But the hoax “raised questions,” he says.
“As Christians around the world now prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is worth considering that much of the ‘common knowledge’ about the babe in Bethlehem cannot be found in any scriptural authority, but is either a modern myth or based on Gospel accounts from outside the sacred bounds of Christian Scripture,” Ehrman writes. “Some obvious examples: nowhere does the Bible indicate what year Jesus came into the world, or that he was born on Dec. 25; it does not place an ox and an ass in his manger; it does not say that it was three (as opposed to 7 or 12) wise men who visited him.”
That’s all true, of course. Much of those “facts” are simply traditions. But what’s wrong with that?
“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead,” British journalist G.K. Chesterton wrote a century ago. “Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
What Ehrman really objects to is the lack of “extra-biblical” confirmation — independent historical accounts that match up with the Gospels. (Yet they do exist; the Jewish historian Josephus, for example, wrote about Jesus.)
He concludes by saying Christians simply need to stop taking the Bible so literally.
“These are books that meant to declare religious truths, not historical facts,” he said.
Why, then, would we doubt the testimony of the 12 apostles?
Facts are important. As Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary pointed out in a response to Eherman, “Christianity stands or falls on the truth concerning Jesus, and thus it also stands or falls on the authority and truthfulness of the Bible.”
What’s even more important, in this advent season, is to remember the “war on Christmas” is taking place largely in our own lives — are we, ourselves, neglecting what’s important?
And anyway, As Mohler points out, “it is Newsweek, and not the New Testament, that is going out of print.”