I thank God since this man inspired me to perform research on textual criticism and study more the Bible’s original text. In the past, I thought there were available translations of the Bible. Why will I waste time to study and research the manuscripts? Why will I learn the Hebrew and Greek when there are English and Filipino versions easier to understand?
When I was studying Biblical Hebrew, all I wished was to read the Hebrew text and understand the difference between the translation and original text and how to use lexicons. Then, I read Ehrman’s arguments against the New Testament and thought about the “unreliable and corrupted New Testament.”
Many Christians who did not study the Bible’s original text ignored this claim by Ehrman but some of them got confused and believed him. His arguments influenced atheists and agnostics to question the bible’s reliability. Even Muslims benefited from this expose. I had the chance to read the books of Ehrman like Misquoting Jesus, Forged, and How Jesus Became God.
I will answer His statements as I see eight points to clarify.
1.) ERRORS COMMITTED BY SCRIBES PROVE THE BIBLE IS NOT RELIABLE?
WAS JESUS AN ANGRY MAN [MARK 1:41]?
Here is one verse that Bart Ehrman believes was modified by scribes which shows we should change our perception of the Bible.
In Mark 1:41-43, was Jesus Angry, Compassionate or both angry at compassionate?
We can read the word, ”compassion” in Bible translations like the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible and New English Translation.
Why does Ehrman make a big deal out of it? He believe the Greek word, “splanchnistheis” is not “feeling compassion.” For him the original Greek word in the text is “orgistheis” or “becoming angry”.
In the New International Version, we can read verse 41, “Jesus was indignant”.
I analyzed two great codices which are 4th century manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus which agree to the translation, “feeling compassion”. I also checked the 5th century manuscript, Codex Bezae which supports “becoming angry”.
Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are codices included in notable manuscripts representing Alexandrian text types.
Here is what Ehrman said in Pages 161-162 of his book:
“It must be acknowledged that the first reading is the one found in the manuscripts that are the oldest and generally considered to be the best—those of the Alexandrian textual family.”(Misquoting Jesus, Pages 161-162)
If he believes the first reading can be found in the oldest manuscripts belonging to the Alexandrian textual family and generally considered to be the best, why does he not use the two 4th century manuscripts that support “feeling compassion” in the translation?
According to The mentor of Ehrman (Bruce Metzger) in his, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament:
“It is difficult to come to a firm decision concerning the original text, it is easy to see why ὀργισθεὶς (“being angry”) would have been prompted over-scrupulous copyrists to alter it to σπλαγχνισθεὶς (“being filled with compassion”), but not easy to account for the opposite change.”
My point is Ehrman failed to prove this verse has variant readings and will not affect my faith of Jesus and the Gospel of Mark.
For me, it is logical that whether the Greek “orgistheis” is found or not in Mark 1:41, the Gospel of Mark and 3 other Gospels show Jesus is compassionate.
2.) WERE JESUS’ DISCIPLES ILLITERATE PEASANTS?
In Bart Ehrman’s book Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are:
“In short, Peter’s town was a backwoods Jewish village made up of hand-to-mouth laborers who did not have an education. Everyone spoke Aramaic. Nothing suggests that anyone could speak Greek. Nothing suggests that anyone in town could write. As a lower-class fisherman, Peter would have started work as a young boy and never attended school. There was, in fact, probably no school there; if there was a school, he probably didn’t attend; if he did attend, it would have been in order to receive rudimentary training in how to read Hebrew. But that almost certainly never happened. Peter was an illiterate peasant. This should come as no surprise, really. As it turns out, there is New Testament evidence about Peter’s education level. According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and his companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means “unlettered,” that is, “illiterate.” And so, is it possible that Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter? We have seen good reasons for believing he did not write 2 Peter, and some reason for thinking he didn’t write 1 Peter. But it is highly probable that in fact he could not write at all. I should point out that the book of 1 Peter is written by a highly literate, highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint. This is not Peter.”
I wish to focus on Ehrman’s claim the apostles are illiterate.
He used Acts 4:13 to prove Apostle Peter was illiterate since he was only a fisherman.
I have two rebuttals for the arguments of Ehrman.
First, Apostle Peter’s native language was probably Aramaic not Greek. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t communicate truth in Greek. Jews knew Greek starting after the conquest of Alexander in 330. St. Paul began the “mission to the Gentiles” in the middle of the first century CE, speaking and writing in Greek. Christians used the LXX in Greek and wrote about Jesus, quoting from the LXX. And Christians, to distance themselves from the Rabbinic Jews, used Greek vs. Hebrew/Aramaic.
Second, Apostle Peter was uneducated as a fisherman but it could not have stopped them from using scribes for documentation. During the 1st century AD, scribes were frequently engaged by all kinds of citizens. If Apostle Peter and Apostle John employed scribes, does it mean they were not authors of the books accredited to them?
Here is what as Exegetical Commentary said about the Books of Jude and 2 Peter:
“That Peter was in need of linguistic help was a fact well known in the early church. Thorough knowledge of Greek was not as widespread in Galilee as is sometimes thought (see “Authorship of Jude” in the introduction to Jude), and the ability to write well was not universal by any means. Scribes were commonly employed to aid in the composition of letters at all levels of society (White 1986: 215–16). The ancient witness regarding Peter indicates that he got by with a little help from his friends. Mark was identified as one of Peter’s interpreters (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15; Jerome, Letter to Hebidia [Ep.] 120.11), as was a certain Glaucias (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 7.17). First Peter 5:12 names Silvanus as Peter’s amanuensis and not simply the messenger who carries the letter (“through Silvanus I wrote briefly”). While we can be certain that Peter needed and used such help, the role that an amanuensis could have played in composition is not examined in the literature with any detail, either by the detractors or defenders of Petrine authorship. E. Richards (1991: 23–67; 2004: 64–80), on the other hand, has demonstrated that the responsibilities of ancient secretaries varied and could be categorized in three different ways. The secretary could take verbatim dictation, with the author dictating the letter either syllabatim, syllable by syllable, or viva voce, at the speed of normal speech. To accomplish the latter, the secretary would need to be adept at tachygraphy, or shorthand. This practice was well known, both in Latin and Greek. uetonius, for example, comments about the emperor Titus, “I have heard from many sources that he used also to write shorthand with great speed and would amuse himself by playful contests with his secretaries” (Divus Titus 3.2). Second, an author could speak at the rate of normal speech while the secretary took notes, or the author could give a rough draft to the secretary, who then edited the letter. In both these cases, the secretary became an editor of the final draft. Cicero mentions his secretary Tiro on various occasions and, in a letter to him, remarks, “Without you, I am altogether dumb. Please be ready to render due service to our Muses” (Fam. 16.10.2). Elsewhere he notes that his services “are past all reckoning—at home, in the forum, in the City, in my province, in private as in public affairs, in my literary pursuits and performances” (16.4.3; see also 16.11.1). The extent of the editing could be either small or great. Third, the secretary could serve as a composer. Cicero, for example, asked Atticus to write for him and under Cicero’s name: “I should like you to write in my name to Basilius and to anyone else you like, even to Servilius, and say whatever you think fit” (Att. 11.5; 3.15; 11.2). Philostratus shows awareness that a person or the person’s delegate could be responsible for a letter when he mentions “Brutus or the person Brutus employed to write his letters” (Malherbe 1988: 42–43).”( Pages 146-147, Jude and 2 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Gene Green)
3.) JESUS DID NOT APPEAR IN RECORDS OF THE ROMAN PEOPLE?
We can read this in Ehrman’s book: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are:
“One of the striking and, to many people, surprising facts about the first century is that we don’t have any Roman records, of any kind, that attest to the existence of Jesus. We have no birth certificate, no references to his words or deeds, no accounts of his trial, no descriptions of his death—no reference to him whatsoever in any way, shape, or form. Jesus’s name is not even mentioned in any Roman source of the first century. This does not mean, as is now being claimed with alarming regularity, that Jesus never existed. He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees, based on clear and certain evidence. But as with the vast majority of all persons who lived and died in the first century, he does not appear in the records of the Roman people.”
This kind of argument is very weak.
In History, we can quote two people proving the error of Ehrman.
One is Cornelius Tacitus, the great Roman Historian who provided the right information about Jesus.
In his Annals 15.44: “The founder of this name,Christ, had been executed in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”
Tacitus said Jesus was executed during the reign of Tiberius through the procurator Pontius Pilate. Information revealed the emperor reigned from 14 to 37 while Pilate became Roman Governor of Judea from 26 to 36.
Second, the Jewish historian Josephus was born as Yosef Ben Matityahu. He became of Jewish Forces in Galilee against Rome during the Jewish rebellion. Josephus surrendered to the Romans and accepted their cause. He became a Roman Citizen as Flavius Josephus.
According to the book, Jesus outside the New Testament – an Introduction to the Ancient Evidence by Robert E. Van Voorst Pages 84-85:
“Josephus’s main statement about Jesus, traditionally known as the Testimonium Flavianum, the “Witness of Flavius (Josephus)” to Jesus, is found in Ant. 18.3.3 §63-64. The present text reads, Around this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it is right to call him a man. For he was a worker of amazing deeds and was a teacher of people who accept the truth with pleasure. He won over both many Jews and many Greeks. He was the Messiah. Pilate, when he heard him accused by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, [but] those who had first loved him did not cease [doing so]. For on the third day he appeared to them alive again, because the divine prophets had prophesied these and myriad other things about him. To this day the tribe of Christians named after him has not disappeared.”
4.) ONLY THE GOSPEL OF JOHN PROVED JESUS IS GOD AND THE THREE GOSPELS (MATTHEW, MARK AND LUKE) DID NOT.
We can read in Ehrman’s book, How Jesus Became God his challenge to Christians:
“If Jesus really were equal with God from “the beginning,” before he came to earth, and he knew it, then surely the Synoptic Gospels would have mentioned this at some point. Wouldn’t that be the most important thing about him? But no, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke he does not talk about himself in this way—nor does he do so in their sources (Q, M, and L).
The statements about Jesus in the Gospel of John like in John 8:58 and John 10:30 cannot be found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Does this mean the three do not prove Jesus is God?
Let us start with the Gospel of Matthew.
In Matthew 2:11, the three wise men worshiped Jesus. In Greek, we used “προσεκύνησαν” (prosekuneisan).
Was this Greek word used when we worshiped God in the Old Testament?
καὶ ὡς συνετέλεσαν ἀναφέροντες, ἔκαμψεν ὁ βασιλεὺς καὶ πάντες οἱ εὑρεθέντες καὶ προσεκύνησαν(2 Chronicles 29:29, LXX)
Even the Hebrew word in the New Testament Hebrew (Matthew 2:11) used “vayishtachavoo” and also in 2 Chronicles 29:29.
If Christ is not God and the 3 wise men worshiped him, why did not Mother Mary rebuke the 3 wise men? Mary was a Jew and Jews are strictly forbidden to worship false gods (Exodus 20:3-5).
In the Gospel of Luke, we can read in Luke 18:18 one man approached Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answered in verse 19, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”
Did Jesus refute he was God?
Jesus did not deny this in the verse but strengthened the proof that he is God if we only use our common sense. If he is not God, why will he call Him “good” by that man if Jesus said “No one is good but God alone”?
If Jesus denied He was God, the grammar should be, “Why do you call me Good? No one is good but God alone and I am not God.” Or “Do not call me good. No one is good but God alone”.
Let us read Mark 2:5 where Jesus forgave the paralytic.
Is it not true only God can forgive sinners?
5.) HISTORIANS FAILED to PROVE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
In Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God, we can read this argument questioning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Chapter 4, we can read the statement:
“The problem with this answer is that it ignores all the other great religions of the world. Do we want to say that all great and successful religions come from God himself and that their founders were “God”? Was Moses God? Mohammed?
I laughed at Ehrman’s arguments. The Jews and Christians never regarded Moses as God. Buddhism is an atheistic religion. Did Buddha make Miracles like the Lord Jesus?
Buddha died and never resurrected. Jesus died and resurrected.
Did Muhammad resurrect? He did not so Ehrman’s arguments are flawed!
Ehrman asked, “What is it that made Jesus so special?”
The answer is simple. There were things Jesus did that people cited above did not. That is why you erred in questioning His nature and his words in the New Testament since he is not special for you!
I read the statement of Ehrman in his book, Misquoting Jesus in page 4:
“Bruce convinced me that I should consider becoming a “serious” Christian and devote myself completely to the Christian faith.”
It is unfortunate you did not follow your mentor Bruce Metzger who is respected by many scholars. You are not a “Serious Christian” unlike those who do not see God but worship God (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus said: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe (John 20:29).
In chapter 4 of his book: How Jesus Became God we can read, “Why Historians Have Difficulty Discussing the Resurrection”
Ehrman did not recognize all miracle-claims do not have equality of supporting evidence. Even science cannot explain the Resurrection. You can point out most of Jesus’ disciples were EYEWITNESSES to the resurrection. (They knew if it was true).
They DIED for their beliefs that Jesus rose from the dead providing a very strong indication it really happened.
If one person says miracles are impossible, these people claim to know all things and insist miracles are not possible. They claim things even with limited knowledge and experience and say “I never saw one.” If they are told they have narrow temporal views, their common response is “If miracles happen, these are very rare.” Our answer is that is the point. Miracles seldom happen. People who say miracles are impossible infer of their all-knowing capability but this is is a contradiction as well since there are things in this world that cannot be given definite answers like what the Scientific American said about déjà vu:
“It is most probable there are different theories that try to explain déjà vu. However, we don’t have a definitive answer yet as to the correctness of those theories. It still needs explanation and continuing research.”
Many other things exist that cannot be answered by science. (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17).
The resurrection of Jesus is the core of early Christian faith. It indicates reality. Thus, it was affirmed time after time by believers and challenged by unbelievers. For example, Paul visited the apostles twice or thrice to ensure his gospel message was straightforward. There should have been no Christianity without this event.
The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem possessed the power and motives to investigate thoroughly the proclamation of the resurrection. They knew about Jesus death and burial. They wanted to expose the error but did not contest the evidence. Many modern skeptical scholars are cannot explain this occurrence.
The best line of reasoning for the resurrection is the numerous eyewitnesses who voluntarily gave up their lives due to the belief that it is true. It is a biblical claim. (I Corinthians 15). St. Paul writes:
“For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (I Corinthians 15:16-17)
The resurrection is KEY to finding out if Christianity is real. If the resurrection is factual, then Christianity is true. If it isn’t, Christianity is false. Paul expounds on the eyewitnesses to the resurrection:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (I Corinthians 15: 3-8)
There is nothing strange regarding people dying for things, causes and religions they espouse. What is important is these people were in a DIRECT position to KNOW if Christ rose from the dead.
They know if he did rise from the dead because they saw him alive after he died. They would also have known the opposite. According to history, MANY of these eyewitnesses WILLINGLY sacrificed their lives for Christ.
St. Paul mentions that Christ appeared to the twelve apostles. Look at the list of how they died:
To go over the argument:
- People only readily die for causes if they believe those causes are genuine.
- Christianity is factual only if the resurrection is true.
- The apostles definitely knew if the resurrection is true.
- The apostles gladly died brutal deaths for Christ. This supports the theory they KNEW about the resurrection of Christ.
6.) THE GREAT CODICES LIKE CODEX VATICANUS AND CODEX SINAITICUS ARE NOT IN AGREEMENT. IF MANUSCRIPTS ARE CORRUPTED, THE NEW TESTAMENT CANNOT BE TRUSTED?
We can read this statement in page 56 of Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus:
“An interesting illustration of the intentional change of a text is found in one of our finest old manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus (so named because it was found in the Vatican library), made in the fourth century. In the opening of the book of Hebrews there is a passage in which, according to most manuscripts, we are told that “Christ bears [Greek: PHERON] all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). In Codex Vaticanus, however, the original scribe produced a slightly different text, with a verb that sounded similar in Greek; here the text instead reads: “Christ manifests [Greek: PHANERON] all things by the word of his power.” Some centuries later, a second scribe read this passage in the manuscript and decided to change the unusual word manifests to the more common reading bears—erasing the one word and writing in the other.”
It is estimated there are between 300,000 and 400,000 textual variants among said manuscripts.
The reason we have a lot variants is that we have a lot of manuscripts.
We often hear Scribes who copied the New Testament committed errors in copying the manuscripts. What are these errors?
The variants were categorized according to intentional and unintentional errors.
One of the unintentional errors is the “Errors of the Ear”.
Historians recognized during the Early Church Era that scribes sat or stood up and copy word-for-word the orally delivered message. This results in “errors of the ear”. The unintentional errors also happened in the Old Testament known as Mistakes of Hebrew letters of similar sound since Hebrew alphabets have similar sounds like Aleph and Ayin, Kaph and Qoph. The Greek vowels like iota, eta and epsilon have a similarity while being pronounced including the vowels omicron and omega.
Many of us understand and speak English but many people make mistakes in hearing like “truth” and “throat”. For instance, a teacher lectures and students write in their notebooks to record the lessons. However, the teacher says “true” but some students wrote “through”. It was not intentional but the students erred in hearing.
In our research for the truth, we need to revisit the history so we can understand the issue on variant readings.
The early scribe worked uncomfortably bent over with scroll stretched out between his knees. One hand holds the script firmly while the other held various tools. The difficult process and tough body posture caused mental and physical exhaustion that affected scribe’s craftsmanship. Therefore, there were eye, writing, memory, and judgment errors in the text.
The scribes also committed intentional errors.
One of the Intentional Errors is called “Doctrinal Changes”
The scribes involved did not merely copy since they were scholars with their own viewpoints. A point of argument in John 1:18 relate to manuscripts where there is “Ho Monogenes Huios” or “the only begotten Son.” The manuscripts we have can be seen in Codex Regius (8th Century), Codex Cyprius (9th Century) and Codex Borealianus (10th Century).
Some early manuscripts state “Monogenes Theos” that you can read in Codex Sinaiticus (4th Century Manuscript), Codex Vaticanus (4th Century Manuscript), Papyrus 75 (3rd Century Manuscript) and Papyrus 66 (2nd–3rd Century Manuscript). These were translated in NRSV as “GOD the only son”, NABRE “The only Son, God” and NET BIBLE as “The only one, himself God”.
According to Larry W. Hurtado, “the earlier the manuscript, the better”.
For Philip Comfort, “It is now clear that monogenes Theos is the earlier reading.”
“Monogenes Theos” is the earlier reading. It was changed according to Philip Comfort as early as the 3rd century. According to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, “The alternate argument is that Monogenes Theos was original and that a scribe changed it into ho monogenes huios because it fits well with Johannine style.”
Another point is seen in Mark 9:29 that we can read in versions of the English bible, “And he said unto them, this kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” We cannot read the word “fasting” in the highly-recommended versions like NRSV.
The word “fasting” was only added to Mark 9:29.
Are these mistakes enough to refute God’s existence or resurrection of Jesus Christ?
We can read the question of Dr. Daniel B Wallace on pages 54-55 of Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament:
“Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book is dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g., the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?”
7.) DOES IT HELP TO SAY THE BIBLE IS THE REAL WORD OF GOD IF WE DO NOT HAVE THE WORDS THAT GOD INSPIRED?
In Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus we can read the statement that actually inspired to research the sacred scriptures:
“I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don’t have the words that God inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes—sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.”
If we understand his statement, he explains the New Testament manuscripts that we have are erroneous so he questions the NT’s reliability and tried to convince Christians to doubt the word of God. He claims we do not have original autographs.
The New Testament autographs were lost but their contents were preserved in thousands of copies. We do not have original copies (autographs) of the Gospels and epistles like 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and Philippians. Yet, we have many copies that we can use to help us determine what the original said. His argument is we do not have autographs but we have copies of variant readings. He refers to conflicting manuscripts that assured him of what was and was not. The question is clear. If we do not have original manuscripts, how did he know the contents of said manuscripts?
8.) HOW WILL MILLIONS OF BELIEVERS IN JESUS KNOW WHAT IS TRULY WRITTEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?
This is what Bart Ehrman said in his book, Misquoting Jesus on page 209:
“How do these millions of people know what is in the New Testament? They “know” because scholars with unknown names, identities, backgrounds, qualifications, predilections, theologies, and personal opinions have told them what is in the New Testament. But what if the translators have translated the wrong text? It has happened before. The King James Version is filled with places in which the translators rendered a Greek text derived ultimately from Erasmus’s edition, which was based on a single twelfth-century manuscript that is one of the worst of the manuscripts that we now have available to us! It’s no wonder that modern translations often differ from the King James, and no wonder that some Bible believing Christians prefer to pretend there’s never been a problem, since God inspired the King James Bible instead of the original Greek! (As the old saw goes, If the King James was good enough for Saint Paul, it’s good enough for me.)”
Before we go to the issue about the King James translation, let us see first the statement of Bart Ehrman.
Here is his question: How do these people know what is in the New Testament?
We also have questions for Bart Ehrman. How will you know what is in the New Testament since we do not have original manuscripts?
Let us talk about the King James Version. Do all modern Christians use the version of King James?
Do all modern Christians say the King James is the most accurate version? The answer is NO!
There is a group that claims to be true Christians “KJV Only” say it is accurate and inspired. Not all Christians say this.
Even Dr. Daniel B. Wallace does not agree with this. I also reviewed KJV and made a brief analysis with verses of the KJV that were not translated correctly from Hebrew and Greek.
KJV does not present the whole of Christianity. There is a good translations near the original text like NRSV.
The scribal errors in different parts of the manuscripts do not pose a threat and should not be the reason for us to lose faith in the Bible which is the word of God. Bart Ehrman has a weak argument to use the scribal errors so Christians will deny the Resurrection of Jesus.