We now continue considering the legend of Bart the gnostic hero Ehrman as he attempts to discredit the Bible and Christianity.
Let us consider an example of Ehrmanian logic:
Bart Ehrman provides an example of just how difficult it is to discern the true, real and originally intended meaning of a text, if not what they text states in the first place. He makes the point that the Greek New Testament manuscripts were written in all caps, without punctuation and without any spaces between the letters (this is true only of minuscule – scriptio continua manuscripts) and offers the following example; what does this say?:
Does it say:
GOD IS NO WHERE
GOD IS NOW HERE
Obviously, these are two very different meanings and yet both were derived from the same sentence. It is interesting that Bart Ehrman very, very often mentions, or boasts, that many or most people have never even heard of any such information as that which he is amongst us to reveal. Well, if anyone is falling for such claims and also lacks good old fashioned common sense then sure, I could see someone being flummoxed by this. Must it really be pointed out that the context dictates what a text states and means? That the overall intention of the text is indiscernible is simply giving in and giving up the hermeneutical fight before it begins.
Let us now delve into a particular example of variants which are also said to grow from little to the insertion of entire stories and finally, forgery as Bart Ehrman, the hero of the story, is said to have proved that “At least 19 of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries” 1:
these copies are all different from each other, sometimes in big ways, most of the time in little ways…
manuscripts have hundreds of thousands of differences in them. A lot of them are just misspelled words that don't matter much, if anything, but there are big differences too…
This entire story, a beautiful story that in some ways you could argue is the favorite story of people who read the Gospels, wasn't in the Gospels. It's only found in the Gospel of John, and it's not found in the earliest and best manuscripts of John. So scholars for hundreds of years have known that it wasn't part of John, it was a story that was added later by scribes because it's found only in our later manuscripts…
There are a few big ones. And there are lots of little ones.2
Playing Ehrman’s advocate; let us imagine that we grant that this story does not reflect an actual event engaged upon by Jesus, why is this a “big one,” what does this story reflect that is nowhere else in the New Testament? The point of the story is, at least, threefold:
1) An attempt to trap Jesus in a false dichotomy.
2) Jesus’ love and offer of forgiveness.
3) The spirit of the law overrules the letter of the law.
1) Jesus defeated falsely dichotomous logical fallacies. For example, in Luke 20:22-25 we find that Jesus is asked, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not?” If He answered “Yes” He could have been reported to the Jewish leadership as He cold be said to be siding with the Gentile oppressors. If He answered “No” He could have been reported to the Roman leadership as He cold be said to be encouraging the breaking of Roman law—and Romans cared about the Pax Romana—Roman Peace over all. Thus, Jesus did the following:
But He perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Why do you tempt Me? Show Me a coin. Whose image and inscription does it have?”
They answered and said, Caesar's.
And He said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the things which are God's.”
2) There are simply too many references to list but simply considering a couple suffices:
Matthew 20:34, “Jesus had compassion on them.”
Mathew 9:36, “He was moved with compassion.”
Luke 7:13, “He had compassion on her.”
Matthew 9:2, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
Mark 2:5, “Jesus said…your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:47, Jesus said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.”
3) Consider what happened when “Jesus went through the grain fields on the sabbath day. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat.”
But when the Pharisees saw, they said to Him, Behold, your disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day.
But He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him, how he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath and are blameless? But I say to you that One greater than the temple is in this place. But if you had known what this is, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned those who are not guilty. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8).
Indeed, the spirit of the law is the parchment upon which the letter of the law is written.
Thus, even if we discard this particular story we do not lose any doctrine big or small or any words or deed of Jesus whatsoever.
Now, let us consider more grandiose claims such as:
important doctrines like the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, which weren't the original teachings of Christianity…
The earliest Christians appear to have thought that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. In Jewish thinking, the Messiah was not a divine figure, but was a human being chosen by God to fulfill some grand purpose on earth. But over time Christians started thinking Jesus was more than just a great human or a human chosen by God. They began to think of Jesus as the Son of God in a unique sense, so that by the time you get toward the end of the New Testament period, the end of the first century, there are people thinking of Jesus himself as in some sense God…
At least 160 years after Jesus' death is the first time you have anybody talking specifically about the Trinity.3
In stating what was the “Jewish thinking” Bart Ehrman is actually offer merely one of very many option (which I will not discuss here since I have evidenced various in Jewish Messianic Concepts). While a Jewish belief that the Messiah would be God in the flesh is certainly hard, if not impossible, to come by let us not imagine that God is limited to that which Jewish theology would and would not allow Him to do.
By its own admission, by the fact that they expect a Messiah and one that would bring a new Torah, Judaism admits that it is an incomplete revelation without the Messiah. Within the New Testament it is quite evident that the apostles had to take baby steps in slowly understanding who Jesus is. As for the reference to the “Son of God” indeed, since context determines meaning it is quite right to state that Jesus was the “Son of God in a unique sense.” Jesus actually preferred to refer to Himself as the “Son of Man” which some have un-contextually taken to mean that He was emphasizing His humanity. Yet, that is not what this term, in this sense, means. In correlating the concept of the Messiah with the concept of the “Son of Man” we hearken back to Daniel who wrote,
I saw in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And dominion and glory was given Him, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).
Thus, we see that the Son of Man is a divine figure whose dominion is “everlasting” which is also reminiscent of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 which affirms that the one “whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity” will be born in Bethlehem.
As for the Trinity, I wonder if he in not obfuscating between the belief in the divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on the one hand and when the theology began to be iron out and systematized or even when the Latin word Trinitas was introduced by Tertullian (for discerning the Trinity in the Bible see here).
A mere two examples of triadic or Trinitarian allusions:
Unfortunately the dating of the Didache is wide in range from 50-120 AD to the shorter estimate of 65-80 AD. It repeats the triune “formula” found in Matthew 28:19, “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”—the singular name and not the plural names.
Sometime between 105-115 AD, Ignatius wrote an epistle to the Magnesians in which he stated,
…Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time [Ch. VI]….the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit…to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit [Ch. XIII]…
Ehrman says that no one accepts everything in the Bible. Everyone picks and chooses. He cites some New Testament's references to the role of women in church as an example.
In the first book of Corinthians, Ehrman says, the Apostle Paul insists that women should remain silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:35-36).
In the 16th chapter of the book of Romans, Paul's attitude is that women could and should be church leaders -- and he cites women who were serving as deacons and apostles in the early church, Ehrman says.4
If everyone picks and chooses this would include Ehrman himself, right?
As for women remaining silent in church, I have exposited that text and concluded that it is a convenient misinterpretation (find the exposition here).
I am not certain how “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you receive her in the Lord, as becomes saints, and that you may assist her in whatever business she has need of you. For she has been a helper of many, and of myself also” amounts to “women could and should be church leaders” or what “leaders” means but indeed, women in the Old and New Testament are judges, own businesses, own land, are prophetesses, deacons, teachers, etc. (see here for details).
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