Half of New Testament forged, Bible scholar says
May 13th, 2011
11:47 AM ET

Half of New Testament forged, Bible scholar says

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - A frail man sits in chains inside a dank, cold prison cell. He has escaped death before but now realizes that his execution is drawing near.

“I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come,” the man –the Apostle Paul - says in the Bible's 2 Timothy. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

The passage is one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. Paul, the most prolific New Testament author, is saying goodbye from a Roman prison cell before being beheaded. His goodbye veers from loneliness to defiance and, finally, to joy.

There’s one just one problem - Paul didn’t write those words. In fact, virtually half the New Testament was written by impostors taking on the names of apostles like Paul. At least according to Bart D. Ehrman, a renowned biblical scholar, who makes the charges in his new book “Forged.

“There were a lot of people in the ancient world who thought that lying could serve a greater good,” says Ehrman, an expert on ancient biblical manuscripts.In “Forged,” Ehrman claims that:

* At least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries.

* The New Testament books attributed to Jesus’ disciples could not have been written by them because they were illiterate.

* Many of the New Testament’s forgeries were manufactured by early Christian leaders trying to settle theological feuds.

Were Jesus’ disciples ‘illiterate peasants?'

Ehrman’s book, like many of his previous ones, is already generating backlash. Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar, has written a lengthy online critique of “Forged.”

Witherington calls Ehrman’s book “Gullible Travels, for it reveals over and over again the willingness of people to believe even outrageous things.”

All of the New Testament books, with the exception of 2 Peter, can be traced back to a very small group of literate Christians, some of whom were eyewitnesses to the lives of Jesus and Paul, Witherington says.

“Forged” also underestimates the considerable role scribes played in transcribing documents during the earliest days of Christianity, Witherington  says.

Even if Paul didn’t write the second book of Timothy, he would have dictated it to a scribe for posterity, he says.

“When you have a trusted colleague or co-worker who knows the mind of Paul, there was no problem in antiquity with that trusted co-worker hearing Paul’s last testimony in prison,” he says. “This is not forgery. This is the last will and testament of someone who is dying.”

Ehrman doesn’t confine his critique to Paul’s letters. He challenges the authenticity of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John. He says that none were written by Jesus' disciplies, citing two reasons.

He says none of the earliest gospels revealed the names of its authors, and that their current names were later added by scribes.

Ehrman also says that two of Jesus’ original disciples, John and Peter, could not have written the books attributed to them in the New Testament because they were illiterate.

“According to Acts 4:13, both Peter and his companion John, also a fisherman, were agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means ‘unlettered,’ that is, ‘illiterate,’ ’’ he writes.

Will the real Paul stand up?

Ehrman reserves most of his scrutiny for the writings of Paul, which make up the bulk of the New Testament. He says that only about half of the New Testament letters attributed to Paul - 7 of 13 - were actually written by him.

Paul's remaining books are forgeries, Ehrman says. His proof: inconsistencies in the language, choice of words and blatant contradiction in doctrine.

For example, Ehrman says the book of Ephesians doesn’t conform to Paul’s distinctive Greek writing style. He says Paul wrote in short, pointed sentences while Ephesians is full of long Greek sentences (the opening sentence of thanksgiving in Ephesians unfurls a sentence that winds through 12 verses, he says).

“There’s nothing wrong with extremely long sentences in Greek; it just isn’t the way Paul wrote. It’s like Mark Twain and William Faulkner; they both wrote correctly, but you would never mistake the one for the other,” Ehrman writes.

The scholar also points to a famous passage in 1 Corinthians in which Paul is recorded as saying that women should be “silent” in churches and that “if they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home.”

Only three chapters earlier, in the same book, Paul is urging women who pray and prophesy in church to cover their heads with veils, Ehrman says: “If they were allowed to speak in chapter 11, how could they be told not to speak in chapter 14?”

Why people forged

Forgers often did their work because they were trying to settle early church disputes, Ehrman says. The early church was embroiled in conflict - people argued over the treatment of women,  leadership and relations between masters and slaves, he says.

“There was competition among different groups of Christians about what to believe and each of these groups wanted to  have authority to back up their views,” he says. “If you were a nobody, you wouldn’t sign your own name to your treatise. You would sign Peter or John.”

So people claiming to be Peter and John - and all sorts of people who claimed to know Jesus - went into publishing overdrive. Ehrman estimates that there were about 100 forgeries created in the name of Jesus’ inner-circle during the first four centuries of the church.

Witherington concedes that fabrications and forgeries floated around the earliest Christian communities.

But he doesn’t accept the notion that Peter, for example, could not have been literate because he was a fisherman.

“Fisherman had to do business. Guess what? That involves writing, contracts and signed documents,” he said in an interview.

Witherington says people will gravitate toward Ehrman’s work because the media loves sensationalism.

“We live in a Jesus-haunted culture that’s biblically illiterate,” he says. “Almost anything can pass for historical information… A book liked ‘Forged’ can unsettle people who have no third or fourth opinions to draw upon.”

Ehrman, of course, has another point of view.

“Forged” will help people accept something that it took him a long time to accept, says the author, a former fundamentalist who is now an agnostic.

The New Testament wasn’t written by the finger of God, he says - it has human fingerprints all over its pages.

“I’m not saying people should throw it out or it’s not theologically fruitful,” Ehrman says. “I’m saying that by realizing it contains so many forgeries, it shows that it’s a very human book, down to the fact that some authors lied about who they were.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Books • Christianity • Culture wars • Faith

soundoff (2,204 Responses)
  1. Swiftright

    Yawn: Old news is Old news. Folks I hate to say this but many theologians have been talking about this for over 100 years. I don't know a single bible scholar out side of those wannabe southern christian academies who would argue that the Apostles actually penned the bible. Council of Nicea anyone?!

    Its not who wrote it that matters but the Logos behind it

    May 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Ceri

      Absolutely right. There doesn't seem to be anything new here – except someone wanting to cash in and sell books. And he's already got a free ad from CNN.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Marilyn Adamson

      Historical research and archeology (i.e. FACTS) would differ with him. See http://everystudent.com/features/bible.html for a brief article on why the Bible is fully reliable.

      May 26, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Minos

      Very well said, Swiftright. Mr. Vermin here is academic fraud - churning out Religious Pulp Fiction for a quick buck, willfully taking advantage of a popular culture with virtually no exposure to theology and Biblical history. Next he'll write a book about how Plato's works are a "fraud" because they weren't all authored exclusively by him, but by his students and academy, which he founded for the express purpose of propagating his core teachings and thoughts. Let's burn the "The Republic" and the "Symposium" - nothing to learn from them now, except for timeless and eternal words of wisdom and truth. Imagine a world with only the unintelligle dark pessimism of Dawkins / Hitchens / Vermin available to feed our minds - no Sermon on the Mount, no Good Samaritan or Prodigal Son parables - just hopeless, one dimensional, artless, athesist dross. Light, no matter the source, is illuminating by definition. Truth, in it's purest state, is timeless and illuminating in the same way. The Logos was here before the world began and is eternal - we can only grasp glimmers of it and channel bits and pieces through our limited human senses and minds. The more fine cuts in an diamond, the more brilliant and radiant the stone –yet the source of the light is one and pure. This is how I look at the many beautiful facets of the Bibilical record and it's many enlightened and diverse authors over thousands of years. The fact that the Bible wasn't written by a limited handful of people makes it that much more profound in its common core themes of timeless wisdom, love, hope and understanding.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • henry hayes

      Swiftright, you are absolutely correct. Marilyn Adamson on the other hand, wow, just wow. You could not be more wrong. First of all, that webpage is completely inaccurate and incorrect, and the fact that its trying to prove the bible is right about everything is hilarious. I am currently studying for my master's in biblical archaeology, and I am also a practicing Christian, so the accuracy of the Bible is something I have to deal with almost every day. The vast majority of the Bible is unverified and unsupported by the historical research and archaeology that you try to argue agrees with the Bible. Sure, there are many events in the Bible that are seen as historical fact, but the truth is that many of these stories either were written down hundreds of years after they occurred, which lead to many embellishments and falsities in their narratives, or are just completely made up outright. It doesn't dimish the message of the New Testament, and it shouldn't dimish your faith, but those are the facts. Read F-A-C-T-S, not my opinion, and anybody who says otherwise is plain lying.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • DTS

      This "scholar" is a fraud. The concept is widely taught in Seminaries. It's called Pseudoepigraphy. Sheesh. Let me guess – next week he'll announce that the world is round, right?

      May 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Know What

      DTS: "The concept is widely taught in Seminaries."

      1) Most preachers have not attended seminaries.

      2) Those who might have learned this certainly keep it under their hats... and allow no questioning of authorship or anything else about the Bible.

      May 28, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • EspyLaCopa

      Yawn or not, there can't be too many of these books at this point in time when so many fundamentalist Christians are trying to re-write history, claim all the Founding Fathers were Christians and wanted a Christian country, spend a lot of time and effort trying to influence politicians to put their version of Sharia Law in effect - their version being a fundamentalist agenda regarding women's rights, other individual rights, the law of the land, etc.

      May 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • DoganHarris

      @ Troll Pest Control, Inc. – your comment was so well worded.. you were really on the ball until you undermined the entire spirit of it with your own close minded stereotyping near the end. I'd be careful when pointing fingers, because sometimes others flaws do mirror your own, just in a way you may not expect.

      May 30, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Eric

      They were probably written by scribes writing down an oral tradition, not a forgery. While do think a lot of what is in the bible is crap, there is plenty other issues besides this to bring up. I would say that this is a non-issue. Nothing/no one ever said the apostles actually wrote anything...just that the books of the NT were the accounts of the life of Jesus according to .

      June 1, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Ryan Eberlo

      The Bible is supposedly thousands of years old, and yet millions believe it to be accurate and pertinent, even though it more than likely has been revised many, many times-but no one can verify for sure one way or another. Live in the now. There is no magical palace in the clouds where you will go when you die-be a good person so you can have a good life HERE on EARTH. I don't care what your religion is-the bottom line is that if you believe in this nonsense you are BRAINWASHED!

      June 1, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Steve-o

      Ehrman knows just enough to be dangerous.

      The Council of Nicea did name the books of the Bible, and the Council, itself, was convened by Constantine; BUT these books were circulated throughout the church much earlier than AD 325. The Fathers of the ancient church (150-300) were quoting from or naming directly many of the of books in the NT, as well as distinguishing them from other books. These books were WIDELY circulated for the practice of faith and devotion before someone had to officially tell the Christians they had to be used for faith and devotion.

      Furthermore, these books were being quoted and used during the Apostolic period of 33-150 when the Ekklesia looked to the Apostles who actually knew Jesus or those who did (first or second degrees of separation from Christ of history). In this period of the persecuted church, there was simply no opportunity to create conspiracies about theology or books (Conspiracy theories are the luxury of people who can sit around on their butts, which is not the case of the early church). Either they were true and ministered to the people, or they weren't.

      It is wrong to sell out these Christians as ignorami who were hoodwinked by books with high-falutin' names attached. THERE ARE MANY, MANY books that didn't make the canon even though they, too, invoiked claims of apostolic authorship. Now, had the Council of Nicea introduced books no one was using, no one was quoting, no one had heard of, then the case of politicization of the canon could be believable, but that wasn't the case. Clearly not the case.

      It is arrogant to think that the only valid scholarship is recent scholarship. The passage of time in this case just makes the lies more brazen.

      June 2, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Tom N.

      Did "God" create the universe? Yes. Do I believe in "God"? Yes. How do I know? I have faith. Can I prove there is a "God" or that he created everything? No. Can you disprove either of these? No. So, what's with all the yelling?

      June 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • 7575879f

      You're absolutely right. And every time a female bible character shows the strength to rise above the expectations of women and limitations of her time, the fearful old men censor her from history.

      June 9, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  2. carol

    why is it so important to depute the word of god. there is always going to be someone out there that says the bible is false. but it was god who put the wisdom in the minds of the prophets and disciples. i for myself believe with all my heart the word of god. the bible is a written word of god written down by his servants. scholars are just people who does not understand the word of god instead of believing in it has to cut it down. god is on his way back. man can not decide when that is only god the father can.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • BigPicture

      Carol, if people would not use the Bible to oppress and discriminate against other "believers," then it would not be necessary to call its authorship into question. If people were more about taking its lessons to heart instead of picking and choosing the passages and shifting their interpretation specifically to oppress other groups of people on this planet, there would be no reason to call any of it into question. But considering the attrocities that continue to be committed with the Bible as the justification, it is imperative we really look at what we are doing and why. Does this make any sense? Don't use the Bible to hurt people and then, perhaps, we really can all get along.


      May 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • archmuse

      I ask this with all due respect... Why do you believe it with all your heart? How do you KNOW it was God inspired? I'm not claiming it wasn't but there is no way to KNOW that. Since that it the case and it is used to condemn people then it MUST be questioned as anything used by authority should be on a regular basis.

      May 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Nora

      AMEN Sister ..man will never be satisified and will always try to bring God to his level .Dont understand it so you fear it . The Holy Spirit put the Holy Bible together , carnal minds want to know ..but they will never understand the spiritual with a carnal mind ..

      May 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • damn yank

      sorry sister, the word of man is not the word of god......if you really want to read the words of god, you're not going to find them in the bible....

      May 23, 2011 at 3:53 am |
    • Mike

      Amen Carol, and again I say, Amen. God, through inspired man, wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:13-15 that people of the world wouldn't understand any of it, and would consider it all foolishness. They can refute it all they want, but they cannot invalidate it. It is impossible. More importantly, they cannot invalidate your testimony which is the bridge between the unsaved and the inspired, living Word of God. While I'm sure that at least a few opposing comments will follow this, we who call on His name can and do claim the victory He promises us in Psalms 20:5-7. May the Father be glorified in the name of Jesus, amen.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • devidas

      With all due respect, I doubt God authored the bible or guided anyone's hand to do it. It's so open to interpretation that scores of Christian doctrines are based upon it. If God wrote it, then why would it be so open to such variation of interpretation? Plus there was no bible until Constantine, who for political reasons forced the assemblage of the books of the new testament. Picking 4 gospels out of 120 or so candidates. Interesting that Mathew, Mark, Luke or John did not write any of the gospels in the bible, they were written in their name by others. You never hear about these things growing up, you discover them over time if you dig around. So when the pastor says lets see what Mathew says, or let's all turn to John 3, 5 – we all thought we were reading what one of the apostles wrote. Too bad they were written after they died, by someone else.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Maine Liberal

      "why is it so important to depute the word of god."

      It is the word of man that is in dispute. aka Camping may 21 rapture

      May 25, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • athought

      I think it has something to do with this really bizarre belief so many people have that this collection of 66 books written by an absolute minimum of 40 different people on three different continents, in three different languages (and translated afterwards many times over into medieval and later modern English), over a time span of approximately 1600 years beginning with the fragmented history of an enslaved desert tribe in the Middle East somehow represents the "word of God."

      I know, how insane can people be, right? Yet those who recognize this claim for what it is (delusional) have been victimized in countless ways, including torture and death, for not agreeing with the delusion.

      So regardless of how nuts the whole thing sounds, it is still important to confront the delusion because seriously, history demonstrates repeatedly that when people get going on their belief in this craziness, things get really, really out of hand.

      May 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Minos

      @ Big Picture - I'm sick of the new-athesist drum beat that religion, specifically Christianity, is the root of all wars and violence in the world, when in fact the Bible is the root of Western Civilization's core values of human dignity and freedom. There's no question that Christians have failed (and continue to fail) in living up to the lofty ideals that Christ taught - but to blame the universal human blight of greed for power, resources, and wealth on religion is outrageous from a factual stand point. The Commanches, for example, fought violently for gazing land, acces to water, captives, hunting grounds, and tribal status (based on success in battle) against dozens of Indian tribes and much later white pioneers. In that particular case, RELIGION had nothing to do with centuries of brutal warfare that occured before Christian (or otherwise) whites were on the scene. The bloodiest century in the history of mankind (WWI, WWWII) had nothing to do with religion either - these wars were faught for the same reasons the Commanches fought - aggresive militants out to obtain more than their fair share of power, resources, and domination, at the expense of other nations / tribes. The Cold War was a battle of economic poltical ideals / systems - not religious theological ideals. Even the Crusades weren't 100% about religion - it provided a convenient and powerful motivating excuse - ultimately the Crusades were about the stuggle for power, land, and wealth. You could wipe out the concept of religion entirely and not save a single drop of the millions upon millions of people who have died in wars throughout history. The religion blame game is a Red Herring and ignores the root of the violent acts of mankind. Imagining a world without the ideals of love and peace is what folks should truly be afraid of. There would be no restaint whatsoever to our violence and drive to "dominate or be dominated". In the end, even Chimps fight violently to protect and expand territory (food / water resources) - can't blame religion on that! So pull up and try to actually live up to your "Big Picture" handle. The truth is that you have blinders on and couldn't have a more close minded, narrow, and erroneous world view (at least based on you post here).

      May 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Troll Pest Control, Inc.

      @ Maine Liberal - Really? Like many of your other Bible slamming ignoramous friends on this post, you decide that taking the absolute lowest common denominator of Christians (extreme literalists and sick con artists like Camping) and lumping them all together into one big category labeled "Christians" is logical and accurate? It exposes your profound ignorance and lack of education regarding the rich mix / depth of theological history, thought, and Biblical historical studies (amongst other things). Stretch that brain of yours and think before you write such undeveloped, reductionist nonsense. Manage the gaps - which between your ears is asking a lot, I know. You're an extremist and therefore attracted to other extremists - hence your obsession with a moronic example of a so called Christian like Camping as somehow being representative of main stream Christianity. Truly a pathetically weak minded attempt at entering waters obviously too deep for you to tread. Out of curiousity - are you a long haired, LSD licking, SF bathhouse indulging, pinko commie like the rest of the Main Liberals out there? That's how stone age stupid you sound associating Christianity with Camping.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • tldixon

      god is on his way back? didn't you miss the last apocalypse? oh wait-it got postponed 'til October-the bible guaranteed it...

      May 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • EspyLaCopa

      Carol, imagine if this article was written about the Koran, you would have no problem with it. Because you don't believe in the Koran with all your heart. That's how Jewish people (like me), agnostics, and atheists feel, because so many fundamentalist Christians in this country try to cram Jesus down our throats and are trying to influence politics to push for a fundamentalist Christian agenda. I don't follow the Jewish faith, but growing up I had plenty of Christians throw their silly theology at me and try to convert me.

      May 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Wzrd1

      So, God contradicts himself, even in the same paragraph? God ruled the Nicene council, when they chose which books and which versions of books would be compiled into our bible, removing entire tracts of the old testament?
      God told Constantine to include the revelation, overruling the Nicene council, as they knew it was all about Nero and the Roman Empire, as Nero's name in Hebrew numerics added to 666?
      God sake in Middle English unto Noah? No WONDER Noah was confused, HE spoke Aramaic. That explains a LOT!
      God never called Goliath a giant, the Hebrew word was Nephilim, a half-breed Angel-human hybrid that caused all manner of problems, but were all drowned in the great flood.
      Well, except Goliath, apparently. Or some angel snuck down for a bit of hankey-pankey...
      Women should cover their heads in church and pray and prophesy, except that they should remain silent in church and have their husbands answer and deliver the prophesy.
      Uh huh. There are thousands of contradictions in the thrice mistranslated collection of edited for content and version bible that we have today.

      May 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • DoganHarris

      @ Troll Pest Control, Inc. – your comment was so well worded.. you were really on the ball until you undermined the entire spirit of it with your own close minded stereotyping near the end. I'd be careful when pointing fingers, because sometimes others flaws do mirror your own, just in a way you may not expect.

      May 30, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  3. ElAl

    There is nothing new here. It is well known that most non-fundamentalist scholars think the pastoral epistles were not written by Paul, that some Pauline letters were not by Paul, that gospels were not written by Matthew or John, that Jude and the letters of Peter and John were not written by apostles. Few claim any more that Paul wrote Hebrews. No one who knows anything about Bible scholarship is surprised by any of this. And was it "forgery" to write under a famous name? The practice of the times says not.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  4. George

    Duh. Who didn't know this?

    All the gospels contradict each other on minor factual and theological points. They obviously weren't written by an omniscient god. The books of the Bible canon were chosen because they sounded kind of similar and reinforce each other on the points that were in the best interests of the Roman Empire. The books that contradicted this were banished as apocrypha and their believers slaughtered. Circular reasoning at its worst.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • GodisDead

      In full view of the irony of this statement...Amen bro. XD

      May 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  5. Nilesh Tailor

    This is absurd! Why is CNN even presenting blasphemous articles? Is it all about generating viewers of articles rather than publishing valid and informative articles.
    Either way, this idea that the new testament is forged because the authors that the books refer to were illiterate. Well first of all most books nowadays have a set of authors and a set of editors. We dont say that the authors who wrote the book are illiterate and even if they are we don't assume that the editors edit the text to add any of their own input.
    Another error in logic is the idea that Paul was illiterate. Paul could not have been an illiterate because of various factors. One he was a roman and two he was a member of the pharisee and three he had the backing of Peter in 2nd Peter 3:15-16 "And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, 16 speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures."

    CNN, please stop posting blasphemous articles. I promise you that if you publish articles that are full of truth then your company will be respected, followed, and your articles read!

    May 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Drek The Chemist

      CNN is doing what they are supposed to be doing..JOURNALISM.........They are reporting on a book...the POINT OF JOURNALISM is to tell BOTH SIDES of every story. Someone wrote a book, no matter what the content is, and CNN is writing about it.
      If they only posted pro-christian articles, they would not be good journalists and therefor, not respected...
      You are letting your absurd beliefs interfere with the freedom of press and the soul of journalism.
      I was brought up by Catholic parents...and they still go to church....then I became educated and saw the brainwashing.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • archmuse

      Freedom, Nilesh, is often inconvenient.

      May 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • saf62

      The fact that you describe the article as "blasphemous" gives you away. You have your belief and you don't want to hear any contradictions to that faith. When people finally get the courage to step away and question, then perhaps people can start using their intellect a bit! Who in this world would want to worship a god who demands total faith without question? Sounds like the belief is out of fear only. Don't you understand that practically all who hold to any religious beliefs think that theirs is the one true way! Fact is, it is all very, very contradictory. One person prays and believes, and tragedy strikes him/her. Another prays and believes and is spared. We are no different in this day than early man was–try to appease the God, and perhaps you will be spared.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Mike


      May 24, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • mike

      HAHA, all theology aside, Quoting from a supposedly forged book is not a valid argument as to why it isn't forged. Just shows that, without the book, no jesus religion has any merit at all.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • CalgarySandy

      When CNN becomes your church bulletin you can scream blasphemy. Here in the big world of more than just you and your nim rod friends this article is tired old news but it is not blasphemy. Even if it were blasphemy there is nothing that says a free press has to keep from stepping on everyone's toes. Instead of foaming at the mouth and screaming why don't you put your brain to work reading all the books on the subject on all sides of the argument. Stick up for your faith with intelligence not sniveling. Stick up for it with logic, objectivity, and balanced research.

      Hay Zeus went down on Mary Magdalen. That is blasphemy.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Blasphemy, the very words said by those who attacked the World Trade Center. You sound quite a lot like Al Qaida. Or the Spanish Inquisition.
      What was REPORTED was a book, written by a man who studied the history of the bible, annotated facts and proceeded from there.
      As for Paul, he was a Roman citizen, but was NOT a pharisee, he was HIRED by them, per the forged bible, collected by the Nicene council, under the direct supervision and approval of the Roman Emperor Constantine, a book full of stories, selected for version, edited for content and included a then obscure book called Revelation, which was about the Roman Empire under the Emperor Nero, whose name adds to 666, overriding the objection of the Nicene council. All other versions of stories were burned, if any mentioned them again, they were executed.
      Interestingly enough, at the time, there was still questions regarding the divinity of Jesus. All who disagreed with the Nicene council's opinion were ordered to follow the official church line or be executed.
      So, Nilesh, while I've abridged the history by quite a lot, YOU are the blasphemer, who prefers lies to truth, something quite dear to Satan, not the creator.

      May 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Peter (not the Saint)


      unfortunately, the article says nowhere that Paul was illiterate. Neither the author of 'Forged', who attributes 7 of 13 letters to Paul directly, nor his critics suggest that. You, however, have demonstrated your functional illiteracy. This would be a perfect time to blame some pet societal bugbear for your failing, but I suspect you are simply a lazy reader or sloppy author.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Not Atheist

    I see a lot of people saying you are atheist if you don't believe in the bilble... Well hate to break it to you but the only other religion that cares about the new testament is Islam. The jews don't believe one word of it, the agnostics see it as nice stories, the rest of the religions just don't really care.

    Also, what translation did he review anyway? New American, King James, or any other version...

    May 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I prefer the Doctor Seuss version...

      May 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Iamg0d

      Hopefully, neither. It would have been best to have studied the true Hebrew versions, so as to not have any translation errors.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • rwheflin

      I hope he didn't use hebrew versions, as they would have been incorrect also. The New Testament was written in Aramaic, Greek and Latin, NOT Hebrew.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Aramaic is an ancient form of Hebrew in that it is an older Semitic language. However, it is also necessary to be immersed in the cultures at the time the books were written and that of the time being written about. Gehenna was a smoldering garbage dump not HeII. Another metaphor gone very very wrong due to St. Jerome's terrible translations into Latin. A modern Hebrew scholar could not give a decent translation unless they had studied the ancient language. It is also necessary to know Koine, a form of Greek. It has to be studied on its own as neither modern Greek nor Classical Greek are close enough. My best friend was a classics scholar who knew Koine and Classical Greek along with Latin. I am pretty sure she did not consider herself to be competent to such an undertaking. That is why it took teams of scholars and pastors to do up the newer translations than that piece of trash the King James Version that came right off the Vulgate without passing through the brains of anyone. I was raised to believe that only the KJV was orthodox. More garbage.

      May 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Calgary, all too true. Consider Goliath, the Nephilim, not giant. Should we go on and on about unicorns and dragons that are not in the Aramaic?
      Of course, I DO have fun with those who consider KJV to be the literal word of God. I typically respond with a shocked, Oh! That explains Noah's confusion! Noah spoke Aramaic, God spake unto him in Middle English.

      May 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  7. Nocebo

    As Reality noted above, the ideas here have been discussed for some time among the NT scholars, the news is that some guy's put out a book about it. I learned of the questionable authorship of the NT a decade ago, and it was very enlightening to find out the difference between what the layman thinks of the Bible as opposed to what various experts think. The evidence is there, and I think a clever person of the faith can handle it.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  8. oneye

    Oops. Jewish men are required to undergo Barmitzvah in their 13th year (meaning when thy are 12), and have been for at least 2500 years. That requires Torah reading. That means ALL Jewish men have been literate for at least 2500 years – in Hebrew. Muhammed was indeed illiterate. He could not read or write any language. Perhaps the author meant that that they were illiterate in Greek. Yes, that would be almost universally true for Judean Jews. But illiterate in Greek does not equal illiterate.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • reader

      The wikipedia article for 'bar mitzvah' states that the modern method of celebrating one's becoming a Bar Mitzvah did not exist in the time of the Bible, Mishnah or Talmud.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • uncelestial

      It would not matter if they were literate in Hebrew, as the NT was written in Aramaic, Greek and Latin. But thanks anyway.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:44 am |
  9. MontyMoose



    May 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • KS

      P.S. With an imaginary friend who is jealous, petty, fickle, greedy, and generally dickish.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • rwheflin

      Christianity is neither a religion nor a relationship. It is an abusive, repressive political movement.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • saf62

      In the Christian college from which I graduated, we were never allowed to call Christianity a "religion". They convinced us that we were different from all religions–why? Because we were the one, true way. I guess none of us pretty much brainwashed people put it together that, of course, all religions think the same way–why, otherwise, would each person in each religion gain so much comfort and security from it?? Anyway, took a long time, but I finally came out from under and dared to question. Then, finally, my intellect took over, and I realized how interesting and fascinating the world really is–without the influence of Christianity or any other form of "religion".

      May 24, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Wzrd1

      It is a system of beliefs. It is a death worship cult. It is a cult that worships a deity that is suffering from dissociative ident ity disorder, with three distinct personalities.
      Take your choice for the definition.

      May 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Most human cultures identify themselves as "people" and everyone else as "others," this is common in-group socialization and appears to work in religion as well.

      June 1, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  10. MontyMoose

    So the God of the jewish people is not real either? Your mistakem folks.

    Read Hebrews 11:1 and 6.
    God made a plan to reconcile mankind back to Him, paying a debt we owed, but could not pay.
    Your choice.....

    May 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • BR

      It's called Pascal's Wager.

      If you're wrong it could be that you picked the wrong horse out of thousands of gods people have believed in over the centuries.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • KS

      Additionally, if you're right, then you'll have spent your life believing in a jealous and petty god who puts numerous obstacles in the way of people so they can't get into heaven easily. That doesn't sound like a god I'd want to believe in, personally.
      Whereas if you're wrong, then EITHER 1) whatever god is real is willing to let good people who otherwise don't ascribe to a specific belief system into heaven, or 2) There is no god and you've spent countless hours of your life (and probably countless dollars) devoted to an imaginary friend or 3) it's a completely different god (or subset of Christianity) that's the 'real' one and you've wasted your life anyway. Might as well just live a good and just life and not worry about choosing the right god at random.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • archmuse

      Can only Christians lead a good moral life?

      May 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Sally

      Unless, of course, one of the OTHER religions was correct, then you, my friend, are royally s*rewed.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • tldixon

      again w/using a book of fairytales to prove it's not a fairytale-it really frightens me the number of illiterate morons exist even today...

      May 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Or there is a God that gave all sentient beings a set of simple suggestions as rules to live by, then left them to their own devices, as a creator is NOT a micromanager.

      May 29, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • civiloutside

      Well, Monty, that rather presupposes that the life the Bible prescribes for you is moral. I happen to think some of the things it says are pretty immoral.

      June 1, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  11. Pastor

    Christ completely changed my life when I was 15. I went on to get a Master of Divinity degree in the world's largest seminary. I have read so many tired arguments against the Bible by so many "scholars". I found answers for all that dribble. Christ continues to dramatically changes lives just the way the Bible says He will for those absolutely trust Him. I also found that trust is a heart issue, not a mental one. Peace

    May 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Sean

      If your god is so good and kind why would it sentence someone that did not believe in it to an eternity of suffering, but someone who lives a bad life and believes and asks for forgiveness gets this magic thing called heaven, really doesn't make any sense at all does it.

      May 31, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  12. Muslim

    Excellent article and comments. When it comes to religions, and I say RELIGIONS, I don't debate. It is an area of pure believe and faith. No one has has the right to make you believe this or that, of even convince you of this or that. Religion is simply "our belief and convinction" of a higher power, God! Now, over the course of history and for reasons that no one can prove, scholars and Men of trust have - in my opinion– violated a sacred human bond: Trust. They fabricate stories and made up facts for one purpose only: to gain more power.
    All of God's messengers, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, and others have ONE thing in common: That God is one, and that they are all His messengers. People can believe what they want. Muslims are no better than Christain nor Jews. All are equal in the eyes of God. Each were given a path, and each have derailed. Each will be judged and each will be asked: Didn't I send you a messenger with my words? And why haven't you followed ? I never said Mohammed or Jesus or Moses was a God. So why haven't you followed my words? Only then will the faithful be recognized for his/ her doing. And the sinner for the same.
    Muslim dying in the name of religion is a SIN. God gave life and soul to people. And He loves them unconditionally. No one has the right to end a life.
    Christain saying we're better than the rest is absolutely ridiculous and laughable at best. God never created so many variations of Christianity (protestant, catholics,.....first testament, last testament...?). Only one book descended.
    Jews are still asking for forgiveness for what they did. They were proclaimed the Better people, but sinned! So God made them suffer.
    All said and done, Trust no one. Trust God who gave you life and can take it just as easily. Trust in his messengers for they are the carriers of his message. Trust in the day of judgement, for you will be asked what you have done!!

    May 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • archmuse

      How exactly do you reconcile your statement "trust no one" and "Trust in his messengers ?" You had it right the first time since thousands have claimed to be God's messengers but clearly all may not have been (if any ever were).

      May 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      As I have suggested to a very close friend, who is a Saudi, is it not possible that multiple messages were given to multiple cultures? Would you expect someone from a lush jungle to understand the cultural messages of a desert people? Would a people who live in a land of mostly snow understand the desert culture?
      Indeed, those who live in the greatest extremes of environment tend to understand some common cultural things, but not others, leading to confusion. In the harshest environments, the lesson and requirement of hospitality towards a stranger is of paramount importance, as to send away a stranger without such hospitality into the harsh wild would be a death sentence to that stranger. Such is not true in a lush jungle or in a temperate climate, such as much of Europe or the Americas, until you enter the tundra.

      I AM one who has debated religion, without rancor or anger, with logic and questions. With answers and counterpoints.
      Indeed, that is how I became such close friends with that aforementioned Saudi.
      And I am conversant on Islam as I am on Christianity, as I learn and read extremely fast and retain everything read.
      To the point of when I was over my Saudi friend's home, his childhood best friend came over and was gushing over a youtube video of an Egyptian man slaughtering 19 camels in 30 seconds.
      To which, I cried, but that is haram! No animal should be witness to the slaughter of its fellows. My friend considered and agreed.
      His friend looked sheepish and apologized to me, to which I gently told him to not apologize to me, but to the creator whose rules he affronted, I'm certain that his apology during prayer will be accepted.
      We got along famously. 🙂

      Every faith in the world says much the same message. Basic rules of society that all share in common and a chiding to get along with one another.
      But, extremists are a minority in all cultures and a serious problem at times, regardless of the culture or faith.

      So, when one considers the word of the creator that has been filtered by man, I prefer an old Persian proverb:
      Don't believe everything that your mother in law tells you.

      May 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  13. Speaking of G0d

    It's not important that everything in the bible, the one you believe is the true version not those other copies, be authenticated. In fact almost none of it can. Consider how much hype we have in today's post modernist world of instant karma and it belies common sense that much if anything in any bible is true. Does it help to keep us on the straight and narrow somewhat? than it serves the greater good. Does it mean that everything about whomever your fav deity is is correct and true 100%. Unlikely. Most of the stories were written long after the death of the person involved. Many had politically influential allies involved for self serving interests. And they all dislike someone for trying to kill them. What we have in common is more important than we have found the ultimate truth in a book. Your bible may be old or new. It's a sign. A direction in life. Taking your spiritual advice from a tea leaf may not appeal to you but to some believing a shroud has significance is equally inane. Not insane, inane. A Cross? A star. What's with that? Are u sure that Judas lived or the tale is true. MOhammed? Moses? Abraham. Shiva? Make it your business to believe in yourself and the world is yours.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Nick

    The Acts 4:13 argument refers to them being untrained or uneducated as a Rabbi. This does not mean that they can't read or write! This means that they were not trained as formal spiritual teachers like the pharisees.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • BR

      In those days religious education was virtually the only formal education. Learning to read was first and formost aimed at studying religious texts. Any application to day to day activities was purely incidental.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  15. NC Boy

    I say that Bart Ehrman DID NOT write "Forged" and my word is as good as his.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Loren E. Carr

      Now that is an awesome response to this nonsense! Praise the Lord!

      May 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  16. Tom Ufano

    Tsk, tsk, CNN, for identifying Ehrman as a former fundamentalist but not identifying Ben Witherington as an American evangelist. Ehrman is a scholar. Witherington is an apologist.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • saf62

      Hear! hear!

      May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  17. Rosetta Stone

    Muhammed was not literate iether. Does that mean the koran is bogus? Allah, allah oxin free.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • BR

      Of course not...his lack of literacy has nothing to do with why it's bogus. 😉

      May 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  18. Bruce

    The Holy Bible was written, word for word, by the King of Kings. He who does not believe this will be tortured forever in eternal hell. Jesus and His mighty Angels are now preparing for battle. The Rapture will take place this Saturday, May 21, 2011. Fall on your knees and worship Jesus Christ before it is too late!

    May 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Maggie

      Hey, Bruce? Will you sell me your home and car and other possessions before the 21st? You can use the money to buy more posters and stuff. OK? I'll give you $500 for the lot right now.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • G

      Ummm... Seriously. You're being facetious, right? Sarcastic? If not, when you go to church on May 22, perhaps you should really take that time to re-evaluate your beliefs.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • C C

      Uh oh. The rapture is THIS Saturday? I've got plans. Can we reschedule? Thanks.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      I hope you realize that on the 22nd, you and everybody else declaring the rapture on the 21st will officially be false prophets, right?

      May 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • oneye

      Bruce, will the rapture follow the international date line? I mean, can I get in on it early, and then 24 more times if I own a Concorde? Being saved once is nice, but being saved 24 times is 24 times better. I'll go to the 24th level of heaven, while you ordinary folk will have to grovel on the 1st floor, and fight for God's attention. First saved, highest rank! To get on my Concorde, send $1 million dollars today! Seats are limited! Money will be abolished on rapture day, so spend yours now!

      May 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Here come da judge...ment day

      Assume then, that churches have stopped trying to pry every last penny from your hand?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • mel

      Hi Bruce, you were joking about that day, right? " No one knows about that day and hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." -Mt. 24:36

      May 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Billbb

      Ah, yes, the God who hates his Creation...

      May 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • myview

      what saturday ???

      May 22, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Sally

      Hi, Bruce, we are all still here! I don't want to worship a god who would torture the children he purports to love forever and ever simply because they honestly struggled with belief. That isn't love.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • tldixon

      get back on your meds and finish high school

      May 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Fascinating! How long did everyone take to learn Jesus' writings in Middle English, as the language didn't exist until a bit over 1000 years later?

      May 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Swoosie

      Well, that didnt work out for you...did it? Guess your holding out till Oct?

      June 2, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  19. marcia

    I love ferocious religious arguments! Really brings out the insanity in everyone! Highly entertaining! Everyone is right and everyone is wrong!

    May 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Mike

      Don't know about everyone...but I'd settle for Bart is wrong...he ususally is.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Bleh! I'm ALWAYS right.
      Once, I DID think I was wrong, but I was merely mistaken. 😉

      May 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  20. Billbb

    Jesus knew God in His Heart and needed no law to tell Him what is right. If one knows Jesus in their Heart, they need no bible or church to tell them how to live. That Spark will lead the way.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • bill blackler

      Wow what a surprise, a Jew who doesn't believe in the new testament. Gos of course could not have inspired books regarding, faith, love, and forgiveness, but he did, of course inspire the old testament, which is essentially a cook book.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.