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.
Christians should have gratitude, if I may intrude with my own opinion, for scholars putting in so much time and energy and for clarifying the NT. Somebody has to do this thankless yeoman's work, done often behind the scenes, with no glamour.
I think biblical textual criticism scholars are in the same class as the scribes we have to thank for the Bible. Someone has to do the work. And they certainly are able to ponder the words in depth as they work. Who can say if they are not inspired in their work. However, it is, as you say, a different effort than that we all are engaged in as we read and study the Bible for the spiritual benefits to be gained in this life, and the life to come.
As long as that effort is performed while the yeoman is in fellowship with Him, through faith in Christ, allowing God to Guide Him in his effort, then there may indeed be those involved in ‘textual criticism’ performing a sound unrecognized work.
I suspect, though, that far more practitioners of textual criticism are inspired either by their own thinking independent of Him, as in an academic perspective, or even in an attempt to quench the Spirit driven by demonic influence.
In regards to divine inspiration, it is possible for an author to pen a phrase he had never used or heard of before, simply being spiritually driven through faith in Christ by the work of God the Holy Spirit. This may have been especially true in the original canon of Scripture. Accordingly, textual criticism in many cases begs the question, attempting to judge the author by his product in soulish criterion, rather than accepting the continuing work of God the Holy Spirit in the renewing of our mind daily through faith in Him.
Do Mormons believe the Bible is the Word of God?
Do they also believe that the Bible has been corrupted?
Is this why you posted the article?
Attacking the Bible Ping
There are many excellent scholars who have devoted their ministries to the question of whether the Bible is true. Some of the disciplines they represent include: archeology, history, linguistics, philosophy and the sciences. Together, they have accumulated a massive body of evidence which would fill a large library.
Perhaps the best place to start is with the writings of Josh McDowell. Over the past four decades, Josh has lectured on more than 650 university and college campuses to more than seven million people in 74 countries. For years, he would debate the question of the accuracy of the Bible with any college professor foolish enough to accept his challenge. Josh has written 77 books on apologetics to date. They have sold tens of millions of copies and have been translated into more than 50 languages. Some of his more popular titles include: New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter, and The Resurrection Factor. You can purchase a copy of these books at any Christian bookstore, or through merchants such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Josh McDowell has been instrumental in helping some of my family...understand the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Do you realize that Ehrman calls himself a happy agnostic now? He missuses statistics to lie (’400,000 variants is more than the total number of words in the NT’; the ‘sayings of Jesus are not for the most part direct quotes since no one was writing things down on a daily basis’) Is there some agenda you have in mind for posting this article, as if this man is to be depended upon by Christians? Or is it just yet another Mormonism effort to degrade faith in the Bible, sort of a stealth ‘as far as it is translated correctly’ Mormon plea in the oblique to denigrate the integrity of the Bible?
Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic Ping List:
Please ping me to all note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.
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.All who are True Christians will take severe umbrage at this outrage. I look forward to your comments.
Perchance a Mormon agenda?
The poster of the thread is an active Mormonism apologist at FR and a Romney platooner. There is no doubt in my mind that there is an agenda, but how deeply back to the Romney campaign I cannot determine. The Mittster’s handlers may have finally realized what a mountain they have to climb to get this Mormon religion into tolerance position so Mitt can buy the nomination. For weeks we have been ‘treated’ to a denigration of the Bible in Mormonism efforts to make fertile ground for sowing the Mormon religious manuscripts. This thread is a second this evening trying to raise doubts regarding the efficacy of the Bible ... very stealthily of course. I may have to post the heretical posts of another apologist who tried to rasie doubt as to the birth of Jesus. It is getting insidious and astonishing in scope from the Mormonism apologists.
Ouch. Thanks. Perhaps the question needs to be asked, is this what FR ought to be hosting?
Jesus was from Wisconsin?????? WOW!!!
I’ve been reminded to ping you. Since you posted the thread I thought you would keep up with it. Here’s your sign, er I mean, here’s your ping.
How many books in your Bible?
If it is less than the Catholic Bible then your denomination would be among those who changed it. (Which is a way is blasphemous, because the Bible is the inspired Word of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)
I use the KJV. I take it you use the Catholic version.
"There is not a single verse of the Bible that I do not believe. It is the postbiblical interpretation that I reject." (Robinson, How Wide the Divide?, IVP p. 72)
[Never mind that any LDS interpretation of the Bible is likewise, postbiblical]
Robinson, in fact, was so emphatic in this that he saod twice: "There isn't a single verse of the Bible that I do not personally accept and believe, although I do reject the interpretive straightjacket imposed on the Bible by the Hellenized church after the apostles passed from the scene." (p. 59)
Beyond this, why would the LDS church spend millions of $ in advertising, promoting, & giving away for free something that is supposedly "manipulated" & would therefore be deemed less reliable?