[textualcriticism] John 1:18 - translation errors --> rewriting church history --> textual theory (Bart Ehrman presentation)
- Hi Folks,
Jonathan C. Borland
Bart Ehrman's comments
"... one reading found almost exclusively in the Alexandrian tradition and another found sporadically there and virtually everywhere else. O MONOGENHS UIOS ... predominance in the Greek, Latin, and Syriac traditions, not to mention its occurrence in fathers such as Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian ... Thus, both readings are ancient; one is fairly localized, the other is almost ubiquitous." (p. 79)
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture:
The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (1995)
Thank you Jonathan.
monogenhV uios - Begotten Son - Affirming the Majority Text
Question: Is Bart Ehrman consistent in rejecting localized Alexandrian-support readings, or is this verse, John 1:18, a special case in that regard ? Or is just a matter of a measured higher degree ?
And isn't the above essentially the John William Burgon argument for many variants against the Revision and the Westcott-Hort Greek text in Revision Revised ? Anyway, may I applaud the new and unusual Bart Ehrman insight, and hope that it is not simply a case of special pleading to match doctrinal-textual purposes !
However it is important to point out that the rest of Bart Ehrman's analysis is very dubious.
Jonathan C. Borland
> Then Ehrman begins his discussion of intrinsic probabilities: "It is on internal
> grounds that the real superiority of O MONOGENHS UIOS shines forth. . . ." (p. 79)
This is an involved section, with strengths and weaknesses, beyond my current scope.
However let us first look at the basic underlying argument.
PROBLEMS WITH "monogenhV qeoV AS ORTHODOX CORRUPTION
Ehrman's basic argument- ...
"The variant reading of the Alexandrian tradition, which substitutes "God" for "Son," represents an orthodox corruption of the text in which the complete deity of Christ is affirmed" (p. 78)
This is a very strange theory on multiple counts.
The first two are simple.
1) The original corruption had to be early, likely by the early 2nd century, so an early Orthodox corruption of this nature goes against what I understand as Bart's own ideas that the high Christology doctrines developed late.
Note: personally, I believe the high Christology is imbued in the NT text, such as "God was manifest in the flesh..", which is rejected by Bart Ehrman. However I am looking at this in the classical ad hominem sense, asking if Bart Ehrman's analysis is consistent.
And is an Orthodox corruption creedal ? The only creed in the 2nd century was the simply-stated in Biblical-language Apostle's Creed. The Nicean and Athanasian and Chalcedon statements were far in the future, often using quasi-philosophical and neo-Platonist language that was very different than the Bible
2) Alexandria was a gnostic center (discussed by Aland, The Text of the New Testament p. 59) .. so why would a gnostic center institute anti-gnostic corruptions ? This simply makes no sense and is history and doctrine stood on its head.
monogenhV - UNIQUE ... ONLY BEGOTTEN
Beyond these two we have (3) .. the rest of Bart Ehrman's understanding is in translation ..
"the unique God (o monogenhV qeoV ).. who is in the bosom of the Father, that one has made him known."
and falters on a major unstated premise, the denial of MONOGENES as only-begotten (at least in this verse) the historic verse understanding. And well-affirmed in the early church writings.
Many in fact consider the only-begotten God as the literal translation of the critical text. As in the NASV, Emphasized and NWT. This is seen as a gnostic and Arian favored reading, totally non-orthodox. Early example .. John Burgon, Causes of the Corruption of the Traditional Text, p. 215-218. So what we have is the ultra-dubious translational substitution of unique for the historic understanding... based on highly questionable modernist translation attempts. To add to the confusion Daniel Wallace has even changed the modernist retranslation once again to "The only one, himself God", more on this at bottom).
And thus Ehrman is building first a historical construct, and then a textual argument, on shifting sand.
For those who want to research this further, I strongly suggest as a starting point the superb article by Michael Marlowe that reviews the scholarship :
The Only Begotten Son - o monogenhV uios
... Dahms concludes, "the external evidence, especially from Philo, Justin, and Tertullian, and the internal evidence from the context of its occurrences, makes clear that 'only begotten' is the most accurate translation after all." ...
A very solid article with scholarship references and analysis.
This includes separate sub-articles, only the Berkhof one is essentially doctrinal:
Büchsel on monogenhV - (1967)
John R. Wilson, "Parmenides, B 8. 4," The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 20, No. 1. (May, 1970), pp. 32-34.
Berkhof on the Eternal Generation of the Son - (1949)
There are other resources as well, such as the 2009 b-greek discussion where an Athens resident offered some thoughts on this very issue that were well-received. And the earlier article by Scott Jones. However, for the scholarship overview, Marlowe is superb.
Developing textual theories and texts on dubious translation and historical constructs is hardly a sound methodology !
CONSISTENCY, THE JEWEL
Notice that Bart Ehrman actually uses an only-begotten translation, from Harry Bettenson of monogenes from the Council of Chalcedon.
"one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten "
"one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ"
And of Irenaeus:
thus wander from the truth, because their doctrine departs from Him who is truly God, being ignorant that his only-begotten Word ...
had a different name and function (e.g., Logos, Only-Begotten, Truth, Life, Christ).
Ehrman's only direct reference to this translation issue that I have found is a small footnote about Dale Moody, whom he accepts without interacting with the scholarship refutations pointed out by Marlowe.
Dale Moody, "'God's Only Son." ... argues convincingly against the rendering "only-begotten," on the grounds of etymology and usage.
Michael Marlowe interacts with Dale Moody's article "The Translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version" in his articles above. Perhaps Bart Ehrman would like to show what he considers the flaws in the careful and well-researched article by Michael Marlowe.
Ironically, Ehrman and Wallace (The Text and Grammar of John 1.18. 2004) duke it out in a modernist pot and kettle match of the two translation rewrite attempts. All these attempts started in the 20th century (!) and I believe are largely doctrinally motivated, looking to change historic Greek-->English understandings to match preferred doctrines and history. And were spurred by the awkwardness of "only begotten God" and the desire to have a more comfortable doctrinal phrase in the English modern version New Testaments, based on the Critical Text.
In this context Ehrman says "monogenhv ...Outside of the New Testament the term simply means one of a kind or unique, " and writes against the Wallace attempt (see above), which he puts as .. the unique one, who is also God, who is in the bosom of the Father.
However, the scholarship carefully given by Michael Marlowe shows that both attempts are simply errors, and that the proper translation of monogenes in John 1:18 is the historic one of the early church writers, the Reformation believers and the translations to other languages (e.g. unigenitus ) ... "only begotten"
Even if one disagrees with that simple declaration, the scholarship should be properly and carefully addressed.
And, either way, the Bart Ehrman attempt to develop convoluted textual and historical theories on dubious translation and erroneous church history should be noted and rejected.
> Regading external vs. internal evidences, internal evidence is not such that it should only be applied when external evidence is indecisive, for it is precisely internal evidence applied consistently on variations *in sequence* throughout the entire NT that gives weight to manuscripts of a certain class and diminishes the weight of manuscripts of all other classes. It is for this reason that I have come to support the increased weight of the manuscripts of the Byzantine class of manuscripts, for their inherent superiority on internal grounds when applied to variations on a sequential basis on portions of text throughout the NT. See, e.g., Maurice A. Robinson, "The Rich Man and Lazarus -- Luke 16:19-31: Text-Critical Notes," in Stanley E. Porter and Mark J. Boda, Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 111-116; and my own experimental textual commentary on Matthew chapters 1-4: http://tcgnt.blogspot.com/
This is an excellent point, but I have to pass on it for now ! :)
- Hi Folks,
No man hath seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
which is in the bosom of the Father,
he hath declared him.
First, I want to note that James Snapp touched on one aspect of this Bart Ehrman - John 1:18 doctrinal issue years ago.
Misquoting Jesus - Some Notes About Chapter 6 01-2006
Bart Ehrman ..variants which the author claims are doctrinally motivated alterations...Are these ten variants definitely cases of doctrinally motivated changes? ... John 1:18 - A nomina sacra -related change. One ends up with a high Christology whichever variant is original.
While I do not specifically agree with James (since I do not consider "only-begotten God" a "high Christology", it appears to be most in tune with an Arian Christology, which is hardly a high Christology, and posits a lesser begotten "God". Or it can alternatively be gnostic, which is even more unusual).
However, I understand the point of James. Which is basically that on John 1:18 especially , it is very easy to special plead virtually any doctrinal case, Alice's Restaurant style. This could be documented with a review of articles in the last decade.
And this is true especially as you have the full matrix of textual and translational variants (4 or 5 or 6 or possibly more radically different alternatives). And by the time you throw in the differing examiners own presuppositions and biases or simply analysis, virtually every claim should start as possibly suspect (even John William Burgon!) and has to be examined carefully.
Now, when reading Bart Ehrman's piece, I just thought that his claims on this verse were far more incredulous and impossible than most, as I described on my last post. With Bart Ehrman positing an ultra-early Alexandrian "orthodox " (!) corruption. And that absurdity, as I see it, simply highlights with more specificity the boomerang point of James.
Now the egg-face part.
On the post I put in a few days ago, May-04-2011
John 1:18 - translation errors --> rewriting church history --> textual theory (Bart Ehrman presentation)
One correction is needed.
> Ironically, Ehrman and Wallace (The Text and Grammar of John 1.18.2004) duke it out in a modernist pot and kettle match of the two translation rewrite attempts. All these attempts started in the 20th century (!) and I believe are largely doctrinally motivated, looking to change historic Greek-->English understandings to match preferred doctrines and history. And were spurred by the awkwardness of "only begotten God" and the desire to have a more comfortable doctrinal phrase in the English modern version New Testaments, based on the Critical Text. :)
All these attempts can only refer to the new Wallace translation. The other side .. "only Son" (or "only God") idea has historical precedent, it was argued e.g. by Westcott looking at the ECW and the unicus-unigenitus Latin translations. (Westcott seems a bit self-contradictory on these issues, however he is an example of a scholar arguing that specific point in one spot, even though he then moves to unigenitus deus). All this is without getting into the distinction between only and unique, which is a qualitative discussion beyond any current post.
Anyway, I wanted to get this correction in for the record, before it gets stale. While I fully believe that "only begotten" is the right translation, and "Son" the right text, I do want to acknowledge that the "only" idea has a real history, without going into all the details, and giving Westcott as an example of a discussion on that point, giving his view of the early church writings and translations.
I thought I would stir the John 1:18 pot a bit....
It seems to me that the place to start in the Theos/Huios debate is with the definite article before monogenes that is omitted in P66 and B, but is present in P75 and A.
Apparently a corrector added the def. articles and rel. pronoun to Aleph.
The Def. art. after Theos strikes me as just plain weird; it isn't needed as a weak rel. pronoun because the rel. pronoun immediately follows it. The def. art. preceding monogenes could easily have been lost by a homoioarchton. My sense is that the articles preceding and following monogenes XXXX are either both 'original,' or neither is original. At this point, I'm leaning towards them both being original per P75.
In scripta continua the two def. articles would read as framing devices forming an inclusio around monogenes XXXX. Why do that unless you want to call attention to the phrase? My guess (and it is just a guess) is that the readers/hearers would have found the phrase challenging. For this reason I think monogenes Theos would have been the more difficult reading to the first or second century ear; it's pretty easy to conceive a monogenes huios, especially in a world populated by the Greek and Roman pantheons, but much harder to conceptualize a monogenes Theos.
my 0.02 (break out the rotten fruit and vegetables and have at it)
2nd year MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary