Jan 19 2011

The Ehrman Project

A number of well-known theologians, including folks such as D.A. Carson, Ben Witherington, Craig Evans, and Alvin Plantinga, have contributed video responses to many issues raised by Bart Ehrman (who I have mentioned before), to The Ehrman Project, a website whose sole purpose is to address these issues.

The site is well put-together, with specific responses to each of Ehrman’s books. There is also a resource page with links to numerous articles addressing these issues.

On one hand, I’m not sure Ehrman is worth the trouble. However, his books have proven fairly popular, and most people do not have the background or understanding with which to judge Ehrman’s claims. So, this site should prove to be a very helpful resource, especially as—as Erhman himself states—none of these thoughts are new or unique to Erhman.

Here’s a short intro video from the site (it appears the videos are also available on YouTube):

Sep 4 2009

Evidence? What evidence?

Over the years I’ve sat through a number of civil trials as an observer.  Over 2 or 3 days (sometimes more) I would hear the plaintiff put on their side, and the evidence always seemed overwhelming.  It wasn’t until I heard the defense evidence that things were put into perspective; at times, the plaintiff’s case would simply evaporate in light of the rest of the evidence.

We’ve been hearing a lot lately from folks like Bart Ehrman about the many problems with the Biblical texts, yada, yada.  His rhetoric can sound pretty convincing if that’s all you hear.

A blogger who calls himself Makarios has put together a short series of posts listing just a partial listing of facts that start to tell “the rest of the story.”

In Can you trust Luke? he mentions all of the valid historical facts in the Gospel of Luke; enough to certainly give any historian credibility (except, of course, if he’s talking about Jesus).  With ancient history (or current history, for that matter) credibility is important.  He continues that discussion here.

Then, in I’m an expert!, he provides some facts that support the historicity of the New Testament in general, and compares the NT docs to other ancient historical documents. The comparison is striking.  With regard to the NT, he writes:

When it comes to the New Testament, especially as it attests to the reality of Jesus the Christ, His life, His death and especially His resurrection, there is more witness testimony than for any other document in ancient literature. With respect to the accuracy and continuity of the documents:

. There are more than 5,700 Greek copies of the New Testament.

. There are 10,000 copies of the New Testament in Latin.

. Take into consideration copies that are available in other languages and we have available to us 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament.

. Take into consideration all the quotations of the early Church Fathers and you will find over one million more verses that have been preserved from the first century onward.

Comparing the ancient documents that we have,

At the latest, there is only a 75 year gap between available copies and the time that the New Testament was completed. For the early Church’s creed that Paul passes on to the Christians in Corinth and which he most certainly got from the apostle’s oral, eye witness reports, we are looking at within 5 years of Jesus death and resurrection at most.

For copies of materials from other ancient historical writers, a gap of 1,000 years is not unusual and what we have in those cases are mere fragments of their works.

and he continues,

. The history of Thucydides has just eight copies dated 1,300 years after he wrote.

. Copies of Aristotle’s poetics are dated 1,400 years after the originals and only five copies exist.

. Copies of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” are from 1,000 years after the originals and only ten copies exist.

Even though the time between the original and copies seems very long indeed, no classical scholar, or atheist for that matter, would ever conclude that the copies are not dependable because they were written over a thousand years after the original. They do however complain if a document that’s been included into the New Testament is dated 30 years later than the original. (You may roll your eyes now)

He concludes this series of posts here.

None of this is, of course, conclusive. It merely provides credibility to what we have as the New Testament documents.  But, that’s what history is all about.

Apr 14 2009

More Bart Ehrman, Interrupted

I’ve been posting a bit about Bart Ehrman’s ridiculous book, Jesus, Interrupted, and linking to Ben Witherington‘s series (now up to part 4) examining Ehrman’s claims.  In post #4, BW writes,

The early church, as we begin to see already in Papias, was confident that their ultimate source documents went back to apostles, prophets, eyewitnesses and their co-workers, which is why these 27 documents are in the NT. They were composed by Paul (with help of scribes and co-workers), Peter (1 Peter with help of Silas probably), Mark, Luke (both co-workers of both Peter and Paul), the 4th Evangelist (drawing on Beloved Disciple written sources. The Beloved Disciple composed 1-3 John himself), the compiler of Matthew, James, Jude, perhaps Apollos in the case of Hebrews, John of Patmos, and at the very end of the NT period, the compiler of 2 Peter, drawing on Petrine and other materials.

In short, the NT can be traced back to about 8 people, either eyewitness apostles, or co-workers of such eyewitnesses and apostles. Early Christianity’s leaders were largely literate, and some of them, like Paul and the author of Hebrews, were first rate rhetoricians as well.

The post contains an immense amount of information on how to evaluate ancient literature, and specifically on the authorship and integrity of the New Testament documents.  I don’t know who needs this more, the atheists who are waving Ehrman’s book like a flag, or fundamentalists.

Every Christian should have some real understanding of where the Bible came from and why it’s believable; otherwise, fools like Ehrman come along with their incredibly bad scholarship, or claims about “other gospels,” throwing people to and fro.  The Bible is an extremely reliable set of ancient documents, supported by other documents. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as many people seem to think.  It didn’t just fall from the sky, and it wasn’t handed over to Joseph Smith to read with magic glasses.

One book I really want to read – when I have time – is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham (mentioned by BW in his post).  Another I am adding to my list is BW’s future book What’s In A Word, whenever that comes out.  These days it’s not enough to slap a bumper sticker on your car or wear a WWJD bracelet (not that it ever was), or live from emotional high to emotional high; Christians are faced with all kinds of ridiculous claims by people looking for reasons not to believe. We should all be ready with enough knowledge of the truth to call a fool a fool.

Apr 10 2009

As I was saying…

Bart Ehrman is certainly getting his 15 minutes of fame; or at least infamy:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest

In my opinion, Bart Ehrman qualifies as a fool.   I haven’t read his book yet, but everything I hear from him is nonsense.   There’s so much good scholarship out there… he apparently avoided all of it- quite a task.

In that regard, Michael Patton offers a look at how the Apostles were martyred as supporting evidence to the truth of the Resurrection.