Monday, September 25, 2006

Ehrman interview

There is a short but surprisingly full interview of textual critic Bart Ehrman over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog. Ehrman has made quite a name for himself by becoming a vital scholarly figure within the academy but also a popular write introducing the "recondite" practice of text criticism to the masses. Who would have known that the collation of manuscripts and the various rules of textual criticism could be packaged for a popular audience?

I have been following this particular blog for a few weeks and it is no stretch to say that the authors' of the blog are more conservative than Ehrman is. Thus, some of the questions posed include a not so implicit critique of Ehrman's work; in a show of professional grace, Ehrman handles these with humor and respect. His responses invite further conversation rather than polemical ripostes.

Here's the rub with the field of textual criticism; we have an overwhelming number of Greek manuscripts of the NT. No two are exactly alike so that there are literally thousands of differences among these texts. An overwhelming majority of these differences are inconsequential, but there are a handful of significant text critical problems: the longer ending of Mark, the pericope of the woman accused of adultery in John, the trinitarian formula in 1 John, etc. These phenomena cannot help but impinge upon our theology of scripture. What can we confess to be scriptural attributes in light of this situation? In what sense are these manuscripts "the word of God?"

In other words, does it matter that our scriptures are not securely bound between two leather covers but are scattered on fragmentary pieces of papyrus?