“This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 37:22-23 KJV).
Professor Bart Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books and has made appearances in various news outlets on TV and in magazines. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. According to the publisher, his claim to fame is that he shows how the New Testament is full of contradictions about Jesus and who he is, and that the New Testament was not written in the apostolic era by those whose names have traditionally been attached to its books but by later theologians.
He candidly admits his own loss of faith and that he is now agnostic, but he assures the reader that he is not out to destroy anybody’s faith; he just wants to make the scholarship about the bible and early church available to every person (Ehrman, 2010, p 271). Unfortunately for Professor Ehrman, Jesus doesn’t acknowledge neutrality. A decision to be neutral, to sit on the fence – an agnostic position – is still a decision to not commit to Jesus. Jesus said “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt 12:30 KJV). But Ehrman actually teaches against Jesus so he can hardly claim to be agnostic.
Equipping the enemies of the Gospel
Although he insists he’s not hostile to Christianity or the Gospel, and doesn’t see his writings as an attack on Christianity, that is, in fact, what they are; and his books provide much ammunition to those who are hostile to the Gospel. Indeed, it was while I was looking at an Islamic web site to see what their criticisms are of Christianity that I first came across Professor Ehrman’s name. He has saved the enemies of the Gospel a lot of work as he has given them a source book filled with material that they use with great effect to destroy the faith of Christians and their trust in the bible.
Muslim apologists are using the information provided in his books effectively in discrediting Christianity with their own books and web sites, not only to those in their own geographic and cultural regions, but to the West as well. Professor Ehrman may well wash his hands of this responsibility by claiming he is not attacking Christianity but simply making historical information accessible; but the effect is the same, and many people are being deceived by these Muslims using the information Professor Ehrman provides. Islamic apologists don’t understand our Christian Bible even though they think they do, so to have so much information given them by a Western (and, in their eyes, Christian) scholar and academic, is an absolute gift, and they’ve seized Ehrman’s books with both hands.
Apostates in training
Not only that, he is training and equipping prospective students for the ministry who will then take up pastorates of unsuspecting Christians, undermine the faith of their congregations, and will “prove” to them that the bible is only a book written by humans, and that the fundamental doctrines of the gospel are a myth; and other of Professor Ehrman’s students will study and train to take up positions in various theological and academic institutions who will, in turn, train yet more students to reject orthodox Christianity, reducing it to nothing more than following a man long since dead, whose dust lies somewhere in the Middle East – a man known as Jesus, who was such a good man that his example is worthy of worship and emulation (Ehrman p 275-277). Some of his students will even go on to write their own books in which they deny the truth of the Bible, thus perpetuating Ehrman’s liberal theology and wrong conclusions.
Professor Ehrman has also amply demonstrated the folly of studying at an educational institution which is renowned for its liberal Higher Critical theology in that he lost his faith as a direct result of what he was taught at Princeton Theological Seminary. And now, despite his protestations that he is only trying to make serious scholarship on the Bible and earliest Christianity available, he’s taking many others down with him as he robs them of their faith and their salvation, however unintentional he insists that may be.
Same discrepancies, different conclusions
There are many evangelical scholars, theologians, and pastors etc., who have read and do read the bible but who haven’t come to the same conclusion as Professor Ehrman, even though they’ve seen the same discrepancies in the Bible as him, and looked at the same criticisms as him. But unlike him, they maintain faith in the accuracy and reliability of the bible despite all they’ve read against it; and have subsequently produced reasons why they reject the historical-critical method, and continue to walk by faith in Jesus and the Bible. Theirs are the books that Professor Ehrman should have accepted and believed rather than the likes of Walter Bauer and other critics who, with already debunked theories, shred the Bible.
Have modern evangelical scholars ignored these discrepancies in order to keep us ignorant, as Professor Ehrman implies, and who now just give us a merely devotional understanding of scripture? Aren’t they better than that? Aren’t we better than that? Has Professor Ehrman arrived on the church scene as the White Knight to the rescue, opening our blind evangelical eyes to the fact that the bible is a hoax, nothing better than a document written by men, and exposing Christianity as a myth? Rather, hasn’t the Church already exposed these liberal doctrines as hoaxes themselves, and moved on? If contemporary evangelical theologians and scholars are aware of the discrepancies in the bible that Professor Ehrman is “exposing” and yet remain evangelical, having the same information before them as Professor Ehrman has, arriving at different conclusions to him, then obviously, the issue has more to it than he would have us believe, and we ought not accept everything he says at face value. He is wrong in his criticisms and can be shown to be wrong.
“Those who mislead the upright in evil ways will fall into pits of their own making, but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance” (Prov 28:10 NRSV).
“Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them)” by Bart D. Ehrman, 2010, HarperCollins Publishers