In a chapter entitled “Theologically Motivated Alterations of the Text” in his
book, Misquoting Jesus, Professor Ehrman elaborates on the corruption of 1 Timothy
3:16, which was detected not only by Sir Isaac Newton, but also by the eighteenth
century scholar, Johann J. Wettstein. In Ehrman’s words, “A later scribe had altered the
original reading, so that it no longer read “who” but “God” (made manifest in the flesh).
In other words, this later corrector changed the text in such a way as to stress Christ’s
divinity…. Our earliest and best manuscripts, however, speak of Christ ‘who’ was made
manifest in the flesh, without calling Jesus, explicitly, God.”
Ehrman stresses that this corruption is evident in five early Greek manuscripts.
All the same it was the corrupted, and not the “earliest and best,” biblical manuscripts
which came to dominate both the medieval manuscripts and the early English
translations. 146 Consequently, from medieval times on, the tenets of Christian faith have
suffered the corrupting influence of a church devoted more to theology than to reality. *
Ehrman adds: “As Wettstein continued his investigations, he found other passages
typically used to affirm the doctrine of the divinity of Christ that in fact represented
textual problems; when these problems are resolved on textcritical grounds, in most
instances references to Jesus’ divinity are taken away.”
Given the above there should be little surprise that twentiethcentury Christianity
has expanded to include those who deny the alleged divinity of Jesus. A significant sign
of this realization is the following report of the London Daily News: “More than half of
England’s Anglican bishops say Christians are not obliged to believe that Jesus Christ
was God, according to a survey published today.”148 It is worth noting that it was not
mere clergy that were polled but bishops, no doubt leaving many parishioners scratching
their heads and wondering who to believe, if not their bishops!
Regardless of any devotee’s romantic view of religious origins, the harsh reality is
that all prophets but Adam were born in the bath of amniotic fluid that flushes each and every child from the womb—Jesus Christ included. No doubt the mother of Jesus suckled
him at her breast in the natural act of nurturing a human child, but in what would be an
oddly incongruous act for God, as the relationship would imply God’s dependence upon
His very own creation. One would suspect that Jesus crawled on a dirt floor and grew up
in a human fashion complete with worldly eating and worldly drinking (most certainly
followed by the occasional trip to a worldly bathroom). His human hunger, thirst, anger,
pain, fatigue, sorrow, anxiety and frustration are all well described in the Bible.
God is allknowing, but in Mark 5:30 Jesus did not even know who had touched
his clothes. God is allpowerful, but Mark 6:5 tells us Jesus could not perform any
miracles (or, as per some translations, “no mighty work”) in his own country.
Furthermore, in Mark 8:2225 Jesus failed to heal a blind man in his first attempt. God
never weakens and yet, when Jesus needed strengthening, the angels ministered to him
(Mark 1:13, Luke 22:43).
Jesus slept, but God never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). Jesus was tempted by Satan
(Luke 4:113), and yet James 1:13 tells mankind, “God cannot be tempted with evil …”
Jesus prayed and gave thanks (to whom?), fasted (why?), carried the teachings of God,
and in the end helplessly suffered humiliation and torture at the hands of misguided
tyrants. A man oppressed by tyrant rulers or a god oppressed by the very creation He will
Himself condemn on the Day of Judgment? Many (and not just Muslims) argue that the
Islamic view is more complimentary and noble of God as a supreme and transcendent
being, and more realistic of Jesus as a prophet and a man.
The question begs an answer, “Why must Jesus be God? Why can’t he just be