Bart Ehrman has a magical time machine! How do I know? Well, he went back to the first century and he discovered that some biblical books were written with the intent to deceive their readers. In a recent NewsObserver.com article (see here) he says:
“The authors intended to deceive their readers, and their readers were all too easily deceived,” Ehrman writes. “The use of deception to promote the truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition.”
I don’t think there is any way other than a time machine for Ehrman to know this. How can discover the intent of the author to this degree without going to ask him/her?!How can a modern reader possibly recover that much data from the historical texts that we have available?
Or maybe he is just saying something absurd to get the spotlight because he likes it there so much. This makes more sense than a time machine! Jim West nails it with this response (see full post here):
“Here’s the problem, and here’s where Ehrman turns from academic researcher to publicity seeking deceiver: he cannot POSSIBLY know what intention was operative in the minds of the writers of those texts which eventually became the New Testament. To pretend that he does only demonstrates that he is more interested in saying absurd headline grabbing things than that he interested in and engaged in actual academic pursuits.”
This is what I find baffling about much of modern biblical scholarship. There is so much confidence in historical reconstruction. Historical reconstruction is fine and dandy as an interesting academic discipline full of possible hypotheses, but this deified historicism let’s them think they sit proudly over the church because they know the real meaning of Scripture compared to those ignorant, faith-based readers. Sorry(not really) to say this, but they too have faith in a god. The god of their own historical imaginations.
That or they have a time machine.
Modern, so-called scholarship simply accepts its own presuppositions much too quickly!
and their imaginations just aren’t that good.
Ah yes, the major downside to Ehrman scholarship (**cough, cough** propaganda **cough, cough**). I’ve read through his “Brief Introduction to the New Testament” and for the most part, I found his literary criticism to be thought-provoking. But the difference between that book and books like Misquoting Jesus or Jesus Interrupted is a bit surprising. My religious studies professor, Dr. Falk, has even said that Ehrman’s credibility as a biblical scholar is hard to really see since he’s done so many “popular writings.” And Falk is the guy who first got me reading some of Ehrman’s work (the “Brief Introduction”).
I don’t think he’s a bad scholar; he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to biblical manuscripts. I just think he’s making conclusions based off of extremely farfetched possibilities without acknowledging that they’re possibilities. I remember reading his preface in Jesus Interrupted how he reasoned that if God couldn’t preserve the original manuscripts to today’s time, could He have really inspired them in the first place? Ehrman never backtracked to say it was his own opinion or that his opinion was merely a hypothesis. He wrote with the tone of “this is how it is, you should just agree with me.”
I think there should be a warning label on Ehrman’s books like the “Surgeon’s Warning” on cigarette packs: “All content of Bart Ehrman is subject to his own farfetched opinions.” Just sayin’…
@ Jeremy: Your “warning label” idea is brilliant. I think I may print such a thing, go home, and slap it on all my Ehrman books!
The funny thing about his whole project is that the area where he is of greatest strength (textual criticism) seems to have been abandoned. I heard he didn’t even go to the last, big conference in Europe because he has become so convinced we can never know the original text. But this seems to me to be a funny view of text and reading, as if a word here and a word there drastically influence meaning or as if Christian doctrine rises and falls on given textual variants. Maybe his fundamentalist upbringing suggested this, but I don’t know many who think that now. Even those who are fairly conservative (and I would this myself to be one of those conservatives).
I was once talking with a friend who has a Phd in economics. I told him I appreciated his intelligence.
He said, “Anybody can get a Phd, if they hang in there long enough.”
I guess the same goes for holding the NT chair at UNC…
Maybe the next time he returns from the first century someone can flip his time machine over and transmogrify him into a worm to prevent further shenanigans.
It amazes me how conjecture gets stacked with further conjecture, followed by another layer of conjecture, then WHAM we have a rock solid conclusion that is without a doubt true.
@Jason: Ouch! 🙂
@Luke: I’d be interested in asking him to go even further. Maybe he can bring back a baby dinosaur!
@Josh: Well, you know, Jesus could have married Mary and he could have had children in France (of course) therefore Jesus must have had a wife and kids and he lived in France!!!!
@ Brian: If you love logic and rationalism then how could you come to any other conclusion? You academic Philistine!
@ Fr. Robert: Which is why I am beginning to like my own presuppositions as bit. As Gadamer has noted, presuppositions and pre-judices are not always bad. I will add especially the presupposition that God speaks and reveals.
@Jim: True. Dan Brown is much more creative than Ehrman.
@Josh: I do what I can. 🙂
Indeed we all have our presuppositions, and here is the place of a good intuition. I think personally this is bound-up within the historical of the Church Catholic. And for the Christian this is always going to be within Judaism and Israel also. This is part of that Salvation History of God. As Jesus said…”salvation is of the Jews”. (John 4:22)
I think you’re significantly underestimating Ehrman’s powers here: not only is he able to travel back in time, but he’s psychic, as he’s been able to divine the true intentions of a handful of 1st century writers! I mean, clearly time travel alone is useless to learn such a thing, unless one happens to have the good fortune to overhear the author(s) boasting about their deceitful accomplishment. This is plausible, of course, but not probable. The more likely scenario, since Ehrman positively knows this about every biblical author without exception, is that he learned on account of his paranormal abilities. His inability to account for his powers must be what keeps him an agnostic rather than a full-blown atheist.
Oh good, one more chance to quote Barth. I think this summarizes, Brian, what you say in the last paragraph of your post:
Hmm . . . take that, Erhman! 😉
@Esteban: So very true, what was I thinking?! I am now convinced that Ehrman is a super hero who does time travel without a time machine and he reads minds! Wow, he is like a little god that Ehrman. 🙂
@Bobby: Excellent quote. That nails it. I’d say for the most part the academy worships historicism, hardly ever Christ.
I agree with you. Unfortunately, that’s the realization (or fortunately) that I came to in Seminary myself. Like you, I certainly see a place for Literary (vs. “L”iteral) Grammatical Historical exegesis; but only in a co-opted way. I want to take serious the claim that Jesus asserted about the Text of Scripture — e.g. that it’s about Him, and therefore it’s “personal/relational” — which totally shakes up the “foundations” upon which LGH usually rest (e.g. history of religions etc.).
@Bobby: Indeed, it does seem like there is little hope for reading the biblical text like Lk. 24 if we are held captive to LGH. LGH may assist it, but if it is on the hermeneutical throne we are in a state of confusion.
Ehrman has probably more than anyone else in my lifetime helped people understand how the Bible was put together, and helped them understand the basics of many of the early Christian groups.
@Rich: I don’t doubt that Ehrman is beneficial at introducing many subjects, but I would advise to read broadly. Ehrman assumes that his positions are given and he writes as if only Fundamentalist disagree with him. This is simply misguided.
I don’t know what you mean. Ehrman is pretty polite, and from what I can tell nothing in his popular books is crazy or controversial in any way. He has mastered the ability to communicate with the public and help them understand the basics of studying early Christianity.
You would have to give me an example of him making some crazy assertion and then trying to make it seem that his personal crazy assertion is how everyone in the religion industry thinks for me to consider that. I can grab my copy of “Lost Christianities” if you can think of anything in that work that would demonstrate what your saying.
One of the things I have always thought that Ehrman has done well in his for the general public book is provide well describe information on topics that are of general agreement in the the professional religion industry.
Rich: I am not saying he is not polite. All I am saying is that he is not the only voice in the conversation. While it would seem much of what he says is the “general agreement of the professional religion industry” this is only true if we narrowly define the “professional religion industry”.
lol… ok… now I am hooked…. now you will have to further explain what you are talking about in that most recent response.
But first, do you have an example of one of these examples you were talking about orignally where he makes some crazy or outrageous assertion and then talks about it as if it is generally accepted in the industry from _Lost Christianities_ I have that book on my self, and will get it so that I can better understand what you are talking about on your first point.
Then after that you can explain to me what you mean by defining the professional religion industry.
Bart who? … satirical!
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