Read my professor/pastor/mentor/friend Mike Kruger’s review of the latest book from the predictable-but-always-available-for-an-NPR-interview Bart Ehrman.
Ehrman is chair of the Religious Studies department at UNC-Chapel Hill, and in odd-numbered years he tends to put out a book basically alleging that everything orthodox Christians believe is wrong. This year it’s Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them).
UPDATE: More than one intelligent person hasn’t picked up on it, so I need to point out that I’m being sarcastic/ironic/less than serious in the following.
(Incidentally, In the process of making sure I got Ehrman’s title right for this post, I noticed this:
Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.
This is the most confusing thing I’ve ever seen. Which is it? Is he a Distinguished Professor, or is he the department chair? Or is he head of Graduate Studies? We’re obviously looking at a conglomeration of at least 3 original sources, all of which had differing– and mutually exclusive– views of Ehrman’s job. Someone doesn’t want us to know the truth.
Moreover, if Ehrman can’t even get his own story straight, why are we supposed to trust that whatever he says about the Bible is right?)
14 thoughts on “Mike Kruger Dismantles Bart Ehrman”
I’m not sure the statement about his position at the University is unclear. It states he is the distinguished professor and then it states he has served two other positions. Often in life people continue to work at the business/school and change positions.
I appreciate hyperbole as much as the next guy but your reaction to your reading of it as the most confusing thing you’ve ever seen is strange.
That’s the point. What’s in his bio makes complete sense. It’s not a contradiction at all; it’s two different statements, both of which are true.
My hyperbolic reaction was to demonstrate the foolishness of Ehrman’s approach to Scripture. When two different but complementary details are given, he always assumes a contradiction– even when there’s a clear reading that takes both details into account.
Gotcha. I read the “***” as the ending of the first thought and beginning of a new thought so I didn’t connect the paragraphs.
Haha…excellent subtle point. I thought the same thing as ‘rob’ for a minute.
This is why I want to invent a sarcasm font…
Jake, I think you’re not understanding the biography correctly.
You are correct in that it’s clearly a composite work, largely the result of a late redaction of at least two original sources, although three or more is certainly a possibility. We should be cautious about any attempt to relate it to Ehrman himself; its source is a site maintained in the name of Ehrman, but it is clearly pseudepigraphical, likely authored by a later follower of Ehrman, with obvious inputs from other sources.
The combination of “Graduate Studies” and “Religious Studies” is certainly significant, and could very well be an attempt at syncretic combination of two different schools of thought, one focused on secular philosophies and the other on eschatological expansions. I would tentatively relate the former to the well-known secular school at Berkeley and the latter to the Church at Rome, but those are admittedly speculative connections at best. What we can say is that the redactor was almost certainly not from the relatively dogmatic South, which would not have allowed for any such incompatible combination of belief systems; the attempt to connect Ehrman to North Carolina is clearly spurious.
Given that the only work established to have actually been authored by Ehrman is a short academic publication on “Q”, the later works authored in his name are certainly elaborations, if not outright forgeries. As his known work centered on an analysis of the sources of the Gospels, the other works that range broadly across the history of Christianity are almost certainly much later works that clearly postdate him. Their authors may have been followers of his, but just as likely were wholly unconnected individuals using his name to provide additional credibility to the their own views. With respect to the alleged list of works included in the “biography”, as with the biographical details themselves, any actual connection to Ehrman is tenuous as best, but most likely spurious.
I have seldom enjoyed a comment as much as this one. It was an excellent ‘scholarly’ take-off on academic writing – including dear Dr. Ehrman’s. I won’t post a diatribe on the cleverness, and skilled use of language and diction of P.V., but I am delighted to have read the little commentary posted here. Even if it was meant seriously, it was delightful.
I find that underneath the surface of the writing of most scholars in this field is a polemicist waiting to get out. Dr. E is no exception to thisQuantities of words seldom cause a conversion – in my heart and soul at any rate. I have watched his Learning Company course with friends over a period of several months, and found him to be a dull presenter, even if I found his ideas interesting.( Maybe if I’d go on the cruise he is leading this summer called ‘In The Footsteps Of Jesus” )
Thank God I’ve found your cite and post (from NRO to the “coexist” bumper sticker to you)! Early last year I picked up two Teaching Company courses by the good Dr/Prof/Oracle Ehrman. It was less his obvious perspective that bothered me, and more his disdainful and dismissive attitude toward alternative points of view. As an avid Teaching Company customer, I found Bart Ehrman’s lectures far and away the weakest.
It’s nice to see a rebuttal. A friend who is also a Catholic priest steered me toward Boyd and Eddy’s “The Jesus Legend” which set right much of Ehrman’s propaganda.
Keep up the good work.
Nick P., I don’t know your background so excuse me if I presume too much but you’ll find that the “dismissive” tone of Ehrman’s consideration of alternative positions tends to be fairly typical of the former-evangelical/fundamentalist-turned-skeptic type. There’s something about having once been a “true believer” that drives these guys nuts, almost a kind of intellectual embarrassment. They cannot help but berate and belittle any position is not at least as skeptical as theirs. The funny thing is, they end up becoming the very fundamentalists they so despise, only in skeptics clothing. It must be a very sad life!
Nick, I will second that. I have actually found much of the work by secular scholars of Christianity and Judaism to be interesting and relevant; unfortunately, much of Ehrman’s work, and that of a number of other like-minded scholars, has consistently rubbed me the wrong way. This article was enormously helpful in putting the finger on the problem: underneath the scholar is a polemicist waiting to get out. Elsewhere in the world of Judeo-Christian studies there is a genuine spirit of inquiry; but with Ehrman & Co., there is only a spirit of dogmatism.
I am certainly willing to recognize his work in making a number of apocryphal works and obscure topics accessible to the layman, but beyond that I don’t care for much of what he’s done.
How can you not believe? He went to Rutgers to fulfill what was written in the Scriptures. He is Distinguished Professor, department chair, and head of Graduate Studies. He is three in one and is of one and the same. In Isaiah it says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” This proves Bart’s words are true! There are also many eye witnesses that can verify that Bart is Bart. But the greatest proof is in your heart– can mere words save you when those words may have been misquoted? Bart’s words are true and have come to us directly. Scribes and editors have not changed one iota of Bart’s exact meaning. Is it not written that Jesus went to Egypt while another story says he did not? We know where Bart came from. Who are you going to believe?
Dr. Ehrman sounds perfectly legit to me, even though I haven’t yet read his book. Were you homeschooled and then attended a religious institution or something and called that going to college? Why can’t you respect him for his critical thinking and the body of work that he puts out rather than asking a question like:
“This is the most confusing thing I’ve ever seen. Which is it? Is he a Distinguished Professor, or is he the department chair? Or is he head of Graduate Studies?”
If you have any knowledge of university faculty affairs, you would know that department chairs ROTATE periodically like every other year. He can also have a title where the post is NAMED after someone who once worked there as a distinguished faculty.
The term “Pseudepigraphy” is a totally new concept to me, so I’m glad he introduced it to me because the Bible has been altered and denigrated by men in the past who had ulterior motives (such as the acquisition of power and influence over their flock)
I am a RS professor and you are all clueless. Many professors hold the Distinguished chair of their Department, while also serving in the capacity as Dean of a particular School and mentor in the field of Graduate Studies. A dear colleague of mine at Oxford holds the same distinctions in the field of Church History. I think you are all getting off your own place-mats and need to figure out what your own take on the journey is and let Dr Ehrman either hang himself or find a “Real” methodology of disproving his academic writing other than through this mode of dribble.
I would like to concur with what Merlin112 says. I too am a professor (retired) have held two academic chairs (at differing times) and was offered a third (which I declined). I very much doubt that many responsible academics would think that I have been misleading people by being truthful about my past. That the debate should have been given this focus can only undermine its integrity and credibility.
I think the man, Ehrman, is just a plain clever business-showman, as one can alone realize by checking how Ehrman states just the opposite in front of a wide public audience ( Ehrman A) as he does when confronting with his academic-peers (Ehrman B). The Ehrman-A posits that the new testament is a trustworthy text. On the contrary, Ehrman-B asserts that all that bible-stuff is an astounding rubbish aimed at gullible primitive minds. That seems indeed to be a sounding financial strategy: on the one hand, the man sells books like cookies pretending to cast a positive light on Christianism, on the other hand, he enjoys a good reputation among scholars by debunking the Christianism, both things feed each other.