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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why par [Ehrman, Bart D.]
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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the absence of any original manuscripts of the books of the New Testament, how can we be sure that we're getting the intended words and meaning? Ehrman, professor of religion at UNC–Chapel Hill, has devoted his life to the study of such questions and here offers an engaging and fascinating look at the way scholars try to answer them. Part memoir, part history and part critical study, he traces the development of the academic discipline called textual criticism, which uses external and internal evidence to evaluate and compare ancient manuscripts in order to find the best readings. Ehrman points out that scribes altered almost all of the manuscripts we now have. In the early days of the Christian movement, scribal error often arose simply from unintentional omissions of words or lines. As Christianity evolved into an official religion under Constantine, however, scribes often added material to existing manuscripts or altered them to provide scriptural support for Christian doctrine or to enforce specific views about women, Jews or pagans. Ehrman's absorbing story, fresh and lively prose and seasoned insights into the challenges of recreating the texts of the New Testament ensure that readers might never read the Gospels or Paul's letters the same way again. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Listeners will want to enjoy MISQUOTING JESUS with a Bible at hand, so they can review for themselves the countless passages Bart Ehrman indicates were changed through centuries of scribal transcriptions. While most of the book focuses on which passages were changed and why, the beginning and end are personal narratives of how this growing understanding affected Ehrman's faith. Richard Davidson's narration is perfectly suited to both elements of the book. Davidson expresses the shock of the fundamentalist Christian who finds his Holy Book shifting before his eyes. In the middle sections, his tone smoothly changes to one of patient explanation, which is fitting for a review of translation difficulties and analyses of historical contexts. G.T.B. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 242 pages
  • Editeur : HarperCollins e-books; Édition : Reprint (23 janvier 2009)
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  • Langue : Anglais
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x98f4c258) étoiles sur 5 826 commentaires
1.700 internautes sur 1.834 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x98f05f90) étoiles sur 5 A Very Engaging Book 3 janvier 2006
Par Barton Breen - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This is the first book of Ehrman's I have read. I found it interesting and well-written for the average person who has little background in Biblical Textual Studies, (which equates to more than 99% of the population.)

I do not have the credentials of Dr. Ehrman, but I do have the equivalent of a degree in Biblical Literature and have worked in the original languages. My Senior Thesis was doing a textual comparison of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi with the parallel passages of the Kingdom Parables of Matthew 13. To do that I had to teach myself some Coptic Egyptian and do some translating to form a basis for comparison.

All that said to establish that I have some background to make an evaluation of what is being said in this book.

I also have some common ground with Dr. Ehrman in life history. I too was trained as an evangelical with a very high view of inspiration and further had to struggle as I became aware of how difficult it is to interact with the text in its manuscript and historical form all while becoming painfully aware of the fact that any view of inspiration must tacitly admit that it is a hypothetical basis of faith because as Ehrman states clearly:

1. If the original manuscripts are inspired, we don't have them.

2. What we do have, while overall reliable and fairly easily examined for error, still leaves some serious questions of textual manipulation by scribes that makes several key passages difficult to stand upon for important doctrines.

This is, in fact, not as great a secret as Ehrman seems to imply throughout his book. There are a great number of books from all backgrounds and degrees of belief that acknowledge these types of issues. Granted, they tend to be more of an academic nature than what Ehrman has attempted to do here. But they are there nonetheless and have been for centuries.

Jefferson's Bible was an early example (though not necessarily intended for distribution at the time) of how people wrestled with this issue. The means of wrestling with them have improved with additional manuscripts discovered (i.e. the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi to name the better known ones.) Scholarship has improved to where I believe it is safe to say that what we know in this realm today has improved our confidence in most areas of the text.

In fact, the newer translations themselves (The NIV, the NASB etc.), actually have margin notes and some variant readings noted very clearly in just the areas that Ehrman focuses on within his book. That hardly equates to a "cover-up."

In view of this, I think Ehrman somewhat oversteps his points in favor of salesmanship to try and press home his own doubts that have arisen in his personal journey. Most Christians have many tools, books, websites, and Bibles themselves to be introduced to these types of issues (IF they want to be.) This is an issue well within the grasp of the average layman if they should be interested in pursuing it.

There are many conservative scholars with equally distinguished academic backgrounds that match Ehrman's and yet still maintain a higher view of Scripture than he appears to have adopted. I accept that his views are well informed and sincere. I do not accept his conclusion that inspiration of the original text requires equally divine preservation. However, in recognizing that I accept that the onus is on those of my persuasion to provide solid scholarship to demonstrate our case. I believe that is being provided. I would encourage any reading this book to listen to what Ehrman has to say and do some research on what others of a more conservative approach and respect for Scripture have to say as well. In this regard, even Bruce Metzger, Ehrman's mentor to whom he dedicates the book has a somewhat more conservative view and conclusion based on the same criteria.

The primary and most valuable point that I think Ehrman makes in this work, is that there are many Christians in denial either through ignorance or worse, perhaps an unwillingness to face these issues for fear of upsetting their internal house of cards and being forced to admit that there are unanswered questions and room for some intellectual honesty and humility in facing difficult issues related to the Bible.

There are many Christians, unfortunately who prefer denial to honest appraisal. Ehrman very rightly confronts this with his material.

As an evangelical who has retained and maintained his faith in this journey, I haven't found it necessary to resort to denial. There are satisfactory answers to be found. It does, however, require a willingness to adopt some humility and to honestly rethink and modify positions when the facts call for it. That is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it's a good thing and results in a deeper, more understanding, more relevent and intellectually honest faith that can move and interact within our society and culture without apology. I don't believe God intends for his people to be mental midgets or follow their faith mindlessly.

That having been said, I didn't find the text offensive or threatening for that matter. I think he does a good job of raising the points on the major issues without overly sensationalizing them beyond what I have qualified above. His facts are reasonably sound and accurate, even if they are somewhat selective. His conclusions in places seem to be somewhat hastily arrived at, but I'm willing to give him some latitude due to his goal of making this easily grasped by the average person with no formal training.

Worth the read. Hopefully any reading this as an introduction to the field will not stop here but go on to explore and learn more. Metzger is good, Gordon Fee is good. FF Bruce also has some good material, but there are many others if you want to enter the field more deeply and see some differing persepctives.

Evangelicals, (such as myself) need to read and interact with these types of books and enter the field as participants in the debate rather than naysayers throwing verbal salvos from behind our walls of faith, security and (unfortunately at times) ignorance.

Read it and be introduced into an important field of knowledge.
415 internautes sur 466 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9be9a090) étoiles sur 5 An excellent starting place for anyone wishing to know about New Testament textual criticism and the problems with the texts! 9 décembre 2005
Par Yoda - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Ehrman's book can be described as an introduction to New Testament textual criticism for the beginners, in which he explains the subject in the context of his own background, relating his journey from being an Evangelical Christian to becoming a world renowned New Testament scholar. Besides D. C. Parker's "Living Text of the Gospels," Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" seems to be the only book on textual criticism designed specifically for the non-expert readers.

In short, Prof. Ehrman explains the copying practises of the earliest period and how the texts of the New Testament writings were corrupted as they were copied and recopied. He begins by introducing the diverse writings produced by the early Christians, such as gospels, Acts, apocalypses, Church orders, apologies etc. Briefly, the formation of the canon is also discussed and we are informed about the literacy level among the early Christians. Thereafter we are introduced to the world of the copyists and Ehrman explains how the early scribes copied texts and the problems associated with the copying of texts.

It is quite interesting to learn that even pagan critics of Christianity, such as Celsus, were quite aware at an early date that the Christian writings were being corrupted by the scribes and even Origen had to complain about the numerous differences between the gospel manuscripts. Marcion, an early Christian, corrupted the text of certain New Testament writings available to him and Dionysius is quoted who complains that his own writings have been modified just as "the word of the Lord" had been tampered. Marcion, of course, accused other Christians of corrupting the texts. In an earlier writings, "The Orthodox Corruption of Scriptures", Ehrman demonstrated in detail how proto-orthodox Christians corrupted the New Testament writings on occasions. It seems that the early Christians were quite aware that the writings in their possession had underwent corruption and were still being corrupted and they frequently accused each other of tampering with the texts.

I was quite surprised to learn how statistically small additions or deletions within the text changed the entire meaning of passages and even books. Ehrman discusses at length certain examples in this regard and shows that even unintentional changes can result in changes that change the meaning of texts. A previous disgruntled reviewer said that "all of the basic beliefs of the faith are clearly outlined throughout the New Testament and are not in any way in question." However, Ehrman lists a number of theologically important issues which rest upon textually uncertain passages. To quote Ehrman (pp. 207-208):

"It would be wrong, however, to say - as people sometimes do - that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them. We have seen, in fact, that just the opposite is the case. In some instances, the very meaning is at stake depending on how one resolves a textual problem: Was Jesus an angry man? Was the completely distraught in the face of death? Did he tell his disciples that they could drink poison without being harmed? Did he let an adulteress off the hook with nothing but a mild warning? Is the doctrine of the Trinity explicitly taught in the New Testament? Is Jesus actually called the "unique God" there? Does the New Testament indicate that even the Son of God does not know when the end will come? The questions go on and on, and all of them are related to how one resolves difficulties in the manuscript tradition as it has come down to us."

The above are just a few problems. Another interesting problem is whether the doctrine of the atonement is taught in the gospel according to Luke? Further, there are immense textual problems with passages such as the sayings on divorce and remarriage in the gospels (not discussed by Ehrman but addressed in detail in D. C. Parker's - The Living Text of the Gospels) and the Lord's Prayer among others. Therefore, it seems clear that the Gospels are not so well textually preserved as some people would have us imagine and that there exist many variations which have profound effects upon the meaning of texts and theological issues.

The previous reviewer - who is clearly upset at some Muslim reviewers and thus provides a link to an irrelevant polemical article in frustration - also talks about the "the oldest Christian manuscripts" and how these are "most reliable" not realizing that Ehrman, and others, have pointed out numerous times that the earliest manuscripts are precisely the most problematic - revealing the most variations, which indicates that the texts of the gospels were in a state of flux in the earliest period of their transmission. A detailed discussion of the manuscripts of the New Testament, based on writings of scholars such as Prof. Ehrman and others, is to be found here:


Moreover, the problem of the "original text" is also discussed by Ehrman and he states that many textual critics are now beginning to doubt even if there is such a thing as an "original" to be restored. In particular, Ehrman explains the problematic nature of the issue and why we cannot get back to the "original" text itself in light of the copying practises of the first three centuries. Therefore, we can only hope to recover early forms of the text, not the "originals," and hope that these early forms are relatively close to the long lost "originals".

Besides the above issues, Ehrman provides a fascinating discussion of how the various New Testament editions were produced, particularly the one by Erasmus, and how Christians reacted when certain individuals here and there stumbled across variant readings. Ehrman also goes on to explain how he eventually came to the conclusion that the New Testament writings were not inspired and that their authors were non-inspired writers.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn about the textual criticism and transmission of the New Testament writings! If you know nothing about this complex subject, then this is where you should start. After going through "Misquoting Jesus," it should be much easier for you to read books aimed at those who already know something about the subject.
1.396 internautes sur 1.627 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x98f109d8) étoiles sur 5 Another home run for Ehrman! 13 novembre 2005
Par Physics boss - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
In a little over 200 pages, Ehrman gets to the point of how the New Testament came to be what it is today. No, it didn't just appear leather-bound, shiny, and new after Jesus' resurrection; rather, it was painstakingly cobbled together decades after Jesus' crucifixion from copies of copies of copies of (you get the point) the original writings of the New Testament authors, which were slowly altered over time by scribes that handed them down (sometimes by accident or othertimes intentionally by those meaning to "correct" things in the scriptures that didn't make sense). All in all, Ehrman makes his case well, that even if the New Testament scriptures started out as the inspired word of God, we humans have certainly gotten our filthy little hands on it and have made it quite difficult to discern what the "original" writers (whose texts have been lost) actually wrote. Thus, we can only try to piece it together through the challenging art of textual criticism, which is what this book is largely about.
137 internautes sur 158 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x98f10948) étoiles sur 5 Quoting the misquotations 22 mars 2006
Par Eric J. Lyman - Publié sur
Format: Relié
In that it is based on the notion that the Bible was not handed down verbatim from God, Misquoting Jesus is bound to ruffle some feathers among the most fervent religious zealots. But for anyone else, the book is a fascinating, enjoyable, and accessible read.

The main point of Misquoting Jesus is that because of human error, individual agendas, conflicting interpretations, and translation problems, there are literally tens of thousands of versions of the books of the Bible. And since the original versions are for the most part lost to history, there is no clear consensus as to which is the "real" version.

Generally, this isn't a problem, since the differences are minor and for the most part rhetorical. But some examples -- author Bart Ehrman argues, for example, that the story of Jesus' warning "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is almost surely a third-century fabrication -- profoundly challenge the very foundation of the Holy Writ.

Mr. Ehrman's points stand to reason, but they are controversial because so much of western culture is based on the lessons taught by these texts. For some people, the Bible is interpreted as a guide to life and ethics to be interpreted as literally as possible. But even for the less fervent it is disconcerting to think that the story of Judas or Lazarus may have at least in part been the product of some forgotten person's imagination.

I don't subscribe to the notion that these discrepancies erode the value of the Bible as a spiritual and instructive document. Instead, I think it shows the important vibrant and human side of the most important book ever written. Each of us puts our own spin on the Bible when we read it. Why is it wrong to think others may have put their spin on it while transcribing it? Every other ancient text -- whether Greek tragedies, Roman philosophical texts, or Beowulf -- has evolved over time. Why should the Bible have been immune to these forces?

Anyone who would guess that Misquoting Jesus was written with its own agenda should not discount the fact that Mr. Ehrman is himself an evangelical Christian. He set out to write a different book and then developed the general theme for Misquoting Jesus after noting so many discrepancies in Biblical source documents.

In sum: those who believe that challenging ones core beliefs is healthy and worthwhile will find Misquoting Jesus a rewarding and interesting read. But those who see the Bible as too personal to be challenged ought to look elsewhere.
98 internautes sur 113 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x98de2180) étoiles sur 5 Fascinating and absorbing 16 décembre 2005
Par - Publié sur
Format: Relié
In recent years, Bart D. Ehrman has made a reputation for himself as an accomplished history and religion scholar who is able to write reader-friendly books for non-academic audiences without dumbing down the content. In 2003, it was LOST CHRISTIANITIES, a look at the diversity of belief that flourished in the first centuries after Christ. Last year, it was TRUTH AND FICTION IN THE DA VINCI CODE, in which he pointed out the historical flaws in Dan Brown's novel. This time around, it's the New Testament --- specifically, from the perspective of a textual critic.

Simply put, textual criticism is the attempt to restore the wording of a manuscript whose original no longer exists. For New Testament scholars, that means taking the various fragments and manuscripts that do exist --- none dating before the fourth century --- and recreating the text as closely as possible to whatever the original version may have been or, perhaps better, to discover the best possible version. As Ehrman points out, that's a monumental undertaking, given the many discrepancies between the manuscripts and fragments that have survived.

Throughout the book --- which was originally titled THE MONK AND THE MESSIAH --- Ehrman explains why so many discrepancies appear in what Christians consider to be the Word of God. Some are innocent enough: fatigue, a mishearing or misreading on the part of the scribe or the monk, and the not-so-minor problem created by a form of writing that included no punctuation and no spaces between words. Others, though, are more problematic: a monk forced to choose between two distinctly different meanings for the same word would likely be inclined to choose the meaning that best represented his own beliefs. Still others were blatant errors or additions that were introduced to alter the meaning of the text. Ehrman offers clear and compelling examples of each kind of error, enough that even a skeptical reader would be hard-pressed to argue that what we have today is what was written in the first century.

One amusing graphic is a reproduction of a page from a fourth-century manuscript in which one scribe wrote this in the margin, apparently blasting a previous copyist: "Fool and knave, leave the old reading, don't change it!" It's amusing, that is, until you consider the many battles Christians have fought with each other over the accuracy of the biblical text.

So many are the discrepancies that Ehrman states bluntly, "There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament." Scholars have estimated that there are between 30,000 and 400,000 differences in the text --- a wide range, for sure, but that just shows how complex the field of textual criticism is.

One of the most fascinating insights Ehrman offers is an explanation of the literacy rates at the time of Christ and later, particularly what it meant to be "literate" --- which sometimes meant little more than the ability to copy words. Yet, before the rise of monasticism, it often fell to a "literate" Christian in a given town to copy the gospels or the letters of Paul or other letters and writings of New Testament authors. The potential for error was great, and that did not go unnoticed either within the church or without. Origen, a third-century church father, complained about the many mistakes he had found, while a pagan critic of Christianity wrote that Christian scribes had done their work "as though from a drinking bout." Good reading, this book of Ehrman's.

Despite all my praise for MISQUOTING JESUS, I confess I had a tough time reading past page 13, for what may seem to some readers to be an insignificant reason. But there, right on the page, Ehrman refers to the "Timothy LeHaye and Philip Jenkins series Left Behind." Do I need to point out all the errors in those few words? One, it's LaHaye, not LeHaye. Two, I'm guessing no one's called him Timothy since his baptismal certificate was signed; he's been known as Tim for at least the nearly 40 years he's been a published author. Three, Philip Jenkins? Philip Jenkins? I have to believe that a scholar of Ehrman's stature, a professor who pores over ancient manuscripts with exactitude and precision and accuracy, is not the one who made that mistake; I'm going to assume it was a well-meaning editor. Philip Jenkins is a religion professor at Penn State, and I'm sure Ehrman is well-acquainted with his work. LaHaye's co-author is Jerry Jenkins, not Philip. Oh, and "Timothy" was given the last name of LaHay on page 110, but in the index, it was back to LeHaye. Should I even mention that Hal Lindsey's name was spelled "Lindsay" in that same sentence on page 110?

Maybe those mistakes are intentional. Maybe the editor, or Ehrman himself, was winking at us by underscoring the various ways errors can creep in to a manuscript. Somehow, I think that's not the case. Ironic that an Editing 101 error --- getting the names right --- should appear in a book on misquoting Jesus.

Those errors aside, Ehrman has done an exceptional job of translating complex findings by New Testament scholars not only into language we can understand but also into an absorbing narrative. I'm already looking forward to his next release --- the intriguingly titled PETER, PAUL, AND MARY --- in May.
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