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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Hardcover – Oct 20 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harperone (Oct. 20 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060738170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060738174
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 0.4 x 0.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 481 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #217,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 7 2006
Format: Paperback
It takes no small amount of courage to shed a faith, even more to do it publicly. Bart Ehrman depicts his conversion to evangelical Christianity, with its insistence on Biblical literalism. He goes on to explain how studying the Gospel writings led to questioning the wealth of inconsistencies they contain. From there, he realised that by following what others insisted was "Truth", he had avoided what was indeed true. The stories of Jesus simply failed to present what had actually occurred in Palestine in those years. Putting faith in what the Gospels related was misplaced effort. From his studies, he recognised that there are no "original" texts. What had come down to him and others was the work of imperfect or purposely misleading copyists. How this scenario developed is the theme and purpose of this work.

The earliest "gospels" are Paul's letters to various congregations. After establishing many of these groups, he became aware of differences in outlook and practices among them. Many letters must have been exchanged, Ehrman suggests, between individuals and groups. These missives would be copied by those literate enough for the task. It was difficult to understand what the text was imparting since the letters ran together without word spaces or punctuation. With the early texts penned in Greek, many words were easily misconstrued or even changed, some in innocent error, some with a purpose in mind. As the centuries passed, even the role of Jesus was defined in various ways. Those followers who came to be known as "gnostics" [a term Ehrman views with some suspicion], questioned the divinity of the man they venerated. How could a deity be crucified? The opposing camps produced reams of text to support their arguments and oppose that of others.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 22 2007
Format: Paperback
Ehrman believes the history of our great stories matters. And his exploration of the New Testament's evolution is an enormous accomplishment. This is a work building on hundreds of years of research, for example, Stephanus's 1550 translation with marginal notes identifying variations between 14 different ancient Greek manuscripts. Or John Mill's 1707 comparison of over 100 Greek manuscripts to show 30,000 points of difference. And Ehrman's data base includes over 5,700 manuscripts in Greek alone, which yield a total of between 200,000 to 400,000 varients among them.

While comparing manuscripts, Ehrman gives us a parallel history of arguments and riposts among scholarly egos, making this a fascinating human story. We have, for example, the French Catholic scholar Richard Simon who in 1689 produced "A Critical History of the Text of the New Testament", giving a partisan blast at Protestant rejection of Church tradition in favor of reliance on scripture alone:

"The great changes that have taken place in the manuscripts of the Bible ... since the first originals were lost, completely destroy the principle of the Protestants ..., who consult only these same manuscripts of the Bible in the form they are today. If the truth of religion had not lived on in the Church, it would not be safe to look for it now in books that have been subjected to so many changes and that in so many matters were dependent on the will of the copyists."

Do all these differences among ancient hand-copied versions of the Bible make any difference? Ehrman shows thay do at many important points -- concerning Jesus, women, Jews, leadership, and more. And that's the really good part. I think this book is a big step forward in separating wheat from chaff in the scriptures.

--author of Correcting Jesus
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Andre Lawrence TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 21 2007
Format: Paperback
Bart Ehrman has written what many believe to be a thought-provoking analysis of the formation of The New Testament. I concur with this opinion, it is indeed intriguing.

The over-riding assumption according to Christian fundamentalist is that The New Testament is inerrant. And, in this state of perfection, there's a unified story amongst the authors on what appears to have happened in 1st century Palestine, the correction of Jewish philosophy and the way to eternal salvation.

These precepts have always been contested, by Jewish scholars, by Christian academics and, as Dr. Ehrman points out, by agnostics, atheists and polytheists of those eras. This book is an attempt to examine the environment in which the later writers (i.e., the scribes) who inherited these oftentimes contradictory stories.

I came to know of this book by way of PBS' The Diane Rhems Show. In that lively hour, Dr. Ehrman discussed his fundamentalist upbringing through his academic disillusionment years. There were many things discussed during that show that is not in the book.

The book spends a disproportionately long time discussing how the traditions were adapted by intentional "corrections", accidental, interpretive or just missing material.

Only sparsely does Mr. Ehrman actually deal with etymology. But, when he does it reveals much. I was also impressed with his addressing certain assumptions that the early Christian community was disproportionately discriminated against by the so-called unbelievers and the Roman community.

The book is very interesting and I recommend it only to those who've read other books that deal specifically with historicity.
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