Thursday, October 02, 2014

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, first edition, 2005. e-book, 180 pps.

on Twitter (r) [no activity since August 2014].

     Bart D. Ehrman had a Christian conversion experience of the born-again variety in his teens. He attended Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He remained a Christian even as he first discovered conflicted bible passages and errors. His Christianity finally gave way to agnosticism when he could not reconcile a loving god with suffering.

     The problem of conflicting Bible passages is not a new one invented by so-called liberal atheistic bastards who seemingly want to dump all gods from the public discourse. In 1707, John Mill published what was to become a classic in the field of textual criticism of the new testament. (page 63). Mill reported "thirty thousand places where different manuscripts, Patristic ...citations, and versions had different readings for passages of the New Testament." (quoted from page 63). Ehrman notes on page 12 that there are no surviving original manuscripts, period. I would have liked to have known this years ago but the church preachers kept that from me and my friends.

     Misquoting Jesus makes it abundantly clear that what we have are a variety of copied manuscripts which were copied from copies from copies... And that many of these copies do not agree among themselves because scribes altered things, added things, left out things as they went along. Many specific examples are given.

     But Misquoting Jesus does more than that. It is an introduction to the idea of textual criticism for the average reader. The simplistic idea that because several more copies of something survived than a few copies of something else means that the former is more "important" or "authoritative" [referred to in Dr. Paul Meier's apocalyptic fiction book The Third Millennium] is patently false. Different physical climates influenced how much of which documents survived as much as which libraries of books and manuscripts were burned. This basic tenet of textual criticism is something I had never even thought about before reading Misquoting Jesus.

sapphoq reviews says: Ehrman carefully delineates what is known about early Christianity and its spread, the various cultures and languages of various people, and the politics which rendered some influence on what is regarded today as the Canon. I found Misquoting Jesus to be an excellent book full of dangerous ideas for fundamentalist Christians. Ehrman is careful to point out the differences between getting bogged down in doctrinal disagreements and believing the central messages that Jesus had for the people. As such, I highly recommend Misquoting Jesus to any thinking adults who have an interest in the New Testament.   

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