Lost in Transmission

I just read Nicholas Perrin’s Lost in Transmission, which I would certainly recommend to anyone interested in exploring how the personal story of a scholar relates to their scholarship, and any conservative Christian wanting to hear from an Evangelical scholar about the need to not simply dismiss historical investigation, academic inquiry, and other fields of knowledge relevant to understanding the Bible.

There are points here and there that I would disagree with (for instance, when Perrin attributes far greater significance to Gerhardsson’s work on memorization and tradition than it deserves), but there is one more significant overarching criticism. The book tries to present itself as a response to Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus. But it isn’t, and reading it with that expectation will result only in disappointment.

Let me share a nice quote from the book, which is typical of the book’s approach as a whole: “When people succumb to that temptation of ignoring challenges to their faith, they are in the end demonstrating that they are more committed to the feeling of having a lock on the truth than they are to truth itself. When Christians succumb to the same temptation, there is the added temptation of justifying their intellectual disengagement by appealing to faith or the Holy Spirit or something like that. Not only does this rationale shut down a discussion that is probably worth having; it also usually has more to do with intellectual laziness or megalomania than anything remotely Biblical or divine” (p.xxi).

All I can add to that is “here here!” Oh, and I was glad Nicholas answered the question that has been on my mind since I first heard him read a paper at SBL: No, he isn’t related to Norman.

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