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Monday, August 8, 2011

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus

In Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman claims that there are thousands of errors in the New Testament and that this completely undermines the orthodox Christian faith. Here is a link to an Excellent Review. If that is too detailed, here are my brief responses to the issue.

1. We do not have the original manuscripts of the New Testament. We do have more abundant attestation for the text of the New Testament than we do for any other ancient book. No one complains that we don't know what Julius Caesar wrote or what Tacitus wrote even though we have far less certainty about the text of their writings than we do about the New Testament.

2.  God gave us an inerrant message, not an inerrant piece of paper. Suppose you were offered two choices: First, a perfectly accurate copy of someone's vague speculations about God; second, a perfectly adequate copy of an inerrant message. Which would you choose? I would take the second, and that is what we have. God did not choose to preserve perfectly accurate copies of the original manuscripts, nor did He preserve the originals. I suppose if we had them, we would worship them. People would go on pilgrimages to see them. Whoever had them would get rich. He gave us what is best for us.

3.  When we look at the various readings of the manuscripts, it becomes perfectly clear that none of the credible variants teaches any new doctrine. In other words, take any of the alternate readings and you will still be reading truth.

4. No doctrine of Scripture depends on one particular variant, so no doctrine is lost if one concludes that it is not taught in a certain verse.

5. I say these things, not because I have been told them, but because I read through the Greek New Testament every year. (Well, this year I am reading every other day in Greek and on alternate days in Latin.) I read an edition of the New Testament that lists various readings where there is any serious question of the correct reading. I often go through those alternate readings, so I can affirm what I have written from personal examination.

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