Monday, June 26, 2017

Special ETS Session: Growing Up in the Ehrman Era

It’s just over ten years since Bart Ehrman published his bestselling Misquoting Jesus (reviewed here) and almost ten years since Christanity Today called textual criticism one of “the hottest issues in evangelical theology.” In that time, textual criticism, particularly of New Testament, has become a staple of Evangelical apologetics, with articles on the subject in study Bibles, popular apologetics, and books on the reliability of the Bible. Unfortunately, the apologetic output too often suffers from ignorance of what we all know to be a highly technical field. At times, the results can be quite embarrassing (for example). And the problem does not seem to be improving despite the increasing number of well-trained, Evangelical text-critics.

So, about a year ago, Elijah Hixson and I began planning a way to address this problem. The result is a book project that we are excited to say has recently been accepted by IVP Academic. (More on that later.) Today, as part of that larger project, we would like to announce a special session at this year’s Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Rhode Island. Rather than offering one more response to Ehrman and co., however, the idea is to hold an in-house discussion, one which takes stock of our apologetic efforts over the last decade.

The session is two-part. The first part offers selections from the forthcoming book and the second part is a panel of top Evangelical scholars who have written on the apologetic topic at hand. Elijah and I are especially excited that everyone we asked to join the panel has agreed. We actually adjusted our original schedule to give our panelists extra time. Readers will notice several fellow ETC bloggers on the panel and at least one who will be participating in ETS for the first time. Don’t miss it!

Time & Location

1:00–4:10 PM in the Omni – Providence I
Here are the details:

Growing Up in the Ehrman Era:Retrospect and Prospect on Our Text-Critical Apologetic

Abstract: Since the publication of Bart Ehrman’s bestselling Misquoting Jesus in 2005, textual criticism has become a mainstay of Evangelical apologetics, appearing regularly in study Bibles, apologetic handbooks, and a slew of dedicated monographs. These responses all address the question of whether textual criticism can adequately recover the inerrant wording from our lost New Testament autographs. This session serves as both retrospective and prospective by looking judiciously at these apologetic efforts. The main presenters have all “grown up” academically during the period of Ehrman’s public prominence and offer papers correcting common apologetic “myths” about textual criticism. The panelists are senior scholars who have engaged Ehrman’s arguments directly in the course of their academic work and so provide an “inside” perspective. The combination of junior and senior scholars creates a unique opportunity to take stock of Evangelical apologetic efforts in this area and to help point the way forward.
The papers are thirty minutes inclusive of Q&A followed by a five-minute break. Following the third paper, there will be a ten-minute break before the panel. The panel discussion will be an hour and twenty minutes.


1. Common Problems in Evangelical Defenses of the New Testament Text
Peter J. Gurry, Phoenix Seminary and Elijah Hixson, University of Edinburgh
After briefly describing the view that the New Testament text has been hopelessly corrupted by centuries of miscopying, this paper looks at three types of common but misguided arguments that Evangelicals regularly offer to support our view of the text’s reliable transmission: (1) arguments based on outdated information; (2) arguments that depend on abused statistics; and (3) arguments that selectively cite evidence. In each case, we show how the common argument does damage to our cause and needs to be revised or abandoned. The following papers tackle two further problems in greater detail.
2. Dating Problems: Why Later Manuscripts Can Be Better Manuscripts 
Gregory R. Lanier, Reformed Theological Seminary
This paper addresses the common practice of treating later manuscripts as ipso facto worse manuscripts. This is challenged by looking at the false assumptions behind this view and by discussing several demonstrably good, but late New Testament manuscripts. Some attention will also be paid to the renewed appreciation for the Byzantine text in recent textual scholarship. The myth that later manuscripts are worse is one that shows up in the work of critics and defenders of Christianity alike. This paper offers a response to both.
3. Math Problems: Why More Manuscripts Isn’t Necessarily Better
Jacob Peterson, University of Edinburgh
This study responds to Evangelical arguments that the number of New Testament manuscripts ensures that we have a reliable text. It also addresses the objection from proponents of the Byzantine text that this apologetic, when used by reasoned eclectics is a betrayal of their own text-critical practice. In response, the paper shows why manuscripts must be weighed and counted and why numbers alone are no guarantee of preserving the original text. In the course of this, an up-to-date count of the number of manuscripts is provided along with a catalogue of their varied types, ages, and contents, illustrating why this information is crucial in apologetic discussions. It also discusses some neglected types of evidence such as ostraca, inscriptions, etc. 
    Watch for Peter Head
    to show us his swimming technique


    1. Daniel B. Wallace
      Dallas Theological Seminary
    2. Charles E. Hill
      Reformed Theological Seminary
    3. Michael J. Kruger
      Reformed Theological Seminary
    4. Timothy Paul Jones
      Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    5. Peter J. Williams
      Tyndale House, Cambridge
    6. Peter M. Head
      Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford
    HT: Greg Lanier for the session title

    Update: audio here.


    1. So the youngsters will give the papers, and the oldsters will panelise?

    2. It also appears that only a specific perspective will be given during the papers. Hopefully, the oldsters will broaden that perspective😎


      1. I'm already planning to contradict each of the three warm-up papers.

      2. Especially after noticing the caption above.

    3. This is going to be fantastic! Thanks for sharing. Blessings on your work!

    4. Do you have a scheduled time slot yet?

      1. We're set for 1:00 PM-4:10 PM on Friday, Nov 17 at the moment.

    5. Looking forward to this.

    6. Are there plans to publish/make available audio or video any of the session?

      1. ETS records sessions (and panels?) and puts the MP3s online for pretty cheap.

      2. Anyone have a link for getting these papers or mp3?

    7. This should be a most important meeting and panel discussion.

    8. Dan Wallace and Michael Kruger in a panel discussion about the problem of the spread of misinformation on text-critical issues? How appropriate.

      If there were a cure to unthinkingly parroting Metzger's Textual Commentary, it would alleviate half of the misinformation problem.

      "Check your references" should be tattooed to the inside of the eyelids of all textual critics, metaphorically speaking.