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Truth_seeker
Pro (for)
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The Contender
ergodicsum
Con (against)
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Is it logical to conclude that there are no major changes to the Old Testament?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/22/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 851 times Debate No: 44440
Debate Rounds (3)
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Truth_seeker

Pro

The position that i'm arguing for is that it is logical to conclude that there are no major changes to the Old Testament. What constitutes a major change is any word or phrase that is completely different when you compare two different texts of the same message.

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Hebrew Bible existing today is the Masoretic text. Until the 6th century A.D, only the consonants of the Hebrew text were written, but had no vowels. Traditions of right pronunciation of ancient Hebrew letters were passed down orally, but the Masoretes around 500 and 1000 A.D developed a system of vowels, accents, and notes assuring the accurate reading and copying of ancient texts. Scribes were professional devout Jews, in charge of carefully transmitting the Old Testament. They follow a system to ensure accuracy in their transmission:

1. They could only use clean animal skins to write on and even bind manuscripts
2. Each column of writing could have no more than 60 lines and no less than 48 lines
3. The ink must be black and of a special recipe
4. Each word must be repeated aloud while writing
5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the holy name of God each time they wrote it
6. A review was to held in 30 days and if there was at least 3 pages needing corrections, the entire manuscript had to be re-done
7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted. The document would be invalid if 2 letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, letter, and word must correspond to the original document.
8. The documents could only be stored in sacred places such as synagogues
9. Since no document containing God's word could be destroyed, they were placed in a Genizah.

The Aleppo Codex, Leningrad Codex, and other ancient translations of the text currently exist. In the past, there was no way to determine the accuracy of the Masoretic text, but up until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which are older than the Masoretic text. Not only was the accuracy of the Masoretic text confirmed, there were little changes to the Old Testament itself (1). Eight-hundred scrolls were found in the Judean desert, dating from 250 B.C to 135 A.D have almost all of the Biblical books, except Esther. The copy of Habakkuk in the Dead Sea Scrolls was studied for changes, only minor spelling errors were found, no major changes were made to the text (2).

A comparison between the King James version of Isaiah 53 with the version in the Great Isaiah scroll shows what changes were made to the text, none affecting the essential message:

KJV version:
1. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Great Isaiah Scroll:

1. Who has believed our report and the arm of YHWH to whom has it been revealed

2. And he shall come up like a suckling before us and as a root from dry ground there is no form to him and no beauty to him and in his being seen and there is no appearance that we should desire him.

3. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and knowing grief and as though hiding faces from him he was despised and we did not esteem him.

4. Surely our griefs he is bearing and our sorrows he carried them and we esteemed him beaten and struck by God and afflicted.

5. and he is wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities, the correction. of our peace was upon him and by his wounds he has healed us.

6. All of us like sheep have wandered each man to his own way we have turned and YHWH has caused to light on him the iniquity of all of us

7. He was oppressed and he was afflicted and he did not open his mouth, as a lamb to the slaughter he is brought and as a ewe before her shearers is made dumb he did not open his mouth.

8. From prison and from judgement he was taken and his generation who shall discuss it because he was cut off from the land of the living. Because from the transgressions of his people a wound was to him (PP)

9. And they gave wicked ones to be his grave and [a scribbled word probably accusative sign "eth"] rich ones in his death although he worked no violence neither deceit in his mouth

10. And YHWH was pleased to crush him and He has caused him grief. (PP) If you will appoint his soul a sin offering he will see his seed and he will lengthen his days and the pleasure of YHWH {&yod?&] in his hand will advance.

11. Of the toil of his soul he shall see {+light+} and he shall be satisfied and by his knowledge shall he make righteous even my righteous servant for many and their iniquities he will bear.

12. Therefore I will apportion to him among the great ones and with the mighty ones he shall divide the spoil because he laid bare to death his soul and with the transgressors he was numbered, and he, the sins of many, he bore, and for their transgressions he entreated.(PP)

Old Testament scholar, Gleason Archer noted that the Isaiah text of the Dead Sea Scrolls is almost identical to the one in the Masoretic text, with only minor spelling mistakes made (3).

As we can see, this is evidence that the Old Testament has been unaltered for many centuries.

1. Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking Press, 1955), 304, quoted in Norman Geisler and William Nix, General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 367.

2. Harris, J. G., The Qumran Commentary on Habakkuk. London: A. R. Mowbray, 1966, p.22-30

3. Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL.: Moody Press, 1985), Archer, 25.
ergodicsum

Con

The key to the debate rests on how one defines "major change." Since no specific definition was given about what constitutes a "major change" and having spoken with Pro before, I will assume that he means anything other than changes in the spelling of words.

I will give a few differences between the Masoretic Texts which Pro mentioned and the Septuagint which is believed to be a major source for the New Testament writers. The changes that I present are more than simple changes in the spelling of words, which shows that the premise of "no major changes" is false.

Deuteronomy 32:43 (Masoretic Text)
Sing aloud, O ye nations, of His people; for He doth avenge the blood of His servants, and doth render vengeance to His adversaries, and doth make expiation for the land of His people.

Deuteronomy 32:43 (Septuagint)
Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.

Parts Missing from the Masoretic Text
1. let all the angels worship God
2. let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him
3. he will reward them that hate him

You can also see that the words are not exactly the same in both texts. This is not an entirely accurate representation because we are reading an English translation of a Hebrew text and comparing it with an English translation of a Greek text. However we can see that there are changes more substantial than spelling changes.

Here are other small examples:

Psalm 22:17 (Masoretic Text)
For dogs have encompassed me; a company of evil-doers have inclosed me; like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet.

Psalm 22:16 (Septuagint)
For many dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked doers has beset me round: they pierced my hands and my feet.

The reason for verse 17 in one case and verse 16 in the other case is because the Masoretic Text has an extra verse at the beginning. However we can note that the Septuagint mentions the piercing of hands and feet. While the Masoretic text doesn't but makes a mention of being treated like a lion.

Isaiah 7:14 (Masoretic Text)
Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (Septuagint)
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.

In the Septuagint virgin is used while in the Masoretic text young woman is used.

All the texts were obtained from online Masoretic Text translations and Septuagint translations:

Masoretic Text: http://www.mechon-mamre.org...
Septuigiant: http://ecmarsh.com...
Debate Round No. 1
Truth_seeker

Pro

It is important to remember that we do not have the original copy of the Old Testament, only copies which aren't perfect. There is no set of particular text considered "The Word of God." It can be said that the "Word of God" is made of thousands of different manuscripts. Since no copy is perfect, the real question is which copies are the most authentic and which aren't? The role of textual criticism is to accurately reconstruct what the originals most likely said by comparing and contrasting available manuscripts. In order for Con's position to be correct, there would have to be major alterations made by scribes to the text as a whole and no reliable way to reconstruct what the originals likely said. In the following argument, i will show how this cannot be the case:

The Masoretic text was written in the 10th century, about 1,000 years after Christ. The original Hebrew was in the Paleo-script and had no vowel points, the Masoretes added vowel points to make the text pronounceable. According to Rabbi Simon ben Pazzi (3rd century) noted that the Masoretes own translation of the Hebrew Old Testament differed from the original (tikkune Soferim; Midrash Genesis Rabbah xlix. 7).

The Septuagint itself predates the Masoretic text by many years. It relies on ancient Hebrew texts much older than those of the Masoretic text, containing many idioms in Hebrew. The Septuagint was translated by Jewish scholars themselves, thus it's clear that Christians could not have introduced their bias into the Hebrew text. In the 2nd century A.D, hundreds of years before the Masoretes, Justin Martyr investigated a number of Old Testament texts in Jewish synagogues, this is what he wrote:

"But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the [Septuagint] translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying" (~150 A.D., Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chapter LXXI)

Jews who had an anti-Christian bias removed the references to Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, editing it so that it would be less clear, when it was very likely to be in the original Old Testament.

Scholars can use the Peshitta and Dead Sea Scrolls to correct the mistakes, changes, and omissions made by the Masoretes. Given the fact that we can in a sense "correct" scribal errors, this demonstrates that there is technically no major changes to the Old Testament.
ergodicsum

Con

In this debate we are not debating what is considered "The Word of God." Pro claims that "The Word of God" is made of thousands of manuscripts. However, he did not support this claim with any scholarly evidence, and the claim adds nothing to the discussion at hand.

Pro is evading the specific details of what he means by "major changes." He is also moving the goal post as is evident in his previous post. Initially he agreed that "major changes" constituted any change other than spelling changes. He has now changed the debate to "major alterations made by scribes to the text as a whole and no reliable way to reconstruct what the originals likely said."

The way the debate was phrased initially, was simply "major changes", nothing else. He changed this to "major changes as a whole" without giving specific details as to what would be considered a "major change as a whole." He then added the part about "no way to reconstruct what the originals likely said." I believe this is a topic for another debate: the question of whether or not or how reliable the originals can be reconstructed from existing manuscripts.

My second point is that Pro initially praised the accurate copying practices made by the Masoretes as seen on his post in Round 1 as quoted below:

"but the Masoretes around 500 and 1000 A.D developed a system of vowels, accents, and notes assuring the accurate reading and copying of ancient texts. Scribes were professional devout Jews, in charge of carefully transmitting the Old Testament. They follow a system to ensure accuracy in their transmission:"

He goes on to say:

"... until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which are older than the Masoretic text. Not only was the accuracy of the Masoretic text confirmed, there were little changes to the Old Testament itself ..."

However, in Round 2 he describes the Masoretic text quite differently as I quote him:

"According to Rabbi Simon ben Pazzi (3rd century) noted that the Masoretes own translation of the Hebrew Old Testament differed from the original.."

"Jews who had an anti-Christian bias removed the references to Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, editing it so that it would be less clear, when it was very likely to be in the original Old Testament."

"Scholars can use the Peshitta and Dead Sea Scrolls to correct the mistakes, changes, and omissions made by the Masoretes."

In conclusion we have that in Round 1 Pro praises the accuracy of the copies made by the Masoretes, yet in the Round 2 he claims that this group made anti-Christian motivated changes to the text. I think that this rests my case, and even Pro acknowledges that "major changes" have been made to texts we have of the old testament.

In addition, I want to note that the Masoretes are a group that Pro initially praised for their high degree of accuracy in copying, yet later claims that even they were capable of making personally motivated changes to the text. Can we really then assume that there is a group that did not add personally motivated changes to a text they copied?

Pro's last statement in Round 2 is:

"Given the fact that we can in a sense "correct" scribal errors, this demonstrates that there is technically no major changes to the Old Testament."

This is an attempt to change the debate from "there are no major changes," to a debate that reads "we are able to accurately reconstruct the original texts." A debate which I am glad to have, however, not the debate that we originally agreed to have.
Debate Round No. 2
Truth_seeker

Pro

When i say "The Word of God", i mean the Old Testament which is revered by Jews and Christians alike, thousands of manuscripts of the Old Testament exist. Con had stated earlier that because i did not specify what i meant by major changes, he assumed that i meant changes other than spelling which is correct as we are trying to observe any changes considered to be major, thus i did not change what i said earlier.

"No way to reconstruct what the originals likely said." Con took what i said out of context, i said in order for Con's position to be correct, Con had to show that the Old Testament itself was corrupted beginning with the very earliest manuscripts with no way to reconcile scribal errors.

Once again, you misread what i wrote "but the Masoretes around 500 and 1000 A.D developed a system of vowels, accents, and notes assuring the accurate reading and copying of ancient texts. Scribes were professional devout Jews, in charge of carefully transmitting the Old Testament. They follow a system to ensure accuracy in their transmission:" "... until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which are older than the Masoretic text. Not only was the accuracy of the Masoretic text confirmed, there were little changes to the Old Testament itself ..."

Yes, i'll admit that while the Masoretes had a successful system of transmission, confirmed to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and had only minor spelling errors, there are exceptions, i never said that simply one specific group of manuscripts would be perfect and i think Con knows that, precisely why i stated the role of textual criticism. Many of the differences are simply mis-translations of the Hebrew, omissions, and some alterations of the text. I'll admit, i should have been more clear from the beginning, but what Con completely ignored is that the Septuagint is a much earlier compilation of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Masoretic text, claiming that i changed the subject to "being able to accurately reconstruct the original texts." I think Con knows that in saying that "major changes were made to the Old Testament" by using the Masoretic text, which was compiled after Christ, centuries later after the Septuagint is simply making an erroneous conclusion. Rather than address my main point, Con seeks to discredit his opponent.
ergodicsum

Con

Con claims that I took him out of context, but what was the context that he thinks we are in? It seems like every Round Con introduces other criteria he wants me to show. In Round 3 he now claims the following:

"Con had to show that the Old Testament itself was corrupted beginning with the very earliest manuscripts with no way to reconcile scribal errors."

Was there any mention of this criteria at the beginning? If you go back to Round 1. There is no mention of corruption, or how corruption would be defined in these cases. There is also no mention of "earliest manuscripts" and there is also no requirement to show that there is no way to reconcile errors.

As I stated in Round 2. The debate was framed as "major changes" nothing else. However, Pro now is trying to claim that he really meant "no way to reconcile errors." This was never mentioned in the title of the debate nor in Round 1 by Pro. If you read Round 1 carefully, he only talks about how the Masoretic texts are accurately preserved by the Masoretes.

Pro makes the following claim:

"Yes, i'll admit that while the Masoretes had a successful system of transmission, confirmed to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and had only minor spelling errors, there are exceptions, i never said that simply one specific group of manuscripts would be perfect and i think Con knows that"

I'm believe that Pro is trying to tell us that the Masoretic text has only minor spelling errors, but that also there are exceptions to this claim. I might be reading it wrong but that's akin to saying "I am always perfect,except when I'm not." If there are exceptions to the statement, "only minor spelling errors." Then Pro cannot make the statement that there are only minor spelling errors in the Masoretic text. He has to say that there are changes to the Masoretic text.

In conclusion:

1. Pro claimed that the Masoretes had a system that made transmission of the text, highly accurate.
2. I showed examples of how the Masoretic text differs from the Septuagint.
3. Pro claimed that the Masoretes made changes to the text motivated by biases.
4. If the Masoretes' system of transmission was not enough to prevent bias motivated changes to the text. We cannot assume that other groups didn't made bias motivated changes to copies they made.

In other words, we cannot assume that a text we are looking at had zero bias motivated changes. We have to study the texts deeper to see how accurately we can reconstruct what the originals said. Pro claims that this is what he was originally talking about, however, that was not how the debate was framed.

I believe that there are ways to determine what the originals likely said with varying degrees of accuracy. But that is a debate about how to reconstruct the originals from copies which probably have changes.
Debate Round No. 3
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