The New Testament: Why Don’t We Teach This?

The New Testament: Why Don’t We Teach This? March 2, 2015

Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted

Over the years, I have really enjoyed the writings of prolific New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman. Whether in print or through “Audible,” I have made my way through all of his “popular” books (and several of his contributions to the “Great Courses” series). Recently, I’ve thought a lot about a question Dr. Ehrman raises at the end of chapter 4 in his book Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them). I’m going to share it here on my blog:

“Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only eight almost certainly were written by the authors to whom they are traditionally ascribed: the seven undisputed letters of Paul and the Revelation of John, which could be labeled homonymous, since it does not claim to be written by any particular John; this was recognized even by some writers of the early church.

“My views about the authors of the New Testament are not radical within scholarship. To be sure, there are debates among scholars about this book or that. Some very fine scholars think that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, or that Jesus’ brother James wrote James, or that Peter wrote 1 Peter. But the majority of critical scholars has long doubted these ascriptions, and there is scarcely any debate about some of the books of the New Testament, such as 1 Timothy and 2 Peter. These books were not written by their putative authors…

“This view that the New Testament contains books written under false names is taught at virtually all the major institutions of higher learning except strongly evangelical schools throughout the Western world. It is the view taught in all the major textbooks on the New Testament used in these institutions. It is the view taught in seminaries and divinity schools. It is what pastors learn when they are preparing for ministry. And why isn’t this more widely known? Why is it that the person in the pew— not to mention the person in the street— knows nothing about this? Your guess is as good as mine” (pp. 136-138).

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