I wanted to extend a word of thanks to the kind folks at Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy of Nicholas Perrin’s Lost in Transmission?.
Nicholas Perrin is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. His areas of research include the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus’ identity as the temple, Paul and Jewish self-definition, and the Gospels. Two of his more recent publications are Thomas: The Other Gospel (London, SPCK; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2007) and The Judas Gospel (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).
One can hardly watch or read the news without hearing about the latest research on the Gnostic gospels of Thomas or Judas and how Christianity as we know it will be shaken to its very core. It is a very unique time we live in, where the Gnostic gospels and New Testament textual criticism have gained such prominence in the popular media. The work of Bart Ehrman and others has ignited a heightened interest on these topics within the public square. This book engages and examines certain claims made by Ehrman in his widely popular book, Misquoting Jesus (New York: HarperOne, 2007).
Based on the subject matter alone, you might expect this book to be highly technical, stuffy, and boring. It is not any of these things. The audience the author has in mind for this work is the uninformed non-Christian and the church. As such, it is written in a manner that makes it very accessible to the reader who has a limited background on this subject matter. The themes of the chapters are as follows:
1. Lost in Transmission?
2. Did Jesus Live?
3. History, Faith, and Certitude
4. Lord of the Ring
5. Jesus the Jew
6. Can You Hear Me Now?
7. The Evangelist’s Hand
8. Gospel Truth or Gospel Truths?
9. Mistaking Matters
10. Misleading Pens
11. Translation Wars
With the intended audience in mind, the catchy, yet somewhat cliché chapter titles seem to be an attempt to keep a light-hearted feel within subject matter that is often anything but. Each chapter of the book has a specific three-part structure. First, there is a short excerpt from Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus. Second, there is a related, personal story from the author. Third, the topic of the chapter is engaged and examined. Throughout the first eight chapters, Perrin engages Ehrman’s points in an indirect manner. This trend changes in the final three chapters as Perrin’s refutations become more passionate and direct. My conjecture is that this change can be attributed to the subject matter in chapters nine through eleven more closely aligning to Perrin’s areas of expertise and personal interest.
All things considered, I found this to be an enjoyable book. It is a quick read at a mere 224 pages. Perrin does a good job of keeping the subject matter at the level of his intended audience. This work is by no means exhaustive nor is it overly technical. In light of this, it would make a great introduction for the layperson with little to no exposure to modern Jesus scholarship and New Testament textual criticism. The other real value in this book is found in the author’s personal stories. I appreciated the honesty with which Perrin shared the many challenges and struggles he experienced on his journey to faith in Jesus Christ. Each reader will be able to find certain points of commonality between Perrin’s faith journey and their own. As the reader sees him or herself in the author’s story, their experience of reading this book will hopefully be more personal, meaningful, and ultimately beneficial both intellectually and spiritually.
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