Who is Bart Ehrman?
Bart Ehrman is an intellectual with the flair of clarifying complicated wordy issues. He wrote many best-selling books on textual criticism and biblical text. However, Ehrman often exaggerates his case and misleads readers. He makes ostentatious claim and tries to convince readers about certain truths church leaders refuted.
The attacks of Bart Ehrman on the New Testament’s dependability benefited Muslims so they can destroy the Bible’s credibility.
In many Youtube videos, Ehrman assails the reliability of the New Testament that we will try to answer.
Ehrman Says Most of the Apostles Were Illiterate
Ehrman argued how the Apostle Peter can write two letters when he was only a fisherman. Ehrman even quoted Acts 4:13 to prove Apostle Peter was illiterate. Apostle Peter and Apostle John were not educated. Leaders of the Sanhedrin would have not known these disciples were illiterate if they did not ask Peter and John to read or write something during their hearing.
Even if Peter and John were uneducated, they could have not been prevented them from using scribes for documentation. During the 1st century AD, scribes were contracted by rich, poor, and middle-class citizens frequently. If Apostle Peter and Apostle John used scribes, does that mean they were not authors of the books accredited to them?
Why were most of the manuscripts written in the Greek language when the native language of Jesus was Aramaic? Who were the first-century Palestinians experts in Greek?
Questioning the reliability of Greek as the language of the NT shows great lack of knowledge. Philo Judaeus in Alexandria, Egypt, as well as Josephus, wrote elegant Greek. Also, more importantly, the LXX was translated into Greek as early as the early third century BCE (ca. 280 BCE). 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.
Here is what we can read in the introduction of The New Complete Works of Josephus introducing Josephus as one of the first-century Jews. “He was the mortal foe of a future emperor—who later brought him into family! Schooled in Aramaic, he wrote a massive history in Greek for a roman audience.”
Ehrman said: How does it help us to say the Bible is the real word of God if we do not have the words God inerrantly inspired, but words copied by scribes?
Bart Ehrman said New Testament manuscripts are full of mistakes. He also said we do not have original autographs. His argument is based on manuscript evidence that passages of scripture were not in the original text. He points out flawed and fallacious manuscripts that give him assurance of what was and was not.
The question is very clear, If we do not have original text, how does he know what was in the original text?
Ehrman asks: How are we sure that the manuscripts are reliable? We do not have autographs but numerous copies?
Aside from more than 5,800 Greek manuscripts, we have over 19,000 manuscripts of early translations of languages including Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian, Ethopic, Arabic, Nestorian, Gothic, and Slavonic. At present, there are nearly 25,000 manuscripts in the New Testament.
According to Ehrman, this is not a guarantee! The reliability of New Testament manuscripts are not based on numbers alone since these are just many copies of copies!
What can we say about the logic of Ehrman?
Declarations made by the early Church Fathers corroborate dates, locations and text-types used in New Testament manuscripts. These works provided quotes of the Scriptures. No one can reconstruct the whole New Testament based on over 36,200 Scripture quotations of the Fathers except for several dozen verses!
The Fathers compared text of early codices openly by quoting them. Moreover, they prefaced quotations of Scripture with remarks like “my codex here says.” This led to the text of some earliest codices of the New Testament. All 27 books of the New Testament are adopted and confirmed by writings of the early fathers.
Here is the chart from page 125 of the popular handbook of Archaeology and Bible.
Erhman mentions John 1:18 as an example of an anti-adoptionist change, wherein the later “unique God” was adopted for the original “unique son”(“one and only Son”).
Ehrman said the Alexandrian witnesses almost absolutely have “unique God,” found in majority of the other manuscripts. This is probably true. Erhman may be correct although “unique God” is found in P66, P77, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticacanus (03B), the original hand of codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (04 C). There are some church fathers (e.g, Clement and Origen although there are other readings as well), and the Coptic and Syriac Versions. It is also possible the scribe confused Nomina Sacrum ΥΣ (“son”), used earlier, for ΘΣ (“God”). Yet, even if Ehrman accounted for change, the deviation should not cause immense theological concern. The reading “unique son” is found in the Byzantine tradition including Tischendorf’s eight editions. Westcott and Hort read “unique God.” Texts seem to have that since then.