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Misquoting Jesus and My Fundamentalist Faith

As I was saying in my previous post, when I decided to write Misquoting Jesus my friends thought I was nuts.  Even specialists in the New Testament are not, as a rule, interested in textual criticism, the scholarly endeavor to reconstruct the original Greek text of the New Testament given the fact that we have thousands of manuscripts with hundreds of thousands of minor differences among them, and even some rather major differences.  New Testament scholars know *that* much about the manuscripts, but most scholar don’t have a deep knowledge of the situation.  That is for one main reason: they find the topic terribly technical and massively boring! So if scholars who have devoted their lives to the study of the New Testament aren’t interested in knowing more about textual criticism, why would lay people who are just lookin’ for something interesting to read on the weekend?  Who in the world would want to buy a book about *that*? But I obviously did find it interesting.  By this point in my life (I was writing [...]

2020-04-03T01:36:37-04:00January 30th, 2018|Book Discussions, Reflections and Ruminations|

Jesus and Paul: Similarities and Differences

In my previous post I raised the question of whether Jesus and Paul represent fundamentally the same religion or not.  Here I continue the discussion by pointing out what seem to me to be the main similarities and differences between them, as I spelled it out in a post several years ago: *******************************************************************   I have been talking about the relationship of Jesus’ proclamation of the coming Kingdom of God to Paul’s preaching about the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the previous post I argued that the fundamental concerns, interests, perspectives, and theologies of these two were different. In this post I’d like to give, in summary fashion, what strikes me as very similar and very different about their two messages. Again, in my view it is way too much to say that Paul is the “Founder of Christianity”: that assumes that he is the one who personally came up with the idea of the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation, whereas almost certainly this view had [...]

2020-04-03T01:36:46-04:00January 29th, 2018|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

What Is My Best Book for a General Audience?

I recently received this question for the Mailbag, dealing, roughly, with my own personal feelings about my “best” work.   QUESTION: A mailbag question that I am not sure I have read your thoughts on; what do you feel is your best published work for lay people and why?  Just curious!   RESPONSE: Ah, this is a difficult question to answer.   The books you write are kind of like your children: you love each and every one of them with every ounce of your being!  And you’re not supposed to have favorites.  OK, but people do. So there are three ways I look at this issue.  One is, what is the book that is most useful for lay people?  Another is: what is the book that most laypeople themselves have found most useful?   And yet other is, what do I myself think is my very best book for lay people?  I’ll try to answer all three. Before I do, I need to be clear that I’m talking now only about my trade books for a [...]

2018-01-28T09:01:26-05:00January 28th, 2018|Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page?

In response to my previous post on the importance of Paul, I have had several people ask me about the relationship between the teachings of Jesus and Paul: are they actually representing the same religion?  I dealt with that question some years ago on the blog.  Here is the first of two posts on the issue. ****************************** I have spent several posts explicating Paul’s understanding of his gospel, that by Christ’s death and resurrection a person is put into a restored relationship with God. He had several ways of explaining how it worked. But in all of these ways, it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that mattered. It was not keeping the Jewish law. It was not knowing or following Jesus’ teaching. It was not Jesus’ miracles. It was not … anything else. It was Jesus’ death and resurrection. I then summarized in my previous post, the teaching of Jesus himself, about the coming Son of Man and the need to prepare by keeping the Law of God, as revealed in the Torah, as summarized [...]

2022-03-31T17:05:45-04:00January 26th, 2018|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

Is Paul Given Too Much Credit?

Is the apostle Paul given more credit than he deserves by modern scholars?   Here is what has (recently) raised the question for me. As many readers of the blog know, the corpus of early Christian writings known as the “Apostolic Fathers” is a collection of ten (or eleven) proto-orthodox authors who were, for the most part, producing their writings just after the New Testament period.  For anyone interested I have a two-volume edition  / translation of these important texts, The Apostolic Fathers, in the  Loeb Classical Library series (Harvard University Press, 2004) (it gives the original Greek on one side of the page and an English translation on the other) (the books are included, only in English, in my anthology After The New Testament). These are fascinating books – they include a number of letters (e.g. by Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and one later attributed to Clement of Rome – the last of which was actually written before some of the books of the New Testament), some treatises (e.g., the book of Barnabas), [...]

2020-04-03T01:37:02-04:00January 24th, 2018|Paul and His Letters|

Was Jesus Given Special Treatment?

Every now and then on the Blog I get bored with a topic and simply want nothing more to do with it (for a while).  For some reason I feel like that about this question of whether Jesus was really buried on the afternoon of his death.  It’s an effort to respond even to the comments.  But for some reason I can’t seem ever just to let it die (so to speak).   Still, this is my last post about the matter for the next 29 years.  I think. I just want to make one major point, which probably has relevance to a range of topics we deal with here on the blog. For most of us, if we had to pick one person to name as the Single Most Important and Influential Figure in the history of Western Civilization, it would almost certainly be Jesus.  Who else would it be?  There are others that people today might choose – Hitler, Constantine, Caesar Augustus, pick your name.  But I think it’s pretty obvious that none of [...]

2020-04-03T01:37:09-04:00January 23rd, 2018|Historical Jesus|

Pilate, Who Never “Learned His Lesson”

This is the second of my two posts  from over three years ago that try to show that Pilate almost certainly would not have removed Jesus' body from the cross on the afternoon of his death simply because not to do so would have been in violation of Jewish sensitivities.   (NOTE: Pilate is not said to have done so for the other two who were crucified with Jesus. Are we to think he made an exception in Jesus' case, since, after all, he was far more important?) To make the best sense of this post it is important to keep in mind what I said in the previous one. In his response to my views of in How Jesus Became God – that Jesus most likely was not given a decent burial on the day of his crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea – Craig Evans has maintained, among other things, that Pilate was not the kind of governor who would ignore Jewish sensitivities.   For Craig, Pilate started his rule by making a big mistake of [...]

2020-04-03T01:37:15-04:00January 22nd, 2018|Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

Pontius Pilate: A Sensitive Guy….

QUESTION: Could Pilate have conceded over burial rights also? Granted this may not extend to those accused of treason, but as Pilate did permit some local customs, does this not open up sufficient space for Josephus’ claim over burial rights to be taken seriously?   RESPONSE: This question arose a couple of weeks ago after I had returned briefly to an older conversation about whether Jesus would have been buried on the afternoon he was crucified.  I tried to show that if so, this would have been in clear violation of policy and precedent.  Part of the entire punishment for capital offenses -- especially crimes against the state (e.g., claiming to be a ruler of a people ruled instead by Rome) -- was to be left *on* the cross for days, as a public display, and a humiliation and denigration: bodies were left subject to the elements, the scavengers, and natural decay.  The Romans wanted everyone to know that THIS is what happens to those who cross the power of Rome. A number of readers [...]

2018-01-21T15:33:57-05:00January 21st, 2018|Early Judaism, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Illuminating Exercises: The Position Paper Assignments for My NT Greek Class

Classes started last week, and for the first time in roughly forever I’m teaching a new course.  I posted the syllabus for my course on the Greek New Testament last week.  Here are the instructions I give the students for writing their weekly position papers. These are exercises you too might be interested in – they are easily done, but highly illuminating.  Or at least they are meant to be.  Some of them (such as the first) make best sense in the context off a class discussion, where I can point out things that some readers wouldn’t pick up on; others (such as the second and third) are pretty self-explanatory. The final two involve “collations” of manuscripts.  That involves taking a portion of a Greek manuscript (ancient hand-written copy) and comparing it word for word, letter for letter, with a modern printed Greek edition of the same passage, in order to note each and every difference, in order to see how alike they are.  That’s the first step to establishing the differences among our surviving [...]

2020-04-03T01:38:43-04:00January 20th, 2018|Teaching Christianity|

Was Paul a Misogynist?

Now I can consider whether Paul himself actually wrote 1 Cor 14:34-35 -- a passage that tells women they are not allowed to speak in church -- or if it was, instead, inserted into his letter by someone else later.  It's an important issue: if Paul did write the passage, and if he also wrote 1 Timothy (widely thought to be written by someone else *claiming* to be Paul) then by modern standards, at least, he would not be considered to have a, well, liberated view of women. I begin with a paragraph that ended my post two days ago, to set the context for the rest of what I have to say: *********************************************************************** Paul’s attitude toward women in the church may strike you as inconsistent, or at least as ambivalent. Women could participate in his churches as ministers, prophets, and even apostles, but they were to maintain their social status as women and not appear to be like men. This apparent ambivalence led to a very interesting historical result. When the dispute over the [...]

2020-05-01T12:12:13-04:00January 18th, 2018|Paul and His Letters, Women in Early Christianity|

Paul and His Female Disciple Thecla

I’m in the middle of talking about whether Paul wrote the verses now found in 1 Cor. 14:34-35, or if they were later added to his letter by an editor/scribe.  To make sense of what I have to say next about the issue I need to provide just a bit more background, specifically about a legendary figure well known in the early church, but not widely known about today outside the realm of early Christianity scholarship.  This is a one-time-household-name: Thecla, supposedly a female disciple of Paul. Here is what I say about her and her significance in my Introduction to  the New Testament: ******************************************************** Paul’s words (in his authentic letter) may have taken on a life of their own as they were used in new contexts, gaining a meaning that was independent of what they originally meant when he proclaimed them to his converts. Interestingly, the distortion of Paul’s message is explicitly recognized as a problem even within the pages of the New Testament (2 Pet 3:16). This may be what happened in a [...]

Paul’s Views of Women

In this week’s mailbag I take up a very interesting question about whether there are other passages in the New Testament that are found in all of our manuscripts but that appear not to have been originally written by the author.  That is, they were (possibly) passages inserted by a later editor, before any of our surviving manuscripts were made, so that they are universally attested, but probably not original.  That is what I argued for 2 Corinthians 6:14 (it’s a standard scholarly view).  And that prompted the following question:   QUESTION: I hadn’t noticed the oddness of the 2 Corinthians 6:14 passage before, but it does seem out of place. Kind of like the woman-caught-in-adultery story in John 8, where the narrative flows smoother without that insert. Are there any other major examples of significant insertions into the NT books?   RESPONSE: It is important to note the difference between 2 Cor. 6:14 and the passage in John 8.  The latter is missing in our oldest and best manuscripts; the former is found in [...]

Pre-order Triumph of Christianity and Get Some Serious Perks!!

Preorder Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, and get significant perks! The book will appear in book stores on February 13.  But if you order it online before that, whether a member of the Bart Ehrman Blog or not, you can receive some hefty discounts. FIRST: anyone who buys the book in advance online (e.g., at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or wherever) who is NOT already a member of the Bart Ehrman Blog will be given a FREE one-month trial membership, with full access to the posts, past and present.   SO, if you are not a member – go for it!  If you are a member: tell everyone you know: a FREEBIE! SECOND: for everyone, blog member or not: if you buy the book in advance online,, by special arrangement with the Great Courses (previously called The Teaching Company), you will be able to order any of my (eight) courses for an 80% discount.  80%! These are the courses I’ve done for the Great Courses: The New Testament The Historical [...]

2018-01-15T07:25:26-05:00January 15th, 2018|Public Forum|

Request for Help! Your Favorite Podcasts.

One month from today -- on Feb. 13 -- my new book will be published.  As many blog members know, over the years I have written (in broad terms) three kinds of books: academic books for hard hitting scholars in my fields of interest; college-level textbooks for undergraduates; and trade books for a broader audience of interested (and interesting!) people. This new book The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World will be the thirty-first book I’ve published, my fifteenth trade book.   Among those fifteen books, by far the best selling one has been Misquoting Jesus.  In my personal opinion, the best (in terms of overall quality) was probably How Jesus Became God.  But (we all have our favorites), I think The Triumph of Christianity is even better, the most important, and the best conceived, researched, and written.   But, again, that’s just me. It is very difficult for any book, no matter who wrote it or in what circumstances, to make a difference and to become a best-seller.   Every author (whether they [...]

2018-01-13T09:03:33-05:00January 13th, 2018|Public Forum|

Accessing the Bart Ehrman Blog Podcast

I neglected in my previous post to mention how you can actually *access* the weekly podcast! If you go to iTunes and type in "Bart Ehrman" it is the top podcast to appear and individual episodes appear as well.  Or, just click here:

2018-01-12T08:27:43-05:00January 12th, 2018|Public Forum|

My Greek New Testament Course

For the first time in forever I am teaching a new course -- one I've never taught before -- at UNC, a class for classics students (and others who already know Greek) on the Greek New Testament.   It is obviously a very small class (6 or 7 students); to be in it students have to have already had at least a couple of years of Greek.   So the class is not teaching the rudiments of Greek grammar, but it assuming knowledge of that. We are reading/translating/analyzing lots of Greek in the class; learning about "textual criticism" (how to establish the oldest wording of the text given all variations among the manuscripts); and acquiring the skills to read and analyze actual manuscripts (the hand written copies of the New Testament, as opposed to the printed editions of the Greek). For anyone interested in the details and the play-by-play, here is the syllabus I handed out yesterday: ************************************************************************************* NEW TESTAMENT GREEK Religion 409 / Greek 409 Spring 2018 Instructor:  Dr. Bart D. Ehrman   Course Description This [...]

2020-05-15T09:57:26-04:00January 12th, 2018|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

The Blog Podcast

As most of you may be aware, the “Bart Ehrman Blog Podcast” began six months ago.  John Mueller, who has been a blog member for many years but doesn’t comment much, reached out to me last summer and offered to create the it.  His idea for the podcast was simply to read some of my posts, each week. He hoped that the podcast would attract more people to the blog, which in turn would increase membership in the blog, which in turn would raise more money for the charities supported by the blog, which in turn would help eradicate poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and hence, he would feel good about himself because he did his part to help the World and the Universe as we know it. John gave me an offer he hoped I “couldn’t refuse.”  He offered to set up the podcast, fund it, choose what is read each week, narrate it, publish it, keep me updated on its numbers, and scrap it at a moment’s notice if I so requested. My obligation [...]

2018-01-11T07:49:54-05:00January 11th, 2018|Public Forum|

Were Cut and Paste Jobs Common in Antiquity? Guest Post by Brent Nongbri

I have been talking about 2 Corinthians and Philippians, both of which may well represent instances in which earlier letters were cut and pasted together.    A number of readers of the blog have asked me if this kind of thing was ever/often done in the ancient world.  As it turns out, one of the blog members is an established New Testament scholar, Brent Nongbri (PhD from Yale; visiting associate professor at Aarhus University), who is interested in this kind of question. (He's also the author of Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept and God's Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts.)  Unsolicited, he sent me the following note: asking and then answering the question, with a link to a fuller study. These are his words: *********************************************************************************** “Do we know whether or not this kind of editing was a common practice during the first three centuries?” I had this very question a few years ago, specifically regarding 2 Corinthians. I’ve read a lot of ancient letters, and I had never really seen like [...]

2020-05-26T13:41:22-04:00January 9th, 2018|Paul and His Letters|

More Cutting and Pasting? Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

I have been discussing instances in the New Testament where letters appear to have been cut-and-pasted together.  The key example is 2 Corinthians, but one could make the case (and many have!) that something similar is true of Philippians.  Here is how I explain it in my book The New Testament:  A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.   **************************************************** The Unity of the Letter The first two chapters of Philippians sound very much like a friendship letter written by Paul to his converts. The occasion of the letter is reasonably evident (see especially 2:25–30). The Philippians had sent to Paul one of their stalwart members, a man named Epaphroditus, for some reason that is not disclosed (until chap. 4). While there ministering to Paul, Epaphroditus was taken ill; the Philippians had heard of his illness and grew concerned. Epaphroditus in turn learned of their concern and became distraught over the anxiety that he had caused. Fortunately, his health returned, and he was now set to make his journey back home to Philippi. Paul [...]

2020-04-03T01:39:22-04:00January 8th, 2018|Paul and His Letters|

Can Historians Be Neutral?

I received a number of responses to my post this past week on whether Jesus would have received a decent burial on the day of his crucifixion.   One of the most interesting responses was not so much about what I said or thought, but about a much broader question: how can one evaluate arguments over such controversial subjects without being entirely biased and subjective at the outset?   It’s worth talking about.  Here’s the question:   QUESTION: Re: the burial of Jesus or not:  Do you have any suggestions for how to be objective regarding issues like this? Maybe it would help to first figure out where the burden of proof should be. Does historicity demand something like clear and convincing evidence that something happened–so that any significant doubts require rejection of the supposed incident? Or just that one thing is more likely to have happened than another?   RESPONSE: I won’t here deal with the particular issue of Jesus’ burial, but with the broader issue of how one remains “neutral” or “disinterested” when trying to [...]

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