“Misquoting Jesus”, by Bart D. Ehrman – Review

Author Ehrman has taken the relatively dry topic of academic literary criticism, applied it to the Christian New Testament, and provided the results in an accessible format for the interested reader. He starts by explaining how a scholar engaged in literary criticism uses abductive reasoning to get at what the original text actually said (in Greek) versus what was changed over the years. He talks about the various ways scribes would modify the texts while being copied, whether intentional or not. He distinguishes between changes which were made to render the text more harmonious to the then-current practice and those which were simply mistakes made during the transcription process. In addition he explores, at a high level, examples where some of the known textual changes significantly impacted how Christian doctrine is currently perceived and understood.

I very much enjoyed Misquoting Jesus and Bart Ehrman’s scholarly approach to a very controversial topic, especially among Christians who believe the King James Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I was raised in the same tradition myself and am all too aware of the many problems with that point of view. He doesn’t bother with all of the contradictions in the current text, focusing instead on passages where key words or phrases were clearly changed from more definitive Greek manuscripts. Yes, the changes are significant. The book won’t change those minds who accept the KJV as inerrant on faith, but if you are evidence-driven I sincerely recommend this short book.