Misplaced Faith, Bart Ehrman, and the Kerygma of the Early Church

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of sitting under Dr. Craig Evans for a weekend teaching on his book Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort The Gospels. Dr. Evans is at the very top of his field. I was amazed at his mastery of the cognate languages, Jewish literature, and extra-biblical literature. Anyway, he mentioned something in his book Fabricating Jesus that is extremely relevant to Bart Ehrman’s hugely successful book Misquoting Jesus and the continual discussion about the reliability of the Bible. In many quarters, there seems to a continual view that the Christian faith stands or falls on infallibility and inerrancy. For many, it is an “all or nothing” issue.

It also seems that whenever Christians provide some sort of criticism of Bart, they are accused of trying to hold on to their cherished beliefs. There have been more than enough responses to Misquoting Jesus such as here and here:

Evans says the following:

” For the sake of argument, lets suppose that scribal errors in the Bible manuscripts really do disprove inspiration and inerrancy, so that the Bible really should be viewed as a human book and not as God’s words. Would we lose everything as a result? Moderate and liberal Christians have held essentially this view for a century or more. The real issue centers on what God has accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth.” (Fabricating Jesus, pgs 27-28)

As Evans notes, in Acts 2:22-24,32, Peter did not stand up and say, “ Men of Israel, I have good news; the Bible is verbally inspired and therefore inerrant and, moreover, the Gospels can be harmonized.”

By the way, what was the Kergma of the Early Church? I will summarize:

1. The promises by God made in the Hebrew Bible/The Old Testament have now been revealed with the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2: 30;3;19;24,10:43; 26:6-7;22; Rom 1;2-4;1 Tim:3:16;Heb. 1:1-2;1 Peter 1:10-12;2 Peter 1:18-19).

2. Jesus was anointed by God at his baptism (Acts 10:38).

3. Jesus began his ministry at Galilee after his baptism (Acts 10:37).

4. He conducted a beneficent ministry, doing good and performing mighty works by the power of God (Mark 10:45; Acts 2:22; 10:38).

5. The Messiah was crucified according to the plan of God (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Acts 2:23; 3;13-15; 10:39;26:23; Rom 8;34;Gal 1;4;Heb1:3; 1 Peter 1:2; 19, 3:18; 1 John 4:10).

6. He was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples (Acts 2:24; 31-32; 3:15-26;10:40-41;17:31;26:23;Rom 8:34;10:9;1 Cor.15:4-7;1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim 3:16;1 Peter 1:2;21;3:18;21).

7. Jesus was exalted and given the name “Lord” (Acts 2:25-29;33-36;3:13;10:36;Rom 8:34;10:9;1 Tim 3:16;Heb 1:3;1 Peter 3:22).

8. He gave the Holy Spirit to form the new community of God (Acts 1:8;2;14-18;33,38-39;10:44-47; 1 Peter 1;12).

9. He will come again for judgment and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20-21;10:42; 17:31;1 Cor. 15:20-28; 1 Thess: 1:10).

10. All who hear the message should repent and be baptized (Acts 2:21;38;3:19;10:43, 17-48; 17:30, 26:20; Rom 1:17;10:9;1 Peter 3:21).

Did the early the Kerygma of the church stand or fall on inerrancy? As Evans says, apparently not. What about today? Does the Kerygma stand or fall on innerancy? Some think it does. One thing to remember. As long as Christians (like Ehrman once did) place so much faith in the infallibility/and inerrancy of the Bible, it can end up becoming misplaced faith. Evans defines misplaced faith as the following:

“By misplaced faith I mean placing one’s faith in the wrong thing, such as believing that the Scriptures must be inerrant according to rather strict idiosyncratic standards and that we must be able to harmonize the four Gospels. If our faith depends on these ideas, especially in rigid terms, then the scholarly study may lead to the collapse of faith.” (pg 21)

I guess that every Christian has to ask what view of innerancy they hold to. To read more on this, I highly recommend the book The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority.  In both Jesus and the Apostles we see that they held to a very high view of Scripture. This is the model that I try to follow. What about you?


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