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Publisher's Summary

When world-class biblical scholar Bart Ehrman first began to study the texts of the Bible in their original languages he was startled to discover the multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations that had been made by earlier translators. In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman tells the story behind the mistakes and changes that ancient scribes made to the New Testament and shows the great impact they had upon the Bible we use today. He frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultraconservative views of the Bible. Since the advent of the printing press and the accurate reproduction of texts, most people have assumed that when they read the New Testament they are reading an exact copy of Jesus's words or Saint Paul's writings. And yet, for almost fifteen hundred years these manuscripts were hand copied by scribes who were deeply influenced by the cultural, theological, and political disputes of their day. Both mistakes and intentional changes abound in the surviving manuscripts, making the original words difficult to reconstruct. For the first time, Ehrman reveals where and why these changes were made and how scholars go about reconstructing the original words of the New Testament as closely as possible.
Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes -- alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.Bart D. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a widely regarded authority on the history of the New Testament.
©2005 Bart Ehrman (P)2006 Recorded Books
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Critic Reviews

"Engaging and fascinating." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By P. J. Benyei on 01-11-12


I think it would help potential listeners to understand this is a book primarily about the process or science of textual criticism and how scholars study origins of text and reach conclusions about which version might or might not be original. I found it fascinating.

New testament as the subject of textual criticism would only be relevant or interesting to someone with a Christian background or understanding, especially if you've been involved in some of the in-fighting among various sects of Christianity. If you are familiar with the debates about divine inspiration and care about other nit-picky details. You don't need 12 years of catholic school, but a basic knowledge and interest in the topic helps.

If you're not involved in the debate over one word, if you are looking for dramatic expose, or a worldwide sinister conspiracy theory, you will be disappointed. There are no shocking revelations. Its about an added sentence here or there, a single changed word, either deliberate or accidental. Its about why and how someone today would identify what words are suspect and which of various scripts might be original and how they can tell the difference. The basic story of the new testament doesn't change all that much, if at all.

I think the narrator is a must, he does an excellent job explaining new concepts of textual criticism that wouldn't be familiar to the non-scholar. There's nothing too hard to understand, but for someone not familiar with the terminology, its much easier if you have someone read it and use proper pronunciation and inflection throughout the sentences.
I think this is a book that lends itself to being read aloud that reading the text yourself.

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21 of 21 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Mimi Routh on 11-26-13


This is a serious book, well-narrated and a not difficult listen for regular lay-persons of any religious preference. The author is quite neutral, matter-of fact, though with a Protestant born-again background. You could sit there with your King James on your lap, scribbling furious notes. Or you could just keep knitting and listen twice as I did. I don't like the title at all. It suggests a flippancy or jokester element that is not in the book. We are all misquoting Jesus simply because the original texts are lost and nobody had a tape recorder running when Jesus was teaching. His first listeners and everyone since have done the best they could. Really.

The author is a fine scholar who built on his youthful passion for Bible study and went so far as to learn the original languages and immerse himself in the absorbing study of ancient documents, second-guessing the old scribes, reasoning through all the whys and wherefores. What this book does is impress the lay-person with how much he doesn't know, can't know, and has to trust the scholars about. Mr. Ehrman gives fascinating specific examples of the kinds of mistakes that were made over centuries of copying -- some accidental, some deliberate tweaking in a time before printing presses or copy machines. There was no respect for copyright. If material was being dictated, a word that sounded similar might be substituted inadvertantly.

I majored in English, so studied Chaucer and Shakespeare. I understood that the King James Bible was not telling me to go in my clothes CLOSET to pray among the boots and tennis shoes, although that could be a good place. I also came through a rigorous Sunday School and Bible study regimen as a kid. One college required four units of religion for graduation. That expanded my understanding. A visit to the un-Holy Land helped as well. This author does not speak down to anyone. He manages to include all of us as his friends and fellow students. I stayed interested. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to decide where to stop in taking up this study. Does an eager young person learn Latin, Greek and Hebrew and start studying old documents -- or does she learn enough to appreciate the more thorny passages, the major puzzles, and then proceed to ministerial life? This is the stuff of entire lifetimes! I have to think of the people who want to learn the computer, starting with bits and bytes and ones and zeros. They don't understand that they can learn to click a mouse and be gaming on FaceBook by suppertime! At any rate, this is a book I think the whole family would enjoy together, although I would never ever insist any child sit and listen! The old folks could play it on a road trip and the kids pick up a bit by osmosis. Even a teen would best find this subject gently for himself. The author gives a history of this study of Biblical texts so that we can investigate further to our heart's content. Huge subject! Absorbing listen!

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14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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