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Regarding Bart D. Ehrman (calling All Experts On Textual Criticism)


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Bart Ehrman is a bible scholar who wrote several well-received texts on the authorship of scripture (Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted are his most popular works). In his works, Bart Ehrman implies that corruption due to human transmission of biblical texts has created textual variants, a small percentage of which significantly confuse our understanding of supposedly well established Christian Doctrines.

 

Conservative scholars argue that the variants Ehrman brings up are really no big deal. Luke at Common Sense Atheism agrees.

 

I just wanted to know what people here - those with some understanding of higher textual criticism - think of this critique of Ehrman's work.

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I'd like to know, too :)

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Conservative scholars argue that the variants Ehrman brings up are really no big deal. Luke at Common Sense Atheism agrees.

 

I just wanted to know what people here - those with some understanding of higher textual criticism - think of this critique of Ehrman's work.

 

Well I'm not an expert, not by a long shot. But I think it's important to figure out what someone means by "no big deal". If they are looking at the New Testament just to see what Second Century christians were writing then sure. Low goals are easy to hit. If someone is looking at the New Testament as the "infallible Word of God" then there is a much higher standard to meet. With higher standards an error creates bigger problems. For example if Luke/Acts tells us Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem but Matthew tells us Jesus told them to go to Galilee that is a real tough problem if both must be true. If we just look at it as evidence of culture then it's not a problem at all.

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In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman talks about Westcott and Hort, Cambridge scholars, who wrote a famous work in 1881,

The New Testament in the Original Greek. He says this is far and away the most legitimate text since it translated from the oldest available scripts.

 

Erasmus used 10th and 11th century adapted Greek texts to construct his bible. The legitimacy of these texts apparently lies in little more than the fact that they are written in Greek. These texts were adapted and should in no way be considered original by any means. Trouble is that these texts were the basis of the King James translation into English.

 

Doctrinally these Erasmus texts seem to be more palatable to fundies and other ideological "conservatives".

The oldest texts available from Westcott and Hort have the problem that they don't include a clear doctrine of the trinity

and are missing sections of the gospels that modern people have been accepting uncritically as "the-literal-word-of-god" for 500 years.

 

I have seen "conservative" fundy websites that criticize Ehrman for something like "the old Westcott/Hort argument" - as if fealty to the oldest available texts is some kind of mistaken idea.

 

I'd check the definition here of the word "conservative". It seems to be corrupted in this case as so much of our modern language has become. I prefer the word "Jacobin", but that is just me.

 

The shocking thing here is that the King James version is actually a translation of ~11th century Greek texts - composed a millinium after the fact - and is only tangentially or not at all related to the oldest documents. Which means we in English have been calling an arguably corrupted version of the bible the literal word of god for 500 years.

 

Sorry if this doesn't exactly address the argument on that website, but this is what changed my thinking on reading Ehrman.

 

Cheers and Good Day

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Well I suppose I'm qualified to comment, as I have a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary in New Testament Studies. I don't like to go waving that around though, because the degree really doesn't do anything for me today, as I'm not going to working in any sort of church.

 

But yes. His work is very compelling. I recently saw a debate between him and one of my former professors and my professor got completely owned. Even my christian friends admitted it.

 

One of Bart's best arguments comes from one of his most recent books called "Forged". It talks about how a lot of the New Testament books were actually not even written by who they claim to be. Hebrews, for instance, was included in the canon merely because it was thought to have been written by Paul. All of the early church fathers thought it to be written by Paul as well. Well guess what? It's not written by Paul, and even a lot conservative Christians admit this. Now, a thinking person would then conclude: well, should we take it out of the canon? But these pastors just succumb to tradition and opt out into the "God preserves his word, if it's still there it's for a reason" argument. However, this argument is not convincing, because what about the Codex Sinaiticus? This was a nearly complete Bible manuscript that dated to around 400 AD. It contained two additional New Testament books - the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Barnabas was dismissed later, as it was rather extreme in it's anti-semitism, and also by the fact that it wasn't written by Barnabas. But my point is: if these books were in the canon for over 300 years, then shouldn't these books be included in the canon for the same reason given above? Not logical.

 

I've also read "Misquoting Jesus" and it was great too. In my church's doctrinal statement, they say that they believe the Bible is fully inspired and inerrant in its original writings. The funny thing is, and as this book points out - we have none of the original writings. We only have copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of the originals. So, logically, according to my church's doctrinal statement, there shouldn't be anyone that holds to modern Biblical inerrancy, because we don't have the originals. But of course, this isn't the case. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

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