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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Paperback – Feb 6 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (Feb. 6 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060859512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060859510
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #33,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

From Booklist

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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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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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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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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