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March 11, 2007

Bart Ehrman on Textual Interpretation

Please don't start here a debate on whether his conclusions about the New Testament are correct or not (there's a lot of that out there, and it's interesting, but not here, please!). I finished Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D Ehrman. It's a discussion, in part, of the forensic and logical means by which scholars determine which version of competing texts of books of the Bible are more likely to be the original version (the "Autograph" in their parlance.)

Anyhow, at the very end, he makes these observations, which seemed fitting for a Sunday morning post:

After the years went by and I continued to study the text of the New Testament, I gradually became less judgmental toward the scribes who changed the scriptures they copied.... I slowly came to realize that what they were doing with the text was not all that different from what each of us does every time we read a text.

For the more I studied, the more I saw that reading a text necessarily involves interpreting a text. I suppose I when I started my studies I had a rather unsophisticated view of reading: that the point of reading a text is simply to let the text 'speak for itself;' to uncover the meaning inherent in its words. The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and texts do not speak for themselves. If textx could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says....

March 11, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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