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May 04

Recap of Bart Ehrman Lectures

I had the privelege of attending all three lectures by Bart Ehrman last week. It was very entertaining and he was quite funny. I’ll provide a quick recap of the subjects of the three and some general observations. I’ll provide approximate titles, as I don’t have the programs in front of me.

Lecture 1: A World of Contradictions

This lecture focused on the fact that there are irreconcilable differences in the Christian New Testament. Some have tried to explain these away over the years, but it’s an exercise in theological gymnastics and leads to outright illogical conclusions. Rather than ignore these differences between mainly the four canonical gospels, we should understand the differences and why the authors made the changes. One example is the dispute in when Jesus was crucified between Mark and John. John, for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into, is believed to have changed it from the earlier version of the story to make a theological point about Jesus being the sacrificial lamb from the original passover story. The author had a specific point of view and changed the writing to match it. This was done numerous times throguhout the gospels, either by the original authors or later scribes.

Lecture 2: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

This lecture was about the historical Jesus. Ehrman discussed tests used by Scholars to measure what may be historically accurate in texts. A few of these are multiple attestation, dissimilarity, and historical context.

Multiple attestation simply means it appears in more than one story, with the caveat that it can’t be copied. For example, something from the Q Gospel that was written nearly verbatim in both Matthew and Luke does not count as multiple attestation. On the other hand, something that appears in Q, Mark, John, and the letters of Paul is more likely to be accurate.

Dissimilarity means something that would not be similar to the common notions of what the writers wanted to prove. For example, to say that the Jewish Messiah, who was expected to be a warrior, was crucified by the Romans would indicate accuracy.

Many of these gospels were written well after Jesus lived. If something is true to the historical context of 1st century Palestine, it is more likely to be true. For example, some of the wordplay that only makes sense in Greek probably did not link back to Jesus, who likely spoke Aramaic.

Ehrman’s ultimate conclusion was that to best understand the historical Jesus, we can’t remove him from his context. He was a Jewish apocalypticist who felt the end of the world was happening within his lifetime.

Lecture 3: Literary Forgery in the New Testament

The point of this lecture is pretty simple: the books in the New Testament were not for the most part written by the attributed author. This was a common practice of the time and used to grant authority to your work. An early church was more likely to follow your letter or gospel if it were written by Peter, for example. Some of the letters attributed to Paul may be accurate, but that’s about it.

Thanks for reading. If anyone wants more information on a particular topic, let me know and I can expand in the comments.

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3 comments

  1. john

    Lecture 3: He is not convincing on who wrote or didn’t write. He just doesn’t have the evidence. Too many suppositions with Dr. Ehrman. Lectures 1 and 2: Bart is the one Misquoting Jesus.

  2. Mike

    How do you know he’s not convincing? His book on new testament forgery hasn’t been published yet. He’s been on sabbatical doing research for over a year on the subject. Has he shared his findings with you?

  3. Anonymously Dan C. Ayres Jr.

    On a topic unrelated to Ehrman, I found some Christian propaganda at work the other day and decided to read it. I soon found out it was written by a “recovered athiest” where he used “logic” to determine there had to be a god. Not only did the structures of logic prove to him there was a deity but that deity had to be Jesus. I didn’t really have time to read it thoroughly and as I knew the end resut it was trying to prove I wondered it the information was faith based or Chrisitian based. Once I saw the word Jesus on it I put it down. I’ll try to find it again and we can all take a look and have a giggle.

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