Friday, May 15, 2009

Jesus, Interrupted

On CNN's website today: Former Fundamentalist "Debunks" Bible.

The article is about Bart Ehrman, a best-selling author and professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In Ehrman's latest book, "Jesus, Interrupted," he concludes:

Doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus and heaven and hell are not based on anything Jesus or his earlier followers said.

At least 19 of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries.

Believing the Bible is infallible is not a condition for being a Christian.

"Christianity has never been about the Bible being the inerrant word of God," Ehrman says. "Christianity is about the belief in Christ."

Ehrman's popularity also may be due to a larger trend. The books of people like Elaine Pagels, author of "The Gnostic Gospels," and Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," resonate with people who believe there are parts of the Bible that the church left on history's editing floor.

Ehrman says he doesn't think the resurrection took place. There's no proof Jesus physically rose from the dead, and the resurrection stories contradict one another, he says.

He says he doesn't believe the followers of Jesus saw their master bodily rise from the dead, but something else.

"My best guess is that what happened is what commonly happens today when someone has a loved one die -- they sometimes think they see them in a vision," Ehrman says. "I think some of the disciples had visions.

Ehrman once had a different attitude toward the Bible.

He was raised in the Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas, and became a fundamentalist Christian at age 15 when he met a charismatic Christian youth group leader who reached out to him.

Ehrman says he later became an agnostic because he couldn't find the answer to another question: How could there be a God when there is so much suffering in the world?

Ehrman says he has a better handle on why he is so threatening to so many people -- some Christians worry they will make the same decision he has.

"I changed my mind," he says. "My students find me more dangerous that way."

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