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Starred Review. In the absence of any original manuscripts of the books of the New Testament, how can we be sure that we're getting the intended words and meaning? Ehrman, professor of religion at UNC–Chapel Hill, has devoted his life to the study of such questions and here offers an engaging and fascinating look at the way scholars try to answer them. Part memoir, part history and part critical study, he traces the development of the academic discipline called textual criticism, which uses external and internal evidence to evaluate and compare ancient manuscripts in order to find the best readings. Ehrman points out that scribes altered almost all of the manuscripts we now have. In the early days of the Christian movement, scribal error often arose simply from unintentional omissions of words or lines. As Christianity evolved into an official religion under Constantine, however, scribes often added material to existing manuscripts or altered them to provide scriptural support for Christian doctrine or to enforce specific views about women, Jews or pagans. Ehrman's absorbing story, fresh and lively prose and seasoned insights into the challenges of recreating the texts of the New Testament ensure that readers might never read the Gospels or Paul's letters the same way again. (Nov.)
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Without going into details, I can safely say that I enjoyed the book. The content is broad, however, so insufficient by itself for an in-depth study. Read morePublished 5 months ago by C E.
Ehrman's thesis was quite clear half way through the book. He made his point with an abundance of evidence that was similar in nature and hence somewhat repetitive. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Terrence LeBlanc
No doubt Ehrman knows his stuff but this book repeats the same theme over and over. It could have a lot shorter.Published on May 9 2013 by Amazon Customer
This book is a very readable and lively introduction to the biblical study of textual-criticism. It shows the importance of the work of these scholarly text-men, and the impact... Read morePublished on April 20 2012 by Ted Mallar
Like Ehrman I've passed through many different phases of my spirituality. As a one time fundamentalist born again Christian I've been for many years both vaguely aware of and... Read morePublished on Dec 17 2011 by Nick
I'm not a Christian. Additionally, even as I do not believe in organized religion ('I'm not a joiner' combined with 'I wouldn't want to be a member of any organization that would... Read morePublished on June 26 2010 by Schmadrian
This book is a fascinating study in how the Bible came into existence and how its contents can be evaluated. Read morePublished on April 11 2010 by Sverre Svendsen
Professor Ehrman has done the world a great service in bringing between the covers of a single book many of the problems and controversies that have plagued Christianity from the... Read morePublished on Jan. 17 2009 by John Howard Reid