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The Ehrman Blog-site

April 20, 2012

Yesterday, Bart Ehrman (a long-time acquaintance and fellow scholar) emailed to say that he has launched his own blog-site, which has an interesting and unusual spin to it (on which see below).

Ehrman, who has now achieved what I’m told was his aim of becoming a celebrity-scholar, has done so essentially by writing popular-level books that comfort and reassure sceptics, and annoy or even infuriate a lot of those Christians with little exposure to scholarship and a “pre-critical” understanding of Christianity and the Bible. He’s also often on the debate-circuit, given handsome sums to debate scholars and/or apologists critical of his (deliberately provocative) claims. (Indeed, one might wonder whether Bart would have got the media attention he has if it weren’t for all those whose responses actually have made him controversial, and so a celebrity! Bart’s done some recognized and respected scholarly work too, but, clearly, it’s saying naughty things that antagonize fundamentalists, such as he says he was once, that gets you a literary agent and media attention.

Anyway, his new blog site (very much a celebrity-type site) offers two levels of engagement. You can read postings, etc., of one level of information for free. But, if you want a “full” and deeper draught of Bart’s thoughts, you pay. But, and here’s the novel feature, Bart assures me that the income from this goes entirely to the charities he supports aimed at addressing hunger and deprivation.

So, whether you’re a devotee or aggrieved, you can pay your money and get as much of Bart’s thoughts as you want, secure in the knowledge that, whatever your take on him, your money is going to a good cause. Here’s the URL:

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  1. Matthew Hamilton permalink

    Bart Ehrman (NT textual criticism) reminds me of Barbara Thiering (Dead Sea Scrolls) – had a Christian background, did some academic work, went off the rails, wrote a number of works that became very popular, became increasingly unbalanced in making claims made that could not be substantiated or that conflicted with the evidence – and whose only real value was to draw attention to a field that the general public knew or cared little about.

    • Matthew, I don’t think your analogy is accurate or fair. Thiering continued to put out putatively scholarly views that were regarded as aberrant on evidence by other specialists in her field. Ehrman’s scholarly work has been rather well received generally. His popularizing isn’t so much wrong on facts as allegedly tendentious in tone, and provocative for marketing reasons. So, e.g., he points to a phenomenon recognized by most NT scholars: pseudepigraphical writings in the NT (writings put forth under the name of a person who didn’t actually compose them). Examples (per most scholars) = Ephesians, 1-2 Timothy, 2 Peter, et alia. All Ehrman does is sensationalize matters with the book-title “Forgery”. But the claim works only for those whose particular view of scripture is that it must be totally unconditioned historically and meet modern scientific definitions of accuracy in all matters, in order to be taken as scripture: i.e., fundamentalists. Having been one himself, Bart knows well just what gets up their nose, and now works it for all its worth (and it’s worth a LOT in royalties, speaking fees, and media attention). Bart is much more canny than Thiering ever was!

  2. Donald Miller permalink

    I think Ehrman has been good for historical studies because of the attention he has elicited and received. His lectures for the Teaching Company and his book “The New Testament: a Historical Introduction” are about as interesting as one can make the subject. (Actually, I find all of the ingredients in biblical study, especially archaeology, interesting.)

    By the way, have you read Christopher Hitchens’ essay on the King James Bible. Hitchens is my hero. I try, as best as I can, to model my essays after his in terms of being interesting reads.

    • Ehrman is a good communicator (and an effective debater), although he also can tend to “play to the galleries” a bit too much to my taste at times. His Introduction is a fine piece of critical scholarship. Some of his pop-level books seem intended mainly to infuriate fundamentalists, and tend to exaggerate and over-simplify matters (and that’s a judgement that would be echoed by some other scholars as well).
      Hitchens I haven’t read. I really don’t have much time for things by people writing about things about which they aren’t recognized experts. Hitchens seems to have felt that his opinion on anything was worth reading, but I think he probably vastly over-estimated himself.

  3. Dear Dr Hurtado
    Many thanks for suggesting the Ehrman blog. I have become a member and I find the blog quite useful.


  4. Mike Brugge permalink

    Dr. Hurtado, I am an engaged layman who finds your work to be extremely useful and informative. I have been working on Lord Jesus Christ for three years, and I am almost two-thirds of the way through. (My problem is that I will run across a particular reference in the footnotes that may send me on a distraction that may take three or four months to pursue!).

  5. Mike Brugge permalink

    Dr. Hurtado, thank you for having a blog of your own.
    Why is it that Christian apologists are the only ones who are willing to call out Dr. Ehrman for the overreaching claims he makes in his pop books? Is there a scholarly inhibition that keeps other scholars to limiting their criticisms only to his articles in scholarly journals, and pretending not to notice the outrageous claims that Dr. Ehrman makes outside the scholarly realm?

    • The world of apologetics and serious scholarship don’t necessarily intersect. I have enough trouble keeping up with the massive flow of scholarly publications and can’t spare a lot of time for popular works. But for a scholarly engagement with Ehrman that is intended to be read by a wider general audience, the following:
      Wallace, Daniel (ed.), Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence (Text and Canon of the New Testament). Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2011.

  6. Robrecht permalink

    Very fair and insightful assessment of Bart’s relative importance (or lack thereof) in NT Scholarship. He reminds me somewhat of the way James Tabor is promoting his scholarship, although at least Tabor has original and interesting ideas that are truly provocative (but not always convincing) in my humble opinion anyway.

    • Bart’s done some good work in addition to his pop stuff, including developing a more sophisticated (than had been used previously) method for establishing manuscript relationships. He’s supervised some significant PhD students whose work has been published too. And his book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), though over-stated and not always persuasive by any means, has been very influential and widely noted.

  7. Danny Christoffers permalink

    Larry, I got to this site by a referenced link on Facebook by “Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics” – I quickly followed that link because I had read your book “The Earliest Christian Artifacts” and enjoyed it thoroughly! It’s one of few books in my collection that I plan to read a second time. Also, now that I know you have a blog, I’ll make an effort to visit it frequently!

  8. I can’t get excited about paying when I have so many other demands on my income. My tenth goes to the Lord and I give over and above to the poor and do some pro bono work. mlk

    • Well, commendable of you. But you will miss out on having a “full” version of Bart’s views on . . . whatever. Try to console yourself 🙂

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