Bart Ehrman, a New Testament professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has become the go-to guy for popularized versions of biblical quackery. In a series of books with titles such as Misquoting Jesus, Lost Christianities, Lost Scriptures, and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, he has played village atheist and been answered effectively by other scholars who fault him for misusing textual criticism, sensationalism, and allowing presuppositions to taint his scholarship.

Well, Ehrman has another book out in which he claims that much of the New Testament is made up of forgeries. The Charlotte Observer has the story:

The forgers who wrote a half-dozen epistles and the Book of Acts, along with scores of other documents that never made it into the New Testament, acted with deliberate forethought, knowing exactly what they were doing, Ehrman contends. That makes the Bible a very dishonest book in Ehrman’s estimation – rife not only with mistakes and untruths, but with deceptions and lies.

“The authors intended to deceive their readers, and their readers were all too easily deceived,” Ehrman writes. “The use of deception to promote the truth may well be considered one of the most unsettling ironies of the early Christian tradition.”

Amazing, isn’t it, that after 2000 years, Bart Ehrman can read the minds of the men who wrote the books of the New Testament, and knows just what they intended with regard to deceiving their readers. At this point, we’re beyond the century-plus-old debate over whether Paul wrote Colossians (the result of which debate Ehrman simply takes for granted, I’m sure, dismissing conservative arguments the way most people dismiss the Flat Earth Society). He’s contending that there was a deliberate effort to lie to the churches, not only about the names on the books, but in terms of the beliefs of the faith.

Forgery, or writing under a false name, ultimately helped early Christians consolidate their fractured movement into a coherent theology. These letters, essays and treatises helped gloss over internal conflicts to discredit foes, to justify admitting non-Jews and to expand across the globe.

Granted, this is the reporter writing this, but I assume he got it from Ehrman’s book. If so, you really do have to wonder about the extent to which atheists will go in their intellectual warfare against the Faith. Take one item: justifying “admitting non-Jews.” The implication is that the Book of Acts was written to offer such a justification. But by the time Acts was written, it was already very well established that the gospel was for Gentiles as well as Jews. And in any event, what is there in Acts that is deceptive on the subject? The principles were not inconsequential people, and if the church was admitting Gentiles, and had adopted Paul’s argument for not requiring them to become Jews (an argument prominent in the letters that even liberal scholars will grant were written by Paul), what possible purpose could be served by the author of Acts–whoever he was–in not telling the truth about the decisions? This isn’t just bad scholarship. It’s a pathetic example of village atheism.
There’s more, but you get the point. At the point, Ehrman seems to have become comfortable being a junior-grade Spong with a Ph.D. The church needs to understand his arguments in order to refute them, and needs to educate its members so that they can deal with those arguments when they come up in conversations with non-Christians. We cannot allow such dishonest stuff to go unchallenged.