Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Muslim mendacity


I think he should ask Metzger for “evidence” who, agreeing with Ehrman, writes:

“While no one would claim that theological controversies caused the majority of our hundreds of thousands of textual variants, they clearly engendered several hundred. Nor are these variant readings, taken as a whole, of little consequence. On the contrary, many prove to be critical for questions relating to the New Testament exegesis and theology.52”

[Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 2005, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, p. 284]


I’ve already discussed Metzger’s own views, as well as his professional relationship with Ehrman. Now I’ll make a few more points:

1.Was this section written by Metzger? Or was it written by Ehrman?

The section begins on p280, under the heading of “The Use of Textual Data for the Social History of Early Christianity.”

The heading is footnoted as follows:

“Much of this discussion is drawn from Bart D. Ehrman, ‘The Text as Window: Manuscripts and the Social History of Early Christianity, in The New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, ed. By Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids, MI, 1995), pp.361-79; idem, “the Text of the Gospels at the End of the Second Century,” in Codes Bezae: Studies from the Lundel Colloquium, June 1994, ed. By Christian-Bernard Amphoux and David C. Parker (Leiden, 1996), pp.95-122,” n17.

On the next page we have the following:

“See, e.g., Bart D. Ehrman, “Heracleon, Origen, and the Text of the Fourth Gospel,” Vigilae Christianae, xlvii (1993), pp.105-18,” 280, n.19.

“See Bart D. Ehrman, “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Treatment (New York, 1993), pp28, 44,n112,” 281, n.20.

On the next page, under the subheading of “Doctrinal Disputes of Early Christianity,” we have:

“For additional bibliography, see the discussion in Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p33, n16,” 282, n.23.

On the next page we have:

“For an assessment, see Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p.43, n.100,” 283, n.26.

On the next page we have:

“Bart D. Ehrman and Mark. A Plunkett, ‘The Angel and the Agony: The Textual Problem of Luke 22:43-44,’ Catholic Biblical Quarterly, xlv (1983), pp.401-16,” 284, n.31.

On the next page we have:

“See Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp276-7,” 285, n.32.

“For further discussion of these variants and reflections on their uneven distribution among the surviving witnesses, see Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp54-9,” 285, n.33.

On the next page we have:

“For further discussion, see Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp62-7,” 286, n.34.

“For further discussion, see Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp-78-82,” 286, n.35.

“For further discussion, see Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp187-94,” 286, n.36.

That completes the section from which Rambo lifted his isolated quote.

Rambo’s deceptive use of evidence nicely illustrates the Islamic tradition of dissimulation:

2.For more evidence that the collaboration between Metzger and Ehrman does not imply a blanket endorsement of everything Ehrman believes, consider the following:

In this same chapter (8), we read:

“For the role of magic in the life of Jesus, see especially the provocative studies of Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician (San Francisco, 1978) and, more extensively, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge, MA, 1973),” 296, n.62.

But in his memoirs, Metzger has a section (128-32) on Morton Smith, in which he makes some of the following observations:

“During the months following his return to the US, Smith circulated copies of his transcription of the Greek text of Clement’s letter to a number of his colleagues, from whom he invited comments. I could never make up my mind whether the text was a forgery—ancient or modern. Several palaeographers to whom Smith had made photographs of the text available dated the handwriting between the late 17C and early 19C. It is striking that the text contains none of the errors typical in MS transmission,” Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (Hendricksen 1997), 129.

“Smith’s determination to see the secret gospel as primitive, and as telling him something he wished to know about Jesus, is extraordinary. More than once he indulges in conjectural emendation of the text of the secret gospel or the canonical Gospels in order to neutralize or to remove something that would interfere with his reconstruction,” ibid. 130.

Those who thought that the letter was not by Clement included A. D. Nock, Munck, Völker, Kümmel, Murgia, Musurillo, and Quesnell,” ibid. 130.

“The most serious challenged to Smith was Quintin Quesnell’s series of queries in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly that concluded with the simple colloquy: ‘Is there a reasonable possibility of forgery? The answer, working only with the evidence that Smith presents, seems to be clearly, yes’,” ibid. 130.

Although Quesnell never said directly that he thought it was Smith who had forged the Clement fragment, Jacob Neusner, a former student of Smith’s and editor of an earlier Festschrift honoring Smith, has had no such reluctance,” ibid. 130.
A few years later Eric Osborn published a comprehensive review of recent research on Clement, in which he concludes that the letter is a pious forgery by someone who successfully imitated Clement’s style but misunderstood Clement’s idea concerning secret tradition,” ibid. 131.

Still more recently, a. H. Criddle, making use of statistical analysis, has argued that “the letter proper…should be regarded as a deliberate imitation of Clement’s style,” ibid. 131.

“Other challenges to the authenticity of the secret gospel include discussions by J. A. Fitzmyer in ‘How to Exploit a Secret Gospel’,” ibid. 131, n.10.

“Murgia argues (pp. 35-40) that the letter is intended to prove a bogus seal of authenticity for the secret gospel, and that the absence of major textual errors implies that the MS edited by Smith is probably an original composition rather than the product of repeated copying,” ibid. 132, n.10.

“In view of such desiderata, as yet unfulfilled, as well as the implications of the statistical analyses made by Best and by Criddle, it is not surprising that legitimate doubts continue to persist concerning the authenticity of the document edited by Smith,” ibid. 132.

It’s clear from this and other evidence I’ve adduced elsewhere that Rambo’s technique of attributing to Metzger or Metzger’s approbation everything of Ehrman’s is a fallacious inference.

Incidentally, Morton Smith’s contentions also came in for scathing criticism from F. F. Bruce, Robert Gundry, and Edwin Yamauchi.

For the latest critique, cf.

Regarding the substance of the quote, a few more observations are in order:

3.How would Ehrman be in a position to identify spurious scribal interpolations?

He could only do this if it’s possible to distinguish interpolations from the Urtext.

So Ehrman’s very contention presupposes that it is possible to recover the Urtext. Otherwise, he would be in no position to isolate and identify spurious interpolations.

4.It’s hardly surprising that out of thousands of MSS you might have hundreds of variants of the kind he has flagged, although other textual critics like Gordon Fee and Moisés Silva believe that Ehrman has overstated the actual state of the evidence.

Cf. G. Fee, Critical Review of Books in Religion 8 (1995), 203-6; M. Silva, WTJ 57/1 (1995), 262-264.

5.Let us also remember that variants of this type are not randomly distributed throughout the MS record. Even Ehrman has to admit that his data comes from later readings unattested in the ante-Nicene sources.

So one would have to take into account the date and text-type of a MSS in which such a variant occurs.


  1. Several years ago I managed, through the powers of caffeine and the use of clothespins on my eyelids, to stay awake through the previous edition of Metzger's "Text of the NT." (the 3rd edition). At that time I commended it to everyone to immunize themselves against spurious criticism of the NT text.

    Specifically, I recommended it to more than a few Muslims as well.

    It is a pity to see that Ehrman co-wrote the current edition.

    If people can still get the 3rd edition, they should. I haven't read it, but perhaps Aland's "Text of the NT..." is acceptable, too.

  2. It is a shame Metzger was unable to find a like minded soul to take over the reins regarding his fine book. Now this work, and its potency in defense against scriptural attack, is tainted by the pen of a false brother.