A What were the texts? 1) somewhere else : The Question of Contemporary Evidence, 2) No, true enough Acharya, Varro did not write about Jesus ..., 3) What a blooper, Dan Barker from Atheist League!, 4) 1st C Historians, Wikipedia Category, 5) HGL's F.B. writings : Critiques of Testimonium Flavianum, 6) Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : ... on "Contemporary Historians Not Mentioning Jesus" (Answering aekara1987), 7) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Challenged Again on Testimonium Flavianum,
B How were they transmitted? 1) somewhere else : Laci Green likes strawmen?, 2) Variation on the Scriptoria Game,
Here are two extremely simple* ones:
1 The Bible is true because God exists because the Bible is true because God exists ... a k a Circulus Vitiosus;
2 The Bible has been written over 35.000 times ... a k a Telephone Game.
1) A God who exists may theoretically be the one described in the Bible or someone quite else. Theoretically. But we do acknowledge that the Bible could not be true if God did not exist, so any proof of its truth - as to miracles recorded, specifically - is also proof of God's existence. And that, since God exists, miracles recorded in Bible are no obstacle for its being true.
We then say: apart from God's existence there are no explanations, but quite a lot of proof for the Bible being true.
2) Copying and recopying is not like playing the telephone game. Before there were computers and printing machinery, copying by hand was the way to make sure one text reached several different people. And there were sophisticated techniques for avoiding the "telephone game phenomenon".
Here is a game for you. Five to fifteen people:
Rule 1: everyone throws two dice. The top score gets to chose or invent one text to copy. The bottom score gets to be first secretary.
Rule 2: the top player invents a text of at least five lines with coherent content, or choses the text from a book on the shelf, making a hand made copy.
Rule 3: the first secretary gets to copy from the text by top player, he throws one dice to decide how many copies he has to do (1 - 4 = number of copies, 5/6 re-throw).
Rule 4: extant copies including original are divided in two heaps by a third player.
Rule 5: cast lots about which two players get which two heaps (if there are only five players, here is last copying), and in case they have more than one copy, they each have the possibility and even recommendation to compare copies in their hands before chosing what to write, and they may use more than one version (if diversions exist) in what they write. Of course again dice are thrown to determine number of copies.
Rule 5 b: before next generation of copying, if such there be, throw dice to determine losses in manuscripts: double number of manuscripts, throw two dice to determine how many at maximum survive. Put manuscripts in a round, count as many as the dice before eliminating each superfluous one. Then go back to rule 4, same player, but now three, now five, now eight heaps to next copyist set.
Rule 6: compare all versions, note every divergence. This is best done line by line, original after copy after copy.
Rule 7: points off for every divergence from original text. One off for each totally innocuous one, like different spelling of a word that can abbreviate or of a phrase that can be turned (like main clause and if clause), or for obvious spelling mistakes. Two off for a change of synonyms. Five off if it means something different. Ten off if it means something opposite. Note all minus points, make a new round with a new text.
Is there a loser? Are there winners?
NOTE that in real life back then, someone who had lost such a game would not have been participating when it was played "for real" i e with books you wanted to preserve. And very early Bible Book copyists were people who wanted very much to preserve the Bible Book they were copying. As for Christian copyists, they usually had training in copying mere pagan poetry or history or something before getting to copy a Bible book.
Note also that just as Hindoo transmission of sankrit texts orally goes by different channels (learning straight recitation by heart, learning recitation word after word by heart, learning two words at a time et c for each sutra) a Bible text was only one way to transmit each fact or doctrine. Then there was tradition (for which transmission followed similar rules, with bishops for copyists - something which was denied in the Mormon heritage of Laci Green), and also same fact being transmitted in different Bible Books with overlapping contents (Chronicles and several other Bible books, the four Gospels, Acts and some passages in Pauline Epistles ...). So yes, we are pretty sure what we are transmitting as the Christian religion is what there was to transmit from start, not something different, as would have been the case in the telephone game.
Mouffetard, Paris V
*Taken from beginning of this video:
on which more may come.