The Gospel According to Bart Ehrman

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By Robin Schumacher

A June 3rd article that appeared on Christianpost contained an interview with Dr. Bart Ehrman who is a noted author and professor of religion. Ehrman is most famous for his criticisms of the New Testament’s reliability, with various books he’s produced on the topic reaching the top of certain best seller lists.

The Christianpost interview focused on his skepticism of the New Testament, with very predictable results occurring in the reader comments that followed. Atheists and skeptics high-fived each other, reveling in the fact that they had a credible champion who fuels their hope that the Bible cannot be trusted, while some believers cast disparaging remarks at Ehrman saying he’s not worth listening to.

Both sides need to step back from their rhetoric.

Atheists who believe Bart fully sides with them may be surprised to learn what he does support on the topic of Jesus (and what that foundation points to). And Christians who call into question Ehrman’s intelligence or skill should understand that he is indeed a very smart and well-trained scholar who deserves respect.

While I have a Ph.D. in New Testament like Ehrman (albeit not from Princeton), I certainly don’t pretend to be on the same scholastic playing field as him. However, my educational background has provided me with exposure to the same evidence and arguments on the Bible’s trustworthiness as Ehrman’s. The fact is the vast majority of his objections to Scripture are not novel and are known to those who pursue advanced theological degrees.

My training leads me to thank Bart for some of the work he’s done, while at the same time cross swords with him over the strong skepticism he has on the New Testament’s reliability.

Things for Which We Should Thank Bart

It may sound odd for a Christian to thank Ehrman for some of the things he says, but in fact, Ehrman does deserve credit in a number of places.

First, Bart’s advice on examining evidence regarding truth claims is a good one. Even though he is somewhat selective on what cats he decides to let out of the truth bag for readers to consider in his books[1], his admonition to put belief systems to the test is spot on.

Next, I appreciate his defense regarding the historicity of Jesus. In his recent book, Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, Ehrman takes to task the extreme fringe skeptics (the ‘mythicists’) who say Jesus never existed. While mythicist talk may grace the forums of various internet atheist haunts, you won’t find a credible historian or university who backs such assertions – something Bart demonstrates quite well.

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