Between Ehrman and Error

Recently on this blog I posted a video on the tenacity of the proposed ausgangstext which filled the lacuna of John 20:28. The vast majority of Muslims (expectedly) were enthusiastic about discussing the tenacity of Doubting Thomas’ alleged statement. The vast majority of Christians were not, which was also understandable. Then there were those caught in-between, educated enough to know that there had to be, or that there was more evidence behind what I had published, and there were others who were incredulous as to what that evidence could have been. Upon release of my second response video, I took a little more time, some 20 minutes and expanded on the rationale leading to the conclusions I mentioned in my first video on the topic.

Everyone knows about Dr. Ehrman’s famous statement, “copies of copies of copies of copies”. Yet the only two arguments I received in return were quite amusing. The first of which was that some people were curious as to whether Dr. Ehrman had commented on this passage or not. For some reason I have yet to discover, some Muslims’ hold on simple textual criticism of the New Testament is limited to only what Dr. Ehrman says, yet at the same time they are fully willing to simultaneously argue against his famous aforementioned quote. I duly provided a list of scholarship that not only knew of the work I gained the reference from John 20:28 on, I also provided the name of a seminary which uses the work itself, while also foregoing to mention that the scholar in question has been cited by Dr. Ehrman himself – one of the Muslims who opposed me in those comments had perhaps not yet read Dr. Ehrman’s references to this scholar (and his conclusions).

Nonetheless, the second argument I received was that no other variant of John 20:28 existed post p66, although I did point out that this was the case in Codex Bezae, as minor of a variant as it is, the challenge that not one variant exists has thoroughly been debunked (for those unread, the manuscript was eventually edited by a scribe).


Following from this ignorant argument, was the case that since we know what every text post p66 said, then we must know what p66 itself said. This again, coming from those who agree with Dr. Ehrman’s aforementioned statement. We are therefore left with the following problem. Hence the title, Between Ehrman and Error. We have the following from the gracious Dr. Ehrman (emphasis mine own):

My point has always been (for example, in Misquoting Jesus) that we can’t know with absolute complete certainty what was said in each and every passage of the NT. That point – which I think cannot be refuted – is principally directed against fundamentalists who want to claim that every word of the Bible is inspired by God. How can we say the words were inspired if we don’t know in a lot of cases what the words were???Source.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to these questions.  But they shouldn’t be ignored, as they ALWAYS are (in my experience) by people who want to assure us that we “know the original text in 99% of all cases.”   Really?   Which original?

If it were just up to me, I would say that the “original” is the first form of the text that was placed in circulation.  But since that in fact is not the oldest form of the text, maybe we shouldn’t call it the original. – Source.

One very interesting piece of evidence for this view involves a fact that is not widely known outside the ranks of the professional textual critics.  It is this:  new papyri manuscripts – relatively very old ones – do show up all the time (several in the past few years).  Whenever a new papyrus turns up, it almost NEVER contains a textual variant that is completely new.  The variants are almost always variants that we know about from our later manuscripts.  This shows, the argument goes, that variants were not created later.  Our later manuscripts preserved variants, they didn’t create them.  And this shows, it is argued, that all of the earlier variants are to be found even in the later manuscripts.

This is a terrific argument, and very interesting.  On the surface, it seems pretty convincing.  But in fact, in my view, it does not actually show that we have the original reading or that we can know that we do.  I will explain why in the next post. – Source.

I don’t think our New Testaments are likely ever to change much.  And I don’t think we know in a lot of places what the originals said.  Where’s the contradiction?  I’m not saying that we *know* that we have the original text in 99.9% of the passages of the NT.  I’m saying we *don’t* know – for a wide variety of reasons that I haven’t gotten into very much here.   But I’m emphasizing the word “know.”  We simply don’t know.

Do I *suspect* that most of the time we are pretty close or even there?  Yes, that would be my guess.  But it’s just a guess based on scholarly assumption and suspicion. – Source.

During those 300 years, Mark was being copied, and recopied, and recopied, by scribes.  Until we get our first full copy.  Can we know that this copy from 300 years later was 99% like the version that came directly from the pen of the author?  Of course we can’t know.  How would we know?Source.

Between Ehrman and Error. It’s really as simple as that. Dr. Ehrman used the word “guess”, I used the word “guesswork”. Dr. Ehrman used the word “suspicion”, I used the word “speculation”. Dr. Ehrman repeatedly points out that we cannot know what the original text said. He repeatedly points out that most variant units are decided on guesses and suspicion. So the question begs itself, how far are the conclusions in my video, different from that of Dr. Ehrman’s himself?

The problem presents itself, as he described regarding Mark, we don’t know what version of what copy we received. Given that basic, common sense principle, extend that to John 20:28, given that p66 is our earliest and we have no intermediate text (that is, the text between what the original author(s) wrote and the text of p66 itself), and that it has a lacuna or gap for the famous, “and my God” – then there is no way of certainty of knowing what p66 itself said or what the intermediate text(s) said, what the archetypal text said, or what the autographic text said. To require that we must need a variant before being able to dispute what a missing text says, is essentially self-refuting, the gap itself presents us with a problem, we don’t know what it said and we don’t know if any of the intermediate texts said something variable. We simply cannot know, just as Dr. Ehrman says.

So between Ehrman and Error, I agree with him, we cannot know, it involves guessing and suspicion. Those who disagree, disagree with the very goodly Dr. they appealed to in the first place and are as such, in error.

and Allah knows best.

Categories: Bart Ehrman, Biblical scholarship, Islam

Tags: , ,

14 replies

  1. I remain unconvinced by your arguments Ijaz.

    Beyond the assertion that we cannot be certain that any particular verse in the NT is guaranteed to be exactly as penned by the original author (a view which I agree with), I see no reason for your particular scepticism concerning John 20:28. I suspect you may be motivated by an apologetic need to discredit one of the most important Christological statements in the entire New Testament. But is this Islamically necessary? I think not.

    The Quran acknowledges that the gospel of Jesus is to be found in the existing gospels but is not coterminous with it. Christians are called by God in his final Testament to mankind to judge what they believe by the gospel *of* Jesus, and this teaching is confirmed by the Quran. The Quran also corrects the misinterpretations by Christians who wrongly believe Jesus is God. Jesus bears witness in the Quran that he is just a man.

    Clearly the four gospels are not the Injil. The Quran states that the ‘Gospel’ (Injil) is something given to Jesus by God (surah 5:46). So it is evident that in the Qur’an the divine Gospel was one revealed to Jesus (in Aramaic I assume) and not books written about Jesus (in Greek, a very different language).

    Therefore there is no need to discredit the existing gospels by conjuring up implausible and strained arguments. They are not the injil that Christians are called to follow.


    • Whether you were convinced or not is irrelevant, it is the counter-claims made to reject the argument that are what is relevant and what some of this post deals with. You are free to suspect, as many things are also suspected about either of us. Can you let me know where I said my discrediting of John 20:28 was Islamically necessary? I didn’t. I merely used papyrological facts that discredit the evangelical norm of claiming to know with certainty what the ausgangstext stated.

      I used the same phraseology that Dr. Ehrman used with respect to the NT’s literature, guesswork and suspicion/ speculation – which you disagreed with. Can you clarify whether you agree or disagree with:

      1. The use of the word guesswork as the goodly Dr. also used?
      2. That you were or were not aware of Dr. Ehrman writing about and referencing Dr. Comfort?
      3. Agree with the invention of the claim that I referred to J 20:28 as a “variant” in my video?

      These are important, given the title of your post on the topic, I assume you recognized the issues with his video but you seemed oblivious to the switching of terms used to give the impression of a variant and the difference in the datings. These things therefore beg the question, are you agreeing with Dr. White’s errors and if so, for what plausible reason?

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Whether you were convinced or not is irrelevant”

      Irrelevant to you? Obviously. But my view is not worthless to me. Yet you keep on pressing me to agree with you.

      You have not provided any plausible evidence that John 20:28 is other than virtually all textual critics take it to be: ‘Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’’

      Therefore I look to other motivations to explain your campaign to discredit this verse. I suspect an apologetic motive is the most plausible: a desire to discredit the NT to advance Islam.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not pressing anyone, if I were, I’d make a title like, “Ijaz Ahmad Destroys XYZ”. That would be pressing.

      It should be noted, I asked you three simple questions. You’ve not answered. Since your view is relevant to you, why not answer them?


    • No I will not. They miss the point entirely and I don’t want to get tied up with your thinking. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Miss the point entirely? Lest I quote you, you did take disagreement with my usage of the terms guesswork and speculation, I’m only pointing out the error in your thinking which you either don’t want to or cannot confront. Those specific terms you found issue with, but Dr. Ehrman also uses them, the same Dr. whose opinion you initially based your disagreement on.

      Not only that, but as someone who claims to blog on theology, shouldn’t you be concerned about the accuracy of the information you post? I saw earlier you removed a post about Awlaki, but at the same time you agree with a straw man of someone lying about a Muslim brother (use of the word variant), and that somehow becomes irrelevant.

      Seems like you’ve missed the point entirely of your initial disagreements, as they serve as a witness against your position(s).


    • Ijaz, I think we must both agree to disagree about these questions. Let us move on..


    • Interesting the route you’ve taken on this one. Good luck with that.


  2. I applaud and thank Paul for allowing Ijaz to write posts.

    If anyone can respond to what I said as a comment to Ijaz’s earlier post, I would appreciate it….

    I am copying it below….

    I don’t understand what the commotion is about.

    If John 9:38 in today’s Bible contains this narrative about the blind man worshipping Jesus and if that was
    not in 9:38, then it is easily verifiable by simply checking the Sinaiticus codex. Is that codex online

    Let’s check it out….if that is not in there, then is that not a big deal? Indeed it is, since the insertion is not
    just any random word but a word that has implications that Trinitarians have been using.

    Regarding John 20:28, we simply have to measure the number of letters of the lacuna. And then see how
    many Koine Greek words can fit in there or how many permutations of two words can fit in there or thee
    words, etc as long as the words can be reasonable in terms of the context.

    If there are 10,000 possibilities and if “my God” is only 1 out of 10,000 possibilities, then the probability of
    “my God” being the correct words are 0.01%…in other words, very, very, tiny.

    So John 20:28 would be a big deal also.

    I don’t see what is rocket science about all this.

    I was curious if Bart Ehrman knew this. But if he doesn’t that does not mean what Ijaz found is false.

    Ehrman is very scholarly and he has deep knowledge of this issue but it is not surprising if he does not
    higher criticism of every verse.

    So let’s not minimize Ijaz’s findings. Great job Ijaz. Mashallah. Let’s spend the energy to verify all this
    which would we very easy to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The irony with Ijaz’s insistence to push this point, is that his logic lends itself to utterly and equally rejecting not only the Quran, but the Hadith as well.

    Of course he may well appeal to the isnad, but the isnad is a system of thought developed from later sources, the very sources that his logic rejects to begin with because we don’t have the “originals”

    Way to go Ijaz!!


    • The inaccuracies in this comment are so plentiful I just don’t have the time to explain how wrong you are. For reference Samuel Green tried pulling the same argument and I wrote a short reply to him. He’s been AWOL ever since on that argument.

      You could keep repeating yourself, but I don’t think you know why you’re wrong. You tried copy pasting something that agreed with me so that you could misrepresent the author to show disagreement. At this point you have no credibility.


  4. Ijaz,

    It appears that Paulus is conceding that the points you bring up about the two verses is true.

    Thanks for providing the link to Codex Sinaiticus.

    Yes, it is blank…I am copying and pasting it below…

    35 και ηκουϲεν ┬ ιϲ οτι εξεβαλον αυτον εξω · και ευρων αυτον ειπεν ┬ · ϲυ πιϲτευειϲ ειϲ τον υν του ανθρωπου ·

    36 απεκριθη εκινοϲ και ειπεν κε ┬ τιϲ εϲτι ϊνα πιϲτευϲω ειϲ αυτον ·

    37 εφη αυτω ο ιϲ και εωρακαϲ αυτο και ο λαλων μετα ϲου · εκεινοϲ εϲτιν ·

    38 ┬

    39 ┬ ειϲ κριμα εγω ειϲ τον κοϲμον τουτον ηλθον · ϊνα οι μη βλεποντεϲ βλεπωϲιν · και οι βλεποντεϲ τυφλοι γενωνται ·

    40 ηκουϲαν εκ των φαριϲαιων ┬ οι μετ αυτου οντεϲ · και ειπαν αυτω μη και ημειϲ τυφλοι εϲμεν ·


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