Ehrman the latest Bible skeptic

scripture_closeup_0_previewHere’s the latest person to gain publicity in calling the Bible a “forgery” and doing all he can to sell his new book “Jesus, interrupted.” The CNN article link available above provides a pretty good story about what has been going with another skeptic who is appealing to agnostics and atheists. William Willimon’s assessment is a good one, in that he indicates that what Bart Ehrman is saying is not new. There have always been those who have questioned the validity of the Scriptures and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ehrman shouldn’t act like he’s discovered something that no one else had heard about. And we ought to tone down the drama related to his claims as well. Nothing new here.

It is healthy to read and learn as much as possible about one’s faith. Spiritual formation is one subject that our church has been dealing with lately, and part of that growth has to do honest inquiry and discussion. Ehrman’s book might be worth reading for that purpose, but only with the realization that there are other works that offer contradictory findings regarding the inspiration and reliability of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible has been around a very long time and withstood scrutiny for centuries, so I’m not pacing the floor worried about this latest challenge.

The one point I would make is that it is a mistake to assume Ehrman is correct simply because he “debunks” the Bible as fake and reduces its relevance to a good history book. It seems like there is already a lot of skepticism toward the Christian faith and the church in general, so I guess it is a popular band wagon to get on these days. And it doesn’t mean that you are smarter or more enlightened to dispute the claims of the Bible. There are plenty of bright scholars and church leaders who have upheld the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures while offering honest scrutiny about its content.

There is really “nothing new under the sun” and Ehrman is the latest in a long line of scholars who have found problems with the Bible. I’ll keep my ears open for other developments related to his work, and if the library has it I may check it out. I don’t think it needs to be part of my own personal library though.

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5 thoughts on “Ehrman the latest Bible skeptic

  1. Absurd!! To equate professor Ehrman’s work with greed is shameful. Mr. Ehrman does his work out of a genuine interest and passion for the subject not simply for money and publicity. To suggest that he challenges the validity of scripture to sell books is beneath the dignity of a pastor. We owe Bart Ehrman our respect because he knows more about the subject than we do. William Willimon’s assessment of the book is pathetic at best. The implication that something must be “new” to be relevant is just false. Christians and other religious zealots have nearly thrown our country and the world into a new dark age. In such times information can easily be lost or forgotten. Its easy to forget in any age. Thankfully Bart Ehrman reminds us what the bible really is. Information doesn’t have to be new to be relevant.
    Finally no intelligent person assumes that Bart Ehrman is correct because he “debunks” the Bible. We discover he is correct because of the scholarship invested in his work and because he gives us the tools to find out for ourselves. That is the significant difference between a man of science and political theater. Differing opinions are not the issue here. Bart Ehrman is giving us the facts not opinions and these facts are backed up with research, documentation, science, expertise and experimentation. Bart Ehrman’s books may be boring and they may ruffle the church’s feathers but there can be no doubt as to their veracity.

  2. Harold,

    I went back and reread my blog entry and I don’t see where I accused the author of having greed as a motive of his book. Any author who has written anything wants to see it sell, so the publicity certainly doesn’t hurt. I’m sure he is doing what he can to promote his work.

    I don’t question the scholarship, but do question the findings. You indicate that there can be “no doubt” as to the veracity of Ehrman’s findings. This book has only been around a short time and already has you convinced that it is completely accurate. That’s what I find absurd. I choose to accept the veracity of the Scriptures that have held up to this kind of scrutiny for ages. His book has only been around a short time. Let’s wait a century and see how each stacks up. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. First, I’m not sure it’s fair to say Ehrman is “debunking” the Bible. It’s more accurate to say he’s debunking what some people think about it. There is a big difference between the two statements, even if CNN’s headline suggests otherwise.

    Second, that there doesn’t appear to be anything “new” in his book, in no way invalidates what he says. If I were to write a popular book on, say, relativity, would that automatically make it “wrong” because I’m covering ground that Einstein already covered c. decades ago? Of course not. There is nothing inherently bad about covering “old ground.” There is nothing about doing so which robs one of veracity.

    Third, that there is “nothing new” in Ehrman’s work, assumes his entire body of scholarship is contained within books he’s written for the general reader. Let’s be honest here, there is “scholarship,” or academic-level writing, and then there’s popular works for the general reader, and they’re very different. His original work, if any, is carried on at the academic level, not the popular one. Works for the general reader can only contain a certain amount and type of information. To conclude his work is entirely “unoriginal,” can only be based on his scholarly, academic-level work too. It cannot be decided based on “Jesus, Interrupted,” a general-audience book.

    Lastly, Ehrman makes a sound point in that Christianity does not require the current Christian Bible. The first apostles had no New Testament, they had only the Old Testament, which is only part of the current Bible. Many other Christians in the first couple of centuries did not have available to them all the New Testament works that were being written in their lifetimes or just before … it took time for them to be transmitted around the Christian world.

    To say that a Christian “needs” the Bible, means that guys like Peter, Paul, John, etc. could not possibly have been “Christians,” since they did not have a New Testament when they began their ministries. I don’t see how anyone can rationally say that Ehrman is wrong about this point.

  4. No you didn’t use the word “greed”. Here’s what you said;
    “Here’s the latest person to gain publicity in calling the Bible a “forgery” and doing all he can to sell his new book “Jesus, interrupted.”
    Your implication is that Bart Ehrman is doing his work to get publicity and sell books and you know that greed and vanity are what you’re implying.
    The veracity of Ehrman’s work does not lie in the fact that his most recent book has just been published. Although, a fact can be determined through research and experimentation at any time. The veracity of his work comes from his many years in the field, his erudition, his recognition by the most rigorous critics, his research, his scientific methods, his command of Hebrew, Greek , French and German, his position as the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, his 2o previous publications and last but not least, the simple fact that many ancient manuscripts still exist to prove his claims.
    Choosing to accept the veracity of something is not the same as veracity. You may choose to believe anything you wish but that does not make it a fact.

  5. Yes, I had thought about the issue of whether a Christian needs a Bible. I am not saying that in order to be Christian one must adhere to one particular interpretation of Scripture, because salvation comes through Christ. There is a personal response to the gospel and an experience that is shared among all believers. I do think that in order to grow spiritually as a follower of Christ one must learn about him and his teachings our best resource for this is the Bible.

    The Bible is the record of God’s revelation to us; Jesus is THE revelation of God to us. I do maintain that distinction but place great importance on the centrality of God’s word in the faith community.

    I hope you were able to see the Colbert video. It is hilarious and surprisingly poignant.

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