Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Debate Review: Does the Bible Misquote Jesus? James White and Bart Ehrman

Before moving into my review I shall cite a succinct comment (sourced from Paul Williams' BloggingTheology) which sums up White's performance:

I just finished listening to the debate and i must say the reason i feel james white wanted to debate dr bart ehrman was because he wanted it on his resume,there is no way he will want to debate him again after that performance. especially in the q&a james white was all over the place and honestly i didnt understand some of his questions and answers,as a supposed new testament scholar i really dont think he measures up well against ehrman or even agaisnt other chrisrtian nt scholars,probaly the reason why he never gets any academic recognition although there is no doubt he so badly wants it. he could provide no rebuttal to ehrmans questioning of why God didnt at least preserve one original manuscript, he couldnt answer if the author of p72 thought all that he was writing was scripture,well he tried to but it was really a mumbled response. you knew the debate was going the way of ehrmans when mr white tried to corner him about other world scriptures especially the Quran and if he thought they were preserved but that didnt work and you almost imagine the christians in the audience with palms in thier face. i also found it quite funny how he only knew the works of the english speaking nt scholars when bart erhman started naming the german and french ones he had no clue as to who they were. no wonder its took this long to get this debate out,i wonder how long before his disastrous performance against dr robert price comes out. [maratsafin]

Learn from Bart Ehrman’s Opening Presentation

Ehrman goes into describing how the Gospels would have been copied prior to the invention of printing (16th century) – hand copying which was an error-laden process – especially so with the earlier scribes who were non-professionals.

Ehrman essentially goes into his standard presentation on this subject. Nevertheless it is quite a devastating presentation in light of not having the autographs. Ehrman points out he is speaking facts and there is no slight in his information. Ehrman is not interested in exaggerating in order to “win” the debate – his is a scholarly presentation designed to educate but also drive across his point.

There are more differences in the manuscripts than words in the New Testament – probably several hundred thousand. Ehrman does the Christian a favour by mentioning many of the changes were insignificant (i.e. spelling errors and accidental mistakes).

It is a FACT that the scribes DID change the manuscripts – some were intentional changes!

Ehrman cites four serious/intentional changes (forgeries) in the Bible:

Scribal insertion John chapter 7-8; the story of Jesus and the adulteress was not originally in the NT, thus it is a forgery.

Last 12 verses of Mark; these are intentional additions (forgeries) by the scribe

Luke 23:24 – this is not found in some of the oldest manuscripts

Most worryingly, Matthew chapter 24; Jesus denying knowledge of the Day of Judgement is REMOVED by scribes – the obvious reason behind this would have been to push the idea of Jesus being God!

Bart Ehrman on manuscripts

He drives home the point of not having the originals by discussing the gospel of Mark

P45 – is the earliest manuscript of Mark and dates to ca 220AD thus ca 150 years after the original. It is not even a whole copy – it has portions of half of the chapters in Mark.

First complete manuscript of Mark comes in the FOURTH century – thus some 300 years after Mark’s original.

We have roughly 5,500 NT manuscripts – fragmentary as well as complete copies. It is good news we have so many but the bad news is all have mistakes and none are originals. John Mill’s Greek New Testament contained 30,000 places of variation now we have even MORE manuscripts thus there are even more variations – we don’t know how many changes there are as nobody has added the numbers!!!!

However, there are more differences in the manuscripts than words in the New Testament – probably several hundred thousand. Ehrman does the Christian justice by mentioning many of the changes were insignificant (i.e. spelling errors).

I’m glad Bart Ehrman speaks about P52

Christian evangelicals bang on about P52 and exaggerate its significance in order to prop their claims so I’m glad Ehrman discusses P52.

P52 is dated by palaeographers ca. 125 AD. It is a tiny fragment and the earliest manuscript we have and most date nowhere close to this!

“New Testament the best attested book of antiquity” – salesmanship!

Christian missionaries do make this claim but it is somewhat misleading as most of these attestations come many, many centuries AFTER the originals - 94% of the manuscripts date after the 9th century!

The Moody Bible Institute and Biola University seem to be churning folk out who use this misleading argumentation – please stop it folks!

Ehrman’s Conclusion: Do we have a reliable text of the NT? Scholars do NOT know. Some passages are under continuous debate whilst the validity of other passages are just NOT KNOWN.

Essentially, Dr Ehrman puts forward a very embarrassing case for the Christians – the Christians believe in a book which is reconstructed by scholars and is conjecture based.

For those who reflect rationally upon this presentation the idea of the Bible being preserved 100% would be a large jump of faith. It is logical to believe parts of the originals have been lost partly due to scribal errors/forgeries within the flawed copying system and due to the absence of complete originals in the early manuscript tradition (never mind the autographs!)

James White’s presentation

I found it difficult to follow White’s presentation – I’m glad Ehrman confirmed White’s presentation was obscured and convoluted. Ehrman went further by not “buying” White’s claims.

However, White confirms the huge number of variations (estimated at 400,000) and the doubt concerning what constitutes the Bible and what does not!

The amazing thing is White AGREES with Ehrman’s information but White goes into damage control – he claims the more manuscripts you have the more variants you will have – this is correct.

He makes the claim the original readings are within all the manuscripts BUT does NOT give a valid reason why he believes the originals are somewhere within the 5,700 manuscripts. This seems to be a faith conviction on the part of White – it is not convincing at all.

White starts talking about the Quran in a discussion with a BIBLE EXPERT!!!

White mentions Uthman’s role in the preservation of the Quran and seems to espouse the misconception this was an act carried out by Uthman alone – it was not – it was done as an act unanimously agreed upon by the living companions of the Prophet and the believing community at large. If White had a similar type of event for the Bible he would have used it to prop up the claim of the Bible!

Unimpressed: White’s hollow argumentation

White misdirects us into thinking the fact there was no uniformed textual transmission with regards to the NT is something to be proud of – he seems to prop up his argumentation by this misdirection. Who cares whether the Bible was copied in a controlled environment or not?

What matters is whether we have the text today!!!

White admits his embarrassing problem

White believes the Bible is somewhere within all those manuscripts – but he does not know what exactly constitutes the Bible. When he comes across the viable and meaningful variations (1100-1400 according to Wallace) he has to say he does NOT KNOW which ones comprise the Bible and which ones are the forgeries/errors!

White presents nothing to challenge Ehrman’s facts but simply brings forward a faith conviction dressed up with irrelevancies and erudition in order to reassure the Christian audience.

Bart Ehrman grilling James White

Lacking ammunition
This is the MOST CRUCIAL part of the debate.

Ehrman challenges White by asking White how he knows he has the Bible preserved and why does he not know where the original text is, i.e. what comprises the Bible? In my view White simply holds this illogical belief based on his conservative Christian faith conviction.

Ehrman exposes White’s belief and makes him look silly

White answers by claiming authorities support his view. To be fair to James White; he does claim his own studies back up the claims of these authorities.

However, White is found not to be familiar with authorities in Germany nor France – White does not know some of the biggest names in the field. This is a blow to White’s appeal to authority. It gets worse for White…

Ehrman crushes White further

Ehrman crushes White by announcing the leading authorities do NOT agree with his claim of the Bible being preserved within the manuscript tradition – the only authorities who do agree with White are those who share a similar faith conviction to White. Virtually every authority DISAGREES with White except evangelical scholars!

This is a crushing point and further strengthens the view that White simply believes the Bible is preserved in the tradition due to a FAITH conviction – thus it is not a logical conviction and nor is his conviction supported by evidence.

Bart Ehrman lampoons James White

How much do the differences matter?

A major point of contention between the two is as to how much the differences matter. White hangs himself on this by confirming Dan Wallace cites numerous viable and meaningful variations. So obviously there are many, many meaningful variations!

Ehrman confirms the clear teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity is dependent upon which manuscripts you read – this is a major points score by Ehrman as it shows variations are very significant. Earlier he mentioned the scribal omission of Jesus not knowing the hour – obviously the scribe did this to push the idea of Jesus being God. Again, further showing the variations do matter!

Bart Ehrman exposes James White’s bogus argumentation

P75 (late 2nd /early third century) and codex Vaticanus are very similar so White claims there was no primitive corruptions. Ehrman tells us this is a bogus argument!

Ehrman tells us the fuller picture; there are manuscripts of similar dates as P75 which differ significantly from codex Vaticanus!

Aren’t you glad Ehrman tries to present a more complete picture? Many Christian apologists are like salesmen in not telling the whole picture – Ehrman does not allow James White to get away with this bogus and misleading argument.

James White caught not telling the full picture – AGAIN!

White claimed P52 is similar to later manuscripts BUT Ehrman highlights a SIGNIFICANT textual variant even within this credit-card sized manuscript.

Most variants we have are from the earliest manuscripts – the early copyists were the least skilled thus there were even more variations between earlier manuscripts.

James White – 95% agreement?

Ehrman thought White claimed there were 95% agreement at different ends of the spectrum. Ehrman tells White it is not that simple. It is rare for manuscripts to have 70 % agreement of their variations. Ehrman confirms the manuscripts are not all alike.

White comes back and explains what he was actually talking about here – nevertheless it was insignificant!

However Ehrman did misunderstand what White was presenting.

James White: Falls away at the seams

As is White’s wont – he seems to be desperate to appear on top in a debate. White starts attacking Ehrman by accusing him of being imbalanced. White bemoans the fact his side are not getting as much media coverage.

If White had a sound refutation he would have presented it but he starts falling away at the seams whilst frustration sets in.

White seems to have taken umbrage to his presentation being denounced as convoluted – it was! James was not as coherent as Ehrman. I reckon the Christian audience would have agreed too.

White simply offers a load of gusto and irrelevancies but Ehrman presents the better arguments and uses the facts to arrive at more sound conclusions.

White pettily complains Ehrman has not looked at White’s material despite White having studied Ehrman’s work. Who cares? Bart Ehrman is one of the biggest names in the field – he is familiar with the work of the major authorities in the field in Europe (White did not even know their names!!!). Why should Ehrman look at White’s work?

In any case, Ehrman had debated Wallace previously – White was reliant on Wallace.

James White: overly reliant on Dan Wallace

Bart Ehrman makes White squirm in the cross examination.

For me White seemed to be heavily reliant on Dan Wallace – the question that begs to be asked is what in the world was White doing debating Ehrman as Wallace had already debated Ehrman – Wallace is a giant in conservative Christian circles. Perhaps White felt his debate experience and ability to use tricks of the trade would undo Ehrman – White failed, he simply served to offend Ehrman.

Rest assured Ehrman would have been grossly unimpressed by White’s style and his argumentation was even less impressive.

White is found to be using Dan Wallace’s opinion on viable and meaningful differences in the manuscript tradition: 1100 – 1400. Ehrman found this numbering odd as it would simply be guess work. Ehrman questions the criteria to judge what is important and what is not.

James White does not know

Apart from White not knowing of authorities in mainland Europe there were other gaps in his knowledge.

White is asked to name the twelve manuscripts he refers to in his presentation – White cannot supply the answer – he waffles but he does not know and again is reliant on Wallace.

Bart Ehrman impresses us further with his knowledge on the subject. I don’t expect White to know more than Ehrman, however I felt White’s knowledge and research should have been a little better and he should not have been afraid of saying “I don’t know” rather than waffling. Pride makes us all look rather silly at times.

White offends Ehrman

White seemed to have an aggressive tone throughout the debate.

Ehrman claims White likened him to a Muslim (White denied this); subsequently Ehrman dressed White down. Ehrman said he knows nothing about the Quran and was thus unwilling to discuss the Quran. Why would White want to talk about the Quran in a debate about the BIBLE with a BIBLE scholar in front of a CHRISTIAN audience?

In my view White was looking to quote mine from Ehrman so he has something to counter Muslim debaters who rely on Ehrman’s work – somewhat disingenuous if that is the case!

White finishes off with a cheap shot by denouncing Ehrman for not correcting misapprehensions others acquire through his work. It had nothing to do with the debate. In any case White should be consistent and address the misapprehensions within his own community as well as the less-reliable stream of information which stems from some of the rabble-rousers who are associated with him.


Ehrman proved his case, White did not. Ehrman was coherent, White was not. Ehrman was classy, White was not.

The most entertaining (and cruel) part may have been Erdmann’s grilling cross-examination of White BUT it should not overshadow the fact Christian evangelicals simply believe what they do out of a faith conviction and espouse shallow and misleading argumentations.

If Ehrman was the nasty sort I’m pretty sure he could have made the cross-examination more uncomfortable for White. I’m surprised the evangelical community sent White into the ring with Ehrman – you would expect them to have their best men tackle Ehrman. Is White really one of their best?

The problem for White is his faith conviction - he believes the NT is inspired by God and thus is not willing to accept the problems with it.

Ehrman finishes by saying “All Bibles misquote Jesus”. Ehrman demonstrated this – White offered nothing to counter Ehrman.


James White's pride leads to gross exaggeration:

James White's friend crushed by Bart Ehrman:

Miracles performed by Prophet Muhammad (p):http://thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/did-prophet-muhammad-p-perform-miracles.html

Jesus taught people to do the Will of God (according to Mark 3:35) in order to become his brothers, mothers or sisters. A Muslim means one who submits to the Will of God. Do you want to become a brother of Jesus? If yes, become a Muslim. Now is the time.

Learn about Islam:


Anonymous said...

That is called banging !

Ehrman was scholarly , to the point and excellent on the other hand White was ..... blah blah blah blah .

Not even a single genuine point brought by White , all bogus arguments and outright lies at some places .


Anonymous said...

I haven't heard this debate yet. But the debate(s) between Wallace and Ehrman are definitely worth a listen. Wallace does a great job.

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Anonymous said...

From Minoria:

I have doubts about Ehrman,and the article mentioned a debate between Rober Price and James White.

Ehrman says many things but you can't be sure if he is being accurate.


In the gospels there are many "Son of Man" sayings,they are independently attested,there are in:


2.The Lucan material(material not found in Mark or Matthew)

3.The Matthean material

4.In Q

5.In John


It is practically universal that those sayings by Jesus refer to he himself,Jesus....except for Ehrman.

He thinks that Jesus was talking about a different man.


That expression,in its prophetic sense,comes from Daniel 7:13-14,where a man is given power over the whole world.In Judaism it is believed it refers to the Messiah.


Jesus talked about the second coming in the Olivet Discourse and so since for Ehrman the Son of Man is NOT Jesus then Jesus said a mysterious figure,of which we know nothing would come in "this generation" on the clouds of heaven bringing judgement.
I mean,how strange is that for a scholar.His reasons for his oopinion are not convincing.That is why you have to verify his statements if you can.

Anonymous said...

Minora , it really amazes me how unaware evangelical Christians are.

It is now a scholarly consensus that 'son of man ' does not have any divine connotations and scholars are also of the view that when Jesus Christ used 'son of man' , he was probably referring to an angelic being or some times his ownself.


" One like a Son of Man – The word ‘man’ in Heb. and Aram. is generic in sense and means ‘mankind’. ’Son of Man’ is therefore a normal expression for a single human being. The first point is therefore the contrast between this figure and the bestial figures preceding. It is commonly held that here he is a human figure representing Israel as the beasts represented the other empires. But the fact that he comes with the clouds of heaven, i.e that he is a celestial being, unlike the other beings who arise from the earth or sea, is also important. The appearance or likeness of a man is in fact a normal expression for an angelic manifestation (Ezek. I). The ‘son of man’ or rather the One like a Man is then what we would call an angel, one of the holy ones or their representative. He has a relation to Israel, for he serves the God of Israel; but is more than a figure for Israel. In the interpretations following he merges back into the host of the holy ones. The further comprehension of his significance depends on the question why what we call ‘angels’ are so often described as ‘man’ and why on the other hand ‘man’ is sometimes brought so close to God, especially in his capacity as a ruler( Gen. 1-2; Ps. 8 ); and with this place of man as ruler hangs together the question of the relation of the ‘Man’ here to the Messiah. There is no specific reference here to the Messiah as such, but there is a certain overlapping and community of expression; the Messiah is the king, and the king is also ben’adham, ’man’, in PS. 80:17, cf. 146:3. Nor can we neglect the use of ‘son of man’ for Daniel himself (see on 8:17). But what we have here in essence is an eschatological appearance of an angelic being as man in heaven."

SOURCE : Barr, J. (1962). The Book of Daniel. In Matthew Black & H. H. Rowley (Eds.), Peake’s Commentary on the Bible. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. pp. 597-598

Though being a Christian himself like the New Jerome Biblical Commentary he too markedly leaves Jesus out. Rather he proposes that the subject in question is an angelic being(and not a divine one!). E. P. Sanders says about Matthew 26:63 which parallels Mark 16:62, “The word ‘but’ (Greek plen) is adversative: ‘But on the other hand’, and thus, according to Matthew, Jesus claimed to be expecting a heavenly figure, not his own return.”

source: Sanders, E.P. (1995). The Historical Figure of Jesus. England: Penguin Books. pp. 247

Commenting on Mark’s version he says, “It is not possible to come to a firm conclusion about Jesus’ use of the phrase ‘Son of Man. He used it; sometimes he used if of himself; he expected the Son of Man to come from heaven; but it is not certain that he identified himself as that future Son of Man.”

SOURCE: Ibid. pp. 247-248


Anonymous said...

From Minoria:

Part 1

Hello Anon:

First of all I didn't say "Son of Man" has any divine connotations.As far as I know Jesus never used it in that sense.

And yes,I know Son of Man is also a common figure of speech meaning "man",a male human being.

1.But undeniable the man/"son of man" in Daniel 7:13-14 is going to become a world ruler of all the nations,not according to me but to the text itself.

2.In other passages that undeniably speak of the Messiah,like Zechariah 9:9-10, it says the same thing, a man will rule the entire earth.

"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River[b] to the ends of the earth."


1.So unless one wants to say there are TWO DIFFERENT MEN here,who will co-rule jointly,it is the same one,the Messiah.Jesus certainly knew the common usage of the expression "Son of Man" but it also the consensus that do to the criterion of dissimilarity of the historical method the person who invented the "Son of Man" sayings was Jesus himself.

2.The academic argument is NOT on whether the historical Jesus said those sayings but which are authentic ones and which are not.

Anonymous said...

From Minoria

Part 2

Here is the Daniel 7:13-14 text:

"“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."

Now if you want to say this is merely an angelic being who looks like a man but not a real man of flesh and blood who would one day rule the world then....we have a divine figure,a divinity.

And is not the Christian belief that the Messiah was also divine?

Anonymous said...

From Minoria

Part 3

The reason why according to the criterion of dissimilarity of the historical method the Son of Man sayings are considered to be from Jesus is....because the church NEVER used it as a title for Jesus,he is never called Son of Man,he is called Son of God,Christ/Messiah,God,but never Son of Man.It is a peculiarity of the 4 gospels.


You cited:

"Though being a Christian himself like the New Jerome Biblical Commentary he too markedly leaves Jesus out. Rather he proposes that the subject in question is an angelic being(and not a divine one!).

E. P. Sanders says about Matthew 26:63 which parallels Mark 16:62, “The word ‘but’ (Greek plen) is adversative: ‘But on the other hand’, and thus, according to Matthew, Jesus claimed to be expecting a heavenly figure, not his own return.”

source: Sanders, E.P. (1995). The Historical Figure of Jesus. England: Penguin Books. pp. 247"

I find it hard how being angelic is not also being divine/celestial/heavenly/supernatural/more than a man.

The Matthew passage is:

Matthew 25:31-33(here the Son of Man will judge all the nations)

"“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[a] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left."

So then for you(maybe) the historical Jesus actually said(and the universal consensus is that the historical Jesus the Son of Man(the Messiah/or another,a celestial being) would come back in "this generation":

1.That a divine being/son of man would judge the world.

2.It would be in a generation.

So a Muslim would have to reject the Koran since here Jesus is guilty 2 times of being a false prophet.

Anonymous said...

From Minoria:

When you think about it,then the argument that

1.Sometimes Jesus spoke of the Son of Man as himself

2.And at other times of a heavenly/celestial Son of Man(which they would have us believe would be a different person from Jesus)

makes sense if,as I have argued in other posts,the historical Jesus actually did claim divinity.He was also saying the Messiah was a divine being.

Anonymous said...

From Minoria:

Hello Anon:

I am glad you brought up the subject of a heavenly being/Son of Man at the End Times.That would be Sander's view,Jesus was talking about a celestial being.


1.Zechariah,chapters 12,13 and 14(the last chapter) talk about a great army attacking Jerusalem.

2.Then Zechariah 12:10 says:

"“And I(Note:I,God) will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me(Note:on me,God), on him whom they have pierced(Note:God was pierced)."

This passage has been found in Qmran,the Essene place,and so it wasn't invented by us.

The rabbis see it as metaphorical,not as a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus,God was hurt/pierced by the sins of the Jews.


Then in Zechariah 14:3-4 says:

"Then Yahweh will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle.

4 On that day his FEET(Note:Yahweh's) will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south."

Again,the rabbis see it as metaphorical,but we both agree at least it is talking about God.


Because of Zechariah 14:8-9

"On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.

"Yahweh will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name."

Zechariah 14:16

"Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. 17 If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. "


If you accept that Sanders is right,that the Son of Man to return,as understand by Jesus,would be celestial,then:

Son of Man=God/Yahweh