In case you thought otherwise, Bart Ehrman’s idea have not gone un-protested in the field of textual criticism. You just never hear that in the popular media.
Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina and Peter J Williams of Tyndale House, Cambridge recently appeared on the radio programme “Unbelievable?” hosted by Justin Brierly on Premier Christian radio.
They discussed Bart’s best-selling book “Misquoting Jesus” and whether the textual variation and transmission of the New Testament Documents is as bad as the book makes out. They also discussed what impact this has for a Christan view of the Bible’s authority.
You can listen back to it online in the programme archive. Alternatively you can click the “download the podcast” option to get the MP3 or subscribe in itunes.
In a strange confluence of events, Andy Naselli provides a quote from William Willimon’s review of Bart’s latest hack piece (er, book), “God’s Problem”. Here’s the quote:
“Ehrman proves the dictum that old fundamentalists never die; they just exchange fundamentals and continue in their unimaginative, closed-minded rigidity and simplicity.”
William H. Willimon, review of Bart D. Ehrman, Gods Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important QuestionWhy We Suffer, The Christian Century, December 30, 2008. (online: http://www.christiancentury.org/article_print.lasso?id=6046 )
@Rairdan Brannach: kudos to William (and Andy)!
Sadly, Misquoting Jesus was the book that first introduced me (the layperson) to anything resembling an introduction to textual criticism (I had heard rumblings about it up to that point but never understood how it would impact my own bible study. It certainly succeeded in shaking my fundamentalist views of things that I had just accepted without any sort of critical thought which I believe God used to strengthen my faith in Him (I clearly remember a moment where the Lord asked me to remember that Abraham had no Bible yet he is now known as the father of faith…that really helped put things in perspective while I found my footing through a new way of looking at His word). By His grace, I have found more solid scholarly work from the likes of Dr. Heiser and others he’s used or recommended and am now comfortable with the idea that any understanding of the Bible must begin from the true point of view of its creators and audiences. I appreciate this kind of dedication (even the misguided sort) because, as Dr. Heiser has lamented on more than one occassion, there is definitely a need for those who work in the area of textual criticism to lay a foundation of practical, doctrinally useful work and not keep all the gold to themselves as it were (lest it become the dark ages all over again?). Once you get past the embarrasment of holding to flawed and implodable views, you actually realize just how much fun the Bible actually is, how unique, how useful and how much grace the Lord has given to us that it should reach us in such a great condition! When I think about the thousands of brothers in Christ who endure persecution faithfully with just one or two scraps of the new testament to keep them going, I realize that we are not only blessed, but have a duty to understand the whole counsel of God as He intended while avoiding the mistake of Mr. Ehrman who, somehow, has missed the forest for the trees. It’s interesting how someone who should know better can glibly take their insight and instead of using it to get a clearer, more focused view of God they’d rather find ways to justify their own disenchantment with Him. Why not thank Him for His gracious decision to reveal Himself at all to His creation and build a more informed, mature doctrine from the foundation which is already laid, Jesus. At the risk of coming off superior (I readily acknowledge, I am NOT), this is what I am trying to do because once you have all this knowledge, then what, right? I still believe in the Spirit, have experienced my share of miracles and the wonderful Presence and conviction of Christ from the preaching of simple, “unlearned” men. But I will not live in the dark…I will not shy away from skeptics…I will constantly keep my faith in the fire until it is refined to His liking, not mine. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do when confronted with the big, unanswerable questions? Trust more not less? (sigh) Thanks for letting me rant.
P.S. (I will admit, regardless of the aim of Ehrman, I had never heard anyone describe the Mark version of Jesus as the angry Jesus (I paraphrase I think)…the part where He rebukes the man he just healed very sternly but then the scribes try to soften it up to protects Jesus’ image just cracks me up everytime I think about it! If this is true, then I think I’d relate more to the more intense version of Jesus, sounds like something I would do, lol).
@Jonnathan Molina: well said, really. You need not be afraid of critics. They often act like WE are the ones who don’t put the Bible in its real world (and I guess many don’t), but it is they who avoid that, precisely by levying their attacks on caricatures of the Bible and its world. People like Ehrman make NT scribes seem like Watergate characters, and they often attempt to psychologize the scribes as though they could really know what they were thinking. The real world I live in says we aren’t psychic like this, and most people don’t live as characters in a conspiracy. Sorry, but Ehrman just makes me groan; his mindset is so fundamentalistic. And he never even bothers to think about how Jews believed in a second power in heaven prior to Jesus – no, they had to invent that while transmitting the NT. Huh?
I just read some reviews of Bart Ehrman’s book “God’s Problem” and listened to Ehrman and Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne on http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable.
What bothers me the most from Bart and his likes is that they do not seem to realize that we DESERVE suffering because of our own disobedience, even our inherited sinful nature! Many unbelievers and believers alike do not realize that sin is not limited to actions performed but thoughts conceived in the heart, for from the heart evil may arise. Even a 2, 3, 4 year old kid already shows a character.
The son of God being perfect did NOT deserve what he went through for us! Christ would be the one who should complain about suffering. The son of Most high was made to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). How in the world was that possible and yet many of us now take it too lightly. Yet, this should be a matter to investigate, not the other way around!
…And there are, indeed, good reasons for all the “injustice” as it is called in the holy wars of the OT.
@blop2008: I agree with Peter here, save only that I also think suffering extends from human freedom to sin against other humans (and not exclusively due to our own sin or the effect of the fall).
You bet Mike, sin is disobedience towards God, the ultimate authority (and/or any authority God has set) and when one sin against anyone, whether it be humans, angels, gods etc. it all comes back to the ultimate judge – El Elyon. It is not limited to the result of the fall, the inherited sin if we shall say, or our own sin directly towards God in our hearts, and subsequently shown by our resulting actions.
If any suffering, pain or injustice is to be considered at all, especially on biblical grounds, why not taking into account the one whom did not have to suffer (or why put him aside). Bart and others like him seem to only to be hit by their surroundings innocent suffering people (kids, woman and man). Bart MAY have mentioned Christs suffering (Im not aware of this), but in this case his conclusion do not cohere either way. If anything would seem unjust about our suffering, then Christ’s suffering and bearing the sins of mankind would be the top suffering zenith (the top injustice, if I can say it like this), yet because he willed, it became righteousness for us. The first Adam unjustly (or maybe not) spread death to all, and the second Adam unjustly (but because he willed he made it justice for us) spread life to all (of those whom accept him and repent of course).
Free will extends from us being as Gods image (or imagers) as you mention in your book draft. Although imaging God is not limited to our abilities/actions (free will, emotions, wisdom, intelligence etc), those should obviously be included in the definition of Image/Imagers. And yes, even under development in the womb. Thus, whether under development in the womb or being a kid or a full fledge human or a ruling king, were imagers of God, although the image was ruined by the fall. That is, if the image does not mean (or include) free will, emotions, and so on, then one cannot possibly image God either, since being an imager requires ALSO one to have the abilities God has namely free will, intelligence, and so on (especially when one has come out of the womb and living on earth).
Sorry were supposed to be discussing inspiration/inerrancy! 🙂