If Ehrman Really Thinks that, He’s the Deceiver

Bible writers intended to deceive, Ehrman says screams the review headline in the News and Observer.

Scholars have long resisted using the term “forgery” to characterize Biblical writings made under false authorship, on the grounds that such concepts as forgery, plagiarism and intellectual property are modern legal constructs and don’t apply to the ancients. But UNC-Chapel Hill religion professor Bart Ehrman – a nemesis of conservative Evangelical Christianity who repudiated his faith in his 20s – makes the forgery accusation without reservation in a new book of that name.

Here’s the problem, and here’s where Ehrman turns from academic researcher to publicity seeking deceiver: he cannot POSSIBLY know what intention was operative in the minds of the writers of those texts which eventually became the New Testament. To pretend that he does only demonstrates that he is more interested in saying absurd headline grabbing things than that he interested in and engaged in actual academic pursuits.

In his quest for notoriety I fear Bart really has lost his grip on reality. Either he’s deceiving intentionally simply in order to make money; or he’s insane and actually believes that he knows what ancient writers thought about why they wrote what they wrote.

By the by, he’s not a nemesis to evangelical Christianity, he’s just a bore who repeats the same tired nonsense over and over again.  If you’ve read anything he’s written in the last ten years you’ve read everything he’s written in the last ten years.  His hatred of his own fundamentalist background reeks of self loathing.  It’s oozing out his very pores.

(HT Tom Verenna on FB)

23 thoughts on “If Ehrman Really Thinks that, He’s the Deceiver

  1. Brian LePort 7 Feb 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Well said, Jim.

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  2. Matthew Crowe 7 Feb 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Truly, truly. I’ve often wondered if “you-know-who” downstairs has given him some help with his popularity.

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    • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 12:13 pm

      his popularity it easy to explain- for the same reason that lindsay lohan’s or britney spears. people love to see the bizarre. fortunately, they get bored with it- which is why ehrman is having to say more and more outlandish things. pretty soon, he’ll be one of those silly people who think jesus never existed.

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  3. Chuck Grantham 7 Feb 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I can’t comment on Ehrman’s emotions or motives (okay, maybe I could suspect profit motive and a need to meet “publish or perish”), but it’s true that he over reaches in assigning motives to scribes. Better scholars than I have called him on it in reviews.

    It’s also true Ehrman tends to repeat himself. Get “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” and you’ve got most of his textual arguments in scholarly form, rather than simplified for the common reader.

    Again, it’s also true that much of what Ehrman writes as “new” and “controversial” is in fact long known. So long known the Church Fathers discuss the same problems (and they’re usually cut off about 1200 AD!). These same topics (forgery/pseudepigraphy, textual variants) are within reach of most anyone who cares to read a decent New Testament Introduction, or even some Study Bibles, and answers to skeptics are almost traditional by now. The big “controversy” is only possible because so many people are so ignorant of the Bible these days.

    Finally, it must be admitted that Ehrman writes very well, and has done some fine translations. His primer section on textual criticism in “Misquoting Jesus” is generally acknowledged to be one of the best introductions to the field.

    I’ll have to look at this latest Ehrman work, just to see if it gathers a lot of info within one cover, something I admire in books. I won’t be inhaling as I read, however.

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  4. Joe 7 Feb 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Whereas I enjoy reading his books the fact that he speaks at all those BAR arch fests bothers many of us who boycott Shanks and raises the question, why does he do it? Is it the money, doubt it as Shanks pays ‘chump change’ for those working, writing and speaking for BAR. Must be the media attention.

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    • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 12:47 pm

      i agree. its completely for the spotlight.

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  5. […] ht JW […]

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  6. […] This makes more sense than a time machine! Jim West nails it with this response (see full post here): “Here’s the problem, and here’s where Ehrman turns from academic researcher to publicity […]

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  7. […] Jim is correct – Here’s the problem, and here’s where Ehrman turns from academic researcher to publicity seeking deceiver: he cannot POSSIBLY know what intention was operative in the minds of the writers of those texts which eventually became the New Testament. To pretend that he does only demonstrates that he is more interested in saying absurd headline grabbing things than that he interested in and engaged in actual academic pursuits. […]

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  8. […] to Brian LePort and Jim West for bringing this article to my attention. I really laughed at Brian LePort’s title: […]

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  9. Deane Galbraith 7 Feb 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Nonsense and flibber-flabber.

    Of course we know the intention of the author in literature. We know it from the literature itself. And, as is the case for all empirical inquiry, we know it with less than complete certainty. For example, I know that the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews intended to impersonate Paul. I know this just as surely as I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. As David Hume wrote in his fine book a couple of centuries ago, we don’t know that the sun will rise tomorrow for certain, because even though we have a reasonable basis for concluding it, we cannot prove it (for certain) as in a logical argument. The sun may very well supernova overnight – scientifically improbable, but logically possible. But I do know that the writer of Hebrews was intending to impersonate Paul on the basis of observations within the letter combined with applied logic – observations and arguments summarized by Clare K. Rothschild in her recent book.

    I also know that Bart Ehrman is not inspired by Satan (again, without complete certainty), based on my knowledge that the concept of Satan evolved in the human imagination over some centuries and is pure fiction.

    But one thing I do know for certain: insinuations that scholars are inspired or prompted by Satan are non-scholarly. I know this for certain, because this is an arbitrary categorization used by scholars: pure logic.

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    • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 3:58 pm

      you dont know the authors intention of a document 2000 years old any more than ehrman does. you can say ‘i think he… etc’ but to baldly claim that the authors of the nt texts intended to deceive is itself deception because its based on the false premise that ehrman can crawl into their minds. its patently absurd.

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      • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 3:59 pm

        furthermore youve fallen into the ehrman trap of assuming that modern categories fit ancient times. ‘impersonate’???? a false category for any pseudepigrapha.

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  10. Deane Galbraith 7 Feb 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I indeed know the intent of ancient authors – not from “crawling inside minds”, but from examining texts. I know that Deuteronomy is a “forgery” in certain senses but not in others.

    I can also distinguish modern forgeries from ancient forgeries, pious forgeries from malicious forgeries, contemporary forgeries from anachronistic forgeries, the particular nature of that which is categorized as forgery from the particular nature of something else categorized as forgery. Do not imagine that I would fall into such a basic “trap”. Moreover, I do not generalize as you just did about ancient Jewish pseudepigrapha – which ranges from Deuteronomy, to Numbers, to 1 Enoch to 2 Thessalonians – all of which had different evident motives. “Forgery” is of course, like all categories, heuristically useful only to the extent the particular examples are examined closely.

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    • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 4:25 pm

      you continue to mix categories with aplomb. to speak of ‘forgeries’ and the like in an ancient context is anachronism supreme. and ehrman is claiming nothing other than crawling into ancient minds when he says the authors intended to deceive.

      but lets have some fun. prove it.

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  11. Deane Galbraith 7 Feb 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Are you suggesting nobody wrote with the intention to deceive in antiquity? Are there no “forgeries” in antiquity? Unless you are defining “forgery” very narrowly or idiosyncratically, I do not see how you can possibly claim, “to speak of ‘forgeries’ and the like in an ancient context is anachronism supreme”.

    ‘Crawling into ancient minds’ is not required, and is a misleading description of what any modern scholar does, which only serves to obscure the process of inquiry. We have the product of these minds to examine: texts – which, without any inference to meanings within ancient minds, are merely meaningless patterns on parchment or tablet. Every ancient signifier (in the reality of extant texts) implies a signified which “existed” only in ancient minds.

    That the author of Hebrews forged a letter that was intended to look like it was written by Paul has already been demonstrated (not “proved”, the language of pure logic). Clare K. Rothschild demonstrated such an intent when she provided her interpretation of the text of Hebrews. Our discussion about knowing intent does not turn on the persuasiveness or otherwise of her substantive arguments. Instead, it involves on another proposition: All exegesis necessarily involves knowing the mind of the ancient author. And this knowledge is always provisional.

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    • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 5:28 pm

      what im saying is that an ancient person wouldnt even know what you or ehrman were talking about using the word ‘forgery’. they didn’t ‘forge’, it was mimesis. it was mimicry not even remotely intended to deceive anyone or fool anyone. it was an honor to be imitated. imitation, yes, they certainly did that. forged, no. deceived? sure, but none of the nt texts fall under that umbrella because deception implies intentional evil.

      ancients may have deceived, just like moderns do. but not all writers did just like not all writers do now.

      to take your suggestion and ehrman’s to their logical conclusion, every christian is a deceiver. i know thats what he thinks. i know its what avalos thinks. i hope you dont. because such an assertion is a gross falsehood unworthy of any right thinking person.

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  12. Deane Galbraith 7 Feb 2011 at 6:07 pm

    “An ancient person”!? Have you joined the Context Group, Jim?

    I am as opposed to the overgeneralizing (Dwarkinesque) slippage from error to “delusion”, as I am to the overgeneralizing denial of ancient forgery.

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    • Jim 7 Feb 2011 at 6:36 pm

      you dont think there were people in the ancient world?

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  13. Just For Fun | Pastoral Musings 8 Feb 2011 at 2:47 am

    […] I doubt it.  He’s too busy with Ehrman, and Joel’s too busy begging for […]

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  14. steph 8 Feb 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Reception history… ‘forgery’ provokes a particular understanding in a contemporary public audience. i think the old dear is going dotty in his old age – he’s been swimming in beds of fundamentalism all his life and it’s finally making him sink. or stink. For example the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke were not intended to deceive but intended to tell story – and Luke clearly knew Matthew’s wasn’t true when he wrote a new one. Any deception is far from their minds. Any intent of scholarship to imply an idiosyncratic form of ‘forgery’ will be missed by today’s audience and embraced by the dumb anti religious atheists. And ehrman knows this. These ‘forgeries’ were not intended to deceive but intended to invent. Pseudepigraphy in the ancient world was a normal habit which was not thought wrong at the time and does not cast doubt on the integrity of authors such as the authors of the Book of Jubilee.

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  15. […] If Ehrman Really Thinks that, He’s the Deceiver (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com) […]

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  16. […] West observed that Bart Ehrman is a boring deceiver. Similar disdain for Ehrman has even brought two rival […]

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