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An Ancient Accusation of Textual Tampering

I will get back to my discussion of Christology soon (tomorrow?) but wanted to take a break and talk about something else that came up in my reading today.   I’m working diligently on finishing the research for my next book How Jesus Became God.  My goal is to finish all the research in about three weeks.   Unfortunately, I can’t be devoting my entire attention to the research just now because I have other things hanging fire.  I’m putting the final touches on The Other Gospels manuscript, which I hope to have finished this week; and next week I will be in Washington D.C. recording a 24-lecture course for the Teaching Company on “The Greatest Controversies in Early Christianity.”  That will take the entire week, and when I won’t be giving a lecture (six a day), I’ll be too exhausted and brain dead to think about much anything else.   But after that I have a few weeks to work, with only weekends away for giving lectures in various spots.  And I hope to start writing about a month from now.

Anyway, I’m doing the final stages of my research, and today among other things I decided to reread a passage in Eusebius’s Church History about a group of Christians, prominent for a time in the second century Roman church, who are sometimes called “adoptionists” (or Roman adoptionists, to distinguish them from Jewish Christian adoptionists), but possibly are better to be called “Theodotians.”

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  1. Avatar
    Joel_Lisboa  February 20, 2013

    Are there any biblical examples of the tampering made by those Theodotians? Is there any chance that those manipulations could be transferred to future copies and still be in our modern critical text of the Greek Testament? Very interesting indeed!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 21, 2013

      I wish there were! But none that anyone has ever been able to find. Their copies were not copied by more “orthodox” scribes.

  2. Avatar
    SteveLig  February 21, 2013

    “Misquoting Jesus” was one of those books that wholly changed my biblical and religious experience. It didn’t really matter to me that the vast majority of changes were insignificant. As a fundamentalist (at the time), all it really took was one to put my inerrant bible beliefs to rest.

    Maybe that’s a contributing factor to those overwrought critics.

  3. Avatar
    reedm60  February 21, 2013

    Dr Ehrman,

    I have all of the DVD versions of the courses you’ve made for ‘The Teaching Company’. They are fantastic so I’m very happy to hear about a new one. Is it the ‘audio only’ course you talked about in a post a while back?

  4. talitakum
    talitakum  February 21, 2013

    True. Jerome complained about copyists who “write down not what they find but what they think is the meaning; and while they attempt to rectify the errors of others, they merely expose their own” (Epist. LXXI.5)

    Similarly, Origen ” today the fact is evident, that there are many differences in the manuscripts, either through the negligence of certain copyists, or the perverse audacity of some in correcting the text”

    Dionysius, as reported by Eusebius: “When my fellow-Christians invited me to write letters to them I did so. These the devil’s apostles have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others. For them the woe is reserved. Small wonder then if some have dared to tamper even with the word of the Lord Himself, when they have conspired to mutilate my own humble efforts”

    So, I guess that’s why a believer (any kind of believer!) shouldn’t rely on “sola scriptura”, but he should also rely on an underlying tradition (Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, etc.) that in some way tried to preserve the original content and spirit of the texts.

  5. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  February 21, 2013

    Looking forward to that new Teaching Company course then. Sounds very interesting.

  6. Avatar
    mariana1952  February 21, 2013

    6 lectures a day?I know you`re a professor but………… You`re my super man.
    Seriously, I have great admiration and respect from you and your work.I learn so much ,you have no ideia what that means to me.Thank you.

  7. Avatar
    David Chumney  February 21, 2013

    The fact that the NT texts have been changed, in certain cases with the apparent intention of “correcting” what were deemed “unacceptable” Christological views, makes the diversity of the Christologies that can still be discerned within the canon all the more remarkable! Your continuing efforts to help us see that diversity (as well as grasp the historical implications) is very much appreciated.

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