i stand with bart ehrman: a review of the ‘ehrman project’

Ehrman Project

The "Ehrman Project" provides dissenting, Christian responses to the biblical scholarship of Dr. Bart Ehrman.

If fundamentalist criticism of a biblical scholar is the truest sign of credible scholarship, then Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has quickly found himself at the top.

A collective of concerned Christians have launched the Ehrman Project, a website that provides dissenting, “Christian” responses to the biblical scholarship that Dr. Bart Ehrman has presented in his recent books, including Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, and Jesus, Interrupted.

It’s kind of like Josh McDowell’s books on Christian apologetics, except… well… actually it’s exactly like Josh McDowell’s apologetics, only online.

The website states it was launched by a campus minister and an undergraduate religion major to provide counter-arguments to the research of Bart Ehrman. But, since most of Ehrman’s textual arguments are essentially the well-established and long-accepted consensus views of just about every worthwhile critical biblical scholar not teaching at a Christian university, seminary, or school with the word “Evangelical” in the title (Ehrman admits as much beginning at the 7:50 mark in the video here), the site is essentially little more than an online video version of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, where conservative scholars attempt to refute the biblical scholarship that is taught in every major university save the aforementioned conservative Christian schools.

The video rebuttals offer little more than setting up and knocking down straw men, red herring explanations, the reframing and redefinition of certain critical questions in a strained effort to avoid answering them, and the recitation of facts leading to non sequitur conclusions that only non-critical scholars would accept as satisfactory answers.

The video rebuttals posted on the EhrmanProject.com website include interviews from other, “equally qualified scholars who deal with the same issues and come to very different conclusions than Dr. Ehrman.” This diverse range of notable scholars includes:

  • Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Dr. D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Dr. Ed Gravely, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Michael J. Kruger, Reformed Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame
  • Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Ben Witherington, Asbury Theological Seminary

Notice anything in common?

Let me be clear: please don’t mistake my questioning of the EhrmanProject website as a questioning of all Christian scholarship or Christian universities and seminaries. There are plenty of excellent schools and seminaries that hire credible scholars who adhere to solid, critical methods of biblical scholarship, and who would never appear on a website calling into question the scholarly methods employed by most biblical scholars in the country. I simply wish to point out that the criticism of Dr. Ehrman (and the larger academy by proxy) is largely being done by a small number of vocal scholars at very conservative seminaries at the behest of a campus minister and a religion major who didn’t like their faith challenged by critical scholarship.

I encourage you to view the videos and judge for yourself whether or not those interviewed answered the questions and dealt critically with the evidence, or skirted the issues. Then, if you have any stomach left, you can visit other diverse and “equally qualified” scholarly apologetic sites like Josh McDowell’s site and Lee Strobel’s site and Kirk Cameron’s The Way of the Master site.

Fundamentalists certainly have their problems with Erhman. But to be fair, scholars have some issues of their own with Ehrman. The criticisms of Bart Ehrman from the scholarly community are essentially twofold: 1) must a scholar renounce his/her faith just because the Bible is not inerrant or infallible? and 2) Ehrman is only repeating the critical scholarship of other scholars in a popular format.

While I agree with the first criticism of Ehrman (one need not necessarily renounce one’s faith in order to be a critical scholar of the Bible, especially if one does not accept fundamentalist notions of inerrancy, soteriology, and/or systematic theology) – I actually applaud what Ehrman has done with regard to bringing critical biblical scholarship to a public audience. This is the truest form of education, and one must ask why earlier scholars haven’t made more deliberate attempts to bring what all good critical scholars know (that the Bible is not inerrant and not completely reliable as history) to the public. (It may have something to do with critical scholars not wanting to lose their jobs at Christian universities, or scholars at public universities not wanting to incur the wrath of (and lose book sales to) Christian audiences, but I digress…)

We should applaud Ehrman as a representative figure of what good critical scholarship does – use verifiable facts and sound logic to seek truth, and disseminate that truth to the public even if the public (often acquiescing to the threats pressure authority of organized religious groups) does not want to hear it.

Therefore, I stand with Bart Ehrman as a biblical scholar who feels we should pursue the truth no matter where it may lead. It can only make scholarship (and the faith for that matter) stronger. For if one’s Christian faith can’t stand up to a few simple questions, then it is not a faith worth following. And if apologists must duck questions, offer red herrings, and flat out lie to others in order to convince them of the brand of Christianity they are selling, then the product is not worth buying.

Christian scholars may not like that Erhman renounced his faith, and may not like his often confrontational delivery, but we must stand behind scholarship’s critical method, facts, and conclusions, and we must not pander to the fundamentalist Christian organizations who seek to defend faith by less than scholarly means. The EhrmanProject website claims it is “not meant to be an attack on Dr. Ehrman,” and I would agree; it is not only an attack on Ehrman, it’s an attack on critical scholarship in general by conservative apologists behind the veil of a campus minister’s website.

HT: Toto

joshua busman on the use of instrumental music in worship during the protestant reformation

Joshua Busman

Joshua Busman

Jim West directed my attention to an excellent paper given by Joshua Busman of UNC, Chapel Hill presented at the 2010 SCGMC Meeting at Duke University on differing views of the use of instrumental music during Christian worship by various key players of the Protestant Reformation. The various views are tied to understandings of scripture, specifically, the first of the Ten Commandments.

The paper entitled, “Different Commandments: Sola Scriptura and Theologies of Worship in the Protestant Reformation,” is available on academia.edu here. Give it a read.

court documents say norman golb may have been involved in the raphael golb dead sea scrolls scandal

Raphael and Norman Golb

Raphael Golb (left) and his father, University of Chicago historian Dr. Norman Golb. Raphael Golb is charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of forgery, identity theft, impersonation, and aggravated harassment of several Dead Sea Scrolls scholars. Court documents filed by the New York District Attorney's office offer email evidence that Norman Golb knew about the internet smear campaign, and offered assistance in the form of talking points to Raphael Golb.

according to the new york district attorney’s office, there is direct email evidence in the case against raphael golb to suggest that raphael golb’s father, university of chicago oriental institute historian norman golb, as well as raphael golb’s brother, joel, may have been involved in raphael golb’s campaign of deception and defamation. raphael golb stands accused of multiple misdemeanor and felony counts of identity theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment in a case involving the use of internet aliases to harass, impersonate, and steal the identity of new york university professor dr. lawrence schiffman and other dead sea scrolls scholars.

the publicly accessible ‘affidavit in support of an application for a search warrant,’ contains a section entitled ‘potential involvement of others’ (§72-81, p. 20-21) that offers hard evidence in the form of emails sent between father and son that show that norman golb and his sons discussed strategies to evade discovery of their identities, arguments to be made in online postings pertaining to the dead sea scrolls, and criticisms of dead sea scrolls exhibitions. there is also evidence suggesting that raphael golb’s online activities attracted media attention and inquiries by journalists, which were directed back to norman golb.

you may read the new york district attorney’s filing below:

(you may also view a catalog of the legal filings pertaining to the case of the people of the state of new york vs. raphael golb at who-is-charles-gadda.com. all font colors, bold facing, and other emphases below are mine. the original document is here.)


72. Because I request that the search warrant authorize the search for evidence involving potential accomplices or co-conspirators, I provide the following facts in support of this request.

73. As indicated previously, bank records indicate that Raphael Golb received payments from Dr. Norman Golb. It is not known what the payments were for. The father-son relationship means that there are many innocent explanations for these payments.

74. Email records of certain alias email accounts associated with Raphael Golb indicate communication with Joel Golb (his brother) and Norman Golb (his father).

75. For example, a June 17, 2008 email between j.friedman47@gmail.com (an alias of Raphael Golb) and j.golb@snafu.de (the Germany email account of Joel Golb) indicates discussion about the use of proxies,10 and discusses a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit that was opening in North Carolina.
10 The use of an internet proxy is a method of disguising one’s IP address.

76. Another example is a November 4, 2007 email between robertdworkin@gmail.com (an alias of Raphael Golb) and j.golb@snafu.de (the Germany email account of Joel Golb) which contains discussion about an outline to use concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls, with the subject “scrap last outline—use this instead (dad phoned with some suggestions). Since Norman Golb is the father of both Joel Golb and Raphael Golb, this email implies that Norman Golb called Joel Golb, gave suggestions to the outline, which Joel Golb passed on to Raphael Golb in this email. This also implies that both Joel Golb and Norman Golb know that Raphael Golb is using at least some internet aliases.11
11 Again, this affidavit does not imply that the mere use of internet aliases constitutes a criminal offense.

77. Another example is a January 18, 2008 email between robertdworkin@gmail.com (an alias of Raphael Golb) and j.golb@snafu.de (the Germany email account of Joel Golb) which discusses keeping emails anonymous and untraceable, and some confusion about which alias will be used to send emails from NYU computers.

78. There is email correspondence between Raphael Golb’s alias accounts and Dr. Golb, however it never overtly acknowledges a partnership. However Raphael Golb alias accounts have forwarded to Dr. Norman Golb email exchanges that the alias account (or another alias account) had with third parties.

79. For example, on August 15, 2007, email account robert.dwokin@gmail.com (an alias of Raphael Golb) sent email account n-golb@uchicago.edu (email account of Dr. Norman Golb) an email that forwarded a communication between robertdworkin@gmail.com and an employee at the LA Times concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls. A search of the internet, including Dr. Norman Golb’s faculty webpage, indicates that n-golb@uchicago.edu is Dr. Norman Golb’s email account.

80. On March 31, 2008, email account joshua.reznick@yahoo.com (an alias of Raphael Golb) sent three successive emails to email account n-golb@uchicago.edu (email account of Dr. Norman Golb). These three successive emails appear to be revisions of the prior emails, and while formal in tone, the successive emails do not reference the preceding emails. In otherwords, if they did not know each other well, one would expect some sort of acknowledgment or apology for sending successive similar emails. These March 31, 2008 emails invite Dr. Norman Golb to correspond with the individual that email account joshua.reznick@yahoo.com had been corresponding with, and includes a copy of the prior correspondence.

81. On July 15, 2008, email account j.friedman47@gmail.com (an alias of Raphael Golb) sent email account n-golb@uchicago.edu (email account of Dr. Norman Golb) an email that forwarded a communication between jerome.cooper2@gmail.com (another alias of Raphael Golb) and a professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This email pertained to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

==end of court document==

i really have no further commentary, other than to acknowledge that my worst fears are being realized. according to the court filings, norman golb apparently knew what raphael golb was doing, and was assisting him in doing it. i should point out that it was the joshua.reznick@yahoo.com (paragraph 80 above) that sent my ucla nelc department chair an email anonymously chastising me for my work on the ancient qumran: a virtual reality tour movie i created for the san diego natural history museum, and other emails questioning whether i should receive my ph.d. for my research, which did not agree with the theories of norman golb. if norman golb was sent copies of this email from raphael golb, this would mean that norman golb (an employee of the university of chicago) had knowledge of his son’s activities on the internet. when this hard email evidence collected by authorities is considered along with the similarity of many of the hand signed letters from norman golb to many of the emails sent by the aliases, the evidence appears to demonstrate that norman golb was involved with this smear campaign.

more to follow…

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