Tag Archives: bart ehrman

About those variants in the Bible manuscripts

Alternate title: Textual critic Bart Ehrman is petty, malicious and misleading.

He makes a living trying to discredit the Bible by pointing out slight differences in manuscripts found throughout the world from various centuries.  Via 400,000 Variants in the Bible?

The problem is that the number of variants in the original manuscripts, whether they are 50,000 or 400,000 really is not that big of a problem. Let me explain. A variant in manuscripts means that when we find two manuscripts from the same book, and we read them both, then we find that in one, it reads, “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” and at the same point in the other manuscript it reads “Jesus Christ Our Lord,” that counts as a variant even though the order of the words doesn’t change the meaning one iota.

In fact, what Blomberg and others have pointed out ad nauseum is that of all the variants, only about 1,250 of them need some sort of explanation. If you have a study Bible, you know this because these variants are listed in the footnotes of your Bible. The footnotes will tell you that the UBS reads one way and NA reads another. (The USB and NA are compilations of the Greek texts put out by the United Bible Society and Nestle Aland.)

These variants are listed in plain sight for all to see and are not kept secret from anyone who wishes to know the truth, despite what men like Ehrman would have you believe.

But back to the number of variants in the Greek manuscripts we have. Another detail you need to know is that of all these variants, only about 50 of them rise to the level of changing the meaning of the text one way or another. All these are dealt with by scholars and theologians quite thoroughly.

Yet, of these 50, not a single variant changes a thing when it comes to the doctrines of our faith. None of them affect the salvation found in Christ, the atonement He makes for His children, or the hope we have when we are in Him. The doctrine of the Trinity remains steadfast. The doctrine of justification, changes not a whit. The doctrine of the return of Christ, the resurrection, the birth of Christ, the miracles, etc., none of these things change at all with any of these variants. Our faith remains intact despite the claims of apostates like Ehrman.

“Former Christian* Ehrman is still a useful enemy in the sense that we can note how even he will strenuously argue over finer points of what they originals really said. Hey Bart, thanks, because we agree that the text has been transmitted accurately!

That said, he is unethical and malicious in playing up the “400,000 variants” nonsense. He knows better than anyone that more manuscript evidence is always better than less and that the Bible has so many more manuscripts than other works of antiquity that it will obviously have more variants. In other words, more manuscripts is better than less, but more manuscripts = more variants.

Ehrman just abuses his position for profit and to attack Christianity.  No surprise there.  What is said is how easy he is to refute and how few people are equipped to do it.  But now you are!

*There are as many former Christians as they are unicorns, but there are many former atheists.  If you aren’t a Christian now, you never were one. 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. You may have gone to church, etc. but you weren’t a Christian — but by the grace of God you can become one.and have all your sins forgiven and the righteousness of Christ imputed to you.  But you must repent and believe.

How many translations did your Bible go through?

bible5.gifOne (1). 

Really. Just one time from the original language to the language and version of your Bible.  The original writings were copied many times, but the Bible you hold was only translated once.   This is one of my favorite lessons in apologetics (defending the Christian faith) because it is such a simple and accurate explanation to a common and important objection.

Many people – including some Christians – are quick to say that the Bible has been translated and changed so many times over the centuries that we don’t know what the original writings said.  For example, I saw a video clip where Deepak Chopra (alleged religious expert) claims that the King James was the 13th iteration of the Bible.

But contrary to that myth, the books of the Bible have only been translated once and the copying process was very robust, dependable and verifiable.  This is an easy way to politely correct people on one of the most common errors they make, so please commit this response to memory.  I’ve used this to persuade agnostics and Mormons, among others, in literally a minute or so.  They didn’t concede that the writings were divinely inspired, but it was easy to correct them about the translation myth.

For example, Paul wrote in Greek, and we have Greek manuscripts to make translations from.  That is one translation.

Conventional wisdom: Tranlations from one language to another to another . . .

Greek original ==> Latin translation ==> other translations ==> King James version ==> English Standard Version, etc.

What actually happened

Greek original ==> copies of Greek original ==> Latin version

Greek original ==> copies of Greek original ==> King James version

Greek original ==> copies of Greek original ==> English Standard Version

Etc.

So the real issue is how accurate and reliable the copying process was.  The science of textual criticism shows that the copies of the New Testament are 99.5% accurate and that the differences are minor and have no impact on Christian theology.  Even atheist textual critics like Bart Ehrman, an “ex-Christian” who makes a living attacking Christianity, will concede that.

Regarding the Old Testament, here are some notes from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.  The existence of the Dead Sea Scrolls provided spectacular evidence to refute the myth that the Old Testament had been changed significantly.

The OT does not have as many supporting manuscripts as the NT but it is, nevertheless, remarkably reliable.

  1. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT done around 250 B.C., attests to the reliability and consistency of the OT when it is compared to existing Hebrew manuscripts.
  2. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 also verify the reliability of the OT manuscripts.
  3. The Dead Sea Scrolls were ancient documents that were hidden in a cave in Israel about 2000 years ago. The scrolls contained many OT books, one of them being Isaiah.
    1. Before the Dead Sea scrolls, the earliest existing manuscript of the OT was dated around 900 A.D. called the Masoretic Text. The Scrolls contained OT documents 1000 years earlier. A comparison between the manuscripts revealed an incredible accuracy of transmission through copying, so much so that critics were silenced.

In summary, the Bible you hold has only been translated once, and the copying process was very robust, dependable and verifiable. 

Also see Is the New Testament Text Reliable? and Hasn’t the Bible been rewritten so many times that we can’t trust it anymore?

This was a favorite updated for your reading pleasure.

 

Roundup

One type of finch evolves into a slightly different type of finch — Just a few more cycles and it will evolve into Angelina Jolie, or something along those lines.  Golly, I guess that proves macro-evolution once and for all.  My bad.  I’ve been wrong all along.

12 Rules To Govern And Live By For Destroying An Economy And A Nation — Great list by Dan.  If I didn’t know better I’d think a certain nation was dutifully following them all.

Great analysis of Bart Ehrman’s ironic and contradictory thinking

In the end, Jesus Interrupted can be best summarized as a book filled with ironies. Ironic that it purports to be about unbiased history but rarely presents an opposing viewpoint; ironic that it claims to follow the scholarly consensus but breaks from it so often; ironic that it insists on the historical-critical method but then reads the gospels with a modernist, overly-literal hermeneutic; ironic that it claims no one view of early Christianity could be “right” (Walter Bauer) but then proceeds to tell us which view of early Christianity is “right;” ironic that it dismisses Papias with a wave of the hand but presents the Gospel of the Ebionites as if it were equal to the canonical four; and ironic that it declares everyone can “pick and choose” what is right for them, but then offers its own litany of moral absolutes. Such intellectual schizophrenia suggests there is more going on in Jesus Interrupted than meets the eye. Though veiled in the garb of scholarship, this book is religious at the core. Ehrman does not so much offer history as he does theology, not so much academics as he does his own ideology. The reader does not get a post-religious Ehrman as expected, but simply gets a new-religious Ehrman–an author who has traded in one religious system (Christianity) for another (postmodern agnosticism). Thus, Ehrman is not out to squash religion as so many might suppose. He is simply out to promote his own. He is preacher turned scholar turned preacher. And of all the ironies, perhaps that is the greatest.

Hat tip: Alpha & Omega Ministries

Hungry Americans: Debunking The Hype — How many hungry are there?  What are the real problems?  Also see where Dinesh D’Souza has interesting reflections on this:

This book, some of his articles, and many of his speeches make the following point: “Indeed, newcomers to the United States are struck by the amenities enjoyed by poor people. This fact was dramatized in the 1980s when CBS television broadcast a documentary, People Like Us, intended to show the miseries of the poor during an ongoing recession. The Soviet Union also broadcast the documentary, with a view to embarrassing the Reagan administration. But by the testimony of former Soviet leaders, it had the opposite effect. Ordinary people across the Soviet Union saw that the poorest Americans have TV sets, microwave ovens and cars. They arrived at the same perception that I witnessed in an acquaintance of mine from Bombay who has been unsuccessfully trying to move to the United States. I asked him, Why are you so eager to come to America? He replied, I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat. Dinesh D’Souza