Colbert takes on Bart Ehrman

This clip from “The Colbert Report” has been making the rounds in the blogosphere. It is an interview that Stephen Colbert has with Bart Ehrman, an agnostic NT scholar (and former evangelical) who now makes the rounds writing books and telling about contradictions in the Bible. Colbert is pretty belligerent and aggressive toward Ehrman…worth a watch.

There was also an earlier interview with Colbert, which you might want to watch first here:

It makes me wonder what motivates a scholar like Ehrman to appear on a show like Colbert, especially the second time when he already knows that Colbert is going to take him to task as he does. What does he really think will be accomplished on such a show, especially when he knows (especially in round two) that Colbert will barely give him a chance to explain his position. Can you really make a case for anything in the 5 minutes of interview time allotted?

But what I find fascinating here is that Colbert takes what amounts to a “dictation” view of biblical inspiration (“It is a book that comes directly from the mouth of God”), which I don’t agree with, yet ends up making Ehrman look pretty small and silly. Though I obviously don’t agree with Ehrman either, in the end, I wonder whether the interview is finally just a demonstration of the strong showmanship of a charismatic Colbert against what is obviously, in comparison, Ehrman’s pretty flat, non-charistmatic personality.

I, for one, think Ehrman’s claims are pretty outrageous and frankly, represent nothing more than the tired old criticisms that have been repeatedly answered by scholars defending the veracity of the biblical texts. But it also makes me wonder whether anything is gained by Colbert’s strategy of lambasting Ehrman, or whether it just gives greater fuel for both sides.

I don’t know the answers to these questions–I’m just wondering. What do you think?



4 thoughts on “Colbert takes on Bart Ehrman

  1. The thing with Colbert is that his whole character is a cutting satire of conservative media power-players and evangelicals, so whenever he does stuff like this is it is usually in mockery of himself (or the character he is playing). So when Colbert wins it is generally perceived as a win for the guest in the eyes of the audience (which may explain ehrman coming back on, not to mention the sales spike in his books). If Colbert and his guest start to agree, Colbert often still finds a way to attack the other person (often in the form of an extreme version of some conservative position or another). This makes for some fascinating interviews though, and this is one of them (both as satire against colbert’s character, AND as a hole-punching time in ehrman’s own views.

  2. Colbert’s quote about the bible is probably short-hand. Like you said, it’s five minutes. N.T. Wright’s interview was pretty stale too.

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