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The Blog Podcast: A Milestone!

As you may know, there is a weekly Podcast connected with the blog, called, cleverly enough, The Bart Ehrman Blog Podcast.  The idea was hatched two years ago by blog member John Mueller, who has put a tremendous amount of effort into the whole affair every week since, producing and managing the podcast all himself, simply out of the goodness of his heart.  The podcasts appear in a variety of venues, most anywhere you typically go for such things (e.g., Itunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify).  You can find it simply enough: just search for “Bart Ehrman” or look on the episode webpage:  John releases a new episode every Sunday and now, I am happy to say, we have reached a milestone.  Episode 100 is to be released this weekend. The goal of the podcast is to help raise blog awareness.  The theory was and is that this in turn would increase membership in the blog, which would then  raise more money for charity.  The best part of John’s offer to start the project is that [...]

2019-05-31T04:41:11-04:00May 31st, 2019|Public Forum|

God’s Library Part 1: Finding Ancient Christian Manuscripts in Egypt. Guest Post by Brent Nongbri

Here is a post by Brent Nongbri, from whom we have heard before on the blog.  His recent book on early Christian manuscripts, especially those of the New Testament, is ground-breaking and insightful.  He will give us a couple of posts devoted to it.  Here's the first. - Brent Nongbri’s most popular books are Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept and God's Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts.   *********************************************************** Bart suggested that a book I recently wrote might be of interest to readers of this blog, and he invited me to write a couple posts about it. The book is called God’s Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts. It’s an introduction to early Christian manuscripts as archaeological artifacts. What exactly does that mean? Well, lots of excellent scholars have been studying our earliest Christian manuscripts for decades (in the case of some manuscripts, for centuries!), but they have mainly been interested in the texts that these manuscripts carry and not so much in the books themselves as physical [...]

2020-05-26T13:41:12-04:00May 28th, 2019|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

Interview for “Letters & Politics” on The Triumph of Christianity

Here is an interview I did on my book The Triumph of Christianity, back on December 25th, 2018, with host Mitch Jeserich.  The program was called "Letters & Politics," for FM 94.1 KPFA. The theme of my book, as you know, is how the Christians took over the religions of the Roman Empire to become the dominant religion of the west.  Mitch wanted to know about that.  Many years ago, when I started thinking about my book, so did I! Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:

An Official Copy of Jesus’ Death Sentence: Another Forgery?

I have been intermittently posting accounts of modern forgeries of Gospels that provide, as a rule, sensationalized information about the “lost” records of Jesus – for example an account claiming he traveled to India as a young man to learn his wisdom from the Brahmins, or another purportedly based on an eyewitness to the crucifixion. Here now is yet another, this one an allegedly official copy of the death sentence from his trial, written by Pontius Pilate himself, in Hebrew no less.   It’s amazing how gullible modern readers can be.  But for a long time now, many people have simply assumed that if they read something in a tabloid, hey, it must be true! Critical scholars, however, have no trouble demonstrating when these things are forgeries.  One could only wish that such critical skills were shared by the reading public at large (and not just those interested in early Christianity!). Again, I have taken this discussion from the final chapter of my book Forged.   ********************************************************* The Death Sentence of Jesus Christ One of the [...]

When You Feel Like You’re Talking to a Wall

I wrote this post a while ago, and now that I reread it, I think I might be kicking a dead horse.  (Something, in case you wonder, I’ve never actually done.)   But, well, I suppose it’s sometimes OK to leave written what has been written, so to say.  So here ‘tis.   There are times when I debate a committed evangelical or fundamentalist Christian on whether the Bible is reliable or not, and I feel like I’m talking to a Martian.  Or maybe I’m a Martian.  We are both educated human beings and do indeed seem to be speaking the same language (English); but how we understand what very same words virtually certainly have to mean is completely opposite.  How can that be? Again, I’m not going to be trying to provide further counter-arguments for the back and forth that Matthew Firth and I had over whether there are contradictions in the Gospel or not.  I said emphatically yes, he said emphatically no.   But both of us seem to have felt like we were talking [...]

2022-01-16T17:12:06-05:00May 26th, 2019|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels|

Was Jesus Perfect? Then How Was He Human?? Guest Post: Jeffrey Siker

Another guest post by Jeffrey Siker, raising a very hard question with some peculiar answers and a provocative suggestion. Jeff Siker is the author of Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity and Homosexuality in the Church. Jesus and Sinlessness: Metaphor and Ontology, Blog 3 In the two previous posts I have shown how the tradition developed that Jesus was sinless, namely, retrospectively in light of resurrection faith.  If Jesus was raised to divine stature at the right hand of God, then surely he must have been God’s divine Son throughout his public ministry (even if hidden by a messianic secret), and also in his baptism and birth.  Thus, the logic goes, he must have been perfect throughout his life.  He could have no taint of sin.  On this the earliest Christians generally came to agree, though they expressed this agreement in different ways. Gnostic Christians like Valentinus in the second century associated sin with material existence, and bodily physicality.  This led Valentinus to argue that Jesus only appeared to be a flesh and blood [...]

Were Miracle Stories Originally in the Gospels?

Looking through old posts on the blog, I came across this very interesting and important question from seven years ago.  It's a question I continue to get on occasion, so I thought we all might profit by thinking about it again.  (And now, older and wiser, I would answer almost exactly the same way!) QUESTION: I have looked up the content of all the papyri I'm aware of (off of links on wikipedia, so who knows if they're accurate). It is my understanding that although p52, p90, and p104 are dated around 125-150 AD, they contain fragments of John 18 and Matt 21 only, and that it's not until 200 AD that manuscripts emerge which actually contain accounts of supernatural actions by Jesus. So, it's possible that accounts of miracles existed in copies that got destroyed, but is it fair to say that the earliest available copies of accounts of Jesus's supernatural actions date from around 200 AD? In other words, assuming people on average had kids by age 20 back then, and thus 20 years counts [...]

Being Willing to Accept the Truth

Here I’d like to add just a couple of more reflections on whether critical scholars *have* to claim there are contradictions in the Bible because of their beliefs.  As I tried to state as strongly as I could in my previous post, I think the answer is absolutely not. To begin with, let me stress that I started learning about serious contradictions when I was in a Christian theological seminary taking biblical studies courses with committed Christian teachers who were devoted to the church.   But they were also scholars and refused to accept fundamentalist understandings of the Bible.  Their theology was much more sophisticated than the simple “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it” mentality I had grown up on. These were incredibly intelligent and learned scholars intimately familiar with the texts in Greek and Hebrew and massively well-read in scholarship going back centuries in various modern languages.    They didn’t accept easy answers and pushed their students to realize that knowing what the New Testament really is, as opposed to what [...]

Do My Biases Mean I *Have* to Find Contradictions?

I have now had a week to reflect on my debate with Matthew Firth about whether there are contradictions in the Bible.  Now I’d like to give my personal reactions.  I don’t mean for this to be a continuation of the debate per se --  I won’t be adducing more evidence or counter-evidence.  But I thought it might be helpful to put some thoughts on paper (well, on screen) about what a debate like this can show or at least did show, in my opinion.  Matthew is on the blog and he’s perfectly welcome to comment on these posts or even to respond with one or more posts of his own, giving his own second-level reflections. So here are mine.  Since I’d like to flesh these out at some length (since they might be helpful for others thinking generally about their view of the Bible and what constitutes a contradiction), this will take several posts. I begin with the question of whether either of us have a particular agenda/bias that more or less require us [...]

2020-04-02T23:47:25-04:00May 20th, 2019|Bart's Debates, Reflections and Ruminations|

How Jesus Became Perfectly Sinless: Guest Post by Jeff Siker

Here is the second guest post by Jeff Siker on how Jesus came to be thought of as completely sinless in early Christianity, a view that probably no one entertained while he was still living.   It's intriguing and important stuff. Jeff Siker is the author of Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity, Liquid Scripture: The Bible in the Digital World and Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia. This particular post is available to everyone; to see most of the posts on the blog, and the other posts on this topic itself by Prof. Siker, you will need to join.  Won't cost much.  Will pay huge dividends.  And all money goes to those in need.  So what's the downside?     Jesus and Sinlessness, Part 2: From Retrospection to Retrojection In the first blog post I showed how the earliest Christians were forced to make sense of the death of Jesus in light of belief in his resurrection.  Why had the one they “had hoped” would redeem Israel died at the hands of the Romans by means [...]

2021-01-10T00:37:23-05:00May 19th, 2019|Historical Jesus|

An Eyewitness to the Crucifixion? Another Modern Forgery

The crucifixion by an eyewitness.  I’ve started to discuss several modern forgeries connected with the life of Jesus.   These are all completely bogus, but they’ve nonetheless fooled a lot of people.  I get emails from people maybe once a month who want to ask me about something they’ve “heard” about Jesus, and it usually turns out that it comes ultimately from one of these things, which someone has read, and then told someone else, who told someone else, who took it as Gospel truth. The Essenes mentioned in this apocryphon are that Jewish sect in the time of Jesus who were a kind of separatist group concerned to retain its own ritual purity in view of the coming apocalypse, which they expected any day now.  Today they are most famous for having produced the Dead Sea Scrolls.  But when this Gospel account was forged, the Scrolls had not yet been discovered. The Essenes were seen at the time as a kind of secretive magical group on the fringes of real Judaism. Again, I have taken [...]

2022-05-11T18:37:19-04:00May 17th, 2019|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

Judging the Debate!

Now that my debate with Matthew Firth over the contradictions in the Gospels has ended, I would like to know your reactions.   Any reactions are fine.   There is the obvious question of which side you found more convincing, but also the less obvious question of why that is.  What about the argument, or counter-argument, was compelling or not compelling? Part of the problem, of course, is that virtually everyone listening in on the debate already had a pretty firm idea of what they think about the issues.   And because of “confirmation bias” we tend to agree with what we already think, and anyone who says it is obviously right!  (Hence the problem with most viewers of both FOX and MSNBC.)   But for my money, the most interesting responses come from people who have changed their minds.  Still, in all the public debates I’ve had, in front of many thousands of people, I almost never have heard of anyone changing their mind. So what’s the point?   I often ask myself that!   And often I ask it [...]

When Did Jesus Become Sinless?

I recently received a question from a blog member about when it was in the Christian tradition that Jesus came to be thought of as “perfect,” without sin.   I feel no great need to answer the question myself because my friend and occasional guest blog poster Jeffrey Siker, long-time professor of New Testament at Loyola Marymount University, has written an entire book on the topic.   And so I asked him to prepare some blogposts, and here’s the first one. For what it’s worth, he and I both liked very much the title he wanted for the book, Jesus the Perfect Sinner; but, as often happens, the publisher went with something less scintillating: Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity. But the cover of the book is to die for. - Jeffrey Siker is also the author of Liquid Scripture: The Bible in the Digital World and Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia.   **********************************************   Jesus and Sinlessness   How and when did Jesus come to be viewed as sinless in earliest Christianity?   Surprisingly, this question [...]

Did Jesus Go to India? A Modern Gospel Forgery.

Did Jesus go o India? Last week I mentioned in passing the little-known fact that the apocryphal idea that Jesus traveled to India as a child to learn from the Brahmins, comes to us not from ancient forgeries but relatively modern ones.   That raised some interest among readers, and I realized that I haven’t actually dealt with this intriguing issue on the blog before.  But I did deal with it in one of my books on forgery, the one written for a general audience, Forged: Writing in the Name of God. In that book, I devote a final chapter to modern examples of the ancient phenomenon, of forgeries of Gospels.  I will spread this discussion out over several blog posts, for your reading pleasure. Here is how I begin the chapter and then discuss the first example, a particularly influential forgery (even though most people who have been influenced by its views have never actually heard of the book!. Did Jesus Go To India? Let's Find Out More When I give public talks about the [...]

2022-06-12T23:37:07-04:00May 13th, 2019|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

Contradictions in the Gospels – Rev Matthew Firth’s Final Response

Thanks for such an interesting debate, Bart. Here goes with my final response: In my view, a genuine contradiction between two texts occurs when those texts carry mutually exclusive accounts, i.e. accounts where, if one account is correct, the other cannot be. In the examples you have cited, you have failed to show that the so-called contradictory accounts are genuinely mutually exclusive. You have therefore failed to provide any examples of genuine contradictions. Sure, the examples you’ve cited are, on the face of it, contradictions, but only if one doesn’t go beyond the surface and if one is insistent on applying contemporary values to the practice of ancient authors. It seems to me that the so-called contradictions you’ve cited are akin to saying that the following two accounts are contradictory: 1. Yesterday, Alice enjoyed a meal with Bob in New York. 2. Yesterday, Alice spent the day with Bob in London. But these accounts are not contradictory. They do not present mutually exclusive events, and their failure to each give an exhaustive account of the [...]

2020-04-02T23:52:14-04:00May 12th, 2019|Canonical Gospels|

What Kind of Book Was Papias Writing? Guest Post by Stephen Carlson

This is the second part of Stephen Carlson’s guest post on the important but now-lost work of the early-second century Christian author Papias.  In the previous post he talked about the mind-boggling abundance of wine and wheat there would be in the kingdom, based on Papias’s reporting of a “word of the Lord.”    Now he explains that saying, and in doing so develops a bold way of understanding what kind of book Papias actually was trying to write.   Most of us have long assumed it was a kind of commentary on Jesus’ teachings.  But was it? Stephen Carlson is the author of The Gospel Hoax and The Text of Galatians and Its History. **************************************************************** Scholars have long noticed that this fertility tradition has important links with the late first-century Jewish apocalypse 2 Baruch 29.5 (“Also the earth will give its fruits, one in ten thousand. And one vine, there will be on it a thou­sand twigs. And one twig will make a thou­sand clusters, and one cluster will make a thou­sand grapes, and one grape [...]

Wine Flowing in the Kingdom: Guest Post on Papias by Stephen Carlson

Here is yet another guest post by Stephen Carlson on the intriguing but puzzling quotations from Papias, the elusive second century church father who wrote a five-volume book called “Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord.”   What was this book, and does it give us any information from outside the Gospels – from an extremely early source – about the sayings of Jesus? In this post Stephen addresses one of the most, well, unusual passages known to be from Papias’s work.  As you’ll see, in this account Jesus thought that in the millennial kingdom yet to come, the wine will be flowing…. I have broken the post into two because of its length.  Part 2 will come next. Stephen Carlson is the author of The Gospel Hoax and The Text of Galatians and Its History. *************************************************************** The Fertility Tradition in Papias In our last post, we looked at the preface of Papias’s Exposition of Dominical Oracles, and noticed that it mentions two kinds of content in the work. One kind of content is characterized by [...]

Early Christian Liars

Yesterday I started explaining in some depth how forgers in early Christianity – that is, authors who falsely claimed to be, say, Peter or Paul or James (as in the case of the authors of 2 Peter, 1 Timothy, the Proto-Gospel of James, etc.) – could justify their lies.  I need to stress, the idea that they were lying is not just a modern one.  The ancients talk about forgery a good deal; they never approve of it and they explicitly called it lying.  Yet people did it, producing forgeries far more often than happens today.   How did they live with themselves – especially those Christians who insisted that nothing was more important than “truth”? I pointed out yesterday that there were very broadly speaking two views of lying in early Christainity: 1) that it was sometimes acceptable; 2) it was never acceptable in any circumstance whatsoever.   It’s not hard to see where forgers lined up on the spectrum. Here I continue the discussion, repeating the final paragraph of yesterday’s post for context.  This is [...]

Could Christian Forgers Justifying Lying?

Yesterday, in response to a question, I started to discuss the age-old problem of literary forgery (authors lying about their true identity), and specifically the question of why Christians would engage in it.  In my two books on the topic I spend considerable time trying to demonstrate that forgery was indeed understood – in antiquity – to involve lying, and that the authors who claimed (falsely) to be Plato or Galen or Peter or Paul knew they were lying.  But why would they do that?  Especially the Christians? Here is a fuller answer that I give at the end of my book: Forged: Writing in the Name of God.  It follows a discussion of a number of modern (mainly 19th century) forgeries of Gospels, including the ones that claim that, for example, Jesus went to India as a young man to learn the ways of the Brahmins….   ************************************************************** Christian Forgeries, Lies, and Deceptions This issue of modern hoaxes brings me back to a question that I have repeatedly asked in my study of forgeries:  [...]

Why Did Ancient Christian Forgers Commit Forgery?

Here is an intriguing question I received recently about the use of literary “forgery” in antiquity.  A “forgery,” in the technical sense I’m using it, refers to a very specific phenomenon: it is not simply making up a false story or perpetrating some other kind of falsehood.  It refers, specifically, to a book whose author falsely claims to be a (famous) person.   If I wrote a novel and claimed I was Stephen King, that would be a forgery. Sometimes these books are called “pseudonymous” (which means “going under a false name”).  That sounds less offensive, but it means the same thing (literally: “the name is a lie”).   There were lots of forgeries in antiquity – many of which were uncovered back them, a number that have been exposed in modern times.  My books Forged and Forgery and Counterforgery discuss the phenomenon more broadly but with a special focus on Christian texts of the first four centuries (the first book is for a general audience, the second is a scholarly analysis). Here is the question I [...]

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