A Response To Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus -- By: Thomas A. Howe

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 05:2 (Fall 2006)
Article: A Response To Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus
Author: Thomas A. Howe

A Response To Bart D. Ehrman’s
Misquoting Jesus

Thomas A. Howe, Ph.D.

Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D. is the chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is touted to be one of North America’s leading textual critics today. His recent book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, is a popular level text that many reviewers take to be an effort to present the field of New Testament textual criticism to a larger, primarily lay, audience.1

At first the title, Misquoting Jesus, seemed inappropriate. Daniel Wallace said, “The book’s very title is a bit too provocative and misleading though: Almost none of the variants that Ehrman discusses involve sayings by Jesus! The book simply doesn’t deliver what the title promises. But it sells well.”2 However, it soon became clear that the title is very appropriate, if one thinks of it as a how-to manual. Perhaps the title should have been, “Misquoting Jesus: What it is, and

how to do it!”

Bart Ehrman claims to be a happy agnostic. He claims once to have been a born again Christian. Only God knows his heart, but we ought to know his assumptions. This attack on the integrity of the New Testament documents is a logical extension of his philosophical assumptions. In his introduction, Ehrman asks, “How does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes. . .?”3 Of course this is as absurd a question as, “How does it help me to say that Ehrman said these things since I do not have the words he wrote, but only a copy made by HarperSanFrancisco?” I doubt that Ehrman would tolerate the same standard imposed upon his own writings.

What Ehrman is discussing is the fact that, among the thousands of copies of the New Testament, whether of the whole New Testament, individual books, or portions of books, there are places where the copies differ from each other. For example, in John’s Gospel, chapter 1, verse 4, many manuscripts read, “in Him life was” (ἐν αυτῷ ζωὴ ἦν). Several other manuscripts read, “in Him life is” (ἐν αυτῷ ζωὴ ἐστιν). Instances where manuscripts differ are called variants. There are, in fact, over 200,000 variants among the existing manuscripts. But this does not mean that there are over 200,000 places in the New Testamen...

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