Dr. Bart Ehrman is probably one of the most influential Bible scholars for laymen atheists and agnostics in recent years. Radical evangelizing anti-theists on the Internet and non-Christian apologists prop up Ehrman as their authority for why we cannot trust the New Testament.
Like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Ehrman’s books have had great influence in turning Christians away from the faith. But unlike them, Ehrman’s influence comes from his expertise in Bible textual criticism. According to his website bio:
Bart D. Ehrman has written or edited thirty books, including five New York Times bestsellers: How Jesus Became God, Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Jesus Interrupted and Forged. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity.
So we need to take what he says seriously. But if you look closely you’ll find that Dr. Ehrman is a bit of an enigma, as Dr. William Lane Craig points out in the video below. Craig refers to his enigmatic behavior as “Good Bart-Bad Bart.” The “Good Bart” is the esteemed scholarly Bart who says things like the following in his scholarly circles:
“There are a couple of things that we can say for certain about Jesus after His death. We can say with relative certainty, for example, that He was buried. The earliest accounts we have are fairly unanimous in saying that Jesus was in fact buried by this fellow Joseph of Arimathea, and so it’s relatively reliable that that’s what happened. We also have solid traditions to indicate that women found this tomb empty three days later. This is attested in all of our gospel sources, early and late, and so it appears to be a historical datum. And so I think we can say that after Jesus death, with some certainty, that He was buried… and three days later appears not to have been in the tomb.” (Lecture on the Historical Jesus with the Teaching Company; quote taken from video here).
The “Bad Bart” is the popular writer who Dr. Craig says, “deliberately misleads lay people to believe that the narratives are so contradictory that they cannot be believed.” In Ehrman’s critique of the resurrection, Craig believes that while Dr. Ehrman says there’s no evidence for the resurrection, what he really means is that the resurrection itself is not the best explanation for the evidence. And the reason Ehrman says this is because he does not believe in miracles. But as we saw in “The resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part Four,” this is just an adaptation of Hume’s circular argument.
Bart Ehrman’s area of expertise is as a New Testament textual scholar but not as a trained historian or philosopher. Dr. Craig, who is formally trained as a historian and philosopher and theologian, takes a critical look at the claims Ehrman makes in his popular books, exposing his fallacious arguments and how he often violates the criteria he uses to refute the historical Jesus. In the video, Craig says this of Ehrman’s treatment of the criteria for the historical Jesus:
“In every single case, Dr. Ehrman misformulates the criterion and then he goes on to misapply it….And this is a consistent pattern with how Bart Ehrman deals with the historical Jesus.”
Dr. Craig exposes Ehrman’s misuse of the following criteria of authenticity:
- Independent Attestation
- Contextual Credibility
Dr. Craig says why this is significant…
“This is important because when I formulate my case for the resurrection of Jesus, I do so with these criteria deliberately in mind.”
Dr. Craig bases his argument for the resurrection on the following four facts:
- The honorable burial of Jesus in the tomb
- The discovery of His empty tomb
- The postmortem appearances of Jesus
- The origin of the disciple’s belief in His resurrection
With this in mind, Craig says the following about Ehrman:
“Everyone of these four facts is established by the very criteria that Bart Ehrman states and endorses.”
There’s a lot more on the video. It’s long and a bit academic in nature, but if you wish to understand the popular but enigmatic and contradictory Bart Ehrman from another scholar’s viewpoint, it definitely worth watching.
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