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Blue Springs, MO
5 Stars Out Of 5
Scholarly but Readable
May 31, 2012
Blue Springs, MO
Even in High School, one encounters those who cite Bart Ehrman, hoping that it is enough to end the conversation. As popular as the man is, he seems to have an all-access pass to the thoughts of the public. What Bart says goes. So in order to stay informed, I began to read Bart's books. Having been previously equipped to sort through his various arguments, I didn't have any radical crisis-of-faith, but I understand that not everyone is equipped. That is where this book would prove to be extremely helpful. Not only does it deal with the textual problems Bart posits to be "Orthodox Corruption," but it challenges his methodological presuppositions. Instead of attempting to refute Bart point-by-point, the authors give readers points to consider which prepares them for any such argument that has been -or will be- presented (see esp. the Canon of Unorthodoxy chapter).
That being said, though much of the book is written in an understandable way, readers like myself (with only very limited greek knowledge) may struggle with parts of the book (especially the Thomasine Textual Criticism chapter). Nonetheless, this is an invaluable resource and I highly recommend it.
This is the inaugural volume of the Text and Canon of the New Testament series. All of the essays by the six authors focus in issues of textual criticism.
The first chapter frames the discussion the rest of the book addresses. The text of the New Testament we have is a result of copies of copies. Can we tell, through rigorous analysis of surviving manuscripts and scribal methods, what the original text essentially looked like? Did the early church get it right in evaluating and designating just the twenty-seven books of our NT as Scripture?
"One the one side," writes Wallace, "are the King James Only advocates; they are absolutely certain that the KJV, in every place, exactly represents the original text." (22)
On the other hand are those who say there is no hope of knowing the original texts since we no longer have the originals and there could have been tremendous tampering with the texts. The argument may be carried on to the theology derived from these texts. "According to this line of thinking, the message of whole books has been corrupted in the hands of the scribes; and the church, in later centuries, adopted the doctrine of the winner - those who corrupted the text and conformed it to their own notion of orthodoxy." (25)
There are lots of manuscripts (more than 5,600), some 2.6 million pages of texts. There are more than a million quotes of the NT by the early church fathers. At least twelve of the manuscripts date from the second century. "Of the hundreds of thousands of textual variants in NT MSS, the great majority are spelling differences that have no bearing on the meaning of the text." (40) Less than one percent of the textual variants are meaningful.
Wallace takes Bert Ehrman to task. A high proportion of Ehrman's examples could easily be classified as accidental, with no theological motives. Wallace critiques Ehrman's text-critical method, noting that Ehrman prefers the least orthodox reading.
Philip Miller investigates Ehrman's conclusion that the NT text was corrupted at the hands of orthodox scribes, to make the texts say what the scribes already believed them to mean. (58)
Matthew Morgan investigates the legacy and heritage of two eighteenth-century manuscripts and the text of John 1:1.
Adam Messer highlights one example of the attention Ehrman gives to historical evidence and the implications drawn concerning theologically motivated changes.
Tim Ricchuiti concentrates on the Gospel of Thomas, first considered primarily a Gnostic and apocryphal text, but now esteemed by some to be on the same level as the New Testament Gospels.
Brian Wright investigates the relationship of Jesus and Theos (God).
This book will best serve those who have read Bert Ehrman and his views on the transmission of the New Testament texts. That being said, anyone interested in the issues of scribal changes in NT MSS will benefit from this book.
The book is written on the academic level. The average layman will have difficulty following the precise work.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.
In his scholarly tome, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, and his more popular treatment, Misquoting Jesus Bart Ehrman has argued that the Biblical text that we have is deeply mired by tampering of scholars for theological reasons. In Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic and Apocryphal Evidence, the inaugural volume of the Text and Canon of the New Testament Series (from Kregel Publications), Dan Wallace has edited a volume which takes Ehrman to task. Wallace's introductory chapter, is an expansion of a paper he delivered in 2008 as part a dialogue with Ehrman over the Corruption of the New Testament. The subsequent chapters are each written by former academic interns and ThM students of his at Dallas Theological Seminary. Individually, each essay presents a strong case; cumulatively they systematically demolish Ehrman's arguments. For the most part, the author's are judicious in their analysis (I only can think of one or two places which felt like over reaching to me) and each chapter evidences copious research. While the authors are all theologically conservative and take issue with many of Ehrman's claims, this book is not a smear-campaign either. They respect Ehrman's scholarship and confirm his findings where they feel it's warranted, but it is clear that they find his premise wanting.
In Chapter 1, Dan Wallace presents a brief, accessible apologetic for the reliability of the New Testament, taking specific aim at Ehrman's arguments. Next Philip Miller examines Ehrman's methodology and reveals that Ehrman is committed to the premise that the least orthodox readings are closer to the original text, regardless of whether the textual evidence and scholarly consensus supports him. These two chapters provide a more general overview of the issue. Matthew Morgan and Adam Messer provide a more detailed account by each examining a specific text which are asserted to be Ã¢â¬Ëcorrupt' by Ehrman and others (John 1.1c and Matthew 24:36, respectively). They each demonstrate the spurious nature of Ehrman's claims Tim Ricchuiti examines the text-critical transmission of Thomas showcasing where theological interests effected the transmission of that text in line with the theology of the Nag Hammadi writings. In the final chapter, Brian Wright examines the textual evidence for the equation of Jesus as God in the New Testament. Wright demonstrates that such claims are not a result of corruption, but are original to the first century Christian community.
This book is written for a scholarly rather than popular level (and is endorsed by an impressive stream of theological conservative scholars). Certainly students engaged in Biblical studies or textual criticism would benefit from reading this book. Yet, this book is also of value beyond the walls of academia. Giving the ubiquity of Bart Ehrman on college campuses, the New York Times best sellers list, and numerous television appearances, serious engagement with ideas is a necessary apologetic task. A book I read by Sam Harris, one of the so-called New Atheists, recommended Misquoting Jesus because of the way it undermines Christian truth claims and casts doubt on the reliability of the Bible. This book reveals the places where Ehrman's assertions do not stand up to examination. Some of this book, will be too technical for popular consumption, but the book would make a good addition to a pastoral library and Dan Wallace's and Philip Miller's essays certainly are accessible to an educated layperson. I think the arguments in this book will remain significant for the Evangelical community at large.
Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.