CNN calls Scholar Bart Ehrman “Bible Debunker”… “Robert Langdon”
Oy, are they gonna get phone calls on this one.
Coming in under the headline “Former fundamentalist ‘debunks’ Bible” CNN again manages to turn yet another issue on Bible scholarship into a lame movie/event tie-in, in this case for the release of Dan Brown’s new “Angels & Demons” film adaption.
Now, I’ve been a fan of Bart Ehrman (the aforementioned former fundamentalist) for some time. But the last thing he deserves to be called is a “real life [Robert Langdon] character.”
Like the fictional Robert Langdon character played by actor Tom Hanks in the movie “Angels & Demons,” he delves into the past to challenge some of Christianity’s central claims.
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.
Putting actual, professional Bible scholars and historians like Ehrman and Elaine Pagels on the same level as author Dan Brown is ridiculous. Brown writes ham-fisted fictionalized conspiracy theory books with various mangled historical speculations tossed in.
But it’s also a little disturbing that the only scholarly critic that the article quotes essentially agrees with Ehrman’s conclusions, accusing him only of having a “breathless” tone. It’s as if CNN’s critical take on Ehrman’s scholarship boils down to “Yeah, fine, he’s right, the Bible is mostly a wash, but we’ve always known that, he shouldn’t be saying it so loud, as if he alone just discovered it!”
In reality, Ehrman has many colleagues in his field that strongly object to his historical conclusions, not simply his “tone.” The reality of most Biblical scholarship is that there just isn’t that much evidence to work with, leaving ample ground for speculation and ungrounded arguments over what various textual interpretations might imply about the unavoidably obscure “real” history behind them. Entire social movements are often inferred entirely on the basis of a few textual suspicions. While Ehrman is a valuable counterpoint to the truly breathless mass of Christian scholars who jump to every conclusion imaginable to validate the Biblical account as a nearly literal history, he’s far from leading a consensus on “what really happened.” He’s part of a discussion, not a lone maverick solving mysteries with an “aha!” flourish or a big final reveal.