Saturday, 31 October 2015

The authority of the Bible - where on Earth can we say it comes from?

I have started to interact a little with blogger and doctoral student Barnabus Aspray, who contributes to two theological blogs. On the less academic one (Every-day theology), Barney posts pretty clearly some of the different options for ascribing authority to the Bible, with some good visual illustrations.

Barney kindly sent me a few of the source articles that informed his post and thinking on this issue, especially by Robert Jenson. Any of you who have gone through my paper Trinitarian Interpretations will know that we have already seen in short Jenson's offerings to contemporary discussions of Trinitarian theology (and that I actually succeeded in misspelling his name there! Whoops).

Here is my response to Barney on the first paper, entitled On the Problems of Scriptural Authority, Sage, 1977:

Good in pointing out the inadequacy of attempts at legitimising the authority of the Bible (in-errancy, inspiration, ...), although for me your blog post was probably more at my level and a little clearer for that reason!

I can say this:
Despite his acknowledgement of the diversity of definitions of "the gospel", Jenson likes to boil down to a common denominator of what the gospel might in fact be: Jesus is risen. I probably did not fully grasp his point he developed around page 242 on this, but he seems to make quite a point of this particular formulation throughout the essay, linking it even to liturgy. I really enjoyed the " standing in the corner " argument and am still pondering its applicability in other areas; it certainly has a lot of appeal. [see later post on the corner standing argument]

Here though, I believe Jenson overlooks the NT emphasis, which is not that Jesus is simply risen, but that Jesus was in fact raised by God, which is difficult to account for given "We cannot get behind the apostles to the gospel...they are our last resort" (p238). Based on the Scriptural account, I believe early liturgical (and even earlier story) forms would have centred around "raised by God" more than "is risen". But because I have not fully understood Jenson's point, this may not challenge what he is communicating too greatly. On p243, he hints at this a little when he states "The theology of the church has always been plural and presumably always will be". I got the sense though that some of that plurality is under-emphasized or lost in the closing pages of the article at the (usual, and for me somewhat frustratingly) expense of Father and Spirit. Mediation theology seems at a very low ebb (see also liberation on p250).

The most meaningful sentence for the authority of the Bible came on p249:
the Bible is essential to the church's life of proclamation and prayer in several very different ways which together are its authority.
I see here the most important point of collective identity. Since the Bible is a key contributor - through much interpretation - to the very identity of the group to which believers belong (as local church and global Church and historical Church members), then we source the authority indeed in the church to which the believers belong.
P245 Brilliant quote: " what I hear the text is saying is indeed all I have to work with ; but recognition of the text's authority is recognition that the text may be saying something other than I hear and that it is my job to keep listening. "

P246, what a great saying: conceptual slippage! Historical critical method seems both essential but also makes the texts "fall silent". [...]

As I have openly acknowledged, let me say again, I didn't get it all. These are just some comments on what I thought I grasped :)

Here ends the response to Barney, although we are now a couple more emails into the exchange. I am challenging him a little on my low level perspective to reconsider (although he has already considered at quite some depth it would appear) this great and desertic chasm that he perceives between the goals of critical historical methods and biblical application of those discoveries today.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

In THE beginning (5)

Awww, these arche posts are KILLING my stats. Sorry, I promise to leave it soon, I just don't want to leave it unfinished OK? I think this one and then one more and I should be done :)

We are in a series of posts which explore the way in which the word arche functions in the Bible, in order to show that it is absolutely no accident or surprise that John's prologue commences without the definite article "the", which we are later required to add back in English. All of this prepares the way for what I hope one day will be an exploration into the murky world or the anarthrous (article-free) "theos" in John 1:1c. But if I have learned one lesson from my stats, my blog will  most definitely not be the place to give blow-by-blow accounts for that! The image, by the way, is a pictorial reminder that the meanings of ruler and rule, which are also contained in arche in some contexts, can predictably affect the inclusion of the definite article differently to when arche refers to THE beginning.

So let us continue.

Now we have established the New Testament state of the feminine singular usage of arche, which includes both the nominative and dative Greek cases, let us now shift gear to arches. Arches is still feminine singular, but this time it is in the genitive case, indicating possession, or “of” or deriving from [the beginning]. This is by far the most common construction in the New Testament, which provides us with no less than 27 instances, John in particular loves it (...from [THE] beginning). 23 of these 27 are translated THE beginning even though there is no article. Authors concerned are Matthew (19:4, 19:8, 24:21), Mark (10:6, 13:9), Luke (Luke 1:2, Acts 26:4), John (John 6:64, 8:44, 15:27, 16:4; 1 John 1:1, 2:7, 2:13, 2:14, 2:24a, 2:24b, 3:8, 3:11; 2 John 1:5, 1:6), Pauline (2 Thessalonians 2:13), Petrine (2 Peter 3:4). The exceptions here obey the same idea as before: either meaning “rule” (Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 2:10) or a special case of Hebrews (5:12, 6:1), to which we will return.

There is one more singular case we have not yet tackled, and it's tricky: the accusative, archen. Here we have 9 examples: John 2:11, John 8:25, 1 Corinthians 15:24, Hebrews 2:3, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 7:3, Jude 1:6. In these nine examples we see that the accusative singular seems to affect the need for the article, because the noun “beginning” is actually predicating something else, rendering it in several examples “first”. E.g. John 2:11 in the NIV reads: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs [i.e. the first sign] through which he revealed his glory”. 

This first of the nine instances should however be excluded from the study because of textual disagreement. I initially thought and blogged that it did not have the article. But as I looked at the Greek "apparatus", that is to say the strength of manuscript reliability for this verse, (that I could not easily account for), it hit me: there is a textual argument for the inclusion in John 2:11 of the article, which would maybe make more sense in the context of the accusative case. RP Byzantine Majority Text 2005, Textus Receptus, Greek Orthodox Church 1904 all witness a written definite article. 

Hebrews 2:3 is our first instance of relatively textually undisputed texts of the singular accusative. The Hebrews author, as I keep hinting, is exceptional in the way he articulates ARCHE. Here, however, he omits the article in order to say “first announced” (a few older or literal translations preferring “a commencement” etc. are most clearly off the mark and also constitute a very small minority). Notice how announced is not a noun, unlike the first sign in John 2:11.

Curiously, John 8:25 and Hebrews 3:14 are articular while providing a similar meaning. Why would Hebrews 2:3 differ from 3:14, and John 2:11 from 8:25 if in both cases they are identical words and case and by the same author? Good question, I don't know exactly. But they must not be grouped together in this way. John is thus far extraordinarily consistent in his anarthrous use of arche (nominative and dative) and arches (genitive). John always expresses “the beginning” without the article. So the first question is why would he in 8:25 exceptionally include the article when in the dozens of other occurrences it is always avoided? I am not sure. A truly thorough word study would need to look into that further.

Notwithstanding the final remarks reserved for the author of Hebrews, the final Hebrews occurrence of 7:3 seems to be anarthrous for it does truly (and rarely) refer to an indefinite beginning: Melchizedek had neither “a beginning” nor “an end” (nor “a father nor a mother”).

1 Corinthians does lack the article but is talking about “all rule”, and finally, Jude is anarthrous in a similar way to the John 2 and Hebrews 3 examples (predicate nouns, which appear to defer article usage to the predicated noun).

In summary: If we were working from the accusative alone, we would clearly be unable to make much progress! It does however contribute to the emerging picture on Hebrews and does open the tricky issue of predicate noun behaviour which will concern, one day, any study into John 1:1c.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

In THE beginning (4) [updated 11/1/16]

So now we turn away from identical occurrences to the other feminine singular arche constructions (we will not spend any more time on the LXX from now on).

First let us look at the other feminine singular examples that we excluded last time since they lacked the preposition “en”. As we do this, we will discover an additional meaning of the word. For whereas we always translate en arche by “in the beginning” in English, arche (and other cases) can sometimes mean “rule” or even “ruler”. Here then are the other New Testament examples of arche without “en”:

Matthew 24:8 and Mark 13:8 (nominative singular)
GRK: δὲ ταῦτα ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων 
NAS: these things are [the] beginning of birth pangs

Mark 1:1 (nominative singular)
GRK: ΑΡΧΗ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου
NAS: [The] beginning of the gospel of Jesus

EXCEPTION Luke 20:20 (dative singular)
GRK: αὐτὸν τῇ ἀρχῇ καὶ τῇ
NAS: that they [could] deliver Him to the rule and the authority

EXCEPTION? Colossians 1:18 (nominative singular)
GRK: ἐστιν [ἡ] ἀρχή πρωτότοκος ἐκ
NAS: the church; and He is the/[the] beginning, the firstborn

EXCEPTION Revelation 3:14 (nominative singular)
GRK: ἀληθινός  ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως
NAS: Witness, the Beginning of the creation

EXCEPTION Revelation 21:6 & 22:13 (nominative singular)
GRK:   ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ…
NAS: the beginning and the end.

My assurances of consistent dropping of the article are looking seriously doubtful on the face evidence of these passages. Of the 8 other feminine singular arche verses, only three seem to maintain the “rule” that the “the” is implied and not written: that’s less than half.

No it’s not. So far we have seen an actual total of 12 feminine singular occurrences: 7 of these imply the article silently. Of these 7, 4 state “en arche”. Still, you might say 7 out of 12 is still not that impressive evidence. Actually, it is meaningless. We have already established that exact matches are 100% consistent. It could well be argued that without the preposition “en”, that the definite article is simply optional. As a Greek writer of antiquity, you could throw it in or leave it out and no-one would mind or notice either way. My case would not be jeopardised.

But, despite that safety net, we can actually connect the articles to a specific function in at least three of the five “exceptions”. Furthermore, as we look at other configurations of arche, we will see that a very strong case will still emerge for anarthrous arche notwithstanding the exempting circumstances we will look at now.

Firstly, Luke 20:20, is consistently translated into English by “rule”, not “beginning”. In a later post we will do a study on the Greek words for “ruler”, whereupon we will see that this meaning is highly obedient to the more common rules: anarthrous = indefinite & articular = definite. So Luke 20:20 is constructed with the article because “the rule” behaves differently to “the beginning”.

Secondly, Colossians 1:18. Unfortunately this verse will not get us very far, as the manuscripts do not agree: some have the definite article, and some don't. Furthermore, the presence or absence is not strongly contended by textual critics who focus their energies elsewhere so it is difficult to say more than the immediate appearance is that both options are viable. For me it is also impossible to decide.

If the article is present, arche might well be functioning qualitatively or again as “the ruler”. See how in Greek it immediately precedes the word for “firstborn”. In English we separate the two with a comma (“…he is the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead”), but this qualitative use could allow for the article to be attached to "the firstborn" rather than "the beginning". However, an even more plausible explanation can be found, in my eyes, when we integrate how arche is generally used in in this epistle. Bearing in mind the shrinking numbers of New Testament scholars still attributing the epistle to genuine Pauline authorship, we should not take lightly that ALL the other declinations of arche in Colossians refer to rule, rulers, principalities, and so on. Colossians 1:18 would be the only exception. If this case were to be worked out more fully, then a translation could legitimately go more along the lines of he is the ruler and the firstborn from among the dead. In either case, the inclusion of the article could thus be explained. 

If the article is not present, then Colossians 1:18 would definitely read THE beginning and would be in line with the overall New Testament usage that we are observing.

The final explicable articular arche is Revelation 3:14. This time, a whole swathe of translations also make the connection with the idea of “the ruler” or “the head”: ERV, EXB, ICB, NCV, NIRV, NIV, WEB, YLT. The NIV gives: “the ruler of God’s creation”. Interestingly, The Message has chosen to echo Proverbs 8 language and go with the qualitative “first”, which is probably not quite right.

So in actual fact we are only really left with one phrase from the very end of the last book of the Bible, in Revelation 21:6 and 22:13: “the beginning and the end”, where both "beginning" and "end" are articular. I would not want to presumptuously assume that there is in fact nothing to be said about the articular use here. One possibility that will later emerge when we look at Hebrews is that within the writings of one author, a preferred expression might be adopted for particular purposes. On the assumption that it is at least possible, many would say distinctly possible, that the author of Revelation may not be the same human being as the author of John’s gospel, we might note that there are simply no occurrences of anarthrous arche in any declination, whether meaning beginning or rule/ruler. Another explanation might be an attempt at keeping the powerful statement balanced; could it not have appeared strange to emphasise the article of “the end” while omitting the article of “the beginning”?

To sum up: without the preposition, the singular arche does not follow the implied article rule when used to mean “rule” or qualitatively. Usage in Revelation is too limited to develop but opens the possibility to author preference.

This concludes my discussion on the singular noun construction for nominative and dative cases, but it should just be noted before closing the post that Greek case does not yet appear determinant. Of the anarthrous instances of arche with implied article, we see represented both dative and nominative cases, although nominative presents more articular instances (it is interesting to note that the nominative Mark 1:1, while lacking the “en” is being used to initiate Mark’s account in much the same way as “en arche” in the four New Testament examples and Genesis 1:1 & Jeremiah 26:1 in the LXX). We will continue to track this as we proceed now to the other two Greek cases for this word: genitive (very consistently dropping the article) and accusative (difficult to track).

Thursday, 22 October 2015

In THE beginning (3)

So far I have set out my conclusion that the lack of article in John 1:1 before “beginning” is normal despite the fact that we translate it into modern languages with the definite article. It’s time to see what I base that on and how we can deal with the few exceptions.

The first place to start is to ask ourselves: do we see the exact phrase en arche ever separated by the definite article? Here, where it matters most, we have total agreement: no. This expression is simply the way to express “In the beginning” and our three other biblical examples include the author in question, John, as well as both Paul and Luke. These are the New Testament examples (I will briefly cover the LXX afterward), all of which are in the dative case like John 1:

NAS: In the beginning was the Word,
KJV: In the beginning was the Word,
INT: In [the] beginning was the

NO ARTICLE John 1:2 (dative singular)
GRK: ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν
NAS: He was in [the] beginning with God.

NO ARTICLE Acts 11:15 (dative singular)
GRK: ἡμᾶς ἐν ἀρχῇ 
KJV: …us at [the] beginning.

NO ARTICLE Philippians 4:15 (dative singular)
GRK: ὅτι ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου
KJV: in [the] beginning of the gospel,

This might seem like scant evidence – do not worry! There is much more to come as we widen out to other cases and configurations. But here we have four exact matches (including John 1:1) across three of the most represented New Testament authors, John, Paul and Luke.

What about the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament? Are there any instances of an articular arche in this form, i.e. en + article + arche ? Here we must concede one, and it is obscure. It is in Daniel 9:21, and is not translated as “in the beginning” at all. 

Firstly, I do not have access to textual variations on article inclusion/exclusion for Daniel 9:21 in the LXX. Scribes definitely do play around with articles a little in subsequent centuries so it is a possibility that the articular version we read today was not originally articular.

Secondly, when you look up the Hebrew word used in Daniel here, בַּתְּחִלָּה֙ it is not the same word as used in the Hebrew, original, version of Genesis 1:1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית, to which all scholars would agree there is at least some connection for John’s prologue writer. And yes, before you ask, the LXX also does indeed commence Genesis with the anarthrous “En arche” (no article). The Hebrew used for this idea is found in three other locations in the Old Testament, all of them in Jeremiah. However, only one of these, Jeremiah 26:1, is translated in the LXX as “En arche”. The other two Jeremiah references seem to show evidence of serious textual corruptions, I presume, into the Septuagint tradition because the book of Jeremiah seems to differ generally and significantly beyond this point between the Hebrew and its Greek translation. I should look into this more, but it is no longer of relevance to the current investigation.

So far, so good: En arche in Greek = In THE beginning.

But that should not satisfy, as we need to look at arche in its other forms and without the preposition “en”, which could affect how the need for the article applies is in Greek. However, we shall see that there too, a distinctive pattern will still emerge, albeit with a few more explainable exceptions.

Monday, 12 October 2015

In THE beginning (2)

In the previous post I established that the key question in understanding a word is not why, but how or when. I already informed you that I am also particularly interested in the Greek word arché, which has been understood to mean various things from beginning, the beginning, first (adjective function), corner, principality, rule, ruler. That's quite a swathe.

I am particularly curious about this word because of John 1:1 and John 1:2, where it is sometimes argued (and I certainly thought) that we cannot develop sophisticated grammatical ideas on the critical anarthrous (article-free) theos in John 1:1 because Greek articles are basically unpredictable.
In English, if we want to show that a noun is not just any old one of that thing, but it is the thing in view, we must add the article "the". In plural form, that "the" becomes "these" or "those". You know that. In Greek, the word "the" has a gazillion different variants because the Greek language functions with cases. When it is used, the author is being just as specific as we are with our definite articles.

That said, it sometimes is used when we would not, because for us proper nouns, like "Mary" already carry that specific unique sense - unless of course there are two ladies called Mary in view, and one specific Mary needs identification: (pointing to a photo) "This is the Mary you met, she is called Mary Jones; the other Mary is Mary Smith.

New Testament Greek varies here: sometimes "Jesus" has the definite article, which in English is totally superfluous since we do not have two "Jesuses" in view. Another example is God: ho theos, the One True God, whom many Trinitarian scholars will concede is God the Father (there are no tripersonal usages of "theos" or "ho theos" to my knowledge in the New Testament). See John 17:3 for a great example.

And what about the indefinite article? In English, when a noun is indefinite, we simply add "a", "an" or "some", n'est-ce pas? "I picked up a pebble to toss into the sea". Well here in Greek there is a big shift, because they simply add... NOTHING!

So the temptation can be to say, well, because this or that noun has no article, it is therefore indefinite. That is what the Jehovah's Witnesses have basically done, it would seem, with the anarthrous theos in John 1:1. So they say: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a god. And of course the Christian world goes into uproar at this because of the way JWs have "meddled" with the text. (By the way, I am not convinced at all by JW theology, I only care what the Bible - and Biblical authors - taught and thought). Careful Christians, I unashamedly like to consider myself in this group, also note that they did not start their translation of John's prologue with: "Once upon a time", i.e. in a beginning. We say: surely those JWs must have been allowing their theology to bias their exegesis here, because for the first anarthrous noun, which is arché; they add the THE: In THE beginning, while the anarthrous theos connected to the Word, the logos, is "demoted" to "a god". Could you be any more inconsistent?!

This is how the verse looks with its articles:

In [the] beginning was THE word and THE word was with THE God and [the?] God was THE word.

I am now going to steer away from the highly sensitive anarthrous theos question, and focus on this word arché. Could it be that in my own dislike for some of JW theology and bias, that I was clutching at arguments like the anarthrous arché? Yes, that is precisely what happened.

In the next post I will start to show how the omission of the definite article before arché is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL AND CONSISTENT. There is nothing random about it and it is utterly consistent with how this word arché can be seen to function throughout the New Testament, and even in the Septuagint (LXX). What that means is that if we had significant textual variation in the manuscripts between "In the beginning" and "In [the] beginning", i.e. we didn't know what the prologue originally said, then we would very confidently deduce that an early copyist had changed the text he was copying, inadvertently or deliberately, to ADD the definite article, not to delete it.

That was just a hypothetical textual variation by the way! The manuscripts agree: no article.

At some other stage, maybe, I will delve into the anarthrous theos question, but it is a much bigger project. One argument that will be scrapped however is the necessary unpredictability of usage of articles based on the anarthrous arché in the same verse.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

In THE beginning: COULD it be true?!

When looking at the New Testament, we get excited when we see a pattern emerging in Greek usage. It may not be a pattern that makes sense, but then we can rest assured that we are talking about a real human language here and not some robotic theoretical communication system for which there is simply no evidence among the languages of man. I am going to discuss the Greek word arché, in the next post or two, but let us first take a moment to see how important it is to understand the irrelevance of the why question. What we want to know is how does word A mean X and therefore what in fact does A mean? Sometimes to achieve this we go a step further with "when": When does word A mean X and when does word A mean Y? Why is not relevant. Why do we have the same word "could" in English for meaning A and for meaning B??

Meaning A: I could purchase the garage if I took out a loan.
Meaning B: I could purchase the garage because I took out a loan.

"Could A" is the conditional of the modal "can", and is not yet settled. I may choose to take out the loan, or I may not choose to do so. It is open.

"Could B" is the past tense of the modal "can", it is utterly settled, unchangeable and in the past. To combine the conditional and past, I am required to go down the wordy route of: I would have been able to purchase the garage if I had taken out a loan.

Imagine a thousand years from now if English were to change dramatically - and it most certainly will - and that this kind of usage had faded out. Researchers in this future age are desperately peering back into our time to try to understand quite how this strange word "COULD" actually worked. In different contexts, it seemed to function very differently. Sometimes it seemed totally settled. Sometimes it seemed very open. Then they might stumble on their "Ah ha!-moment" as the rule - our rule - began to emerge. It would be a much less useful exercise for these researchers to try to figure out quite why "COULD" functioned the way it did, for their primary motivation is to exegete the meaning of the sentences containing the defunct word.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

More reflections on Luke's passionless passion...jury is not just out but on holiday!

In my previous post, I outlined my brief exchange with Dr. Bart Ehrman on the question of why Luke might have stripped from Jesus' brutal death the emphases on suffering and agony. I pointed out why the argument for a textual corruption on the drops of blood seems highly probable (for me I am as certain as you can be about these things), but the resulting and obvious question is still begging. Why would Luke do that? Why would he want to portray a suffering-free, calm, collected, reflective Jesus all the way up to his death? Initially I put forward a hypothesis: could it be that Luke was wanting to differentiate Jesus from the Son of Man, who WOULD suffer?

Although I got Ehrman's initial interest on that idea, I proceeded to shoot down my own idea in flames, on the basis that the Lukan text would have had to be subject to a huge conspiracy of corruption to end up with what we have now, because there are many passages that DO associate Jesus with the Son of man.

Ehrman's next response is: It was probably (to give it in its shortest version) to show those suffering that they too did not really need to suffer if God was on their side.  They too could be calm and in control.

But how does this account for Luke's idea that Jesus is the Son of man who must "suffer and die"?

For me this is a mystery indeed that I think I will simply put on hold until I hear a more developed explanation. I do not have one.

Drops of blood

[Translation from recent post in French]

Thanks to a conversation today with a French-speaking friend, who read the blog but gave up because of the language, I propose[d] to do an article in French! Truly I am sorry to have been such an English-lover up until now. One reason for that is that I write better in English - after all, it's my mother tongue. But a second reason is that the sources and references I am examining come for the mostpart from English persons and scholars. However, that is not an excuse, and I hope to do more articles in French, including one this week (on a worship song in the continuation of the series I started on theology in worship).

But my subject for today is the question of the Son of man according to Luke's gospel. This expression THE son of man is radical and innovative. Indeed, this expression (combined with its definite article) is present nowhere else in antiquity, including in the texts of the Old Testament, which contains a hundred or so references to "A son of man" or "sons of man".

Some readers will already have heard of the "historical Jesus". It is a movement that developed in the field of history that applies to Jesus the same criteria of historical research applied to any other historical event or figure. These historians do not apply faith-based or religious criteria, but historical criteria. Some of them are believers, although many are not, and many debates have been held over the issue of the "historical Jesus". One of the most distinguished scholars of our time, who is no longer a believer himself, is Bart Ehrman. No-one seriously undertaking critical Biblical study will be unaware of his contributions to the field. Ehrman is one of those who believes that by applying historical criteria to the data and research we currently hold (for example on the workings of oral transmissions of stories and human memory) that there is a wide variety of historical preciseness in Jesus' recorded words.

Indeed, even some of the more conservative scholars can concede that some stylistic wording can be considered as likely added by the gospel writer, i.e. not exactly word by word what Jesus really said, and this is what interests historians (see Just Bass in his debate with Bart Ehrman on 18 September 2015). Ehrman is in agreement that given the diversity of the multiple and independent sources quoting Jesus talking of "THE son of man" that he really did teach about this a lot, and that it was new. But, what is most surprising, is that if you accept that there can be a difference between the true unfolding of historical events and wording and what is reported by the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and you also accept that Jesus spoke a lot about the Son of man, you are not obligated to take the position of Jesus having historically appropriated the title himself. According to certain verses, it seems totally obvious that Jesus did appropriate this title. However, for some historians, it is just as possible or even probable that it is the gospel writers who at times make Jesus appropriate that title. Let us look at an example that does not at all require such appropriation:

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
For historians, this saying might be closer to the actual statement Jesus made than certain other statements recorded by the gospel writers concerning the Son of man.

But why am I telling you all this?

On his blog via several posts, Ehrman has explained why two verses from Luke chapter 22, verses 43-44, we can observe a real corruption of the text ("corruption" in the technical sense, not in the mean-spirited way), that is to say, an insertion. It is the passage that explains how an angel comforted Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and how Jesus was "in agony":

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Wow, a very famous passage indeed. But it is an insertion; it was added by a copyist in the second or third century. It is a verifiable fact that the human beings who copied these texts always made small (although occasionally larger) changes. For the vast majority of cases these were accidental and without serious consequence. This is one of the very few larger changes that is neither accidental nor without significant consequence, and can be shown by
  1. its absence from the best and oldest manuscripts
  2. the otherwise symmetrical structure of the paragraph
  3. the context of Jesus' "suffering" in Luke.
We can sometimes have the unfortunate habit of flattening the events of the life, and especially the death and resurrection of Jesus into one single account comprising four sources. This prevents us sometimes from some quite remarkable discoveries. Here's a whopper: if you only read Christ's passion in Luke, you can arrive at the astonishing conclusion that - WITH THE EXCEPTION OF LUKE 22:43-44 - Jesus didn't really have to suffer. Every time that Mark stresses that the situation was heavy and painful for Jesus, Luke, who has access to the Markan text, removes the agony and shows a Jesus who is in control, capable of conversation, reflective, profound exhortations, who does not cry out to God about why he has been forsaken, and so on. Honestly, the arguments for a corruption of this passage are coherent on multiple levels.

But one question remains, and I asked it to Dr. Ehrman: why would Luke have so intentionally described an absence of Jesus in his "passion"? I also made a fated suggestion, that I myself do not really believe but I just want to find an explanation for this reality if I can:

If in other parts of Luke we can indeed observe a connection between the Son of man and suffering, and if Jesus was referring to another, apocalyptic character such as observed in Daniel chapter 7, could not Luke have been avoiding the confusion between Jesus and the Son of man?

Ehrman's first response was "good idea". But the problem with my suggestion was that if Luke was the culprit for making Jesus appropriate the title of The Son of man, why would he seek to remove any trace of the Son of Man's suffering, since the Son of Man, for Luke, IS Jesus? Surely that could not be attributed to scribal corruptions!

Ehrman responded a second time with a brief alternative explanation I can give in the next post...