THE BART EHRMAN debate is available now

by Terry 8 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Terry

    Go to the Live Streaming site and sign up or sign in:


    SKIP to 9:02 and the debate begins.


    The topic is about whether or not Jesus believed and taught that HE was divine / God.

  • the comet
    the comet
    Thanks for posting this...looking forward to watching it.
  • Phizzy
    I will watch the debate out of interest, but of course, we can have no idea what Jesus thought about himself, or taught about himself, we have no reliable, or even half-way reliable writings that we can trust about him.
  • Diogenesister

    Great - thanks Terry.

    One thing I will say @phizzy, it always amazes me what a good historian can deduce from written sources.

  • John Aquila
    John Aquila

    Thanks Terry,

    You know, I would have liked to have met Jesus and ask him some direct questions like;

    "Is there life after death" and when will that take place?"

    But knowing what I know, He probably would have answered me like this;

    "Look at the lilies of the field that feed the birds, if you have the faith of a worm, the butterfly will come!"


  • SecretSlaveClass



  • the girl next door
    the girl next door

    Does anyone else find some of Ehrman's observations supportive of JW theology? Yes he is agnostic and he approaches the Bible from a historical viewpoint, but some of his arguments seem to fall nicely into JW non Trinitarian theology. Maybe he is just splitting hairs and it comes across that way but some of what he said sounds earily familiar and it is disturbing because I love his work.

  • Terry

    There is no reason why Ehrman's statements should not correspond in many ways with the Watchtower theology.

    The JW position allows for some Biblical errata and corruption which THE SOCIETY rushes in to fill with their brand of Light.

    It is what copyists for three hundred years apparently did as well. Being 'helpful' by changing, inserting, amplifying and nursing along the written text with 'clarification.'

    Bart Ehrman has written about this on his blog and in a book:


    From Ehrman's blog:

    When I finished my dissertation on a technical area within textual criticism – it was an analysis of the quotations of the Gospels in the writings of the fourth-century church father Didymus the Blind, in an attempt to demonstrate what the manuscripts at his disposal in Alexandria Egypt must have been like – I very much wanted to continue to work in the field of textual criticism, but I wanted to do some research that had some broader applicability and wider interest to scholars who were not purely technicians in this one rather arcane subdiscipline within New Testament studies.

    I had always been especially interested in the detective work involved in solving textual problems in the New Testament. Where there are important passages that have important variants among the various manuscripts, how do you decide which variants are “original”? I’ve always loved that kind of problem, maybe because I’ve always been such an inveterate debater, and arguing for a plausible solution to a textual conundrum involves, virtually every time, mounting a convincing argument in the face of other options taken by other scholars.

    What I realized in thinking about the next project was that a number of the textual variations that I found to be really important involved issues connected to understandings of Christology – the Christian understandings of who Christ was. I’ve mentioned one such variant at length on the blog, the so-called “bloody sweat” in Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus is portrayed as very human indeed, in two verses that were (in my judgment) probably not originally in the Gospel, but were added by later scribes.

    After some intensive thought, I realized there were other variants that were also concerned with showing who Christ really was. And I started wondering: how many such variants *are* there exactly? I had no idea. And neither had anyone else. So I decided to try to find out. This was the beginning of my work that eventuated in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

    How does one go about acquiring such information? You can’t…

    THE REST OF THIS POST IS FOR MEMBERS ONLY. If you don’t belong yet, JOIN!!! It costs less than a dime a day, and every one of those dimes goes to charity!!!

    You can’t just start collating manuscripts, that is, reading through one manuscript at a time, line by line, word by word, looking for textual variants. That would take a hundred years, working full time. Luckily for scholars at this stage of things, earlier generations – going back now over 400 years – have gone through all of our most important manuscripts and done that kind of basic leg work for us (though lots and lots more is left to be done). Editions of the Greek New Testament that have been published since, well, since 1707, have cited most of the important textual variants known. And so a scholar can have access to the variants in the manuscripts without having to read through each manuscript, one at a time.

    The first resource I turned to in order to satisfy my curiosity was the famous work by Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. This is a book that explains how the five-person committee who put together the standard Greek NT that is used by virtually everyone today made its decisions in the key passages. The value of it that book that all the really most monumental variants in the NT manuscript tradition are presented, with some recollections by Metzger himself about why the committee chose the variant reading that it did in each case, and why it judged the other variants to be alterations of the original text. The problem with the book is that only very few textual variants are discussed in.

    It took only a couple of days to work carefully through the book with my questions in mind. It was a useful undertaking, because it gave me some ideas about some of the variant readings that I had not thought about in relationship to Christology. But it was only a start, a very rough start.

    I realized that to do the project thoroughly would require an intimate familiarity with every relevant textual variant ever discovered to be of any significance (and many that were thought to be of no real significance). And so I had my work cut out for me. It took me several years. This is what I had to do.

    The scholarly version of the Greek New Testament (called the Nestle-Aland version) contains thousands of variant readings that Metzger doesn’t mention. And it is nowhere near being “complete.” An older version of the Greek NT was produced by a German scholar named von Soden. His edition is very difficult to use, but it contains masses of variants and citations of evidence not found in the Nestle – Aland. And an edition from the 19th century by Constantin von Tischendorf (his 8th edition) also has masses of information not available in either of those other two.

    I wanted as much information as I could get my paws on. And so I went through all three of these editions of the Greek New Testament, starting with Matthew 1:1 and going one verse at a time, slowly, ploddingly, looking at the apparatus of each of the three editions, looking at each and every textual variant cited for each and every verse. Of the entire New Testament. To the last verse of the book of Revelation. Any time one of the textual variants out of these many, many thousands had any relation at all that I could imagine to issues of Christology, I made a note of it.

    Before long I started realizing that there were roughly speaking three kinds of variants: some were clearly related to Christological issues; some could be *argued* (sometimes at a bit of a stretch) to be related to Christological issues; and some – lots – were possibly, conceivably, maybe *remotely* related to Christological issues.

    And so I made three lists. The first contained every textual variant I was pretty sure I would want to discuss in my book; the second contained ones I needed to think long and hard about before deciding; and the third contained ones that I had at least to *consider* including, but, well, probably not. At every point of textual variant that I noted, of course, I would have to argue which variant was the “original” and which was the later alteration. I’ll say more about that in the next note.

  • Terry

    Follow up post on Ehrman's blog:

    My next step in this thread about my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture will be to discuss the various Christological views known from the second century (Docetic Christologies, adoptionic Christologies, separationist Christologies; and Modalistic Christologies), and then I will try to show how textual changes made by scribes in the period reflect opposition to this, that or the other Christology, in support of the “Proto-orthodox” Christology that came to dominate the early Christian tradition.

    Before doing that, I need to clear out one final piece of underbrush. The argument of my book was that Christological changes of the text were “intentional” not simply accidental. But that raises a very large question that I have not addressed on the blog, even though I have discussed intentional changes a number of times. It is this: how can we determine the “intention” of a scribe?

    This is part of a much larger question that literary scholars have dealt with for many decades now, going back at least to the middle of the twentieth century, to what is called “New Criticism” in the field of literary theory. In the good ole days, before New Criticism came along, a scholar would interpret a text by showing what it must have meant based on what the author was intending to do. But the New Critics pointed out that we don’t have any access to an author’s intentions, only to his or her final product. So how can you use something you don’t have access to in order to explain that which you do have access to? (How can something you don’t know explain anything?)

    The problem is even deeper. Suppose

    The Rest of this Post is for Members Only. If you don’t belong yet, JOIN!! It costs very little and every dime goes to charity.

    Suppose you interview someone to find out what her “intentions” were when she did something. Technically speaking, you have no way of knowing whether what she is telling you is right. She could be lying. She could be self-deceived. She may not remember. She possibly had a range of intentions, and only tells you the one that now seems most important. There are all sorts of possibilities. Intentions are, technically speaking, impossible to know.

    And that’s with an author you are speaking to. What about an author you aren’t speaking to? An author who lived years ago who is no longer available for an interview? You may be able to surmise or reconstruct a plausible sense of her intentions from the various things she wrote. But it’s a very uncertain matter, and it doesn’t seem like a solid base on which to build an interpretation.

    And what about an author who lived centuries ago for whom you do not have a large collection of writings, just a single text? You can’t very well use the author’s intentions to determine what he meant by what he wrote, if what he wrote is the only thing you have from his hand.

    With scribes the matter is even worse. We not only don’t have access to them to interview, and don’t have a number of things they authored to ferret out their intentions, or even a single thing they composed themselves (except for their textual changes). We know almost nothing about these people. We don’t even know their names. Or just when or where they were living. Or much of anything about them. How can we decide what their “intentions” were?

    If we can’t establish their intentions, then how can we show their intentions behind changing the texts they were copying? That’s a very big problem, and one I had to address head-on in my book.

    This is how I did it. I adopted a kind of “functional” understanding of intentions. It works like this. Different scribal changes of the text function in different ways. Some changes harmonize one Gospel text with what you find in another Gospel; some rid the text of a contradiction or a historical error; some add additional detail to the text; some make the text more amenable to certain theological views.

    A functional understanding of intention does not require us to say that this particular scribe “absolutely meant to accomplish” this that or the other thing in the change he made. The term “intention” in this case simply means that the change makes sense as a conscientious change by a scribe (it does not appear to have been made by a slip of the pen); and the function of the change is this, that, or the other thing. Moreover, just as a person can have a variety of intentions in any action they undertake, so too scribal changes can have a variety of intentions. It is not necessarily important to establish that *this* intention or *that* one was foremost in his mind. He may have had several things in mind. But some of these changes are of such moment that it appears he had *something* in mind. They were almost certainly not changes made by accident.

    And so my book looked at changes of the text that functioned in order to make it more “orthodox” in its Christological views, to circumvent its use by Christians who had different Christological views, to make it more useful for Christians who advanced the “true” Christological view. Whether the scribes had that as their primary intention or not can never be known. But it can be known that this is the functional effect of the changes they made, in case after case.

    Once there is an accumulation of evidence like this, of course it is possible then to argue that it *appears* that there was an actual theological motivation driving the scribes to make the changes they did. But we can never know for sure, since none of the scribes is around for us to interview, and even if he was, it would not guarantee that we would have absolute certainty about the matter.

    To that extent studying scribal changes puts us in the same boat as those who study all historical phenomena. All we can ever do is establish what seems most probable to us about the past. When it comes to antiquity, we can almost never know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Ancient historians work principally with probabilities, rarely with certainties. So too those ancient historians that study scribes and the changes they made in their texts.

Share this