Wednesday, February 18, 2009

James White Comments on Ehrman's Announcement

Until very recently, I was unaware of the Christian apologetic James White. Apparently, he has recently debated with Bart Ehrman on whether the Bible "misquote" Jesus or not (alluding to the title of Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus). On his Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog he commented yesterday (here) on Bart Ehrman's recent announcement that a second edition of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questionis (eds. Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes) is in the pipeline, in which he found "a very telling statement."

Ehrman had said, "What was then the state of the question [status questionis] has now become a bit dated. A lot has happened in fifteen years! Arguably more than in any comparable fifteen year period in the history of the 300+-year-old discipline."

Now I cite White's interpretation of Ehrman's statement:

What has happened in the past fifteen years that is "arguably more than in any comparable fifteen year period in the history of...the discipline"? Has there been a discovery of a new Sinaiticus? Something akin to the DSS in OT research? A massive papyri manuscript find? No, actually, nothing like that at all. So why the paradigm shift?

Simple: the arena has become predominated by post-modernists who have thrown in the towel on the "original text" and have openly and shamelessly said, "Hey, let's talk about what we can impute to nameless scribes based upon our mind-reading the reasons for their textual variations!" This is nothing less than an abandonment of the paradigm of the preceding generations, a hi-jacking of the discipline itself. While speculation about possible scribal prejudices may have its place, it will alway be just that: speculation.

It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about. Just because he happens to strongly disagree with Bart Ehrman's views of the transmission of the NT, which I am not trying to defend, he seems biased against everything associated with Bart Ehrman in a very unfortunate way. Ehrman's monograph from 1993, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture was already out when the volume on the Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research came out in 1995. To a great extent, the latter volume, with contributions from a wide range of twenty-three leading scholars, reflects a consensus on the status questionis in most areas of the discipline, while in some other areas a variety of views are represented. (Admittedly, the "Byzantine priority"-position held by e.g., Maurice Robinson is lacking.) In any case, I am quite confident that the second edition will in no less degree reflect the "width and depth" of scholarship in the field.

A lot has really happened in NT textual criticism in the last fifteen year period, which has very little to do with postmodernism. A lot of significant work has been and is being done in an increasing pace, most notably at the leading centres in Münster and Birmingham. In addition to a steady stream of new MSS (e.g., 26 more papyri and many more uncials, minuscules and lectonaries), we have seen the publication of new major editions, and significant developments in methodology. And, yes, even some new scholars have entered the field ;-). As one of those, who, btw, has not "thrown in the towel on the 'original text'," I very much look forward to contributing to the second edition.

Update Here is a link to a final response from James White, to which I had to respond in the comment section on this blog, since no comments are allowed on White's blog.

41 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Considering the removal of one of Greenlee's books from Ehrman's revision of Metzger's work, let's hope that Ehrman will give evangelical textual critics fair representation.

maurice a robinson said...

Tommy has suggested that “It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about.”
And yes, perhaps White is unaware of the more recent film acquisitions and investigative research being undertaken at Muenster and Birmingham, as well as the photographic work being carried out by Dan Wallace. But it is clear in White’s comments that this is not what he is addressing; rather, his comments relate to the issue of underlying theory and praxis rather than material matters.

Speaking from a solidly evangelical perspective (and differing strongly with White on text-critical issues), I would say that, from an apologetic standpoint, White has put his finger directly on a real problem, holding up a proper mirror to evangelicals within the discipline.

As White notes on his blog, the “paradigm shift” is in fact a “shift in worldview” (the latter not included in Tommy’s quote), and this shift in fact does represent “an abandonment of the paradigm of the preceding generations.”

The issue of the Greenlee review and subsequent comments posted here also seem to reflect this very point: the evangelical worldview and text-critical model is simply belittled or ignored due to the paradigm shift.

As a side comment, objection was made to ad hominems within the Greenlee comment section; yet Tommy’s final remark in his post is basically of the same nature (“White could have mentioned where he got the announcement from in the first place”), and could have been dispensed with.

Dirk Jongkind said...

Tommy,

I don't know James White and haven't read his blog (so much about checking sources), but what exactly is the point that leads you to saying that 'he doesn't know what he is talking about'? It seems to me that no one is denying that the whole field has moved; we are not where we were 15 years ago. Admittedly, the claim about post-modernism etc. is highly dubious, and I am glad that you do not agree:).
But, Tommy, do you really think James White is wrong taking issue with Ehrman's statement that arguably more has happened in the last fifteen years than in any comparable fifteen year period in the history of the 300+-year-old discipline?

Peter Malik said...

A lot has happened, yes, but what White was addressing a different issue on a wrong occasion, I would argue. White is not just touching on the "real problem" as prof. Robinson has suggested, I don't think, but he is pouring out his bitterness against modern textual criticism in general (although he calls it "post-modern" which is an overkill and misuse of the term that is popular amongst pseudo-intellectual Christians) and towards Ehrman in particular. It seems that White, as Tommy suggested, truly does not know what he is talking about, for any basic knowledge of NT TC especially of the happening of the last 15 years would not lead him or her to make such a shallow statement.

MattS said...

"Besides, White could have mentioned where he got the announcement from in the first place"

White has regularly plugged this blog on his webcast "The Dividing Line"

Anonymous said...

Peter,

I might wonder whether someone who bemoans about the pseudo-intellectual character of Christians who employ the term "post modern" has stooped to reading Ehrman's popular-level books? If not, perhaps it might help in terms of figuring out where Dr. White's comments are coming from...

Tommy Wasserman said...

First, I am grateful for all the comments.

Here is the first response, to Maurice Robinson:

MAR wrote "But it is clear in White’s comments that this is not what he is addressing; rather, his comments relate to the issue of underlying theory and praxis rather than material matters."

When I read White's post (please read it again), I got the impression that he thinks the expressed need by Ehrman for a revision of that particular book reflected nothing else than a "paradigm shift" meaning "a hi-jacking of the discipline itself." Is that the wrong interpretation?, i.e., that he was analyzing a statement related to the need for a revision of that book?

MAR: "As White notes on his blog, the 'paradigm shift' is in fact a 'shift in worldview'.”

I am not denying that we have seen a shift from modernism to post-modernism, even as it is reflected in textual criticism, but that was not the issue from my point of view. The issue was about generalizing. It was White who read something into a statement by Ehrman which I interpret rather differently. A statement about the reason for a second edition of a book, which in my opinion does not reflect the post-modern worldview. Rather I agree much more with Peter Head's interpretation when he said in an earlier comment: "It is interesting how much the tone of this announcement echoes what David Parker said of Ehrman's revision of Metzger's The Text of the New Testament in his extended review in JTS 57 (2006)551-567. Basically Parker argued that the revision failed to do anything like justice account to the current phases of research in NT textual criticism (esp. since the third edition of 1992). This note seems to reflect Ehrman taking on board Parker's criticism."

MAR: "objection was made to ad hominems within the Greenlee comment section; yet Tommy’s final remark in his post is basically of the same nature."

I think it is fair to indicate one's sources, and it is good to hear from Matt S that White has plugged this blog regularly. I was looking carefully to see if he indicated a reference this time, but I could not find it; maybe it's my technical ignorance agin. In fact at first I actually wanted to post a comment on White's own blog, but I couldn't find a way to do that, so I posted my response here.

Since I realize that some will think the final comment is redundant I have removed it. It is not easy to be one's own moderator...

Tommy Wasserman said...

DJ: "...but what exactly is the point that leads you to saying that 'he doesn't know what he is talking about'?"

He made a citation from an announcement (as far as I could tell without indicating his source, so that one could see the whole context), and that announcement related to a book about the state of the New Testament text in contemporarly research to be written by a wide range of scholars, not necessarily of "postmodern" orientation. He simply seemed unaware of the nature of that book, and what Ehrman meant by his expressing a need for revision.

This does not mean that I do not see the general problem White is addressing!!! I am just a bit afraid that he is being contraproductive in his zeal for something good. I think it is not an good way of doing apologetics to mispresent someone, which I think he did this time. But that was my impression, so I am glad to hear your views on the matter. I am all for dialouge.

Tommy Wasserman said...

PM: "A lot has happened, yes, but what White was addressing a different issue on a wrong occasion, I would argue."

I am glad that someone did the same interpretation as did I.

Peter Malik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Malik said...

Anon: If Dr. White meant to deal with prof. Ehrman's popular-levelo books, this was certainly not the platform to do so, for he reacted on a scholarly collection of essay, out of which a good number will most likely be comprised by Christian scholars. Even if it was not the case, a scholarly collection of rather technical essays has nothing to do with a "postmodern paradigm shift" which is a pseudointellectual lingo that no serious academics in our field really gets excited about anymore. I take many an issue with some of prof. Ehrman's emphases (such as an extremely overstated case for orthodoxy-motivated scribal tendencies, his full embrace of Bauer's view of primitive Christianity, etc), but the issues, which White is addressing cannot be even applied to his popular-level books, which tend to focus on other issues (such as regular Church-goers' ignorance of problems related to biblical criticism, textual criticism, internal contradictions within the Bible, etc). Of course, these can be argued against from both scholarly and confessional perspective (except that the aforementioned ignorance is something of a status quo), but the way Dr. White did it was not even addressing these. It was an ad hominem critique of issues that are not even present therein. It is disappointing that some Christians with doctorates make such a reputation for Christian scholarship. It's quite saddening, actually.

DrOakley said...

Greetings:

I have written a full response to Dr. Wasserman here:

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3144

James White

mike fox said...

i'm sympathetic with white's frustrations. although he may be a bit overreaching when it comes to ehrman, isn't ehrman also a bit overreaching in his perception of how supposedly radically altered the field has become?

good discussion, thanks for quotes

Peter Malik said...

I am not sympathetic by Dr. White's mockery of Tommy. "Low blow" methods could have been avoided in an academic discussion amongst CHRISTIAN scholars. Why scholars have to cease to be gentlemen, when they're argued against... ?

Peter Malik said...

*sympathetic TO* sorry, just like Tommy Wasserman, I am not an English language native speaker.

Anonymous said...

I think Peter Malik has nailed it dead on in saying White is addressing a different issue on the wrong occassion.

It has, of course, become very popular among many strong conservatives to use Ehrman as a whipping boy, and almost as a symbol for all they find evil in the world. In the post Tommy quoted Ehrman has even now come to represent all of post-modernism! Wow, is there anything that Ehrman the super-villain cannot do? These conservatives would soon have him, I think, playing the nemesis role in the next James Bond flick.

Obviously I think that is misplaced. I do, of course, disagree with Ehrman on a great number of important issues, especially theological issues, but as a textual critic I agree with him on a great deal more, and I see no need to elevate him to some supernatural force for immorality in the world or start seeing satanic conspiracies behind every thing he does.

To that end, this new edition of a standard textbook, is it, as White argues, nothing but a vile pretext for Ehrman to further hijack the discipline into the new "post-modern" paradigm? If we have to engage such a silly question, the answer is that the evidence is to the contrary. First, as Tommy pointed out in his OP, several evangelicals including himself are already part of the project. If that's supposed to be part of Ehrman's satanic subterfuge, then he's doing a poor job! Second, Ehrman has already come out as a moderating influence inregards to this new - postmodern as white calls it - paradigm. In Misquoting Jesus Ehrman quite explicitly argues that the new paradigm "goes too far" and gives a fairly significant defence of why the quest for an original text is still a viable goal for textual criticism. So in that sense, White should realise that if he wants to rail against the new post modern paradigm, Ehrman is likely more friend than foe.

Ryan Wettlaufer

Tommy Wasserman said...

Dear James (if I may), as an apologist (see I am learning), I assume it is important for you to communicate with people. Perhaps you should not take for granted that your readers have listened to your debates, nor that they are regular readers of your blog, so as to better understand what you mean in the context of your ministry; I admit I have done neither. I just read and commented on what you wrote in your post.

Yes, of course I am hampered by my "grasp of English syntax" and naturally I do not "read English as well as Swedish" because I am a Swede (which I am not slow to admit). But, more importantly (and regrettably), your way of pointing that out, I take as another example of unfruitful communication, open to misunderstanding, not good for dialouge. In fact, I even feel uncomfortable about the addition of my portrait on your blog in a polemic context. Am I being too sensitive? Maybe I just don't understand your culture? If you had something nice to say about me I would not mind the addition of a portrait, but in this context? Maybe my reactions are completely unwarranted, but there they are, in honesty.

You wrote (on your blog): "how could Dr. Wasserman so completely misread my intentions?" Apparently, I was not the only one (and I have seen more comments to that effect in the blogosphere). Your analysis is open to misunderstanding. Now, note that I don't misunderstand your general intentions, to defend the Gospel. In fact I wish you God's blessing in your mission! And I am confident that you have a lot of meaningful things to say. This time I think you did not succeed to communicate your intentions very well. It is also unfortunate that your blog does not allow for posting comments. I think the best plays for a dialogue is on one spot. On the other hand, I do understand that there may be other disadvantages of allowing comments.

Regarding the actual issue, I understand that you had another background for your analysis. My concern was to read Ehrman's statement in the immediate context in which it was made: the need for revision of a particular book about the state of the New Testament text in contemporary research. I am sure that Bart Ehrman, as he expressed in an interview on this blog, thinks that for him personally "the most exciting thing about being a textual critic over the past 15-20 years has been seeing how textual criticism has moved beyond its myopic concerns of collating manuscripts and trying to determine some kind of 'original' text to situating itself in the broader fields of discourse that concern an enormous range of scholars of Christian antiquity." In fact, he expressed something very similar in his essay, "The Text as Window" in the first edition of that book now to be revised, on the very first page (361) and footnote 1: "In recent years, however, some scholars have recognized that it is important to know not only what an author wrote (i.e., in the autograph), but also what a reader read (i.e., in its later transcriptions). Indeed, the history of exegesis is the history of readers interpreting different forms of the text, since throughout this history, virtually no one read the NT in its original form. Thus it is important for the historian of Christianity to know which form of the text was available to Christians in different times and places. . . . Given these historical concerns, there may indeed be scant reason to privilege the 'original' text over forms of the text that developed subsequently."

So, at least we see that Ehrman has been consistent - no revolution at all there! And, as I pointed out, his monograph, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture was already out by the time. So when Ehrman made a statement about the need for a revision of that book, because so much has happened in the last fifteen years, don't you think he had more in mind than his own shift of interest away from the "original text" already expressed in the original volume?

You wrote (on your blog): "Does he wish to argue that Ehrman's own words do not fit perfectly in the context of his own statements quoted above from 2006?"

Yes, I am saying these statements refer to different things (there is surely overlap, but that is not the point). One concerns Ehrman's own development, i.e., his own shift of interest (which is already apparent in the first edition of the book I am talking about); the other statement, in my opinion, concerns the state of contemporary research, and, yes James, I would actually not be surprised if Ehrman's assertion is correct, that "the past fifteen years arguably represents the busiest period in the entire history of textual critical studies." Cf. David Parker's final words in his An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and Their Texts, p. 349: "The current generation is experiencing one of the most momentous periods in the transmission of biblical texts and of much in textual scholarship. It will be equally exciting to see what happens in the next few years."

In addition I should point out that in the invitation to contribute to the volume, the same concern for revision was expressed, because the state of affairs in the discipline has developed dramatically, in ways both traditional and innovative.

Finally, if, as you say on your blog, you were sent Ehrman's announcement first in an e-mail (I presume from the Textual Criticism Discussion List), it would still have been good to indicate the source so that the readers could read the whole "original text." I have, however, deleted that sentence from my initial post, because I was misunderstood!

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Okay; I read Dr. White's initial blog-entry, TW's comments, and Dr. White's reply. Dr. White seems to think that major steps in NTTC can only be made when some new MSS are found, but that's not the way it works. New *analysis* can be just as pivotal as new data. And there has been a lot of analyzing in the past 15 years. That's what Dr. Ehrman's heavily qualified statement was mainly about, iiuc.

Dr. White is partly right about the philosophical shift among some NT textual critics who have molded the discipline into an attempt to use textual variants as markers to detect and map theological trends in the early church, rather than as stepping-stones to recover the contents of the autographs. But it remains to be seen if the analysis of semi-dated semi-provenanced semi-evidence to track (i.e., to identify, date and locate) theological trends will develop into something useful (by telling researchers things they didn't already know). I don't think it will produce a long-term disinterest in the recovery of the contents of the autographs.

Dr. Wasserman is partly right that Dr. White, despite writing "The King James Only Controversy," does not specialize in NTTC. Dr. White can skillfully paraphrase Bruce Metzger, who called Dr. White's book "scholarly and accurate." However, one finds a variety of inaccuracies in the book: 200,000 variants in the NT "occur in only about 10,000 places," and Mark 16:9-20 is not found in "some manuscripts of the Sahadic Coptic version," and the text of P-66 and P-75 is "nearly identical" to the Byzantine Text. Also, legitimate textual criticism "does not involve subjective theories regarding authorship, alleged editors of the text, etc."

Here's where I do not understand Dr. White at all: he objects that some text-critics are "mind-reading," and "Once you turn to speculation about what someone was thinking was back when, the entire field – including the original words and intentions of the authors -- becomes just so much 'speculation.'"

So assigning motives to nameless copyists is a bad speculative thing, right?

Where is the Dr. White who wrote the following: if you were a scribe who had memorized Eph. 1:2, when writing Colossians 1:2, "You start into verse 2 of chapter 1. "Grace to you and peace . . . ." "Ah, I know this one!" you think to yourself. And so you write out the whole phrase." And, "Perhaps you look back at the original you are copying and notice that it does not say "and the Lord Jesus Christ." "That is strange," you might think. "It /should/ say that! . . . I'll fix it." (see KJV-Only Controversy, p. 38.)

On pages 43-46, Dr. White states that the Byzantine Text "gives evidence of what might be called the 'expansion of piety.' That is, additions have been made to the text that flow from a desire to protect and reverence divine truths." He restates this on p. 196: "The later manuscripts show evidence of the "expansion of piety" that flowed from the understandable desire to maintain respect and reverence for the Lord Jesus." This concern to show proper reverence "was shared by a scribe working on a manuscript of the New Testament."

On p. 167, after stating that KJV-Onlyists object to the reading "Isaiah the prophet" in Mark 1:2 on the grounds that Mark /couldn't/ have written that because it would be a mistake, Dr. White writes, "It is quite certain that some scribes early on in the transmission of the text of the New Testament had the very same thought." No mind-reading here! And commenting on Luke 2:7, Dr. White wrote, "A scribe, undoubtedly zealous for orthodox doctrine," inserted the word "firstborn." No mind-reading here! I don't see how any consistency can be salvaged from a comparison of Dr. White's statement on his blog and the statements in his book. Perhaps he could clarify this.

Attempting to discern the causes of corruption, including scribal motives, has been, is, and will continue to be an important element in NTTC. It isn not something that was introduced in the past 15 years.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

David Nyström said...

Reading James White’s response to Wasserman I, as a fellow Swede, was somewhat amused by his taunting of Wasserman’s proficiency in English grammar:

“Here is where I fear there may be some linguistic problems cropping up. Perhaps Dr. Wasserman's grasp of English syntax is impacted by his current location and language usage? I honestly have no idea. But it is very obvious that I did not find Ehrman's announcement of a second edition of the work in question a "very telling statement." English readers know what I was referring to: I was referring to Ehrman's own assertion that the most "exciting" thing that has happened over the past "15-20 years" is the very paradigm shift that Wasserman seems to have completely read out of my blog article.”

Eh, yes, and this is exactly what Wasserman wrote:

“On his Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog he commented yesterday (here) on Bart Ehrman's recent announcement that a second edition of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questionis (eds. Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes) is in the pipeline, in which he found ‘a very telling statement.’ Ehrman had said, ‘What was then the state of the question [status questionis] has now become a bit dated. A lot has happened in fifteen years! Arguably more than in any comparable fifteen year period in the history of the 300+-year-old discipline.’”

Notice Wasserman’s words “in which”, which suggest that the “telling statement” was not the announcement itself but rather the following quote. Seriously, who is it that has a problem with English syntax?

Tommy Wasserman said...

David wrote: "Notice Wasserman’s words 'in which', which suggest that the 'telling statement' was not the announcement itself."

Hooray, the Swedes understand each other! :-)

Peter M. Head said...

I agree with Ryan (hi by the way) - actually on the quest for the original text Ehrman is relatively conservative.

Peter M. Head said...

Do let us focus on the issues and not get either too personal or too defensive. I appreciate that Dr White was border-line insulting to Swedes; but we have never been a blog which indulged in personal swipes at other Christians and I hope we can resist that temptation now.

Tommy Wasserman said...

PMH: "Do let us focus on the issues ..."

Agreed, but the way of communicating issues is one of the issues...

Christian Askeland said...

Anyone acquainted with Tommy would without reservation vouch for his grasp of the English language.

Tommy interpreted White's comments within the scholarly ethos of the upcoming book and not within the discussion on the AOM website. White should not have faulted Tommy for this.

The fact is that there have been tremendous changes in NTTC over the past years including new manuscripts, technology and methods (I just got my new crystal ball in the post yesterday) which would dispose most scholars to agree with Ehrman here. This monograph will reflect current scholarly though by a large group of scholars -- many of whom will be sympathetic to evangelicalism. One of those scholars is the heretofore unmentioned co-editor Mike Holmes. This book has not been preempted by any liberalism.

I hope that my English is in order. My grandparents were Norwegian immigrants (which actually disposes me to abusing Swedes).

Anonymous said...

Hey, hello to you too Peter! Hope you are doing well. I'm in Munster right now and having an excellent time of it.

Ryan

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike-e said...

I think one thing that would clear this up very quickly is to call Dr. White on his Tue./Thur. "Dividing Line" webcast. Its very easy to do. And when you call him, simply ask him to clear up these "misunderstandings," and rather than cast him out as "rude" or "disrespectful," perhaps you could ask him what he meant by his comments? Sometimes, behind the keyboard its easy to unintentionally come across the wrong way.

Seriously, call his program. I can promise anyone here that it is far more productive than going back and forth through blog posts.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Peter M. Head said...

No more anonymous comments picking fights with James White please.

BlackBaron said...

My "academic snobbery detector" is going crazy!

Oh, and the parting shot by "Anonymous" (very brave by the way) was cute. If you're going to slam someone, don't throw it out there and then say "This is not meant as an insult". Please.

You also said "Your phD was not subject of a dissertation committee neither were you required to defend it." Try reading The Forgotten Trinity. And yes, Dr. White has been forced to defend it.

Anonymous said...

How did my comment "pick a fight" with White? I thought I actually gave a possible explanation for White's tone and defended Wasserman in the process. Not only that but I felt I had something important to say with respect to how I believe that the negative tone of Elliot's review has, in fact, breeded so many of these negative reactions. I even stated that I highly respect this blog and its authors. Please don't return the favor by deleting my comments....

Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled program, please. I'm glad you've moved on from these issues in your postings Peter.

Mike Jones said...

It's a little bit unsettling to read this here.

For example:

"It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about. Just because he happens to strongly disagree with Bart Ehrman's views of the transmission of the NT, which I am not trying to defend, he seems biased against everything associated with Bart Ehrman in a very unfortunate way."

That last part, "he seems biased against everything associated with Bart Ehrman in a very unfortunate way," could have been avoided, but sadly conclusions have been drawn without adequate grounds.

In the debate, Ehrman himself said that White agrees with 8.5 out of his 9 thesis in Misquoting Jesus. That alone is sufficient to show that such a statement, which imputes great prejudice to White, is quite inappropriate.

Josh Walker said...

Christian Askeland,

You said, "Tommy interpreted White's comments within the scholarly ethos of the upcoming book and not within the discussion on the AOM website. White should not have faulted Tommy for this."

So, if I understand you right, then White should not be faulted if he interprets Tommy in the context of the AOM website and not Tommy's context?

Tommy Wasserman said...

Dear Josh,

I interpreted the statement within the context it was made (read my response), and that is what Christian recognized.

Mike Jones said...

"I interpreted the statement within the context it was made (read my response), and that is what Christian recognized."

"Tommy interpreted White's comments within the scholarly ethos of the upcoming book and not within the discussion on the AOM website. White should not have faulted Tommy for this."

Mr. Wasserman,

The reality is that James White has publically and repeatedly been interacting with Ehrman's materials for some period of time. White has studied Ehrman for literally hundreds of hours over the last year. That is the context in which White made his statement. So it would appear that you didn't cite him in context, and White has made it clear that he had the history of his interaction with Ehrman's materials in view when he made the statement.

The corresponding reality is that you jumped the gun with your post. You said:

"In fact at first I actually wanted to post a comment on White's own blog, but I couldn't find a way to do that, so I posted my response here. "

But you could have called the Dividing Line and spoken to White himself on this matter. Indeed, if you really think he's ignorant of the field, why don't you call in and clarify things?

Honestly, the right and humble thing to do is to retract the remaining presumptuous or erroneous portions of what you said.

But, as I pointed out, you have not withdrawn your accusation of prejudicial motive, despite having no grounds for it, and despite having evidence before you to the contrary.

I hope you will consider it.

Tommy Wasserman said...

Dear Mike (if I may),

James White cited one statement that Ehrman had made, but I found it to be out of its context. Then White responded on his blog (unfortuntely one is not allowed to comment on his blog, otherwise I would have preferred to have this conversation there from the start). (And may I add that I do not listen to his radio show, and I have never done so. In fact, probably I am sleeping when it is broadcast since we have a time difference of I don't know how many hours between the US and Sweden.) In fact, until someone said it here, I wasn't aware that there was such a radio show. For me it is unrealistic that I would call a longdistance call to a radioshow in the US, perhaps in the middle of the night (I haven't checked that).

Let me underscore again that I do not agree with Ehrman on some major issues in textual criticism, but I do think it is very unfortunate when some people misrepresents him in various ways, this time it was White (in my opinion). I do not mind that people attack Ehrman's views, but let them stick to fair play (scholarly ethos again). And I do trust that James White has good intentions to do so, but this time I think he stepped over the line. His and your response has not persuaded me otherwise.

Anyway I responded here, and I will not repeat this all over again (you can read my response if you like).

You wrote: "Honestly, the right and humble thing to do is to retract the remaining presumptuous or erroneous portions of what you said."

Mike, I am sorry, I don't see that I was wrong. I think White was wrong, and I just hope he and everyone else involved in apologetics - I can see on your blog that you have studied with White too - will be honest and good analysts and communicators. I think there are many bad examples among Christian apologetics who turns people away from the faith. Now, I am not saying that White or his students do that, because I am not very familiar with him and the A & O ministry. I hope he is one of the good examples, and anyone can make a mistake (which I think he did this time).

You wrote: "The reality is that James White has publically and repeatedly been interacting with Ehrman's materials for some period of time. White has studied Ehrman for literally hundreds of hours over the last year."

Very good Mike, may he continue to do so! In fact so have I. If you want to come to the SBL International Meeting in Rome you are welcome to attend the section I am chairing, Working with Biblical Manuscript, and hear me deliver the following paper, where I take issue with Ehrman (abstract included below):

"'Misquoting Manuscripts' - The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture Revisited"

Abstract:
In his influential monograph, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart Ehrman has proposed that the New Testament text was affected early on by scribes, "the orthodox corruptors of scripture," who, according to their theological persuasion, made conscious changes in the documents they reproduced, making them say what they already were thought to mean. This paper demonstrates how Ehrman's interpretation of the textual evidence is seriously defective. Whenever there is a textual variation in a passage that somehow relates to Christology, one or more readings are too easily identifed as examples of "orthodox corruption," when there are often other equally, or even more viable reasons for corruption. The aim of the paper is not to prove that the textual tradition of the New Testament is unaffected by "orthodox corruption," although this factor seems to play a minor role, but to demonstrate that a sound text-critical method demands a sensitivity to the particular context and nature of the variation in the individual passage - every problem must be regarded as possibly unique. A balanced judgment will not seldom require knowledge of the pecularities of individual manuscripts and their scribe(s), the citation habits of church fathers, and a familiarity with the character of a particular version and its limitations in representing the Vorlage from which it was translated.

OldBean said...

James White briefly talked about this whole debacle on his radio show yesterday.

Here is the link... http://www.aomin.org/podcasts/20090219.mp3

Tommy Wasserman said...

OldBean: "James White briefly talked about this whole debacle on his radio show yesterday."

Thanks, I hope it was good.

Tommy Wasserman said...

James White has apparently responded once again on his blog, http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3148

James writes: "He [TW] has said, 'I [TW] interpreted the statement within the context it was made (read my response), and that is what Christian recognized.' The fact is just the opposite: I [JW] determine my own context, and that context was plain and clear to anyone (and here’s the catch) who takes the time to honestly consider that context."

White apparently misunderstands completely what I said. My words "in the context it was made" referred to Ehrman's uttering, not White's! Surely White knows his own context best, but *Ehrman's statement* was made in the context of the need for a revision of a particular book on the NT text in contemporary research, and should be interpreted in that context - this is basic exegesis.

White continues: "Original contexts are now irrelevant"

I responded to White in the first place because I think original contexts are indeed relevant, and that White had pulled Ehrman's statement out of its context.

White says: "To be honest with you, I do not know how to respond to such thinking."

Me neither! But that is not my thinking.

White again: "Wasserman, who admits ignorance of the body of my work, admits ignorance of the content of my debate with Ehrman, takes a short blog article that plainly spoke of the paradigm shift in textual critical studies, removes it from its context,"

Again (the final time): I urged White to consider the very context in which Ehrman made the statement, not White's own context in which he put the citation, whatever that context is (White's recent debates, radio-shows, hours of studying Ehrman, or whatever), and he cannot understand what I am saying. I have never been talking about White's statement or statements, I have been talking about Ehrman's statement all the time (i.e., the "very telling statement"). That statement was cited and analyzed out of *its* context.

Now, this closes the debate for my part, unless White responds here.

HikoBills said...

Seriously, it is clear Mr. Wasserman has taken out of context of what Mr. White has said.

Have a little Christian humility and read Mr. White's explanation of the error. Seriously, don't we have more important things to do other than assume comments on the opposite side of our own to be negative?

But I guess some people find being argumentative with fellow Christians to be more fun than seeking agreement or understanding.