[asa] Biblical Archeology and Christian Faith (was Tomb of Jesus)

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Thu Mar 01 2007 - 09:26:20 EST

I just wanted to bump this to another thread. I know there are some
archeology folks on the list from CCCU schools. I'd be interested to hear
from y'all on the BAR "Losing Faith" story I mention below, and also of
course on the Tomb controversy.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Mar 1, 2007 9:11 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] The tomb of Jesus?
To: "philtill@aol.com" <philtill@aol.com>
Cc: asa@calvin.edu

*David, I want to ask you about this, because I don't understand how Ehrman
can believe this*.

Interesting question, one that I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer. My
understanding of the issues Ehrman raises comes mostly from studying a bit
of Biblical theology, the church fathers, church history, and the history of
early western civilization. I'm not able to handle all the text-critical
arguments in detail at this point in my pilgrimage. From everything I've
studied of Biblical theology, history and the church fathers, the "Gnostic
Christianity as a 'legitimate' rival Christianity" notion makes no sense to
me at all. It seems clear to me that gnosticism was an early threat to the
faith; that it was consistently opposed from Paul through the fathers; and
that the gnostic gospels are thoroughly inconsistent with the faith
reflected in the gospels, Acts, and the apostolic epistles. True, there are
similarities between some gnostic ideas and some of the Johannine
literature, but I think this suggests that the gnostic system is a
perversion of John.

I sense in the current interest in gnosticism an underlying worldview
question. IMHO, gnosticism resonates with a sort of mystical, existential
approach to life that comports with a hyper-postmodern outlook. "Christian"
gnosticism is also right in line with de rigeur lefty political views,
particularly radical feminism. I would also suggest, from a spiritual
perspective, that gnosticism has always represented a principal mode of
spirtual attack on the church.

As to Ehrman in particular, there's coincidentally a very interesting
interview with him and a few other scholars in this month's Biblical
Archeology Review called "Losting Faith"
Ehrman grew up evangelical / fundamentalist, as did William Dever, another
person interviewed in the article. Both mention various reasons why they
lost their Christian faith, including the problems of theodicy and
hypocrisy. But also, both interestingly stress that before they became
scholars, they, as Ehrman puts it, " *had a very high view of Scripture as
the inerrant word of God, no mistakes of any kind -- geographical or
historical. No contradictions. Inviolate." *When this notion of scripture
was challenged by their scholarship, their faith was irreparably
damaged. Dever says this: *"For me, it was this typical Protestant
conundrum: It's all true or none of it is true. My sainted mother once
said to me, If I can't believe that the whale swallowed Jonah, I can't
believe any of it." *
This really strikes home to me. It seems that Ehrman and Dever grew up with
such a rigid view of scripture, and such a rationalistic view of faith,
that they snapped. I'm not offering this so much to challenge any
particular view of scripture or faith/epistemology, but just to wonder aloud
how we can teach our kids a solid view of scripture without also
communicating that our faith sits precariously on the edge of a knife.

On 3/1/07, philtill@aol.com <philtill@aol.com> wrote:
> David wrote:
> 'five Bart Ehrman books, including "Lost Christianities," "Lost
Scriptures," "Misquoting Jesus," "Peter, Paul & Mary Magdalene," and "The
Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot." Ehrman, of course, is a leading proponent
of the view that there was no center of orthodoxy in the early church, and
that the Gnostic sects in particular were genuine heirs of the early
Christian tradition before they were stomped out by the patriarchy.'
> From Phil:
> David, I want to ask you about this, because I don't understand how Ehrman
can believe this. Several years ago I re-read the NT with a critical eye to
understand how credible it is as a historical record (apart from faith). I
got the very strong impression that Paul is a credible historical figure and
that his epistles (at least the majority of them) are certainly credible
records of what he believed and what he was doing. Likewise it seemed that
it would have been hard for Paul to have misunderstood the gospel as being
taught by the other Apostles -- Peter, in particular -- and that it is very
likely that he was representing the views of the other Apostles, apart from
the secondary disagreements over whether Jewish Christians should keep the
Jewish law, and if so then why and how, etc. It also seemed entirely
credible that Mark represents the oral tradition of the earliest days of
Christianity, that its pericopes were bite-sized in order to facilitate
memorization so that Mark was essentially the catechism of the early church,
and that therefore it was natural that later compilations (Matthew and Luke
in particular) would be based upon that catechism. Finally it seemed
entirely credible that Luke really was Paul's companion as described in Acts
and that during his stay in Jerusalem (while Paul was jailed) he really did
have access to the eyewitnesses as he claimed at the start of his gospel,
and that he book really does represent the result of his honest
investigation. It all seemed very credible, and because of the strong
witness by Paul in particular I don't understand how anybody could believe
that the earliest understanding of the gospel was any different than what we
have today.
> So here is my question: what is your assessment of people like Ehrman?
Why do they believe as they do? I understand that there do exist these
non-canonical gospels, and that Gnostic sects really did develop, etc., but
why do people like Ehrman disregard Paul's witness and his agreement with
such an early gospel as Mark, etc., and attempt to justify these heterodox
views? What is your assessment of Ehrman's success of failure at doing so?
> Thanks!
> Phil M.
> ________________________________
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Received on Thu Mar 1 09:26:54 2007

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