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Posts Tagged ‘Bart Ehrman’

On the one hand I appreciate that atheist and skeptic Bart Ehrman has written a book that argues for the historical existence of Jesus.  On the other hand the book is not without its problems.

Here are all our posts that exposes the fallacious reasoning in Ehrman’s book.

Bart Ehrman On Critics’ Alleged Mutually Exclusive Claims

Bart Ehrman’s Schizophrenic Misrepresentation of Fundamentalists’ view of Inspiration and Bible’s Historicity

Bart Ehrman’s Fallacious Argument from Silence in his book, “Did Jesus Exist?”

Bart Ehrman’s Claim: Jews didn’t deny other gods’ existence?

Bart Ehrman Questioning the Historicity of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry Part 1

Bart Ehrman Questioning the Historicity of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry Part 2

 

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did-JESUS-exist-book

Note: Long overdue!  This is part two of our critique of atheist and skeptic Bart Ehrman’s attack on Jesus’ so called “Triumphant entry” into Jerusalem as found in Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?  I’m four years late but I suppose it is better late than never.  I begin first with a presentation of Ehrman’s views which is followed by part two of my response.

 I. BART EHRMAN’S VIEW 

Ehrman’s rejects the historicity of Jesus’ so called Triumphant entry into Jerusalem that happened on “Palm Sunday”  during the final week of His life.

Bart Ehrman succinctly stated the argument for his conclusion on page 293:

Conversely, the likelihood of Jesus entering into Jerusalem straddling two donkeys and with the crowd shouting out that he was the messiah is decreased by the circumstance that had such an event really happened (unlikely as it is on its own terms), Jesus would no doubt have been arrested by the authorities on the spot instead of a week later.” (293)

And with a bit more extended comment Ehrman stated earlier on page 202:

If it is true that the crowds were shouting that Jesus was the messiah now arriving in the holy city, why didn’t the authorities immediately take notice and have him arrested both for causing a disturbance and for claiming to be the Jewish king (when only Rome could appoint the king)?  Instead, according to Matthew and the other Gospels, Jesus spent an unmoltested week in Jerusalem and only then was arrested and put on trial.  But it defies belief that the Roman authorities who were in town precisely in order to prevent any mob actions or uprisings would have failed to intervene if the crowds shouted in acclamation for a new ruler arriving in town” (202).

Ehrman’s argument is essentially that he can’t believe it took a full week after Jesus entered into Jerusalem in a Messianic fashion (with it’s political implication) before He was finally arrested and put on trial.  Ehrman’s reasoning is not without it’s problem.  One can group the problems into two basic categories: (1) Ehrman has not properly handled the Biblical data in his argument against the historicity of Jesus’ “Triumphant entry” and also (2) his argument that  in light of historical parallels.  We have already looked at the first set of problems in part one.  If you have not already done so, you might want to read part one first, which demonstrated that Ehrman has not properly handle the Biblical data.  Here in this post we will consider historical parallels of other Messianic figures as a rebuttal to his argument.

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did-JESUS-exist-book

A month ago I noted Bart Ehrman’s strange claim that somehow the Jews didn’t deny other God’s existence in his book Did Jesus Exists?

Today I want to focus on his claim that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God, as he sets forth his case in chapter 7 of his book.

Ehrman on Philippians 2

From pages 233-238 Ehrman discusses Philippians 2.  The relevant portion, Philippians 2:5-10 states

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

He labor the point that many people have spent a long time studying the passage from all spectrum of scholarship.  But merely saying that there’s many views on a passage in of itself is not a refutation of the view that Philippians 2 teaches the deity of Christ.  Ehrman also fail to engage or interact with scholarship arguing for the view that Philippians 2 teaches the deity of Christ.

The other disappointment I had with Ehrman is the fact that he failed to deal with the text itself.  For instance, the Greek word for “form” in “form of God” in verse 6 is μορφη.  Lexically, the word μορφη refers to the inward essence of a “thing” or “person” while rarely referring to the outer appearance.  Ehrman also failed to deal with the adjective ισα, which in the English NASB is translated as “equality.”  Lexically it has the idea of equal and later became the root for isosceles, isometric, etc.  There is no acknowledgement or denial of these two Greek words in the book, which is unacceptable since they are the key reasons some see Philippians 2 as teaching the deity of Christ.

Ehrman on the Gospel of Mark

Ehrman then stated the following:

In Mark Jesus is certainly not God.  In fact, in one passage he clearly indicates that he is not to be thought of as God (Mark 10:17-18; a man calls Jesus ‘good,’ and Jesus objects because ‘no one is good but God alone’).” (Page 238-239)

Challenging the assertion that “Jesus is certainly not God” in Mark requires examining the entire book of Mark carefully and is beyond the scope of this blog post but I recommend watching what James White has to say about this assertion:

Note also that Ehrman looks to Mark 10:17-18 as support for his claim that Mark teaches us how Jesus “is not to be thought of as God.”  But careful reading of Mark 10:17-18 reveal Jesus did not say “Don’t call me good because I’ m not God.”  Rather Jesus asked a rhethorical question, one that the rest of context indicates the reason why Jesus asked it is to question the young man’s conception of what is good rather than ultimately being an issue about Jesus let alone being an indicative statement about Himself.

Ehrman on the Oldest Christian traditions

Ehrman writes:

So frequently was Jesus called Christ in the oldest Christian traditions that already by the time of Paul, “Christ” had become Jesus’s name (Jesus Christ, not Jesus God).  Jesus is called Christ in Paul, Mark, M, L, John, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, and so on.” (239-240)

First off, Ehrman here commits an either/or fallacy.  Ehrman has not demonstrated how just because Jesus is called Jesus Christ that necessitate a denial of His deity according to the Christian faith.

Secondly, contrary to his assertation some of the the sources he mentioned does indicate the deity of Christ.  Concerning Mark see the above video by James White.  Then there’s Pliny the Younger who wrote:

They were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of a meal—but ordinary and innocent food.

(Emphasis added)

Note that Pliny as an outside observer gives a window into the early Christian church and how they worshiped Jesus.  In light of Jewish Old Testament background undergirding Christian theology, one must not worship anything except God alone.

Much of what has been said also applies to this last quote from Ehrman:

Jesus is not called God in Q, M, L, or any of the oral accounts that we can trace from the synoptic Gospels.  But we can go yet earlier than this.  As I pointed out, we have very primitive views of Jesus expressed in such pre-Pauline traditions as the one he cites in Romans 1:3-4 where Jesus is said to have become the son of God (not God) at his resurrection.” (Page 232)

Again, Ehrman commits a fallacious reasoning from Romans 1:3-4 that just because it teaches that Jesus is the Son of God does not mean He is not divine in origin.  Ehrman fail to interact critically with the orthodox formulation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and how it balances the Diety and humanity of Christs that account for His titles such as Christ and Son of God.

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did-JESUS-exist-bookA few days ago we saw some of Bart Erhman’s fallacious argument in his book Did Jesus Exist?   Apparently there’s plenty of obvious problems in Ehrman’s book to make a blog series on them.  Tonight I want to look specifically at a claim he made concerning First-Century Judaism.  On page 272 Ehrman describes the beliefs of “Jews in the days of Jesus,” saying:

Among the first commandments given to the Jews by this God was “You shall have no other gods before me.’  Jews by and large did not deny that other gods existed, but they were not to be worshipped by the Jews themselves.” (Page 272; emphasis not in original).

An unusual statement.  In the sentence before, Ehrman acknowledges the role of the Jewish Scripture (what Christians call the Old Testament) in shaping first century Jewish theology.  Ehrman extrapolates from the first commandment that Jews are to worship one God but felt that this does not mean first century Judiasm would have to subscribe to the belief that there’s only one God and not any other.  Two criticisms need to be made.

Point 1: I wish Ehrman would have demonstrated his case that the Jews of Second Temple Judaism were open to the idea that other gods might exist.  At a minimum he should have given a footnote of studies supporting this view or better yet Ehrman should have made the case himself using direct primary sources.

Point 2: Ehrman’s chief error here is his omission of what the rest of the Jewish Scripture has to say.

For instance, consider these passages from the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 44:6-8 declares,

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last,

And there is no God besides Me.
‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
[a]From the time that I established the ancient [b]nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me,
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.’”

Then in Isaiah 45 there’s a cluster of similar teachings.  Note in verse 5:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will [a]gird you, though you have not known Me;

Isaiah 45:14:

 Thus says the Lord,

“The [a]products of Egypt and the merchandise of [b]Cush
And the Sabeans, men of stature,
Will come over to you and will be yours;
They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains
And will bow down to you;
They will make supplication to you:
[c]Surely, God is [d]with you, and there is none else,
No other God.’”

Isaiah 45:21-22:

“Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.
22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.

Finally Isaiah 46:9:

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

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did-JESUS-exist-book

As I slowly make my way through agnostic Bart Ehrman’s latest book, Did Jesus Exist?, I can’t help but to notice the logical fallacies.  For instance, about a week ago I posted on Bart Ehrman’s straw man and contradiction against the fundamentalists.  Three weeks ago I posted on his fallacy of a false dilemma.

Today’s post will focus on the fallacy of argument from silence.

Mime argument

Ehrman knows that an argument from silence is a fallacy.  That’s because he’s able to identify it as a fallacy when others commit it.  For instance, in talking about Rene Salm, who denies the historical existence of the town of Nazareth, Ehrman writes

The most recent critic to dispute the existence of Nazareth is Rene Salm, who has devoted an entire book to the question, called The Myth of Nazereth…Like so many mythicists before him, Salm emphasizes what scholars have long known: Nazareth is never mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in the writings of Josephus, or in the Talmud.  It first shows up in the Gospels.  Salm is also impressed by the fact that the early generations of Christians did not seek out the place but rather ignored it and seem not to know where it was (this is actually hard to show; how would we know this about ‘every’ early Christian, unless all of them left us writings and told us everything they knew and did?).” (Page 193)

A Slam Dunk on Salm.  After all, silence only proves…silence. And don’t forget the difficulty of proving a universal negative.  Note how Ehrman calls out Salm that he does not know what every early Christian have done in their lives and therefore Salm can not establish his premise that no early Christians ever looked for Nazareth.

Does Ehrman commit the same fallacy?

Here’s an example of Bart Ehrman’s argument from silence in Did Jesus Exists? :

Before the Christian movement, there were no Jews who thought the messiah was going to suffer.” (Page 173; emphasis not in original)

No Jews?  To apply Ehrman’s own refutation quoted earlier against himself: “this is actually hard to show; how would we know…” “unless all of them left us writings and told us everything they knew and did?” (Page 193).

The same problem applies to the following:

According to Luke’s story, a tax was imposed on ‘all the world’ by Caesar Augustus, and everyone had to register for a census.  Since Joseph’s distant ancestor David was born in Bethlehem, that is where he had to register.  While he was there his betrothed, Mary, gave birth.  There is no way this can be historically correct.  There was no worldwide (or even empire-wide) census in the days of Augustus…” (Page 184; emphasis not in original)

And:

So too it is completely implausible that when Jesus was put on trial at the end of his life, Pilate offered to release one of his two chief prisoners  Barabbas or Jesus, as was allegedly his custom at Passover (see Mark 15:6-15).  We have no historical record of any such custom being carried out by Pilate or anyone else.” (Page 184)

Again, an argument from silence to prove a claim.  Ehrman should realize the difficulty of his position with the realities that he admitted earlier in the book that the Romans did not keep a detailed complete record of everything they did and that we should not interpret that to mean that something couldn’t have been historical if it’s cited elsewhere (see pages 44 through 46).  Keep in mind that an argument from silence here is further problematic when one consider the fact that the majority of the Roman imperial record did not survive the passage of time.

Can you spot other arguments from silence in Ehrman’s book?

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Two prominent scholars debate on the topic, “Does the New Testament Misquote Jesus?

Dr. Craig Evans vs Dr. Bart Ehrman.

Debate video here.

Debate MP3 Audio here.

(HT)

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