Misquotes in "Misquoting Jesus"

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After my previous journal entry on the book "Misquoting Jesus," I received e-mail from a publishing house, Nimble Books, asking me to take a look at their recent publication, "Misquotes in 'Misquoting Jesus'".

I got halfway through the PDF on the plane, on the way back from YAPC in Chicago, and it's a good book. And I don't say that just because it agrees with most of what I said (except that for the most part it expresses it better, and with more authority).

The author, Dillon Burroughs, emphasizes a few main points, particularly that -- as I noted -- the author, Bart Ehrman, is mostly correct on the facts he presents, but he simply draws unreasonable conclusions. Burroughs heavily quotes people who have worked with Ehrman and are familiar with his work.

From the Burroughs book, I also learned that Ehrman is far more learned than I supposed him to be from the one interview I saw. He helped Bruce Metzger -- the foremost authority on the subject -- edit the fourth edition of "The Text of the New Testament," the very book I mentioned in the previous discussion (I have the third edition).

So the guy clearly knows his stuff. It's not (mostly) his facts that are in question, it's his unwarranted conclusions (and knowing a bit about Metzger, I can guarantee you he doesn't agree with Ehrman's conclusions, either). And again: nothing Ehrman is saying is new. Scholars and students have known this stuff all along.

Here's another interesting link, also picked up via Nimble Books, a debate between Ehrman and William Lane Craig, who is a professor at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, my alma mater. It's a good example, in my opinion, of how Ehrman raises many valid points but simply does not come to a valid conclusion, because his basic line of reasoning is "it is possible that none of this is true," which is, of course, true of everything we think we know.

What historians have to do is look at what is the most likely explanation for the evidence we have, and Ehrman looks at it backward: since miracles are improbable, there must be another explanation for what actually happened; in other words, even if a miracle did happen, in his view, a historian must assume it did not. The empty tomb is not likely, because miracles are not likely, so despite the evidence for it, he believes it was invented later. That's just not a compelling argument, and it forms the foundation of most of what he says in this debate, and in his book. slashdot.org

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