10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them) (Paperback)
Cards on the table: I'm a Christian, but I don't believe in the Divine Inspiration of Scripture, and hold traditional doctrines eg Trinity, extremely lightly.
BUT I'm afraid to say i find Bart Ehrman's expositions by far the least convincing of the texts I have read in this area (and I have read a lot). Just a few examples (and like I say, I have no wish to defend an "Evangelical" view of "what happened"):
- differences within the Synoptic tradition: various examples are given, but none strike me as being of any real significance (unless you wanted to defend "verbal inerrancy")
- the Synoptics not presenting Jesus as divine. Certainly they are less clear cut on this than John, and to be honest I don't really know what my own view is, but but the Synoptics frequently refer to Jesus as Lord (which I understand to be a technical equivalent to YHWH), and certainly imply that Jesus saw himself as being the Son of Man descending on the clouds at the Final Judgement
- the textual mis-transmissions over time seem highly exaggerated. Ehrman suggests that the entire doctrine of the Trinity depends on the mis-translation of one single verse. Whatever you believe about the Trinity (and for myself, I don't know), this assertion is simply absurd and it is beyond me how he could have made it, nor how it wasn't edited out of the book. It is the only significant example he gives however, of the point about mis-copying.
- the late date given for the formalisation of the New Testament Canon is frankly disingenuous. As I've already said, I don't believe in the Divine Inspiration of Scripture anyway, and if it was left to me, I'd chop and change it around quite a bit, but that's a different point. To all intents and purposes, most of the canon was agreed and accepted at a much earlier date. Who cares whether Jude and 2 Peter were included or not? Admittedly James is more significant (although of course Luther wanted to expunge it from the list 1500 years later).
- to talk of ancient pseudoepigraphia, like the Pastoral Epistles, in modern category terms like "forgery", is not something I've ever found supported in any other book on the subject
- likewise, to depict the Oral Traditions as Chinese Whispers seems unjustifiably pejorative (consider eg the way the Jews re-enacted key moments - or myths - from their history, so that the traditions would be passed on intact through many generations. Likewise perhaps the Eucharist).
- he makes the reasonable point about the Resurrection, that it can never be proved as a historical event. It is rather a faith position. This much is obviously true. But what he actually seems to want to be saying is that by definition the Resurrection can never be proved, therefore by definition it didn't happen. He doesn't actually put it quite like that, but his treatment of the topic seems to be trying to say that - and that goes beyond what is reasonable to say.
Having said all that, he does make some good points as well:
- a good exposition of the different quasi-Christian groups in the First Century, and making the point that the "Retrospective Orthodoxy" we ended up with was by no means the only possible outcome
- he nakes the point (frequently) that it is a shame that the fruit of modern scholarship is seldom presented in Churches, and with that I would heartily concur.