One of my favorite New Testament scholars, Ben Witherington, has posted a review of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus on his blog. The review is by Dr. Dan Wallace of www.bible.org. Wallace has excellent online introductions to all of the New Testament books as well as many other informative articles.
Ehrman's main point seems to be that the New Testament manuscripts were so corrupted in their transmission that we cannot be sure about many of the core teachings of Christianity. Although most scholars will concede that there are some uncertainties in the manuscripts, those same scholars will also state that the discrepancies between some verses in the different manuscripts are relatively few and do not call into question any of the theological doctrines of traditional Christianity. Witherington quotes the preeminent textual scholar of our time, Bruce Metzger, as saying, "over 90% of the NT is rather well established in regard to its original text, and none of the remaining 10% provides us with data that could lead to any shocking revisions of the Christian credo or doctrine."
Ehrman, however, though apparently conceding the point about the minority status of disputed passages, claims that several important doctrines are called into question by discrepancies. As Wallace points out, however, there really is little doubt about the language of the original document in Ehrman's chief examples. Wallace concludes:
In other words, the idea that the variants in the NT manuscripts alter the theology of the NT is overstated at best. Unfortunately, as careful a scholar as Ehrman is, his treatment of major theological changes in the text of the NT tends to fall under one of two criticisms: Either his textual decisions are wrong, or his interpretation is wrong.
After quoting Wallace's review, Witherington enters the fray and expounds on the shortcomings of Ehrman's book. He reinforces Wallace's own conclusions and leaves the reader wondering just what Ehrman was thinking when he made such unsupportable arguments, some of which seem to border on misrepresentations. Witherington has an answer for that too, noting that according to the book, Ehrman's spiritual journey began as a conservative Protestant Christian but had departed significantly from that point of origin. Witherington concludes:
In his scholarship he is trying now to deconstruct orthodox Christianity which he once embraced, rather than do 'value-neutral' text criticism. In my own view, he has attempted this deconstruction on the basis of very flimsy evidence-- textual variants which do not prove what he wants them to prove.
On the plus side, both Wallace and Witherington believe that Ehrman's early chapters about textual criticism are well-written and informative. But so are other works about the same topic, including perhaps the leading treatise on the issue, Bruce Metzger's The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration.