A very personal post about being an enemy of the Christian faith.

This fascinating post just uploaded on Facebook by Bart D Ehrman (an American New Testament scholar) discusses the problem of forgeries in the Bible and being seen as an “enemy” of the Christian faith.


This will be a very personal post, about being an enemy of the Christian faith.

I’ve long been amazed, surprised, and perplexed about how, when it comes to religion, comments made in one context are completely non-problematic but when the (exact) same comments are made in another context, they are heinous and threatening. Some of it almost certainly has to do with tone and general attitude. But I wonder if it isn’t actually much broader than that.

One of the ways I’ve seen this over the years is in the use of humor. When I was a conservative evangelical Christian at Moody Bible Institute there were all sorts of jokes we would tell about the faith or about our commitments or communities: just about Moody, we would call it Moody Instant Bibletute; or say we went to Moody, where Bible is our middle name. Or someone would say (with respect to the view that the “rapture” would occur prior to, not after, the millennium – something we were very big on indeed!) that he was so pre-millennial that he wouldn’t eat Post Toasties.

We all thought that kind of corny humor was funny. But when later in life I would say the exact same things, evangelicals found them highly offensive.

OK, maybe I’m not so amazed, surprised, and perplexed about it. Context changes everything. What is self-deprecating humor on the lips of one person can be a malicious attack on the lips of another. Same words, different speaker.

The issue keeps coming to mind these days, in a variety of ways. Recently, as you know, I’ve been posting on the issue of whether the book of James could be a forgery. “Forgery” is a word that most New Testament scholars really don’t like. They think it is crass and in your face and hopelessly negative, and so, typically, they completely avoid it, either preferring a term they consider to be more neutral (e.g., “pseudepigraphon.” Who would take offense at *that*, when no one knows that it means?) or claiming that in fact in the ancient world people didn’t think the phenomenon (an author falsely claiming to be a famous person) was deceitful – or in fact that no one in the ancient world was in fact deceived.

I think that’s completely wrong. Ancient authors talked about the phenomenon and they consistently disapproved of it, and often said nasty things about it. For me, if someone today were to publish a novel claiming to be Stephen King, when in fact he was Herman Schmidt, we would call it a forgery. Why not when someone named Samuel from Antioch claimed to be James of Jerusalem? It’s true, writing conventions were different then, and there was no such thing as copyright or legal proscriptions etc etc. I go into all that in my books. But the phenomenon was seen in a very similar light in antiquity. It was wrong to call yourself by someone else’s name in order to promote your writing for one reason or another.

The other interesting thing is that when modern people hear about such ancient forgeries, they have different reactions to it. My sense is that most readers of the blog would say that if a book is forged then Christians are flippin *crazy* to think it could be inspired by God.

This will strike many of you as weird, but I myself don’t agree. As you know, I don’t believe in God, so it’s not that I think such a book actually *is* or *could be* inspired by God (God can’t inspire a book if he doesn’t exist…). But I used to believe in God, and as a scholar I certainly believed, even back then, that a number of the books in the New Testament were not actually written by their alleged authors, that the person who wrote 1 Timothy claiming to be Paul was not really Paul, or the author claiming to be Peter in 2 Peter was not really Peter, e.g. But I still thought that they were the inspired word of God.

How could that be? I remember what my great teacher, one of the great biblical scholars of the twentieth century, Bruce Metzger used to say. He was himself very conservative in many ways, and a highly committed and pious believer. But he was also a learned scholar. He didn’t accept all the findings of “liberal” biblical scholars, at all. But there were times where he too had to admit that there were problems with the Bible. He agreed that there was almost no way Peter actually wrote 2 Peter. And he thought that the creation stories of Genesis 1-3 were “myths.” He would use the word. But he still thought they were Scripture, revelations from God.
And when his conservative students would object to him calling the creation story a “myth,” since it was in the Bible, Metzger’s reply was always: “Who says God can’t inspire a myth”?

I still rather like that. Why *can’t* God inspire a forgery? I certainly don’t think he does, since I don’t think he exists; but when I did think he existed I thought he had inspired forgeries. So it’s certainly possible to believe he did. (I mean empirically, it’s *proven* that it’s possible to believe it, because some people do!)

And so I’m back to why a view is acceptable in one context and not in another: the view that there are pseudepigrapha in the New Testament was completely acceptable to those of us being trained as biblical theologians and ministers at Princeton Theological Seminary, but completely Verbotten at Moody Bible Institute.

And so the personal question that I struggle with a good deal. OK, this is really highly personal, it’s just me. But I often feel sad about being seen as an “enemy” of the Christian faith. People tell me I am all the time – both people who despise me and people who are rooting me on. Yet the views I put out there for public scrutiny are almost NEVER things that I’ve come up with myself, that I’ve dreamt up, that I’m trying to push on others with no evidence or argument – just crazy liberal ideas I’ve come up with to lead people away from the faith.

So why am I an enemy?

Of course I know why, and my views were given additional support last week, at the international meeting of New Testament scholars I attended in Marburg. I was talking with a German scholar about advanced training in biblical studies in Germany these days, and he told me that in German theological schools (in his experience), students simply are not as a rule very interested in the historical study of the New Testament per. The kinds of historical issues we deal with on the blog are simply not pressing matters for them. These are not why they are in theological training, either to teach or to minister in churches.

Instead, he indicated, the ONE question / issue that most of these students have is: “How can I be Christian in this increasingly secular world?”

Of course they are interested in historical knowledge – but it’s not what’s driving them. Instead it is an existential question about faith. That makes so much sense. It is what was driving me at that stage too. But when this fellow scholar told me that, I realized even more clearly why I get so much opposition, even in some learned circles.

Most of the people who are in the business of studying the Bible are committed to faith. That’s what generates their interest. And these days it is very hard. Christians are under attack. From science, from philosophy, from the neo-atheists, from a society/culture that increasingly doesn’t care. And the problem with someone like me is that I’m not helping the cause. On the contrary, I’m not just someone from the outside taking potshots at this faith. I’m someone who came from within it, and left it, with good reasons, and who argues views that are taken by people in the wider culture to be “evidence” that the faith has no good rational basis. Even though I disagree with that assessment (since I know full well that people can be devout believers but still agree with everything I say) (not that anyone agrees with everything I say) (sometimes *I* don’t agree with everything I say…) – even though I disagree with that assessment, I get it.

Christians – even Christian scholars – want to cling on to their faith, to cherish it, and promote it, and what they see as negative assaults on the basis of their faith is threatening, especially – this is the key point – if it comes from someone who is *outside* the community of faith but who used to be inside it and understands the views of those who are still inside it extremely well, but who now rejects these views. And says things that can lead others to reject them as well.

So no wonder I’m the enemy. As we all say these days: duh.

To see this and other posts, go to https://ehrmanblog.org/who-is-the-enemy/ and hit the “Register” button!



Bart D. Ehrman  is an American New Testament scholar focusing on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, the origins and development of early Christianity. He has written and edited 30 books, including three college textbooks. He has also authored six New York Times bestsellers. He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.

Categories: Apostasy, Atheism, Bible, Christianity, Dr Bart Ehrman, New Testament scholarship, Recommended reading

29 replies

  1. I find it very telling that Christianity is under “attack” from the inside, from their own sincere heavywight intellectuals and scholars like Bart Ehrman (who can dispute his intellectual pedigree and authority when it comes to the bible study??) …while Islam is under attack from nut jobs… people like shameoun, dave psycopathic woods, anoymous christian prince, usama dakdok etc.. people who has zero credentials and authority in Islamic study, no thinking muslims should even bother to know what they say..

    • @ Eric

      Very good point.

    • Why do you always have to stress how superior you are in many ways? Inferiority complex much?
      Same goes for Islam under attack. “From science, from philosophy, from the neo-atheists, from a society/culture that increasingly doesn’t care.”

  2. Bart Ehrman writes above:

    ‘I remember what my great teacher, one of the great biblical scholars of the twentieth century, Bruce Metzger used to say. He was himself very conservative in many ways, and a highly committed and pious believer. But he was also a learned scholar. He didn’t accept all the findings of “liberal” biblical scholars, at all. But there were times where he too had to admit that there were problems with the Bible. He agreed that there was almost no way Peter actually wrote 2 Peter.’

    I wonder what our resident fundamentalist Ken Temple makes of this?

    • If Peter used an amanuensis, then most of the scholarly objections to Peter being the author disappear.

      ( An amanuensis is a person employed to write or type what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another, and also refers to a person who signs a document on behalf of another under the latter’s authority — in ancient Greco-Roman world, a secretary who writes the letter – and when translating from one language to another, they have authority to smooth out grammar and language issues in translating from one language to another – Peter speaking Aramaic, gave that authority which is inherent in translating)

      Dr. Michael Kruger (NT scholar and President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.) wrote:

      “Typical arguments [for pseudonymity in NT books] from literary style, vocabulary, and the like tend to be inconclusive, subjective, and, in the end, unpersuasive. It seems that there are many factors that could explain such stylistic differences other than a pseudonymous author, such as the author writing at a different time in his life, under different circumstances, and with different goals and different audiences, even drawing on earlier preformed traditions. All of these factors would imply different vocabulary, varied themes, and a distinctive authorial tone. Moreover, there is always the possibility that authors used an amanuensis at some points and not others—which could be an additional explanation of stylistic differences. (Michael J. Kruger, “Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books”, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books © 2012).”

      Since Peter clearly used an amanuensis for 1 Peter (see 1 Peter 5:12 – “through Silvanus, our faithful brother, I have written to you briefly . . .”)
      since Mark also wrote his gospel based on the action oriented sermons of Peter, it seems reasonable to assume that Peter used an amanuensis for 2 Peter. Possibly even Jude, the half-brother of Jesus and writer of the canonical Epistle of Jude, wrote down Peter’s verbal dictation from prison, around 67 AD and then had it written in Greek. This explains the similarity between the two epistles and also what scholars call “Jewish-Greek”.

      “The primary objection to Petrine authorship has always been stylistic. Either considered on its own, or in relation to 1 Peter, it’s unlikely that the Apostle Peter could have written 2 Peter—or so goes the argument.

      But there are at least a couple of basic problems with this line of objection:

      1.Nigel Turner, who’s a leading authority on NT Greek, has documented a certain amount of “Jewish Greek,” in 2 Peter, consisting in Hebraisms and Septuagintalisms. Cf. N. Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek (T&T Clark 1980), 4:142-43. This would be quite consistent with Petrine authorship. It would be far less consistent for a 2C native Greek writer.

      2.Ellis has also identified what he takes to be the extensive use of preexisting source material in 2 Peter:

      “Cited traditions, interspersed with applicative commentary, form the substance of 2 Pet 1:20-3:13. They can often be identified by formulas used elsewhere to introduce quoted material,” E. E. Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents (Brill 2002), 120.

      “The citations in 2 Peter noted above constitute c. 366 words out of a total of c. 1103=33% of the letter. They are part of two extensive commentaries, 2 Pet 1:20-2:22 and 2 Pet 3:3-13. If the two commentaries, i.e. midrashim are preformed pieces en bloc that the author has (reworked and) incorporated, as seems to be the case in Jude, the preformed material then constitutes c. 606 words or c. 55% of 2 Peter,” ibid. 122. (Cf. 132-33.)

      If his analysis is essentially correct, then it makes it very difficult to isolate a Petrine style, for the style of the letter would largely derive from the secondary source rather than the primary source, i.e. the source material which Peter redacted for his own use.

      It would also undercut the comparison with 1 Peter, for Ellis applies the same analysis to 1 Peter: “preformed traditions in 1 Peter constitute at least c. 652 out of a total of c. 1669 words, that is, 39% of the letter,” 138.

      Needlessly to say, the traditional doctrine of inspiration has never precluded the use of preexisting material (e.g. the Chronicler).”

      from Steve Hays, Triablogue

  3. Id like to see this guy do a Academic analysis of the quran.

    Erhman is late to the party, Allah already warned us in the quran about people who write something and say its from Allah over 1400 years ago. Taking this valuable lesson from ehrman leaves a person to be lost in faith. Attributing this well known fact from the quran one can reflect on the whole of the quran and find true faith without error.

    • “I do not think that the Qur’an has any particular insights about the historical Jesus that are to be taken as independent reports by historical scholars. Neither does any other historical scholar that I know (or anyone who works seriously on the historical Jesus).
      And I doubt very much that my views coincide with 99% of Islamic belief about Jesus. For one thing, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was physically crucified and died on the cross. That is rock-bottom certain in my books. And it stands completely odds with standard Islamic beliefs.”

      Bart Ehrman, Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: February 18, 2016

      • @agnostic

        Delusions thrive when rational ideas are destroyed. Enjoy your full blown psychosis.

      • Ehrman is talking as a secular atheist historian. He rejects a priori any historical information that comes from a transcendent source. Islam does not reject this.

        His loss.

      • You sound just like your “resident fundamentalist Ken Temple”. Ehrman was honest, consistent, credible enough to scrutinize his beliefs rationally, you are not capable of it seems – at the moment anyway.

        Your loss.

  4. This is really interesting and sad at the same time. Also, ‘m not sure why dr. Ehrman made this statement ” God can’t inspire a book if he doesn’t exist ” . This is a positive claim which contradicts of how he identifies himself as agnostic unless dr Ehrman follows Bertrand Russell who identifies himself as agnostic among philosophers, because he knows that he cannot say (God doesn’t exist) philosophically, yet he identifies himself as an atheist among laymen

    What dr Ehrman said about his teacher ,Bruce Metzger, confirms what I had said before about CS Lewis. It seems for Metzger and Ehrman both that faith cannot be invalidated because it’s unreasonable or not true historically because, for them, that’s the very definition of faith itself seemingly, which is the presumption that muslims usually have to deal with when they counter with atheists who come from a christian background, especially in the west.

    Instead, he indicated, the ONE question / issue that most of these students have is : “How can I be Christian in this increasingly secular world?
    The poor students! They are in a very hard struggle to choose between 1) that the life is just matter and energy with no purpose, which human beings with their Fitrah know it cannot be true or 2) to choose a faith which doesn’t make sense, and it contradicts the actual historical facts and the purpose that God has created us for! May Allah guide those souls to Islam! It’s the solution for their souls from these chains. May Allah guide Bart Ehrman to the light of Islam.

    And from those who say,We are Christians” We took their covenant; but they forgot a portion of that of which they were reminded. So We caused among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection . And Allah is going to inform them about what they used to do. O People of the Scripture, there has come to you Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Scripture and overlooking much. There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book. By which Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace and brings them out from darknesses into the light, by His permission, and guides them to a straight path .”

  5. “Agnostic” above wrote:

    You sound just like your “resident fundamentalist Ken Temple”.

    “Agnostic” is right to point out that Paul Williams and other Muslims are inconsistent in applying anti-supernatural bias in the most liberal theological scholarship of the west, against the NT and OT, but don’t allow that same liberal / agnostic / atheist / secular / skeptical anti-supernatural bias (the God does not communicate with humans through prophets, apostles, prophesy, or books)

    Ehrman was honest, consistent, credible enough to scrutinize his beliefs rationally, you are not capable of it seems – at the moment anyway.

    Your loss.

    This is not the total picture of why Ehrman left the faith. He explains in other books about suffering and evil, that those were the real deeper issues that caused him to lose his faith – which is usually the root cause behind all unbelief and lack of faith in God and Christ, or apostasy from the faith – the anger and bitterness that humans have against God, because they know deep down that He (the One Creator) does exist (Romans 1:19-21; 2:14-15; Psalm 19:1), and that He is the creator, and that He sovereignly allows suffering and evil to happen; so they think that a good God would not allow evil and suffering, and they rebel into anger and bitterness and come up with intellectual and scholarly reasons why they don’t believe in God. People use reason and science biased with anti-supernatural bias (Darwinism, materialism, naturalism) to excuse their atheism and agnosticism.

    As many Darwinists have admitted, “the theory of Evolution gave me an excuse to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”. (Richard Dawkins) Others before him said similar things.

    • @ Ken

      We do allow supernatural bias what are you talking about? We don’t allow unverified stories there’s a difference between these matters.

      • I am saying you use the anti-supernatural bias of western scholars against the Bible, in order to attack the Bible; but do not allow it for critiquing the Qur’an. (anyone in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, using those methods vs. Qur’an would be persecuted, beaten up, or jailed or fined or killed. Even in Egypt, students rose up and threw a professor out the classroom window when he used some of that scholarship from Germany on the Qur’an.)

        If the Qur’an did not allow unverified stories, then why is it filled with unverified apocryphal segments from myths and Jewish Midrash commentaries and Legends (the cave sleepers) and false gospels (infancy Gnostic gospels – Jesus talking from crib, making clay birds, breathing into them – those sources are not truth or credible.)

      • They keep their heads buried in the ground and go it’s God’s word na na na naa na

    • which is usually the root cause behind all unbelief and lack of faith in God and Christ, or apostasy from the faith – the anger and bitterness that humans have against God, because they know deep down that He (the One Creator) does exist (Romans 1:19-21; 2:14-15; Psalm 19:1), and that He is the creator, and that He sovereignly allows suffering and evil to happen; so they think that a good God would not allow evil and suffering, and they rebel into anger and bitterness and come up with intellectual and scholarly reasons why they don’t believe in God

      You’re right, Ken. I mean they cannot live with an idea of (God doesn’t exist) because to believe in the Creator and that there’s a purpose for your life is a Fitrah which is embedded in each child once it’s born. However, I’d add that this frustration and depression has been intensified with the irrationality and the nonsense of Pauline Christianity undoubtedly. The problem with those guys that they limit themselves with unreasonable choices although God has sent a clear message for them which will free their souls form this darkness.

  6. @ Ken

    Oh God here goes the ol fear fallacy you like to throw up whenever you’re backed into a corner sure people insult Islam DAILY and nothing happens but whatever. Anyway notice I never quote things such as:

    “This prophecy of Jesus about the Temple’s destruction must have been added in later”

    THAT is based on an anti-supernatural bias. Everyone here, for the most part, talks about clear cut alterations to the text such as the ending of Mark or the lady taken in adultery or that these stories are based on Chinese whispers of known liars. Just because someone quotes a person does NOT mean they have to agree with every conclusion of the person that is simply fallacious. I can quote Ehrman, Carrier Price etc in one area of refutation and disagree with their conclusions in other areas. Again just because you blindly follow does not mean EVERYBODY else does.

    Furthermore, like the biblical accounts, there can be aspects of truth mixed with lies so again that argument means nothing. We don’t base OUR RELIGION on things that God HIMSELF hasn’t verified or we would have put ALL of that stuff into the neutral/false category. For example, if God did not verify “Oh I sent Jesus(as)” I would wholeheartedly believe he was a false prophet but we know that’s not the case because we have revelation to verify he was sent. The point is not the stories it’s very simple you are being criticized on WHO wrote this and HOW did it reach us which is something we even do for OURSELVES. So again there is no “Anti supernatural” bias.

    • I was not backed into a corner at all.

      There is no fear fallacy.

      “insult Islam” = anything that we say that is a legitimate disagreement or reasonable academic criticism or intellectual argument.

      You criticize the Bible and Christianity all the time, and you have freedom to do that; but your religion does not allow questions and criticism. (where it has political power to punish all disagreement and criticism)

      Only in the west where there is some freedom to raise questions and arguments and criticism – only in freedom of speech and religion areas.

      • @ Ken

        You literally just did a fear fallacy:

        When fear, not based on evidence or reason, is being used as the primary motivator to get others to accept an idea, proposition, or conclusion.


        Your ENTIRE “our religion is proven to be false but, but, but, you don’t allow it for the Quran or else you get beaten up, killed blah, blah, blah”” is a fear fallacy plain and simple. Islam is insulted EVERY day in comment sections, media and attempted scholarly criticisms have been tried (and refuted). If the case is as you claim Shamoun would have left this life A LONG time ago you are simply playing off fear because you can’t defend your text’s weakness and wish to continue to worship a human. Even on this blog, EVERY argument you have presented has been annihilated but I guess you fear repercussions right?

  7. @ Agnostic

    Why do you even comment? I can defend ANY of my beliefs, you can’t which is why you waste your life saying some corny line, or unverified statement and then run away when challenged for a source or disproven (just off the top of my head neanderthals, Sam Harris condoning rape, monotheism in other countries, Shariah being superior, Ebionites, Dhul Qarnain being Alexander and the crucifixion being a “historical fact”)

    You cannot produce any logical properly structured argument and you have no desire to properly go back and forth which is why you are the laughing stock of this blog it has absolutely NOTHING to do with its God’s word blah, blah, blah you are simply too stupid to understand what half the crap you claim actually is and act as if the world revolves around how you “feel”.

    • And this is the reality where xtians who call themselves the followers of truth get teamed up with atheists and agnostics whenever they can get something bad to say about Islam no matter how retarded what they say really is.
      Like Agnostic & Kenny, our favorite piggyback riding dynamic duo.

      • A doorknob and a clown walk into a bar…anyone heard that joke?

      • @ Atlas


        “Haven’t you seen those who were given a part of the Scripture, believing in superstitions and anything that calls to rebellion ˹against God˺, say about the disbelievers: “Even they’re better guided than these ‘believers’ to what the right path is ˹to follow˺?” (Q. 4:51)

    • You are so predictable when triggered the right spot. Williams has to resort to “historical information that comes from a transcendent source.” Facepalm see above. Thats what I call going on it’s God’s word! while keeping the head in the sand.

      • The Allah of the Qur’an does not know established history – Surah 4:157.

        The Allah of the Qur’an does not understand church history or the doctrine of the Trinity that was around for 5 Centuries by the Christians – Surah 5:72-78; 5:116; 6:101; 112; 19:88-92.

        The Allah of the Qur’an used legends and myths (cave of seven sleepers) and Jewish Midrash commentaries (rather than the text of the OT), and apocryphal Gnostic oriented false gospels. (Jesus speaking from the cradle and making a clay bird and breathing into it.)

        Therefore, the Qur’an is not inspired by the true God.

      • @ Ken

        I’m going to refute your stupid trinity argument the Bible says:

        Deuteronomy 28:64
        Then the LORD will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.

        Revelation 9:20
        Now the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the works of their hands. They did not stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.

        Deuteronomy 28:36
        The LORD will bring you and the king you appoint to a nation neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone.

        Jeremiah 16:13
        So I will cast you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known. There you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’

        Using the same retarded logic you have presented the authors of the Bible:

        1. Did not know the beliefs, Assyria, Cannan, Babylon etc. as in their beliefs their “gods” were not literally the idol (and this is true for most pagans)

        2. The Biblical authors acknowledge other gods alongside God

        Pretty retarded right? God is calling their stupid beliefs what they are worshipping demons, gold, wood, and stone. Same in the Quran He is calling your stupid pagan beliefs what they are the worship of three.

        Moving on your argument has to disprove the stories from happening. Do you have something or are you talking from your butt?

      • @ Atlas

        No again you are too dumb to understand a nuanced argument for example when we discussed the historicity of the crucifixion despite the fact that I said “even though I believe in supernatural I will argue against the crucifixion using the historical method” you being dumb and not waiting for evidence said “oh there you go believing in the Quran haha hahaha” or whatever dumb sh!t you say that I ignore. No one puts their head in the sand we ask you to prove your point with a reputable source and then you run away (especially after a reputable source is presented to you)

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