Ayn Rand infamously harangued her detractors with repeated and shrill calls to define their presuppositions. No need for that here: Andrews is clear as a bell in his faith, his view of history, and his view of the inerrancy of Christian Scripture. And he is clear about Bart Ehrman as well: when Ehrman outlines errors, admissions, and omissions in the development of the New Testament Andrews is less than amused. So much so that he writes a several hundred page book – Misrepresenting Jesus - to outwit Ehrman at his own game.
Make no mistake: this book is not about Biblical scholarship or textual criticism. It’s about Bart Ehrman. Andrews spends a very good portion of the book wallowing in the most gloriously flagrant ad hominen I’ve ever read. Maybe that’s ever been published. Ehrman’s sin, of course, it that he putatively asks Andrews, in regards to Biblical inerrancy, “which Bible”? No Bible, argues Ehrman, is authentic to the originals. We know of thousands of errors, additions, and omissions – most of them small and insignificant – but there nonetheless. We know of several verses throughout the New Testament that are only found in later copies. We know that not a single scrap of early Gospel writings match any other copy.
Once Andrews sets the arguments to rest based on Ehrman’s biases, inner psychologies, and time spend at Princeton, he moves on to straighten out the damage done by Ehrman. Andrews argues that Christian scholars, with credentials similar to Ehrman, have studied the same histories and concluded that the New Testament which we hold in our hands is 95-97% 'what the original would have been'. Where I come from this just might be misconstrued as a win for Ehrman. It’s hard for me to see how ‘inerrant’ and ’95-97%’ accurate match up? And ‘what the original would have been’ belies not knowing. It’s a guessing game that some – the faithful – choose to go along with. Other who rely on more concrete and robust arguments often opt out.
The book reads as if it were quickly written and there is no question that Andrews looks to Scripture first and then for facts to bolster his views. Once the attacks on Ehrman’s person are over there is some good reading from an Evangelical Christian perspective on the New Testament. There are some common end-arounds to common problems, but, in my mind, Anderson never – never can – rectify the issues that Ehrman presents. The book that will appeal to much of the choir, will be tossed out by anyone looking for a serious study of New Testament issues, and will cause a few interested on-lookers to shrug their shoulders.
This can all be very nicely cleaned up, of course, by following Karen Armstrong’s urgings that the New Testament was never meant to be taken literally. They are stories that tell us things about ourselves and the world that help us navigate the mysteries of life and death. Or there is the Roman Catholic idea that, well, this is exactly why sola scriptura is so off the mark: of course we need an interpreter and the Church is happy to oblige. My guess, though, is that Andrews won’t find either of these views particularly palatable.