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RE: [textualcriticism] Doctrines, Difficulties, and NTTC

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  • Bart Ehrman
    Jim, I don t have time to deal with each and every one of your criticisms. Let me just say that it is never fair to criticize an author for the publisher s
    Message 1 of 45 , Apr 26, 2009
         I don't have time to deal with each and every one of your criticisms.  Let me just say that it is never fair to criticize an author for the publisher's blurb on the book, since this is not something the author wrote and is used by the publisher to get readers.  I am well aware that the doctrine of the deity of Christ is not going to change because there are variants that affect it.
         On your other criticisms, which reflect many that I hear from other evangelical textual critics, I'd simply say first that I thought long and hard about having extended discussions on unimportant and uninteresting matters, such as the difference between OUTW and OUTWS, moveable nu, itacism, and so on, but thought that for a book of this kind, it really didn't make sense.  Substantial issues are where is called for.  If you disagree with any of hte substantial discussions of the book, or about any of my discussions of leading textual scholars (Mills, Tischendorf, Hort and so on) or of major textual issues (the variants I discuss), maybe we could talk about those?
           I really *don't* think textual criticism is brain surgery, and if you think that the only option to letting people more widely know about it is to keep them completely ignorant about it (by *not* writing a book about it for non-experts) then I think that is a point at which you and I very seriously disagree.  Everyone, of course, is free to write their own book, stressing the points they think are really the important ones.
      -- Bart Ehrman
      Bart D. Ehrman
      James A. Gray Professor
      Department of Religious Studies
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

      From: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com [mailto:textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of James Snapp, Jr.
      Sent: Saturday, April 25, 2009 10:08 PM
      To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [textualcriticism] Doctrines, Difficulties, and NTTC

      Dear Dr. Ehrman:

      If I may chime in: at http://www.curtisvi llechristian. org/Misquoting. html I present a review of "Misquoting Jesus;" it includes several disagreements with your critical decisions.

      But there is something else in "Misquoting Jesus" that, while not technically a text-critical issue, is a legitimate concern: spin. The blurb for "Misquoting Jesus" stated you make "the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes – alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible."

      So which of the c. 40 variants that you focus upon in "Misquoting Jesus" are the ones upon which the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself pivot? Which ones have drastically affected all subsequent versions?

      When you mentioned (p. 10) that there are more textual variants than there are words in the NT (137,490, by Morgenthaler' s count), you immediately clarified that "Most of these differences are completely immaterial and insignificant. " You do well. But then you raised the question, "Even so, what is one to make of all these differences? " – and moved on. Would it not better serve the reader to explain in a bit more detail *why* insignificant variants (itacisms, movable nu, most transpositions) are really and truly insignificant, and that the thing that we are to conclude from them is that they do not affect the meaning of the text? Isn't it at least worth mentioning that, instead of looking at textual variants and concluding that God did not inspire the NT writers, an alternative interpretation is that God inspired the NT writers and providentially guided His people to convey the message in those texts that He wanted them to convey, and that the /message,/ not the precise construction of the words, is God's greater concern?

      As you moved rapidly from the reference to more-variants- than-words- in-the-NT to statements such as, "We don't even know what they [i.e., the original words of the NT] are," the nigh-irresistible conclusion that the average person who knows nothing about textual criticism (i.e., the targeted readers, as you explained on p. 15) will reach is that this uncertainty applies to a substantial amount of the NT text.

      Similarly, non-scholars are bound to get the impression that the Textus Receptus has no better basis than the late MSS used by Erasmus. A more balanced presentation would make some attempt to give readers some idea of what percentage of the TR has no early support.

      And, similarly, since you refer to Codex Bezae as "one of our oldest witnesses" on p. 134, what are non-scholars bound to conclude about the contents of D at the end of Mark when you state (on p. 82) that Mark 16:9-20 cannot be found in the oldest and superior MSS of the Greek New Testament? This sort of thing only misleads the absorbent reader.

      (And why is the story of Erasmus' rash promise in the book? Didn't H. de Jonge expose that story as a fabrication? Metzger seems to admit this in a footnote in the 3rd edition of TotNT; see p. 291 note 2.)

      "Misquoting Jesus," used discerningly, can be used positively as a platform to raise awareness of the ways in which some textual variants can affect the message of Scripture. The variants reviewed in "Misquoting Jesus" don't shake the tenets of Christianity, but they do affect interpretations and exegesis, and I think it is a good thing to make people aware of them – particularly the cases where the evidence is finely balanced, the better to appreciate the contrast with firmly resolved variant-units.

      Nevertheless, there's a good reason why there was not a "NTTC for Dummies" book before "Misquoting Jesus." It's essentially the same reason why there has not been a "Brain Surgery for Dummies" book: superficial acquaintance with the subject, without an appreciation of its intricacies, is only likely to get people hurt, which is likely, in the long run, to cause people to see NTTC itself as something hurtful. This should be a concern to all of us.

      Btw, a solution to the question, "On which day was Jesus crucified?" which you mentioned in "Misquoting Jesus" and again in "Jesus, Interrupted, " is suggested in Margaret Gibson's preface to the Gospel-Commentary of Ishodad of Merv.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.

    • Daniel
      ... When we study the topic of blank spaces deliberately left in a ms, we keep coming back to the PA. W has an unusual blank space between John and Luke that
      Message 45 of 45 , May 7, 2009
        --- In textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, "James Snapp, Jr." wrote:
        > In Codex L there is a blank space after John 7:52, but the blank space is not large enough to contain the PA. Do you think the scribe might have been replicating some leftover space, maybe at the end of the first volume of a two-volume copy of John, rather than indicating an awareness of a textual variant?<

        When we study the topic of blank spaces deliberately left in a ms, we keep coming back to the PA. W has an unusual blank space between John and Luke that may have been left for the PA--or might it be a relic of W's exemplar in which the gospels ended at John?

        Delta is an intersting study in blank spaces. Delta's scribe left a blank space for a variant reading that s/he:
        1) Later appears to have filled in from another exemplar (Mark 9:29);
        2) Never did end up filling in (Mark 10:19);
        3) Remembered was supposed to be there only after writing the rest of the line omitting it(PA).

        At John 7:52, Delta reads, on the fifth line of page 348:
        But then the scribe stops before even reaching the margin, lines out all but the first word, and, leaving the entire rest of the page blank (with an asterisk at the front of the last line), starts back up at the top of page 349 with:
        (with an obelus taking the place of the second EST above ELALHSEN!)

        images here:

        Another explanation, I suppose, is that Delta's scribe had heard of the PA's existence at the end of a book of the gospels, and was therefore replicating the corpus-ending blank space in that hypothetical exemplar.

        Daniel Buck
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