Timothy Nargi

About Timothy Nargi

Tim's Blog
Tim lives in Williamsburg, VA with his wife Larisa and their son Cullen. He has an MA in Church History and serves as the librarian at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. In addition to reading, he enjoys history, photography, kayaking, and playing hockey. He blogs to help educate people about Reformed Theology and the imagination from a Reformed perspective.



Fragments of Truth Movie Review

Fragments of Truth Movie Review

Fragments of Truth

by Reuben Evans
Length: Length: 1 hour 45 minutes.
TCB Rating:
three-half-stars

Book Overview

Fragments of Truth, produced by Faithlife (the company behind Logos Bible software) and directed by Reuben Evans, is a documentary simple in it’s premise: present evidences for the reliability of the New Testament through the lens of early manuscripts. Hosted by Dr. Craig Evans, and narrated by John Rhys-Davies (Gimli!) audiences are taken through a firehose of information about textual criticism and also get to enjoy a visual feast of ancient biblical manuscripts.

Who should watch this?

Anyone who has ever asked the question, “Can I trust the New Testament?”

Fragments of Truth Movie Review 1

Synopsis

The Good

The documentary examines various popular and scholarly claims against the New Testament. You’ve heard them before: the New Testament cannot be trusted because it was corrupted or lost over time, it was changed to fabricate points about Jesus, or the church selectively chose what books they wanted to consolidate power.

Or most damaging of all, we just can’t know what the biblical authors wrote. Essentially, the documentary is using evidence for the reliability of the New Testament that is not new (manuscript evidence, patristic quotations, ancient translations, etc.). Watch this for more.

One argument however, was new to me. Dr. Craig Evans argues that the lifespan of ancient papyri lasted for at least 150 years, sometimes even as long as 300 to 400 years, overturning the assumption that manuscripts only lasted a few decades. This means the original autographs were likely still in existence when the earliest copies were made.

This is significant because the copies could be checked for errors against the autographs, deflating the argument that transmission of the New Testament was corrupted. Fragments goes through many evidences to show that we have a reliable New Testament.

The Beautiful

Fragments also takes us inside libraries and museums all over Europe and examines manuscripts that are centuries old. It was a real treat to see ancient manuscripts up close on a gigantic screen. Sometimes you could make out the texture of the papyrus and the individual brush strokes of ink used to write holy writ. You could almost feel the fragility of manuscripts and you felt excitement when a curator was about to lift one out of a box. These papyri are old! And precious! Faithlife was able to get some impressive access to produce this film.

You also get a sense of history and reverence and the pain-staking work it took to copy the New Testament. I came away with a new profound appreciation for how the Holy Spirit preserved the Biblical text through the work of scribes. Fragments also delves into ancient writing practices and how ancient handwriting experts (paleographers) can use this information to date manuscripts by examining the paper or looking at how words were written. Some of the script work on these documents is gorgeous. And Fragments allows us to see it all.

The True

I also was flabbergasted at the amount of work textual critics have put in over the years to identify textual variants in order to get a New Testament that is as accurate as possible. As Dan Wallace says, only one-fifth of one percent of textual variants are “meaningful and viable.” That means, those variants can change the meaning of a text and could potentially reflect an actual recording of the original text.

But 70 percent of that tiny fraction are spelling errors and those few instances that are in question do not impact essential Christian teaching. Faithlife did a great job of interviewing over a dozen scholars to help us understand how textual criticism works and how the New Testament we have today, is the same New Testament the Biblical authors wrote. We should be thankful and appreciative of these scholars who bring us a reliable text that we can study and read.

 

Analysis

A ton of information was presented in this film. There was so much though, that I felt the film could slow down a little bit and let itself breathe, if only to have some time to process all the arguments and evidence. The film also struggled at times to be overtly clear on what it was trying to present and it didn’t always bring out the implications of an argument for the everyday Christian.

Thus, some Christians who may have little knowledge in the field of textual criticism may struggle a to follow the argumentation. However, the scholarship is excellent, the information important, the visuals a treat, and the evidences encouraging. If it could be simplified and clarified a little bit, without dumbing anything down, Faithlife could have a “scholary-esque” film that plays widely.

 

Conclusion

If we can trust the New Testament, we can trust the claims of Jesus to forgive our sins. So the purpose of the film is clear: to demonstrate the reliability of the New Testament. It does this, really through the manuscripts themselves. Near the end of the film, Dan Wallace is commenting on P52, one of the earliest and the tiniest manuscripts (about the size of a credit card).

It contains verses from the Gospel of John. He says scholars assumed the Gospels were a synthesis of Peter and Paul’s writings and therefore the Gospels could not be written before the mid second century or later. Tiny P52 is discovered and dated to the first half of the second century, dismantling the previous widely held assumption.

Wallace sums up, referring to the tiny fragment as “an ounce of evidence that destroys a pound of presupposition.” The manuscripts, even in their tiniest form, speak for themselves. And thus we have our title: Fragments of Truth.

three-half-stars
By | 2018-05-05T22:30:19+00:00 May 11th, 2018|

A Simple Way to Journal

Martin Luther’s barber was having trouble praying. So he asked the Dr. for advice to strengthen his prayer life. Luther in response wrote a short book entitled, A Simple Way to Pray. In it, he tells the barber to use three “prayer prompts:” The Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostle’s Creed.

Luther says to take a line from the Lord’s Prayer such as “Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name” and use that as a springboard for a related prayer. For example, you could pray, “Lord help me to hallow your name in my life, and forgive me when I take your name in vain.” Stealing from Luther’s playbook, we can apply the same method to journaling and use journaling prompts.

A Simple Way to Journal

Why Journal?

A short word should be said of why one should journal in the first place. Is it required? No, but there are immense benefits to doing so. The first is to see God’s work in your life over time. As you record events and circumstances during your walk with Christ, you will be able to look back upon the faithfulness of God in your times of happiness and despair. It’s easier to see God’s work through recorded accounts (hence the Bible) instead of fuzzy memories. So journaling is a benefit for yourself.

It is also a benefit to others. Think of how your children or other family members in the future may read your journal. They too will be able to see God’s faithfulness in your life, and see your own struggles and dependence upon Him. It can assist them in their own walk with Christ.

A journal could also be read amongst a wider audience, if it’s published or put online in a blog. The Life of David Brainerd is the journal of a missionary to Indians in colonial America, edited and collected by Jonathan Edwards. Brainerd died early in life, but his recorded accounts of his zeal for God, his lack of holiness, and desire to see the Indians converted, has inspired many throughout history to be missionaries. A spiritual journal can have a lasting impact centuries on.

 

Writing Prompts

The Bible

Just as Luther used prayers and the Ten Commandments from the Bible as prayer prompts, they can also be used for journaling prompts in the same way. Using the Ten Commandments for example, you could write about how you are struggling to obey one of them and write out why you are disobeying, circumstances that may be arising aiding in your disobedience, and your prayers to God asking for his help. In one sense, you are basically writing down your prayers. Or, as you study the Bible or partake in daily devotions, you can write down what you have learned or some things to apply to your life. You can record notes or difficulties you are experiencing with certain passages.

Prayers and Praises

Write down your prayers to God and record those answers to prayer. Perhaps you will notice how your prayers change as you age. You’ll also be amazed to see over time what prayers have been answered. It is said that George Mueller (1805-1898) had over 50,000 recorded answers to prayer in his journals. God sure is good!

Creeds and Confessions

Reading through historic creeds and confessions and writing whatever comes to mind about them is a great writing prompt. Creeds and Confessions are basically short systematic theologies and interacting with them through writing is a great way to help you understand them, remember them, and use them as aids in your Christian life. The Heidelberg Catechism begins with:

Q1. “What is our only comfort in life and death?”

Answer: “That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ….”

And you could respond with…

“I am anxiously waiting to hear back about my medical report. I do not know what it will say, and I’m worried. I know that Jesus is my ONLY comfort, but it is so hard to trust that. Oh God help my unbelief! Help me to trust these true words of the catechism!…”

Church History

Reading biographies or events in the life of the church can help you gain an outside perspective on your own time in church history and can be used as aids to work through issues you may be having. As you read through a biography of Athanasius for example, you can write down the ways in which he fought against Arianism (the belief that Christ was a created being and is not God) and work through how to apply that in dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses today (whom are Arians).

Then you can record any actions you have with them. If someone reads your journal in the future, they then may have an aid on how to talk to Jehovah’s witnesses since you have recorded your own church history by reading a record of another event in church history!

George Whitfield’s Journal Questions

Finally, if none of the above prompts help, the following questions were used by George Whitefield himself to help analyze his spiritual condition. Answer them as honestly as you can, and since they are simple questions (but not so simple to answer!) you will always have something to write about.

Have I,

  1. Been fervent in prayer?
  2. After or before every deliberate conversation or action, considered how it might tend to God’s glory?
  3. After any pleasure, immediately given thanks
  4. Planned business for the day?
  5. Been simple and recollected in everything
  6. Been meek, cheerful, affable in everything I said or did?
  7. Been proud, vain, unchaste, or enviable of others?
  8. Recollected in eating and drinking? Thankful? Temperate in sleep?
  9. Thought or spoken unkindly of anyone
  10. Confessed all sins?

Recommended Reading:

By | 2018-05-06T11:06:18+00:00 May 6th, 2018|

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