It is said that when one resorts to name-calling, it's a sure sign one has run out of arguments. If this is so, then it seems that the Reverend Greg Sheryl ran out of arguments before he started writing. Albeit he does not explicitly call Dr. Ehrman an agent of Satan on page 1, the suggestion is unmistakably clear with the first sentence of the second paragraph. On page 2, under the subhead BACKGROUND, Sheryl quotes "A very relevant scripture to our subject":
For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, . . . . (Titus 1:10)
This is, in effect, calling Dr. Ehrman a rebellious, empty, talker and deceiver, an implied accusation for which he presents no evidence whatever. This might be described as name-calling by proxy: [It's not me who is calling names; it's the Bible!] Having read Mr. Sheryl's book and Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Plus)
, each from cover to cover, I don't know about rebellious, but "empty talker and deceiver" seems to me to fit Mr. Sheryl much better than Dr. Ehrman.
It would be tedious, both for me and for you, the reader of this review, to refute every false assertion in the book, so I will cite only some of the most glaring.
Chapter 4 is titled "Ehrman Errors: Two Demonstrable Examples." The first "example" is that in discussing the claim that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Psalm 22 were prophecies of Jesus, Dr. Ehrman mentions that "Jews . . . had a very effective response: the Messiah is never mentioned in these passages. . . . Before Christianity there were no Jews that we know of who anticipated a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins of others and then be raised from the dead . . . ." and he goes on a few pages later to say "In reality, the idea that Jesus was the suffering Messiah was an invention of the early Christians." Mr. Sheryl writes: ". . . the fact that the word `Messiah' is not mentioned in such passages as Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 is a ridiculous argument. The word `Messiah' isn't used in many other messianic prophecies either, such as Micah 5:2, . . . Isaiah 7:14 . . . etc. That Isaiah 53 is messianic is so obvious that one needs professional help to miss it, and that is what Ehrman is trying to provide." Hmm: it is SO much easier to say something is obvious than to adduce any evidence to support that something. And the claim that "that is what Ehrman is trying to provide" is what is known as hostile mind-reading. Mr. Sheryl fails to cite his credentials as a qualified mind-reader, and one may reasonably doubt that he has any such credentials or qualifications. If "one needs professional help," as Mr. Sheryl claims, then all the Jews prior to the end of the first century, CE must have had professional help, because there is no record of any Jewish mention of that notion before 100 CE.
Dr. Ehrman points out that "Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14 were also not talking about the messiah."
Nonetheless, Mr. Sheryl writes:
"But what about Ehrman's assertion that the Jews before the time of Jesus never thought of Isaiah 53 as messianic? The fact is: They DID!!"*
"Christian apologists and researchers John Ankerberg and John Weldon wrote,"
Proof that this passage [Isaiah 52:13-53:12] has long been acknowledged as Messianic can be seen from the fact that the early rabbis developed the idea of two Messiahs from this passage.
But the "early rabbis" referred to lived in the Middle Ages. As Dr. Ehrman put it, "to refer to the Middle Ages as evidence of what Jews thought centuries (or a millennium) earlier is obviously not very helpful!" And, I might add, it at the very least borders on intellectual dishonesty. Dr. Ehrman wrote that he "would challenge [Mr. Sheryl] to cite a single Jewish source from [biblical times] that takes them [as messianic]."
About half of the text consists of extended quotes from other authors, not always well-chosen. An example is Mr. R. A. Torrey (1856-1925), who wrote about three pages of this 60-page book, including:
He is a very shallow thinker indeed who gives up a well-tested truth because there are some apparent facts that he cannot reconcile with that truth. And he is a very shallow Bible scholar who gives up his belief in the divine origin and inerrancy of of the Bible because there are some supposed facts that he cannot reconcile with that doctrine. There are many shallow thinkers of that kind in the theological world today.
More name-calling by proxy! And the quote consists entirely of unsupported assertions.
In science, it is expected that if facts are discovered which a `well-tested' theory cannot explain, the theory must be modified or thrown out, not the empirical facts. In theology, Mr. Sheryl quotes with apparent approval Mr. Torrey's position that the scientific norm is shallow thinking; if the dogma doesn't fit the facts, the deep thinker will find a way to keep the dogma and, if necessary, modify (i.e. falsify) or ignore or deny the empirical data!
The one good thing I can say about this book is that the footnotes are where they belong, each at the bottom of the page that references it.
Don't waste your money on this one! For a more honest and gentlemanly and better-reasoned reply to Dr. Ehrman, read Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus"
, by Timothy Paul Jones. While I agree much more with Dr. Ehrman than with Dr. Jones, I cannot so readily dismiss Dr. Jones' arguments as incompetent or dishonest, because they aren't. And for more background (mostly historical) read Asimov's Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, the Old and New Testaments
* Because Amazon's text box does not permit boldface type, as in the original, I used caps instead. And the real historical fact is: They DIDN'T