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February 21, 2013


we ought to have even more confidence that we possess documents today that are a reliable reflection of what was originally written thousands of years ago.

Our evidence does not go back to 'what was originally written'.

The manuscripts we have, taken together, indicate that changes were made after the writing earliest extant versions.

There is no reason to think there were no similar changes between the original written versions and the earliest extant versions. Probably, there were.

As to how many oral versions there were prior to the first written versions: Who knows?

"Our evidence does not go back to 'what was originally written'."

That is why he said "reliable reflection".

Darth Dutch


reflection of what was originally written thousands of years ago.

so maybe should say


reflection of what was, at some point, written thousands of years ago.

Bart Ehrman's theories collapse when you allow for multi-focality. It's not just that the original was copied once. And then that copy was copied, and that copy was copied, but there would have been many copies of the originals.

His main presupposition is the existence of textual variants means that the text could not be inspired.

Even if one were to throw out the few textual variants that exist, one would still have the picture of redemption and no doctrine would be affected. I use the NASB and the ESV for my studies because they are the most literal and reliable translations. My ESV skips these verses in the text and places the questionable verse in a footnote. My NASB puts the questionable verses in brackets denoting its questionable reliability.

As a Christian, these variants give me MORE assurance that what we have reflects the originals. Do I love the story of the woman threatening to be stoned? Of course, but if it didn't really happen, does it affect who Jesus was? No! Secondly, this story might be true, just because it's not in every copy doesn't mean that something like that didn't really occur.

Lastly, when one takes the Bible as a whole, and notes that it was written over 1500 years cumulatively and by nearly 40 or so authors and then realizes the flow from one book to another, one has no choice but to be amazed. It's not like the authors could run down to their local Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy of Job and say, "Hey, let's continue on with the theme the writer here talked about." Even if one were to doubt inspiration and inerrancy, they would still have to contend with the minimalist facts of the Resurrection and the non-biblical, secular sources of Jesus' death, burial, and rising again.

Christianity has been around for nearly 2000 years. I'm not worried about it going anywhere anytime soon!

God bless!


What you are doing is not allowing for the original to be copied many times.

You are ASSUMING the original was copied many times.


Assuming the originals to be copied many times is a perfectly reasonable assumption. If the gospel writers took great care in composing their writings and they sincerely believed that Jesus' life, death, burial and resurrection are the greatest news for all of humanity, of course it would be reasonable for it to be copied many times from the originals.

I think that it is interesting that the original manuscripts were written on papyrus. I think God in his infinite wisdom could have instructed the apostles to document the NT on another medium. I find in ironic that the medium used would wear out quickly. This would force the Christian community to commit the message to memory and share as an oral tradition...

Good Point Brutus. God should have instructed his disciples to upload the Gospels to the cloud.

Hey, Jim. Saw you on Nightline tonight. Fascinating story. Nice to see you in your day job.


>> You are ASSUMING the original was copied many times.

Actually, there are many historical evidences that would back up claims to Gabriel's idea of multi-focality.

1. One offered solution of the lack of the phrase "in Ephesus" in Eph. 1: 1, is that Paul wrote several copies of the same letter to the various churchs in Asia Minor, allowing a gap for the inclusion of the city. In fact, the reference of the sharing of the epistle to the Laodicians (Col 4: 16) could have simply been that congregation's copy of the Ephesus letter.

2. Consider the historical background. With the passing of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the rise of the dynasty of Vespasian, the center of the Church was centered in the region of the Agaean Sea. Paul had founded many churches here, and on his death around A.D. 64, John moved into the area to maintain these places (his banishment to Patmos was only a local removal to a samll island of little importance). This is the region of great literary work, book-writing, book collection, book copying. Pergamos and Thyatira were active centers of book preservation. What better place for the mass production of copies, including the place where folio preservation was initiated?

3. The Apostolic fathers quoted, cited, referred to, and paraphrased the works of the New Teatament as well as Old. Clement, in his first letter to the Corinthians referenced the epistle of Paul and commended in the same place the works of Peter (Cephas) and Apollos (1 Cor. 20: 20,21)

4. A question in application to the issue you raised: I have a copy of John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. It is a later edition of the work. Because it is not the original printing, did I or didn't I read Kennedy's work?

Actually, Bart is not the only one to question the validity of the passages of John known as the "Pericope de Adultera".

"Nearly all modern scholars agree that this Pericope de Adultera is not authentic. Bruce Metzger, a leading biblical scholar, put it this way:

The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as Papyrus66.75 Aleph B L N T W X Y D Q Y 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193 al. Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope"


Brutus Buckeye

" I find in ironic that the medium used would wear out quickly. This would force the Christian community to commit the message to memory and share as an oral tradition..."

Yes of course that would be a horrible thing. :)
We wouldn't want them to remember any of that stuff. ;)

"I have hidden thine word in my heart that I might not sin against thee." Psalm 119:11


1) That's a maybe for one book. What about the others?
2) So what?
3) That's great. So what?
4) No comparison.

Furthermore, even supposing that the first versions were written versions and that multiple copies were made, they were not likely to be many copies. So, they have the potential to be overrun by modified versions later.

Furthermore, even supposing multiple copies were made you cannot ignore loses - copies that are never copied.

The situation is very like that of a favorable mutation. Will it take hold in the population, rather than die out, just because it is favorable?

No. The chances of a mutation becoming established depend on its degree of advantage and they depend on chance.

The smaller the advantage offered, the greater the chance the mutation dies out due to chance even though it was favorable.

The more a favorable mutation spreads, the less chance it has of dying out by chance.

All this debate over variations seems to suggest that the Bible is simply another text and not the word of God. God has overseen the translations and preserved the meaning of the text. That is an easy task for God.


It still makes sense for a non-believer, like me, to take part in such a discussion.

I agree; just pointing out the assumptions.

Squally writes: "All this debate over variations seems to suggest that the Bible is simply another text and not the word of God. God has overseen the translations and preserved the meaning of the text."

Really? Does that include the Revised English Bible which uses gender neutral language? What about the Jerusalem Bible from 1966 which includes the Apocryphyal books? The New American Standard Bible has 15 references to Hell while the KJV has 54.

I'm not a fundamentalist, but clearly ... holding such a view of yours is untenable. Perhaps this is why Reformed pastor John MacArthur suggests that "inerrancy" only applies to the original manuscripts, not to the translations.

You could only show an error in translation by comparing it to the "correct" translation or interpretation. Where are the errors? There is no essential loss in the translations and no doctrinal conflicts. A rewriting of the Bible with portions that contradict previous revelation would be different altogether.

Holding the view that I do is untenable, you say, but I do hold that view. Does a Bible written in Japanese not have the same authority? Clearly the words would be different, but the meaning is the same.

1 John 5:7 is clear to any Bible student. Jesus = the Word. See also John 1:1 and John 1:14. An explanation will not help some. The Bible is a spiritual book and cannot be understood fully in the flesh.

Assuming few will take the time to look up the verses I listed, allow me to post them.
John 1:1, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,"
John 1:14, "and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father..."

See John 3:16 to clarify John 1:14 is referring to Jesus. Hope this helps.


>> 2) So what?
3) That's great. So what?

It's a pity that hyper-skepticism doesn't allow for the advancement of evidence that can be examined and commented on rather than sloughed off. So what?

In his debate with Danial Wallace, Bart Ehrmann sneeringly referred to the shards of thousands of credit dard size documents scattered throughout the second and third centuries, as if their existence meant nothing. To the point, thousands of shards represent thousands of more fully developed documents whose contents are lost due to the use of frail papyrus (unless of course, some Greek student, on finding a credit card sized piece of writing material decided to practice his uncials by copying some phrase of "ur-Markus" starting from the middle of the fourth word in a clause and writing until the papyrus was spent ... highly unlikely). The evidence is that there was a vast size of copied text from apostolic sources that indicate an effort to diseminate New Testament material from the time of the Apostolic Fathers. The Clement quote noted local house churches to have collections of apostolic writings, the primary Corinthian document to the document Clement held. In fact, the Clementine epistle quote referred to a saying of Jesus contained in Matthew before his reference to the works of Paul, Peter, and Apollos. A praeter-canon had developed by the turn of the first century, based on apostolic authorship. Thus the original objection you raised (You are ASSUMING the original was copied many times.) is not valid.

> 4) No comparison.

I beg to differ. Editorial procedures do not remove the identity of the original author's content and style. I read Kennedy, with some perceived improvements. The matter of text criticism does offer banner service in weeding out the late inclusions, and offers reasons for these emendations. The vast number of them deal with spelling and gramar. Koine Greek had no solid grammar, but adjusted to regionalisms. There was no William Caxton solidifying proper Hellenistic Greek spelling. As I study my Nestle and Aland-Metzger texts, many of the variants are minor, leaving no doubt that we have essentially the original to within a few percentage points. John M is correct in his assertions that the variant problem is overstated. The possible textual material keeps these "discoveries" by Ehrmann a matter of footnotes and explanations that resolve any questions of what was in the originals.

You can not explain away the 'designated' verses just because existing translations call them out - they are still problematic and need to be addressed.

And the bigger problem is not that the content of some (3) are found elsewhere in the Bible. The real question is, how does the FACT of these differences affect how we trust or mistrust the bible, and how does it affect our understanding of inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, and preservation?

Thank you for your post. This is excellent information about, Investigating Bart Ehrman’s Top Ten Troublesome Bible Verses.

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