2019-07-02

How the Seasons Change (We DON’T have Q; We DO have Q — Ehrman)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

PItalics are original; the bolding is mine:

I’ve pointed out that we don’t have the Q source. Since we don’t have it, you might expect that scholars would be fairly cautious in what they say about it. But nothing is further from the truth. Books on Q have become a veritable cottage industry in the field. . . . Not bad for a nonexistent source!

. . . .

Let me repeat: Q is a source that we don’t have

(Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, 1999. pp132, 133)

That was when Ehrman was responding to scholars who use Q as evidence to counter his argument that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. (There are other arguments in the literature that contradict the apocalyptic prophet view of Jesus that Ehrman overlooked entirely.)

Then later,

With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) — sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is [sic] pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.

(Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? HuffPost 03/20/2012)

Within a couple of decades of the traditional date of his death, we have numerous accounts of his life found in a broad geographical span. In addition to Mark, we have Q, M (which is possibly made of multiple sources), L (also possibly multiple sources), two or more passion narratives, a signs source, two discourse sources, the kernel (or original) Gospel behind the Gospel of Thomas, and possibly others.

(Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? HarperCollins, 2012. pp. 82 f)

To be fair, Ehrman does eventually qualify the last statement by stating that our “having” is an “inference” but that word nowhere appears in the HuffPost article.

And these are just the ones we know about, that we can reasonably infer from the scant literary remains that survive from the early years of the Chris­tian church. No one knows how many there actually were. Luke says there were “many” of them, and he may well have been right.

 

The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

28 Comments

  • 2019-07-02 07:28:27 GMT+0000 - 07:28 | Permalink

    Ya!

    Just plain frustrating!

    He is stuck between many hard places as a scholar in such a controversial field… Jesus, and history and Bible studies!

    What a joke.. Everytime I led a Bible study or taught a class, or gave a lecture,,, there was not one who could clearly identify “Jesus, the Christ”…

    what a bad collection of testimonies…I think Ehrman uses Jesus language and theology when it works for him..

    He is indeed a complex man and scholar… and respect him for that… but I have it in spider-like senses that he is still carefully trying to navigate the contemporary biblical-theological-practical sitz im leben!

    I think Bart Ehrman is simply trying to live up to what he thinks he is at the moment… I accept his integrity and his defense of it, even though I do think he has granted way too much to fun-damn-mentalistic views regarding the NT…which he himself hates but then gets muddled throughout many of his debates and presentations about many serious questions raised against his views..

    .oh well…he doesn’t care ,, no time , no interest, everything is going well… as planned..:)

    He is high on my list of scholars who do their best, despite some really weird and contradictory stuff that contaminates their statements, oral or written…regarding what the case “really is” regarding this or that…

  • Arkenaten
    2019-07-02 10:03:41 GMT+0000 - 10:03 | Permalink

    I have always felt that Ehrman is hedging his bets until he is convinced Jesus is a myth and then he will write his next best seller!

    As for Q? To quote Life of Brian: ”He’s making it up as he goes along!”

    • db
      2019-07-02 14:00:46 GMT+0000 - 14:00 | Permalink

      Per Ehrman (28 May 2017) [original c. 2012] [NOW FORMATTED]. “Would I Be Personally Devastated if the Mythicists Were Right?…“. The Bart Ehrman Blog.

      When I started my serious study of the New Testament . . . I had a view of Jesus very much like the one most conservative evangelicals have: Jesus was a miracle-working son of God who came to earth principally to die for sins.
        • My historical studies eventually changed my views of Jesus.

      I think every historian should be willing to change his views based on his study of the evidence.
        • Scholars who do not change their views – but come out of a study with the same views they brought into it – are highly suspect.
      […]
      Would I be traumatized if the mythicists were right after all?
        • Not in the least. I would probably feel energized.

  • db
    2019-07-02 13:52:10 GMT+0000 - 13:52 | Permalink

    Per Ehrman’s rhetorical back-flips on his past writings, see also:

    • Godfrey, Neil (8 April 2012). “Ehrman sacrifices Paul to launch his attack on mythicism”. Vridar.

    This is the third post in my series addressing Bart Ehrman’s rhetorical back-flips on his past writings and those of his scholarly peers in order to attack mythicism.

    • Godfrey, Neil (24 February 2016). “Another Flip Flop Argument: Ehrman again on early Low Christology”. Vridar.

    Ehrman’s earlier work kind of pulls the rug out from his current arguments in How Jesus Became God to the effect that Acts contains evidence that the earliest followers of Jesus held on to a primitive Christology.

  • kelly wellington
    2019-07-02 13:57:49 GMT+0000 - 13:57 | Permalink

    I got the impression from Father Brodie that we do have Q. It has been in front of us all along….it is the Hebrew Bible.

  • db
    2019-07-02 15:17:02 GMT+0000 - 15:17 | Permalink

    OP: Ehrman does eventually qualify the last statement by stating that our “having” is an “inference”

    Similary, Ehrman clarified that he meant “some” mythicists are avidly antireligious, in response to Justin Brierley’s agitated prompting—after Ehrman repeated the originally unqualified remark from Did Jesus Exist?.

    NB: Said event occurred on Brierley’s radio talk “Unbelievable?”.

    Ehrman, Bart D (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperOne. ISBN 9780062206442.
    Some [a qualifier per later external clarification] “mythicists are avidly antireligious. To debunk religion, then, one needs to undermine specifically the Christian form of religion. […] the mythicists who are so intent on showing that the historical Jesus never existed are not being driven by a historical concern. Their agenda is religious, and they are complicit in a religious ideology. They are not doing history; they are doing theology.” [pp. 337–338, §. Conclusion – The Mythicist Agenda]

    • db
      2019-07-02 16:26:31 GMT+0000 - 16:26 | Permalink

      OP: Ehrman does eventually qualify . . . “having” is an “inference” but that word nowhere appears in the HuffPost article.

      Ehrman (21 April 2014). “Attacks from the Other Side: An Ill-Tempered Richard Carrier”. The Bart Ehrman Blog.

      [If Carrier] had simply waited to read my book before blasting off at me [per the HuffPost article], he would have seen what I meant.

      Cf. Carrier (21 March 2012). “Ehrman Trashtalks Mythicism”. Richard Carrier blogs.

  • Steve Ruis
    2019-07-02 17:08:46 GMT+0000 - 17:08 | Permalink

    Egad! “In just a couple of decades after “his death”?” No, those are the letters of Paul only (and they are disputed) and those do not mention one single thing about Jesus’s earthly visitation (no quotes, no teachings. etc.). And if you ask the average 50-year old what they remember of, say, high school, don’t expect a lot of detail. So writing 2-3 decades after an event, well I hope you took damned good notes. (And then she said … and then I said … yeah, right.)

    Did anyone go around and systematically interview any of the people who tromped around the area with their god (or even son of god, or even messaich)? If I thought god had walked around on this planet, I would milk the people he spoke to like goats to get as much information as possible. Instead, we get mostly Paul (Never met the guy buy we have conversations on SnapChat.) and anonymous authors for the other books in circulation, books that show clear agendas other than the stated purpose of the book. While the disciples were likely illiterate, there were such things as scribes, so all you needed was somebody willing to pay a scribe to record the interviews.

    This is what I find so frustrating. I have read many of Ehrman’s books. I thought they were authoritative, but then … I find out he has a hidden agenda, just like all of the rest.

    • db
      2019-07-02 18:44:33 GMT+0000 - 18:44 | Permalink

      I have read many of Ehrman’s books. I thought they were authoritative, but then … I find out he has a hidden agenda, just like all of the rest.

      Per S. A. McDaniel’s blog post on the historicity of Jesus, “Was Jesus a Historical Figure?”. I tried to salve the sting of “Carrier’s criticism” by pointing out that scholars like Ehrman had failed McDaniel. But I am now blocked (permanently?) as a bot per my included YouTube links.

      If so inclined, drop him a comment to the same.

  • JBeers
    2019-07-02 17:47:13 GMT+0000 - 17:47 | Permalink

    Quotation attributed to Keynes: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

    As someone who likes as much as humanly possible to be a know-it-all for the fun of knowing, I love to find myself proven wrong so as to know more, and through my ongoing train of discovering (my) blunders find pleasure in life.

    Thus I personally believe there is not necessarily any problem in changing one’s opinions, even drastically, even oscillating back and forth, if done for good reason. A change of opinions, simply to keep up with incoming perceived information or analysis is laudable.

    If done out of meanness, or otherwise to gain advantage over others, or largely to maintain one’s standing in some hierarchy, not so good.

    I have not read McGrath’s works. Just scattered quotations, mainly here. I will keep my tentative (possibly strong) opinions about his case to myself but felt like expressing my general thoughts.

  • Vinny
    2019-07-03 18:11:31 GMT+0000 - 18:11 | Permalink

    For another one of Ehrman’s contortions, consider his claim that Galatians 1:19 is one of two reasons why scholars are convinced “beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt” that Jesus was a historical person. (Did Jesus Exist/ p.144)

    Compare this to what Ehrman said when debating Dan Wallace a few years earlier: Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know. How could we possibly know? Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200. Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s. The first copy that we have is 150 years later. Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made. How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it. Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse? Yes. Is it possible that someone took out a verse? Yes. Is it possible that somebody changed a lot of the words? Yes. Is it possible that the later copies were made from one of the worst of the early copies? Yes. It’s possible. We don’t know.

    If we cannot be sure about the text of Galatians, it is ridiculous to suppose that we be sure “beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt” that Paul actually met the biological brother of Jesus as reported in Galatians.

    • db
      2019-07-03 20:06:18 GMT+0000 - 20:06 | Permalink

      Ted (2016). “Is the Original New Testament Lost? Ehrman vs Wallace (Debate Transcript)”. Credo Courses.

      [Ehrman’s Closing Remarks] There are a lot of things that Dan and I agree on. . . . One of the fundamental disagreements we have is whether the earliest form of the text is rightly called the original text. I understand Dan’s motivation for wanting to think of it as the original text and I respect it. That is a point of view that I also at one time had. But it strikes me that there are serious theoretical problems to even knowing what it means to call a text the original text and our evidence simply is not sufficient to get us back to anything like what the authors originally wrote.

      Cf. Ehrman (7 March 2015). “My Debate with Dan Wallace: Is the Original NT Lost?”. The Bart Ehrman Blog. On February 1st, 2012 I had a public debate with Dan Wallace

    • db
      2019-07-03 21:13:45 GMT+0000 - 21:13 | Permalink

      Comment by Neil Godfrey—29 July 2012—per “Larry Hurtado’s Wearying (and Irresponsible?) Encore”. Vridar. 29 July 2012.

      I love this sort of precious allusion to the exalted authority of “the trained scholar” that so often seems to waft around discussions like this:

      First, it is not true that scholars are confident that they know exactly what Plato, Euripides, or Homer wrote, based on the surviving manuscripts. In fact, as any trained classicist will tell you, there are and long have been enormous arguments about all these writings. Most people don’t know about these arguments for the simple reason that they are not trained classicists. [“The Text of the New Testament:…” Ehrman Blog. 2012.]

      I’m by no means a trained classicist. I studied a full year’s unit on classical Greece as part of my B.A. That’s where I learned that there are questions about the textual debates over classical literature. Any educated lay person with a general interest in the topic can learn about this sort of thing. It is quite precious for scholars to suggest that their gems are the preserve of the elite. All Ehrman has to say for the benefit of others who may not have had any knowledge of the wider world of classical literature is that we know the manuscripts have been interpolated and otherwise corrupted in varying degrees throughout their transmission. There is no need to pat his lay readers on their pointy heads and imply they are struggling to have any idea of what the issues really are.

      Commnet by vinnyjh57—1 May 2012—per Ehrman (30 April 2012). “The Text of the New Testament: Are the Textual Traditions of Other Ancient Works Relevant?”. The Bart Ehrman Blog.

      I agree that the historian has to use the evidence he has, but I think that he also has to acknowledge its limitations and problems without claiming any greater degree of certainty than the evidence can fairly support. Isn’t the fact that there is no rational way to assess the probability of tampering the very reason that many scholars decline to even talk about what the original texts looked like? The most that can be done is to express an opinion about what the texts looked like closer to the time of the earliest extant manuscripts.

      Here’s what you said in your 2008vinnyjh57 May 1, 2012 debate with Dan Wallace:

      Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know. How could we possibly know?
      […]
      There are people copying these texts year after year, decade after decade.

      Whatever degree of certainty you assign to the text of Galatians, clearly it must be less than “beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt,” mustn’t it? As a result, any conclusion you draw that takes as one of its premises that some words in Galatians are genuinely Pauline must necessarily be less than “beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt.” That doesn’t even take into account the possibilities, which again must be non-trivial, that Paul was somehow mistaken or that he meant something other than biological brother.

      Bart Ehrman May 1, 2012

      Yes, I take your points, and agree to an extent, obviously. But I do think that there really needs to be some *reason* to doubt something for it no longer to be beyond a shadow of a doubt. I’ve never been in favor of doubting something just because we can. When it comes to the words of the New Testament, if all the evidence points in one direction (as it does with respect to the words you’re challenging: they are in every surviving manuscript of the book), then there needs at least to be some *reason* to doubt that they were originally part of the text. Otherwise we’re not doing the work of the historian but are just inventing views that fit our agendas. So, in this particular case: if you want to posit that the words were not originally there — what are your reasons for thinking so? (And why are those reasons stronger than the reasons for accepting the only evidence at our disposal?)

      Or to put it differently, with a feeble attempt at humor, if *every* historical/textual possibility is as plausible as any other, then why not argue that originally in Galatians Paul said that he met with Josephine, the sister of the Lord?

    • db
      2019-07-04 00:56:07 GMT+0000 - 00:56 | Permalink

      what Ehrman said when debating Dan Wallace a few years earlier

      Cf. Ehrman, Bart D.; Wallace, Daniel (2011). “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament: A Dialogue”. In Stewart, Robert B (ed.). The Reliability of the New Testament. Fortress Press. p. 13ff. ISBN 978-1-4514-1715-9. “[Per Wallace, Daniel] a truncated version of my lecture in our first debate (April 2008 in New Orleans), but [Ehrman,] Bart’s full lecture.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-07-05 03:20:15 GMT+0000 - 03:20 | Permalink

      Thanks, Vinny and db. Excellent point and one I’ll add to my files for future reference.

      I have been re-reading Schweitzer and it is surprising that he at no points suggests Gal. 1:19 is the killer proof text — as so many scholars today do. He even had the honesty to concede that nothing can be settled by Josephus, Tacitus or Suetonius. The difference between an honest scholar and an apologist (apologist for the profession if not the faith).

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-07-05 03:25:59 GMT+0000 - 03:25 | Permalink

      I cannot find the page with these words by Ehrman:

      Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know. How could we possibly know? Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200. Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s. The first copy that we have is 150 years later. Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made. How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it. Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse? Yes. Is it possible that someone took out a verse? Yes. Is it possible that somebody changed a lot of the words? Yes. Is it possible that the later copies were made from one of the worst of the early copies? Yes. It’s possible. We don’t know.

      Vinny / db — where are they located? Thanks (Some of the quote appears in db’s link to the transcript but it substitutes 2 Corinthians for Galatians.)

      • db
        2019-07-05 04:04:58 GMT+0000 - 04:04 | Permalink

        it substitutes 2 Corinthians for Galatians

        That is the 2012 debate

        • Vinny noted the 2008 debate for Galatians, see transcript: Ehrman, Bart D.; Wallace, Daniel (2011). “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament: A Dialogue”. In Stewart, Robert B (ed.). The Reliability of the New Testament. Fortress Press. p. 13ff. ISBN 978-1-4514-1715-9. “[Per Wallace, Daniel] a truncated version of my lecture in our first debate (April 2008 in New Orleans), but [Ehrman,] Bart’s full lecture.”

        “Dr. Daniel Wallace”. The Veritas Forum.

        At New Orleans Baptist Seminary in 2008, at the fourth annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum, he [Daniel B. Wallace] debated Bart D. Ehrman on the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts as witnesses to the original text (the debate later came out as a book by Fortress Press).

        Bart and Dan debated again at Southern Methodist University on Oct 1, 2011 before the largest crowd ever assembled (1425 people) to witness a debate on textual criticism.

        A third debate, on Feb 1, 2012, was held at North Carolina Chapel Hill, where Ehrman is a professor.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-07-05 05:47:44 GMT+0000 - 05:47 | Permalink

          I cannot find the words Vinny quoted in the Stewart book you cite.

          (Nor can I see the words “[Per Wallace, Daniel] a truncated version of my lecture in our first debate (April 2008 in New Orleans), but [Ehrman,] Bart’s full lecture.”)

          I can see where Vinny has quoted the words earlier in comments at https://ehrmanblog.org/the-text-of-the-new-testament-are-the-textual-traditions-of-other-ancient-works-relevant/ — but not the original source for the words.

          • db
            2019-07-05 06:37:29 GMT+0000 - 06:37 | Permalink

            It is not in the 2008 debate text @ “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament: A Dialogue” [PDF]

            • Maybe it is from the 2011 debate?

            • db
              2019-07-05 07:56:23 GMT+0000 - 07:56 | Permalink

              “SMU Debate DVD”. csntm.org.

              [SMU Debate DVD] On October 1, 2011 Dr. Bart D. Ehrman and CSNTM’s Executive Director, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, debated the reliability of the text of the New Testament at Southern Methodist University.

          • db
            2019-07-05 07:10:45 GMT+0000 - 07:10 | Permalink

            “”Did Jesus Exist?” (6): Is Corruption in Transmission Relevant?”. Do You Ever Think About Things You Do Think About?. 19 April 2012.

            [What Ehrman] said in a 2008 debate with Dan Wallace at the Greer-Heard Forums:

            Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know. How could we possibly know? Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200.

          • Vinny
            2019-07-05 08:32:47 GMT+0000 - 08:32 | Permalink

            As I recall, I transcribed Ehrman’s remarks directly from the audio files of the 2008 Greer-Heard Forum.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-07-05 09:32:16 GMT+0000 - 09:32 | Permalink

              Thanks. I’ll take the Ehrman blog comments at the source. Ehrman concurred there with what you wrote so that’s pretty reliable.

            • db
              2019-07-05 14:00:40 GMT+0000 - 14:00 | Permalink

              “Complete Greer Heard Collection | Complete Greer Heard Collection MP3 | Watchman Fellowship, Inc”. watchman.org.

              The GREER HEARD POINT-COUNTERPOINT FORUM include 14 Conferences held between 2005 and 2017 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
              […]
               • 2008 – The Textual Reliability of the New Testament

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-07-05 15:02:39 GMT+0000 - 15:02 | Permalink

                No thank you. That is overkill and at a killer cost, too. As mentioned above, I have all I need now — without having to spend a fortune to listen through hours of tapes. A little less information, please, db 🙂

              • db
                2019-07-05 17:33:38 GMT+0000 - 17:33 | Permalink

                It appears that the 2008 debate was abridged and edited into a “dialogue” format for the 2011 publication, “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament: A Dialogue”. In Stewart, Robert B (ed.). The Reliability of the New Testament. Fortress Press.

                A little less information, please . . . 🙂

                I can not seem to stop myself, I added the following while composing this comment (using my dual-keyboard wielding skill):

                “Nerve § History”. Wikipedia.

                Herophilos 335–280 BCE, described the optic nerve and the oculomotor nerve for sight and eye movement. Analysis of the nerves in the cranium allowed him to differentiate between blood vessels and nerves i.e. Ancient Greek: νεῦρον (neûron), “string (plant fiber), nerve”.

                “Coronary arteries § Name etymology”. Wikipedia.

                The word corona is a Latin word meaning “crown”, from the Ancient Greek κορώνη (korōnè, “garland, wreath”). It was applied to the coronary arteries because of a notional resemblance (compare the photos).

                OMG, I just now realized that I have an INFO addiction (Q_Q)

                Per the Wikipedia “VisualEditor”, I now see that the cite tool is marked as “Powered by “Zotero”.”

                Cf. “Zotero | Your personal research assistant”. zotero.org.

                • Amy thoughts on Zotero?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-07-06 01:15:25 GMT+0000 - 01:15 | Permalink

                I can not seem to stop myself,

                That is very apparent! 🙂 I was thinking of some sort of OCD, no? Your lists of citations added to most posts (is it most? It seems like it) have become predictable and I for one simply gloss over them. (For most part, as soon as I see your db signature I have got to the point of simply not reading your “comment” anymore.) I am sure that anyone who wants to follow up questions arising from the posts will find their own leads according to their own interests. The only citations I ever follow up are those that I have read in context in a book or article itself that respond to a particular question of one aspect of what is being said. How about just writing up your citations in another space where you can survey them at a later date for how and for whom they might be of use.

                Or I can put your comments on moderation if you think you really cannot stop. I can ensure only comments that are another kind of addition of addition to the post appear here.

                • Amy thoughts on Zotero?

                Zotero has a good reputation among many researchers. I use it.

                But please! Do not post here lots of references to reviews of zotero or comments from various users about it!!! 😉

  • Seven C Watson
    2019-07-05 01:57:26 GMT+0000 - 01:57 | Permalink

    Jesus wept, /s. Just as its contrived and soaked in magic nature invalidates G.Mk in its entirety, this foolishness more than tends to invalidate Ehrman’s entire oeuvre. I for one can’t really trust anything he’s ever written anymore. Even his peer reviewed material. Why? His peers are just as bankrupt as himself, and their field is about as valid as Alchemy. Roll on its birthing a Chemistry analogue.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.