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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who…
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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (edition 2007)

by Bart D. Ehrman (Author)

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3,222902,639 (3.82)79
Member:Samuel.Sotillo
Title:Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
Authors:Bart D. Ehrman (Author)
Info:HarperOne (2007), Edition: Reprint, 242 pages
Collections:Your library, EBooks
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Tags:Ebooks, American Writer, American Nonfiction, Nonfiction, Theology, Christianity

Work details

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman

  1. 31
    Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker (Nickelini)
  2. 11
    Who Wrote the Gospels? by Randel McCraw Helms (ehines)
    ehines: Helms deals with the origins of the gospels; Ehrman with the transmission of them. Helms's book is better written and he's got an easier story to tell (the story of finding one origin vs describing a seemingly infinite number of textual variations).
  3. 01
    Gesù. L'invenzione del Dio cristiano by Paolo Flores d'Arcais (Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: Il libro di Flores d'Arcais tratta dell'immagine di Gesù e del Cristianesimo delle origini come sorge dall'interpretazione dei testi neotestamentari, ricostruiti così come descritto da Ehrman.
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Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
[book:Misquoting Jesus] was a fantastic book. Ehrman approached a subject that had the potential to be extraordinarily boring (textual criticism) and turned it into a fascinating read that hit upon all of the issues in regards to the current day Bible.

This book has something to offer everyone, regardless as to the reader's current faith. The Bible, as has been stated in previous reviews, is one of the most influential books in Western Civilization and deserves to be better understood as a text and a cultural phenomenon. To understand this book one has to understand how it has changed, and Misquoting Jesus achieves just that beginning understanding. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
There was no New Testament until the fourth century. Until that time assorted factions warred over all sorts of different beliefs about Jesus. Some thought he was all human, others he was all God. Some believed there were many gods, others there must be only a few. Their assorted beliefs were transcribed by the individual congregations themselves, obviously representing their own particular view of reality. What happened to those oral and written traditions and documents and how they evolved and were eventually codified is the subject of Ehrman's fascinating book.

Ehrman had a born-again experience in high school and was persuaded to go to Moody Bible Institute to further his understanding. He became interested in scriptural exegesis and transferred to Wheaton, another evangelical fortress, (although considered far too liberal by the Moody folks. Thinking it was impossible to learn the true meaning in translation he found himself soon at Princeton Theological Seminary, a downright bastion liberal thinking where he studied Greek and eventually Hebrew. Already at Moody he had become fascinated by scriptural differences and seeming contradictions. The details of the Crucifixion differ between Mark and John, for example. Could one of them have made a mistake. And when Jesus said the mustard seed was the smallest of all the seeds on earth in the parable, did he make a mistake as we know it's not the smallest seed. Was it incorrectly translated? Was information copied incorrectly? He learned that we have no originals and the copies we do have of Scripture are copies of copies and we lack even the copies closest to the originals. How can we know what the word of God means if we don't know what those words area? These are the puzzles that intrigued Ehrman and ultimately resulted in a shift from a literal and inerrant view of the Bible to a view of it as a very humanly created document.

The problem of determining what was actually intended by the original writer was made difficult through a number of factors. The copyists were often illiterate; those who were not would often (there are numerous contemporary complaints of this) change words to suit their own purposes, sometimes to change the meaning, other times by mistake, or sometimes thinking they were correcting an earlier mistake. To make things worse, the manuscripts were often in scriptio continua where there are no capital letters, nor punctuation, nor spaces between the words, e.g. ΜΟΥΣΑΩΝΕΛΙΚΩΝΙΑΔΩΝΑΡΧΩΜΕΘΑΕΙΔΕΙΝΑΙΘΕΛΙΚΩΝΟΣΕΧΟΥΣΙΝ​ΟΡΟΣΜΕΓΑΤΕΖΑΘΕΟΝΤΕΚΑΙΠΕΡΙΚΡΗΝΗΙΟΕΙΔΕΑΠΟΣΣΑΠΑΛΟΙΣΙΝ​ΟΡΧΕΥΝΤΑΙΚΑΙΒΩΜΟΝΕΡΙΣΘΕΝΕΟΣΚΡΟΝΙΩΝΟΣ.​ In modern Greek that would be Μουσάων Ἑλικωνιάδων ἀρχώμεθ᾽ ἀείδειν, αἵ θ᾽ Ἑλικῶνος ἔχουσιν ὄρος μέγα τε ζάθεόν τε καί τε περὶ κρήνην ἰοειδέα πόσσ᾽ ἁπαλοῖσιν ὀρχεῦνται καὶ βωμὸν ἐρισθενέος Κρονίωνος. Often the earliest manuscripts we have date from centuries after they were originally written and many generations of copies later.

This led inevitably to entire lines being dropped as a copier, often illiterate, might skip a line, especially when two lines ended with the same or similar letters.

All of this uncertainty was an especial problem for Protestants whose faith relied on the "word" as delivered in the Bible, but if that "word" was uncertain then doesn't that weaken the foundations of that faith? Celsus and Origen in the 2nd century were already noting the substantial number of differences between the texts and a century later Pope Damascus commissioned Jerome to examine the texts and see if he could determine the original version.

In just one illustration of many of the effect this cold have on faith is the example of J.J. Wettstein, who, in the early 18th century, sought to find the original words and he given access to the Codex Alexandrinus where is was startled to note problems with Timothy 1 3:16, a passage that had been used to justify the belief that Jesus was God.

For the text, in most manuscripts, refers to Christ as "God made manifest in the flesh, and justified in the Spirit." Most manuscripts abbreviate sacred names (the so­-called nomina sacra), and that is the case here as well, where the Greek word God (theos)is abbreviated in two letters, theta and sigma, with a line drawn over the top to indicate that it is an abbreviation What Wettstein noticed in examining Codex Alexandri­nus was that the line over the top had been drawn in a different ink from the surrounding words, and so appeared to be from a later hand (i.e., written by a later scribe). Moreover, the horizontal line in the middle of the first letter, theta, was not actually a part of the letter but was a line that had bled through from the other side of the old vellum. In other words, rather than being the abbreviation (theta­ sigma) for "God", the word was actually an omicron and a sigma, a different word altogether, which simply means "who." The original reading of the manuscript thus did not speak of Christ as "God made manifest in the flesh" but of Christ "who was made manifest in the flesh." According to the ancient testimony of the Codex Alexandri­nus, Christ is no longer explicitly called God in this passage.

Well, this was a bit much for Wettstein who began to question his own faith and he remarked how rarely in the New Testament that Jesus is called God. Becoming rather vocal about the problem (shades of Arius v Athanasius -- see https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/37674110?book_show_action=false&from_r...) he aroused the ire of the orthodox. "Deacon Wettstein is preaching what is un­orthodox, is making statements in his lectures opposed to the teaching of the Reformed Church, and has in hand the printing of a Greek New Testament in which some dangerous innovations very suspect of Socinianism [a doctrine that denied the divinity of Christ] will appear." Called to account for his views before the university senate, he was found to have "rationalistic" views that denied the plenary inspiration of scripture and the existence of the devil and demons, and that focused attention on scriptural obscurities."

It's a thrilling book, really interesting as an example of how scholars work through textual history, but one that is perhaps a bit misleading. A review on an atheist website noted that something Ehrman doesn't emphasize is that because we have so many variants and texts available to us does not question the validity of what we now have, but rather helps in the determination of the actual original text from which they might be derived. (That review is worth reading: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=27) ( )
  ecw0647 | Jun 2, 2018 |
A solid 3.5 stars. I reference this book a lot on this Jesus in Books podcast: http://jesusinbooks.com/angry-jesus-aramaic-peshitta/ ( )
  jasoncomely | Mar 29, 2018 |
When world-class biblical scholar Bart Ehrman first began to study the texts of the Bible in their original languages he was startled to discover the multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations that had been made by earlier translators. In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman tells the story behind the mistakes and changes that ancient scribes made to the New Testament and shows the great impact they had upon the Bible we use today. He frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultraconservative views of the Bible.

Since the advent of the printing press and the accurate reproduction of texts, most people have assumed that when they read the New Testament they are reading an exact copy of Jesus's words or Saint Paul's writings. And yet, for almost fifteen hundred years these manuscripts were hand copied by scribes who were deeply influenced by the cultural, theological, and political disputes of their day. Both mistakes and intentional changes abound in the surviving manuscripts, making the original words difficult to reconstruct. For the first time, Ehrman reveals where and why these changes were made and how scholars go about reconstructing the original words of the New Testament as closely as possible.

Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes -- alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.
For almost 1,500 years, the New Testament manuscripts were copied by hand––and mistakes and intentional changes abound in the competing manuscript versions. Religious and biblical scholar Bart Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself are the results of both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes. In this compelling and fascinating book, Ehrman shows where and why changes were made in our earliest surviving manuscripts, explaining for the first time how the many variations of our cherished biblical stories came to be, and why only certain versions of the stories qualify for publication in the Bibles we read today. Ehrman frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultra–conservative views of the Bible.
  tony_sturges | Jan 11, 2018 |
Author Bart Ehrman is the chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina. The introduction to this book is autobiographical; Ehrman explains how, after being raised Episcopalian, he met a charismatic member of Campus Youth for Christ, became an Evangelical, attended the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, and finally the Princeton Theological Seminary. Along the way, things gradually began to change for him; on learning Greek and Hebrew he discovered that the “original” language of the Bible sometimes wasn’t quite what it was claimed to by believers in Biblical inerrancy. Ehrman never comes right out and says he has lost his faith or become an agnostic, but he does tiptoe around the fringes of that.

After this background, the next part of the book might be called “Textual Criticism for Dummies”. Textual criticism has been around for a couple hundred years or so, and it’s basically the science and art of trying to work backwards from manuscript copies to figure out what the “original” text was. If textual criticism were applied only to the Gilgamesh Epic or The Iliad or Tacitus or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (and it has, in fact, been applied to all these) no one would care very much; it would be an esoteric field of interest only to specialists. However, it isn’t; in fact, the whole idea of textual criticism originated with the study of the Bible. Ehrman gives the history of the idea, and various explanations as to why a text might be copied wrong – carelessness or exhaustion of the scribe, losing one’s place in the text being copied and inadvertently omitting lines, interpreting a previous scribe’s marginal note as part of the text and adding lines, and just plain bad luck (in one case some ink bled through from the back of the manuscript, appearing as a short line on the other side. Unfortunately that short line just happened to change the Greek upper-case omicron to a theta).


Even up to this point it probably wouldn’t have mattered that much to the biblical literalists, but now Ehrman goes on from accidental errors to discuss deliberate changes to the text, to resolve theological disputes in favor of one faction or another. This is where things get a little dicey for me, because Ehrman is often no longer pointing out demonstrable errors or changes from one manuscript to another but speculating as to changes that might have been made to support a theological position. In some cases, there is evidence for these changes – an older manuscript (B) has it one way and a more recent one (C) has it another – but Ehrman himself points out that the chronological sequence of manuscripts is not necessarily the final arbiter – it’s possible that the younger manuscript was copied from a now lost original (A) that was older than B or C. Nevertheless, Ehrman does make a fairly good case that some parts of the New Testament were changed during copying to support particular doctrines.


This last, of course, is what drives Biblical literalists up the wall. Ehrman is writing a popular book, so he doesn’t give much space to refuting various arguments made by the literalists. There have already been a couple of books presenting counterarguments to Ehrman, and there are any number of Web sites bristling with indignant refutations. I’ve only skimmed these, so I’m not sure how to take them; I will definitely have to read some more on textual criticism and probably some of the counter-Ehrman books as well.


I think I’ll give this one four stars. The writing is quite accessible and Ehrman explains his positions well. It would be nice to see more of the counterarguments presented, but you can’t have everything. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 15, 2017 |
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More than almost anything I've ever written about, the subject of this book has been on my mind for the past thirty years, since I was in my late teens and just beginning my study of the New Testament.
To discuss the copies of the New Testament that we have, we need to start at the very beginning with one of the unusual features of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world: its bookish character.
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More than anyone else from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is to two Cambridge scholars, Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), that modern textual critics owe a debt of gratitude for developing methods of analysis that help us deal with the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060859512, Paperback)

For almost 1,500 years, the New Testament manuscripts were copied by hand––and mistakes and intentional changes abound in the competing manuscript versions. Religious and biblical scholar Bart Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself are the results of both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes.

In this compelling and fascinating book, Ehrman shows where and why changes were made in our earliest surviving manuscripts, explaining for the first time how the many variations of our cherished biblical stories came to be, and why only certain versions of the stories qualify for publication in the Bibles we read today. Ehrman frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultra–conservative views of the Bible.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:08 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

For almost 1,500 years, the New Testament manuscripts were copied by hand--and mistakes and intentional changes abound in the competing manuscript versions. Religious and biblical scholar Bart Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself are the results of both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes. In this compelling and fascinating book, Ehrman shows where and why changes were made in our earliest surviving manuscripts, explaining for the first time how the many variations of our cherished biblical stories came to be, and why only certain versions of the stories qualify for publication in the Bibles we read today. Ehrman frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultra-conservative views of the Bible.

» see all 6 descriptions

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