Bart Ehrman wrote the cover story in this week's Newsweek magazine. It's classic Ehrman, raising points that many Christians and non-Christians may not be familiar with, suggesting there is a problem that calls into question the historical reliability of the biblical text, and failing to mention that these are long-recognized observations that have straightforward answers.Ehrman opens his article mentioning the Coptic fragment revealed this past Fall that mentions Jesus' wife. (You can read about it here and here.) He uses its mere existence (not its authority) to point out that there are a variety of extra-biblical documents that give information missing from or contradictory to the Bible. Many of these have been known since the early centuries of the church. None date as early as the Gospels. None can be traced to an eyewitness. The church knew this and rejected them as non-authoritative for those reasons. So what? Ehrman hopes to sow the seeds of doubt with old news.As Michael Kruger documents in his excellent books and blog, none of these alternative accounts dates earlier than the late second century. Most are later than that, far removed from Jesus' time and the writing of the authoritative Gospels. (You can find radio interviewswith Kruger on April 10, 2011, and July 25 2010.)
Ehrman also cites the differences in Matthew's and Luke's genealogies of Jesus, calling them "apparent contradictions." But he doesn't indicate that there is a pretty simple explanation for this and it isn't a contradiction. They are easily reconcilable differences, not "discrepancies" and "contradictions." Matthew and Luke are citing different lines of Jesus' ancestry because they were writing to different audiences for different purposes. You can read an excellent explanation here.Ehrman also talks about the features of the Nativity story we all think we know that aren't mentioned in the Gospels. Once again, so what? Many times, questions about the Bible can be resolved simply by reading what the text actually says, rather than believing what we think it says. An example of this Ehrman raises is the birth account in Luke and supposed historical problems with it. I've got a post about that tomorrow.Here's a Solid Ground Greg wrote a couple of years ago about the misinformation Ehrman has given on the historical reliability of the New Testament.This is a good site providing answers to Ehrman's mistaken claims.