Friday, April 3, 2009

The Pony Express Has Finally Arrived

Bart Ehrman brings 19th century Biblical criticism to the masses.

1 comment:

John Whittaker said...

Fr, John,

There is really just too much to respond to in this article, at least in this venue, but I'll treat what I think were a couple of main points. First, I haven't read Ehrman, but, at least from article, the root of his main problem seems to be related to the bibliographical lineage of the Gospels and some inconsistencies between them.

In regards to the aspect of there being no original manuscripts, historians don't have original documents from a variety of authors. This is just a reality of working with a medium as temporary as the written word. This is why historians don't place a requirement on there being original documents present to consider a work genuine. For example, because we don't have originals of the works of Plato or Sophocles, doesn't cast doubt as to which mind first contemplated and developed the theory of forms or who wrote the tragedies of oedipus and antigone. In fact, the Gospels have significantly stronger bibliographical pedigrees than either of these or a great many other masterpieces. In regards to inconsistencies, you can easily attribute this to the fact that there are four authors, who each are writing of events that they are seeing with their own point of view. It would be more suspicious had they all been exactly the same. There are always going to be slightly different views in the testimonies of eye witnesses.

The next issue that he seems to have is with the fact that there were a variety of "gospels" that were not canonized, these have proven to either be modern hoaxes or written by gnostics and discredited in their own day. The reality is that groups attempting to gain advantage for their own pursuits, by playing to Christianity's popularity is a very old phenomenon. It is not scandal that early church fathers didn't put their seal of approval on the documents of these sects.

Near the end of the interview, there is some mention that Christianity or perhaps religion is at the root of the wars we are fighting and that if the church would fade away there would be no negative repercussion. This is a popular fallacy that continues to be repeated with nary a response. The idea that if the church would disappear we would live in some kind of utopia, is preposterous. We have had "visionary" leaders who installed secular regimes that can be pointed to as examples of what life could be like without religion. These include such ideal locales as Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, and Stalin's Russia.

Certainly the Church has seen some problems, particularly when it has tried to mix with politics. To say though, that it is irrelevant or worse that its presence is maleficent is to be an incredibly poor student of history.