When Bart Ehrman’s Forged was published a few years ago, he characterized it as a popular work and promised that a textbook-level treatment of Biblical forgeries would be published soon afterward. That book is now to hand: massive, wide-ranging, heavily footnoted — and certain to be devastating to the inerrantist crowd.
It is bad enough that scholars don’t actually know who wrote most of the Bible’s ‘inerrant’ texts, or anything about the authors. Worse, scholars do know that a great many of those texts are forgeries, texts written by somebody who wasn’t Paul but claiming to be Paul, for example, with the purpose of influencing early Christian beliefs, doctrine, behavior. They probably weren’t written at midnight by some drunk who just wanted to see what he could get away with — but, then, you can’t be sure. Nobody knows who was the author of a majority of the Biblical texts, and scholars have known since the revival of historical criticism in the 1850s, following the suppression of Spinoza in the 1670s, that many of the texts are forgeries.
The Bible is not the progressive revelation of the Invisible Wizard’s plan, et cetera, et cetera; it is a collection of texts by different men who practiced related but different religions, and its hundreds of well-documented contradictions are there because they believed different things and sometimes made-up stuff for propaganda purposes.
The Bible is a political document, just like the United States Code.
On what grounds, then, do Holy Men claim that the Bible in inerrant? There are no grounds. It is done solely because the preposterous claim of inerrancy provides them a platform upon which to build their authority, and once they acknowledge the Bible is highly, endlessly, hopelessly errant — this is before we get to the hundreds of years of deliberate revisions by anonymities, scribal errors, and mistranslations — their schtick falls apart and they look like nothing so much as gaudy flim-flam men.
It gets better: Some forgeries were greeted by counterforgeries, forged texts written in response to a forgery.
In other words, the old boys made stuff up as baldly and cynically as the World Net Daily crowd does today.
Imagine this: I decide one day to open Uncle Bob’s Church of Eternal Sunshine, Kumaré-like. I rent an abandoned storefront, I hire a hyper-energetic kid to stand on the sidewalk waving a sign, in time I have a successful little church going, me and Wolf Blitzer are pals, my neighbors pay my tax bill, and I am driving around in a Bentley.
Why not? A nice gig, no?
My point is this: Anybody can be a preacher, from the graduates of bona fide seminaries to any loudmouth who needs a roll-your-own tax avoidance scheme.
I’m talking now about the graduates of real seminaries, the poor sincere fools who tortured their minds into pretzels in real schools trying to convince themselves that Christian theology makes sense and is true — those guys.
Every one of them already knows most of what is in this book; this book is intended to be an undergraduate textbook for their use. Every one of them knows he has no intellectual right to stand in a pulpit and howl and bellow and stamp his feet and get red-faced about the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible. Every one of them knows he does not know where the overwhelming majority of the texts in the Bible came from, or who wrote them, or even that they were written by the traditionally ascribed author.
Every one of them: L-I-A-R.