FORGED– BART EHRMAN'S NEW SALVO— The Introduction

Bart Ehrman’s new book,  Forged   (Harper, 2011, 307 pages) has hit the bookstalls  and has been hovering in the 300s in the list of top sellers,  eclipsed by another Harper book that came out at about the same juncture—- Rob Bell’s  Love Wins which has been reviewed in detail already, chapter by chapter on this blog.   Ehrman’s new book will receive the same sort of chapter by chapter analysis.

This book should not be confused with some of Bart’s previous efforts, in particular Misquoting Jesus, as Bart is not arguing in this book merely that are errors or mistakes in the Bible.   No, in this book he takes the next step in arguing that there is deliberate fraud going on in the canon, deceitful practices undertaken to convince or bamboozle some audience into believing something, on the basis of the authority of some apostle or original disciple, who in fact did not write the book in question.      In other words,  Bart is taking on not merely the conservative view that the NT is written by those authors to whom it is attributed but also the widespread notion that pseudonymity was a regular and widely recognized literary practice in antiquity, and that no one was deceived, nor was there an intent to deceive by such a practice.   This book is likely to addle scholars and lay people all across the spectrum of belief, including quite liberal ones who have for a long time argued that pseudonymity was an accepted practice in antiquity.   To judge from the early reviews on Amazon, those who are looking for an excuse to call the early Christians liars and deceivers are delighted with this book.

I need to say from the outset and on first glance that there appears to be a rather large lacunae in the argument of this book, namely the failure to do this study after having studied in depth ancient scribal practices and the roles of scribes in producing ancient documents in ancient Israel.  For example,  I see no interaction whatsoever in this book with the landmark study of  Karel Van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, in which it is demonstrated at length that scribes played a huge role in collecting, editing, and producing ancient documents, and that it was indeed a regular practice to name a scroll after either the originator of the tradition, or the first or a major contributor to the tradition, not after the scribe who actually produced the document, often decades or centuries after the tradition had first been formed.

This was neither a deceitful practice nor a blatant attempt at forgery, but rather a normal practice in a culture with a deep reverence for ancient traditions  which in a largely illiterate society relied on scribes to be the conservators, copiers, preservers and presenters of the tradition, in written form.   Inasmuch as the writers of the NT appear to have  been almost entirely Jews or God-fearers deeply steeped not only in the OT but in Jewish ways of handling sacred traditions and sacred texts,  it is rather surprising that this book does not spend more time actually examining such things.  Perhaps in the scholarly monograph that is to follow this popular level book, this rather colossal  oversight will be remedied.

I need to also say, that I am all for the search for truth about such things, and as Bart says in this Introduction, Evangelicals are rightly credited with being some of the most persistent truth hounds in the world.   And I will add this.  Bart is also right that there was plenty of forgery or production of pseudonymous documents, depending how you look at the matter going on in the Gnostic movement and other offshoots of Christianity.  Bart is absolutely right about this, and right to stress  it.  And I agree that in various cases, there does indeed appear to be the intent to deceive the audience.    You probably thought it unlikely that I would begin this review by agreeing with Bart on something other than the merits of Carolina basketball.  You would be wrong.

Lastly,  I want to say that having begun to read Bart’s latest salvo,  I spent some time with my friend Richard Bauckham asking him what was the evidence, especially the internal evidence, from early Jewish and early Christian literature that pseudonymity was a received and accepted literary practice.  We will say more about this as we go along,  but Bauckham is quite clear there was such a literary practice that was not intended to be deceitful or an attempt at forgery in any sense.   For example, he pointed me to a book like the Wisdom of Solomon which makes clear internally that it was not by Solomon at all, but stood in the tradition of his wisdom.   I would add that there is as well evidence of this in Jewish apocalyptic materials.   More about this later,  but in the meantime, if one wants to read  something I have said at length about such matters,  one should read the Introduction to my Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume One. While there may not be a great wealth of things I agree with Bart Ehrman about, I do agree that it is helpful to question the acceptability of pseudepigraphical letters.   On to the argument itself.

  • Jay

    In your future conversation about this book and pseudonymity, I would be interested to learn not just about the biblical authors’ intent (if it was intent to deceive or not), but on the effects of teaching pseudonymous literature *today* in the church without outward recognition that it is indeed, or even could possibly be, pseudonymous.

    I think there is a big difference between a pastor stating something to the effect of, “In 2 Peter, we learn [this]…”, and “In 2 Peter, we learn from Jesus’ disciple himself, who lived with Jesus, and sat at his feet, [that]…” It is a different use of scripture, a different beckoning to authority, and a different understanding as to how congregants are to learn from the bible.

    Hope that makes sense, looking forward to reading more.

  • http://jeremiahduomai.blogspot.com/ Jeremiah Duomai

    Thanks for the post… it is helpful!

  • pf

    Jay’s point is a good one. Because the vast majority of christian teaching starts with the premise that Jesus taught the disciples and they wrote it down in the gospels and epistles and therefore we have a clear record of God’s instructions to us. Scholars — or anybody who has studied scholarly works — know that it isn’t that simple.

    The end result, though, is that instead of people wrestling with the texts with some spirit of humility and wonder, for the most part the texts get used as a club with which people beat each other.

    I suspect that whether an ancient was outraged by a forgery would depend on their affiliation with the forger. Whomever was part of the group from which 2 Peter was produced was probably OK with it.

    Opponents of that group probably would not be happy that someone was writing “authoratative” literature that would not have been considered authoratative if the real author was known. So it was a matter of who’s ox was being gored.

  • http://igneousquill.com Adam Gonnerman

    I’m glad you’re reading and reviewing it. Better you than me! This sort of thing just makes me feel weary.

  • Michael

    As an MDiv Advanced Placement student with an undergrad in Biblical Studies, I must submit that I have never been trained to think anything like Jay’s comment suggests of evangelical students or pastors. The credibility of scripture in evangelical schools rests mostly on scripture’s theology of bibliology, as well as mention of the historical reliability of eyewitness testimonies. This would include, as an example, treatment of Luke’s gospel as an account by a second generation Christian, as well as interaction with critical interpretative tools from all over the spectrum, such as redaction, form, and source criticisms. But if Jay’s comment presupposes uneducated pastors than his point is DOA. Its also a moot comment since a pastor’s context is in church, and not a classroom. Pastors can be found to say such things simply to avoid redundantly claiming that our text suggests so-and-so. The context of the church is going to presuppose God as author of Scripture ultimately, and rightfully so.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    What I am most interested in is both the historical question— are there actual pseudonymous documents in the NT, and the fact that Bart has demonstrated beyond reasonable debate that ancient peoples did not in general think pseudonymity at least in some kinds of communications was fine. In fact they thought quite the opposite. They saw it as forgery, as Bart would say.

    BW3

  • Joseph

    I’ve just started the book and will follow along with you. You say that Dr. Ehrman commits a colossal oversight in leaving out arguments about the scribal culture of OT books (law, prophets, history, psalms, etc in Hebrew culture). But isn’t he dealing primarily with NT books? And the word “forgery” he reserves for the very specific case of disputed letters to churches in which the author unequivocally claims to be an apostle.

    Aren’t you comparing apples to peanuts?

  • Joseph

    I completely agree with Jay, that this is eye-opening stuff for the lay Christian, even if it’s already familiar to the scholar. Whether or not Christian scholars think of some pseudonymity as forgery or as accepted practice, speaking from the pews, I’d like to ask: why hasn’t anybody told us this before?

    I’ve also noticed on the web that Christian reviewers who completely disagree with Ehrman, do so for two very different reasons:

    They either believe that each book of the Bible is unquestionably written by the traditional author.

    Or they believe that pseudonymity was an accepted practice and poses no problems for inspiration.

    I have to say, this first post seems to indicate that you are going to give the book a very fair reading. I look forward to more.

  • http://maneynet.org/blog/ Kevin Maney+

    In addition to your own weighty scholarship, I was especially pleased to see you enlist Richard Bauckham in your assessment of this book. Good on you, Ben. Your combined scholarship will make for formidable and great reading. Looking forward to reading your future installments.

    JKM+

  • Drane

    A summary of Bart’s view is to be found in an article he published at:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-d-ehrman/the-bible-telling-lies-to_b_840301.html

  • Drane

    One of the things I wonder about is how churches prepare their young people (and even older people) to deal with issues like this. Churches continually emphasize that the Bible is inspired and (whether stated or not) this is inferred to mean errorless, perfect, literal, literalistic and NEVER to be questioned as to historical or theological precision.

    This view will create more atheists and agnostics than Dawkins or Hitchens ever will. Churches need to realistically teach that the Bible contains mythical material (I would say, for example, the first 11 chapters of Genesis).

    This is only the beginning. Our young people go off to college and are confronted with scholars (yes, SCHOLARS) that present views of the Bible that not only question its inspiration, but its historical veracity. What do churches do to prepare high schoolers for this? How does the typical evangelical view of scripture really match up against genuine historical/theological criticism? What is taught in the churches makes it easy for pastors to preach the Bible to congregations, but is it academically, theologically, and historically truthful? My view is that we (the churches) have opted out of theological and historical reality.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    One of the bigger problems with Bart’s approach is the failure to take seriously these NT books were largely written by Jews deeply indebted to Jewish ways of handling tradition and sacred texts. There was not a sudden shift in methodology between say the writer of Sirach and the writer of Hebrews in such matters. See Richard Bauckham’s landmark study, which apparently Bart does not know or wrongly ignores—– Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans).

    BW3

  • Craig

    Ben,
    Thank you in advance for reviewing this book. I look forward to your chapter by chapter analysis.

    Blessings, Craig

  • RickC

    Wow! This is all quite interesting. Truly. I’m not a NT or OT scholar so I don’t normally make it my life’s passion to follow the latest trend in the latest study regarding either NT or OT subject matter. Perhaps I should, perhaps all Christians should. But I must say though this particular salvo is so distant to what I grew up with in terms of the education I received on the things of this particular blog entry it leaves me completely mistified.

    An example of this would be the authorship of the various versions of the gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. My lessons on this subject were pretty straight foreward. Matthew illuminated Matthew, John illuminated John, Mark participated as a disciple of Peter and Luke was by any-age definition of a researchers an excellent researcher and writer a modern day PhD if you will.

    So, what I’m hearing here is that in fact there may have been anonymous writers however they were following a careful tradition of ascribing to whom that which needed to be ascribed. Or something close to that. Interesting!

    There is something I have to add here, I know I have a vivid imagination but it must be made clearly known I did not write the book of Revelation. Only God could have done that…for sure.

  • TheMusings

    Anyone who thinks Bart is going to get a ‘fair’ reading from fundamentalists and conservative scholars on a matter that is deemed to be so important to maintaining the sanctity of the Christian faith is seriously mistaken. On Amazon.com there are a lot of one star reviews from people who have not even bothered to read the book who are urging Bart to ‘give it up already’ since he is no longer a Christian.

    My own take is that the truth matters and matters deeply. After reading widely on Christian origins the last several years and having many of my preconceptions stripped away the only religious claim that I still hold deeply is a belief in a higher power. Therefore I have no theological ax to grind save for a commitment to the truth whatever that may be. If it turns out that gentile Christians or greek speaking diaspora Jews or the church fathers had no moral qualms about ‘forging’ letters to make a religious point for ‘the greater good’ then than is what it is.

    The bottom line is that the bible especially the New Testament is a very, very messy book. While it is true that short of video tape evidence nothing can be conclusively proven a lot of the conclusions about the New Testament that scholars such as Bart and others have arrived at are not unreasonable and may even be likely. It is what it is.

  • Joe

    Mr. Witherington, You say in your review that “Jews or God-fearers deeply steeped not only in the OT but in Jewish ways” wrote the NT. However isn’t it true that some events in the NT are completely at odds with Jewish traditions? I’m no expert, but I read somewhere that modern Jewish scholars argue the Pharisees would not have had Jesus arrested during Passover week because such a worldly action would have been a sacrilegious distraction from their religious duties. I’m not making this argument exactly right, but you probably know what I mean. Anyway, doesn’t the lack of knowledge of Jewish customs in parts of the NT suggest the gospels were written by Greeks in Anatolia rather than Jewish converts in Palestine?

  • Robert

    … doesn’t the lack of knowledge of Jewish customs in parts of the NT suggest the gospels were written by Greeks in Anatolia rather than Jewish converts in Palestine?

    That’s a good question. Mark seems to lack first-hand knowledge of the geography of Palestine. He also describes the Jews as ‘they’ and seems to distance himself from ‘them’ and their customs. (Mark 7:3-4)

    I’m not claiming to know if the author of Mark was Jewish, but Ehrman and others have said that he probably wasn’t.

  • Eileen

    Does Ehrman address other scholarly works of the time and psuedopigraphy? It would be helpful to see whether this was intentional deceit or a customary practice.

  • Eric

    “Churches need to realistically teach that the Bible contains mythical material (I would say, for example, the first 11 chapters of Genesis). ”

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we can interpret those chapters that way, as Jesus quotes from all 11 chapters of Genesis, and does so without any hint that he considers them mythical or allegorical. Why would he do so if he knew otherwise?

  • trac4yt

    Bart would be the guy standing up in the synagogue rejecting Christ’s authority based on the reading from a copy….

    “Hey, you’re not reading from the original autograph!”

    And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Lu 4:21)

    God has providentially preserved HIS Word in the Bible. It is thus sacred, infallible, and final authority.

    Anyone can doubt Biblical revelation.
    Doubt finds its moorings in Hell.

    Perhaps, God will break the chains of doubt in Bart’s soul.
    We shall see. :-)

  • ratatatat

    The ludicrous intensity of Christian righteousness encroaching upon this page is hilarious. Is there anything in the world more laughable than comments such as trac4yt’s?

  • Cathryn Paradise

    I wonder where Erhman got a time machine so that he could write his junk since that is the only way he can honestly make his statements. If he doesn’t have a time machine then he is knowing writing fiction and passing it off as fact. The New Testament canon was recognized by early Christians about 125-150 AD. according to Ireneus (125-192) and Clement of Alexandria (150-217). When one does the research that many people are too lazy to do, they find that people like Erhman are full of hot air. As is attributed to PT Barnum, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” i have been studying manuscript evidence since 1979 and have found that the Protestant canon is what was written by the men they are attributed to. My own unpublished book is well documented on the subject of the Bible.

  • charvakan

    There is a bigger point here – if an omnipotent God wanted to get his message out, is this the best process he could come up with? Whether or not these “pseudonymity” was tradition or deception to me that is the interesting question here.

  • http://www.evidencetobelieve.net Paul Dooley

    In the final analysis, I think that God will use this for good.

    Christans who are really called by God will learn more deeply about Him and become more knowledgeable about His Word – and those that don’t want any part of Od will drift further away from Him.

    “They meant it for evil, but God used it for His good purposes”.

    Thanks Ben or your careful review of this attack (let’s call it what it is).

    Paul

  • http://n/a Dax

    Cathryn Paradise
    I too wonder where Dr. Erhman got a time machine. I was looking the logs for mine and I didn’t see his name.
    Unfortunately, I didn’t see your name either. Unless somebody out there has another time machine(I was sure I had the only one) I can only surmise you have come to a different conclusion than Dr.Erhman
    Fortunately. I DO have all the answers and they are all written out in my unpublished epic 5 volume as yet to be titled opis.
    Dax

  • reACTIONary

    I don’t know whether or not the word “forgery” is too strong a word from a scholarly perspective, but there has been a long and strong tradition of pastoral misrepresentation of Biblical scholarship which amounts to deception of the faithful by their leadership. They are afraid, and perhaps rightfully so, that the faithful will lose faith if they know what the leadership knows and understands. Perhaps the leadership fears loss of its own power as much as the loss of faith amongst the faithful.

    In the interest of bringing the faithful to a deeper and more truthful understanding, perhaps putting it simply and forcefully is best: forgery.

  • Philip Jarrett

    Evangelical/Fundamentalist theology wants to deny its own history.

    This ‘theology’ began in the latter half of the 19th Century with illiterate, backwoods preachers turning their back on the scientific method of discovering dependable, non-prejudiced…dare I say it?…secular information about the world around us.

    But it wasn’t until the introduction of textual criticism of the received literature coming out of Germany at the end of the 19th Century and continuing till this day that Eval/Fundies found their bearings and became the largest and most influential ecumenical movement of all time. This disavowal of scholarly examination of the text and history and authorship of the writings was the bedrock…and, in fact, the only rock…of their ‘theology.’

    This was done not from scholarly conviction of the error presented in either Darwin or textual criticism but rather from churches and preachers who condemned the reading of the literature at all as Satanic.

    This was done not to preseve the sanctity of the written word but rather salvage the various proof-texts upon which 19th Century Christianity in the United States was based. Eval/Fundies to this day pick and choose which passages they choose to believe as Holy and those that would contradict their proof texts.

    Case in point is the obvious teachings attributed to Jesus that condemn wealth. If you accept these passages as being the true words of Jesus, as they claim to do, then you will end up with quite a different doctrine than the Eval/Fundie nonsense that wealth is a sign of blessings from God. In point of fact, the only person Jesus alledgedly condemn to Hell was a rich man and the only person in Heaven was a poor man. The passages clearly states it is because the rich man enjoyed the ‘blessings’ of wealth in this life that he is in torment and the reason the poor man…or those who are possessed by the Demon of Poverty as I was taught when I, like Erhman (and at the Ivy League of their ilk, the Moody Bible Institute no less!), was a Eval/Fundie…was receiving his blessings in the Bosom of Abraham in recompense for his suffering in this world.

    Not to mention the absolute nonsense Underground Right wet-dream of their interpretation of the book of Revalations. A book if read in context of the time it was written rather than if it would make no sense to the first readers to whom it was addressed, clearly shows once again that the enemy of God was the wealth of Rome…not their open-minded approach to homosexuality and orgies as they would have us believe.

    Eval/Fundies are not concerned with the sanctity of scripture or they would read the text hardly a chapter away from their 10 Commandments that clearly teaches life does not begin at the moment of conception.

    Eval/Fundie theology is based on a turning away from the search for the truth. The fact that now, almost a hundred years from their disavowal of the scientific method as applied to the physical world by Darwin and to their own scripture by textual criticism, the movement now wants to re-write their own history in a more favorable light, this sort of theology is given any credence at all is because of the political and financial might. They teach ignorance in order to maintain thier power over the ignorant. A power they will lose…just like they lost power of Ehrman and myself…if their flock of sheep become educated.

    They are used-car salesman selling Model T Fords. If you want to know anything about how the internal combustion engine works, you don’t talk with someone who has a car to sell. You study the latest inforrmation available from engineers who approach the subject with objectivity.

    If you want to know the truth, that is.

  • Orthodox

    Back a few decades ago, I heard this same theory espoused by the Jesuits. So this book is nothing new. The fact is it will not stand scrutiny. The issue needs to be one fought in Greek and not in English. Are we going to use Westcott and Hort’s perversions or maybe Tyndale’s expansions of the Gospels. Can we agree on what the Gospels are?
    These scholars all teach in Christian institutions and we wonder if they could even qualify for 2nd grade Sunday School.
    For nearly 2,000 years, Biblical scholars have supported and defended the canonical books. For over 500 years, we have thousands of scholars calling the KJV a masterful work of truth and inspiration. One crackpot and we throw salvation out the window. Nice move!
    No serious scholar of Doctrine will be able to accept these theories and pipe-dreams. In the light of day and scholarship, this book will be seen as nothing more than historic fiction.

  • Unorthodox

    Given the the monotheism of the Trinity, we begin with the assumption that there is no room for any other god. (For then there would be more than one Truth.) Thus, all that transpires is the direct consequence of God’s desire. (Does not God know the exact path of every atom, every photon, every particle from the instant of Creation to the End? Did he not know that before the instant of Creation?)

    So we are left with the only conclusion possible: God is the sole arbiter of all that inflicts us or blesses us. There could be no Satan should God not wish it so. It is one and all the direct will of Him, be it for good or evil in our view. There is no influence that Satan could ply us with, should God not allow it.

    And this is where it all falls apart. The claims that “God moves in mysterious ways” asks us to not only doubt our own judgement (a faculty which God blessed us with in the first place) but it asks us to not actually think about the meanings of what is placed before as His creation. It can only make sense — in terms of what is laid out in the Bible — should it also be true that God is deliberately deceiving us… forcing us to play a game as pawns where He already knows the exact outcome. (Has known the exact outcome of everything from the instant of creation.)

    Or, alternatively, you could posit that God deliberately created a universe that was actually outside of His control. This gets us into the conundrum of no longer having God be omniscient or omnipotent, as it circumscribes His power to be less than absolute. It would presupposed other forces in the universe that can independent of God’s sphere of influence, which is rather at odds with the concept of an almighty creator. So this line of reasoning also comes up against a paradox.

    It comes as little surprise that the tribal theology of nomadic tribesfolk living on the rocky highlands of the middle east would eventually have the same issues that an Ouroboros does: namely that it winds up chasing its own tail due to rather large inconsistencies in its own thinking. Having Jesus add completely new layers to that theology hasn’t help address the underlying paradoxes and tautologies.

    The account in Genesis of the Tree of Knowledge is just as problematic: What meaning does “don’t eat the fruit of this tree” have if you don’t have the knowledge to understand the consequences of eating that fruit, given that you don’t have the knowledge (i.e. haven’t eaten the fruit) yet? It means nothing. And, in the same vein as the comments above, God knew from the moment of creation that his creations would make exactly those decisions, since his design or will or plan was born out by those events occurring.

    Lastly, doesn’t Jesus go on ad nauseum about the scribes? Doesn’t he give grave warnings about putting your trust into anyone but God? Don’t we regularly find out that supposed men of faith aren’t quite as honest and scrupulous as we’d like to think? Is there any doubt that men bend what was said into what they conveniently wanted to hear?

    Despite the admonitions contained within the Bible, why it is so often that we hear the opinions of people who are not “working out their faith with fear and trembling”, but rather are trumpeting how right and righteous they are from every rooftop.

  • FM

    Hey RATATATAT…..

    I’ll be praying for ya’

  • Grim

    @ Michael – There’s two problems with the rationale you’ve proposed.

    First, if the Bible is unquestionably and entirely the word of God, then it can not be fallible. If it is demonstrably fallible or contradictory, then God is imperfect. We reach a point where either the book is perfect in whole, or any imperfection demonstrates that it is unreliable in whole. This neither provides comfort for Abrahamic followers confused by inconsistencies in the texts nor does it inspire well-read atheists to try to derive some value from scripture.

    Second, this kind of thinking is what makes religious authoritarianism and religious law immoral at a fundamental level. For centuries we have accepted that justice can only be attained by the accused having both the right to defend their innocence as well as the right to challenge the law’s validity itself. Accepting the entirety of scripture as the word of God, then challenging the validity of the law requires one to challenge the reasonableness of God, which is in and of itself generally an offense in a legal system based on scripture.

    On the other hand, accepting the fact that, throughout history, scripture has been modified, enhanced, expanded, and deleted by the political powers of the day frees us from the binary, all-or-nothing divisive interpretation and opens up the scripture to be delved into and challenged. Morality requires both an understanding of right and wrong and a willful effort to do what is right. “Because God said so” does not provide us an understanding of right and wrong and therefore denies us any capacity to be moral. Nor does it educate how to act when God provides two contradictory instructions.

  • http://Anzahoylman.wordpress.com Anzaholyman

    One more chop on the tree of infallibility and a return to Inspiration through the fallible.

  • Dennis

    I think Ehrman picked the wrong target. The crowd he should be blasting are those like “scholar” Elaine Paigels and her ilk who contend that the so-called “Gnostic” gospels deserve the same respect, and should carry the same weight, as the synoptics and John. If there was any kind of “fraud” going on in the first two centuries after the crucifixion, it was among the authors of forgeries like “The Gospel of Peter,” “The Gospel of Thomas.”

  • Clair

    Catheryn can’t even spell Irenaeus’ name correctly.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irenaeus
    Anyone who had done serious research would not even accidently spell the name wrong. And sorry, Catheryn, Irenaeus was totally an insider who wanted to control the message. It was “great” men like him who decided which messages he wanted expressed and which he did not. He rejected all Gnostic writings. How did he “know” which were authentic? Ego…plain and simple. Grim got it right. We should just accept the Bible’s imperfections and glean what we can from its incredible contents. Get off your “my research” high horse. You don’t know either.

  • http://www.whygodwaits.com Keith

    I’m not surprised that an atheist (I assume Mr. Ehrman is such) would believe that the human race, including the writers of Scripture, are a dishonest lot.

    In my dealings with atheists & agnostics, I’ve noticed that they believe truth comes only by observation (scientific method) and not by revelation (spiritual enlightenment).

    If you don’t believe that spiritual truth can come by revelation, you won’t seek it, therefore you’ll never be bothered with it (at least on this plane of existence).

    It’s sad to spend one’s life believing that nothing exists outside what the five senses can experience.

    I know. I used to live there.

  • BobInFL

    Wow, Philip Jarrett — you really have a bee in your bonnet about this thing you call “Eval/Fundie theology” — but it is not recognizable to me. I am an evangelical, and no pastor of mine EVER stated or implied that “wealth is a sign of blessings from God”. Maybe the Joel Olsteens of the world preach that, but not my pastors — they biting refer to the *heresy* of the ‘health and wealth gospel’. Your history is also a bit distorted, but hey, we’re used to that.

    (But: Jesus didn’t condemn “wealth” per se. He condemned the love of money, as well as being critical of certain wealthy individuals.)

    Anyway, about the topic: I’m no theologian, but the Bible has weathered attacks like this before, and Ehrman is neither the first nor the last.

  • Steve

    It seems to me that Bart would have to take a swipe at the entire humanities and ancient languages departments since the practice of using was so wide spread in the ancient world we could not reasonably rely on documents from Plato on down. While I may share the same campus with the man, I think when his rational is applied in a larger context it cuts the knees out from many scholastic disciplines, including the arguments he makes.

  • Dave B

    “…I wonder where Erhman got a time machine….”

    .well probably the same place you got yours in order to prove your beliefs correct..

    “…..When one does the research that many people are too lazy to do, they find that people like Erhman are full of hot air…..”

    oh and now your are a clairvoyant, as you CLEARLY know the amount of research he has done on the subject.. have you ever met the man before??? spoken with him?? discussed this topic at any length?? or are you just so blind/arrogant, that you consider any research contradictory to your beliefs to be mere garbage?? at least HE is able to look at the issue form BOTH sides, unlike, you, apparently..

  • Dave B

    “….I’m not surprised that an atheist (I assume Mr. Ehrman is such)….”

    right,., let’s just make that assumption, because no actually xtian would EVER have the inclination to question the bible, or god..

    making assumptions is a bad thing…. let’s be honest, one could just make the *assumption* that anyone who strictly and rigidly follows the bible, are nothing more than mindless, unintelligent, sheep who just follow the herd because some guy in fancy robes who reads from an ancient book of myths, fables, and fairytales, tells them too.

    but, that would be an unfair assumption…. or, would it be??

  • Jeff Elliott

    My copy of Life Application Bible has a section called “Harmony of the Gospels”. One glance at this table of key incidents is enough to give pause to any thinking believer. Look at Matthew and John, two members of Jesus’ inner circle for his entire earthly ministry writing about this singular experience for the benefit and edification (not to mention the eternal salvation) of posterity. Yet virtually every incident recorded in Matthew is missing from John and vice-versa? C’mon, guys!

    It is also clear that the authors of Matthew and Luke simply got a copy of the much earlier work by Mark (large parts of these two books are verbatim Mark), edited it to further their respective agendae and published under their under their own names.

    For Matt this agenda was prophesy fulfillment. The man was obsessed with it. In fact, Matt believed that the virgin birth was purely for that purpose! The “Son of God” notion, i.e., a divine Jesus, never even occurred to him.

    On the other hand, the notion that Isaiah 7 was advance notification of Jesus birth never occurred to Luke! (Nor would it, in my opinion, occur to anyone reading Isaiah 7 in the original Hebrew, Matt was obviously using a Greek text but even in the Greek it’s a real stretch!) For Luke, establishing Jesus’ divinity was what counted.

    Furthermore, in all three synpotics Jesus consistently refuses to perform self-credentialing miracles. It is compassion and compassion alone that drives his miracles. The Jesus of the synoptics would not have even dreamed of doing the water-to-wine thing.

    For the Jesus of John, however, self-credentialing is the main (if not the sole) purpose for performing miracles (a different set of miracles from the synoptics, I might add). So much so, in fact, that that he doesn’t even call them miracles. He calls them “signs”.

    Above is just a tiny sample of the irreconcilable conflicts and contradictions that make harmony of the gospels (let’s face it gang!) a pipe dream.

  • Jeff Elliott

    Don’t mention it. Thanks for your kind reply.

  • Peter

    All this nerdy talk about time machines and Inter-dimensional travel on an evangelical post about the bible has me confused and thinking i’m on a different website. I would have to go to Thomas Jefferson, and although many aethists point to this quote as a proof of a lack of Jeffersons faith, it does in fact represent the truth of the 18th and 2nd century, as well as today (refering to Adams request to convert to Calvinism):

    “The truth is that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors.”

  • sparrow

    well, jesus, for many centuries i ASSUME (!!!), would have really liked to come back. for one, he would have wanted to clear this mess of quotations and misquotations. but i ASSUME he would not. giving the answers is not the way to go, i ASSUME he thought. but i ASSUME he ASSUMED how could we be humans and BE whatever we are if we never ASSUMED. FORGERY therefore is the greatest of ASSUMPTIONS.

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  • Todell

    I am reading the book now and am intrigued by much of what has been written. I have read a couple of his other books that I thought were good, “Lost Christianities” and “How the Bible Came to Be”. His writing style is easy to understand and I was expecting something different from this book. It became evident to me early on that this man has lost his faith. How sad that he finds himself locked into a career about religion when he himself appears to be an agnostic.

    Ironically, in his book, he mentions how forgers were out to gain glory or make money through their crafts. Yet, here we find him doing just that. Appearing on liberal TV and other media outlets to essentially say it is all a fraud. Well Bart, the one thing you forgot was the Spirit of God that testifies of truth. There are some genuine issues you have brought up and there may be questions that we, 2,000 years later cannot answer, and there may be some things that are true that you have pointed out (I do not believe the Bible to be perfect). Yet, the Spirit testifies of the important truths and, unfortunately, you turned from that years ago because a lack of faith.

    While some of the points Bart brings up are interesting, he reaches time and time again to draw conclusions to support his theory. While I agree, there may be several documents that slipped through, the vast majority of the books in the Bible and the doctrines taught ended up there for a very good reason . . . the hand of God worked his magic to make sure it was there.


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