Jesus, Interrupted by Bart Ehrman

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  • - 04/04/2009
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When I walked into my office on April 1,st I spotted a new book atop my large pile of books to read. This book was provocatively titled: Jesus, Interrupted, boasting the subtitle Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them). My first inclination in perusing through the pages of the book was this must be an elaborate “April Fool’s Day” joke. Surely, no professor, especially one tenured as a distinguished professor of religious studies at the prestigious University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, could suffer from such simplistic, closed minded, black/white, stereotypical fundamentalism.

Yet, the more I read, the more it became apparent that Professor Bart D. Ehrman was hardly writing tongue-in-cheek. He seemed genuinely distraught that few pastors and even fewer church leaders had followed him in his literalistic walk-on-all-fours fundamentalist reading of the Biblical text.

As evidenced in the book, he recalls doing a four-week series in a Presbyterian church in North Carolina in which he reveled the hidden contradictions of the Bible. When he got done, he says a dear elderly old lady came up to me, and asked me in frustration, “Why have I never heard this before?” Ehrman recalls in the book gazing across the fellowship hall at the Presbyterian pastor and wondering why had that pastor never told that elderly lady? Was this pastor beset by some type of patronizing attitude that, Ehrman says, is so disturbingly common? Was he afraid to make waves? Was he afraid that historical information might destroy the faith of his congregation? Was he afraid that church leaders might not take kindly to the dissemination of that kind of information? Did church leaders actually put pressure on him to stick to the devotional meaning of the Bible and not tell his parishioners about all of its mistakes? Was he perhaps concerned about job security?[1]

Well in the litany of distasteful motives that flooded through Ehrman’s mind that day one thought surely eluded him. Perhaps the pastor had carefully considered Ehrman’s regurgitated revelations and found them wanting. Perhaps, unlike Ehrman’s students at the University of North Carolina, the pastor knew that there was nothing particular in terms of new or troubling information in Ehrman’s hidden contradictions.

Well, the Presbyterian pastor might have well seen through Ehrman’s apparent contradictions. The truth is that most Christians in a largely biblically illiterate culture have not. As such Ehrman is succeeding in his stated mission to shake the faith of multitudes. In fact, he seems to be particularly proud of causing the faith of many of his students to waver. He overtly writes this in the book, “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.” [2]

Well as this Professor Gone Wild has managed to shake the faith of multitudes in the classroom, it is troubling that he is now succeeding in shaking the faith of multitudes in the culture as well. He’s doing it through Dateline, CNN, History Channel, and NPR. He’s systematically forwarding the notion that the Bible is not only hopelessly contradictory but in his opinion a dangerous book in which to believe.

He’s gone as far as to say that had we embraced The Gospel of Judas, which he loves, instead of the Gospel of John, which he doesn’t have much love for, we might well have avoided nothing less than the Holocaust itself.[3] He not only ascribes anti-Semitic motives to John but he attributes apocalyptic sophistry to Jesus.[4] As such he holds that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who was misguided in predicting that his generation would experience the end of the world. By the way, he’s so enamored with the Gospel of Judas that in his view had we embraced its perspective we might well have never seen the death of six million Jews. That from a man who was converted to faith through Youth for Christ, received a diploma from Moody Bible Institute, received an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College and studied at Princeton. [5]

It is absolutely incredible to read his book where he says, “the Bible is filled with discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable contradictions. Moses did not write the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the gospels…the exodus probably did not happen as described in the Old Testament. The conquest of the Promised Land is probably based on legend…its hard to know whether Moses actually existed and what, exactly the historical Jesus taught. The historical narratives of the Old Testament are filled with legendary fabrications and the book of Acts in the New Testament contains historically unreliable information…”[6]

This list goes on and on but over the next few days, weeks, and months I’m going to address some of these contradictions, some of which he says have changed him from a fundamentalist Christian to a happy agnostic, and I’m gonna deal with them and demonstrate that they’re not inconsistencies at all. He is simply in many cases either playing a rigged game or knocking down straw men.

This is one of the many reasons that the mission and ministry of the Christian Research Institute must exist in these days. Some of the supposed contradictions I’ve dealt with in 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). 13-14.

[2]  Ibid.,6


Do you like what you’re reading? Take a look at this.


[3] Gospel of Judas, National Geographic Channel, aired April 16, 2006, see http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel  (accessed April 9.2009).

[4] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 244.

[5] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why (San Franciso: HarperSanFranciso, 2005), 1-8.

 

[6] Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted, 5-6.

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