Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's 'Misquoting Jesus' Paperback – Jun 1 2007
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"Dr. Jones reminds us that Christians should never be afraid of open debate. With tradition, experience, reason and Scripture as our final measure we can put all ideas on the table with confidence that in the end we will embrace what is true and discard what is false."--Everett Piper, Ph.D., President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
"Jones clearly refutes in a Christlike manner the claims of Misquoting Jesus. A must-read for those who love to give an answer for the faith!"--Lief Moi, Mars Hill Church Campus Pastor, Seattle, Washington
"Dr. Jones has written a first-rate book on an essential and timely subject. Both specialists and nonspecialists will benefit from his honest, polite and clearly explained treatment of issues concerning the reliability of the New Testament text and its authorship. In a day of confusion among non-Christians and Christians alike, this is a must-read."--Peter Jones, Scholar-in-Residence, Westminster Seminary California, and author of Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus
"Timothy Paul Jones's writings are always engaging, compelling and often humorous. He captivates me with everything he writes. When I read his writing, I have many 'Aha!' or 'I wish I'd thought of that' moments. This isn't the first great book that Timothy's written, and it won't be the last. Make certain you don't miss it!"--James L. Garlow, Ph.D., coauthor of the bestselling The Da Vinci Codebreaker and Cracking Da Vinci's Code
"Timothy Paul Jones turns the tables on Bart Ehrman's overstated Misquoting Jesus. He applies to Ehrman the same probing logic that Ehrman claims to apply to the New Testament evidence. The evidence turns out to be more believable than Ehrman's strained interpretations of it. It is not the New Testament writers or copyists who depart from history, Jones shows, but a few scholars who invest too much faith in their skepticism. Jones not only checks that skepticism: along the way he equips readers to make their own informed choices about authorship, scribal transmission, and church selection (or rejection) of key New Testament passages and documents--and many writings from outside the New Testament as well. This is a valuable primer for orientation in a discussion that cannot be ignored."--Robert Yarbrough, Associate Professor of New Testament and New Testament Department Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"Among many antifaith books you may find Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. This is a broadside attack upon the Scriptures, and Christians need to be able to rebut it. Thankfully, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones has written Misquoting Truth, a scholarly and gracious (but firm) rebuttal to Dr. Ehrman."--D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., Senior Minister, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
"The most radical wing of New Testament scholarship has gotten a disproportionate amount of press in recent years. As representative as any of this trend today is Bart Ehrman, whose books on textual criticism and noncanonical Gospels make it sound as if we have little idea what the New Testament authors originally wrote or little reason to believe that theirs was an accurate, and certainly the oldest, rendition of the life of Jesus and the gospel message. Timothy Jones sets the record straight in this courteous but direct critique of charges about misquoting Jesus and alternate or lost Christianities. Abreast of all the latest and best scholarship, he nevertheless writes in a straightforward, easy-to-read style that any thoughtful layperson can handle. An absolute must-read for anyone confused or taken in by the revisionist biblical historians of our day."--Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
"In Misquoting Truth, Timothy Paul Jones has written an informative, creative book that needs to be read by all serious, thinking Christians. It is as informative as it is entertaining, and it will provide a secure foundation for continuing to trust in the accuracy of God's Word. It answers the basic criticisms leveled at the New Testament by Dr. Bart Ehrman, while at the same time providing a proper understanding of the basics of textual criticism. Jones does not skirt the difficult issues, but deals with them head-on, providing careful and balanced answers. I highly recommend this book to those seeking to find answers to the question, 'Can the Word of God be trusted?' "--Paul D. Wegner, Ph.D., Phoenix Seminary
"In Misquoting Truth, Timothy Paul Jones gives Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus and Lost Christianities the debunking they deserve. Jones exposes the bias and faulty logic that surface time and again in these highly publicized books. Misquoting Truth provides a much needed antidote and will serve students and Christian leaders very well. I recommend this book enthusiastically."--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor, Acadia Divinity College, and author of Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (InterVarsity Press)
"In recent years, Christians have been assailed by a book genre that is increasingly critical of Christian beliefs. Misquoting Truth reminds us that this critical alarm is often sounded in bombastic ways that seldom present the whole picture. Timothy Jones explains why there is no new information in Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus that threatens what Christians believe about the New Testament text. Further, he moves the discussion to a shelf where it is accessible to everyone. Numerous practical teaching pointers help the reader to digest the material. The result is a well-integrated volume that accomplishes what few books do: disarming the critics while at the same time connecting with a large range of readers. Bravo, InterVarsity, for publishing yet another excellent volume that communicates crucial truth to this generation!"--Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy and Theology, Liberty University; author of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
"This volume is well-written in an accessible tone and style."--Chris Keith, SCJ, Spring 2009
." . .a strong defence against claims from a fellow textual criticism scholar, Bart Ehrman. Fills a deeply needed void, in that it continues on Ehrman's path in making textual criticism even more accessible to readers without formal theological schooling, while systematically addressing the allegations of textual fallacy raised by Ehrman. While succesfully meeting a large swathe of charges against the validity and trustworthiness of the NT, the book is also a wonderfully easy and concise introduction to the history, background and treatment of the Gospels."--Samuel Ciszuk, Chrisendom (www.christilling.de/blog), January 23, 2009
"Good reply to Ehrman and gives direct corrections and clarifications of Ehrman's arguments against the Bible. I highly recommend the book."--Jason L. Reed, Christian Apologetics Journal,
"Ehrman raises interesting questions in his book, Misquoting Jesus.Unfortunately, he provides the wrong answers. Jones offers a fairer, more accurate presentation of the facts about the New Testament's reliability. I strongly recommend this book to pastors and lay people alike."--Pastor George P. Wood, enrichment, Fall 2008
"What we have here is a very short and readable treatment that basically echoes a lot of what Ehrman said and offers alternatives to a few of the conclusions that Ehrman reached."--Nick Norelli, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, June 21, 2008
"[A]n excellent book."--Does God Exist? March/April 2008
"Misquoting Truth is an even-handed and careful rebuttal. . . . Jones makes a detailed analysis and does not give simple answers."--Christopher J. Barden for Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, March 2008
"Jones is a good writer and presents the views he opposes with clarity and respect."--R. O. for Libraries Alive, Winter 2008
"In this absorbing and easy-to-follow work, Jones carefully and courteously exposes the faulty logic behind one man's attempt to discredit the New Testament. This book is a must-read for anyone who questions biblical authority."--Jennifer McCaman in Christian Single, November 2007
"Handily addresses Ehrman's major complaints and criticisms in an approach that is unusually irenic and a style that is surprisingly breezy."--JoelMiller.com, August 5, 2007
"Jones provides a wealth of information that will be helpful to anyone confused about the reliability of our evidence for Jesus' life."--HumanEvents.com, September 4, 2007
"Jones has written a very layman friendly explanation of the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible as we have it today. Jones deals well with explaining textual criticism, claims of inaccuracies and responses. He writes with a very grace-filled demeanor as he acknowledges the validity of criticisms and demonstrates the weaknesses of the criticism with sound reasons and evidence in defense of the reliability of Scripture."--Midwest Christian Outreach Blog, August 2, 2007
"It is an unfortunate thing when a scholar uses a technical discipline such as textual criticism to browbeat an unsuspecting public. Timothy Jones's evenhanded approach challenges the overblown claims of Ehrman's sensationalized account of the textual history of the New Testament. Jones agrees with Ehrman at many basic points, but repeatedly challenges his conclusion that the New Testament is untrustworthy, effectively countering each of Ehrman's revisionist claims. In a most readable treatment Jones presents anew the case for the trustworthiness of the New Testament. "There was a time when F. F. Bruce's little book on the reliability of the New Testament documents was enough. Now new challenges to the integrity of the New Testament have arisen. Timothy Jones rises to meet these new challenges by combining this refutation of Bart Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus with a thorough primer on New Testament textual criticism. Both authors work with the same evidence and share a good deal of common ground, but they arrive at surprisingly different conclusions. In the process of challenging the conclusions of Bart Ehrman's popular book, Jones investigates several alleged 'significant changes' in the text and finds that none of them requires readers to rethink an essential belief about Jesus or to doubt the historical integrity of the New Testament. "This book is classic apologetics yet without any hint of rancor. Jones writes in a readable conversational style, combining pastoral concern with excellent activities for beginning students as well as entertaining anecdotes and illustrations. The book is autobiographical to a high degree, which increases its personal appeal. "Written with troubled believers in mind, Jones begins by borrowing a generous definition of inerrancy--inerrancy means simply that the Bible tells the truth--a definition which, he says, gives plenty of room for the many extant textual variants. In the end, Timothy Jones suggests that Ehrman lost his faith not because he 'peered so deeply into the origins of Christian faith, ' but because he gained his understanding of Christian faith in a fundamentalist evangelical context that allowed little (if any) space for questions, variations or rough edges. Jones does not shy away from these 'rough edges, ' but he presents a compelling case that the New Testament text as we have it is a reliable witness to the teachings of Jesus and of the first Christians."--T. Scott Caulley, D.Theol., Director of the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins, University of Tubingen, Tubingen, Germany"
About the Author
Timothy Paul Jones serves as professor of leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and works in the SojournKids children's ministry at Sojourn Community Church. Before coming to Louisville, Timothy led churches in Missouri and Oklahoma as a pastor and an associate pastor. He has been widely recognized as a leading writer and researcher in the fields of apologetics, church history, and family ministry. He has authored or contributed to more than a dozen books, including Misquoting Truth (InterVarsity, 2007), Christian History Made Easy (Rose, 2010), and the CBA bestseller The Da Vinci Codebreaker (Bethany House, 2005).
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Top Customer Reviews
So all in all, I can't recommend one book over the other. Any fears of having your faith ripped to shreds, being annoyed by religious ignorance which ignores evidence, or wasting money on two books when one or the other might do, can be put aside. Both authors are firm in their convictions yet compassionate towards where the reader might be standing (Ehrman, surprisingly may be a smidgen less outspoken) and both give you plenty of clear, easy to understand information to consider.Read more ›
Le problème majeur que présente cet auteur, et tous les auteurs qui tentent de défendre les fondements historiques du christianisme, c'est qu'il pose la mort et la résurrection pas tout à fait charnelle de Jésus comme vraies pour ensuite s'efforcer de fonder cette vérité. Poser ces « événements » comme hypothèse leur permettrait d'éviter de sérieuses erreurs, comme celle de compter les générations du temps de Jésus comme si ce dernier avait vécu au 20e siècle. Les auteurs des évangiles, qui n'ont pas connu Jésus personnellement, ont écrit à partir de ouï-dires. Là s'arrête leur crédibilité. Bref, l'auteur comme tant d'autres est une victime consentante de ce que j'appellerais le christianocentrisme.
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Written in a very readable, conversational style, Jones still fails in his main effort, which is to prove Bart Ehrman wrong. In that sense, it is a typical apologetic. Yes, there are differences in the various New Testament manuscripts, we are told, but they don't really matter. The conflicting accounts in the four Gospels are not competing, Jones assures us, but somehow complimentary. The differences, he says, are trivial, without ever really explaining how this can be.
Efforts to prove that the Gospels were really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are unconvincing. Jones cites Colossians as saying that Luke is Paul's "beloved physician" but Colossians is one of those Pauline letters not really written by Paul. So the testimony of a forger is made to assure us of the veracity of Luke's account. And that is entirely leaving aside the problem that if Luke was Paul's traveling companion, why is it that Luke is so at odds with Paul's own account of his mission? Shouldn't Acts of the Apostles agree with the Pauline epistles, and not contradict them?
He excuses one of the most blatant bits of editing ever done to a manscript, and that is the longer ending of Mark, which originally ended at 16:8. Jones assures us that nothing has been changed by the addition, which even he admits is not original to Mark. Yet here we see proof of the charges made by Celsus in the late second century that Christians changed their texts to suit their changing needs, a charge earlier denied by Jones. And I think Jones misses the greater point here, and that is, if Christian copyists felt free to change even the words of books they felt to be sacred, how secure should people feel with the rest of the books that have passed through their hands. What other changes might have been made, what other passages invented? And if they would change even the Bible, why should we believe that the much vaunted "evidence" for Christianity provided by Pliny, Tacitus and Josephus is not also the product of wishful and inventive Christian editing?
For centuries the faithful were assured, "the Bible is the inerrant word of God" and that there were no mistakes and contradictions in the New Testament. It was perfect, people were told. Now scholars have proven that it is not perfect and the response seems to be, "Well, OK, it isn't perfect but none of those mistakes and contradictions really mean anything." And inerrancy, Jones assures us, "can include approximations, free quotations, language of appearances, and different accounts of the same event as long as those do not contradict." Of course, the New Testament is full of contradictions, but Jones refuses to see these as such.
Against the actual evidence provided by Ehrman, Jones falls back on what early Christians told the Pagan critic Celsus: "Do not ask questions; just believe." He provides no real compelling evidence that fellows named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the books that bear their names. Instead of arguments anchored in scholarship, he provides us with the following: "Historical evidence (which he fails to provide) also compels me to think that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the sources of the books that bear their names. So, whenever I open my New Testament to the Gospels, I read these documents with a clear conscience as the words of these four witnesses."
That's nice, Pastor Jones, but we need more than your assurances that these books were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Completely neglected here is the fact that none of these books bore these names when they were written. The names were assigned later. None of these books were cited by early Christian authors until a good century after they were supposedly written. Despite all the evidence we have that these books were NOT written by the men whose names they bear, Professor Jones wants us to take it on faith that they were. Why? Because he believes it.
In the end, Jones has done nothing in this book to refute Bart Ehrman except to say that none of what Bart Ehrman tells us is true because, in the end, he doesn't want it to be true. Against scholarship, Jones offers faith, and in the final analysis, each reader will have to decide what is more important to him, because they are often mutually incompatible.
I think that this remark of Jones really says it all: "I know nothing about warp drives except what I've learned from Star Wars." But warp drives aren't from Star Wars, Pastor Jones. They are from Star Trek.
First a note on style. Dr. Jones writes in a folksy persona. This persona seems to be an attempt to lure the reader into a false sense of security. "Surely," we think, "a normal guy like Jones wouldn't mislead us. This is an honest guy who just wants to set the record straight about the mistakes in Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus." This persona is annoying and infuriating (e.g., his two page discussion about his inability to work a copier, and his overuse of the exclamation point [e.g., "Let's wrestle with the truths we encounter, and let's see where these truths take us!"]). The truth is that Jones has an agenda and it is to argue, using rather fallacious reasoning, that we can reconstruct a reliable text, that the Bible is logically consistent, and that it is inerrant. Let us deal with each of these arguments using Jones' text and comparing it to the objective evidence.
First, Jones is correct that though there are thousands of different texts, each differing from each other, we can re-construct a text that is at least as pure as Ivory soap. The methods of textual criticism developed by scholars such as Westcott and Hort, and Bruce Metzger have allowed us to identify and remove many of the errors made throughout the centuries.
Our ability to reconstruct an accurate text means that the contradictions and errors that we see in the NT are real, not artifacts of copying. In order to make the rest of this review somewhat manageable, I am going to concentrate on his errors in dealing with the book of Mark, with small digressions where they are appropriate. I have chosen this because Jones deals so much with the book of Mark (a book I have translated from Greek and thus am very familiar with), and I want to take him to task for his manifest illogical treatment of obvious contradictions arising from that book. The explicit implication will be that "if there are this many mistakes with just one book, there will be many more when dealing with others."
The first issue deals with Mark 1:2-3. Although Mark 1:2-3 begins, "Just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet," this quote is actually a combination of three verses, only one from Isaiah. The first part matches the Greek of Exodus 23:20a; the second part of verse 2 matches the Hebrew of Malachi 3:1; verse 3 matches the Greek of Isaiah 40:3 almost perfectly. If this were any other historian, we would just say that Mark made a mistake and move on. However, Jones tries some common and flawed ways to get around this problem.
Jones acknowledges that this comes from three verses, but argues that "it was a common practice to cite combined quotations by the most prominent source" (p. 61). This sentence is doubly false. First, that was not common practice. Second, even if it were common practice, who would argue that Isaiah was more prominent than Moses?
The second issue deals with Mark 2: 23-26. In this passage, Jesus and his disciples are plucking wheat on the Sabbath. The Pharisees pointed out that this is forbidden, and Jesus said, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence." The basic problem is that Abiathar was not the high priest at that time, his father Ahimelech was.
If this were any other historian, we would say that Mark made a mistake and move on. But, this insistence that the Bible is inerrant has led to some (dis)-ingenious solutions to this problem. Jones' solution is to say "Mark's reference to `high priest' indicates the position that Abiathar eventually obtained" (p. 24). This, naturally, is absurd. Mark does not say, "Remember what David did when the future high priest Abiathar was in the temple." Not only does Mark not say this, that would be a very bizarre way of talking and contrary to nearly any dating system in use. Mark says, and the Greek clearly says (contrary to some other claims), "when Abiathar was high priest." The fact is, Mark (or, if he is reporting accurately Peter or Jesus) made a mistake. This is not a big mistake, but it is a mistake. It is only the false attempt to claim there are no errors in the Bible that prevents Jones and others from acknowledging this.
Third, Jones places a great deal of emphasis on Papias of Hierapolis. In this context, it is worth noting the tradition that Papias records about Mark: "Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord, but not however in order" (quoted in Taylor , but see Jones, p. 102-103). The key point for us is that by Jones and Papias' own admission the order of an untold number of events in Mark is incorrect. This need not be a major issue for any other historian, we would say "they made a mistake." However, it is for Jones, so let us point out another problem with Jones and the book of Mark.
Mark uses the word "immediately" (euthus) over three dozen times in his book. Mark intends to convey that Jesus did one thing and then quickly did something else. This creates a great sense of action and vitality in Mark. However, if the order of events is wrong, then to that extent Mark is factually wrong. If I am describing my day and I say "I read Jones' book, then immediately went for a walk, then immediately went to lunch, then immediately rode my bike," I would be wrong to the degree that this does not describe the order of events as I actually did them. Again, this need not be a major mistake, but it is a mistake.
Fourth, though Jones does not deal with Jesus' teachings on divorce, this issue directly touches on his assertion that there are no contradictions in the Bible and his false reliance on eyewitness memory (for what it is worth, memory research is what earned me my PhD). Again, we need go no further than a discussion of the book of Mark. Mark (10: 1-12) tends to agree with Paul (I Cor. 7:10-11) and Luke (Luke 16: 18) that divorce is not permitted, however all disagree with Matthew (Matthew 19: 1-9) who argues that divorce is permitted. Any reader of the passages must come away with the conclusion that Jesus said something about divorce but that we cannot reconstruct what it was using the eyewitness accounts in the New Testament (though the evidence suggests that he said it was forbidden).
As I pointed out, this touches directly on Jones' reliance on eyewitness testimony. Scores of studies have indicated that eyewitness memory is subject to a whole sweep of biases that cause individuals to alter their memory for events. Jones' seems to believe that individuals in illiterate cultures possess some sort of super memory that is immune from these processes (chapter 5). This is simply not the case. In fact, a common characteristic of oral memories are multiple, variant forms of the same story (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh).
Finally, Jones deals with the multiple endings of Mark. It is well known that the best textual evidence suggests that Mark 16:8 is the last verse we have from Mark, although it seems that Mark wrote more. Any of the handful of other endings do not come from Mark. This does not seem to bother Jones for he argues that there is nothing in the other readings that is not present elsewhere in the NT or that alters Christian faith or practice in any significant way (pp. 64-66). I think this claim is wrong (e.g., where else in the Bible does it say you can drink poison as it says in the "longer ending" of Mark?), but more disturbing is that Jones basically argues that since it is in the Bible it must be correct. This reminds me of a quote from Bruce Metzger about how the books of the New Testament were chosen, "A writing is not canonical because the author was inspired, but rather an author is considered inspired because what he has written is recognized as canonical" (p. 257).
There are many other problems with Jones' book (e.g., his fallacious reasoning about Paul's comments on women [basically that Paul only tells women to be quiet as a reminder that everyone should be quiet in church (p. 71)]; in his list of the Muratori canon (p. 135), he leaves off that the books of Hebrews and James were two of the rejected books (presumably to downplay the real controversy in selecting books of the New Testament); his irrelevant quotes from Ehrman's friend and wife who wish he would come to Mass with them (pp. 145-146); his incredibly flawed reasoning about the inability to prove that one was born (it's actually simple to prove we were born: we know how humans come into the world now and this creates the framework for judging any alleged exceptions to this); his arguments about the intelligence of the disciples (Jones seems to ignore that they consistently misunderstand Jesus, and Paul's peers directly call him a spermologos [Acts 17: 18, this word refers to one who, without a real understanding, picks up scraps of information and tries, with pretense and show, to pass them off as his own and essentially refers to a "pseudo-intellectual who insists on spouting off" (Louw & Nida, 1989, p. 328)]); and, we cannot ignore that Jesus said that some of those who were alive would also be alive when the kingdom of God came with power (Mark 9:1) when Jesus has clearly not returned and those people have died. Finally, we have his deeply flawed assertion that though other religions tell of resurrected gods that "means that there is, in every system of faith and every human heart, a yearning for one true god who enters into death and triumphs over it" (pp. 20-21). So, Euripides' Bacchae and myriad other examples of this story are myth and the Bible is true because . . . well, because Jones believes one and not the other.
With all the flaws and contradictions present in even one book (e.g., Mark), it is clear that research reconstructing a nearly pure text of the Bible has shown that it is neither logically consistent nor inerrant. This does not mean that the Bible is worthless (e.g., we don't toss Homer or Herodotus out simply because they contain errors), but it does mean that we judge the validity of the more fantastical stories (e.g., raising people from the dead, making the moon and sun jump around as needed) as we would judge them in any other historian. It also means that a belief that the Bible is logically consistent and inerrant cannot be maintained except by a prior commitment that it must be true. If you are going to base your faith on claims that are demonstrably false, you implicitly assert that the truth does not really matter and you remove yourself from the realm of serious intellectual discourse. That, in the end, is what is most intellectually dishonest about Jones: he feigns that the facts matter, but he doesn't attempt to discover the truth: he only attempts to validate what he already believes. Nearly anyone of any faith can do the same, and many have done that better.
In the opening pages of his book, Jones essentially stipulates that Ehrman's scholarship is unassailable from a technical standpoint, but, says Jones, Ehrman misses the point. While the actual text of the bible may have changed over the centuries, the "inspired" truth that God meant to communicate has been miraculously preserved. Jones offers no evidence of this fact beyond his own assurance. In taking the route of saying that the truth of the bible (if not the text) is what is inspired, Jones leaves open the question that Ehrman asks in the opening pages of his book--if we know that we do not have the original words of the bible then how can we know the truth those words are meant to communicate? In essence, Jones' decision to leave this question unaddressed sabotages his case in its entirety. You cannot refute an argument (and certainly not the evidence for that argument) without answering its central question. Jones tries to do so and, as any undergraduate logic student would predict, fails miserably.
I'm sure neither Jones nor his editor are in the least embarrassed by this book, but they should be. It's full of sloppy argumentation and, yes, fallacies. Irony thy name is Jones.
But Jones, qualifying Ehrman's opinions as fallacies, or as "Misquoting Truth", as the cover of his book reads, seems to me that it is going too far. Really, it is Jones himself who misquotes the truth when he qualifys Ehrman's work in such a way.