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Manifest Greatness, Bart Ehrman, the KJV, and Luke 17:9

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  • Vox Verax
    At https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehnEZtqj2Mo there s a lecture given by Bart Ehrman on Jan. 24, 2013, titled, What Kind of a Text is the King James Bible?
    Message 1 of 51 , Jul 19, 2013
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      there's a lecture given by Bart Ehrman on Jan. 24, 2013, titled, "What Kind of a Text is the King James Bible?" It's mainly about the historical significance of the KJV but Dr. Ehrman covers some text-critical territory too.

      The Manifold Greatness exhibit-tour received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, so pay attention, Americans: this is your tax-dollars at work.

      The video begins with Jamie Hazlitt giving the first introduction, describing the Manifold Greatness exhibit. At 2:30 she hands things off to Loyola Prof. Jeffrey Siker, who introduces Dr. Ehrman.

      9:30 – Ehrman takes the podium and the lecture begins.

      11:30 – Ehrman tells a story about a burnt copy of the RSV; its ashes were kept by Metzger in a small box.

      35:00 – Slide: "Words that we no longer use: almug, algum, charashim, chode, cracknels, gat, habergeon, hosen, kab, ligure, neesed, nusings, ouches, ring-straked, sycamyne, trow, wimples, …"

      (Waitaminutethere. Is this really a valid objection? Let's take a closer look at the words that Dr. Ehrman targeted.

      almug – this is also in the NRSV (1989) in I Kings 10:12.

      algum – this is also in the NRSV in II Chron. 2:8.

      charashim – this once-used word, from I Chron. 4:14, is a proper name. The KJV says, "Seraiah begat Joab, the father of the valley of Charashim; for they were craftsmen," and the NRSV says, "Seraiah became the father of Joab father of Ge-harashim, so-called because they were artisans," with a footnote added to "Ge-harashim" – "That is Valley of artisans."

      chode – Okay; this can be improved. But it's just the archaic past tense of "chide," used in Genesis 21:36.

      cracknels – I think this only appears in I Kings 14:3. The NRSV resorts to "some cakes." It's a rare term. Some interpreters think that raisins are being referred to. Other say it was biscuits. But, was it "some cakes" of the sort that one typically sees at birthdays? Which is better: an unclear and enigmatic rendering, or one that gives a clear misimpression?

      gat – this is "got." This is not difficult considering the context.

      habergeon – this is a technical term and the KJV's rendering is valid. The NRSV, in Exodus 28:14 and 39:23, have "a coat of mail" with a footnote: "Meaning of Heb uncertain." Similarly in II Chr. 26:14 the NRSV has "coats of mail" and Neh. 4:16 has "body-armor." Afaik, the garment being described was not a full coat of mail; it was more like a vest, sometimes with a protective hood.

      hosen – made of hose. Difficult?

      kab – This is a unit of measurement for liquid volume, like "quart" or "pint." Used in II Kings 6:25: "the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung." (Spelled "cab" in KJV, not "kab") NRSV: "one-fourth of a kab of dove's dung."

      ligure – This is a technical term for a kind of precious or semi-precious jewel on the priestly breastplate, in Exodus 28:19 and 39:12. The NRSV has "jacinth." Well that's clearer.

      neesed – this term does not occur in the KJV.

      nusings – this term does not occur in the KJV either! The term "neesings" is what Dr. Ehrman had in mind; it's used one time, in Job 41:18. NRSV: "sneezes."

      ouches – This means "settings," like the setting for precious gems.

      ring-straked – This term is used in Genesis 30-31 to refer to the stripes on livestock: ring-streaked. NRSV: "striped."

      sycamyne – This term is used only in Luke 17:6 ("sycamine" in my KJV). This is a transliteration, defining a kind of tree.

      NRSV: "mulberry." But was it really a mulberry tree?

      trow – Found in Luke 17:9: "I trow not." NRSV: omits the words entirely. Metzger: "A marginal comment that found its way into the Western text."

      wimples – this term refers to a sort of large headscarf mentioned in Isaiah 3:22. NRSV: "cloaks." But it's not just any cloak; it's the kind a woman would wear.

      So out of the 17 terms listed by Ehrman, one is a proper name, two do not exist, two are not really difficult, three are specialized terms that are also used in the NRSV, three involve obscure Hebrew terms, one (habergeon) is a better translation than the alternatives in most other translations; one is a transliteration, and three are genuinely archaic English.

      Which leaves the matter of "I trow not" in Luke 17:9. Now, it seems to me that it would be a lot easier for copyists to accidentally omit OU DOKW (which appears vulnerable right before OUTWS) than it would be for them to insert it from a margin-note. And it also seems more likely that copyists would over-protectively consciously remove a phrase asserting Jesus' lack of knowledge (for did He not know what was in man, a copyist might speculate) than that they would be attracted to the opposite reading. In which case, while one might wince at the KJV's archaic wording in Luke 17:9, at least it represents the original text with something instead of nothing.

      Back to the lecture:

      45:00 - Discussing Isaiah 7:14, Dr. Ehrman seems to genuinely not know that the king to whom Isaiah prophesied is Ahaz, not Ahab. He's not sure to say "Ahaz" or "Ahab," and decides to go with "Ahab."

      49:00 – He begins to discuss the New Testament's base-text.

      53:00 – The Johannine Comma is discussed. Ehrman perpetuates the story about Erasmus' rash promise which Metzger retracted in the appendix of the third edition of Text of the New Testament in a footnote on page 291. Ehrman says: "Erasmus apparently said, `If you can find me a Greek manuscript with that verse in it, I'll put it in my next edition.'" (Thus subject seems to have been an ongoing subject of debate between two researchers on Erasmus. As far as I can tell, Erasmus did not explicitly promise that he would include the CJ but he granted that if a Greek manuscript containing the passage were available to him, he could be fairly called negligent if he did not subsequently include it.

      54:00 – The Pericope Adulterae is discussed. His slide defines the "Woman Taken in Adultery" passage as John 7:53-8:12. He states, "It's not in our ancient manuscripts," and "It is only in the later manuscripts that it is found." Jerome's statement that he found the PA in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is not mentioned.

      56:00 – The discussion of Mark 16:9-20 begins. Ehrman states that "scribes in the Middle Ages" added 12 verses.

      58:30 – the NKJV is discussed: Ehrman says that the NKJV got rid of the thee's and thou's "but left all the problems."

      From 1:00:45 until the lecture and Q-and-A time is over there is a slide shown which is titled "The Irony of the KJV" and sub-titled, "The KJV as a One of the Worst Study Bibles" and "The KJV as one of Great Classics of English Literature." That's exactly what they say.

      The lecture ends at 1:01; then there is a Q&A time.

      1:05:00 – Q: When did they start capitalizing pronouns that refer to Deity? A: I don't know.

      Q: How much of Tyndale is in the KJV? A: 92%.

      1:11:00 – Q: How did Latin readings originate? A: focusing on the PA, Ehrman offers a hypothesis that the story was initially written in the margin, and subsequently added to the text when the copy with the PA in the margin was used as an exemplar. (No mention of the lectionary-based excision theory.)

      1:13:00 – in the course of answering a question about scribal omissions, Dr. Ehrman misquotes Jesus.

      1:14:00 – There's a brief discussion of "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Ehrman proposes that scribes omitted these words.

      1:16:00 – There's a discussion of the margin-note in Vaticanus alongside Hebrews 1:3, for humorous effect.


      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
    • Mr. Buck
      From: theswain@operamail.com     Regarding the PA, Bart s right: it isn t found in our ancient manuscripts. That an ancient author
      Message 51 of 51 , Sep 3, 2013
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        From: "theswain@..." <theswain@...> 
        Regarding the PA, Bart's right: it isn't found in our ancient manuscripts. That an ancient author mentions finding it in some does not falsify Bart's statement. Can we verify Jerome's statement? Nope, though there seems contemporary evidence to support in the form of similar statements by contemporaries. But they all agree that a) this reading doesn't universally appear b) that the PA is debated and c) the earliest evidence of it in John is late fourth century, so technically ancient, but hardly early attestation. So Bart once again isn't wrong in his characterization. One could argue incomplete; but KJV editions usually don't qualify the inclusion of the PA or explain the textual history. Since that is so and the KJV does include the PA, I hardly think that Bart's objection on the grounds of a FACT is a basis to criticize him.


        Since James didn't touch on this point in his rebuttal, I will. First, I'll say that the virtues of the KJV are more or less in the eyes of the beholder, so it's hardly fair to criticize someone for pointing out a few that someone else may not consider a virtue. On the other hand, mistakes are objective. James was not accusing Bart of being wrong in claiming that the KJV has some mistranslated and archaic words in it--it is evident to a typical clear-thinking person that it does--just as it is evident to a clear-thinking person that Bart made mistakes about the KJV's mistakes (and that James himself even made one). 

        Now, back to the PA. It is in D 05, and that is one of our ancient manuscripts--Bart himself said so elsewhere, as earlier noted. It's even Bart's favorite ancient manuscript for Mark 1:41, where he accepts its singular reading as original and that of the 'earliest and best' manuscripts as corruptions

        Daniel Buck 
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