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

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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why is a book written by Bart Ehrman that deals with alleged errors in transcription and translation that occurred from the time of Jesus to the time the King James version of the New Testament was finalized in 1611. Ehrman argues the case that the New Testament is not the true word of God because of the magnitude of these errors. One of his arguments is that since Jesus spoke Aramaic, which was later translated into Greek in the original gospels, some of which was then translated into Latin and then back to Greek before Eramus' copy was translated into English as the King James Version, the New Testament's integrity has been compromised by excessive translation. Ehrman also argues that since the New Testament was maintained for over a thousand years solely by making handwritten copies of copies, errors and inconsistencies between different manuscripts were common. Since the earliest manuscripts available to modern scholars are from the 4th or 5th century AD, Ehrman argues that it is very difficult to discern the original content.

Ehrman states that of the 5700 manuscripts we have, no two are alike. He makes it clear that although the majority of differences between the various manuscripts are minor (things like spelling, word re-arrangements), there are some that are significant, such as the story of Jesus and the woman in adultery, the last 12 verses of Mark, and 1 John 5:7 (which he says was edited to strengthen the idea of the Trinity). Various others are named in this book, as well as other books written by Ehrman and other biblical critics.

Although Bible producers are aware of these scribal changes, they have not corrected the new versions of the Bible to exclude the disputed passages, but have instead noted the differences in footnotes.

Reality

Ehrman fails to note that copies of the Bible today are translated directly from the early Greek manuscripts, which include Jesus' teachings in, probably, the original Greek. This is playing to the ignorance of his audience to create a controversy that does not exist. Taking a moment of history, the King James Bible in 1611, and using that as a point of contention that has no bearing on modern Bible translations and has not for years is disingenuous. Even then, the King James Bible has been found to be largely accurate with only a few sections questioned.

Ehrman also fails to account for the Christian community having already incorporated his concerns. The NIV Study Bible, completed over a 20 year time span through the work of over 100 scholars[1], does not include the John or I John texts except in footnotes and has a prominently marked break in the text before the last part of Mark stating clearly that the end of the chapter is not included in the earliest manuscipts—and this was 20 years before Ehrman decided to write his book as if he was bringing up something new that had been hidden. And yet, even with all of the changes made, the form of the Bible is still well over 99+% the same as it had been before—hardly cause for major concern.

The '5700 different translations with no two the same' is meant to play to ignorance. Before the printing press, copying over 60 books by hand would lead to at least one mistake somewhere, even if it was only dropping a 'the'. It has also been widely noted just how accurately the Bible has been copied, as is seen by comparing ancient versions that existed in different locations thousands of miles apart. The quantity of copies of the Bible from ancient times either in full, fragmented parts, or quotes from the writings of the ancient fathers, makes it by far the most copied and reliable document of antiquity. To question the authenticity of the Bible, one must throw out all ancient writings as being inaccurate since they are not nearly as well documented, as extensive, or copied as accurately.[2]

Further reading

References

  1. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Press, 1985, Preface
  2. A Ready Defense (1993), Josh McDowell, Pg. 43 - 46
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