Monday, March 27, 2006

Ehrman lecture

Saturday we were out of town and Sunday L. hogged the computer. I thought I'd get around to writing about Bart Ehrman after work last night, but after two phone conversations and the not-so-delightful discovery that a cat had barfed both on my cell phone and in an earbud of my audible player's headset (proof yet again that I'm not supposed to listen to audiobooks), I went on to bed without blogging.

And today there's been a floor to mop and errands to run. . . At any rate, I enjoyed the lecture and listening to the radio interview that John linked to in comments. I found Ehrman's textbook in the library last night and I'll browse through that while waiting for Misquoting Jesus to appear on the new books cart. It looks as if New Testament studies is not near as dry as my class (back in the day) on the Old Testament turned out to be.

Ehrman says there are "more differences than there are words in the New Testament" in the existing manuscripts of the New Testament. There are more than 30,000 places where the manuscripts differ significantly.

He noted two types of mistakes in the 5,700 handwritten copies that survive: the accidental (spelling errors, words, lines or pages transposed or left out) and the intentional (tweaking to get rid of perceived problems in the text).

An intentional significant change involves the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. This story was added in the 12th century, probably by a scribe who wrote the story into the margin of the text he was copying, which was later placed into the text by yet another scribe.

Appalachian snake handlers base their worship practices on a later addition to the book of Mark; the book originally ended with the women fleeing from the tomb and not telling anyone what they'd seen. In Mark 1:41 Jesus's anger toward a leper is changed into compassion.

Changes in the book of Luke, according to Ehrman, have Jesus sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane and resulted in the removal of Jesus's prayer on the cross being removed in the second and third centuries; scribes did not think that Jesus would pray for Jews.

"The Bible is a very human book," Ehrman noted. The scribes and all its authors had their own points of view and writing styles.

I misquoted Ehrman's wife in comments below—I told Sylvia Ehrman told us that his Episcopal wife's attitude toward the discrepancies in the copies was a resounding "So what?" The actual quote from his wife was "Who cares?" I should check my notes before quoting anyone, obviously.

Evidently enough people care to have the book currently number 5 on the best sellers list. And Jon Stewart actually read the book!

In other news, I've started Suttree and have a feeling this one's going to be a very slow read. I might attempt Henry V this week as well since I have the dvd and am rather anxious to watch it.

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