Bart Ehrman’s Book – Misquoting Jesus or Misquoting Truth?

One person who challenged my faith in the Bible was former evangelical scholar Bart Ehrman who became agnostic. He studied New Testament manuscripts and questioned their reliability.

The attacks of Bart Ehrman on the New Testament benefited Muslims so they can destroy the Bible’s credibility.

This is what is written on page 56 of Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart Ehrman:

“An interesting illustration of the intentional change of a text is found in one of our finest old manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus (so named because it was found in the Vatican library), made in the fourth century. In the opening of the book of Hebrews there is a passage in which, according to most manuscripts, we are told that “Christ bears [Greek: PHERON] all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). In Codex Vaticanus, however, the original scribe produced a slightly different text, with a verb that sounded similar in Greek; here the text instead reads: “Christ manifests [Greek: PHANERON] all things by the word of his power.” Some centuries later, a second scribe read this passage in the manuscript and decided to change the unusual word manifests to the more common reading bears—erasing the one word and writing in the other.”

Codex Vaticanus is slightly older than the Codex Sinaiticus.

There are, I believe, as many as 3000 differences in the Gospels alone. Contrary to how Majority Text folks see this, such differences show that (1) there was no collusion between the scribes, (2) the common ancestor must go back early into the second century because this number of differences shows that they did not copy from an immediate ancestor, or even a few ancestors back.

The best estimate is that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 textual variants among the manuscripts according to Dr. Wallace.

The reason we have a lot variants is that we have a lot of manuscripts.

We often hear Scribes who copied the New Testament committed errors in copying the manuscripts. What are these errors?

The variants were categorized according to intentional and unintentional errors.


One of the unintentional errors is the “Errors of the Ear”.

Historians recognized during the Early Church Era that scribes sat or stood up and copy word-for-word the orally delivered message. This results in “errors of the ear”. The unintentional errors also happened in the Old Testament known as Mistakes of Hebrew letters of similar sound since Hebrew alphabets have similar sounds like Aleph and Ayin, Kaph and Qoph. The Greek vowels like iota, eta and epsilon have a similarity while being pronounced including the vowels omicron and omega.

Many of us understand and speak English but many people make mistakes in hearing like “truth” and “throat”. For instance, a teacher lectures and students write in their notebooks to record the lessons. However, the teacher says “true” but some students wrote “through”. It was not intentional but the students erred in hearing.

In our research for the truth, we need to revisit the history so we can understand the issue on variant readings.

According to The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, Page 107:

“As mentioned earlier, the ancient scribe worked rather uneasily, hunched over with scroll stretched out between his knees, one hand holding the script in place and the other used for the various tools surrounding him (pen, inkhorn, sponge, and so on). The laborious process combined with the demanding body posture allowed for mental and physical fatigue that could eventually affect the craftsmanship of the copyist. Due to such conditions, errors of eye, writing, memory, and judgment were introduced into the text.”


One of the Intentional Errors is called “Doctrinal Changes”

The scribes involved did not merely copy since they were scholars with their own viewpoints. A point of argument in John 1:18 relate to manuscripts where there is “Ho Monogenes Huios” or “the only begotten Son.” The manuscripts we have can be seen in Codex Regius (8th Century), Codex Cyprius (9th Century) and Codex Borealianus (10th Century).

Some early manuscripts state “Monogenes Theos” that you can read in Codex Sinaiticus (4th Century Manuscript), Codex Vaticanus (4th Century Manuscript), Papyrus 75 (3rd Century Manuscript) and Papyrus 66 (2nd–3rd Century Manuscript).
These were translated in NRSV as “GOD the only son”, NABRE “The only Son, God” and NET BIBLE as “The only one, himself God”.

According to Larry W. Hurtado, “the earlier the manuscript, the better”

For Philip Comfort, “It is now clear that monogenes Theos is the earlier reading.”

“Monogenes Theos” is the earlier reading. It was changed according to Philip Comfort as early as the 3rd century. According to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, “The alternate argument is that Monogenes Theos was original and that a scribe changed it into ho monogenes huios because it fits well with Johannine style.”

Another point is seen in Mark 9:29 that we can read in versions of the English bible, “And he said unto them, this kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” We cannot read the word “fasting” in the highly-recommended versions like NRSV.

The word “fasting” was only added to Mark 9:29.

We can read the question of Dr. Daniel B Wallace on pages 54-55 of Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament:

“Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book is dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g., the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?”

Bruce Metzger is one of the best New Testament scholars. Many other scholars praise his knowledge. It is unfortunate that Bart Ehrman who is one of his pupils try to erode the reliability of the New Testament.

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