Books and Authors, New Testament

Forgers, Frauds and Christian Apologists


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.”

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “Forgers, Frauds and Christian Apologists

  1. ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can’t hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can’…t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

    Posted by jeff | May 2, 2011, 11:02 am
    • Jeff,
      Thanks for visiting and for that piece about how upset people get when other people attempt to speak for GOD, and how people often delude themselves into thinking that only they are hearing the “actual” voice of GOD.

      By verifiable, I assume you mean that the words can be found in the Christian Bible, huh? Did you know that some people idolize the Christian Bible, thinking that it represents the very words of Jesus and/or a deity? People’s is funny sometimes, ain’t they?

      You mentioned Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and that brought up a question that I would like to ask. Of course, Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah’s. Jeremiah began his ministry when Ezekiel was about 4 years old, I think. So, here’s where I would like your input.

      YHWH told Ezekiel (a prophet of the exiled Temple cult):
      “‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own heart: Hear ye the word of the LORD: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Woe unto the vile prophets, that follow their own spirit, and things which they have not seen! (Ezekiel 13:2-3)

      YHWH told Jeremiah (a prophet of Israel):
      “My people know not the ordinance of the LORD. How do ye say: ‘We are wise, and the Law of the LORD is with us’? Lo, certainly in vain hath wrought the vain pen of the scribes. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken; Lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?
      (Jeremiah 8:7b-9)

      Here’s my question:

      Wouldn’t it just be a rip if Ezekiel was talking about Jeremiah, and if Jeremiah was talking about the predecessors of Ezekiel?

      Anyway, sorry to get off-topic. Would you be interested in clarifying your position, a bit?

      Idolatry is always a fun subject.

      Posted by Xcntrik | May 2, 2011, 2:43 pm
  2. Oh, and Ehrman’s line that you quoted:

    “The use of deception to promote the truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition.”

    As well as the latter Christian tradition… all one needs to do is consult the Book of Topix or AnswersInGenesis.

    Posted by Cosmic Snark | April 23, 2011, 8:56 pm
  3. I continue to enjoy and be enlightened by your posts, Xcntrik.

    Thanks for the effort you put into delivering the truth.

    peace
    micah

    Posted by micah | April 19, 2011, 6:05 am
    • Micah, my old friend,

      It’s great to see you, so to speak. I sure do miss reading your daily words of wisdom. I used to visit WSJLM on occasion hoping to catch you in action, but I’ve not stopped by in some time now.

      Thanks for keeping up with me.

      Posted by Xcntrik | April 21, 2011, 1:16 pm
  4. Witherington sounds like he has a sore tummy. Awww. BTW you were the person who taught me that only 7 of Paul’s letters were now considered uncontested!

    I’ve been reading McGrath’s blog on an off for the last three years or so; it’s an interesting read even though most of what he says zooms over my head.

    Like the new layout you got here; it’s easier to read a lighter-colored template.

    Posted by Cosmic Snark | April 14, 2011, 8:24 pm
    • I’m not sure if you heard it from me, but I did a little piece some time back in response to someone saying that Paul was a mythical figure. My point was that to the best of my knowledge, scholarship is united in the position that we have 7 letters written in the 50’s by a guy who called himself Paul; Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. Letters written by a person, agreed upon across the board by biblical scholars and historians seem to point to the dude being a historical figure, not a mythical figure, regardless of what one may want to say about Paul, and there’s LOTS to say. Much that people think they know about Paul is certainly folklore, tradition and mythology, but I see no need to question his existence. I would think it more important to try to separate the icon Paul from the historical Paul, and try to understand what the guy was on about.

      My personal opinion. . . Paul was a Hellenized Jew turned Christian mystic and through his experience he created a new religion; that he stood at odds with the original followers and those opposing views were never reconciled during his life. I think he could have simply disappeared from the historical record, right about the same time that he was to bring the offerings he had been collecting for the Jews in Jerusalem. But that’s just an opinion.

      I can understand Witherington’s desire to try to argue for Pauline authorship of the remaining letters; after all, no on wants to find out that they’ve been duped by fraud. One of the most interesting things that Ehrman echoed throughout his book “Forged” is exactly what we now find Witherington exposing himself doing. He repeats it and words it differently throughout the book, but here’s one Xcellent example:

      From Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, p. 250
      “The use of deception to promote the truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition.”

      It appears that Witherington is the one who is swimming against the tide and projecting his own struggle onto Ehrman. In doing so, he makes himself yet another in a long, long, long line of dishonest Christian apologists. He’ll write for Christians and many will eat up what he dishes out, but he will not be taken seriously by anyone else. But that, also, is just an opinion.

      Owning a Samurai sword does not make one a Ninja.

      Posted by Xcntrik | April 21, 2011, 1:05 pm
      • Spong has a more simplistic view of Paul, a view that has him as a deeply conflicted man who felt shackled by Hebrew legalism. And I’m sure you know that Spong is personally convinced that one reason Paul chafed at Jewish religious laws is because Paul was a homosexual. Spong’s guess is that Paul was captivated by the message of Jesus because it freed people from the bondage of Torah law. So he took some of Jesus’s teachings and ran with them until he had created a whole ‘nother version of Jesuslegend.

        Whatever the facts may be about this person possibly named Paul, he’s probably one of the most fascinating of biblical figures. He sure did leave an impact on the future, for sure. A largely unfortunate impact.

        Posted by Cosmic Snark | April 23, 2011, 8:53 pm
      • I think Spong makes some very interesting points about Paul, and I don’t really disagree with them. I think that it is entirely possible that Paul did struggle with his sexuality (another legacy he passed along, perhaps?). I also have some other thoughts about Paul; for instance, contrary to what Christian apologists would say, I don’t think that Paul was very familiar with the Palestinian Hebrew religion, language or scriptures. He sure didn’t seem to know much about Jesus and I don’t imagine that the original followers respected him at all.

        I have always found it odd that the people that Paul struggled against before his conversion were the exact same people that he seems to have struggled against after his conversion. But, you ain’t gonna hear that in church.

        I am also convinced that the “largely unfortunate impact” that you referenced was not the impact left by the radical Paul, but by those who came after Paul, reinterpreting his message when Jesus didn’t come back as expected.

        Posted by Xcntrik | April 29, 2011, 5:31 pm

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