Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bart Ehrman: "Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Altered Scripture and Readers Who May Never Know"

A fascinating and educational presentation by Bart Ehrman, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Clearly, he's an intriguing New Testament scholar. He's also the author of the best selling book "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why". (Review at Dave's Mormon Inquiry here). This lecture was given at Stanford University, April 25th, 2007.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


Matthew Chapman said...

Much as I try to avoid ad hominem criticism, I rather think it should be pointed out that Professor Ehrman is one of the leading atheists of our time.

His "conversion" to atheism from evangelical christianity is referenced in his book, "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer".

I would take his interpretation of the scriptures with a grain of salt.

Clean Cut said...

Not atheist; agnostic. His scholarship, however, is textual criticism 101.

Personally, I don't think he would have faced that crisis of faith had he not been raised with the miotic mainstream Christian view that the Bible is completely inerrant, perfect, and without error. I don't hold that view, but I still know that it is the inspired word of God.

Clean Cut said...

I'll add that not even Joseph Smith's claim that the Book of Mormon is the "most correct book" goes as far as saying it is perfect or inerrant. The Book of Mormon prophets themselves never claim inerrancy. Rather, they simply remind us that "if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God".

In my view, this same warning can be applied to the Holy Bible. The mistakes were mistakes of men, but even Bart Ehrman admits that no fundamental Christian doctrine is changed as a result of the scribal errors/alterations.

The only thing that is (or should be) changed is the unrealistic view that God micromanaged the transmission of the copies of the biblical manuscripts so as to somehow prevent all human error. That's just not so. He's still in charge and he still inspires his work, but he does not prevent human mistakes.

Unfortunately some good Christians are still holding onto the unrealistic view, such as the nice commenter at the end of my post Are you telling the truth about the Bible?.

NM said...

I appreciate Mr. Ehrman's writings. He brings up some excellent points! Clean Cut, have you heard of Bill Craig? He and Ehrman, having a similar academic history, undertook a debate on the subject of Jesus' resurrection...

Clean Cut said...

NM, funny that you mention that because just yesterday I download the debate transcript between Craig and Ehrman. I've just begun reading through the complete text and I'm finding it fascinating as well.

NM said...

What I really appreciate about people like Dr. Ehrman, Professor Dawkins, and other people like some of the existential philosophers of the 1960s (who tried to explain Biblical truth merely as existential truth) is that it makes Christians dig even further into the Bible to make their philosophical/historical arguements for the validity of the Bible - tighter! So, today we have Mr. Zaccharias, Francis Schaeffer, Michael Ramsden, Lee Strobel, Andrew Fellows, C.S. Lewis et al who give us lazier thinkers some ballast.

If I may, can I also link to BeThinking.org? It is an apologetics page, owned by UCCF (a group who support Christian Students attending UK universities).

CJ Douglass said...

Personally, I don't think he would have faced that crisis of faith had he not been raised with the miotic mainstream Christian view that the Bible is completely inerrant, perfect, and without error.Exactly. The amazing thing about Ehrman's (and others) views is that it actually strengthens the argument for the Book of Mormon or "Another Testament of Jesus Christ".

When you put all your eggs in one basket (inerrancy) its not hard to see how one's faith can be lost.

Anyway, loved Ehrman's book and thank you, CC, for posting the vids.

Bruce in Montana said...

My best friend from childhood was a Sociology professor at a Baptist university in Norman, OK. We has many conversations through the years on this very subject.
I think toward the end of his life he began to think just like this gentleman. He realized the instability of the Bible and didn't have anything else to turn to.

Anonymous said...

I did a review myself of Bart Ehrman's book a bout a year ago. It still should be available through my blog site. I also used blog sources from Ben Witherington as well as a "club" of textual critics of the Bible. Mr. Witherington has a 5 part series on Bart's newest book, in which he reviewed.

The problem is most laymen and some pastors, don't know what the official Evangelical position is on the inerrancy of the scriptures. Theres a void between scholarship and the average layman, which is the fault of the church. Thus leading to events like Bart Ehrman's fall. The official view is that the originals were the inerrant manuscripts...what we have today in the NIV, KJV etc etc. are all copies of the originals. The copies are what contains the errors which as Bart Ehrman states on pg. 10 of "Misquoting Jesus" are mostly "immaterial and meaningless"...just spelling and grammar errors. The several major errors in Bart's book are really the only errors New Testament scholars are not to sure about. Every thing else has pretty much been dealt with. Bart Ehrman states that Bruce Metzger is his doctor father, the one who mentored him, and Bruce does not share Bart's conclusion on the issue of the moder Bible. In fact, its estimated that the NT that we have today is 99.5% to what the originals were. The bottomline is, although Bart's words are correct, his conclusions are not. If your interested, like i said I have done a review and it links you to some other scholars who have read Barts books.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Brooks.
There's nothing wrong with Ehrman's facts, there's plenty wrong with his conclusions.

I especially liked the assumption: "If God didn't protect the translation and copying, then He didn't inspire it in the first place." It's wholly illogical. Unless you're first an Evangelical who makes the assumption that God has protected the translation, an illogical assumption not found in the Bible, and wholly unsupported by the historical evidence.

ama said...

Wow. This was a very interesting lecture. Thanks for posting it.

CC and others. You mention that Dr Ehrman admits there aren't any major conflicts with major Christian doctrines. However, in this lecture he mentions the fact that there is little evidence of a Trinity except for one verse in the Bible, which was originally not included in the Greek texts. I would say that is a major difference.

The other thing I think that would be interesting would be to compare the Joseph Smith translation with the Bible to the original Greek translation and see how they compare. Has anyone tried this before?

Clean Cut said...

You know, ama, I think that's a good point you bring up. When I said "fundamental Christian doctrine" I was thinking of the Atonement, Resurrection, etc.--not the doctrine of the Trinity.

Ehrman states that only one verse specifically says that they are "one", which he says is a pretty explicit reference to the Trinity, but I disagree. I don't see any biblical evidence that they're "ontologically" one, but simply united as "one" in every other conceivable way. (And infinitely more "one" that is currently possible for me and my wife to be "one"--even though the Bible says we are to be "one" flesh.)

Christ prayed in John 17 that His disciples could be one with Them, as He and His Father were one. Obviously, this is not inferring that we are all supposed to become one substance or being--but one in terms of relationship, unity, and love. This is more in line with how I view the Godhead.

Clean Cut said...

Brooks, I read your review and I agree with you, and also with MadChemist. Ehrman's facts are right (ie: in terms of scribal errors/changes) but his conclusion that this as a result means that the Bible is not inspired is very flawed reasoning indeed.

It's unfortunate that he sees it this way. I fear for other Christians who were raised like him to believe that the Bible must be perfect in order to be truly inspired. Their house of cards eventually comes crashing down.

Mormon Heretic said...


I believe it has been done, though I don't have a reference unfortunately. (It seems to me like BiV did something on this, but I'm not completely sure.) In some cases, some of Joseph's additions to Isaiah are variant interpretations of a passage of scripture. On the other hand, some of this additions mess up the chiasmus of Isaiah, so there are some problems too.