Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Few Things I Have Learned Since...Yesterday
02/19/2009 - James White
1) Do not attempt to offer a possible reason for why someone would completely misread your purpose and statement. You will be accused of "mocking" people if you do. Of course, if you do not do that, you will be accused of being mean anyway. So, lesson learned: you can't win.
Specifically, I am sitting here in shock this morning that anyone on the ETC blog thought my offering the possibility that Dr. Wasserman misunderstood me due to the language barrier (and this includes Dr. Wasserman) would be so unkind, so unfair, as to attribute to me mockery of Dr. Wasserman. You are truly left wondering if there is any room for discussion when there is this level of sensitivity in the forum. There is a simple fact here: I stated that the telling statement was the claim that more had taken place in the last fifteen years in textual criticism than in any other fifteen year period in the history of the discipline. I did not say that doing another edition of the work in question was a "very telling statement." Please remember, Dr. Wasserman's immediate response to his own misreading of my statement was, "It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about."
2) Do not expect the Golden Rule to be applied to you if you are an evangelical. If you are going to address someone like Ehrman, you better do your homework. Read his works, listen to his lectures, study his articles. If you do not, you have nothing to say. However, anyone can comment on what you say as an evangelical without worrying about anything you have ever written or taught over twenty or more years. Just remember, the context of the evangelical is irrelevant; the context of the star-level scholar is all important. Also, it is fair to assume the evangelical believer is ignorant of anything you wish to attribute to them, even if you have no idea whether they are in fact ignorant of those subjects or not.
Now, of course, some of the comments that have appeared on the thread could be from some of my dear fans who seem to flock to any blog I reference here. Since anonymous posting is allowed, it is hard to say.
If I have time I will respond to Dr. Wasserman later today. Basically, it seems that no matter how clearly I express myself as to my intention, that is insufficient. More on that later.
Secondly, one person actually was kind enough to cite The King James Only Controversy. Unfortunately, the individual is in error. He was making reference to the new emphasis upon attempting to exegete the variants in a manuscript so that one can develop theories concerning the theology and prejudices of an individual scribe. For example, many are now investing much time and effort (let alone resources) to attempt to impute motivations to scribes, such as anti-Jewish prejudice, anti-woman prejudice, etc. Even more troubling is the assumption that a particular scribe would have held to theological position X, and hence, knowing full well about a controversy over doctrine X, would make changes to support X. Historically, the vast majority of scholars have assumed simple scribal error when there was no compelling reason to think otherwise. That paradigm has changed, so that somehow we can figure out what a scribe's theology was, and from that, examine scribal variations! Yet, the fact of the matter is, we do not know the identity of the scribes in the vast majority of instances, let alone how aware any of them were of the current theological controversies. Indeed, could it not be logically argued that in the case of scriptorium-produced manuscripts, the scribe might be utterly ignorant of the current theological arguments within the Christian community? But even if we have a Christian scribe, upon what logical foundation can one assume to know his personal theological convictions, let alone the depth of his knowledge of current controversies? Is it really that difficult to see the foundation of my objection to this activity?
However, James Snapp Jr. confuses the above attempted mind reading of specific scribes regarding specific theological believes and specific levels of theological and controversial knowledge with the standard recognition of scribal errors based upon different factors, such as familiarity with parallel passages (Ephesians/Colossians). Likewise, the expansion of piety is a general observation, not an assumption that a particular scribe in a particular context purposefully changed the text due to a particular controversy in his day. Likewise, Snapp writes,
On p. 167, after stating that KJV-Onlyists object to the reading "Isaiah the prophet" in Mark 1:2 on the grounds that Mark /couldn't/ have written that because it would be a mistake, Dr. White writes, "It is quite certain that some scribes early on in the transmission of the text of the New Testament had the very same thought." No mind-reading here!
No, no mind-reading here, for we are not attributing to the scribe some kind of particular theological claim in a particular theological dispute of his day. The manuscript tradition plainly gives evidence of a strong, nigh unto universal desire to harmonize parallel accounts in the gospel, and to "fix" perceived problems, just as here. I was simply observing that the same misconception about the nature of citing OT passages that exists amongst KJV Only advocates existed in the past as well. None of these examples indicates any inconsistency in finding modern attempts to focus upon a speculative attempt to create some kind of specific "scribal theology" that then allows you to somehow attribute entire motivations to the Christian community at the time of the writing of a particular manuscript is a meaningful replacement for the proper emphasis upon that last, troublesome word in Metzger's title, "Restoration."
Finally, if I may observe an oddity of the academy that is being seen once again in this brief discussion. Some of the commenters have used language such as "making Ehrman a whipping boy" in their knee-jerk reaction to anyone outside the "inner circle" daring to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Specifically, would it not be relevant to an analysis of Ehrman's intentions and motivations to take note of his upcoming book, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them). What a title! Quite fitting for the supermarket tabloid section, to be sure, but why isn't anyone pointing out that Ehrman seems to be padding his bank account by repackaging old liberalism as if it is the new results of "real" scholarship? Why is it that the evangelical who points this out is the bad guy, guilty of making Ehrman a "whipping boy"? Here is the advertising blurb provided by Ehrman's publisher on Amazon:
Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman's New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches—and it's not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:
* The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works
* The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later
* Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions
* Established Christian doctrines—such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity—were the inventions of still later theologians
These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for—a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus.
Excuse me, but if this isn't a blatant attack upon Christianity, what, exactly, would be? So I am confused: is it OK to write "popular" books blasting the Christian faith as long as you have written "good scholarship" in the past? From whence comes this scholarly schizophrenia? And more importantly, why is it "wrong" to point these things out? And while I am asking rhetorical questions, why is Ehrman allowed to dodge the theological ramifications of his claims, stating he is a historian, not a theologian, and yet he writes...theological books, like this one? Am I the only one who finds this most odd?
My search for consistency of standards continues.