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Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby agrammatos » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:14 pm

[Note: quotes below are taken from the OP of this thread and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the OP (you would need to ask OP)]

Erhman often overstates his case when dealing with lay people. He is apparently more cautious when speaking to scholars with expertise similar to his own, or even when nailed down to be very specific regarding changes he would make to the GNT - none is his typical reply; what we have today accurately represents the autographs is his typical reply when pressed (I've heard him say essentially this when pressed by an atheist; Erhman is agnostic according to his own admission, unless he's recently changed his view on the existence of God). Erhman, to his credit, accepts the historicity/authenticity of the person of Jesus of Nazareth, though he no longer embraces him as Lord and Savior.

First century Jewish males were, for the most part, literate. They also could speak two or three languages - especially those engaged in commerce (Aramaic, Koine Greek - at least enough to engage in commerce, and some Latin - the language of the occupiers at that time). Many confuse the literacy of Jewish males brought up to read in the synagogue system with the literacy of Roman slaves.

By the age of 13 most first century Jewish males would be able to read Torah (at least portions of it) and other portions of Tanakh. Luke chapter 4 reveals a common custom of the synagogue system in the first and preceding centuries. Christ stood up to read. No one says to him "sit down. what are you doing". It was after all a common custom for men to read in the synagogue - necessitating literacy. There was nothing strange about what Christ did. It was quite common. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to Him. He reads. People wonder how it is that he could read. Why? Notice that I stated "for the most part, literate". Jesus of Nazareth was considered to be an illegitimate child - read the Gospels, this fact was spread around even as far as Judea. As such, no self-respecting rabbi would want to teach him. A rabbi's status was determined by the students that he trained, both social standing in the community and intelligence - note that the grandson of the great Hillel, viz. Gamaliel, taught the Apostle Paul - the son of a wealthy merchant. The reaction was more that Christ Himself, the son of Joseph, could read not that a man among them could read.

Some have estimated literacy in some communities as low as 1% to 5% among Jewish males of the first century. However, these estimates are extrapolations that come from statements made by Sopherim and Jewish writings that date from between 600 years and 1200 years after Christ. How do they reflect the level of literacy in the first century before the Jews were banished (in 70CE) and many enslaved? Answer: they have no correlation at all between an intact, functioning society and a dispersed, impoverished or enslaved society hundreds of years later. I've read semi-scholarly articles that don't recognize the time difference. Thus, I would suggest that their conclusions are invalid or, at best, could only be coincidentally correct (but we wouldn't and couldn't know that). So, it's specious speculation at best, IMO.

The use of scribes or an amanuensis was very often merely for the purposes of penmanship, not literacy. I have my wife write out comments in cards that we send to people, even if I am dictating the words to her and it is not a collaborative effort in wording the comments - her handwriting is much nicer than mine; I just sign my name.

Also, Erhman ignores the different semantic domains for words sometimes translated "unlearned", "ignorant", "untrained", "uneducated", "unschooled", or "illiterate" and chooses to assign the semantic domain that fits his erroneous view (cf. his comments on Acts 4.13). Unlearned, untrained, and uneducated are not the same as illiterate. My pseudonym is first of those two greek words that I am making reference to in Ac4.13. One can read, as many can today, and not be considered learned or educated. My, now deceased, father-in-law, off the boat from Portugal, only finished the fifth grade, but he was literate and owned ten apartment buildings at one point - a much better business man than I am with my college degree.

Much of what Erhman writes sounds learned until one reads critiques of his popular works by similarly knowledgeable scholars. Even Erhman's mentor, Bruce Metzger, would have disagreed with Erhman on many points.

“I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come,” the man –the Apostle Paul - says in the Bible's 2 Timothy. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

The passage is one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. Paul, the most prolific New Testament author, is saying goodbye from a Roman prison cell before being beheaded. His goodbye veers from loneliness to defiance and, finally, to joy.

There’s one just one problem - Paul didn’t write those words. In fact, virtually half the New Testament was written by impostors taking on the names of apostles like Paul. At least according to Bart D. Ehrman, a renowned biblical scholar, who makes the charges in his new book “Forged.”

How would Erhman know? Other scholars disagree. Who is right? Dueling scholars. Those closest to the time of the original first century writing easily accepted 16 to 22 of the books as authentic and attributed them to the same individuals that modern day conservative and fundamentalist scholars attribute them to. Only seven books were in question for any period of time. By 130-140CE, a heretic named Marcion had established his canon. How? By removing books already recognized. This is why his canon was immediately rejected by the 2nd century church as being woefully incomplete (only 11 books in Marcion's canon, IIRC - ten Pauline epistles and a shortened version of the Gospel according to Luke; he removed any parts that didn't agree with his theology which rejected the entire OT). Clement of Rome writing circa 95CE makes mention of some of Paul's epistles, the epistle to the Hebrews, and also to the words of Jesus Christ (in what form, as individual writings, or the four gospels collected together as Tatian would do 50-60 years later is unknown, by me at least).


“There were a lot of people in the ancient world who thought that lying could serve a greater good,” says Ehrman, an expert on ancient biblical manuscripts.In “Forged,” Ehrman claims that:

Erhman says "a lot". How would he know? My guess would be that with the eroding of morality, perhaps the percentage of chronic liars might be higher now. Can he prove me wrong? Is Erhman merely projecting his own mindset here? Why is he immune from the accusation that he lays on unnamed others?

[Note: it is very clear that some did embellish for their own purposes ancient documents, e.g. the first of two references by Josephus, in books 18 and 20, in his Antiquities of the Jews, has an embellishment regarding the mention of Christ, or if you prefer, a lie. Most scholars admit that the text is authentic, however, without the embellishment since the reference to Christ in book 20 leaves the reading hanging as to who this person was (which the first reference in book 18 makes clear even without the admittedly later embellishment.]

"At least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries."

Old news. Responded to by conservative scholars. Or, in legal parlance: objection - asked and answered.


"The New Testament books attributed to Jesus’ disciples could not have been written by them because they were illiterate."

An assumption based upon, in part, a forced, slanted understanding of Ac4.13. See my comments above on literacy.


"Many of the New Testament’s forgeries were manufactured by early Christian leaders trying to settle theological feuds."

This may well be true. I have no reason to doubt Erhman. Notice the key word that Erhman uses "forgeries". He is not saying that the NT is a forgery or even, as far as the non-contextual quote states, entire books are forgeries. He is stating that there are forgeries to settle theological disputes. If he means entire books of the NT, then he is both overstating the case and ignoring the fact that they didn't do a very good job since the teachings of the NT books are remarkably consistent (even James and Paul when attention is paid to the context of one point in James 2). The evidence would argue against this point that Erhman is attempting to make. However, as he well knows and has himself admitted in lectures and debates, the overwhelming number of extant mss (whole and fragmentary - around 5800 and counting), allows us to reconstruct with over 99% certainty the original text and these are supplemented by ~10,000 quotations in various languages from patristic writings, ancient versions, and lectionaries. In fact, just from these alone, without any greek mss of the NT, we could construct nearly the entire NT. This is just another classic example of an Erhman red herring and Erhman poisoning the well - both informal logical fallacies. Erhman's statement concerning forgeries has no bearing whatsoever on our current ability to perform textual criticism which Erhman wells knows being probably one of the top 5 or 10 scholars in the world in that field. When pressed, he will state this as well.

The best thing about Bart Erhman's popular level writing is the ease with which most of it is refuted. The only ones who swallow Erhman hook, line, and sinker are those who don't know anything about the topics on which he pontificates.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby zilch » Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:38 pm

While I found Ehrman's arguments compelling (at least in Misquoting Jesus, which I've read) I agree that there is no way of knowing for sure which texts of the modern cobbled together NT are "authentic" and which "forgeries" at this remove. But although it's fascinating to try to reconstruct the textual history of the Bible, the salient point for me is whether or not God exists, and if He does, if He is the God of the Bible. No matter how "authentic" and consistent the texts are, as far as I can see, they are simply religious claims like any other, and must be tested against the real world, not simply judged by literary or textual criticism parameters. And in the real world, the Bible fails, as far as I can see: there's no independent evidence of the truth of its central supernatural claims.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby agrammatos » Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:34 pm

I agree with you Zilch on the main point you are making, viz. they are just religious claims even if the text as we have it today accurately reflects the autographs. Misquoting Jesus has been ripped to pieces by a number of individuals, including Bart's debating opponent Dan Wallace whose credentials as a textual scholar approach Erhman's and as a grammarian surpass Erhman's. Others have similarly shown the errors in Erhman's popular level reasoning. I have several books in my library that do a real hatchet job on Misquoting Jesus. Remember, Misquoting Jesus is a popular level work and suffers from Erhman's overstatements.

Your point on evidence puts the cart before the horse. The issue usually is not what constitutes evidence, but rather how to interpret that evidence. Whether we talk of scientific evidence or historical evidence, we are always going to interpret the evidence in accordance with our worldview. That's why worldview analysis is the starting point. If the presuppositions that one bases their worldview on are flawed, then their worldview collapses. The only way to evaluate a worldview is with an internal critique of that worldview to determine if its various parts are coherent and comport well with each other. This, IMO, ought to be our starting point.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby zilch » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:03 pm

agrammatos wrote:The only way to evaluate a worldview is with an internal critique of that worldview to determine if its various parts are coherent and comport well with each other. This, IMO, ought to be our starting point.

While I'm all in favor of coherency and internal consistency, I must demur: our starting point in evaluating a worldview should be the world, which is after all what we're trying to view. You can invent any number of worldviews that are internally consistent, but don't fit the world in one way or another. Of course, people do this all the time. That's why I say evidence first.

cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

and btw- welcome to our humble ship of fools, agrammatos. By your name, do you mean that you are without grammar, or that you don't believe grammar exists? Just curious.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby agrammatos » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:07 pm

I've heard Loftus debate. Not overly impressive. Maybe he writes better than he debates? His debate with David Wood had him resorting to lines of argumentation that made him appear to not know that Christians have already successfully replied to his points. His points were just warmed over hash. It seems that he forgot what he learned under Craig and others who he cites as his mentors prior to his apostasy.

I've thought about getting a copy of his 400+ page book though.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby BathTub » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:28 pm

I've never been impressed with Loftus. Comically full of himself.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby agrammatos » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:29 pm

in reverse order:

agrammatos = unlearned (cf. Acts 4.13 - the first of the two adjectives describing Peter and John).

cheers from chilly Connecticut, mein freund. [I don't speak German (I know Vienna is in Austria and not Germany); closest I can come is my mother's maternal ancestors were German Jews - only one that I know of lost in the Holocaust in a camp; my uncle, still living, was educated at the Univ. of Heidelberg and taught German at Penn. State University; my mother's paternal ancestors came from the Palatinate.]

We shouldn't invent any worldviews other than the ones we both hold. These should be the ones we discuss. Any others are Red Herrings, IMO, as far as a discussion between others on this board and myself would be concerned. We want to talk about reality and not fictional worlds. We view our reality through the lenses of our respective worldviews - we don't need to worry about other worldviews. Making up an internally consistent and coherent worldview may be more difficult than most would imagine. Take for example, materialistic naturalism which is internally incoherent since its various parts don't comport well with themselves and is thus both incoherent and irrational.

The world, is the evidence that requires evaluation. You're going to have to judge the world (or the evidence) by some standard [of judgment]. That is going to be your worldview. Otherwise, if I understand you correctly (and perhaps I don't - wouldn't be the first or the last time I've misunderstood someone), it seems to me that you are saying that you are going to be using the evidence to evaluate the evidence. That would be a form of circular reasoning, would it not?

No scientist, forensic or otherwise, evaluates a piece of evidence by that evidence. Rather, the evidence is evaluated based upon some other principles.

many thanks for interacting with me. Auf Wiedersehen.
Last edited by agrammatos on Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby agrammatos » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:31 pm

BathTub wrote:I've never been impressed with Loftus. Comically full of himself.


Agreed. Though I don't mind listening to him. Though I prefer to listen to Harris and Hitchens (who was my favorite to listen to).

BT, what time is it there where you are? You're in NZ, right? Don't you ever sleep?
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby BathTub » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:36 pm

10:42 am, Been up for almost 5 hours at this point. We are hours behind, a day ahead.
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Re: Bart Ehrman's New Book | "Forged"

Postby rufustfirefly » Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:24 pm

So, Ehrman used to be a evangelical Christian and now he isn't, so he's as dumb as box of fucking rocks. I'm betting that if he had not been a Evangelical Christian and was one now he'd be the smartest motherfucker in the room.
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