In 2007 atheist/agnostic professor Bart Ehrman published his book Misquoting Jesus, which attempted to discredit the reliability of the texts of the Christian New Testament. Misquoting Truth is pastor Timothy Paul Jones‘ response to that book, in which he attempts to point out the errors in Ehrman’s scholarship.
As Jones goes about addressing the various errors of Ehrman’s text, three of his primary points are that most of the changes which Ehrman plays up are minor grammatical changes which disappear when the text is translated, that where there are discrepancies “it’s possible to look at the manuscripts and recover the original wording”, and that contrary to Ehrman’s claims, “the copyists were more concerned with preserving the words of Scripture than with promoting their own theological agendas.”
While going about this Jones also focuses on attacking the philosophical presuppositions which skew Ehrman’s perspective, primarily his dedication to an Enlightenment era devotion to absolute [rational] certainty as the only avenue to truth – that is, rationalism. Jones’ counterargument is to point out the way in which God works through human beings in order to convey is message, that God doesn’t “work around humanity to preserve his words” as Ehrman expects Him to.
Perhaps the most insightful point made by Jones is his note that: “A recent Washington Post article described Ehrman as having ‘peered so hard into the origins of Christianity that he lost his faith altogether’… And yet, it appears to me that the problem was not that he peered too deeply into the origins of Christian faith; it was that he inherited a theological system from well-meaning evangelical Christians that allowed little – if any – space for questions, variations or rough edges.”
All in all, Jones book is a very well written critique of Ehrman’s text.
– “From my perspective, a significant alteration would be one that requires Christians either to rethink a vital belief about Jesus Christ – a belief that we might find in the Apostle’s Creed, for exmaple – or to doubt the historical accuracy of the New Testament documents.”-p.54
– “Here’s my point: You cannot absolutely prove that any past event actually occurred.”-p.108
– “Many years did pass before Christians agreed concerning which books should compose their sacred Scriptures. And, yet, a definite standard directed this process – a conviction that these writings must be rooted in reliable, eyewitness testimony about Jesus Christ.”-p.136
– “… despite the sensational title of Misquoting Jesus, I find only a half-dozen times when Jesus might have been misquoted, and most of these supposed changes simply echo ideas that are found elsewhere in Scripture.”-p.71
As a personal bias, I would have preferred if Jones had gone into greater depth concerning the philosophical presuppositions which undergird Ehrman’s position, however I think he did sufficiently cover the issue for a lay audience. I also think that there are various places where Jones uses words such as “may” or “most” which may be indicative a larger anomaly than he is willing to account for, however I cannot substantiate that, it is merely a suspicion I have when authors use such words without explicitly enunciating the exceptions they are taking.
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