Bart Ehrman is the man that gives Christians more heartburn than any other academic these days. Erhman is a well-known Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a specialist in New Testament textual criticism, and he has written a wide range of books that are, in my opinion, damaging the Christian faith by repeating and amplifying various false theories.
Ehrman is an agnostic, but he didn’t start out that way. Raised with a fundamentalist background, he seems to have “rebelled” against that during his time as an academic, and now works to deconstruct the Christian faith.
His books include such bestsellers as Forged, Misquoting Jesus, Jesus Interrupted, and How Jesus Became God. Through his works, Ehrman has asserted, among other things, that the early church never viewed Jesus as divine, that Jesus never considered himself to be anything other than a simple apocalyptic prophet, and that many books of the New Testament are forgeries.
As I have read Bart Ehrman’s work, I have noticed a few things. First, he is highly intelligent, and he is an excellent writer. His books are engaging and they will make you think. A casual Christian—who doesn’t have a solid grounding in the subject matter—would find his arguments to be extremely persuasive and actually, quite disconcerting. Why? Because his writing challenges the very core of the Christian faith.
This brings me to the next thing I’ve noticed about Bart Ehrman: He often gets his history right…but he sometimes gets it very wrong. And he seems to get it wrong when it matters most. When he does get his history right, he often draws conclusions that don’t logically flow from the established facts. Basically, he routinely stretches logic or twists facts to make his point.
I’m sure that Professor Ehrman is a nice guy. However, he seems to have a personal axe to grind against Christianity, and that often manifests as a strong bias in his work.
Enter Ben Witherington III. He is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary and, like Ehrman, a prolific author. Unlike Ehrman, he does not come from a fundamentalist upbringing. His educational background is similar to Ehrman’s, as they both have experience at UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition, they both trained under Bruce Metzger, the late—and quite famous—New Testament scholar from Princeton. Yet, Witherington, after studying the same things Ehrman did, has come to radically different conclusions.
Over the last few years, Witherington has taken it upon himself to write in-depth critiques of some of Ehrman’s more popular books. These critiques are long, but knowledge-packed chapter by chapter evaluations of Ehrman’s work. I have found them incredibly useful in my own studies on the subject.
In this post, we offer links to Witherington’s multi-part critique of Ehrman’s book, Forged. In Forged, Ehrman alleges that many New Testament works are forgeries. In his review of the book, Witherington effectively takes Ehrman behind the academic woodshed. These are long reads, but worth your time. In future posts, we’ll share links to more of Witherington’s critiques, including ones for Jesus Interrupted and Misquoting Jesus.