I am wrapping up a review of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus. Yes the book has been out there for a time and it has gotten much review. I wanted to add my thoughts to what has been published already with a hope that I help someone now or in the future wade through what has got to be a daunting and scary approach to looking at what is the message of the Bible and specifically the New Testament. And in looking at whether or not these words are the words of God and if so, what is the bases for our understanding that they are the words of God.
Dr. Ehrman is right in his assessment of Christians in America. Christians generally don’t have a thought about many concepts in the Bible and don’t know how to defend those concepts nor how to communicate those concepts in a meaningful way to others.
Moving back to the book, I have chosen a section towards the end of the book which gets at the essence of what Dr. Ehrman believes about the words he has given his life to study.
The message of Paul is both like and unlike what we find in the Gospels (he doesn’t say much about Jesus’s words or deeds, for example, but focuses on what for Paul were the critical issues, that Christ died on the cross and was raised from the dead). The message of James differs from the message of Paul; the message of Paul differs from the message of Acts; the message of the Revelation of John differs from the message of the Gospel of John; and so forth. Each of these authors was human, each of them had a different message, each of them was putting the tradition he inherited into his own words. Each of them, in a sense, was changing the “texts” he inherited. Page: 155, Misquoting Jesus
This statement follows a section where Dr. Ehrman talks about Luke “changing” the message that Mark delivered based on the “tradition” that he had inherited. So, much of the book, Misquoting Jesus, is about how the text was changed down through the centuries.
Was the text changed down through the centuries? Yes, it was changed down through the centuries. But, that is not the whole story. Some of the changes were intentional and some were inadvertent. However, those points are insignificant, totally!! Why would I say such a thing? Because Christian and Jewish scholarship have developed the discipline of textual criticism to give to us what the original autographs stated. So, because of the diligent work of many Christian and Jewish scholars over, literally, hundreds of years, we can know and can now have the original words written on the original autographs of both sets of scriptures.
The Jewish and Christian communities developed these disciplines because these are Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Atheist community, which Dr. Ehrman represents, has nothing to do with the development of these disciplines. Dr. Ehrman acquired all of his skills through the teaching and training of Christian and Jewish scholars.
Per the differences in “message” that Dr. Ehrman referred to in the quote from his book: of course, there are differences in messages coming from different authors. But Dr. Ehrman, those differences do not imply that either invalid change in the message or that any messenger got the message wrong–far from it. Each person used the data they experienced and that was transmitted to them to create unique works in recording what happened in the life of Jesus and to those early followers of Jesus shortly after His assent.
Dr. Ehrman does not distinguish message and messages, containing data, and application of the data contained in the messages. He believe is that if you apply data from the message to your life or restate it as it relates to some situation in your life, you have changed the message. So, in his view everyone who has come in contact with the data has changed it in some way. He presents a picture of the original message and intent being hopelessly lots forever. That view has been annihilated by the very discipline that Dr. Ehrman was trained in. However, I have concluded that he does not practice that discipline today.
Dr. Ehrman comes off in this book and other books with a very simplistic view or belief of what the God of the universe would have done if He wanted to get a message, His message, to us. Dr. Ehrman’s view is that God would have somehow directly transmitted that message through one or several men in a form that would have been perfectly preserved for time and eternity. If more than one man had been involved in the delivery or transmission, then men numbers 2, 3, or 4, etc., would have transmitted the exact same words as man number 1 with no variation in wording–thus making the transmission by men numbers 2, 3, 4, etc., unnecessary. This he implies in his text surrounding the quote above and states explicitly elsewhere in the book.
My conclusion is that Dr. Ehrman has developed a view of what a god’s interaction with men and women should conceptually involve such that he negates any divine elements within events and narrative found in the New Testament.
I pointed to the New Testament above. Basically that is all that Dr. Ehrman has dealt with in Misquoting Jesus. He has not dealt with the Old Testament at all nor do I believe he ever will because that is not his area and he knows that is a much more difficult task.
My ultimate take away from this book is that a person’s view of scripture and God’s intervention into the affairs of mankind comes down to premises and presuppositions. Dr. Ehrman’s presuppositions are not mine but I give him a right to have his, of course. I do, however, believe that he, though skilled, misjudged many major events in his life and went into his career with a mentality of: “I am right and I am going to prove it!” I believe he was right but was blinded by wrong motives. He got lost in his approach to the methodologies and never saw his way clear.
- Have I made it to Chapter 2 of Misquoting Jesus yet? (goodnewsnow.wordpress.com)
- The Misquoted Jesus is now a Forged Jesus (goodnewsnow.wordpress.com)
- Misquoting Jesus means the Manuscript Copies have Mistakes (goodnewsnow.wordpress.com)
- Caveat Emptor: A Highly Misleading Book on the Bible’s Reliability (catholicanalysis.blogspot.com)
- Books, Scrolls, and Tablets of Stone (They too Misquoted Jesus) (goodnewsnow.wordpress.com)
- Misquoting Jesus – Was I Born Again? (goodnewsnow.wordpress.com)
- Textual Criticism makes Misquoting Jesus Correctly Quoted (goodnewsnow.wordpress.com)
- The Ehrman project – critically engaging the work of Bart Ehrman (westernthm.wordpress.com)