Tag Archives: Angels and Demons

What does Bart Ehrman really believe about New Testament reliability?

Here’s a post from Cross Examined that cites the appendix of Ehrman’s own book.

Excerpt:

Here’s what Ehrman says in an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p. 252):

Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions – he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not – we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.  The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

So why does Ehrman give one impression to the general public and the opposite to the academic world?  Could it be because he can get away with casting doubt on the New Testament to an uninformed public, but not to his academic peers? Does selling books have anything to do with it?  I don’t know.  I just find the contradiction here quite telling– the man who gets all the attention for casting doubt on the text of the Bible, upon further review, doesn’t really doubt it himself.

Wow. That’s funny. He doesn’t say that when he’s trying to sell books. He sounds more like Dan Brown when he’s trying to sell books. I always lump Bart Ehrman and Dan Brown together. Dan Brown. Bart Ehrman. Dan Brown. Bart Ehrman. Does Dan Brown fill in for Bart Erhman when Bart Ehrman is on sabbatical? Is Bart Ehrman secretly a ghost-writer for Dan Brown? Are they the same person?

Further study

The top 10 links to help you along with your learning on this issue and related issues.

  1. How every Christian can learn to explain the resurrection of Jesus to others
  2. The earliest source for the minimal facts about the resurrection
  3. The earliest sources for the empty tomb narrative
  4. Who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb?
  5. Did the divinity of Jesus emerge slowly after many years of embellishments?
  6. What about all those other books that the Church left out the Bible?
  7. Assessing Bart Ehrman’s case against the resurrection of Jesus
  8. William Lane Craig debates radical skeptics on the resurrection of Jesus
  9. Did Christianity copy from Buddhism, Mithraism or the myth of Osiris?
  10. Quick overview of N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection

Debates are a fun way to learn

Three debates where you can see this play out:

Or you can listen to my favorite debate on the resurrection.

Extra stuff

A lecture on Bart Ehrman by William Lane Craig.

Assessing Bart Ehrman’s case against the resurrection of Jesus

Let’s start by listing some of Bart’s debates, and then we can take a look at his argument.

Bart Ehrman’s debates

  1. William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman. The full transcript of the debate is here, so you can follow along with the video.
  2. Mike Licona’s first debate with Ehrman (audio, video).
  3. Ehrman’s debate with Peter Williams on the UK-based Unbelievable radio show.
  4. Ehrman’s debate with Dan Wallace
  5. Ehrman’s second debate with Licona can be ordered here for $10. Review is here.

Here’s William Lane Craig’s opening speech against Bart: (in 12 parts)

Part 1 of 12:

Part 2 of 12:

Bart’s argument

Bart Ehrman has a standard case based on 1) manuscript variants and 2) David Hume’s argument against miracles. Basically, he says that because the massive number of manuscripts contains a massive number of minor disagreements (see below), that the Bible cannot be trusted and therefore we can’t know whether Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

In Ehrman’s debate with Peter Williams on the UK-based Unbelievable radio show, and in Ehrman’s debate with Dan Wallace, Ehrman lists the 4 worst problems caused by the invariants:

  1. the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  2. the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  3. Jesus was angry and not compassionate when he healed the leper (Mark 1:41)
  4. that Jesus died apart from God, and not by the grace of God (Hebrews 2:9)

I personally dislike that story in 1), because I think a lot of feminized Christians like it because they do not want to have their happiness diminished by moral judgments. They misunderstand this passage to support self-serving moral relativism and postmodern hedonism. Or worse, anti-capital-punishment. Eww.

This Bible verse is a favorite of all the liberal “Christian” women I’ve met. I’ve noticed that they are terrified of moral judgments and they don’t like to have to do anything for God, like study apologetics. I don’t like that. So I say: throw the girly-verse out! If you want a good verse that shows that Jesus liked women, you should be reading the woman at the well story. Or the women witnesses to the empty tomb.

Regarding 2), I like that long ending because it’s more useful from an apologetics standpoint. So I do care about this invariant, and I just don’t use that ending when I debate. For 3), I prefer angry Jesus to compassionate Jesus. And for 4) I really don’t care. It’s Hebrews! It’s not like it’s Mark or 1 Corinthians 15.

Ehrman’s argument against miracles is really just David Hume’s argument against miracles, which even non-Christian scholars, like John Earman, have defeated at the highest level here:

So, one can easily see that Bart Ehrman’s case is silly and amounts to nothing in a formal debate on the resurrection. If you want to understand why he is selling so many books, just like Dan Brown, you need to understand that people want space to invent a Jesus that they like. Bart gives them that space by fueling their skepticism of traditional Christianity.

Responding to Bart Ehrman with the minimal facts

Bart seems to be under the misapprehension that Christians argue for the resurrection by assuming the whole Bible is inspired. But we don’t. We use a minimal facts case where each fact had to pass a battery of standard historical tests for the genre of historical biography.

We come up with a list of minimal facts like this list:

  • the burial narrative
  • the empty tomb
  • the appearances
  • the early belief in a bodily resurrection

We argue that the bodily resurrection is the best explanation of these facts, and we refute all naturalistic explanations of these minimal facts like these:

  • Jesus wasn’t really dead
  • Someone stole the body
  • The appearances were hallucinations

One other thing that may be of interest is British scholar N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection, based on the changes introduced in the belief and practice of the first Jewish converts to Christianity.

Further study

For further study of Licona and Ehrman, I would recommend the book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus”, by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona on the resurrection, which is the best introductory book you can get on how to argue the minimal facts case.

If you like Lee Strobel’s interviewing style, then you can’t go wrong with this book, “The Case for the Real Jesus” and his earlier book “The Case for Christ”. All the Lee Strobel books are excellent, the best books that a beginner can get – the ground floor of apologetics, so to speak.

If you prefer books featuring debates between opposing scholars, check out William Lane Craig against Gerd Ludemann here, (audio of their re-match is here), William Lane Craig against John Dominic Crossan here, (audio of the debate is here), or N. T. Wright against John Dominic Crossan here, (audio of the debate only is here).

Gary Habermas, (has dual doctorates from Oxford and Michigan State) is also a good source.

He debates a Duke University professor here: (one of my favorites)

Two Views on the Resurrection: Dialog with Dr. Joel Marcus, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke University Divinity School
PART I (8MB) :|: PART II (8MB) :|: PART III (8MB) [MP3 files]

And he responds to Dan Brown’s fictional novels here:

Cracking the Da Vinci Code
PART I (8MB) :|: PART II (8MB) :|: PART III (5MB) :|: PART IV (5MB) [MP3 files]
Lecture given at the 4th Annual Worldview Apologetics Conference
April 21-22, 2006, Seattle, Washington