REFUTING BART EHRMAN
By Dave Abell
Dr. Bart Ehrman is an accomplished scholar who has created a great niche for himself by selling a lot of books that attempt to discredit the reliability of the New Testament. While I'm not in his league when it comes to knowledge of textual criticism, where I would challenge him is with the conclusions he draws from the premises he sets forth, which most often do not seem to logically follow. His credentials are impressive, so I'll leave the nitty gritty detailed debate to the countless other scholars with equally impressive--if not surpassing-- credentials, who's conclusions are the opposite of Dr. Ehrman. (Daniel B. Wallace, Ben Witherington, Mike Licona, Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas are just a few: also see Lee Strobel's “A Case for Christ:). Bart obviously knows a lot, but his failure to connect the dots to make his case is what is most interesting to me. Ultimately, he is unable to establish--even at the level of critical scholarship--that Jesus wasn't raised from the dead or that the New Testament documents are blatant forgeries. While I'm intellectually satisfied with the scholarship that undergirds the basic reliability and historicity of the the New Testament, it is by no means the only line of evidence I rely upon to try to speak intelligently about why I'm a believer in Jesus. When Christians say that the Bible is inerrant, it is usually followed with the rejoinder, "in its original autographs." Are there copyist errors? Yes. Are there a few disputed passages? Yes. But they are well noted, rare, minor, and do not affect doctrine or the theology of the Christian faith. Additionally, it is the very nature of this scrutiny that lends creedence to just how much we want to make sure we employ the best care, stewardship, and scholastic integrity as possible. But again, we're not taking in the whole breadth of things when looking at these issues alone.
Future findings can also negate some criticisms. Case in point: critics had charged that Moses couldn't have written the Torah because at that time the people were basically illiterate and couldn't write. However, discoveries in archaeology refuted the above claim by showing that people were pretty accomplished at writing at that time. Another example (of many) of this type is when critical scholars said the writer of Genesis made up the Hittite people because secular history had no record of them. Of course now, we have an entire Hittite library and a myriad of evidences for their existence. The Dead Sea Scrolls are another obvious example of an archaelogical find that overturned years of critics charges about the reliabilty of the Old Testament.
Even if the critics had been accurate in their scholarship about people being not able to write at that time, it would say nothing of the fact that if God truly did inspire Moses, it could have easily been a supernatural event. Do I believe that a virgin birth could occur naturally or that someone could rise from the dead naturally? Of course not. But if God exists, He could make those events happen.
Dr. Ehrman's story seems to have more credibility because he was a believer who when confronted with the evidence was forced to turn away from his beliefs. However, there are many, many people throughout history, some at the scientific level, some at the level of history and New Testament studies who came in as atheists setting out to refute God or the Christian faith, and ended up themselves coming to Christ. One motif that Ehrman seemed to move toward that I found wrongheaded was the idea that because believers in Jesus are believers in Jesus, their judgment is somehow clouded. That knife cuts both ways. He said he had a "born again experience", which really may not mean anything. I could be wrong, but I think he chose those words on purpose to set a negative light on what being born again is all about. Some people do have feelings or experiences, but their new found faith withers away over time because it had no roots to begin with. In fairness, I don't know if this happened to Ehrman or not. My hackles immediately go up when someone tries to say that believers in Jesus Christ somehow skew evidence to fit what they already believe. Is it possible that Christians have done that or can do that? Certainly! However, it's also fair to say that a lot of non-believers may have many personal reasons for disavowing Christ and skewing evidence to fit with their desired lifestyle. Maybe Dr. Ehrman is still that 14 year old boy who wants to drink beer and smoke cigars (a story he told about himself) and ultimately decided he wanted no part of a faith or a God that might infringe on his autonomy. Again, to be fair, people on both sides of the issue can have biases, presuppositions, axes to grind, etc... and therefore not look at things objectively. I'll try to come at this from a scholarly perspective as well as a general one.
1. What all scholars--even Bart Ehrman--would agree on is that the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is incredible. We have multiple lines of transmission, in different languages and different locales, with the earliest manuscripts and fragments closer to the actual events than any book or historical account in antiquity. If we applied Ehrman's same skepticism toward the NT- to other ancient writings, we would have to throw out most of the history we know of long ago because the actual manuscripts are scant and in some cases centuries removed from the time of the actual events. So, it seems, we have a hyper scrutinizing of the NT documents that isn't applied to the rest. From the level of textual scholarship and study, this is grossly unfair. If the same scholastic standards are applied to the NT as with other works of antiquity, then Ehrman and others should be rushing to embrace the NT as true history just as they would with Plato, Josephus, Caesar, Aristotle, Sophocles, Seutonius, etc, etc...Additionally, the internal consistency among the thousands and thousands of manuscripts of the NT is at 99.5% pure. Bart engages in a bit of sophisty when he discusses the amount of variants among the manuscripts as compared by the total number of words in the NT. There are a lot, but compared to the total manuscripts, it is miniscule. Bart also admits that none of the variants affect Christian theology or doctrine. Most of the variants are copyist errors of one stripe or another and are quite trivial. There are a few others that are a little more serious, but are not unreconcialable, and can be understood in light of the overall context , the comparison of other manuscripts, and the realization that scribal errors were inevitable. Without a printing press or copier, it's amazing that we have the internal consistency that we do. This is especially true with the writings in the earliest times when it was probably more difficult. The amount of early manuscripts, combined with the internal consistency, varying languages, widespread locations, and even all the variants also tell us that there was no central collusion or governing body overseeing it.
It may surprise you to hear me say this, but because the Bible deals with life and death, heaven and hell, etc... I actually think it should be held to a higher standard and deeper scrutinization; but hasn't the NT met those standards and surpassed them by leaps and bounds especially when compared to other writings? Is the end of Mark's Gospel problematic? Yes. Is the woman caught in adultery in John's Gospel questionable? Yes. These passages do not occur in the very earliest manuscripts we have. However, because these issues exist, it doesn't mean the Bible is not inspired. It also doesn't mean they should be necessarily excluded. Because of the scrutiny that even believers in Christ exhibit, we're careful to make sure we shed light on potential problems or discrepancies. Thankfully, these are very few in number, well noted, and do not affect essential Christian doctrine. Finally, when you look at the the NT and attempt to determine it's authenticity by viewing it strictly through the lens of critical scholarship, Ehrman--while he knows an awful lot of details-- loses these debates and fails to make his case to say the NT is forged, inauthentic, or unreliable. From a standpoint of critical scholarship, the Bible should be given the same scrutiny as other ancient texts. If that is done, the NT should be embraced and accepted. Even if you apply the higher standard I spoke of earlier, the NT so far surpasses even these standards that it can and should be regarded as authentic and true. Most of the big names of what would be called liberal scholars would at least acknowledge, for example, that the disciples at least "thought" they saw they resurrected Christ. While they may not believe in inspiration or miracles, they are very often miles apart from the assertions of Bart Ehrman in a scholarly realm. Then, of course, we have tremendous scholars who are indeed believers in Christ and their contributions should be considered as well. His attempts to debunk the NT with this approach cannot be accomplished unless you overturn decades if not centuries of textual criticism and most of accepted ancient history. Nevertheless, he's a great debater, very smart, engaging, and thought provoking. There are some things he really made me think about, but at that point he had-- for the most part-- left the arena of NT scholarship. So, no problem, I can go down that road as well and am more at home there anyway. Then in an instant it occurred to me that this discussion is going to come down to what it always does. More on that later.
2. Bart tends to conflate ideas whereby he'll make the leap that because other cultures had resurrection stories and forgeries that took place, that the New Testament writers were probably guilty of the same. This is certainly a fair question that can be raised, but you can't conclude it's truth based on association. Besides, it's more likely that the pagan myths borrowed from the Bible. As it turns out, it's irrelavent anyway because the idea of life after death, and resurrection is an Old Testament idea as well as a New Testament idea. Further, even without a Bible, it runs deep in the heart of man to contemplate these things. Therefore, it isn't a suprise that someone could envision these scenarios and write stories about them. The pagan myths are markedly different from the Bible, but beyond that, pagan myths don't have the evidence to prove they were real; they didn't lead people who believed it to be persecuted and martyred; they didn't spawn scientific discovery, hospitals, and great charitable organizations, etc...and they didn't change the world.
3. With respect to forgery, this is an area where Bart really makes one of his big leaps of faith. By his own admission, if the NT writers used secretaries... most of his questions would be answered. He also ignores a major school of thought and study that deals with this very issue and answers it. The Gospels are not forgeries, they were simply not signed. This does not imply forgery. Besides, the people closer to the events accepted the authorship. Either way, it does nothing to disprove inspiration.
4. Were Peter's writings forgeries because he was supposedly illiterate? The Bible never says Peter couldn't read or write. He may not have been strong with words, but isn't it possible his skills and awareness increased after he was saved? I was never illiterate and I'm no wordsmith now, but there was definitely an increase in my studies, reading and writing since I came to Christ. Further, most commentators I've read said that the writers may have used an emanuansis for some of their writings. It would not be uncommon for someone else to physically write the letter but rightly attribute the authorship to the one dictating it. Finally, if Bart questions the validity of the New Testament, why is he so quick to believe it concerning Peter's supposed illiteracy?
5. For various reasons, Bart puts forth the idea that most of Paul's letters are forgeries. The issue once again clears up if an emanuansis or secretary was used. After that, Bart said he believes that only 5 of Paul's letters were authentic; if they are authentic, why doesn't he believe what Paul has to say? If authentic, that would speak volumes about what God has done, the truth of Christ, and it might also clear up the questions in his mind about Paul's other letters and the NT in general. This actually raises what is perhaps the real question and ultimate crux of this entire discussion, but I'll get to that later.
6. Another charge of forgery from Ehrman is the idea that due to different vocabulary and writing styles among the various books or letters by the same author, their differences suggest forgeries. Once again, if a secretary is used, their style may differ with other letters the actual author may have penned. Even if the author has not used a scribe, the vocabulary and styles could be very different depending on the subject matter, audience, purpose, etc... True story, there were two scholars who wrote a book discussing possible forgeries in the NT by using a computer program to detect variant styles. However, when their own book was subjected to the test, the computer stated that the preface and introduction were written by different authors than the actual book. That really doesn't mean a whole lot...I threw it in there just for fun, but conversely, you can't charge forgery based on this line of thinking either.
7. From a theological point of view, Dr. Ehrman is grossly mistaken when he says that there are divergent theologies within Paul's letters. So, while claiming to be a scholar, he has certainly wasted no efforts in inserting laughable personal opinion passed off as scholarship.
8. Almost all of the New Testament can be constructed from the quotations and citing of the early church Fathers, showing that the NT was in circulation quite early.
1. Bart raises an interesting question by stating that if God wanted us to know his word was inspired, why didn't He preserve the originals? That really begs the question, though: how would he know what documents were originals even if they existed? Further, why would he believe it anyway? Even if we could prove that we had bona fide orignal documents that were preserved and set apart the very moment the ink dried, would that mean they were true or inspired of God? The question would still have to be raised: how do we know they're from God? This gets to the real heart of the issue. Why would the NT documents be suddenly believed as thetrue, inerrant word of God just because we had originals? We can have provable original documents from all sorts of authors about all sorts of things, but that wouldn't necessarily mean they were true, accurate, or reliable.
2. Events took place that effected amazing change where they happened and eventually spread throughout the world. Events happened, oral tradition carried it part of the way, and then the documents were written. Oral tradition has proven consistent and reliable even with the passing along of things like the martial arts, for example. But again, we're missing the big picture here. Original documents could be false; oral tradition could be false; copies throughout the centuries could be false; but, they could also be true. This is where the textual scholarship of the NT is very helpful because as I've said earlier, the NT surpasses all of these tests and benchmarks to the enth degree. And, if consistent with the application of scholarship, we should take the NT as a totally reliable collection of documents. However, as helpful as it is, it isn't the whole story. What, then, determines whether we should rely on, follow, and give our hearts to what the NT teaches? It is here where Dr. Ehrman finds himself in a real dilemma. His disbelief is supposedly derived from critical scholarship of the NT, yet--despite the few trivial problems that exist--the whole of critical scholarship points overwhelmingly to the NT being reliable history. Forget for just a moment whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin, was raised from the dead, or performed miracles. As I said before, many scholars--while not being born again believers-- certainly at least believe the disciples "thought" they saw the resurrected Christ. In other words, what happened? Something big clearly did. Is the explanation natural or Supernatural? Or was there just a series of mistakes and misunderstandings? The phenomenon is real, but what is the explanation? Could the people at that time have completely invented the whole thing? Of course. However, this is where Ehrman's argument is put in total perspective and ultimately becomes irrelavant. No one believes that a dead carpenter from Nazareth was raised from the dead by some kind of natural process so we can eliminate that from the discussion. If the event was Supernatural (which is clearly what Christians believe) then these criticisms about the NT documents are rendered meaningless, particularly when the documents pass the tests on critical scholarship in the first place. If people made up the story, preserved the original documents, and passed it along, it might satisfy Bart Ehrman, but it wouldn't make the story anymore true. Let me sum this up:
A. If the same standards for textual scholarship are applied to the NT the way they are applied to other ancient documents, then the NT should be whole-heartedly embraced because it far exceeds the available evidence of other ancient documents which are generally accepted as true. Even going back to Aristotle, the general rule has been to give the author the benefit of the doubt for authenticity and accuracy, unless there is some compelling reason to do otherwise. The accepted autheticity and regard for truth has been granted to Aristotle and the other ancient works with far less evidence than the NT presents; therefore, the NT should be regarded as reliable also.
B. The complete body of manuscript evidence for the NT is so great and so vastly exceeds the manuscript evidence for the other works that even when holding it to a higher standard of testing, the NT passes with flying colors. Again, it should be regarded as authentic and reliable.
C. The critical scholarship employed shows the NT to be authentic and basically reliable. The scholarship, however, can neither prove it to be from God or show that it is not from God. Even if we had terrible manuscript evidence and long gaps of extant copies, it wouldn't mean the NT wasn't inspired of God. If that is what we were working with, at best, Ehrman and others could state from the standpoint of critical scholarship, that the NT fails muster, but they could not make the case that any of it was untrue or that God didn't inspire it. While I'm pleased that the NT meets all of these critical threshholds with abundance, it does't mean that the Resurrection of Jesus was a true event or that Jesus performed miracles, etc... After all, as a Christian, I'm convinced that Moses penned the Book of Genesis. This is based on several things which I won't get into now. My point, though, is that Moses wrote Genesis centuries and centuries after the events, so I can hardly rely on his eyewitness testimony or first hand knowledge of the events. However, if God exists and has communicated, then we can understand how Moses would have truthfully wrote Genesis without having been there or interviewing people who were. Further, if God is involved, we can expect to have greater attestation of the truth of what is being written.
D. Bart Ehrman knows all of this which is why I'm suprised he or anyone else would take this approach to attempt to show forth the NT as a collection of forged, unreliable, untruthful documents. For example, in his debate with Bill Craig, Ehrman ended up saying that Jesus' Resurrection was highly improbable. Craig agreed that it was, indeed, completely improbable as a natural event, but if God was involved, He could have easily caused it to happen. Ehrman responded by saying that as an historian he has no access to God. So, basically, this is what Bart does: he steps out of textual scholarship to try to make a point about the Resurrection of Jesus, but when he was called on it, he retreated back to textual scholarship as a reason to deny the Resurrection. This is the nadir of the whole issue here. The only way Bart can attempt to score points for his belief is to abandon critical scholarship because this line of thinking cannot touch things like the Resurrection, inspiration, miracles, etc... Again--and I cannot over-emphasize this-- when looking at the NT through the lens of critical scholarship-- and applying the same or even greater standards to it as to other ancient documents which we already accept as true history--the NT should be afforded the same level of acceptance and regards as the others. Why? Because the evidence is overwhelmingly greater for the NT than what exists for the others we do accept. So, why then, is the NT put under so much more scrutiny and skepticism? Because it claims Supernatural authority, describes Supernatural events, and offers--whether one agrees with it or not--perspective on life, the after-life, sin, forgiveness, love, judgement, etc.... No big surprise there, but the more I delve into this the more amazed I am that anyone would argue at length using a method that is incapable of getting to the heart of these issues. At best, textual critical scholarship can illustrate that documents are basically reliable or basically unreliable. Bart Ehrman and many others have completely failed to undermine the NT on this basis. The NT is by all standards of textual scholarship a set of basically reliable documents. However, this basic reliability--while helpful-- cannot demonstrate that Jesus was God, that He was raised from the dead, performed miracles, and is coming back to the world at some point. I cannot say that my Savior lives and is coming again based on scholarly pursuits that happen to favor my position, but do not prove it. In that same way, no one can undermine the truth of the Resurrection and Jesus' return based on textual criticism.
E. Getting at the truth of these matters goes way beyond textual scholarship. This is in many ways so obvious that it causes me to wonder what Ehrman's real motivation is. He is smart enough to know that he can't win on textual criticism because the evidence is against his position, but further, even if the available evidence favored his position, it cannot get to the "God " aspect of the discussion anyway. A lot of the meatier issues Bart brings to the table turn out to be matters of conjecture and are easily answered, and the things which he is certainly correct about aren't particularly controversial or unknown, and... are quite trivial. Inevitably--as he did in the debates, his writings, and seemingly in his subsequent books-- Bart strays from the textual stuff into arenas that ultimately require a discussion of God's existence, His communication, prophecy, and theology. Yet from what I've seen, he hasn't tried to take on those arguments. He may well do that, but from what I've seen so far, he's tended to stay in the area of textual scholarship, while arguing things that go beyond that scope. That seems to be a tough and ineffective way to tear down what Christians believe about Jesus.
F. I now return to what I brought up much earlier. Dr. Ehrman believes eight of Paul's letters are not authentic, but is intellectually satisfied that five are authentic. Yet, because of his study of textual criticism, he walked away from Christianity and into agnosticism if not full blown atheism. If he believes five are authentic, why does he not believe what is in them and keep his faith? This is why Bart's writings seem to be a complete red herring for what is really at hand. Obviously, authenticity and textual scholarship have nothing to do with his unbelief because if they did, he would at least be able to maintain his Christian faith. Sure, he might scratch his head over the other problems (as he sees them) but throughout all of Paul's letters--even the five Bart says are authentic-- there is enough material in them that speaks powerfully about Jesus Christ, God's existence, judgement, etc... If authenticity and textual integrity are the main issues, he could, at the very least, maintain his faith in Christ, but discuss the problems with the other books that he believes are not authentic. This is the central point, however. Critical scholarship has nothing to do with any of this. I'm glad it favors my position--it's better to have it than not--but it isn't why I believe and in my opinion, it isn't why Bart Ehrman doesn't believe. This discussion comes down to what it always comes down to, and it is not a matter of intellect, but rather, it is a matter of worldview. I know I've said this ad nauseum but textual scholarship can only do so much to favor or discredit anyone's position. The NT could exhibit the worse manuscript evidence and still be true. Conversely, it could exhibit pristine characteristics of critical scholarship and still be false. Still, Dr. Ehrman has chosen critical scholarship to beat down the New Testament, yet he fails on two levels: one is on the entire scope of textual criticism, but he also undermines his case by not believing the the content of what does meet his own personal criteria. Clearly, this course of study must not mean a whole lot to him, otherwise he would believe the content of Paul's five "authentic" letters. It is my opinion that the root of Bart's unbelief lies elsewhere, and that critical scholarship is an intellectual salve that serves as an excuse to keep God at arms length. Again, how could questions about the NT make someone question God's existence? If Bart believed in God before, it seems to me that issues he has with the authenticity of the NT would simply remain there, but not alter his belief in God, particularly, when he says that five of Paul's letters are authentic.
G. The other basic discussion points are ultimately: does God exist? Is He moral? Has He communicated? Did Jesus die for our sins and rise from the dead? Getting to those answers requires a search that goes way beyond the scope of what critical scholarship can do. Textual criticism is a worthwhile study, but is severly limited because it can't get to the God question. In other words, the ultimate answer we seek is whether the content of the NT is true, not whether it passes muster for textual and manuscipt evidence. However, if Dr. Ehrman chooses to cling to this method as the reason for not being a Christian, he should honestly assess the acceptance of basic reliability for the content in other ancient documents and do likewise with the NT, particularly, since the manuscript evidence and extant copies for NT dwarfs that of the others. Or, at the very least, he should take the five letters of Paul he believes are authentic and rebuild his Christian faith. If you can rely on the content of those letters, you can rely on a lot of great things, including forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven with other loved ones and the Lord Jesus Himself. Sadly, however, I personally believe this is not the real issue behind Bart's unbelief.
3. Understanding--at an intellectual level--why I believe in the Bible is based on God's existence, His morality, His communication in nature and conscience, and the Divine signature God has placed in the Bible. Internal Design, Medical and Scientific Foreknowledge, Historical Accuracy, Pronouncements of ideas and realities that are logically sound (Laws of Causality, etc...), and Fulfilled Prophecy (detailed and specific) are all indicators of God's fingerprints. And all of these qualities are unique to the Bible. The basic attributes we possess (logic, rationality, morality, etc...) seem only to make sense if we were created by a God who also possesses the same characteristics. Blind natural processes do not have these attributes and have nothing in mind as the chemical reactions take place. It's hard to imagine rationality, intentionality, and morality emerging from matter and energy alone. Therefore, these qualities are real and not apparent. Also, the very fact that we attempt to be rational and logical presupposes there are such things as rationality and logic...both of which would be elusive if God didn't exist to implement them. How would they be real or trustworthy if they arose by accidental, purposelss mutations over time? Determining good and evil would prove equally futile given the nature of our “evolution”.
As a basic 1st pricnciple, if God did not place morality in our conscience, then we are the sum total of the physics and chemistry of our brains, and are therefore not acting as responsible persons with real choices. Our beliefs and thoughts would be driven by the brute forces of nature, rather than a real person with responsibilitity and personhood. If we've all simply evolved and ultimately can be traced back to lifeless chemicals in a primordial soup, who has the market cornered on good and evil or right and wrong, etc... What allows us to accurately say that Hitler and the KKK are evil? What allows us to say that donating money to a worthy cause, helping someone in need, or sacrificing your life to save another's life are good things? The answer is that there is a true Moral Law set down that is outside of ourselves. If we're all products of purposeless evolution, why should one person's take on what is good be any more valuable or superior than anyone else's? If Hitler sought to help evolution along (which is precisley what he desired) by weeding out the “undesireables”, his plan--in the absence of true God-given morality--is a simple outworking of his brain function and what he and his minions saw as a pragmatic plan for survival. Who do we ultimately appeal to to say he was evil? If we all came out of the soup, who set the rules or proscribed right from wrong? We may have groups of people who think or say that Hitler was evil, but others may not. Who is right? At best, it would be a stalemate because there would be no true law to appeal to. It would simply be evolved creature vs. evolved creature and the winner of the argument comes down to who has the most power and greater survivability. Pure pragmatism or referring to a book of laws aren't sufficient explanations to explain good and evil either. Gentrification could be viewed by some as gloriously pragmatic, but it remains nonetheless an evil practice. Laws are fine, but putting them into action requires the very base knowledge of right and wrong that only makes sense if the standard comes from outside ourselves. Otherwise, what standard have we appealed to? If we say ourselves, we're right back to square one. Besides, when we look inward and use that as a basis for law, we can see some practices—past and present and in many lands—that we can agree are rather disgusting.
The presumption of rationality, logic, and good and evil are so deeply engrained in us, and so inescapable, that it strongly indicates that God wired us in just that way. Therefore, it makes sense to me that God would communicate to us through His word in a way that appeals to and is in conjunction with the attributes that He has and has also given to us. All of the Biblical indicators I mentioned above (prophecy, etc...) are plentiful in the Bible. Once again we have to ask the question: are these attributes random chance, coincidence, fabrication, or are they true indicators of God's Supernatural inspiration.
4. At base, the existence of God is a logical certainty. But when you look beyond that, the character of that God seems to come into focus when you consider the extraordinary evidence of design in the universe, life, and the Bible itself. Those things, combined with the existence of a moral code, rationality, conscience, etc... make a very compelling intellectual case that the Bible is really from God. At the very least, the Bible "seems" to be from God because of the type and sheer number of attributes it possesses. Truly, this is not even arguable. What is arguable is to challenge why the Bible appears to be supernaturally inspired. Are the qualities of inspiration real or only apparent? In other words, does the appearance stem from coincidence, chance, or ouright fabrication? In truth, coincidence and chance have virtually no skin in this discussion. Take, for example, the prophetic utterances about the Jews and Israel; the fulfillment of these prophecies (and what we see shaping up on the horizon) are so specific and detailed that the odds of chance fulfillment are astronomically small. What about fabrication? No doubt, it is logically possible, but only at a very minor level and there are common sense reasons that would mitigate against that type of fabrication anyway. On the whole, it would be beyond the scope of fabrication for the vast majority of prophecy because the writings were too well established for any kind of back-dating. It would also be beyond the capability of man to somehow force the prophecies to be fulfilled. Again, there are strong reasons to reject notions of engineering events to make prophecy appear to be fulfilled. Yet there remains another possibility: the existence of a God who gave us morality and rationality, and communicated to us, in part, through a written word that He lavished with characteristics that are best explained by Supernatural engineering.
5. The above indicates why Bart Ehrman's arguments are ultimately irrelavent. If God doesn't exist, then Ehrman would be correct in his doubt about the NT, but critical scholarship would have nothing to do with it. Rather, it would be because there was no God to write history in advance and cause events to occur that simply never happen naturally. Yet the details about a coming Messiah (why, when, where, how, etc...) are many, and extremely detailed in the Old Testament, and they sure look to have been fulfilled in the New Testament. Why did people say these fulfillments happened? Why did people go about saying a carpenter from Nazareth was crucified and rose from the dead? Why did the world change? There are but two answers: either the prophecies were never fulfilled and yet people lied and said they were fulfilled... or... Jesus of Nazareth died and rose again and is our promised Lord and Savior. The ultimate knowledge of truth or lies in this case cannot be bridged by the implementation of critical scholarship, whether favorable or unfavorable to the NT. Nevertheless, the most reasonable conclusion to assert is that these events really took place. All competing ideas that would suggest people lied to make the prohecies appear to be fulfilled, far woefully short and are simply not reasonable.
6. No one has been able to offer a realistic story of why the disciples would have invented the NT. As a believer in God, I cannot envision any scenario where I would make up a story and then say that God communicated it. Nor would I take a prophetic passages and attemp to, on my own or with the aid of others, go on a campaign to say that the prophecies were fulfilled. I wouldn't do this for any reason even if there was some material gain. I especially can't imagine doing it when there would be too much immediate information to disconfirm it and/or if my life and the lives of my family were at stake. The prospect of imprisonment, persecution, violence, loss of livelihood, death, and the wrath of God--along with the other things I mentioned--would certainly be enough for me to hold fast to the what I thought was the truth, and not venture into dangerous waters. Another example would be if somehow all the Bibles were lost except for one, and I was charged with copying it by hand so that it could be circulated again. As before, I cannot see any circumstance where I would add things that were not in the text or leave things out. From my vantage point, I believe God exists and inspired the Bible, so it seems inconceivable to me that I--or any other true believer--would take liberties in this way. As I look back on people in the past that were immediately involved and those in the future charged with copying the Scriptures, I look on them the same way I would look at myself. Therefore, I cannot imagine them making things up or leaving things out. Their belief in God and that the Bible was inspired would act as a deterrent. Furthermore, the very fact that we have the same Bible throughout all these years indicates that it was faithfully transcribed and passed along, albeit with some minor variants.
In conclusion, the Bible remains the anvil on which many a hammers have been broken. Critics charge many things, but God always has an answer. We can rest assured that God has truthfully, consistently, and painstakingly delivered to us His true Word. The Bible, by “many infallible proofs” is truly God's Word.