Knowing the “Original” Text — of the NT or of Isaiah. Weekly Readers’ Mailbag July 17, 2016

How can we absolutely know whether we have the original words of the New Testament?  And weren’t books of the Old Testament edited progressively over time, so that their texts were even more fluid than those of the New Testament?  These are the two questions I address in this week’s Readers’ mailbag.  If you have a question you would like me to address, let me know!

 

QUESTION

“So that there are some places where specialists cannot agree on what the text originally ...

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Readers’ Mailbag December 4, 2015

 

It is time for my weekly Readers’ Mailbag.   I can’t answer these questions by devoting long threads to them – even though they each deserve a thread; but I can give quick responses, and hope that will be enough for now.  If you have a question you would like me to address in the future, please attach it as a comment to this post.

 

 

QUESTION: It is not surprising that Jesus was an apocalyptic end-of-times messiah figure, because we have such ...

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Readers’ Mailbag November 27, 2015

 

I hope everyone had a fulfilling (and fillingful) Thanksgiving!

Now it is time to answer some questions I have received over the past couple of weeks, in short rapid-fire order.   If you have a question you would like me to address, please ask it in a comment to this post.  I am keeping a list and deal with the questions, weekly, more or less in the order in which I receive them.   And I’m running low on questions!  So ask away!

 

 

QUESTION:  ...

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Why Bother With Anything *Except* the “Original” Text??

In this post I would like to tie a couple of strings together that have been more or less hanging.  In a couple of earlier posts I asserted my view that we were probably as “close to the originals” of the New Testament writings as we are ever likely to get, that barring some spectacular new discoveries (such as the original themselves!) or some fantastic changes in method, we simply are not going to be able to know whether we ...

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On “Knowing” the Original Words of the NT

I have been discussing the question of whether we can know that we have reconstructed the original text of the New Testament at every point – or even every important point.   To me the answer is self-evidently, No, of course not.   Many of my conservative evangelical critics think that I’m being overly skeptical, that since we have thousands of manuscripts of the NT, we can surely know better what the authors of the NT said than any other authors from ...

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Irrelevant Arguments and the So-called Tenacity of the Tradition

A couple of posts ago I promised to deal with an argument sometimes used by those who believe we can know with good certainty what the original text of the New Testament books said.  This is the argument called the “tenacity of the tradition.”  If you recall, the argument is prefaced on the very interesting phenomenon that whenever papyri manuscripts are discovered – say from the third or fourth Christian century – they almost *never* contain new variant readings that ...

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What Is the “Original” Text?

In my debates with other scholars about whether we can know (for certain) (or at they sometimes put it, with 99% certainty) what the original words of the New Testament were, I always argue that we cannot “know,” and they argue we can.   Let me explain one reason that I find their position highly problematic by dealing with a broader issue.  What exactly *is* the original text of a document?  If we can’t agree on that very basic and fundamental ...

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Arguments that We Have the Original Text

When I have public debates with scholars over whether we can know the original text of the New Testament or not, I stake out the claim that we cannot, and they stake out the claim that we probably can.  Part of my argument is always the one I started to outline in the previous post.   If we take something like the Gospel of Mark, our first complete manuscript of Mark is 300 years after Mark was first produced and put ...

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Contradictions and Silly Claims by Textual Critics

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a comment that I used to make (and still would be happy to make) that rankled some of my colleagues and has led some of my conservative evangelical critics to claim that I’m contradicting myself and can’t figure out what to think.   Or, rather, they claim that I present one view to scholars and a different view to popular readers in order to sensationalize the truth in order to sell books, presumably so ...

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Textual Criticism Syllabus

This semester I am teaching my PhD seminar in precisely the topic I’ve been discussing for the past number of weeks, New Testament textual criticism.  Here, for your reading pleasure, is the syllabus for the class.

 

  Reli 809: New Testament Textual Criticism

  Instructor:  Bart D. Ehrman

   University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

   Fall 2015

 

Course Description

This class focuses on one of the foundational disciplines of biblical studies.  New Testament ...

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