by Edwin A. Schwisow

Forged – Bart D. Ehrman – HarperCollins 2011

At least one Adventist university currently is struggling to reach an accommodation on how to teach — and not teach, science classes in which the church's traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-12 is respected, at least, and if possible endorsed.

Ten years from now, the issue will have run its course and I predict that a new one will emerge very likely surrounding the issues discussed in the book, Forged, by Bart D. Ehrman, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus.

For most Adventist readers, this book will present a whole new dimension to the study of Scripture, from the point of view of the much-feared ‘higher criticism,’ an approach much maligned (but quietly studied) by many preachers we deem fundamentalist. Bible colleges and Adventist universities in general skirt the question of higher criticism by simply saying, “We don’t believe in it, therefore we don’t use it.”

This book is essentially a rehash of views that have been around a long time, but this is perhaps the first book written by a former Bible college student who presents this topic in a way that the general Christian and non-Christian reader will find interesting enough to actually read the whole book.

If Forged can be said to have a theme, it might be, which parts of the New Testament are truly written by the authors of record, and how and why did the rest come to appear in its current form? From a reader’s standpoint, the book offers a great deal of, who-done-it, mystery. Though the author does not claim to solve every riddle, he does give entertaining insight into how the much-feared ‘higher criticism’ actually works, or doesn’t work, depending on your point of view.

Evangelical Christians can run, but they can’t hide from the evidence this book presents. Like sexuality, our children are going to find out about higher criticism somehow. It is better to gain insights from a reputable source than from one who hates Christianity and finds joy in destroying faith.

To read is not necessarily to believe. As a journalist, I find a lot of what he has written overly speculative. Like evolution, some of the early conjectures of higher criticism have lost considerable traction; others have gained some mainstream acceptance.

This book is by no means the final word as an introduction to higher criticism of the New Testament. But it’s a good beginning and can be criticized for its brevity (305 pages). Even so it earns a four-star rating (out of five possible) from Amazon.com readers.

I do a lot of visiting with educated nonbelievers and being acquainted with the claims of higher criticism is a tremendous boon in explaining why I stick with my faith. I face the questions of higher criticism in my typical head-on way, quietly but coherently. I now carry on an avid email exchange with several seriously ‘interested’ people who want to bring religion into their families’ lives. In my case, knowledge of the elements of higher criticism has brought nothing but greater confidence in my Christian interaction with others.

Reviewed & posted by CWH