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Investigating Bart Ehrman’s Top Ten Troublesome Bible Verses
by J Warner Wallace
On the final page of the paperback edition of Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman famously listed the “Top Ten Verses That Were Not Originally in the New Testament.” In an effort to discredit the reliability of the New Testament text, Ehrman offered this list to demonstrate the existence of many late insertions in the text. He found this reality troubling as a young man, and eventually walked away from his Christian faith as a result:
“The Bible began to appear to me as a very human book. Just as human scribes had copied, and changed, the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts of scripture. This was a human book from beginning to end.” (from Misquoting Jesus)
Let’s take a look at Ehrman’s list of troublesome verses and examine how they impact the reliability of the New Testament text:
1 John 5:7
There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.
Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.
Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.
In his anguish Jesus began to pray more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.
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And in the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and said, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.“
These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons and they will speak with new tongues.
And they will take up snakes in their hands, and if they drink poison it will not harm them, and they will lay their hands on the sick and they will become well.
For an angel of the Lord went down at certain times into the pool and disturbed the waters; and whoever was the first to step in when the water was disturbed was healed of whatever disease he had.
But Peter rose up and ran to the tomb, and stooping down to look in, he saw the linen clothes by themselves. And he went away to his own home, marveling at what had happened.
And when Jesus blessed them he departed from them and he was taken up into heaven
While this list may seem large (and even surprising for those of us who haven’t examined the presence of textual variants in the New Testament), I think this list does little to impact the reliability of the text. In fact, I think Ehrman is profiting from the unfamiliarity that most Christians have with the presence of textual variants. The list does seem shocking and daunting if you’ve never taken the time to examine matters such as these. But if you stop and think about it and examine each verse listed here, the impact is actually very minimal. I recognize four truths about these verses…
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