on October 11, 2014
Very good introduction to issues regarding canonicity, textual transmission, and the orthodoxy of the early Church. Personally, my favorite chapter was Chapter 5 which goes through a theological discussion regarding canon and covenant. If you adhere to any form of covenant theology, that chapter will warm your heart because it demonstrates that development of the NT canon is a consequence of the covenantal structure of the OT. In other words, the early church would have expected "covenantal documents" for the NT because of the larger covenantal structure of the OT. Thus, there are significant historical and theological reasons behind the creation of the NT canon. I have two small disappointments about the book:
(1) I know that this is meant to be an introductory book which addresses a number of Ehrman's claims about the corruption of the NT and the diversity of the early Church, but it would be nice to have a longer discussion on this textual criticism. In particular, it would have been nice to read more on how the textual critical method works.
(2) This is a pet peeve of mine, but footnotes would be much more suitable for this book than endnotes. The pace of reading slows down significantly when you have to flip to the end of each chapter to read the endnotes.
All in all, a very outstanding book that I would recommend to anyone who wants an introduction to these topics.
on May 7, 2011
If you have your eyes opened and can read between the lines, you know for sure what time we live in. For the last decade for sure there was a surge of books similar to Da Vinci Code. Of course those are not built on air[if they were, nobody would buy them]. All of them are growing from the 20th century postmodernism's tree. The interest in such genre, or more accurately such method of interpretation was fed into minds of masses for quite some time. It is NOT surprising that Dan Brown made fortune. This was a right time and right place to to plant a seed and get a good buck from the harvest. If Dan Brown would write his books say, 100 years ago it would not be received with such pleasant and accepting attitude. This is easy to understand. When postmodernism was pured out from academia into masses, into TV, into internet, etc... the result is - many average people, especially younger ones, have been taught postmodernism in schools and colleges.
So, why is that important and what is postmodernism? Postmodernism deserves it's own treatment somewhere else, but for time's sake it is a view which holds that truth is basically what people who had power made it to be. This way, 'evil white males' of Europe must be replaced with: feminism, queer studies, asian studies, latino studies... etc. In other words, ALL should have equal standing and everyones view is basically equal. Since, 'evil holders of power' wrote history as the wanted, we must therefore take it back, and distribute equally for all.
There is no sacred cow for postmodernism. Anything it gets hands on becomes relative. Gender is relative and socially constructed. Femininity and masculinity are too socially contracted to subjigate free and diverse people. If you was born as a man, it is not what you are. You can easily 'change sex' so that you will be who you 'truly is'. You see even absolutely obvious things are not standing to postmodernistic nonsense. Think for a second, if one's own body [what can be more obvious and accessible for introspection?] is not certainly you, do you think history, and more specifically Christian history will escape the cancer of postmodernism? Certainly not! So what are we to expect from Bart Ehrman and the rest of postmodernist decostructionists and revisionists? Of course what deconstructionists and revisionists do.
Why such a lengthy intro? Because one of the prime columns on which Ehrman (and his forerunner Bauer) thesis is built is postmodern approach to deconstruct early Christian History as to make it look like contemporary feminist class, or queer studies class in college. That is, give equal hearing for all, and not just hearing for all, but actually to distribute truth for all. Your opinion is as true as mine, even though they are contradictory. This is what postmodernism looks like.
To make case more explicit, imagine Bart Ehrman living in 2500 AD, and be postmodernist. He would most likely consider 27 books of New Testament, then all the books of Mormons, then books of Jehovah Witnesses, then Christian Science, then Scientology (because they have cross on their buildings)... etc. It may sound ridiculous, but if ALL views are considered equal, why not? There is no heresy and there is no true/real Christian theology.
To me it is really hard to comprehend Ehrmans approach to the subject. Another good example is holocaust denying. Of course it is hard to do now, since many people are still alive who witnessed WW2 where millions Jews and Slavs where killed by Nazis. But hey, in 1000 years it would be very comfortable to take Ehrman position, and say all views are equal and 'evil power hungry' people invented idea about Holocaust, when there are present writings that such thing never occurred. For Ehrman, it seems if two contradictory stories exist, BOTH MUST BE TRUE. This is about diversity and inclusion of all views, and all views are true.
So what then is the "Heresy of Orthodoxy"? It is a heresy to believe that there is such thing as heresy. Or, the true orthodoxy is such orthodoxy where there is no orthodoxy. This is both Ehrman's and Bauer's thesis. Hence the title.
So, if postmodernism is the first column on which Ehrman's shallow building is built, which is the second one? The second fallacious aspect of Ehrman's thesis is a belief(!) that inspiration requires possession of New Testament autographs and absence of any discrepancies in manuscripts [needless to say, as mentioned in the book, no textual variant exists that would undermine Christian orthodox theology]. Ehrman of course exaggerates textual variants and even says that Gnostic(!) books such as "Gospel of Marry" could easily be part of the NT cannon. Which is obviously ridiculous. For Ehrman it is not an argument that none of early post-Apostolic Christian writers never mentioned this Gospel, and if they did they would attribute it to heresies...
Authors, very nicely summarize the issue on p.229
"As a result, addressing the historical evidence (the nature and extent of textual variants) will not ultimately change Ehrman's conclusions about the New Testament. It will not change his conlusions because it is not the historical evidence that led to his conclusions in the first place. What, then, is driving Ehramn's conclusions? Ironically, they are being driven not by any historical consideration but by a theological one. At the Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman reveals the core theological premise behind his thinking: 'If [God] really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he miraculously inspired them in the first place.' In other words, if God really inspired the New Testament there would be no scribal variations at all. It is commitment to this belief - a theological belief - that is driving his entire approach to textual variants. Of course, this belief has manifold problems associated with it. Most fundamentally, one might ask, where does Ehrman get this theological conviction about what inspiration requires or does not require? How does he know what God would 'surely' do if he inspired the New Testament? ..."
In other words, this reminds me of objection to God's creation based on some fallibilities in creation, as if God is going to be held in account for what and how He does things? This is nothing but a exposition of arrogance.
I know this is sort of, off topic, but reminds me of Steven J Guild, and Bertrand Russel. First, said no God would design Panda's thumb... [then, some scientists actually showed how well it is designed], or the second who said that there is too much evil in the world ... Oh well, as if they will demand God to accommodate their desires, or their self-invented criteria. Similar to critics of creation, who say they will accept nothing less than optimal design, Ehrman will accept nothing less then autographs.
Well, what can you say to such people? They better learn humility, or evetually die in their arrogance and demand God to do what they want.
All in all, this is a well written book, which deals with several issues: Bauer-Ehrman thesis, heresies facing the early Church, development of NT cannon, and textual transmission... among other thing.
My personal conclusion on the subject? Ehrman should teach feminist theory or queer studies in his North Carolina campus. Why? Because this is a hot bed of postmodern nonsense, and rhetoric. Perhaps his next title will be 'Homophobic orthodoxy which led to death of feminist woman named Jesus'. It would be queer, feminist, and scandalous because Jesus would be a female nor male. I bet it will make a quick buck for Ehrman, which will surpass Dan Brown on all levels.