Bart Ehrman, Disrupted: Refuting False Bible Contradiction Claims
by Arthur Daniels Jr.
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Bart Ehrman is making the rounds selling his books and pushing his agnostic theology. From what I understand, he charges $5,000 to engage in debates, while others of similar popularity charge nothing (like Dr. James White).
Too many people are all too willing to blindly accept what Bart Ehrman says, no matter how erroneous or how unscholarly it may be.
For example, in his latest book, Jesus, Interrupted, he tries to argue that the Bible has many contradictions and historical discrepancies in it. Now despite the fact that people like John W. Haley (way back in 1874, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible) have written books before he was born refuting such contradiction and discrepancy claims, Bart wants to pretend that his contradiction claims stand when they do not. Even of late, people like Dr. Norman Geisler, who wrote When Critics Ask (1992), have soundly answered and refuted these silly claims. Yet Bart feigns otherwise and arrogantly claims his misreadings must be valid no matter how many more able scholars have concluded otherwise.
Another example of Bart's dishonesty comes on page 32 of Jesus, Interrupted. In dealing with the slaughter of the innocents recorded in Matthew 2:16, he says:
"In terms of the historical record, I should also point out that there is no account in any ancient source whatsoever about King Herod slaughtering children in or around Bethlehem, or anyplace else. No other author, biblical or otherwise, mentions the event. Is it, like John's account of Jesus' death, a detail made up by Matthew in order to make some kind of theological point?"
There are two glaring problems here. First, Bart's dishonesty is revealed by the fact that he failed to point out that what Matthew says is completely historically consistent with what history says of Herod. This madman killed his wife and his own sons. And more importantly, his sons were killed for being contenders to his throne. Why did Herod try to kill Jesus? Because he was also a contender, in his mind. And it does not need to be said that if you can murder your own flesh and blood, your own sons, you can easily murder the sons of others. Why didn't Bart inform his readers of THAT little detail? I can think of no rational alternative but a dishonest desire to deceive.
Second, to argue about who doesn't mention a thing is to fallaciously argue from silence. And you can make up anything in your own self-made vaccuum of silence. So it appears that it's Bart who's making things up against the historical record, not Matthew.
And finally, one of the most egregious examples of poor scholarship comes from Bart on page 147, where he tries to cast doubt on the accuracy of Gospel traditions handed down orally by using the ridiculous example of the "telephone game." Notice carefully that he puts no scholarly reference on that page regarding how Jewish education and oral tradition worked. There's plenty out there on the topic, but Bart somehow forgot to reference any at the very point where it should appear. Fascinating.
As someone who has studied just how Jewish oral tradition worked, I know for a fact that it is historically dishonest to even posit the idea that Jewish oral tradition was in any way similar to some "telephone game" where people pass around a barely understood phrase from the front of a room to the back, and when it gets back to the first person the message is totally different. Nonsense. Pure and utter nonsense. Jewish oral tradition did NOT work like that. How do we know? Because we have historical records on it, yet Bart references none of them. Why? Unlike Bart, I will give you credible sources to check on how Jewish oral tradition worked: Educational Ideals in the Ancient World by William Barclay and Memory and Manuscript:Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity by Birger Gerhardsson.
A simple and good example of how Jewish oral tradition worked, and how it preserved accurate oral traditions, is in the example of music memorization. We can remember practically verbatim songs that are over 20 years old. How? Because the songs were repeatedly played on the radio, or we listened to them repeatedly. Repetition, or learning by repetition (also known as Mishnah), is how the Jews did oral tradition. So with the use of repetition, we can indeed remember oral traditions and pass them along accurately, despite the false claims of people like Bart Ehrman who curiously do not engage the scholarly literature on the subject in their books.
That is why I recommend that people get their own scholarship and research for themselves. Because if you don't, when the likes of Bart Ehrman fall because he's been found to be a liar or deceiver, then you have no leg to stand on. When he falls, you must fall automatically. But if you have your own scholarship, you can stand even when people like Bart, or Norman Geisler, fall due to questionable or unscholarly claims. I pray we learn and apply this valuable lesson.
I will be doing a series refuting the claims of Bart Ehrman on YouTube as the "Christian Road Warrior," so stay tuned for that and get informed. Bart's claims are not as "scholarly" as they seem, as I will demonstrate in that series. God bless and keep the faith!
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