Greg Gutfeld’s “Agnosticism”

RE-POST

(Originall Posted In April of 2016)

In his book, How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct (p.96), and in an article in NATIONAL REVIEW, as well as intimating the same in the above video, Greg Gutfeld said this:

This is important because it removes the sweaty veneer of ideological excess. While I love it when I’m certain about something, I realize those are rare moments in life. You cannot be certain about all things. As an agnostic, I do not call myself an atheist, because, to put it simply, “I don’t know.” For all I know there is a god, and it’s some dude in Jersey named Ned. True, I’ve pretty much discounted this theory — Ned has bad skin and a Beatle-do, qualities rarely associated with the divine. But the point is: I can’t be 100 percent sure. So I punt.

I will comment on his “agnosticism” in a bit, but first…

While I have enjoyed his contributions to Conservatarian though, I have to say this is one of the worse positions I have seen him take. And let me be clear… I am saying this NOT because he rejects “God” (Ned), but that he puts criteria on a position that is impossible in most fields of study (physics, biochemistry, philosophy, politics… you name it).

Making wise decisions always depends on various factors even though it does not provide us with 100% guarantee. So since we are primarily dealing with evidences garnered from history, science, philosophy, fulfilled prophecy, and the like… there is no silver bullet.

BUT…

There is a way to approach this as almost all person’s do (in their personal life or professional life). Just like a case in court so-to is the cumulative gathering through reason and logic evidences in a way that a strong case for God is made.

Even in a court situation, a case is made that sways a jury one way in order to not make a life-or-death ruling (in the case of a 1st degree murder trial), but to make a choice “beyond reasonable doubt.” Here is a great comment in an article on STAND TO REASON’S site:

The jury is asked if the evidence shows that the defendant is probably guilty.

It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

The standard of probability is not “100% certainly guilty”; it is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence, or the lack of evidence.

If you have a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.

Evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s it. That’s all. Nothing about faith.

In life, not just in the jury box, we are forced to make decisions with incomplete information, but we are never forced to go beyond evidence.

Andy Banister explains this concept with a walk through the woods:

It is easy to see that Mr. Gutfeld is creating an impossible plateau for one to reach that no field of study, whether the sciences or law (except maybe mathematics), can ever dream to attain. Perfection ~ something Greg should be familiar with rejecting and warning others about. That is, Utopian ideals and goals. In making this impossible 100% claim he defines God in such a way that evidence for His existence — not Ned, but the real Creator of the space-time-continuum — is defined out of existence. Greg essentially presupposes that God out of existence.

To wit, I will turn my attention to Greg Gutfeld’s “agnosticism.” He has repeatedly said “I don’t know.” In the video at the top of this post he says right after the “practical joke” comment “that we will never know.” That is not an agnostic position. Professor Budziszewski explains:

“To say that we cannot know anything about God is to say something about God; it is to say that if there is a God, he is unknowable. But in that case, he is not entirely unknowable, for the agnostic certainly thinks that we can know one thing about him: That nothing else can be known about him. Unfortunately, the position that we can know exactly one thing about God – his unknowability in all respects except this – is equally unsupportable, for why should this one thing be an exception? How could we know that any possible God would be of such a nature that nothing else could be known about him? On what basis could we rule out his knowability in all other respects but this one? The very attempt to justify the claim confutes it, for the agnostic would have to know a great many things about God in order to know he that couldn’t know anything else about him.”


J. Budziszewski, found in Norman Geisler & Paul Hoffman, eds., Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe, revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 58

In other words… Gutfeld is showing arrogance by demanding 100% proof (that no jury demands), and by excluding God by defining Him in a way as to rig the outcome. As much as I respect him and his wonderful work… his position here is very childish. Not a position I would expect him to take… but ideology [his atheism] does tend to blind. And arrogantly so.

Sometimes the smartest skeptics give up what they wrongly view as faith for the most “childlike” reasons. For instance, Lewis Wolpert, who has too many letters after his name and is a very accomplished and respected developmental biologist, explained why he rejects God:

[I] stopped believing in God when I was 15 or 16 because he didn’t give me what I asked for. (Lewis Wolpert, “The Hard Cell,” Third Way, March 2007, p. 16)

During an interview, he also stated:

I used to pray but I gave it up because when I asked God to help me find my cricket bat, he didn’t help.

When asked by Justin Brieley (Unbelievable show episode, “What Does Science Tell Us About God?”):

Right, and that was enough for you to prove that God did not exist.

He replied:

Well, yes. I just gave it up completely.

(TRUE FREE THINKER)

While one would expect a meaty explanation that reasonable people would think about and come to a conclusion on… his reasoning is commensurate of a child’s reasons. Another well known skeptic, Bart Ehrman, doesn’t reject God because he found textual evidence against the Christian faith. He rejects God because there is suffering in the world:

“If there is an all-powerful and loving God in this world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering?” He [Ehrman] says this “led me to question my faith when I was older. Ultimately, it was the reason I lost my faith”

(DR. CLAY JONES)

Bart’s way of dealing with this is basically the classical argument against God:

Premise 1: God is all-good (omnibenevolent)

Premise 2: God is all-powerful (omnipotent)

Premise 3: Suffering and evil exist

Conclusion: An all-good, all-powerful God could not exist since there is so much suffering and evil in the world. If he did, he would eradicate this evil.

Charles Darwin as well rejected God not based on evidence, but for theological reasoning:

  • That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes…A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient. It revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time? This very old argument from the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent First Cause seems to me a strong one; and the abundant presence of suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection. ~ Charles Darwin, The Works of Charles Darwin, Volume 29  (Nerw York, NY: NYU Press, 2010), 121-122. (REVIEW OF DARWIN’S GOD)

Darwin was using theological pressups to drive his research, here are the precepts:

I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):

  1. Human begins are not justfied in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.
  2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.
  3. A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human conception of the ‘simplest mode’ to accomplish the functions of these structures.
  4. God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part’s function.
  5. God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.
  6. God impressed the laws of nature on matter.
  7. God directly created the first ‘primordial’ life.
  8. God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.
  9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.
  10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.

(EVOLUTION NEWS & VIEWS)

This seems like a problem, but in fact, many atheists have abandoned this tactic. Why… through the work primarily of Alvin Plantinga. Here, Dr. Ronald Nash formulates WHY this syllogism is no longer a serious threat in philosophy:

Demonstrating the Consistency of the Theistic Set

After our brief detour into the differences between a theodicy and a defense, a short summary may help us get back on track. We have seen that the atheologian’s claim that the theistic set is self-contradictory remains nothing more than wishful thinking because of the atheologian’s failure to produce the missing premise required to show that the set is explicitly contradictory. Rather than rest on our laurels and live with the possibility that some atheologian might discover the missing proposition some time in the future, we have decided to see if we cannot beat the atheologian to the punch and actually demonstrate that the theistic set is consistent. Once done, this will eliminate any possibility of theism’s being shown to be logically inconsistent because of the existence of evil in the world. The method of demonstrating consistency requires that we add a premise (or premises) to the original set that logically entails the other proposition, which, in our case, is “The world contains evil.” In order to do the job, it is not necessary that our new premise be true or even that it be believed to be true. All that is necessary is that it be logically possible.

Consider, then, the following argument:

An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God created the world.

God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so.

Therefore, the world contains evil.

Numbers 1 and 2 taken together do, of course, entail 3. Therefore, the propositions from our original theistic set that now make up 1 are logically consistent with the existence of evil. The only relevant question regarding 2 is whether it is possibly true. Obviously it is since it is not logically false. Therefore, the theistic set is logically consistent from which follows the impossibility of anyone’s ever demonstrating that it is not.


Ronald Nash, Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 189.

C.S. Lewis as well argues against this “evil universe” argument:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

So again, Bart’s rejection is dealt with handily, and shows his rejection is merely emotive in nature… devoid of any real substance. Similar to Greg Gutfeld’s position, his rejection is merely emotive in his reasoning. He is not worries about “evidence” per-se, but rather worried about some cosmic killjoy that may have a word with in regards to past or future hedonistic ventures. So his hiding arrogantly behind “I don’t know” is his crutch.

I have some really good books I can recommend to the person seeking good, well-thought-out, reasonable arguments detailing various forms of evidence for “faith”~

Post-Script,

May I also note quickly how a believer views faith as opposed to the faith Greg surely thinks is blind (and granted, some Christians are heppy with their “blindedness”):

Certain words can mean very different things to different people. For instance, if I say to an atheist, “I have faith in God,” the atheist assumes I mean that my belief in God has nothing to do with evidence. But this isn’t what I mean by faith at all. When I say that I have faith in God, I mean that I place my trust in God based on what I know about him.


William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 38.

AND, unless we forget the bottom line in this discussion through hubris, we should know that which we reject through feigned ignorance:

Bart Ehrman’s Methodology Exposed

After noting the problems in Bart Ehrman’s book, TRUE FREE THINKER notes — using Bart Ehrman’s own methodology — just how many of these variants accumulated over time:

…I do not know how many copies Misquoting Jesus has sold but it is reported that “Within the first three months, more than 100,000 copies were sold.”

The way it works is as simple as it is deceptive: you multiply the 16 variants by how many times they have been reproduced. As the 16 have been reproduced 100,000 (in three months alone) you multiply these and so the total of variants in Misquoting Jesus equals: 1,600,000.

And that, boys and girls, is how Bart Ehrman manages to make sensational claims that gain him notoriety and quite a few shekels….

Which is why this Q&A with Ehrman is so powerful:

In the appendix to Misquoting Jesus, added to the paperback version, there is a Q&A section. I do not know who the questioner is, but it is obviously someone affiliated with the editors of the book. Consider this question asked of Ehrman:

  • Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g., the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets Of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?

Note that the wording of the question is not “Do you believe…” but “Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy…?” This is a question that presumably came from someone who read the book very carefully. How does Ehrman respond?

  • The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

Suffice it to say that viable textual variants that disturb cardinal doctrines found in the NT have not yet been produced.

  • Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2011), 54-55.

See also this post.

The Qur’an vs. the Bible’s Transmission

This is an addition to the recently discovered oldest piece of a Qur’an manuscript... dating to before Muhammad. Many will ask what the difference is between how the Bible and the Qur’an were “compiled” into the books we read today. Here is a bit of the difference.

This is the quote Dr. Wallace was roughly referring to via Ehrman in the video above:

In the appendix to Misquoting Jesus, added to the paperback version, there is a Q&A section. I do not know who the questioner is, but it is obviously someone affiliated with the editors of the book. Consider this question asked of Ehrman:

  • Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g., the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets Of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?

Note that the wording of the question is not “Do you believe…” but “Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy…?” This is a question that presumably came from someone who read the book very carefully. How does Ehrman respond?

  • The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

Suffice it to say that viable textual variants that disturb cardinal doctrines found in the NT have not yet been produced.

Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2011), 54-55.

The below LARGE excerpt comes from: Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2011), 34-40.

Ehrman has asserted, “If we have very few early copies—in fact, scarcely any—how can we know that the text was not changed signifi­cantly before the New Testament began to be reproduced in such large quantities?”38 I am not sure what large quantities he is speaking about, since there are more MSS from the third century than there are from the fourth or fifth century.39

But how can we know? It is a legitimate question. There is a way to be relatively confident that the text of the fourth century looked re­markably like the earliest form of the text. P75 has large portions of Luke and John in it—and nothing else. Codex B has most of the NT in it. If B and P75 are very close to each other yet B often has the more primi­tive reading, we can extrapolate that the text of B is pretty decent for the rest of the NT. When it agrees with a MS such as Codex Sinaiticus, which it usually does, that combined reading almost surely goes back to a common archetype from deep in the second century.40

Nevertheless, Ehrman has carefully and ably described the trans­mission of the text. He has detailed how the winners succeeded in conquering all with their views and emerged as the group we might call “orthodox.” What he has said is fairly accurate overall. The only problem is that his is the right analysis but for the wrong religion. Ehrman’s basic argument about theological motives describes Islam far more than Christianity. Recent work on the transmissional history of both the NT and the Qur’an shows this clearly. Consider the following points:

1. Within just a few decades of the writing of the Qur’an, it underwent a strongly controlled, heavy-handed editing, geared toward “or­thodoxy” that weeded out variants that did not conform.

But the NT, as even Ehrman argues, did not suffer this sort of con­trol early on. Instead, Ehrman has often suggested that the earliest de­cades were marked by free, even wild copying.41

2. Calif Uthman was in charge of the earliest segment of this heavy-handed editing of the Qur’an. He systematically gathered up any nonconforming MSS and destroyed them. The originals were destroyed as well.42 Uthman then claimed that his “canonical” text was the exact equivalent of the autographs.

There is no real evidence that inexact copies of the NT were de­stroyed by ecclesiastical authorities.43 Indeed, there is evidence that just the opposite took place: defective or deteriorating copies might be placed in a jar or storage room but not destroyed.44

3. The closest we come to heavy-handed control for NT MSS did not occur until at least the ninth century, long after the major Christological disputes had ended.45 Even then, we do not see defective MSS getting destroyed.

4. One cannot have it both ways; there cannot be wild copying by untrained scribes and a proto-orthodox conspiracy simultaneously producing the same variants. Conspiracy implies control, and wild copying is anything but controlled.

On the one hand, there was uncontrolled copying of MSS in the earliest period, but this was largely restricted to the Western text form.46 On the other hand, there was a strand of early copying that may appear to be controlled. This is the Alexandrian family of MSS. Yet the reason that MSS of this text form look so much like each other is largely be­cause they were in a relatively pure line of transmission.47 There was no conspiracy, just good practices.

5. The reason why Islam has Qur’an MSS that so closely resemble each other is precisely because this was official dogma, there was over­zealous control in the copying of the MSS, and there were severe reper­cussions to any who erred significantly in their scribal duties. All MSS ultimately derived from a single copy—a copy that was not identical to the original text.48

Contrast this with the NT: from the earliest times, the NT was translated into a multitude of languages.49 The transmission of the text was a growing, living thing, not constrained by ecclesiastical controls until long after Christianity became legalized. Even then, we know of nothing like what we see in Islam: scribes not only made plenty of mis­takes, but they even complained in the margins of their manuscripts about the weather, the length of the MS they were copying, the clogging of the ink, and so on.50 This sort of living, hands-on, messy relationship of the scribes to their holy scriptures is unheard of in Islam. In short, the Qur’an copying practices were more related to apologetics, while the NT practices were more related to life.

6. Further, ever since canon was a term meaningfully applied to the NT, there was never a sense that only the Greek MSS were Scripture. To be sure, the Reformation sparked a return to the original languages of the Bible, but the reason was not only purity of the text but clarity in the proclamation of the message. It is no accident that the Reformers were the catalyst for the great European translations of the Bible—translations into the language of the people that could be considered the very Word of God by the average layman. By way of contrast, the only true Qur’an is the Arabic Qur’an. All translations are officially suspect. Thus what Ehrman is describing is right on target but for the wrong religion. He is describing what has occurred in Islam, not in Christianity.

7. What Westcott said over a century ago is relevant to this discussion:

When the Caliph Othman fixed a text of the Koran and destroyed all the old copies which differed from his standard, he provided for the uniformity of subsequent manuscripts at the cost of their historical foundation. A classical text which rests finally on a single archetype is that which is open to the most serious suspicions.51

What we see in the NT copies is absolutely nothing like this. Ehrman tries to make a case for significant theological alterations to the text of the NT by a group that did not have control over the text from the begin­ning, but the historical ingredients for his hypothesis are missing. It is like trying to bake a cake with romaine lettuce and ranch dressing.

As Small points out,

The original NT text (the autographic text-form in Epp’s categories) has been kept remarkably well, and one form of the Qur’an text, a strongly edited one (a canonical text-form in Epp’s words), has been preserved remarkably well. This Qur’anic text form (the one attributed to Uthman though probably a little later—ca. 700 AD) preserves authentic material, but not in the forms in which it was originally used or in the complete collection assembled in writing or orally during Muhammad’s lifetime. Instead, it is a very selective, heavily edited text. In contrast, the NT is not really the product of an official process of intentional editing and so preserves more of the original text within the extant manuscripts. This can be said just on the basis of Islamic tradition concerning the collections attributed to have been made by the companions of Muhammad. In the twenty years after Muhammad’s death until Uthman’s project to standardize the text, these versions were used extensively in other parts of the growing Islamic empire, apparently as authoritative scripture. Some of these are reported to have been in use into the 900’s AD until they were finally suppressed around 934. My research in the manuscripts also demonstrates that the majority of the earliest manuscripts contain this edited text, with the handful of palimpsests pointing to other textual traditions that were successfully suppressed. These palimpsests contain the same variety of textual variants that one can see between the Western and Alexandrian text-types in the NT tradition—showing that there was a period when the Qur’an text was more fluid than the majority of manuscripts and Islamic dogma would lead one to believe. Muslims assume and state that this Uthmanic text was the original text, though even their traditions go against the view. It contains original material, but the original form of that material cannot be reconstructed because Uthman de­stroyed the autographs and had his authoritative version written in a defective script which allowed the growth of competing written versions and oral recitation systems. Their theological view of me­chanical inspiration keeps them from adequately engaging with their own historical sources. What they have done instead is selectively choose reports that they can use to construct a straight line of “per­fect” transmission while ignoring the facts which disagree with the theological construct they want to hold of an eternal book perfectly transmitted. I think Uthman’s version does probably represent the main lines of Muhammad’s teaching, though for political reasons certain parts may have been left out. But we can’t tell for sure be­cause the autographs were destroyed, not that they wore out in use. And the main point to get to in all of this is still that the NT and the Qur’an teach very different things. Also, for whatever integrity one wants to grant to the transmission of the Qur’an, the NT needs to be regarded as having more integrity in its transmission process since there was not such an official editing process after the books were written. In light of all of this, I think Bart Ehrman’s arguments are much more appropriate for the Qur’an because for it there can be demonstrated an official program of textual standardization which was maintained over three centuries, and in some respects to this day.52

Concerning conforming the text to the Medieval standard, though there is a general parallel to this situation to the Qur’an’s, I see it having a fundamental difference, that while the changes to the NT were gradual, relatively late in the history of transmission, and pri­marily for liturgical reasons and to improve the style, the Qur’an’s form of the consonantal text was determined and maintained from very early on (within 30-70 years after Muhammad’s death) for rea­sons which had a large ideological/dogmatic component at the outset, and then that form was further shaped and developed with diacritics and vowels to maintain and serve various agendas during the next 200 years until the Sunnis came out on top politically in the 900’s and were able to canonize their version of the text.53

In another respect, when Ehrman discusses whether God has preserved the text of the NT, he places on the NT transmissional process some rather unrealistic demands—demands that Islam tradi­tionally claims for itself with respect to the Qur’an but that no bona fide Christian scholar would ever claim was true of the NT MSS. As is well known, most Muslims claim that the Qur’an has been transmitted perfectly, that all copies are exactly alike. This is what Ehrman demands of the NT text if God has inspired it. Methodologically, he did not abandon the evangelical faith; he abandoned a faith that in its biblio-logical constructs is what most Muslims claim for their sacred text. Or as C. S. Lewis put it,

The moment [the miracle] enters [nature’s] realm, it obeys all her laws. Miraculous wine will intoxicate, miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of tex­tual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested.54

To sum up the evidence on the number of variants, there are a lot of variants because there are a lot of manuscripts. Even in the early centuries, the text of the NT is found in a sufficient number of MSS, versions, and writings of the church fathers to give us the essentials of the original text.


 Footnotes


38) Lost Christianities, 219.

39) The next line, however, suggests that he is speaking about medieval MSS: “Most surviving copies were made during the Middle Ages, many of them a thousand years after Paul and his companions had died” (ibid.). The juxtaposition of this sen­tence with the one questioning whether we can know how significant the changes were prior to this time is, at best, misleading. Ehrman would acknowledge, as would most textual critics, that the MSS produced in the Middle Ages are hardly our most reliable witnesses to the NT text and that we have several sufficient wit­nesses prior to that time on which to reconstruct the wording of the earliest form of the text.

40) Cf., e.g., Metzger and Ehrman, Text of the New Testament, 277-78, 312. Hort believed that when K and B agreed, their reading went back to a very ancient common ancestor. That it was not a near ancestor was demonstrated by the thousands of disagreements between these two manuscripts, suggesting that there were several intermediaries between the common ancestor and these two majuscule docu­ments (B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, vol. 2, Introduction [and] Appendix [Cambridge: Macmillan, 1882], 212-50). Cf. also Metzger and Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament, 312: “With the discovery . .. of T66 and P75, both dating from about the end of the second or the beginning of the third century, proof became now available that Hort’s Neutral text goes back to an archetype that must be put early in the second century.”

41) Cf., e.g., Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 124. I will discuss the nature of the early copying soon enough, but for now I simply point out that according to Ehrman, there was extensive uncontrolled copying of the NT in the earliest period.

42) Ehrman opines that perhaps the NT autographs were destroyed. Not only is there no evidence that this was the case, there is second-century evidence that the auto­graphs would have been revered.

43) See nn. 34 and 44 for discussion.

44) Colin H. Roberts (Manuscript, Society, and Belief in Early Christian Egypt [London: Oxford University Press, 1979], 6-8) gives ample evidence that early Christians took over the practice of Jews to “dispose of defective, worn-out, or heretical scriptures by burying them near a cemetery, not to preserve them but be­cause anything that might contain the name of God might not be destroyed” (ibid., 7). He was dealing with the earliest period of Christian copying but noted that the Nag Hammadi MSS (“outside our period”) seem to fit this pattern as well. In ad­dition, he cited the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Chester Beatty papyri, as well as several other examples. In more modern times, it is noteworthy to mention the New Finds manuscripts at St. Catherine’s Monastery of Mt. Sinai. Discovered in 1975, quite by accident, was a geniza that housed about 1,200 manuscripts and 50,000 frag­ments of manuscripts. The latest date of any of the MSS was from the eighteenth century; the earliest was the fourth century (about two dozen leaves or fragments from Codex Sinaiticus). Among the less orthodox MSS were the Protevangelium of James and the Assumption of the Virgin. When I visited the monastery in Sep­tember 2002, Archbishop Damianos expressed surprise to me that the Protevan-gelium was among the New Finds manuscripts. I discovered the Assumption of the Virgin inside the Protevangelium, occupying a new quire.

What the New Finds illustrate is that the practice of burying MSS at Mt. Sinai was taking place after the eighteenth century and sufficiently prior to modern times to have been forgotten by the monks. After Tischendorf’s last visit in 1859, the monastery became increasingly flooded with visitors. This suggests that the geniza was filled prior to this time. And the fact that leaves from Sinaiticus were buried there—both from the Pentateuch and from the Apostolic Fathers (i.e., the outer leaves of the codex, which would be most prone to be loosed from the book)—may imply that Tischendorf was mistaken when he said that the monks were burning leaves of this codex. For our purposes, it is enough to note that the normative practice of ancient Christians, even perhaps to modern times, was to bury or hide sacred texts rather than destroy them.

45) T. J. Ralston (“The Majority Text and Byzantine Texttype Development: The Sig­nificance of a Non-Parametric Method of Data Analysis for the Exploration of Manuscript Traditions” [PhD diss., Dallas Seminary, 1994]) notes (in agreement with von Soden’s assessment) that there was a large editorial push by at least one scriptorium in the ninth and eleventh centuries, resulting in carefully produced copies that were very close to each other.

46) It is not entirely insignificant that Ehrman’s preferred reading in several places that seem to impact Christology is found in the Western text (e.g., Luke 3.22; John 20.28). The burden of proof certainly rests with the one who would argue that such a textual tradition has the original wording when the carefully copied tradition of Alexandria does not. He admits that the Western text is less likely to preserve the best reading when it lacks support of the Alexandrian witnesses (Misquoting Jesus, 131). I do agree with Ehrman in at least one Western reading, however. But ὀργισθείς in Mark 1.41 has compelling internal evidence in its favor.

47) Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 131.

48) This is not at all what the NT transmission was like. See the following discussion of the work of Uthman in canonizing the Qur’an by starting with his own MS as the progenitor of all that would follow. Ehrman speculates, without a shred of evi­dence, that this same phenomenon occurred for NT books: “[W]hat if only one of the copies served as the copy from which all subsequent copies were made…?” (Misquoting Jesus, 59).

49) Keith Small, a scholar in the United Kingdom who has recently completed his doc­toral thesis on a comparison of the NT textual transmission and the Qur’an textual transmission (“Mapping a New Country: Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manu­scripts” [London School of Theology, 2008]), noted in an email on March 25, 2008, “There was not a program of translation to spread Islam through having people read the Qur’an, like there was with the Christian Scriptures. Though one early jurist, Abu Hanifah (d. AD 767), did rule that a person could recite a vernacular translation in their prayers, he also is said to have retracted that ruling. The earliest extant translation I know of is one done into Persian about AD 956 (Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, World Bibliography of Translations of the Meanings of the Holy Qur’an, Printed Translations 1515-1980 [Istanbul: Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture], xxiii).”

50) See Metzger and Ehrman, Text of the New Testament, 29, for illustrations. Having this sort of marginal note in the Qur’an is unheard of. But some of the marginal notes in the NT MSS are rather impious, showing that the copying was meant more for the masses than for apologetic reasons.

51) Brooke Foss Westcott, Some Lessons of the Revised Version of the New Testament, 2nd ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1897), 8-9 (italics added). Credit is due to Keith Small for pointing this reference out to me.

52) Email from Keith Small, Mar. 11 2008,

53) Email from Keith Small, Dec. 30, 2007. For an excellent survey on the transmission of the Qur’an, see now Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’an Manuscripts (Idaho Falls, Idaho: Lexingon, 2011).

54) C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 1st Touchstone ed. (New York: Touch­stone, 1996) 95 (italics added).

Agnostic (Bart Erhman) Debates Atheist About Jesus’ Existence

Non-Christian agnostic historian, Bart Ehrman, is invited on to an atheist radio show apparantly in the hope that he will argue against Jesus being an historical person. However, much to this atheist surprise and dissapointment Ehrman argues why no serious historian (including himself) denies Jesus’ historicity!