Monday, May 16, 2011

Bible scholar: much of the New Testament is forged

Tearing a page from the media's bent for sensationalism, a world-renowned, widely-published Biblical scholar has released a bold new survey of the New Testament.

Bart D. Ehrman is a tenured professor at that bastion of Baptist sensibility, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He took his BA from Wheaton University in Illinois, then attended Moody Bible Institute, where he earned a Ph.D.

Obviously, the professor's mission is to educate Christendom about the origins and underpinnings of a faith that began as an underground adoration of a revolutionary and radical Rabbi who was executed for his inflammatory teachings in the most ignominious fashion – one reserved by an army of occupation for the most despised of criminals, the thieves and murderers.

His method challenges the faith, begs the question, ignites the passions of the followers of Christ by making some very provocative claims:

Almost half the books of the New Testament are forgeries.

Theological feuds between competing factions were settled in the pages of the testimony attributed to Jesus' disciples.

The by-lined gospels could not have been written by those to whom they were attributed because they were, in fact, illiterate, according to Dr. Ehrman's latest book, "Forged."

Angered by the assertions in “Forged,” another New Testament scholar named Ben Witherington has dubbed the new work thusly, “Gullible's Travels,” in a lengthy backlash critique published on-line.

The outraged scholar claims that Dr. Ehrman has ignored the role played by scribes in transcribing documents during the First Century, A.D., something that was "neither a deceitful practice, nor a blatant attempt at forgery."

The words of the Apostle Paul that came just prior to his execution in Rome by beheading were actually a part of the last will and testament of a person who was, in fact, dying.

“I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come,” reads a passage in 2 Timothy. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

Ben Witherington, in joining others who have ridiculed the work of Dr. Ehrman as “The gospel according to Bart,” asserts that the words were probably dictated to a fellow prisoner, a scribe.

“When you have a trusted colleague or co-worker who knows the mind of Paul, there was no problem in antiquity with that trusted co-worker hearing Paul's last testimony in prison. This is not a forgery. This is the last will and testament of someone who is dying.”

Dr. Ehrman makes the case that only about half of the New Testament letters attributed to Paul – 7 of 13 - were actually written by him.

Furthermore, none of the earliest Gospels were attributed to an author. Scribes added the by-lines much later, Dr. Ehrman has written in “Forged.”

“According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi, a Greek word that means 'unlettered, that is, 'illiterate.'”

He explains the practice of signing testimony with the famous names of the disciples in this way.

“There was competition among different groups of Christians about what to believe and each of these groups wanted to have authority to back up their views. If you were a nobody, you wouldn't sign your own name to your treatise. You would sign Peter or John.”

Legendary question of the day: What founding father, a member of the Constitutional Convention and sub rosa collaborator with Thomas Jefferson in drafting “The Declaration of Independence,” often by-lined his news items as “Silence DoGood” and “Constance Makepeace”?

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