If you haven’t noticed, there is now a second post in the new response series being put on over at Michael Kruger’s blog (see the first one here). Today’s post was written by Dr. Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary. The post is a response to John Byron’s “aha moment” about Mark 2:26. For the purposes of full disclosure, I have learned a lot from Blomberg’s writings over the years and still think his short commentary on Matthew and his book on the parables are must-have volumes. I won’t provide a full-scale exegesis of Blomberg’s post here. I’m sure readers of the post will generate their own unique exegetical insights. However, I wanted to make two points.
First, Blomberg’s solution to the problem, which argues against the grain of most Markan scholarship on this question, makes a great deal (and I think too much) out of the preposition “epi” (on, upon). Anyone who does any work with the Gospel of Mark knows how clumsy his grammar can be. The gospel is filled with phrases that betray consistent Semitic interference in Mark’s modes of expression; very often you will reach texts where Matthew and Luke have such problems with Mark’s awkward grammar that they will either correct his grammar or omit a phrase entirely (as they BOTH do with the phrase in question here). This is to say nothing of the textual witnesses that either omit “epi” or insert “tou” before the word “high priest” in order to offer a slight change of meaning. Remember, the earliest commentary on a given text is often found in the manuscript tradition. Some of the earliest copyists (including Matthew and Luke) apparently had serious issues with Mark’s wording in 2:26.
Second, I wanted to make mention of Blomberg’s treatment of Bart Ehrman, who is not even the subject of this post. I think it is quite problematic how Blomberg unfairly takes aim at Ehrman, his personal history, and his internal motivations. Blomberg writes:
In a recent post on his blog, Old Testament scholar Peter Enns invited New Testament scholar John Byron, professor at Ashland Theological Seminary, to write about an “aha moment” that changed his understanding of the Bible. Byron chose the same passage that Bart Ehrman described in the introduction to his Misquoting Jesus, which led to his reneging on his Christian commitment altogether in favor of agnosticism: Mark 2:26.
Now clearly Byron and Ehrman are a far cry from each other theologically. Ehrman teaches at a state university (the University of North Carolina) and tells classes regularly he wants to disabuse them of any form of Christian faith. Byron teaches at a theologically centrist United Methodist Seminary, helping to train people for professional ministry, and still considers himself a devout Christian. But both appeal to this same passage as one reason they reject the inerrancy of the Scriptures.
First, is it really accurate (or kind) to describe Ehrman as “reneging on his Christian commitment”? It’s not as though he woke up one day and just decided to forsake Christianity. If you read Ehrman or listen to him tell his story, it sounds as though he–like many thoughtful, reflective Christians–had a long, difficult, and protracted struggle with these issues. Though I identify myself as a Christian, I can appreciate Bart’s struggle. I have gone through my own intellectual struggles and doubts and see no need to be so dismissive of Ehrman’s story, regardless of his ultimate conclusions. Second, if you read or listen to Ehrman, you’ll know that his approach to the textual tradition didn’t lead him to agnosticism. This led him to, in his words, become a “very liberal Christian.” It was his struggle with the problem of evil that ultimately led him to become agnostic. Third, I know quite a few people at UNC and several people who know Ehrman well, and none of them describe him–in class or in person–as the type of person who wants to disabuse Christians of their faith. Maybe someone should remind the Ehrman-bashers that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Does it really have to be so difficult for us to disagree charitably about these issues?