There is one particular quote by Bart Ehrman that has been elusive in finding. I have heard Dr. Dan Wallace reference it (and a few others), but I have never seen it in its entirety. This particular quote is elusive because the book that contains it has been released in several versions. It doesn’t appear in the earliest versions, nor does it appear in the latest versions. The name of this particular book is called Misquoting Jesus. And the particular edition that contains the quote has a Q&A section with Dr. Ehrman in the back of the book.
I can be a bit like a dog with a bone when I start working on something, and I really wanted to find this particular edition of the book… Yes. I found it.
Here is the quote:
Bruce Metzger, your mentor in textual criticism to whom this book is dedicated, has said that there is nothing in these variants of Scripture that challenges any essential Christian beliefs (e.g. the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity). Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?
“Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions—he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not—we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement—maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.
The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament. What he means by that (I think) is that even if one or two passages that are used to argue for a belief have different textual reading, there are still other passages that could be used to argue for the same belief. For the most part, I think that’s true.
But I was looking at the question from a different angle. My question is not about traditional Christian beliefs, but about how to interpret passages of the Bible. And my point is that if you change what the words say, then you change what the passage means. Most textual variants (Prof. Metzger and I agree on this) have no bearing at all on what a passage means. But there are other textual variants (we agree on this as well) that are crucial to the meaning of a passage. And the theology of entire books of the New Testament are sometimes affected by the meaning of individual passages.
From my point of view, the stakes are rather high: Does Luke’s Gospel teach a doctrine of atonement (that Christ’s death atones for sins)? Does John’s Gospel teach that Christ is the “unique God” himself? Is the doctrine of the Trinity ever explicitly stated in the New Testament? These and other key theological issues are at stake, depending on which textual variants you think are original and which you think are creations of early scribes who were modifying the text.”
Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 252-3, Emphasis added.
And here are pictures of the actual pages from this edition:
The key point of this post is this: “The position I argue for in Misquoting Jesus does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”
I think that statement is pretty powerful: “the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants …”
Maybe this information will help some of you in your search for truth. Maybe it will help you settle an issue in your mind. And just maybe it will bring you closer to the Lord.