Monday, January 16, 2006

More on Misquoting Jesus

Jim Snapp has reviewed Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus here.

Other postings on Misquoting Jesus are:
Ehrman's Preferred Title, Dan Wallace Reviews Misquoting Jesus, Review of Bart Ehrman Misquoting Jesus, Further Reflections on Ehrman, Live and Late from SBL.

21 comments:

  1. Maurice A Robinson4:40 pm, January 16, 2006

    Like Peter Williams, so also Jim Snapp has produced a quite good and extensive review of Ehrman.

    I particularly liked Snapp’s map analogy. However (speaking smugly from within the framework of a particular theoretical position), I would observe that existing early maps tend not only to be inaccurate, but that they conflict with each other far more than do later maps produced under more precise cartographic situations. “Here be monsters” — indeed!

    In general, I do not find Ehrman’s book disturbing, any more than the DaVinci Code or the writings of Pagels, etc., since the position espoused is far removed from an evangelical position. On the other hand, I do find it disturbing that the evangelical-based TNIV in Mk 1:41 chose to abandon the general Nestle/UBS/Byzantine consensus to adopt Ehrman’s favored “anger” reading (also favored, as C. Stirling Bartholomew pointed out, by Lane [Mark NICNT 1974] and France [Mark NIGTC 2002]) -- despite its appearance in a single Greek MS and a handful of 4 Old Latin MSS.

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  2. Jim Snapp's review of of Ehrman's latest is well worth reading.

    Questions and Comments.

    In the discussion of Mk 1:41 the use of the word "errors" to characterize the variant readings in Bezae and the other "Western" witnesses is perhaps a little misleading. A careful look at the patterns of variation in Bezae suggests that many variants are intentional changes not "errors." Each case needs to be evaluated on its on merits and the Mk 1:41 reading in Bezae may in fact be the result of an error.

    Do we need to defend the end off Mark? Does the evangelical view of scripture suffer from Mark ending at 16:8?

    Can someone provide an accessible reference that would address in some detail the issue of Erasmus and 1Jn 5:7,particularly H.J. de Jonge's discussion of it?

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  3. On the subject of the end of Mark, there is an arguable case for adopting a taxonomy of positions that sees the views that Mark ended at 16:8 or at 16:20 as more closely aligned with each other than either position is to the view that the Gospel continued beyond 16:8, but that the original ending was lost by accident. One could of course adopt a position in which the ending at 16:8 represented the divinely intended ending, but not the intention of the human author. However, to posit such a contrast between the intention of the divine and human authors would be problematic. The position would work best if the author died while the manuscript was from his perspective incomplete, but from a divine perspective complete.

    Quite aside from questions of the correctness of the position that defends 16:9-20, I do not think that incorporating a defence of 16:9-20 into a general articulation of evangelical textual criticism would be a good move from a tactical viewpoint. United we stand; divided we fall. Evangelicals have spent a long time up to now being divided. We need to take a long-term view of how we construct and articulate a coherent modern and yet historic evangelical position.

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  4. PJW wrote: "Quite aside from questions of the correctness of the position that defends 16:9-20, I do not think that incorporating a defence of 16:9-20 into a general articulation of evangelical textual criticism would be a good move from a tactical viewpoint."

    A good point. Why get embroiled in what might look to some like a defense of the TR.

    On another front, the Erasmus and 1Jn 5:7 issue, I am still looking for a verbatim quotation from R.Bainton where he supports H.J. de Jonge reading of Erasmus.

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  5. “Here be monsters” — indeed!

    This opens up the question of a textual variant at this reading:
    "Here be dragons"

    Jim mentioned that the TNIV had a hard time deciding whether the Dragon of Rev. 13 was a "he" or an "it". I might also wonder at how they even knew it was a dragon at all.

    The Hebrew word 'tannin' and its cognates were typically translated as 'drako' in the LXX, thus 'dragon' in the English. The CBT, on the other hand, despite going with the LXX reading over the MT when it suits it (e.g. Psalms 12:7), is pretty consistent at translating tannin/drako as 'monster' in the singular and as 'jackals' in the plural.

    So whence the 'dragon' (Gk. 'drako') of Revelation 12?

    Is there some garmmatical rule against only having one jackal?

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  6. I found an apparent scribal error on Page 3 of the review, 2nd paragraph, where Jim Snapp says "Once again, readers are told important details about the manuscripts; Dr. Ehrman just informs the reader, 'I don't need to go into detail.'"

    I think the word NOT is missing from the 5th position.

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  7. PJW said: 'Quite aside from questions of the correctness of the position that defends 16:9-20, I do not think that incorporating a defence of 16:9-20 into a general articulation of evangelical textual criticism would be a good move from a tactical viewpoint.'

    I'm not sure that this is really sustainable is it? Surely you want evangelical textual criticism to stand on principled, not tactical, viewpoints.

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  8. Peter,
    Though I spoke tactically (sounding pragmatic) there is a principle behind what I said: the correctness of the evangelical position on scripture is not dependent on a decision as to the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.

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  9. Daniel,
    Don't forget about when the TNIV degendered Balaam's ass, e.g.

    Numbers 22:27
    NIV When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff.

    TNIV When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff.

    Have you noticed how they got rid of the women entirely from Nahum 3:13?

    NIV Look at your troops—
    they are all women!

    TNIV Look at your troops—
    they are all weaklings.

    Unfortunately it seems that the translators want to remove references to females in scripture.

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  10. Clayton,
    You will know that Henk Jan de Jonge's position is above all found in his ‘Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum’, _ETL_ 56 (1980), pp. 381-389. You may also wish to consult his edition of Erasmus' _Apologia respondens ad ea quae Iac. Lopis Stunica taxauerat in prima duntaxat Noui Testamenti aeditione_, ASD IX-2, p. 259 n.l. 541 (and see also Erasmus' own words in this Apologia and in his Annotationes!).
    In my impression, ever since de Jonge's article and his dissertation (which ASD IX-2 is), everyone accepts his conclusions on the case and simply refers to the sources mentioned above. A good example is Erika Rummel's _Erasmus' Annotations on the New Testament_ (1986), p. 40 (with n. 29) and pp. 132-134 (with nn. 29-30).
    BTW, what makes you think that Bainton expressed himself on de Jonge's views of Erasmus and the comma?

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  11. PJW said: 'Though I spoke tactically (sounding pragmatic) there is a principle behind what I said: the correctness of the evangelical position on scripture is not dependent on a decision as to the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.'
    This is true, but I thought we were talking about 'a general articulation of evangelical textual criticism' rather than 'the evangelical position on scripture'. One is hardly able to side-step the question of the authenticity of Mark 16.9-20 in 'a general articulation of evangelical textual criticism'.

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  12. Peter,
    Thank you for pointing out my fuzziness (as always). You wrote:

    'One is hardly able to side-step the question of the authenticity of Mark 16.9-20 in "a general articulation of evangelical textual criticism".'

    For me, such a general articulation would focus on method more than result.

    If in the short term we focus on a proper articulation of principles of method it will, I believe, result in less divergent results in the future. The question of the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 is not sidestepped. However, it is also not the first thing one steps across.

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  13. Thanks to PJW and PH for their contributions:

    My question: "Do we need to defend the end off Mark? Does the evangelical view of scripture suffer from Mark ending at 16:8?"

    I wasn't suggesting that we ignore the issue or that the issue was of no importance. But defending the ending as if the evangelical view of scripture were at stake would appear to get us embroiled in lost cause apologetics like defending the TR.

    If Mark is a slightly truncated gospel, missing a final page, does that cause a major problem for us?

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  14. C. Stirling Bartholomew:

    CSB: "Do we need to defend the end of Mark?"

    That depends. If 16:9-20 was part of the Gospel of Mark in the form in which the book was first distributed for church-use, then it ought to be considered authentic, and if it's authentic Scripture then of course we ought to defend it. Certainly peer pressure should not be a factor in a decision to retain or remove it.

    CSB: "defending the ending as if the evangelical view of scripture were at stake would appear to get us embroiled in lost cause apologetics like defending the TR."

    First, I'm not sure if adherents to the Westminster Confession would/could deny the canonicity of Mark 16:9-20, considering what it says about the providential preservation of God's word. Perhaps we could ask some.

    Second, the defense of Mark 16:9-20 is no lost cause. The dominance of the opinion that the Long Ending is a "late addition" is, I strongly suspect, due mainly to the absorption of overstatements and generalizations on the part of earlier commentators and instructors, rather than to fresh consideration of evidence.

    CSB: "If Mark is a slightly truncated gospel, missing a final page, does that cause a major problem for us?"

    No; nor does it cause a major problem if Mark was originally published with 16:9-20. That is the fundamental question, istm. Asking, "Can we afford to lose this reading?" would be an unscientific way to do TC.

    I have written a 100+ page paper about Mark 16:9-20, in which I correct misinformation related by Hort, Metzger, France, Barclay, Farmer, Klijn, Minear, R. Martin, Mann, Guthrie, Nida, and quite a few other commentators. I will be glad to e-mail it to whoever requests a copy, as a MS-Word attachment.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Curtisville Christian Church
    Indiana (USA)
    www.curtisvillechristian.org/MarkOne.html

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  15. CSB: 'Does the evangelical view of scripture suffer from Mark ending at 16:8?'

    The evangelical system of believing in a true, verbally inspired, text does not in itself grow logically weaker or stronger depending on the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20. Nevertheless, the credibility of the system whereby evangelicals believe that those who, with God's help, seek may obtain true convictions is, however, weakened if we cannot articulate or discover evangelical principles whereby one would go about settling the question as to its authenticity. How does any evangelical decide that one reading is preferable to another? Do they just do their empirical work and then add an evangelical gloss to it?

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  16. James Snapp Jr,
    You're a hard man to get a hold of.
    Your website doesn't seem to have a 'comments' link.
    Email me at buck.stops@gmail.com

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  17. PJW wrote:
    "Nevertheless, the credibility of the system whereby evangelicals believe that those who, with God's help, seek may obtain true convictions is, however, weakened if we cannot articulate or discover evangelical principles whereby one would go about settling the question as to its authenticity. How does any evangelical decide that one reading is preferable to another? Do they just do their empirical work and then add an evangelical gloss to it?"

    Very well put. The last question is downright profound. I have been trying to answer this question for going on 40 years ever since Francis A. Schaeffer wrote "Escape From Reason". I have read E.Brunner, C. van Til, A.Plantinga, N.Wolterstorff and some recent stuff by K.Vanhoozer, D.Goothtius ... but I still don't have a good solid answer to your question. I think that in the recent past evangelical biblical scholars have succumbed to positivism and other forms of modernism by adopting methodologies which have an ideological foundation hostile to orthodox theism. When you find the answer to this let me know.

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  18. I just wrote:

    "I have read E.Brunner, C. van Til, A.Plantinga, N.Wolterstorff ... "

    Of course this list of readings was abbreviated but I certainly should have included:

    "God, Revelation and Authority" Carl F Henry. I think I got bogged down toward the end of his prolegomena but I did read some portions of the other five volumes.

    Perhaps there is a simple answer to this question I have overlooked. :-)

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  19. Clay,
    Glad to find another person who is interested in textual criticism and evangelical epistemology! If I were to answer my own question, I would say that we are definitely not just to do empirical work and then add an evangelical gloss to it. One of the problems with evangelical engagement in academic matters is that precisely in order to engage with aspects of secular discourse we have tried to secularise our own mode of discourse. This is sometimes a useful exercise, but, if you spend too much time speaking a foreign language, you eventually begin to forget how to speak your own (if I may speak of thought [or faith] systems as languages). Ideally evangelicals in academia will be at least bilingual. We draft our research first in our own language and then we translate it into the other language for the benefit of those who do not speak our language. However, we do not translate it all into the other language, because we actually want others to learn our language.

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  20. Representing the average layperson, and feeling honored and privileged to be in the company of, well, all of you, I must ask: Should everything Bart Ehrman believes and espouses be discounted because of a few inaccuracies? I can't read ancient texts; I wish I could. But I want to know what to believe. So, who do I believe, you or Ehrman? I felt liberated from the confines of Christianity after reading Ehrman, with a new found ability to breathe and step outside the box. I read all of what you here had to say. Should I throw out the baby with the bathwater? Ehrman can't be wrong about everything?

    It is probably beneath any one of you to answer me, and as yet, no one has; parishioners are unable. I appeal to you...

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  21. Dear anon,
    Sorry I hadn't noticed your message until today. My oversight—until someone brought it to my attention. First, of course Ehrman is not wrong about everything. There are many good points within Ehrman. Secondly, the reviews of Ehrman in general have not focused on a 'few inaccuracies'. The problem a number of us have with Ehrman is the whole portrait of the environment of second century Christianity that he paints and the way he derives pictures of the type of things that people were doing from variations in texts that can be otherwise interpreted.

    You are obviously in a position of needing to evaluate different views on Christianity. All I can urge you to do is to make sure that you read 'on both sides'. Thus when reading Ehrman or similar authors you should also read authors who stand more within a Christian tradition, e.g. F.F. Bruce, Richard Bauckham, N.T. Wright, D.A. Carson, Craig Blomberg (these authors all have differences with each other too). The various reviews of Misquoting Jesus linked from this blog should give you some things to think about in relation to Ehrman's work.

    Please get back if you want further suggestions.

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