pronounced the Canon closed. However, it seems the real approving editor of the Bible was not God but Constantine! This fact is revealed in the second counter-rebuttal to Brian Show’s first rebuttal to this article. This counter-rebuttal makes the following important statement and backs it up with FACTS – “Therefore, one can easily argue that the first Christian Bible was commissioned, paid for, inspected and approved by a pagan emperor for church use.” Of course, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to fellow Deist Peter Murphy for the great research work he did in order to write such a great counter-rebuttal!
In the landmark work by H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Vol. I, pages 462-463, we read, “It (the Council of Nicaea) marks the definite entry upon the stage of human affairs of the Christian Church and of Christianity as it is generally understood in the world to-day. It marks the exact definition of Christian teaching by the Nicene Creed.”
Constantineordered and financed 50 parchment copies of the new “holy scriptures.” It seems with the financial element added to the picture, the Church fathers were able to overcome their differences and finally agree which “holy” books would stay and which would go.
Compare the man-made origins of Christianity and its various dogmas to the simplicity of Deism. Deism is belief in God based only on reason and the creation itself. It makes no claim to false “revelations” as all of the “revealed” religions do. To Deists, proof of the Designer is in the design.
To quote Thomas Paine, “Were man impressed as fully and as strongly as he ought to be with the belief of a God, his moral life would be regulated by the force of that belief; he would stand in awe of God and of himself, and would not do the thing that could not be concealed from either. To give this belief the full opportunity of force, it is necessary that it acts alone. This is Deism. But when, according to the Christian Trinitarian scheme, one part of God is represented by a dying man, and another part, called the Holy Ghost, by a flying pigeon, it is impossible that belief can attach itself to such wild conceits. . . .
“The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.
“Instead then of studying theology, as is now done out of the Bible and Testament, the meanings of which books are always controverted and the authenticity of which is disproved, it is necessary that we refer to the Bible of the Creation. The principles we discover there are eternal and of divine origin; they are the foundation of all the science that exists in the world, and must be the foundation of theology.
“We can know God only through His works. We cannot have a conception of any one attribute but by following some principle that leads to it. We have only a confused idea of His power, if we have not the means of comprehending something of its immensity. We can have no idea of His wisdom, but by knowing the order and manner in which it acts. The principles of science lead to this knowledge; for the Creator of man is the Creator of science, and it is through that medium that man can see God, as it were, face to face.”
On May 12, 1797 while living in Paris, France Tom Paine wrote the following letter to a Christian friend who was trying to convert Paine to Christianity. Paine’s response fits perfectly with this page regarding the origins of the Bible.
“In your letter of the twentieth of March, you give me several quotations from the Bible, which you call the Word of God, to show me that my opinions on religion are wrong, and I could give you as many, from the same book to show that yours are not right; consequently, then, the Bible decides nothing, because it decides any way, and every way, one chooses to make it.
“But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law.
“The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave.
“You may have an opinion that a man is inspired, but you cannot prove it, nor can you have any proof of it yourself, because you cannot see into his mind in order to know how he comes by his thoughts; and the same is the case with the word revelation. There can be no evidence of such a thing, for you can no more prove revelation than you can prove what another man dreams of, neither can he prove it himself.
“It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No.
“Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’t is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know Moses was not an impostor?
“For my own part, I believe that all are impostors who pretend to hold verbal communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and must answer for it in the same manner. But all this does not settle the point, whether the Bible be the Word of God, or not. It is therefore necessary to go a step further. The case then is: –
“You form your opinion of God from the account given of Him in the Bible; and I form my opinion of the Bible from the wisdom and goodness of God manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all works of creation. The result in these two cases will be, that you, by taking the Bible for your standard, will have a bad opinion of God; and I, by taking God for my standard, shall have a bad opinion of the Bible.
“The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a world and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God in the creation preach to us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a changeable, passionate, vindictive God; everything we there behold impresses us with a contrary idea – that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness.
“The sun and the seasons return at their appointed time, and everything in the creation claims that God is unchangeable. Now, which am I to believe, a book that any impostor might make and call the Word of God, or the creation itself which none but an Almighty Power could make? For the Bible says one thing, and the creation says the contrary. The Bible represents God with all the passions of a mortal, and the creation proclaims him with all the attributes of a God.
“It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’
“That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.
“What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case.
“In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all. In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit.
“As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the case.
“You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New.
“When you have examined the Bible with the attention that I have done (for I do not think you know much about it), and permit yourself to have just ideas of God, you will most probably believe as I do. But I wish you to know that this answer to your letter is not written for the purpose of changing your opinion. It is written to satisfy you, and some other friends whom I esteem, that my disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it.”
A Critique Of “The Bible’s Unholy Origins”
by Brian Show
Robert Johnson has recently written an article concerning the origins of the New Testament Bible. He claims that the Bible was voted to be the “Word of God” by a group of men during the 4′ century, thereby undermining its right to be called the “Word of God” In this paper I shall argue that Johnson’s thesis is misguided and that he fails to substantiate any of his claims; also I’ll try to clarify some issues by fleshing out what Christians mean by the term the “Word of God” and other allied concepts. First, let’s look at a key argument in Johnson’s paper. In the second paragraph he seems to reason as follows:
(1) If “the Bible was not handed to mankind by God nor dictated to human stenographers by God, then it cannot have anything to do with God.”‘
(2) The Bible was not handed to mankind by God nor dictated to human stenographers by God.
(3) Therefore, the Bible cannot have anything to do with God.
(1.) This is a deductive argument and the logic is valid, however, the key question is whether the premises are true. Certainly, most knowledgeable Christians would agree with (2). No one thinks the Bible fell from the sky as many Muslims seem to claim of the Koran and most don’t hold to a divine dictation model of revelation in which God dictated word for word the contents of the Bible to some terrified scribe. So what about premise (1) It seems to be an example of the informal fallacy, false dichotomy.’ There are many other options available to the Christian at this point in order to account for the Bible being labeled as the “Word of God.” A common position assumes that Scripture constitutes the very words of God-the ipsissima verba Dei. An example comes from the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. It reads, “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches . We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.”‘
So then, this divine-inspiration perspective allows that the human writers of Scripture expressed themselves in the full integrity of their humanity, without the slightest diminution of their wills or intellects, but that God, in tandem with their wills and intellects, moved in and through the human writers to express precisely what God intended. My point in citing this example is not to endorse this particular model of divine inspiration but just to provide a possible account, thereby demonstrating that premise (1) is fallacious because it excludes too much, and consequently the argument is unsound. It seems already that there is some misunderstanding as regards the concept the “Word of God”, but more on this later. For now let’s press on and see if Johnson makes his other points. The next extravagant claim comes at the end of the second paragraph:
(4) “The Bible was voted to be the word of God by a group of men during the 4th century. ”
What evidence does Johnson marshal for (4). Obviously, this is not a self-evident claim and therefore it needs some sort of historical testimony. Amazingly, Johnson provides no historical testimony at all but merely restates this claim later on in his paper when he says, “The church leaders gathered together at the council of Nicaea and voted the ‘word of God’ into existence.”5 Now, let me just say that this is false for the Council of Nicaea didn’t involve disputes about the canon; it involved mainly a dispute about the theology of Arius, which raised in acute form the question of the real meaning and significance of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the canon as we know it today wasn’t even complete when the Council of Nicaea took place in 325. In order to demonstrate this I’ll need to provide a brief sketch of the actual development of the new testament (NT hereafter). This will also help put our study in perspective by providing a sort of framework for analyzing some key items. I’ll be following the schematic outline from the article titled “canon” taken from the Oxford Companion to the Bible.’
The first phase takes place in the latter part of the first century. It involves the gospel message and its subsequent oral transmission to various areas. In this period the church was guided by apostolic witness, which developed into the apostolic tradition, and second by early Christian prophecy (i.e, the book of Revelation). As scholar Andrie Du Toit points out, “The authors of the early Christian documents did not visualize their writings as part of a future canon. Rather they intended to give pastoral guidance to young churches.”8 However, these foundation documents did possess the inherent quality of later becoming part of a normative collection.
The second phase (the close of the first century to the middle of the second) involved the growing recognition of the normative character and collection into groups of a basic number of writings. This period finds oral tradition increasingly replaced by the written Gospels. At this stage we also find the collecting of early Christian writings around two foci, the Pauline correspondence and the Gospels.
The third phase (midsecond century to 190ce) is when the NT canon becomes a reality. According to Bruce Metzger, professor emeritus at Princeton Seminary: “By the close of the second century we can see an outline of what may be described as the nucleus of the NT. Although the fringes of the emerging canon remained unsettled for generations, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the NT was attained among the very diverse and scattered congregations of believers.”9
The final stage (ca. 190-400 ce) pertains, of course, to the closing of the canon. According to Du Toit “It was particularly the claims to having received new revelations made by the gnostics and the Montanists, members of an apocalyptic prophetic movement, that stressed the need for a clear demarcation of the canon.”‘
So when did the canon of the new testament finally take the form that we have today?
Well, in the east, the year 367 marks the first time that the scope of the NT is declared to be exactly the twenty-seven books accepted today as canonical in the thirtyninth festal epistle of Bishop Athanasius.” In the Western church the complete canon was approved by councils in Hippo (393) andCarthage (397).’2 With this in mind we see that the canonical development is a very complex process. While the core of the NT was established very early, the entire scope was not agreed upon until the late fourth century; even then it was not formally recognized and Christians have continued to disagree about the fringes of the canon until today.
What was the criteria for choosing certain books rather than others? It seems that to be accepted into the canon the books had to possess apostolicity, that is, be written by an apostle or a close associate of one. Another basic prerequisite for canonicity was conformity to what was called the ‘rule of faith’, or in other words, the congruity of a given document with the basic Christian tradition recognized as normative by the Church.
The other obvious test was its continuous acceptance and usage by the Church at large. Of course, there were other factors involved and much more would need to be said in order to do full justice to the issue of canonical criteria. `3
So what have we learned from our historical outline? First, Johnson’s understanding of the development of the NT is naive and misinformed. There wasn’t one council in which the church leaders recognized the Bible as the “Word of God” and it certainly didn’t happen at the Council of Nicaea as Johnson claims. Secondly, it’s appropriate at this point to bring out another error in Johnson’s paper. He claims thatConstantineused money to persuade the church leaders to agree upon a single canon. Now this is partly true. New Testament Professor Bruce Metzger says the following: “In about the year 332 the Emperor Constantine, wishing to promote and organize Christian worship in the growing number of churches in his capital city, directed Eusebius to have fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures made by practised scribes and written legibly on prepared parchment.”‘4
Now, obviously fifty magnificent copies could not but exercise a great influence on future copies, and subsequently help forward the process at arriving on an agreed canon. But the problem with Johnson’s argument is that he tries to link this event with the Council of Nicaea which occurred some seven years prior to it in 325. Furthermore, theConstantineorder didn’t involve a church council at all and moreover it doesn’t seem to weigh very heavily in development of the canon. So it seems that Johnson has written a piece of historical fiction, I’m afraid.
Now, while Johnson’s criticisms have been wide off the mark, our discussion up to this point has surfaced some important questions? First, what is the significance of a transition from mainly normative apostolic teaching to the adoption of a normative canon? In my opinion the move is significant because it allows subsequent generations to have a faithful representation of the apostolic teachings; teachings which might not have been as accessible or pure given the nature of oral tradition. The situation here is not that a canon of normative books displaces normative tradition; for the normative tradition itself included books claiming that very status. Perhaps sometimes the move of a religious community from a normative tradition to a textual canon is a very large move, but in our case, for the reasons cited, it seems to be the natural one. Secondly, in light of all that we know about the development of the canon, in what sense might the Bible (or NT canon) be said to be the “Word of God” or communication from God. I like what Nicholas Wolterstorff has to say on the topic:
“Suppose the apostles were commissioned by God through Jesus Christ to be witnesses and representatives (deputies) of Jesus. Suppose that what emerged from their carrying out this commission was a body of apostolic teaching which incorporated what Jesus taught them and what they remembered of the goings-on surrounding Jesus, shaped under the guidance of the Spirit. And suppose that the NT books are all either apostolic writings, or formulations of apostolic teaching composed by close associates of one or another apostle. Then it would be correct to construe each book as a medium of divine discourse. And an eminently plausible construal of the process whereby these books found their way into a single canonical text, would be that by way of that process of canonization, God was authorizing these books as together constituting a single volume of divine discourse.”
This account doesn’t rely on the untenable divine dictation and “Bible from the sky” views which Johnson tried to force upon us; and it seems like a defensible position to me, although, much more argumentation and evidence would need to be presented in order to persuade an unbeliever. Let me just note though that I don’t think the status of canonicity is an objectively demonstrable claim, but rather a statement of Christian belief. And if one were to argue for the authority of the Bible or for a criterion of the canon, I don’t think it can be done apart from a host of other Christian items such as Divine Providence, the doctrine of revelation, the Resurrection, the apostolic witness, religious experience, and so on. Thus, I’d say that Christianity is cumulative in its apologetic nature and if one is going to argue for a particular doctrine it’s best to consider that doctrine in light of what is known about the other main elements of the Christian worldview. However, it is simply beyond my ambition and skill to tackle these issues here, and I would much rather refer readers to more competent writers. 16
In bringing our discussion to a close, if I were to try to locate the doctrine of Scripture within the total structure of Christian belief, I would want to make the following point. As important and integral one’s belief about the Bible is, that belief itself is not an essential element of Christian belief. Let me explain. Strictly speaking, the essential elements of Christianity have been the great things of the gospel (i.e, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose again, etc.). Since belief about the Bible isn’t one of the great things of the gospel nor was it accepted by the earliest Christians (Obviously, because there were Christians before these books were written, and, barring divine revelation to them that the books were indeed soon to be written and would be authoritative, they wouldn’t have known about them) it is not itself an essential element of Christian belief. Don’t misunderstand, I realize that ultimately the Bible must reliably convey the great things of the gospel in order for us to come to know them. My only point is that it may very well be the case that achieving warrant for the proposition that the gospel is true is easier than achieving warrant for the proposition that the Bible is the Word of God.”
In conclusion, Johnson’s whole paper relies on (1) an understanding of Scripture that most Christians don’t accept, (2) a decision atNicaeathat never happened, and (3) an act on behalf of Constantine and church leaders that had nothing to do withNicaea. (4) Furthermore, I tried to show that nothing in his paper provided evidence for 1- 3; so even if they were true we would have no reason to believe them. Lastly, I tried to develop some plausible models in order to show that no defeaters had been provided against the Christian doctrines in question. Now, none of what I said has proved that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, or communication from God, or anything like that. What I have tried to demonstrate is that Johnson’s article has not provided any sound criticism of the Christian’s conception of the Bible or any related topics; hence, one is perfectly justified in holding to their experience of God and to the historic positions of the Church. Whether or not I have succeeded at this endeavor is for someone else to decide.
1 See Johnson, “The Bible’s Unholy Origins”
2 The false dichotomy (also called “either-or fallacy”) is committed when an argument presents two alternatives with respect to an issue when in fact there are other options, and rejects one of the alternatives and concludes that you must accept the other. See Patrick Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic (Belmont: Wadswroth Thomas Learning, 2000), p. 161.
3 “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”, in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), p. 494-495.
4 See Johnson, “The Bible’s Unholy Origins”
6 See John Leith, Creeds of the Churches (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982.)
7 See “Canon” in the Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Metzger, Coogan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)
8 Ibid., p. 102.
9 Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 75.
10 “Canon” in the Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Meztger, Coogan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 103
11 Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, p. 212.
12 See Donal Bloesch, Holy Scripture (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1994), 149.
13 For literature bearing on the criteria of the canon see Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament; Hans von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible (Philadelpia: Fortress Press, 1973)., William Abriaham, Canon and Criterion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).
14 Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament, p. 206.
I S Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 295.
16 For a general works on apologetics see William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994); J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987). For works on the topic of Revelation see Richard Swinburne, Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); Colin Gunton, A Brief Theology of Revelation (Edinburough: T & T Clark, 1995); George Mavrodes, Revelation and Religious Belief (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991); Avery Dulles, Models ofRevelation, 2″d ed. (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1992). For a treatment on the epistemological justification of the Resurrection see Stephen T. Davis, Rise Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993). For a treatment of the epistemology of religious experience see William Alston, Perceiving God (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991).
17 For more on the topic of warrant and religious epistemology see Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff (eds.), Faith and Rationality (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1983). Also, Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press, 2000).
Counter-Rebuttal To “Bible Origins”
by Travis Clementsmith
Brian Show attempted to demonstrate the fallibility in Robert Johnson’s article because the “premises” were not true, that he does not substantiate his claims, and the intangible quality of the meaning behind “Word of God”. I have to admit, I agreed with much of what he said, via the way he said it. But, in doing so, he completely sidestepped the point of the article. While his comments may have meaning to studied theologians, which the vast majority of believers are not, what is generally taught to the masses is very different. This is the point Mr. Johnson takes issue with: The implications given to the masses, as opposed to the critical study of the few. Therefore, I will not dispute the validity of Mr. Show’s objections as much as dispute his disputations.
“No one thinks the Bible fell from the sky as many Muslims seem to claim of the Koran and most don’t hold to a divine dictation model of revelation in which God dictated word for word the contents of the Bible to some terrified scribe.”
Oh really? I’m sure if one asked the common ardent Christian on the street if he/she thought Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, their answer would be in the affirmative. That many of the Old Testament personages got their other various laws and direction directly from God would not receive a high degree of scrutiny as well. The Catholic belief in the story of the Septuagint isn’t too far off the human stenographer mark as well. During that event, the translation from the Hebrew Bible into Greek was pronounced authentic because seventy-two scribes, separated from one another, under divine inspiration, produced the exact same translation, not a word between them different. Maybe objective Bible analyzers can overlook this apparent “miracle”, but the general Christian faith does not.
“Now, let me just say that this is false for the Council of Nicaea didn’t involve disputes about the canon; it involved mainly a dispute about the theology of Arius, which raised in acute form the question of the real meaning and significance of Jesus Christ.”
How unfortunate the resolution of the dispute is never given by Mr. Show. For this resolution formed the basis of how Jesus was to be regarded in comparison to God, or the Father. The Nicene Creed was adopted forming the basis of the orthodox concept of the Holy Trinity. The New Testament was then, during a number of years afterward, finally put down with full reaffirmation of the Nicene Creed. So, no, the Bible was not voted on there, but, what the Bible means (according to the orthodox), and thus what the “Word of God” means, was.
The problem I have with Mr. Show’s “first phase” is the assumption that there were “apostolic witnesses” (those apostles in the Bible story). This goes back to Mr. Show’s very problem with Mr. Johnson’s article, that the premise isn’t true. It assumes that many of the so-called Christian ideas, weren’t in fact many different mystery schools, mythologies, and Gnostic traditions far preceding Christianity. That, Christianity, isn’t in fact, an attempt to conglomerate many traditions into one, as Joseph Wheless relates, in Forgery In Christianity:
Cardinal Newman, commenting on Dean Milman’s “History of the Jews,” groups a number of these Paganisms in Christianity, and says that Milman arrays facts “admitted on all hands,” to wit: “that the doctrine of the Logos is Platonic; that of the Incarnation Indian; that of a divine Kingdom Judaic; that of angels and demons (and a Mediator) Persian; that, the connection of sin with the body is Gnostic; the idea of a new birth Chinese and Eleusinian; that of sacramental virtue Pythagorean; that of Trinity common to East and West; and that of the rites of baptism and sacrifice equally ubiquitous”! (Newman, Essays, Critical and Historical, 7th ed., p. 231; as summarized by the Rt. Hon. J.M. Robertson in A History of Freethought in the XIXth Century, p. 145-6.London, 1929.)
I have no issue with anything Mr. Show presents that “phased in” after that.
“What was the criteria for choosing certain books rather than others? It seems that to be accepted into the canon the books had to possess apostolicity, that is, be written by an apostle or a close associate of one.”
How is this determined after what must have been at least a century? I may as well claim Homer has the “Word of God”! There is no evidence outside of Biblical sources that the Apostles were real people, so this criterion is flawed. So by “apostolicity” should be “*believed, without proof of* being written by an apostle or a close associate of one.”
“Another basic prerequisite for canonicity was conformity to what was called the ‘rule of faith’, or in other words, the congruity of a given document with the basic Christian tradition recognized as normative by the Church.”
Now, one should understand that the Council of Nicaea was convened becauseConstantinesaw his “One State Religion”, with him at its head, starting to dissolve with the Arian controversy. So, theOneChurchwas established to bind the opinion of the religion to one “infallible” doctrine. This is control for political purposes, nothing at all to do with the “Word of God”. So the second prerequisite is nothing but a political body approving it, under the pretense of divine guidance.
“The other obvious test was its continuous acceptance and usage by the Church at large.”
By the “Church”, a general implication means the body of believers. However, in practicality, it means a select few within the priesthood. Many who signed the Nicene Creed, still did not agree with it. Later schisms and internal civil wars demonstrate very little was agreed upon. So, it was not continued acceptance as much as forced capitulation that led to conformity. Not a very “spiritual” evolution.
Mr. Johnson may have made some historical assumptions, but to say it is “fiction” is misleading. One event certainly does have its roots in past actions as well as its influence on future events. Using the Council of Nicaea as a focal point is not necessarily incorrect, though. Constantine, himself, attended the hearings to help mold a consensus (coerced may be a more accurate description) because he did not really care what the Church was going to conclude on, he just wanted uniformity to better control. That makes the Council atNicaeafocal, though not in of itself, total. While it may be incorrect to attribute all these things to events at the Nicene Council, it is correct to connect them with it.
Mr. Wolterstorff’s quote involves a lot of supposition.
I believe Mr. Show has demonstrated the points he set out to prove. Too bad they had nothing to do with the premise of the article. His assertion that “most Christians do not believe the Bible to be the “Word of God” is simply not true. And, it was this point Mr. Johnson had a contention with. Again, Wheless, relates the opinion from the Vatican Council itself as noted in the Catholic Encyclopedia (CE):
“The essence of Revelation lies in the fact that it is the direct speech of God to man,” says the Holy Ghost speaking through the Vatican Council (1870), thus confirming what I have above said, that “divine revelation” cannot be of Pagan myths already current and long known to everyone. The same Heavenly Instructor tells us what Revelation is: “Revelation may be defined as the communication of some truth by God to a rational creature through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature. The truths thus revealed may be such as are otherwise inaccessible to the human mind — mysteries, which even when revealed, the intellect of man is incapable of fully penetrating. … The Decree ‘Lamentabili’ (3 July, 1907) declares that the dogmas which the Church proposes as revealed are ‘truths which have come down to us from heaven’ and not ‘an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by its own strenuous efforts.'” (Vatican Decrees, 1870; CE. xiii, 1.) And, asserts CE.: “The existence of revelation is as reasonably established as any historical fact”! (CE. xiii, 607.) Isn’t CE. funny!
That the intrinsic “Word of God” resonates within each individual is not in question.
A Detailed Rebuttal To “A Critique Of ‘The Bible’s Unholy Origins'”, Including A Historical Overview
by Peter C. Murphy (A Canadian Deist)
I wish to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Robert L. Johnson of the W.U.D. for permitting me to write the rebuttal to Mr. Brian Show’s “A Critique of ‘The Bible’s Unholy Origins'”. I also wish to dedicate this rebuttal to the memory of Thomas Paine, himself a victim of Christian intolerance.
Brian Show’s critique of Robert L. Johnson’s article, “The Bible’s Unholy Origins,” appears on the surface to be a well written and logical rebuttal of Mr. Johnson’s position concerning the human origin of the Bible canon. But a closer examination demonstrates that Mr. Show, who accuses Mr. Johnson of being “wide off the mark,” of trying “to force” his views “upon us,” of question-begging, of being “naive and misinformed,” of writing a “piece of historical fiction”; is in reality not as well informed as his paper would have us believe. Mr. Show has created a strawman, which he then proceeds to shoot down; he further begs far more questions than Mr. Johnson; and worst of all, he seems totally unaware of what Christians believe concerning the Bible. Mr. Show’s work smacks of sophistry, rhetoric, repeated question begging, internal contradictions, historical ignorance, quibbling on words, and intellectual dishonesty.
This paper will be in three parts, in addition to the introduction above and a conclusion at the end: part one will deal with what Mr. Johnson actually wrote and for what audience; part two will look at some of the history around Constantine, the early church, Nicaea, and the Canon, as well as some terminology about the meaning of Divine Inspiration; and part three will be a dissection of Mr. Show’s so-called ‘critique’ point by point, exposing his intellectual dishonesty in the process.
Part One: The Bible’s Unholy Origins.
Mr. Johnson’s article is composed of two sections, an introduction written by him closing with several quotes by Thomas Paine, and the main body which is Mr. Paine’s letter of May 12, 1797 to a Christian friend about the human origins of the Bible. Mr. Johnson’s opening paragraph is valid, he correctly observes that “many” Christians hold the bible to be the “Word of God”; the differences are largely one of opinion, from those who take it from the point of view of divine dictation, to those who take it from the point of view that by ‘inspiration’ the divine message was delivered, directly or indirectly, through human agency. In both cases, the message was God’s, and men were his instruments. This Mr. Johnson’s introduction covers. The audience for Mr. Johnson’s article is not a peer reviewed theological journal [of which several exist, each championing the apologetics of their own sects], but deals in the plain language of what plain people believe. This view is testable, for one only needs to ask a churchgoing Christian if he, or she, believes the Bible to be the Word of God. The answer in many, if not most, cases, will be “yes”.
Mr. Johnson proceeds to make a declarative paragraph composed of three sentences; the first sentence clearly states that the Bible was not handed down by God to men, that is somewhat obvious, and it is totally inclusive — for Mr. Johnson has not implied that the bible was handed down as a complete tome to anyone, his statement would include the very concept of ‘revelation’ and ‘inspiration’ — the second part of this sentence is also clear, God did not dictate the bible to stenographers, although parts of the bible would claim otherwise, repeated references to YHWH instructing Moses and certain prophets to record his dictation are common; for example, Exo.34:27, and Jer. 30:2, . According to the Exodus 34:1 account, YHWH personally wrote the tablets of the Law! In a link provided below, we see that the words “write” and “wrote” are used to describe divine dictation to what would amount to the recipients being considered stenographers . The second sentence of Mr. Johnson is a Deistic viewpoint; for the Deist does not believe that God had anything to do with the Jewish Bible, the Christian Bible, the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, the Vedas, etc. The third sentence is somewhat confusing, for the term ‘voted’ is unclear. If Mr. Johnson is referring to a formal vote, than there is little or no evidence to support this at Nicene; but if on the other hand, he is referring to the views of those whose opinions formed the basis of what was and what was not considered inspired, then any collection of those opinions could be considered an informal vote, in the same sense that an opinion poll is an informal vote. The one thing this paragraph is not, is a logical argument based on two premises leading to either a deductive, or inductive, conclusion.
Mr. Johnson proceeds in the third paragraph to write about Constantine, whom history shows to be an extremely autocratic and unbalanced character. Mr. Johnson mentions Professor John Crossan of Biblical Studies atDePaulUniversityas the source of the view thatConstantinewanted a single Canon for the one church; this is not too far off the mark, which will be looked at in further detail later in the history section of this paper. The only weakness here is that Mr. Johnson did not directly source where Professor Crossan said this, which would be necessary for verification purposes.
The issue of Money in Mr. Johnson’s fourth paragraph is valid, there is evidence forConstantinefinancing the church and in turn influencing the leadership of the church; one need only look at the rank smelling flattery the early church fathers showered onConstantineto see just how successful this financing had become. The only problem in this paragraph is in the choice of wording; the Council of Nicene was not called together to decide the issue of the Canon, but mainly to handle a dispute between Arius and other church leaders about the nature of Christ rooted in scriptural interpretations; but the nature of such a dispute would revolve around the meanings of scripture. More on this will follow in the history section of this paper.
The fifth paragraph mentions H.G. Wells argument that Nicene marks a change in the Christian church with the introduction of Orthodoxy, as worded in the Nicene Creed. This is beyond dispute among historians.Nicaeablurred the distinction between church and state, which in the western world would not be cleared up until the American Revolution.
Following is the sixth paragraph where Mr. Johnson makes note of what can be regarded as at least evidence for a protoCanon; he mentions thatConstantineordered 50 Bibles [“holy scripture”] to be produced, adding in a financial incentive. Mr. Johnson is being far too kind, this event is shockingly far more significant than it first appears, and more will be said about it in Part Two.
Mr. Johnson concludes his introduction with what many Deists believe; and as such, only a nonDeist would find offense with it. His position that the Bible was not the Word of God is logically valid, no evidence has been produced by any Christian or Jew to demonstrate otherwise. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; and few claims are as extraordinary as the idea that God authored, directly or indirectly, some holy book.
Part one is concluded.
Part Two: History and Terminology
This paper now turns to history and terminology. The Political Situation, The Pre-Nicene Church, The Council of Nicaea, The Post-Nicene Church, The Question of the Canon, and The Meaning of Inspiration will each be examined in a short summary provided in order to familiarize the reader with at least the basics.
For simplicity’s sake, the historical quotes concerning Constantine and the history of the early church following the Edict of Toleration, will rely for the most part on the excellent scholarly work by Warren Treadgold, professor of History at St. Louis University, titled, “A History of the Byzantine State and Society”, published in 1997 , which is a textbook used in many university level courses on Byzantine History. It is a comprehensive work covering a time period from 284-1461 CE. It is not a controversial work, but a conservative one; bringing together the information about the Late Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire generally accepted by the historical community. Treadgold’s book deals with history, not apologetics, and what he writes is well supported in other historical sources. In addition, to Treadgold, this paper will refer to some of the writings of the early church fathers; as well as some of the more recent definitions of “Inspiration”.
The Political Situation
Constantine(reigned 305-37) is a highly complex character, whose personality reflects his time and environment. He came to power during the later part of theRoman Empireknown as the “Dominate”; it was a time when two senior emperors, styled Augusti, each ruled half the empire, each was also assisted by a junior emperor, styled Caesar. It was a period of absolute autocracy; emperors would paint their faces white and anyone approaching them had to do it on their knees referring to the autocrat as ‘lord and master’; the old idea that the emperor was first among equals started by Augustus, was replaced with a new idea where the emperor was in effect above mere mortals. Constantine early in his life adopted as his patron deity Sol Invictus [The Unconquered Sun], a cult which shared a number of features with early Christianity; including Sunday as a day of worship, and the celebration of a divine birth on Dec. 25 . When Diocletian retired in 313, the Empire broke out in civil war. Eventually, two new Augusti emerged supreme.Constantinein the West and Lincinius in the east; together they issued the Edict of Toleration in 313 and made peace between themselves; the once persecuted Christians found themselves in a position of tolerance and opportunity. Both Constantine and Lincinius restored their property, and the latter even punished some of the worst persecutors of Christians prior to the edict . Christians found employment in both the civil service and army. AlthoughConstantineconfessed his Christianity [Lincinius was a pagan], he was not baptized until his death, he did not repudiate his worship of the Sun, he did not give up his title of pontifex maximus, nor did he stop the Imperial Cult of the Emperor. This has lead historians ever since to question the sincerity of his conversion in the first place. Lincinius’ participation in this edict leads one to the conclusion that the edict was a political move to bring Christians into the camp of the two emperors; and was not truly motivated by any piety on either part. Both emperors wanted submission and unity; and Christianity appeared to be able to provide both, in gratitude for the end of the persecutions. Peace was not to endure,Constantinewas ambitious and invaded the territories of Lincinius in 316. After a year of fighting a new peace treaty was signed, in whichConstantinegained more territory. In the east the religious controversies among Christians were causing instability, rival synods were leading to outright rioting in the cities of the east, in particularAlexandria. Lincinius tired of the chaos and started to remove Christians from government positions, forbidding them from holding any more synods; even going so far as executing several bishops from Pontico for conspiring with the King of Armenia against the emperor .Constantinetook advantage of the increasing confusion. Using the pretext of protecting Christians he invaded Lincinius’ territories in 324, successfully conquering the wholeRoman Empirein the process; and extended to Christians in the east the same privileges he had previously given their western counterparts.Constantinethen reorganized the state and army; and took a greater interest in the workings of the Christian church. The autocrat wanted order at all levels of society, and the Christians were not cooperating.Constantinethen started to suffer from egomania and paranoia. In 324 he founded a city which he first named “New Rome,” but later changed to “Constantinople” in honor of himself. In 325 he called the Council of Nicaea to settle the Arian Controversy, and some other issues. In 326Constantineexecuted his eldest son Crispus on the rumour that he had committed some sort of sexual indiscretion, thenConstantineproceeded to have his wife executed on the rumour that she had also committed some sort of sexual indiscretion . Next he issued a series of decrees prescribing the most sadistic types of tortures for what he considered sexual crimes.Constantinethen proceeded to fight a number of campaigns against the barbarians pressing on the borders of the empire; in addition he raised a number of colossal statues to himself and his glory. By the time he died several years later, the Orthodox church was firmly under imperial control; with the emperor seen as the representative of Christ on earth.
The Pre-Nicene Church
The Council of Nicaea is the pivotal point between what the Christian church was, to what it would become. There are three periods prior to this: the early church prior to the persecutions, the church during the persecutions, and the church between the Edict of Toleration and the Council of Nicaea.
Very little is known about the early church, the Church Fathers were motivated by theological issues based on faith and freely invented, or took at face value, a number of fables. For example: In Justin Martyr’s (100-165) Apology (1.31) he credits the Septuagint to Ptolemy, who he refers to as a contemporary of Herod the Great; the historical reality shows that the Ptolemy in question, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (c.308–246 BCE), died 173 years before Herod the Great (c73 – 4 BCE) was born. In Tertullian’s (c.160-c.230) Apology ( V.2.) he makes the absurd claim that the emperor Tiberius defended Christ in the Senate and threatened anyone who would harm Christians; the historical reality is that Tiberius had permanently left Rome for his estate at Capri in 26 CE, while the gospel of Luke (3:1,23) clearly mentions that Jesus only started his ministry after the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign, which was in 29 CE. Simply put, Tertullian would have us believe that Tiberius was defending Jesus in the Senate at least three years before Jesus even started his ministry. Strangely enough, the other Church Fathers seem to have equal disdain for historical realities.
The next period is that of the persecutions; historically it is almost impossible to determine when the persecutions started. A passage in Tacitus Annals is suspect due to a possible interpolation into the work. The persecution of Christians was rooted in the interpretation of The Julian Law On Treason (Justinian, Digest XLVIII.iv), and by the time of Pliny the Younger, Christians were being persecuted. It must be noted that this persecution was largely local and sporadic; the fact that Trajan instructs Pliny not to seek them out, but only to deal with them when they are denounced is evidence that Christians were not considered of much importance from the imperial point of view. Persecution only became systemic and widespread under Diocletian, but he only reigned twenty years and the next year Constantine and Lincinius issued the Edict of Toleration and the persecutions ended; and property previously confiscated was returned. Christians found government and military positions once denied them open up, and they gladly filled the ranks of both governments with their members. In addition to this,Constantine”exempted the Christian clergy from taxation, and began building churches . In 321, he made Sunday a legal holiday in memory of the resurrection . With tax free estates, the right to collect rents on their lands, and having churches built for them; the Christian clergy started to get rich.Constantinewas buying their loyalty with money, and it was working. Church Fathers became his rank flatterers presenting him as near semidivine father figure, the very embodiment of Christian ideals; for example, from Eusebius’ history of the church, Constantine and his son Crispus, who was later executed without evidence of any wrongdoing by his father, are described such:
“But Constantine, the mightiest victor, adorned with every virtue of piety, together with his son Crispus, a most God-beloved prince, and in all respects like his father, recovered the East which belonged to them; and they formed one united Roman empire as of old, bringing under their peaceful sway the whole world from the rising of the sun to the opposite quarter, both north and south, even to the extremities of the declining day. … Edicts full of clemency and laws containing tokens of benevolence and true piety were issued in every place by the victorious emperor. Thus after all tyranny had been purged away, the empire which belonged to them was preserved firm and without a rival for Constantine and his sons alone. And having obliterated the godlessness of their predecessors, recognizing the benefits conferred upon them by God, they exhibited their love of virtue and their love of God, and their piety and gratitude to the Deity, by the deeds which they performed in the sight of all men.” 
As can be seen,Constantinehad succeeded in reducing the Church Fathers into fawning court flatterers; their inability to record their own contemporary history honestly, throws into suspect their ability to record the history of Christianity from the time of Jesus. In reality,Constantinewas almost the opposite of what is described by the Church Fathers. Once freed from external persecutions, the Christians started to bicker between themselves over previous and new controversies, and in the east, rival synods helped to drive the Christians into riots with each other over a number of theological differences; the most important being the Arian Controversy. In the west several minor religious disputes over jurisdiction were brought toConstantineto decide, who was politically astute enough to side with the church hierarchy against those who challenged it . Later, Lincinius tired of the Christian infighting and their repeated rioting began to purge them from positions in the civil service and army, reversing the privileges previously granted them.Constantinegrabbed the initiative and attacked. When it was overConstantinewas the sole Augusti of theRoman Empire. He quickly reversed Lincinius’ decrees and brought in his own concerning Christian privileges previously decreed in the west. Christian infighting continued unabated, and whatConstantinehad hoped would prove a unifying force for the empire was showing itself to be a divisive force.Constantinethen went further to bring the Christian church under his control by passing a number of laws designed to benefit Christians and weaken the nonChristian religions. In succession,Constantineseized the treasuries from all the nonChristian temples in the empire, and looted them for their artworks . Then he prohibited all nonChristian sacrifices and divination throughout the empire; reversing the situation that had existed for almost two centuries . “Not surprisingly, the Church welcomed his patronage and for most purposes accepted his leadership, trusting in both his guidance by God, which his vision of the cross seemed to demonstrate, and his political instincts, ….” Soon after founding Constantinople,Constantinetraveled toAntiochwhere he learned firsthand about the Arian Controversy. “An unsubtle and impatient man, Constantine could not see why Christians needed to argue about something that had happened before time began, had passed unmentioned in scripture, and had been overlooked by the Church for almost three centuries”. After sending his theological adviser, Bishop Hosius of Cordova, to see if he could resolve the controversy — only to watch him fail — Constantine took direct action and decreed that a Worldwide “ecumenical” Council would be held in Nicaea in 325 CE, offering to pay all the expenses of all the bishops who came. 
The Council of Nicaea
The Council of Nicaea is the model for all church councils which followed. Almost 300 bishops and important clerics attended, “including all those who had taken part in the Arian controversy to date” Hosius of Cordova presided, andConstantineattended. Arius was present as an observer, and his defenders were Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea. On the opposing side were Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius, supported by Eustathius of Antioch and Hosius — all bitterly opposed to Arius personally. Strangely enough, the Christian church may have remained intact if it was not for the interference ofConstantine. Early in the council, “Eusebius of Caesarea introduced a carefully worded creed, based on Scripture, that neither affirmed nor denied Arius’ views. No one could object to anything in it, andConstantinepraised it.” This original creed would have ended the Arian Controversy and brought stability to the Christian church. ButConstantineshowed his instability, and under the influence of Hosius, the emperor proposed to add to the creed the term “homoousios” (Gk. of the same substance) implying in a sense that the Son and Father were like two pieces of wood cut from the same tree. This one word ruined the compromise creed created by the council, and excluded Arius’ views entirely; it also opened itself up to Sabellianism, a previously condemned heresy. Criticisms were raised that the word did not exist anywhere in the Scriptures; but since the emperor was the one who proposed it, “scarcely anyone felt able to speak against it” .Constantineproceeded to threaten exile for anyone who refused to sign the new creed, and all but three did. Arius and two others refused to sell out toConstantine’s new creed and were condemned by the council and exiled accordingly. The Council then proceeded to deal with the case of the Melitius, set rules for calculating the date of Easter, recognized the patriarchal office of the bishops ofAlexandriaandAntioch, and decided several minor issues.
It must be noted, that especially in the case of Arius, the dispute centered on Scripture and what was meant by those scriptures. In addition, apart from the formal agenda of the council, other agendas were undoubtedly involved, just as in any large meeting. It was with the Nicene Creed that Christian Orthodoxy was born; but this creed was not something the bishops had willingly invented or supported.Constantinehad taken center stage and by proposing a single word, made himself head of the Christian Church; the failure of the church leadership to resist his interference reduced them to the status of paid lackeys.
The Post-Nicene Church
The period following the Council of Nicaea and the birth of Orthodoxy was a period of great confusion.Constantine’s heavy handed tactics had repercussions. Soon afterNicaea, Hosius left Contantine’s service and returned to his see at Cordova. Without his adviceConstantine”had to rely on his own unreliable religious instincts” . Constantine more and more interfered in the affairs of the Christian Church, sometimes exiling someone only to recall him later; the Arian Controversy would not go away, and the term “homoousios” was even troubling noncontroversal Christians. “In pursuing ecclesiastical harmony without facing the theological issue, he constantly vacillated between a resurgent proArian party and its determined adversaries” . ThePost-NiceneChurchwas dominated by the emperors, and no church council in the east ever took a position contrary to the wishes of the imperial throne. To learn more, Treadgold’s book is an excellent source of historical information.
The Question of the Canon
The next issue is the Canon. Canon means a rule of measure. In the sense of the Christian Bible, it means those books deemed divinely inspired, and to Roman Catholics, a partial rule of faith and morals. Canonical books are divided into two classes: protocanonical, those deemed inspired; and deuterocanonical, those denied or doubted by some as being inspired. In the Old Testament, the deuterocanonical books are the apocrypha; in the New Testament, the deuterocanonical books are Hebrews, James, II Peter, II and III John, Jude, and the Book of Revelations. The Roman Catholic Church has declared all these books to be protocanonical; but some Catholic and non-Catholic scholars have different opinions on the matter. It was only at the Council of Trent that the Roman Catholic Church finally declared the Catholic Canon di fide [closed].
There is little doubt that the concept of the canon was around in Contantine’s time. In Eusebius’ History of the Church, he divided scripture into three categories, basing their value, or truthfulness, on how commonly used they were by Orthodox teachers — whom he never identifies.
Cat. 1 — (The Recognized Books) 4 gospels, Acts, 1 Peter and 1 John, all the epistles of Paul; “to these may be added (if thought proper) The Revelation of John”.
Cat. 2 — (The Disputed Books) James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, “(the work either of the Evangelist John or of someone else with the same name)”.
Cat. 3 — (The Spurious Books) Acts of Paul, the Shepherd [of Hermas], Epistle of Barnabas and the Teachings of the Apostles, the Revelation of Peter, and again, The Revelation of John “(if this seems the place for it; as I said before, some reject it, others include it among the Recognized Books)”.
“As to the Revelation, the views of most people to this day are evenly divided.” 
For the most part, Eusebius classification is what one now finds in the New Testament. So although it took a few more centuries to finally close the Canon by a number of Christian churches; an idea of an early canon at least existed in Eusebius’ time. So what about the Bible?
In Theodoret’s history of the Church, one finds this very revealing passage:
“Constantinus Augustus, the great and the victorious, to Eusebius.
“Adopt joyfully the mode of procedure determined upon by us, which we have thought expedient to make known to your prudence, namely, that you should get written, on fine parchment, fifty volumes, easily legible and handy for use; these you must have transcribed by skilled calligraphers, accurately acquainted with their art. I mean, of course, copies of the Holy Scriptures, which, as you know, it is most necessary that the congregation of the Church should both have and use. A letter has been sent from our clemency to the catholicus of the diocese, in order that he may be careful that everything necessary for the undertaking is supplied. The duty devolving upon you is to take measures to ensure the completion of these manuscripts within a short space of time. When they are finished, you are authorised by this letter to order two public carriages for the purpose of transmitting them to us; and thus the fair manuscripts will be easily submitted to our inspection. Appoint one of the deacons of your church to take charge of this part of the business; when he comes to us, he shall receive proofs of our benevolence. May God preserve you, beloved brother.” 
The evidence shows that Constantinetook over effective leadership of the Christian Church at the Council of Nicaea, as such his word on religion was law; to challenge it was a dangerous undertaking. His patronage influenced and controlled the men on the other end of it. The Creed which came out of that Council had been his doing; and it became the acid test of determining who was, and who was not, Orthodox. This paper has demonstrated that the idea of what was canonical, where scripture is concerned, was also largely formulated at that time and recorded by Eusebius. Finally we see that Constantinespecially ordered 50 copies of Scripture, we can infer that it probably contained the Septuagint, and at least the first category of Eusebius’ classification, and possibly the second. There can be no doubt that this order was for 50 bibles to be produced for “the Church … [to] both have and use.” This was not merely 50 copies being used, these were 50 copies specifically ordered, and paid for by the emperor for the use of the Christian Church; most disturbingly is that the books were to be delivered to Constantine to be “submitted to our inspection.” Once these received imperial approval, they would become the standard for future copies; it was in a sense, an official Bible. Therefore, one can easily argue that the first Christian Bible was commissioned, paid for, inspected and approved by a pagan emperor for church use. It would have undoubtedly been considered the canon of its time.
The Meaning of Inspiration
This single issue creates a great deal of confusion, for it is not clear how this inspiration works, or what is its final result. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to Roman Catholic publications, since Catholics are the vast majority of Christians, and their official views on “inspiration” can be rightly considered the majority view. Using The New American Bible  for standard information on the Roman Catholic perspective, one finds that indeed the Catholic Church holds the Bible to be the Word of God.
In the Introduction of said Bible, we find this information under the subtitle: “Origin, Inspiration, and History of the Bible”:
At the Council of Trent, the Church declared “she receives, ‘All the books of the Testaments, Old and New, since the one God is the Author of both.'” At the first Vatican Council, “The Church holds those books as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error; but because having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their Author.” 
In the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the same bible, we find this definition for “Inspiration of Scripture”:
“The supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit whereby the writers of the books of the Bible were supernaturally moved to write what God wished to be written. Thus, God is the principal author of the Bible. Because of this divine influence on the writers, they were unable to write anything except what God had predetermined would be written. Therefore, there are no errors in the divine revelations.” 
Obviously, the official position of the largest Christian denomination in the world thinks the Bible to be the Word of God, in that God is its author. The work of an author can be considered the Word of that Author. As such, it can be stated in all sincerity and accuracy that the majority of Christians believe the Bible to be the Word of God.
Part two is concluded.
Part Three: Mr. Brian Show’s “A Critique of ‘The Bible’s Unholy Origins'”.
Mr. Show’s critique of Robert L. Johnson’s article, “The Bible’s Unholy Origins”, appears at first glance to be a well written rebuttal; but in reality is an apologetic plagued with a number of problems. First, Mr. Show’s entire ‘critique’ is based on shooting down a strawman  of his own invention; second, his repeated question begging leaves one wondering if he even knows his subject; third he resorts to sophistry, rhetoric, and quibbling on words as he preaches to the gallery; fourth, his work suffers from several internal contradictions; fifth, his historical knowledge is at best superficial, at worst bordering ignorance; and sixth, he appears to be motivated either by intellectual dishonesty, or a desire to deceive the reader. For this reason, this paper included a historical section in order to clear up the history Mr. Show succeeded in confusing. In order to simplify this rebuttal, this paper will follow the outline of Mr. Show’s, “A Critique of ‘The Bible’s Unholy Origins'” section by section. Each (letter) represents a paragraph in Mr. Show’s so-called “critique”.
(A) Mr. Show’s introduction makes a valid claim in that Mr. Johnson had not substantiated his claim that the Bible was voted to be the “Word of God” in the 4th century. If Mr. Show had stopped there, his rebuttal would have had some merit; but he proceeds to take it upon himself to speak for all Christians with the absurd statement “I’ll try to clarify some issues by fleshing out what Christians mean by the term the ‘Word of God'”. Is he serious? It seems so. Somehow Mr. Show is either unaware of the FACT that there is no such thing as a generic Christian. In reality, almost all Christians are defined by their particular sectarian affiliations; for example, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, etc.; further defined by their overall viewpoints, for example, Liberal, Conservative, Fundamentalist, etc.. No one can speak for Christians as a whole, and the leadership of each sect speaks for the beliefs of that sect only; yet Mr. Show implies he can speak for all, that is either an act of deceit, or conceit.
(B) Mr. Show then proceeds to create his strawman. He grossly distorts Mr. Johnson’s three declarative statements in a single paragraph. Let us look at what was actually written and compare it to Mr. Show’s distortion:
Mr. Johnson’s first sentence: “The Bible was not handed to mankind by God, nor was it dictated to human stenographers by God.”
Mr. Johnson’s second sentence: “It has nothing to do with God.”
Mr. Shows distortion: “If ‘the Bible was not handed to mankind by God nor dictated to human stenographers by God, then it cannot have anything to do with God.'”
See the difference between what Mr. Johnson wrote and what Mr. Show wrote. Mr. Show included information in QUOTATION MARKS crediting to Mr. Johnson a sentence, which Mr. Johnson did not write! Mr. Show carefully removed the comma between “God” and “nor” in Mr. Johnson’s first sentence; he replaced a period with a comma between the two sentences, causing them to become one; he then added the clause “then it cannot have anything to do with God.” If one did not go back to Mr. Johnson’s original paper, one would be mislead into believing that he actually wrote what is within those quotation marks.
At this point Mr. Show’s intellectual dishonesty is exposed! He created a false quote, then credited it to Mr. Johnson. This is like some sort of reverse plagiarism! Mr. Show was free to reword the paragraph in question to suit his purpose without the underhanded trick of inventing false and misleading quotes. Mr. Show owes Mr. Johnson an apology for such an underhanded trick.
(C) Mr. Show then proceeds to shoot down his strawman. Which is worded accordingly:
(1) “‘If “the Bible was not handed to mankind by God nor dictated to human stenographers by God, then it cannot have anything to do with God.'”
(2) “The Bible was not handed to mankind by God nor dictated to human stenographers by God.”
(3) “Therefore, the Bible cannot have anything to do with God.”
He uses the fictional quote as the first premise of an argument Mr. Johnson never made, and certainly never wrote in the article, “The Bible’s Unholy Origins.” Mr. Show then calls this creation of his, a deductive argument whose logic is valid. Undoubtedly, he thinks himself to be clever; and is giving himself a pat on the back as the clichй goes. In his bungled attempt to shoot down the first premise, he makes a number of question-begging assertions:
Question-Begging Assertion 1) “Certainly, most knowledgeable Christians would agree with (2).”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? Strange that Mr. Show should find fault with Mr. Johnson over a question-begging assertion, only to offer question-begging assertions as a rebuttal!
Question-Begging Assertion 2) “No one thinks the Bible fell from the sky as many Muslims seem to claim of the Koran….”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? What Muslims make this claim? Or is Mr. Show merely casting a disparaging remark by way of a religious slur? One is left wondering if Mr. Show is naturally inclined to misrepresent others.
Question-Begging Assertion 3) “Most [Christians] don’t hold to a divine dictation model of revelation in which God dictated word for word the contents of the Bible to some terrified scribes.”
Obviously not, considering that Mr. Show carefully worded the sentence to ensure most Christians would not agree with it; his use of the word “terrified” is most revealing. Removing that word and Mr. Show is stuck in another question-begging assertion. Maybe Mr. Show never heard about Roman Catholics, who constitute the majority of Christians and as shown above under the section “The Meaning of Inspiration”, do indeed hold to the idea that “God is the principal author of the Bible. Because of this divine influence on the writers, they were unable to write anything except what God had predetermined would be written.” If that is the case, the writers were not free to write as they saw fit ; they wrote only those words they were supposed to write; which is exactly what a student is supposed to do when taking a dictation test.
Mr. Show then goes on to call the first premise a ‘false dichotomy’ ; which it is, but it is not Mr. Johnson’s fallacy. Mr. Show invented this premise, so the fallacy is his own. If it was not for a careful reading of the two papers in question, one would be mislead as to what Mr. Johnson actually wrote and what point he was trying to make.
Next, Mr. Show makes reference to the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy , which he also manages to misquote and distort. He would have it appear that he is quoting something written, but what he quotes is found nowhere, as quoted, in the Chicago Statement. Further he misses something of vital importance in that statement, which will be identified below.
Mr. Show’s version, again in quotations: “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches. We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.”
From: A Short Statement: 2. “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.”
From Article VIII “We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.”
What Mr. Show has done is splice part of the second point in A Short Statement, with Article VIII – without identifying it as such. Strange how Mr. Show has problems quoting correctly; he must have missed the class on correctly quoting written material while in high school.
A point Mr. Show conveniently ignored, or failed to read, is the fourth point of A Short Statement, which says:
“Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”
If it was “wholly and VERBALLY God-given,” then by definition we are dealing with dictation — which is the point Mr. Johnson had originally made; and which Mr. Show had tried to refute in vain. Mr. Show should have actually read the whole statement before trying to use it to his advantage; such carelessness does not inspire one’s confidence in his skills, or honesty.
Question-Begging Assertion 4) “This divine-inspiration allows that the human writers of Scripture expressed themselves in the full integrity of their humanity, without the slightest diminution of their wills or intellects.”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? Mr. Show has not demonstrated that these writers were actually inspired in the first place; and if the quotes taken from The New American Bible, and The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy above are any example, his ideas about inspiration cannot be applied to what ‘most Christians’ believe.
Mr. Show then proceeds to repeat that premise (1) is fallacious. It is only fallacious in that it is supposedly a false dichotomy; but it is Mr. Show’s fallacy, not Mr. Johnson’s. Somehow Mr. Show thinks that by repeating his assertion, he will convince the reader that Mr. Johnson introduced an argument, which is not the case. Mr. Show then proceeds to beg more questions.
Question-Begging Assertion 5) “God, in tandem with their wills and intellects, moved in and through the human writers to express precisely what God intended.”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? This assertion is meaningless drivel. It is on the level of saying that the English teacher gave a dictation quiz in tandem with the wills and intellects of the students to express exactly what the teacher intended. Mr. Show may have shot down his strawman, but it seems he also shot himself in the foot.
(D) Mr. Show then changes course and makes the only valid point so far in his so-called critique. “The next extravagant claim comes at the end of the second paragraph: (4) ‘The Bible was voted to be the Word of God by a group of men during the second century.'” One must congratulate Mr. Show at this point for finally quoting his source, in this case Mr. Johnson, correctly. Mr. Show then adds “What evidence does Johnson marshal for (4). Obviously, this is not a self-evident claim and therefore it needs some sort of historical testimony. Amazingly, Johnson provides no historical testimony at all … [Johnson writes] ‘The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the ‘Word of God’ into existence.'” That may be so, but since Mr. Johnson was not attempting to write a detailed historical paper, but merely an introduction to a letter by Thomas Paine, generalizations are bound to occur. What is amazing, and hypocritical here, is that Mr. Show has criticized Mr. Johnson on this question-begging assertion; but to even get to that part of his so-called critique, Mr. Show has begged no less than 5 assertions, and misquoted several sources, not to mention crediting to Mr. Johnson a logical argument of Show’s own invention. Does Mr. Show think his assertions are self-evident? He has provided no evidence to support his assertions. He has not logically demonstrated his assertions. All he has done is shoot down a strawman of his own making. Now Mr. Show moves into his history lesson and begs even more assertions in the process. He now begins to preach to the gallery rather than “critique” Mr. Johnson’s introduction.
(E) In response to Mr. Johnson’s statement, “The Church leaders gathered together at the Council of Nicaea and voted the ‘Word of God’ into existence.” Mr. Show writes: “Now, let me just say that this is false for the Council of Nicaea didn’t involve disputes about the canon; …”. Since Mr. Johnson never mentioned anything about any dispute atNicaeaover the Canon, and merely asserted that it was voted on, one is left wondering to what Mr. Show was replying. In addition, this is mere quibbling on words; for one thing is certain, as shown above in the section on The Council of Nicaea, there were disputes about the interpretation of scripture, in particular what “Son” meant in relation to the “Father”, and the nonscriptural word “homoousios”; one only need read Treadgold for more information. Mr. Show’s statement is as uninformative as saying that no one argued about the book, only about what was inside. Mr. Show then proceeds to state that the Canon as it is known today did not exist at that time. That is not quiet true, as show above in Part Two, there has been next to no change in what was considered canonical then, and now. Mr. Show then proceeds to more question begging, and more questionable quotes.
Question-Begging Assertion 6) “I’ll need to provide a brief sketch of the actual development of the new testament….”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? Actual development here means what is assumed to have happened by people lacking any historical evidence for their preconceived ideas. Mr. Show’s appeal to the Oxford Companion to the Bible as historical evidence is naive; for the O.C.B. is not a historical, but a theologically motivated work.
(F) Mr. Show then goes off again into making question begging assertions, which supposedly he got from the O.C.B..
Question-Begging Assertion 7) Referring to the latter half of the 1st century, or the so-called first phase, where the gospel supposedly was spread by oral transmission, Mr. Show writes “In this period the church was guided by apostolic witness, which developed into the apostolic tradition….”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? Historically speaking, there is no evidence outside the claims of the New Testament for a historical Jesus, or his apostles; even less for any of the extraordinary assertions found therein. As for the Church Fathers, as shown above in Part Two, they were incapable of even honestly recording their own contemporary history; so everything else they assert is at best pseudo history, at worst historical fiction. Jesus cannot be demonstrated by Christians to have actually existed, until they can do that, then all they have is stories.
Question-Begging Assertion 8) Continuing from the previous quote above, “and second by early Christian prophecy (i.e., the book of Revelation).”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? According to Eusebius in the 4th century, opinion was divided about the Book of Revelation among Orthodox clerics, “As to the Revelation, the views of most people to this day are evenly divided.”, between those who found it Recognized and those who found it Spurious. See Part Two above for more details. It seems Mr. Show’s history lesson is starting to crack; his, or the O.C.B.’s claim about Christian prophecy is unfounded.
(G) Mr. Show then proceeds to try to impress the reader with more of his questionable history lesson. Unfortunately, he goes right back to question begging with the so-called second phase.
Question-Begging Assertion 9) “This period finds oral traditions increasingly replaced by written Gospels.”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? Oral tradition, as it is understood, replies to oral testimony or stories or even myths carried on from generation to generation. Oral tradition is also highly unreliable; for each generation has the tendency to retell the story to suit its own time, and to even add to it. One need only read about oral traditions to see how many problems arise; with oral tradition, one can never be sure that the original stories even survived.
(H) Mr. Show, for his so-called third phase, here quotes Bruce Metzger, professor emeritus atPrincetonUniversity. Emeritus is merely a fancy word for ‘retired’ professor. Professor Metzger seems to be no stranger to question begging assertions himself, for he makes this one: “By the close of the second century we can see an outline of what may be described as the nucleus of the NT. Although the fringes of the emerging canon remained unsettled for generations, ….” The carefully selected wording “of what may” can be refuted with the wording “of what may not”. Again, we see a lack of evidence beyond mere speculation on the part of the good professor.
(I) Here Mr. Show asserts that in the so-called final stage (190-400CE) the canon was closed. He mentions Bishop Athanasius listing exactly the twenty-seven books presently found in most New Testaments. Mr. Show then proceeds to give dates for the councils of Hippo and Carthage. But how was the canon decided on? Could it be that the councils voted them to be the canon? If these councils voted the canon into existence; then it seems that Mr. Johnson was not that wide off the mark after all. For if the canon was voted on; then it was voted by men to be the Word of God at least in a general sense. Mr. Show is correct in saying that Christians even to this day are not unanimous on what exactly constitutes the New Testament; but that speaks against Christianity rather than for it.
(J) Now Mr. Show begins to contradict himself. When bringing up the criteria for the selection of what constituted an ‘inspired’ book in the New Testament, he goes back to question begging.
Question-Begging Assertion 10) “It seems that to be accepted into the canon the books had to possess apostolicity, that is, be written by an apostle or a close associate of one.”
Where is the evidence for this absurd assertion? This conflicts with Mr. Show’s Question-Begging Assertion (9) above! First, the assertion is made that an oral tradition developed and only later were these oral traditions replaced by written gospels; then Mr. Show failing to proof read his paper, contradicts himself by claiming that the apostles, or close associates, wrote those books. Which is it? Did the oral traditions or written works come first; and how can oral teachings become traditions within a few years? Traditions are something that develop over long periods of time; as such, the concept of oral traditions conflicts with the concept of apostolic authorship. Evidence against apostolic authorship of the gospels can be easily demonstrated — they do not corroborate each other, and in many places contradict each other; one need do no more then take a paper pad and pen, go through the gospels book by book, listing side by side the details of Jesus’ supposed life, and compare.
Question-Begging Assertion 11) Continuing from the previous quote above, “Another basic prerequisite for canonicity was conformity to what was called the “rule of faith,” or in other words, the congruity of a given document with the basic Christian tradition recognized as normative by the Church.”
How can one tell the ‘rule of faith’ did not get it wrong? How can one tell the Church, which has confessed to many errors, got the canon right? Before writing drivel like this, Mr. Show should realize that there is no basic Christian tradition recognized by all churches in regard to the canon of the Bible. Eusebius, in Part Two above, showed that the issue of what is inspired and what is not inspired was not settled then, and in many regards, still is unsettled.
Question-Begging Assertion 12) “The other obvious test was its continuous acceptance and usage by the Church at large.”
How does the continuous acceptance and usage of the Bible by Christians prove more valid, than the continuous acceptance and usage of the Vedas by Hindus? Or for that matter, the continuos acceptance and usage of “Das Kapital” by Communists? Continuous acceptance and usage proves absolutely nothing where issues of truth are concerned.
(K) Mr. Show then makes a statement which must qualify as a joke, or conceit. “So what have we learned from out historical outline?”
Does he really believe his question begging odyssey constitutes history!!! He claims Mr. Johnson is “naive and misinformed”; but fails to realize that Mr. Johnson did not beg eleven different questions so far. Mr. Show’s historical knowledge not only seems to be uniformed, but his higher faculties of Reason also seems to be impaired. He continues preaching to the gallery as his tedious and pompous paper continues.
Question-Begging Assertion 13) “There wasn’t one council in which the church leaders recognized the Bible as the ‘Word of God’ ….”
It seems necessary to quote again something from Part Two above: At the Council of Trent, the Church declared she received, “All the books of the Testaments, Old and New, since the one God is the Author of both.” Where does one find both the Old and New Testaments? The Bible. Who is the author of the Bible according to the Council of Trent? God. Therefore, the Bible can be considered the Word of God. It seems that Mr. Show’s rhetoric is wearing thin; he has just been proven both “naive and misinformed” and “way off the mark” with nothing more than an introduction to a Roman Catholic Bible; the only way he could save face is demonstrate that the Council of Trent was not a council at all. If Mr. Johnson was wrong aboutNicaea, Mr. Show was wrong about not one council recognizing the bible as the Word of God.
Mr. Show then claims that Mr. Johnson made another error aboutConstantineusing money to persuade church leaders to agree on a single canon; but in the very next sentence he admits that it is partly true. So it can not be a real error after all, for it must be partially true. Next, Mr. Show goes on to mention something of importance, the order byConstantinefor fifty copies of sacred scripture [ie. The Bible].
(L) Mr. Show continues on the issue of the fifty copies in his next paragraph. He correctly mentions that the fifty copies, “could not but exercise a great influence on future copies, and subsequently help forward the process at arriving on an agreed canon.” Of course it exercised a great influence: Constantine had transformed the Christian Church into an instrument of state, he had taken it upon himself to become its patron by giving land, building churches, looting the temples of rival religions, and forbidding the religious practices of those religions; and since he controlled the purse strings, he controlled the men who were on the other ends of those strings.Constantinehad called a church council, and it assembled; then he made it accept the term “homoousios” by his mere proposing it, and not unexpectedly the council submitted. So these fifty copies were not just Bibles, but Bibles that had the imperial stamp of approval; in short, they were in effect the canon of their time. Mr. Show proceeds to repeat his position that Mr. Johnson is wrong about it having anything to do withNicaea; but historically it does, forNicaeamade the emperor the single most powerful voice in the Christian Church — so any Bible approved of by the emperor, was not to be taken lightly. In theByzantineState, which was the continuation of the easternRoman Empire, the emperor was seen as the vicar of Christ on earth. One God in heaven, and one Vicar on earth; when the Pope started to claim the position for himself, east and west divided which eventually led to the Great Schism. Treadgold’s book goes into more details for those interested.
If Mr. Show had stopped there, he would have made a valid, but understated point. He proceeds to contradict himself a mere two sentences later by writing: “Constantine’s order didn’t involve a church council at all and moreover it doesn’t seem to weigh heavily in developing the Canon.” So which is it?
a) DidConstantine’s fifty copies “exercise a great influence on future copies, and … at arriving on an agreed canon”. or
b)Constantine’s fifty copies “doesn’t seem to weigh heavily in the development of the canon”.
Mr. Show leaves the reader trying to figure out if it does, or if it does not have a “great influence.” A good writer tries to at least not confuse his, or her, reader; but considering Mr. Show’s difficulty with handling quotations correctly, it comes as no surprise that he also has difficulty in presenting a clear position.
(M) Mr. Show returns to question begging and preaching to the gallery in the next paragraph; and resorts to rhetorical statements in order to impress the gullible.
Question-Begging Assertion 14) “Now, while Johnson’s criticisms have been wide off the mark, ….”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? What exactly are these criticisms? Mr. Show tries to give the impression that he debated Mr. Johnson and somehow got the upper hand. In reality, the criticism Mr. Johnson’s introduction centered on was that the Bible was written by men and was not the Word of God. He may have made an historical error in associating the voting of the New Testament canon with the Council of Nicaea; but Mr. Show utterly failed to demonstrate that the Bible has anything to do with God, which he must do in order to accuse Mr. Johnson of being “wide off the mark.” Therefore, his rhetoric that Mr. Johnson’s “criticisms have been wide off the mark” is erroneous and baseless.
Mr. Show proceeds to ask an invalid question: “First, what is the significance of a transition from mainly normative apostolic teaching to the adoption of a normative canon?”
The question itself begs several questions. There is no evidence there was even apostles outside the claims of the Bible and the pseudo or fictional history of the Church Fathers. Before Mr. Show can ask such a question, he must first demonstrate with evidence that the apostles described in the gospels even existed, and that they wrote anything bearing their name. In case Mr. Show is unaware of it, the so-called apostle Paul’s assertions to his title ‘apostle’ are no more valid on the surface than Mohammed’s assertion to holding the same title.
Mr. Show then continues to grace us with his “opinion,” as if his paper was not loaded with them; and then continues under the assumption that Christian assertions are a given.
Question-Begging Assertion 15) “It allows subsequent generations to have a faithful representation of the apostolic teachings; teachings which might not have been accessible or pure given the nature of oral tradition.”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? What evidence is there for even the existence of apostles? How can we not rule out the possibility that what is credited to apostles were actually written by unknowns and passed off as the work of others? How can one call the teachings found in the New Testament “pure” when they fail to corroborate each other, and in many cases outright contradict each other in the account of single events? For example, what did Jesus tell his apostles the last time he spoke to them — all four gospels, and Acts, differ.
Mr. Show then goes on to write about how a canon of normative books did not displace normative tradition, which supposedly itself included those books found in the canon. Why Mr. Show goes off on this tangent is confusing; for Mr. Johnson’s paper made no such assumption. Mr. Show makes reference to “our case.” Who is this “our”? “Our” is the possessive adjective equivalent to the subject pronoun “we”; is Mr. Show trying to mislead the reader into thinking that he speaks for anyone but himself? If there is no “our” involved in Mr. Show’s so-called “critique”, then he should have identified himself properly and reworded it to be “my case.” It seems that Mr. Show not only missed the class on correctly quoting sources, but also on the use of correct pronouns and possessive adjectives. Mr. Show goes on to finally admit that the New Testament can be considered, in a sense, “the ‘Word of God” or “communication from God.” This is mere quibbling on words; for there is no fundamental difference between the words of someone, or a communication from someone. Considering that Mr. Show has failed to provide any evidence for this view; it is as shallow and meaningless as the divine dictation model which he says most Christians do not accept.
Mr. Show then resorts to a fallacy, an appeal to modesty  by bringing up what Nicholas Wolterstorff, had to say. Unfortunately, Mr. Wolterstorff ‘s view on the subject is merely more question begging, and therefore, untenable.
Mr. Worlterstorff’s question-begging assertion: “Suppose the apostles were commissioned by God …. Supposed that what emerged … was a body of apostolic teachings …. And suppose that the NT books are all either apostolic writings, or …. composed by close associates of one or another apostle. Then it would be correct to construe each book as a medium of divine discourse…. God was authorizing these books as together constituting a single volume of divine discourse.”
This can be refuted with a simple sentence, “suppose those books were simply written by people pretending to be apostles or associates of them.” The gospels and Acts do not identify their authors; the gospel credited to Luke admits in its first four verses that the author was collecting stories (urban legends?) which came down from supposed unnamed witnesses; in other words, he is admitting to writing out the oral stories about Jesus. Historically it is the church that claimed those books were written by apostles or close associates, but they have no evidence; so they take it on “faith.” What begs fewer questions and passes Occam’s razor 
a) The Bible was written by men inspired by God as a spiritual guide. or
b) The Bible was written by men in order to spread a religion.
The (a) option begs a legion of questions, most notable: How do we know this is true? While the (b) option begs far fewer questions, most notable: Why? The answer is simple; like the successors of Mohammed and Joseph Smith, the authors of the New Testament were motivated to spread their religion; written works serve as good propaganda tools. If a cleric is faced with the question: “How do we know that is true,” he can conveniently reply, “the good book says so, and the good book never lies.” That in effect is all Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus have to go on; the circular argument fallacy .
(N) It is in the next paragraph where Mr. Show’s rhetoric takes on ridiculous proportions; exposing his intellectual dishonesty at its height. Returning to his strawman, he cries out to the gallery his most absurd question-begging assertion so far.
Question-Begging Assertion 16) “This account doesn’t rely on the untenable divine dictation and ‘Bible from the Sky’ views which Johnson tried to force upon us; …..”
Where is the evidence for this inane assertion? The reader is left to wonder to what depths of deceit Mr. Show will stoop to in order to impress the gallery. Mr. Johnson in his introduction rejected the idea that the Bible came from god in any form; yet Mr. Show now tries to deceive us into believing that Mr. Johnson was trying to argue a divine dictation and “Bible from the sky” view. Also, out of what corner of his dark imagination did Mr. Show get the impression that Mr. Johnson was trying to “force upon us” a position which Mr. Johnson never took! Is Mr. Show perhaps confusing Mr. Johnson with the Christian inquisitors or Christian crusaders who left millions dead in their wake as they spread Christian love across Europe and theMiddle East? How is Mr. Johnson forcing anything on anyone? Mr. Show creates a strawman, claims that the strawman belongs to Mr. Johnson, and then goes on to howl that Mr. Johnson is trying to force this strawman on others. Is Mr. Show troubled that not everyone shares the so-called Christian world view? The world does not revolve around Christians, and it is time that Christians start to realize it.
Mr. Show goes on to say that he does not “think the status of canonicity is an objectively demonstratively claim, but rather a statement of Christian belief.” As such, it possess no more merit than any other such belief, be it Islamic, Hindu, Mormon, or whatever. If a claim is not objective, then by definition it must be subjective — and subjective claims are mere personal opinions. So much for the objective truth of Christian assertions.
Mr. Show then goes on to say “that Christianity is cumulative in its apologetic nature….”. What Mr. Show did not define is what is the meaning of the word “apologetic”.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition:
Apologetic: “1.a: offered in defense or vindication <the ~ writings of the early Christians> b.: offered by way of excuse or apology <an ~ smile> 2: regretfully acknowledging fault or failure: CONTRITE <was ~ about his mistake>.
Apologetics: “1.: systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine) 2: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.”
So apologetics is not about history, or sound reasoning; but it is about making excuses and rationalizations for the weaknesses of Christian beliefs. Apologetics are based in rhetoric, and rhetoric is based in sophistry; the goal of apologetics is not to tell the truth, but to make rationalizations and excuses for the weaknesses and shortcomings of a belief. Common catch words in apologetics are “suppose”, “if”, and similar qualifiers. In addition, Christian apologetics do not represent what Mr. Show calls “the Christian worldview”; for there is no such worldview. Christianity is an umbrella term hiding the fact that Christianity is nothing more than a divided house of hundreds of mutually hostile sects, each with their own theologians and apologetic viewpoints. Most Christian sects and subsects have a long history of intolerance and violence; one need only listen to Protestant Fundamentalists running down Roman Catholics and mainstream Protestants in their unbridled lust to make converts and acquire political power. Basically, there is little difference between the political objectives of Christian Fundamentalists and Islamic Fundamentalists — the clerics of both camps want a theocracy. In their view the holy life is where the clerics run society.
(O) Mr. Show’s next paragraph, the second to last, demonstrates that he is preaching to the gallery again. His use of the word “our” reappears, perhaps he considers the royal “we” a bit too much. Nevertheless, there is no “our” involved in Mr. Show’s paper; there is only Mr. Show and his personal opinions. Mr. Show then goes on to make additional question begging assertions:
Question-Begging Assertion 17) “I would want to make the following point. As important and integral one’s belief about the Bible is, that belief itself is not an essential element of Christian belief.”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? The entire Christian belief system is based on the Bible, and the stories found within. Mr. Show then goes on to question-beg issues like “God was in Christ”, “Jesus died on the cross for sins … and rose again ….”. To compound his confusion, he adds this meaningless sentence: “belief in the Bible isn’t one of the great things of the gospel nor was it accepted by the earliest Christians ….” This is what is called, stating the obvious.
Question-Begging Assertion 18) “I realize that ultimately the Bible must reliably convey the great things of the gospel in order for us to come to know them.”
How does Mr. Show realize this? Of all his question-begging assertions so far, this one is rooted in vanity and conceit in one’s own importance. Obviously Mr. Show wants to impress the gallery that he is somehow in possession of some special gnosis, which his spiritual lessers lack.
Mr. Show then goes on to make another inane remark about how it would be easier to prove the truth of the gospels, than to prove the Bible to be the “Word of God.” Mr. Show should realize that there is no historical corroboration outside the New Testament for the Jesus described in those gospels; and since those books fail to even corroborate each other in any convincing manner, both trying to prove the gospels true, or the Bible to be the Word of God is doomed to failure in light of historical and contemporary realities. There is no evidence of divinity or truth behind the extraordinary claims of the Bible, a book that can be interpreted any which way as the clichй goes.
(P) Mr. Show’s final paragraph is overflowing with more question-begging assertions; and his tone once again rises as he attempts to impress the gallery rather than deal with the issues. He returns to his strawman, and attempts to gloat over his ability to shoot it down.
Question-Begging Assertion 19) “Johnson’s whole paper relies on (1) an understanding of Scripture that most Christians don’t accept, ….”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? First, if Mr. Show is going to create strawmen, he should at least keep the details straight. He started off with a strawman which centered on an understanding of the Bible, then ends up talking about some understanding of Scripture. Second, his position that most Christians don’t accept the Bible as the Word of God was put to rest earlier in this paper. If Mr. Show wishes to argue that Roman Catholics and Fundamentalist Protestants do not constitute “most” Christians, then he will be hard pressed to demonstrate it in view of the statistics.
Question-Begging Assertion 20) “an act on behalf ofConstantineand church leaders which had nothing to do withNicaea.”
What “act on behalf of Constantine and the church leaders” is Mr. Show referring to with this assertion? Who was the author of this “act” which was done “on behalf of Constantine and the church leaders”? This is very confusing, for there is no reference anywhere in Mr. Show’s paper of any such “act” done on behalf of the emperor or the church leadership. The reader is left with the feeling that Mr. Show’s grasp of reality is somewhat slippery when he cannot even keep his ideas in order.
Question-Begging Assertion 21) “I tried to develop some plausible models in order to show that no defeaters have been provided against the Christian doctrines in question.”
Mr. Show did not develop any plausible models at all; and what Christian doctrines is he talking about? After all, Mr. Show alleged that belief in the Bible was not a Christian doctrine; so what other doctrines were raised? Mr. Johnson’s introduction was based on the valid idea, until proved otherwise, that the Bible was not the Word of God; he mentioned thatConstantineordered fifty Bibles made, he may have erred in claiming that it was voted the Word of God atNicaea; but are those Christian doctrines? Mr. Show not only created a strawman, but seems to believe that he somehow, if only in his own mind, defended some invisible Christian doctrines which Mr. Johnson supposedly attacked.
Question-Begging Assertion 22) “I have tried to demonstrate … that Johnson’s article has not provided any sound criticism of the Christian conception of the Bible or any related topics; ….”
Is that what Mr. Show was trying to do? Since when is creating strawmen, distorting sources, and refuting invisible “defeaters” constitute any demonstration apart from one’s own intellectual dishonesty? The reader is left wondering if Mr. Show somehow is expecting the Papal Order of Pius IX for outstanding feats of service benefiting the Roman Catholic Church and mankind. Such dishonesty should not go unrewarded by those who benefit financially from it.
Question-Begging Assertion 23) Continuing from the previous quote above, “hence, one is perfectly justified in holding to their experience of God and to the historic positions of the Church.”
Where is the evidence for this assertion? First of all there is no “Church” in Christianity, merely a legion of competing sects called denominations. Second, the Christian experience of God is merely a self-delusional idea with no more basis in reality than a child’s experience of Santa; claims of such experiences are purely subjective, and each revealed religionists has the same claim. Christians give no stock to the Muslim or Hindu experience of God, yet their own is equally shallow. Third, what have been some of the historic positions and practices of the so-called “Church”? Here is a short list:
1) Persecuting the Jews.
2) Persecuting the Muslims.
3) Persecuting nonChristians.
4) Persecuting Christians of rival sects.
5) Launching Crusades inside and outsideEuropein order to force Christianity on nonChristians.
6) Instituting Inquisitions in order to launch a reign of terror.
7) Instituting Witch Hunts, which left hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of women dead.
8) Defending the institution of Slavery up into the 19th century.
9) Encouraging Wars of Religion between rival Christian sects which left millions dead.
10) Opposing science until the rise of the nation states which patronized the sciences.
11) Opposing liberal values like Freedom of Religion, Speech, Democracy, etc.
12) Opposing the free exercise of the faculty of Reason.
13) Opposing any questioning of so-called “truths”.
14) Burning books, including the Great Library of Alexandria with its half million irreplaceable works from the ancient world. When they could no longer burn books, they resorted to listing certain books as “banned”; which a Christian could only read with permission of the clergy.
15) Making a pretense of poverty and love, while being motivated to collect as much material wealth as possible (promising the gullible heavenly treasure in place of earthly capital), and encouraging future generations to hold intolerant opinions of those not belonging to the sect in question.
If Mr. Show feels that a Christian can be “perfectly justified in holding … to the historic positions of the Church,” than it does not take much to make Mr. Show feel “perfectly justified” in his conceit and intellectual dishonesty. Mr. Show then proceeds to the last sentence of his paper which reads, “Whether or not I have succeeded at this endeavor is for someone else to decide.” Mr. Show can rest assure that many Deists will feel that he has succeeded in showing to just what lengths Christians will go to misrepresent rival beliefs; he has proven himself to be a product of the indoctrination his religion practices, where Reason is replaced by Convictions of moral superiority, disguised as “faith.” If God can be considered the Logos [Divine Reason], than Mr. Show is a stranger to it.
Finally, Mr. Show goes on to provide a list of apologetic works; anyone interested in wasting their time reading it will find that all are based on the same old tired clichйs centering on “Suppose…” and “If …”. If one wishes to learn real history, than apologetics is not the place they will find it. If someone is interested in the Deist point of view, and why Deists reject the Bible, they will find their answer in Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.”
Part three is concluded.
What can be concluded from all this? Mr. Show set out to “critique” Mr. Johnson’s article, but instead preached a sermon to the gallery, based on a strawman, the repeated misuse of quotations, and no less than 23 question begging assertions. As mentioned in the introduction: Mr. Show’s work smacks of sophistry, rhetoric, repeated question begging, internal contradictions, historical ignorance, quibbling on words, and intellectual dishonesty. That contention is vindicated with the very words of Mr. Show. He proposed to “critique” Mr. Johnson, but instead wrote an apologetic demonstrating the total disregard for historical realities, integrity, and truth, which those works represent. He accused Mr. Johnson of writing a historical fiction, then proceeded to do it himself. The worst part, which is an insult to the reader, is that Mr. Show failed to even acknowledge that Mr. Johnson’s article contained a letter by Thomas Paine; one is left to conclude that either Mr. Show did not read Mr. Johnson’s article completely, or is simply so conceited that he believes himself above representing the views of another honestly. Mr. Show owes the readers of his “critique,” and Mr. Johnson who he so grossly misrepresented, an apology. Since Mr. Show ignored the letter by Thomas Paine, this paper will hereby conclude with a quote from that letter:
“All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.” 
 Link for Wrote and Write where God supposedly dictated to his prophets.
 Treadgold, Warren, A History Of The Byzantine State And Society, (Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1997)
 Ibid., 31
 Ibid., 33
 Ibid., 35
 Ibid., 44
 Ibid., 33
 Ibid., 34
 The Ecclesiastical History Of Eusebius
Book 10 Chapter 9
 Treadgold, 42
 Ibid., 40
 Ibid., 41
 Ibid., 42
 Ibid., 43
 Ibid., 44
 Ibid., 47
 The Ecclesiastical History Of Eusebius Book 3
 The Ecclesiastical History Of Theodoret Book 1 Chapter XV
 The New American Bible (Wichita: Catholic Bible Publishers; 1980)
 Ibid., 9
 Ibid., 38
 A Strawman fallacy is when the arguer’ position is misrepresented by being misquoted, exaggerated, or distorted.
 A False Dichotomy, “either-or” fallacy, is when one limits the alternatives to two, when in reality other alternatives are possible.
ChicagoStatement of Biblical Inerrancy,
 An Appeal to Modesty fallacy is where the arguer tries to silence the opposition by appealing to a source which he, or she, considers an authority on the issue, which the opposing camp dare not oppose.
 Occam’s razor is a rule in science and philosophy where the simplest explanation, or theory, should be accepted over more complex explanations or theories.
 A Circular Argument is one where the conclusion of the arguer are presupposed true by his, or her, premises. For example: The Bible is true because God does not lie; and we know that God does not lie because the Bible says so.
 Letter by Thomas Paine to a friend, dated May 12, 1797; see “The Bible’s Unholy Origins,” by Robert L. Johnson’s.