Peter J. Williams debates Bart Ehrman on his book “Misquoting Jesus”

Dr. Peter J. Williams, an expert on New Testament reliability
Dr. Peter J. Williams, an expert on New Testament reliability

I have to re-post this debate between Bart Ehrman and Peter J. Williams, because Dr. Williams just followed me on Twitter. I noticed that he had re-tweeted one of the two senators I follow on Twitter, so I re-tweeted him. I like Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, and he re-tweeted Senator Hawley talking about free speech.

Bart Ehrman posted the debate audio on YouTube:

Details:

Bart Ehrman is the US author of the bestselling book “Misquoting Jesus” (In the UK “Whose word is it?”).  He calls into question the authority of the New Testament as scribal changes over time have changed the documents.

So can we trust the scripture? Bible scholar Peter Williams believes in the reliability of the New Testament and that Bart’s prognosis is far too pessimistic.

This post is a re-post from 2011. I have been listening to this lecture by Peter J. Williams on “Misquoting Jesus” this week, and it reminded me to re-post this debate. (I checked to make sure the MP3 link is still good, and it is)

Summary of the Williams-Ehrman debate:

Note: this summary is snarky. If you want an accurate view of the debate, then listen to it. My summary is meant to be humorous.

Ehrman:

  • I had a mystical experience in childhood and became an evangelical Christian
  • I went to Moody Bible Institute, and they told me that the Bible was inerrant
  • For a while, I was committed to the view that there are no mistakes in the Bible
  • At Princeton, I was taught and graded by professors who did not accept inerrancy
  • By a strange coincidence, I began to see that the Bible did have errors after all!
  • We don’t have the original documents written by the original authors, we only have thousands of copies
  • if the words of the Bible are not completely inerrant, then none of it is historical
  • if all of the words in all the copies of the Bible are not identical, then none of it is historical

Williams:

  • I would say the New and Old testaments are the Word of God
  • We don’t need to have the original Greek writings in order to believe in the authority of the Bible
  • I believe in inerrancy, but doesn’t mean there are no problems
  • the doctrine of inerrancy has always referred to the original Greek copies, not the translations

Moderator:

  • what are the main points of Misquoting Jesus?

Ehrman:

  • we don’t have the originals of any of the books of the New Testament
  • we have copies that are much later, sometimes even centuries later!!1!
  • the copies we have all differ from one another – they were changed by scribes!!1!
  • we have 5000 manuscripts in the original Greek language
  • there are hundreds of thousands of differences!!1!
  • most of the differences don’t matter
  • some differences are significant for meaning or doctrine
  • errors are propagated because the next scribe inherits the mistake of their source copy
  • a large gap between the time of writing and the first extant copy means more errors have crept in

Williams:

  • the reason we have so many variants is because the number of manuscripts is large

Angry Jesus or compassionate Jesus in Mark

Ehrman:

  • most manuscripts say that Jesus was compassionate when healing a leper, but one says he was angry
  • it makes a huge huge huge really really big difference if Jesus is compassionate or angry
  • the whole Bible needs to be thrown out because of this one word between different in one manuscript

Williams:

  • this variant is important for understanding the passage, but it has no great meaning
  • the change is probably just an accident – the two words are very similar visually in Greek
  • it’s just an accident – it emerged in one manuscript, and it impacted a few more
  • the tiny number of manuscripts that have the error are geographically isolated
  • I’m pretty sure that WK prefers the angry Jesus anyway – so who cares?

Ehrman:

  • no! someone changed it deliberately! it’s a conspiracy! you should buy my book! it’s a *big deal*!!!!!1!!1!one!!eleventy-one!

The woman caught in adultery in John

Ehrman:

  • it is isn’t in any of the earliest manuscripts
  • this is an apocryphical story that some scribe deliberately inserted into the text
  • most people don’t even know about this! it’s a cover-up! you need to buy my scandalous book!

Williams:

  • that’s right, it’s a late addition by some overzealous scribe
  • and it’s clearly marked as such in every modern Bible translation
  • the only people who don’t know about this are people who don’t read footnotes in their Bible
  • and in any case, this isn’t a loss of the original words of the New Testament – it’s an addition

Grace of God or apart from God in Hebrews

Ehrman:

  • well this is just a one word difference, but it makes a huge huge really really big difference!
  • the words are very similar, so it’s could be an accident I guess
  • but it wasn’t! this was a deliberate change! it’s a conspiracy! it’s a cover-up! scandal!
  • buy my book! It’s almost as good as Dan Brown!

Moderator:

  • hmmmn…. I kind of like “apart from God” – why is this such a big scandal again?

Ehrman:

  • you don’t care? how can you not care? it has to be inerrant! or the whole thing is false!
  • Moody Bible Institute says!

Williams:

  • yeah Bart is always saying that every change is deliberate but it’s just an accident
  • the words are very similar, just a few letters are different, this is clearly an accident
  • I have no problem with apart from God, or by the Grace of God
  • please move on and stop screaming and running around and knocking things over

Moderator:

  • but what if pastors try to use this passage in a sermon?

Williams:

  • well, one word doesn’t make a big different, the meaning that appears is fine for preaching
  • it’s only a problem for people who treat the Bible as a magic book with magical incantations
  • they get mad because if one word is out of place then the whole thing doesn’t work for their spell
  • then they try to cast happiness spells but the spells don’t work and they experience suffering
  • the suffering surprises them since they think that fundamentalism should guarantee them happiness
  • then they become apostates and get on TV where they look wide-eyed and talk crazy

Ehrman:

  • hey! are you talking about me? a lot of people buy my books! i am a big success!
  • it is very important that people don’t feel bad about their sinning you know!

Is Misquoting Jesus an attack?

Williams:

  • it’s rhetorically imbalanced and misleading
  • it tries to highlight change and instability and ignore the majority of the text that is stable
  • he makes a big deal out of 5 or so verses that are different from the mainstream text
  • he says that scribes deliberately changed the scriptures, but he doesn’t prove that
  • it’s just as likely that the differences are just scribal errors made by accident

Ehrman:

  • well, maybe the variants aren’t a big deal, but what about one angel vs. two angels?
  • that’s a significant issue! significant enough for me to become an apostate – a rich apostate
  • if one word is different because of an accident, then the whole Bible cannot be trusted
  • it has to be completely inerrant, so a one word difference means the whole thing is unreliable
  • we don’t even know if Jesus was even named Jesus, because of one angel vs two angels!!!1!
  • buy my book! you don’t have to read it, just put it on your shelf, then you’ll feel better about not having a relationships with God – because who’s to say what God really wants from you? Not the Bible!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mocks decorated Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw for not fighting terrorism enough

Here's Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw and bartender/waitress Alexander Ocasio-Cortez
Here’s Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw and bartender/waitress Alexander Ocasio-Cortez

Wow, the more AOC opens her mouth, the more I think that she must be some kind of Republican plant. This time, Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who lost an eye fighting terrorists, disagreed with Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Democrat Congresswoman. AOC decided to defend Omar, and shame Crenshaw for not doing enough to fight terrorism.

You can watch the 20-second clip of Omar here.

In the clip, she tells CAIR (the Council of American-Islamic Relations) that:

CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.

So, according to her, a terrorist attack committed by Muslim extremists is “some people did something”, and her biggest concern about a terrorist attack that killed 3000 Americans is the loss of civil liberties faced by Muslims.

Dan Crenshaw saw the clip, and he tweeted this.

First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as “some people who did something”.

Unbelievable.

Just to be clear, I know that not all Muslims talk like this, but I have direct experience with Muslims on my mom’s side of the family. They’re all Muslims. There are good Muslims who believe in liberty and even help America fight abroad. I read about the Muslims who helps us fight radical Islam in my military history books. But there are also some that don’t like liberty, don’t like Jews, and don’t like America. I have met them in my own family.

Anyway, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came to the rescue of Omar against Dan Crenshaw, matching her experience fighting terrorism as a 29-year-old bartender and server against the Navy SEAL who lost an eye while fighting terrorism. Crenshaw earned 2 Bronze Stars (one with Valor), the Purple Heart, and the Navy Commendation Medal with Valor.

She tweeted to Dan Crenshaw:

You refuse to cosponsor the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, yet have the audacity to drum resentment towards Ilhan w/completely out-of-context quotes.

In 2018, right-wing extremists were behind almost ALL US domestic terrorist killings. Why don’t you go do something about that?

That’s right, Ms. Bartender-Waitress, or whatever your name is. You tell that cowardly, useless Navy SEAL who lost an eye fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq how to fight terrorism. Also, feel free to make up facts about domestic terrorism, as well.

Young people today. Wow.

This is the Democrat Party, folks. Half of America thinks they should be in power. Which is why when it’s election time, you need to do more than just vote. You need to go door-to-door, post signs, have a bumper sticker, and work a phone bank. Because we cannot have overgrown children who were born rich, and have achieved nothing their entire lives, running this country.

What’s CAIR?

So, who is CAIR? CAIR is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case about fundraising for an Islamic terrorist group.

The FBI is severing its once-close ties with the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, amid mounting evidence that it has links to a support network for Hamas.

All local chapters of CAIR have been shunned in the wake of a 15-year FBI investigation that culminated with the conviction in December of Hamas fundraisers at a trial where CAIR itself was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.

The U.S. government has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

During the Obama years, the FBI worked closely with CAIR to make sure that no one was critical of Islam in America. According to former attorney general Loretta Lynch , her “greatest fear” was not that Americans would be killed in a terrorist attack, but that the terrorist attacks would cause ordinary Americans to express criticism of radical Islam.

Google employees revolt against having a black, female conservative on advisory board

Kay Coles James is president of the Heritage Foundation, my favorite think tank
Kay Coles James is president of the Heritage Foundation, my favorite think tank

My favorite think tank in all the world is the Heritage Foundation. Almost all of my favorite policy researchers work there. The president is a conservative black lady named Kay Cole James. Any company would be thrilled to have her on an advisory board. But not Google. A bunch of their employees revolted against her.

Here’s an article from the Daily Caller about it:

Google staffers are in revolt, demanding the removal of Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James from an advisory board the company convened on artificial intelligence. A petition with more than 2,000 signatories from within the company was published on Medium on Monday, with the title “Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate.”

The petition’s signers described the appointment of Coles, a black grandmother, as a “weaponization of the language of diversity.”

The petition was promoted internally within the company by five individuals, some of whom have a history of leftist agitation.

[…]One of them, Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research Group, posted on a private Google listserv that, “I would disagree that their views are important to consider when those views include erasing trans people, targeting immigrants and denying climate change.”

[…]Whittaker shot down this idea, “Instead [of] recognizing the historical gravity of our position, and rising to meet the occasion, we’ve invited a vocal bigot whose hand is on the lever of U.S. policy to shape our views on where, and how, to ‘responsibly’ apply this tech.

There’s no diversity of thought at Google. Remember what happened to James Damore, when he suggested that there were differences between men and women? They ended up firing him for holding to view that most Americans agree with. He even had research papers to support his arguments, but they didn’t care… it offended people on the left, so he had to go.

I’m blogging about this today, even though it occurred last week, because Kay wrote about it in the far-left Washington Post on Monday.

She wrote:

Last week, less than two weeks after the AI advisory council was announced, Google disbanded it. The company has given in to the mentality of a rage mob. How can Google now expect conservatives to defend it against anti-business policies from the left that might threaten its very existence?

I was deeply disappointed to see such a promising idea abandoned, but the episode was about much more than just one company’s response to intolerance from the self-appointed guardians of tolerance.

It was symptomatic of where America is heading. Whether in the streets or online, angry mobs that heckle and threaten are not trying to change hearts and win minds. They’re trying to impose their will through intimidation. In too many corners of American life, there is no longer room for disagreement and civil discourse. Instead, it’s agree or be destroyed.

[…]Being attacked is not new for me. As a black, conservative, pro-life, evangelical woman, I have spent most of my life being called names and being denounced for my beliefs.

I guess Google isn’t really committed to the only kind of diversity that matters: intellectual diversity.

By the way, my Google traffic on this blog has dropped off by 90% since the 2016 election. I think Google decided to get serious after they lost that elction (and tape emerged of their senior executives literally crying about their candidate losing).

This record of bias against even moderates and libertarians is a concern to me, because we previously saw that Google feels that it is their obligation to manipulate search results (and YouTube videos) in order to benefit their allies in the Democrat party. If Google really is altering their products and services to promote Democrats, then maybe it’s time for the federal government to step in and regulate them, so that our basic human rights are not infringed by far-left fascist extremists.

Related posts

What should Christians do in order to reduce fatherlessness and abortion?

Can Christian women expect non-Christian men to transform into faithful providers after they are given recreational premarital sex?
Should we tell women to expect men to commit to them after recreational premarital sex?

Last week, I tweeted something that was very popular, although I got some disagreements with it. I tweeted that if we encouraged women to not have sex with men before the men married them, then there would be almost no fatherless children.

Here’s the exact tweet:

Fatherlessness is caused by women’s poor choices about men, sex, and marriage. If women married good men before having sex, there would be almost no fatherlessness. Strange that some “Christians” have sex before marriage, when that is prohibited in the Bible.

Now, the reason I focused on women in this tweet is because many women expect premarital sex to lead to a relationship, and eventually marriage. It is good for them to want a relationship and marriage. But the bad boys that many women tend to prefer aren’t choosing premarital sex in order to get to marriage or children. They have no desire for anything beyond the premarital sex. It seems reasonable to me that if I help women to see their mistaken view, then it would prevent a lot of fatherlessness (not to mention abortion and divorce) later on. If women prefer men who commit first instead of those who want commitment-free sex then we will see less sex outside marriage, less fatherlessness, and less abortion.

I decided to expand on my tweet in this post.

We need to teach young women that premarital sex does not cause men to become faithful husbands

Even women who have recreational sex with a lot of different men have this expectation that it will lead to relationships and eventually a committment, in which the man makes all their dreams come true and does whatever they want to make them feel happy at all times. This isn’t marriage, of course, but it is what they imagine that giving a hot bad boy premarital sex will lead to.

Here is what one 26-year-old writes: (language warning)

Age 19-22 Some boyfriends are somewhere in here. But it was where my body count really took off. If a guy liked me, which I now understand, was simple attraction, I thought sex would seal the deal, and they would get to know me more after, and fall in love with me. Let’s all pause to laugh together at my naivete. I promise you every (almost) guy, I thought I could have a relationship with. It never happened. At best they were regulars. Long-term I had 2 serious boyfriends.

A lot of women choose hot bad boys because the hot bad boys give them feelings “in the moment”, and impress their friends. They think that marriage is supposed to make them happy all the time, and so they want the bad boy to commit. This is why so many young women give the bad boys sex, to make the happy feelings last. And many think that they are on a path to marriage with the hot bad boy if they can keep him around by giving him premarital sex, or cohabitation.

But is this what marriage is about – making the woman feel happy in the long-term? Of course not. Marriage is about self-sacrificial love, self-denial, self-control, faithfulness, and raising children. So, women should be taught to choose men who prepare for actual marriage (men who have chosen chastity, gap-less resume, frugality, mentoring, no drugs or alcohol, apologetics). These traits are directly related to the responsibilities of a husband and father in a marriage (fidelity, love, fatherhood, provider, pastoring, etc). Fathers and pastors should be aware of the research about what traits and skills lead to stable and successful marriages, and be able to support their claims with studies when teaching women. For example, they should know about the studies showing how women’s number of premarital sex partners affects her contentedness in her marriage, the marriage quality, and the marriage stability.

That’s the point I was trying to make in my tweet.

Marriage requires self-sacrificial moral behavior

Fathers and pastors need to teach young people how to check a mate for the ability to behave morally, which is a necessary pre-requisite for a marriage commitment. The bare minimum foundation for moral behavior is a theistic worldview. A Designer of the universe. Objective moral laws. An immaterial soul that allows free choices. Accountability when you die. And meaningfulness of moral choices because of that ongoing relationship with the Designer in the afterlife. Moral behavior depends on the existence of God, so the mate-chooser should know evidence for that too, and be able to evaluate the mate on his knowledge of that evidence. People shouldn’t take the claim to be religious or spiritual at face value, they should want to see the reasons and evidence that support the claim. The rational grounding of moral behavior is important for marriage, and it needs to be checked, instead of just felt with intuitions. Young people should be taught to prefer mates who have demonstrated the ability to act morally in situations where it goes against their self-interest to be moral. After all, once the mate-chooser chooses a mate, every immoral thing he/she suffers from their chosen mate was a result of his/her choice of mate.

The goal is to prevent harm to children

Some Christian women disagree with my goal of stopping fatherlessness and abortion by telling women to make better choices. Instead, they want to support women who use premarital sex to try to land a hot bad boy.  They say that if the woman’s sex-first plan doesn’t work out, that’s not her fault, because all hot bad boys should feel obligated to marry after being given premarital sex. One woman wrote me 2500 words in response to my tweet to tell me (repeatedly, and in great detail) that the Bible is seen as  an authority even by hot non-Christian bad boys. If this is the kind of advice that young women are getting from older women, then it’s no wonder we have a 42% out-of-wedlock birth rate, and 1 million unborn children being killed every year.

But I don’t think that encouraging women to make feelings-based choices will work to reduce fatherlessness. When you’re dealing with hot bad boys, they don’t care about the Bible, and so you can’t try to convince them to do anything that the Bible says. The only solution is for good women to pass them by, and instead choose good men who want to make a commitment first. If women leave the hot bad boys alone, and concentrate on marriage-minded men, then we won’t have so much fatherlessness or abortion.

Why are Christians allowed to eat shellfish but not allowed to have sex before marriage?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Here’s a wonderful article from Peter Saunders.

The challenge:

An argument frequently advanced by those attempting to defend homosexual practice is that Christians ‘cherry pick’ the commands in the Bible – that is, they chose to emphasise some commands while ignoring others.

The Old Testament may forbid homosexual acts (Leviticus 18:2; 20:13) but it also forbids eating seafood without fins and scales (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9, 10).

So how can Christians then justify upholding laws on sexual morality whilst at the same time ignoring the food laws from the very same books of the Bible? Why may they eat shellfish but not be allowed to have sex outside marriage? Isn’t this inconsistent and hypocritical?

The solution is that God enters into “covenants” with his people, and the terms of those covenants change.

Especially dietary laws:

The answer to this question lies in an understanding of biblical covenants.

A covenant is a binding solemn agreement made between two parties. It generally leaves each with obligations. But it holds only between the parties involved.

There are a number of biblical covenants: Noahic, Abrahamic, Sinaitic (Old), Davidic and New.

Under the Noahic covenant, which God made with all living human beings (Genesis 9:8-17), people were able to eat anything:

‘Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything’ (Genesis 9:3).

But under the Sinaitic (Old) Covenant, which God made with the nation of Israel, people were able to eat certain foods, but not others.

Jesus clearly created a new covenant with his followers, where the dietary laws are lifted:

Jesus said that he had come to fulfil the ‘Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44). He would establish this new covenant with new laws, with himself as high priest based on his own sacrificial death on the cross.

This new covenant would completely deal with sin (Hebrews 10:1-18) and protect all those who put their faith in him from God’s wrath and judgement…

[…]‘In the same way, after the supper (Jesus) took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”’ (Luke 22:20). ‘…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (Hebrews 10:10)

People would come under the protection of this new covenant, not by virtue of belonging to the nation of Israel, but through faith in Christ. In fact the function of the Old Testament Law (Sinaitic covenant) was to point to Christ as its fulfilment.

[…]So what then did Christ say about foods? He pronounced all foods clean for his followers to eat:

‘ “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-23)

Jesus was making that point that under the new covenant God required purity of the heart. Internal thoughts and attitudes were as important as external actions.

Food is OK for Christians, but sexual immorality – which includes premarital sex and adultery – are NOT OK for Christians.

I think sometimes when you are talking to people whose motivation is just to get rid of any objective moral law entirely, they tend to ask questions without really wanting a good answer. This is especially true when it comes to the morality of sex. They ask the question not to get an answer, but to justify getting rid of the moral rules governing sexuality. The answers are there for people who are willing to respect God in their decision-making to find. The answers are not found only by people who have a reason to not want to find them.

In case you’re wondering, I am one of those Christian men who takes chastity seriously. Marriage is about having a close connection with your spouse. Sure, I could break the rules and have a lot of fun now. A lot of Christians have a hard time turning down fun. But when I look at Jesus, I don’t see a man who is pursuing fun and thrills. I see a man who sees a need and then sacrifices his own interests to rescue others from peril.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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