I do not think that I will do all the chapters of Bart Ehrman’s book Forged because once he outlined his definitions for the words he uses to describe ancient works, all his arguments became repetitive and nonsensical.
When you take your eyes off God your own research becomes distorted. You can be led to the wrong books containing the wrong information, guided to the wrong conclusions and generally make a mess of the issue you are researching.
Dr. Ehrman’s book is a prime example of this. He would have been better served if he just published his definitions and then placed a list of works under each with the ancient titles he considers to be forged or whatever.
It isn’t just the research that gets ruined by taking one’s eyes of God but also one’s logic gets distorted so one may think they are being logical and reasonable when in reality they are not. I am not going to look at too many of Dr. Ehrman’s words today but enough to give you an idea of how this distortion applies to reading the Bible.
#1.In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians we find a most intriguing verse in which the author tells his readers that they are not to be led astray by a letter “as if by us” indicating that the “day of the Lord” is almost here (2:2). The author, in other words, knows of a letter in circulation claiming to be by Paul that is not really by Paul. This other letter allegedly teaches an idea that Paul himself opposes. Who would create such a forged letter? (pg 25)
Dr. Ehrman goes on to say that this warning is a trick forgers use to make their work look legitimate. So now we must suspect 2 Thess. as a possible forgery merely because Paul warns against imposters.
He has no other physical evidence to support his thesis just this one verse and his own conclusion that 2 Thess. isn’t really written by Paul. That verse is enough to warn believers about false teachers but it does nothing to prove Paul didn’t write the book.
#2. The most famous instance is the book of Revelation. A thirdcentury Christian scholar of Alexandria, Egypt, named Dionysius, argued that the book was not actually written by Jesus’s disciple John, the son of Zebedee. Dionysius’s argument was compelling and continues to be compelling to scholars today. He maintained that the writing style of the book is so different from that of the Gospel of John that they could not have been written by the same Person (pg. 27) (bold mine)
I mentioned the criteria used for determining the validity of a biblical book and you can see one of them in the bold in that quote. People who take their eyes off God will use any excuse to ignore God’s word. If I wrote to you like I need to write for my Korean students, none of you would read this website.
Writing style has little to nothing to do with identifying the author, especially when the author’s name is included in the book itself. The differences between the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation can easily be explained. The former John was well acquainted with and was not overwhelmed by the subject material while the latter was all new ot him and overwhelming.
#3. The small letter of Jude, allegedly written by Jesus’s own brother, was also debated in the early church. Some Christians argued that it was not authentic, in part, according to the famous fourth-century Christian scholar Jerome, because the book quotes an apocryphal book called Enoch as if it were authoritative Scripture.
I have to disagree with this conclusion because when I read the book of Jude, I do not see the author quoting the apocryphal book of Enoch but Enoch himself. Then he does not quote it like it was scripture but in making an important point.
Here is the passage in question;
14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
And here is a bit of detail on the book itself:
The Book of Enoch, written during the second century B.C.E., is one of the most important non-canonical apocryphal works, and probably had a huge influence on early Christian, particularly Gnostic, beliefs. Filled with hallucinatory visions of heaven and hell, angels and devils, Enoch introduced concepts such as fallen angels, the appearance of a Messiah, Resurrection, a Final Judgement, and a Heavenly Kingdom on Earth. Interspersed with this material are quasi-scientific digressions on calendrical systems, geography, cosmology, astronomy, and meteorology
Most likely the author of the book of Enoch knew about the real Enoch’s prophecy and wrote a book after that theme. It wasn’t Jude who quoted a non-believer but a non-believer who took from the man who walked with God.
When your eyes are not on the proper focal point then your thinking can be affected.
#4. Other writings are “anonymous,” literally, “having no name.” These are books whose authors never identify themselves. That is, technically speaking, true of one-third of the New Testament books. None of the Gospels tells us the name of its author. Only later did Christians call them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and later scribes then added these names to the book titles. (pg. 29)
This use of a pen name did not happen a lot in the ancient world, but it did happen on occasion. (pg. 30)
Real evidence please. We have so few ancient works that it is impossible to come to these conclusions. Dr. Ehrman doesn’t use one real specific example of either of these points. he stays in the generalization mode to make his point about ancient authors.
The fact is we really do not know what ancient authors did or did not do concerning the names of the other authors or their own identification.
#5. Ancient forgers were not as a rule thrown in jail, because there simply weren’t laws governing the production and distribution of literature. There were no copyright laws, for example (pg. 31)
I find this hard to believe and as usual Dr. Ehrman does not quote any ancient law code to bolster his point. It is very difficult to determine how the ancients viewed copyright and forgeries based upon the personal views of a minute amount of people whose works survive to this day.
A lot of Dr. Ehrman’s arguments come from silence not fact. Also they come from extrapolating one ancient person’s view to all other members of an ancient society. I would need more than what Dr. Ehrman offers to change my mind about this.
#6. When God told Jonah to proclaim to the city of Nineveh that in forty days it would be overthrown, he obviously knew full well that the people would repent and that he would stay his hand of judgment. God never did plan, then, to overthrow the city, even though that’s what he told his prophet to proclaim. Sometimes a deceptive statement can do a world of good. (pg.50)
How is it deceptive? Just because God knows their answer already he needs to deprive them of the opportunity to repent of their sins? Does Dr. Ehrman kow the mind of God? This kind of distorted thinking takes place when people look at biblical facts through eyes on other sources and not God.
God may know our answer beforehand but he has given us the right of free choice, so he presents the situation and lets people choose what they want. He has done the same thing for Dr. Ehrman and everyone else–repent or go to hell. Should we be deprived of that choice simply because God already knows our answer?
Without the options to choose between, we haven’t made a choice. Dr. Ehrman is the one being dishonest here as he distorts a biblical fact to call God dishonest. Chapter 2 is even worse as Dr. Ehrman’s failure to have his eyes on God leads him to distort the past to fit his theories.
#7. Ancient people also had a more nuanced sense of truth and falsehood; they too had stories that they accepted as “true” in some sense without thinking that they actually happened (pg, 54)
To be honest, the response to this idea is a resounding ‘no!’. Dr. Ehrman tries to distort how the ancients viewed truth and error and again to be honest, there is no difference between the ancient world and the modern one on this matter.
That view all depends upon the person you talk to or read. The truth has never changed, nor has its definition and tough there may be ‘nuanced senses of truth’ that doesn’t change what is really truth.
#8. In ancient historical writing the matter was a bit more complicated. In large part that was because in antiquity there simply weren’t the research tools available that we have today: extensive access to reliable sources, copious written records, databases, data retrieval systems, the possibilities given us by mass media and electronic modes of communication. Ancient historians had to do their best to cobble together a plausible narrative of past events. It was very hard indeed to give an “accurate” account, though most historians tried (pg. 56)
I thoroughly disagree. we do not know what was available to the different historians or common people or how they used what was available. Not one ancient library has survived intact to this day so we do not know how they were advertised, promoted, used, or structured in their use.
We also do not know what material they housed. we have different people’s accounts of what they were supposed to have housed but who knows, that ancient author may have lied. The Library at Alexandria is said to have housed over one million manuscripts on all topics but we cannot verify this claim because of the tragic fire destroying everything in it.
#9.But the phenomenon of massive and widespread literacy is completely modern. Before the industrial revolution, societies had no compelling reasons to invest enormous amounts of money and other resources into creating a literate population. It was only with the development of the industrial world that such a thing became both desirable and feasible (pg. 82-83)
Again I disagree with this and with the knowledge that archaeologists and scholars mis-identify buildings we do not know if there were public schools or not. dr. Ehrman seems to misunderstand a lot about international trade as that alone would provide enough motivation for a king to educate his people.
The industrial revolution may have renovated education in the Middle Ages but it does not speak to the quality and quantity of education in the previous eras.
#10. Most people in the ancient world could not read. And those who could read often could not write. And in this case by “write” I mean that most people—even if they could copy down words—could not compose a sentence, let alone a well-arguedtreatise. (pg.84)
The following comment is not original with me, I just forget where I read it. If the ancient people were illiterate, who were all the inscriptions, written laws, and other written material produced for?
It is a very good point for the elite are not the numerous part of the population. They would not need Hammurabi’s laws posted way out in the boondocks to know what the laws were. They were usually in the cities in places of power and good communication.
We may not have a lot of material from the past but we have so much that this argument doesn’t hold water. The illiteracy argument just doesn’t make sense and it undermines the forgery argument because why would ancient forgers go to so much trouble to forge something important if the people couldn’t read it?
Paul’s warning in 2 Thess. was not to the elite but to the whole church so why warn the whole church if they could not read at all? You can’t make the accusations of forgery and say it was widespread then turn around and say the people couldn’t read.
#11. The people who knew how to write were primarily men who were priests. In fact, for the entire first century CE (the time of Jesus and Simon Peter), we know for certain of only two authors in Palestine who produced literary works (pg. 85)
Again another unprovable generalization. We do not know who could or could not read or write. Those words are an insult to all ancient people for it is like future archaeologists or scholars saying that because only Isaac Asimov’s work survived over 2,000 years no one else could read or write in the 20th century.
The logic is just unbelievable. Those words are certainly an insult to me as I would not want to be considered illiterate when I wasn’t.
#12.And since most of Galilee was rural, not urban, the vast majority of Jews had no encounters with Gentiles. Moreover, Greek was not widely, let alone normally, spoken. The vast majority of Jews spoke Aramaic and had no facility in Greek. (pg. 86)
Dr. Ehrman has no clue on how the lingua franca of a time is used or known. I am just being blunt here because I am tired of archaeologists and scholars who keep pontificating on topics that they have no knowledge of. They claim to know things but in reality they just do not.
Aramaic may have been the language for the nations but that doesn’t mean people gave up their native tongues and only learned that language. The vast amount of Jews actually spoke Hebrew not Aramaic. They spoke their own language and it is most likely that Aramaic was taught as a second language not a first. Then not everyone learned it or wanted to learn it.
I can tell you right now as a teacher of the modern lingua franca, no one gives up their mother tongue to speak the internationally accepted language. If they did, they would not be able to communicate with their own people and they would lose their identities. It isn’t done anywhere. Even the Filipino people still, after a century or more of English curriculums and use, speak their original languages.
#13. On the basis of archaeological digs and historical sources, it is clear that Capernaum was a historically insignificant village in rural Galilee. It is never mentioned in any ancient source prior to the Gospels. It is scarcely mentioned by any sources after that. (pg. 86)
Don’t you love it when people appeal to archaeology and make it an authority when everyone knows it is a limited field of research and cannot uncover 100% of the past. Then they use it to bolster their points when it sides with them but dismiss it when archaeology disagrees with them.
But when people take their eyes off God, their ethical codes change. They are no longer restricted to God’s code but employ their own flexible one when it suits them. Literacy and education do not depend upon how often a town is mentioned in ancient works. Nor do they depend solely upon the size of a town.
In this country, even the smallest of towns finds a way to educate their children. As an example, for 4 years I lived and taught in a town that was 30 minutes from the home town of the United Nations head.
It is so small, that in one second you have passed and forgotten it. Yet he was educated and rose to the leadership of a world body. We do not know the attitude of the parents in Capernaum or its leaders. For all we know they did the exact same thing as older Korea–sent their children to the next town to be taught in a school.
Ban Ki-Moon’s era in Korea was much like many areas of the Middle East. Very poor, very rural, lacking a lot yet his parents and the town leaders found a way to educate their children. I have no doubt the ancient Israelites were much the same way. I have confidence that their attitude was the same attitude of when I grew up–parents wanted better for their children than what they had.
#14. Where in the ancient world do we have anything at all analogous to this hypothetical situation of someone writing a letter-essay for someone else and putting the other person’s name on it—the name of the person who did not write it—rather than his own name? So far as I know, there is not a single instance of any such procedure attested from antiquity or any discussion, in any ancient source, of this being a legitimate practice. Or even an illegitimate one. Such a thing is never discussed. (pg.89)
These words by Dr. Ehrman come in his attempt to address the possibility that even if Peter was illiterate, he could have dictated his words to a secretary. He doesn’t put much stock in it because as you can read, no one mentions it.
He thinks existence depends upon being mentioned somewhere and that is just not a good stand to make. Bosses dictate letters all the time to their secretaries, it doesn’t mean they didn’t write the letters. It just means they didn’t have time to write them themselves.
Then we must ask about Stephen Hawking. His people have had to interpret his sounds before he got an electronic machine to voice the letters he types on a keyboard. Does this mean he never authored A Brief History of Time because he never actually used a pen and wrote the words himself?
Dr. Ehrman’s arguments fail in light of real evidence. Even if Peter dictated his epistles, he still wrote them because God gave him the inspiration not his secretaries. When people take their eyes of God they come up with any reason to claim that the Bible was not written by those we know authored their pages.
They do not want the truth, they are looking for any route they can to escape God’s words. If you want the truth you need to keep your eyes on God. In doing that you can learn what God wants you to learn and you can spot the errors in the writings of those you have to read as you research or do your bible study.
The information given by those who do not do that will be distorted as you see by the above article. If you want to know the truth and be set free as Jesus said double-check the experts while keeping your eyes upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Those who have taken their eyes off God do not have the truth. For good research, bible study and Christian living you need to learn to spot those who have their eyes on God and those who don’t.