Book Plunge: Truth In A Culture of Doubt

What do I think of Kostenberger, Bock, and Chatraw’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bart Ehrman is described in this book as the rising rock star of the New Testament world. While more and more Christians are learning about him, too many are not, and sadly, the first time they often hear of him, they are unprepared for what he has to say. The tragedy is best described by the way Chatraw sums it up.

Later I was a bit surprised when I had a similar discussion with a couple of well-respected pastors in my community. These conversations helped me see once again that most people, even pastors, don’t know much about what’s going on in the world of biblical scholarship. The other authors of this book have had similar discussions.

In fact, just recently I was sharing some detail concerning the last 12 verses of Mark and a good Christian friend was concerned I might have caused some doubt for some. I understood that concern well and shared some information on textual criticism to help deal with it, but it’s a shame that that which is common knowledge is seen as detrimental to the faith of some simply because the pastors have shielded them from the academy. In fact, pastors are usually the worst culprits.

Thankfully, the lay people do have friends in the authors of this book. These authors have done the service of taking Ehrman’s popular works seriously and addressing the main concerns that are raised in some of the most well-known ones. The reader who goes through this book and learns it well will be much more equipped to survive a class from Ehrman or someone like him.

If you are familiar with the arguments, you won’t find much here that is new, but that’s okay. This is written for those who are not really familiar with Ehrman and his arguments yet. If you are familiar with them, you will find that you still have a good resource where the major arguments can be found listed together.

One important insight that the book has that I agree with and have noticed myself is that Ehrman most often is quite good at giving you one side of the argument. He ignores that which is against his hypothesis. They consider his latest book “How Jesus Became God” as a for instance. In this book, Richard Bauckham is not mentioned once. He mentions Hurtado but does not interact with his main claims. He does not interact seriously with the Shema. I’d also add that in his section on miracles, brief as it may be, there is no mention whatsoever of Keener.

Ehrman has been undermining the Christian faith of many for a long time and unfortunately he’s probably right that too many are just closing their ears and humming so they don’t have to hear what he has to say. This should not be the Christian answer. If you want to get the Christian answer, an excellent gateway to that destination can be found in this book. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/27/2014: Truth In A Culture of Doubt

What’s coming up on this week’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bart Ehrman is becoming a much more common name around the world and this includes even in Christian households. Unfortunately, there are still several in the church who don’t know about who he is and the reality is that if they do not know now, they will surely be knowing in the future, most likely when their children come home from college and announce that they’re no longer Christians because they don’t believe in the Bible.

To those who haven’t read the other side, Ehrman’s case can seem to be a strong presentation, but is it really? The authors of “Truth In A Culture Of Doubt” say it isn’t, and one of them will be my guest to talk about it. He’s been on here before and it’s a pleasure to welcome back to the Deeper Waters Podcast, Dr. Darrell Bock.


“Darrell L. Bock is Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He also serves as Executive Director of Cultural Engagement for the Seminary’s Center for Christian Leadership. His special fields of study involve hermeneutics, the use of the Old Testament in the New, Luke-Acts, the historical Jesus, gospel studies and the integration of theology and culture. He has served on the board of Chosen People Ministries for over a decade and also serves on the board at Wheaton College. He is a graduate of the University of Texas (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and the University of Aberdeen (Ph.D.). He has had four annual stints of post–doctoral study at the University of Tübingen, the second through fourth as an Alexander von Humboldt scholar (1989-90, 1995-96, 2004-05, 2010-2011). He also serves as elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Richardson, Texas, is editor at large for Christianity Today, served as President of the Evangelical Theological Society for the year 2000-2001, and has authored over thirty books, including a New York Times Best Seller in non-fiction and the most recent release, Truth Matters, a response to many issues skeptics raise about Christianity in the public square. He is married to Sally and has two daughters (both married), a son, two grandsons and a granddaughter.”

We’ll be discussing many of the works of Ehrman and the problems in them. This will include works such as “God’s Problem”, “Misquoting Jesus”, “How Jesus Became God”, “Lost Christianities”, “Jesus Interrupted”, and “Forged.” We’ll be talking about how Ehrman is quite a skilled communicator but he unfortunately only gives one side of the argument on a regular basis and does not interact with the best opposition against his viewpoint.

If you have a child you plan to send to college one day, you owe it to yourself to listen to this program to learn about the work of Ehrman and how best you can answer it. Ehrman will only give one side of the argument. Make sure you know the other side of the argument just as well. Please be looking for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast to show up in your ITunes feed.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

On Interacting With Street Epistemologists

What’s been my experience so far interacting with Street Epistemologists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was asked by an apologetics group I belong to to describe what has been my experience thus far dealing with street epistemologists. You see, I was thrilled when I heard Peter Boghossian, author of “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I have reviewed here and interviewed Tom Gilson on here) had decided to come out with a show called the Reason Whisperer where he plans to have live conversations with people of “faith” and get them closer at least to deconversion.

I think this is a Godsend really.

I’ve long been waiting to see if there is something that will wake up the church from its intellectual slumbers and this I hope is it! We’ve had more than enough warnings and yet too many Christians are too caught up in themselves to realize they’re to do the Great Commission.

So I wanted to see what these street epistemologists were made of. Myself and some others with the same interest went to the Facebook page of Peter Boghossian. There we began asking questions and challenging what was said. It’s noteworthy that Boghossian himself never responded to us.

In fact, one post at least was a practical dare on Boghossian’s part when he linked to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and said the apologists won’t post on this one. He sure was wrong! More of us posted than ever before!

I’d like to report on how that has kept going and that Boghossian is being answered every day, but alas, I cannot.

Why? Because he banned us all.

Keep in mind, this is the same one who sees a great virtue in “doxastic openness.”

What I did find from the interactions I had is that street epistemologists are woefully unequipped. They read only that which agrees with them. They will buy into any idea if it goes against Christianity. The Earth was believed to be flat? Sure! I’ll believe that! Jesus never existed? Sure! I’ll believe that! Not having the originals of an ancient document is a problem? Sure! I’ll believe that! I still think about the person who recommended I read “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, a book so bad that even the publisher apologized for it.

For street epistemologists also, science is the highest way of knowing anything. Now this is something understandable. If matter is all there is, then the best way to understand the world is to use a process that studies matter specifically. The problem is science can never determine that matter is all that there is any more than it could have determined that all swans were white. Science is an inductive process and while one can be certain of many of the claims, one cannot say they have 100% certainty.

Edward Feser has compared the use of science to a metal detector at the beach. Let’s suppose I was looking for a treasure map I’d heard had been buried at the beach. I go all over the local beach with a metal detector and say “Well I guess the map isn’t here. The detector never pointed it out.” Sure. I found several other objects that had some metal in them, but I never found the treasure map.

You would rightly think this is bizarre. After all, a map is made of paper and while a metal detector does a great job of picking up objects that are metal, it simply will not work with paper. This is not because a metal detector is a terrible product. It is because it is not the right tool for the job.

So it is that in order to determine if matter is all that there is or if there is a God, science is not the tool for the job. Now some might think science can give us some data that we can use, but it cannot be the final arbiter.

Yet for street epistemologists, it seems enough to just say “Science!” and that rules out everything else that’s religious. This would be news to many scientists who are devout Christians and see no disconnect between science and their worldview.

Yet here, the street epistemologists once again have an out. It is why I in fact call them atheistic presuppositionalists. They will simply say that these people are experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance. They are compartmentalizing themselves and not seeing that their worldviews contradict.

This would be news to someone like Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, or John Polkinghorne.

As I said, these only read what agrees with them. They will read Bart Ehrman on the Bible, but they will not read Metzger or Wallace in response. They will read Boghossian and follow him entirely, but they will not bother to read his critics. They will read about how people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat, but they will not read James Hannam’s book on the matter, see Thomas Madden’s scholarship there, or even read the atheist Tim O’Neill who disagrees with them.

Street epistemologists will also go with extreme positions. They will tout on and on about how Jesus never existed and only say “Richard Carrier” or “Robert Price” in response. They will not acknowledge that the majority of scholarship, even scholarship that ideologically disagrees with Christianity, says it’s certain that Jesus existed. They do not realize that biblical scholarship is an open field where anyone of any worldview can join and writings go through peer-review.

Interestingly, these same people will go after Christians for not believing in evolution because, wait for it, there’s a consensus that this happened! The consensus of scientists is to be trusted. The consensus of scholars in the NT and ancient history is not to be trusted!

Also, if you do not hold to their view, well you are obviously emotional in nature in some way since you only believe because you want to believe and because of how you feel. It never occurs to some people that there could be intellectual reasons. In fact, it follows the pattern that if they don’t think the reasoning is intelligent, then it is just emotional.

It’s in fact a direct contrast to what is often said in many religious circles. “Well you’re just living in sin and are blinded to the truth.” Now I don’t doubt for some atheists, they don’t want to give up an immoral lifestyle. Also, I don’t doubt that for too many Christians, their only basis for being a Christian is how they feel and an emotional experience. Both of these groups have reached their conclusions for the wrong reasons.

Yet psychoanalyzing is seen as an argument to street epistemologists. If they can say you just believe for emotional reasons, then they can dismiss what you say. Note that it is dismissal. It is not a response.

I consider this a form I see of what I call atheistic hubris. Note please as well that this does not mean all atheists are this way. It just means that there’s a sizable portion of what I call “internet atheists” that are this way. The idea is that if someone is an atheist, then they are rational and intelligent. Therefore, all their thinking is rational and intelligent and all their conclusions are rational and intelligent.

The reality is we must all be constantly watching ourselves and one of the best ways to do this is to read our critics. Our critics will show us our blind spots and if we are wrong, we are to change our minds accordingly with the evidence.

An excellent example of something Boghossian and others constantly get wrong is faith. Boghossian says it is believing without evidence or pretending to know something that you do not know. Now in a modern vocabulary, I don’t doubt this. Too many Christians use faith this way and treat this kind of faith as if it is a virtue. It isn’t.

The question is, when the Bible uses the word faith, does it mean this? The answer is no.

In all of the writings I’ve read by the new atheists speaking this way about faith, not one of them has ever consulted a Greek or NT Lexicon in order to make their case. They have just said that this is what the word means. Oh they’ll sometimes quote Hebrews 11:1, but a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. I have also given my own exegesis of what the passage means here.

Also, I do have another great source on what faith is.


“These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.”

As it stands, the most I get told to this is that it is an appeal to authority, which indicates that street epistemologists don’t even understand the appeal to authority. Strange for people who claim to champion logic.

Sadly, they’re just following in the footsteps of Boghossian himself. Boghossian’s techniques will not work for any Christian who is moderately prepared to defend his worldview. It’s a shame that he who teaches so much about doxastic openness is so often incapable of doing what he teaches.

I conclude that if this is what we can expect from street epistemologists, then we really have nothing to be concerned about with them. Street epistemologists are just as unthinkingly repeating what their pastor, in this case Boghossian, says to them, as the fundamentalist Christians that they condemn. They are really two sides of the same coin.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Misquoting Jesus

What do I think of Ehrman’s work? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Misquoting Jesus is an accomplishment and a shame to the Christian church both. It is not a problem in that nothing here can be answered. Indeed, it can be and has been. It is not an accomplishment in that new ground has been broken in textual criticism. There is nothing new in here about textual criticism.

It is an accomplishment in that it is the first book on textual criticism to stay for so long on bestseller lists, in fact, as far as I know, to even make it on the bestseller lists. It is a shame in that the church should have been writing such works that would have been liked by the popular audience and bought by them.

Of course, Ehrman knows that controversy sells very well. One could easily imagine a book hitting the bestseller list with the title of “The sex life of Jesus” or something of that sorts. Books that attempt to bring something “new” to the discussion of Jesus, like the Da Vinci Code or today, Zealot, are all the rage in the public sphere.

Unfortunately, these new works have something in common amongst all of them. There is nothing new in them. They are simply old ideas that are being repackaged for new people who have never heard of them. Those who read Zealot will not normally read someone like Craig Evans in response. Those who read Dan Brown will not likely read Ben Witherington in response. Those who read Misquoting Jesus will not likely read Daniel Wallace in response.

To that, it must be said the Christian church should be doing better. It is a shame we have Rachel Held Evans, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen being household names in the Christian community, but we don’t have people like Dan Wallace, Ben Witherington, and Craig Evans being household names. This is because of a lack of reading and real study on the part of the Christian church where we are just interested in making “good” people.

So to get to Ehrman’s book on textual criticism, we have the natural start at the beginning of most Ehrman books where he shares his personal testimony of his deconversion and how it started with a Damascus Road experience in his studies where he was told that maybe Mark made a mistake.

As Evans has pointed out in Fabricating Jesus, Ehrman’s response seems out of proportion to what happened, unless one considers that perhaps Ehrman had put too many of his eggs in the Inerrancy basket. (And some of you wonder why I make it a case to tell people not to marry Inerrancy to their Christianity.) Unfortunately, his understanding of Inerrancy was also a modern western style that would have been foreign to the biblical authors. It would be amusing to see if we could somehow get the reactions to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John today to what we say are contradictions amongst their gospels.

In Ehrman’s story, he had written a paper defending the claim of Jesus about who the high priest was in the time of David in Mark 2. His professor wrote on his paper “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” That it had a lasting impact on Ehrman is easily shown in that it is mentioned in so many works of his. Yet this initial charge is invalid. See Daniel Wallace being interviewed by Lee Strobel in “The Case for the Real Jesus.” More on that here.

Still, to be fair, Ehrman does present much information in this book that is highly valuable. For instance, on page 18, Ehrman points out that books played virtually no role in polytheistic religions. The Christians were different. They were people of books, as were the Jews who preceded them.

On page 29, Ehrman gives a contrast on how central books were to the lives of the Christians. While Ehrman doesn’t say it, the reason is the NT books were to be those that had apostolicity, antiquity, and authority. Of course, with antiquity, in this case, one means within the lifetime of the apostles.

Ehrman also points out on page 59 that a writer could dictate word for word to a scribe or simply give the main ideas to a scribe or some combination thereof. Both would have been used in antiquity. Unfortunately, this is the kind of idea that also works against Ehrman’s claim in Forged (See here also) that some Pauline epistles were not by Paul since he could just as easily have used a secretary, just as he did in Romans, a letter that is not disputed to be Pauline at all. In fact, a footnote indicates he knows of a leading work on this, that of E. Randolph Richards, one that is not heavily interacted with in Forged.

Ehrman’s thesis is that sometimes when scribes copied texts, mistakes were made. No one would dispute this. The most conservative NT textual critic would recognize and affirm this. The question is, were those mistakes really monumental ones that threaten doctrine? The answer is no. Let’s give some basic examples.

For instance in Mark 1 where we are told that Jesus was either moved with compassion or moved with anger in response to a leper. If anger, does this change our view of Jesus? Not really. Jesus had already had anger in Mark 3 and if Jesus is the embodiment of the OT God, the Jews would have no problem with that since they had in their history experience the anger of God.

But why would Jesus be angry at a leper wanting to be healed?

Probably because the leper chose an inopportune time. Jesus was speaking and healing was a private affair that could have been done later and not drawn attention to Jesus. Instead, the leper came forward while Jesus is speaking before an audience. Result? Jesus heals the man, but now his doing a healing causes people to come after him for that reason rather than for the message itself.

Another example given is Matthew 24:36 where there is a listing of who knows the time of the coming of Christ and we are told that no man knows, not the angels, nor the Son, but only the Father. Some manuscripts we are told omit “nor the Son.”

It is a puzzle why this should be problematic. If it is only the Father who knows and the Son is not the Father, then it follows that the Son did not know. Not only that, if this was wanting to be omitted because it’s embarrassing, why not omit it also in Mark?

Of course, we can bring in discussion on such topics as the long ending of Mark and the story of the woman caught in adultery. That these passages catch some people off guard is a testimony to the fact that we are failing in educating our church. This gets even more problematic with 1 John 5:7 where someone will be prone to use this to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses only to be caught into the world of textual criticism that they never even knew existed.

Ehrman’s case is nothing new. The problem with his case is as in many cases, he has really only given one side of the argument, and that is the side that is meant to frighten his audience. That a book like Ehrman’s will spark concern among readers is problematic. That we did not educate our church enough to avoid it sparking concern, is an indictment on us. We must do better.

In Christ,
Nick Peters