Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wallace on Blomberg's new book

Dan Wallace has a helpful interaction with Craig Blomberg's new book on believing the Bible, especially in relation to the chapter on textual criticism of the NT (which mostly seems to focus on Bart Ehrman). Dan is positive about the book, but the nine errors he notices in chapter one are unfortunate, and they are also suggest that Craig B. is a bit out of his comfort zone with this material. I sometimes wonder how much thorough accuracy really matters in apologetics?


  1. I did notice that Blomberg claims that Mark 16:9-20 has far more textual variants than any other 12-verse section of Mark, which is demonstrably false. (I found three 12-verse sections, picking them more or less at random, with more variants in NA27 in about 10 minutes.)

    Yet another false statement about Mark 16:9-20 that is bound to be spread for years until the second edition, if there is one.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. I would say that the Pericope Adulterae has a greater number of textual variants in its 12-verse segment than any other portion of the NT.

    Compared to the PA, the variants in either the Long or Shorter Ending of Mark pale by comparison.

  3. Although it pains me to say it, Ehrman is a man among boys when it comes to apologetics, and most outside of evangelicalism can perceive it. He can rightly say that most scholars agree that 1644 mss or 99.9 percent of the Greek mss to the text of the NT (not to mention most Latin, Coptic, and Syriac mss, most Fathers including the earliest significant one, Irenaeus) go back to a wildly corrupt source that interpolated 170 words at the end of Mark, and there is little reason to be confident that when the two differing mss agree with the 1644 corrupt ones elsewhere that the entire tradition is not corrupt. I think this makes sense to people on a popular level rather than the opposing claim, that only a small percentage of the NT text is in question, and none of these places affects any major doctrine not upheld elsewhere.

    How do people know that only a small percentage is in question, since virtually all Greek mss, versions, fathers go back to a single corrupt source? Who cares if no doctrine is affected, since all doctrines hinge on the integrity of the NT text, and it is precisely this initial text that was controlled by the same ones who ubiquitously subverted Mark?

    The very assumption as framed by leading evangelical apologists (i.e., that the text is "basically" secure) is no longer compelling, and sugar-coated responses like that above seem rather to turn people away once they hear the "true facts" from someone like Ehrman.

    Is Blomberg's book a game-changer? I hope so, but judging from Wallace's review, I doubt it.

    It is hard to throw away all of the airplane except the wheels and still land the airplane. Even if the wheels somehow land, they can no longer fly.

  4. Jonathan, I think you make a great point. I was largely trying to imply the same point in the theological chapter of my book "no longer written." Evangelicals so often seem to be trying to comfort and sooth their way around the facts. I see that as the surest way to a fragile theology that does no respect to God.

    A robust theology - one that has no need of apologists to protect it - is one that starts with the facts as they are and from there asks the question "what can we learn about God from this? Given that God has done it that way, what does that show us about him?" I see that as a constructive theology. The typical Evangelical alternative - which starts with a theological premise and then tries to massage the facts into not threatening it - seems to me to be more of a rear-guard action.

  5. Ryan, you make a great point, and that is part of the point that Blomberg is trying to make.

    However, reading through Blomberg's first chapter has been disappointing. Basically his whole defense of the inauthenticity of Mark 16:9-20 is based on the ESV Study Bible note, which is exactly the sort of propaganda that causes people to doubt their "facts" once they hear the real facts from Ehrman.

    P. 18 (quoting ESV note): "Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20."

    Perhaps satisfying until one's skeptic friend informs that actually only 2 mss do not include it, and 1644 mss do.

    "... the verses are missing from 'numerous early Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts.'"

    Again, gratifying enough, till Ehrman informs with the true facts, that only one Latin ms does not include it, only one Syriac ms does not include it, only one Coptic ms does not include it (meaning that all other early mss of all these versions have the verses). And when the skeptic asks, "What value are the Armenian and Georgian versions to the reconstruction of the original text?" what does the ESV-enlightened Christian answer?

    Unbelievably, Blomberg fails to grasp the apologetic point of this, that some force corrupted or interpolated 170 words into all the Greek mss but 2 and all the copies of all the earliest and most important versions (Latin, Syriac, Coptic) but three, and there was nothing all the churches could do about it. They did not safeguard their texts, or if they did, they safeguarded a very corrupted text. Indeed, apologetically, what was handed down to them was already hopelessly corrupt.

    Ironically, Blomberg says (p. 20-21): "Preachers, Sunday School teachers, and Bible study leaders who fail to heed this advice risk setting their people up for confusion when books like Ehrman's appear and people have no idea how to respond. Christian leaders need to teach the basics of textual criticism in a responsible way to their congregations."

    I think one might honestly ask whether books like Blomberg's and the ESV Study Bible are not "setting people up for confusion."

  6. I hope to get a chance to read Blomberg's book for myself once I get a hold of it. I found out about the "blog tour" surrounding the book from "". There are between 8-10 blogposts at the Brazos press website, with two posts dedicated to the first 5 chapters. The other scholars who reviewed the book (along with Wallace) did a great job overall. It was interesting to see Brazos press include a wide assortment of reviewers, from Evangelicals like Wallace and Darrell Bock to Mainline Scholars. That shows me the wide audience that Blomberg is aiming for and it ought to prove to be a good read. How well do you guys think it will do at bridging the scholarly community and wider world of people in the pew?

  7. Blomberg (p. 18-19): "Quite frankly, we should be delighted to learn this [that Mark 16:9-20 are inauthentic], because what came to be labeled as verse 18 promises that believers 'will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink and deadly poison, it will not hurt them.' There is a tragic history of very fundamentalist Christian snake-handling churches in Appalachia throughout the twentieth century that treated this verse as if it were inspired Scripture, and yet they had numerous fatalities."

    This sounds more like smear-campaign than dealing with the apologetic facts. Ironically, a tenet of textual criticism is to accept the more difficult reading/passage if it is well supported textually, and Blomberg, perhaps unwittingly, gives a reason why some (but few indeed) could have had trouble with the passage. But the church has had this passage for who knows how long without _most_ Christians handling snakes or drinking poison, just as most haven't gouged out their eyes or cut off limbs after reading the Sermon on the Mount, or castrated themselves (well, there is Origen, so scratch that last one).

    Blomberg (p. 19): "And the style of writing in the Greek significantly differs from the rest of Mark's Gospel."

    This is argued both ways, with other sections of Mark's Gospel having similar problems. In fact, I vividly remember Eta Linnemann at an ETS meeting giving a paper arguing for the sake of argument (more like showing evangelicals unfamiliar with critical method) how Paul could not have written large chunks of Romans using similar methods to those employed on the last 12 verses of Mark. So this is how far we have come in defending ourselves against skeptics? How embarrassing!

  8. I hope I'm not too late to comment.

    Peter H wrote: "I sometimes wonder how much thorough accuracy really matters in apologetics?"

    Peter H- Please can you expand on this? Do you think it should matter? If not, when does it not matter?

    Peter C

  9. Peter C.,
    I believe Dr. Head is being a little facetious. It appears that many apologists arguing on the reliability of the New Testament text make frequent blunders in citing current research or even citing the facts correctly. Dr. Dan Wallace has spoke and written on this unfortunate trend in apologetics in "Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century" in Jets 52:1 (March 2009):79-100. See especially his comments on p. 98 "the gap between scholars and apologists."
    Dr. Borland also commented on this fact above when he wrote, "Although it pains me to say it, Ehrman is a man among boys when it comes to apologetics, and most outside of evangelicalism can perceive it."

  10. So, it's clear that when Blomberg writes about Mark 16:9-20,
    (a) Blomberg mianly just rephrases the ESV's notes, and (2) when Blomberg speaks on his own, he makes the mistake of saying that Mark 16:9-20 has far more textual variants than any other 12-verse section of Mark.

    But Baker & Brazos don't care. At least, they don't care enough. They are perfectly happy to let these falsehoods (when stated by ignoramuses), these lies (if told by competent, informed people), circulate for years in their publications. Watch them prove it.

    Then they wonder why some laypeople don't trust or see a need for academia.

  11. Jonathan,

    Forgive my ignorance, but I ran across this blog post looking for reviews of Dr. Blomberg's book, which I am now reading through.
    Is your claim that Ehrman is in essence right? That indeed 99.9% of the manuscripts of Mark that we have go back to one wildly corrupt one? (I assume it has more problems than the last verses of the book). If so, what do we as evangelicals do?
    Again, I'm a lay reader and this is my first look into the field, honestly.

    Thank you for your time!

    John C