Interrupting Ehrman

One of the newest naysayers to the validity of the Bible is Bart Ehrman. In our Journal article To Error is Ehrman (which begins on page 16 of the fall 2006 issue) we review Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus we pointed out that he is at least functionally post-modern. There is no real way to know historical truth since the historical writers are only communicating perceptions. He was and continues to be very clear that the Bible is fundamentally not reliable. There is little he says that is new but rather he has simply joined ranks with Jesus Seminar types, like John Dominic Crossan, retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg as well as Elaine Pagels in his Hysterical Search for the Historical Jesus. In Former fundamentalist ‘debunks’ Bible a review of Ehrman’s most recent book, Jesus Interuppted, CNN (hardly the bastion of Conservatism) reviewer John Blake concurs:

Yet Ehrman’s popularity also may be due to a larger trend. The books of people like Elaine Pagels, author of “The Gnostic Gospels,” and Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” resonate with people who believe there are parts of the Bible that the church left on history’s editing floor.

Some scholarly critics say Ehrman is saying nothing new.

Blake points out that Ehrman claims:

At least 19 of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries.

If we applied Ehrman’s own standards of “scholarship,” we would have to ask, how could he know that? What is actually the case is that any accepted canonical book which calls his views into question are by definition forgeries by Ehrman. His writings and work have little to do with actual research, scholarship and legitimate inquiry but rather a disavowal of the historical faith and a redefinition of Christianity which would afford him the opportunity to call himself a Christian while denying all of its fundamental claims and definitions. Of course, he denies the resurrection. That, after all would be a miracle and in a purely naturalistic universe there is no room for miracles. In this redefining of the faith, Jesus Christ is a good idea but not God, definately not the Savior and positively not resurrected. Being a Christian is simply being moral (where do morals come from?) and kind to others (who defines kind?), and not exclusivistic as if Jesus were really the only way.

Believing as we do at MCOI that simply disproving someone else’s claims doesn’t by definition mean we are right. It is necessary to prove our claims (something which Ehrman doesn’t do), I thought it would be helpful to look at Scripture which even he accepts as authentic and see if there are any indication as to what the early followers of Jesus believed about the resurrection. The Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the Gospels and one of the earliest New Testament book (James being the first penned). Ehrman and other liberals like this one because the resurrection account doesn’t appear in Mark’s account. They dismiss the last few verses of Mark 16 as having been added in at a later time. After that the idea is that if the resurrection is not overly stated than the implication is that the author (Mark) did not believe in the resurrection. For is he did he certainly would have included something about it. Let’s give him as much latitude as possible on this and see how he fares. So, we won’t use anything in chapter 16 for this exercise. Let’s asks some questions:

1) Did Mark consider Jesus as being a true or false prophet? Perhaps not resurrected but a true or false prophet. Even Ehrman would concur that Mark thought of Jesus Christ as being a true prophet.

2) When was the account written, before or after the death of Jesus? Well, obviously, after.

3) Would Mark have written an account after the death of Jesus which would reflect his view of Jesus being a true prophet or a false prophet?

Well, a true prophet of course. Just a brief survey of Mark reveals something interesting, in Mark 8:31 he writes:

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

In Mark 9:31 we find something similar:


For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ” The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”

Again, in Mark 10:34 the author records these words from the lips of Jesus:

They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.

Two other passages which are helpful in understanding Mark’s thinking on the resurrection. Mark 14:58

“We heard Him say, ‘ I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'”

And Mark 15:29:

Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,

These two passages coincide other accounts in the gospels and confirm even in this early account that non-believing witnesses heard Jesus declare that He would be resurrected. What we have just shown is that since Mark believed Jesus to be a true prophet, wrote his account after the death of Jesus and would have known at that time whether Jesus was resurrected or not, put material in his account, in at least five places, which demonstrated that Jesus claimed He would raise from the dead. The evidence is that Mark, the earliest of the gospel accounts, believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that Ehrman’s lack of paying attention has interrupted his ability to come to proper historical conclusions.


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