The SMU Ehrman-Wallace Debate
DVD's of the debate are for sale at the CSNTM site for $15.50 --
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
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.