I found Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why troublesome to my understanding of the translation process of the bible. It has made me review my understanding of the bible. However, this is just one book of many from different authors. I am wondering if Dr. Ehrman is well respected in the study of biblical hermeneutics. I personally have little experience and understanding of the field.
Professor Bart D. Ehrman's Curriculum Vitae reveals an academic with impeccable credentials. Perhaps the most important line is:
Ph.D. Princeton Theological Seminary (magna cum laude), 1985
His doctoral adviser was none other than Bruce Metzger, who wrote the book on textual criticism of the New Testament. Ehrman doesn't simply ride on the coattails of Dr. Metzger either—he's the co-author of the fifth edition of The Text of the New Testament.
Dr. Ehrman has written many academic papers on the topic of textual criticism, which are routinely cited by other scholars. When it comes to specific determinations of which textual variation is most likely authentic, other scholars often agree with him and usually admit that his arguments are sound. Daniel B. Wallace, who often disagrees with Ehrman's opinions, nevertheless lists him among many "heroes in textual criticism":
Obviously, I don’t agree with everyone on this list over everything, but each has made a significant contribution to the field.
As a scholar of textual criticism and history, his work has been widely and rightly praised.
But of course, Bart Ehrman is more than a scholar and teacher—he is easily the most famous textual critic who has ever lived. More than anyone else, Ehrman has brought the arcane sub-field of Biblical Hermeneutics into popular conciseness. Misquoting Jesus is likely the first and last book on the topic that anyone outside of the field will ever read on the topic. It's likely in this role that history will judge the man.
And the reviews are literally mixed. Daniel B. Wallace notes that the first 4 chapters of Misquoting Jesus are essentially "textual criticism 101". Besides being extremely readable, these chapters represent some of the very best scholarship available. Dr. Wallace notes some important omissions and a generally pessimistic attitude toward ancient scribes:
But these criticisms are minor quibbles. There is nothing really earth-shaking in the first four chapters of the book. Rather, it is in the introduction that we see Ehrman’s motive, and the last three chapters reveal his agenda. In these places he is especially provocative and given to overstatement and non sequitur. The remainder of our review will focus on this material.
Reading a number of reviews, it strikes me that Ehrman begins to get lost when he shifts from a critical examination of the texts to interpretation of what the textual variations mean and their impact on theology. In my own reading of the book, I was struck by Ehrman's argument that seems to run:
If God created Scripture, He would have ensured that it was accurately preserved for later generations in every detail.
The New Testament has not been accurately preserved because there are numerous variations. No one manuscript has preserved every word of the autograph originals.
Therefore, the New Testament is not inspired by God.
Philosophically, this entire line of reasoning is flawed:
God may have reasons that we are not privy to for allowing imperfect copies of His Scripture to be transmitted. We can only insist on this requirement if we know that it was a requirement. This point seems a strawman.
Oddly enough, detective work by textual critics, such as Ehrman himself, have uncovered with a fair degree of certainty nearly every word found in the New Testament texts. It's also dissonant with the author's confidence in his own analysis of the textual variations. He's quite certain, for instance, that Jesus was angry.
Even granting the premises, the conclusion does not follow if inerrancy is only granted to the autograph copies, which have been lost. In the unlikely event that those copies were to turn up, the argument would fall apart at the seams. Therefore, this is really an argument from the lack of evidence.
It's natural to assume that an expert in a very specialized field is also an expert in general. That's a mistaken assumption, however. Dr. Ehrman's work has been invaluable to me as a check to my particular prejudices, but I would not take any of it without critical examination. His style of writing in his popular books allows him to move very subtly from his considered opinions on the history of the text to his less reliable opinions on the consequences of that history. This unfortunate tactic prevents me from wholeheartedly recommending Bart Ehrman's books.
In his field, Bart Ehrman should be (and is) considered an expert textual critic. As an author of popular books (which are not peer-reviewed in advance), he should be considered a very interesting, but somewhat biased, proponent of a secular reading of the New Testament.
He is not respected by most conservatives when he slips into theology. Textual criticism, he is very good and knows what he is doing. However, I find him sloppy in his work if it pushes his agenda. What's worse is that he knows how to do the work, but since his faith lapsed, he misapplies and misquotes the rules of determining historicity. For example, one rule is "An event that is multiply attested is more likely to be actual than one that is only singly attested." Makes sense. However, Ehrman uses it as if it says "An event that is only singly attested is probably not actual." Completely different things.
He also fails this same test on the account of the resurrection. Even though it is attested by all four gospels, Acts, and several epistles, Ehrman concludes it can't have happened. Why not? It can't be because it lacks attestation.
Contending with Christianity's Critics has a chapter by conservative scholar Daniel Wallace that deals with Ehrman's claims in detail.
The short answer is "Yes, Dr. Ehrman is a respected scholar, and is generally regarded quite highly by his peers". He learned to read Hebrew, Coptic, Greek, Latin, German, and French in order study the oldest manuscripts of biblical texts, and the most important criticism of them.
The overwhelming majority of Ehrman's critics are fundamentalist evangelical apologists who take exception to Ehrman's critical approach to the study of Christianity and its texts, and especially the fact that he often publishes extremely popular books written for the average layperson.
Full disclosure: I don't know Dr. Ehrman personally, but I have interacted with him on his Facebook page. I don't care whether you buy his books or not (although I have certainly enjoyed them, especially The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings), and I'm not trying to promote him or his work. I'm simply trying to make it clear that he is undoubtedly a leading figure in his field of study. Anyone who wants to get to know him can do so by finding his Facebook account and leaving him a message. In my experience, he always answers.
Praise from Ehrman's opponents:
Bart Ehrman is an accomplished scholar with impeccable bona fides. He co-authored The Text of the New Testament (4th Edition) — an academic standard in the field — with Bruce Metzger, arguably the greatest New Testament manuscript scholar alive at the time.
- Christian Broadcasting Network
Bart Ehrman is one of North America’s leading textual critics today. As a teacher and writer, he is logical, witty, provocative... Bart Ehrman is one of the most brilliant and creative textual critics I’ve ever known... A man I have known and admired—and continue to admire—for over a quarter of a century...
- Daniel B. Wallace
DBW: I have quite a few heroes, [including] Bart Ehrman....Obviously, I don’t agree with [him] over everything, but [he] has made a significant contribution to the field.
- Daniel B. Wallace
Seriously, it’s an honor for me to share the stage with Bart Ehrman. He’s the only scholar I know who has been featured on NPR, BAR, SBL, CBS, NBC, and ABC. Not only this, but he’s been on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show—twice. And he’s the only biblical scholar I know whom Stephen Colbert dissed with a classic line, which I can’t repeat in mixed company.
I’ve tried to keep up with Bart’s voluminous output, but it hasn’t been easy. Normally, he writes in a clear, forceful style and punctuates his writing with provocative one-liners and a good measure of wit.
I should point out that his basic thesis that orthodox scribes have altered the New Testament text for their own purposes is one that is certainly true. And this occurs in hundreds of places. Ehrman has done the academic community a great service by systematically highlighting so many of these alterations in his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.
I think that what Bart has done for the Christian community is a great service. I said so in my review of his Misquoting Jesus in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS), with the wonderful title “The Gospel According to Bart.”
Bart has actually done some of the very best work on the pericope of the woman caught in adultery. I am relatively convinced not only that the story is not literarily authentic, but also that it is not entirely historical. Bruce Metzger thought that it had all the earmarks of historicity. The way that I’ve been looking at it is that it seems that it was a conflation of two different stories that finally coalesced in the third century. I’ve been very impressed, frankly, with Ehrman’s academic work on this subject in his very fine article in New Testament Studies. It’s hard to read because it’s so detailed, but it has some really good information.
- Daniel B. Wallace
Bart himself has been one who has worked diligently to recover the wording of the originals, and with most of his decisions I agree. All who work in New Testament textual criticism owe him a debt of gratitude for his incredible efforts over the span of three decades in this regard.
- Daniel B. Wallace
What is arguably the watershed in both the new life and changing character of NT textual criticism is Bart D. Ehrman’s masterful tome The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)... a first-rate academic piece published in 1993.
- Daniel B. Wallace
Bart D. Ehrman... made a groundbreaking contribution several years ago (“Jesus and the Adulteress,” New Testament Studies 34 : 24–44) by demonstrating the likelihood that [the story of the woman taken in adultery] as we have it in John’s Gospel is in fact a conflation of two earlier stories, one found in Papias and the Didascalia, and the other found in Didymus and the Gospel of the Hebrews.
- Daniel B. Wallace's student, Kyle Hughes
While I have a Ph.D. in New Testament like Ehrman (albeit not from Princeton), I certainly don’t pretend to be on the same scholastic playing field as him. However, my educational background has provided me with exposure to the same evidence and arguments on the Bible’s trustworthiness as Ehrman’s. The fact is the vast majority of his objections to Scripture are not novel and are known to those who pursue advanced theological degrees.
We also need to thank Bart for openly calling out and educating the Church on passages in the Bible that the vast majority of theologians recognize as not being part of the original canon. The longer ending of Mark (16:9-19), the section of the woman caught in adultery in John (7:73-8:11), and the 1 John 5:7-8 Trinitarian formula still found in a few Bible translations are all considered inauthentic by most Biblical scholars. Ehrman is right to remind believers of this fact.
- Robin Schumacher, Christian Apologetics Alliance
Bart Ehrman was mentored by Bruce Metzger of Princeton University who was the greatest manuscript scholar of the last century. In 2005, Ehrman helped Metzger update and revise the classic work on the topic– Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament.
- Cross Examined
Bart Ehrman has become a (the?) leading non-believing New Testament scholar due to his ability to write to the academy and the layman, and because he’s an irenic and fun debate partner for biblical scholars.
- Brandon Smith, Holman Christian Standard Bible, adjunct theology professor at Criswell College, Associate Editor of the Criswell Theological Review, board member of Gospel-Centered Discipleship
One could hardly wish for more agreements and even concessions from the world’s most influential agnostic biblical scholar. Actually, I suspect it is precisely because Ehrman takes such reasonable views of the New Testament in many respects that he has been so successful, both in his scholarship and in his public polemics. Daniel Wallace, probably the leading evangelical scholar in the field of New Testament textual criticism (which is also Ehrman’s forte), has observed that he and Ehrman agree on the basic facts about the New Testament manuscripts. They even usually agree on which variant reading is the best, even in such highly controversial passages as the pericopae adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) and the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20). A scholar advocating extreme positions or handling critical questions in a wildly irresponsible way would not be nearly so persuasive.
Ehrman has done the church a service by reminding us that the issues of the resurrection of Christ and the deity of Christ are inextricably linked. He has also thrown down a challenge to Christian scholars to make the case for both of these truths in a fresh way that engages the evidence within a broader range of religious studies. Ehrman may be at his most polemically effective when he asks why we should believe in Jesus’ resurrection but not in Marian apparitions or the first vision of Joseph Smith.
- Apologist Robert Bowman
"He has a gift for clear thinking and an ability to present some complicated things in simple, direct ways"
- Methodist Bishop William Willimon
Bart Ehrman is both a gifted writer and a gifted lecturer. Perhaps his best gift is the ability to distill difficult and complex material down to a level that undergraduates and ordinary lay folk can understand... Bart Ehrman is an honest person, who really has been a truth seeker when it comes to the Bible and Christianity. His preface to this latest volume reflects that, and I applaud his honesty and forthrightness, while at the same time pointing out that I was a person who went through the same process of deep study and inquiry whilst in college and seminary and came to very different conclusions than Bart, and it wasn’t because I checked my brain at the door or ceased being a critical thinker on these subjects along the way. Bart and I are different in that I did not come out of a fundamentalist past at all, but we do share not only UNC and Bruce Metzger in common, we also both did English literature degrees in college, which explains to some degree the ability to write and the tendency to do it frequently.
- Ben Witherington
"I wrote Bart a note and said, 'Thank you for doing our dirty work for us.' This saves us some time."
- Ben Witherington, evangelical professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, referring to Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?
Bart Ehrman is a university professor as well as a widely acknowledged expert in the field of biblical textual criticism —the study of the available manuscript evidence from which the various translations of the Bible have been produced. He is not the expert (as some would say), but his credentials are well established. He is also an excellent writer.
- Christian Communications Worldwide
Most of Misquoting Jesus is actually a very readable, accurate distillation of many of the most important facts about the nature and history of textual criticism, presented in a lively and interesting narrative that will keep scholarly and lay interest alike.
- Craig Blomberg, Denver Seminary
Bart D. Ehrman is one of the most renowned and controversial Bible scholars in the world today. A master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, his work continues to drive debate among supporters and detractors alike. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus; God's Problem; Jesus, Interrupted; and Forged.
Ehrman has taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. He was the recipient of the 2009 J. W. Pope "Spirit of Inquiry" Teaching Award, the 1993 UNC Undergraduate Student Teaching Award, the 1994 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for excellence in teaching.
Ehrman currently serves as co-editor of the series New Testament Tools, Studies, and Documents (E. J. Brill), co-editor-in-chief for the journal Vigiliae Christianae, and on several other editorial boards for journals and monographs. Ehrman formerly served as President of the Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical Literature, chair of the New Testament textual criticism section of the Society, book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature, and editor of the monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers (Scholars Press).
DEGREES AND HONORS Ph.D. – Princeton Theological Seminary (magna cum laude), 1985 M.Div. – Princeton Theological Seminary, 1981 B.A. – Wheaton College, Illinois (magna cum laude), 1978 TEACHING EXPERIENCE University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Religious Studies.
James A. Gray Distinguished Professor, 2003 – Department Chair, 2000 – 2006 Professor, 1999 – 2003 Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor, 1998-2001 Director of Graduate Studies, 1996-99 Associate Professor, 1994-99 Assistant Professor, 1988-94 Rutgers University, Department of Religion
Lecturer at the Rank of Assistant Professor, 1985-88 Lecturer at the Rank of Instructor, 1984-85 Princeton Theological Seminary
Instructor in New Testament Greek and Exegesis, 1985 ADJUNCT APPOINTMENTS Duke University, Department of Religion
Adjunct Professor, 2000 – Visiting Assistant Professor, 1991 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department of Classics, 2005 – UNDERGRADUATE COURSES TAUGHT New Testament Introduction; Jesus in Myth, Tradition, and History; The Birth of Christianity; Apocalypse Now and Then; Heresy and Orthodoxy in Early Christianity; Jesus in Scholarship and Film; The Life and Letters of Paul; Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel and Letters of John; The Problem of Suffering in the Biblical Traditions; Introduction to Hebrew Bible.
GRADUATE COURSES TAUGHT Problems and Methods in New Testament Studies; Early Christian Apocrypha; The Apostolic Fathers; Literary Forgery in the Early Christian Tradition; The Greek Apologists; Heresy and Orthodoxy in Early Christianity; Christianity in the Early Roman Empire; Readings in the Greco-Roman Religions; New Testament Textual Criticism; New Testament Greek and Exegesis.
EDITORIAL ACTIVITIES (Co-)Editor-in-Chief, Vigiliae Christianae: A Review of Early Christian Life and Language (published by E. J. Brill; 2007- ) Co-Editor, New Testament Tools, Studies, and Documents, monograph series published by E. J. Brill (1993- ; until 2006 called New Testament Tools and Studies) Area Editor (Christianity), Encyclopedia of Ancient History (Wiley-Blackwell; 2007- ) Associate Editor, Journal of Early Christian Studies (2006- ; Editorial Board, 2004-06) Editorial Board, New Testament Studies (2004-08) Editorial Board, Early Christianity in Context (monograph series published by T & T Clark; 2004-09)
Editorial Board, Pericope: Scripture as Written and Read in Antiquity, monograph series published by Van Gorcum & Co. (2001-09) Editor, The New Testament in the Greek Fathers, monograph series published by Scholars Press(Editorial board, 1988 ; Editor-in-Chief, 1991-97) Editorial Board, Studies and Documents, monograph series published by Eerdmans (1995-2007) Book Review Editor, Journal of Biblical Literature (Book Review Editor; 1997-99;Associate editor 1994-97) Network Editor, Religious Studies Review, in the areas of New Testament and HellenisticLanguages, the Text and Canon of the New Testament (1988-94) Editorial Board, Critical Review of Books in Religion (1994-98) Editorial Board, Textual Criticism: An Electronic Journal (1995- ) Advisory Board, Electronic New Testament Manuscript Project (1995-99) OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES Graduate Council for the Study of Religion, Nominating Committee (2002-05) President, Society of Biblical Literature, Southeast Region (1996-97) Vice-President and Program Chair, Society of Biblical Literature, Southeast Region (1995-96) Executive Committee, Southeast Council for the Study of Religion (1995-98) Chair, New Testament Textual Criticism Section of the Society of Biblical Literature (1990-96);Steering Committee (1996- ) International Steering Committee, North American Committee of the International Greek New Testament Project, a project undertaken jointly by American and British textual scholars, responsible for constructing a critical apparatus for the Greek New Testament (1988-2008); International Steering Committee (2000-08) Carolina Speakers Bureau (Group of faculty members who represent the university as speakers atpublic functions; 1996-2000) Society of Biblical Literature Council (the major policy-making body of the Society) (1994-98) Principal Researcher and Consultant, Endowment for Biblical Research Lexicon Project (1992-2000) Research Assistant, RSV Bible Translation Committee, Princeton, NJ (1987-88) Research Assistant, Princeton Epigraphy Project. The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (1986-87)
The reviews which follow are not intended to be an endorsement or sales pitch. I have deliberately selected only reviews written by Ehrman's peers, in order to display how highly regarded Dr. Ehrman is in his field.
"The overall quality of this text is far superior to others of the same genre on the market today. Its biggest advantage is its readability. Bart Ehrman has done a masterful job at developing what at times are the most arcane issues of early Christian textual studies in such an inviting and clear manner that he's able to not only keep students' interest, but also present the arguments in a clear, concise, and highly logical manner. Of special interest are the boxes, which have provided some of the best discussions for my students."
- George Heyman, St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry
"Outstanding. This is the only book that students have told me they like."
- Kenneth Atkinson, University of Northern Iowa
"From cover to cover, this book is packed with rich information. It's also a strength that Ehrman chooses a different methodological approach for each of the gospels as an illustration of the variety of ways that scholars can read a text. I have used this book for a long time and will continue to do so indefinitely."
- Zeba A. Crook, Carleton University
"The text makes a special effort to acquaint students with recent developments in New Testament scholarship and offers responsible appraisals of scholarly opinions. I like very much the 'What to Expect' and 'At a Glance' features, which must be a great help to students in grasping major points."
- Bradley Nystrom, California State University, Sacramento
"The presentation, especially the many boxes and the glossary of terms, is wonderful for students to grasp the vast project that any introduction to the New Testament entails. The book's pedagogical devices are generally outstanding and extremely helpful to students."
- Robert A. Ludwig, Loyola University Chicago
"I especially like the approach of introducing critical methods for reading the Bible by demonstrating various methods along the way, reinforcing and reviewing by returning to a few methods in different chapters."
- Janet Everhart, Simpson College
"When I first encountered this text, I felt that it was exactly the book I needed for the course. Ehrman writes with an admirable clarity and straightforwardness appropriate to his audience. He's clearly a good teacher and his classroom experience is constantly evident in his writing and general presentation."
- Michael O'Connell, University of California, Santa Barbara
"The overall quality is excellent. The appearance of the word 'historical' in the title gets to the heart of the matter; the text is unapologetically historical and critical in focus. This is a major strength for a textbook that will be used in a state university context. The book is also very reader-friendly. The pedagogical devices are great and the overall design and layout is outstanding."
- Mark D. Given, Missouri State University
HOW JESUS BECAME GOD makes the most astonishing and complex topic in the history of Christianity accessible to every reader, and offers a clear and balanced discussion of how various Christians–and non- Christians-see Jesus.
- Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton University and author of The Gnostic Gospels
“In this lively and provocative book, Ehrman gives a nuanced and wide-ranging discussion of early Christian Christology. Tracing the developing understanding of Jesus, Ehrman shows his skills as an interpreter of both biblical and nonbiblical texts. This is an important, accessible work by *a scholar of the first rank.”
- Michael Coogan, Harvard Divinity School lecturer and editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible
“Ehrman writes with vigor and clarity, but above all with intellectual honesty. He demystifies a subject on which biblical scholars too often equivocate. Both believers and non-believers can learn much from this book.”
- John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament at Yale
“Ehrman’s book raises questions that should interest us all... [and] represents a genuine conversation among informed scholars.”
- Christian Century
"In sum, this book is a fine work of scholarship --innovative, judicious, alert, attentive both to its overarching argument and to the supportive details. . . Ehrman's work is provocative and should give rise to further reflection. I believe it will make a significant contribution to scholarship in both New Testament and early Christian history for a long time to come."
- Church History
"Ehrman's is a good book, and one which deserves the attention of scholars"
- Reviews in Religion and Theology
"[Ehrman's] arguments throughout deserve our attention; they are frequently compelling....Clearly set out and persuasively presented....Variants that treat of Christ's person and function must from now on always be considered with reference to Ehrman's thesis."
- Novum Testamentum
"This book is highly recommended as an excellent work of scholarship that is of great importance in the development of New Testament studies. Here is a new voice that addresses some of the central theological and historical issues."
- Journal of Theological Studies
"Bart D. Ehrman has written a book which will stimulate the casual reader and intrigue the academic or professional reader of the New Testament....An excellent work and definitely invaluable for lay or scholars."
- Anglican Theological Review
"This is a book well worth reading. The New Testament scholar will find in it an excellent study of textual criticism, systematically organized under the rubric of scribal Tendenzen. The systematic theologian as well as the student of early Christian thought will find in it an excellent expose of the fashion in which conviction colors the way in which one reads the tradition."
- Journal of Early Christian Studies
An accomplished scholar of early Christianity, Ehrman (religious studies, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) ventures out of the ivory tower in this accessible lay introduction to New Testament textual criticism. He sketches the development of New Testament literature, the gradual accumulation of errors therein through the accidental or intentional revisions of copyists, and attempts (beginning with Erasmus in the 16th century) to reconstruct the original text. Recommended for all public libraries.
- Charles Seymour, Mabee Learning Resources Ctr., Wayland Baptist Univ.
'Bart Ehrman, in merely two decades, has emerged as one of a handful of New Testament textual critics worldwide who work at the cutting edge. Most of the fascinating and meticulous articles in this volume formed the basis of or carry forward his influential work on The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (1993), which displayed for us the socio-historical and theological contexts of textual variants, demonstrating effectively their dynamic, creative role in early Christianity. The essays are interestingly informative, remarkably insightful, and-in the best sense-genuinely provocative. Overall, the volume, which includes detailed methodological studies and treatments of individual texts, as well as the Kenneth Clark Lectures at Duke University (1997) and the Shaffer Lectures at Yale (2004), will be a stimulating challenge to biblical and patristic scholars and to early church historians.'
- Eldon Jay Epp.
'A must for anyone interested in the contributions of one of today's premier textual critics, this collection of twentyone essays exposes readers to the breadth of Ehrman's scholarly output over the last quarter century...An essential collection for anyone interested in the interface between NT textual criticism and disciplines once considered ancillary to it.'
- Juan Hernandez Jr., Religious Studies Review 36, 1, 2010.