Tag Archives: Bart Ehrman

What Are the Parallels Between Jesus and the “Divine Men” of the Ancient World? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Mythicists claim that the stories about Jesus were merely copied from other pagan myths circulating around the Roman Empire in the first century. If this is true, it does cast some doubt on the uniqueness of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, and it certainly makes one wonder if all the stories about Jesus were borrowed from other sources.

In order to discuss this claim, I will call to the stand one Bart Ehrman, a man who is no friend to Christianity. Ehrman was interviewed by Ben Witherington in a seven-part series last summer after Ehrman’s book, Did Jesus Exist?, was published.

In part 3, Ehrman cited the work of Jonathan Smith who claimed that there were no unambiguous accounts of dying and rising gods in the ancient world.  Witherington follows up with another question about the resurrection of Jesus:

In what way is the Jewish notion of a resurrection a different idea than either the fertility crop cycle idea, or what is sometimes said about pagan deities that either disappear or die?

Ehrman answers:

One of the reasons for thinking that the belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection is not exactly like what you can find in pagan myths about their gods is that it is solidly rooted in Jewish apocalyptic beliefs of the first century. This should come as no surprise, since Jesus and his followers were not pagans with pagan views of the divine realm, but first-century apocalyptically minded Jews.

In some pagan circles, there was a belief in fertility gods, who would spend some time in the underworld and some time in this world, alternating year after year. These gods were closely connected to the crops: they (both the crops and the gods connected with them) die in the winter and come back to life in the Spring. And they do that year after year.

That obviously is not like the early Christian belief in Jesus, who does not go into the underworld then return to this world year after year. Instead, Jesus was believed to have gone to the underworld for three days and then to have been raised from the dead and exalted to heaven where he is to stay until he returns. This is not rooted in pagan mythology, but in apocalyptic theology.

After reading through Ehrman’s answers and checking other sources, here is my conclusion on the alleged parallel accounts of “divine men” of the ancient world.  There are similarities to the accounts of Jesus, but they are on the surface, and somewhat trivial.  Given the tendencies of people throughout history to repeat archetypes and themes in their stories, it is not surprising that we would find some of these repeated in the stories about Jesus.

When we start to dig deeper into the Jesus stories and try to find parallels in ancient accounts, we find that the similarities end.  In particular, the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus are both unique in ancient history.  There just aren’t other pagan accounts that mirror these important aspects of the Jesus narratives.

Given that the evidence does not support the mythicist contention that the Jesus stories were completely cribbed, I submit that  there is no good reason to doubt the historicity of the person of Jesus based on alleged parallel accounts.  Bart Ehrman and I can agree on this point.

What Are the Parallels Between Jesus and the “Divine Men” of the Ancient World? Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Mythicists claim that the stories about Jesus were merely copied from other pagan myths circulating around the Roman Empire in the first century. If this is true, it does cast some doubt on the uniqueness of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, and it certainly makes one wonder if all the stories about Jesus were borrowed from other sources.

In order to discuss this claim, I will call to the stand one Bart Ehrman, a man who is no friend to Christianity. Ehrman was interviewed by Ben Witherington in a seven-part series last summer after Ehrman’s book, Did Jesus Exist?, was published.

After Witherington’s initial question about parallel accounts of “divine men” in the ancient world, he zeros in on the alleged accounts of dying and rising gods.  He asks, “Why do you think this theory of dying and rising gods became so popular in the 20th century, and what caused its scholarly demise?”  Here is Ehrman’s answer:

Yes, for a long time it was widely thought that dying and rising gods were a constant staple of ancient pagan religions, so that when Christians claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead, they were simply borrowing a common “motif” from pagan religions. This view was first popularized by Sir James George Frazer at the beginning of the twentieth century in his enormously influential (and very large) book, The Golden Bough. (As I explain in Did Jesus Exist, Frazer did in his day what Joseph Campbell did in ours – popularized the view that at heart, all religions are basically the same).

This view was exploded by Jonathan Z. Smith in the late 1980s, chiefly in an article on the “dying-rising gods” in the scholarly and authoritative Encyclopedia of Religion. Smith showed that the notion that there was a widespread category of gods who died and rose again was, in fact, a modern myth, not based on a careful reading of ancient sources.  In his own words:

“The category of dying and rising gods, once a major topic of scholarly investigation , must be understood to have been largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and exceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts. . . .  All the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the two larger classes of disappearing deities or dying deities. In the first case the deities return but have not died; in the second case the gods die but do not return. There is no unambiguous instance in the history of religions of a dying and rising deity.”  (cited in Jonathan Z. Smith, “Dying and Rising Gods,” Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed. Lindsay Jones, (Detroit: Macmillan, 2005 [original: 1987]), 4:2535).

Ehrman summarizes the findings of Smith:

Smith’s findings were based not on new discoveries, but on a more careful reading of ancient sources. Unfortunately, even though these findings have made a major impact on the research of New Testament scholars and other scholars of Christian antiquity, they appear to be unknown to the mythicists, many of whom continue to make the now dated claim that the resurrection of Jesus was simply invented along the lines of the common pagan myth.

More from Witherington and Ehrman in part 4 of the series.

What Are the Parallels Between Jesus and the “Divine Men” of the Ancient World? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Mythicists claim that the stories about Jesus were merely copied from other pagan myths circulating around the Roman Empire in the first century.  If this is true, it does cast some doubt on the uniqueness of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, and it certainly makes one wonder if all the stories about Jesus were borrowed from other sources.

In order to discuss this claim, I will call to the stand one Bart Ehrman, a man who is no friend to Christianity.  Ehrman was interviewed by Ben Witherington in a seven-part series last summer after Ehrman’s book, Did Jesus Exist?, was published.  In part 1 of this post series, we reviewed Ehrman’s response to alleged parallel accounts of “divine men” in the ancient world.  After allowing that there are some parallels, Ehrman argues

that all of these figures about whom such stories were told were also different in key ways from one another. They were not all the same. The stories varied from one person to the next. The stories about Jesus are different in many ways from the others (just as each of them is different from the others).

Why is this important?  Why are the differences among accounts of ancient “divine men” damaging to mythicist claims?

This is important to bear in mind because mythicists often claim that everything said about Jesus can be paralleled in the myths and legends told about other divine figures on earth. And that simply is not true. A number of the key stories about Jesus are in fact unique to him, including some of the most important.

What are some examples of stories that are unique to Jesus?  According to Ehrman,

even though there are numerous instances of divine men who are supernaturally born, there is no instance of a divine man being born to a “virgin,” as happens in the case of Jesus, for example in the Gospel of Matthew. The entire point of most of the pagan supernatural birth stories is that a (mortal) woman is made pregnant by a God, precisely by having sex with her (often in human form, though sometimes Zeus preferred being in the form of a swan, or a snake, or…. some other animal, for some odd reason). I don’t know of any instances in which a woman gives birth as a virgin.

So too: the resurrection. The Gospel understanding of the resurrection is that Jesus came back into his body (a one-time corpse) which was then transformed and raised and exalted (explicitly in Luke-Acts) to heaven. This reanimation of the body type of resurrection is not attested, so far as I know, for any other divine man in antiquity.  This is an important point because mythicists want to claim that all the stories about Jesus were simply taken over from the pagan environment. And this is simply not true.

Neither the virgin birth, not the resurrection of Jesus, find parallels in other ancient accounts of “divine men,” according to Ehrman.  As these are two of the most crucial aspects of Jesus’s life, not finding these in other ancient accounts deals quite a blow to the mythicist assertion that everything written about Jesus’s life was just copied from other sources.

In part 3, we will continue looking at Bart Ehrman’s interview with Ben Witherington.  More to come!

What Are the Parallels Between Jesus and the “Divine Men” of the Ancient World? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Mythicists claim that the stories about Jesus were merely copied from other pagan myths circulating around the Roman Empire in the first century.  If this is true, it does cast some doubt on the uniqueness of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, and it certainly makes one wonder if all the stories about Jesus were borrowed from other sources.

In order to discuss this claim, I will call to the stand one Bart Ehrman, a man who is no friend to Christianity.  Ehrman was interviewed by Ben Witherington in a seven-part series last summer after Ehrman’s book, Did Jesus Exist?, was published.  When asked in the seventh interview post what his research revealed about the alleged parallel stories, Ehrman first affirms that there are some similarities:

There are several points that need to be made, I think, about all the parallels that exist between the stories of Jesus and other supposed “divine men” of ancient Greece and Rome. The first is that there were indeed a number of similarities between the ways Christians talked about Jesus and the ways pagans (and in some instances, Jews) talked about other “sons of God.” There is no point denying this (it comes as a huge surprise to my students). We have stories of other “divine men” from antiquity who were thought to have been supernaturally born; to have been preternaturally wise, religiously, while still youths; to have engaged in itinerate preaching ministries; to have done miracles such as miraculously feeding the hungry, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead; and at the end of their lives to have ascended to heaven. These other stories do exist (and not just about Apollonius of Tyana.)

Not surprisingly, there were other stories in the ancient world of men supernaturally born, who engaged in preaching ministries, who performed miracles, and who ascended to heaven.  In fact, even though I am not a historical scholar, I would wager to say that these kinds of stories have existed throughout the history of mankind, even up to the present day.

What should we make of these parallels?  Do they lead us inevitably to the conclusion that the stories about Jesus were manufactured, that Jesus never existed?  Ehrman argues that

the fact that Jesus was talked about in ways similar to how others were talked about does not mean that he (or they) did not exist. Some of these stories are told about figures who are absolutely and incontrovertibly historical (Alexander the Great; the Emperor Vespasian; Apollonius; and so on). If you wanted to tell stories about a figure you considered to be more than human, to be in some sense divine, these are the kinds of stories you told.

As Ehrman rightly points out, these kinds of stories were often told about real, historical people.  Given that fact, concluding that Jesus never existed, as the mythicists do, is a completely unwarranted move.  We cannot determine that a person never existed because they were said to have been born supernaturally, performed miracles, and ascended to heaven.  If this is the criteria we use to determine whether people existed, we are going to have to redact a lot of historical figures from our history textbooks.

In part 2 of this series, we will continue to look at Ehrman’s exploration of this topic in Ben Witherington’s blog post.

Why Should We Not Believe Those Who Claim Jesus Never Existed?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Bart Ehrman, the agnostic New Testament scholar, who is no friend to Christianity, is back again with a new book called Did Jesus Exist?  I have not read the book yet, but I came across an article written by Ehrman a couple months ago in the Huffington Post that is worth quoting at length.

Ehrman starts out the article by acknowledging that there is a small, but vocal group of skeptics who deny that Jesus ever existed.

That is the claim made by a small but growing cadre of (published ) writers, bloggers and Internet junkies who call themselves mythicists.  This unusually vociferous group of nay-sayers maintains that Jesus is a myth invented for nefarious (or altruistic) purposes by the early Christians who modeled their savior along the lines of pagan divine men who, it is alleged, were also born of a virgin on Dec. 25, who also did miracles, who also died as an atonement for sin and were then raised from the dead.

There are several mythicists who have written comments on my blog in the past, so I am quite familiar with them.  So what credence should we give the mythicists?  Here is Ehrman’s take:

Few of these mythicists are actually scholars trained in ancient history, religion, biblical studies or any cognate field, let alone in the ancient languages generally thought to matter for those who want to say something with any degree of authority about a Jewish teacher who (allegedly) lived in first-century Palestine.  There are a couple of exceptions: of the hundreds — thousands? — of mythicists, two (to my knowledge) actually have Ph.D. credentials in relevant fields of study. 

But even taking these into account, there is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world.  And it is no wonder why.  These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.

Ehrman, who certainly doesn’t accept everything in the New Testament as historical, nevertheless argues that historical kernels about Jesus are there:

With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) — sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves).  Historical sources like that are pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.  Moreover, we have relatively extensive writings from one first-century author, Paul, who acquired his information within a couple of years of Jesus’ life and who actually knew, first hand, Jesus’ closest disciple Peter and his own brother James.  If Jesus did not exist, you would think his brother would know it.

Ehrman adds:

Moreover, the claim that Jesus was simply made up falters on every ground. The alleged parallels between Jesus and the “pagan” savior-gods in most instances reside in the modern imagination: We do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum in their propagandized versions).

Why bother quoting Ehrman about Jesus?  Because, when you have someone who is clearly not a Christian, who has written several books attacking the reliability of the New Testament, standing up and agreeing with Christians about something, we should pay attention.  I don’t agree with much that Ehrman writes, but I can at least agree with him on this: Jesus really existed and we can know about him from the New Testament documents.

What Can Historians Tell Us About Jesus’ Resurrection?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona locked horns once again over the resurrection of Jesus on the Unbelievable? podcast last April.  The two scholars discussed various elements of the New Testament that historians could use to reconstruct the life of Jesus for much of the radio show.  In the final segment of the debate, however, Ehrman once again charged that historians cannot tell us whether Jesus was resurrected – the conclusion that Jesus was resurrected is simply not one that the methods of historical analysis will allow.

Ehrman has made this charge before.  I witnessed him say the same thing at a debate between him and Licona two years ago.  This time, though, some nuances of his position appeared.  When Ehrman argues that historians cannot conclude that the resurrection of Jesus occurred, we have to ask what he means by resurrection.  Ehrman seems to mean the following: Jesus died and then a few days later was supernaturally re-animated by the Christian God in a miraculous act.

Why does Ehman say that historians cannot draw this conclusion?  As far as I could tell, it is because of the words supernaturally, Christian God, and miraculous.  Ehrman seems to be saying that these are theological words, not historical words.  They are words used by people of faith, not by professional historians.

So how did Licona respond?  He agreed to define the resurrection of Jesus as follows: Jesus died and then a few days later came back to life.  Notice that Licona completely dropped the theological words that seemed to give Ehrman so much heartburn.  Now the two scholars could move on and talk about the historical evidence supporting the non-theological resurrection.  Unfortunately, and much to my disappointment, the show ran out of time and the new discussion was never pursued.

What’s the point in recounting their conversation?  First, it cleared up what Ehrman’s real beef was.  Second, it gives me an occasion to call for Ehrman and his admirers to drop this approach, as the point has been made.  I, like Licona, am glad to use the non-theological definition of the resurrection in order to advance the historical debate.  Let’s get on with it.

Did Jesus Really Exist? Bart Ehrman Thinks So

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Some of the atheists that have commented on the blog have expressed skepticism at the existence of Jesus, claiming that there is very little or even no good evidence for him being a real historical figure.  My response has been to point out that Jesus is the most well attested historical figure of ancient history and that no reputable historian doubts his existence.  Uninterested in what historians have to say, these skeptics continue to hold their position.

What is especially ironic is that many of the skeptics who doubt the historical scholars are also the same people who chide me for doubting Darwin’s historical account of the origins of species over the past 4.5 billion years of earth’s history.  I guess it’s OK to doubt professional historians, but not professional paleontologists.

In any case, this week I came across a fascinating radio interview that bears on this issue of the existence of Jesus.  The interviewer is an atheist named Infidel Guy and he is questioning New Testament (NT) scholar and agnostic Bart Ehrman.  Ehrman has written several books pointing out discrepancies and errors that exist in the Greek NT manuscripts.  He is not a Christian and he believes that some of the things recorded about Jesus in the NT are legendary.

What is fascinating about this interview is that Ehrman finds himself arguing with the Infidel Guy that Jesus actually exists!  Ehrman, as a scholar, knows that the idea that Jesus never existed is ridiculous and that no serious scholar holds this position.  For 16 minutes he tries to convince the Infidel Guy, but to no avail.

Maybe the fact that Bart Ehrman, hero for skeptics of Christianity, has attempted to put this silly notion to rest will influence some atheists who continue to cling to this idea.  We’ll see!  In the mean time, please take a listen to the interview below which is broken into 2 parts.

How Brittle Are Your Christian Beliefs?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman wrote in his book, Misquoting Jesus, that his Christian beliefs began to fall apart when he realized that there was a mistake, an error, in the Gospel of Mark.  Now, I think that the alleged mistake is not a mistake, but let’s assume for a minute that we just don’t know for sure – maybe Mark made a mistake, and maybe he didn’t.

Is this any reason to jettison your belief in Christianity?  That has not been my reaction when I’ve been faced with many of the same kinds of difficulties in the Bible.  Why does Ehrman feel that he has to give up the whole show when he finds one error?

There are a few Christians who have been upset with me when I’ve talked about the fact that the 5,800 Greek manuscript copies of the New Testament differ from each other so that we are unsure of about 1% of the text in the New Testament.  These verses have nothing to do with any major Christian doctrine, but nonetheless they believe it is unacceptable to have any uncertainty at all.  Their faith is threatened by the science of textual criticism, even when textual criticism is practiced by conservative Christians.

Other Christians claim only the King James Version of the Bible is correct, that all the others are full of significant mistakes.  They feel their faith threatened by the other versions.

What do these people all have in common?  New Testament scholar Darrell Bock referred to these kinds of Christians as brittle fundamentalists.  They are brittle because when one of their cherished beliefs are challenged, their faith either falls apart, like Ehrman, or they retreat deep into isolation so as not to deal with anyone who disagrees with them.

I have a deep concern for the brothers and sisters who hold these beliefs.  They are majoring on the minors of Christianity.  They are making secondary things primary things.  There are certain teachings of the church that have always been recognized as the essentials, the things that form the core of our faith.

Holding on to the essentials, we need to make room for the findings of history, science, and philosophy that help us better understand our faith.  We need to be willing to learn about our faith, and maybe even change some of our secondary beliefs.  If your understanding of a Bible passage has never changed, if your understanding of a secondary doctrine has never changed, you are not growing and your Christianity may be brittle.

I have been studying the tough issues that face Christians for 7 years now, and I have had to modify several of my secondary and non-essential ideas about Christianity.  It can be uncomfortable sometimes, but what has happened to me is that the core beliefs I hold have become stronger and stronger, the more I learn.

I hope the same will happen for you.  We have nothing to fear.  We really don’t.

Is There a Mistake in Mark 2:26?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus, he relays a life-changing event that occurred during his university days at Princeton.  He wrote a paper on an alleged historical error made in Mark 2:26, where Jesus refers to David and his companions entering the house of God and eating the consecrated bread.  Here is the verse in question:

“In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

The apparent difficulty with this verse is that 1 Samuel 21, which originally recorded the event, states that Abiathar’s father, Ahimelech, was the high priest when David ate the bread, not Abiathar.

According to Ehrman, in his research paper, he developed a “long and complicated argument” to explain away the apparent mistake.  But when he received his graded paper his professor had written, “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.”  When Ehrman read the professor’s note, “the floodgates opened.”  If there could be a mistake here, then there could be mistakes in other parts of the Bible.  Ehrman’s doubts about the truth of Christianity snowballed and today he is an agnostic, no longer able to believe what the Bible says.

When I read this account of Ehrman’s life, I could only shake my head in disbelief.  How could this one little issue be such a strong catalyst toward doubting the entire Bible?  Is there no answer to the Mark 2:26 problem?  Had nobody ever dealt with this problem before?

I attempted to do a little research and quickly found satisfactory answers to the alleged historical difficulty in Mark 2:26.

According to Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, here is one way of dealing with this problem:

First Samuel is correct in stating that the high priest was Ahimelech. On the other hand neither was Jesus wrong. When we take a closer look at Christ’s words we notice that He used the phrase “in the days of Abiathar” (v. 26) which does not necessarily imply that Abiathar was high priest at the time David ate the bread. After David met Ahimelech and ate the bread, King Saul had Ahimelech killed (1 Sam. 22:17–19). Abiathar escaped and went to David (v. 20) and later took the place of the high priest. So even though Abiathar was made high priest after David ate the bread, it is still correct to speak in this manner. After all, Abiathar was alive when David did this, and soon following he became the high priest after his father’s death. Thus, it was during the time of Abiathar, but not during his tenure in office.

Abiathar was a high priest during David’s reign as king, and he is mentioned some 29 times in the Old Testament in relation to his priestly role.  Those familiar with the Hebrew Bible in the 1st century (when The Gospel of Mark was written) would easily connect Abiathar to David, so Mark 2:26 is merely reminding readers of the time frame of David’s eating the consecrated bread.

The words “the high priest,” coming after “Abiathar” are just his title, much like we might say, “When President Obama attended college, he made many friends.”  Obama was not president while he was in college, but whenever we mention Obama, we refer to him as President Obama.

This argument is easy to grasp and hardly requires an entire research paper, so one wonders why Ehrman didn’t know about this approach to the challenge of Mark 2:26.  It seems to me that there were clearly other, more important factors in Ehrman’s rejection of Christianity.

My challenge to Christians who are intimidated by claims of errors in the Bible is to go do some research for yourself.  There are answers to these challenges.  Remember, virtually all the Bible difficulties that critics raise have been known for 2,000 years.  None of them are new.  Instead of throwing your faith away, do some digging.  I only wish Ehrman had.

Thoughts on Ehrman/Licona Debate – Part 2

So what about their arguments?  Were they effective?  First let’s examine Mike Licona.

Licona has argued this historical approach for proving the resurrection in a book entitled The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, co-authored with Gary Habermas.  The approach is fairly straight-forward and effective at making a historical case for the resurrection.  Licona, along with Habermas, has clearly done a significant amount of research on the topic, and his claims about the historical facts about Jesus were not at all disputed by Ehrman.

The problem with his approach, however, is that it will always remain unconvincing to any person who does not believe that the God of the Bible exists.  To the person who is a serious skeptic of the existence of God, any explanation will be better than Jesus rising from the dead.  The skeptic has to at least be open to the existence of God, or Licona’s argument will fall on deaf ears.  This is exactly what happened in the debate.

This is a general weakness of historical apologetics.  Worldview and philosophical presuppositions will often prevent the argument from winning over skeptics, which leads us to Ehrman’s case.

Ehrman disputed Licona’s historical argument on the grounds that historians must always reject an explanation that includes the supernatural.  The problem with Ehrman’s claim is that he rejects the possibility of a miracle ever occurring without ever examining the evidence.  Ehrman will tell you that a historian can never show you that Jesus rose from the dead.  But isn’t this a classic example of begging the question?

A person begs the question when they assume what is trying to be proven.  The question before Ehrman is whether historians can prove that Jesus rose from the dead.  He is to give evidential reasons as to why they cannot.  But his response to the question is, in effect: “Since historians can never prove whether the resurrection occurred (because it is miraculous), well then the resurrection can’t be proven by historians.”  Ehrman fails to consider any evidence, and basically rules out the possibility of proving any miraculous event from the start.

There is another problem with Ehrman’s argumentation.  He spent considerable time denigrating the historical reliability of the gospels, claiming they were written by partisan Christians who were trying to convert people.  He also claimed that the oral and written traditions of the early Christians were purposefully changed many times in order to better reach their audiences.  In other words, the writers of the gospels felt free to deceive people to win them over.

In addition, Ehrman cited numerous alleged examples of discrepancies and contradictions among the gospels.  He documents all of these in his books.

Ehrman, while explaining the alleged late dates of the gospels, also mentioned that he believes Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke copied material from Mark and from each  other.  This is the standard position that many New Testament scholars hold.

What occurred to me while listening to Ehrman is that these positions he is holding do not make sense, when taken all together.  If the writers of the gospels were writing their material to gain converts, and they were copying each other, then why in the world did they make so many mistakes?  Ehrman claims to have found numerous discrepancies and contradictions that are supposed to undermine the accuracy of the gospels, but why are these discrepancies there?

Were the gospel writers so idiotic that they each changed the previous Jesus narratives, knowing they were contradicting previous oral and written testimonies?  Did they think nobody would notice?  By this theory, the writers of the gospels were not only liars, they also were ridiculously stupid and careless.

But it gets even worse.  The church fathers started compiling the four gospels in the second century and left all of the alleged errors in there!  By Ehrman’s logic, they also knew of these issues, they also were hoping to gain converts, and they also were willing to change history to succeed.  Why not change the gospels and clean them up?  If you are Ehrman, you have to believe that the gospel writers and church fathers were all deceptive and all stone dumb.  They were unable to get their stories straight, and in the end just left a big mess for enlightened scholars like Ehrman to clean up.  This theory strains credulity, does it not?

Isn’t a better explanation that the gospel writers wrote the accounts of Jesus from different perspectives, shared their accounts with each other to ensure accuracy, and strove to retain the historical truth?  Almost all of the alleged discrepancies can be readily explained, after all, by realizing that the gospel writers were recording history with different perspectives and different goals in mind.  And maybe the church fathers refused to change anything because the church community had always accepted these writings as authentic and accurate, and maybe, just maybe, they are.