Review of Bart Ehrman’s ‘Misquoting Jesus’

Misquoting JesusBart D. Ehrman. Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. 242pp. $24.95.

UPDATE! (January 15, 2007)
Touchstone magazine recently published my review, and it is now available in their December 2006 issue. They also have made available an online version which can be accessed here.

8 Responses to Review of Bart Ehrman’s ‘Misquoting Jesus’

  1. Anonymous January 10, 2006 at 6:13 pm #

    Thanks for this interesting article. I heard one of Ehrman’s interviews on NPR and found his arguments about the few scriptures that may not have been in the original manuscripts to be pretty weak to discount the whole Bible. Also his history of his time as a Christian was one of an immature believer looking for some sort of personal happiness that he never found so instead of searching himself to see what was wrong, he blamed his religion. Thanks again.

  2. Anonymous January 13, 2006 at 1:24 pm #

    Ehrman will be at SEBTS in early February to debate with Norman Geisler. http://www.sebts.edu/2020/

  3. Mike D February 25, 2006 at 2:41 pm #

    Christianity relies on the inerrant word of the New Testament. By revealing which parts were not in the original Bible, Ehrman shows that it is not the divinely-inspired word of God, but the fallible word of man. The Woman Taken in Adultery (p 63) and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (p 81) are bedrock Christian concepts, but neither appears in the oldest available copies. They were added by well-intentioned or malicious men with very human motives.

    What I take away from Ehrman’s book is this: the New Testament has been substantially altered by scribes, Kings, Clergy, and scholars. Therefore it is as imperfect as its human handlers.

  4. Denny Burk February 25, 2006 at 5:11 pm #

    Dear Mike,

    Actually, Ehrman claims to be agnostic about the origninal form of the text. He’s just cynical about what can be achieved through textual criticism.

    Actually, the doctrine of Christ’s forgiveness is not affected at all by the inclusion or exclusion of the story from John 8. There are a myriad of other texts that show that Jesus came to save sinners.

    Furthermore, the doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out in the early church without any reference to 1 John 5:7! So you will be hard-pressed to make the case that the doctrine of the Trinity depends on that text. Read the church fathers, and you will find that it does not.

    What you should take from the book is that Ehrman has an ax to grind. He is an agnostic, and he wants his readers to become agnostics also. This is not an unbiased exposition of the facts. He is trying to lead you away from Christianity, and he is tragically mistaken.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  5. P J Williams February 28, 2006 at 4:01 am #

    Thanks. I’ve just linked this from http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com.

  6. Anonymous March 14, 2006 at 11:24 pm #

    It is an interesting book and a fascinating subject.

    As for the debate above regarding the Holy Trinity and the inerrancy of the Bible, I hope critical thinking will lead you away from blind devotion to the word of man. The Bible we read today is a revised, jumbled mess of religious thought that readers can only hope was written by the Apostles.

    Even if you persist in the delusion that what you are reading is the uneditted writing of someone who knew Jesus, what confidence could you possibly have that the Bible’s teachings are what God would have you follow? Even the most cursory read of the Bible reveals that the Apostles did not understand what Jesus was trying to teach. Why they even abandoned and betrayed him in his final days.

    Then the final book of the Bible foretells the final days of life on Earth. I guess all that stuff about fortune telling and seeing the future being a sin … well God was just kidding.

    Modern Christians have abandoned the Jewish foundation of their religion. They embrace idolatry with open arms by worshipping below images of Jesus, Saints and the Cross.

    Return to your roots. Read the Torah and Koran. Devote yourself to worship of God and God alone. Whether you believe Jesus was sent by God or a manifestation of God, just talk to God and leave other names out of the discussion.

    After all, Christians should understand that forgiveness comes from God. We are saved by the grace of God, not some Holy Trinity.

    A concerned Muslim

  7. Mr. Scrivener November 18, 2006 at 1:24 pm #

    Regarding the above comment:

    “The Woman Taken in Adultery (p 63) and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (p 81) are bedrock Christian concepts, but neither appears in the oldest available copies. They were added by well-intentioned or malicious men with very human motives.”

    This is just a bogus argument, though it is repeated over and over, even in the margins of some ‘modern bibles’. Usually a footnote declares, “the oldest and best manuscripts omit these verses” or some such tripe.

    The fact is, as Ehrman himself admits, the ‘oldest’ nearly complete manuscripts happen to be four in number, two from the 4th century A.D. (300 years to late to be ‘early’), and two papyrii from Egypt dating from about 175-225 A.D.

    Both of the 4th century manuscripts show clear marks of awareness of the existance of the passage. So does the oldest papyus, P66. On top of this, the story is known to be older than the oldest manuscript, since it is also quoted by Papias (90-130 A.D.).

    Since all the old manuscripts are far to ‘new’ to be relevant to the question of the existance of the passage and the date of its possible ‘insertion’ or ‘omission’, we have to look elsewhere to solve this textual problem.

    There is no doubt that some manuscripts contained the passage, and some left it out, in the 4th century, as St. Jerome (350-410 A.D.) told us. Before him, Ambrose also noted the presence of the verses in some manuscripts and defended its authenticity.

    Both Ambrose and Augustine gave possible reasons for its being left out, namely hostility toward forgiving the crime of adultery, and mysogyny.

    Ehrman not only admits this was a big problem in early church history, but actually uses this to account for his own conjectural ‘additions’ to Paul’s letters!

    Yet he is strangely silent about this obvious possibility accounting for the omission of the passage in some manuscripts, until much later in the book.

    Moreover, Ehrman fraudulently presents an imaginary story of the passage being ‘added from the margin in the Middle Ages’. This account is patently absurd, since it is found in the ancient Greek/Latin manuscript Bezae (early 5th century), and also in the majority of manuscripts from the 6th to the 15th century.

    Ehrman’s second piece of ‘evidence’ against the passage is its lack of mention in the ancient Greek commentaries. But this is absurd and meaningless: The ancient Commentaries could only comment on what was actually read aloud in a church service. Many parts of the New Testament were never read aloud in church, because they were uninteresting, or unsuitable for a church service and sermon.

    For instance, the entire book of Jude, and Revelation were not publicly read or commented upon in the commentaries either. But no one doubts that the Greek fathers were well aware of both books in their entirety.

    You can find out the REAL evidence both for and against John 8:1-11 at this website:

    http://adultera.awardspace.com

    Sincerely,
    Mr.Scrivener

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. » Bart Ehrman on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” - November 4, 2006

    […] I reviewed Misquoting Jesus on this blog a couple of months ago. In that review I made the observation that Ehrman often mixes in higher critical conjectures that do not have anything to do with the manuscript tradition per se. This serves his polemical purpose of undermining the reliability of the Bible, but it does not help the lay reader who is being introduced to the discipline of text criticism for the first time. The unhappy result is that many will mistakenly conclude that the discipline of text criticism somehow discredits the veracity of the Bible when nothing could be further from the truth. […]

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