I must say that many of my friends at Moody [Bible Institute] did not consider this task to be all that significant or interesting. They were happy to rest on the claim that the autographs had been inspired, and to shrug off, more or less, the problem that the autographs do not survive. For me, though, this was a compelling problem. It was the words of scripture themselves that God had inspired. Surely we have to know what those words were if we want to know how he had communicated to us, since the very words were his words, and having some other words (those inadvertently or intentionally created by scribes) didn’t help us much if we wanted to know His words. Misquoting Jesus (p. 5)

We must return to the beginning of Ehrman’s stumble, to see where his obsession is, and if it really has any merit. By now, you know that Ehrman joined his longtime friend and mentor, the late Bruce M, Metzger, in the publication of the fourth edition of The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964, 1968, 1992, and 2005). If you would, please key in on the third period of the Greek New Testament, the period of “restoration.” Restoration means to restore the text to its original condition. I am just wondering why Ehrman would sign onto a book that deals with 400 years of textual scholars restoring the text to its original condition?


If we were to take a 1967, black Mustang Coupe to American Resto Mods[1] restoration shop, to have it restored to its original condition, would anyone argue that we would not then own an original 1967, black Mustang Coupe? If the text is restored; then, in reality, we have the original by way of restoration. The same point could be made with the example of restoring a painting to its original condition.

As you, the reader have become aware through this book, or maybe Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman was a very conservative Christian, who lost his faith, and has fallen at first to agnosticism, and now atheism. He is unable to reason that a restored original is no different from the original as to content. Ehrman’s mind is stuck in one gear: ‘If it is the original that was inerrant, and we no longer have the original, but only erroneous copies, we cannot speak of inerrancy, can we?’

Revisiting Ehrman’s Spiritual Shipwreck

All through Misquoting Jesus Ehrman lays his spiritual shipwreck at the feet of everyone outside of himself. ‘It is that fault of the imperfect human copyists’ that made intentional changes to the text.’ ‘It is the fault of those imperfect human copyists’ that made unintentional mistakes when copying from their exemplars.’ “It is the fault of the early church that was filled with illiterate people.’ It is the fault of the scholars, who are unable to restore the text, or resolve the difficulties to the satisfaction level of Ehrman.’ Ehrman has done what so many do who fall away from the faith. He does not want to return, so he sets the bar of expectation so high that nothing short of a miracle will clear it for him. The only thing that would bring Ehrman back in the walk-of-life would be if Jesus came down and sat beside him, performed ten miracles to establish his identity, and proceeded to clear up every conceivable Scriptural difficulty for Ehrman. You remember Professor Cullen Story and Ehrman’s fancy exegetical footwork from the beginning of his book, as well as mine do you not? Well, let us revisit that as well. Ehrman struggled over resolving the Bible difficulty of “Abiathar the high priest” at Mark 2:26.

I was pretty sure Professor Story would appreciate the argument since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper, he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me. He wrote: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” I started thinking about it, considering all the work I had put into the paper, realizing that I had had to do some pretty fancy exegetical foot-work to get around the problem, and that my solution was in fact a bit of a stretch. I finally concluded, “Hmm…maybe Mark did make a mistake.” Misquoting Jesus (p. 9)

Here we are with the Dr. Cullen Story, New Testament professor at Princeton Seminary, and an excellent student such as Bart D. Ehrman, who had several years of religious education at two top Bible colleges, and was now thriving in one of the top schools in the world. And we get the simplistic statement that this all fell apart over six simple words, “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” Tens of thousands of students survive the rigors of deeper study at the university level, but Ehrman chooses to abandon his faith. He even goes to belittle those that had a stronger faith, when he writes, “they were happy to rest on the claim that the autographs had been inspired, and to shrug off, more or less, the problem that the autographs do not survive.” Dr. Ehrman, maybe they did not rest on anything, but they were able to fight the fine fight of not succumbing to doubt, by establishing answers to what they can, and patiently waiting to discover the rest. Maybe, Dr. Ehrman, they chose not to set the standard so high that it would only take a personal visit from Christ to get over the hurdle. Below is a snippet of how Ehrman’s mind has set the standard too high.

Ehrman recently debated Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, which spilled over into a Yahoo discussion board conversation between the two sometime later. Wallace addresses Ehrman’s high standard that he has set for textual scholarship when he mentions that during the Question and Answer section of the debate, an audience member wanted to know what it would take for Ehrman to regard the copies of Gospel of Mark as “Trustworthy.” Ehrman responded:

‘Well, if we had early copies—if we had copies of Mark—suppose next week there’s an archeological find… say it’s in Rome, and we have reason to think that these ten manuscripts that were discovered were all copied within a week of the original copy of Mark and they disagree in, uh, .001 percent of their textual variation, then I would say ‘that’s good evidence!’ And that’s precisely what we don’t have.’

The other students, of who Ehrman says, “They were happy to rest,” were not resting at all, but did not set the standard so high that it failed to be reasonable. Reasonableness is a characteristic feature of wisdom, which is sound judgment, based on knowledge and understanding; the ability to use knowledge and understanding effectively to resolve problems, or even wait for a resolution. Reasonableness is a quality that any serious Bible student is expected to possess. The Apostle Paul counseled the Philippians: “Let your reasonableness [Lit., “yieldingness”] be known to everyone.” (Php 4:5, ESV) It seems that Ehrman, the “fundamentalist,” young Christian man, only later, ignored the abundance of evidence that textual scholars possess, the facts, as well as the things revealed to him by God, did he reject reasoning and become unreasonable, replacing for reasoning a false logic prompted by wishful thinking rather than reasoning.

Those who desire to use their reasoning ability will find that we possess evidence abundantly to aid the reasonable person to establish the original Greek New Testament, as well as overcome thousands of Bible difficulties, leaving a handful for a future day. Right reasoning, then, generates faith. For “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1, ESV) Wrong reasoning, based on wrong premises or wrong comparisons, leads to false conclusions and loss of faith.

Ehrman found it easier to accept that Mark was wrong, as well as other Bible writers, and that they merely published human works that would make up the 27 books of the New Testament, as opposed to accepting the reasonable solutions that had already been discovered, or waiting for the time when another scholar might find an even more reasonable answer. The very moment he opened himself up to the unreasonable premise of inerrancy, the result was a loss of faith:

Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened. For if there could be one little, picayune mistake in Mark 2, maybe there could be mistakes in other places as well. Misquoting Jesus (p. 9)

Now the unreasonable attitude that Ehrman possessed was that he chose to criticize. He obviously did not and most generally does not; know all the facts in dealing with Bible difficulties; but his unreasonable state of mind did not consider that for a moment. Rather, Ehrman chose to conclude that the New Testament books were erroneous just because he did not understand them. What he failed to consider is his imperfect human limitation in understanding, as well as the limitations of textual scholarship. It is not a perfect field, but it has certainly done its work to get us back to a 99.5 percent restored Greek New Testament text, with only sixty to ninety issues remaining out of 7,956 verses, with most of those, being resolved in the conjectural emendation.

The Irony of It All

Mark 2:26 (NET): “he [being David] entered the house of God when Abiather was high priest.” This rendering is certainly a historical error. Let us start with looking at an interlinear, to get an understanding of the Greek words involved.

 WHNU:[2] [pos] eiselthen   eis  ton  oikon  tou   theou  epi abiathar archierews

             how   he entered into the   house of the God upon Abiathar chief priest

 Actually, if you look at Jesus’ words: “He [David] entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence;” Jesus did not state that Abiathar was high priest at the time of this incident, only “in the time of . . .”[3] Contextually, Abiathar is actually present when the event took place. And in the story just after the murder of his father and would be high priest, a position and title of which one would refer to him as thereafter, even in discussing events before his receiving that position. This is just a loose citation of Scripture. Today, we do it all the time. Therefore, it was in the time of Abiathar, but not during the time, he occupied the chief priest position. 1 Sam 22:9-12. 18; 236; 2 Sam 21:1-6; 22:18-19.

This is actually the argument that Ehrman had given to his professor, Cullen Story, which is a reasonable argument. Here are Ehrman’s own words:

In my paper for Professor Story, I developed a long and complicated argument to the effect that even though Mark indicates this happened “when Abiathar was the high priest,” it doesn’t really mean that Abiathar was the high priest, but that the event took place in the part of the scriptural text that has Abiathar as one of the main characters. My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words involved and was a bit convoluted. Misquoting Jesus (p. 9)

Ehrman believes that his argument to Professor Story was “long and complicated argument.” Ehrman says that his argument was also “convoluted,” which means that it was extremely intricate: too complex or intricate to understand easily. Really, I made the same argument in one page of typed text, and wrote on a level that could be easily understood. I do not personally see mine as “long and complicated,” nor “convoluted.” Sadly, it gets even worse for Ehrman and his case, because he actually expresses himself in the same way that Jesus did, which is a common way of expressing things. If you look at page 9, the very page of his complaint, you will find Ehrman saying:

Jesus wants to show the Pharisees that “Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath” and so reminds them of what the great King David had done when he and his men were hungry, how they went into the Temple “when Abiathar was the high priest” and ate the show bread, which was only for the priests to eat. Misquoting Jesus (p. 9)

First, David was not king at the time of Ehrman’s reference. Second, there was no Temple at the time it was the Tabernacle. This is just a loose reference to Scripture by Ehrman as he refers to the person and place involved. We know David as King David, so we are not befuddled by his loose reference, and recognize this is a way of referencing things. He also knows we think of it as a Temple, not the Tabernacle; we generally think of the Tabernacle being associated with Moses. Moreover, it was David’s son, Solomon, who would eventually build the Temple. Here you have a world-renowned Bible scholar, who uses a loose reference in his book, and expects that his audience will understand what he means by his way of wording things. Was Ehrman technically chronologically wrong? Yes, in the strictest sense of things, if one wishes to be unreasonable. However, if we recognize this is an acceptable way of human expression; then, no really he is not wrong, because he knows his audience will understand his loose reference, and so it goes with Jesus as well. If only, Ehrman was as reasonable with Jesus.

Conclusions of Apologist Norman L. Geisler

Bart Ehrman’s denial of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture has many driving factors. Some of those include his reaction to his training as a youth and the appeal of academic sophistication to him. Others relate to his struggle with the problem of evil. But clearly the reason he accepts many of his conclusions are because of his philosophical presuppositions and methodological ideology. Yet all of these have been shown to be faulty. This faulty methodology has led to his faulty theology. Thus his presuppositions, methodology, and historical claims are unjustified, as well as his denial of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, which flows from these presuppositions. So to the degree that belief in the inerrancy of the autographic text is dependent on there being reliable copies, inerrancy can withstand the attacks by Ehrman.

The truth is that no book from antiquity can boast the cumulative evidence for its reliability that the New Testament possesses. For there are more, earlier, and better manuscripts than for any other book of its time. Further, there are more, earlier, and more eyewitness-based accounts than any other text from ancient times. What is more, Roman historians, non-Christian sources, legal experts, and archaeological finds provide further evidence of its authenticity. Considering the multiple, cumulative, and independent nature of the testimony, there is no reasonable basis for doubting the reliability of the New Testament. As the noted Harvard legal expert Simon Greenleaf says, “All that Christianity asks of men on this subject, is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things.” If they did this, “then it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result, by receiving their testimony in all the extent of its import”[4]

We have come to the end of our investigation into Misquoting Jesus. Where do we go from here? Do we have enough knowledge and understanding of the text, such as how it came down to us, so we will not stumble over books such as Misquoting Jesus? It is recommended that you take the time to read the appendices, and acquire a number of the recommended reading books.

[1] American Resto Mods, Inc.  5017 Bristol Industrial Way Buford, GA 30518 (678-835-5690), info@americanrestomods.com

[2] WHNU stands for the master critical Westcott and Hort Greek text of 1881, the 27th edition of the Nestle Aland Greek text of 1993 and the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies Greek text of 1993. Of course WH alone would refer to Westcott and Hort, while NA27 alone would stand for the Nestle-Aland text and UBS4 alone would stand for the United Bible Societies Greek text.

[3] Ἀβιαθὰρ ἀρχιερέως under, in the time of, Abiathar the high priest Mk 2:26. ἐ. ἀρχιερέως Ἅννα καὶ Καιάφα Lk 3:2. ἐ. Κλαυδίου Ac 11:28

[4] Geisler, Norman L.; Roach, Bill (2012-01-01). Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Kindle Locations 2347-2354). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.