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November 15, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Criticism of Bart Ehrman

There needs to be an openness to all the data as we have it, and a willingness to give the ancient writers the benefit of the doubt in the same way one would do with an admired contemporary colleague or friend in one’s field. Without sufficient native sympathy for the material or its author, the tendency to bend or distort is considerable, and the results unfortunate. The acid of skepticism has a corrosive effect. It leads one to find contradictions and faults at every turn, even when they aren’t there. It leads to atomizing and vivisecting a group of texts in a manner that prevents one from seeing the whole and its interconnectivity because one has divided it into so many discrete parts.

This methodology leads to result rather like the familiar parable of the five blind me[n] all feeling different parts of the elephant. The first says “an elephant is like a horn” for he felt the tusk of the elephant. The second says “an elephant is like a rope” for he felt the tail of the elephant. The third says “the elephant is like a hose” for he felt the trunk of the elephant. The fourth says “the elephant is like a giant leaf” for he felt the ear of the elephant. The fifth said “you’re all wrong, the elephant is like a wrinkled old man” for he felt the knee of the elephant. One needs to see the parts in relationship to the whole in order to be able to assess the whole. The point is, while there is some truth in what each person said in this case, without a vision of the whole, one cannot properly analyze the significance of the parts and the differences in data and interpretation.

Ben Witheringtons critique of Bart Ehrmans book here and here (part I and part II respectively).

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