Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reply to Landon Hedrick

Could I be misinterpreting Price? Well, here's what he says.

[…] Since the autographa have not survived and nobody has laid eyes on them for 2,000 years, how could anybody possibly know what was in them – much less, which copies approximate most closely to them? Since there is nothing to which existing manuscripts can be compared, the very ideas of the original manuscripts and which manuscripts approximate most closely to them are useless ideas and should be abandoned. I can judge that a photo is a good likeness of you if and only if I have seen you and know what you look like. If I have not, then I am the last person on earth to ask. The situation is not improved by assuring me that there are thousands of photos of you. The fact is that I have never seen you, so tell million photos would not help. (98-99)

VR: I don't see how you get around it. He seems to be saying that it follows directly from the fact that we don't have the autographa, that we can have no good reason to believe that any of the copies are accurate, which leads to disastrous consequences in the Lincoln case. You can patch the argument up by saying that since the likenesses of Lincoln had to have been viewed by people who had seen him before he died, we have a connection to the original person that you don't have in the case of the NT manuscripts. But you're patching.  I didn't present the Lincoln case as proof that the we have a reliable text, (although I think that, for all practical purposes we do, for reasons given in Daniel Wallace's essay on Ehrman in Contending With Christianity's Critics), but simply that Price had produced a very weak argument against that claim. 

Pedantic? Maybe. But insofar as we are expected to trust Price as an authority on the Bible, I think such pedantry is worth engaging in.  


unkleE said...

I would guess that the originals of most books and papers are not publicly available, but sit in hand-written note-books or on computer hard drives. In some cases, there may be many "originals" on different hard drives. So we are all probably in the position Price describes about almost everything, though of course it might be possible to find the original if one searched.

To do that we'd compare copies, dates, changes, etc, and, of course, what was finally published. NT scholarship isn't all that different, just more difficult and less certain. But surely still do-able?

I think you are fair to Price, and he is unfair to the evidence.

Landon Hedrick said...


I took some time to write a response to this on my blog, but now that I've written up the post I feel like it's not even worth posting. The basic point I was making in that unpublished post was simply that it feels like you're being a little ungenerous in your reading of Price. If there's a simple fix to his argument (which I was able to think of in a matter of thirty seconds or so), then it might be best to be charitable and assume that that's the "patch" he would include to avoid people interpreting his argument the way you interpret it. And with that simple fix, it does seem to be making at least a reasonable point.

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, I've been busy with classes.