Don’t you hate it when someone announces that “all the scholars know” that Christianity isn’t true; they’re just scared to tell us?
I hate it, and it’s baloney.
A guy named Bart Ehrman has written a book called Jesus, Interrupted, claiming just that sort of thing. He tells us things like:
- Only 8 of the 27 books of the NT were written by the authors to whom they’re attributed
- Each Gospel portrays Jesus differently
- Paul and Matthew are at odds on keeping the Law
- The Nicene Creed and Trinity are not found in the Bible
- Doctrines like the suffering Messiah, the divinity of Christ, and heaven and hell are not based on teachings of Jesus
HarperCollins, the publisher, writes in their review:
As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, [these points above] have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars …
Books like Ehrman’s are always directed against myths of modern Christianity. With this I concur. I speak out against myths of modern Christianity as well.
However, I replace those myths with truth, not unbelief!
For example, Paul and Matthew are at odds on keeping the Law; that is, if Paul’s letters teach what most Protestants say they teach. Big if.
Paul’s letters don’t teach what we Protestants say they teach.
A good scholar, when he notices that Paul’s letters and Matthew’s Gospels don’t match on the subject of Christians keeping the Law, will ask why. He will not simply point out that problem to the masses in an attempt to shipwreck their faith.
It’s not like it’s some mystery. It’s obvious to anyone who reads the writings of the early Church that we have completely lost their view of the Law. The Baptists don’t have it, the 7th Day Adventists don’t know about it, and the Pentecostals are completely unaware of it.
It’s gone, lost, buried and unheard of.
Unless, of course, you read the fathers, like scholars who write about the early Church are supposed to. That way, they know what they’re talking about.
You can find the early Church view of the Law, which powerfully reconciles Matthew and Paul in a way that is encouraging, uplifting, and even exciting, in Against Heresies, book IV, chapter 12 and forward. (I have also written a web page on it at http://www.christian-history.org/law-of-moses.html)
There’s no reason you should know that, but it’s inexcusable that an early Church scholar doesn’t know that.
A Quick Look at the Other Issues
1. Only 8 of the 27 books of the NT were written by the authors to whom they’re attributed
More accurately, we’re only confident about 8 of the 27 books. Those books were written 2,000 years ago. For most of those, all we have is some quote, decades later, that attributes the book to that person. It’s not terribly reliable information.
We already knew that. Before, however, you say that 19 books of the New Testament were written by plagiarists and frauds, you ought to have proof yourself!
That proof is difficult to find. Mostly the unbelievers and scoffers rely on textual criticism, a very unreliable source when you have so few pages of an author’s work, and when we know that various scribes would often have been used.
My response to the scoffers? The Scriptures transform lives and are involved in miraculous, powerful events every day. They have been for 2,000 years. They’re unstoppable and filled with power. That comes from God, and God doesn’t use frauds.
2. Each Gospel Portrays Christ Differently.
The review actually says “remarkably divergent portrayals.”
We’ve read them ourselves, Mr. Ehrman. Thanks, anyway.
This is crazy. The same scoffing, unbelieving scholars argue that Matthew, Mark, and Luke copied their information from one another. This rather limits how divergent they can be!
As for John, we already know how divergent John is. He wrote his Gospel at least four decades after the events. Irenaeus tells us it was six decades later. John was dealing with gnostics, and his Gospel was written partly to refute the gnostics.
It’s no wonder his Gospel presents a “remarkably divergent” view of Christ. It’s not a contradictory one, however. We Christians have read it ourselves, remember?
3. The Nicene Creed and Trinity are not found in the Bible.
This is like Paul and Matthew’s view of the Law. Our modern interpretation conflicts with the Bible on some minor points, but the Nicene Creed and Trinity doctrines themselves are found in the Bible. Much of the Nicene Creed is quoted word for word from the Bible.
Someone who knows history ought to know that the Nicene Creed’s basis is Matthew 28:19: ” … in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Paul, too, gives a similar formula to the Nicene Creed in 1 Cor. 8:6: “We believe in one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things.”
If you ever have time, I give a thorough explanation of the history of the Council of Nicea and an early Church explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity at http://www.christian-history.org/nicea.html.
4. Traditional doctrines such as the suffering Messiah, the divinity of Christ, and the notion of heaven and hell are not based on the teachings of the historical Jesus.
More inch-deep scholarship. The idea of heaven and hell are only hinted at in the Old Testament. That’s why the Sadducees–Jews who didn’t believe in an afterlife–could exist.
However, the Book of Enoch is full of the idea of heaven and hell, and Jesus most certainly agrees with Enoch. He even pulls directly from Enoch on the subject of the afterlife in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:20ff).
If scoffing, unbelieving scholars were talking about Enoch, they’d tell you that Enoch greatly influenced Jesus. They’d be hoping to attack your faith. However, it’s inconvenient to mention Enoch when you’re trying to say that Jesus didn’t believe in heaven or hell.
I guess Ehrman also missed the story of the judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25.
There are good, solid reasons for believing in Christ. The most notable reason is that if you do, he’ll unite you to God and change your life.
However, it is true that a lot of what we believe today is contradictory and false. It’s been 2,000 years, many unconverted people have been Christians and even clergy, and Christians have battled and fought with each other much of that time. We’ve damaged and wrecked “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
For those scoffing scholars, it’s like shark feed. Our errors draw them, and they circle the boat looking for those who fall overboard.
I’m for getting a better and truer grip on that faith so that we can have even more power with God.
I’m against throwing out the faith just because we’ve lost some of it and patched it up with myths.
Let’s not confuse these unbelieving scholars with honest academicians simply hunting for the truth. These are scoffers, enemies of God, on a crusade to wreck the faith. We need to rise up against them.
We’ll have a much easier time if we have at least a few of us who know something about the faith once for all delivered to the saints.