Don’t take the Clickbait

Today, I read an article posted online. The headline read: “Scientists say they have found a chapter of the Bible hidden under a section of text for more than a thousand years.” After reading the article and then the underlying article on which the story was based, I just had to comment here about it. This is a perfect example of the click-bait titles used in too much of the media. It brings to mind the old (defunct) ideas of secret and hidden books of the Bible removed by a secret conspiracy. Add to it that the text was found in a manuscript in the Vatican, and a sequel to Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code almost writes itself. I fully expect to hear about this article being quoted by skeptics.

The problem is that the headline says something very different from the article. The headline claims this was a hidden chapter. However, the author goes on to describe it in the introduction as “an old version” of the chapter. Notice this is very different from a hidden chapter. The chapter is Matthew 12, which is already found in all Bibles. It simply shows some differences. Then, when you read the original source article, it addresses a Syriac version. This is a translation—not the original. So, those who translated it into Syriac may have based this text on a different version. They also may have added the differences in themselves to make the translation understandable.

Of course, if these differences are major, then it could be an issue. The article gives one example. In Matthew 12:1, most modern translations say the disciples of Jesus picked heads of grain and ate them. The newly discovered version says they picked the heads, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. To this, it is hard to remain mature enough not to say, “Well, duh!” That is how one would eat a freshly plucked head of grain. Anyone growing up in an agricultural setting knows this.

Are there more significant differences? I’m not sure. The original article is written for Syriac scholars—which I am not. But this is the example the author chose to share, so it must be demonstrative. Why do I bring this up? I do it because we are all so quick to grab onto headlines without further research. Headlines may be meant more to get our attention than inform. Always dig deeper. This headline is not a good distillation of the article, but it sure would get clicks. Don’t be drawn in.