James R. White’s apologia, an utter failure
A friend of mine sent me a link to the website of James R. White, a Christian apologist. It was an audio where White (mn. 14) said that he purchased both a Kindle copy and a paper copy of the Hunting. He then dismissed the book as too classic (I can tell with confidence that he only read the introduction, and then he went through the first chapter hastily! It is obvious as it will be seen later on)
First, I must apologize to James White, for he may have been offended by some statements directed toward him in my book (two statements). I did not mean to undermine his scholarship. Unfortunately, though, I think he deserves a D in the Textual Critic exam. I have to be just and fair with him.
It appears that my comment on page 11 made him furious, at the footnote, where I demonstrated that he is almost unaware of the state of the debate today regarding “the quest for the original text of the New Testament” as a legitimate goal for the discipline of textual criticism. White gave an inaccurate report regarding the most recent wave of scholarship on the goal of the New Testament textual criticism (NTTC).
Perhaps I’ve no reason to be shocked; I do believe, as many do, that White is unaware of many crucial facts in the discipline, as was revealed in his debate with Bart Ehrman (2009). I avow that White did a good job in answering the silly claims of the “KJV Only” advocates, but that in itself does not credit him when we talk about serious topics of the NTTC. I think honestly that white did not show any real effort to update his knowledge and to build a coherent understanding of the New Testament originality issue.
I should inform him that “KJV Only” advocates are absent in the realm of academic study, and that facing the Islamic intellectual challenge deserves real attentiveness and honesty--and not running after some Muslim amateurs for public debates!
Now, what amazed me in White’s comment is that he was plainly distorting truth, believing it will go unnoticed.
White claimed that the Hunting is “a new version” of the truth revealed written in the 19th century. As a matter of fact, I made it clear (p.2) that the truth revealed discussed the corruption of the NT text exclusively, while the hunting did not. Emphasizing that issue is irrelevant in our present time, because all Christian scholars agree that the NT text was corrupted. And I wrote plainly, too, that we should shift focus to another challenge: the restoration –if I may use Metzger’s term- of the text. My emphasis of this point couldn’t have been more clear.
White claimed that I “was encouraged to write” my book due the influence of The Truth Revealed on me. On the contrary, I wrote my recent book from an urgent need to pave a new Islamic road in NTTC studies other than the classic made in The Truth Revealed. Turning people’s statement upside down is ethically shameful.
He claimed that I was merely quoting scholars who would not agree with my outcomes. Ironically, he only mentioned Wallace (and Ehrman). The Hunting was answering Wallace’s apologia, so I was not quoting Wallace as a way of saying: Here a scholar who agrees with me. Rather, I was refuting Wallace’s protestation!!
What about Ehrman?
White enjoyed connecting Ehrman to Islam and Muslims wherever he goes, which is something not welcomed by either Ehrman or Muslims. For one thing, Ehrman is not a spokesman of Islam, nor are his ideas 100% compatible with the Islamic assertions, even though he is highly viewed as a credible leading scholar.
The real question now is: Did the Hunting use Ehrman’s quotes (from his published studies) as to say: “here is a textual critic scholar who shares the author’s conclusion about the lost original text of the New Testament”? Absolutely not. And here is what I wrote (p.11, footnote):
“It is only while the book you are reading is being edited that we finally had a clear vision about Ehrman’s view, in his debate with Daniel M. Wallace, whose topic is “Is the original New Testament lost?” Ehrman denied in it the possible fidelity to the original text.”
It cannot be more explicit than that. I said it plainly that there is no (written) material where Ehrman declared that he believes that the original text of the NT is unattainable today. Ehrman’s findings were only used to substantiate some detail, not the author’s result. Moreover, White has no right to claim that the author’s thesis is not the same as the one Ehrman holds in 2013, because Ehrman told him in the debate:
“The originals were lost, the first copies were lost, the copies of the copies were lost, and the copies of the copies of the copies were lost. What guarantee is it that the entire tradition goes back to some kind of original rather than to a copy? What’s the argument for that? What’s the logic behind that? Most scholars today simply don’t see that as a tenable point of view. That’s why leading scholars in America, England, Germany, France, everywhere where textual criticism is done—that’s why the leading scholars in this field (by whom I mean people who go to the Society of Biblical Literature and read papers on the topic and who go to the international meetings and who are members of the Society of New Testament Studies) the people who do this for a living—that’s why there is a very strong movement away from even talking about the original text.” (Quoted as it appears in the published transcript of the debate)
Could Ehrman make it more explicit than that? I doubt it!tt
What is worst is that White proved again his ignorance of the most updated studies made by the top leading scholars in the last three or four decades. The first part in the Hunting (on The New Testament) is mainly to defend the position that we cannot recover the original text. This is the view of the most prominent and influential scholars today, including Eldon J. Epp (the head of the discipline in the world, as many think), William E. Petersen (d. 2006. An incredible mighty scholar), David C. Parker (The author of the disturbing and compelling book, “The Living Text of the Gospels”), David Trobisch (who proclaimed that the earliest attainable text goes back to the middle of the second century. See David Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) and Reuben Swanson, who declared that the aim to reach the original text is a “delusion.”
Holger Strutwolf, though he disagree with the previous scholarly approach, acknowledges that “in the last two decades, the quest for the original text of the Greek New Testament has become problematic in the eyes of many scholars” (H. Strutwolf, “Original Text and Textual History,” in The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research, eds. Klaus Wachtel, and Michael W. Holmes, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011, p.23). So there are many who redefined the primary goal of the NT textual Criticism: it is not to recover the Original Text, but rather, to get to the oldest attainable version of the text.
I do not think White’s satirical tone in denouncing the absurd claims of the “KJV Only” advocates fits here. The lost of the original text of the New Testament is not an Islamic allegation made by some hothead author. It is a modern view, conquering the field of study of the history of the New Testament, and without serious rebuttal.
Finally, I confess that my book did not respond to White’s claims (as it appears in his books and debates), because as was evident in his debate with Ehrman, he was totally depending on Wallace’s claims, to the way that Ehrman got frustrated to have a debate with someone who quotes literally his defense without having a real argument to prove the accuracy of his allegations.
As can be seen in the Introduction of the Hunting, I picked Wallace to be the orator of the apologetic camp. He is, I believe, the most knowledgeable apologetic scholar in the world in textual criticism; furthermore, he had a debate with Ehrman in the same topic of (the first part of) the Hunting. I think, strategically, I was fair with the Christian apologetic camp.
Clearly, Christians deserve better apologia than the one offered by White, because I sincerely believe that the majority of the Bible believers are honest in their quest for the truth, and that they are ready to submit to rational thinking, wherever it leads. So babbling empty accusations will not rescue the originality of the text of the New Testament, nor will quoting Wallace’s apologia lend credence to the New Testament’s originality, because the Hunting already torn down all of Wallace’s vindication. You just need to read through it.
Sorry James, you really need a real and accurate knowledge of the early history of the New Testament, and then you will find out that the Hunting is really faithful to the truth.
It is said (it is not Abraham Lincoln’s words): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”