I saw an interview with theologian and bestselling author Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, who mused about polling his students on the first day of class at the Bible Belt university where he teaches. His first question: How many of you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God? Practically every student’s hand shoots up.
Next, how many have read “The Da Vinci Code,” cover to cover? Again, almost every hand is in the air. How many have read the Bible, cover to cover? One or two.
It’s no surprise to Ehrman and other Bible scholars that people who haven’t read it or haven’t comprehended what they’ve read are the ones that believe it’s the inerrant word of God. Like him, I’m a bit fascinated by that phenomenon, although I’m sure we both understand that the language in the text can often be challenging.
Add nuances such as ancient ritual, cultural idioms and good old-fashioned hyperbole to the mix, and it’s even more difficult to separate fact from fiction. Plus, as Ehrman pointed out in his latest book. “Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them),” we tend to read the Bible vertically, from the top of the page to the bottom—the same way we read other books. And that could be a problem.
A problem? Yes. It’s probably the reason most who call ourselves Christians totally miss the fact that there are contradicting narratives of Jesus’s birth and death published in the Bible.
Most of us are confident that we know basic details about Jesus. Certainly, we know where he was born. More than likely, we don’t. Pretty weird, especially since we’ve attended dozens of Christmas pageants, even if we haven’t actually read the narratives in the Bible.
I’ll reveal the answer as we continue to explore whether myth matters, in the next post in this series.