Thursday, March 05, 2015

Forged by Bart D. Ehrman

Forged: Writing in the Name of God-- Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011. e-book, 256 pps.

Bart D. Ehrman is a scholar and college professor who has written some books about God, Jesus, The Bible, and Christianity. He was converted to evangelical Christianity in high school and first attended Moody Institute where he studied apologetics. [The word "apologetics" has nothing to do with apologizing. It actually involves composing arguments and defenses in favor of Christianity]. Ehrman went on to obtain a PhD from Princeton. He is fluent in [the reading of] several languages which include Hebrew and Greek. 

I attended several brief informal classes of Greek. Armed with a Greek New Testament and a Greek dictionary, the three of us did not get very far. I perhaps might try again but in a different setting with a different style of teaching.

I was taught about the perfect nature of the Bible and that all of it was literally true without any mistakes. I accepted this for several years until I started noticing contradictions in both the Hebrew and the Christian Bibles [Old Testament and New Testament are what we called them back in the old days]. The phrase "follow the evidence" means "follow the evidence wherever it leads, even when it doesn't lead where you want it to go." These days, I attempt to follow the evidence and the money.

Forged is a Bart D. Ehrman for the rest of us-- those of us who are not college students studying this stuff and not biblical scholars-- packed with information. Even so, I found that I did have to give this Ehrman book two full reads. Its pages contained some things that I was familiar with as well as quite a bit of new information.

I didn't realize that the pagans of old did not put an emphasis on the idea that one religion could be true and the rest of them false. Before Christianity took hold, pagans didn't care about such things. Worshipping the gods involved doing the proper prayers and whatever sacrifices were called for. Christianity was the religion that introduced the notion that some religious doctrines could be truth and others not so much. These days, some of the pagan camp fight over things like which gods can be invoked together and how pagan leadership positions are determined and whether or not Satanists are witches [some are and some aren't; also some Satanists are atheists and some are literal believers] and how the latest event went. This is not to say that the ancient days were better. Had I lived then, the appendicitis attack that I suffered in my late twenties would have killed me if something else hadn't gotten me sooner.

On page 19 of Forged, I found that we know about over one hundred forgeries pertaining to Christian writings between the first and fourth century C.E. Page 21 advised that a fellow named Cerinthus actually wrote Revelations, not a fellow named John and certainly not the apostle John. Ehrman pointed out correctly that Palestinian boys were not routinely taught even rudimentary Hebrew and that more than ninety percent of the population were illiterate.  Other pages broke down who wrote each book of the canonized Christian Bible, who wrote some of the books that were not accepted, definition of many terms, and the reasons behind forgeries back in those times. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not actually written by those four apostles. The early church simply gave those gospels the names. There were many gospels floating around and believers had to be able to distinguish the ones they were using from the ones that they weren't.

Ehrman also pointed out that the literalism that is popular today was not how even the Puritans perceived the Scriptures. The current fundamentalist Christian movement started in the late  1800s [references below] at the earliest. Although Ehrman identifies as atheist, he does have some Christians among his fans. 

sapphoq reviews says: I found Forged a bit of a challenge to read but worth the effort. For those interested in what modern day [and some ancient] scholars are saying about the Bible, highly recommended.  not updated since August 11 ?2014.

References re: fundamentalist Christian movement origins:   [discussion on fundamentalism on a chat board]

Although I am an atheist, I do read some well-written Christian books as I find them. My next review will be on Franchising McChurch written by Christian pastors Jon Mark Yeats and Thomas White.

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