Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Further Reflection on Ehrman

I've been thinking a little bit more about the Wright vs. Ehrman exchange at SBL. I think that it is probably worth observing that Ehrman was in fact the only person who maintained that there was a logical link between any doctrine of inspiration and the need to have particular words from God for such a doctrine to work. Thus, though in other respects he may seem the furthest from the classic evangelical position, in this respect he was the closest.

I'm now a third of the way through his book Misquoting Jesus. He has had to suffer what many an author has experienced, which is to find that the publisher has managed to put the Hebrew on the cover upside down. Fortunately, it is only the background and so it does not stand out too badly. The Hebrew is obviously a Dead Sea Scroll (CD?), but, unusually, nothing is said about the cover design.

I disagree with much of the general picture that Ehrman is painting, in particular the quantity of change that he suggests went on in the text early on (e.g. suggestions that there may have once been versions of John that lacked 1:1-18 or ch. 21). However, there is good coverage of much material. He emphasises the importance of written scripture for early Christians (even if they couldn't all read it) and affirms that 1 Tim. 5:18 does cite Luke 10:7 as scripture (p. 31).

Strangely he seems to think that since Galatians was written to a number of churches Paul must have made multiple copies so that there was no single autograph (pp. 58-60). I find it rather unlikely that the letter carrier would actually carry multiple copies when the letter could be reproduced locally. Do we have any evidence of multiple copies of letters being carried by a single individual?

[Addition on 3 Jan 2006: my review of Misquoting Jesus is available here.]

4 Comments:

Eric Rowe said...

I would also be interested in seeing any evidence for a scribe carrying multiple copies to the various cities. But, even in this scenario, wouldn't there still be only one original? I mean, when Paul wrote Galatians he surely didn't have four different ammenuenses (sp?) simultaneously making copies to give the carrier. He would have one ammenuensis making one first edition, and if any copies were made at that point, they would be copies of that original. And in such a case I wonder would Paul have written his own subscription on each copy, noting his large handwriting every time? Another point to mention is that Col 4:16 gives us an indication of how Paul expected his letters to be shared among multiple churches, "when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans." This presupposes a single original. One last caveat, Ehrman's comment was apparently about multiple originals for the recipients. It's worth pointing out that, even if we can rule out that suggestion, there still remains the possibility that Paul had a separate original made for himself to keep in his own letter collection.

P J Williams said...

I'd raise 'possibility' to 'likelihood' with regard to the practice of authors keeping copies of letters they sent.

Peter M. Head said...

PJW opined:
I find it rather unlikely that the letter carrier would actually carry multiple copies when the letter could be reproduced locally. Do we have any evidence of multiple copies of letters being carried by a single individual?

I haven't got any evidence on this question. It is perhaps worth noting that the question is exactly the same with 1 Peter and the Apocalypse.
I suppose I'm not so sure that a courier wouldn't take as many copies as were thought to be required (this is perhaps clearer in the Apocalypse than Galatians). It is just like [you know that I mean: 'possibly analogous'] taking a single copy of a handout to a distant conference and struggling to find a working photocopier - better to take as many copies as you need with you.

Pete

Eric Rowe said...

Don't forget about 1 Corinthians, which is addressed not only to the Church of God at Corinth, but also to all who call upon the name of the Lord in every place. That's alot of copies.