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Book Review: Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus

Book cover of Misquoting TruthMisquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2007), by Timothy Paul Jones.

As the subtitle indicates, Timothy Paul Jones seeks to respond directly to the very popular book by Bart Ehrman. Indeed, as Jones writes in the Introduction, his own pilgrimage parallels that of Ehrman in many ways. In their early years, while in college, both were challenged by their reading and classes about the reliability and historicity of Christianity. Whereas Ehrman, however, took a path toward greater and greater skepticism so that he ends up in agnosticism, Jones did additional reading and research and came to affirm a stronger Christian faith.

Jones divides his work into two sections. In part one, “Why the Texts Can Be Trusted,” Jones writes a separate chapter about four “Truths”: the truth about “the Originals That Matter;” about the Copyists; about “Significant Changes” in the New Testament; and about “Misquoting Jesus.”

A couple of interesting observations from these chapters include the following. By AD 150, a local church’s book chest had most of the New Testament books (p. 36). And till about AD 200, the autographs were still available (p. 37).

In the second part, “Why the Lost Christianities Were Lost,” Jones writes of four more “truths.” They are the truth about Oral History; about the Authors of the Gospels; about Eyewitness Testimony; and about How the Books Were Chosen. He illustrates the last chapter by showing how the Gospel of Philip and the Acts of Paul were rejected by early Christians.

In his “Concluding Reflections,” which he titles, “It Fits the Lock,” which are words quoted from Chesterton’s, The Everlasting Man, Jones argues that it is the resurrection that points to the reality of the Christian faith. He discusses the repulsive nature of crucifixion and argues that only the resurrection would convince people to believe in a crucified deity. Particularly stark is Jones’ reproduction of a second century graffito mocking the crucifixion of Jesus. The words describe Jesus as God and portray him in the form of a crucified ass (p. 141).

In an appendix, Jones deals with the question: “How Valuable Is the Testimony of Papias?”

After a biography, Jones includes endnotes to his chapters, and has indices about subjects, names, and Scripture (pp. 170-176).

Jones contributes to the easy reading of his text by having many illustrations and tables. His special highlights scattered throughout, titled “Think It Out” and “Know More,” satisfy the needs of curious readers. This book deserves widespread reading, and is easily read by high school students and above. It fills a special place as a rebuttal to the wide spread propaganda promoted by Bart Ehrman in his various books.

About Jim De Young

James B. De Young is professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary, Portland, OR, where he has taught since 1975. Dr. De Young has authored numerous books, including Burning Down the Shack: How the “Christian” Bestseller Is Deceiving Millions (2010). He lives in the country where he has a mini farm and raises rhododendrons, Christmas trees, and beef cattle. They have two dogs, several cats, and four cows.

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