Bock

Ehrman’s Newest Entry March 16, 09 (revised April 5)

Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted by his own admission says nothing new. It packages what scholars have been saying in a very public way for two decades (As Ehrman points out, these issues go back centuries– and the positions he defends have been advocated for a few centuries. In fact, folks like Augustine and Origen were aware of the kinds of issues he raises).

Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted by his own admission says nothing new. It packages what scholars have been saying in a very public way for two decades (As Ehrman points out, these issues go back centuries– and the positions he defends have been advocated for a few centuries. In fact, folks like Augustine and Origen were aware of the kinds of issues he raises). Since he learned the historical critical method in place of the devotional method, he discovered the Bible was full of contradictions and discrepancies, a completely human book with Christianity being a religion that is completely human in its origin and development. That is the core thesis of Bart Ehrman’s new book, who has become a one man marching band to make clear what everyone should know about the origins of the Christian faith. We cannot speak of the divine in any of this, he says, because historians cannot handle that kind of data. This represents a convenient limitation on what he can speak about (even as he makes all kinds of pronouncements about what is taking place and who is responsible).

One has to wonder when an author admits to providing nothing new in a book what the motive is for writing. He claims he seeks to inform. The book is really about packaging then. But to leave the criticism on this point would be to ignore the case Ehrman tries to make. The conservative writers Erhman apparently wishes to challenge (and mostly ignore) have engaged on all the "non-new" points Ehrman makes, even highlighting themselves the "human" side of the Bible’s production. But partly by caricature and partly by setting rules where God cannot be invoked in a historical discussion, Ehrman proceeds. God is not even able to be brought into the possibility of an interpretive spiral, because "miracles are not impossible," just very much unlikely and a least likely explanation (read a "next to impossible" category). I think what is most bothersome in this book is the way it sets up discussions, pursues a topic for several pages, often noting the point is not as devastating as the impression given (usually with a sentence that qualifies things so the author has cover) and then continues to launch in a direction that implies more than the evidence really gives, leaving a greater impression about what is said than the author claims in the qualification. 

It would take a book to go through the examples– and that could be done. There are responses, scholarly credible ones. Let me take on one that also is highlighted in his promotional video on Amazon. In this piece, Ehrman claims (and then writes in the book) that Jesus dies in despair in Mark but as one in control in Luke. The key is to see the difference between citing Ps 22:1 in Mark and 31:5 in Luke. Now here is what Ehrman does not indicate to readers of his book in terms of applying the significance of key facts to this example. (1) Most scholars agree that Luke used Mark. Both Erhman and I agree with this point of Luke’s use of Mark. But he does not apply this fact to this example. I will show why it is important below. (2) Mark speaks of a second cry from the cross in his account. (3) Jesus in Mark (and in the Mark Luke works with) is predicting his death and choosing to face his death long before the pain of the cross. (4) In fact, Jesus supplies the very testimony against himself at the Jewish trial scene that leads into his crucifixion in Mark 14:62, hardly the act of a completely despairing man. I make this last point because Erhman wants to preclude a citation of Ps 22:1 being uttered to point to the entire lament. This example of reading (almost in the very flat, excessively literal fundamentalistic straw man manner he wants to criticize) happens throughout the book. This is just an especially good example of it. In the midst of discussing Luke he claims Jesus has no substitution of sin in his theology, ignoring the explicit statement in Acts 20:28 (remember we are discussing Luke’s theology here as the basis for his changes). Another feature of Ehrman’s approach is that he is consistently appeals to what are possible readings of text’s in combination reading while chiding those who combine things differently and more harmoniously. Remember we are speaking of writers who respected each other enough to be using their material. What I would claim from this example is (1) Luke does highlight Jesus’ control of the situation to a degree Mark does not (so Ehrman and I would agree here that this is true). However, conservatives have affirmed the different emphases between gospel writers for years (I even wrote a book working through this called Jesus according to Scripture) and numerous commentaries by scholars (not all conservative) could see such differences without going on to create the theological distance Ehrman does between Mark and Luke. (2) Luke, knowing of the second cry in Mark, supplies what else Jesus said in a process not unlike a lawyer or an investigator might follow up on such a detail. Now we could discuss and debate whether Luke made this second saying up (as I suspect Ehrman might argue) or whether he had access to sources (as I am inclined to think), but my point is that one can easily read Luke as supplementing Mark here not completely rejecting Mark’s portrait of Jesus. Luke could do so while omitting reference to Ps 22:1 because its content was already known from Mark. It is important to note that Luke’s locale of this utterance comes at the spot where the second cry comes in Mark. (3) The theologies are not in as great an opposition to each other as Ehrman claims. Rather what we have are emphases in which Jesus goes triumphantly in his death genuinely fully suffering as Mark shows, presenting Jesus as an example to suffer. (If Jesus is as desparing as Ehrman suggests then Jesus ceases to be the example Mark sets forth.) Luke shows a Jesus also in control, something the other passages in Mark also indicate.

There is more I could say, but I have to catch my plane now. More will be coming. Just take this as an initial indication that Jesus, Interrupted adds nothing new and understates or ignores much. Read it for yourself and see how many of the issues he raises have been addressed by others already.

(Revisions undertaken in response to comments from Jonathan, thanks for the dialogue)

 

34 Comments

  • Avatar

    Matt Doan

    Thanks Dr. Bock!
    Dr Bock,

    Even though I have never met you, I feel as though you are an old friend as I have listened to 20 hours of incredible lectures from the Gospel of Luke from your classroom in Dallas through correspondence while I was at Talbot Seminary!

    Thank you for mentoring me from afar!

    I also am so grateful for the time you put into each post on this blog. They are informative, candid and very timely for my role as a pastor in Orange County, California. I just wish you posted more frequently! Thanks for taking the time to thoughtfully critque Ehrman’s latest, I know my Barnes and Noble friends at Church will have questions about it, so I need to be prepared to answer. Thanks!

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    Brad

    them vs. us
    Dr. Bock,

    I so appreciate your work in the area of the historical reliability of NT and most importantly, the person and work of Christ. I’ve got folks who hear Bart Erhman on NPR then hear a sermon on Sunday morning and are thinking, “This seems like a ‘them’ vs. ‘us’ issue. How can I be sure whose telling the truth?” Any suggestions on how pastors can do a better job of responding to the realities behind the composition of the NT? I remember during my time in seminary telling my wife about some of these issues and it kinda freaked her out, to where she said, “That really makes me question the trustworthiness of the Bible.” I probably just did a poor job of addressing the issue…so how can we approach these issues in ways that would cause people to be more trustworthy of the document, rather than, walking away feeling less confident in its reliability?
    Thanks.

    • Avatar

      bock

      Them vs Us dlb

      Brad:

      Good question that deserves a more complete answer than I can give here. Being aware of the discussion is important, and understanding what bothers people is also key. Mark Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels? is a nice acessible book that is well organized to give short direct answers to these kinds of questions. The best thing is to discuss some fo these issues and diffilculties making people know that what is paraded as an insuperable difficulty has been known and discussed for a long time.

      dlb

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    Michael

    Defending the Faith
    Dr. Bock,

    Thank you for defending the faith. You have done so here in a scholarly approach yet with a pastoral like care for people’s faith, that it not be shaken. My question is I have recently read “The Text of the New Testament,” by Metzger and Ehrman. Do you think that Ehrman’s views have affected his teaching on Textual Criticism?

    God Bless,
    Michael

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    Anonymous

    Response
    Matt, if you sat in the classroom with Dr. Bock, you would like him even better than from afar. I took classes from him in seminary and I worked with him for a number of years. He is a quality man and would not disappoint you.

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    Anonymous

    Could someone clarify this
    Could someone clarify this for me? Is the debate over the degree of despair felt by Jesus or whether or not he felt any dispair at all?

    • Avatar

      bock

      Clarify dlb
      The debate is over whether Jesus felt no despair at all. For Ehrman, Mark says he did and Luke says he did not. My argument is that Luke knew Mark and notes Jesus died trusting God, having already signaled in Gethsemene the emotion with which Jesus went to his death.

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    Anonymous

    Clarification
    Could someone clarify something for me? Is the question “how much despair did Jesus feel” or is the question “did Jesus feel despair”?

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    Anonymous

    Sorry about the double post.
    Sorry about the double post. I thought that the first one had not gone through.

    “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”…is not despair?

  • Avatar

    bock

    Sorry dlb
    Yes, the reference to "My God…." is a note of despair, but Luke does not have it. So Ehrman is contrasting what Mark has (the My God saying) to what Luke has ("Into your hands, I commit my Spirit"). That is what produces the issue.

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    Anonymous

    So, it would have been ok if
    So, it would have been ok if Ehrman had said that Jesus died in Matthew with emotions that included dispair, yes? The criticism of Ehrman is about where the “dispair” shows up in the Gospels, yes? Do I understand this correctly?

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    Anonymous

    So, if Ehrman had said that
    So, if Ehrman had said that Matthew says Jesus experienced despair, then that would have been ok? The criticism is just about the fact that Ehrman says the Mark, specifically, says that Jesus despaired, yes?

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    Jeremy Pierce

    This fills a gap in Blomberg
    I just finished reading Craig Blomberg’s second edition of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, and this was the one issue raised in Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus that I didn’t find any response to. I think Blomberg’s book is excellent, and I found his appendix on Ehrman helpful, but he did underply the historical reliability issues raised by Ehrman as if there wasn’t a lot for him to say, and this was the one big issue raised by Ehrman that he didn’t cover in the process. So I’m glad to find a response on the only relatively worrisome issue that Ehrman had raised where I didn’t know of an evangelical scholars’ response.

  • Avatar

    bock

    So If dlb

    No, the point is not merely the issue of whether Jesus experienced despair according to Mark, but the extent of the difference between Mark and Luke. Ehrman’s argument is that they have completely different portrayals of Jesus’ death. Our point is that though there is a difference in emphasis, Luke notes Jesus’ despair elsewhere so that the portrait is not as oppositional as Ehrman argues.

    (Please ask your question once. There is no need to repeat the question in two posts)

    dlb

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    Jonathan Robertson

    Dr. Bock said: “One has to
    Dr. Bock said: “One has to wonder when an author admits to providing nothing new in a book what the motive is for writing. Informing? Apparently not. Crusading? Perhaps.”

    Response to Dr. Bock:
    Ehrman gives an example in “Jesus, Interrupted” of his speaking in front of a church and having an elderly women approach him afterward and ask, “Why have I never heard this before?”

    Ehrman repeatedly stresses that what he is presenting is standard-fair among scholars, but that for some reason, pastors that are learned and educated about such things fail to communicate it to their parishioners. According to Ehrman, his motive is to address that problem. I have read his latest book and would agree that it does just that. He presents this “standard-fair” material in a clear and understandable way.

    The reality is that Ehrman probably would NOT have written his latest book to begin with if pastors were teaching such things to their flocks. This looks much more like informing rather than crusading.

    • Avatar

      bock

      One has to dlb

      Jonathan:

      Appreciate the desire to defend Erhman here, but why does Ehrman have to inform when several sources exist that discuss what he raises? Anyone heard of the Jesus Seminar and their publicity campaign from a decade ago? Ok, he may organize it a little differently for everyone (and somewhat selectively in what he does and does not mention about the issues). He also does repeat known old arguments.  As for pastors not teaching their flocks this kind of material, I am aware of many pastors who do. Is it not a little condescending to suggest that pastors do not teach this, even though they know otherwise and should? Maybe some pastors are not as convinced as he implies they ought to be? This type of presentation (the old lady example and my response) is known as anecdotal evidence. It can be used to justify a lot of diverse activity. How many specials (From Jesus to Christ, [2003, PBS] is but one example) lay this kind of claim for diversity in the NT out for television audiences in a very clear manner using many well known names? Peter Jennings did one on Jesus for ABC as well, several years ago. No, Ehrman has taken up the role of being the voice for such views. That is just an observation. That is taking up the crusade.

       

      • Avatar

        Jonathan Robertson

        To Dr. Bock:
        Ehrman is

        To Dr. Bock:
        Ehrman is another one of these sources, he just seems to be slightly better (IMHO) that many other figures at communicating and explaining such ideas to the public at large. Many people probably have heard of the Jesus Seminar, but hearing about their existence and general ideas is a long shot away from actually reading and studying their ideas. Ehrman implies that he is repeating “old arguments,” but “old” need not necessitate or imply invalid. We’re dealing with arguments pertaining to ancient writings, not a modern day computer that becomes outdated and obsolete seemingly overnight.

        I’d like to clarify that I never said all pastors, so if that seemed like my implication, I apologize. From experience, however, both with pastors within churches that I have attended hundreds of times and amongst friends and family (many of them living far away and attending different churches), I was never exposed to anything like the material presented in “Jesus, Interrupted” until I started studying the Bible at the university level.

        I agree that the story of the old women is anecdotal evidence, but that doesn’t make it wholly invalid. I have made many similar observations. You may find your point convincing on paper, but really, if you were to question many Christians about some of the points Ehrman raises in his latest book, you may be surprised at how many of them have never even heard or read, let alone studied and considered such ideas.

        “Informing? Apparently not. Crusading? Perhaps.”
        I am willing to agree that Ehrman is “crusading,” as he is working hard to advance ideas. Even though he is technically “crusading” that does not mean he isn’t also informing. The act of crusading does not negate the act of informing. In fact, Dr. Block, your argument doesn’t seem to make semantical or logical sense, since by definition, “crusading” in this context necessitates the advancement of ideas (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/crusade). For every single person that encounters even just ONE of these ideas for the first time, Ehrman will by definition, be informing that individual. For every person who is aware of such arguments, and finds Ehrman’s explanations and defenses to be informative, Ehrman will by definition, be informing that person.

        Lastly, your above statement not only seems to fail logical examination, but it seems to be a bit “out of bounds” for you to think that you are in a position to question his motives to begin with. Are you in the business of projecting your opinions about other people’s motives to your readers? People need to be informed, and thanks to Ehrman, they are being informed, and will continue to be.

        • Avatar

          bock

          Ehrman is dlb

          Jonathan:

          Nothing wrong with being an advocate (informing/crusading) on a point of view. Just pointing out that Ehrman notes in his own book that there is nothing new in what he is writing (Usually when you propose a book to a publisher they want to know what is new in what you are saying that makes the publishing effort worth it). It is true one can inform someone who did not hear certain things before, but usually when we publish books one thinks that the author has something fresh to say. Informing in a book often means making available such new information. My point is that Ehrman is repackaging stuff that is out there (and he said this by his own admission)–and there is more to what he is doing than merely letting us know. As for reading motives, it does not take much to look at his book topics and recognize there is a program to what he writes about– which is why his biography comes up in every book. I am content to let people judge which end of the scale is in play here. 

          • Avatar

            Jonathan Robertson

            Refuting some of your points
            To Dr. Bock:
            I agree fully that there is nothing wrong with being an advocate for a point of view. My qualm was specifically directed at your statement about Ehrman’s motive(s): “One has to wonder when an author admits to providing nothing new in a book what the motive is for writing. Informing? Apparently not. Crusading? Perhaps.” I’ve already pointed out that excluding “informing” while asserting “crusading” doesn’t make semantical sense. I’ve also pointed out that you seem to be “out of bounds” in speculating about his motives. Further, simply because one presents “old hat” doesn’t mean he isn’t informing. What is common knowledge to one person is often news to another. The reality is that this book is addressed at the general public, not at scholars and academics, hence it will probably be informing to many individuals, especially those of an evangelical Christian persuasion.

            “Informing in a book often means making available such new information.”
            It is “new” to anyone who hasn’t heard or read of it before. Ehrman’s point is that this information has been known and accepted widely by critical scholars for over a hundred years, but that scholars have done a poor job communicating such material to the general public. Yes there are books available on the subject, but the problem of people being unfamiliar with such material still seems to exist. As Ehrman notes in his book regarding the 300-350 new students he tests every semester, many who do poorly on a basic “bible knowledge” exam, proving that they are not being taught such information in their churches or Sunday school classes. For the most part they are simply not getting exposed to such information until the university level. Being a popular and widely read author makes Ehrman a great vehicle to achieve an informing of the general public on matters of this genre.

            “I am content to let people judge which end of the scale is in play here.”
            Then perhaps you will not only cease speculating about his motives and erroneously claiming that he is not informing (“Informing? Apparently not.”), but you’ll do the respectable thing and correct such errors in your blog post.

            Now that I’ve actually read over your “points” regarding Jesus’ Death, I see that you fail to get certain facts straight. One example will suffice for now: “Now here is what Ehrman does not tell the readers of his book. (1) Most scholars agree that Luke used Mark.”
            This is patently false Dr. Bock. Ehrman makes this point emphatically clear on atleast two occasions in the book. One example of this can be seen on page 39, which appears before the argument you attempt to critique. “…scholars have long known that Matthew and Luke got a number of their stories from Mark, one of their key sources…”

            Even more embarrassing for you is that on page 64, the opening page of Ehrman’s argument about the differences of Jesus’ death in Mark and Luke, the text says this: “Both Mathew and LUKE, writing fifteen to twenty years later, USED MARK AS ONE OF THEIR SOURCES FOR MUCH OF THEIR OWN ACCOUNTS.” Contrast this to your erroneous claim that Ehrman does not tell his readers that Luke used Mark. The strength of your argumentation is summarized quite nicely in this refutation of your first “point.”

          • Avatar

            bock

            Refuting dlb

            Jonathan:

            I am not going to go round and round with you about whether my reading of Ehrman’s motive is on target or not. Readers can read the book(s) and make the call. I will only note that other works were also addressed to the genral public and TV specials I noted played to millions (a much larger audience than the number of sales of Ehrman’s books). Please keep my context in mind (why publishers normally publish books and what is out there and has been in circulation in a variety of media). One of the things a counter response like yours does that is helpful is to allow for give and take and the elaboration of the context of the original remarks.

            I am going to respond to the claim that I have not presented the facts right on Jesus’ death. Here context also is important. Yes, Ehrman does note in other points in the book that Luke used Mark. This is the common position, and one that I and Ehrman both hold. Yes, he refers to their relationship in setting up this discussion, but he makes nothing of it, when it is a key thing to bring into play. My point was that in discussing that this specific text in question that that element in the equation and how it works is not noted. So the point is not that Ehrman never tells us this, but that he does not use that point as a part of the scenario he is describing here (which is in play as far as both of us are concerned). In Ehrman’s presentation of this material, we simply look at Luke on its own and Mark on its own. We do not bring into play where the alternate saying in Luke appears in the Marcan sequence (at the place of the second cry), something a comparison of the texts with the awareness of Luke’s use of Mark in the background would make clear. We also ignore, as I noted, the places where Luke has shown Jesus’ despair on going to the cross, something Ehrman suggests is not present in Luke. So, simply put, I stand by the points made. 

          • Avatar

            Jonathan Robertson

            Continued discussion…
            To Dr. Block:
            “Readers can read the book(s) and make the call.” They can and they should I think. But let me consider your final line in the original blog entry: “Just take this as an initial indication that Jesus, Interrupted adds nothing new and understates or ignores much.” With such a closing line, I doubt many of your readers will even give Ehrman a chance to begin with, let alone read his book to fairly “judge which end of the scale is in play here” and “make the call” themselves.

            “Here context also is important.” Yes it is! But nowhere in the context do you even hint that Ehrman actually tells the reader that Luke used Mark. You in fact, sharply state the polar opposite. “Now here is what Ehrman DOES NOT TELL the readers of his book. (1) Most scholars agree that Luke used Mark.” I understand the context of your attempted critique, but you cannot use it as an appeal in this case, because your context in NO way indicates that Erhman DOES TELL the readers of his book that Luke used Mark. A semantically correct and logically written point “(1)” might read something like this: Although Ehrman states throughout the book that most scholars think that Luke used Mark, Ehrman fails to tie this important idea into his argument in my opinion…Here are some reasons I have reached this conclusion…

            I think we can both agree that my wording here paints a far more accurate and valid picture of the truth on this matter. If I (or you) were to then proceed by critiquing Ehrman’s argument in this instance, my point “(1)” would state the case and be reinforced by the context of my argumentation. In your case Dr. Block, your point “(1)” actually contradicts what you claim that you meant for the context of your argument to state, because you clearly emphasize that “Ehrman DOES NOT tell the readers of his book,” yet say in defense to me that this is not actually what you meant to convey. If someone were to take your point “(1)” and interpret it through the context of your blog entry and had not personally read “Jesus, Interrupted,” then they would probably conclude that “Ehrman DOES NOT tell the readers of his book” that Luke used Mark and that Ehrman fails to tie in such important points regarding his claim that Mark and Luke present wholly different perspectives. Your point “1” even when interpreted fairly and in context of your entire blog post is still utterly in contradiction to the fact that Erhman DOES TELL the readers of his book that Mark used Luke.

            “My point was that in discussing that this specific text in question that that element in the equation and how it works is not noted.” Then why didn’t you just say this to begin with! Why didn’t you state this point? Why did you emphatically and tersely state that he “DOES NOT tell the readers of his book?” This is demonstrably not true. He DOES tell the readers, however, in your opinion, he does not explain it’s significance. “So, simply put, I stand by the points made.” I truly wonder how you can stand by such points. I think that if you were embracing humility, honesty and integrity, you would admit to your mistakes and poor choice of words, as your wording clearly gives a patently false impression in the specific instance(s) that I have pointed out.

            Another mistake you make regarding a simple fact that I haven’t yet brought to your attention can be seen near the beginning of your blog post: “It packages what scholars have been saying for two decades.” Ehrman’s book packages what scholars have been saying for two CENTURIES. Scholars have been making such points for TEN TIMES “two decades.”

            By the way, thank you for taking the time to respond to my critiques thus far. I only now wish that you would humbly correct certain parts of your blog entry that appear quite poorly worded and give an impression that isn’t valid. In my humble opinion, it is absurd to think that your readers will come across a point such as, “Now here is what Ehrman DOES NOT TELL the readers of his book. (1) Most scholars agree that Luke used Mark,” and come to the understanding based on your “context” that Erhman DOES in fact state that Luke used Mark.

          • Avatar

            bock

            discussion dlb

            Jonathan:

             

            First, please get my name right. It is Dr. Bock. 

            Second, I will make the change you suggest to the original blog. I do it for clarity’s sake in terms of the intent of my remarks. 

            Third, my point about the last two decades was because these issues have been very visible in the public square in the last two decades.

            dlb

          • Avatar

            Jonathan Robertson

            Thanks for the healthy discussion
            To Dr. Bock:
            Sorry for getting your name incorrect a few times there. Thank you for being willing to make some changes for the sake of clarity, as I don’t think the original wording seemed to convey what you were meaning to say. Fair enough regarding your “two decades” point. Best.

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    Dan

    To Dr. Bock,
    (1) There are

    To Dr. Bock,

    (1) There are significant differences between Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar. Most fundamentally, the Seminar fellows reject the notion of Jesus as an apocalyptic figure, whereas Ehrman considers this fundamental to his understanding of the historical Jesus. This is a major difference, one that your earlier remarks skip past in congregating the non-evangelicals under the same roof.

    (2) The popularity of Ehman’s books is due to his compelling personal narrative (and his accessible writing style). I think you miss this point by arguing with his examples.

    Yes, he once viewed the Bible using the extra-biblical assumptions and frames preferred by evangelicals. He has since abandoned those in favor of historical-critical method (for lack of a better term — yes, you and others use both historical and critical methods). Sure, there are plenty of books that have covered the same topics that Ehrman has, and just as many that offered evangelical counter-arguments.

    But evangelicals have yet to offer a scholarly response by someone with an equally intriguing personal story. That’s why, I think, his books end up on the NY Times best-seller lists, and those by his evangelical critics do not.

    For whatever it’s worth.

    • Avatar

      bock

      There are dlb

      Dan:

      (On 1) I agree with you (and with Erhman) that there is an apocalyptic dimension to Ehrman that makes his treatment of Jesus superior to that of the Seminar. But Ehrman’s sloppy portrayal of how orality works in the early church and in the Jesus tradition leaves his result in the same place: inadequate to really treat the level of agreement in the gist of the story about Jesus in the material we have (something Erhman ignores). 

      (On 2) As to the personal story, it is actually pretty irrelevant in the long run. What if I told you I started out as an agnostic whose study of the texts convinced me of their core credibility (which is absolutely true in terms of my biography). The result is our stories (Ehrman’s and mine) neutralize each other.  I never have used this, because to me it is not relevant to working with the facts of what is in the texts.

      Yes, Ehrman writes well and accessibly. No one has ever questioned that.

       

      • Avatar

        Dan

        Re:
        (1) An apocalyptic dimension? That’s a pretty tepid concession. Ehrman sees Jesus as driven by his apocalyptic eschatology. Both Ehrman and Dale Allison, with whom he has much in common, are writing updates, sans the historiography, of Schweitzer’s view of the historical Jesus. The members of the Jesus Seminar explicitly reject this portrait, opting to go along with Crossan’s idea that Jesus was a sapiential eschatologist. Huge difference. At least it seems that way to me.

        As for Ehrman’s “sloppy portrayal of how orality works,” his methods and assumptions do strike me as different from yours and Richard Bauckham’s. As a layman, I have no idea who is right. But I don’t see that his understanding of orality is dramatically different from other prominent Jesus scholars, such as Ed Sanders, John Meier, or even Tom Wright. But maybe I’m missing something.

        (2) I will assume that your point was intended as rhetorical flourish. You wouldn’t be blogging about Ehrman, writing books responding to Ehrman, or trying to knock down Ehrman were he not a best-selling author. And he wouldn’t be a best-selling author without his personal story. He would be no more popular than his mentor, Bruce Metzger, whose work was invaluable but generally obscure.

        Perhaps you should market your own bio with your scholarship, though I don’t think it would have as much popular appeal. (Consult Tony Dungy or Rick Warren for ways to get on the best-seller lists.)

        My point was that you were arguing particulars regarding “Jesus, Interrupted” without addressing the key issue: His story and ideas are intended as an attack on evangelical Christianity. J.I. “is about how certain types of faith — particularly the faith in the Bible as the historically inerrant and inspired word of God — cannot be sustained . . . ”

        No surprise Ehrman’s books are selling well at a time when an increasing number of Americans are leaving the faith, to bring this around to the Newsweek piece.

        • Avatar

          bock

          Re: dlb

          Dan:

          Don’t overread my response. The apocalyptic dimension is central to Jesus. I am editing a work on Jesus with a team of scholars that treat how important this is as the starting point for understanding Jesus.

          I feel confident that Tom Wright would be more comfortable on my take on orality over Ehrman. Meier is somewhere inbetween. Sanders would be the one more like Erhman. Ever read a story to a child or grandchild who lives in an oral world and tried to significantly change the story? We also can check the impact of orality by what we have in our recorded tradition. We do not get the scope of change Ehrman suggests, especially when it comes to the core of the story.

          By the way, I have made the New York Times Best seller list, so I appreciate the advice!

          My point in blogging Ehrman is that he does have a following and I think he is profoundly wrong on some key matters.  As for the Newsweek piece, although in many ways well done, also obscures a key fact in the poll, namely that evengelicalism is growing as well. The "decline" is from people who nominally had identified with the Christian faith. I blogged on that point already.

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    Ari

    Consistency on the Deity of Christ?
    I like to quote Ehrman in his 2003 response to the Da Vinci Code, ‘Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci ‘ and then call – consistency?

    For example, Ehrman says:

    ” For Paul—and presumably for the Philippians to whom he wrote—Christ was “in the form” of God and was, in some sense, equal with God, even though he became human.
    Similar teachings can be found in other writings of the New Testament. One of Jesus’ common designations throughout these writings is “Son of God.” This is scarcely an epithet that came to be applied to Jesus on the basis of a close vote at the Council of Nicea hundreds of years later! Our earliest Gospel, that of Mark, begins by announcing its subject matter: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God” (Mark 1:1).” (Page 16)

    But wait, there is more:
    “…the Gospels of the New Testament portray him as human as much as they portray him as divine;”
    p.16

    “This view of Jesus as divine is not restricted to Paul and the Gospels, however. It is the common view held among Christian writers of the early centuries.”
    p.17

  • Avatar

    jm

    specious opening
    In your opening paragraph you state,

    “Since he [Ehrman] learned the historical critical method in place of the devotional method, he discovered the Bible was full of contradictions and discrepancies”

    although it is well known that Ehrman began as a fundamentalist, not a scholar. By making this statement you imply that Ehrman’s examination of biblical texts is flawed from the beginning as if a scholarly background is not adequate to study ancient texts while a christian heart is. This is a synonymous with saying that one must be a criminal to study criminology or have a pathologically diseased body to study pathology. i doubt that you or anyone would make such a ridiculous argument.

    Your review adds little more from this point – exactly the weakness you project onto Ehrman.

    • Avatar

      bock

      Specious?

      JM:

      My opening is how Ehrman explains his own journey.  He is the one who makes the contrast and describes the result. So do your comments apply to him?

      I have nothing against historical method, provided it is used with an awareness of both its strengths and weakensses.

      dlb

  • Avatar

    kiwiaussie

    Help wanted
    I have a friend who recently ‘deconverted’, in part due to the teachings of d’Ehrman. I am trying to find out some information on him, and in particular answers to his statements.
    You mention that lots of people have already spoken of these, and would love to be able to source some of these answers to give to my friend.
    I have tried google, and you were the only name I found (and even then it was in a Washington Post article, so I googled your name!)
    Thanks
    Carolyn
    Australia (yes, it is a lovely country!)