Did Jesus Have a Short Attention Span?

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  • Did Jesus Have a Short Attention Span?

  • - 06/12/2009
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I want to discuss something I’ve been focused on for a couple of days, which is Bart Erhman. He has made it clear from his perspective that the Bible is filled with discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable contradictions. He says that scholars have known this for hundreds of years, but the sad thing is that the general public is yet in the dark. Now through his books and media appearances, he is trying to enlighten those who have darkened minds. He wants them to know that Moses did not write the Pentateuch; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Gospels; the exodus probably did not happen; the conquest of the Promised Land is probably based on legend and on and on it goes. He says of his students, “the more conservative students–– resist for a long time, secure in their knowledge that God would not allow any falsehoods into a sacred book. But before long as students see more and more of the evidence many of them find that their faith in the inerrant and absolute historical truthfulness of the Bible begins to waver.”[1]

Bart Ehrman says that one of his favorite discrepancies is that Jesus evidently had a painfully short attention span. This discrepancy would be easy to resolve had not Bart Ehrman been hopelessly lost in a wooden literal labyrinth of his own making. Here how’s he cites the problem, “In John 13:36, Peter says to Jesus, ‘Lord where are you going?’ A few verses later Thomas says, ‘Lord we do not know where you are going’ (John 14:5).  And then a few minutes later at the same meal Jesus upbraids his disciples saying, ‘Now I am going to the one who sent me, yet none of you ask me where are you going?’”That leaves only two possibilities according to Ehrman, “either Jesus had a very short attention span or there is something strange going on for the sources for these chapters…”[2]

How does one respond to that? The first thing I would say to Professor Ehrman, and those who he is proud of causing to waver in their faith, that it’s instructive to note is that, if I were to take Professor Bart in a woodenly literal sense, in that same sense he takes the Bible, I’d be doing him a grave injustice. It would hardly be fair to suppose that he really thinks it possible that Jesus really had a short attention span. Anyone who reads his book in context knows full well that Ehrman is convinced that John, who by the way he characterizes as a lower class illiterate and an Aramaic speaking peasant, did not write the Gospel attributed to him, and that the sources that cobbled together the text were decidedly unreliable.

Furthermore, we must be careful not to fall for historical revisionists who, like Bart Ehrman, would have us believe on the basis of Acts 4 that John was illiterate, and therefore could not have written the fourth gospel. John may have been unlettered—in the sense that he was not educated beyond the primary schooling available to boys at that time—but he was clearly not illiterate. Not only is it an uncharitable stretch to demean John as illiterate from the standpoint of his formal education, but this characterization neglects the immediate and overall context of the book of Acts where the supposed unlearned apostles continually astonish the Jewish teachers of the law with their knowledge and wisdom, in much the same way that Jesus himself had; though he too was without the prerequisite rabbinic training demanded by Ehrman.

Moreover, following the resurrection of our Lord, there is every indication that the apostles devoted themselves to the study and ministry of the Word of God. An entire adult lifetime of that kind of study can easily account for John’s ability to produce an astonishingly sophisticated and nuanced literary masterpiece.

Finally, allow me to underscore what is painfully obvious to anyone who engages Bart’s so called problems with the Bible. Professor Ehrman, it seems, is wholly incapable of comprehending the subtlety of sophisticated literacy nuances. Instead he’s bent on forcing the text through a fundamentalist filter. Peter and Thomas obviously utter the words, “Where are you going?’ with a decidedly different drift. As has been well said, Peter’s question was only a selfish exclamation, which would not hear of Jesus’ going away alone. The assertion of Thomas was nothing but an expression of discouragement and dullness of mind. So here Jesus is leaving, He’s going to his sender, means so much to His disciples and yet none of them request one word of this precious information. Put another way, while the disciple focused on mean earthly vanities, Christ intended to elevate their gaze to eternal verities.

Well, was Jesus a dummy with a painfully short attention span as per Professor Ehrman or it is Professor Ehrman who is hopelessly lost in a wooden literal labyrinth of his own making? I ask you to be the judge, but remember while I responded to this discrepancy, Professor Ehrman has thrown so many up against the wall that his students are wavering in their faith and many of these evangelical Christians, who went to Sunday School, church, and made professions of faith, and now don’t know what to think. This is why the Bible Answer Man broadcast and the Christian Research Institute continually tackle these issues head on because make no mistake about it the Bible is under siege. For further information on supposed Bible contradictions please see my Complete Bible Answer Book. 

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[1] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York, Harper One, 2009), 6.

 

[2] Ibid., 9.

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