Ehrman vs. Bock— on 'Forged'

I was unable to do this dialogue which Justin Brierley asked me to do, as I am in the midst of an intensive doctoral seminar on Socio-Rhetorical analysis of the NT, so I am quite happy that Darrell Bock was willing to step in quickly from Germany to do this dialogue.  You will find this discussion interesting, if provocative.  BW3

http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/6d0adcb0-35d3-4fbc-9263-47785c915d88.mp3

  • Lazarus III

    Great debate! I love these kind of informative discussions about authorship.

  • dan

    Ben,

    In my opinion, Bart Ehrman was more honest and more forthright in this debate. Can you answer for me what difference it makes to be on which side of this debate? Ehrman kept making the claim that “only conservative Evangelical scholars claim that II Theselonians is Pauline. They only do so for theological reasons, not historical reasons.” Again, I am not so convinced by the conservative evangelical lock and step walk.

    Dan

  • Jerry

    Ben,
    I’m with dan on this one. Bock seemed to be on the defensive to me. Ehrman can employ a full free thought assault , while Bock seemed to be constrained by faith based reasoning. Occam’s razor says that when faced with competing hypotheses that are equal in other respects, one selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions. This might be harder for conservative evangelicals…

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben

    Hi Jerry and Dan:

    The problems with Bart’s view are multiple: 1) he is dead wrong about the supposed peasant nature of folk like Jesus and Peter. They were not illiterate peasants; 2) he completely ignores the roles scribes played in letter composition, and yes there is plenty of evidence for it all the way back to before the time of Alexander the Great; 3) the evidence that Greek was known in Galilee is not debatable. See New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity; 4) he is however right that pseudepigraphy was not an accepted literary genre in the NT era so far as we can tell. 2 Thessalonians however does not qualify. The chief reason to think it non-Pauline is the eschatology in 2 Thess. 2, but there is plenty of evidence from early Judaism for the same person talking both about imminence of the end, and preliminary events leading up to it. In terms of grammar and vocabulary they are not very different. And it is simply false to say that only Evangelicals think 2 Thess. is Pauline.

    BW3

  • Dan2

    On your last point, are you able to name any reputable, contemporary non-evangelical scholars who argue for Pauline authorship of 2 Thess?
    Cheers.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric J. Sawyer

    Talk about frustrating. Am I the only one who noticed that Bart was reluctant to take the theological route and quoted a phrase that’s common in these sort of arguments ‘the letter killeth …. blah, blah, blah’

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben

    First of all, if you look at Kummel’s Introduction to the NT, you will find a whole boatload of German scholars who think Paul wrote 2 Thess. Almost none of them qualify as ‘conservatives’. Secondly, if you look at my Thessalonians commentary, you will find a similar list, though more recent. A good example would be Karl Donfried. There are also plenty of good critical Catholic scholars who think the same. See Ray Brown’s Intro. They do not take the traditional route on various NT books. All too often Bart makes global claims like “no one does this except conservatives…” and he is wrong and can’t back it up.

    BW3

  • Dan2

    Thanks Ben! :-)

  • dan

    Ah, yes, I am following you now Ben. So, in a sense, Dr Erhman does not do very thorough scholarship, or as we would say in modern terms, he does “sloppy journalism.” I have read other scholars, that start on the same assumptions, that Jesus and his disciples were “Galiliean peasants.” To start with that assumption will lead one astray. I personally have read from testimony in the gopsels themselves, that Jesus and his disciples were not poor. They were intinerants, but not poor peasants. Thanks Ben. Wish I could study more under you.

    Dan

  • Ben Witherington

    He has never written a commentary on any NT book in his life.
    I have read and written on them all, and know who says what on what apparently much better than he does.

    BW3

  • Andy D

    Yes, the way the ‘conversation’ was set up (unintentionally of course) would psychologically prepare a person to hear Bock—calling from afar—as on the defensive on most of the points. Not to mention that the interviewer usually starting by asking Ehrman a question, offered Bock the chance to respond, but then gave Ehrman the last word. As Bock mentioned, and Ehrman was ready to concede, these issues are more complex than a show like this or a popular book like ‘Forged’ would have them appear to be. This seems to undermine the entire “Ehrman project’s” ability to bring these scholarly issues to lay people in the first place. Of course he has an ax to grind, as does everyone!

    On the Marcionites’ use of Paul, I cannot understand how Ehrman was missing the point made by Bock there logically. Issues that (according to the impression left by this conversation) may need further reflection by evangelicals is the evidence for use of secretaries—which Bock could have rhetorically presented as a good development in the scientific enterprise if the work cited was in fact updated with important evidence, and/or the appropriateness of pseudepigraphal works in the canon.

  • Eric

    He has never written a commentary on any NT book in his life.
    I have read and written on them all, and know who says what on what apparently much better than he does.

    BW3

    ——

    Yes, I was wondering about that. He seems to have somewhat of negative view of theology.
    What I’ve often wondered is why a man who has abandoned his earlier beliefs about the Bible (which by his own admission were conservative) for a view of the Christian sacred texts that is so vague? He might benefit from reading and studying this, but my thoughts are that he has issue with theology which addresses his state of unbelief and yet dabbling in the things of the Lord. I recall Dr. Carson talking about the way that some hurdle beliefs that touch their consciences. (in the SACRED AND SURE SERIES) It continues to puzzle me as to why he is still pursing textual criticism without dealing with his poor theology. He sort of reminds me of how Professor Richard Dawkins fought against Christian ‘beliefs’ without actually finding out exactly what it is that Christians believe. Sad, weak and puzzling.

    Peace
    Eric.

  • Andy D

    Here is an update from Darrell Bock’s blog on uses of secretaries, with a correspondence from Reynolds:

    http://blogs.bible.org/bock/darrell_l._bock/randolph_reynolds_on_secretaries_and_ancient_letters

  • Jonathan

    The author who Dr. Bock refers to is Dr. E. Randolph Richards. I know that the mistake is on Dr. Bock’s blog. Dr. Richards was one of my teachers in my undergrad. I just want to make sure that he receives full credit for his work!

  • Darrell Bock

    The name was corrected. Randolph Richards was intended. Richards told me Ehrman misrepresents him. Not the only place Ehrman overstates the case and says it is normal NT scholarship. Not sure I used a “faith based” argument anywhere. The evidence cited by me on the show for literacy, the use of secretaries etc. appealed to ancient sources and standard monographs on these topics.

  • Kurt

    Bart made Peter sound like cro-magnon man… lol

    Good job Darrel. I felt like you were thinking, “uh… where do I start dismantling Bart’s arguments here… so many variables, so little time…”

  • http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~tim Tim Collins

    Just playing catchup and listening to the debate now…

    It is so frustrating to hear Ehrman make statements like, “All scholars take this book as pseudepigraphal… except of course conservatives.” It’s like saying, “All people agree with me… except the ones who don’t.” The implication is that we can discount the evangelicals as scholars because naturally they are going to take the conservative point of view. Very slanted, very biased on his part.

    And his practice of not using the NT itself as a source of evidence is nonsensical. It’s like this:
    person A: There were no lizards with wings
    person B: Yes there were, there were pteranadons!
    person A: We can’t consider them as evidence, as they are the animals under discussion.

    It simply makes no sense.


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