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April 21, 2014


Ehrman’s fundamental premise is that the New Testament documents, and most critically the Gospels, were written late, long after the eyewitnesses were gone.

I was listening to an interview with him on the Unbelievable Podcast recently, and I remember him saying Mark was written in the late 60's, Matthew and Luke in the 80's, and John in the 90's. That's neither late nor long after the eyewitnesses were gone. That's actually pretty mainstream in the scholarly community. And he obviously doesn't think they're that unreliable since he thinks there are plenty of things we can know about the historical Jesus from these documents. He doesn't treat them the same way he treats non-connonical gospels, which seem to play no role at all in his historical reconstruction of Jesus.

He cites examples of Jewish sects that believed that humans could and did become divine, and visa versa.But in every case, these were aberrant teachings held by very small groups of Jew and never were held by mainstream Judaism.

That is true, but in all fairness, Christianity was far from being mainstream, too. Why think that Christians would necessarily base all of their beliefs on prior Jewish beliefs that were mainstream?

e writes in this book and earlier ones what some who claimed to be Christian wrote about Jesus in gnostic writings, and he clearly thinks these have just as much claim to be “Christian teaching” as anything else other Christians claimed.

Yeah, this is the same criticism James White had. Ehrman is assuming the "Bauer thesis" in all of his books on Jesus and early Christianity, which is what The Heresy of Orthodoxy addressed.

His followers were disappointed, and over time reinterpreted his teachings as claiming to be the Messiah and divine.

Interesting. I wondered about that--whether Ehrman thought Jesus was considered to be the Christ before his death and resurrection, or whether Jesus saw himself that way.

Ehrman makes the point more than once that historians can’t do theology.

I'll bet that makes N.T. Wright cringe. Ehrman may be evidence for this claim itself, though. James White said on one of his podcasts that Ehrman is a terrible exegete.

The other point I want to bring up is the way Ehrman refers to scholars who aren’t part of his school of thought about the dating the New Testament.Throughout this book and others he often makes the point that the majority of scholars agree with his positions.

He's right about that. Even Robert Price chided him once on being a champion of the status quo.

He clearly means this to have persuasive power that authority and majorities often have on shaping our opinions.

I think authority claims carry some weight. That's why we go to doctors for medical advice and lawyers for legal advice. They are experts on those subjects. Few of us can be experts in everything, so we rely on authorities. When there is a consensus among authorities in a certain area, that's a good reason for us non-experts to believe those views, too. When we go against the consensus of authorities, we ought to have really good reasons for it.

And I have to concur with Sam with the problems with the above article. Especially that Bart Ehrman appears to be basing his argument on an unusually late authorship - which doesn't seem to be the case.

And like Sam, I'd personally recommend listening to the Unbelievable podcast (from Premier Christian radio) between Bart Ehrman and Simon Gathercole. At the start of the pod-cast Bart was making remarks such as "all of the evidence points this way". But by the end he was not saying such sweeping statements, and I personally felt that Simon had him covered. Bart certainly had some interesting points, and it was at least thought provoking and well worth the listen no matter which side of the debate you sit on.

The real root of Ehrman's objections have nothing to do with textual criticism or biblical criticism. They are really philosophical. Ehrman's has bought into the problem of evil (that discredits God's existence), and from there the rest of his conclusions flow. You can see some discussions between he and N.T. Wright, and it's pretty clear after their conversation that Ehrman's main thing is that he just doesn't see God active in the world, for whatever personal reason that might be. His exegesis and many of his conclusions just seem like basically an extension of Bultmann which Wright has critiqued devastatingly in a number of ways, just read Jesus and the Victory of God. Ehrman is just basically repeating the old Epicurean idea that God isn't here.

Jberr writes: "Ehrman's main thing is that he just doesn't see God active in the world"

The alternative is what I recently heard John MacArthur state in a sermon.

To paraphrase: evil exists, God exists, therefore God wills evil to exist. The world and its horrors are all part of God's grand plan because it benefits Him in some fashion. The Holocaust, starvation, children dying of AIDS, tsunamis, floods, rape, torture ... all of this brings God glory. He's the cause of all of it yet simultaneously responsible for none of it.
Is that a preferable world view?

For such tripe, MacArthur pulls in over $400,000 a year for his part time work at GTY alone. Who knew that such grim theological determinism was so lucrative ... yet you all critique Ehrman here as if he's the bad guy.

I share McArthur's grim point of view, and I haven't made a dime. I also once predicted the end of the world and didn't make any money off of that either. Clearly, I'm doing something wrong.

I criticize Ehrman because he is dead wrong on just about everything he says, but also because he acts as if the real reason he is a skeptic is something that has to do with the text, when it's really a philosophical objection more than anything else. I think it has been very dishonest on his part in many ways. I'm not sure what MacArthur has to do with Ehrman and I've never even heard of him. Is he a biblical scholar? Not sure I understand your comment exactly. If I think someone's theology is terrible and they make it public, I am going to criticize their theology. In Ehrman's case, I am going beyond criticizing his theology (or lack thereof) and am criticizing him, because I clearly see dishonesty in his work. No, I don't know the guy, and from what I heard of him he seems like a nice person and is obviously extremely intelligent and persuasive. But I am highly suspicious of his work for many reasons.

Agree with Sam and Nathan that Ehrman uses mainstream dating for the gospels and NT texts. In fact I've even read that some date Luke/Acts as early second century documents.

I think it would be very helpful for those who favor early dates for the gospels to provide unequivocal proof for early dating. This would certainly strengthen and improve the credibility of the early date position.

I personally wonder if we will ever know with any certainty, when the gospels were written and by whom.

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