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The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue Paperback – February 9, 2011
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About the Author
Robert B. Stewart is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he holds the Greer Heard Chair of Faith and Culture and directs the annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum.
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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.
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.