I am currently enjoying Bart Ehrman’s controversial new book “Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are“, 2011, HarperOne. With a title like that, the book is sure to draw the attention of those interested in the history of Christianity, AND responses from Christian apologists who seem to fear the history of Christianity. Many times these Christian apologists hide behind the credentials of scholarship. A book like “Forged”, written by a fellow and popular scholar, is certain to bring them out from behind their masks.
Today’s Christian apologetic poster-boy is Ben Witherington, the “Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary”. He first caught my attention with his comments on some cable-television Jesus-documentary, where I could be heard saying to the television, “What the hell did he just say”? If I remember correctly, (I am qualifying this) the ridiculous proposal was that we don’t need anything outside of the Christian New Testament to help us understand the historical Jesus.
Ben also apparently couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tear into John Dominic Crossan in an otherwise wonderful, recent article by CNN:
Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar who has written several books about the early Christian community, says Crossan’s work allows people to sidestep questions like: Did he come to save the world? Is he the son of God?
“It’s a user-friendly Jesus that doesn’t make demands on someone,” he says.
Witherington says Crossan is trying to find a nonsupernatural way to explain Jesus and Scripture, and “the shoe doesn’t fit.”
“The stories are inherently theological,” he says. “They all suggest that God intervenes in history. If you have a problem with the supernatural, you have a problem with the Bible. It’s on every page.”
Ben’s Jesus can beat up Crossan’s Jesus.
Well Ben’s dangling his feet in the fire again, throwing caution and credibility to the wind, to defend his particular interpretation of his religion, using weapons familiar to forgers, frauds and Christian apologists; misinformation and character assassination. So let’s follow along. I’ll pluck out just a few of my favorite highlights, but one can wade through the bullshit (part of a review series) for one’s self.
Ripped from Witherington’s Blog: FORGED: CHAPTER THREE–AN APPALLING NUMBER OF FORGERIES
“I have already warned in these posts against Bart’s penchant for making out-sized and unwarranted large claims to back up his assertions and this is one of them.”
“he should not be taken as a reliable guide on what the majority of commenting scholars think about these matters.“
“Bart, is actually swimming against the tide of the scholarship, even on the Pastorals. And here I must register a big complaint.“
I think Ben needs a hug. The complaint can be filed HERE. I certainly don’t care.
James F. McGrath, “Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis”, at Exploring Our Matrix, responded to Witherington’s Blog-post with the following: (The comments are worth reading as well, IMO)
“While Ehrman’s book is by no means above criticism, Witherington’s suggestion that that Ehrman misrepresents the scholarly consensus about the Pastoral Epistles seems to me to be off target.”
“My sense is that the consensus on the Pastoral Epistles is that they are not authentically Pauline. And I suspect that deep down, Witherington knows this. If someone were to write a scholarly book or present a conference paper, and assumed the Pastoral Epistles are not Pauline, they would not even need to mention the point explicitly. If they wanted to claim that they are authentically Pauline, they would have to argue the case strenuously.”
Yes, you just heard the sound of a bitch-slap.
Now, just for the fun of it, I’ll be adding a couple of brief quotations from a few of my favorite contemporary resources. Highlights will be mine.
From: The First Paul, M. Borg and J. D. Crossan, HarperOne, 2009, p. 13,14
“What differentiates mainstream scholars from fundamentalist and many conservative scholars is that the former do not begin with the presumption that the Bible is unlike other books in that it has a divine guarantee to be inerrant and infallible. Rather, mainstream scholars see the Bible as a historical product that can be studied as other historical documents are, without specifically Christian theological convictions shaping the outcome.
“Mainstream scholarship as it has developed over the last two centuries has concluded that the thirteen letters attributed to Paul fall into three categories: letters written by Paul, those not written by him, and ones about which there is uncertainty.
“According to an almost equally strong consensus, three letters were not written by Paul: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, commonly known as the “pastoral letters” or simply the “pastorals.” Scholars estimate that they were written around the year 100, possibly a decade or two later.”
From: The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, Second Edition, 2008, p. 573
–First and Second Timothy and Titus: The Pastoral Epistles
“They produced these new missives as personal letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus, but scholarship is nearly unanimous in rejecting these attributions. Someone who tried to pass off such works today would be called a forger, but antiquity provides many examples of intellectual enthusiasts who wrote in a great master’s name.”
From: What Paul Meant, Gary Wills, 2006, Viking Penguin, p. 15
“THIRTEEN LETTERS are attributed to Paul in the New Testament, and for centuries they were all accepted as his. But modern scholarship has reached a consensus that some were definitely not written by him and others are of dubious authenticity. Only seven are now accepted as certainly by him.”
From: From Jesus to Christianity, L. Michael White, 2004, HarperCollins, p. 426
-Domesticating Paul: The Pastoral Epistles
“In the Pauline tradition, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, also known as the Pastoral Epistles, originated out of a similar need to rein in diverse and schismatic interpretations that had developed in the name of Paul or were based on his letters. Thus, the letters offer “Paul’s” own testament as refutation of inappropriate teachings in his name. In their final form, at least, they too were produced as a literary ensemble, perhaps by a single author or group of authors. Some have argued that they were written by a member of Paul’s circle and close to Paul’s own time, but the weight of evidence from their language and glimpses of their internal situation points to a much later date, perhaps in the 120s to 140s. A date as late as the 170s has been proposed, but it is not widely accepted. It has also been argued that Polycarp himself wrote the Pastorals.”