NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


by Bart D. Ehrman

One of the things I neglected to mention when I wrote about the essay "Why I Am Not A Christian" by Bertrand Russell was that I have read the Bible cover to cover, both the Old and New Testaments, and I believe that the world would be a much better place if people who professed to be Christians of any definition would live by its teachings, especially those of Jesus Christ. But I do not believe that the Bible is meant to be taken literally regardless of the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of any of its passages, and I do not believe it is the inerrant word of God. If you are someone who does believe that, I am not here to tell you you're wrong. I'm just telling you my feelings on the subject.

That being said, its altogether possible, even probable, that the original books were, in fact, somehow inspired. However, we no longer have them. In Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Bart Ehrman takes the reader on a fascinating journey through time to show how the versions of the Bible we read today came to be. Granted, there are what look to the layman to be quite a few assumptions going on in some of his arguments, but there also appear to be some inarguable facts regarding some fairly substantial changes that occurred over the centuries that do change our interpretations. Though as I was listening, what I found to be equally interesting was how much of the texts have not changed over the centuries!

Erhman's ultimate conclusion, however, is that scribes who made changes, be they honest mistakes or intentional alterations, were only engaging in what every reader of the Bible does every time they read from its pages. We interpret the words in our own way. It may be the way we were taught to interpret them, or it may be conclusions we came to on our own, but we do put the written words and lessons of the Bible into our own words and use those words in our own lives in the manner in which we understand them. The difference being our words are not being written down and transmitted through the ages.

This book is not going to change the mind of the believers in the "inerrant words of God", and I don't think it means to try. It also is not in any way out to discredit Christianity. Far from it. But for those who are interested in the history of biblical manuscripts and their transmission, this is a wonderfully informative book aimed at curious non-scholars.

Bart Ehrman also has some great courses on Early Christianity and the New Testament from my favorite place, The Teaching Company. Check them out here.


Jeane said...

It sounds interesting. I have often wondered how much the Bible we read today is altered from its original. I imagine in some places it must be unrecognizable now from how it was first written.

Jo-Jo said...

Very well put Lezlie! I don't think I need to say anymore.

Lezlie said...

Jeane ~ Your comment reminded me of a great quote in an essay I may comment on at some later time: "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me." That is a real quote from an American.

I would imagine a lot of the subtleties would be lost in the translations from Aramaic and Hebrew to Greek, Latin, English, etc. Bart Ehrman has done a lot of writing on early Christianity that I'd really like to read. And now that I think about it, I should add links to his Teaching Company courses. They are wonderful!

Jo-Jo ~ Thanks! I'm always a little concerned about reception when I get into this topic. :-)


Amy said...

You're right...we do bring our own perceptions and history to the table anytime we read any book...whether it be the Bible or not.

Lezlie said...

Amy ~ That is very true! All books tend to mean different things to readers at different times. We can't help but put our own spin on things we read in our search for meaning in our lives.