Analyzing Some of James White's Comments In His Ehrman Debate

 

 

On January 21st, 2009 Christian apologist and polemicist James White had a debate with the prominent New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman, who also happens to be one of the foremost New Testament textual critics in the world today. The topic of the debate was "Is the Text of the New Testament Reliable?" or, as per White's website, "Does the Bible Misquote Jesus?" In any case, the purpose of the debate was to discuss the textual reliability of the New Testament writings.

 

Although we have not yet seen the debate and cannot, naturally, comment upon the performance of the debaters, we are prompted, however, to respond to some comments made by James White, who recently wrote:

 

"I was especially interested in his tremendous fear to even talk about the Qur'an and Islam. I thought Dr. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies? The chair of that department, in fact? Yet he professed utter ignorance of Islam last night, once even accusing me of trying to "liken" him to a Muslim! He simply refused to comment on the Qur'an whatsoever, not even theoretically answering the question that if the Qur'an has textual variants, would this not mean that the Qur'an is misquoting Muhammad? His unwillingness to apply his own hyper-skepticism to anything other than Christianity betrays his deep bias and prejudice. He knew that to be consistent he would have to say the Qur'an misquotes Muhammad, but Dr. Ehrman is a good post-modernist liberal, and quite politically correct. He avoided that like the plague, though, obviously, he would have to say that very thing, if he was consistent."

 

First, why is the Quran being dragged into a discussion having ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with its textual transmission? What is the point? The topic of the debate is the New Testament and not the Quran.

 

For arguments sake, let us suppose that the Quran has textual variants. How on earth is that relevant in a discussion pertaining to the textual transmission and preservation of the New Testament? Why would White go out of his way and demand his opponent, who does not even happen to be a Muslim and who honestly professes his ignorance on Quranic and Islamic studies, to comment upon the Quran and Islam? That the Quran has textual variants has no bearing upon the topic of the debate and does nothing to 'refute' any argument presented by Ehrman against the textual reliability of the New Testament writings.

 

Therefore, it is completely out of order to drag in the Quran one way or the other in a debate on the textual preservation of the New Testament. Bringing in the Quran in a debate having nothing to do with it was even more bizarre considering the fact that White's opponent was an agnostic and not a Muslim!

 

Secondly, White's desperation is clear when he thoughtlessly attributes Ehrman's very reasonable refusal to comment upon the Quran to the latter's alleged 'tremendous fear'. It is as if in the world of James White there can be no legitimate reason, other than one being in 'tremendous fear', to decline discussing the Quran. He produces no argument and no evidence whatsoever to support the assertion that Ehrman refused to comment upon the Quran due to being in 'tremendous fear'. It does not take a genius to see through White's psychological game. He is employing a sorry little rhetorical tactic of utilising buzzwords, or scare words, such as 'tremendous fear', to garner the support of his like-minded evangelical fan-base and for the negative anti-Muslim connotation/picture it evokes in the minds of many non-Muslims. The buzzword or the loaded terminology of 'tremendous fear', with all its rhetorical power, is used to manipulate the readers' sympathies in order to influence opinion against Ehrman. The use of such overtly loaded terminology serves the purpose of merely swaying the emotions of the readers. Rather than present an argument, the overtones of the emotionally loaded words are meant to 'do all the work'.  Poor debaters often employ this discredited rhetorical ploy to compensate for their low argumentation skills.

 

We need to ask, why on earth is it 'confusing' or 'nonsensical' to conclude that Ehrman, quite rightly, did not comment upon the Quran because 1) the subject of the debate was the New Testament and not the Quran; 2) Ehrman is not a scholar/expert on Quranic studies? On what basis are these two possibilities to be dismissed a priori in favour of White's 'tremendous fear' hypothesis? What makes more sense, particularly in light of Ehrman's own reasoning as summarised by White, "he professed utter ignorance of Islam last night, once even accusing me of trying to "liken" him to a Muslim!"? Does it seem sensible to dismiss Ehrman's own stated reasoning for the one conjured up by White? This can only be done if White can prove to his readers that he has the ability to go inside Ehrman's mind and extract the latter's 'real' reasons for not commenting upon the Quran and Islam.

 

Third, White writes:

 

I thought Dr. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies? The chair of that department, in fact? Yet he professed utter ignorance of Islam last night, once even accusing me of trying to "liken" him to a Muslim! He simply refused to comment on the Qur'an whatsoever, not even theoretically answering the question

 

Is Ehrman supposed to be an expert on every religion existing on our good planet Earth because he happens to be 'a professor of religious studies' and 'the chair of that department'? Is this really what White wants us to believe? Do note that the above is his 'counter response' to Ehrman's refusal to comment upon Islam and the Quran.

 

Since White is seemingly quite confused, we should break it out to him that Ehrman is a professor of New Testament studies and one who happens to be the head of the religious studies department at the same time. Being the head of the religious studies department does not mean that Ehrman, or any other individual, is thus also an expert on all religions being taught in that department, let alone all religions on Earth. It is not a pre-requisite for the head of the religious studies department in a university to have expert knowledge about all religions. The New Testament, as Ehrman himself states, is his area of expertise; NOT ISLAM. Why can't White get this simple point?

 

We strongly suspect that White desperately required Ehrman to utter certain desired comments about Islam and the Quran so that he could later employ those words against Muslims who made use of Ehrman's scholarship, arguing along the lines of, 'but look, here is what Ehrman says about the Quran!' But, being a sober minded scholar, Ehrman did not comment upon the Quran since, as he admits, he is not an authority on Quranic and Islamic studies. This has, quite understandably, immensely upset White and made him frustrated. How dare Ehrman rob him of an opportunity of hitting back at those 'tremendously scary Muslims' who use Ehrman's writings and are bent on world conquest?

 

Being apparently unfamiliar with critical thinking, it did not occur to White that even if in the event he had succeeded in making Ehrman say what he wanted him to say regarding the Quran's textual integrity, it would simply not have meant that Muslims were then obliged to accept Ehrman's comments about the Quran. It could be that Ehrman is right about the New Testament, being an authority on it, but wrong about the Quran. Just because Ehrman has something to say about the New Testament, it does not follow that whatever he says about the Quran 'must' be accepted or automatically becomes 'right'. All assertions and arguments need to be critically examined on a case by case basis.

 

Another comment we take objection with is White's, 'to be consistent he would have to say the Qur'an misquotes Muhammad.,' Now suppose Ehrman had said precisely this. The question then is SO WHAT? How does this 'engage' or 'debunk' anything Ehrman has said about the text and manuscripts of the New Testament? This is NOT how scholarship works. Every document is to be studied on the basis of its own evidence, within its environment, and taking into account its own unique circumstances/data. So just because we may conclude, on the basis of evidence, that we do not have the 'original' text of the New Testament or that the Bible 'misquotes' Jesus, it does not follow that we are now 'required' to say the same about the Quran for the sake of being 'consistent'! It could also be that a critical investigation of the evidence and the data pertaining to the Quran would lead an objective investigator to conclude that, in contrast to the Bible, the Quranic text is preserved and, therefore, Muhammad (peace be upon him) is not 'misquoted' therein (Of course, for Muslims, since it is not said nor believed that Muhammad's (peace be upon him) words are present within the Quran to begin with, the notion of 'misquoting Muhammad' naturally does not even arise!). It could also be that a particular variant is shown to be blatantly secondary, one which is unique to a particular manuscript, say an unintentional scribal error, and one which did not enter nor alter the transmission of the Quranic text. These real possibilities exist, including the possibility of an investigator reaching White's own desired conclusion pertaining to the Quranic text. The point here is that a discussion on the Bible tells us nothing about any aspect of the Quran (and vice versa). Both need to be studied individually based on their surrounding evidence.

 

White's inconsistency can also be seen in his allegation that it was because of 'deep bias and prejudice' that Ehrman did not comment upon the Quran and Islam, as if White, an evangelical apologist and polemicist, is deeply unbiased and unprejudiced when he regularly attacks Islam, uses shoddy online polemical Christian writings to question the Quran's textual integrity, and when he engages in spreading stereotypical and generalized views of Muslims! On top of that, we are now to believe that an AGNOSTIC refused to comment upon the Quran due to 'deep bias and prejudice'! But more importantly, White is in denial when it comes to accepting Ehrman's own very reasonable stated reason for not commenting upon the Quran and Islam (see above) in a debate HAVING NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO with the Quran and Islam. In response to White's ad hominem attack, this is NOT about being 'a good post-modernist liberal', it is simply about being scholarly and commenting only upon the relevant subjects and subjects on which one has the authority/qualifications to speak, a simple concept alien to a rabid polemicist such as White.

 

Moving on, White also writes:

 

"One other item. Ehrman asked me to cite all 12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament. I knew where my list was in a print book, but forgot totally that I had the same book in my Libronix library! I could have pulled the list in 20 seconds had I remembered that. I have been kicking myself for that all morning once I realized how quickly I could have accessed the information. But, here's the data (I will be expanding this discussion a good bit in the future). The following manuscripts have been dated to the second century by credible papyrologists and paleographers: P4/P64/P67 (all one manuscript), P32 (which I mentioned), P46, P52, P66, P75, P77, P87, P90, P98, P104, P108, P109."

 

Ehrman was absolutely right in challenging White to mention the 12 papyri manuscripts 'dated' to 'within 100 years' of the writing of the 'New Testament'. White's excuse that he knew where the list was in a printed book and that he 'forgot totally I had the same book in my Libronix library!' is just a sad little excuse to say the least.  Why could he not simply name these 12 papyri manuscripts 'dated' to 'within 100 years' of the writing of the New Testament when challenged? How could it be that he simply found it astonishingly impossible to memorise their papyrus numbers? A'scholar who is supposed to have spent a good many years of his life studying the New Testament textual criticism is at the very least to be expected to have known the names of at least the most important earliest manuscripts!

 

The entire way White has framed the discussion is faulty, simplistic, and conveys a highly misleading impression of the state of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament.

 

First, there is a big difference between the assertion that there are 12 papyri manuscripts 'dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament' and the assertion that there are papyri manuscripts 'dated to the second century.' These two assertions are NOT one and the same. What if a manuscript is placed in the late second century and is still removed from the writing of the original by over 100 years? White does not take into account this real possibility (actually a fact as we shall see below).

 

What precisely does White mean when he says that there are 12 papyri manuscripts 'dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'? Does he mean:

 

·         that these 12 papyri manuscripts contain fully/partially all the twenty seven New Testament writings?

·         that there are 12 papyri manuscripts which date from within 100 years of the writing of the last New Testament writing?

 

Below we examine both of these possible meanings.

 

A)  These 12 papyri manuscripts contain fully/partially all the twenty seven New Testament writings?

 

If so, then we should understand that, as mentioned above, the 'New Testament' is not a single document; it is a collection of twenty seven writings composed by different individuals at different times (and places). To assert that that there are 12 papyri manuscripts 'dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament' does convey the misleading impression that for all the twenty seven writings of the New Testament there exist papyri manuscripts 'dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'.

 

The following are the earliest papyri manuscripts listed by E. J. Epp:

 

These forty-three oldest papyri, by century, are p52, p90 (2d); p32, p46, p64/67, p66 (ca. 200); p77 (2d/3d); p1, p4, p5, p9, p12, p15, p20, p22, p23, p27, p28. p29, p30, p39, p40, p45, p47, p48, p49, p53, p65, p69, p70, p75, p80, p87, p91, p95 (3d); and p13, p16, p18, p72, p78, p92 (3d/4th). 7 (Eldon Jay Epp, Chapter 1 The Papyrus Manuscripts of the New Testament, in, The Text of the New Testament In Contemporary Research: Essays On The Status Quaestionis, Bart D Ehrman & Michael W. Holmes (Editors), 1995, William B. Eedermans Publishing Company, p. 6)

 

Let us consider the dates of all the manuscripts mentioned by White:

 

·         P64/67 = c. 200

·         P4 = late second/early third century

·         P32 = c. 200

·         P46 = c. 200

·         P52 = second century

·         P66 = c. 200

·         P75 = third century

·         P77 = second/third century

·         P87 = third century

·         P90 = second century

·         P98 = second century (fragment, D. C. Parker, An Introduction To The New Testament Manuscripts And Their Texts, 2008, Cambridge University Press, p. 234)

·         P104 = second century [Philip Comfort places it to the 'early part' of the second century, "It could even be as early as ca. 100." (Philip W. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism, 2005, Broadman & Holman: Nashville, Tennessee, p. 163. Most scholars, however, place it in the late second century)]

·         P108 = third century

·         P109 = third century

 

We can do a simple exercise of considering the gap between all of the New Testament writings and their earliest manuscript. We will define 'c. 200' as being anywhere within 170-225 A.D and 'late second century' as 170 A.D. Not only can we not be entirely certain when a particular manuscript was written, another problem whilst working out the gap is that we do not know when precisely a number of New Testament documents were composed. Taking the lower and higher composition dates will either increase or decrease the gap between the original and its earliest manuscript. In most instances we will, therefore, be using the most widely accepted dates and in some instances we will take into account the latest possible composition dates.

 

1. The Gospels:

 

Mark - 70 A.D.

Earliest manuscript - early third century (p45)

Gap: well over 100 years

 

Matthew - 80 A.D.

Earliest manuscript - late second century (p104), c. 200 (p64, p67)

Gap: 90-145 years

 

Luke - 80 A.D.

Earliest manuscript - c. 200 (p4), and p. 75, "earliest known copy of the Gospel according to Luke." - (Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Fourth Edition, 2005, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 58. They also refer to V. Martin and R. Kasser's dating of "between A.D. 175 and 225.")

Gap: 90-145 years

 

John - 90 A.D.

Earliest manuscript: 125-150 A.D (p52).

Gap: within 100 years after John's composition.

 

2. Acts - 80 A.D.

Earliest manuscript - 'dated about 300'. (p38) - (D. C. Parker, An Introduction To The New Testament Manuscripts And Their Texts, 2008, Cambridge University Press, p. 288.)

Gap: over 100 years.

 

3. Pauline Epistles (parts of Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians)

 

Date: written in the 40's and early 50's.

Earliest manuscript: 'dated to about 200' (p46) - (D. C. Parker, An Introduction To The New Testament Manuscripts And Their Texts, 2008, Cambridge University Press, p. 252.)

Gap: easily 100+ years

 

Philemon - 55 A.D.

Earliest manuscript: third century (p87) - (D. C. Parker, An Introduction To The New Testament Manuscripts And Their Texts, 2008, Cambridge University Press, p. 258.)

Gap: over 100 years

 

II Thessalonians - if by Paul = 51-52 A.D.; if pseudonymous = late first century.

Earliest manuscript: third/fourth century (p92)  - (D. C. Parker, An Introduction To The New Testament Manuscripts And Their Texts, 2008, Cambridge University Press, p. 258.)

Gap: over 100 years even if pseudonymous.

 

I Timothy - late first century

Earliest manuscript: fourth century (Codex Sinaiticus)

Gap: over 100+ years (the gap would be more if Pauline authorship is accepted and the letter placed in the 60's).

 

II Timothy - late first century

Earliest manuscript: fourth century (Codex Sinaiticus)

Gap: over 100+ years (the gap would be more if Pauline authorship is accepted and the letter placed in the 60's).

 

Titus - late first century

Earliest manuscript: c. 200 (p32)

Gap: 80-110 years (gap would be 100+ years if Pauline authorship is accepted and Titus placed in the 60's).

 

4. Catholic Epistles

 

Jude, 1 Peter, II Peter - late first century (some, who accept traditional authorship claims, would place these in the 60's).

Earliest manuscript: third/fourth century (p72).

Gap: 100+ years (whether pseudonymous or not).

 

James - late first century (if authored by James, then sometime in the 60's).

Earliest manuscript: third century (p23, p20)

Gap: 100+ years.

 

1 John - late first century

Earliest manuscript: third century (p9)

Gap: over 100 years

 

2 John - late first century

Earliest manuscript: third/fourth century (0232).

Gap: over 100+ years.

 

[Note: details on 1 and 2 John extracted from, D. C. Parker, An Introduction To The New Testament Manuscripts And Their Texts, 2008, Cambridge University Press, p. 284.]

3 John - late first century

Earliest manuscript: fourth century (Codex Sinaiticus)

Gap: over 100+ years.

 

Hebrews - in the 60's or 80's.

Earliest manuscript: c. 200 (p46)

Gap: roughly 110 - 165 years (if in 60's); roughly 80 - 135 years (if the composition date is taken to be 90 A.D.).

 

Revelation - 96 A.D.

Earliest manuscript: late second/early third century (p98)

Gap: could be from within 100 years.

 

[See Table VI here for additional references and further investigation.]

 

Conclusion:

 

With six exceptions (Matthew, Luke, John, Titus, Hebrews, and Revelation), the gap between the date of composition and the earliest manuscript is over 100 years for all New Testament writings.

 

Writings whose earliest manuscript appears over 100 years after the original:

 

Mark

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

  Colossians

  1 Thessalonians

Acts

  Philemon

II Thessalonians

1 Timothy

II Timothy

  Jude

  I Peter

II Peter

I John

II John

III John

 

Writings whose earliest manuscript cannot definitely be placed within 100 years after their writing (either due to uncertainty about the date of composition and/or date of the manuscript):

 

 Matthew

Luke

Hebrews

Revelation

Titus

 

Writings whose earliest manuscript can definitely be placed within 100 years after its composition with no doubts whatsoever:

 

1.      Gospel of John.

 

Briefly, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Philemon, James, 2 Thessalonians, Acts and Mark appear for the first time in fragments or completely (3 John, 1 and 2 Timothy) in third and fourth century witnesses. This falsifies White's boast that there are 'papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'. The time gap for the Pauline writings is considerable. Paul wrote sometime in the 40's and 50's and the earliest fragmentary witnesses of his letters appear from c. 200, thereby giving us easily 100+ years gap between the writing of Paul's epistles and their earliest extant manuscript. Matthew and Luke, on the other hand, appear for the first time in fragments in c. 200. The earliest fragment of Revelation is p98, late second (or early third) century, containing only part of chapter 1 verses 13-20. The earliest fragment of Hebrew is p46, c. 200. Another early fragment of Hebrew is p12, dated late third century, containing Hebrews 1:1.

 

White's assertion definitely holds true only for the gospel of John, the tiny fragment p52 being its earliest witness, as well as the other second century fragment p90. The gap could be brought down to within hundred years in the case of Matthew, Luke and Hebrews - provided we consider the latest composition dates and grant the earliest possible dates to their respective manuscripts. The gap between the earliest manuscript and the original document may be more realistically brought down to within hundred years when it comes to Revelation and Titus. But for the vast majority of the New Testament writings, the manuscript evidence begins to surface sometime after 100 years of their writing.

 

To assert that there are '12 papyri manuscripts dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament' can be highly misleading as it gives the impression as if there are manuscripts for all the separate New Testament writings dated to within hundred years of their composition. White should have clarified that these 12 papyri manuscripts do not contain the entire New Testament and, moreover, the manuscripts of most New Testament writings are separated from their originals by over 100 years.

 

From the first Christian century the manuscript evidence is completely lacking. From the first half of the second century we have small fragments from the gospel of John. Substantial manuscript evidence begins to surface only from c. 200 onwards and even then a number of New Testament writings are completely absent in these c. 200 witnesses.

 

Based on the above brief discussion, it comes as no surprise that Ehrman, an informed textual critic, challenged White "to cite all 12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament."

 

B) There are 12 papyri manuscripts which date from within 100 years of the writing of the last New Testament writing

 

Did White mean to suggest that there are 12 papyri manuscripts which date from within 100 years of the writing of the last New Testament writing? If so, then this is a strange line of reasoning indeed. To begin with, is Revelation to be deemed the 'last' writing for appearing chronologically at the very end of the New Testament? Or is II Peter to be deemed as the last writing of the New Testament for being regarded by the consensus of New Testament scholars to be the latest writing to be composed within the canon (thought to be written by most in the late first, with many even suggesting it could have been composed up to the first three decades of the second century)?

If Revelation was composed, at the latest, by A.D. 96, then its earliest witness appears sometime in the late second century (p98.). This fragment, containing only part of Chapter 1 verses 13-20, does indeed fall within a 100 year period after the writing of Revelation. But besides lacking much of Revelation, also absent within it are all the remainder of the New Testament writings. And, moreover, it is separated by Mark and the Pauline epistles by over 100 years. Therefore, it still remains that White conveys a very misleading impression when he proudly boasts that there are '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament.'

If White meant II Peter, the problem still remains. The earliest witness of II Peter is p72, from the late third or early fourth century. Whether we consider II Peter's latest possible date (say, around 135 A.D) or the earliest possible date (around 65 A.D), it remains that we have easily a 100+ year gap between the earliest witness and the date of II Peter's composition (not to mention the gap between p72 and all remaining New Testament writings).

So then, it is just a bizarre type of argument (and factually false when it comes to II Peter and p72), to say the least, if White meant to say that there are 12 papyri manuscripts which date from within 100 years of the writing of the last New Testament writing.

White may dismiss the above and claim that what he actually meant to say was simply that other manuscripts of the New Testament exist from within 100 years of the writing of the last New Testament document (be it Revelation or II Peter). If so, this would be a meaningless argument. So what if p52, the earliest fragment of the gospel of John, falls within 100 years after the composition of both Revelation and/or II Peter, the texts of which it completely lacks? So what if, for example, p66, p32 or any other papyri placed around c. 200 or close to the third century, is separated by less than a 100 year gap from the writing of Revelation and II Peter when these papyri do not even contain the texts of these documents?!

 

What matters is not the gap between a document and the earliest manuscript of another document, but the gap between a document and only its earliest witness.

 

In conclusion, White's weak argumentation is clearly to be seen when he drags the Quran in a discussion on the New Testament and the misleading impression he conveys regarding the '12 papyri manuscripts' of the New Testament.

 

 

 

 

Addendum

 

Not one for maintaining the pretence of being a scholar for too long, White issued the following 'response' to the above in an email:

 

I must say, that was one of your worst efforts.  Truly!  Very poor.  But, keep trying!  :-)

 

Thank you, James.

 

White's subsequent 'response' fared no better which he issued in a recent 'Dividing Line' address, defending his '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament' argument [please inform us about any possible mistakes in this transcription]:

 

...the 12 manuscripts, actually 13 ... but since this has come up and I noticed that ah some of the are Muslims jumping up and down and and having [unintelligible] which I find so odd, I got to admit, it's been encouraging to me over the past couple of months to be having some conversation with some Muslims where there is respect and there is not the wide-eyed, ahum, jump on everything no matter how inconsistent it is, grab anything type thing, it's really nice and I really hope [clears throat] ... [drifts off the topic of other subjects] ... the manuscripts that we made reference to and that I did not have the list available to ... [repeats the odd excuse for not being able to provide Ehrman with the list of these twelve manuscripts, thereafter goes off the topic again] ... so I posted them on the website and a number of people on the blog, a number of people sent them to Ehrman, AH! some of those are third century! Couple of things, first of all, when we talk about within a 100 years of the completion of the New Testament, we're basically talking about the second century, and obviously, if you're going to say 'well, but Galatians was written around 50's so a 100 years has to be 150 and there's not 12 within the range of 150' duh! ahuum, ... in fact most of his questions really had nothing to do with actually establishing this position. Ah, everybody knows that when you look at the dating of manuscripts that you are given a range and that different scholars will have a different range so often you take what is in essence a 50 year range. And so ah...when Dan Wallace ... mentioned 12 manuscripts within a century of the completion of the New Testament, Bart Ehrman never said a word. He didn't object, he didn't even noted, it was like he wasn't even listening, or he didn't care, or it was a given, if he had challenged that I would have put all the manuscripts on the screen ... my entire presentation anticipated his own and so I provide anything where there is, where I thought there was any type of controversy or argumentation or anything like that, I documented it and gave you the references. But didn't think there was going to be an issue. Anyway, I put them up on the blog ...    

 

There are a couple of points to be made here:

 

1. We do not know how White came to conclude that Muslims were 'jumping up and down' while offering a response to his '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament' claim. Why would anyone 'jump up and down' whilst responding to White's faulty claim? Perhaps White was 'jumping up and down' while uttering the above words and when writing his papers? Who knows? On a serious note, White again employs buzzwords as a substitute for an argument. By falsely claiming that we were 'jumping up and down' he wishes people not to take our arguments seriously and aims to caste aside the issue as being too trivial.

 

2. What is the 'there is not the wide-eyed, ahum, jump on everything no matter how inconsistent it is, grab anything type thing' comment supposed to mean? What is the 'inconsistency'? We considered all the possible meanings of White's boastful comment and then attempted to demonstrate their problematic nature via arguments. White's response to this? Nothing. He just complains that we are engaging in a 'grab anything type thing' type of activity.

 

3. If Paul wrote in the early 50's and the earliest manuscript of his letters emerges over 100 years later, then what sense does it make to state there are '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'? No effort is made to explain why this way of looking at it is 'wrong' or 'nonsensical'.

 

4. White clarifies his position when he says, 'within a 100 years of the completion of the New Testament'. We already dealt with this possible meaning in our paper but White still does nothing to engage with it. What is the point in considering the 'within 100 year' time gap between a document and the manuscript of another document? It only makes sense to consider the time gap between a document and ITS earliest manuscript. Only the latter comparison makes sense whereas the former is meaningless even if the gap is 1 year or a few days.

 

The following makes no sense: p52 = first part of the second century; Revelation = late first century; therefore = less than a 100 year gap between p52 and Revelation. This is absolutely right. But it is meaningless to consider such a gap since p52 is a fragment of JOHN'S GOSPEL AND CONTAINS NOTHING FROM REVELATION. It makes perfect sense to talk about the time gap between the composition of John's gospel and p52 but it is NONSENSICAL to talk about the gap between Revelation's composition and p52!   The '12 manuscripts' do not contain any part from, for example, II Peter. II Peter's earliest manuscript appears in the late third or early fourth century (p72). Whether we place II Peter in the late or early first century, it remains that there is a gap of over hundred years between II Peter and its earliest manuscript. These basic facts are overlooked in the assertion of there being: '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'.

 

Not the slightest effort is made by White to deal with the above.

 

5. According to White, Ehrman didn't raise an objection when Wallace made the claim of there being '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'. According to White, 'when Dan Wallace ... mentioned 12 manuscripts within a century of the completion of the New Testament, Bart Ehrman never said a word. He didn't object, he didn't even noted, it was like he wasn't even listening, or he didn't care, or it was a given, if he had challenged that I would have put all the manuscripts on the screen ... my entire presentation anticipated his own'.

 

i) First, White commits the blunder of relying upon an argument from silence. Because Ehrman was silent when Wallace made this claim, White conveniently presumed that Ehrman agreed with the claim. But silence by itself does not mean that Ehrman agreed with Wallace. Unlike the debate with White, Ehrman did not have the opportunity to cross examine Wallace due to the different debate format. Ehrman may have questioned Wallace had there been a cross examination, who knows? It is absurd to expect Ehrman (and Wallace) to have responded to all the claims made by his opponent. But in the latter debate, the format gave Ehrman the opportunity to deal with many more issues, including the '12 papyri manuscripts' saga, due to the 20 minutes cross examination opportunity. Therefore, Ehrman's silence by itself should not be taken as his ?approval' for an argument or assertion made by Wallace. 

 

ii) Ehrman made it very clear in his rebuttal that he did not plan to tackle all of Wallace's claims. How could White overlook this?

 

ii) Wallace DID NOT quite say that there are '12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament'. In his opening statement Wallace said:

 

We have today as many as a dozen manuscripts from the second century... - Time slice: 17:35 - 17:40.

 

He then said:

 

That's a total of 124 manuscripts within 300 years of the composition of the New Testament. - Time slice: 17:43 - 17:52

 

There is absolutely no objection to the above statements. No one is denying the existence of manuscripts from the second century. What we object to is the way White reproduces the above:

 

[there are] . 12 papyri manuscripts that can be dated to within 100 years of the writing of the New Testament

 

The above hides the fact that for most New Testament writings the gap between the original and the earliest manuscript is over 100 years. Moreover, that it is pointless to consider the gap between a document and the manuscript of another document. This is commonsense.

 

At most, Wallace proceeds to claim that 'over 40 percent of all the verses in the New Testament are already found in the manuscripts within a century of the completion of the New Testament.' - Time slice: 19:29 - 19:38

 

The '40 percent' could be from within 100 years from the 'last' New Testament writing (be it Revelation or II Peter), or from within 100 years of the 'completion' of the New Testament, but still be separated (most of it at least) from their own originals by over 100 years.  Thus the problem remains the same: Wallace's assertion cleverly masks the fact that the gap between most New Testament writings and their earliest manuscripts is over 100 years.

 

Wallace's assertion would only hold water if these 'over 40 percent' of the New Testament verses belong to manuscripts separated by their own originals by less than 100 years.

 

At most, manuscripts of two different documents may only be compared in order to study scribal copying practises and to compare the way two related documents were transmitted.

 

6. According to White: 'everybody knows that when you look at the dating of manuscripts that you are given a range and that different scholars will have a different range so often you take what is in essence a 50 year range.' Yes, 'everybody' knows this just as everybody also knows that we do not just take the earliest 'possible' date for a manuscript in order to narrow down the gap between a document and its earliest manuscript to 'within 100 years'. It is a wise and established historical practice to consider later, though reasonably later, dates. P46 is placed by almost all scholars to the 'late second century' or 'about c. 200' period (and even to the third century, for example: Leon Vaganay, Christian-Bernard Amphoux, An Introduction to New Testament textual criticism, Second Edition Revised & Updated, 1991, Cambridge University Press, p. 11; Helmut Koester, An Introduction To The New Testament: History And Literature Of Early Christianity, Vol. 2, 1987, Walter de Gruyter & Co., p. 22). While it could have been written at precisely 150 A.D., thereby reducing the gap between the Pauline epistles (parts of Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians) and p46 to exactly 100 years, or just around it, or barely within it, it is much safer and more reasonable to place p46 in the later period, which thereby gives us a gap of over 100 years. But even putting aside p46, what are we to do regarding the over 100 years gap between p72 and I/II Peter/Jude, between Mark and p45, between Acts and p38, Philemon and p87, II Thessalonians and p92, I, II Timothy, 3 John and codex Sinaiticus, James and p23 & p20, 2 John and 0232? How does White propose to lower the time gaps to 'within' 100 years for these writings?

 

 

 

 

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