What Text Are the Translators Translating?

What is it that Bible translators translate when they are translating?  Let me focus on the New Testament, my main area of expertise.   When a translator wants to make an English version of, say, Mark (what I say about Mark will be true of all the books of the NT), what does she actually translate into English?

Obviously she cannot take Mark’s original manuscript and translate it, since we don’t have it.  Or the first copy of the original, or a ...

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What Do Translators Translate?

What do translators of the Bible actually translate?  This has been the question in the back of my mind for the thread that has been going on over the past couple of weeks.  The question has two components.  (1) Which books do they translate and call “the Bible”?  And (2) when they decide on those books, where do they find what they need in order to translate it?  Do they translate certain manuscripts?  Which ones?  How do they decide?  And ...

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Is the New Testament Authentic? Readers’ Mailbag December 4, 2016

QUESTION

Dr Ehrman, I found this attack against you:

Bart likes to deceive his listener by claiming more variations and more copies give birth to less authenticity. Actually flip that and you’ll begin to “see the light”.  The Bible manuscripts were transmitted not in a linear way, as in “Chinese whispers” but geometrically as in 1 produced by 5 others which in turn then produced, say 20, etc.

I think you already dealt with this claim, but I am unable to ...

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The Best Manuscripts and Social Justice: Readers’ Mailbag October 23, 2016

Question:

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

 

Response:

This question was asked in response to my statement, with respect to the famous story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8 (where Jesus says, “Let the one without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her), that we know it was not originally in the Gospel of John in part because it is not to be found in the “oldest and ...

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Why Textual Criticism is “Safe” for Conservative Christians

It is probably not an accident that when I was a very conservative evangelical Christian who wanted to get a PhD in New Testament studies, I chose to focus, in particular, on textual criticism, the study of manuscripts in order to establish the wording of the original text.  That was, and is, a fairly common “track” for evangelicals who want to be biblical scholars.  Maybe it’s not as common now as it used to be.  But it used to be ...

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Do Most Manuscripts Have the Original Text?

Early on in my study of textual criticism I came to realize one of the major issues confronting scholars in the field – an issue that scholars have been contending with since the eighteenth century.  For the past hundred years or so the vast majority of experts have been convinced by a solution to the problem, but the solution was slow in coming, for all sorts of reasons.   But when I was first introduced to the problem I learned there ...

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My Original Interest in Textual Criticism

As I have indicated, my interest in textual criticism – the scholarly attempt to reconstruct what the authors of the New Testament actually wrote, given the fact we don’t have the originals but only altered copies – did not originate with my going to Princeton Theological Seminary to study with Bruce Metzger.   On the contrary, I went to study with him precisely because that had been an area of fascination for me starting in my first year of college, as ...

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Becoming a Textual Critic

Back to my narrative of how I got interested in biblical studies, and specifically textual criticism.   I was just thinking last night about how people (on the blog or elsewhere) sometimes report to me that they have heard my conservative evangelical critics say that I’m not a biblical interpreter (exegete) or a historian, but I’m a textual critic (someone who studies the manuscripts of the New Testament).  And I started thinking about all my training in the Bible and the ...

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How I Discovered Textual Criticism

It was at Moody Bible Institute that I first became interested in the textual criticism of the New Testament.  Let me stress a definitional point that some readers on the blog have not gotten or understood (I’ve said it a lot, so apologies for those who have gotten it! But even though I keep saying this, some people still don’t get it).   Textual criticism is NOT the study of texts to see what they mean.  For the last time (well, ...

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My Work as a Historian and Paul in Conflict with the Jerusalem Church: Readers’ Mailbag August 20, 2016

Some people (conservative Christians who don’t like my scholarship) maintain that I’m not a historian, a view I find very odd since virtually all of my scholarship (for well over twenty-five years) is historical.  I address the question in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, along with a question that many readers will find more interesting (since it’s more germane to anything), of whether Paul and the Jerusalem church were on the same page theologically or if there were tensions between them.

If ...

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