Earlier this year I received Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman, PhD. Misquoting Jesus (Amazon.com price, $15.72) is a piece of popular, critical scholarship that attacks the notion that the New Testament could be divinely inspired. While the first four chapters of that book are universally admired, Dr. Ehrman completely fails at his given task. Since its publication Misquoting Jesus has become a media darling, leading to an NPR interview, various press reports, and detailed refutations from blogs.
After my review I received a copy of Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus: Why You Can Still Believe, from the publishing company, Nimble Books. Mr. Burroughs (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) wrote the book-length criticism of Misquoting Jesus to correct some of Ehrman’s errors and generally restore biblical criticism to its primary task of buttressing the Christian faith. This project is successful. (Read on to see how.)
Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus: Why You Can Still Believe is essentially a literature review of the controversy. I recently completed two much smaller literature review on narrower topics (on OODA and PNM theories), so I can imagine the troubles Burroughs went through.
The bulk of the book is composed to the basic criticisms of Ehrman’s fallacious Misquoting Jesus. Burroughs aptly separates true things Ehrman says from false things, and it careful to note ambiguous points as well. It is perhaps this last task that is the most important, because a dish of deception with a dash of truth is poison. For instance, the non-controversial false Trinitarian formula in the New Testament is disposed of, because no Bibles before the Modern era had that incorrect verse. (Thus, it was irrelevant to the evolution of Christian doctrine.) Likewise, the question of Christ’s anger before a healing is well described.
Burroughs is a critical scholar, and Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus is an excellent example of such a work. Near the end of the book the author describes how anti-Christian texts can be responded too, and displays an excellent grasp of unintended consequences of hasty actions. Christianity is an essentially political religion, going back to Jesus and Paul, and Burroughs’ work is a fine contribution to that tradition.
The weakest section of Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus is chapter 9, “Women’s Issues in Misquoting Jesus.” The controversy over sex and gender roles in Christianity is sidestepped, in spite of its fascinating implications for Christian victory. Perhaps the author is avoiding the issue out of fear of controversy. If so, too bad.
Several of Burrough’s comments would make for fine discussion topics. A serious consideration of King James Only arguments was informative. (While the KJV-Only Movement is almost certainly wrong, every proponent I have heard argued with reason and conviction.) Likewise, many of Burrough’s strategic comments can placed along the spectrum of meaningful conflict, if one wished to use modern Christian apologetics as an example of ideological struggle.
Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus is a fine summary of Christian responses to Misquoting Jesus. I am grateful to the publisher for supplying me with a copy. It runs roughly 65 pages, and is available for $12.94 from Amazon.com. The book’s publisher, W. Frederick Zimmerman of Nimble Books LLC, is also a blogger. Another review of the book is available from Evangelical Textual Criticism.
A reflection on both books, and this review, is available from Brett Maxwell. My own book on Christianity, Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It, is now available from Amazon.com.