Bart D. Ehrman v. James White Debate: Did the Bible Misquote Jesus?

Having just heard this debate I was impressed with Ehrman's passion and knowledge of this field, and I think he made his points well. You can get it here.

[What I wonder is if White is sharing the money earned from selling the debate with Ehrman. Far too often believers cut the skeptics they debate out from the proceeds of such things].

James White wasn't bad either. He too was knowledgeable. I can certainly see White's perspective, one that I shared with him for years. I'm sure believers will come away having their beliefs reinforced, which is what apologists like him attempt to do, so in that respect he did his job well. It's a job I could no longer do.

Ehrman was talking about the facts of what we know. We know there are as many differences in the manuscripts as there are words in the New Testament texts. White didn't disagree with him on the facts. His main point was that the differences didn't matter. Ehrman's point was that the differences do matter, some of them actually change the meaning of whole book (i.e. the meaning of Hebrews). While the topic was not about Ehrman's view of inspiration his question was that if God inspired the texts then why didn't God also preserve the original texts? In his book on this topic he said it looks like a human endeavor and I agree. This is something former contributor DagoodS argued.

One of the disputes between Ehrman and White had to do with the period of time before we find any manuscripts of the New Testament. They both acknowledged that between manuscripts there were many more variants in the earlier periods than in the later periods. From the 2nd century to the 4th century there were many more variants between texts than there were between the 4th century and the 9th century, for instance. Ehrman's argument is that since this is so then we have every reason to think there were even greater variants before we find our first manuscript copies. Among the earliest untrained and sometimes illiterate scribes we would expect even greater manuscript variants. Based on this trend Ehrman argued we just don't know what the original manuscripts said. James White argued instead that if indeed the earliest copies of the originals contained greater variants, then despite the trend we should see even greater variants among the actual manuscripts we have than we find in them. But we don't, he argued.

I think Ehrman answered White's counter-argument elsewhere when he spoke of the probability that an original text could be copied and never used to copy from again. In this scenario a 2nd generation copy was copied just a few times over but the 3rd generation copy was copied extensively from then on. So even though we may not have as wide a number of variants as we might expect among the earliest manuscripts we actually have if this trend extended to the earliest scibes, it says nothing to counter the trend going back in time. The fact is that the evidence strongly suggests there would've been more variants between the earliest manuscripts the farther back in time we go. It's just that we only have copies of copies of copies to go on and these copies may be all that survived. One can only wonder what the original texts said, Ehrman argues. We just don't know. I agree.

Only if Christians actually try to appreciate Ehrman’s points and try to understand them rather than be defensive will they be able to think about the New Testament transmission and how it affects what they believe. It should cause them to re-evaluate their faith. But Christians will always be able to say that James White stood in the gap. He's knowledgeable and so he must know what he's talking about. Shame really. White has an agenda. He's trying to explain away the facts. He stops short of the best explanation of the data because he's blinded by faith. And this is supposed to represent scholarship? Hardly.

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