What are my ultimate thoughts on Ehrman’s book Forged? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Yesterday, I gave some preliminary thoughts on Forged that can be found here. Today, I will be concluding those thoughts.
Ultimately, I was expecting that I’d get a hard-hitting argument. Readers expecting that will be sorely disappointed. This does not stop skeptics from thinking they’ve found a holy grail (er, maybe not holy for a skeptic) to use against Christians. The reality is that Ehrman’s claims are nothing new and they have been known by scholarship for years. Anyone who picks up a good commentary on a book of the Bible can see reasons pro and con and much more detailed.
Of course, for our skeptic friends, so what? The huge majority, such as 99.9% will never bother to pick up such a commentary. After all, these are often by conservative evangelical Christians and we know that they’re always wrong with their looking at the data.
This is simply a genetic fallacy. Could it be that the evangelicals can be right? Why should a skeptic’s argument be seen as objective and the Christian’s as biased? Either bother of them are to be seen as biased or both of them are to be seen as objective.
A major problem again with Ehrman’s work is he really does not argue his case often. For instance, when writing about the Gospel of Peter, he will tell about how it ends with two giants angels coming out of the tomb with a giant Jesus between them and a voice from Heaven saying “Have you preached to them that sleep?” and a talking cross comes out of the tomb and says “Yea.”
You don’t believe that happened? Okay. Neither do I. The question is “Why do we not?” For Ehrman’s position, just stating what the account says is enough. This is obviously something beyond the scope of every day experience and therefore not accurate. My stance is that I don’t believe it because this is the only source that I know of with that claim, it’s late, and it contradicts more reliable sources hopelessly.
Throughout this book, Ehrman does not give an epistemology. How am I to know the epistle to the Galatians of Paul is authentic? You won’t know from reading Ehrman’s book. You will be told scholars agree on this. That’s great, but why exactly do they agree?
There are times Ehrman will give the consensus of scholars supposedly, such as in the idea that certain epistles are inauthentic. In these cases, he is not giving the consensus. He is giving a position that is popular and held by many, but certainly not to the degree of certainty with which people say Paul wrote Galatians.
Other times, Ehrman does not give all the evidence. Why is it said that Luke wrote Acts? There is not mentioned the patristic evidence. Ehrman instead goes to Colossians and looks at the Gentiles there and decides on Luke and then gives reasons why he thinks Luke did not write the account. He does not give reasons why some scholars believe he did nor why some would even date it to before 70 A.D. From Ehrman, you would get the opinion the church mindlessly believed Luke wrote Acts for seemingly the shoddiest of reasons and this started to be seen as false within the past two centuries.
Once again, we get into a great danger then. Several skeptics will learn what scholars think. They’ll be clueless as to why it is that the scholars think this. Instead, they’ll tell Christians, like myself “Well go read your own scholars! They will tell you.” There will be the idea of a cover-up. “You ignorant Christians in the pew don’t know this about the Bible, but the scholars all know this! Obviously, if your minister knows, he’s just not telling you!”
That doesn’t mean that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, as a whole, I think Ehrman writing these and other books is a good thing. I have the exact same opinion I do with books like The Da Vinci Code or with the new atheists. These are bringing the discussion to the public and when all the evidence is shown, I have no doubt which side it will fall on.