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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Paperback – Feb 6 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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
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.
Most recent customer reviews
In a nutshell you have a a average self professed scholar, sharing his opinion of why he believes inaccuracies exist in Holy Scripture. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Perhaps not as stimulating as his "Lost Christianities', Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" suffers from some repetitions (mostly towards the end of the book) and a lack of... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Federico
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 14 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 on May 6 2014 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
This is the first book of Ehrman's I have read. I found it interesting and well-written for the average person who has little background in Biblical Textual Studies, (which equates... Read morePublished on June 5 2011 by Barton Breen
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