Bart Ehrman, Misquoting a Culture
Earlier this week I was listening Bart Ehrman (thanks to Mark Goodacre) speak about his book Misquoting Jesus on the Diane Rehm Show. While listening, I was reminded of a chapter in Jesus Under Fire.
Basically Ehrman’s main thrust was that the text of the Gospels was “changed” so much over time that that we are now “misquoting Jesus.” I actually think that is pretty silly. Greek has no quote marks --- so how you can misquote someone is beyond me, but I digress.
My one major gripe with Ehrman is, at times, he exaggerates, even scandalizes things too much for my taste. For example he points out the “thousands of differences” in the NT manuscripts (and only later admits most all of them are completely inconsequential.) I suppose that sells books --- but just leads to a misunderstanding of the culture --- a culture that had no quote marks, and cared more about getting the ‘jist’ (not ‘jive’) of a quote right then a word for word dictation. No doubt that same philosophy extended to writing.
Anyhow, the Chapter I was reminded of in Jesus Under Fire was by Darrel Bock called The Words of Jesus in the Gospels: Live, Jive or Memorex? here is a tidbit of it:
In examining the wording of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, we must distinguish between the ipsissima verba of Jesus (“his very words”) and the ipsissima vox (“his very voice,” i.e., the presence of his teaching summarized). One universally recognized reality makes assessing the presence of the exact words of Jesus difficult and argues for the distinction between verba and vox. It is that Jesus probably gave most of his teachings in Aramaic, the dominant public language of first-century Palestine where Jesus ministered, whereas the Gospels were written in Greek, the dominate language of the larger first-century Greco-Roman world to which the Gospels is already a translation.
Though on could argue Jesus spoke Greek and that some of the tradition is not translated, that is unlikely for the whole tradition, particularly when Jesus ministered in a Semitic context. It would be like asking Jesus to speak in English to a Mexican audience on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande! Since a translation is already present in much of the tradition, we do not have “his very words” in the strictest sense of the term.
Yes I realize it’s a tad ironic I just quoted Bock instead of just giving you the ‘jist.’