My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First, I received an uncorrected proof of Forged from the publisher, HarperOne. There was no other compensation and I made no promises as to what I would say about it.
Forged is a book aimed at a popular readership using material Bart Ehrman plans to use also for a more scholarly book about the practice of forgery in the ancient world and the forgery of documents in early Christianity. The practice was not, according to Ehrman, generally accepted in the Ancient World, despite what I may have learned in seminary. I enjoyed learning about the variety of ancient forgeries used on all sides of early theological debates in Christianity. I already knew much of what he has to say about the books of the New Testament. There may be some readers who will be shocked, shocked I tell you (!) by the idea that Peter the apostle was an illiterate fisherman and therefore didn’t write 1 and 2 Peter himself. I don’t find this shocking at all, and really I was more intrigued than surprised by the material Ehrman covered.
I’m fascinated by the idea that later scribes added things to the books of the Bible to serve the purpose they preferred (or for whatever reason), and I think Ehrman is generally right on these examples, but it’s also true that sometimes people contradict themselves, even in the same letter (see Paul on women in 1 Corinthians–did he really mean to say talk with your head covered/no don’t talk at all?).
I think Ehrman is trying to make the greater point that it’s odd for a religion so oriented to truth to be built on so many falsified documents. I suppose I would take another point of view and say, wow, isn’t it amazing that the stories survived despite the infighting that led to the fabrications? Mostly I think he hopes to encourage those of us in the church today to tell the truth about the Bible, which is a theme repeated from his previous books. He seems to think pastors don’t. Since I try to do so, I appreciate his work, which gives me material on which to draw.
The uncorrected proof was just that; I hope all of the errors are caught before it really goes to press!