Saint George Preca has been likened as a succe...

Apostle Paul, writing

My critique of Dr. Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus continues here.

One of the problems with ancient Greek texts (which would include all the earliest Christian writings, including those of the New Testament) is that when they were copied, no marks of punctuation were used, no distinction made between lowercase and uppercase letters, and, even more bizarre to modern readers, no spaces used to separate words. Page: 38

Yes, all this is true but maybe not as insurmountable as it might appear to us. Another interesting point about Greek writing is that no quote marks were ever used in the New Testament book. So, rather than exact quotes of people, we may have summaries of spoken words. That does not preclude authors quoting verbatim but it was not uncommon and quite appropriate for an author to summarize the words of someone they were writing about.

One of the important recent findings of scholars who study the early Christian scribes, on the other hand, is that just the opposite was the case with them. It appears that the Christians copying the texts were the ones who wanted the texts—that is, they were copying the texts either for their own personal and/or communal use or they were making them for the sake of others in their community. 7 In short, the people copying the early Christian texts were not, for the most part, if at all, professionals who copied texts for a living (cf Hermas, above); they were simply the literate people in the Christian congregation who could make copies… Page: 40

So, copying of the New Testament manuscripts were done by literate Christians as opposed to paid scribes. Dr. Ehrman may perceive this to be a weakness of the copying process but I see many advantages to having believers make copies. The main advantage is that they had ownership of the documents and more importantly the words on the manuscripts. To me, that could indicate actually that greater care may have been taken. Jewish believers would have known about the traditions and processes of the Hebrew scribes and the great care with which they handled their manuscripts.

Dr. Ehrman seems to not understand that scriptures from the earliest periods were put into lectionaries verbatim for use in worship services. In fact, most of the New Testament can be found scribed into the worship service lectionaries. So, not only do translators have 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, there are a total of 24,000 manuscripts in early languages and all these can be compared to the lectionaries of the early church.

In short, the books that were of paramount importance in early Christianity were for the most part read out loud by those who were able to read, so that the illiterate could hear, understand, and even study them. Despite the fact that early Christianity was by and large made up of illiterate believers, it was a highly literary religion. Page: 35

Thank you for that conclusion Dr. Ehrman. I agree with your statements here.

One of the problems with ancient Greek texts (which would include all the earliest Christian writings, including those of the New Testament) is that when they were copied, no marks of punctuation were used, no distinction made between lowercase and uppercase letters, and, even more bizarre to modern readers, no spaces used to separate words. Page: 38

Yes, all this is true, but maybe not as insurmountable as it might appear to us. Another interesting point about Greek writing is that no quote marks were ever used in the New Testament book. So, rather than exact quotes of people, we may have summaries of spoken words. That does not preclude authors quoting verbatim but it was not uncommon and quite appropriate for an author to summarize the words of someone they were writing about while including the gist of what was said.

One of the important recent findings of scholars who study the early Christian scribes, on the other hand, is that just the opposite was the case with them. It appears that the Christians copying the texts were the ones who wanted the texts—that is, they were copying the texts either for their own personal and/or communal use or they were making them for the sake of others in their community. 7 In short, the people copying the early Christian texts were not, for the most part, if at all, professionals who copied texts for a living (cf Hermas, above); they were simply the literate people in the Christian congregation who could make copies… Page: 40

Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another. Page: 43

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Depiction of First Council of Nicea

Okay, here he admits the main point about transmission. Most variants are simple slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another. The fact that he can say this tells us a lot. This means that Dr. Ehrman, as a textual critic, is making these discernments about the texts of manuscripts that he has reviewed. He is making that professional call about the manuscripts that he knows about. Therefore, we can rest easy. The very discipline of textual criticism, ensures that these judgments can be made and thus the original writings can be discerned by the translators of the Greek words into English or whatever other language we may be translating into.

Dr. Ehrman gets to the point of describing how the Gospels and Paul’s letters were created and notes that Paul wrote the last paragraph in Galatians while the remainder of the letter was dictated to a scribe. This is a good technique. Paul dictated the letter and a faithful scribe wrote it for him. In Misquoting Jesus, Dr. Ehrman does not make a big issue of the letter being dictated. Oops, I did not read far enough—yes he does. He asks “If the scribe filled in the rest, can we be assured that he filled it in exactly as Paul wanted?” Page: 46   I believe the answer is yes; Paul was well trained. I believe that Paul was  professional enough to get to the Galatians what he wanted them to hear. Is it not possible that the scribe read back to him what was written and that Paul verified what is in the letter? By the way, this is almost a moot point because Galatians is such a fantastic book. It is so good that every member in our church goes through the book of Galatians. Galatians was very well done!

So does the textual critic reconstruct as the original text the form of the Gospel that originally contained them? But shouldn’t we consider the “original” form to be the earlier version, which lacked them? Page: 48

What the reader needs to know is that Dr. Ehrman only lists some of the questions a textual critic might ask.

Okay, here he admits a major point about transmission. Most variants are simple slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another. The fact that he can say this tells us a lot. This means that Dr. Ehrman, as a textual critic, is making these discernments about the texts of manuscripts that he has reviewed. He is making that professional call about the manuscripts that he knows about. Therefore, we can rest easy. The very discipline of textual criticism, ensures that these judgments can be made and thus the original writings can be discerned by the translators of the Greek words into English or whatever other language we may be translating into.

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