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home » articles » "Strobel Says that Wallace Says that Ehrman Says..."

Strobel Says that Wallace Says that Ehrman Says...

In "The Case for the Real Jesus," Lee Strobel attempts to discredit Bart Ehrman's book, "Misquoting Jesus," using his interview with Daniel Wallace as his "argument". Here is a video clip of Strobel summarizing his attack on Ehrman (see Ehrman's lecture below):

In this video, as in his book, Strobel objects to Ehrman's critical position, but does not tell why Ehrman's evidence is unacceptable or why his reasoning is wrong. He doesn't even tell us what his specific objections are. He simply tells us that he objects based on what another scholar, Wallace, tells him. How does Strobel know which of the two scholars, Ehrman or Wallace, is right and which is wrong? He doesn't say.

Who's Who in this article:

Lee Strobel - a Journalist for 14 years at The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, and a teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church from 1987 to 2000, he received a Master of Studies in Law from Yale Law School.

Daniel Wallace - graduated from Biola University in 1975 and later attended Dallas Theological Seminary where he graduated in 1979 with a Master of Theology in New Testament Studies. He taught at Dallas Seminary from 1979-81 and afterward at Grace Theological Seminary from 1981-83. In 1995, he earned his Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary where he continues to teach full time.

Bart Ehrman - began studying the Bible and its original languages at the Moody Bible Institute and is a 1978 graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois. He received his Ph.D and M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under Bruce Metzger. He currently serves as the chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was the President of the Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical Literature, and worked closely as an editor on a number of the Society's publications. Currently, he co-edits the series New Testament Tools and Studies.

We can guess that Strobel's background as teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church may have something to do with his bias. Strobel seems less interested in employing his skills as a journalist to present an unbiased story, and more interested in employing his background in law for presenting a one-sided "Case For..." his faith. In his book, Strobel calls Wallace to the proverbial witness stand and prompts him to state his one-sided case. There is no cross-examination and no defense attorney present - only Strobel who is the prosecutor and judge, and Wallace who is Strobel's star witness.

This article is not about whether Ehrman is right or Wallace is right. For a first-hand review of Ehrman's and Wallace's positions, see Misquoting Jesus and Reinventing Jesus respectively. Also, mark April 4-5, 2008 on your calendars: the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will feature Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace as they discuss the textual reliability of the New Testament.

This article is about Lee Strobel and his book, "The Case for the Real Jesus", and the use of his book by Fundamentalist Christians in discussions about religion. Moreover, it is an exposé of the type of uncritical apologetics that Fundamentalist Christians will blindly and eagerly swallow, no matter how weak or how distorted or one-sided, simply to avoid having to consider the evidence for themselves, evidence that might shake their Fundamentalist convictions. Fundamentalist Christians consider Strobel the new Fundamentalist champion (judging by how often they cite his books in religious debates). Ironically, Wallace takes a dim view of this sort of black-and-white Fundamentalist mindset.

In The Gospel According to Bart, Wallace complains that "[Ehrman's] black and white mentality as a fundamentalist" has carried over to his position as a critic. In a footnote, Wallace shares:

I am reminded of Martin Hengel's insight about the parallel dangers from "an uncritical, sterile apologetic fundamentalism" and "from no less sterile 'critical ignorance'" of radical liberalism. At bottom, the approaches are the same; the only differences are the presuppositions (Martin Hengel, Studies in Early Christology [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995], 57–58). I am not saying that Ehrman is there, but he no longer seems to be the true liberal that he once aspired to be.
In criticizing Ehrman, Wallace portrays Christian Fundamentalism and Radical Liberalism in the same negative light while he portrays "true liberalism" in a favorable light. Strobel's star witness, Wallace, is a liberal! There is no end of Fundamentalist vilification of "liberals." Why then would Fundamentalists, who regularly vilify liberals as not true Christians, so eager to accept Strobel's endorsement of Wallace?

Unlike Strobel, Wallace admits in his own article that "Bart Ehrman is one of the most brilliant and creative textual critics I’ve ever known..." and that

Most of [Ehrman's] book [, "Misquoting Jesus"] (chs. 1–4) is basically a popular introduction to the field, and a very good one at that. It introduces readers to the fascinating world of scribal activity, the process of canonization, and printed texts of the Greek NT. It discusses the basic method of reasoned eclecticism. All through these four chapters, various snippets—variant readings, quotations from Fathers, debates between Protestants and Catholics—are discussed, acquainting the reader with some of the challenges of the arcane field of textual criticism"
That is not to say that Ehrman and Wallace agree on all points. They don't. But our discussion is about Strobel and his book, not about which of the 2 scholars are correct. As a test of Strobel's integrity, ask anyone who has read Strobel's The Case for the Real Jesus, that has not read Ehrman's books, and ask his or her opinion of Ehrman. Do they share Wallace's favorable opinion of Ehrman as a brilliant scholar?

Is Strobel a bad journalist or a good lawyer? We would be justified in citing him for his biased reporting. He does not bother to present Ehrman's argument that he hopes to dismantle. He simply presents one side, Wallace's side, of a 2-sided argument and asks his readers to take it as gospel. On the other hand, We have to admire Strobel, the lawyer, as he follows in the footsteps of the legal greats; the ones who are adept enough in their profession to condemn an innocent defendant, based on "eyewitnesses" who later recant, or that are later disproven by DNA evidence.

Ehrman's YouTube lecture:

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