Finished Jesus, Interrupted today. It took a little longer than expected due to school and teaching obligations, as well as a few new books that came in that I skimmed through, and also the fact that it was getting frustrating seeing many of Ehrman’s points being aimed at what is really an incorrect idea of biblical inerrancy.
I ended up finding the book pretty enjoyable, though most books tend to be such for me. There were moments of frustration, but I stuck through it. Ehrman raises some good points throughout the book, but nothing that should shake one’s faith. One can believe in God and Christ even if the Bible is not inspired or inerrant in any way, since then the books would be treated as historical biographies anyway (which is really one way they should be treated anyway), and that the information could still be largely trusted. His points merely force one to think about what inerrancy is. In a previous post, I discussed this, but will do so a little bit once again.
Ehrman came from the belief that there was not a single error in the Bible, not even a misspelling or misuse of a genitive or dative or perfect or aorist word. This was shattered given his findings, and it was really the first step towards his “conversion.” The issue here is that his doctrine seems to have been flawed. There is a lot of literature on the topic of inerrancy, but if you are interested in possible views, I recommend listening to Parts 5-7 of William Lane Craig’s Defenders Podcast. In short, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is at least that the Bible is inerrant on what it teaches and affirms. The historical facts are “allowed” to be wrong on this view, though many can be reconciled in plausible ways. For example, Ehrman spends some time on the story of Jesus cleansing the temple at the end of his ministry or at the beginning. But what he fails to mention, and being a historical scholar would know, is that the ancient historical biography was not usually listed in chronological order in the way we do so now, nor were quotes direct quotes, but rather, the author was given some leeway to place events in order of importance, and quotes would be used to summarize what was said. Chances are, Jesus sermons consisted of much more than what we find in the Gospels, but that the gist of the sermon could be summarized and still be considered what had been said.
So while Ehrman does point out some difficulties that are indeed hard to reconcile, one need not throw out entirely the doctrine of inerrancy, and even if one finds necessary grounds to do so, it by no means diminishes that historicity of the books as historical works rather than religious works.