“Misquoting Jesus”


Hello everybody. I just picked up and read the first chapter of “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman today. Of course, the book is presented from the view point of a former Christian. I think it is very important for Christians to be able to address the issue of Biblical textual criticism. I notice that amazon.com has some books offering a Christian response to “Misquoting Jesus,” but I don’t know anything about these books or their authors. Basically,I want to study Biblical textual criticism from a Catholic view point.

My question is, is anybody here familiar with any books along the lines that I’m looking for? I’m not looking for an easy read response to “Misquoting Jesus.” I want something scholarly. Furthermore, I’m not looking for just a Christian book. I want something Catholic. I want something that addresses the issue head on. None of this “all scripture is inspired” 2 Tim. 3:16 stuff. If the book is a direct response to “Misquoting Jesus,” that’s great. If not, anything will do.

Any suggestions?


Lee Strobel’s “Case for Christ” is not a Catholic work, but it is a good read. He interviews scholars in various pertinent fields and basically builds a “case for Christ”.


My question is, is anybody here familiar with any books along the lines that I’m looking for? I’m not looking for an easy read response to “Misquoting Jesus.” I want something scholarly.

Hi, I don’t know if I can help, but I will try to.

The major problem is finding a Catholic writer. There is one book I know by a Protestant that directly takes on Misquoting Jesus. The title is “Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones. I don’t consider it a book by a scholar , however. It’s more for the general public.

However, this week there is a book published by Nicholas Perrin. It’s called “Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus”. Perrin is a first rate scholar . He recently proved that the Gospel of Thomas was derived from Tatian, and so blew up much of the Q theory for the liberals in the Jesus Seminar. However, I don’t believe Perrin is a Catholic.

Finding good Catholic scholars on the bible is very, very hard. Most the best are dead, if you are talking about first class scholars. “Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger” by Gary Michuta is by a Catholic but doesn’t deal with textual issues from “Misquoting Jesus”. Brant Pitre (I believe that is his name), a student of Scott Hahn, is another new Catholic scholar but his first book didn’t deal with textual issues either. “Constantine’s Bible” by David Dungan (another Protestant, sigh) does deal a little with textual issues so you might try that.

There are two books aimed at the general public that do take on “Misquoting Jesus” some. “The Jesus Quest” by Ben Witherington is a very good general overview of the entire field of biblical scholarship–he goes into who are the best known scholars for the field and then gives the problems, as he sees it, with each one. Witherington is an evangelical, I believe…

Another book like that is “Fabricating Jesus” by Craig Evans. This is a great book and very orthodox.

The most respected scholars who are orthodox would be N T Wright, Martin Hengel, Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado. However, none of these people are Catholic.

In fact, I would dearly love to find some Catholic scholars to read. Does anyone out there know any I haven’t listed?

As for “Misquoting Jesus” itself, I was not impressed. Ehrman goes on and on about how awful it was, being a believer and then finding out how flawed the bible is. Then he spends chapter after chapter trying to find some major problem without being able to actually come up with any. There are only two passages in the bible that are dubious, the woman caught in adultery and the end of Mark. Those are the only two that the majority of scholars would agree to, that is. And those are both very well known and are talked about in every single biblical commentary, and have been, for centuries.

Ehrman has published book after book of what I consider very dubious claims. He keeps saying, how do we know that the gospel is right when the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, or whatever, says something else. Then he very, very carefully forgets to mention that the Gnostic “gospels” were written anywhere from 100 years to 300 years after the gospel was. N T Wright (the orthodox Anglican bishop and considered one of the best scholars on the bible in the world) has practically accused Ehrman of being a liar. Since Wright is the most polite and gentle man in the world, you can imagine how upset he must have been by Ehrman.

Anyway, I hope I’ve helped a bit. If you do read any of these, and liked them, let me know. We can start exchanging titles. And I would love to hear from anyone else out there who knows of any good books of biblical scholarship–

God bless, Anne


Thank you, Anne

Your information is very valuable. I’m going to print off your post and start looking for some of these books.

My main fear about Protestant authors is that some of them tend to reply more from a “I know you’re wrong, and I’m right” point of view. I just trust Catholics to be a little objective in their assessment of things. Of course, this is just a generalization. Some Protestant scholars (e. g. J.B. Lightfoot with the work of the Apostolic Fathers) are excellent scholars. Likewise, some Catholics can be horrible scholars, but generally it’s the other way around.

Some of these authors you mentioned look good. I’m going to look them up.

Thank you very much.


I would start with Bart’s books, they are simply very basic textual criticism. As I read his books I have not seen any earth shaking revelations about textual criticism.

For example, how would you explain the differences in the bold parts below?

John 1:18

New American Standard Bible (1995)
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

GOD’S WORD® Translation (1995)
No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known.

King James Bible
No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Bible in Basic English
No man has seen God at any time; the only Son, who is on the breast of the Father, he has made clear what God is.

Weymouth New Testament
No human eye has ever seen God: the only Son, who is in the Father’s bosom–He has made Him known.

World English Bible
No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.

First, there are two issues here, one of translation, the other of textual criticism.

The Greek word that is translated as “unique”, “only”, “only begotten”, “one and only” is “monogenēs” (Strong’s G3439)

and it can mean,

Outline of Biblical Usage

  1. single of its kind, only

a) used of only sons or daughters (viewed in relation to their parents)

b) used of Christ, denotes the only begotten son of God


The textual criticism part that is in dispute is “Son” vs “God”, is he the “only begotten Son” or is he the “only begotten God”?

The Greek word for “Son” is Strong’s Greek for G5207 υἱός Transliteration huios whereas the Greek for “God” is G2316 θεός Transliteration theos.

Bart claims that the reading was a deliberate change from “Son” to “God” by an othodox copist to lend stronger support for the deity of Christ. But, ask yourself in light of “The Logos was God” in John 1:1c was there really a need to produce support for Jesus’ deity? Or is there a simplier reason some texts read “God” when most other texts read “Son”, and as far as I can see all translations like the Latin Vulgate also have “Son”.

What it really boils down too, could a tired monk miscopy υἱός as θεός or misread, huios as theos? Both share the same ending “os” or “ός” Therefore, the two words could sound the same or similar if the reader mis-pronounced a word.

For Bart to make his case, he would have to show us that church father who quotes the mis-copy as a proof for the deity of Christ.

Now here is the catch 22, there are SOME fathers who quoted “Only Begotten God”, but you need to read them in context to see how the text is used, there are also fathers who quoted “Only Begotten Son”. So, some were aware of the variant “only begotten God” while MOST were aware of the reading “only begotten Son”. Do we know those quoting the text as “only begotten Son” were copying scripture from memory or from a text? It is likely, those who used the “only begotten Son” in their quotes were in fact copying from a text in front of them because their quotes were much longer, whereas the others were simply misquoting from memory because they only quoted the phrase, “only begotten God”.

Ask yourself have you ever misquoted scripture from memory? or were having a hard time finding a verse, because you could not think of its exact wording? Did Paul for example praise God for other Christians in his rememberence or did Paul THANK God for other Christians in his memory of them? If you can make a misquote, or not exactly remember the exact reading of a scripture text, then why can’t we give the copyist or church father the same curtiosy of being a falible human being?


For we may also see that the great John, when declaring in his own preaching the Only-begotten God, guards his own statement in every way, so that the conception of non-existence shall find no access to Him Who is. For he says that He “was in the beginning,” and “was with God,” and “was God,” and was light, and life, and truth, and all good things at all times, and never at any time failed to be anything that is excellent, Who is the fulness of all good, and is in the bosom of the Father.


God commands us by His prophet not to esteem any new God to be God, and not to worship any strange God. Now it is clear that that is called new which is not from everlasting, and on the contrary, that is called everlasting which is not new. He, then, who does not believe that the Only-begotten God is from everlasting of the Father does not deny that He is new, for that which is not everlasting is confessedly new; and that which is new is not God, according to the saying of Scripture, “there shall not be in you any new God.” Therefore he who says that the Son “once was not,” denies His Godhead. Again, He Who says “you shall never worship a strange God” forbids us to worship another God; and the strange God is so called in contradistinction to our own God. Who, then, is our own God? Clearly, the true God. And who is the strange God? Surely, he who is alien from the nature of the true God. If, therefore, our own God is the true God, and if, as the heretics say, the Only-begotten God is not of the nature of the true God, He is a strange God, and not our God. But the Gospel says, the sheep “will not follow a stranger.” He that says He is created will make Him alien from the nature of the true God. What then will they do, who say that He is created? Do they worship that same created being as God, or do they not? For if they do not worship Him, they follow the Jews in denying the worship of Christ: and if they do worship Him, they are idolaters, for they worship one alien from the true God. But surely it is equally impious not to worship the Son, and to worship the strange God. We must then say that the Son is the true Son of the true Father, that we may both worship Him, and avoid condemnation as worshipping a strange God.



Fathers that used "only begotten God"

Fathers that used "only Begotten Son"

Which were quoting from memory or from text in front of them and how can you tell? Can a church father misquote a text form memory? why or why not? Could someone reading a text to another person who is copying what is being read, mispronouce a word? If a person by candle light was copying word for word, could he simply mis-read a word and not catch his mistake?

Sometime, take a book of the bible and copy it by hand for eight hours and see if you make any mistakes.

Try just all the begats in Genesis alone,


annem << Another book like that is “Fabricating Jesus” by Craig Evans. This is a great book and very orthodox. >>

I second this book by Craig Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. Although by an evangelical scholar, it has an endorsement from Scott Hahn on the covers. A chapter or two is on Bart Ehrman’s skepticism and issues of textual criticism. Also the discussion on John Ankerberg with Craig Evans and Gary Habermas (MP3). They discuss Bart. Doh! :smiley: :thumbsup:

Also, the William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman debate (MP3) on the resurrection. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

As for books on textual criticism, there are ones you will find in any university or seminary library (Catholic or Protestant). The classic on the NT is by Bruce Metzger (latest edition with Bart Ehrman, who studied with Metzger). Another one by Philip Wesley Comfort, Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (updated 2003).

Phil P


Dear Phil, Thanks so much for your suggestions! I will order the books from interlibrary loan. And I love finding things worth listening to on the MP3 player. Please let me know if you ever come across anything else good, God bless, Anne


The Holy Father, Pope Benedict VI’s most recent book addresses this topic. He doesn’t name names or anything, but his stated intent for this book was to counter the deliterious effects that some manifestations of runaway critical scholarship on the “historical Jesus” issue has wrought.

Jesus of Nazareth


Here is a video response from Christian apologist Lee Strobel on some of the issues raised by Ehrman:


I would also highly recommend Strobel’s latest book “The Case for the Real Jesus”. In the 2nd chapter Strobel interviews Dr. Daniel Wallace regarding the objects that Ehrman is raising about the New Testament manuscripts. The book is available here: amazon.com/gp/product/031024210X?ie=UTF8&tag=churchcommuni-20&link_code=as3&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=031024210X


Here is another book that may be helpful. It is authored by Dr. Daniel Wallace titled “Reinventing Jesus”.



There were four men on an Airplane Flight, the Pilot, the World’s
Smartest Man, a Hippie, and a Priest.

The plane began having engine trouble. It started descending at a very rapid rate. The pilot informed his passengers about the engine trouble and that they would have to bail out. There was a problem; there were only three parachutes. The four men started talking over the situation.

The Pilot stated that he has to use one of the parachutes so he would be able to tell the FAA what happened to the plane and that by doing this doing this would save countless lives. The other three agreed, so the Pilot took one of the parachutes and jumped to safety.

The World’s Smartest Man said he had to use one of the parachutes because the world relied o him for his knowledge and leadership. The other two passengers agreed, so the World’s Smartest Man took a parachute and jumped out.

The Priest and Hippie looked at each other. The Priest told the Hippie, “You take the last parachute because the good Lord will look after me.”

The Hippie said, "Thank you Father, but there isn’t any problem, the ‘World’s Smartest Man’ jumped out with my back pack on.


John 1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
The New American Bible, a Roman Catholic version is no better.

Who do we trust now?


Even though the following is not written by a Catholic, you may find it informative. It interacts with Bart Ehrman and applies textual criticism to the verses that explicitly refer to Jesus as God:


I haven’t had the opportunity to read this next one yet… so if you end up taking a look at it, please let me know how it is! Just glancing at it, I don’t know if it’s along the lines of what you’re looking for. It doesn’t look like it gets into the nitty-gritty. But I thought I’d share the link anyway, just in case.


May the LORD be with you!


From listening to Bart Ehrman lectures, he often does a “what if” type thing. try reading his works in that light.


Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” (Paperback)
by Timothy Paul Jones (Author)


Hi Everyone,

I have a friend who does not believe in God at all. She doesn’t believe in organized religion but believe that organize religion is about controlling and keeping people from doing what they want such women from being free… ie. no abortion, no euthanasia, no population control because we don’t accept contraceptives. She is pretty set in her thoughts. She has a very negative attitude toward Christianity in general and once she found out that I’m very religous, she loaned me the “Misquoting Jesus” book and said it will shake my religious foundation.

I haven’t gotten a chance to read the book she loan out yet. I don’t know if my religious foundation will be shaken after reading the book. I went to several of the links posted by this thread and read some of the reviews of those books suggested. Most of the reviews are quite negative and most are made by people who are not into religion in general. If they don’t believe in God and don’t believe in the Bible, most likely they will not accept refutations from Biblical scholars at all.

Has anyone read this book? Can you tell me what your views on it?

Thank you,


Can you tell me what your views on it?

I am familiar with it. You can read my comments earlier in this thread.

I have lost a good deal of respect for Ehrman as a scholar, especially since his book on God and suffering, recently published. Wow, was it awful.

As for worrying about losing your faith, I believe many thousands of people have lost their faith after reading “Misquoting Jesus”. However it is much more likely that many more people than that loved the book because it agreed with what they hoped was true.

The book won’t harm you at all if you read about the subject from all sides, and do the research.

Any particular question you have about it?

God bless, Annem


Hey Jimmy!

You might like to read The Gospel According to Bart by Daniel Wallace. It’s an excellent review of Misquoting Jesus and the issues that it raises. Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace also had a debate back in April. Unfortunately, I think you’ll have to pay $10 to get a copy, available here.

I read Bart’s book a year or two ago, but I don’t have a copy of it with me. And I really can’t add to Wallace’s review of it.

I’ve learned a lot from Bart, both from this book and from a number of his lecture series I’ve listened to. May God bring him back to faith in Jesus Christ! Please pray for Bart.

May God bless you!



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