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11.07.2011

Biblical Publication Bias

I started the second of two books about the Bible that my parents sent me. This one is called "Lost Christianities" by Bart Ehrman. In it, the author explores early Christian writings and how it was that the current 27 books of the New Testament came to be the chosen scriptural canon, while hundreds of other Christian documents were labeled heresies, and either banned, destroyed, or forgotten.

Set aside whether the books of the NT are inspired or inerrant, and you still have the fact that powerful HUMAN individuals in the church chose which writings were to become the NT canon.

How did they decide? On what authority?

In science, this is called "publication bias." Usually it is driven by stakeholders with a vested interest in the truth not getting out. Many political players are involved. Sometimes scientists themselves do it. They often are funded by powerful stakeholders and if they publish unfavorable papers, their funding can dwindle.

When I worked at the vitamin company, my corporate overlords were explicit that we would publish no papers or articles that reflected negatively on the products. It makes sense from a profitability standpoint, but it is anathema to scientific truth and ethical behavior. For example, doctors need to know the benefits of drugs and vitamins to their patients, but also the risks.

So, are we to believe the leaders of the early church had no stake in what books were selected to be in the NT for all eternity? Clearly they did. If so, were they able to ethically and objectively decide what to make canonical and what not to?

That is what this book is about - all the many Christian writings that were available and why some lived on and others disappeared.

It is interesting that only in the past 200 years or so have all the other Christian writings started to be discovered, re-discovered, and examined.

Is it possible that God now thinks people are ready and open minded enough to contemplate and appreciate the views of the early, formerly "heretical" Christians?

Heresy literally means "choice." The wrong one, in the opinion of followers of the current canonical dogma. But perhaps God has decided that humans are once again worthy of free will and choice. It's a test.

Or is this the heretical work of the Devil?

I always like to think knowledge, not ignorance (publication bias is essentially ignoring work that does not agree with your views), is what God wants for humanity. Otherwise, is She a God worth having? And yes, many early Christian writings viewed God as a female deity.

You tell me, by commenting below.

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