Sharing with its Twitter followers this week that its new issue was out and that its cover story features the caption “WHO WAS JESUS?”, Newsweek pointed its remaining readers to an essay by Bart D. Ehrman, “who is well-known for his belief that the New Testament is largely historical fiction.”
The “Religion” report was published Monday, but has surprisingly gotten little feedback on the Daily Beast/Newsweek website (less than 600 comments on a controversial report in three days). However, those who have read it, specifically Christians, are not very surprised by Newsweek choosing to promote doubt just in time for Christmas — that’s apparently what the troubled publication has become known for.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has responded to Ehrman’s cover feature, and this is what he had to say:
Timed for this Christmas, Newsweek just released a cover essay by Bart D. Ehrman, who is well-known for his belief that the New Testament is largely historical fiction. “Who is Jesus?” is the question on the cover. “The Myths of Jesus” is the headline on the essay itself.
Newsweek’s agenda is clear, and it has chosen to feature a cover article denying the historical basis of Christmas as one of its last print editions.
Ehrman begins, predictably, by reviewing the controversy concerning the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that emerged earlier this year when Professor Karen King of Harvard University claimed a tiny papyrus fragment to be a monumental discovery. Even as she insisted that the fragment did not prove in any sense that Jesus had a wife, she fueled the confusion in carefully-staged media appearances in which she referred to the fragment as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
A professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Ehrman’s academic specialization is in the history of the New Testament and its times. As such, he dismissed the papyrus fragment as either irrelevant or a hoax. He writes, “As it turns out, most experts on early Christianity have come to think the fragment is a hoax, a forgery produced in recent years by an amateur who, unlike King and scholars of her stature, was not well versed in the niceties of Coptic grammar and so was unable to cover up the traces of his own deceit.”
A close look at that statement reveals a strong critique of Professor King who, according to Ehrman’s logic, should have been able to detect problems with a papyrus fragment probably manufactured by an amateur.
Ehrman cites that controversy, however, in order to make the point that there were hundreds of “proto-gospels” about Jesus floating about in the first few centuries of the Christian church, and that much of what modern people think they know about Christmas is actually not to be found in the New Testament.