Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) sent me through riveting emotions. At times, I could feel anger and hostility rise in an effort to defend. In other moments, I felt a deep compassion for Mr. Ehrman. Then, there were the occasions I found myself nodding in agreement. I have always made it a point to read books that challenge my thinking, and this book certainly did. I learned nothing new, but I did gain some interesting insights for my journey.
I think the book can be summed up with the opening and closing pages from which Ehrman sets forth the fact that he is an Evangelical-Christian-turned-Agnostic. He argues several times that his conclusions regarding historical, textual criticism have nothing to do with his agnostic beliefs, but his views on Scripture certainly give him the framework to believe whatever is convenient. So, it is not so much a book of data interpretation as it is a philosophical diatribe specifically directed at conservative, evangelical Christianity.
It seems to me that while Ehrman presents his data clearly and with a significant degree of literary prowess, his conclusions often just don’t make much sense. For example:
He builds his critical argument that both the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke were forgeries penned years after the Gospel according to Mark. The reason they must be forgeries, of course, is that both Matthew and Mark would have been too illiterate to write such sophisticated prose. Further, the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark to copy some of their stories. A serious problem naturally arises when we find several stories in both Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark. How could this be? From where did these stories come? Scholars simply “invent” an unknown text by an unknown author at an unknown time. Why does this need to be done? Because, Matthew and Luke were forgeries, and the deceptive authors used Mark as their basis; yet they have different stories, so there must be another source. Does this seem somewhat circular? But that’s not it! On page 158, Ehrman actually quotes from this never-before-seen text known as “Q”! The passage he quotes is found in both Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark, so it MUST be from Q, therefore by the authority of sheer speculation, a text is created right out of a scholar’s imagination. Fascinating!
I could go on and on describing the house of cards that Ehrman builds. In one chapter he refers to his conclusions as “possible,” “probable,” or “likely” while restating the same idea in the next chapter as fact in order to build yet another “possible” conclusion. To be honest, and fair, it seems as though Ehrman has more faith than most Christians!
With all this being said, I must state my final evaluation. In the opening pages of the book, Ehrman describes his relationship with Evangelical Christianity as a mental assent to propositional ideas. He was very devoted to memorizing and learning facts. However, he never talks about a personal relationship with the person of Jesus. That may be due to his current agnostic position, but it is, nonetheless, missing from his story line. I believe this is the most telling truth in all the book. And like Ehrman’s own background, many, many “Christians” in the West have a vibrant relationship with a set of doctrines, creeds, traditions, and ideologies, yet never enter into the fullness of what it means to be in Christ. This, in my opinion, is why many students enter classes much like that of Mr. Ehrman in their respective colleges, and exit with total indifference to the Bible and Christianity. We must understand, Christianity is by far the least likely idea to be true in all of historical, textual, critical research and study. That is what makes faith all the more important. A “Christian” set of facts, figures, data, and propositions, while important, are not what is necessary for Christianity to be real. It is our personal relationship with Jesus.