Textual Criticism

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Goodcheer68, Jun 15, 2013.

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  1. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Freshman

    I have an atheist co-worker who is somewhat versed in textual criticism and I wanted to get a better grasp of the subject than I have. First off, are there any modern secular scholars that back any of the authorships of the NT books besides those written by Paul. It always seems they back Paul only to pit him against Christ. If there are could you give me some names that I may do some research on their writings. The reason I ask is that if I can bring up a few secular scholars I might be able to get his attention at least enough to get him to listen a little more. The conversation is really cordial, but right now he just is throwing out question after question without really waiting for an answer before he throws out the next question. I have brought that to his attention and so far have done fairly well engaging him based on his statement that he annihilates most Christians or at least causes them to give up pretty quickly. Much of the conversation on my part has been spent on correcting his understanding of Scripture - God, Christ, Man, Sin, Covenants- without getting to deal with much of the actual textual criticism, authorship, contradictions, etc. We have laughed a lot in our conversation which is good. He said that he will have more questions for me on Monday.
     
  2. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hi Patrick,

    It sounds like your friend has discovered Bart Ehrman, the apostate text critic who has such a spiel as your friend has.

    I would not look for help among secular scholars, for while they might agree with the traditional view of the authorship of the NT books, they would also posit arguments against the Faith itself, and you’d be out of the frying pan and into the fire!

    Here is some info to start with:

    Albert Barnes intro to Matthew: Matthew overview - Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible - Commentaries - StudyLight.org

    Barnes intro to Mark: Mark overview - Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible - Commentaries - StudyLight.org

    Barnes intro to Luke: Luke overview - Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible - Commentaries - StudyLight.org

    Barnes intro to John: John overview - Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible - Commentaries - StudyLight.org

    Barnes intro to Acts: Acts overview - Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible - Commentaries - StudyLight.org

    This is the main Barnes page: Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible - StudyLight.org

    Louis Berkhof on the NT: Introduction to the New Testament

    If you want to pursue this further, I would suggest, R. Laird Harris’, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures. It is an excellent resource. I have used it for years.

    For material against Bart Ehrman’s approach, here are two:

    The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenburger and Kruger

    Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, by Richard Bauckham

    If you study up a bit on this, and become assured in your own mind with regard to the history of the New Testament writings – and the abundant attestation to its authors from varying sources – you will likely be able to face down your opponent, as he is just parroting falsehoods learned from unbelievers, albeit learned unbelievers.
     
  3. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Given your description of your friend, I don't know that finding secular textual critics who agree with you is going to make a serious impact. If they disagree with his primary source, he's likely to dismiss them automatically along with Christian textual critics.

    Instead, I'd suggest identifying his source - is it Erhman, as proposed above? - and then focusing on presenting the work of Christian scholars who have put a lot of time and quality effort into dismantling those arguments. James White has debated Bart Ehrman, I believe, and done a lot of apologetic work on textual criticism, so you will probably find a lot of valuable material at the AOMin website.

    A targeted argument that dismantles his hobby horse will probably leave him without a platform. Giving an "alternative theory" from other secular scientists doesn't leave him with any obligation to move in your direction.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013
  4. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Freshman

    Dismantling his argument will come, but right now he dismisses anyone who is a Christian. So if I can get him to see that secular scholars are not all in agreement than I can begin to introduce Christian arguments. James White's debates are something I am planning to check out over the next week or so.


    Thanks for all the links Steve. Just to clarify, I am not looking for help from secular scholars I only want to show my co-worker that not all secular scholars agree. That way it will be easier to get him to stop and listen a little bit and not dismiss Christians outright simply for being Christians.
     
  5. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm afraid you'll run into the same problem if you simply introduce secular scholars that disagree. If he can dismiss one flavor of scholar that disagrees with him, he'll tend to dismiss another as well, even if they're in a closer "camp."

    Listen to how James White addresses the issues and confronts his opponents. It's been a while since i've listened to him on the subject, but I think you'll find that he doesn't need to take that approach even with opponents who are inclined to dismiss Christian scholars off hand. If I'm wrong on that, Dr. White an excellent debater, so by all means follow his example rather than mine. :)
     
  6. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Freshman

    I understand what you are saying and I do plan on watching the debates, but my only point in asking for secular names is that I want to show him that just because one is secular doesnt automatically make them more reliable. He seems to suggest that there are not any secular scholars that would have similar opinions to Christian scholars as far as authorship and so forth. I can't name any off hand, but would assume that if the scholar is being honest there would have to be some secular ones that have similar opinions.
     
  7. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    That's not textual criticism. Textual criticism simply tries to establish the original reading of a document. What you're talking about is usually called historical criticism or introduction. I'm not saying this to make you feel stupid, but so you'll be able to find the right sources.
     
  8. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Patrick,

    In terms of discussing these issues with your co-worker, whether or not you find secular text critics or historians who might agree with the traditional attributions of NT authorship, it seems you are conceding to him the superiority – or at least equality – of secular scholars in this matter of discerning NT authorship. If you have to do that so you “might be able to get his attention at least enough to get him to listen a little more” it seems you are compromising your solid position of evidences just to get a hearing from him, this one who boasts “he annihilates most Christians or at least causes them to give up pretty quickly”.

    Could it be that his cordiality and good humor in this “conversation” with you is but the high-spiritedness of the confident attacker and destroyer of the Christian faith? Be clear that he is an enemy of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a mocker of sin, judgment, and the costly atonement procured by the Lamb. By his arguments he seeks to annul the dictums of the word of God as regards his life and impending eternal death. This “sport” of his is no game to him – though he may laugh and smile (“one gets more flies with honey than with vinegar”) – but an earnest seeking to “annihilate” the faith God has gifted you with.

    I would not primarily seek to convert him to your views, but rather to adequately defend the Biblical truths, and your own faith in them. While the topics he brings up – these historical / textual matters (CharlieJ is right that your present contention with him regards historical criticism) – are pertinent issues, remember that your co-worker is seeking to fend off being accountable to God, and his desire to “annihilate” your faith in God’s word is how he fortifies himself in his sin, i.e., constructing a “high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:5).

    Here are some examples of current Christian scholarship vis-à-vis the methodological scepticism of Ehrman and the like:

    Dr. Richard Bauckham (10 minute Youtube clip), Jesus And The Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony

    Dr. Richard Bauckham (1 hour, 10 minute Youtube clip), The Gospels as Historical Biography


    Dr. Peter Williams (1 hour, 2 minute Vimeo clip), New Evidence the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts

    Dr. Peter Williams, Analysis of Bart Ehrman: Misquoting Jesus and Evangelical Textual Criticism

    When your co-worker sees that you are neither demolished nor ready to give up, but are able to support / substantiate your defense of the traditional attributions of NT authorship, perhaps he will cool his jets.

    Jesus often did not answer His opponents on their own terms – i.e., according to the premises of their arguments – but on His terms, which were spiritual, solid, and irrefutable. You will not be irrefutable as Jesus was, but you certainly may produce spiritual, historical, and solid evidences.
     
  9. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Freshman

    I appreciate your time in responding but I think I have been misunderstood. I completely try to steer the majority of my conversations towards the content of God's Word. I fully believe in Romans 1, that is why in my original post I stated that "Much of the conversation on my part has been spent on correcting his understanding of Scripture - God, Christ, Man, Sin, Covenants-" But at the same time he made a statement that only Christians believe such and such, and that no secular scholar agrees with Christians. I just wanted to point him to a few names that do. Its only one point of the conversation that I feel is important in dealing with this guy.
     
  10. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thanks for clarifying that, Patrick!
     
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