In this video clip, Dr. Ben Witherington addresses Dr. Bart Ehrman’s treatment (especially in his book Jesus, Interrupted) of contradictions within the New Testament.
Witherington raises an interesting question: In the first-century, Greco-Roman context, how much freedom did the ancient writers have to edit and rewrite for meaning? In other words, did the ancient writers feel like they could alter words or fill in blanks in memory (I’m expanding Witherington’s point a little bit here) when they wanted to establish the meaning of what was said and done?
So, no matter what the Roman soldier precisely said as he stood at the foot of the cross, the various accounts have the same core meanings.
Witherington seems to give a significant answer for many of the discrepancies in the New Testament. I think, however, Witherington’s explanation (as far as the video clip goes) might not be adequate to answer matters of symbolic importance during key historical moments. For example, the curtain in the Temple tearing while Jesus was still alive on the cross in one Gospel versus the curtain tearing after Jesus died in another — the meanings here, to me, don’t seem the same.
So I continue to read Jesus, Interrupted, and last week, I purchased N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, which seems to address several topics that have interested and bothered me — addresses them in a convenient, 800-page package.
Meanwhile, one recent commenter suggested I should note the reconciliation between me and the clergyman mentioned in a previous post on Ehrman. He’s a good man.