Bart Ehrman's course on The History of the Bible

Hello everyone,
I recently purchased a DVD course given by Bart Ehrman. I have had to stop listening to the course after listening for less than five minutes the last few times. I attempted to get back to it. I mean, this is supposed to be one of the preeminent scholars on the bible. Since I think that it is necessary for a biblical scholar to actually read the bible, I believe the man is lying rather than making mistakes. Does anyone know if a Catholic apologist debated him regarding his “take” on the bible? If you would like an example or two of what I mean I can supply it but since he is such a famous scholar I think it possible that most of you already know about this. I tried to find a debate such as that. I can find debates on other topics with him but not on this subject.


What makes you think that he is either lying or making an ignorant mistake?

I think you are judging him harshly because he’s coming from a perspective so different to yours.

Ehrman is certainly a well-respected scholar–his translation of the Apostolic Fathers is wonderful–but in fact he’s more a scholar of early Christianity than of the NT (obviously the two shade into each other). There are a lot of scholars out there and they cover a wide spectrum. Ehrman is worth listening too because he well represents one side of the scholarly spectrum. You can disagree without judging someone to be ignorant or dishonest. I know he isn’t ignorant, and I’m pretty confident he isn’t dishonest. That doesn’t mean that I agree with him.

For instance, in one of his books he claims that apparent contradictions in the Gospel of John represent different source documents. This is an approach to Biblical scholarship of which I’m very skeptical–sometimes I think it’s true, and maybe it is in this case, but I think it’s more likely that Ehrman is missing the distinctive, paradoxical tone of John’s Gospel.

Yet that doesn’t require me to form a bad opinion of his learning, his intelligence, or his moral character.


Bart Ehrman is interesting, but I feel he makes some rather outlandish claims and camoflauges them in with fact.

In fact, I would like to know where you got the idea that he was an eminent scholar. Certainly, for a person to achieve his level education, he should be accorded some respect, but Bart Ehrman only made a name for himself by becoming a skeptical agnostic after being a faithful evangelical for all of his life. His skeptical and controversial books are what made him a household name among intellectuals in this field of study.

Anyone at all engaged in contra atheism apologetics knows a lot Bart Ehrman. Atheist defer to him as a source to discredit the transcription of the Bible. However, Ehrman has been shown to be very dishonest in his books, painting a very skeptical picture for his readers that simply does not correspond with the facts.

So, in addition to his shady books on the Bible, one also has to understand that biblical history - heck, ancient history in general - is by no means exact like the physical sciences. There are so many holes on our understanding of ancient history, that scholars often develop many theories to plug in those holes. Theories are debated endlessly, modified or altogether trashed when new data is discovered or new methods developed. With such holes, there is a lot of room for controversial theories to slip and make a nice home. The controversial ones earn the most money because they are the most widely read. There is a whole industry of books like this - The Real Jesus, The Secret Jesus, The Missing Gospels, etc. etc. etc. (These aren’t real books, I am just paraphrasing).

I would be very mindful of all of this if I were you.

I have yet to see anything on this thread that substantiates the contention that Ehrman is dishonest, other than the fact that people don’t like his conclusions. There is an Evangelical website I read occasionally and the one contributor knows Ehrman, and although sad he lost his faith, still holds his scholarship in high esteem and sees it has having much to contribute that believers and scholars can learn from.

To prove that he is dishonest you’d need to show that with all the evidence available to him he concluded that something was correct or should be interpreted one way and then went on to to interpret it another way knowing full well he was lying or wrong. Unless you can crawl into his head and figure out what was going on that seems pretty difficult to do.

Ehrman apparently left the faith after being able to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering in this world with the idea of a loving and omnipotent God. I’ve heard Evangelicals admit that this thought can be the biggest challenge to their faith and that this is the most difficult question for Christianity to answer successfully.

You can quibble and argue over Ehrman’s sources, the weight he places upon them and even their interpretation, but don’t tell me he’s dishonest or intentionally deceitful.


Hi Chad, I have read a couple of Bart Ehrmans’ books. I disagree. He is just more subtle than the usual atheist/skeptic attacks on the Bible and Christianity. His agenda and motivation of his books and DVDs is the same, which is to discredit belief and make people leave the faith. It is fundamentalism of a different kind, to place all the skeptics arguments, without explaining the case for God or the case for authority of the Church and the Bible.

Hi Dave, Thank you for the reply. If this is truly his intention with his scholarship then it can undermine to a certain degree his impartiality or judgment. It is especially more damaging if he leaves the major alternate to his thesis (that there is a God etc.) then that weakens his argument.


My previous post was perhaps too strongly worded. I have no real problem wih Bart Ehrman and his scholarship. He makes some valid points in his books.

Its just I find it annoying that the only Bible scholars who get any recognition today, are agnostic or atheist and believe the Bible to be a forgery, or believe Jesus to be a myth.

I understand Bart Ehrman is an agnostic, who believes most of the books of the Bible to be forgeries, and believes Jesus existed but only as an ordinary man.

I find EWTN to be such a blessing, as its the one channel of TV which gives voice to Bible scholars and authors from a position of faith.

Dave, I don’t think it’s true that the only scholars who get recognition are agnostic or atheist. N. T. Wright gets quite a bit of recognition, it seems to me. Ben Witherington also has considerable (though much less) publicity. Granted, there are lots more Christian scholars who I wish were better known.

Also, I don’t think “forgery” is the best way to describe the way skeptical critics view the NT books. In some cases, like the epistles, that would be accurate, though they usually claim that pseudepigraphy is different from forgery (Witherington has criticized this view, and I find his argument fairly convincing). However, the standard critical view of the Gospels is that they were formed over a period of decades, as oral traditions crystallized into specific stories or groups of sayings, which were then put together to form the Gospels.

Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses has done a great job of criticizing this picture, in my opinion (for one thing, he points out that the time scale is so short that the language of “oral tradition” isn’t really appropriate–even if we accept the standard scholarly dates for the Gospels, we still have a strong possibility that some of the original eyewitnesses were alive when the Gospels were written). But it’s over-simplifying to say that this standard picture presents the Gospels as forgeries.

Back to the original point: I’m still awaiting specific instances of Ehrman’s alleged dishonesty. All I’ve seen so far is a list of links where Christians debate Ehrman, which is quite different. I don’t agree with Ehrman on a lot of points–that doesn’t make him dishonest, just wrong :stuck_out_tongue:


I think that you are quite wrong in your statement. Bart Ehrman has been working on the Bible for quite a bit. His earlier work in books and DVDs (most of it) has been about Christianity and the reliability of the Gospel as a true document. Lately he spent too much focusing on the details and so he got confused and lost his faith. However, the recent loss of his faith does not imply that his earlier work is not quite solid (see “the search for the historical Jesus” by the Teaching Company). I got several of his DVDs and they are quite interesting even if done by a protestant and not in complete accord with the Catholic teachings. I would stay away from his recent stuff.

You make your point well, I stand corrected :slight_smile:

Ive read his book, "Misquoting Jesus. I find it a good introduction to textual studies, but the thing you have to understand with Ehrman is the angle he is coming from. He was a former fundamentalist christian, and when he found that the Bible contained scribal errors and there were some manuscripts that were better then other manuscripts, he became so traumatized that he gave up Christianity. Most of his works since then come at you from the angle of trying to “cure” the Christian of his belief.

He’s definitely a prominent scholar (or at least gets alot of attention from the media), but there are also other prominent scholars who think he’s full of it. I don’t know though, if it’s so much that he’s intentionally lying, he certainly really doesn’t believe the Bible, but this does bias him toward pushing arguments that support his claims and ignoring others. At least, he is definitely deceptive. There’s a good debate on the resurrection of his with William lane Craig, but I can’t think of any debates on the bible itself. A better idea might just be to read other scholars who disagree with him and see what they say.

I read this book by Carsten Peter Thiede in tandem with Ehrman for a class, It’s not bad as a sort of counterpoint,
It’s more directed against the so-called “Jesus Seminar”, but alot of it is applicable to ehrman too. eyewitnessnes to Jesus is another of his books.

There are others too. You can look for books by NT Wright among others.

I don’t have time to list everything that I have been referring to. I’ll give you just one example but it necssitates your checking the bible if you don’t know it by heart. Go to Romans 16:7 and get back to me with the gender of a one Junias. After you do this, I will, Lord willing, get back to you with a quote from Ehrman on the subject. Then you can decide for yourself if he lied or not. And there is more.

You ask: What makes you think that he is either lying or making an ignorant mistake?

My reply: I give him just enough credit to know the difference between “men and women” when it is written.

You again: I think you are judging him harshly because he’s coming from a perspective so different to yours.

Me: And you are judging me without at least researching what I wrote. BTW, I was looking for a “take” on bible history that came from a different perspective from a Catholic one although I had already read many Protestants (I am an ex-Lutheran LCMS). I expected to hear many things that did not agree with Catholic teaching but this I didn’t expect and I am astounded.

You again: You can disagree without judging someone to be ignorant or dishonest. I know he isn’t ignorant, and I’m pretty confident he isn’t dishonest. That doesn’t mean that I agree with him.

Me: If you know he isn’t ignorant I wonder what you think of what he says when no interpretation is needed.


ChadS, have you read Misquoting Jesus? Are you at all familiar with biblical transcription? He makes the case to his readers that the Bible is wildly unreliable with scribal errors and so forth, when, in reality, the Bible is nearly perfect in its textual accuracy.

Ehrman has only made a name for himself based on the popularity of these books. Other than those books, what other accomplishments has he done? And I am not expressing some excessively negative opinion just because he’s a skeptic - you will find a lot of top-notch, more accomplished scholars “rag” on him as well for his dishonesty.

Pertaining to Ehrman:

No, I haven’t read any of his books, but I think I will stop at the library and pick one up.

Having said that though there is a huge difference between disagreeing with a scholar’s viewpoints, their arguments, methodology and evidence and then malisciously ascribing to them “dishonesty.” Right now all I’ve seen is a lot of name calling and even less evidence.

If he’s an atheist or agnostic and you don’t like his evidence and can find arguments that can explain away his evidence then fine. But, don’t tell me he’s dishonest and that other scholars “rag” on him for it too, because that doesn’t cut it with me.


Hello Chad,
I posted this is to someone else so I though that you may not have read it so I’m posting this to you and perhaps you would be good enough to get back to me on the subject.

"Go to Romans 16:7 and get back to me with the gender of a one Junias. After you do this, I will, Lord willing, get back to you with a quote from Ehrman on the subject. Then you can decide for yourself if he lied or not. And there is more.


I went to and consulted several different English language translations of that verse. Many of them translated “Junias” as “Junia.” The NIV version didn’t have any words that would help determine gender. Several other versions used the either the word “kinsmen” or “countrymen.” This would lead me to conclude that they are both male.

However footnotes associated with the Contemporary English Version indicates that some versions have the name rendered as Julia. If that is accurate then some might be led to believe that one of the names is feminine.


I also consulted the NAB, which as you know is the US approved version of the scriptures for mass, uses the name as Junia. The footnote for that verse says Junia is a female name and says that some manuscripts also include the name as Junias a male name or some have Julia. The word that other translations apparently render as kinsmen or countrymen in the NAB is relatives.

The Douay-Rheims version says Junias (male) and kinsmen.

So, is it Junia (female) or Junias (male)? I don’t know it seems split and the official translation used by our Bishops prefers Junia, and I have to say I trust our bishops.

I suppose the bigger question is are any parts of doctrine or any Catholic teachings on faith and morals compromised whether it’s Junia or Junias and I think the answer is no.


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