Skip to comments.Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
Posted on 01/04/2008 10:17:32 PM PST by TheDon
The popular perception of the Bible as a divinely perfect book receives scant support from Ehrman, who sees in Holy Writ ample evidence of human fallibility and ecclesiastical politics. Though himself schooled in evangelical literalism, Ehrman has come to regard his earlier faith in the inerrant inspiration of the Bible as misguided, given that the original texts have disappeared and that the extant texts available do not agree with one another. Most of the textual discrepancies, Ehrman acknowledges, matter little, but some do profoundly affect religious doctrine. To assess how ignorant or theologically manipulative scribes may have changed the biblical text, modern scholars have developed procedures for comparing diverging texts. And in language accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman explains these procedures and their results. He further explains why textual criticism has frequently sparked intense controversy, especially among scripture-alone Protestants. In discounting not only the authenticity of existing manuscripts but also the inspiration of the original writers, Ehrman will deeply divide his readers. Although he addresses a popular audience, he undercuts the very religious attitudes that have made the Bible a popular book. Still, this is a useful overview for biblical history collections. Bryce Christensen
Customer Review 1
In a little over 200 pages, Ehrman gets to the point of how the New Testament came to be what it is today. No, it didn't just appear leather-bound, shiny, and new after Jesus' resurrection; rather, it was painstakingly cobbled together decades after Jesus' crucifixion from copies of copies of copies of (you get the point) the original writings of the New Testament authors, which were slowly altered over time by scribes that handed them down (sometimes by accident or othertimes intentionally by those meaning to "correct" things in the scriptures that didn't make sense). All in all, Ehrman makes his case well, that even if the New Testament scriptures started out as the inspired word of God, we humans have certainly gotten our filthy little hands on it and have made it quite difficult to discern what the "original" writers (whose texts have been lost) actually wrote. Thus, we can only try to piece it together through the challenging art of textual criticism, which is what this book is largely about.
Customer Review 2
This is the first book of Ehrman's I have read. I found it interesting and well-written for the average person who has little background in Biblical Textual Studies, (which equates to more than 99% of the population.)
I do not have the credentials of Dr. Ehrman, but I do have the equivalent of a degree in Biblical Literature and have worked in the original languages. My Senior Thesis was doing a textual comparison of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi with the parallel passages of the Kingdom Parables of Matthew 13. To do that I had to teach myself some Coptic Egyptian and do some translating to form a basis for comparison.
All that said to establish that I have some background to make an evaluation of what is being said in this book.
I also have some common ground with Dr. Ehrman in life history. I too was trained as an evangelical with a very high view of inspiration and further had to struggle as I became aware of how difficult it is to interact with the text in its manuscript and historical form all while becoming painfully aware of the fact that any view of inspiration must tacitly admit that it is a hypothetical basis of faith because as Ehrman states clearly:
1. If the original manuscripts are inspired, we don't have them.
2. What we do have, while overall reliable and fairly easily examined for error, still leaves some serious questions of textual manipulation by scribes that makes several key passages difficult to stand upon for important doctrines.
This is, in fact, not as great a secret as Ehrman seems to imply throughout his book. There are a great number of books from all backgrounds and degrees of belief that acknowledge these types of issues. Granted, they tend to be more of an academic nature than what Ehrman has attempted to do here. But they are there nonetheless and have been for centuries.
Jefferson's Bible was an early example (though not necessarily intended for distribution at the time) of how people wrestled with this issue. The means of wrestling with them have improved with additional manuscripts discovered (i.e. the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi to name the better known ones.) Scholarship has improved to where I believe it is safe to say that what we know in this realm today has improved our confidence in most areas of the text.
In fact, the newer translations themselves (The NIV, the NASB etc.), actually have margin notes and some variant readings noted very clearly in just the areas that Ehrman focuses on within his book. That hardly equates to a "cover-up."
In view of this, I think Ehrman somewhat oversteps his points in favor of salesmanship to try and press home his own doubts that have arisen in his personal journey. Most Christians have many tools, books, websites, and Bibles themselves to be introduced to these types of issues (IF they want to be.) This is an issue well within the grasp of the average layman if they should be interested in pursuing it.
There are many conservative scholars with equally distinguished academic backgrounds that match Ehrman's and yet still maintain a higher view of Scripture than he appears to have adopted. I accept that his views are well informed and sincere. I do not accept his conclusion that inspiration of the original text requires equally divine preservation. However, in recognizing that I accept that the onus is on those of my persuasion to provide solid scholarship to demonstrate our case. I believe that is being provided. I would encourage any reading this book to listen to what Ehrman has to say and do some research on what others of a more conservative approach and respect for Scripture have to say as well. In this regard, even Bruce Metzger, Ehrman's mentor to whom he dedicates the book has a somewhat more conservative view and conclusion based on the same criteria.
The primary and most valuable point that I think Ehrman makes in this work, is that there are many Christians in denial either through ignorance or worse, perhaps an unwillingness to face these issues for fear of upsetting their internal house of cards and being forced to admit that there are unanswered questions and room for some intellectual honesty and humility in facing difficult issues related to the Bible.
There are many Christians, unfortunately who prefer denial to honest appraisal. Ehrman very rightly confronts this with his material.
As an evangelical who has retained and maintained his faith in this journey, I haven't found it necessary to resort to denial. There are satisfactory answers to be found. It does, however, require a willingness to adopt some humility and to honestly rethink and modify positions when the facts call for it. That is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it's a good thing and results in a deeper, more understanding, more relevent and intellectually honest faith that can move and interact within our society and culture without apology. I don't believe God intends for his people to be mental midgets or follow their faith mindlessly.
That having been said, I didn't find the text offensive or threatening for that matter. I think he does a good job of raising the points on the major issues without overly sensationalizing them beyond what I have qualified above. His facts are reasonably sound and accurate, even if they are somewhat selective. His conclusions in places seem to be somewhat hastily arrived at, but I'm willing to give him some latitude due to his goal of making this easily grasped by the average person with no formal training.
Worth the read. Hopefully any reading this as an introduction to the field will not stop here but go on to explore and learn more. Metzger is good, Gordon Fee is good. FF Bruce also has some good material, but there are many others if you want to enter the field more deeply and see some differing persepctives.
Evangelicals, (such as myself) need to read and interact with these types of books and enter the field as participants in the debate rather than naysayers throwing verbal salvos from behind our walls of faith, security and (unfortunately at times) ignorance.
Read it and be introduced into an important field of knowledge.
Oh, wait, it's always open season on the Church.
All this about what the original text said is like asking what was Michael Angelos first impression when he saw a block of marble, or what was in Einsteins mind the night before he came up with the theory of special relativity, where was Neil Armstrongs first step as a boy?
These points are all moot,
Its whats in the bible now and what texts that has been used for centuries that molded the worlds first democracies, freedom of religion, justice, human rights, and the concept of being responsible for once own actions, the afterlife, repentance, salvation, redemption and forgiveness as described in nearly all modern versiona of the new testament, an tried and proven self help book equal to none if if works why fix it?
Yup. Christians are easy targets to the libs because we dont fight back. They only respect and respond to power that’s why they drop their pants in awe when you name any commie dictator.
Besides, Im more intested in Jesus life before he was 32. I heard he started a metal band when he was 25 but that’s unsubstantiated.:)
If anyone enjoys Christian apologetics I think they would enjoy this book more than Strobel's first one. It goes into more depth and detail and is more than the "apologetics 101" the first book was.
It’s why I go back to the Textus Receptus, in Greek, when I review Bible passages. The “improvements” introduced in modern translations can significantly change the meaning of key passages. I particularly recommend the interlinear bibles translated by Jay P. Green. Phenomenal resources.
Yes,...thanks for posting this.
God sais He would preserve his (inspired) words forever...If this guy is right, God lied...
I’ll stick with God...
I have indisputable proof that Jesus actually said, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”
Of course, someone promoting a book would never fabricate things. Archaeological and reliable extra- biblical sources have validated the Bible, both old and new testaments. Check out Christianthinktank.com for help with this.
AKA, job security.
I'll get started today on the cheese. Er, I hope you don't mean "cutting the cheese".
***An interesting book for anyone interested in the history of the Bible.***
Then you can go on to THE PASSOVER PLOT and The Bible and the Sacred Mushroom! Then a little Da Vinci Code for effect!
“God sais He would preserve his (inspired) words forever...If this guy is right, God lied...
Ill stick with God...”
I was thinking the same thing. After all, God IS the Word, and has the power to persevere.
...the devil’s in the details...
I suggest that you read this instead:
or for a more scientific analysis:
The most consistent doctrine I’ve found of how God grows us through faith in Christ leads me to a different perspective than the commentators of the book, and if I maybe so bold, I believe others may find His method more understandable in this fashion.
We know that all true faith comes from God, not by ourselves, and not from other men, but all from God.
He has provided a system of sanctification whereby first the Word of God is communicated to the believer, His Word is made understood to the human spirit by God, the Holy Spirit, the Word is understood in our mind, also by God the Holy Spirit, then while remaining in faith through Him, God the Holy Spirit makes that Word understood in our heart as an outward form of knowledge, which is recallable and usable by our volition in daily life. (In Scriptural anthropology, man is body, soul, and spirit with the soul being comprised of mind and heart, and the mental operation involving the will or volition.)
The particular doctrine which expresses this idea has been called the Doctrine of “Operation Z” by some. (Z being formed by a graph of the operation of the Holy Spirit, beginning with a Pastor-Teacher communicating the Word as the upper left hand part of the letter Z, then moving right by the work of the Holy Spirit to the edification of the human spirit by the Holy Spirit of the Word, then downwards left to filling the mind with the Word as an inward knowledge (GNOSIS), again through the work of the Holy Spirit, then finally to the right to the outward knowledge in the heart (EPIGNOSIS), again by the work of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve researched the doctrine, and although have found other passages that allow other epistemological constructs to play in our sanctification,...I nevertheless, have found the above model to be fairly close to well explaining one sound model of how God inculcates faith and furthers our sanctification process.
Of note in this doctrine, God also provides different spiritual gifts to different believers. The spiritual gift of pastor-teacher and the spiritual gift of evangelism are particular gifts to a believer’s human spirit which makes that particular believer perceptive of the spiritual domain as associated in communicating to believers (in the case of Pastor-Teacher), and communication to unbelievers (in the case of evangelism).
I’ve experienced this, when having been exposed to who I consider my proper Pastor-Teacher, when he would express comments on the doctrine he was teaching, through faith in Christ, and in communicating the Word, in a fashion which uniquely touched my personal life and events therein. Although other believers may have been in the room we were studying in, by him remaining in fellowship through faith in Christ, God the Holy Spirit was able to give the pastor-Teacher thoughts which were inspired by God and expressed portions of Scripture which spoke to the student and their unique Christian life as preplanned by God from eternity past. It might be said that there are no secrets when one is a believer through faith in Christ, other than what God allows in the implementation of His Plan. When in the presence of a Pastor-teacher, he might become very well aware of the most private heinous thinking or sinful manner of his student, or even a seemingly innocuous sinful manner, never telegraphed, simply by the inculcation of that understanding by God the Holy Spirit. He then might well be inspired to communicate an aspect of Scripture providing proper guidance to the believing student how best to follow God’s Plan.
This is a different phenomenon than studying the Bible alone, or independently of being in fellowship with God through faith in Christ, or having not confessed one’s sins, known and unknown, prior to study.
The spiritual gift of Pastor-Teacher, a communication gift involving the human spirit of the pastor-teacher, is NOT simply a talent for public speaking or the consequence of many years of Bible Study.
Such a study outside of being filled by the Holy Spirit excludes the human spirit and sanctification of the soul, mind and heart, from His work. Instead, such an independent study is nothing more than “soulishness” or academic study. Such a method actually scars the soul, both in mind and in heart, away from righteous inculcation of true faith.
WRT to article, in many ways, it really doesn’t matter what language is being used, or translation is being used in the study. What really matters is that the true Word of God is being thought by the student. When the true Word of God is thought, through faith in Christ, then God the Holy Spirit makes that true Word understood to the human spirit.
One can read the explicit true Word of God, but if not through faith in Christ, still will not understand in the mind, nor in the heart, that true knowledge. Conversely, a believer in fellowship with God, through faith in Christ, may be read even a poor translation, and still God the Holy Spirit may take the proper Word, make it undestood by the human spirit, a purely spiritual phenomenon perceived through faith in Christ, and continue to make one true idea known to the mind, then later to the heart, then available for future recall, and utility, again through faith in Christ, when the believer is tested, or as a good work, only through faith in Christ.
With this stated, it really doesn’t matter too much if there are many different slight variations in the printed Bible, or at least those differences are negligible when compared to the more significant issue of the believing student of the Word, to remain in fellowship with God prior to and during study of His Word, thereby placing him/herself in a humble position where God the Holy Spirit can do all the work in sanctification of the believer.
Far too many believers are scarred into thinking they have to do more work in becoming sanctified than is required. In fact it is well argued that ANY work performed by the believer in the sanctification process negates the sanctification, because it turns the relationship between God and man into a debt rather than an act of grace, thereby forming a situation contradictory to His Plan to provide ALL faith to man.
Granted, it is wise not to study from a Bible known to be purposefully translated so as to communicate a set of false doctrines. More importantly, in the proper study of His Word, by remaining in fellowship with Him, many fine points of Scripture are more frequently and quickly perceived by the soul when studying His Word from a good translation. But even with good translations, frequently we have been so scarred in our past thinking that we easily slip into reading OUR meaning into His Word, rather than allowing Him to communicate His Word into us.
IMHO, those inspired by textual criticism have forgone a much richer study, namely that provided by God the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, and are counterfeiting His Word with a simple academic study of a set of translated books.
It is a really interesting book, although it’s been out for a couple of years now.