Ruffling the Feathers of My Fellow Textual Critics

I seem to get under the skin of a lot of my fellow textual critics.  Or at least a lot of them find my views somewhere between troubling and irritating.   That became most clear when I published my book Misquoting Jesus.   From what I can gather, the most common complaints about the book were about its perceived “tone.”  Some scholars thought that I made the situation of our manuscripts to be worse than it really is.  I, on ...

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Did Scribes Add the Passage of the Bloody Sweat?

In my previous posts I’ve been puzzling over the textual problem of Luke 22:43-44, the so-called “bloody sweat” passage, where Jesus, before his arrest, is said to have been in such deep agony that he sweat drops “as if of blood,” so that an angel came down from heaven to minister to him.  These verses are found in some manuscripts of Luke, but not others.    So which text is “original”?  The version of Luke with the verses or the version ...

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The Bloody Sweat and the Scribes Who Changed It

I have been talking about the famous passage in Luke 22:43-44, the account of the so-called “bloody sweat,” where we are told that prior to his arrest, Jesus went into deep agony and began to sweat great drops “as if of blood,” and to be so deeply disturbed that an angel had to come down from heaven to support him.

These verses can be found in a lot of manuscripts, including those used by the translators of the King James Bible, ...

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How Textual Criticism Became Relevant

COMMENT:

Dr. Ehrman, I am an enormous fan of you and your work. Truly. But some of the recent claims you’ve made in your  blog posts seem rather grandiose. You’re saying that the field of textual criticism was all but dead before you showed up and imparted your uncommon wisdom?

 

RESPONSE:

WHOA!!!   That’s not what I’ve been saying (or *trying* to say) (evidently unsuccessfully!) at all!   I’m not claiming that I myself am personally responsible for turning around the discipline.   I’m glad this ...

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Jesus’ Lack of Agony

Did Jesus feel deep agony in the face of death, in virtual despair up until the end?  Or was he calm and collected, confident in both himself and God’s will?  It depends which Gospel you read.

And that is one of the reasons (not the only one, as we will see!) that the textual problem of Luke 22:43-44 – the passage that narrates the “bloody sweat” —  is so important.   If the verses were originally in Luke, then Jesus in Luke, ...

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When I First Realized the Importance of Textual Criticism: The Bloody Sweat

I think I first came to see precisely why textual criticism could be so important my first semester in my PhD program, during a seminar I was taking that had almost nothing to do with the study of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  It was an “exegesis” course (i.e. focused on interpretation) on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke – studied, of course, in the Greek).  My realization of the importance of text-critical issues was not even ...

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An Amusing Anecdote about the State of Textual Criticism

I’d like to sum up my posts so far on the state of New Testament textual criticism – my original field of scholarship – when I entered into the field of student as a graduate student in the early 1980s by telling an anecdote. It has always struck me as rather amusing.  (I am basing all this on memory, and as I’ve just written a book on memory, I am acutely aware of how frail this particular human function is.  ...

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My Original Foray into Textual Criticism

I have been explaining why “textual criticism,” the discipline that examines the surviving manuscripts of a text and then tries to reconstruct what the author originally wrote, had fallen on hard times by the time I got into the field.   The main reason, I think, is that most New Testament scholars thought that all the serious work in the field had been done, that we pretty well knew what the “original text” said, and that all that was left were ...

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The Malaise in New Testament Textual Criticism

I indicated in my previous post that the overall character of the text (as opposed to the apparatus) of the Greek New Testament in 1981 was widely perceived by New Testament scholars in to be pretty much “set,” and not all much different from what it had been in 1881.  I need to explain that a bit.

I chose 1881 intentionally (not just for personal reasons: by fluke, it happens to have been exactly a century before I finished my Master’s ...

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Why New Testament Textual Criticism Had Grown Moribund

In my previous post I had begun to indicate that the field of New Testament textual criticism had grown notably and depressingly moribund in America by the late 1970s when I began my graduate studies.   But I didn’t explain just *why* most New Testament scholars – let alone scholars in other fields of religious studies or the humanities more broadly – did not find the field interesting and / or important.   The reason has to do with what I laid ...

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