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God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer [Hardcover]

By Bart D. Ehrman (Author)
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Pages   304
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 31, 2008
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0061173975  
EAN  9780061173974  

Availability  0 units.

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Hardcover $ 25.95 $ 22.06 95950
Paperback $ 16.99 $ 14.44 547923 In Stock
Item Description...
Renowned Bible scholar Bart Ehrman discusses the contradictory explanations for suffering put forth by various biblical writers and invites all people of faith--or no faith--to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world and each of us.

Publishers Description

In times of questioning and despair, people often quote the Bible to provide answers. Surprisingly, though, the Bible does not have one answer but many "answers" that often contradict one another. Consider these competing explanations for suffering put forth by various biblical writers:

  • The prophets: suffering is a punishment for sin
  • The book of Job, which offers two different answers: suffering is a test, and you will be rewarded later for passing it; and suffering is beyond comprehension, since we are just human beings and God, after all, is God
  • Ecclesiastes: suffering is the nature of things, so just accept it
  • All apocalyptic texts in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: God will eventually make right all that is wrong with the world

For renowned Bible scholar Bart Ehrman, the question of why there is so much suffering in the world is more than a haunting thought. Ehrman's inability to reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of real life led the former pastor of the Princeton Baptist Church to reject Christianity.

In God's Problem, Ehrman discusses his personal anguish upon discovering the Bible's contradictory explanations for suffering and invites all people of faith—or no faith—to confront their deepest questions about how God engages the world and each of us.

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More About Bart D. Ehrman

Bart D. Ehrman Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited twenty-four books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews.

Among his most recent books are a Greek-English edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press), an assessment of the newly discovered Gospel of Judas (Oxford University Press), and four New York Times Bestsellers: Jesus Interrupted (an account of scholarly views of the New Testament), God’s Problem (an assessment of the biblical views of suffering), Misquoting Jesus (an overview of the changes found in the surviving copies of the New Testament and of the scribes who produced them) and Forged (discusses why some books in the New Testament are deliberate forgeries). His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages.

Among his fields of scholarly expertise are the historical Jesus, the early Christian apocrypha, the apostolic fathers, and the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

Professor Ehrman has served as President of the Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical literature, chair of the New Testament textual criticism section of the Society, book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature, and editor of the monograph series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers (Scholars Press). He currently serves as co-editor of the series New Testament Tools, Studies, and Documents (E. J. Brill), co-editor-in-chief for the journal Vigiliae Christianae, and on several other editorial boards for journals and monographs in the field.

Professor Ehrman lectures extensively throughout the country. Winner of numerous university awards and grants, he is the recipient of the 2009 J. W. Pope “Spirit of Inquiry” Teaching Award, the 1993 UNC Undergraduate Student Teaching Award, the 1994 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for excellence in teaching.

Professor Ehrman has two children, a daughter, Kelly, and a son, Derek. He is married to Sarah Beckwith (Ph.D., King's College London), Marcello Lotti Professor of English at Duke University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Bart D. Ehrman currently resides in Chapel Hill, in the state of North Carolina. Bart D. Ehrman has an academic affiliation as follows - Department of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina, Cha.

Bart D. Ehrman has published or released items in the following series...
  1. New Testament in the Greek Fathers
  2. Studies & Documents (Paperback)

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Great for Christians or ex-Christians puzzled by the problem of suffering  Jun 8, 2008
As a former missionary, I've studied the Bible a great deal. I had never looked at it in the way Ehrman does in this book. He goes thoroughly through the various explanations of suffering offered by the Bible's authors. These do change through time. Some explanations--such as apocalypticism--I had not really thought of as dealing with the problem of suffering before.

Ehrman doesn't say much about the answers given to the problem of suffering by later philosophers. I don't see any problem with that. His aim is to look at the answers provided by the Bible, period.

"God's Problem" is great for anyone who is seriously interested in the Bible or in the problem of suffering. If you are a serious Bible student, you owe it to yourself to read it.
Awesome!!!!   Jun 5, 2008
I really can't say enough about this book! Sadly I don't think your average "Lay-Person" Christian will really understand this because they have been force fed apologetics for so long it's hard to think any other way. I love how Erhman covers the Major and Minor prophets of the OT!! Something which is rarely covered in modern western Christianity. I have bought numerous copies of this book and given them to my friends!

" The beatings will continue until morale improves"
Good But Incomplete  Jun 2, 2008
First, it must be said that this book is slightly mistitled. The problem is the subtitle, which tells us that this will be a book about "how the Bible fails to answer our most important question." Actually, the entire book is about exploring the various (and multifarious) answers the bible gives in answer to why suffering occurs. Instead, the subtitle should read something more like, "How the bible fails to RESOLVE our most important problem." That would be more accurate.

Ehrman used to be a Christian, he tells us. He used to aspire to be in the ministry. What undid that, he says, is this very question; each time he tried to decipher why an almighty and all powerful god would allow suffering in the world, he came away deeply unsatisfied. It is a question that has been around for ages: from Liebniz to Lewis and Chesterton (or, if you are an atheist like myself, Hume and Flew).

In the end, it is not that Ehrman cannot find answers in the bible to this quesiton. There are many varied answers! Rather, none of them is satisfying to Ehrman. This book goes through all of the bible's (old and new testament) answers to the problem of suffering. Do we suffer as penalty for our sins Do we suffer because all bad things somehow lead to good (ours or others)? Do we suffer simply because God wants to test our faith? Or because God will make things right in the afterlife?

These answers - all of them in various parts of the bible - are explored. All of them, respectfully, are found wanting. Ehrman is not a Christian, but is far from exercising the beligerence and acerbity of Dawkins and Harris. He says in his preface, after noting that his wife is Christian and that the two of them attend church together, that he is not intending to "deconvert" anyone to his own agnosticism. He is simply explaining to many views of suffering and why, in the end, he sees all of them as unpalatable.

One criticism that I have is that while Ehrman exhaustively goes through the views of suffering that are in the bible, he devotes only a final summative chapter to views of theologians attempting themselves to make sense of this problem. When one is writing about a question that has captured the imaginations of as many thinkers as this one, one should find it hard to do so without grappling with their thkoughts. Much has been written on this vexing question since the bible, and it would have been nice for Ehrman to deal as much with the post-biblical ruminations as those appearing in the bible. (That is, in fact, what I was expecting.)

To conclude, there is another slight misnomer about this book, though it is a small one. In the end, Ehrman actually does agree with ONE of the Bible's interpretations of why we suffer. Not wanting to give a 'spoiler,' I will not divulge which one, but I will only say that it is the one that would make most sense to a non-believer that "black sheep" book that seems more secular than religious (Christians may already know to which book I am referring.)

All in all, this is a decent book, and it is good to see Ehrman writing on so personal a subject - the subject that led to his, and doubtless many others,' abandonment of Christianity. I hope, though, that there will be a 'sequel' dealing with subsequent theologians attempts to deal with the question of evil.
a worthy contribution to an old debate  May 22, 2008
Today in the developing world 26,000 children under the age of five died from malnutrition and diseases that are easily prevented or treated in wealthy societies.

Tomorrow, another 26,000 will die painfully as their mothers cry and pray over them. It adds up to more than 9 million individual tragedies per year. Somehow, claims of free will and a prehistoric crime committed in the Garden of Eden don't quite make it acceptable, at least not in my mind.

Those 9 million dead babies per year and many other horrors must trouble thoughtful and decent Christians who believe their god is both real and a force for good.

Ehrman's book is good reading for anyone who is in interested in this very old problem of a good and just god controlling a world that is filled with constant horror and injustice.

I highly recommend it for both nonbelievers and believers.

--Guy P. Harrison, author of
50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Often compelling, though with some weak areas  May 21, 2008
Much of this book is quite compelling reading for those strong enough to handle the difficult questions it deals with. The author delves deeply into Judeo-Christian tradition and the Bible regarding the question of why we suffer and ends up saying that only Ecclesiastes makes any sense to him, with its idea that suffering is not to be helped but is only temporary, like our brief lives.

It's not terribly comforting, but seems to make more sense than people who insist that everyone suffers because they deserve it for being sinners, or that they suffer anyway because nobody is perfect no matter how hard they try, or that terrible things have some deeper meaning or serve a greater good that we cannot comprehend.

Ehrman does pretty well at analyzing the paradoxes and contradictions that the Bible presents us with. He won't let anyone off the hook.
However, while he notes that his wife is still a believer and does not agonize over the topic the way he does, he never says exactly what it is that she believes. Also, at the end of the book, he rushes the conclusion and says we ought to do much more for those in need (which I agree with) but then turns around and says we ought to eat, drink, be merry, procreate, etc. It's possible that these philosophies can be reconciled, but he hardly spends any time on this.

Also, it doesn't make sense to refuse to be thankful for having food just because some others do not. At the very least, those of us who have it should be grateful that we are so fortunate. And yes, we should give more than we do so as to alleviate at least some of the misery and suffering in the world.


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