Last weekend, Bart Ehrman and Peter Williams discussed the textual reliability of the New Testament on the popular UK radio show, Unbelievable. Explaining the science of textual criticism and successful bookselling aren’t things you’d expect to go hand in hand. Against unlikely odds, prominent Biblical scholar and professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Bart Ehrman has managed to couple the two. His fizzing cherry-bomb of a bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, has brought about an unlikely level of interest in the study of the genealogy of the Biblical documents across broad audiences. However, it must be pointed out that Ehrman’s success does not chiefly rest in his exploration of the origin and transmission of the Biblical texts. While he has an undeniable knack for translating a subject known for it’s aridity into simple and accessible terms, Misquoting Jesus has catapulted to the top of celebrated booklists because of the claims put forward by Ehrman. In the book, Ehrman controversially argues that the existence of so many variant copies of the New Testament manuscripts have cut us off from the actual words of Jesus and prevent us from trusting the Bible as God’s authoritative revelation.
This episode of the radio show has Ehrman explaining and defending some of the claims of his book with another Biblical scholar Peter Williams. Williams is the head of the Tyndale House at Cambridge and the senior lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Aberdeen. If you’re unfamiliar with textual criticism or the broader controversy surrounding Ehrman’s book, this may be a good introduction to the debate.
This weekend, Ehrman will return to the show to discuss God and the problem of evil with eminent philosopher of religion, Richard Swineburne.