Friday, October 18, 2013

Misquoting Jesus

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
© 2005 Bart Ehrman
256 pages

Contrary to popular belief, the King James Bible did not fall out of the sky, a gift from a loving deity to his people below. In Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman delves into the human side of the Christian New Testament, introducing lay readers to textual analysis and demonstrating how scribes and theologians in the early centuries of the church tweaked verses while copying them, either to correct mistakes as they saw them or to stress a theological point.  Ehrman writes not to attack the New Testament’s credibility, but rather to make readers aware that the text they cherish has a life and history of its own.  Understanding that history means gleaning new insight into early Christianities as well, for even after one theological view won out over another, the evidence of battle lays in subtle alterations. Some are subtle indeed: changing a single brushstroke in one word (changing an O into a Φ ) could assert Jesus as God made manifest. Others are more obvious, like Jesus’ “anger” at a leper being converted into ‘compassion’ for him, even though later in the same story he harshly rebukes said leper and his inserted  compassion seems out of place.  Ehrman almost avoids arguing for any sweeping changes; the broadest alteration of text he observes is that Paul seems to contract himself about the role of women in the church within the same book (1st Corinthians), indicating that a later follower might have put words into his patron’s mouth.   Only the strictest literalist would be made uneasy by  Ehrman’s revelations.  For the rest of us,  Misquoting Jesus is a fascinating work that makes one appreciate how much passion has been poured even into making copies of texts,


  1. I have that in one of my trade-mark piles o' books!

    Could be one of my Christmas reads - seems appropriate!

  2. Based on what I've read of Ehrman so far (this being my third work by him), I'm impressed...have you read him before? I like that he never over-argues...

  3. Never read any of his stuff before but I had it on my Amazon Wish List some years ago & a friend bought it for me one Christmas. For some years after I lost interest in all things religious so it's stayed near the bottom of my 'to read' piles. It might make a nice change from my other reading over my Christmas break this year, although my general interest in religious subjects is still pretty low.


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