I just recently finished reading Bart Ehrman's latest book, Jesus, Interrupted - Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them), and I must say that although the information contained is so wide-ranging that I will need quite a while to ponder it, it is a fascinating read.
- A Historical Assault on Faith
- A World of Contradictions
- A Mass of Variant Views
- Who Wrote the Bible?
- Liar, Lunatic, or Lord? Finding the Historical Jesus
- How We Got the Bible
- Who Invented Christianity?
- Is Faith Possible
"I have been trying, instead, to make serious scholarship on the Bible and earliest Christianity accessible to people who may be interested in the New Testament but who, for one reason or another, have never heard what scholars have long known and thought about it." (pg. 271)
It's also clear from repeated allusions that Ehrman himself has come under considerable criticism for his views since the publication of Misquoting Jesus in 2005, primarily from conservative evangelicals (which he isn't ashamed to say he once was, having received degrees from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. He answers those critics multiple times in Jesus, Interrupted, as in this example:
"Some readers will find it surprising that I do not see the material in the preceding chapters as an attack on Christianity or an agnostic's attempt to show that faith, even Christian faith, is meaningless and absurd. That is not what I think, and it is not what I have been trying to accomplish" (p. 271)
I think Ehrman best sums up the reason that he has been vilified by conservatives in the following statement, again near the end of the book:
"Or perhaps pastors are afraid that if the person in the pew learns what scholars have said about the Bible, it will lead to a crisis of faith, or even the loss of faith. My personal view is that a historical-critical approach to the Bible does not neccesarily lead to agnosticism or atheism." (p. 272)
Ehrman's writing style is indeed accessible to the lay person, and it is clear that he has had enough experience with first year seminary students to learn how to "soften the blow" of full-on NT textual criticism well enough to keep his readers engaged until he has made his case. Still, I know that many of my readers will be frightened of the subject matter or at least very cautious when approaching this book. To those folks, I would recommend that you take the time to find the book at a bookstore or library and read the last chapter, as it will give you a good idea of what you are in for, should you decide to take the material on.
- Only eight of the books of the New Testament are thought to be written by their supposed authors
- Jesus probably never said he was divine, nor did the authors of Matthew, Mark, or Luke
- Jesus might not have meant that he was coming again, but that the Son of Man (a different person) was
- The concepts of Heaven, Hell, and eternal punishment or reward of people, and the Trinity are all inventions of early Christian leaders, and only evident in what we read today because they were added later by scribes and the like
- No historian knows if Jesus performed miracles, and the very purpose of miracles are at odds with each other in Matthew and John
- The gospels at times differed greatly on many points, from the theologically significant (including "the suffering servant" narrative and substitutional atonement) to the trivial (like when Jesus was born and when he was crucified).