Ed Komoszewski has a fine post summarizing the recent debate between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace in Dallas. Check out “DON’T PUT THE BART BEFORE THE HORSE”. Also, don’t miss Craig Blomberg’s response to Ehrman’s charge that the volume of “errors” in the Bible should cause us to mistrust it. Here are some highlights and a promo video below from the Wallace/Ehrman debate, but be sure to read the whole thing (or order a DVD here) and see how Wallace unpacks his response to Ehrman:

Ehrman’s basic point was simple (even “simplistic,” according to some attendees): We don’t have the earliest copies of the New Testament and the early copies that we do have are the worst manuscripts of all. Therefore, extrapolating backwards toward the originals, we can have absolutely no confidence that the New Testament manuscripts correctly represent the original text.

Wallace’s central argument was six-fold:

  1. The New Testament has vastly more manuscripts than any other ancient author.
  2. The New Testament has far more manuscripts in the early centuries than any other ancient author.
  3. There are two attitudes that rational people will avoid: absolute certainty and radical skepticism.
  4. The New Testament copying was not like the telephone game.
  5. The Alexandrian family had roots that almost surely went back to the first decades of the second century.
  6. Wallace’s coup de grâce was his listing of various titles of books that Ehrman had written. Wallace argued that if Ehrman was right that we simply have no idea what the original text said, then all of Ehrman’s books on the New Testament would be pointless!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NEFj3Mq8F8&w=560&h=315]


  1. Why should the words of the original manuscript matter, if what they claim has no additional evidence to back it up?

    I have the original manuscript of a man who was abducted by aliens. Just because I have the original manuscript, does that mean the words written on it are true?

  2. Well, you raise an interesting point. I agree that having original manuscripts are not sufficient to prove the truth of their content. And, corroborative evidence does serve to increase the likelihood of historical validity. Nevertheless, reason does serve us here as well. Take your example. I have to ask “Is it reasonable to believe there are a) aliens and b) one can be abducted by them?” Raising the mere possibility of something does not mean it is reasonable to believe it. I find nothing in the NT documents that are unreasonable and there is plenty of corroborating evidence.

  3. “I find nothing in the NT documents that are unreasonable and there is plenty of corroborating evidence.”

    Walking on water.

    Curing the blind.

    Making wine out of water.

    Raising yourself and others from the dead.

    You and I have very different understandings of the word ‘unreasonable’.

    And your corroborating evidence is…?

  4. Without getting into a debate here….
    Why dismiss a priori the possibility of a a divine agent in the examples you mention? If God exists, then miracles are possible. God exists, therefore, miracles are possible. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to maintain these activities actually occurred. Corroborating evidence entails extra-biblical literature that quotes from or alludes to the NT documents. May Google be your friend ‘-) if you’re unaware of resources to this end. Otherwise, why not listen to the debate this post mentions?

  5. “Why dismiss a priori the possibility of a a divine agent in the examples you mention?”

    I’m not dismissing them a priori. I’m dismissing them due to the lack of good empirical evidence.

    “God exists, therefore, miracles are possible.”

    If miracles exist, there should be good evidence for them. As the best evidence we have are anecdotes and documents, I’m still highly skeptical of the existence of miracles.

    “Corroborating evidence entails extra-biblical literature that quotes from or alludes to the NT documents. ”

    This seems to be your earlier argument. So what if there are quotes and allusions? The fact that a document is quoted does not in any way suggest that the supernatural claims in that document are true.

  6. Briefly what empirical evidence do you have to expect empirical evidence? Seems to me this presupposition cannot stand on its own empirical legs.

  7. The fact that everything we currently understand to be real, everything we’ve discovered scientifically, has been done through examination of empirical evidence. It is the best known way of determining the truth.

    If you don’t trust empirical evidence, then either you have to believe everything anyone or any book tells you, or you’re making special pleading for the one particular thing you want to believe without empirical evidence.

  8. Seems to me that terms like “truth” “trust” and “real” are non-empirical entities and cannot be reduced to the physical.

  9. Seems to me that you’re avoiding the question. Do you disdain all empirical evidence, or do you give special pleading to the Christian god?

  10. Not sure how you got the idea that I disdain all empirical evidence. I maintain it’s part of the story, just not all there is to know. And, of course, the scientific method is the primary means to obtain the “truth” about the empirical world. Nevertheless, no method is entirely neutral and the data is seen through the lenses of a theory. A little reading in the history of science will go a long way here.

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