I attended a debate last weekend at SMU with my friend Brian around the question, “Can we trust the text of the New Testament?” This debate did not center around questions about the historical accuracy of the events described in the New Testament, about inconsistencies between the different books, about how each book came to be included in the canon, about who authored each book, or about whether or not miracles really occur — none of that. The question was all about how confidently can the original texts of the New Testament be reconstructed from the existing manuscript evidence.
The two parties in the debate were Bart D. Ehrman, well-known scholar and professor at the University of North Carolina; and Daniel B. Wallace, director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. I was somewhat familiar with Ehrman’s work before the debate. I was glad to see him present in person; he was much more personable than I was expecting. (He clearly won the debate, though neither side discussed what significance their victory would hold.) It was a very enjoyable evening, hearing these scholars share the current status of the field.