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A Clarification and an Apology to Bart Ehrman

January 30, 2015

In light of a rebuking email from my colleague in the field of Christian Origins and long-time personal acquaintance, Bart Ehrman, I think a clarification, and even an apology from me, are due.  Bart has emailed complaining about a recent comment of mine.  Well, I genuinely don’t want to offend, and so I want to try to make amends if I can, at least with reference to the immediate cause for his rebuke.  Since the offending remark was published here, I feel obliged to try to make amends publicly as well. (To cite an old saying, repentance is good for the soul!)

First, some clarification.  I don’t go out of my way to denigrate Bart (or, to my recollection, even to bring him into the discussion gratuitously).  Sure, he’s a controversial figure in some circles, but for me is a personal acquaintance over many years whom I respect for his scholarly contributions.  The recent mention of him was by way of explaining how the rumour of a first-century fragment of GMark got going:  Initially, in a debate between Bart and Dan Wallace.  I did opine that I don’t think that such debates are a particularly useful way of informing the general public about scholarly issues involved in the origins of Christianity, the transmission of the NT writings, etc. I also opined that both sides in these debates have agendas, and can be tempted to engage in rhetorical flights.

My comment to which Bart objects came in response to a reader who responded by contending that only those whom Bart debates have an agenda and a stake in the debate.  I reiterated the view that there are things at stake on both sides. Then, I added (and here comes the offence) otherwise, why would Bart engage in these debates?  Simply for the fee?

Well, Bart’s email rebukes me for hinting that he is motivated by financial aims, and he indicates that all of his (considerable) debating fees go into a few charities that he supports, and I accept (and admire) that entirely.  We may disagree about this or that matter of historical judgment (as reflected, e.g., in my criticisms of some things in his latest book here), but I state publicly that I hold Bart in high esteem as a scholar and as to his trustworthiness in what he says about his fees.  His generous commitment to his charities is commendable and impressive.  I intended no smear in what was, granted, a careless remark; but Bart perceives an offence, and so I publicly apologize for that offence.  I really do have no interest in generating personal animosities, and so I hope that Bart will accept my apology, which is offered in sincerity. I meant no accusation of greed or other unworthy motives in my throwaway comment.


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