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Why Don’t People See Discrepancies in the Bible? Readers’ Mailbag October 15, 2016

QUESTION:

I assume that Bart Ehrman today when he reads the books of the New Testament sees large discrepancies between them.  My question is about the precocious sixteen-year-old Ehrman, Did he too see this variousness (which opens up the possibility of inconsistency)? Or did it all as he read it cohere, seem of a piece, convey one doctrinally comprehensive and orthodox and uniform message? And if it did, how does today’s Ehrman think young Ehrman managed to overlook all those obvious discrepancies?

 

RESPONSE:

The sixteen-year-old Bart Ehrman who revered the Bible was probably like almost every sixteen-year-old on the planet who reveres the Bible.  We were (and people are still now) taught that the Bible was the inspired Word of God.  We knew that it was God’s revelation to humans before we had ever read a word of it.  Even before I was an evangelical Christian I simply assumed it had been given by God.

If that’s what a person simply assumes before coming to the Bible, then when she or he reads the Bible, that belief will simply be confirmed.  This is God’s Word.  That affects how the Bible is read.  If you assume God gave these words, then if there is anything puzzling in them, it is simply a puzzle that needs to be worked out.  There aren’t any problems with what the Bible has to say.  There are only problems with the people trying to read and understand it.  Any “problem” is with the reader, not with the text being read.

If you approach the Bible that way, you simply do not see discrepancies.  You literally don’t see them.  If someone points one out to you, you simply assume that the person hasn’t learned how to read the passages correctly.  There are not discrepancies.  There are only failures to understand.

Even today I have people – all the time, actually – ask me: “Why doesn’t everyone see this contradiction?”   My response is usually:….

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The “Arch-Heretic” Marcion, Jesus, and the Jewish Law
Anti-Judaism in the Gospels: A Blast From the Past

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Comments

  1. RonaldTaska  October 15, 2016

    Nothing changed my religious quest more profoundly than discovering that different Gospels say different things. I first discovered this myself reading the two genealogies of Jesus and was stunned. I really think preachers and church leaders could help all of us if they taught us about such things when we were young. Discovering them later, by oneself, makes one reluctant to trust anything one has been taught by preachers and church leaders. If we cannot trust them about Biblical inerrancy how can we trust them about anything else they teach?

  2. Pegill7  October 15, 2016

    There is a very old joke, told to me by a Catholic priest, that expands on the scriptural story and has the women in the crowd pick up stones after the men leave. To them Jesus says, “Let her who is without sin, cast the first stone. One by one each of the women drops her stone, except one who proceeds to cast her large stone at the sinful woman. Jesus turns to her and exclaims, “Mother, how could you?”

    • Bart
      Bart  October 16, 2016

      Yeah, it’s a classic! Thanks. The final line I’ve sometimes heard is “Mom, sometimes you really tick me off…”

      • Eric  October 19, 2016

        Jesus and Moses are playing golf in a threesome in Heaven. They come to a three-par, Moses tees off, “plop” into the water hazard. Moses lifts his club, the waters part, and he takes his second shot to the green off of dry ground.

        Jesus tees off, it flies to the same hazard, but hovers above the water. Jesus walks across the water to the hovering ball, easily makes the green with his second shot.

        The third golfer tees off. This ball also heads for the pond, but just as it breaks the surface, a large fish emerges and swallows the ball. Before the the fish can submerge, and eagle swoops down and grabs the fish, flying up and away. But lo! A sudden lightning bolt frightens the bird, who drops the fish, which lands on the green, and the impact ejects the ball from the belly of the fish, and the ball rolls into the cup for a hole-in-one.

        Moses turns to Jesus and says: “I hate playing golf with your Dad.”

        • Bart
          Bart  October 20, 2016

          Ha! A good one!

          • maklaka  November 5, 2016

            We should consider the Bart Ehrmans of 20,000 years from now – dutifully collecting the scant evidence of Christian scripture and beliefs after numerous apocalyptic events have destroyed vast swaths of Earth’s antiquity. Will they have trouble distinguishing these jokes from the original texts? ;]

  3. Liam Foley  October 15, 2016

    My leaving orthodox Christianity began with questioning Christian theology. However, I did also notice some discrepancies or at least things that were questionable. For example, the Agony of Jesus in the Garden before he was arrested. The Gospel indicates he was alone when he prayed and the disciples were sleeping some distance away..and he complains about that. I began to question how did the writers of that Gospel know what Jesus said and did if he was alone with no one listening and then he was arrested, tried and executed?

    It doesn’t indicate anyone would have recorded what he said and did nor did Jesus have time to tell his disciples what occurred there. Other than the magic answers that he told his disciples what happened after the resurrection (if you even believed that happened) or the Holy Spirit told the writers what happened, it indicated to me that the account was fictionalized. It made me question what else in there was not historically accurate.

    Would that story be labeled a discrepancy or would it fall under a different category?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 16, 2016

      I would call that an “implausible” account. Unless it contradicts another account, I would not call it a discrepancy. But you’re right — there is not good explanation for it (unless God told the writer what happened) (Jesus couldn’t do so because he spent hte night in jail and was then crucified.)

    • Emma  October 25, 2016

      I felt a similar way about the story of Joab. If the whole point of the story is that no one knows the inner machinations of God’s mind, thus the need for blind faith, then who is observing the sadistic betting game between God and Satan?

  4. Kazibwe Edris  October 15, 2016

    under jewish occupation was there any time jews did carry out stoning to death of an adulterer?
    did historical jesus think that sins should be physically punished ?
    in matthew jesus says that he did not come to do away the law, but christian apologists have him do away the punishment laws.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 16, 2016

      They may have done so. Mob violence happens. Jesus; no, I don’t think so.

      • Kazibwe Edris  October 16, 2016

        if a historical jesus existed today and walked into a porn organisation
        would he say , “sin no more”

        or take up a whip and whip everyone out?

      • godspell  October 17, 2016

        Me neither–as to why the man she committed adultery with wasn’t there, you could argue hypocrisy happens as well.

        Jesus was a paradoxical person, as visionaries tend to be. I’ve no doubt he believed in the Law. But he was not, like Paul and others who came after him, someone who could have ever hammered out the literal applications of his teaching. And as we know now, he didn’t think he’d have to, because God would handle that.

        If some version of this story really did happen, it would simply be him protesting the unfairness of a group of sinners passing judgment on a defenseless woman who had simply had the misfortune to be caught doing what many others did without any punishment at all (perhaps he was noting the absence of the guilty male party as well). It is consistent with his saying worry about the beam in your own eye first. And of course, it may be that somebody just imagined him doing something like this, because it would be so like him. Jesus fanfic. It could be that. I’d rather think that it happened. I’m getting the feeling you’d rather think that as well.

        And let me say, if you look at stories about certain ‘Wonder Rabbis’ from later eras, you often find this kind of paradoxical thinking. The Jewish law is not all about rigid dogma and harsh judgments. There is much of compassion and flexibility and good-hearted humor in it as well (there had to be, for it to survive so long against such horrible odds). You can also find some of this in stories of Muslim imams (the Sufi strain in Islam). Or even in the folktales of the Japanese judge Ooka (a Zen Buddhist), who would come up with ingenius ways to save poor people from harsh punishments. Or think of the stories of Lincoln pardoning soldiers in the Civil War–looking for almost any excuse to save as many as possible, when their guilt under the law as written was unequivocal. I think there are figures like this throughout our history, and we ignore them at our peril.

        So whether it literally happened or not, it is deep and profound truth, and a story we should cherish for as long as the human race exists.

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  October 15, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, your description of how the Woman Caught in Adultery was added to John is, I believe, how ALL of the Gospel attained their current forms. Namely, I believe they all started out simply as a record of Jesus’ sayings, like, say, The Gospel of Thomas or the Analects of Confucius. And then as this document began to be copied, scribes added glosses in the margins that may have put the saying within a narrative context (the so-called Sitz in Leben). And then eventually, those glosses were worked into the main text by other scribes. And then those narrative units were then put into something of a chronological “orderly account” (as the author of Luke puts it). And then eventually, the Gospels took the form as we know them now, more or less. How many, if any NT scholars would agree with that hypothetical process of transmission?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 16, 2016

      Most scholars do not think the Gospels were written by accumulation over a long stretch of time, but that an author actually sat down one day and wrote an account based on all the stories he had heard and read. The accumulation period would probalby have happened in the oral stages principally (with some accounts being added on after a first edition was completed; e.g., John probably originally lacked ch. 21; and Luke may well have started, originally, with what is now chapter 3)

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 16, 2016

        I can see why scholars would think that, mainly because we have no extant ur-documents to support an accretion hypothesis. However, the more I research this topic, the more books I read (I now have an entire shelf on my bookcase devoted to them, including most of your books), and the more I re-read the NT accounts themselves, over and over again, the more ludicrous the idea of a sui generis written account seems to me. There is a core that, to my eyes, at least, sticks right out as an original document that is the source of everything: all four Gospels, the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, the sparse allusions in Paul, the hypothetical Q document…there’s just something that stands out. It might be because I come from a Jewish Israeli background, so I’ve been steeped in Semitic culture; therefore, the occasional Semiticisms I see in the gospel accounts jump right out at me. For example, when Jesus is purported to say God “is not a god of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 12:27||Luke 20:38), that sounds ACTUALLY like a Semitic aphorism, as one would fine in the Hebrew Bible, in intertestimental literature, in Rabbinical literature, etc. Both in the Hebrew and in the Aramaic this phrase naturally forms a rhyming triplet (Heb. אלהים לא אל למתים האל לחיים ; Aram. אלהין לא אלה למתין אלהא לחיין — “God is not god of [the] dead, [but] the god of [the] living!”).

        Now, sure, this pithy statement could readily have been memorized by Jesus’ disciples and passed down for many years until finally translated into the Greek and only then put down in writing. But there are literally dozens of such Semitic sounding lines in the Gospel that I find it difficult to believe remained that much intact for that long without being written down. Your very last book was, in fact, about how difficult such a process is! That’s why I’m pretty much convinced at this point that there was an original document in Aramaic and/or Hebrew from which such apothegms as the example above were taken. I simply find it difficult to believe that oral transmission was enough to preserve them.

        Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

      • paul c  October 17, 2016

        Thank you. I have pondered the question of what the transition process from oral tradition to early written text might have been like “on the ground.” I hope that you can expand upon this at the appropriate time.

        • Bart
          Bart  October 18, 2016

          I try to explain that process in my most recent book, Jesus Before the Gospels.

  6. seahawk41  October 15, 2016

    Your description of where you were at age 16 is exactly where I was. Since my grad program was in science (physics) it took me much longer to start seeing things like these discrepancies. But even with my evangelical upbringing, I was very aware of the scientific discrepancies in the Bible. My attitude at that point in time was thaat we really didn[t understand the Bible when it was at odds with science; the science was right, even then, because it was based on actual data. So we needed better understanding of the Bible. Now, of course, I realize that the Bible contains stories of various sorts. some pretty accurate, some very modified, some made up, some taken from common mythology, etc.

  7. clipper9422@yahoo.com  October 16, 2016

    I don’t recall noting outright discrepancies and contradictions in the NT during my 12 years in Catholic schools. But I gradually developed a vague sense of there being a lot of things that didn’t hang together all that well. And I also got the idea – I think from a young priest – that the Golden Rule and Love Commandment were the most important things. (Atonement seemed problematic to me and no one talked about justification by faith or the imminence of God’s kingdom.) So, despite being unusually pious, it seems like I decided to just not pay that much attention to any inconsistencies and cling to the most important parts.

    I suppose, also, as a Catholic, I wasn’t strongly encouraged to just sit down and read the Bible on my own. So maybe most of the biggest discrepancies just never came up.

  8. CharlesM  October 16, 2016

    Good stuff. 🙂 Thanks Bart!

  9. Kevin  October 16, 2016

    I have recently read Seeing Through Zen by McRae which takes an historical critical approach to writings of Zen (Chan). One of his criteria he uses I have found really helpful to keep in mind in my own exploration christian texts and their value other than being ‘true’ or not.

    (Try swaping zen for christian text etc.)

    “It’s not true, and therefore it’s more important.
    The contents of Zen texts should not be evaluated using a simple- minded criterion of journalistic accuracy, that is, “Did it really happen?” For any event or saying to have occurred would be a trivial reality in- volving a mere handful of people at one imagined point in time, which would be overwhelmed by the thousands of people over the centuries who were involved in the creation of Zen legends. The mythopoeic cre- ation of Zen literature implies the religious imagination of the Chinese people, a phenomenon of vast scale and deep significance.” – Seeing Through Zen

  10. rburos  October 16, 2016

    Sir

    When you say earliest and “best” manuscripts, what do you mean by “best”?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 18, 2016

      I may address this in a Readers’ Mailbag. Short answer: when it’s obvious which variant reading is the original, the best manuscripts are the ones that tend to have that reading, and the worst manuscripts have the other one(s).

  11. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  October 16, 2016

    Before I first read the Christian Bible in 1980-81, I had absorbed through literature and Christian friends ( I was Jewish) versions of Bible stories floating around. I got bogged down within the first three chapters of Genesis because what I had thought the story said was simply not there. I re-read it and re-read it many times. Finally, I realized that it simply did not say what so many claimed it said…that there was a HUGE discrepancy not between this part of the Bible and another but between what Christians and pop culture claimed or assumed it said and what the words neither said nor implied. Over the years, I’ve come to see that almost all parts of the story as conservative Christians tell it are read into Genesis 2-3.

  12. Tempo1936  October 16, 2016

    Sermons are put together Cherry picking selected verses to make a specific point.
    the pastor, Sitting high above the audience in speaking in the most authoritative manner, makes clear everything he says is true. Who is going to question someone who went to school 6 to 8 years learning this bible stuff .
    Also people do not want to make waves or create controversy w Friends and family, which is what happens if you question what they have been told to believe.

  13. judicata  October 17, 2016

    This is also similar to my experience while I was an evangelical Christian. If someone pointed out a discrepancy, I simply didn’t see it. Or, at most, it would cause enough of an internal conflict that I would read Christian apologists’ explanations for the discrepancy, which I had little trouble accepting. Think about someone trying to convince you the Apollo moon landing was a hoax. That was pretty much how it appeared, from my perspective at the time, when someone tried to tell me the Bible couldn’t be true. (Although that analogy only goes so far.)

    Now, of course, I see how dubious most of the explanations are, and how they seem crafted to assuage believers’ doubts rather than to persuade based on sound argument. We can be exceedingly clever in deceiving ourselves.

    • Emma  October 25, 2016

      Yes totally agree with you. For instance when I was a christian I thought Philip Yancey’s explanations for why God allows suffering were very deep and profound. Now I feel he did nothing more than restate the question in nice sounding prose.

  14. Hildore  October 17, 2016

    I read a chapter from both OT and NT every day and the more I read, the more I question the things taught to me when I was growing up in church. Like no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. How much blood did the father of the prodigal son require before he embraced his wayward, recalcitrant boy and welcomed him with open arms and a big party? And how much blood was required when Isa. 1:18 invited the people to come now and reason, and receive forgiveness? Thanks Dr. Ehrman for your reasoned and enlightening presentations. If I was younger I would enroll in your University and study Religion. But at 70+ I read all of your books and enjoy listening to your debates on line. Thanks for making it possible for us to be enlightened.

  15. Spartos  October 17, 2016

    Bart, I’ve always been surprised at the similarity with our backgrounds. I was involved in Youth for Christ in Kansas City as a teenager, continued on to an evangelical college to major in Biblical Studies and then on to graduate school. These days I teach Religious Studies at a university (I frequently use your books as texts for my courses). The first time I remember seeing a “discrepancy” was as a teenager reading the accounts of the death of Judas. Didn’t bother me a lot–but enough that I clearly remember it.. Later, in my sophomore year of college, a trusted professor told us that Jesus did not always say the exact words attributed to him in the Gospels. I was devastated. I would say it seems funny now except that I remember the pain of the experience. By the end of college I considered inerrancy to be a rather silly idea. And the progression continued indepth in grad school.. As you suggest, once one starts looking at the texts critically, suddenly things that were always there are seen for the first time.

    I’m curious. Did you just attend a local Young Life/YFC group in Lawrence? Or did you ever venture over to Shawnee Mission to KCYFC?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 18, 2016

      Wow. Yes indeed, I “came to Christ” (from being a faithful Episcopalian, I guess…) thrugh a Youth for Christ (Campus Life) group in Lawrence. I did spend time in Shawnee Mission, but more in debate than in YFC. I was in high school in 1970-73. You?

      • Spartos  October 19, 2016

        1972-75–So we may have been in the same auditorium at some point! 🙂

  16. AlanGoldman  October 17, 2016

    I studied under Professor Albert Lord when at Harvard College (Class of ’79), taking his course “Hum(anities) 9a”. In that course, we examined various folktales and legends, including Biblical stories from Genesis through the New Testament, discussing their origins, and observing thematic (“archetypal”) patterns that occurred in a variety of stories from different cultures spread widely over time and place, even to archetypal allusions employed by Hollywood, especially in its “Golden Age” of the 1930’s-40’s. I observe that in your recent book “Jesus Before the Gospels” (2016), at pp.184-86, you discuss Professor Lord’s original work in the field of oral transmission of epic folk stories and poetry, in particular those discussed in his seminal work, “The Singer of Tales” (1960).

    I recall that for purposes of illustrating his fundamental point(s) — upon which you draw and elaborate to make your own points in “Jesus Before the Gospels” — Professor Lord once expressed to me a pithy saying, when asked what he regarded as the “most important” insight that he had gained in his studies (concerning his teachings about the role that human memory plays in oral traditions).

    “The most important thing about stories,” he calmly observed, “is THAT THEY MUST BE TOLD.” At the time, I regarded this brief remark as a sententious tautology or truism, but I later came to recognize that in that one saying, Professor Lord had succinctly captured and conveyed the essence of his theses (and of yours, by extension). Unlike all other animals, Human Beings after birth depend not just upon “instinct” for survival, but upon the inter-generational transmission of learning, leading to culture and tradition, which, of course, requires at least the power of Speech using intelligible Language. Critically, no other animal has any such a power of Speech to communicate its accumulated learning to its offspring. From this basic principle, it perforce follows that the elder generation’s perception of the very utility, the value, of that learning for the current (i.e.,next) generation must be adapted, modified, (altered?) in order to make it applicable and “relevant” (as you’ll recall, a most Sixties-Seventies watchword) “for the times” in which that new generation will live. Indeed, the learning is transmitted in an “enhanced” way so as to maximize its relevance.

    It seems to me that this is a entirely natural process at work, which you so effectively describe and trace with respect to the telling of stories about Jesus and the meaning those stories have acquired for their times. The point is that readers of your book should NOT in any way feel that you are “singling out” stories about Jesus, or about religion in general, for any special treatment, which some religiously devout readers may regard as being disrespectful or derogatory of Believers as such. The work of Professor Lord illustrates that ALL information that is orally transmitted is subject to this process of “transmutation” over time for the sincere purpose of making it relevant to the times, and that there is nothing disingenuous or nefarious about that process. Thus, the oral transmission of “religious” stories, even those about Jesus, and their natural adaption to the times, is but one example of a very human phenomenon that spans the ages.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Alang573@aol.com

    • Bart
      Bart  October 18, 2016

      Wow. You are terrifically fortunate. He was a most amazing and influential scholar.

      • AlanGoldman  October 18, 2016

        Yes, I was indeed privileged to study under Professor Lord (and at Harvard in general). I was quite impressed by your most scholarly recognition and original application of Professor Lord’s work to the entire phenomenon involving the oral transmission of stories about Jesus that you address in “Jesus Before the Gospels”. Your citation (dare I say invocation) of his work and theses “struck a chord” that resonated in me, reminding me of the intrinsic value and enduring relevance (there’s that word again) of the Professor’s original thesis, which I had learned about all those years ago, and had never thought that anyone in this all-too Digital Age would ever have use for drawing upon again (after all, how many care about the origins of the Homeric tradition these days), much less doing so in such an apropos fashion as you did. In addition to your being a successful and useful popularizer of academic learning for the general educated reader, your vehement critics should confess that you are indeed a first-rate scholar (though I know you don’t need ME to tell YOU that) — but you surely have my vote as a humble member of the cognoscenti.

        Respectfully submitted,
        Alang573@aol.com

        • Bart
          Bart  October 19, 2016

          Many, many thanks.

          • AlanGoldman  October 19, 2016

            No “Thanks” needed where acknowledgment is properly due.

            I’ve come to feel that you’re someone I can talk with, so here’s a “Story that could (should?) be told” — I hope without too much transmutation over time, and one that I hope you’ll find at least somewhat “relevant” to your area of expertise.

            Truth be told, I “sold out” and, directly after College, attended Harvard Law School (Class of ’82) — a decision that I’ve come to regret (when considered over the arc of my life), instead of proceeding to Graduate School to obtain a PhD, and potentially be on track, as I was led to believe I would be, to achieving tenure after publishing some noteworthy work(s), which my mentor in the History Dep’t., who at the time became the Chairman, had so encouraged me to do, in the wake of my having won a Departmental Prize for the best Analytical Essay in Tutorial 1977-8. In that paper, I effectively had occasion to apply Professor Lord’s concepts of inter-generational perception when evaluating the re-interpretation in academic books, published throughout historiography over time, of the “true” nature and impact of Ante-Bellum pro-slavery philosophical tracts (debated at the time with assumed gravitas) contending that slavery was the natural condition for the “Negro race,” citing, most lamentably as you’ll surely recognize, a slanted view of the Noah/Ham curse-tale from Genesis, 9:22-25, and, further, contending that slavery for the “masses” was a benign and and just organizing principle for society at large, most notably citing Aristotle. To the great glee of subsequent Leftist thinkers, this pro-slavery position had proceeded, quite startlingly, to attack, in general, the “atomistic” Northern “wage-slave”/”class system” as such, deeming it to be a situation of “slaves without masters,” i.e., “masters” who have having reciprocal duties TO their “slaves” (e.g., to house, feed and care for them), thus depicting (falsely) Southern slavery as a kind of “feudal socialism” ! As I recall, what was most curious was that all these books by various esteemed modern academicians espoused conflicting assessments about the “true” significance, for THEIR times, of the once presumably dashed pro-slavery arguments, some scholars operating, in part, within the time-context of the enduring “Lost Cause” phenomenon, some from within the Liberal anti-communist tradition, while others being fervently animated by the “New Left” thinking that was so prevalent in the Sixties-Seventies, passionately arguing that the pro-“race” slavery position — just as its original advocates had contended — was indeed applicable to analysis of the de facto “class” slavery system that was attributed to all of Modern Industrial Society. (I can permit myself to reflect at this point that the methodology employed throughout my 12 years of Reform Jewish “Sunday School” relativistic, “comparative religion” studies proved to have wholly unforseable practical applications, however indirectly…)

            Anyway, while I did become a widely published co-author of numerous legal articles appearing in well respected Law Reviews and other professional journals, I found that the fundamentally financial reward, though naturally welcome, of a legal career ultimately proved meretricious when compared with the psychological reward that I could have garnered had I remained in academia, albeit in the proverbial Ivory Tower of Cambridge 02138.

            So, may I suggest to you that you do your utmost to encourage at least your most promising students to “STICK IT OUT” and so resist the allure and distractions of a lifetime predominantly devoted to materialistic rewards valued for their own sake? I suppose that goal may be more successfully attained in a field that is already peopled by those who are inclined, to one degree or in one manner or another, toward the “spiritualistic” aspect of life on this earth. In the discipline of your field, however, given its focus on the pursuit of the truth, wherever it might lead (a principle that any honest attorney, or detective, would applaud), it might seem, at least to an outside observer, that many students could become disillusioned, cynical, and disparaging of intellectual endeavors that may appear self-defeating, and that are lacking that self-reinforcing, comfortable certainty of conviction that so motivates ardent Believers.

            To this, I would reply with a Biblical (if “apocryphal”) citation: “Great is the Truth and it Prevails” (“Magna est veritas et praevalet”), derived from the Latin (Vulgate) translation of 1 Esdras 4:38, 41, which “became a famous proverb”. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Oxford University Press, Inc.: Fourth Rev’d Ed. 2010), p.1641; The Harper Collins Study Bible (HarperCollins Publishers: Rev’d Ed. 2006), p.1556. I must confess that I learned of this saying about the Truth (though not its textual Biblical origin) because it is the Official Motto of my 6-yr preparatory tutelage at The Horace Mann School (Class of ’75), an institution to which I am at least as indebted, if not more so, than I am to Harvard College for my Liberal Arts education, such as it was.

            Respectfully submitted,
            Alang573@aol.com

  17. Philoso_crab  October 17, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, it seems like accepting the possibility of a contradiction in the Bible is a necessary pre-requisite to actually seeing a contradiction. I really don’t think it can work the other way (i.e. seeing a contradiction and thereby coming to believe that one can exist). This is because our information suffers from the problem that philosophy of science calls ‘underdetrmination of theory by evidence’. What this ends up meaning is that no matter what contradiction is presented, one can always come up with some fantastic scenario that will reconcile it. After all the texts are in natural language, not formal language (a great appeal of which is precisely the fact that it makes such moves impossible). Of course I am still waiting for the day when apologists discover that they can also appeal to paraconsistent logic. That will lead to interesting problems.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  October 18, 2016

      Of course people first see a contradiction and realize as a result that there are contradictions. We hear many stories/testimonies by people who, early on, would not believe there were any contradictions until, wham, one day one stared them in the face in a way they couldn’t deny and their faith changed from that point on.

  18. fizikci  October 18, 2016

    An interesting piece on this point: People process evidence differently when they think with a factual mind-set rather than with a religious mind-set (when evidence contradicts belief, we tend to reject evidence rather than change our sense of who we are) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/opinion/sunday/t-m-luhrmann-faith-vs-facts.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1&mtrref=t.co&assetType=opinion

  19. AlanGoldman  October 19, 2016

    P.S.: With respect to my prior comment, added earlier today, October 19, 2016, it occurred to me that I just can’t choose which of my alternate career paths, the one I took, that of a Wall Street Attorney, or the one I (regrettably) eschewed, that of a comfortably ensconced, tenured, “Ivory Tower” History Professor in Cambridge 02138, is truly more deserving of the Biblical imprecation: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” Amos, 6:1 (KJV).

    Respectfully submitted,
    Alang573@aol.com

    • AlanGoldman  October 19, 2016

      P.P.S: Please delete/ignore the word “having” (it is superfluous) that occurs as the last word in the 15th line of the Third paragraph in my first Comment submitted earlier today, October 19, 2016.

      Thank you.

      Respectfully submitted,
      Alang573@aol.com

  20. flyboydh1  October 23, 2016

    Not only was this story added, but the likelihood of it actually happening as described is nearly zero. The standard of evidence in Jewish law is such that actually putting someone to death was extraordinarily rare for any sin that is attached to capital punishment. It is sad to see that whoever made up this story was once again painting a horrible picture of Jews. Who knows how much Jew hatred and Jesus love this story created over the centuries. People don’t even bother to question this sophomoric story and almost all other stories found in the NT.

  21. SidDhartha1953  October 28, 2016

    I guess my attitude toward “The Woman Taken in Adultery” is analogous to my attitude toward Pluto — if it’s not a planet, it should be. After all, “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine” doesn’t make any sense. The Bible needs a story that teaches justice without mercy is not justice. That’s my take.

  22. PeymanSalar  January 13, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, in all your research which you had done, do you find anything that can be a case for answering a assertion which says there is No discrepancy for denying main doctrine of Christian faith?

    Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  January 14, 2017

      I’m not completely sure what you’re asking. But if you mean: Would it be possible for anyone who subscribes to the Nicene Creed to hold to that view even if they realized there were massive discrepancies in the Bible, then I would say Yes.

  23. PeymanSalar  January 14, 2017

    To the best of my memory I have read more than 7 books of Dr. Ehrman, and I really enjoyed it. But I still do not understand his view about Papyrus 75 and Codex Vaticanus. What I mean by that is, as you know, Codex Vaticanus is not ancestor of P75, but these two manuscripts have strong agreement although P75 is about 150 years earlier than Codex Vaticanus. As far as I know, these two manuscripts are in 92 percent same as each other, then how could we come to conclusion of all “manuscripts are different from one another”?! please help me to understand what is your view on these particular question?

    Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  January 16, 2017

      Yes, they are very closely linked. That’s what makes P75 so unusual among our papyri. But still, if they differ 8% of the time in genetically significant units of variation, that’s not the same as being the same! (Imagine if someone changed *your* wording 8% of the time!)

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