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97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, but with a very misleading titleFeb. 22 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
I am a casual reader of New Testament commentary. I had read Bart Ehrman's book, "Misquoting Jesus," and was aware of Daniel Wallace's critique of Ehrman. So, I jumped on the chance to preorder this book. I expected the book to be what the subtitle indicates: a dialogue between Ehrman and Wallace. Unfortunately, it isn't. This book is essentially a proceedings volume of a forum held at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in April 2008. Although the format of the forum is not clearly explained, it apparently consisted of Ehrman and Wallace each speaking for 40 minutes followed by a session of questions from the audience. The following day several other scholars made presentations connected to the theme of the reliability of the New Testament.
The volume reproduces transcripts of Ehrman and Wallace's remarks. (I assume that they are transcripts because they contain a few bracketed insertions that apparently represent corrections to the spoken lectures.) These are quite short; Ehrman's takes up just 14 pages, while Wallace's takes up 19 pages. Although their remarks are lively and interesting, they break no new ground and the points made will be familiar to many readers. If you are unfamiliar with Ehrman and Wallace's work, then these selections provide a brief introduction, otherwise you will probably find them disappointing. These selections are followed by 13 pages of questions and answers. Apparently, this is a transcript of the live Q&A session with the audience. Some of the questions and responses are interesting, but a number of the questions are off the main topic: Wallace's critique of Ehrman. Ehrman and Wallace never engage each other directly. In other words, there is no dialogue! This is quite disappointing. In his remarks, Wallace raises some important questions about Ehrman's work, particularly about the extent to which Ehrman believes it is possible to recover the original wording of the New Testament and the extent to which the wording of the New Testament as we have it represents changes meant to reinforce orthodox views. In this volume, Ehrman doesn't respond to ANY of Wallace's critiques.
This forum is apparently part of an ongoing series, the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture. I would strongly urge the organizers of this forum to rethink its format. There should have been an opportunity for Ehrman and Wallace to engage each other. Just giving them an opportunity to restate their views without any dialogue doesn't serve much purpose.
The remaining 120 pages in the volume -- in other words two-thirds of the volume -- is given over to papers by other scholars. Some were apparently delivered at the forum, some were written later. As a group, they are interesting, but rather academic. I have never read an academic theology journal, but these papers are what I imagine is typically published in such journals. Most of the papers make at least passing reference to Ehrman's work, but, of course, there is no rebuttal from Ehrman included -- if, in fact, he even read these papers.
So, all told, this volume contains some interesting perspectives on the reliability of the New Testament. But it is not at all what the title advertises it to be. I would give it 3 1/2 stars.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
A Decent Intro to Textual Cricism of the New TestamentFeb. 27 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
As has been noted in another review, the title and description of the book are a bit misleading. The book contains a transcript of a debate held in 2008 between Ehrman and Wallace in which, apparently, they both gave presentations and answered audience questions. This isn't a "conversation" (the word that the Amazon description uses) or a "dialogue" (as the title of the book states) because the pair never actually interact with each other. I think that's a bit of a shame, though I still feel as if I came away learning quite a bit about the state of current New Testament scholarship.
However, this debate only fills up about one third of the book. The remainder is a collection of presentations and papers which discuss issues raised within the debate. As with most collections, the contributions are hit-or-miss. For example, William Warren's essay, "Who Changed the Text and Why? Probable, Possible, and Unlikely Explanations" was short and sweet; it got right to the heart of the issue while staying objective as possible. On the other hand, K. Martin Heide's essay on the stability of the New Testament was very tedious.
Overall, while the essays were enjoyable, they seemed to be a bit one-sided. While some were fairly neutral, the majority seemed to be critiques of Ehrman. A little more balance would have been nice. Or a little more discussion about what "reliability" actually means (and why it's important) would have added a lot.
Nevertheless, I think both conservative Christians and die-hard Ehrman fans will be surprised at some of the things that can be learned in this volume. For that reason, I definitely recommend this as a good introduction to the topic.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The Reliability of the New TestamentMarch 27 2011
Roger E. Lau
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent book that presents the various issues relating to the reliability of the New Testament Greek manuscripts in a lively and intellectually-stimulating form. I did not give it five stars because it is rather daunting for anyone not already well familiar with the issues, and the dialogue between Ehrman and Wallace was not much more than 25 percent of the book, something I didn't expect. I have not finished reading the other authors yet, but what I have read is also scholarly and invigorating, but still quite technical for me (I took 3 years of NT Greek and have a B.A. in theology). The dialogue between Ehrman and Wallace is candid and respectful, with both participants presenting their views clearly (if you're already familiar with them). As the dialog began nearing its end, Wallace took up a greater bulk of the chapter, and effectively presented an interpretation of the textual problems that (to me) answered much of Ehrman's skepticism, which are based largely on the probability that the original NT documents are heavily corrupted early on because so much time has passed from the original writings to what we have discovered so far. The problem with this view is that it is an argument from silence. Most of the changes in the NT Greek texts we now have are inconsequential, at best, and both Ehrman and Wallace agree on this. But the few changes that are significant, Ehrman feels, give probable cause that greater changes were made earlier to the NT texts, changes that are great enough to call into question the entire reliability of the New Testament. Wallace feels Ehrman's speculations are unjustified. Wallace has an upcoming book on this subject, due summer 2011 that should be even more enlightening. Anyone seriously interested in this subject needs this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not so much a dialogue as a Q&A and a series of articlesOct. 19 2011
Joel E. Mitchell
- Published on Amazon.com
This book offers a survey of various positions on the reliability of the New Testament text from within the field of New Testament textual criticism. Points of view range from liberal agnostic, to Neo-orthodox, to conservative defenders of Scriptural innerancy.
Despite the book's subtitle, the featured article was less a dialogue between Ehrman and Wallace and more a Q and A session with each making an opening statement and then answering questions put to him by an audience...there was not any real-back-and-forth or point-counterpoint which I found disappointing. Overall it was a decent collection of essays which provided a variety of viewpoints (though it was definitely tilted toward the "The New Testament is reliable" position).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A great collection of the latest scholarshipJune 15 2013
Maker of Images
- Published on Amazon.com
Yes, let me say with the chorus of reviewers, this book has been terribly misnamed. But that's the fault of the publisher, not the authors contained herein. So giving it a bad review based only on a publisher's faux pas, is fatuous.
The presentations by Ehrman and Wallace in some ways are the least interesting parts of the book. Neither digs too deeply into genuine scholarly engagement with the txts of the New Testament, but simply summarizes conclusions they've presented in other books. Wallace does extend his a bit in other to show why he finds Ehrman's work lacking as a complete account of the NT texts, but it's a very skimpy one. If you haven't read Wallace's or Ehrman's scholarship in detail you won't be given much depth here. Of course, the scholarly discussion has become clouded through the proliferation of works popularizing & sensationalizing Ehrman's work, some by Ehrman himself.
In my opinion, William Warren's essay, "Who Changed the Text and Why? Probable, Possible, and Unlikely Explanations" was the best at explaining the status quaestionis for the non-scholar; it showed how Ehrman's research, mostly done a decade or so ago, has been seen to be only a partial account of the tradition of manuscripts in late antiquity. The most scholarly off the essays is undoubtedly K. Martin Heide's essay, "Assessing the Stability of the Transmitted Texts of the New Testament and the Shepherd of Hermas." Essentially, Heide does a statistical analysis of the extent of textual variation across early centuries in NT manuscripts, and then the same with manuscripts of the extra-canonical text, The Shepherd of Hermas. His stats for the NT manuscripts show an average textual stability of 92.6%, the spread of results for individual manuscripts ranging from 87.1% to 99.7%. To achieve some perspective, Heide then conducts the same sort of analysis of extant manuscripts of Shepherd of Hermas (the single most frequently copied extra-canonical text, and more frequently copied than most canonical texts in the first several centuries). The average stability is about 86%. Heide notes that this doesn't "even reach the worst value of the New Testament texts, as represented by P45 [the Chester Beatty Gospels codex]." Heide's statistical analysis puts to rest the worried notion popularized by Ehrman that the texts were irretrievable corrupted through copyist actions. The fact is that no other ancient text was copied as faithfully as the New Testament texts.
The other essays look at a variety of aspects of the NT scribal tradition. They are all good, but the best is Heide's definitive dismissal of Ehrman's worried notion.
I give it four stars, not due to any internal defect, but because as a sober scholarly work, the jive that the publisher has heaped on it ruins its presentation to the reader.