Who is Bart Ehrman?

Who is Bart Ehrman?  And why am I making a post blog about this dude with the funny sounding last name.

Well he is the world-renowned distinguished New Testament Historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Ehrmans works are highly controversial, but he is not some radical far left wing-nut who has no idea of what he is talking about.  He is highly educated and went to two of the most prestigious christian institutes in the United States, Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College.  At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.  A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Divinity and PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary.

But the Burning Question is why does he deserve is own blog post?  Why does he deserve entire post dedicate to who he is?

“Given the circumstance that (God) didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.”
 Bart Ehrman quote

In the past few years his research of Early Christianity, The Bible and the historical Jesus, has greatly upset the Christian Community.  Many scholars have reacted eagerly in countering him and his secular academic research of the Bible.  This is what Bible Scholar Mike Liconia Said about him.

Although Ehrman’s day likewise will fade, his attacks on traditional Christianity are more dangerous to evangelical Christianity than anything presented by the Jesus Seminar, The Da Vinci Code and other sensational hypotheses. Ehrman presents no original thoughts, but his positions are largely embraced by mainstream skeptical scholarship and he, too, has a talent for taking select academic positions and sharing them in sound-bites that shock readers. He is also an excellent public speaker.”Mike Licona response and answer to Dr. Bart Ehrman.  —And this is not just simple quote about Bart Ehrman from Licona, this is a small paragraph to a five-part series rebuttal to the teachings of Ehrman.

Ehrman explains in his book how he lost his belief that the Bible was divinely inspired. At the center of his abandonment of biblical inspiration was his own self-realization and discovery that we do not have the original autobiographical manuscripts of the bible and very well may never have access to them. Moreover, Ehrman learned that the scribes who made copies of the biblical manuscripts sometimes changed the text, either intentionally or unintentionally, —(due to some theological agenda.)  Hence we cannot be 100% sure that every word in our Bibles, in the original languages, is exactly the same as what was first written. In his own words Bart Ehrman, “…I just couldn’t believe there was a God in charge of this mess.”  On this basis Ehrman decided to abandon his belief that God inspired the Bible and his faith in Christianity.  Here’s his reasoning in his own words:

“For the only reason (I came to think) for God to inspire the bible would be so that his people would have his actual words; but if he really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place. Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them. “(Whose Word is it? By Dr. Bart Ehrman pg. 211)

In addition to writing books such as, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don’t Know About Them he has gone on against many traditional views of the Bible.  In Ehrman’s latest book, “Jesus, Interrupted,” he concludes:

“Doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus and heaven and hell are not based on anything Jesus or his earlier followers said. And at least 19 of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries.”

Well so what–He’s upset a few christians big deal–Well these few christians have started numerous blogs, youtube videos, websites, and projects in an attempt to debunk Ehrman.

PROJECTS????

Yes PROJECTS.  It’s Called the Ehrman Project, I can’t ever recall of an entire project or community of christians ever gathered together for the single purpose to discredit any one skeptic, agnostic, or atheist.  Even Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins never get this amount of negative reception from Christians.  Now this is not the only one…Thrice Holy.Net has an entire section of its web page devoted to debunking Bart Ehrman.  Even 4Truth.net also entire section of its webpage dedicated to answering Bart Ehrman questions.  Check out the Welcome to Ehrman Project Video:

Welcome to the Ehrman Project: 

Bible scholar Bart Ehrman began his studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Originally an evangelical Christian, Ehrman believed that the Bible was the inerrant word of God.  At Seminary, Ehrman started reading the Bible with a more historical approach and analyzing alleged discrepancies in the Bible specifically speaking the synoptic Gospels. Ehrman’s work focuses on New Testament textual criticism and early Christianity with an emphasis on bible contradictions and discrepancies.  He has appeared in numerous debates, CNN, NPR, and various other textual criticism.  And has received international notaries on his two NY Times Bestsellers Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted.  In fact one could listen and read about him talking about Bible discrepancies and contradictions among the Gospels on NPR Radio.

Well, it seems the former evangelical christian now turned agnostic, has got the entirety of the christian community in an uproar on his study and opinion of New Testament christianity and early biblical textual criticism.  All one must do is Google or YouTube is name, and you here him in speeches and debates talking about how there is no biblical jesus, that historians have no way to prove Jesus raised from the dead, the numerous contradictions in the bible, and the various discrepancies in the synoptic gospels.  He has debated several high-ranking biblical scholars on issues similar to this:

(The Following List of People he has debated)

Darrell Bock
Craig Evans
Dinesh D’ Souza
Mike Licona
Michael Brown
James White and transcript

Richard Swinburne

He has debated several christian (apologetic) scholars, but my favorite debate is the one with William Lane Craig with Transcripts—(Dr. Bart Ehrman I can say is the only debater to make Dr. William Lane Craig sweat.) Just watch the debate and see how Craig gets defensive, unsettled, and even avoids questions in order not the to answer it.  It was a great debate with good rhetoric and explanation of viewpoints.  A must watch for anybody.  The other debate I would recommend is the one with Daniel Wallace on the reliability of the textual criticism of the New Testament Gospels.

I’ve even found two critical reviews of his books, one by P. J. Williams and the other by Daniel Wallace. Both reviewers are experts in the field of biblical textual criticism, the core subject of Ehrman’s books.  In addition there are two directly published books designed in answering and countering Dr. Bart Ehrman and his research:

*Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” by Timothy Paul

*MISREPRESENTING JESUS Debunking Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus by Edward D. Andrew

It doesn’t end their; it seems like every time I do a search on the inerrancy of the bible or bible contradictions his name is constantly and consistently coming up on Google searches.  When you do a YouTube search of his name, there is countless videos of other biblical scholars countering him and his research.

As can be evidently seen the Christian Community is very upset with Ehrman.  In a two-part series Prof. Ben Witherington examines Ehrman’s arguments & research and concludes that he has failed to apply the requirements of historical criticism.  Witherington has responded to Ehrman’s book in great detail here (part 1) and here (part 2) in his blog.  But Witherington is not the only one, even the Reverend Dr. Mark D. Roberts evaluates Ehrman and the inspiration of the transmission of the Bible and Christian Teacher Jim Snapp Jr.  provides lengthy review on Ehrman’s work.

In closing this is how Ehrman describes his de-conversion —“…I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place. If he wanted his people to have his words, surely he would have given them to them (and possibly even given them the words in a language they could understand, rather than Greek and Hebrew). The fact that we don’t have the words surely must show, I reasoned, that he did not preserve them for us. And if he didn’t perform that miracle, there seemed to be no reason to think that he performed the earlier miracle of inspiring those words.”  (Bart Ehrman, ‘Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why,’ pg. 11)

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in agnostic, atheist vs christian, bart ehrman, bible, bible contradictions, biblical difficulties, confusion, debate, early christian history, ehrman project, god, message, scriptural difficulties, textual criticism, youtube and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Who is Bart Ehrman?

  1. Brenda says:

    Great post.

    I was thinking of you this morning. I’m rewatching, ‘Collision of Lives’ and wondered if you’d seen it.

    http://leftchristianity.com/2011/09/17/christopher-hitchens-vs-douglas-williams/

  2. unklee says:

    This is an interesting post, much of which I think is a fair summary. But I hope you don’t mind if I point out a few inaccuracies and make a few critical comments.

    1. Ehrman has said himself that there is nothing he has written about the Bible that should cause a christian to lose their faith, and it was not the cause of his loss of faith. His studies caused him to conclude that the Bible was not inerrant or inspired, but history and the Bible still showed him that Jesus existed, so he became a liberal christian. It was only years later that he lost all belief in God, but that was because of the problem of evil, not his views on the Bible. You can see this on page 277 of ‘Jesus Interrupted’ – but you can see a summary in Wikipedia.

    So Ehrman does not provide support your reasons for choosing to disbelieve (not that that matters, I’m just saying).

    2. His latest book is not ‘Jesus, Interrupted’ but ‘Did Jesus Exist?’, to which he gives a fairly definite “yes. You can read summary here.

    3. I have checked out ‘Misquoting Jesus’ and found that his conclusions were an over-statement of the evidence he presents. He shows that a number of New Testament passages have been altered since they were written (we know this because we have so many copies and copies of copies, a wealth of information no other ancient document can approach). He concludes that the text has been altered ‘radically’, but the examples he uses amount to a few passages that are already excluded from virtually all modern Bibles and two or three changes of meaning. (He admits that almost all the variations make no difference to anything.) So there is little for a christian to fear there if they actually read the book rather than believe his more outspoken statements. You can see my summary here. All this is based on his own analysis.

    4. I agree with you that he is much criticised by many christians, but I don’t feel badly towards him myself – he seems like a pleasant and genuine person. But if you read most scholars’ criticisms, it is for the very matter that I raised above – he has over-sensationalised and over-stated his conclusions based on the evidence he brings forward. He has also been found to be a little careless or sloppy with some of the facts he presents in ‘Did Jesus Exist?’

    Hope that gives you a slightly different perspective on him. Best wishes.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I actually wrote this post almost two months ago, and just put it up now, so please forgive if somethings are wrong.

      but you are right, him questioning the authenticity and inerrancy is not what ultimaltey caused him to lose his faith. It was a starting point, – a starting point to doubt the word of the bible. However the tipping point was when he taught a class at princeton on humana suffering, I rezlized he could no longer reconcile his faith with humana suffering. That was the last straw of faith he let go. You can learn about if you watch his debate with dinesh D’souza.

      I would disagree with the statement on careless with facts. I’ve seen several debates with him. Craig, wallace, evans, and dinesh. And I noticed in his debates he has a tendacy when he makes a statement, he will cite his sources. Even the most minisule facts, he will do research on such as dictation, and early church fathers. In comparision to early church history and textual criticism, I have found none that match his level of knowledge and study on it.

      And bynature, he is a historian, so he does careless for theological answers, only the historical fact.

      I have not read did jesus exist?, so I will hold my comments on that

  3. unklee says:

    “I would disagree with the statement on careless with facts.”

    It occurred after he published ‘Did Jesus Exist’. Richard carrier strongly (and rudely) criticised a number of aspects, claiming a number of basic errors of fact. Ehrman answered them, and conceded several times that he could have worded things better. Overall, Carrier came of second best (in my judgment) but it looked to me and others that Ehrman’s “could have worded things better” really indicated some sloppy research as well. You can read Ehrman’s side of the discussion here and here and judge for yourself whether his errors were merely wording or a little more. I have discussed the matter with several people who defended Ehrman in vigorous discussion on Carrier’s blog, and they agree he was a little careless.

    This conclusion is reinforced by my reading of ‘Misquoting Jesus’ (as discussed in my last comment) where Ehrman really only finds minor problems with the NT text (3 or 4 passages which shouldn’t be in the Bible and have been excluded from most translations for some time, plus 3 or 4 minor wording changes) yet makes somewhat exaggerated claims on that basis.

    I have ‘Jesus Interrupted’, but have only read parts of it so far, but its subject matter isn’t that far removed from ‘Misquoting Jesus’, and I won’t be surprised if I come to the same conclusion.

    So I think it fair to say that he is a well-respected scholar, though he has a particular point of view as everyone does, a genial and thoughtful man, but prone to slightly over-stating his case.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I have read and listened to some of Carriers’ Work actually just recently last week. He does make some very convinceing arguments. However do keep in my Carrier’s degree is ancient history. And ehrman’s is NT early christian history.

      But I will withhold conclusion on carrier until I learn more about what he does.

  4. I have a few good friends who are still in active ministry. They all agree that Ehrman’s works on textual criticism have set the bar. They respect his work and don’t even try to refute it. While they disagree with his personal lack of faith, they respect his scholarship.

    • unklee says:

      That is interesting, because the perceived wisdom is that evangelical christians oppose Ehrman – hence the anti Ehrman website that Biblereader has referenced. Certainly Ben Witherington, Craig Evans and Dan Wallace have criticised him in the same way I did. (I too respect his scholarship, but think his conclusions don’t always follow from his scholarship.) But if textual criticism is being better understood by everyday christians, that is good.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        I think some evangelical christians would be okay, because to them belief in god and jesus is completely on faith. So evidence is always going to secondary.

        however for the fundamentalist christian, (which I was kind of part of that group) to them, they would have more of a problem with Ehrmans teachings.

  5. pastor62 says:

    Dr Andy Woods says” For the last several decades America has been involved in a culture war between two competing world views: Christianity and Humanism. Those of the humanistic persuasion have waged an unrelenting assault on America’s traditional and cherished Judeo-Christian value system and have sought to replace it with man centered values and assumptions. This is not a conflict of guns and bullets but rather a battle of ideas. This culture war is something that all believers must take part in since “to the victor goes the spoils”: our nation, institutions, freedoms, schools, churches, and most importantly the hearts and minds of our children”
    I would add that our churches are being lead by so called progressive Christians instead of its
    orthodox members. The progressives have been greatly influenced by the “Ehrmans” of this world.
    Once the seed of doubt is planted about the inerrancy of the Bible, it follows that the numbers of “Non-Religious” in America are growing faster than any other segment of society. Is this what Ehrman wants?What will America be like with a majority of ” Non-Religious”?

    • Brenda says:

      A society with a majority of non-religious apparently wouldn’t be so bad:

      http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3189

      • unklee says:

        I think that’s an invalid and misleading study. If you choose to base your study on whole countries, you are including in the mix all the characteristics of those nations, of which religion or lack of it is only one part, and arguably not the major part.

        Scandinavian countries would come up well on a lot of measures because of their wealth, the temperament of the people, etc. It would be possible to find other atheistic countries (Stalinist Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Mao’s China, etc) that wouldn’t score as well!

        Any sociological study has to try to eliminate as many variables as possible. Thus for example, such a study should be within similar socioeconomic groups in the same country, thus reducing the impact of a couple of major variables, allowing the effects of other variables such as religion to show.

        I don’t know how well that has been done, but I do know when you examine mental health, crime, happiness, and giving to charity within the same country, the christians come up much better than the atheists.

        I suppose each of us will look for the results that suit our viewpoint, but at least I can give objective reasons that would be recognised in most sociological studies for the stats I am using. I’m a little surprised that Luke at Commonsense Atheism didn’t pick that up himself as he is a reasonably honest and fair-minded person.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I am very glad you feel that way and so strong for inerrancy. If you believe and feel so strong about it, well I have a list of questions. If you can answer all these with a degree of reason, you will put the atheist movement to shame. And close its doors.

      My Personal list of just the one I’ve researched:
      https://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/bible-difficulties-and-contradictions/

      But if you want a full listing:

      http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/by_name.html
      http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions …I also recommend going through the absurdities of this website.

      http://1001biblecontradictions.com/
      http://www.project-reason.org/bibleContra_big.pdf

      Good luck in answering these questions, the doctrine of inerrancy is depending on you anwering them.

  6. unklee says:

    “to them belief in god and jesus is completely on faith”

    I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone like that, have you? Some christians say something like that sometimes, but I don’t think they really mean it. For if you asked them if there was good historical evidence for Jesus, they’d say there is, which means they really think they have plenty of evidence.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I have my wife and pastor and an elder say something simliar to me like that to me. Also several blog post have made suggestion that it is a faith thing. but you are right, I don’t think anybody believes that 100%. Because if they did, they would not value apologetics so much.

  7. unklee says:

    “Once the seed of doubt is planted about the inerrancy of the Bible, it follows that the numbers of “Non-Religious” in America are growing faster than any other segment of society.”

    Pastror62, I wonder if you have ever considered the possibility that the Bible isn’t inerrant? It doesn’t claim to be. It doesn’t seem to be. That doesn’t mean it isn’t, only that we maybe should consider whether inerrancy is true or not. How do you think we should decide that question?

    And letting go of inerrancy need not be as drastic a step as you suggest. After all, no-one believes the copying process and translation are inerrant, so what we read isn’t inerrant anyway. And what you preach as a pastor is certainly not inerrant, yet presumably it still helps people?

    Perhaps the growing questioning of inerrancy is the Spirit leading us into new truth??

  8. M. Rodriguez says:

    another great npr piece for those looking for something to listen to http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124572693

    Also here is a link and quote on how ehrman views inspiration:
    “The more I studied the manuscript tradition of the New Testament, the more I realized just how radically the text has been altered over the years at the hands of scribes, who were not only conserving scripture but also changing it. To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us. It would be wrong, however, to say — as people sometimes do — that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them. We have seen, in fact, that just the opposite is the case.- Dr. Ehrman
    http://www.allaboutworldview.org/biblical-inspiration.htm

  9. Pingback: Top Atheist and Skeptic Scholars | The BitterSweet End

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