Book Review: Misquoting Jesus

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible And Why, by Bart D. Ehrman

This is a book that it is wise to read with a fair amount of caution. For one, the book begins with a pathetic appeal to the author’s earnestness as a seminary student raised with an exacting view of inerrancy and the way that he lost his faith as a result of his studies into textual matters. Furthermore, the book also ought to be read with caution as its claims have been thoroughly and completely rebutted by another book, with the pointed title of Misquoting Truth [1]. So, in order to profitably read this book, one has to strip away the book’s claims of shocking truths, one has to read the book while discounting its broad and sweeping and unproven statements about pernicious scribes intentionally changing scriptures to score points in battles with heretical or pagan opponents and about squabbles over the canon and about massive numbers of minor orthographical errors that are recognized because of the large body of texts as a whole. It is likely that few people would want to read this book once one had stripped away all of the grand and false claims, though, because it represents the sort of book that is all too often written for very small niche audiences of textual critics [2].

In terms of its content and structure, the book reads like a textual conspiracy novel, with just as much basis in truth as the adventures recorded by the likes of Dan Brown and others of his ilk. The book begins with a fallacious look at the beginnings of Christian scripture, casts aspersions on the capabilities of early Christian copyists to faithfully transcribe the New Testament scrolls, gives overinflated and grossly biased estimations of the New Testament texts, and then warms into discussing the quest for the origins of the texts, makes unwarranted comments on originals that supposedly matter, psychoanalyzes early copyists for their theologically motivated alterations, and comments inaccurately on the social worlds of the text. The book as a whole consists of a combination of that which is wildly inaccurate and that which is entirely obvious to anyone who has studied the texts or textual criticism of the New Testament in detail.

As is perhaps one of the ways to enjoy a book like this that does not present a great deal of worthwhile material in terms of education, it is intriguing to ponder why exactly the author goes about his task in the manner he does. His discussion of his upbringing and the literalist tradition of which he was a part is certainly designed as an emotional appeal, but it demonstrates that the author’s loss of faith was due to having placed the text of the Bible as an idol of sorts, with no questions or difficulties or uncertainties. Once the Bible was found to be a text that required interpretation, he swung far too far to the other end and became an agnostic, viewing the writers of the Gospels and other texts as supremely biased people who did not agree with each other, seeking to pit text against text without an adequate understanding of either text or context in order to give himself a pretext to avoid the moral and ethical duties required of believers, even in the face of questions and uncertainty about God’s way. After reading this book, it is hard to do anything else other than pity Dr. Ehrman and the wreck of his faith and the waste of his God-given intellect that is represented in this volume.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: Misquoting Jesus

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