Monday, January 09, 2006

Ehrman's preferred title

On Wieland Willker's e-mail list, textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com, Bart Ehrman repeated what he said at SBL in Philadelphia, namely that he had wanted another title for his Misquoting Jesus. I quote:

'The title, btw, wasn't at all my idea. In fact, I was strongly against it. I wanted to call the book "Lost in Transmission."'

I suppose this just raises the question as to what exactly was lost. This title doesn't appear to fit the content of the work any better.

Previous comments here.

9 comments:

  1. Good observation Pete.

    So text we have recieved of Dr. Ehrman's book has been altered. And what he originally wrote (at least his title--and who knows what else) has been lost in its own transmission.

    I wonder if Dr. Ehrman believes that this unfortunate turn of events has rendered his own book untrustworthy. Perhaps we also should revisit all of the comments about it on this blog and remove any attribution of quotations to Dr. Erhman. After all, how are we to know that he really wrote the things we quote from him? All we have are untrustworthy copies of an original that is inaccessible to us.

    And just wait until it gets translated into other languages! The poor souls who read it in German, believing they have in their hands something written by Bart Ehrman will have no idea how hopelessly far removed they are from anything he actually said.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In his post to the Yahoo tc list, Dr. Ehrman mentioned something about the publishers not wanting people to see the title "Lost in Transmission" and think it was a book about cars.

    At first that seemed strange to me. But then I began to think about what might motivate a publisher to say that. And I realized, it must be rooted in an anti-automobile bias. I think we have a theologically motivated change made to Ehrman's book by an Amish employee of Harper Collins.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Eric, your quote itself suffered from loss in transmission, thus qualifying you for membership in the Amish Scribe Society (still copying manuscripts like their ancestors did, 200 years ago!). It was STOCK cars of which the original title was allegedly reminiscent, thus showing an early redactor's bias against the dangerous, wasteful and polluting practice of racing automobiles.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am by no means an authority on early christianity, or ancient texts of any kind, but I just read Dr. Ehrman's book "Lost Christianities" and I was amazed and enlightened. Dr. Ehrman may be wrong on many counts, and his books may include elements of his own bias, but that by no means detracts from the fact that early Christians held various beliefs; that ancient texts for, against, and outside our modern canon have been lost, destroyed, or changed; and that orthodox Chrisitianity exists today for many historical reasons that have nothing to do with God or right.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Anon,
    Thanks. You wrote '...but that by no means detracts from the fact that early Christians held various beliefs'

    No one has ever denied this. However, there is a significant question about what we define as Christian. Ehrman argues that all groups who worshipped Jesus ought to be allowed the title 'Christian'. However, he admits that views such as that the God of the OT was bad (Marcion) developed only after the standard 'Orthodox' view. Time and time again his historical model allows the Orthodox belief to have been the earlier one, but then he argues that it is not the only one that may be called 'Christian'. He then uses his broad definition of 'Christian' to say that there were many Christianities. Well yes, when he defines things that way, there were.

    '...ancient texts for, against, and outside our modern canon have been lost, destroyed, or changed'

    This is a bit confusing to me. Ancient texts outside our canon have been lost—of course, most ancient texts have been lost. There's nothing new there. 'ancient texts ... changed': though Ehrman uses that language he usually means that originally there was one set of wording written (A), and later a scribe copied A with changes to produce B. There are then both A and B. Rarely is the original (A) lost.

    'orthodox Chrisitianity exists today for many historical reasons that have nothing to do with God or right.'

    From Old Testament times it has been believed that some of the reasons the people of God exist have nothing to do with right, e.g. Jacob had so many sons because he was tricked by his father-in-law (not that he was blameless). Similarly, Jesus died (good thing) because he was betrayed by Judas (bad thing). Thus if Orthodoxy (good thing) is strengthened by some bad political event, this does not necessarily mean that Orthodoxy is not true. Moreover, 'Orthodoxy' is a broad term. It is far from being the case that everything that goes under the label 'Orthodox Christianity' is something which has the sanction of the Bible.

    Hope this makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Mr./Ms. Williams,

    Thank you so much for your response. I am honored, and that may sound condescending in this forum, but I really am. Much of what is said here is over my head. But, I still want to know the truth about where we came from, the origen of Western philosophy and religion in particular, and why and how and by whom our Bible was written.

    I no longer accept anything as the "gospel truth" based upon blind faith and tradition. It is beyond wonderful or even miraculous to me that I can come to a place where people KNOW what they are talking about and get answers, real answers, to questions that have had men scratching their heads since the dawn of time. At least they have had me scratching mine since practically birth.

    I will have to really think about and study your answer. I see where you might be confused at what I wrote. I was drawing largely from Ehrman and my own ignorance to boot. One more question: If Ehrman is a recognized authority, and based on what research I have done, he is, then why is his work not hotly debated within the scholarly biblical community? Why is he not being attacked from every side, rather than occasionally by a select few? Also, I know what you meant, I think, about the Bible having been changed from A to B, etc. My point, however weak it may be, is that if the Bible was changed at all then can it be relyed upon as an authority? Can't help but wonder...

    Any suggested reading would be greatly appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Mr. Williams,

    I have browsed all of the sites on this forum and am in the process of reading all of the posts. Many of my questions will be answered here, and the forum has provided a wealth of info to follow up on. Again, I appreciate your taking the time to answer my previous post. While much presented here (most, in fact) is beyond my current level of comprehension, it won't be so forever. I needed a dictionary to get through Lost Christianities, and I did get through it with surprisingly better comprehension than I anticipated at its beginning. I will do the same here. For what it is worth, your knowledge and willingness to share it has made a difference for me.

    I won't be leaving more posts here as I have nothing to contribute. But I take away much. Thank you and your fellow scholars.

    angie

    angie

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Angie,
    Thanks for yours. It sounds like you are pursuing a sensible course of trying to ensure that you are not palmed off with poor answers.
    You asked:

    ‘If Ehrman is a recognized authority, and based on what research I have done, he is, then why is his work not hotly debated within the scholarly biblical community? Why is he not being attacked from every side, rather than occasionally by a select few?’

    First, I can confirm again that Ehrman is a top scholar. However, he is not the only top scholar in textual criticism, and some who are at the top would disagree with many of his views. Why are such scholars not writing popular reviews of ‘Lost Christianity’ or his other books? This could be for any number of reasons, such as: (1) They are busy writing their own book on another subject and there are masses of other books they need to read for that project; (2) Some of Ehrman’s books are aimed more at the educated lay reader than at the specialist. The specialist will therefore learn less from reading them. As Ehrman himself said when a scholarly list discussed his book Misquoting Jesus, the scholars should not have been discussing that because it wasn’t written for them. He says:

    ‘I'd suggest you look at the full discussion in my book Orthodox
    Corruption of Scripture, which was written for scholars, rather than the brief overview in Misquoting Jesus, which is written for lay folk.’

    Message available at:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/message/1499

    Scholars rightly or wrongly generally ignore books targeted at a more lay audience. There are simply too many of them.

    Another reason why people might not criticise Ehrman’s work is because they think he’s a likeable guy, and they do not want to get involved in criticism of his work.

    You asked:
    ‘Also, I know what you meant, I think, about the Bible having been changed from A to B, etc. My point, however weak it may be, is that if the Bible was changed at all then can it be relied upon as an authority? Can't help but wonder...’

    Through Church history Christians have believed that, while the Bible’s they had in their hand might be a translation and might not perfectly reflect the original, it was close enough to the original for them to hear unambiguously the voice of God and to say that what they had in their hands was the word of God. Ironically, we now have more access to the original than has ever been the case in the history of the church, and this is exactly the period when people tend to doubt that God’s voice can be heard! There are enough texts that are not in question that you can pick up virtually any Bible and find the same message coming through. The argument that the uncertainty about the original text means that the message is lost just ignores how much is agreed. Of course Ehrman is right to press Christians to define more closely exactly what the original wording is. In doing so he does a great service to the church. I pray that God may use him greatly for the extension of his kingdom.

    As for suggested reading, I cannot suggest much. There are many good works on the New Testament, which argue for its integrity. However, there are very few good books on the early church. This, I suppose, is because evangelicals content themselves with defending only what they have to defend, and therefore do not tend to defend the integrity of the early church. On the New Testament there are many writers: D.A. Carson and D.J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament; Dan Wallace has much good material at www.bible.org. I’d still recommend the rather old F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? However, I don’t tend to read many books that are aimed at guiding non-specialists through the area and therefore you might be better off if other readers of this blog contributed their own suggestions.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks, Mr. Williams. I will read all you mentioned, and then some.

    As for my education, I can't be numbered amongst the educated masses. I am self-taught, and there remains a lot of gaps. This site and others help to fill them, and I have far to go. Your input helps.

    No need to waste your time with a post to me. I will be checking out all you say in hope of taking something away with me. Thanks again! And God (?) bless.

    ReplyDelete