Monday, December 17, 2012

Elliott reviews Wallace on Ehrman

Keith Elliott has reviewed a collection of essays edited by Daniel Wallace entitled Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence here.

To give you a flavour of the review and of Elliott's tone (behind the American copy-editing), I paste below the beginning and end.

For some years many of those who present themselves as “evangelicals” have felt obliged to tackle several of Bart Ehrman’s publications, notably his The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (now about to reappear in an expanded form) and Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (inexplicably published in England under the bland title Whose Word Is It? The Story behind Who Changed the New Testament and Why). Some of his pronouncements about the reasons why certain changes found in manuscripts of the New Testament were made, and the seeming impossibility to restore the supposed original text, have ruffled fundamentalists’ and evangelicals’ feathers. His are books and conclusions that such apologists cannot neglect or ignore. Ehrman’s wellknown opinions, especially in the United States, have resulted in many attempted counterarguments. We have one such book here that has succumbed to the pervasive Ehrman influence.


Ph.D. theses and students’ first publications, especially those by recent graduates in the United States, typically carry in a foreword overblown thanks especially to long-suffering family members and a justification of their own impeccable religious convictions. Such self-publicizing sanctimoniousness is usually cringe-making and toe-curling in its indulgence. Aficionados will find some plum examples of this risible genre here; almost all of the current essays include fulsome acknowledgements, and one (220) is ungrammatical. Perhaps the time is ripe to suggest a moratorium on such publicly paraded private sentiments. Mature scholarship and academic publications (especially those originating in Europe) tend to avoid such trivia and the wearing of a heart on the sleeve. To set an example, this review carries no dedications.
Update: The grammatical error Elliott refers to is on p. 229 ("continues" for "continue")


  1. Hello,
    What do you think about Matthew 10:28 - could be a corruption, in the light of Luke 12:4?

    Best regards,

  2. There is surely some sort of irony here. Keith Elliott complains about the arbitrary inclusion of "toe-curling" personal acknowledgements, while introducing a whole range of rather arbitrary personal observations into his review. Can't we focus on the quality of the arguments?

  3. Well, just wait till he reads the lengthy acknowledgements in my revised dissertation, which should be out in a couple months: I think he may in fact keel over!

    I do see his point, in a way. When I was preparing my ms, I was tempted to minimise the acknowledgements and pare them down. But then I realised that, honestly, the reason I wanted to minimise them was because I wanted to be able to take all the credit and say "hey, look at me, I did this, I'm awesome!" That's a natural tendency of mine (though I certainly would not attribute it to Elliot). That would have been dishonest, though, and the reason I felt compelled to thank as many people as I did was because I really did think they deserved some credit, and preserving Elliot's toes was simply not sufficient justification, in my mind anyway, to slight them, ignore their contribution, and give the impression that I had done it all alone. So, I went with the lengthy acknowledgements.

    Frankly, I appreciate the more personable acknowledgements in other people's works too: rightly or wrongly, I feel like it gives me just a little bit of a peek into who they are as a person, which - rightly or wrongly - makes me feel better positioned to interpret their work.

    As a side note, I just happen to be reviewing the same volume right now. My review will likely also be fairly negative, though for none of the reasons that Elliot gives. Since I had it on my desk, I did look up a few of Elliot's points, and I'm hoping someone else can help me to find the "ungrammatical" acknowledgment that he says is on p.220. I've read p. 220 several times now (it was quick, seeing as most of it is a chart) and have yet to find any acknowledgments at all, never mind an ungrammatical one. I'm sure it must be there though, since no one who would lambaste a grad student for missing an umlaut on p.130 would make such a mistake in regards to p. 220.

  4. Ryan, since 0 is next to 9 on the keyboard, could Elliott be referring to footnote 1 on p. 229? I'm not a grammarian, but two things stuck out as potentially ungrammatical in formal writing: the use of "people" as a plural for persons (2x; 1st and 8th lines) and the inconsistent progression of the introductory adverbs: "First," "Second" and then "Finally, yet importantly," instead of 'Firstly," "Secondly" and then "Finally."

  5. Elijah,
    As Dr. Head already noted above, it is ironic that Elliott included so much of his own personal feelings into his criticism of the work. It would be even more ironic if his criticism was made in error! It is a human trait to have grammatical and typographical errors in an lengthy paper or book. I found several in Royse's magnum opus while reading through it this summer. He himself acknowledged this fact in his front matter.
    I found it very unprofessional for Elliott to compare Europeans and Americans in such an ad hominem fashion. Perhaps scholars could learn to be more transparent.

  6. The grammatical error, Elliott tells me, is on p. 229 ("continues" for "continue").

  7. Why are academics always arrogant ***holes?

  8. Anonymous, it's called Sayer's law: "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low"