Evangelical Textual Criticism

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two new reviews of Ehrman

Two reviews of Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, appear in the latest issue of JETS (49/2, June 2006). One is a long (pp. 327-49) review article by Dan Wallace. Many of the points he makes reprise earlier statements by Dan that have been noticed on this blog, but it is good to have them in one (extended) essay. In addition to dealing with issues raised by Ehrman's book, Dan interacts with Ehrman's treatment of specific textual variants (e.g., Heb. 2:8-9, Mark 1:41, Matt 24:36, John 1:18, and 1 John 5:7-8), one conclusion being that even if Ehrman's decisions re the "original reading" (yes, Ehrman does use that phrase) are correct, nonetheless he has consistently over-stated the significance of deliberate changes to the text. Dan also notes how the success of Ehrman's book highlights some lessons to be learned by the evangelical academy and seminaries re how we deal (or, for the most part, have not dealt) with such matters.

The other is an insightful extended review (387-91, nearly five dense pages) by Michael J. Kruger (of the Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC). His treatment includes some thoughtful comments re the theological issues raised by Ehrman's book, and a brief analysis of Ehrman's own theological assumptions that shape how he deals with the issue of inspiration (Kruger concludes that "Ehrman is working with his own self-appointed definition of inspiration which sets up an arbitrary … standard that could never be met. Does inspiration really require that once the books of the Bible were written that God would miraculously guarantee that no one would ever write it down incorrectly?"). To cite just one of his major observations, Kruger notes that "Ehrman wants to be able to have his text-critical cake and eat it, too. One (sic!) the one hand, he needs to argue that text-critical methodologies are reliable and can show you what was original and what was not, otherwise he would not be able to demonstrate that changes have been made for theological reasons … Yet, on the other hand, he wants the 'original' text of the NT to remain inaccessible and obscure, forcing him to argue that text-critical methodologies cannot really produce any certain conclusions. Which is it?"

Apparently (though I would be glad to be corrected on this point) currents issues of JETS are not available on line, but for those interested, these two reviews make a trip to the library worth the effort.


  1. Is the article by Wallace in JETS the same as his exteneded review of Misquoting Jesus from Bible.org?

    Somewhat related, I just noticed that Dr. Wallace has posted an article on Bible.org titled “My Take on Inerrancy.” This should be especially interesting to those who have read his interview and the ensuing comments on this blog.

  2. Peter Gurry asked, "Is the article by Wallace in JETS the same as his exteneded review of Misquoting Jesus from Bible.org?"

    Apparently, yes, very nearly so: a very quick skim of both noted only two differences:(1) the first two footnotes of the Bible.org version are combined in the JETS review, so that the notes are one off throughout, and (2) in the conclusion, the middle (of three) paragraphs in the Bible.org version does not appear in the JETS version.

  3. Thanks Mike for drawing these two our attention.

  4. The article by Kruger can be read online at Michael Marlowe's Bible_research site in message 3969.

  5. Here's the url: