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Comparison of Paul’s Two Principal Models of Salvation

I’ve been discussing how Paul understands the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation, and have done so by laying out as concisely as I could his two principal “models” of how salvation worked, the judicial and the participationist model. In this post I’ll make some brief concluding comments about the two models, in particular in relation to one another, again from my textbook on the New Testament. ************************************************************* 3. Comparison and Contrast of the Two Models Let me emphasize that the two models of salvation we have been looking at are ways of understanding something. They are not the thing itself. Paul's gospel is not "justification by faith" or "union with Christ." These are ways of reflecting on or thinking about his gospel. His gospel is God's act of salvation in Christ; the models are ways of conceptualizing how it worked. The way it worked differed according to which model Paul had in mind. In both of them, the problem is "sin." But in one, sin is an act of disobedience that a [...]

2020-04-03T17:00:53-04:00April 30th, 2014|Paul and His Letters|

Paul’s “Participationist” Model of Salvation

Yesterday I started explaining that Paul has different ways the he conceptualizes the act of salvation – how the death and resurrection of Christ restores a person to a right relationship with God. The judicial model that I laid out can be found in several of Paul’s letters, especially Romans and Galatians. But he has other ways of understanding how salvation works, other models involving Jesus’ death and resurrection. The other BIG one can be called the Participationist model. Here is what I say about it in my textbook on the New Testament: ********************************************************** 2. The Participationist Model. Most of us today have no trouble understanding how a judicial process can be seen as analogous to the act of salvation. The participationist model, however, is much harder to get our minds around. This is partly because it involves a way of thinking that is no longer prevalent in our culture. Under this second model the human problem is still called "sin," "sin" is still thought to lead to "death," and Christ's death and resurrection still [...]

2020-04-03T17:01:01-04:00April 29th, 2014|Paul and His Letters|

Paul’s “Judicial” Model of Salvation

I am currently in the middle of a thread discussing the significance of Paul to the history of early Christianity. So far I have been trying to argue that Paul is of utmost importance to the New Testament itself, but that it is very difficult to know how much of what we think of as Pauline theology (the doctrine of the atonement, for example) was *distinctive* of Paul (I doubt if he came up with the idea himself) and that there are some prominent features of Paul’s thought – e.g., the importance of Jesus’ resurrection – that he must have inherited from Christians before him. One of my ultimate points is going to be that whatever one thinks about Paul’s originality, it is clear that the gospel that he proclaimed looked very different from what Jesus himself taught. To get to that point, I have to deal a bit more with what it is that Paul proclaimed. Nowhere does Paul lay out his gospel message more clearly than in the book of Romans. The reason [...]

2020-04-03T17:01:11-04:00April 28th, 2014|Paul and His Letters|

Video: Bart Ehrman vs. James White Debate

James White vs Bart Ehrman: I wasn't sure whether I should post this debate or not. Frankly, it was not a good experience. I normally do not have an aversion to the people I debate. But James White is that kind of fundamentalist who gets under my skin. James White vs Bart Ehrman To be fair, he would probably not call himself a fundamentalist. Then again, in my experience, very few fundamentalists *do* call themselves fundamentalists. Usually, a "fundamentalist" is that guy who is far to the right of *you* -- wherever you are! Someone on the blog can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe White does hold to the absolute inerrancy of the Bible. If so, given what else I know about him, I'd call him a fundamentalist. James White vs Bart Ehrman - Here's the Debate! In any event, he's a smart fellow and came to the debate loaded for bear. But it's good to see me at not my best as well as at my best. So why [...]

2022-05-22T23:59:24-04:00April 27th, 2014|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Video Media|

Paul’s Gospel Message

QUESTION And what do you make of Paul’s statement that he didn’t get the good news (= the resurrection and thus the triumph over death) from other humans but from the ‘risen Christ’ himself? If he persecuted the Christians because of a resurrection belief then he would have heard about it before, from other humans, no?   RESPONSE Ah! This takes me to the issue that I was planning on posting about today anyway. Several people in their comments have pointed out that if Paul claims to have “received” the teachings about Jesus’ death and resurrection from others (1 Cor. 15:3), then it is hard to make sense of what he says in Galatians 1, that he received his “gospel” directly from Jesus himself. How could Paul have it both ways?   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, GET WITH THE PROGRAM!!! Here’s what I think.   I think when Paul talks about receiving “his gospel” from a revelation – presumably [...]

2020-04-03T17:01:19-04:00April 25th, 2014|Paul and His Letters|

Paul’s Importance in Early Christianity?

I’d like to say a bit more about Paul in relationship to the beginning of Christianity. Yesterday I argued that Paul could not have invented the idea of the resurrection. I should point out that Paul himself – who was always proud of the “revelation” of the truth given to him and his part in disseminating it (see Galatians 1-2) – admits in 1 Cor. 15:3-5 that he “received” from others the view that Christ died for sins and rose from the dead, before appearing “first” to Cephas and then others. I should stress, this language of “receiving” and “passing on” has long been understood as a standard way of indicating how tradition was transmitted from one person to another. Paul did not “receive” this information from his visionary encounter with Jesus (Jesus didn’t tell him: first I appeared to Cephas then to… and then to… and then finally to you!). Paul received this core of the Gospel message from those who were Christians before him. People today often think of Paul as the second-founder [...]

2020-04-03T17:01:27-04:00April 24th, 2014|Paul and His Letters|

Did Paul Invent the Resurrection?

QUESTION: There is no doubt that Paul had visions of Jesus. And as we all agree the gospels (and Acts for that matter) were written AFTER Paul and certainly influenced BY Paul. In one way or another they reflect his way of thinking (to a certain degree). Wouldn’t it be possible that the story of visions started with Paul only and was incorporated into the gospels because… well, how could it be that Jesus appeared to Paul and not to his disciples? I find it suspicious that there are such deep discrepancies in the different accounts of Jesus post-resurrection appearances…. In other words: Couldn’t Paul be the sole starting point of this vision thing?   RESPONSE: This question gets to the heart of a very big issue: what was Paul’s role in the development of early Christianity. Is he responsible for starting it? Was he the first to claim that Jesus had appeared after his death, as the risen Lord of life? Is Paul the real founder of Christianity? Should we call it Paulianity? Maybe [...]

2020-04-29T17:35:51-04:00April 23rd, 2014|Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

My Interview on Fresh Air

As I have said before, every author who has done reasonably well selling trade books for a general audience knows that what drives sales is not the outstanding quality of a book -- lots of terrific books go nowhere in sales, and others that are truly lousy end up being bestsellers -- or in advertising. It's all about media attention. When it comes to radio, one of the very best, top-flight programs to land is Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I don't know this for a fact, but someone has told me that the show has 4.5 million listeners. That's a lot. I have been on Terry Gross six times now, and have enjoyed it immensely each time. She is absolutely fantastic as an interviewer. She's smart, insightful, and curious. She knows how to ask the right questions. She knows how to direct a conversation. She lets her guest talk. She makes her guest feel comfortable and free to discuss openly the important aspects of the book s/he has authored. It is a great experience. [...]

2017-12-14T23:23:06-05:00April 22nd, 2014|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Video Media|

Attacks from the Other Side: An Ill-Tempered Richard Carrier

Sometimes I think that if I’m “getting it from all sides,” I may be doing something right. The religious conservatives seems to be up in arms about my book How Jesus Became God – both conservative evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics like the Very Reverend Robert Barron. In fact, as I’ve said, I do not think anything in the book is inimical to Christian faith, unless it is completely committed to a view of the infallibility of the Bible and its full, historical accuracy. The Christianity I admire is not like that. But I get it from the non-religious left as well. Yesterday a member of the blog sent me the following critique – delivered in terms of mocking incredulity – by Richard Carrier, the mythicist (i.e., one who does not believe that Jesus existed) who has shown more vitriol, hatred, and mean-spiritedness toward me than almost any of the fundamentalists who attack me from the other side. The following is in reference to my point that we do not have any references to [...]

2020-05-27T15:59:57-04:00April 21st, 2014|Bart's Critics, Historical Jesus, Mythicism|

A Milestone for the Blog

I am very pleased to be able to announce a milestone that we have all reached for the Bart Ehrman Blog.    As of this week, we have surpassed the $100,000 mark in funds raised.   This is a great moment for us.   It has taken us only two years and a few days. As probably all of you know, the blog was originally conceived, designed, and begun as a way to raise money for charities dealing with hunger and homelessness.   Every penny raised from the membership fees and donations go directly to the four charities that the Bart Ehrman Foundation supports (I’ll say something about the four in a moment).   I myself pay all the administrative costs of the blog as part of my contribution.   My technology and media assistant, Steven Ray of Innovative Design, who designed and setup my website, blog and YouTube channel, keeps the show running  -- it would be literally and completely impossible without him -- and he often provides me with a serious discount for his services as part of his contribution.   Together, [...]

2017-12-14T23:23:43-05:00April 20th, 2014|Public Forum|

More on the Very Reverend Robert Barron

I have not decided yet whether I will be dealing point-by-point with every one of the Very Reverend Robert Barron’s critiques of How Jesus Became God.  I frankly found none of them very convincing, largely because, as I indicated in the previous post, he does not appear to have read my book very carefully, but at best skimmed it to find what he was expecting to find.   But I thought I would deal at least with his opening counter-argument, over whether Jesus saw himself or proclaimed himself to be God.   Here is what he says. Ehrman’s major argument for the thesis that Jesus did not consider himself divine is that explicit statements of Jesus’ divine identity can be found only in the later fourth Gospel of John, whereas the three Synoptic Gospels, earlier and thus presumably more historically reliable, do not feature such statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers. This is so much nonsense. It is indeed the case that the most direct affirmations of divinity are found in John—“I and the Father [...]

2020-04-03T17:02:48-04:00April 18th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|

Critique of the Very Reverend Robert Barron

The responses to How Jesus Became God are starting to appear, and I must say, I find the harshest ones bordering on the incredible.   Do people think that it is acceptable to attack a book that they haven’t read – or at least haven’t had the courtesy to try to understand? Some of the reviewers are known entities, such as the Very Rev. Robert Barron, a Roman Catholic evangelist and commentator who has a wide following.   His full response is available at   I find it very disappointing.  Here is his opening gambit: **************************************** "In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated ad nauseam in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death. Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis [...]

Interview on on How Jesus Became God Part 2

This is the second part of my interview with Dale Tuggy, the host and co-executive producer of podcast.  The podcasts hosts debates, interviews, and historical and contemporary perspectives on issues related to Christian theology.  The interview was focused on How Jesus Became God, although in spots we go afield.   Some listeners have thought that this was one of the more interesting of the interviews I've done.  The interview took place on April 14th, 2014 via telephone.   Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:

2017-12-14T23:24:19-05:00April 16th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Video Media|

Modern Appearances of Jesus

QUESTION: Why do you suppose no one has had visions of Jesus since the Gospels? And why have there been visions of Mary instead?   RESPONSE: Another good question. The answer is: people *do* have visions of Jesus (all the time)! I could have approached the topic in a number of ways in my book, but this is what I say there: ******************************************************* Jesus’ Appearances in the Modern World And consider the modern appearances of Jesus. Some of these are documented by Phillip H. Wiebe, in his book Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today (My footnote says this: I should stress that Wiebe is not a religious fanatic on a mission. He is chair of the Philosophy Department at Trinity Western University and is a serious scholar. Still, at the end of the day, he thinks that something “transcendent” has led to some of the modern visions of Jesus he recounts. In other words, they – or some of them – are veridical.) Wiebe narrates twenty-eight case studies, which he [...]

2020-04-03T17:02:58-04:00April 15th, 2014|Book Discussions, Reader’s Questions|

Did Disciples Have Visions of Jesus?

I am ready and willing to begin answering questions readers have about my book How Jesus Became God. So feel free to ask away. Here is a good one I received today.   QUESTION: I have enjoyed reading your interesting and thought provoking books, Jesus Interrupted and Forged. At the moment I am reading How Jesus Became God and would like to comment on some of the content of Chapter 5. To that point in the book, it seems to me you have been very careful to avoid speculation, but it seems to me that the application of your usual standards may have lapsed somewhat in regard to the visions of Jesus after the crucifixion. Specifically, what evidence do we have, apart from the Gospels, that any of Jesus' disciples actually had visions of Jesus after his death? Certainly, at some point in early Christianity, the story of the visions became part of the lore, but as you have pointed out in previous parts of the book, the oral recounting of the stories was subject [...]

2020-04-03T17:03:05-04:00April 14th, 2014|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

Jesus as God in the Synoptics

This, I believe, will be my final post on an issue that changed my mind about while doing the research for How Jesus Became God.   This last one is a big one – for me, at least.   And it’s not one that I develop at length in the book in any one place, since it covers a span of material.   Here’s the deal: Until a year ago I would have said – and frequently did say, in the classroom, in public lectures, and in my writings – that Jesus is portrayed as God in the Gospel of John but not, definitely not, in the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.   I would point out that only in John did Jesus say such things as “Before Abraham, I am” (8:58; taking upon himself the name of God, as given to Moses in Exodus 3); his Jewish opponents knew full well what he was saying: they take up stones to stone him.   Later he says “I and the Father are one” (10:30)  Again, the Jews break [...]

2017-12-14T23:25:03-05:00April 13th, 2014|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels|

Interview with on How Jesus Became God

I won't be posting every single interview I do for How Jesus Became God (you will be glad to know); but different interviewers are asking different kinds of questions, and so a range of them doesn't seem to be out of line.   The one here is for a podcast called Trinities, hosted and produced by a fellow named Dale Tuggy.   Dale is not completely sympathetic with all my views in the book, which makes the interview a bit more interesting from ones that simply lob me softballs.   The interview took place on April 7, and happened over the phone.   Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:

2017-12-14T23:25:18-05:00April 11th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Video Media|

Christ as an Angel in Paul

I continue here with another post about something that I learned about or changed my mind about while writing How Jesus Became God. I have to admit, that for many years I was puzzled by the apostle Paul – specifically his Christology. All the various things he said about Christ didn’t seem to add up to a coherent whole to me, even though I thought and thought and thought about it. But I finally found the piece that, when added to the puzzle, made it all fit together. I think now I can make sense of every Christological statement in Paul’s letters. This not because I myself finally figured it out. It’s because I finally read some discussions that actually made sense, and saw that they are almost certainly right. Here’s what I say about it in the book. It’s a result that I would have found very surprising just two years ago. ********************************************************* Many people no doubt have the same experience I do on occasion, of reading something numerous times, over and over, and [...]

2020-04-03T17:03:12-04:00April 10th, 2014|Book Discussions, Paul and His Letters|

The Disciples who Doubted the Resurrection

In this post I continue discussing some of the issues that I learned about for the first time, or changed my mind about, while writing How Jesus Became God. This post is about an issue that I figured out (for myself) for the first time; I don’t know that other scholars have pointed this out in quite the same way. (Or if they do, I’ve forgotten about it.) It is about the tradition scattered throughout the Gospels that the disciples “doubted” that Jesus was raised even when they had clear evidence that he had been – namely, that he was standing right in front of them. How do we explain this doubt tradition? ************************************************** In considering the significance of the visions of Jesus, a key question immediately comes to the fore that in my judgment has not been given its full due by most scholars investigating the issue. Why do we have such a strong and pervasive tradition that some of the disciples doubted the resurrection, even though Jesus appeared to them? If Jesus came [...]

2020-04-03T17:03:21-04:00April 9th, 2014|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels|

Why I’m Obsessed with Jesus

There is a relatively new online journal, “On Faith,” that is top-of-the line and very interesting. A couple of days ago they published a short article that I wrote, in connection with How Jesus Became God; I called the article “Why I Am Obsessed with Jesus.” It contains some views you will have seen from me before, and some others. Here is the article as I sent it to them. (The full link to the online version in the journal comes at the end). ********************************************************** I finally figured out why I’m so obsessed with Jesus. It makes sense that Jesus mattered to me when I was young. I was raised in a Christian household, we went to church, we revered the Bible, and Jesus was God. It makes sense that Jesus mattered to me as a late teenager, when I had a born-again experience and became a conservative evangelical. (What I converted from to “become a Christian” continues to puzzle me.) At that point Jesus became not only my Lord and Savior, but also my [...]

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