Thursday, February 02, 2006

Michael Bird on Ehrman

See comments on Euangelion.


  1. I don't know much about biblical textual criticism except that it exists. I'm a half-educated layman when it comes to most things. However, in reading over the hoo-ha about Ehrman and how evangelicals ought to articulate our doctrine of inspiration a biological metaphor of the text as DNA came to mind, and I wonder if it is helpful.

    Take a population of any particular species and you will find as many "variations" on the basic genome for that organism as there are individuals in the population. If you take human DNA as text there are somewhere between six and seven billion "variations" on the original walking around, but the meaning of the "manuscripts," for the purposes of procreation anyway, are essentially the same. Human beings can only breed with other human beings.

    This is surely not a perfect metaphor, but it might provide a good jumping off point for discussing how an imperfect transmission process can preserve meanings that are substantially uniform.

    You might also want to look into information theory as a dialogue partner in how to talk about the necessary relationship of immaterial information to material or concrete means of transmission.

    I don't know if inter-disciplinary thinking is welcome in the world of textual criticism, but some creative thinking about the relationship of parts to wholes within that world may be needed to effectively answer Ehrman at the methodological level (which is where I suspect the real debate lies).

  2. Thanks. I'm sure that much good work can be done with this sort of interdisciplinary thinking. I hope you'll be able to develop and apply your analogy.