Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

by Bart D. Ehrman

I didn’t think I would see the day that a book on textual criticism made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. While I somewhat enjoyed studying textual criticism in seminary, I knew that not many students did. I haven’t done much with it in the succeeding years.
Bart Ehrman’s book, _Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why_, is a fascinating, popular and provocative introduction to the esoteric topic. I came across references to the book while trying to learn more about Bart Ehrman after reading his book on _The Da Vinci Code_. In _Misquoting Jesus_ Ehrman’s agnosticism is plainly evident. His book begins and ends with a recounting of his loss of faith. Throughout the book he goes to great lengths to discredit the Bible, often (it seems to me) going beyond the evidence. But I’ll leave the formal review and interaction with Ehrman to experts like leading evangelical textual critic Dan Wallace… read a short review here, a longer review here, and listen to him talk about it here and here. Denny Burk, one of Wallace’s former student’s has a review here.
While reading the book I was quite interested in the history of textual criticism and some of the people involved. Richard Bentley, for one, caught my attention. In the 18th century he engaged one of the critics of his work by calling him a cabbage-head, insect, worm, maggot, vermin, gnawing rat, snarling dog, ignorant thief, and montebank. Nothing like a stimulating intellectual debate.
The example of Johann Wettstein is sobering. He began his career as a textual critic by affirming his belief in scripture:
bq. God has “bestowed this book once and for all on the world as an instrument for the perfection of human character. It contains all that is necessary to salvation both for belief and conduct.”
After examining various manuscripts he came to question his theological convictions eventually being removed from his position in the church. The funny thing his Wettstein’s story reminded me of Ehrman’s.

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