With a tip of my hat to Baptist Bible Seminary’s Dr. Rod Decker, Dallas Theological Seminary’s Dr. Darrell Bock on the latest in UNC Chapel Hill’s Dr. Bart Ehrman’s <verb>-ing Jesus series:
Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted by his own admission says nothing new. It packages what scholars have been saying for two decades. Since he learned the historical critical method in place of the devotional method, he discovered the Bible was full of contradictions and discrepancies, a completely human book with Christianity being a religion that is completely human in its origin and development. That is the core thesis of Bart Ehrman’s new book, who has become a one man marching band to make clear what everyone should know about the origins of the Christian faith. We cannot speak of the divine in any of this, he says, because historians cannot handle that kind of data. This represents a convenient limitation on what he can speak about (even as he makes all kinds of pronouncements about what is taking place and who is responsible).
One has to wonder when an author admits to providing nothing new in a book what the motive is for writing. Informing? Apparently not. Crusading? Perhaps. But to leave the criticism on this point would be to ignore the case Ehrman tries to make. The conservative writers Erhman apparently wishes to challenge (and mostly ignore) have engaged on all the “non-new” points Ehrman makes, even highlighting themselves the “human” side of the Bible’s production. But partly by caricature and partly by setting rules where God cannot be invoked in a historical discussion, Ehrman proceeds. God is not even able to be brought into the possibility of an interpretive spiral, because “miracles are not impossible,” just very much unlikely and a least likely explanation (read a “next to impossible” category). I think what is most bothersome in this book is the way it sets up discussions, pursues a topic for several pages, often noting the point is not as devastating as the impression given (usually with a sentence that qualifies things so the author has cover) and then continues to launch in a direction that implies more than the evidence really gives, leaving a greater impression about what is said than the author claims in the qualification.
This is a great response, and worth the read — that said, I don’t know that I wonder too much about Dr. Ehrman’s motives for writing. He sells a lot of books and he appears on media outlets like The Daily Show and Fresh Air. His motives seem reasonably clear to me.