Exposing Ehrman’s whoppers, and affirming the reliability of the New Testament

Michael Horton and New Testament Scholar Daniel Wallace discuss Bart Ehrman (and provide tremendous resources to correct his erroneous ramblings) in this edition of the White Horse Inn:

http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2013/05/12/whi-1153-has-jesus-been-misquoted/

It has seemed to me that of all the many attacks that Christianity faces in our modern culture, the most egregious and harmful come in the form of the sensationalisms that Bart Ehrman has espoused. Ehrman, who is someone who ought to know that the sensationalisms he espouses are simply not what he publicly says they are, and yet he has “caught the popular imagination”.

Playing clips from Wallace/Ehrman debates (so we hear Ehrman’s whoppers in his own words), Horton and Wallace provide a popular-level response to some of the more egregious misconceptions that Ehrman has spread in his work “Misquoting Jesus” and others.

For example, when Ehrman says “we don’t have the original manuscripts” – he treats the issue as if we are playing the ‘telephone game’ in which errors become multiplied. But Wallace points out that when you compare the copying of the New Testament to the ‘telephone game’, first, the copies were done by hand, not orally, and second, it was not just a single line of transmission.

One of the things he doesn’t say is that we don’t have our earliest copies because they must have worn out. But he doesn’t say how they wore out. They would have worn out from people copying them.

Wallace relates that, off of the first generation of manuscripts, there may have been many multiple copyists making copies of that original manuscript. And the manuscript evidence is that we have a proliferation of imperfect first-generation copies, not a single lineage of them, enabling us to make comparisons of those manuscripts. And by comparing the manuscripts that we have, we can see scribal errors, categorize them, know what they are. Wallace provides this example:

Imagine we came across an early manuscript copy of the Constitution of the United States, and the preamble said, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect onion …” If we were to see that line, we would know that “union” was the original word, not “onion”.

Those are the kinds of mistakes we have find in the early manuscripts. They get corrected early on, leaving us with a far higher degree of reliability than in “the telephone game” or as Horton says, “the bigger fish game”.

As texts and copies proliferated, there is “an enormous amount of agreement among all these texts”. Also, when there are early copies with scribal errors, there is a constant re-correction early on.

The fact is, the more copies of manuscripts we have, the better, because the more we compare them, the more we are able to get back to the original texts.

As well, some manuscripts were in use for 100 or more years. Some of the original manuscripts may have actually lasted to the end of the second century. So it’s possible or even likely that some of the papyri we have may have been first or second generation copies of the original manuscripts.

Ehrman also makes the claim that 94% of the manuscripts we have are from the 9th century or later. In fact, more than 15% of the manuscripts we have are from prior to that time, and he ignores that from the 4th century on, we have complete manuscripts of the New Testament. So by the 9th century, we have six hundred or seven hundred manuscripts or more, and even by that time, we are already on very sound footing.

Ehrman also points out that there are more than 400,000 variants in these manuscripts. Wallace notes, however, that the reason why we have so many variants is because we have so many different manuscripts. In addition to the 5,500 Greek manuscripts, there are more than 10,000 Latin manuscripts, some from the second century, plus Coptic, Syriac, and other Asian and European languages from which to compare. And more manuscripts give you greater certainty as to what the original manuscripts said. Wallace estimates that there are perhaps more than 22,000 manuscripts in existence.

The nature of the differences, the vast majority (70% or more) are spelling variations, in which the wording is not in question. Definite articles, “more perfect onions”. A huge number of variations simply involve the use of the definite article in Greek. The word “the”, for example, there are 16 different ways in Greek to say “Jesus loves Paul” – but all of them get translated in exactly the same way.

Less than 1% of “textual variants”, in fact, are what Wallace calls “meaningful”, that is, it affects the meaning of the text in some way, and “viable”, which means that it can be traced back to the original wording. About ¼ of 1%. In about 1000 places there are variations that are meaningful or viable.

But in fact, not one doctrine is affected by these “meaningful” or “viable” variants.

A couple of Ehrman’s “whipping boys” involve such things as Mark 1:41, in which different variations say “Jesus was moved with anger” or “Jesus was moved with compassion” to heal the leper. It’s not out of the ordinary to think that Jesus was “moved with anger” about a disease.

Another is 1 John 5:7, the Trinitarian formula, was not in Erasmus’s original manuscripts.

He also compares the NT manuscript evidence with the number of Greek and Latin “classics”. For example, we have more copies of Homer – with a 900-year head start, we have 2200 copies of Odyssey and Iliad, only 10% as many manuscripts as what we have for the New Testament.

In fact, for other Greek writers like Aristotle or Plato, the number of manuscripts is far, far smaller. And yet we don’t contest whether we’re really reading those individuals. The earliest MSS of the New Testament come within decades.

This caught my ear because my 14-year-old daughter was asking me about “the telephone game” with respect to New Testament manuscripts. I highly recommend that you give this a listen, and even spread the word among popular circles like Twitter and Facebook (see the links immediately below this article).

This is an area where a discussion like this one can really help to correct some popular misconceptions and restore confidence in the textual transmission of the New Testament that Ehrman and others have undermined.

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7 Responses to Exposing Ehrman’s whoppers, and affirming the reliability of the New Testament

  1. Steven Avery says:

    Hi,

    “10,000 Latin manuscripts, some from the second century”

    Nope, let’s get the facts straight.
    The earliest extant Latin mss are from the 4th or 5th century.

    “And more manuscripts give you greater certainty as to what the original manuscripts said. Wallace estimates that there are perhaps more than 22,000 manuscripts in existence.”

    The text approved by Daniel Wallace, the Critical Text, consistently, 100s of times, gives readings that are contra the great mass of mss. Take the traditional Mark ending as a simple example, where 99.9% of the Greek, Latin and Syriac mss support the historic text and Wallace insists the .1% are correct. Thus his appeal to the mass of manuscripts in Greek, Latin and the versions is fallacious in one of two ways:

    a) the appeal is false
    b) the text he approves is a corrupt text

    Steven Avery

  2. Maestroh says:

    Once again, we have Steven Avery, a Oneness heretic who REJECTS the Trinity coming out and pretending as if he is entitled to claim the mantle of “Reformed” simply because of his obscurantist KJV Onlyism. And once again, we see his incredibly hypocritical method at work. Dude, if you’re going to bash people for inconsistency you CANNOT be inconsistent yourself. Let’s take a look at the whine:

    1) First, Avery whines about the following quote: “10,000 Latin manuscripts, some from the second century.” We get the usual condescending, “Nope, let’s get the facts straight.
    The earliest extant Latin mss are from the 4th or 5th century.” Now this is one of those cases where this is literally true, but the problem is that Avery himself has tried to say the same thing using different words multiple times. Repeatedly he appeals to the Old Latin going back to as early as the second century. But hey, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of running into this guy, you’ll find that he has two sets of rules: one for himself and one for everyone else.

    2) The text approved by Daniel Wallace, the Critical Text, consistently, 100s of times, gives readings that are contra the great mass of mss.

    What’s amazing is that today on Facebook after a decade of whining about this and using prejudicial terms like “ultra-minority,” the Earle of Avery gave us this gem: “And anyone who understands a bit of probability knows that a few dozen manuscripts will tell you the same basic breakdown as 5,000 manuscripts.”

    Ah, so in other words, it doesn’t really matter, right? This one will live forever. And Avery himself favors readings like 1 John 5:7 found in only a few MSS and readings like Rev 16:5 that suddenly got invented late. So the pretense is amusing to say the least.

    3) “Thus his appeal to the mass of manuscripts in Greek, Latin and the versions is fallacious in one of two ways:
    a) the appeal is false
    b) the text he approves is a corrupt text”

    Of course, we just saw that Avery himself does exactly what he’s whining about his pet hate, Dan Wallace. But here’s an amusing one for you: how is that with his corrupt (according to Avery) text, Wallace is a hundred times more Reformed than Avery is? How is that even possible if Avery’s claim is true? Wallace is a five-point Calvinist, a cessationist, and believes in the Trinity. Avery is a Oneness heretic who rejects the Trinity and holds to charismania.

    I guess it just shows this argument is colossally stupid. But perhaps Avery needs to drop his pet hate and learn how to judge things logically, consistently, and not so hypocritically. The very things he complains about Wallace, he himself does.

    • willjkinney says:

      Hi all. Well I AM a solid 5 point Calvinist and a Trinitarian and I also believe the King James Bible is the complete, inspired and inerrant words of God. Dan Wallace SAYS he believes the Bible is the infallible words of God, but he (just like James White) couldn’t show you a copy of this infallible Bible they both PROFESS (and lie about) to believe in if their lives depended on it.

      Dan Wallace is in fact promoting the new Vatican Versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET and Holman stuff. And he doesn’t believe that ANY of the is the inerrant words of God either. Nor does Maestroh.

      If you don’t believe these critical text versions are the direct result of the Vatican, then read the documentation from right out of your own Nestle-Aland textbook 27th edition page 45. Then do the verse, phrase and word comparisons with the modern Catholic versions. They are ALL based on THE SAME “inter confessional” text to unite “the separated brethren”.

      Undeniable Proof the ESV, NIV, NASB, Holman Standard, NET etc. are the new “Vatican Versions”

      http://brandplucked.webs.com/realcatholicbibles.htm

      How ironic that Calvinists have abandoned the Reformation text of the Bible and are now promoting the Vatican Versions. God does have an ironic sense of humor and will humble us all when we finally realize just how much we got wrong and fought against Him and His pure words.

      “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8

  3. willjkinney says:

    Hi all. If you want to take a look at some concrete examples of Dan Wallaces “scholarship”, here are some very specific examples. It is interesting that just over 60 years ago Dallas Theological Seminary severely criticized (and with good reason) the liberal RSV, specifically on three verses. Well, here we are 60 years later at that same Dallas Theological Seminary and Dan Wallace has put these three errors right back in his ever evolving NET versions.

    See for yourself.

    Dan Wallace is Messing with The Book

    http://brandplucked.webs.com/danwallacenut.htm

  4. As is the usual case, Mr Avery attempts cyber-bullying, gets stood up to and gets one of his stooges to be a convenient stand-in. Hey, if I was as ignorant of the facts as Avery, I’d shut my hole, too. I sure wouldn’t want folks to know that out of one side of my mouth I try to pretend I have a claim to the Reformation while out of the other I espouse theology that would have gotten me burned at the stake. So now we get Will Kinney here.

    Note that Mr Kinney does not even attempt to deal with the substance of Avery’s hypocrisy. So now let’s take Kinney’s cultic jargon apart.

    1) Dan Wallace is in fact promoting the new Vatican Versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET and Holman stuff. And he doesn’t believe that ANY of the is the inerrant words of God either. Nor does Maestroh.

    Of course, Kinney somehow absolves Rome of any involvement with the TR – colossal screw-up of mega proportions. He knows we have a Catholic priest making up a Bible and not only that Kinney knows that no Bible on the entire planet read exactly the same as the one he shouts from the housetops is inerrant. Despite this claim – can Kinney bother to tell us how he reached this claim? Do you have any OBJECTIVE means that brings this about? Or did you just decide you liked one particular version and on the basis of that nonsensical espousal decided to argue? Kinney may believe he holds the perfect Word of God in his hand but the simple fact is that isn’t necessary – even the KJV translators said just the opposite. So if he wants to call me or anyone else a Bible agnostic, he is welcome to point out his own translators and everyone on the planet up until his day was exactly the same.

    2) How ironic that Calvinists have abandoned the Reformation text of the Bible and are now promoting the Vatican Versions.

    Not nearly as ironic as this mixed up god using the Catholic priest to uh……”restore” the lost Bible.

    Note for the record that Mr Kinney denies the existence of the LXX as well. Several years ago he made the mistake of engaging me on the LAD forum on that subject – his article has MULTIPLE out-of-context citations, none of which Kinney has ever fixed and none of which the self-appointed arbiters of “talking correctly about TC” has ever bothered to correct in the same snotty tone they use with others.

    Also….Kinney called James White (the Calvinist) and it was…..well, embarrassing.

    So the next time you hear the wheels churning just note that for all the bravado, the actual confronations always humiliate the KJV Onlyist This is what happens when facts are not on your side.

    • willjkinney says:

      Hi W&H (very appropriate) you posted: “Note that Mr Kinney does not even attempt to deal with the substance of Avery’s hypocrisy. So now let’s take Kinney’s cultic jargon apart.

      1) Dan Wallace is in fact promoting the new Vatican Versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET and Holman stuff. And he doesn’t believe that ANY of the is the inerrant words of God either. Nor does Maestroh.

      Of course, Kinney somehow absolves Rome of any involvement with the TR – colossal screw-up of mega proportions. He knows we have a Catholic priest making up a Bible and not only that Kinney knows that no Bible on the entire planet read exactly the same as the one he shouts from the housetops is inerrant. Despite this claim – can Kinney bother to tell us how he reached this claim? Do you have any OBJECTIVE means that brings this about? Or did you just decide you liked one particular version and on the basis of that nonsensical espousal decided to argue? Kinney may believe he holds the perfect Word of God in his hand but the simple fact is that isn’t necessary – even the KJV translators said just the opposite. So if he wants to call me or anyone else a Bible agnostic, he is welcome to point out his own translators and everyone on the planet up until his day was exactly the same.”

      Uh… WH, you really should actually take the time to READ my article. I deal with this phony “Well Erasmus was a Catholic” argument of yours and present tangible PROOF that your ESV, NIV, NASB versions you love so much (without believing they are the inerrant words of God) are in fact the new Vatican Versions. Try reading it and learn the facts.

      Here it is again.

      Undeniable Proof the ESV, NIV, NASB, Holman Standard, NET etc. are the new “Vatican Versions”

      http://brandplucked.webs.com/realcatholicbibles.htm

      Just one small part you would see here if you actually took the time to READ it,is this:

      I have a copy of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition right here in front of me. It is the same Greek text as the UBS (United Bible Society) 4th edition. These are the Greek readings and texts that are followed by such modern versions as the ESV, NIV, NASB, Holman Standard AND the new Catholic versions like the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970 and the New Jerusalem bible 1985.

      If you have a copy of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition, open the book and read what they tell us in their own words on page 45 of the Introduction. Here these critical Greek text editors tell us about how the Greek New Testament (GNT, now known as the UBS) and the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece grew together and shared the same basic text.In the last paragraph on page 45 we read these words:

      “The text shared by these two editions was adopted internationally by Bible Societies, and FOLLOWING AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE VATICAN AND THE UNITED BIBLE SOCIETIES IT HAS SERVED AS THE BASIS FOR NEW TRANSLATIONS AND FOR REVISIONS MADE UNDER THEIR SUPERVISION. THIS MARKS A SIGNIFICANT STIP WITH REGARD TO INTERCONFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS. It should naturally be understood that this text is a working text: it is not to be considered as definitive, but as a stimulus to further efforts toward defining and verifying the text of the New Testament.”

      There it is folks, in their own words. They openly admit that this text is the result of an agreement between the Vatican and the UBS and that the text itself is not “definitive” – it can change, as it already has and will do so in the future, and is not the infallible words of God but merely “a stimulus to further efforts”.

      “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8

      “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” 1 Cor. 14:38

  5. willjkinney says:

    WH again posted – “Note for the record that Mr Kinney denies the existence of the LXX as well.”

    Uh…not exactly. There are SEVERAL so called LXXs (alleged Septuagints) floating around out there and they all differ from each other. There is a LOT of information here about this bogus Greek translation. It is one of the worst in existence. I have a copy of Brenton’s – the one most people use. Do you believe that any of the LXXs are the inerrant words of God? Of course you don’t. You know you do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, so you now casually dismiss the whole idea with “we don’t need one.”

    Here are some facts about this so called Greek Septuagint with plenty of examples.

    NO LXX – The Fictitious Use of the so-called Greek Septuaginthttp://brandplucked.webs.com/nolxx.htm

    And if you actually take the time to READ it, this is just part of what you will find.

    John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews 10:5

    He says the translators of the LXX took the reading of the New Testament and placed it in their LXX translation! Please note that the view that the LXX translation was made AFTER the New Testament was complete is NOT A NOVEL POSITION invented by the King James Only people.

    John Owen says: “There was of old a different reading in that translation (the LXX). For instead of sw~ma , “a body,” some copies have wtia , “the ears;” which the Vulgar Latin follows: an evidence that A CHANGE HAD BEEN MADE IN THAT TRANSLATION, TO COMPLY WITH THE WORDS USED BY THE APOSTLE. The words, therefore, in this place are the words whereby the apostle expressed the sense and meaning of the Holy Ghost in those used in the psalmist, or that which was intended in them. HE DID NOT TAKE THEM FROM THE TRANSLATION OF THE LXX., but used them himself, to express the sense of the Hebrew text.

    For although we should not adhere precisely unto the opinion that all the quotations out of the Old Testament in the New, which agree in WORDS WITH THE PRESENT TRANSLATION OF THE LXX, WERE BY THE SCRIBES OF THAT TRANSLATION TRANSFERRED OUT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT INTO IT, — WHICH YET IS FAR MORE PROBABLE THAN THE CONTRARY OPINION, that the words of the translation are made use of in the New Testament, even when they differ from the original, — yet sundry things herein are certain and acknowledged; as, (1.) That the penmen of the New Testament do not oblige themselves unto that translation, but in many places do precisely render the words of the original text, where that translation differs from it. (2.) That THEY DO OFTENTIMES EXPRESS THE SENSE OF THE TESTIMONY WHICH THEY QUOTE IN WORDS OF THEIR OWN , neither agreeing with that translation nor exactly answering the original Hebrew. (3.) THAT SUNDRY PASSAGES have been UNQUESTIONABLY TAKEN OUT OF THE New Testament, AND INSERTED INTO THAT TRANSLATION (the LXX) which I have elsewhere PROVED BY UNDENIABLE INSTANCES. AND I NO WAY DOUBT BUT IT HATH SO FALLEN OUT IN THIS PLACE, where no account can be given of the translation of the LXX. as the words now are in it. “ John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews 10:5.

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