By Grant Steves
Bart D. Ehrman
Harper Row, 2009, 292 pages
Bart Ehrman, as the Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, has specialized and taught about the New Testament. In his latest book, Jesus, Interrupted, he reveals hidden contradictions in the bible, and why we don't know about them.
In a mixture of autobiography and biblical scholarship, Bart Ehrman tells his story of going from evangelical behavior to agnostic. It is his scholarship that uncovers the problems of the bible, but that is not the reason why he lost his faith. Its core is scholarship on the bible, but it reads at times like a mystery thriller.
His first revelation is that what he is about to reveal has been known and accepted by biblical scholars for a hundred or more years. Pastors going through seminaries learn this material, but they fail their congregation by not speaking these facts.
Religious scholars know that the gospels create problems. We know that they build on one another, and they fail the author test. Read Mark and get a basic story of Jesus, but without the birth and genealogy. Ask why? Read Luke and find all of the birth narrative and a genealogy of his father Joseph - why if he is the Son of God? Mark does not make him the Son of God from birth, but Luke does. Why? When you get to the gospel of John, you have Jesus not only the Son of God, but also a pre-existing being. We went from human being to divine being. In a theology fabricated well after the death of this Jesus, we have a myth of divinity created. However, the ministers and pastors of the churches know this - so why do they not teach this?
We know that the writers of the bible are not who we are led to believe. Mark was not a disciple. Luke was a companion of Paul and did not know personally the Jesus about whom he was writing. Therefore, who told them the story? The gospel writers Matthew and John were assumed to be disciples. They knew each other, but their stories do not resemble each other and have contradictions. Matthew writes of a human Jesus being born. John writes about the incarnate ‘Word of God' who was with god from the beginning of the universe and helped to create all things. Matthew never says a word about Jesus as a god, but for John that is what Jesus is. Matthew's focus is on Jesus as preaching the kingdom of god and nothing is said about him being god. In John, Jesus teaches about himself as a divine being. Matthew records Jesus performing miracles, but not to prove his identity, but in John, his miracles are to prove his identity. The facts are there and they contradict.
Why does Matthew not write about himself in the story? The book of John does not speak of himself - why? At the end of John (21:24), he writes, "This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true." Note how the author differentiates between his source of information, "the disciple who testifies," and himself: "we know that his testimony is true." He/we: this author is not the disciple. He claims to have gotten some of his information from the disciple. We must conclude that none of the authors were disciples and only reported what they heard.
In the fifth chapter, Ehrman asks the question: is Jesus, "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" The gospels should reveal this. Why do three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, never mention that Jesus is god? Perhaps the gospel of John is the theology of John and not the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps the fourth choice is that he is a ‘legend'. However, a legend goes beyond the written biography done by a friend. Why do the contemporaneous historians, leaders, and commentators say little or nothing about Jesus? In fact, the Works of Josephus were used to prove that a secular source mentioned Jesus, but we now know this statement was fabricated.
Half of the books we have in the New Testament are not written by whom we thought.
The choice of these books for the New Testament was originally made because the churchmen of that day believed they were authentic. They made this decision over two hundred years after the books were written. They did not have the scholarly tools of analysis we have today. Scholars, ministers, and pastors know the facts surrounding the biblical story, but they fail to tell their congregation. For many people this book will reveal new information, but the fact remains it should not be new to any literate person.