Tag Archives: Bart Ehrman

Why I Trust the Bible: Bible Translator Bill Mounce Answers Real Questions and Doubts

Were the Gospels written by anonymous people who had no direct contact with early eyewitnesses to Jesus of Nazareth?

.… Part of an on-going series on the “historical criticism” of the Bible….

How Do You Answer Critics, Who Try to Use “Historical Criticism,” to Attack the Message of the Bible? 

Dr. Bill Mounce, who has served on the translation committee for the New International Version of the Bible, and as the New Testament Chairperson for the English Standard Version of the Bible, has heard of claims like these before. Critical scholars, most notably represented by those like University of North Carolina professor, Bart Ehrman, argue that the writers of the four Gospels were written by sophisticated Greek-speakers, who lived in a very different world from Jesus’ original followers, made up of mostly illiterate persons, like Peter the fisherman, who primarily spoke Aramaic, and only very little Greek. We have no real idea who exactly wrote the Gospels, though they were probably composed as completed works as late as the 2nd century, and therefore, the historical information presented in them can not be entirely trusted as being accurate about Jesus.

As with any scholarly claim like this, there are elements of truth here. Yes, the four Gospels we have probably did not originally have the names of their authors embedded in the text. Titles like, “the Gospel according to Mark,” were added to the text by the late 2nd century. Yes, Jesus’ original hearers primarily spoke and understood Aramaic, while all four Gospels are written in elegant Greek.

But as Dr. Mounce writes in his Why I Trust the Bible: Answers to Real Questions and Doubts People Have about the Bible, the idea that it was really Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who wrote their respective Gospels, was the unanimous consensus by the mid-2nd century. If the Gospels were truly anonymous, we would have heard of other possible author names being put forward as alternatives. But we do not see any contested argument regarding the names of authors in the historical record. In the ancient world, where we had no mass communication systems, made available by today’s technologies like the Internet, the traditional names of the Gospel writers consistently flourished throughout the geographically vast area of the Roman empire.

Contrast this with the disputes over who wrote the Book of Hebrews, the only New Testament book that lacks a particular claim to a particular author. Tertullian argued that Barnabas wrote Hebrews. Other early church fathers suggest Clement of Rome, or Luke. Eusebius believed it was Paul. Some even say Priscilla wrote it. Origen concluded, “In truth only God knows.”

In the case of Mark’s Gospel, we do have good evidence that Mark was indeed the author. Though the writings have not directly survived, Eusebius tells us of the church father and writer Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, until about 130 CE, who was a disciple of John. Papias in these lost writings had written that Mark had become Peter’s interpreter. Furthermore, Clement of Alexandria attests to Peter being in Rome, preaching in perhaps the 60s, of the first century. This would indicate that Mark probably wrote his Gospel, based on the eyewitness testimony of Peter, as derived from sermons that Peter gave in Rome, prior to Peter’s martyrdom.

When Doubts Arise: Having a Reliable Guide to Answer Informed Critics

Bill Mounce givens seasoned, evidence-grounded answers, like the one above, to the type of doubts and questions raised by critics of the Bible today, in Why I Trust the Bible. Dr. Mounce makes judicious use of the insights gained by the “historical criticism” of the Bible, that enhance our understanding of the Scriptural text, rather than undermining it. Mounce’s audience is directed at ordinary Christian believers, who find themselves overwhelmed by the popular claims of skeptics, who are looking for reasoned explanations, that are readily accessible, and that do not descend into the overly technical. For those looking for more academic treatments of these topics, Mounce footnotes his references for those who want to dive deeper into these type of discussions.

I was particularly impressed with Dr. Mounce’s chapters on textual criticism, answering both the criticisms against New Testament itself popularly expressed by the famous atheist/agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman, as well as the King James Only-movement on the other side of the debate. Those few chapters alone are worth the price of the book, written at a level that most people should be able to understand, that covers all of the important questions that are typically raised on this topic.

I can quibble with Dr. Mounce on a few points here and there throughout the book. For example, Dr. Mounce’s claim that the “had formed” for the animals’ creation in Genesis 2:19, as found in the ESV and NIV translations, does not carry a sense of temporal sequence, has been criticized by other scholars as a form of cheating when it comes to certain Bible translations (see page 257). But such complaints are minor, as set within the context of the whole of Dr. Mounce’s excellent work.

All in all, Why I Trust the Bible is probably one of the best resources available, that critique some of the more extreme conclusions made within the “historical criticism” movement, regarding the Bible. From questions about the canon of Scripture to the latest intellectual fad of “Jesus Mythicism,” Bill Mounce hits nearly every major topic that skeptics will bring up about the Bible. That being said, this may not be the right book to give to a knowledgeable non-believer, who devours every book that Bart Ehrman publishes. Dr. Mounce pretty much assumes that his audience are either Christians, or those who are genuinely seeking information about the Bible. There are lots of great books now about the existence of God, how science and faith relate to one another, and social justice issues concerning Christianity, but if I had to pick just one book that specifically looks at the trustworthiness of the Bible, Why I Trust the Bible: Answers to Real Questions and Doubts People Have about the Bible stands near the top of the list.

One Serious Gripe

If I had one serious complaint to make about Why I Trust the Bible it would be that the book is too short. Why I Trust the Bible could have explored certain issues at a greater length and depth, but the author chose not to. Dr. Mounce’s book clocks in at around 280 pages, whereas British Anglican liberal scholar John Barton’s A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths, ( reviewed earlier in this blog post series on Veracity ), and endorsed by Bart Ehrman, clocks in at a hefty and whopping 635 pages. Both books are written for a popular audience, and easily digestible. Both books address overlapping material. Both Dr. Mounce and Dr. Barton are world-class scholars. But in spite of the length of Barton’s A History of the Bible, that might easily scare off some readers, Barton’s book outsells Dr. Mounce’s shorter Why I Trust the Bible, and most likely, will continue to outsell it.

I wonder if the topic of “historical criticism” of the Bible is avoided by church-going believers, because they are afraid with what they might find there. Thankfully, Bill Mounce’s Why I Trust the Bible does not exploit such fears, as it actually does the exact opposite. But perhaps the popularity of John Barton’s A History of the Bible exploits the growing skeptical reading audience’s desire for more material to challenge historic, orthodox Christianity.

While conservative evangelical book publishing has continued to improve tremendously over the past few decades, substantial volumes geared towards the general public have languished when compared to similar texts produced by progressive Christian and non-believing scholars. Back when I was in seminary in the 1990s, I remember being mesmerized by books written by the progressive Bible scholar, Elaine Pagels, available at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, while being frustrated by the lack of alternative volumes written by otherwise equally competent conservative evangelical scholars, on similar topics, altogether absent from those Barnes and Noble bookshelves. Elaine Pagels was introducing me to a whole new world of “historical criticism,” but the evangelical churches I knew of in those days, addressed such topics with crickets!!

Is this the fault of evangelical book publishers, or the book reading market that tends to shy away from lengthy books of this type? I do not know that answer here. But what I do know is that we need more substantial books, along the lines of Mounce’s Why I Trust the Bible: Answers to Real Questions and Doubts People Have about the Bible, that help to counter a growing skepticism in an increasingly secularized world.

 

In closing out this book review, I am leaving a whole list of teasers that might inspire you to go out and buy the book. Thankfully, Dr. Mounce has released a set of short videos, most of them clocking in at well under 5-minutes, that give you a summary of each chapter, plus a few extra videos that dive a little deeper into more complex topics. Here is the link to the entire YouTube playlist, but right below is the first video in the list, and I have hyperlinked to the other videos in the playlist, just below that. This is great stuff for your own personal discipleship journey, and might even be useful in a small group setting. Enjoy!! 

 

Chapter 1: Did Jesus really exist? Who was the Jesus of history?

Chapter 2: Who wrote the Gospels?

Chapter 3: Are there really contradictions in the Bible?

Chapter 4: What about “discrepancies” in the Bible that really, really look like contradictions?

Chapter 5: Why do we have 27 books in the New Testament?

Chapter 6: When was the New Testament canon closed? What was the role of the church?

Chapter 7: Are the original Greek texts for the New Testament hopelessly corrupt?

Chapter 8: How were the ancient New Testament manuscripts copied down through the generations?

Chapter 9: How does Dr. Bill Mounce interact with the claims of Dr. Bart Ehrman?

Chapter 10: There are so many Bible translations! Which ones can you trust?

Chapter 11: What are different philosophies behind Bible translations?

Chapter 12: Can I trust the character of God given to us in the Old Testament?

Chapter 13: Can we trust the historicity of the Old Testament?

Conclusion: Why does Dr. Mounce trust the Bible, and why should I?

What is “Jesus Mythicism?”

Does the Bible adequately show that Jesus really existed?

How accurate are the Gospels, if they were written down at least 20-25 years after Jesus lived on earth?

How good were the memories of the Gospel writers?

A tough apparent contradiction: Staff, or no staff?

Staff, or no staff? A shorter summary.

How many times did Peter deny Jesus?

Does the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew contradict the genealogy in Luke?


Was Jesus Mistaken About Abiathar? : Why Thoughtful Study is Better Than Ad-Hoc Harmonizations

In his 2005 New York Times best seller, Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman told the story of how he discovered that there were mistakes in the Bible. Despite having attended stalwart evangelical institutions, like Moody Bible College and Wheaton College, in Illinois, Ehrman arrived at Princeton Theological Seminary, having serious questions about the Bible’s reliability.

….. in a series on the “historical criticism” of the Bible….

Did Jesus mess up when He referenced the Old Testament, or did He say what He did on purpose? (Credit: Christianity Today magazine.)

When Harmonization is Helpful … and When the Search for Ad-Hoc Harmonizations Can Lead Someone Away from Faith

Bart Ehrman decided to write a hefty paper about a famous Bible discrepancy in Mark  2, where critics have claimed that Jesus mistakenly named “Abiathar” as a high priest in days of King David, when he should have used the name “Ahimelich.” Ehrman used the tools of “historical criticism” he had learned, trying to harmonize the details to somehow make the Bible “fit.” After pages and pages of analysis, a professor suggested to him that perhaps Mark or Jesus simply got that particular detail wrong.

At that moment, years of effort to “defend the Bible” came crashing down around Dr. Erhman. He remained a Christian after that for a few years, albeit a rather liberal or progressive one. But he gave up his faith altogether soon thereafter, the process of deconstruction having run its course to a full-blown agnosticism, if not downright atheism.

This story helped to catapult book sales of Misquoting Jesus, and later titles, thus giving Dr. Erhman the privilege of selling millions of books, for over the past 17 years. Every year or so, I have run into someone I know, or someone close to them, who has looked to Dr. Ehrman’s books as part of their deconstruction movement out of Christianity. Anytime Dr. Ehrman shows up on YouTube, he gets thousands of views.

Now, I am not saying that Dr. Erhman has been in it for the money. He is not. Nor is he purposefully attempting to destroy the faith of other believers in telling his story. He is not doing that either. Some Christians take a cheap shot at Ehrman and make wild accusations like these. Not only are such accusations unfair, they fail to adequately address some valid questions about what the Bible is actually teaching, concerns raised by Dr. Ehrman.

Other Christians have taken a more measured approach, but still find themselves nervous when they hear such claims, suggesting that Jesus, or someone else in the Bible, was wrong. The natural tendency is then to gravitate towards some relatively quick, ad hoc explanation of the discrepancy. You then latch onto some “possible” way of interpreting a passage differently, breathe a sigh of relief, and then move onto the next difficulty.

Now, such harmonization is not without merit. One of my favorite YouTube apologists, Inspiring Philosophy, somewhat leans towards this very approach with that passage. However, caution is in order, as such harmonization efforts can easily come across as either self-serving or overly complex, thereby encouraging skeptical critics to remain hardened in their skepticism.

A Quick Sidebar: One or Two Temple Cleansings?

A quick example here can suffice: All four Gospels each record one instance of Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem. However, while Matthew, Mark and Luke place this event around the week prior to Jesus’ Crucifixion, John places the event at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Some Christians, with godly scholarly support, contend for a harmonization approach, whereby we are to conclude that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice during his public ministry, first at the beginning of His public ministry, and second towards the end of His public ministry (One gracious, friendly commentator on a previous blog post even gave me a theological reason why there must have been two cleansings…. though well intended, I was not convinced).

While there is nothing technically wrong with this harmonization, it can come across as sounding rather ad hoc, or forced, as it fails to answer the question as to why no one single Gospel records the two Temple cleansings. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that Jesus could have gotten away with the first Temple cleansing in John, without getting arrested, but the second Temple cleansing chimes in well with his arrest later in the Passion Week.

Rather, a much better solution is to say that John was not trying to give a chronological account of the one Temple cleansing. Instead, John put the (single) Temple cleansing first in his narrative, to theologically highlight the fact that Jesus came to take down the Old Covenant, as represented by the Temple, and install a New Covenant, centered around faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

In other words, Temple worship does not save us. But faith in Jesus does. And that is Good News!! There is no real concern about possibly “de-historicizing” or “demythologizing” the Bible, as Rudolf Bultmann tried to do. It just makes better sense to read the text this way. No ad hoc harmonization required.

The main problem with a rather ad hoc harmonization approach to the Scriptures is that it tends to reduce Bible study to working a puzzle, merely trying to find solutions to a problem to be solved, instead of seeing Bible discrepancies as a window into exploring a mystery that sets a truly Christian imagination on fire. While sometimes solving a puzzle in the Bible is a worthwhile endeavor, as is the case with syncing up Paul’s description of his missionary journeys, when compared to potential discrepancies we find in the Book of Acts, the rich 2,000 year history of Christian reading and study of the Scriptures suggests meditating on the intricacies of Bible discrepancies actually helps the reader enter into the theological depths of God’s Word, at a whole new level. When the juices begin to flow to help the believer to expand their imagination, to think God’s thoughts after Him, to see that there are mysteries unfolding in the text, then that is a wonderful sign that the Holy Spirit is at work.

Connecting the dots associated with what at first appears to be conflicting data points in the Bible have led to some of the most remarkable conversions in the history of the church. It is that type of fired up Christian imagination that helped to turn former skeptics, like the 5th century Augustine of Hippo, to the 20th century Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, to having faith in Jesus. Bishop Ambrose in Rome helped Augustine see the Bible in a whole new way. J.R.R. Tolkien did this for his Oxford scholar/friend C.S. Lewis.

A Case Study on Doing Bible Study Without Excessive Harmonization

British pastor/teacher Andrew Wilson takes the difficult Mark 2 passage regarding Jesus’ supposed “mistake” about Abiathar as an illustration to make this very point, and he makes the illustration a lot better than I can. I took part of Wilson’s essay from behind the paywall at Christianity Today magazine to post the best part here, so I hope Christianity Today will not mind (it may just inspire someone to subscribe to CT, which would be for their benefit).  Enjoy and be edified:

One of my favorite discrepancies is Jesus’ “mistake” in Mark 2. In this passage, the Pharisees criticize Jesus for letting his disciples pluck grain on the Sabbath. In response, Jesus explains that he and his friends are doing what David and his men did when they ate the holy bread in the time of Abiathar the high priest (Mark 2:25–26). The problem is, 1 Samuel 21 tells us that Ahimelech, not his son Abiathar, was the high priest at the time that David and his men ate the holy bread. Either Jesus made a mistake or Mark did. In either case, evangelicals get nervous.

Scholar Bart Ehrman said that when he discovered this discrepancy in seminary, it kick-started his departure from Christianity. Progressive UK pastor Steve Chalke made it his opening salvo in a debate with me about the truthfulness of the Bible. Countless Christians, on the other hand, upon seeing the problem, have rushed to their study Bibles or other resources where they discover, in relief, that the Greek phrase epi Abiathar could mean “in the passage about Abiathar” rather than “in the time of Abiathar.” “That must be it,” they exclaim. “Problem solved. On to Mark 3.”

Yet there is far more going on in Mark 2. Jesus’ argument is not that he has found an obscure guy in the Old Testament who once ate bread on a Saturday. His point is that David, Israel’s true king-in-waiting, and his consecrated friends were allowed the holy bread that day. Jesus is interpreting his actions through the story of Israel’s greatest king. He is saying, in that cryptic way he often does, “I am David. These guys are my men. So they can eat what they want.”

So Jesus is David, the true king of Israel, and the disciples are his allies. But they aren’t the only characters in the story. Herod is Saul, the current king who has drifted from God and now wants to kill the pretender to the throne. John the Baptist is Samuel, the fiery prophet who prepares the way for the new king and confronts the old one. Judas is Doeg the Edomite, the betrayer. And Abiathar? He is Eli’s great-great-grandson, the last surviving member of the old priestly line, whose eventual removal from the priesthood would prove true God’s word through Samuel (1 Kings 2:27).

All of this means that Jesus mentions Abiathar rather than Ahimelech for good reason. He is saying, “I am David, these are my men, and the current priests are Abiathar. They are in charge now, but in just a few years their priesthood will end, just like Abiathar’s. And my kingdom will be established, just like David’s.”

I think that’s wonderful. The Holy Spirit didn’t put discrepancies in Scripture to provide fuel for skeptics, employment for commentators, or annoyance for evangelical Christians. He did it to make us think, search, meditate, read, learn—and be ever filled with awe.

Andrew Wilson’s treatment of this difficult passage is a good example of a better way we should deal with certain Bible discrepancies.  In the next post in this series, just in time for end of Holy Week, we will examine one of the most puzzling passages in the Gospels. To give you a hint, we will be talking about “Zombies” in the Bible. Look for it on Good Friday!

In the meantime, please keep Michael Licona in your prayers for his big 7-hour debate with Bart Ehrman, to be recorded tomorrow, on the question, “Did the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happen?” It happens tomorrow, April 9th, starting at 9:30am, EDT!!


Does Paul’s Telling of History Contradict Luke’s Story in Acts?

In our next blog post in this series on “historical criticism,” we give another example of how historical critics can sometimes distort the Bible, based on certain methodological assumptions brought to the text. This fairly brief case study concerns how the unfolding of historical events as told in Paul’s letters differs from the story told by Luke in Acts. But it helps to put a finger in Acts and another finger in a letter of Paul’s to track with what is happening. What are we to make of these kind of “disconnects,” as some have put it, that we find in the Bible?

… another in a series of blog posts on “historical criticism” of the Bible

Paul in prison, by Rembrandt (credit: Wikipedia). Paul wrote some detailed letters, but do they contradict the story that we find in Luke-Acts?

The discrepancy is very minor, but it serves as a useful illustration. Here is a sample of a blog post written by Bart Ehrman, a professor at the University of North Carolina, a former Christian, and probably the most well known New Testament Bible scholar living today. Dr. Ehrman has developed quite a following, particular among those who are skeptical of the Bible as being the Word of God:

In virtually every instance in which the book of Acts can be compared with Paul’s letters in terms of biographical detail, differences emerge. Sometimes these differences involve minor disagreements concerning where Paul was at a certain time and with whom. As one example, the book of Acts states that when Paul went to Athens he left Timothy and Silas behind in Berea (Acts 17:10-15), and did not meet up with them again until after he left Athens and arrived in Corinth (Acts 18:5). In 1 Thessalonians Paul himself narrates the same sequence of events and indicates just as clearly that he was not in Athens alone, but that Timothy was with him (and possibly Silas as well). It was from Athens that he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica in order to see how the church was doing there (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3).

Although this discrepancy concerns a minor detail, it shows something about the historical reliability of Acts. The narrative coincides with what Paul himself indicates about some matters (he did establish the church in Thessalonica and then leave from there to Athens), but it stands at odds with him on some of the specifics.

Just from reading this, it is easy to get the sense that the Bible is contradicting itself. Dr. Ehrman correctly points out the differences in historical detail between 1 Thessalonians and Acts, but he does so with a little twist.  Did Paul really not meet up with Timothy until after Paul left Athens and arrived in Corinth? Is it possible that Timothy left Berea to travel to Athens to meet Paul, before going back to Thessalonica?  …. Mmmm…… Let us look a little closer….

Depending upon how you approach the text, your evaluation of the differences in the text will, of course, differ. If we take the two documents, 1 Thessalonians and Acts as separate articles of literature, and set the divine inspiration of Scripture aside, it is quite easy to conclude that there is a contradiction between Paul and Luke. This more skeptical view is implied by Dr. Ehrman.

On the other hand, if there is a fundamental unity that exists between these texts, a way of harmonizing the details emerges, without having to go into some rather contorted twists and turns. In fact, there really is a better way to make sense of what we read.

At the apologetics website Evidence Unseen, we can examine how 1 Thessalonians and Acts can be reconciled with one another. The discrepancy arises because Luke probably omitted mentioning Timothy’s travels to Athens, before reconnecting with Paul once again in Corinth. Here is a reconstruction of events, that resolves the supposed contradiction elaborated by Dr. Ehrman:

1. Paul goes to Athens (“Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens” Acts 17:15).

2. Silas and Timothy come to Athens. This is not mentioned in Acts. However, Luke does write that Paul told them “to come to him as soon as possible” (Acts 17:15). Paul writes, “We sent Timothy… to strengthen and encourage you” (not mentioned in Acts; 1 Thess. 3:2).

3. Timothy goes back to Thessalonica to check on them (“we sent Timothy… to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith” 1 Thess. 3:2).

4. Paul leaves Athens and travels to Corinth (Acts 18:1).

5. Silas and Timothy come to Corinth with money from Macedonia (Acts 18:5). They also come to Corinth with good news about the church of Thessalonica (“Timothy has come to us from you” 1 Thess. 3:6).

6. Paul writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians from Corinth. This might be what Luke means by writing, “Paul began devoting himself completely to the word” (Acts 18:5).

This example of a Bible “contradiction” is not too difficult to harmonize. True, there are instances where an attempted harmonization of certain discrepancies are not as easy, and one should be careful not to immediately gravitate towards an ad hoc solution that feels forced.

Bart Ehrman, yyy

Bart Ehrman (Agnostic/atheistic critic of the Bible)

Bart Ehrman has been often quoted as saying that given enough effort, you can pretty much reconcile just about any story to make everything fit, and rule out contradictions. But the opposite is also the case.  If you are bound and determined to find a contradiction in Scripture, then there are plenty of ways to find one, if you work at it. It does not always mean that finding a “contradiction” is the best way to understand the text, within its historical context.

Not all “historical criticism” is bad. It is important to reiterate that. Yet the method someone uses to try to sort out what is (a): a difference that can be reconciled or harmonized, versus (b), a difference that can only be regarded as a contradiction, is absolutely crucial when doing scholarship.

Unfortunately, there are many people, including many Christians, who tend to see only one side of the story, such as the popular description told by Dr. Ehrman, thus neglecting a perfectly reasonable approach that resolves the difficulty, without sounding forced, or otherwise implausible. As Proverbs 18:17 wisely states, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (ESV).

….. In this next blog post in this series, we will examine how some progressive Christians make the same type of methodological assumptions about the Bible, as non-believers like Bart Ehrman does, in an effort to try to “rescue” the Bible from critics and skeptics. Does this type of Christian apologetic really work? Wait for a week for the next blog post and judge for yourself.

 


The Easter Effect

Pakistani Christian worshipers during an Easter Mass in Lahore, 2015. PHOTO: LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES (as in the Wall Street Journal article)

Several Veracity readers came to me on Easter Sunday and asked me about a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Easter Effect and How it Changed the World” (behind a paywall), by a Catholic intellectual, George Weigel. Weigel’s argument is that the event of Christ’s resurrection, so inspired, so disturbed, and so invigorated the world of the Roman empire, that it eventually led to Christianity’s effectively taking over the Mediterranean basin within just a few centuries. Weigel published a briefer essay along the same lines in the journal First Things in 2016  (no paywall).

In the First Things essay, I disagree with Weigel’s judgment that the popularity of the New Atheism of the likes of Richard Dawkins has “just about expired.” I only see the trend continuing to erode the cultural landscape, though in a more subdued manner, until the church recaptures the imagination of the “Easter effect.” This caveat aside, I recommend Weigel’s thoughts to you.

If you are interested in this theme, of how the “Easter Effect” radically changed the world, even to the present day, you can explore this idea in a couple of books that treat this topic in-depth. Weigel was partly inspired by the work of Baylor University sociologist, Rodney Stark, in his 2012 The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion. You can read a review of the book by Scott Wenig, of Denver Seminary.

In a similar vein, the infamously skeptical, UNC Chapel Hill scholar Bart Ehrman recently released The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. What is remarkable about Ehrman’s book is that even though he is decidedly an agnostic, he nevertheless finds the impact of the claims to Christ’s Resurrection to be of tremendous historical significance. So, even though Ehrman does not believe the Resurrection to be true, he admits that something indeed happened, following Jesus’ death, that led to the radical transformation of the Roman empire. Charlotte’s Reformed Theological Seminary president, Michael Kruger, reviews Ehrman’s book.

HT: Paulette Parker


Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Brief Book Review

Still looking for that perfect gift book, for a high school graduate, off on their way to college? Consider Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible, by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw.

Young people growing up in the church today face immense challenges from a culture skeptical to the Gospel. Leading the charge towards encouraging doubt is popular author and University of North Carolina religion professor, Bart Ehrman.

If you have never heard of Bart Ehrman before, you need to get out from underneath your rock, and learn about him. Ehrman grew up going to church and attending Christian colleges, but eventually lost his faith in the process. He has since authored five New York Times Bestsellers, and dozens of other books, all aimed at undermining confidence in the reliability of the Bible and its message.

What makes Ehrman’s skepticism so caustic, is that he knows his facts really, really well. He knows his Bible better than most Christians do, and he remains one of the world’s top textual critical scholars of the New Testament. The problem is that the conclusions he draws from his research are not always warranted. There are indeed very good answers to the issues he raises, that affirm the trustworthiness of the Bible.

In Truth in a Culture of Doubt, Köstenberger, Bock, and Chatraw, all evangelical and believing scholars themselves, tackle each of Erhman’s challenges in a very engaging manner, issues that every thoughtful Christian will face, as they seek to share their faith with their informed neighbors:

  • Is God Immoral Because He Allows Suffering?
  • Is the Bible Full of Irresolvable Contradictions?
  • Are the Biblical Manuscripts Corrupt?
  • Were there Many Christianities?
  • Are Many New Testament Documents Forged?

A nice little extra is a quick question and answer guide at the back of the book, that summarizes the basic arguments. Truth in a Culture of Doubt is an updated, more in-depth version of an earlier book by these evangelical scholars, Truth Matters, that I reviewed a few years ago. Though Truth in a Culture of Doubt was itself published back in 2014, the information packed in it is still relevant today, as the issues dealt within are not going away any time soon. Ehrman is still himself writing books, but more and more, any new issues that he writes about move further away from his area of expertise.

In many ways, the topics that Ehrman has been writing about for over fifteen years are not new. They are no more than popular distillations of scholarly, critical views in the history of Christianity, that have been taught in secular departments of religion at private and public universities for nearly a century now. Sadly, it has taken a barrage of these skeptical writings, in popular form, to force the evangelical church to better inform her people, and give better answers.

Read a brief excerpt from Truth in a Culture of Doubt here, then go buy the book for that young person you know, who is facing challenges from a skeptical culture.


%d bloggers like this: