Here are some highlights from Mike Licona's review of Ehrman's new book Forged. Ehrman's book contends that some of the New Testament books are forgeries. These include Acts, the two Epsitles bearing Peter's name, and six of Paul's Epistles.
The gist of Licona's assessment is that Ehrman repeatedly brings up partial information and dismisses arguments that disagree far too quickly.
Ehrman appear[s] to take a different approach, assuming all of the 27 are guilty of false attribution until nearly unimpeachable evidence to the contrary can be presented. Evidence of this approach can be seen when the evidence for traditional authorship is dismissed too quickly or when arguments against the tradition authorship are strikingly weak....Unfortunately, because many of Ehrman's readers will go no further than reading Forged, they will fall prey to some very poor arguments....
An example of partial information that ends up misleading:
In chapter five, Ehrman turns to some of the motive behind ancient forgeries. In the cases presented in this chapter, the Christians were responding to their conflicts with Jews and pagans. After discussing some of the literature he writes, "the authors intended to deceive their readers, and their readers were all too easily deceived" (159). Although Ehrman is correct, it is likewise noteworthy that none of the literature he cites became canonical. Ehrman fails to mention that....
...In a book where he is identifying deceit, it's ironic that Ehrman himself engages in misleading his readers. In a technical sense, he's correct: the reason we have the present literature in the New Testament is because a theologically orthodox group won the theology war. However, the impression Ehrman leaves his readers is that the only things distinguishing the literature that made it into the New Testament from the literature that did not is the results of a vote....
But sometimes the winners deserve to win [for historical reasons]....
Ehrman considers Acts a forgery because it supposedly presents a relationship between Peter and Paul that is contradicted in the Epistles. In Acts, they are in agreement, but the Epistles show them in conflict. Licona points out a simple explanation available in the text Ehrman cites,
However, in Galatians 2:11-14 (an undisputed letter), Paul tells us that he opposed Peter to his face when he withdrew from eating with Gentiles....Ehrman recognizes there are ways of reconciling these differences. But he extends no charity in such exercise....But Ehrman will have none of it. Coult it be because it would throw a wrench in his views?
With regards to another of Ehrman's arguments that Acts is a forgery:
Although he provides reasons, he fails to mention even in an endnote that many schoalrs disagree and have provided answers to what Ehrman regards as conclusive.
Licona notes another flaw in Ehrman's reasoning. Ehrman argues against the authenticity of these books because they are so long to have been cost prohibitive at the time except for someone very wealthy, and the authors we traditionally credit were not wealthy. Licona gives some facts that mitigate this argument, but then points out that Ehrman himself provides evidence against his own argument. Ehrman lists the Epistles he disputes with their word count, and also lists the Epistles he considers legitimate - some of which are longer than the ones he thinks are too long to be legitimate.
Licona concludes that raising a discussion of the legitimate authorship of the New Testament is a useful thing, but that Ehrman's arguments are weak so that he "is left with a firm grasp on an empty sack." Unfortunately, Ehrman's books continue to trouble some Christians laying seeds of doubt about the legitimacy of the New Testament, and therefore the truth of Christianity. But his latest book follows his pattern in the others. Partial facts, flawed arguments, and dismissal of counter-evidence that deserve more credit. Ehrman's arguments aren't anything that should cause us to doubt the New Testament is historically reliable.
Michael Kruger author of the Heresy of Orthodoxy will be a guest on the radio program April 11 to discuss Ehrman's new book.