Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is Bart Ehrman interested in encouraging critical thinking?

From one of my favorite historians Darrell Bock. (H/T Lex Communis)

Basically, Ehrman in one of his widely-used books, gives a case against Mark being the author of the gospel of Mark, but he doesn’t take into account the criterion of embarrassment, which is one of the ways you can decide if historical claims are accurate. If a claim or tradition embarrasses the author of the tradition or claim, then it’s likely to be true. For example, the discovery of the empty tomb by women is very likely to be authentic, because the testimony of women was not highly regarded in that time and place. The church would not have invented female discoverers of the empty tomb – because it made their witness less effective.

Darrell Bock writes:

I am quite aware that many think the internal evidence is against such an authorship claim for Mark (and Ehrman does present those arguments). Those arguments can be addressed. So given a fair debate over the issues that lead one to think about who wrote a gospel, here is a point the claim Mark did not write the gospel has to deal with. What commends Mark as the author, if we are going to simply pick someone to enhance the reputation of a gospel when no one supposedly who knows the author is (which is what the alternative view claims is the situation)? What is Mark’s reputation? He failed to survive the first missionary journey and caused a split between Paul and Barnabas according to Acts. So how does randomly attaching his name to the book enhance that gospel’s credibility? Such a theory does not work here.

Mark’s reputation, such as it was, on its own does not enhance the credibility of the work. More than that, the tradition also consistently associated Peter with Mark, so why was this gospel not simply called the Gospel of Peter, if one is free to name any author the church could choose? Given a choice between Peter and Mark on the basis of reputation, Peter would be the obvious choice.

Something else must be at work, namely, a tradition careful about who it called an author, naming someone who in this case had an otherwise less than stellar resume. Arguments like the ones I just noted go completely ignored in his volume (and these are fair historical questions). So user beware that if you are being asked to use this text in a college class, some key points are not even being raised.

What I like about this is that I know Lex Communis is a Catholic blog, yet here he is citing Darrell Bock, an evangelical Christian! That’s good.

Actually, the Lex Communis post says:

I originally like Bart Ehrman’s work.  I thought that his courses on the Teaching Company were very good.  However, as I’ve listened to Ehrman’s popular stuff, such as his debates and interviews, I’ve come to wonder how much I can trust Ehrman.  Simply put, Ehrman says stuff that he knows is either overstated or wrong.

It’s not just me who says this.  William Lane Craig points out that there is a “Good Bart” and a “Bad Bart.”  “Bad Bart” will make the claim in popular circles that there are more errors in the Bible than there are words, and will foster the impression that we really can’t know for sure what the original text said.  However, when called out on it, “Good Bart” will forthrightly admit that we actually do know what the original text said and that the “errors” can be corrected or aren’t all that significant.

I cataloged the actual “variants” of substance that Bart listed in a debate when Peter Williams challenged him on it, a while back. There were four variants, and none of them mattered. He’s made a whole career on marginal trivia because bashing Christianity pays big bucks. He’s not a scholar, he’s a propagandist.

This is why it is important to watch people like Bart Ehrman, Dan Brown and Michael Moore in formal academic debates. These people aren’t honest seekers of truth. And the only way to catch them in their misrepresentations and counterfactual assertions is to have someone there to challenge them.

Further study

The top 10 links to help you along with your learning.

  1. How every Christian can learn to explain the resurrection of Jesus to others
  2. The earliest source for the minimal facts about the resurrection
  3. The earliest sources for the empty tomb narrative
  4. Who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb?
  5. Did the divinity of Jesus emerge slowly after many years of embellishments?
  6. What about all those other books that the Church left out the Bible?
  7. Assessing Bart Ehrman’s case against the resurrection of Jesus
  8. William Lane Craig debates radical skeptics on the resurrection of Jesus
  9. Did Christianity copy from Buddhism, Mithraism or the myth of Osiris?
  10. Quick overview of N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection

Debates are a fun way to learn

Three debates where you can see this play out:

Or you can listen to my favorite debate on the resurrection.

Extra stuff

A lecture on Bart Ehrman by William Lane Craig.

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