Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
The Second Century Witness
02/23/2009 - James WhiteI got this idea, oh...a few minutes after the Ehrman debate was over? Thanks to Carla and Micah for their help. Get yours here! Be the first geek to have pictures of all the second century NT manuscripts on your shirt! Talk about dominating at Bible Trivia next time! And what pastor wouldn't want to see one of the members of his church coming his direction wearing this beauty? Buy a bunch to give to any kid enrolling at UNC Chapel Hill! A million and one uses!
A Final Comment on the Wasserman ETC Blog Discussion
02/21/2009 - James WhiteI would like to briefly reflect, hopefully for the last time on this particular topic, on Dr. Tommy Wasserman’s most recent comments on the ETC blog in reference to his original entry regarding the “busiest 15 years in the history of textual criticism” claim by Bart Ehrman. Sadly, instead of the topic being focused upon the real issue I was raising (the fundamental paradigm shift seen in some of the leading names in textual critical studies) all sorts of side-issues have intruded themselves, most often due to commenters choosing to make the thread their own private playground to air their dislike of yours truly. But in the final analysis, Dr. Wasserman seems to believe that I, the original writer of my own words on my blog, am not the final arbiter of the context and intention of those words! He has said, “I interpreted the statement within the context it was made (read my response), and that is what Christian recognized.” The fact is just the opposite: I determine my own context, and that context was plain and clear to anyone (and here’s the catch) who takes the time to honestly consider that context. But, it seems, that’s the problem: if you are not one of the leading textual critical scholars in the world, your context doesn’t matter. So, though I plainly was speaking about Ehrman’s leadership in shifting the paradigm of textual criticism away from the restoration of the original text of the NT toward an exegesis of the variants themselves, Wasserman seems to feel that he can take my words and transplant them into his own context. Note what another of the contributors to the blog, Christian Askeland, wrote:
Tommy interpreted White's comments within the scholarly ethos of the upcoming book and not within the discussion on the AOM website. White should not have faulted Tommy for this.Well, there you go! Original contexts are now irrelevant! I can take anything Tommy Wasserman says, or Christian Askeland says, and transplant it into another context, and there will be no basis for objection, or so it seems. Askeland is correct, of course: that is exactly what Wasserman did, but what Askeland astonishingly ignores is that Wasserman used that as his basis for saying I have no idea what I am talking about! The only way that kind of comment can have any logical meaning is if the original context of the person's words is in view! Wasserman nowhere said, "I would like to change the context and consider these issues over here...."
To be honest with you, I do not know how to respond to such thinking. If words only have the meanings you decide to assign to them, and the original context and meaning is irrelevant, how can anything be accomplished? Re-read Askeland’s words, and remember what really took place here: Wasserman, who admits ignorance of the body of my work, admits ignorance of the content of my debate with Ehrman, takes a short blog article that plainly spoke of the paradigm shift in textual critical studies, removes it from its context, and on the basis of his ignorance and a-contextual reading begins his response with “It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about.” Well, there you go! It is very tempting to take some of Wasserman’s writings, remove them from their context, and respond in kind (an easy enough thing to do), but I think the point has been made.
I will admit, this brief encounter with some of the leading lights of evangelical textual criticism has been most disturbing. There is clearly a “circle the wagons, defend the tribe” attitude present amongst many (thankfully, not all). What should have been a simple “Oh, I’m sorry, I should not have condescendingly insulted someone I know nothing about when I obviously misread his intentions” was turned on its head, and to what end? It is very hard to say. I surely will continue to point folks to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, but with this caveat: enjoy the links and the information, but be careful not to put too much emphasis upon the “evangelical” part of the name, and always keep in mind that in every corner of the academy today, those who view themselves as “leaders” and “specialists” tend to develop tunnel vision and lose sight of the “bigger picture.”
There is no question the past decades have brought much development to the TC scene. Computers, digital photography and the like, have been a great help. Better and faster communication has become common place. But Ehrman (and others) are quite proud of their own leadership in helping the TC field escape the manacles of slavery to the “myopic obsession” with the original text of the NT, as they see it, and I, for one, am less confident today than I was three days ago that “evangelicals” in the field have the clarity of vision and simple backbone to stand up and be counted by saying, “Enough of that. Exegete variants in the realm of speculation all you want, but don’t call it textual criticism. As for me, I will not buy into this diversion, and I will continue honoring the authors and those who transmitted their words to us by engaging in fact-based, realistic, and unashamedly faithful, study of the texts.” Political correctness has eaten the very fabric out of European society, and it is present in its fullness in the academy as well. Beware its pitfalls.
A Few Things I Have Learned Since...Yesterday
02/19/2009 - James White
1) Do not attempt to offer a possible reason for why someone would completely misread your purpose and statement. You will be accused of "mocking" people if you do. Of course, if you do not do that, you will be accused of being mean anyway. So, lesson learned: you can't win.
Specifically, I am sitting here in shock this morning that anyone on the ETC blog thought my offering the possibility that Dr. Wasserman misunderstood me due to the language barrier (and this includes Dr. Wasserman) would be so unkind, so unfair, as to attribute to me mockery of Dr. Wasserman. You are truly left wondering if there is any room for discussion when there is this level of sensitivity in the forum. There is a simple fact here: I stated that the telling statement was the claim that more had taken place in the last fifteen years in textual criticism than in any other fifteen year period in the history of the discipline. I did not say that doing another edition of the work in question was a "very telling statement." Please remember, Dr. Wasserman's immediate response to his own misreading of my statement was, "It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about."
2) Do not expect the Golden Rule to be applied to you if you are an evangelical. If you are going to address someone like Ehrman, you better do your homework. Read his works, listen to his lectures, study his articles. If you do not, you have nothing to say. However, anyone can comment on what you say as an evangelical without worrying about anything you have ever written or taught over twenty or more years. Just remember, the context of the evangelical is irrelevant; the context of the star-level scholar is all important. Also, it is fair to assume the evangelical believer is ignorant of anything you wish to attribute to them, even if you have no idea whether they are in fact ignorant of those subjects or not.
Now, of course, some of the comments that have appeared on the thread could be from some of my dear fans who seem to flock to any blog I reference here. Since anonymous posting is allowed, it is hard to say.
If I have time I will respond to Dr. Wasserman later today. Basically, it seems that no matter how clearly I express myself as to my intention, that is insufficient. More on that later.
Secondly, one person actually was kind enough to cite The King James Only Controversy. Unfortunately, the individual is in error. He was making reference to the new emphasis upon attempting to exegete the variants in a manuscript so that one can develop theories concerning the theology and prejudices of an individual scribe. For example, many are now investing much time and effort (let alone resources) to attempt to impute motivations to scribes, such as anti-Jewish prejudice, anti-woman prejudice, etc. Even more troubling is the assumption that a particular scribe would have held to theological position X, and hence, knowing full well about a controversy over doctrine X, would make changes to support X. Historically, the vast majority of scholars have assumed simple scribal error when there was no compelling reason to think otherwise. That paradigm has changed, so that somehow we can figure out what a scribe's theology was, and from that, examine scribal variations! Yet, the fact of the matter is, we do not know the identity of the scribes in the vast majority of instances, let alone how aware any of them were of the current theological controversies. Indeed, could it not be logically argued that in the case of scriptorium-produced manuscripts, the scribe might be utterly ignorant of the current theological arguments within the Christian community? But even if we have a Christian scribe, upon what logical foundation can one assume to know his personal theological convictions, let alone the depth of his knowledge of current controversies? Is it really that difficult to see the foundation of my objection to this activity?
However, James Snapp Jr. confuses the above attempted mind reading of specific scribes regarding specific theological believes and specific levels of theological and controversial knowledge with the standard recognition of scribal errors based upon different factors, such as familiarity with parallel passages (Ephesians/Colossians). Likewise, the expansion of piety is a general observation, not an assumption that a particular scribe in a particular context purposefully changed the text due to a particular controversy in his day. Likewise, Snapp writes,
On p. 167, after stating that KJV-Onlyists object to the reading "Isaiah the prophet" in Mark 1:2 on the grounds that Mark /couldn't/ have written that because it would be a mistake, Dr. White writes, "It is quite certain that some scribes early on in the transmission of the text of the New Testament had the very same thought." No mind-reading here!
No, no mind-reading here, for we are not attributing to the scribe some kind of particular theological claim in a particular theological dispute of his day. The manuscript tradition plainly gives evidence of a strong, nigh unto universal desire to harmonize parallel accounts in the gospel, and to "fix" perceived problems, just as here. I was simply observing that the same misconception about the nature of citing OT passages that exists amongst KJV Only advocates existed in the past as well. None of these examples indicates any inconsistency in finding modern attempts to focus upon a speculative attempt to create some kind of specific "scribal theology" that then allows you to somehow attribute entire motivations to the Christian community at the time of the writing of a particular manuscript is a meaningful replacement for the proper emphasis upon that last, troublesome word in Metzger's title, "Restoration."
Finally, if I may observe an oddity of the academy that is being seen once again in this brief discussion. Some of the commenters have used language such as "making Ehrman a whipping boy" in their knee-jerk reaction to anyone outside the "inner circle" daring to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Specifically, would it not be relevant to an analysis of Ehrman's intentions and motivations to take note of his upcoming book, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them). What a title! Quite fitting for the supermarket tabloid section, to be sure, but why isn't anyone pointing out that Ehrman seems to be padding his bank account by repackaging old liberalism as if it is the new results of "real" scholarship? Why is it that the evangelical who points this out is the bad guy, guilty of making Ehrman a "whipping boy"? Here is the advertising blurb provided by Ehrman's publisher on Amazon:
Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman's New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches—and it's not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:
* The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works
* The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later
* Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions
* Established Christian doctrines—such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity—were the inventions of still later theologians
These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for—a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus.
Excuse me, but if this isn't a blatant attack upon Christianity, what, exactly, would be? So I am confused: is it OK to write "popular" books blasting the Christian faith as long as you have written "good scholarship" in the past? From whence comes this scholarly schizophrenia? And more importantly, why is it "wrong" to point these things out? And while I am asking rhetorical questions, why is Ehrman allowed to dodge the theological ramifications of his claims, stating he is a historian, not a theologian, and yet he writes...theological books, like this one? Am I the only one who finds this most odd?
My search for consistency of standards continues.
A Response to Dr. Tommy Wasserman
02/18/2009 - James WhiteLast week when a caller to The Dividing Line asked about resources on textual critical studies, I noted the plethora of information to be found at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. One of the contributors to this blog is Dr. Tommy Wasserman from Lunds Universitet in Sweden. I was surprised, and very disappointed, to read Dr. Wasserman's comments today on that otherwise fine blog. I say disappointed in how badly Dr. Wasserman missed the context of my brief comments. Let's look at some of the things he had to say.
Until very recently, I was unaware of the Christian apologetic James White. Apparently, he has recently debated with Bart Ehrman on whether the Bible "misquote" Jesus or not (alluding to the title of Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus).I am assuming an "apologetic" in Sweden is an apologist in the United States. In any case, I am going to assume from his wording that while he is aware of the debate with Bart Ehrman, he has not, in fact, listened to the debate. Hence, he would not be aware of how clearly Ehrman noted the shift in his own thinking over the past "fifteen" years or so away from a discussion of the original text. He is probably not aware that Ehrman made those comments directly in response to my citation of Moises Silva's words in defense of the "original text." This should be kept in mind, since the regular readers of my blog would be aware of that context, one that I had not only commented on rather fully on The Dividing Line the same day as my blog entry, but had been discussing regularly for a couple of months.
On his Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog he commented yesterday (here) on Bart Ehrman's recent announcement that a second edition of The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Questionis (eds. Bart D. Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes) is in the pipeline, in which he found "a very telling statement."Here is where I fear there may be some linguistic problems cropping up. Perhaps Dr. Wasserman's grasp of English syntax is impacted by his current location and language usage? I honestly have no idea. But it is very obvious that I did not find Ehrman's announcement of a second edition of the work in question a "very telling statement." English readers know what I was referring to: I was referring to Ehrman's own assertion that the most "exciting" thing that has happened over the past "15-20 years" is the very paradigm shift that Wasserman seems to have completely read out of my blog article. May I quote from an interview with Bart Ehrman posted on the very same blog on which Dr. Wasserman is posting to substantiate the context I attributed to Ehrman's words? From the entry of September 25, 2006:
For me, the most exciting thing about being a textual critic over the past 15-20 years has been seeing how textual criticism has moved beyond its myopic concerns of collating manuscripts and trying to determine some kind of "original" text to situating itself in the broader fields of discourse that concern an enormous range of scholars of Christian antiquity. Textual critics are uniquely situated to contribute to these larger concerns, meaning that now, finally, the work textual critics do can be seen as widely important and relevant, not simply of relevance to textual technicians.
So, given that in our debate Bart had clearly expressed this same idea, and that the nexus of this revolution has been a fundamental shift in the paradigm upon which he is operating, how could Dr. Wasserman so completely misread my intentions? It is possible Dr. Wasserman entertains the idea that unless one is amongst the elite in the field that one cannot possibly have anything meaningful to say. I hope not (though that attitude is rampant). But thankfully, Dr. Robinson, in the comments section, recognized that Wasserman had skipped over my real intentions. More on that later.
So before continuing to examine Wasserman's blog entry, let's note that 1) Wasserman does not give evidence of being familiar with the content of the debate with Ehrman, and 2) he has misread the title of my blog entry, thinking that the "telling comment" is about the mere production of a new edition of The New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis. The telling comment to which I was making reference, in context, was that more had happened in the last fifteen years "than in any comparable fifteen year period" in the history of the discipline. I interpret this in light of my recent interaction with Ehrman, and Ehrman's own words. And so we continue with Wasserman's comments:
It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about. Just because he happens to strongly disagree with Bart Ehrman's views of the transmission of the NT, which I am not trying to defend, he seems biased against everything associated with Bart Ehrman in a very unfortunate way.
Once again, I would like to hold open the possibility that Dr. Wasserman simply does not read English as well as Swedish. There is nothing in what I wrote that substantiates not only the dismissive and insulting comment, but more importantly, his assertion of "bias against everything associated with Bart Ehrman." This flows, of course, from his having completely missed the point of my blog entry. I welcome a new edition of the above work (one that has been in my personal library for years). It is painfully clear from my comments that I was not addressing the mere publication of a second edition. I was very much attuned to the underlying claim from Ehrman: that past 15 years is a watershed period. Why? Because of the shift in the paradigm to which I make reference.
At this point Wasserman is so far off the rails that the rest of the commentary is not overly useful, but for the sake of edification, I will review the rest anyway.
Ehrman's monograph from 1993, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture was already out when the volume on the Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research came out in 1995. To a great extent, the latter volume, with contributions from a wide range of twenty-three leading scholars, reflects a consensus on the status questionis in most areas of the discipline, while in some other areas a variety of views are represented. (Admittedly, the "Byzantine priority"-position held by e.g., Maurice Robinson is lacking.) In any case, I am quite confident that the second edition will in no less degree reflect the "width and depth" of scholarship in the field.Such is all well and good, but likewise irrelevant to my entire point, as we have now seen. I would note in passing that given Ehrman is working on a revision of Orthodox Corruption, there seems to be no limit as to how far the "bleeding edge" of scholarship will be willing to take this new direction, now that it is no longer shackled to the "myopic concerns" of the original text!
A lot has really happened in NT textual criticism in the last fifteen year period, which has very little to do with postmodernism. A lot of significant work has been and is being done in an increasing pace, most notably at the leading centres in Münster and Birmingham. In addition to a steady stream of new MSS (e.g., 26 more papyri and many more uncials, minuscules and lectonaries), we have seen the publication of new major editions, and significant developments in methodology. And, yes, even some new scholars have entered the field ;-). As one of those, who, btw, has not "thrown in the towel on the 'original text'," I very much look forward to contributing to the second edition.Again, Wasserman misses the point. Let's say a lot has happened in fifteen years. No one would dispute the assertion. However, what I quoted did not say "a lot has happened." It said that the past fifteen years arguably represents the busiest period in the entire history of textual critical studies. Would Dr. Wasserman wish to dispute the context in which I placed Ehrman's words? Do I need to post a clip of the audio from the debate where Ehrman makes note of this very thing in response to Silva (and in the context of condescendingly dismissing Kurt Aland's statements regarding the tenacity of the text of the NT)? Does he wish to argue that Ehrman's own words do not fit perfectly in the context of his own statements quoted above from 2006? He would have to do so if he is going to actually interact with what I said, not his misreading thereof.
I am glad Dr. Wasserman has not "thrown in the towel" on the original text. Elliott's insulting comments regarding Greenlee's book illustrates how deeply (and how quickly!) the abandonment of the "myopic concern" of the original text has penetrated into the "textual critical community," if such a thing actually exists. In fact, I commented fully on this on the DL:
Finally, Dr. Wasserman added,
(Besides, White could have mentioned where he got the announcement from in the first place.)I was sent the announcement in e-mail, actually, before I saw it in my RSS feeds.
Now as I noted above, Dr. Maurice Robinson provided a comment to the blog article:
Tommy has suggested that "It is apparent that White knows very little of what he is talking about." And yes, perhaps White is unaware of the more recent film acquisitions and investigative research being undertaken at Muenster and Birmingham, as well as the photographic work being carried out by Dan Wallace. But it is clear in White's comments that this is not what he is addressing; rather, his comments relate to the issue of underlying theory and praxis rather than material matters.
I have often promoted the work of CSNTM (I note Ehrman took a totally unwarranted and insulting shot at Dan Wallace and CSNTM in our debate, a shot that depended upon his continuing misrepresentation of "evangelicals"). I am aware of the work that is being done. But Dr. Robinson is correct: even if I were ignorant of these things, that isn't what I was talking about.
Speaking from a solidly evangelical perspective (and differing strongly with White on text-critical issues), I would say that, from an apologetic standpoint, White has put his finger directly on a real problem, holding up a proper mirror to evangelicals within the discipline.Exactly. I hope Dr. Robinson will affirm that I have bent over backwards to accurately represent his position (I have inserted a footnote in the new edition of The King James Only Controversy that is nearly a full page in size providing the information Dr. Robinson himself provided to me in defense of his position). I respect his work and his dedication to the discipline. Despite what some say about me, I am actually fully capable of respecting people while disagreeing with them on various issues.
As White notes on his blog, the "paradigm shift" is in fact a "shift in worldview" (the latter not included in Tommy's quote), and this shift in fact does represent "an abandonment of the paradigm of the preceding generations."
The issue of the Greenlee review and subsequent comments posted here also seem to reflect this very point: the evangelical worldview and text-critical model is simply belittled or ignored due to the paradigm shift.
In any case, I am thankful that Dr. Robinson saw the point of my post, and how Dr. Wasserman had missed it. I hope my clarification will be of assistance to my readers, and to Dr. Wasserman as well.
A Very Telling Statement
02/17/2009 - James White
Bart Ehrman has announced that a new edition of Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research is being put together. I found the reason he noted to be telling. He wrote,
What was then the state of the question has now become a bit dated. A lot has happened in fifteen years! Arguably more than in any comparable fifteen year period in the history of the 300+-year-old discipline.
What has happened in the past fifteen years that is "arguably more than in any comparable fifteen year period in the history of...the discipline"? Has there been a discovery of a new Sinaiticus? Something akin to the DSS in OT research? A massive papyri manuscript find? No, actually, nothing like that at all. So why the paradigm shift?
Simple: the arena has become predominated by post-modernists who have thrown in the towel on the "original text" and have openly and shamelessly said, "Hey, let's talk about what we can impute to nameless scribes based upon our mind-reading the reasons for their textual variations!" This is nothing less than an abandonment of the paradigm of the preceding generations, a hi-jacking of the discipline itself. While speculation about possible scribal prejudices may have its place, it will alway be just that: speculation. And there is the rub: once you turn to speculation about what someone was thinking way back when, the entire field--including the original words and intentions of the authors--becomes just so much "speculation." Just as political liberals assure us that we cannot possibly know what the writers of the Constitution intended, so too theological liberals (and rank skeptics) assure us that whatever Paul or John or Peter wrote, we are pretty much out of luck in really knowing today.
Beware "leading scholars" who lead revolutions based upon a shift in worldview rather than a sudden increase in the underlying data relevant to that area of study. History tells us their revolutions are rarely worthwhile.
Tenacity and Conjectural Emendation
02/05/2009 - James White
The Ehrman debate will be a gold mine of quotes and topics for some time to come. Sadly, the really important portions of the debate have not been the focus of the initial flurry of commentary in the blogosphere, but that is to be expected. Instead, in this video I not only provide the first glimpse of the actual debate itself (from my trusty Casio camera!---which should only make you more thankful for the coming DVD!) but I also begin the process of bringing out the important elements of the discussion, this time on the topic of the tenacity of the text and the concept of conjectural emendation. Enjoy!
Response to Ehrman (part I): God Has Preserved His Word
02/04/2009 - Tur8infanIntroduction:
In listening to the debate, I think Ehrman provided a very good summary of his position in what he called (in his opening statement), a "very quick conclusion." Ehrman stated:
Do we have a reliable text of the New Testament? Are there places where the Bible misquotes Jesus? The short answer is, there is no way to tell. We don't have the originals, or the original copies, or copies of the copies. There are passages that scholars continue to debate: is this the original text or not? and there are some passages where we will never know the answer.I strongly disagree with this conclusion. In support of such disagreement, I direct a few points of criticism.
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
How King James Onlyism Impacts One's Mind
02/04/2009 - James White
Alan Kurschner reviewed a KJV Only article yesterday, and the author (who wrote his first post without having listened to the entire debate, completed his review. The level of bias flies past the level of sheer bigotry, as seen in this amazing paragraph:
In fairness to Ehrman, even though I hate the work that he does, he has a higher standard for text that comes from God than White does. White acts like any of us should expect errors. I think it is White's Calvinism---God wanted errors in the text because of the greater good there would be (something like that). The reason Ehrman, it seems, is willing to trust Tacitus more than the Bible, is because Tacitus doesn't claim inspiration or preservation. The Bible does.
Well there you go! Remember that a few months ago I played clips from a KJV Only radio program and demonstrated that the KJV Onlyists hold Ehrman's position, right along with the Muslims: "We need a variantless text, no matter what the realities of history are." And here you see it again. Of course, one can only imagine what an encounter between one of these folks and Ehrman would look like, but that's another issue.
Kent Brandenburg's Myopic King James Onlyism
02/03/2009 - Alan KurschnerKent Brandenburg has written some presumptuous comments on the White-Ehrman debate. He has made unsubstantiated claims about Dr. White’s apologetics and the debate specifically. (Brandenburg is a King James Only advocate to give you some background of his presuppositions.)
“James White hasn't done much to defend the Bible against the skeptic [Ehrman]. He's mainly attempted to give more uncertainty to people without a doubt in Scripture.”He says that White has not defended the Bible against the skeptic Ehrman, but how does he know this since he admits himself that he has not listened to any of the rebuttals or cross-examination: “I listened to the introduction and Ehrman's opening statement. I'm interested in listening to all of it as I make the time.”
Then he says that James White gives more doubt to the reliability of Scripture to believers. One is truly left speechless at Brandenburg’s assertion. But let me be brutally honest of where this is coming from: Brandenburg’s deep commitment to his King James Onlyism requires him to reject discourse on the historical and textual evidence of the manuscript tradition. Brandenburg's bold claim that White induces uncertainty in God’s people is an expression of King James Onlyism. I challenge Kent Brandenburg to call into the Dividing Line show Thursday and explain to us all how Dr. White engenders “uncertainty in believers.” Here is the time and phone number: Thursday 4:00 MST 1-877-753-3341 (Toll Free)
Related to this point is an interesting observation that myself and others (such as Wallace) have noticed about the most fundamental criticism that KJVO advocates make against modern textual criticism. They incessantly denounce that modern critics use “rational principles” in the utilization of determining better readings from inferior readings. And yet this is clearly a double standard given that the most fundamental principle that govern KJVO thinking is a rational principle. That is, in the mind of KJVO advocates is the deep-seated rational conviction: "This is the way that God must have preserved his Word.” Notice that this is not a Biblical, historical, or textual argument—it is a rational argument. Somehow they believe that they are privy to God’s mind and can see this rational reason. So what KJVO advocates criticize the most is what they are essentially guilty of themselves. And to be sure, there is nothing wrong with rational thinking—I would hope that we do not approach God’s Word with irrational thinking. The question should be: is this or that rational principle applicable and warranted in this or that context?
Moving on, he writes this laconic statement,
“White reads Metzger to get his position”Does Brandenburg honestly believe that White thinks that if Metzger says it, that’s gospel—Metzger has spoken. So if Metzger makes a good argument about the “tenacity” of the original readings, White cannot utilize his argumentation? It does not matter who said it, if it is true, it is true. If Brandenburg disagrees with this then he should engage the principle--not the person.
Next, Brandenburg invokes Joel McDurmon’s critique of White’s approach to the debate. I find this sloppy and irresponsible of Brandenburg to review a review of a debate he has not yet heard.
“Whenever I listen to White talk on this subject, and I haven't listened to the debate all the way through yet, he sounds like an evidentialist to me too. I say that if he is a presuppositionalist, he should debate like it. I believe I know why he doesn't on this subject at least. He isn't a presuppositionalist on this issue. He didn't prepare for a presuppositional presentation on his side of the debate, so he didn't present one.”First, Brandenburg fails to cite any examples. Second, he is not being accurate. White’s purpose was in fact presuppositional. White comments on the debate that his purpose was to:
“Expose the presuppositional nature of Ehrman’s insistence that we must possess the originals for inspiration to be true. This would include making sure it is clear that when Ehrman says “We don’t know what the NT said” he means “We do not have photographic reproductions of the originals.” I desired to make sure the listener would see that the NT manuscript tradition is more than sufficient to provide the original readings, even in the toughest of variants.”Also, for KJVO advocates their view of preservation is that God preserved his Word in a 1611 Anglican translation. White explains that another purpose of the debate was to explain the correct understanding of God's providential mechanism of preservation,
“Present a strong case for the providential preservation of the text through the explosion of early manuscripts and the lack of editorial “control” in contrast with the Islamic theory of preservation. Given that the majority of attacks upon the NT today come from those alleging some kind of controlled editing of the text, this element is vital.”You can read more of Dr. White’s purposes for the debate here:
Continuing, Brandenburg writes,
“What White does, according to McDurmon, and I've yet to hear it (but will), is argue the exact same way that Ehrman does. Ironic, huh?”First, what is ironic is that Kent Brandenburg would agree wholeheartedly with the agnostic, skeptic Bart Ehrman who both agree together that there cannot be any inspired, preserved text if there exists variants in a text. For Bart that text was not preserved; and for Kent that text was preserved in a 17th century Anglican translation (aka KJV 1611). Second, White and Ehrman have the same textual facts in front of them (as does Brandenburg) but they explicitly argue differently to reach their respective conclusions. How Brandenburg or McDurmon think they argue the "exact same way" is simply absurd.
“McDurmon comes across as very objective”How can Brandenburg say that McDurmon is objective if he has not compared his statements with the debate audio -- that is not being very objective!
"White goes to his speculation about the text to say that there's enough evidence in the manuscripts to support Christian beliefs and enough confidence in Scripture."Not speculation, but facts. Is there a Christian doctrine that White affirms that cannot be found in the manuscript tradition?
“White says that the best thing that comes out of this debate is that Ehrman is exposed as the skeptic that he is. Well, did anyone really doubt the skepticism of Ehrman?”Yes, Mr. Brandenburg, many people do doubt that Ehrman is a skeptic (except in your myopic fundamentalist orbit). I encounter folks all the time who do not perceive Ehrman as you do. Many benighted unbelievers think he represents reasonable scholarship. Apparently, Brandenburg does not get out too often and have discourse with those outside his fundamentalist circle. Ehrman has had a great impact on individuals who are not aware of his skepticism and spin. Second, “exposing Ehrman as a skeptic” was one aspect of the whole purpose for the debate.
In this last statement, Brandenburg’s arrogance shines the brightest,
“I'm thinking that the best material that I'll get out of this debate will be the content in opposition to White. I already knew that Ehrman was a fraud, having read two of his books. Now we'll see about White.”Notice that Brandenburg has not even listened to the debate and he is already saying that the best material that he will get out of the debate is the apostate Ehrman’s radical skepticism. Here, he is claiming that the facts and argumentation that White has adduced in the debate to support the reliability of the New Testament is useless. What could possibly motivate someone to say such a thing?
I found Kent Brandenburg's article desperately biased and indicative of KJVO's vacuous presuppositions. Throughout his article (about four or five times) he kept saying, "I have not yet heard the debate" just after he would make bold claims about the debate itself. Brandenburg has proven himself to be discredited, biased, and inaccurate in the arena of Biblical discourse.
Second Response to Joel McDurmon
02/03/2009 - James WhiteOn January 30th, Joel McDurmon posted an article on the American Vision website regarding his attendance at my debate with Bart Ehrman on the 21st. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to specific statements that appeared in that article.
I would like to begin with Joel's concluding comments:
In the end, despite all of the helpful information and engaging points, the debate proved little beside the limitations of evidentialist apologetics. If manuscript evidence forms the basis of our trust in the veracity of Scripture, then we cannot conclude veracity one way or the other. Without the prior existence of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, revelation in any form cannot exist.It is hard for me to understand how the debate was even relevant to "evidentialist" apologetics, since the topic hardly lent itself to a comparison between apologetic methodologies. I suppose someone could argue, "You should have begun, 'You know the Bible is true, Dr. Ehrman, but you are suppressing that knowledge, so you must repent and recognize the existence of the one true God," but that would have led to a very short debate that would not accomplish any of the goals we had in providing encouragement and edification to the people of God. Besides, I would never suggest that because Joel has written a book, Manifested in the Flesh: How the Historical Evidence of Jesus Refutes Modern Mystics and Skeptics, that Joel is an evidentialist. Presuppositionalists speak of evidence all the time: and when I present what God has done in the preservation of Scripture when speaking to believers, it is always within the over-arching paradigm of the sovereignty of God over all human affairs. But that was not the debate's subject nor its purpose. As I wrote in my work on Scriptural sufficiency, Scripture Alone:
The divine truth of the sufficiency of Scripture is based firmly upon the bedrock of the nature of Scripture and God's sovereign rulership over His creation. That is to say that scriptural sufficiency is not a doctrine unto itself that can be separated from the rest of revelation. It is the necessary result of sound beliefs concerning God and His purposes. To believe what the Bible teaches about God, the gospel, the church, and the Scriptures, is to believe in Scriptural sufficiency, the ability of the Bible to function as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church, its ability to equip the man of God for every good work God by His Spirit would call him to perform. Christ's Church hears in the words of Scripture the voice of her Master (pp. 19-20).My position on this matter is truly not in question. So why does Joel ask,
We can consider New Testament textual evidence to be among those "many other incomparable excellencies," but yet must admit that the persuasion of its veracity comes not from that evidence, but from the Holy Spirit. Ehrman, despite whatever errors he may commit, knows at least this much, and Evangelicals should acknowledge it.I well know conviction is spiritually born: but the Spirit uses means, and the people of God need to see that we are not pitting faith against truth but placing faith in truth when we trust in His Word. I truly do not know what Joel means when he says Ehrman "knows" that persuasion of the truth of the NT comes from the Spirit of God. I suppose you could say that he knows this, and is suppressing it, but outside of this, I really cannot interpret that last line meaningfully in light of what I know of Dr. Ehrman's position. ...
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A Review of the Ehrman Debate
02/02/2009 - James White