Whose Illusions?

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“The more I read and learned, the more that trust withered.” That’s how Andy Uyboco described his journey from devotion to doubt in his “Freethinking Me” opinion column (Source: Sunstar Davao). 


“The more I read and learned, the more that trust withered.” Andy Uyboco.
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According to this former English teacher in a Christian school,[1] “I grew up believing that the Bible was the inspired and inerrant Word of God. … It was later in my thirties when I began to seriously question the Bible’s authority.” (Ibid) It appears that it was not mid-life crisis that led Uyboco to question his faith. He claimed that what drove him towards “serious biblical scholarship” was his quest for truth. “Life is simple when you just pick a side and don’t have to think so much. Unfortunately for me, I was not wired that way. I had to know more, because this book was supposed to be the one driving my life. It was supposed to be my guide to life on earth and even beyond. I had to know if I could really trust it. The more I read and learned, the more that trust withered.” (Ibid)


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But reading his “Illusions of biblical inerrancy,” I think that he needs to do more fact-checking. As a former journalist, I feel that columnists like Uyboco need to be more careful with making assertions. 

For example, he wrote, “I remember one Bible study session when I was a young teen. The pastor declared that the scribes were so careful in copying the manuscripts that they had to purify themselves by taking a bath every time they wrote a word or a sentence.” (Ibid)

Now, that would require a lot of soap and water (which was a precious commodity in a desert)! Plus, that would be a surefire way for the scribes to catch pneumonia! 


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Seriously speaking, while it is true “that the scribes were so careful in copying the manuscripts,” it is not entirely true to say “that they had to purify themselves by taking a bath every time they wrote a word or a sentence.” (Emphasis mine) They only take a ceremonial bath whenever they start copying the Bible. 

In their “A General Introduction to the Bible,” Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix described the meticulous way scribes copy Old Testament scrolls. 
[1] A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, [2] prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew. [3] These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals. [4] Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex. [5] The length of each column must not extend over less than 48 nor more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters. [6] The whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words should be written without a line, it is worthless. [7] The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other colour, and be prepared according to a definite recipe. [8] An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate. [9] No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him.… [10] Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; [11] between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; [12] between every book, three lines. [13] The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so. [14] Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, [15] wash his whole body, [16] not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, [17] and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.
Yes, the scribe did ritual washing when they copy the Bible. But not “every time they wrote a word or a sentence.” Could you imagine how many baths a scribe must take, considering that the total number of words [in the Torah alone or the first five books of the Bible] is 97,856? (Source: Biblical Studies Foundation


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Now, Uyboco may claim that his recall of what his pastor taught him when he was a teenager was just an exaggeration (or, a slip of the pen). Some may even find what I pointed out as trivial. But, we hold journalists especially columnists to a higher standard as far as facts are concerned. (Read also my response to another newspaper columnist: Old Testament Unreliable?”)

It is because facts are the stuff news and even opinion columns are made of.


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[1] Somebody who knew him forwarded the article to me.

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