Awhile ago I gave a bunch of money to people so I could join the Linguistic Society of America. I’m not really sure what benefit this gives me, except that I can say I’m a member. And I get a (digital) magazine or something. I also signed up for LinguistList, which is a listserv for [bananas]. I even had to specially make a filter in Gmail to take them out of my inbox. Yes.
So just recently I peaked into the folder with all the emails from them, and saw some interesting titles, such as “Media and Age” or “Language and the Unconscious.” But the one that really caught my eye was “Discourse Analysis of Scripture.” The email linked to an article wherein the authors discuss a piece of computer software designed to analyze writings in such a way to determine if they were written by the same author or not; in this case they were examining Scripture, apparently with some efficacy.
Now, as a linguist, I think it’s reasonable that different authors write in different ways. Heck, one of my favorite Go-Linguist-Go! stories to tell is the story of how Donald Wayne Foster used such methods to determine the author of the Unabomber Manifesto, and hence crack the case. (We’ll just stay hush-hush about the fact that Kaczynski’s own brother was suspicious before that as well. It’s not good for street-cred. *shakes head*)
And furthermore, as a reader of Wikipedia, I’m familiar with the idea of various parts of the Bible (possibly) having mulitiple, or at least vaguely controversial origins. I used to get pretty unsettled thinking about that sort of thing. People often wring their hands over the way Scripture has been passed down through human hands, and wasn’t it corrupted along the way? My goodness, they even decided on the Canon by vote and discussion!! [I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”]
The part that tickles me is that, in all of this, it wouldn’t be nearly so vicious a debate if the Bible was just plain incoherent. For certain it was written over thousands of years, by humans, in various segements, in various written languages, and complied by still other humans, and further translated into the sleek ESV I carry around with me today. But, if you just pick sixty six random stories from the ancient Middle East, you will learn that “epic poetry” really means lines 68-91 are missing, and oh, too bad that was the climax, and what was was The Descent of Ishtar about anyway?
So what I find impressive is that the Bible isn’t like that. It’s coherent. It tells a narrative, the narrative of God, and His chosen people. The fall and redemption of mankind. Scriptural inerrancy might be problematic if you laid aside the Author. “All scripture is God-breathed…” Though Scripture was passed on by people, it is God’s word, revealing Himself to us. Surely the God who spoke the earth into existence can do a small thing like preserve His written Word. The other other miracle is that God does chose to use people. He entrusts us with His word. Wow.