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When world-class biblical scholar Bart Ehrman first began to study the texts of the Bible in their original languages he was startled to discover the multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations that had been made by earlier translators. In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman tells the story behind the mistakes and changes that ancient scribes made to the New Testament and shows the great impact they had upon the Bible we use today. He frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultraconservative views of the Bible.

Since the advent of the printing press and the accurate reproduction of texts, most people have assumed that when they read the New Testament they are reading an exact copy of Jesus's words or Saint Paul's writings. And yet, for almost fifteen hundred years these manuscripts were hand copied by scribes who were deeply influenced by the cultural, theological, and political disputes of their day. Both mistakes and intentional changes abound in the surviving manuscripts, making the original words difficult to reconstruct. For the first time, Ehrman reveals where and why these changes were made and how scholars go about reconstructing the original words of the New Testament as closely as possible.

Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes—alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.

Topics: Ancient Times, Literary Criticism, 21st Century, Christianity, Jesus, New Testament Studies, Spirituality , Language, Literary Studies, and Politics

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061977022
List price: $10.99
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Equally fascinating and infuriating, this book sheds light on the early revisions of the New Testament of the bible. Somewhat repetitive, and told in a fairly simplistic fashion, it's still an interesting read. According to Ehrman (and backed up by convincing arguments) many of the things you know about Jesus are probably wrong, if you get your information from the King James Version of the bible. The infuriating parts are about how the early church fathers changed the texts to exclude women from being part of the church in any meaningful fashion.more
A look at the work of textual critics. The thesis of this book is that there are so many variant readings in the NT manuscripts that it is a moot point whether God inspired the originals or not. Although Ehrman presents several examples, his arguments fall far short of proving this thesis. However, the book does awaken a new respect for the work of textual criticism and its role in obtaining a useful version of Bible that is as true to the original manuscripts as can be.more
After a long dry streak, I'm hitting on a lot of books I'm really enjoying. This is one of those.Misquoting Jesus is a concise(ish) layperson's guide to alterations made to the Bible over its lifespan. The author is a noted Biblical scholar, and though scholarship doesn't necessarily lend itself to readable treatises, I was able to easily understand both his arguments and his explanations of the linguistics involved. Moreover, a lot of it was terribly fascinating stuff. At the very least, *I* found information about the compassionification of Jesus, the anti-Semitic edits, etc. to be fascinating. The author has an understated sense of humour about the topic that shines through at unexpected times, and he made me laugh more than once.Plus, a lot of additional recommended resources in the notes! Woo hoo!more
 It was Good to Pretty Good. Nothing earth shattering. Things get lost and lost in translation. Texts were written down and copied manually, which can introduce errors. Most errors don't matter but some may, depending. Some changes were made intentionally, for example as intentional corrections or in the context of the theological debates/controversies at the time. The people doing the copying may matter. Interesting stuff. Will think a bit more and write (maybe) write something (maybe) more profound later. I don't think this is a book that will change beliefs or opinions in either direction, but at least may raise awareness or provide examples of how of the issue that textual criticism (a field of exegesis) is important and context is critical.more
A good general introduction to the ways scholars study the manuscripts of the New Testament to determine the earliest form of the texts available. Ehrman discusses some of the ways scribes altered the texts they copied, often accidentally, occasionally for ideological reasons. Some good discussions of individual instances of alteration, but this book is less strong explaining a unified theory of how to evaluate the readings. How, for example, to honor the earliest manuscripts available while realizing that later witness (sometimes small number of these) might represent earlier readings.more
I had a similar experience while crossing the Nepali border from India. The border guard, not familiar with the English language, had to copy the information from my visa letter for letter into his records. The outcome did not resemble what was in my passport.This is a truly significant piece of history. Ehrman has boldly exposed the truth about the bible and how it has been passed down to us through the ages. Ehrman was interviewed on extension 720.more
To be completely honest, reading this book was a waste of my time. I generally enjoy Ehrman's work, in spite of his sensationalist style, but I was very disappointed with this one. Misquoting Jesus was filled with page after page of Ehrman's typical version of "shock and awe," none of which is very often shocking or awing, but with none of the redeeming information and interesting facts that his other books usually contain.Rather than a scholarly and engaging look at the manuscript traditions of the New Testament and ensuing errors and alterations thereof which I assumed would be the content of this book, Ehrman spends the majority of the book speaking in the first person as a young, naive "'born again' Christian" being exposed for the first time to (what he believes are) the shocking facts that the King James Version isn't the inerrant Word of God and that the Scriptures didn't fall out of heaven one day. This reveals much less about the history and textual traditions of the New Testament than it does about Ehrman himself, who seems to live perpetually in that juvenile state and seems to honestly believe that every other self-professed Christian lives in the same state. This latter apparent view of Ehrman was revealed especially by the variety of inane statements throughout the book which seem to indicate his unfamiliarity with any form of Christianity outside of the evangelical "born again" version of his childhood (see below for an example of this).What scanty little real facts and information there were in this book were not only overshadowed by the above aspects of the book but were also basic enough that they could easily be gleaned by reading Wikipedia articles on the relevant topics (trust me, that's an insult). I've done a little reading in the area, but I'm no expert to be sure, and yet aside from a few minor dates and interesting stories, I was familiar with almost everything covered in this book.In the end, I wouldn't recommend this book at all. There's too much great reading in early Christian history and even specifically in the manuscript traditions of the New Testament (such as Jaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible Is It? A Short History of the Scriptures, for instance) to waste your time reading such worthless trite. Rather than scholarship, you will receive a thinly-veiled attack on Ehrman's own straw-man of Christianity (he does, after all, begin the book with the story of his own conversion from "'born-again' Christianity" to atheism), made all the more pitiful for not only being possibly the weakest criticism ever leveled at Christianity but for Ehrman's halfhearted attempt to make his attack look like real scholarship.For your reading pleasure, a few outstanding examples of Ehrman's inanity in this book: "This is the account of 1 John 5:7-8, which scholars have called the Johannine Comma, found in the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate but not in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, a passage that had long been a favorite among Christian theologians, since it is the only passage in the entire Bible that explicitly delineates the doctrine of the Trinity, that there are three persons in the godhead, but that the three constitute just one God." Really? A purported New Testament scholar who is unfamiliar with Matthew 28:19? How about Titus 3:4-6? Still nothing? Oh well, I give up... Just out of curiosity, though: who are these "Christian theologians" amongst whom the Johannine Comma "[has] long been a favorite"? You'd think things like this would need more than vague assertions and non-arguments; not in Ehrmanworld, I guess. "... or consider all the different Christian denominations, filled with intelligent and well-meaning people who base their views of how the church should be organized and function on the Bible, yet all of them coming to radically different conclusions (Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Appalachian snake-handlers, Greek Orthodox, and on and on)." You'd think it would be a good idea for somebody who "chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill" (as the author bio on the back flap of the book says) to know enough about the two largest groups of Christians in the world, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, that he would not make the ignorant statement that these two groups "base their views of how the church should be organized and function on the Bible." Really? When did the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox pick up Sola Scriptura? And all this time I thought Tradition was the basis of our system of Church governance. In addition, there can't be much reason aside from sheer ignorance why he insists on saying "Greek Orthodox" specifically (he says it twice in this book and I've noticed it in others as well, where he gives a list similar to this one for a similar reason) given that there are 26 other Orthodox jurisdictions in addition to the Greek and that the Greek jurisdiction is not even the largest of them. I can only hope that somebody in a position of power at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reading this and thinking about hiring a chair for their Department of Religious Studies(!) who is actually familiar with ... well ... religious studies. And, of course, saving the best for last: "Put it this way: There are more variances among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament." Thanks to True Free Thinker for saving me the work on this one: Considering that [Bart Ehrman's] book Misquoting Jesus explored the issue of variant readings in New Testament manuscripts it may be surprising to some that Bart Ehrman’s book itself contains millions and millions of variants. Following are some examples of the variants: On p. 13 reference is made to “Timothy LeHaye and Philip Jenkins” as the authors of the Left Behind series of novels. However, the authors of the series are Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Thus, error 1. Tim has never published as “Timothy,” error 2. his last name is not LeHaye but LaHaye and error 3. Jenkins’s first name is not Philip but Jerry. On p. 110 error 4. “Timothy” is used as LaHaye’s last name. In the index Timothy’s name is error 5. again spelled as “LeHaye.” On p. 110 Hal Lindsey’s name is error 6. misspelled as “Hal Lindsay.” On p. 70 Desiderius Erasmus is error 7. misspelled as “Desiderus Erasmus.” …[snip]… Now, if you are paying attention—or are you like me and simply cannot afford to pay attention? :o)—you may be thinking 1) that is only 16 errors, 2) they are mostly merely misspellings, 3) they do not affect the contents of the text and certainly do not affect any major point which the book seeks to make. As for 2) and 3); thank you for noticing as this is precisely, word for word, how many of us feel about Bart Ehrman’s criticisms of the New Testament manuscripts. As for 1) how do 16 equal my assertion of there being millions and millions of variants? Well, let us learn some methodology, the sort that allows Ehrman claim, “Put it this way: There are more variances among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.” I do not know how many copies Misquoting Jesus has sold but it is reported that “Within the first three months, more than 100,000 copies were sold.” The way it works is as simple as it is deceptive: you multiply the 16 variants by how many times they have been reproduced. As the 16 have been reproduced 100,000 (in three months alone) you multiply these and so the total of variants in Misquoting Jesus equals: 1,600,000. And that, boys and girls, is how Bart Ehrman manages to make sensational claims that gain him notoriety and quite a few shekels. I highly recommend giving the whole post a read. It's a better than mine, I promise!more
Interesting. A survey of textual issues in the new testament written by a former biblical literalist, which is an interesting perspective. Gets dragged down dealing with the many, many small textual variations in the new testament. A good companion to Who Wrote the Gospels, but not as good a read as that one.more
"The New Testament is a very human book."Excellent popular introduction to NT textual criticism. I had not known that Dr Ehrman had such a strong background in textual criticism. It is very impressive to find that he had worked with Bruce Metzger.(Though the review below that suggests that the title (and cover notes) are misleading is absolutely accurate.)Through his insights into textual criticism Dr Ehrman presents the NT as a human book, not fully inspired, not dictated by the Holy Spirit. It is as a human book that the NT holds it power for me.This book presents, in a very engaging and readable manner as well as personal, the basics of textual criticism as well as its history and growth as a discipline.A point that Dr Ehrman made that was new to me - the shift in the types of textual changes from the amateur period pre-4th century and the professional scribal period post 4th century.Dr Ehrman looks at specific examples of significant changes and offers interpretations of the impact of those changes on theological, Christological, and social questions.I recommend this book to all who want a deeper understanding of the New Testament as a book that documents the human striving to understand the divine.It is a very human book.more
I was a religious studies major in school and found this book highly disappointing. Ehrman wrote my New Testament textbook which was great. He has also written some of the best books on noncanonical Biblical literature. However, recently he seems to have become obsessed with writing popular works that appeal to a much broader audience while diluting a lot of the great scholarship he had done. This book holds a lot of valuable information and would probably have affected me more had I not already known a lot of the information.This book does not solve any questions and, in my opinion, does not further the discussion much either. It is effective at presenting this complex issue of how the Bible has changed over time. However, he oversimplifies his case into black and white and oversteps the boundary of how far he can take his argument. It has been known for a long time that the Bible contains a multitude of inconsistencies and it has proven to not to be the greatest challenge to Christianity. This would not be a problem if Ehrman had focused on the fascinating world of biblical criticism. However, he set up his book as a story about problems with the Bible and I am not convinced that that is a applicable. This has a lot to do with this being a book for a popular audience.Biblical criticism is fascinating but Ehrman's book turns it into more of a game. The facts involved are quite fascinating but not earth shattering. Ehrman should stick to his scholarly work instead of seeking publicity through simplifying immensely complex issues. Or perhaps I would feel better if he let go of his facade of scholarship. There are better books to read about Biblical criticism.more
I was apprehensive about reading this book. I shouldn’t have been. I would feel good about recommending it to anyone, even staunchly fundamentalist Christians or atheists. It is simply a close look at how the New Testament portion of the Christian Bible came to be and the errors and additions and deletions that were made as decades and then centuries and then millennium passed. Reading this book gave me a new cautious feeling about the stories and thoughts within the New Testament.more
An insightful look into how manuscripts of New Testament books were copied, transcribed, altered through time. Some changes can be seen as simple mistakes in the process, some may have been deliberately altered (not necessarily with any nefarious intent), other things may have been added to clarify a growing understanding of the theology, but were responding to questions of the time. Though this has been seen as a "debunking" of the Bible, it only makes the whole process of understanding the text more fascinating to me. And I started seeing interesting parallels between pre-Gutenberg transmission of information and the way misinformation can be disseminated and duplicated on the Internet...and imagine trying to trace it back to its original source :-)more
Well written for the lay public.more
I think it's delightful that a book about New Testament textual criticism not only garnered any public attention at all, but made it to the NYT Bestseller list. Ehrman is really good at making religious academia into accessible, short little books.Ehrman walks us through the basics of textual criticism, explaining everyone's motives in putting together the respective New Testament texts as they did - their own theological biases, skirmishes with heretics in their communities, "correcting" perceived mistakes from earlier scribes. Misquoting Jesus is important because it really illuminates just how fabricated the Bible is - maybe not divinely inspired, but instead crafted by many, many human hands. There are so many disparate parts to the Bible that it would be naive to approach it as only espousing a single agenda (or even call the Bible in its entirety a single "book"). And that's okay, and certainly people can still take comfort in it and find a lot of inspiration in the Bible. But Misquoting Jesus offers a more rational and historical approach to the text as well.more
Very engaging and non-academic as usual from Ehrman. While he tends to write the same book over and over, each comes at the story from a slightly different angle and adds to your overall understanding of the history of how the Bible was created. And unlike a lot of writers in this genre, Ehrman isn't annoying. He actually comes across as someone you could have a nice conversation with.more
This is an excellent book that does a great job of illuminating the types of textual criticism that are essential to understanding the Bible. Ehrman puts forth several excellent examples of places where there are differences in the text in the original Bible manuscripts and does so without putting forth a religious argument for one over the other. He doesn't try to show us every place in the Bible where there are multiple readings, nor does he claim that it is impossible to recreate the original texts. Instead, he shows us some of the inherent problems in this sort of work and gives some good examples of places where traditional readings are probably incorrect. Best of all, he writes with a lay audience in mind so that anyone can pick up this book and follow his examples without being a scholar in textual criticism. Well done!more
A scholarly treatise that is very readable.more
This book contains two stories. The first chapter is an autobiographic account of the author's change from a young conservative fundamentalist into a respected academic authority in biblical history who would be considered quite liberal in most people's minds. Then there's the rest of the book about problems associated with trying to determine the version of the bible that is closest to the original. Both parts are interesting. Read in July, 2007more
A noted Biblical scholar and textual critic, Dr Ehrman explains the method by which the Bible was copied by scribes, how scholars track which versions (among thousands that exist) are the oldest or most authentic, how disparant versions were reconciled at different times depending on what beliefs were the most prevalent (such as during the Nicene deliberations), and how copying errors are discovered. One of the chapters discusses the Greek translations that were later used by the group who prepared the King James version. When some refer to reading the Bible 'in the original Greek' they are usually referring to this particular translation which was prepared in the 11th century, using manuscripts that were later found to NOT be the oldest or most faithful to the oldest known copies. The King James, which is the most popular English-language translation, was based on Middle Ages manuscripts that were known, both now and in the 16th century, as being more error-ridden than other better documented copies. Dr. Ehrman is quite readable and makes history interesting.more
Ehrman refers to his background as "evangelical." The background he actually describes is clearly fundamentalist (a specific, albeit large, subgroup of evangelical Christians). While most all fundamentalists would consider themselves evangelical, many evangelical Christians consider fundamentalists extremely deluded if not an outright danger to Christian belief. Nothing in this book is the least bit disturbing or discouraging to an open minded person of evangelical faith (even one who is "born again") except for Ehrman's rejection of faith because it failed to live up to the garbage he was brainwashed with as a teenager. Just because the Bible is a book with human authors, transmitted through imperfect scribes which obviously includes textual errors, it does not follow that this precludes divine inspiration or its use by a theistic God to instruct His/Her imperfect human creations. An imperfect book for imperfect humanity actually seems a nice fit. The arguments that Ehrman makes tend to be weak and convoluted. He often admits that many of the examples he uses are open to debate among scholars. The book does provide useful instruction for those unaware of how much of scholarly opinion rests on a foundation of speculation. Serious study of ancient manuscripts eat away at fundamentalist bibliolatry pretty quickly, but it poses no danger whatsoever to those of a more rational faith who retain the right to think for themselves.more
Misquoting Jesus is certainly accessible. The reader doesn't need much, if any background in textual criticism, historical criticism, or even Christian history. Ehrman doesn't assume that anyone is familar with the various controversies that were floating around early Christianity, so he neatly sums up things like Arianism or Gnosticism in one or two paragraphs. My thought, as a geek and lover of Gnostics was -- wow, what an oversimplification! Then I remember that not everyone has the time or the desire to slug through various non-canonical texts or Kurt Rudolph's Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, and that in all reality a complex understanding of Gnosticism was not necessary to understand Ehrman's point. So, my second thought was he does a very nice job at summing up these controversies.Ehrman also introduces the reader to the principles of textual criticism, with which I'm not all that familiar. I found his explanations of textual criticism to be clear, concise, and imminently understandable.I was struck at some points by the humor in the writing -- recognizable to me as religious studies geek humor. In scholarly articles, this humor is sometimes present, but it's normally limited to titles or footnotes. I suspect that Ehrman enjoyed writing in a more relaxed genre. I enjoyed reading in a more relaxed genre. To me, the process of reading this book was more like attending a class taught by a professor with whom I'm familiar than it did anything else. (Having never attended a lecture by Ehrman, I can't guess whether his writing style reflects his lecture style or not.)The most interesting parts of the book, for me, are the autobiographical bits in the introduction and the supplementary material in the back of the book. Ehrman outlines his personal journey from mainstream protestant, to evangelical, to happy agnostic. It's an interesting story, and it functions nicely to pull the reader into the importance of the matter. The personal touch of the book also keeps it from becoming a "dry" scholarly read.more
A fascinating examination of the development of the bible based on textual analysis. This book is a clear read of a technical area of study. It explains how the texts were changed and hypothesises who may have changed them and why.This book will upset those who maintain a literal belief in the absolute and literal truth of the bible - and has generated at least 2 rebuttals. For those of a more liberal religious persuasion, it will not necessarily contradict their beliefs - although they will probably find it challenging. (The author documents his development from fundamentalism to agnosticism as he understands the fallibility of the bible.)more
If Ehrman is correct that no one has until this point provided the general reader with an account of the textual history of the New Testament, then his book is essential reading.A good commentary to any of the NT books should offer some of the information here, and so for many students of Christianity Ehrman's basic point will not be entirely new: the texts have been so altered over the centuries that the original wordings are unrecoverable in their entirety.Here, however, we get some 230 pages on the subject, far beyond what any commentary accessible to the general reader can provide.On his central point Ehrman is insistent -- the texts have been significantly altered and it is most unlikely that the original words of any of the authors of the NT canon will be entirely known. Beyond this central issue, though, Ehrman is careful not to insist on any particular point of view, and that even-handedness makes this book that much more worth reading.more
extremely interesting. if one speaks another language one knows that there is loss in translation. very well written, not boring at all, (mrs. cook loaned, bought my own)more
I would echo most of the other sentiments here, very readable, well researched, etc. If you are looking for a digest of the book before diving in, check out the Stanford Section of iTunes U, which has a lecture given by Ehrman. He speaks as he writes and its a fun listen.more
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Reviews

Equally fascinating and infuriating, this book sheds light on the early revisions of the New Testament of the bible. Somewhat repetitive, and told in a fairly simplistic fashion, it's still an interesting read. According to Ehrman (and backed up by convincing arguments) many of the things you know about Jesus are probably wrong, if you get your information from the King James Version of the bible. The infuriating parts are about how the early church fathers changed the texts to exclude women from being part of the church in any meaningful fashion.more
A look at the work of textual critics. The thesis of this book is that there are so many variant readings in the NT manuscripts that it is a moot point whether God inspired the originals or not. Although Ehrman presents several examples, his arguments fall far short of proving this thesis. However, the book does awaken a new respect for the work of textual criticism and its role in obtaining a useful version of Bible that is as true to the original manuscripts as can be.more
After a long dry streak, I'm hitting on a lot of books I'm really enjoying. This is one of those.Misquoting Jesus is a concise(ish) layperson's guide to alterations made to the Bible over its lifespan. The author is a noted Biblical scholar, and though scholarship doesn't necessarily lend itself to readable treatises, I was able to easily understand both his arguments and his explanations of the linguistics involved. Moreover, a lot of it was terribly fascinating stuff. At the very least, *I* found information about the compassionification of Jesus, the anti-Semitic edits, etc. to be fascinating. The author has an understated sense of humour about the topic that shines through at unexpected times, and he made me laugh more than once.Plus, a lot of additional recommended resources in the notes! Woo hoo!more
 It was Good to Pretty Good. Nothing earth shattering. Things get lost and lost in translation. Texts were written down and copied manually, which can introduce errors. Most errors don't matter but some may, depending. Some changes were made intentionally, for example as intentional corrections or in the context of the theological debates/controversies at the time. The people doing the copying may matter. Interesting stuff. Will think a bit more and write (maybe) write something (maybe) more profound later. I don't think this is a book that will change beliefs or opinions in either direction, but at least may raise awareness or provide examples of how of the issue that textual criticism (a field of exegesis) is important and context is critical.more
A good general introduction to the ways scholars study the manuscripts of the New Testament to determine the earliest form of the texts available. Ehrman discusses some of the ways scribes altered the texts they copied, often accidentally, occasionally for ideological reasons. Some good discussions of individual instances of alteration, but this book is less strong explaining a unified theory of how to evaluate the readings. How, for example, to honor the earliest manuscripts available while realizing that later witness (sometimes small number of these) might represent earlier readings.more
I had a similar experience while crossing the Nepali border from India. The border guard, not familiar with the English language, had to copy the information from my visa letter for letter into his records. The outcome did not resemble what was in my passport.This is a truly significant piece of history. Ehrman has boldly exposed the truth about the bible and how it has been passed down to us through the ages. Ehrman was interviewed on extension 720.more
To be completely honest, reading this book was a waste of my time. I generally enjoy Ehrman's work, in spite of his sensationalist style, but I was very disappointed with this one. Misquoting Jesus was filled with page after page of Ehrman's typical version of "shock and awe," none of which is very often shocking or awing, but with none of the redeeming information and interesting facts that his other books usually contain.Rather than a scholarly and engaging look at the manuscript traditions of the New Testament and ensuing errors and alterations thereof which I assumed would be the content of this book, Ehrman spends the majority of the book speaking in the first person as a young, naive "'born again' Christian" being exposed for the first time to (what he believes are) the shocking facts that the King James Version isn't the inerrant Word of God and that the Scriptures didn't fall out of heaven one day. This reveals much less about the history and textual traditions of the New Testament than it does about Ehrman himself, who seems to live perpetually in that juvenile state and seems to honestly believe that every other self-professed Christian lives in the same state. This latter apparent view of Ehrman was revealed especially by the variety of inane statements throughout the book which seem to indicate his unfamiliarity with any form of Christianity outside of the evangelical "born again" version of his childhood (see below for an example of this).What scanty little real facts and information there were in this book were not only overshadowed by the above aspects of the book but were also basic enough that they could easily be gleaned by reading Wikipedia articles on the relevant topics (trust me, that's an insult). I've done a little reading in the area, but I'm no expert to be sure, and yet aside from a few minor dates and interesting stories, I was familiar with almost everything covered in this book.In the end, I wouldn't recommend this book at all. There's too much great reading in early Christian history and even specifically in the manuscript traditions of the New Testament (such as Jaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible Is It? A Short History of the Scriptures, for instance) to waste your time reading such worthless trite. Rather than scholarship, you will receive a thinly-veiled attack on Ehrman's own straw-man of Christianity (he does, after all, begin the book with the story of his own conversion from "'born-again' Christianity" to atheism), made all the more pitiful for not only being possibly the weakest criticism ever leveled at Christianity but for Ehrman's halfhearted attempt to make his attack look like real scholarship.For your reading pleasure, a few outstanding examples of Ehrman's inanity in this book: "This is the account of 1 John 5:7-8, which scholars have called the Johannine Comma, found in the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate but not in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, a passage that had long been a favorite among Christian theologians, since it is the only passage in the entire Bible that explicitly delineates the doctrine of the Trinity, that there are three persons in the godhead, but that the three constitute just one God." Really? A purported New Testament scholar who is unfamiliar with Matthew 28:19? How about Titus 3:4-6? Still nothing? Oh well, I give up... Just out of curiosity, though: who are these "Christian theologians" amongst whom the Johannine Comma "[has] long been a favorite"? You'd think things like this would need more than vague assertions and non-arguments; not in Ehrmanworld, I guess. "... or consider all the different Christian denominations, filled with intelligent and well-meaning people who base their views of how the church should be organized and function on the Bible, yet all of them coming to radically different conclusions (Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Appalachian snake-handlers, Greek Orthodox, and on and on)." You'd think it would be a good idea for somebody who "chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill" (as the author bio on the back flap of the book says) to know enough about the two largest groups of Christians in the world, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, that he would not make the ignorant statement that these two groups "base their views of how the church should be organized and function on the Bible." Really? When did the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox pick up Sola Scriptura? And all this time I thought Tradition was the basis of our system of Church governance. In addition, there can't be much reason aside from sheer ignorance why he insists on saying "Greek Orthodox" specifically (he says it twice in this book and I've noticed it in others as well, where he gives a list similar to this one for a similar reason) given that there are 26 other Orthodox jurisdictions in addition to the Greek and that the Greek jurisdiction is not even the largest of them. I can only hope that somebody in a position of power at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reading this and thinking about hiring a chair for their Department of Religious Studies(!) who is actually familiar with ... well ... religious studies. And, of course, saving the best for last: "Put it this way: There are more variances among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament." Thanks to True Free Thinker for saving me the work on this one: Considering that [Bart Ehrman's] book Misquoting Jesus explored the issue of variant readings in New Testament manuscripts it may be surprising to some that Bart Ehrman’s book itself contains millions and millions of variants. Following are some examples of the variants: On p. 13 reference is made to “Timothy LeHaye and Philip Jenkins” as the authors of the Left Behind series of novels. However, the authors of the series are Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Thus, error 1. Tim has never published as “Timothy,” error 2. his last name is not LeHaye but LaHaye and error 3. Jenkins’s first name is not Philip but Jerry. On p. 110 error 4. “Timothy” is used as LaHaye’s last name. In the index Timothy’s name is error 5. again spelled as “LeHaye.” On p. 110 Hal Lindsey’s name is error 6. misspelled as “Hal Lindsay.” On p. 70 Desiderius Erasmus is error 7. misspelled as “Desiderus Erasmus.” …[snip]… Now, if you are paying attention—or are you like me and simply cannot afford to pay attention? :o)—you may be thinking 1) that is only 16 errors, 2) they are mostly merely misspellings, 3) they do not affect the contents of the text and certainly do not affect any major point which the book seeks to make. As for 2) and 3); thank you for noticing as this is precisely, word for word, how many of us feel about Bart Ehrman’s criticisms of the New Testament manuscripts. As for 1) how do 16 equal my assertion of there being millions and millions of variants? Well, let us learn some methodology, the sort that allows Ehrman claim, “Put it this way: There are more variances among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.” I do not know how many copies Misquoting Jesus has sold but it is reported that “Within the first three months, more than 100,000 copies were sold.” The way it works is as simple as it is deceptive: you multiply the 16 variants by how many times they have been reproduced. As the 16 have been reproduced 100,000 (in three months alone) you multiply these and so the total of variants in Misquoting Jesus equals: 1,600,000. And that, boys and girls, is how Bart Ehrman manages to make sensational claims that gain him notoriety and quite a few shekels. I highly recommend giving the whole post a read. It's a better than mine, I promise!more
Interesting. A survey of textual issues in the new testament written by a former biblical literalist, which is an interesting perspective. Gets dragged down dealing with the many, many small textual variations in the new testament. A good companion to Who Wrote the Gospels, but not as good a read as that one.more
"The New Testament is a very human book."Excellent popular introduction to NT textual criticism. I had not known that Dr Ehrman had such a strong background in textual criticism. It is very impressive to find that he had worked with Bruce Metzger.(Though the review below that suggests that the title (and cover notes) are misleading is absolutely accurate.)Through his insights into textual criticism Dr Ehrman presents the NT as a human book, not fully inspired, not dictated by the Holy Spirit. It is as a human book that the NT holds it power for me.This book presents, in a very engaging and readable manner as well as personal, the basics of textual criticism as well as its history and growth as a discipline.A point that Dr Ehrman made that was new to me - the shift in the types of textual changes from the amateur period pre-4th century and the professional scribal period post 4th century.Dr Ehrman looks at specific examples of significant changes and offers interpretations of the impact of those changes on theological, Christological, and social questions.I recommend this book to all who want a deeper understanding of the New Testament as a book that documents the human striving to understand the divine.It is a very human book.more
I was a religious studies major in school and found this book highly disappointing. Ehrman wrote my New Testament textbook which was great. He has also written some of the best books on noncanonical Biblical literature. However, recently he seems to have become obsessed with writing popular works that appeal to a much broader audience while diluting a lot of the great scholarship he had done. This book holds a lot of valuable information and would probably have affected me more had I not already known a lot of the information.This book does not solve any questions and, in my opinion, does not further the discussion much either. It is effective at presenting this complex issue of how the Bible has changed over time. However, he oversimplifies his case into black and white and oversteps the boundary of how far he can take his argument. It has been known for a long time that the Bible contains a multitude of inconsistencies and it has proven to not to be the greatest challenge to Christianity. This would not be a problem if Ehrman had focused on the fascinating world of biblical criticism. However, he set up his book as a story about problems with the Bible and I am not convinced that that is a applicable. This has a lot to do with this being a book for a popular audience.Biblical criticism is fascinating but Ehrman's book turns it into more of a game. The facts involved are quite fascinating but not earth shattering. Ehrman should stick to his scholarly work instead of seeking publicity through simplifying immensely complex issues. Or perhaps I would feel better if he let go of his facade of scholarship. There are better books to read about Biblical criticism.more
I was apprehensive about reading this book. I shouldn’t have been. I would feel good about recommending it to anyone, even staunchly fundamentalist Christians or atheists. It is simply a close look at how the New Testament portion of the Christian Bible came to be and the errors and additions and deletions that were made as decades and then centuries and then millennium passed. Reading this book gave me a new cautious feeling about the stories and thoughts within the New Testament.more
An insightful look into how manuscripts of New Testament books were copied, transcribed, altered through time. Some changes can be seen as simple mistakes in the process, some may have been deliberately altered (not necessarily with any nefarious intent), other things may have been added to clarify a growing understanding of the theology, but were responding to questions of the time. Though this has been seen as a "debunking" of the Bible, it only makes the whole process of understanding the text more fascinating to me. And I started seeing interesting parallels between pre-Gutenberg transmission of information and the way misinformation can be disseminated and duplicated on the Internet...and imagine trying to trace it back to its original source :-)more
Well written for the lay public.more
I think it's delightful that a book about New Testament textual criticism not only garnered any public attention at all, but made it to the NYT Bestseller list. Ehrman is really good at making religious academia into accessible, short little books.Ehrman walks us through the basics of textual criticism, explaining everyone's motives in putting together the respective New Testament texts as they did - their own theological biases, skirmishes with heretics in their communities, "correcting" perceived mistakes from earlier scribes. Misquoting Jesus is important because it really illuminates just how fabricated the Bible is - maybe not divinely inspired, but instead crafted by many, many human hands. There are so many disparate parts to the Bible that it would be naive to approach it as only espousing a single agenda (or even call the Bible in its entirety a single "book"). And that's okay, and certainly people can still take comfort in it and find a lot of inspiration in the Bible. But Misquoting Jesus offers a more rational and historical approach to the text as well.more
Very engaging and non-academic as usual from Ehrman. While he tends to write the same book over and over, each comes at the story from a slightly different angle and adds to your overall understanding of the history of how the Bible was created. And unlike a lot of writers in this genre, Ehrman isn't annoying. He actually comes across as someone you could have a nice conversation with.more
This is an excellent book that does a great job of illuminating the types of textual criticism that are essential to understanding the Bible. Ehrman puts forth several excellent examples of places where there are differences in the text in the original Bible manuscripts and does so without putting forth a religious argument for one over the other. He doesn't try to show us every place in the Bible where there are multiple readings, nor does he claim that it is impossible to recreate the original texts. Instead, he shows us some of the inherent problems in this sort of work and gives some good examples of places where traditional readings are probably incorrect. Best of all, he writes with a lay audience in mind so that anyone can pick up this book and follow his examples without being a scholar in textual criticism. Well done!more
A scholarly treatise that is very readable.more
This book contains two stories. The first chapter is an autobiographic account of the author's change from a young conservative fundamentalist into a respected academic authority in biblical history who would be considered quite liberal in most people's minds. Then there's the rest of the book about problems associated with trying to determine the version of the bible that is closest to the original. Both parts are interesting. Read in July, 2007more
A noted Biblical scholar and textual critic, Dr Ehrman explains the method by which the Bible was copied by scribes, how scholars track which versions (among thousands that exist) are the oldest or most authentic, how disparant versions were reconciled at different times depending on what beliefs were the most prevalent (such as during the Nicene deliberations), and how copying errors are discovered. One of the chapters discusses the Greek translations that were later used by the group who prepared the King James version. When some refer to reading the Bible 'in the original Greek' they are usually referring to this particular translation which was prepared in the 11th century, using manuscripts that were later found to NOT be the oldest or most faithful to the oldest known copies. The King James, which is the most popular English-language translation, was based on Middle Ages manuscripts that were known, both now and in the 16th century, as being more error-ridden than other better documented copies. Dr. Ehrman is quite readable and makes history interesting.more
Ehrman refers to his background as "evangelical." The background he actually describes is clearly fundamentalist (a specific, albeit large, subgroup of evangelical Christians). While most all fundamentalists would consider themselves evangelical, many evangelical Christians consider fundamentalists extremely deluded if not an outright danger to Christian belief. Nothing in this book is the least bit disturbing or discouraging to an open minded person of evangelical faith (even one who is "born again") except for Ehrman's rejection of faith because it failed to live up to the garbage he was brainwashed with as a teenager. Just because the Bible is a book with human authors, transmitted through imperfect scribes which obviously includes textual errors, it does not follow that this precludes divine inspiration or its use by a theistic God to instruct His/Her imperfect human creations. An imperfect book for imperfect humanity actually seems a nice fit. The arguments that Ehrman makes tend to be weak and convoluted. He often admits that many of the examples he uses are open to debate among scholars. The book does provide useful instruction for those unaware of how much of scholarly opinion rests on a foundation of speculation. Serious study of ancient manuscripts eat away at fundamentalist bibliolatry pretty quickly, but it poses no danger whatsoever to those of a more rational faith who retain the right to think for themselves.more
Misquoting Jesus is certainly accessible. The reader doesn't need much, if any background in textual criticism, historical criticism, or even Christian history. Ehrman doesn't assume that anyone is familar with the various controversies that were floating around early Christianity, so he neatly sums up things like Arianism or Gnosticism in one or two paragraphs. My thought, as a geek and lover of Gnostics was -- wow, what an oversimplification! Then I remember that not everyone has the time or the desire to slug through various non-canonical texts or Kurt Rudolph's Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, and that in all reality a complex understanding of Gnosticism was not necessary to understand Ehrman's point. So, my second thought was he does a very nice job at summing up these controversies.Ehrman also introduces the reader to the principles of textual criticism, with which I'm not all that familiar. I found his explanations of textual criticism to be clear, concise, and imminently understandable.I was struck at some points by the humor in the writing -- recognizable to me as religious studies geek humor. In scholarly articles, this humor is sometimes present, but it's normally limited to titles or footnotes. I suspect that Ehrman enjoyed writing in a more relaxed genre. I enjoyed reading in a more relaxed genre. To me, the process of reading this book was more like attending a class taught by a professor with whom I'm familiar than it did anything else. (Having never attended a lecture by Ehrman, I can't guess whether his writing style reflects his lecture style or not.)The most interesting parts of the book, for me, are the autobiographical bits in the introduction and the supplementary material in the back of the book. Ehrman outlines his personal journey from mainstream protestant, to evangelical, to happy agnostic. It's an interesting story, and it functions nicely to pull the reader into the importance of the matter. The personal touch of the book also keeps it from becoming a "dry" scholarly read.more
A fascinating examination of the development of the bible based on textual analysis. This book is a clear read of a technical area of study. It explains how the texts were changed and hypothesises who may have changed them and why.This book will upset those who maintain a literal belief in the absolute and literal truth of the bible - and has generated at least 2 rebuttals. For those of a more liberal religious persuasion, it will not necessarily contradict their beliefs - although they will probably find it challenging. (The author documents his development from fundamentalism to agnosticism as he understands the fallibility of the bible.)more
If Ehrman is correct that no one has until this point provided the general reader with an account of the textual history of the New Testament, then his book is essential reading.A good commentary to any of the NT books should offer some of the information here, and so for many students of Christianity Ehrman's basic point will not be entirely new: the texts have been so altered over the centuries that the original wordings are unrecoverable in their entirety.Here, however, we get some 230 pages on the subject, far beyond what any commentary accessible to the general reader can provide.On his central point Ehrman is insistent -- the texts have been significantly altered and it is most unlikely that the original words of any of the authors of the NT canon will be entirely known. Beyond this central issue, though, Ehrman is careful not to insist on any particular point of view, and that even-handedness makes this book that much more worth reading.more
extremely interesting. if one speaks another language one knows that there is loss in translation. very well written, not boring at all, (mrs. cook loaned, bought my own)more
I would echo most of the other sentiments here, very readable, well researched, etc. If you are looking for a digest of the book before diving in, check out the Stanford Section of iTunes U, which has a lecture given by Ehrman. He speaks as he writes and its a fun listen.more
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