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The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament

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Victors not only write history: they also reproduce the texts. Bart Ehrman explores the close relationship between the social history of early Christianity and the textual tradition of the emerging New Testament, examining how early struggles between Christian heresy and orthodoxy affected the transmission of the documents over which many of the debates were waged. He make Victors not only write history: they also reproduce the texts. Bart Ehrman explores the close relationship between the social history of early Christianity and the textual tradition of the emerging New Testament, examining how early struggles between Christian heresy and orthodoxy affected the transmission of the documents over which many of the debates were waged. He makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the social and intellectual history of early Christianity and raises intriguing questions about the relationship of readers to their texts, especially in an age when scribes could transform the documents they reproduced. This edition includes a new afterword surveying research in biblical interpretation over the past twenty years.


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Victors not only write history: they also reproduce the texts. Bart Ehrman explores the close relationship between the social history of early Christianity and the textual tradition of the emerging New Testament, examining how early struggles between Christian heresy and orthodoxy affected the transmission of the documents over which many of the debates were waged. He make Victors not only write history: they also reproduce the texts. Bart Ehrman explores the close relationship between the social history of early Christianity and the textual tradition of the emerging New Testament, examining how early struggles between Christian heresy and orthodoxy affected the transmission of the documents over which many of the debates were waged. He makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the social and intellectual history of early Christianity and raises intriguing questions about the relationship of readers to their texts, especially in an age when scribes could transform the documents they reproduced. This edition includes a new afterword surveying research in biblical interpretation over the past twenty years.

30 review for The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament

  1. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    Ehrman's thesis in this book is that many of the textual variants that are found in the manuscripts of the New Testament are the result of intentional changes to the text on the part of the scribes who copied the texts. He contends that the scribes made these changes to the text as a result of, and in response to, the various Christological disputes of the second and third centuries and he analyzes several variant readings with this contention in mind. While I agree with Ehrman that the scribes Ehrman's thesis in this book is that many of the textual variants that are found in the manuscripts of the New Testament are the result of intentional changes to the text on the part of the scribes who copied the texts. He contends that the scribes made these changes to the text as a result of, and in response to, the various Christological disputes of the second and third centuries and he analyzes several variant readings with this contention in mind. While I agree with Ehrman that the scribes who copied the texts sometimes did make intentional changes to the texts, I don’t believe that this is the sole explanation for all of the variant readings discussed in his book. Further, I feel as if Ehrman is arguing that the scribes who changed the texts did so fully conscious of what they were doing and the effect it would have on those who read the texts. In other words, I feel as if he has, in some way, painted the scribes as people who intentionally wielded their power in order to sway arguments toward the conclusion which they held. I believe that the early Christian scribes were also users of the texts; for me, that means that they were part of living, breathing churches which I believe in some way experienced the work of the Holy Spirit among them. As such, I believe that the scribes would have been cautious to retain the truth of the texts which they copied and hesitant to make changes to them. Ehrman's book is useful, but his arguments should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    It seems like a lot of folks either didn't know what they were getting into with this book or completely misunderstood the primary message. First of all, unlike a lot of Ehrman's output, this is not intended for mass-market appeal rather it is more suited for serious study of the New Testament. Second, the argument is not that every change in the early scriptures was done for purely intentional reasons and he acknowledges that most changes were accidental and not particularly substantive, in man It seems like a lot of folks either didn't know what they were getting into with this book or completely misunderstood the primary message. First of all, unlike a lot of Ehrman's output, this is not intended for mass-market appeal rather it is more suited for serious study of the New Testament. Second, the argument is not that every change in the early scriptures was done for purely intentional reasons and he acknowledges that most changes were accidental and not particularly substantive, in many cases the result of fatigue-driven parablepsis occasioned by homoeoarcton or homoeoteleuton on the part of the scribes. However for this work he has decided to focus on those changes that have evidence of intent behind them. However, what is most important about this text is the transformative effect is has on the understanding of the work of the scribes in the first couple centuries of early Christianity. Far from being human xerox machines, scribes were authors and readers with scriptural views of their own that on occasion, prompted textual changes due to a proto-orthodoxy agenda. Ehrman frames these changes in response to several competing "heresies" of the time, those being the views of the Ebionites and Theodotions (adoptionists); Marcionites, Docetists, and Gnostics (separationists), and Patripassianists (modalists). All of these groups had unique views as to what it meant to be a Christian and what the truth of Jesus' existence, physical/divine being, and message ultimately was. As such, the debates of these early centuries in christology and the success of the proto-orthodox view at the councils of Nicea and Chalcedon had a profound impact as to how texts were copied, transmitted, and ultimately selected for inclusion. In very academic language, Ehrman makes a very good case for several specific examples from the Gospels and writings of Paul. Also in this new edition, not only has he corrected several errors in the first printing but has added an illuminating afterword that reflects on just how much the discipline has changed since this was originally published in 1993. Still a pivotal and somewhat prescient work in the field, for the serious student of the New Testament this is worth the time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Read the book Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament by Wallace. It clearly refutes a lot of claims and exaggerations found within this book by Ehrman.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    This is a difficult book, written mainly for scholars of ancient Greek, Coptic and Latin texts. The writing of it was like an archaeological mining operation through mounds of papyrus or parchment. Still, all the sifting and meticulous cross-comparison of handwritten manuscripts yields nuggets of evidence on the shaping of scripture over time. Ehrman finds patterns in the scribal alterations, usually toward conformity with an emerging orthodox doctrine about Christ. The Jewish-Christian referenc This is a difficult book, written mainly for scholars of ancient Greek, Coptic and Latin texts. The writing of it was like an archaeological mining operation through mounds of papyrus or parchment. Still, all the sifting and meticulous cross-comparison of handwritten manuscripts yields nuggets of evidence on the shaping of scripture over time. Ehrman finds patterns in the scribal alterations, usually toward conformity with an emerging orthodox doctrine about Christ. The Jewish-Christian references to Jesus as a man, the Gnostic depictions of him as a superhuman spirit, or "adoptionistic" descriptions of Jesus as a man who the holy spirit entered, all receive subtle "corrections" over time. Manuscript 2766, for example, shows an alteration from older versions of Luke 8:28, where "Jesus, Son of the Highest God" is shortened to "Jesus, the Highest God." Without scholarship like Ehrman's it would be far less clear which versions of such lines are most original. Overall, this is arcane raw research, leading Ehrman toward his later books for a wider audience, such as the far more accessible "Misquoting Jesus."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sharman Wilson

    Ehrman lets you know up front that most of this book is written for Bible scholars. He encourages the rest of us to read the introduction, read the beginnings and summary of each chapter, skimming as desired thru the meat of the chapters. I tried to read it cover to cover, but after the first chapter I decided to take the author's advice and thus got a lot more out of it. His thesis is that as orthodox scribes copied out new manuscripts of the Bible, they felt obliged to add, subtract, or tweak w Ehrman lets you know up front that most of this book is written for Bible scholars. He encourages the rest of us to read the introduction, read the beginnings and summary of each chapter, skimming as desired thru the meat of the chapters. I tried to read it cover to cover, but after the first chapter I decided to take the author's advice and thus got a lot more out of it. His thesis is that as orthodox scribes copied out new manuscripts of the Bible, they felt obliged to add, subtract, or tweak words in order to make the scriptures state more clearly what they ought to be saying. They wanted to make it harder for the heretics to prove their heresies from the scriptures. Ehrman goes through the main heresies they were trying to stamp out and how the Bible was changed to reflect the orthodox view better. Very interesting!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Simmons

    Seriously flawed. Was expecting a work of scholarship and got a lot of hot air. The 'evidence' is largely spurious, seriously limited in scope and the author draws conclusions from a lack of actual substance. C.E. Hill (Who Chose the Gospels) and others have basically had to put this work into the category of pop fiction. Seriously flawed. Was expecting a work of scholarship and got a lot of hot air. The 'evidence' is largely spurious, seriously limited in scope and the author draws conclusions from a lack of actual substance. C.E. Hill (Who Chose the Gospels) and others have basically had to put this work into the category of pop fiction.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Gebhardt

    This is way beyond my pay grade, so I'm not really in any position to give it a rating. It also went into much more detail than I could handle. But I did find many of the concepts fascinating, such as Docetism, and the idea that, since Jesus was divine, he wasn't really human and only ate food to make his apostles relate to him (then debunked in instances when, for example, he asked for some water because he was thirsty on the cross). Or that he had Simon of Cyrene go on the cross in his stead, This is way beyond my pay grade, so I'm not really in any position to give it a rating. It also went into much more detail than I could handle. But I did find many of the concepts fascinating, such as Docetism, and the idea that, since Jesus was divine, he wasn't really human and only ate food to make his apostles relate to him (then debunked in instances when, for example, he asked for some water because he was thirsty on the cross). Or that he had Simon of Cyrene go on the cross in his stead, since he was divine and couldn't die on the cross.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rosster Montreal

    I don't agree on his views on Christ mythicism, but as a scholar of the early church, I thought his ideas were very good. I don't agree on his views on Christ mythicism, but as a scholar of the early church, I thought his ideas were very good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ben Reynolds

    This is a must-read for those interested in textual criticism and early Christianity. It's a serious piece of scholarship and has remained influential since it was first published in 1993. Along with the work of others, it has lead to a new appreciation of textual variants as windows into the the history and interpretation of the text, rather than chaff to be discarded in the quest to reconstruct the 'original text'. Ehrman puts forward a solid argument that many of the variants in the gospels w This is a must-read for those interested in textual criticism and early Christianity. It's a serious piece of scholarship and has remained influential since it was first published in 1993. Along with the work of others, it has lead to a new appreciation of textual variants as windows into the the history and interpretation of the text, rather than chaff to be discarded in the quest to reconstruct the 'original text'. Ehrman puts forward a solid argument that many of the variants in the gospels were influenced by the christological controversies of the early centuries. While it's true that the scribes were living, breathing people who were likely to have been influenced by such controversies, I'm not convinced that all of Ehrman's examples fall into this category.

  10. 4 out of 5

    james spellman

    Variations on the truth? A very complex study of textual variations from the early centuries after Christ and possible motives. Is what we 're a d what was written? Is our interpretation correct or are we led to believe a variation on the theme? Mind boggling and to some degree, scary. Variations on the truth? A very complex study of textual variations from the early centuries after Christ and possible motives. Is what we 're a d what was written? Is our interpretation correct or are we led to believe a variation on the theme? Mind boggling and to some degree, scary.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fred Kohn

    Put on notice by the author that this book contained technical discussions, I was prepared for a difficult read. In fact, the book was largely free of technical jargon. I suppose my knowing a bit of Greek helped, but I can't imagine even not knowing Greek being an impediment for a reasonably dedicated reader. Being put on guard by another reviewer that this book was "seriously flawed," I read it more closely than perhaps I might have otherwise. Armed with my 21st edition of Novum Testamentum Gra Put on notice by the author that this book contained technical discussions, I was prepared for a difficult read. In fact, the book was largely free of technical jargon. I suppose my knowing a bit of Greek helped, but I can't imagine even not knowing Greek being an impediment for a reasonably dedicated reader. Being put on guard by another reviewer that this book was "seriously flawed," I read it more closely than perhaps I might have otherwise. Armed with my 21st edition of Novum Testamentum Graece and a reconstruction of the Greek Text used by the NIV translators, I put the "seriously flawed" claim to the test and could find no substance to it. Perhaps Christians who consider themselves heirs to orthodoxy believe by the title that this book is an attack on modern day orthodoxy. But that claim has no merit. Of all the corruptions discussed in this book (and I'm guessing there had to be well over a hundred), only six of those considered by Ehrman to be corruptions (by my count) are reproduced in my edition of Novum Testamentum Graece. What Ehrman doesn't discuss, and what makes me mad, is that occasionally even when orthodox scholars recognize what is original, they still translate according to the corruption! For example, 1 John 2:28, speaking of Jesus, clearly says in the Greek "for IF he appears". Yet modern translations all say "for WHEN he appears", reproducing a corruption that is common in the Greek texts as well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A friend sent me a complementary copy of this as evidence for the intentional manipulation of early Christian manuscripts for the purpose of stamping out the numerous heresies that plagued the nascent church. There's a run on sentence, phew, sorry. Breath, in out. The evidence is compelling, but it's not particularly disconcerting. Regardless of what happened to 3rd/4th century copies of the Bible, our modern translations revert to older sources that are not tainted by these manipulations. While A friend sent me a complementary copy of this as evidence for the intentional manipulation of early Christian manuscripts for the purpose of stamping out the numerous heresies that plagued the nascent church. There's a run on sentence, phew, sorry. Breath, in out. The evidence is compelling, but it's not particularly disconcerting. Regardless of what happened to 3rd/4th century copies of the Bible, our modern translations revert to older sources that are not tainted by these manipulations. While Ehrman might have a point that the early church may have formed differently if the textual evidence weren't aligned with the party line during times of inquisition, I find that hard to believe. It's not like today when we can inseminate millions of homes with our literary seed - each individual manipulation was just that, one individual copy. I find it hard to believe that the 0.02% of early Christians that made decisions in the formative church had only one copy of the scriptures to base their opinions on, and a corrupted one at that. Either way, it's pretty well done. Though I didn't read the whole thing, it's a little boring for a non-biblical historian/theologian/linguist.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cera

    A very interesting look at the way in which battles over 'correct' Christology shaped the text of the New Testament. This is written primarily for scholars working in the same field of textual criticism, so it has the benefits & drawbacks of being extremely meticulous, down to detailed discussions of New Testament Greek grammar. Ehrman is, luckily, aware of this, and structures each chapter with a more general opening and introduction, so that readers like myself can skim more lightly over some A very interesting look at the way in which battles over 'correct' Christology shaped the text of the New Testament. This is written primarily for scholars working in the same field of textual criticism, so it has the benefits & drawbacks of being extremely meticulous, down to detailed discussions of New Testament Greek grammar. Ehrman is, luckily, aware of this, and structures each chapter with a more general opening and introduction, so that readers like myself can skim more lightly over some of discussions about sources while still getting the gist of the argument. I was also pleased to see that Erhman bears in mind that, while the Christians whose version of Christology eventually triumphed framed themselves as the orthodox and those who differed as heretics, the so-called heretics were of course framing themselves as correct and the orthodox as a heretical sect. Each group had a particular view of Christ that they believed was correct, and Ehrman touches briefly on some of the changes that the groups now called heretical made in order to support their positions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    There were some parts of this book that I thought were great and other parts that were long and the arguments seemed like kind of a stretch. The parts of this book that I really like talk about the different things that different groups of early Christians believed. Something we don't hear about very much in church are that early followers had some very different ideas about things that what has become mainstream today. The parts of the book that I didn't enjoy as much were the parts where he ar There were some parts of this book that I thought were great and other parts that were long and the arguments seemed like kind of a stretch. The parts of this book that I really like talk about the different things that different groups of early Christians believed. Something we don't hear about very much in church are that early followers had some very different ideas about things that what has become mainstream today. The parts of the book that I didn't enjoy as much were the parts where he argued about why changes were made. Sometimes it seemed like what he was saying was such a stretch that he should have been saying that we can't know for sure and instead he was trying to argue his side. Either way, it was an interesting book to read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave Maddock

    The methodical, detailed nature of this book is both its greatest advantage and weakness. At its heart, the book builds up a strong case for orthodox scribal alteration of the New Testament through the sheer weight of examples it presents. Fundamentally, it is easy to see how this approach is critical to the persuasiveness of the argument if one reads his popular rewrite of this material in Misquoting Jesus. However, the minutiae of Greek grammar and its misuse is only as interesting as the part The methodical, detailed nature of this book is both its greatest advantage and weakness. At its heart, the book builds up a strong case for orthodox scribal alteration of the New Testament through the sheer weight of examples it presents. Fundamentally, it is easy to see how this approach is critical to the persuasiveness of the argument if one reads his popular rewrite of this material in Misquoting Jesus. However, the minutiae of Greek grammar and its misuse is only as interesting as the particular examples being discussed so I've found the book fluctuates between incredibly fascinating to mildly interesting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Frank Bella

    This was not easy reading, as it is actually written for New Testament scholars, but the research by Bart Ehrman is very diligent. He is a historian who is an expert in ancient languages such as Greek and Aramaic. The average reader should try "Misquoting Jesus", also by Ehrman. This was not easy reading, as it is actually written for New Testament scholars, but the research by Bart Ehrman is very diligent. He is a historian who is an expert in ancient languages such as Greek and Aramaic. The average reader should try "Misquoting Jesus", also by Ehrman.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cliff

    A good read on New Testament Textualism. Ehrman has taken the place of his mentor Bruce Metzger as the authority on the subject. However, Bart certainly has a theological bias that permeates the work and colors some of his conclusions...caveat lector.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Alvord

    While the level of his scholarship is beyond reproach, still Ehrman belies a tendency to grind his axe against his ultra-conservative religious upbringing, as do many of his later, better known books.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael Brady

    "It is never easy from the historian's perspective, to determine whether the text led Christians to embrace a doctrine or whether doctrine led Christians to modify the text." One of Ehrman's three best books on the subject of early Christianity. "It is never easy from the historian's perspective, to determine whether the text led Christians to embrace a doctrine or whether doctrine led Christians to modify the text." One of Ehrman's three best books on the subject of early Christianity.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    An interesting book as a scholastic (non-lds) study of the beginning of the apostasy. Some sections are difficult to get through

  21. 4 out of 5

    Uncle

    After reading 'Misquoting Jesus' I picked up this and one other book by Bart Ehrman; 'Forged' For a review of why I like his books read the review under 'Misquoting Jesus'. After reading 'Misquoting Jesus' I picked up this and one other book by Bart Ehrman; 'Forged' For a review of why I like his books read the review under 'Misquoting Jesus'.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jared Nuzzolillo

    MUCH better than Misquoting Jesus. There are far fewer grandiose claims and far more scholarly research than Misquoting Jesus.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Diogenes d'Mayberry

    A more scholarly read, not necessarily for general knowledge.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Toney

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Ervin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob Squires

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert Sewell

  28. 4 out of 5

    Josh Smith

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  30. 4 out of 5

    Naomi Baker

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