What Is the Original Text of the Gospels?

QUESTION:

When it comes to the gospels, how do we define the ‘original text’? Do we define it as the original manuscript that was first penned by the author, or do we define it as the gospels in their most settled canonical form?

 

RESPONSE:

As it turns out, this is a complicated and endlessly fascinating question that, so far as I have been able to work out over the past twenty years of thinking about it, has no clear and obvious answer!

By way ...

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Why Do Translators Include Passages They Know Are Not Original?

Based on what I have said about the textual variant of 666 and 616 in the book of Revelation, several readers have asked a distantly related question.  Here is how one of them phrased it:

 

QUESTION:

If the biblical scholars know with certainty that Mark 16:9-20 and John 7.53-8.11 were added by later scribes, why are they still in the modern bibles, that is, why are they not *completely* removed? I know these verses were removed in the RSV but added back ...

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666 and Scribal Changes of the Text

I have received a number of queries about my post concerning the recently discovered papyrus P115 which indicates that the number of the Beast (the Antichrist) in Revelation 13 was 616 rather than 666.  Some of them I addressed in my post of yesterday.  But some readers have inquired about something slightly different: how do discoveries like this affect our translations of the New Testament?   Here is one of those questions and my respons.

 

QUESTION:

I thought the NIV Bible kept up-to-date ...

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Were All Textual Changes Made by Scribes by 300 CE? Readers’ Mailbag November 5, 2017

For today’s Readers’ Mailbag I deal with an interesting and important question about the changes that scribes made in their manuscripts.

 

QUESTION

In several of your books you mention that most modifications in the NT manuscripts happened in first 3 centuries. If I’m correct we have no manuscript from 1st century and only few from the 2nd. That means we can say almost nothing about changes during this time. This is however more than half of the “greatest modifications” historical period.

 

RESPONSE

This comment ...

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Do Later Manuscript Discoveries Ever Support Proposed Interpolations?

It is fine, I think, for a post on the blog every now and then to get technical and into the nitty-gritty of scholarship.  And so I have no qualms about the following.

Yesterday I posted a response to a question about “textual emendation” by Jan Krans, a New Testament textual expert who teaches in the Netherlands.  The same blog reader had a second question that I have also directed to Jan, and here I give both the question and the ...

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Are There Passages Where *Every* NT Manuscript Gives the “Wrong” Reading?

In this post I deal with an interesting question that a reader has asked me, with reference to the post I made last week where I explained a complicated situation that appears sometimes to have occurred in our surviving manuscripts of the New Testament, when every single manuscript we have may have the “wrong” reading – that is, when every one of the manuscripts appears to an alteration from what the author original wrote.  Here is what I said.

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Interpolations and Textual Corruptions: The Blurry Lines

After the past two posts, I am now in a position to answer the question that led to this brief hiatus in my discussion of the afterlife, involving the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke.  To refresh your memory, here is the question:

 

QUESTION:

If, in your suspicion, the original Gospel of Luke began at 3:1 and the infancy narrative found in 1:5-2:52 is a later addition, do you think that should be indicated in NT reconstructions and translations in ...

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My Role in Editing My Most Important Book that No One Has Heard Of.

Just one question in this week’s blog, about a book that I edited that most readers of the blog have never heard of, let alone read, but that is probably one of the most important books I’ve ever been involved with.

 

QUESTION:

Dr. Ehrman, in your first and second edition of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis that you co-edited with Dr. Michael Holmes, what was your role in editing, especially since some articles ...

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Mythicists and the Virgin Birth: Readers’ Mailbag May 6, 2017

I’ve been devoting the blog to some autobiography recently, so in this Readers Mailbag I’ll make a shift to a couple of academic questions, one about Mythicist claims on the virgin birth and the other about the usefulness of ancient translations of the New Testament for establishing the original text.

 

QUESTION:

I often read mythicists argue that Jesus was a mythological figure because he (allegedly) has many parallels in pagan gods. One of the parallels, of course, is him being born to ...

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The Text of the New Testament: Are the Textual Traditions of Other Ancient Works Relevant? A Blast From the Past

Funny how some topics keep recurring in my head.  Here is a post from exactly five years ago, on a topic I still get asked about a lot.  The really interesting bit of it starts about four paragraphs down.  Turns out, I still think the same things today!

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I have had three debates with Dan Wallace on the question of whether or not we can know for certain, or with relative reliability, whether we have the “original” text of ...

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