him, "Maybe Mark just made a mistake,"
Ehrman was shaken.
"As an evangelical Christian, I was
taught that you should always be trying to
find evidence, you should be looking for
proof, you should be asking questions," he
said. "But I was just positive I knew what
the answers were. When the answers started
coming up differently, that's when it
became a problem. I was basing my entire
life on the literal meaning of the Bible, but
then I started realizing the Bible isn't
divinely inspired - it's a very human
book. That shattered everything because
then I didn't know what to believe."
The spiritual autobiography Ehrman
outlines in Misquoting Jesus is the other
reason many readers have responded so
positively, he said.
"I wasn't sure how people would react.
I get all this e-mail from people who
appreciate my having done that and who
had a similar story. But r wanted to do it
because the book summarizes material I've
been studying for 30 years and tries to
make it accessible to a popular audience. I
wanted to begin on an autobiographical
note because this really did affect me per-
sonally, and I wanted to tell that story."
The book stops short of exploring the
full personal and theological implications of
Ehrman's growing belief that the Bible was
the production not of divine hands but of
human ones. That reticence was a deliber-
ate choice, he said.
"Part of the reason is that it forces peo-
ple to think about it and to work it out.
Instead of giving the answer, I wanted to
raise the question." To his surprise, so far
readers haven't charged him with heresy
for implying that the Bible is not divinely
inspired. ''I'm not quite sure why," he said.
"It may be because I'm stating facts, and it's
kind of hard to deny the facts. We have
5,700 manuscripts, and they all differ from
one another. How can anyone say that's not
true? It is true."
As he readily acknowledges, the evidence
of mistakes and deliberate alterations in the
manuscripts he lays out in Misquoting Jesus
Ehrman's 350-student lectures are highly popular. Some are dazzled, others criticize passionately, some fear for the welfare of his soul. "They know It's not going to be Sunday School," he says.
have been known to religious scholars for
some time. That's opened him up for some
criticism. Daniel B. Wallace, for instance, a
fundamentalist scholar and a friend of
Ehrman's, dismisses the book as overstated
and oversimplified - "New Testament textual criticism 101."Wallace takes issue with
the fact that few of the variants Ehrman dis-
cusses involve the actual words ofJesus.
"What doctrinal issues are really at stake
here?" he asked in a recent interview. "Just
because a particular verse does not affirm a
cherished doctrine does not mean that that
doctrine cannot be found in the New Testament."
"Some of my evangelical colleagues
have objected that I make it sound like the
whole thing's up for grabs," Ehrman said,
"whereas, it's not really all up for grabs. In
fact, we're pretty sure about most of the
text of the New Testament. My response to
that is, suppose we're 99 percent sure. Sup-
pose you've got a story that's 100 words
long and there's only one word you've got
a question about - it might be the key
CAR0 L t N A A L U M N t REVt E W