Book: Misquoting Jesus
A friend lent me Richard Rubenstein's When Jesus Became God a few months ago, and I found it fascinating. It that explained many different concepts were circulating in the early church about the divinity of Jesus, and showed how the orthodox view prevailed. I was raised Catholic and the perception that I always had was that the church exists today in very much same form as when Paul started converting the gentiles. In fact the structure of the church today did not even begin to develop until Constantine converted to Christianity and lent the power of the Roman Empire to the early church.
Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus covers similar but not identical territory. He approaches it through textual studies of the New Testament. The earliest existing manuscripts of the New Testament date from the second century, although the original texts were older they have been lost. What I took from the book is that the Bible shows a significant amount of variation, but that with some hard work and careful thought, a very reasonable approximation of the original can be reconstructed.
I read through many reviews of Misquoting Jesus on Amazon.com, and it is clear that this book provokes many reactions with opposite absolute reactions being common. One is comdemnation from people who believe that the Bible is the 100% accurate word of God. The other is from people who use the variation as evidence that the whole thing must be false. Certainly, neither is Ehrman's view.
I liked the book. It is clear that Ehrman has thought long and hard about his subject. This book is clearly simplified for a general audience, so one cannot evaluate whether he has gotten everything correct, but I believe that he has done a good job at explaining his method and giving an overview of the material.
I am of the opinion that simple answers and absolute certainities are rare, but careful thought and hard work can yield insights and useful knowledge that can improve our lives. It is one of the reasons that I am a scientist, and it appears that Bart Ehrman shares this view.