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Ehrman vs Wallace: Round Three

On Wednesday, February 1, 2012, I debated Bart Ehrman on his home turf at UNC Chapel Hill. The topic: Is the original New Testament lost? The format was a 30-minute opener from each of us (Bart, then me), followed by two rounds of 5-minute responses to the other man. Then, questions from the floor and, finally, a one-minute closing statementfrom each of us. Miles O’Neill was the moderator and the debate was sponsored by the Ehrman Project, which Miles heads up. Over 1000 people were in attendance.

Bart Ehrman is well known as a superb debater. He was on a national championship debate team in high school and has been debating ever since. This was my fifth everdebate—three now with Bart. I still have a lot to learn about debate technique. But in all three of my debates with Bart I recognized that they would either be recorded or turned into a book (the first one is now available as The Reliability of the New Testament: A Dialogue between Bart D. Ehrman and Daniel B. Wallace (Fortress Press, 2011). The second debate—the largest such debate in history with over 1400 people in attendance—was professionally filmed and edited and is available at www.csntm.org as a DVD for a modest priceI was as concerned for those who would be able to study the arguments in some detail as I was for those who attended each debate. Therefore, I geared my responses to those who would study these issues later on.

Andreas Köstenberger, an erudite professor at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, attended the debate and wrote up a review of it. You can access that here. Köstenberger offered a critique more on me than on the debate, and on the debate tactics of each of us more than on the substance of what was said. My response to him has been posted as a comment on his blogpost.

For P&P readers, I would like to summarize the debate from my perspective. If you attended the debate, your comments are especially welcome (but of course so arecomments by others!).

Bart’s opener focused on three questions:

  1. What do we mean by original text?
  2. Where are all the early manuscripts?
  3. Why do scholars disagree so much about the wording of the original New Testament?

He answered the first by arguing that several NT books were composite works and that it’s impossible for us to get back to the original wording of those books. His examples included 2 Corinthians, John, Acts, Mark, and Luke. Among other things, he argued thatall critical scholars recognize that 2 Corinthians was never sent out by Paul in that form, that it was originally two different letters that Paul wrote which were later fused together. But this is not true: not all critical scholars believe this (e.g., Raymond Brown argues against it, as do Carson & Moo, Ellis, Guthrie, and a host of others). Regarding John’s Gospel, Bart said that chapter 21 was added later. I argued that this is by no means a settled belief, and that a doctoral student at Dallas Seminary, Charles Cummings, is writing his dissertation on this very topic. We also discussed Mark’s Gospel, which Bart claimed has a lost original ending. He was presupposing that the text after Mark 16.8 was lost and that scribes filled it in with what they could. I agree that later scribes added to the Gospel (there are multiple endings), but that the last leaf was almost surely not lost. The reason is that Mark almost surely wrote on a scroll rather than a codex (the modern book-form with binding on one side and individual pages). The codex form was invented late in the first century, but the best scholars on the codex-form, T. C. Skeat and C. H. Roberts, in their book The Birth of the Codex, argued that Mark’s Gospel was written on a scroll. If on a scroll, then the last leaf would be the most protected. I believe that Mark intended to conclude his Gospel at 16.8, as do most scholars of the last fifty yearsBart was overstating his case.

This first question really addresses composition criticism rather than textual criticism. It struck me that Bart was using this tactic as a way to win the debate, simultaneously detouring us from the real discussion. Yet even a scholar the stature of Kurt Aland, unquestionably the finest German textual critic of the last sixty years, said that there is zero evidence in the manuscripts for such compositions and that all the variants that ever came down the pike are still to be found in the existing manuscripts. Bart did not respond to this point.

He answered the second question by saying that we really don’t have any early manuscriptsBut this again is a huge overstatement. We have as many as eighteen second-century manuscripts (six of which were recently discovered and not yet catalogued) and a first-century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel! Altogether, more than 43% of the 8000 or so verses in the NT are found in these papyri. Bart had explicitly said that our earliest copy of Mark was from c. 200 CE, but this is now incorrect. It’s from the first century. I mentioned these new manuscript finds and told the audience that a book will be published by E. J. Brill in about a year that gives all the data. (In the Q & A, Bart questioned the validity of the first-century Mark fragment. I noted that a world-class paleographer, whose qualifications are unimpeachable, was my source. Bart said that even so, we don’t have thousands of manuscripts from the first century! That kind of skepticism is incomprehensible to me.)

Further, in comparison with other ancient literature, the NT has far more early copies than any other work. In the first two hundred years after the composition of the NT thereexist today well over sixty manuscripts. That’s three times the amount of manuscripts that exist for the average classical author in two thousand years.

He answered his third question by claiming that scholars have done all they can but still can’t come to agreement over the wording of the original text. Again, this is not true. Bart had acknowledged that we don’t know the exact number of variants yet because we haven’t examined all the manuscripts in detail yet. We also don’t know the exact number of Latin, Coptic, and Syriac manuscripts (our earliest and most important translations of the NT), let alone what they all say in detail. Bart further argued that a Greek NT that came out in 2005 which claimed to have the original wording differs from other texts in over 6000 places. This is true, but he was not telling the whole story: That text is one that both Bart and I would seriously disagree with, as would most textual critics and NT scholars. It is the majority text, which is based on Greek manuscripts that for much of the NT are only from the ninth century and later. I also pointed out that Ehrman and Metzger would only disagree in about two dozen places as to what the original text said. And Metzger represents pretty much the standard view today among NT scholars.

In my opener, I raised four questions:

  1. How many textual variants are there?
  2. What is the nature of the variants?
  3. What theological beliefs depend on variants?
  4. Is the original NT lost?

On the first question, I agreed with Bart that we have a huge number of variants—my estimate is about 400,000. But we have a lot of variants because we have a lot of manuscripts: over 20,000 in various languages, and about one million quotations of the NT from the church fathers, reaching back as early as the first century. And these thousands of manuscripts come from all over the Mediterranean region, showing that noearly conspiracy to conform the manuscripts to one text-form existed. I also made comparisons with other Greco-Roman literature, noting that we have on average 1000 times more manuscripts of the NT than we do for the average classical author. If Bart was going to be skeptical about the NT manuscripts, that skepticism would have to be multiplied a thousand-fold for the average classical author. If scholars actually did this, we would immediately go back into the Dark Ages.

On the second question, I noted that the vast majority of variants can’t even be translated and that less than one percent of all variants are meaningful and have a decent chance of reflecting the original wording.

On the third question, I quoted from Bart’s Misquoting Jesus, where he says that no essential Christian belief is affected by any of these variants. This is the most crucial point for most Christians and it was an important point to make, even though it was technically not within the purview of the debate topic.

On the fourth, I gave five reasons why we can be relatively confident that we have the wording of the originals somewhere in the manuscripts today:

(1) If the early MSS exhibit wild copying practices, then we are in an excellent position for recovering the original since there was no conspiracy to make just one kind of text. Further, those that were carefully produced in Alexandria reveal a careful copying process that reaches back to the earliest times. I illustrated this with Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and P75, and noted that when all three of them agree they probably reflect the original wording. Bart did not challenge this statement. I spoke at length about P75 and B, noting that the common ancestor was older than P75 and that B actually reflected a purer stream of transmission.

(2) The standard critical text used today, the Nestle-Aland 27, only follows conjecture in ONE place, and even there the two senior editors disagreed with the rest of the committee. This shows that conjecture is not needed for the NT like it is for virtually all other Greco-Roman literature. And when the MSS display coherence, this indicates that there are not gaps in the MS tradition.

(3) Not a single new reading from any of the 134 papyri has proven to be autographic. In the last 135 years, not a single new reading of any MS has such a pedigree. This shows that the autographic wording is to be found among the MSS somewhere. I concluded this point by saying, “So, what would happen if we found MSS even earlier than our earliest papyri? They will no doubt confirm the wording that we already considered to be original. If all the NT papyri that have been discovered have not been able to introduce a single original reading, why should we think that more discoveries would be any different?” This cut into Bart’s main argument, and he did not respond directly to the point.

(4) The copy of Mark that Matthew used is a first-century Mark, and yet it differs from what scholars think the original Mark said in only a handful of non-translatable places. (One of my interns, Jason Stein, is writing his master’s thesis on this very topic.One of Bart’s doctoral students, Jared Anderson, is also writing on this same topic, and he is coming to quite different conclusions. I wrote to him and asked about what methodological controls he is using.) Bart himself had indicated (in Misquoting Jesus) that we have a first-century copy of Mark, but he concluded that Matthew and Luke were ‘just like the scribes’ in that they changed the text significantly. I argued that they were not like the scribes and that the scribes hardly changed the text at all.

(5) The first-century fragment of Mark was my final point. Not only does its existence contradict Bart’s claim that we don’t have anything from the first century of Mark, but This papyrus fragment—just like the other new discoveries that we are preparing for publication—strongly confirms what most scholars have already said is the original text.

In the give-and-take that followed, I failed to ask Bart to lay out what he needed to believe that we had the original text of the NT. This was asked in our debate last October, and Bart said that he would need to see ten MSS of Mark, written within a week of the autograph, and having no more than a 0.001% deviation. I called him on that skepticism in the TC-List, and he conceded that he was speaking off the cuff and that it was an exaggeration. I noted that the question asked had to do with the minimum he would need to believe, so if he gave an exaggeration he was not really answering the question. Further, I noted that since there are only 57,000 letters in Mark, to require no more than 0.001% deviation would mean half a letter at most!

had asked in my opening statement, “How does [Bart know that these early MSS do not give us the original wording]? What criteria does he use to determine that they made mistakes? Either such errors are patently obvious—like ‘Onion’ for ‘Union’ [I used the illustration of the preamble to the Constitution in which a scribe wrote, ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Onion…’]—or he is judging these early papyri by later MSS that have an excellent pedigree—later MSS whose wording reaches back to the time before our earliest papyri. Bart said I pitched him a softball because he was able to determine that the MSS were defective by patristic comments from the second century. I responded that this was overstated—that is, he was using the great uncials as well as patristics to point to the autographic wording. And precisely because of the majuscules of the fourth century scholars have concluded—with Metzger—that the wording of their texts is hundreds of years older than the MSS themselves.

We each had a one-minute closing statement. Bart had said, during the Q&A from the audience, that the bloody sweat passage in Luke 22.43–44 was not part of Luke’s Gospel originally and that it changed Luke’s passion narrative significantly. I agreed. In my closing statement I pointed out that this presupposed that Bart knew what the original text of Luke was saying. I think this was perhaps my strongest point in the debate. Even Bart ultimately has to claim that the original wording is available to us. Further, I noted that the scholarship of the last two thousand years has presupposed that we have the original wording in broad strokes and even in most particulars. To assume otherwise is to be radically skeptical.

129 Responses to “Ehrman vs Wallace: Round Three”

  1. Dr. Wallace,

    I’m interested in hearing more about the newly found 1st century manuscript of Mark’s gospel. Is there anything more you can tell us about it?

  2. Dr. Wallace, excellent post and very informative. I can testify to all who read this that you are both a scholar AND a gentleman. Keep up the great work!

  3. On the first-century fragment of Mark: I wish I could tell you more, but scholarly subjects of this sort frequently are kept hush-hush until publication. I have shared all that I have been given permission to share. A year from now the book will be out and everything will be known.

  4. Thank you Dr. Wallace for your time and effort in engaging with Dr. Ehrman. I have listened to several of his debates with you and Dr. Licona, and Dr. Bock, and it seems to me that you all have the much more difficult job in the debates. It is always easier for him to tear down the faith and Scriptures than it is for you to build up the faith and Scriptures. I guess that’s just like life…easier to tear down than build up. So, I just wanted to say thanks for standing firm and allowing the Lord to use you to defend the faith.

  5. The new testament has to many contradictions to see it as written with the help of the holy spirit or god breathed.

  6. Dr. Wallace,
    A first century fragment of Mark? Wow. That is one of the greatest finds in the history of textual criticism. Congratulations. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

  7. Dr. Wallace,

    1) Can you say how many letters/word of a “first century” Mark we are talking about? And which scholar is doing the research?

    2) One of your fellow evangelicals, an apologist by the name of McGrew, told me that he is certain Mark’s original ending was lost because he says Mark 16:8 “ends in mid-sentence.” What would be your reply to McGrew’s statement?

    3) It seems to me that such a discovery as a fragment of first-century Mark would add to the idea of Markan priority (rather than the traditional Church Fathers’ view of Matthean priority), but prove little concerning the historicity of miracle stories in Mark.

  8. Dr. Wallace: “more than 43% of the 8000 or so verses in the NT are found in these papyri.” That is incredible!

    Dr. Ehrman: “we don’t have thousands of manuscripts from the first century” That is also incredible–talk about unrealistic expectations!

    Thanks for your hard work on this topic.

  9. ‘A first century fragment of Mark? Wow. That is one of the greatest finds in the history of textual criticism.’

    And one announced in a blog report on a different subject, rather than on CBS or the New York Times.

    Not even a picture of it.

    Such modesty.

    Why , if I found a first-century manuscript, I would be at the British Museum by about 2 pm and on national news by 6 pm

  10. Daniel B. Wallace February 6, 2012 at 3:56 am

    Friends, let me clarify a couple of things. First, the Mark manuscript is just a small fragment. Second, I didn’t discover it; I make no claims whatsoever for having done so. Third, exact news of the fragment will have to await its publication about a year from now.

  11. John C. Poirier February 6, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Dr. Wallace,

    Why do you say that “If [Mark was written] on a scroll, then the last leaf would be the most protected”? After being read, scrolls were more often shelved *without* being re-rolled, which means that the last bit of text was the *least* protected.

  12. ‘Third, exact news of the fragment will have to await its publication about a year from now.’

    Where is it being kept in the meantime?

  13. consulscipio236 February 6, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Why do you waste your time debating him? No one’s mind is going to change, and his comments are routinely misleading or outright wrong.

  14. Dr. Wallace, You wrote, “We have as many as eighteen second-century manuscripts (six of which were recently discovered and not yet catalogued) and a first-century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel!”

    Which “manuscripts” *cough* are you speaking about? Surely you mean fragments in the majority of cases?

    And how accurate is the dating of those fragments?
    Even the dating of the Johnnine fragment, P52 is doubtful:

    Papyrus 52: Do We Actually Know How Old It Is? http://mjburgess.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/papyrus-52-do-we-actually-know-how-old-it-is/

    On or about Aug. 13th, 2009, the Textual Criticism Group hosted a lively debate concerning the contents and date of P52 (P. Ryl. 457), generally regarded as the earliest manuscript witness to the text of the New Testament: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/textualcriticism/

    According to Carrier’s presentation http://www.richardcarrier.info/NTReliabilitySlideshow.pdf on what scholars agree that we know about the NT text, we have no first century “documents” but only fragments in the 2nd century, and only beginning with the 4th century do we have complete Gospels that we can compare with one another. This info is old hat. But what’s interesting in Carrier’s presentation is his assertion illustrated by a graph (I do not know whether the graph is original with Carrier or not) that the number of edits in known manuscripts from the fourth century onward continued to diminish, implying that prior to the fourth century, the rate of edits was probably higher rather than lower. It’s a simple enough notion to consider, i.e, if the edits that we know about grew “less abundant” over time in known manuscripts, then as you work backwards in time to the fragmentary and unknown manuscripts of the first century, the edits would probably have been “more abundant.” not less abundant. (Take the case of the added ending to Mark, possibly made early in the second century).

    Lastly, there was a case in which a few fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls were said to be portions of “The Gospel of Matthew.” But further study indicated it was not verses from Matthew at all, but from the Book of Enoch: “That No Gospel, It’s Enoch!” http://books.google.com/books?id=liCJbBDwnQQC&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=%22That's+No+Gospel,+It's+Enoch%22+%22Bible+Review%22+2003&source=bl&ots=wZSN0Kcn8T&sig=nlsiTbEVMSxPfPrmqwub-vrbqIk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6P4vT8ikLMLUgQfo2OHaDw&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/sine-data,_Nebe._Wilhelm,_Fragments_Of_The_Book_Of_Enoch_From_Qumran_Cave_7,_EN.pdf

  15. Dr. Wallace, It seems to me that what today’s conservative Christians are reduced to doing to “defend the Bible,” is scrounge up fragments found in Cave 7 at Qumran (the only cave featuring exclusively Greek fragments), and try to match them up via computer imagery with lines from the Gospels. You have yourself written about the inconclusive nature of such “finds” http://bible.org/article/7q5-earliest-nt-papyrus

    So far the “Gospel of Matthew” fragment has been identified as being from The Book of Enoch. And the fragment you wrote about had 16 possible identifications other than a Gospel. But that’s not stopping continued scrounging.

    And why all the scrounging around involving fragments, trying to “see Gospels” in them? Don’t you think God could have preserved more distinct evidence than disputed fragments?

    Archaeologists have also been combing the middle east seeking signs of a grand exodus of over a million Hebrews and a mixed multitude (approx. two million), sacrificing and burning animals and spilling blood and pot shards and God knows what else around the desert for forty years, and archeologists have come up nil. Though archaeologists have successfully dated ancient remains of a tiny fire even further back than the so-called Exodus, they can’t find the trail of the biblical one. Expecations have been revised. Even Evangelical experts, including F. F. Bruce, were not averse to lowering the numbers for the so-called Exodus, even down to 2,000. And a grad student at DTS has argued in a similar fashion.

    P.S., Didn’t the church canonize the final chapter of Mark, the whole chapter? There was no debate concerning its authenticity back then was there? It’s a chapter that contains such divine commands and promises as, ““Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

  16. “Not a single new reading from any of the 134 papyri has proven to be autographic. In the last 135 years, not a single new reading of any MS has such a pedigree.”

    Dan, I wonder if you could amplify on this statement, particulairly on the 135 years? Taken literally, 135 yeas ago would be 1877, but maybe you are just using a round number. Are you referring to some manuscript discovered at that time whose reading has been adopted, or is this some general reference to Westcott and Hort, or something else?

  17. I agree with #16.
    It seems there is a whole little sub-culture of debaters who get into these but nothing comes of it. Nobody changes their minds. They just pick their side and cheer their guy on as if it were a sporting event, but there is no real victor.

    I stand by Romans 1:18-32 which says that everybody KNOWS the truth, but those who don’t like it just suppress it and fool themselves into believing un-truth.

    So why debate them? They already know deep down they are deliberately fooling themselves, and will have to answer for it to Jesus Christ Himself on their day of judgment.
    And then there will be no debate, as their mouths will be stopped as they are forced to reckon with the truth. It will be cool to watch it, but even that will become monotonous after the first 2 or 3 people do it.

  18. Dr. Wallace,

    I took a class in OT textual criticism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and understanding the state of OT textual criticism, it is almost sickening to see the skepticism of Mr. Ehrman towards the NT. I can only wish that we had the kind of material that is available to Ehrman for the NT. Consider that the earliest manuscripts of the Pentateuch were copied around 1000 years after it was written, and that is the case even if you take a late date for the Exodus. In fact, there are some time periods in the transmission of the Hebrew Bible in which we know next to nothing about the state of the text. We have to rely heavily upon translations, targums, Rabbinic writings, and even, in some places [unlike the NT] conjectural emendations.

    To put all of this in perspective, the parallel in OT textual criticism to the find of a first century papyrus of Mark would be about like finding a copy of the Pentateuch from 1200 B.C. The problem is that the earliest Hebrew writing ever found has been from the time of King David, from about 975 B.C. In other words, not only do we not have manuscripts of the Pentateuch from the time period parallel to the finding of this Mark papyrus, but we don’t even have any Hebrew writing from this time period! The best we may have from this time period are an abecederary, and, of course, those could be in any language, since several languages in the area used the exact same alphabets.

    Hence, to put it bluntly, Ehrman’s skepticism simply makes my eyes roll. He has such an incredible amount of material to work with that he has no idea what it is like to work in the mess of OT textual criticism. So much work is yet to be done in the field of OT textual criticism that my professor told us that most OT textual critics have to focus on one particular area of inquiry [Septuagint, Peshitta, Masoretic studies, Qumran, etc.]. To have the blessing that NT textual critics have, and shun it with “we don’t know” is simply reprehensible.

  19. #26, James S:

    You can stand by Romans 1:18-32 if you want, but your convictions in it will not make it true. It’s very easy to claim “I’m right and anyone who disagrees is just in denial.” Even the Qur’an has statements to the same effect of Romans 1:20. All non-Muslims are allegedly just ingrates in denial of Allah’s existence. Even you.
    If I knew that Christianity was the truth, I would not suppress it, even if I disliked it. If we disagree with something, we tend to acknowledge it’s reality and argue against it, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist.
    I apologize if it seems that I “protest too much,” but I take the Romans 1:20 argument as a serious insult to those of us who struggled in our loss of faith. I’ve tried to force myself to just believe that Christianity was true, it doesn’t work, I cannot honestly believe in it. And that is the whole truth.

    Religious troll comments aside, thank you Dr. Wallace for this informative blog post. I read a lot of Ehrman, and I like to keep his views balanced by the counterarguments. I look forward to learning more about this early fragment of Mark. It’s a shame we have to wait about a year for it!

  20. Matthew Hamilton February 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    1. Could the people who keep referring to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran Cave 7 and 7Q5 please inform themselves better! And could they also read more carefully the papers they cite – the papers about 7Q5 discuss a possible identification with the Gospel of Mark NOT the Gospel of Matthew.

    2. The Mark frg. in the Green Collection has nothing to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran Cave 7 or 7Q5.

    3. It is common for papyri and other MSS to be mentioned BEFORE they are properly published and is a practice that goes back about a century. Those who are dismissive of the Mark frg. because it has not been published yet need to study the history of publication of previous finds and perhaps suspend judgement until they have read the publication when it comes out in a year or so.

  21. #10 Ed Babinski:
    1) Can you say how many letters/word of a “first century” Mark we are talking about? And which scholar is doing the research?
    2) One of your fellow evangelicals, an apologist by the name of McGrew, told me that he is certain Mark’s original ending was lost because he says Mark 16:8 “ends in mid-sentence.” What would be your reply to McGrew’s statement?
    3) It seems to me that such a discovery as a fragment of first-century Mark would add to the idea of Markan priority (rather than the traditional Church Fathers’ view of Matthean priority), but prove little concerning the historicity of miracle stories in Mark.

    1. Sorry; I wish I could tell you more—I really do!

    2. Mark’s ending was lost because 16.8 ends in mid-sentence? This has been repeatedly debunked, most recently by Kelly Iverson, fellow at St Andrews University. His article is, “A Further Word on Final Gar,” CBQ 2005. See my chapter in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views, D. A. Black, editor (B&H, 2008). There are actually four standard arguments for why Mark’s last leaf was lost, all of which have been answered adequately.

    3. I’m not so sure it would even do much to add to Markan priority (which I believe). It would show that Mark’s Gospel was copied in the first century. Of course, the earlier the date of such finds, the closer the time to the writing of the Gospels, and that, in a sense, strengthens the view that the historicity in them could still have been checked by eyewitnesses.

  22. #17 John Poirier:
    Why do you say that “If [Mark was written] on a scroll, then the last leaf would be the most protected”? After being read, scrolls were more often shelved *without* being re-rolled, which means that the last bit of text was the *least* protected.

    I’d like to see your documentation of this point, John. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls—documents that are from the same milieau as the NT, only one of the hundreds of scrolls was found not rolled up.

  23. #23 Ed Babinski:
    Regarding the dates of the MSS: I have argued for some time that we have as many as a dozen NT MSS dated to the second century. My source on this point is the Kurzgefasste Liste of the INTF and supplemental sources. INTF lists four MSS definitely from the second century, and another six that are on the cusp of second/third century. Eldon Epp in his essay, “Are Early New Testament Manuscripts Truly Abundant?” in Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity, ed. David B. Capes and et al. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007), 77-117, employed the same method: those MSS that could be assigned to two different centuries he assigned to the earlier one. I also looked at Comfort and Barrett’s work, but felt that they were too conservative in their dating most of the time, though two or three MSS I believe have now been shown to be second century.

    My list of a dozen potential or actual second-century MSS includes: P4, P32, P52, P46, P64+67, P66, P77, P90, P98, P103, P104, 0189. These dates are being disputed again, especially by Nongbri and Bagnall, and their voices need to be listened to. It should be noted that when Bart spoke of four second-century papyri, he noted that fewer than 50 verses collectively were found in them. But when you look at all the possible second-century MSS, they collectively have portions of more than 43% of all NT verses. I do not know how many more verses will be added to that list when the seven new papyri are published.

  24. #24 Ed Babinski:
    No, the fragment found in Qumran’s Cave 7 was not identified with Matthew, but with Mark. Most scholars have rejected that identification, but it should be noted that even one as careful as Metzger originally thought it correct.

  25. PS on #24: The church canonize the whole of Mark 16? Hardly. First, there has never been a universal counsel that spoke authoritatively as to what the books of the Bible were. Second, even Eusebius spoke of most MSS ending at 16.8, and a few MSS have in their margins at this place, “Eusebius canonized the text to here.”

  26. #25 Bill Combs:
    Bill, regarding the 135 years: I was referring to the supposed knowledge of P1 prior to Westcott and Hort’s magisterial volumes of 1881–82. But I have not yet seen proof that it was known before they published their NT. The discovery and publication of Sinaticus had already occurred in 1869.

  27. “But this again is a huge overstatement. We have as many as eighteen second-century manuscripts (six of which were recently discovered and not yet catalogued) and a first-century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel!”

    Someone made a “huge overstatement”, that’s for sure. You claim that a first century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel exists, but you can’t provide the manuscript.

    Do you not see the flaw in this empty claim?

    I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see where this goes.

  28. Thank you for your service to the kingdom in this area Dr. Wallace. I am just one more of your many unknown Greek Grammar graduates. I think anyone concerned about NT studies has to be able to face the work of Bart Ehrman in a very serious and compelling way. Letting the cat out of the bag on an early Markan piece sure seems like a coup d’état, time will tell. Thanks again.

  29. I think people have learned from the Lead Codices not to publish photographs of artefacts too early.

    We wouldn’t want just anybody to check this dating, would we?

  30. John C. Poirier February 7, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Dr. Wallace,

    I’m afraid you misunderstood what I meant when I said that scrolls were usually not re-rolled. I didn’t mean they were left open. I meant that the lefthand coil newly created through the act of reading (as opposed to the righthand coil, which the act of reading diminished), which had the beginning of the text *at its center*, usually represented the way in which the scroll was left for the next reader. Readers usually didn’t bother rewinding the scroll to its original shape, but left the scroll in a manner that was inside-out in comparison to how the next reader would have needed it.

    This is all noted in L. Avrin, Scribes, Script and Books: The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Chicago: American Library Association: 1991) 153. As Harry Y. Gamble recognized, the failure to reroll texts may account for the placement of titles at the end of a writing (Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts [New Haven: Yale University Press: 1995] 48). (The continuation of this practice into codices would then be a case of unreflective adaptation [see Francesca Schironi, TO MEGA BIBLION: Book-ends, End-titles, and Coronides in Papyri with Hexametric Poetry [American Studies in Papyrology 48; Durham, NC: American Society of Papyrologists: 2010] 80.)

    If a scroll of the Gospel of Mark was treated the same way as most scrolls in the Greco-Roman world, then the end of the text would have been on the outside of the scroll more often than on the inside.

  31. Dan Wallace appears to make a false comparison of the New Testament manuscripts by comparing it with other ancient writings, by saying that we have well over 60 manuscripts for the first 200 years. But this is false because he is not comparing each book of the New Testament on a case by case bases, for example Acts does not even come close to having 60 manuscripts for the first 200 years of it’s composition and same thing could be said of other books . In fact for the first 100 years, with the exception of 6 books, we have no manuscripts existing of the New Testament.

  32. It would be much better to compare the attestation of the New Testament with that of the Old Testament.

    I still don’t know why this story is not on Fox News or some other medium.

    Isn’t it quite big and newsworthy?

  33. I find it interesting that Providential Preservation of the scriptures has not been discussed in this matter.

  34. Matthew Hamilton February 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    #48 by Steven Carr

    Firstly: The major media outlets are not likely to run with the story as it lacks the most important ingredients in news stories – sex, media personalities, death, and sporting heros. The importance of the fragment to biblical studies and the importance of the fragment to the media are not the same so don’t evaluate the fragment by the inaction of the media.

    Secondly: If your argument is that if it isn’t on Fox/CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS then the fragment must be a forgery or wrongly identified or wrongly dated – then may I suggest to you that the media are NOT the arbitrators of what is true and are terrible when it comes to accurate reporting on biblical manuscripts.

  35. I think the obvious reason that it’s not been in the press is because the these has not yet been published and peer review.

  36. Matthew Hamilton February 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    #50 by Nazam Guffoor

    Whether a papyrus has been published or not is of little relevance to the media – and the peer review aspect is of NO relevance to the media

    Consider the example of a papyrus MS found by looters in Israel and recovered by the police in 2009. It was not published, the peer reviewed publications date to a year and more later – yet it made the media immediately. Why? Firstly the “sexy” part of the story was not the papyrus, it was the conflict between Israelis who recovered the papyrus and Palestinians who had looted it. Secondly, the information about the papyrus was released to the media with colour pictures. And when the papyrus was published in peer reviewed journals the media paid no attention to it as there was nolonger any aspect to it that would attract readership or advertising revenue.

  37. Keep things on topic. This is not a surragate blog to wax elequent about all your knowledge. Get your own blogs. They are cheap!

    Read the rules. I have been having to delete posts.

  38. NAZAM GUFFOR
    I think the obvious reason that it’s not been in the press is because the these has not yet been published and peer review.

    CARR
    That is much better than what I was thinking! I had come up with the explanation that the media was not interested in 1st century manuscripts of the Gospels.

    With hindsight I can see how wrong I was.

  39. BABINSKI
    Dr. Wallace, It seems to me that what today’s conservative Christians are reduced to doing to “defend the Bible,” is scrounge up fragments found in Cave 7 at Qumran (the only cave featuring exclusively Greek fragments), and try to match them up via computer imagery with lines from the Gospels.

    CARR
    SO texts are selected for further examination if they match lines from today’s accepted text of Gospels?

    Is this a statistically accurate way of seeing if any texts were produced which vary from today’s accepted text of the Gospels?

  40. Matthew Hamilton February 8, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Has anybody else noticed that the fragment of Mark has provided opportunity for grenade throwers to make (ill informed) attacks on Christianity? As an example of one of these web lurkers, Steven Carr has made a number of posts on different blogs such as the one found on Exploring Our Matrix where he said “Picture 11 of 19 gives some idea of the size of these ‘manuscripts’ that are being found, and the ethical nature of Wallace claiming that these sorts of manuscripts should be accepted by Ehrman as proving that the text has not been changed”

    In one short comment fragments are dismissed as they as not manuscripts, the evidence against the text of the Bible being changed as Ehrman claims is dismissed, and the ethics of a Christian scholar are questioned.

    Steven failed to tell the readers of his comment that “Picture 11″ is of a fragment that is NOT of the NT, is NOT in Greek, and is NOT on papyrus – it was of the OT, in Hebrew, on either parchment or leather – so the two obvious options are either Steven is unethical or Steven is ignorant.

    Either way, can we expect more of the same up until the fragment is published – and perhaps even afterwards?

    Regards,
    Matthew Hamilton

    Unfortunately until the fragment is published we can probably expect

  41. Sorry for linking to a picture put up by the Baylor Institute showing the sorts of fragments the Green Collection put up on display as illustrating the sort of fragments they are collecting and exhibiting.

    If I had known what sort of objections would be raised to publicising the exhibits the Green Collection puts on display, I would not have bothered.

    Was it supposed to be a secret that the Green Collection puts tiny scraps of manuscript on display?

  42. Matthew Hamilton February 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Steven Carr in comment 61 is playing the martyr who was only sharing information – gosh, we should be thankful that he was “publicizing (sic) the exhibits the Green Collection puts on display” and making sure we all know that “the Green Collection puts tiny scraps of manuscript on display” – but this is NOT what he was doing. The point of his comment on Exploring the Matrix was not informative about the size of early biblical manuscripts in the Green Collection, it was (1) to dismiss manuscripts because of their size (2) which means no evidence against the claims of Ehrman (3) and at the same time question the ethics of a Christian scholar who used the evidence of the manuscripts.

    Most early biblical manuscripts are small although there are exceptions such as the Bodmer Psalms Codex (parts of which are displayed in the Green Collection – or did Steven fail to inform people of that?), yet that does not stop textual critics such as Daniel Wallace (and even Bart Ehrman) from making good use of them. If Steven does not know this then he is ignorant. And if Steven does know this then he has attempted to mislead readers of his comments – which is unethical.

    So Steven, are you being ignorant or unethical?

  43. Dr. Wallace: thank you for entering the ring with Ehrman. Somebody has to.

    On a related note, what is the Koine Greek word for Schadenfreude?

  44. The debate over whether we have the original wording of the New Testament somewhere in the manuscripts seems strange. Even if we assumed for the sake of argument that (for example) NA27 was exactly the wording of the original NT, what does that matter? The argument that it is necessary to have the original wording is silly considering that throughout probably over 90% of the history of Christianity that original wording has not been available. And probably over 90% of all Christians have never had access to that original wording. If Ehrman’s argument is that the original wording is necessary for the NT to be considered reliable, then it is a silly one and not worth debating. Although Ehrman is a skeptic, he still seems to think like a fundamentalist inerrantist. Why play his own game rather than just dismissing his underlying assumption? He admits himself that no significant theological position depends on the variants. There is more theological debate within Christianity on scriptural passages on which there is no dispute regarding their text than on the variants that seem to concern Ehrman so greatly.

    I have not seen the debate, so maybe Dr. Wallace focused on the irrelevance of Ehrman’s argument for all I know. His comment about Ehrman’s skepticism and the Dark Ages seems quite apt. If we need the kind of evidence that Ehrman seems to want in order to accept something as true, then we can believe nothing we have learned of history. In fact, there is really nothing we can believe at all. Life is not a carefully controlled, double blind, scientific experiment.

  45. Recently, on another blogpost, some unsavory things were said about me regarding this Mark fragment. Here’s what I wrote in response:

    I have to take issue with you how you’ve represented things, XCNTRIK. First you said, “This experience is a good example of the difference between Biblical Studies and Christian Apologetics.” The implication is that I’m an apologist, not a biblical scholar–and you explicitly called me an apologist later. No, I’m not an apologist. I take offense at that term being used of me. My realm is biblical studies.

    Second, you said, “It is not fantastic when a Christian apologist makes an empty claim as an attempt to rebut a factual statement made by a credible scholar. Without evidence, Wallace has debunked himself instead, and now his credibility in question.” Really? I think I would be debunked if it was demonstrated that what I said was NOT based on good authority; that’s what debunking means–that I was definitely speaking with hollow words. But as I said in the debate, the book on this manuscript and other new finds will appear in about a year. And it’s to be published by E. J. Brill, a scholarly publisher with an exceptionally good reputation.

    You also quoted someone who said, “It is really frustrating when people spill ‘news’ of a manuscript discovery to score a point for themselves (e.g., in a debate) but then can only say, ‘Trust me. I got my info from a ‘world-class paleographer; and oh, by the way, he’s entirely unbiased because he’s not a fundamentalist.” Here’s the situation: I learned about the MS a couple of weeks before the debate. I got it from a good source. I was told not only that the paleographer was sure that it was from the first century but also that this fragment, along with the other six fragments, all confirm the general stability of the New Testament. Are you saying that it would be right for me not to mention this in the debate? I know the paleographer and consider him to be an excellent scholar. But I was also asked not to reveal his name yet, and I kept my word on that. And I explicitly added in the Q&A time that we will all have to wait to see what the evidence is for this in the book next year. Now, how is that scoring a point for myself?

    As for backpedaling, here’s what I said at Chapel Hill: “The oldest fragment of the NT is now a fragment from Mark’s Gospel that is from the first century! How accurate is the dating? Well, my source is a papyrologist who worked on this MS—a man whose reputation is unimpeachable. Many consider him to be the best papyrologist on the planet. His reputation is on the line with this dating, and he knows it. But he is certain that this MS was from the first century. This papyrus fragment—just like the other new discoveries that we are preparing for publication—strongly confirms what most scholars have already said is the original text.” A careful reader will note that I am hinging the date on the paleographer’s reputation, not mine. But since some did not see it that way, I have softened the language subsequently because I’m just the messenger, not the paleographer. I will make comments on the date of the MS when it is published, but for now–as I said in the debate–we will all have to wait and see. I really don’t think that that’s overstatement, nor did I backpedal.

    It may be enjoyable to some to poke holes at a scholar who offers information that would be relevant for biblical studies–with the caveat that the book is not yet out but will be. Others have dismissed what I’ve had to say by linking it to the fantastic claims of Carsten Peter Thiede on the identification of 7Q5 as from Mark’s Gospel or his dating of P64+67, or to claims by Young Kyu Kim that P46 was written before the reign of Domitian. These manuscripts are not what I am talking about. I have gone into print about 7Q5 and P46, and argued that the former was not from Mark and the latter’s date should still considered to be c. 200 CE. That some would think that I was resurrecting a minority position that has been soundly rejected by biblical scholars is incredible to me, especially since I published TWO articles against Thiede’s identification!

    But I understand the natural skepticism of some who are unfortunately tempted to turn their skepticism into potshots instead of taking the sober position that “We need to see the manuscript. The paleographers have to do their work. The text needs to be subjected to stringent tests. And most of all, the provenance of the manuscript has to be fully disclosed. In these days when frauds and fakes flood the market and claims of authenticity are bantered about with ease and aplomb, everyone should be especially cautious.” I agree with that assessment fully. All I can say is, “wait and see.” Is that too much to ask?

  46. The reputation of an anonymous person is on the line, so people have to take Daniel’s word for it that this fragment confirms the reliability of the text, without asking to see it or know how big it is.

    That’s fair. After all, people in other fields have to rely on expert opinion without ever being told who this expert is, and to accept new evidence without ever seeing it.

  47. Out of interest, does this fragment of the Gospel known as Mark have the word ‘Jesus’ written on it anywhere?

    Are we allowed to know that?

  48. Steven, you’ve really misrepresented what I said. I can’t stop you from doing that, but I would hope that you would read my comments more carefully. I ended with a paragraph emphasizing that we all should wait and see. Again, is that too much to ask?

  49. We should all wait and see.

    No, no, we should use this evidence as debating points against Ehrman as though it had all been settled.

    Then we can tell everybody to wait and see.

    That is the correct course of action.

  50. I wonder why we are not allowed to know if the word ‘Jesus’ appears on this fragment.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. » 1st Century Copy of the Gospel of Mark Discovered - February 5, 2012

    […] papyrus manuscripts from the 2nd century have also been found. You can read Dan’s report here. Dan is an expert in the field of textual criticism and directs the Center for the Study of New […]

  2. Has Mark’s (near) Original Autograph been found? | Unsettled Christianity - February 5, 2012

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  3. The earliest manuscript of the Gospel of Mark? « Near Emmaus - February 5, 2012

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  4. Earliest Manuscript of the Gospel of Mark Validates Earl Doherty « Vridar - February 6, 2012

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  5. Madonna and the Manuscript of Mark’s Gospel | timothymichaellaw - February 6, 2012

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  6. The Earliest Manuscript of Mark’s Gospel? « Fr Stephen Smuts - February 6, 2012

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  7. First century fragment of Mark? | Sheffield Biblical Studies - February 6, 2012

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  8. Resources – Reliability of the Scriptures | Current Events in Light of the Kingdom of God - February 6, 2012

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  9. Discovery of the Earliest New Testament Manuscript?!?! | Earliest Christianity - February 6, 2012

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    […] Apparently Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary recently debated the infamous Bart Ehrman at Ehrman’s home campus, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Wallace isn’t the only Evangelical biblical scholar who has taken the podium against Ehrman; Craig Evans, along with Darrell Bock (also of Dallas Theological) have debated Ehrman as well. You can read Wallace’s recap of his debate with Ehrman over at the Parchment and Pen blog wher… […]

  14. Hypotyposeis » On the Rumors of a First-Century Fragment of Mark - February 7, 2012

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  15. First-Century Manuscript of the Gospel of Mark « FOLLOWING THE WHITE RABBIT - February 7, 2012

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  16. Newly-Identified Early New Testament Fragments? « Larry Hurtado's Blog - February 7, 2012

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  17. A 1st Century Manuscript Fragment of Mark? « Theo-sophical Ruminations - February 7, 2012

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  18. KJV Only Debate Blog » Possible Discovery of a 1st Century Fragment of Mark - February 7, 2012

    […] this is a fragment, dated by a neutral party, older than P52. Wallace has made some comments at various blogs to assure us that he was neither the discoverer not the examiner of said document, but was […]

  19. A First Century Copy of Mark? « Conjectures of a Dimly Lit Mirror - February 7, 2012

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  20. Earlier Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Rumored to Be Found – The Gospel Coalition Blog - February 8, 2012

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  23. Update: First-Century Manuscript of the Gospel of Mark « FOLLOWING THE WHITE RABBIT - February 9, 2012

    […] Mark Goodacre’s NT Blog: “it is worth noting that Wallace remarked that the “world-class paleographer” in question had “no religious […]

  24. Dr. Wallace: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered? | Pilgrimage to Geneva - February 10, 2012

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  25. Rumores indicam descoberta de manuscrito de Marcos do primeiro século | Rede Vertical - February 11, 2012

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  26. Elsewhere (02.11.2012) « Near Emmaus - February 11, 2012

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  27. how are some more certain of everything than i am of anything?…. » Blog Archive » sunday morning in sierra vista - February 12, 2012

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  29. Dr. Wallace: Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament Discovered? | Mere Christian - February 17, 2012

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  30. A First Century Manuscript of the New Testament! | Fellow Traveler - February 18, 2012

    […] It’s also interesting that the announcement was made during a debate with Bart Ehrman in which Bart claimed that the earliest manuscripts of the NT were from the second century. Au contraire, Daniel Wallace was able to answer. It seems that we now have a first century fragment. Bart was apparently unimpressed by this news. (Credo House) […]

  31. Newly-Identified Early New Testament Fragments? « New Testament Scholarship Worldwide - February 18, 2012

    […] [Over the last couple of days have appeared numerous postings on reports that fragments of several early NT manuscripts have been identified (e.g., http://sheffieldbiblicalstudies.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/first-century-fragment-of-mark/).  A statement by  Dan Wallace in a recent debate with Bart Ehrman seems to be the source of these reports.  In the debate, Wallace says that he referred to a fragment identified as part of a first-century copy of the Gospel of Mark (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2012/02/wallace-vs-erhman-round-three/). […]

  32. New NT Papyrus findings? | Philonica et Neotestamentica - February 19, 2012

    […] that.The debate has been triggered not at least by this blog: http://csntm.org/  See also here: Credo House. Here Daniel B. Wallace says that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered—six of […]

  33. What to Say When Someone Says “The Bible Has Errors” | Gospel Centered Discipleship | Resources to Make, Mature, & Multiply disciples of Jesus - February 20, 2012

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  34. Earliest NT manuscript may have been found - Christian Forums - March 4, 2012

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  42. Responding to the Charge that the Bible Has Errors | Redemption Church of Northridge - June 11, 2012

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  46. Preservation of Message « Matthew 10:16 – Shrewd Dove Apologetics - December 26, 2012

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  47. What to Say When Someone Says, “The Bible Has Errors” by Jonathan Dodson | Anchor Apologetics - March 18, 2013

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