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RE: [textualcriticism] Bart Ehrman's textual theory foundational presupposition - adoptionism is the early Christianity

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  • Ehrman, Bart D
    Interesting observations. Very little in the book, Orthodox Corruption, hinges on the question of whether adoptionism was the earliest form of Christology.
    Message 1 of 7 , Nov 11, 2011
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           Interesting observations.   Very little in the book, Orthodox Corruption, hinges on the question of whether adoptionism was the earliest form of Christology.  

       

           But I certainly do think it was, as do most of the scholars who have worked extensively on Christology, outside the ranks, I suppose, of very conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists.  I don’t think any “textual theory” rests on the question, however.

       

            Thanks for passing this along,

       

      n  Bart Ehrman

       

      Bart D. Ehrman

      James A. Gray Professor

      Department of Religious Studies

      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

       

      www.bartdehrman.com

       

       

      From: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com [mailto:textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of schmuel
      Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2011 9:25 PM
      To: Textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [textualcriticism] Bart Ehrman's textual theory foundational presupposition - adoptionism is the early Christianity

       

       

      Hi Folks,

      =============================================

      With a lot of interest in the last years, we have seen a lot of discussion of Bart Ehrman's nouveau approach to textual theory:

      The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (1996) - Bart Ehrman

      =============================================

      This book has created a lot of chatter, and yet one basic point was often missed.
      I have only seen these basics touched on in one resource:

      Tony Costa paper

      The American Journal of Biblical Theology Vol.8 Issue 28.
      Was Adoptionism the Earliest Christology? A Response to Bart Ehrman
      Tony Costa
      http://www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/CostaT01.pdf

      "...Ehrman argues that the view of the adoptionists was probably the original of Jesus held by the earliest Christians" (p.2)

      The problem here is that Ehrman is driven by his theological presupposition, not the textual evidence, that adoptionism was the earliest Christology and on this score, Ehrman is grossly in error. (p. 9)

      =============================================

      The Ehrman Presupposition of Adoptionism as the Original Christianity

      The paper shows how much of the  Bart Ehrman construct is really a type of textual special pleading in order to support his presupposition that the early Christians were adoptionists. And with adoptionists Ehrman specifically emphasizes the ebionites, who deny the virgin birth, as the main element of adoptionalism.

      Ehrman touches on the adoptionists in a few ways, e.g. by continually saying that the NT text was tampered away by those meanie proto-orthodox scribes, away from adoptionist ideas.  Clearly that means that the original NT had those adoptionist/ebionite ideas.  (The question of precisely who were these proto-orthodox who wielded so much pen power to uproot the original adoptionist faith we will leave aside for now.)

      On p. 48 Bart Ehrman specifically places the adoptionism groups and beliefs, that they :

      predate the books of the New Testament
      preliterary traditions
      Jesus' earliest followers

      In other words, those who walked with Jesus, even before the New Testament was written, were those who we would consider adoptionists/ebionites, per Ehrman.
      And Bart Ehrman does not place any other group in that period.

      Note also (quote below) that Bart Ehrman says that the adoptionists/ebionites did not
      "originate" their views ... which is this context can only mean that their views were directly received from Jesus, and "Jesus' earliest followers".

      =============================================

      Consistency, the Jewel

      In order to support this theory, Bart Ehrman ends up supporting :

      variants with virtually no support
      redaction theories of the text that are special pleading
      the Byzantine Text over the Alexandrian when it is convenient for Ehrmans' theories.

      The third one is the great heresy for Hortianism, Bart Ehrman even ends up supporting "Son" over "God" in John 1:18 !  Thus becoming a momentary Burgonite, jumping ship from all his normal textual theory. This was covered a bit earlier on this forum at:

      [textualcriticism] John 1:18 - translation errors --> rewriting church history --> textual theory (Bart Ehrman presentation)
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6424 - Steven Avery - May 4, 2011
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6428 - Steven Avery - May 7, 2011

      =============================================

      Doctrinal Analysis Drives Ehrman Textual Theories

      In other words, what drives Ehrman's concepts is not textual analysis, but doctrinal analysis.  And Bart Ehrman tries to wedge in the Bible text to match his preferred doctrines.  He sees the early Jesus movement as a low Christology belief, very low.

      We could do a side discussion here of why atheists, skeptics and mythicists would naturally prefer adoptionist and ebionite Christianity to be original, as they always reject high Christology understandings.  However, not in this post, we will simply mention that point en passant. 

      And we could also mention that if the Ehrman adoptionist presupposition is rejected as unfounded, then the theories of Orthodox Corruption basically all go out the window.  The book Orthodox Corruption would then be seen to be designed for the fringe mythicist-atheist market, who find those original ebionite Christian idea reasonably compatible with their beliefs.  Or the book may be meant to "inform" the popular market in a special direction, to work as a bit of agiprop for those who are unaware of the issues and the approach.

      =======================================

      Scholarship  Support For the Ehrman Adoptionist/Ebionite Postulate

      I wondered how Bart Ehrman supported his view that the early Christians were adoptionist/ebionite. Surely that is a very hard position from the BIble text, which is why Ehrman has to take flights of fancy on wild variants and redactions and unusual historical/textual theories. 

      In my experience, few scholars take that view that the original Christians were adoptionist/ebionite.  There are fascinating writings by gentlemen like Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, N. T. Wright, Alan Segal, Alister McGrath, James McGrath, Alan R. Millard and dozens of scholars you could name. So what about the Ehrman adoptionism as early Christianity position ?

      First, here are three sections form his adoptionist discussion:

      Other Christians, however, rejected this claim and argued that Christ was a flesh and blood human being without remainder, a man who had been adopted by God to be his Son and to bring about the salvation of the world. To be sure, these representatives of adoptionism constituted no monolith; they differed among themselves, for example, concerning the moment at which Jesus' adoption had taken place. But by the second century, most believed that it had occurred at his baptism, when the Spirit of God descended upon him and a voice called out from heaven, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you." (p. 47)

      The Earliest Adoptionists
      Christians of the second and third centuries generally--regardless of theological persuasion--claimed to espouse the views of Jesus' earliest followers. With regard at least to the adoptionists, modern scholarship has by and large conceded the claim. These Christians did not originate their views of Christ; adoptionistic Christologies can be traced to sources that predate the books of the New Testament.

      The business of reconstructing the preliterary sources or the New Testament is a highly complex affair, and a discussion of the attendant difficulties lies beyond the purview of the present investigation. It is enough to observe that form-critical analyses of the New Testament creedal, hymnic, and sermonic materials have consistently demonstrated earlier strata of tradition that were theologically modified when incorporated into their present literary contexts. Many of these preliterary traditions evidence adoptionistic views. (p. 48)


      =======================================

      So apparently Bart Ehrman appeals to:

      Professor By and Doctor Large.

      Christians of the second and third centuries generally--regardless of theological persuasion--claimed to espouse the views of Jesus' earliest followers. With regard at least to the adoptionists, modern scholarship has by and large conceded the claim. These Christians did not originate their views of Christ; adoptionistic Christologies can be traced to sources that predate the books of the New Testament.

      Interestingly, there was no footnote identifying the "by and large" scholarship that is at the base of his textual exposition. 

      Would anybody like to fill in the gap and either support the Ehrman claim with the specific groupings of scholars ?
      And clear the field of those like Richard Bauckham who might respectfully disagree.

      Or perhaps take the position that Bart Ehrman was grossly oversimplifying the critical underlying claim of his exposition in the blithe assertions above.

      At least .. we could help Bart Ehrman have a real footnote in the next edition.

      =======================================

      Shalom,
      Steven Avery

    • Jake
      Steven, There is a DVD out of a recent (couple weeks ago) debate between Ehrman and Dan Wallace that took place at SMU. That conversation might have something
      Message 2 of 7 , Nov 11, 2011
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        Steven,

        There is a DVD out of a recent (couple weeks ago) debate between Ehrman and Dan Wallace that took place at SMU. That conversation might have something to say about the points you raise....

        Jake Horner
        PTS

        On 11/10/2011 9:24 PM, schmuel wrote:  

        Hi Folks,

        =============================================

        With a lot of interest in the last years, we have seen a lot of discussion of Bart Ehrman's nouveau approach to textual theory:

        The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (1996) - Bart Ehrman

        =============================================

        This book has created a lot of chatter, and yet one basic point was often missed.
        I have only seen these basics touched on in one resource:

        Tony Costa paper

        The American Journal of Biblical Theology Vol.8 Issue 28.
        Was Adoptionism the Earliest Christology? A Response to Bart Ehrman
        Tony Costa
        http://www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/CostaT01.pdf

        "...Ehrman argues that the view of the adoptionists was probably the original of Jesus held by the earliest Christians" (p.2)

        The problem here is that Ehrman is driven by his theological presupposition, not the textual evidence, that adoptionism was the earliest Christology and on this score, Ehrman is grossly in error. (p. 9)

        =============================================

        The Ehrman Presupposition of Adoptionism as the Original Christianity

        The paper shows how much of the  Bart Ehrman construct is really a type of textual special pleading in order to support his presupposition that the early Christians were adoptionists. And with adoptionists Ehrman specifically emphasizes the ebionites, who deny the virgin birth, as the main element of adoptionalism.

        Ehrman touches on the adoptionists in a few ways, e.g. by continually saying that the NT text was tampered away by those meanie proto-orthodox scribes, away from adoptionist ideas.  Clearly that means that the original NT had those adoptionist/ebionite ideas.  (The question of precisely who were these proto-orthodox who wielded so much pen power to uproot the original adoptionist faith we will leave aside for now.)

        On p. 48 Bart Ehrman specifically places the adoptionism groups and beliefs, that they :

        predate the books of the New Testament
        preliterary traditions
        Jesus' earliest followers

        In other words, those who walked with Jesus, even before the New Testament was written, were those who we would consider adoptionists/ebionites, per Ehrman.
        And Bart Ehrman does not place any other group in that period.

        Note also (quote below) that Bart Ehrman says that the adoptionists/ebionites did not
        "originate" their views ... which is this context can only mean that their views were directly received from Jesus, and "Jesus' earliest followers".

        =============================================

        Consistency, the Jewel

        In order to support this theory, Bart Ehrman ends up supporting :

        variants with virtually no support
        redaction theories of the text that are special pleading
        the Byzantine Text over the Alexandrian when it is convenient for Ehrmans' theories.

        The third one is the great heresy for Hortianism, Bart Ehrman even ends up supporting "Son" over "God" in John 1:18 !  Thus becoming a momentary Burgonite, jumping ship from all his normal textual theory. This was covered a bit earlier on this forum at:

        [textualcriticism] John 1:18 - translation errors --> rewriting church history --> textual theory (Bart Ehrman presentation)
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6424 - Steven Avery - May 4, 2011
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6428 - Steven Avery - May 7, 2011

        =============================================

        Doctrinal Analysis Drives Ehrman Textual Theories

        In other words, what drives Ehrman's concepts is not textual analysis, but doctrinal analysis.  And Bart Ehrman tries to wedge in the Bible text to match his preferred doctrines.  He sees the early Jesus movement as a low Christology belief, very low.

        We could do a side discussion here of why atheists, skeptics and mythicists would naturally prefer adoptionist and ebionite Christianity to be original, as they always reject high Christology understandings.  However, not in this post, we will simply mention that point en passant. 

        And we could also mention that if the Ehrman adoptionist presupposition is rejected as unfounded, then the theories of Orthodox Corruption basically all go out the window.  The book Orthodox Corruption would then be seen to be designed for the fringe mythicist-atheist market, who find those original ebionite Christian idea reasonably compatible with their beliefs.  Or the book may be meant to "inform" the popular market in a special direction, to work as a bit of agiprop for those who are unaware of the issues and the approach.

        =======================================

        Scholarship  Support For the Ehrman Adoptionist/Ebionite Postulate

        I wondered how Bart Ehrman supported his view that the early Christians were adoptionist/ebionite. Surely that is a very hard position from the BIble text, which is why Ehrman has to take flights of fancy on wild variants and redactions and unusual historical/textual theories. 

        In my experience, few scholars take that view that the original Christians were adoptionist/ebionite.  There are fascinating writings by gentlemen like Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, N. T. Wright, Alan Segal, Alister McGrath, James McGrath, Alan R. Millard and dozens of scholars you could name. So what about the Ehrman adoptionism as early Christianity position ?

        First, here are three sections form his adoptionist discussion:

        Other Christians, however, rejected this claim and argued that Christ was a flesh and blood human being without remainder, a man who had been adopted by God to be his Son and to bring about the salvation of the world. To be sure, these representatives of adoptionism constituted no monolith; they differed among themselves, for example, concerning the moment at which Jesus' adoption had taken place. But by the second century, most believed that it had occurred at his baptism, when the Spirit of God descended upon him and a voice called out from heaven, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you." (p. 47)

        The Earliest Adoptionists
        Christians of the second and third centuries generally--regardless of theological persuasion--claimed to espouse the views of Jesus' earliest followers. With regard at least to the adoptionists, modern scholarship has by and large conceded the claim. These Christians did not originate their views of Christ; adoptionistic Christologies can be traced to sources that predate the books of the New Testament.

        The business of reconstructing the preliterary sources or the New Testament is a highly complex affair, and a discussion of the attendant difficulties lies beyond the purview of the present investigation. It is enough to observe that form-critical analyses of the New Testament creedal, hymnic, and sermonic materials have consistently demonstrated earlier strata of tradition that were theologically modified when incorporated into their present literary contexts. Many of these preliterary traditions evidence adoptionistic views. (p. 48)


        =======================================

        So apparently Bart Ehrman appeals to:

        Professor By and Doctor Large.

        Christians of the second and third centuries generally--regardless of theological persuasion--claimed to espouse the views of Jesus' earliest followers. With regard at least to the adoptionists, modern scholarship has by and large conceded the claim. These Christians did not originate their views of Christ; adoptionistic Christologies can be traced to sources that predate the books of the New Testament.

        Interestingly, there was no footnote identifying the "by and large" scholarship that is at the base of his textual exposition. 

        Would anybody like to fill in the gap and either support the Ehrman claim with the specific groupings of scholars ?
        And clear the field of those like Richard Bauckham who might respectfully disagree.

        Or perhaps take the position that Bart Ehrman was grossly oversimplifying the critical underlying claim of his exposition in the blithe assertions above.

        At least .. we could help Bart Ehrman have a real footnote in the next edition.

        =======================================

        Shalom,
        Steven Avery

      • james_snapp_jr
        Dear Dr. Ehrman, BDE: I certainly do think it was, as do most of the scholars who have worked extensively on Christology, outside the ranks, I suppose, of
        Message 3 of 7 , Nov 12, 2011
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          Dear Dr. Ehrman,

          BDE: "I certainly do think it was, as do most of the scholars who have worked extensively on Christology, outside the ranks, I suppose, of very conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists."

          If it is not too much to ask, could you list a dozen or so English-speaking scholars who have written something to the effect of, "I believe that Adoptionism was the earliest Christology," and point to where the statement can be found?

          Yours in Christ,

          James Snapp, Jr.
        • schmuel
          Hi Folks, Bart Ehrman ... Christology ... I certainly do think it was, Steven Thanks for the acknowledgement, which is your position as given in the Tony Costa
          Message 4 of 7 , Nov 13, 2011
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            Hi Folks,

            Bart Ehrman
            >  the question of whether adoptionism was the earliest form of
            Christology ... I certainly do think it was,

            Steven
            Thanks for the acknowledgement, which is your position as given in the Tony Costa paper.

            We are discussing the theory of text tampering by the "proto-orthodox".  This malleable group of doctrinalists, per Bart Ehrman in Orthodox Corruption, falsely presented themselves, as apostolic.

            Orthodox Corruption:
            These  forebears came to be quoted as authoritative sources for deciding theological issues, and were presented as true heirs of the apostolic tradition, as reliable tradents who passed along the doctrines of the faith from apostolic to Nicene times. ~ Chief among these were such figures as Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and even Clement of Alexandria and Origen—the writers whose works were preserved by the victorious party and who continue today to influence students concerning "the" nature of Christianity after the New Testament period. (Orthodox Corruptoin p. 12)

            Yet in Bart' Ehrmans economy, as acknowledged above, the real true heirs were the adoptionists.  And these were primarily or largely ebionites, disbelievers in the virgin birth. The proto-orthodox may have been sincere, but their purported apostolic lineage was mistaken.  And these writers, and their supporters, are seen as the tamperers, corrupters, of the original NT text (maybe not always consciously and deliberately, however corruption was their bottom line).  They are also seen as foisting the canon as well, but that is not our concern teoday.

            PROTO-ORTHODOX

            Ignatius of Antioch
            Justin,
            Polycarp
            Irenaeus
            Origen
            Clement of Alexandria
            Tertullian,
            Hippolytus

            Rather an impressive list.  And based on the way the term is defined and used, I would say most or all of the following dozen writers and church figures also fit into Bart Ehrman's grouping of the proto-orthodox.

            Clement of Rome
            Barnabas
            Aristedes,
            Shepherd of Hermas
            Mathetes,
            Melito of Sardis
            Athenagoras,
            Theophilus of Antioch
            Cyprian.
            Dionysius of Alexandria
            Julius Africanus
            Gregory Thaumaturgus

            Also the Council of Carthage of 256 AD (Cyprian) and the Antiochan Councils of the 260s (Dionysius of Alexandria) contra Paul of Samasoata. I would be interested in knowing if Bart Ehrman agrees that this is a proper augmenting of his "Chief among these" group of proto-orthodox, the first list.

            One of the points of the book that I found most fascinating is that this group of proto-orthodox is seen as :

            Tampering the New Testament text in two opposite directions !

            In addition to scribal alterations that serve to prevent an absolute identification of Christ with God the Father ... others (scribal alterations) that work to "subordinate" him to God within the divine economy. These variants are also to be construed as the remnants of proto-orthodoxy, even though the explicit claim that Christ was not fully equal with God would at a later date be condemned as heretical. To be sure, even for the proto-orthodox, Christ was in one sense equal with God (although not identical with him). But this involved an equality of substance, not of function within the divine economy; with respect to the latter, the Father was, to use the words of the Fourth Gospel, "greater" than Christ. Not so for the Patripassianists, who saw Christ as God himself. Certain changes within the New Testament manuscript tradition work to dissociate the text from such a view by clarifying the relationship between Christ and God. (Orthodox Corruption p. 268)

            So the proto-orthodox were often making textual adjustments contra the adoptionists for the "complete Deity of Christ" (p. 78).
            On the other hand, they frequently made adjustments against the Sabellian full Deity of Christ concepts !

            This two-sided coin, the jewel of inconsistency, clearly is wonderfully efficient for flexibility in argumentation ! :)

            ===========================

            THE TWO-SIDED TEXTUAL COIN OF ORTHODOX CORRUPTION

            To give an example .. if today you want to argue that the following phrase has a deliberate corruption:
            (Or accidental corruption deliberately maintained.)

            1 Timothy 3:16 - "God was manifest in the flesh ..."
            It can be an orthodox corruption, contra the original adoptionist which/who/he, , the low Christology reading. .

            Or, if you prerer to argue that
            "God was manifest in the flesh ..." , high Christology, was original, it could be tampered by the proto-orthodox to avoid the Sabellian heresy of full Deity and identification of Jesus as God !

            Which one is more "natural" ?
            Depends as much on whether the moon is full or waning than any other markers .

            (Sidenote: which/who has, in other contexts, been considered a grammatically awkward gnostic corruption, due to linking grammatically with the mystery.)

            Bart Ehrman
             Interesting observations.   Very little in the book, Orthodox Corruption, hinges on the question of whether adoptionism was the earliest form of Christology....  I don’t think any “textual theory” rests on the question, however.

            Steven
            Respectfully disagree. I believe the full-orbed range of Bart Ehrman contributions to textual theory in Orthodox Corruption involves the adoptionist originality presupposition. This is the primary lens.

            Either way, there is a base of Hortianism, and you even stay with Hort on the Western non-interpolations.  Now, if you remove the theory of adoptionism as original, if you allow the 20 writers above not to be doctrinal text tamperers, I simply do not see what you have left that is different or somewhat unusual or unique. Most of the unique arguments go poof in the night. Except perhaps a higher view of the quirks of Codex Bezae than is commonly accepted today.  Which is your position arguing occasionally for readings with almost no Greek Byzantine or Alexandrian support, and minor Latin support.

            > Bart Ehrman
            > Interesting observations. ...Thanks for passing this along,

            Steven
            Thanks. My pleasure.  Always like to look closely at textual theories.
            The original post is archived at:

            [textualcriticism] Bart Ehrman's textual theory foundational presupposition - adoptionism is the early Christianity
            Steven Avery November 10, 2011
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/6730

            And I especially want to thank Tony Costa for his paper, which is not widely known.

            Bart Ehrman
             as do most of the scholars who have worked extensively on Christology, outside the ranks, I suppose, of very conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists.

            Steven
            Well it is understandable that unbelievers in the Bible would naturally drift towards theories that make the New Testament events not miraculous (virgin birth, resurrection, etc).  In a Jesus Seminar type fashion.  And I believe your theories in Orthodox Corruption should have a native appeal there.

            While thoughtful evangelicals would be more likely to see the events like the virgin birth, the temple prophecy of Jesus, the resurrection and appearances to the disciples, as historical as written in their Bibles. They will have more closeness to the historical theories of gentlemen like Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado. (Perhaps these are your "very conservative", although I do not see them in that way at all.  They are conservative compared to the Jesus seminar.) 

            Anyway, in Orthodox Corruption  I was surprised by the lack of a footnote saying what scholars you specifically follow for the adoptionist-ebionite as original early Christians perspective. Since so many renown scholars do not have that view, it seemed like it might be a vacancy of embarrassment.

            Shalom,
            Steven Avery
            Queens, NY

            =============================================
            With a lot of interest in the last years, we have seen a lot of discussion of Bart Ehrman's nouveau approach to textual theory:
            The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (1996) - Bart Ehrman
            =============================================
          • ron minton
            Is the Ehrman Wallace debate of October, 2011 available or mostly available online so we can direct students to it? Sorry if I missed this before. Ron Minton -
            Message 5 of 7 , Jan 7, 2012
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              Is the Ehrman Wallace debate of October, 2011 available or mostly available online so we can direct students to it?
              Sorry if I missed this before.
              Ron Minton - Ukraine

            • james_snapp_jr
              Ron, DVD s of the debate are for sale at the CSNTM site for $15.50 -- http://www.csntm.org and at http://www.friendsofcsntm.com/smudebate/ I don t think
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 8, 2012
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                Ron,

                DVD's of the debate are for sale at the CSNTM site for $15.50 --
                http://www.csntm.org

                and at
                http://www.friendsofcsntm.com/smudebate/

                I don't think anything was really resolved at the debate. The main question, rephrased, is, "Are the autographs perfectly represented by the archetype of all witnesses?" Wallace's position is, probably (even though we haven't quite got the archetype worked out yet). Ehrman's position is, probably not (since, even if we could make a definitive archetype of all witnesses, it would reflect a state of the text far along in the transmission-stream).

                A summary of the debate (by individuals associated with Dallas Theological Seminary, where Dr. Wallace teaches) is at

                http://www.dts.edu/about/news/20111019-wallace-debate/

                At

                http://wellthoughtoutlife.blogspot.com/2011/10/bart-ehrman-vs-daniel-wallace-is-text.html

                you can read a review of the debate by someone who was there. (The author makes a very perceptive point about something Ehrman said about the Council of Nicea in the Q-and-A portion. (Was that a stupid question, I wonder, or was that someone's brilliant trap, upon which Ehrman stepped with his full weight?)

                Ehrman seems to be insisting that since we don't have enough evidence to reconstruct the autographs, we just can't be sure that the New Testament says what it appears to say even after being sifted through the text-critical canons. I would say that he is correct in this regard regarding a very small, tiny, minute amount of the New Testament text, and that the scientifically grounded options at those points do not go in any direction that the New Testament is not already taking us.

                And I might say something more:

                Suppose we had the autographs themselves. The objections of the person who does not want to believe that God has entrusted His guidance to the church in a definitive way via the New Testament Scriptures would still find an excuse not to be satisfied. He could always object, "What if Paul's secretary wrote the wrong word there in Romans 5:1?", or, "But who really wrote Hebrews, anyway?" and so forth. It comes down to faith, and to the understanding -- as expressed by Erasmus long ago -- that if God had wished to absolutely guarantee, so that everyone would have with mathematical certainty, that all His people in every generation would receive exactly the same message conveyed by the New Testament, then he would have to perpetually manipulate not only the hands of the scribes but also the minds of the interpreters (including textual critics). And who wants to be a puppet? [I can think of some who might volunteer, who might say, "Yes; disintegrate my self; overwhelm my will; batter my heart three-person'd God, and make me Thy puppet," so maybe it would be better to ask if your idea of a good God is a God who would dominate everyone's will regardless of whether they wanted to surrender to Him or not.]

                A text that has received small wounds in its transmission may nevertheless fulfill its purpose perfectly, whereas even a text reconstructed to its pristine state may yield a flawed interpretation, if the interpreter resists the truth. In the hands of a sincere and careful and Spirit-guided interpreter, words that have received small wounds from reed-bearing copyists are more likely to produce God-pleasing results than a pristine text in the hands of an interpreter intent on goring Christ in the heart. I don't think that Dr. Ehrman has anything to say that is capable of proving that the New Testament is incapable of delivering God's truth to the church; nor can Dr. Wallace prove that the New Testament, as reconstructed by (some) textual critics, always does so. (For even with the same text, interpreters disagree about how the church should understand it -- just look at the interpretations of some parts of the book of Revelation, for example.) So, although I was not at the SMU debate, I suspect that the verdict of the reviewer is very true: it was not about the New Testament text as much as it was about presuppositions.

                Yours in Christ,

                James Snapp, Jr.
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