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Is the New Testament Forged?

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By Jerry Newcombe

Editor’s Note: By now you are aware of the pastor who burned a copy of the Koran and the reaction of some radical Muslims overseas. These advocates of the “religion of peace” killed people because a copy of their sacred book was defiled. They have no problem blowing up mosques and fellow Muslims where I’m sure copies of the Koran were present.  The reaction of political pundits is almost as outrageous.

Where were they when the “Piss Christ” was unveiled? It was a photograph of a “small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s ‘Awards in the Visual Arts’ competition, which is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects.” Just last year there was the ants on the crucifix video that was being shown at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. It was later moved to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wendy Olsoff, a co-owner of the New York City art gallery that manages Wojnarowicz’s work, said the artist frequently used animals and insects to represent metaphors for interactions in human society. “This was not hate speech,” she said. “It’s a compassionate look at how we live. He’s overlaying the insect world on the human world. … And he used ants in a series of surreal images, using them on guns, clocks and toy soldiers.” Well, maybe burning a Koran is a compassionate thing to do. It might keep some radical Muslim from reading it and he won’t have the goal of beheading some “infidels.”

To placate Muslim sensitivities, in 2009, the United States Military burned Bibles in Afghanistan. CNN reported, Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles. As one writer noted, “There were no reports of rioting by Christians in the United States. No one claimed to be insulted by the Bible burning. There were no reports of any attacks on Muslims in the United States because of the Bible burning.”

Of course, as frequent readers of articles on AV’s site, you know all of this. But there is a more insidious attack on the Bible that gets a pass. When an academic attacks the Bible, it’s worse than burning it. It’s an attack on the content and its message. When a Koran is burned, there are millions more to replace it. But to question the Bible’s authority is an altogether more grave matter. It’s as if all the Bibles in the world have been made void. Academics like Bart Ehrman are Bible burners on the home front. He does much more damage than any Koran burner. Eternity is at stake in his work.

The following article by Jerry Newcombe of Coral Ridge Ministries is a compliment to Joel McDurmon’s article “Who’s Really Telling the Lies, Dr. Ehrman?,” that appeared on AV’s site on April 1, 2011. I hope you’ll read and study both of them and share them with friends.

A new book by a major New Testament scholar is sure to make mincemeat of many people’s faith. Needlessly.

The scholar is the iconoclastic Dr. Bart Ehrman, who teaches religion at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The book is called Forged: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman said on a radio broadcast that about 75% of the New Testament documents are supposedly forged. They’re frauds.

Dr. Sam Lamerson is a conservative New Testament scholar who teaches at Knox Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale. (By way of full disclosure, I earned a theology degree there). He heard Ehrman on a radio broadcast say words to this effect: “I want to be the scholar that uses the F-word about the Bible. I want people to know that these books were forged.

“Forged” is a strong word. Several of the New Testament books claim no authorship at all. Church tradition has attributed them to various writers, but the biblical text itself does not claim authorship for these particular books. For instance, none of the four Gospels (of which tradition names the writers as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) actually have the names of the authors at the beginning of their documents.

But if a document is anonymous, how could it be a forgery?

Dr. Mike Licona, a rising star in New Testament scholarship, has been reading an advanced copy of Forged. He told me that the most prolific biographer of antiquity is widely held to be Plutarch (as in Plutarch’s Lives), yet of all the 50 or so existing manuscripts we have of Plutarch, none of them is signed.

Were they forgeries? By Ehrman’s definition, it would seem so. But no serious scholar holds that view.

Dr. Licona, who has debated Ehrman twice, told me, “What we’re seeing from Ehrman [in Forged] is not new information. It may be new to many readers who aren’t used to looking at the academic stuff, but it’s not at all new.”

Ehrman goes on to assert that many New Testament books that do claim authorship within the text, such as Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters of Peter and James, are not written by the claimed authors. It should be noted that this is not based on manuscript evidence. It’s based largely on the style of the text, and there are many conservative scholars who are not convinced by these arguments. Thus, Ehrman is stating liberal opinion as fact.

Ironically, Ehrman even states in his own book, “Virtually all of the problems with what I’ve been calling forgeries can be solved if secretaries were heavily involved in the compositions of the early Christian writings.” (134)

But that’s exactly what happened.

Conservative scholars note that many of Paul’s writings begin with his name…and that of a co-author, such as Timothy, Silas, or Sosthenes.

Dr. Lamerson, who interestingly worked his way through seminary by doing magic tricks, knows sleight of hand when he sees it (or in this case, hears it). He said, “Of course, being forged is very different from having a secretary or having someone help you with the text or not knowing who wrote the text because their name simply isn’t included.”

Ehrman likes to tout that he’s a former evangelical, who went to Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. Ehrman then went on to Princeton Seminary where he began to have some doubts about his faith. That faith finally shattered when he was teaching at Rutgers University. Now, he’s an agnostic.

So why are Bart Ehrman and other liberal scholars even concerning themselves with this stuff if they don’t believe it?

Amazingly, Jesus made a warning that fits here (if the Gospel of Matthew is to be believed—and, no, it wasn’t forged; it just isn’t signed). He admonished those who “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” He said, “You yourselves won’t go in, but you prevent others from going in.”

I’m concerned that many people will hear Bart Ehrman and think that he speaks for all the scholars. He does not.

Many people might miss the Gospel because they take Ehrman’s word as Gospel. It is not.

It is liberal opinion repackaged well for a mass audience.

For anyone needing a scholarly rebuttal to Bart Ehrman’s 2011 book, feel free to read Terry L. Wilder’s excellent article called “Pseudonymity and the New Testament,” which appears in a 2001 book, Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues. (Indeed, his arguments aren’t new.)

Dr. Paul Maier, a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and a first rate scholar of the New Testament and its history, told me, “Both [Ehrman] and his publisher [HarperOne] are guilty of cheap sensationalism with little or no regard for the truth.”

Ehrman’s book went on March 22, 2011. Just in time for Easter, he, his publisher, and the lackeys in the media who go for all the anti-faith iconoclasm get another chance to try and cash in. What a friend we have in Jesus.

______________

Jerry Newcombe is the senior producer and host of The Coral Ridge Hour. He has also written or co-written 21 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation. Jerry co-wrote (with Dr. Peter Lillback) the bestselling, George Washington’s Sacred Fire. He hosts the website www.jerrynewcombe.com.

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