Ehrman and Mass Unintelligence

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Michael Kruger reviews Bart Ehrman's latest offering Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. [ht: Justin Taylor]

A common strategy among anti-Christian apologists (and some skeptical sorts in liberal theological circles, I should add) is to attribute complete idiocy to the biblical authors and editors. See my discussions of Exodus 22 and Judges 3 for particular cases where I've complained about this before.

Michael Kruger has identified a strategy in a recent book by Bart Ehrman that does that sort of thing, but in this case it's even worse. It attributes complete idiocy to the entire history of the church. In this case, the issue is whether Ephesians could have been written by Paul. Ehrman joins that 50% of scholars who manage to find some reasons to deny Pauline authorship (reasons I've never thought came even close to showing such a thing). One of his arguments has to do with a supposed conflict between Paul's theology in I Corinthians and this supposed other author of Ephesians. Ehrman goes as far as claiming that the Ephesian letter, in saying we're seated with Christ in heavenly places, adopts exactly the view that Paul condemns in I Corinthians when he says we don't have spiritually-resurrected bodies in this life.

Kruger points out that it requires theological unsophistication of a severe order to confuse these statements as if they're in conflict, but he notices an even worse problem. Here's the key quote:

Beyond all of this, are we really to think that early Christians would have widely affirmed the canonicity of Ephesians if it so plainly denied the bodily resurrection, one of the most cherished beliefs in early Christianity? Ehrman would have us believe that all early Christians (not to mention later Christians) were just too blind to notice such a thing until modern scholars have come along to point it out for them.

We thus have a kind of cultural superiority about modern, western biblical scholars whereby they can proclaim themselves literarily and theologically more acute than the entire history of the church. It's not just attributing simplicity and moronic behavior to an editor of a text who can't manage to figure out that contradictory ideas are placed side by side, as in the Exodus and Judges cases I linked to above. It's attributing the inability to recognize that Ephesians and I Corinthians flatly contradict each other and insisting that the theological understandings of those texts that have lasted two millenia have basically misunderstood what the text actually says, even though the people who were much closer to the cultural milieu and who actually spoke the language the documents were written in saw no such contradiction and could even attribute the books to the same author.

Ehrman's thesis here is pure hubris. It amazes me how easily this sort of thing passes for responsible scholarship in certain circles.

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