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Women Are To Be Silent and Submissive!

Yesterday I started this thread on the understanding of sex and gender in the ancient world by pointing out how the entire Bible starts, with the creation of the world and both men and women, the woman being created “out of” the man – so that she was secondary to him, dependent on him for her existence, and brought into the world both to keep him from being lonely and to help him out.  For most feminists, this would not seem like a very good start. The story of women in the Bible is long and complex, and I’m not going to go into every relevant passage.  That would take years.  But I do want to point out how the creation story from Genesis ended up affecting the later Christian tradition. It is no mystery that Christianity has a very long history of insisting that women should not exercise authority over men, both in the church and in the marriage relationship.  That, of course, was, in broad terms, consistent with most social views and policies [...]

Why Women Are To Be Subservient to Men

Why should women be subservient to men? This past Friday I gave a talk at a Pride Event in Chapel Hill, in connection with our Homecoming for alumni interested in LGBTQ issues (we beat Duke the next day in one of the weirdest final five minutes of a football game I’ve ever seen).   The title of the talk was “Sex and Gender in the Bible” and the overarching questions were “what does the Bible actually say?” and “how much of it is relevant to a modern situation?” The questions matter because the Bible, in many ways and in many passages, does not actually say what people think it says, and the reason for raising the question of relevance is not exactly what most people imagine (though it’s related). What Does the Bible Say About Women Being Subservient to Men? I had planned for the talk to focus on “homosexuality” and “same-sex relations” (which are the same thing) in the Bible, but I started out by explaining the biblical view(s) of the relationship of the genders, [...]

What Does the Name Judas “Iscariot” Mean?

I received a number of questions about Judas Iscariot from my recent post.   I had dealt with many of these within living memory on the blog, but given their frequency, I think I should deal with them again.  Here is one of the most frequent: QUESTION: I read somewhere that “Iscariot” was a version of “Judas the Sicarii” which as it was handed down orally got altered. Is there any truth to this? RESPONSE: Behind this question is a bit of rare historical knowledge.  In Jesus' day there was a group of Jewish insurrectionists supporting a violent overthrow of the Roman occupancy who were called "Sicarii" -- literally "people who wield daggers."  They had a reputation for mingling in a crowd and stealing up to an aristocrat and killing him with a dagger, mixing in then with everyone else and escaping. The name Iscariot is very odd and no one really knows what it means.  Could it mean that Judas was actually a zealot seeking a military uprising against Rome, so that when he realized [...]

2020-04-02T14:39:19-04:00October 28th, 2019|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Video Debate with Peter Williams: Can We Trust the Gospels

This was a video debate I did last summer in London with British Biblical scholar Peter Williams.  Peter has been a friend for a long time, and is a real expert on the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.   He is also a committed evangelical Christian who does not believe there are mistakes in the Gospels.  I so disagree with that.  We had a debate about it on the Christian Radio program "Unbelievable" under their new series "The Big Conversation" Season 2-Episode 3, hosted by Justin Brierley. It was a long and interesting debate.  Peter has written Can We Trust the Gospels? and C S Lewis vs the New Atheists.  My contention throughout the debate is that he has not answered the question adequately, that in fact virtually everything he says in the book is irrelevant to the question.  It's a very interesting and unusual attempt that he makes.  But most of the book completely misses the point. It's the kind of book that anyone who wants very much to trust the Gospels will come [...]

2020-12-17T16:37:39-05:00October 27th, 2019|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels, Video Media|

The Quest for the Historical … Judas Iscariot

I occasionally (in fact, just last week) get asked if I think Judas Iscariot was a real person or a fictional character, wholly made up.  I have a definite view about that.  Real person.  Actually one of Jesus’ disciples.  And the one who betrayed him to the authorities leading to his arrest and crucifixion. But what makes me think so?  I talked a bit about the “Quest of the Historical Judas” in a chapter of my book on the recent discovery of the Gnostic "Gospel of Judas," a highly intriguing text that emerged into public view about fifteen years ago (the book: The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed, Oxford University Press, 2016).   Here’s what I say about the existence of the person himself, starting out with the basic and fundamental question of how historians know about *any* figure from the past (Robert E. Lee; Charlamagne; the Emperor Tiberius; uh, Jesus …), and then applying the question to Judas. ************************************************************* What kinds of sources of information do historians look [...]

2020-04-02T14:39:25-04:00October 25th, 2019|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Can My Undergraduate Students Continue Believing the Bible is Inerrant?

Since my conference in Chicago last weekend I've been thinking a lot about the theologically conservative folk who really believe there can be no mistakes in the Bible.  And just now browsing through some posts five years ago, I see someone raised a very interesting question about it, in relationship to my teaching at UNC.  Here's the question and my response.  I would still answer the same way today!   QUESTION: Do you ever get a student in your class who doggedly insists upon the inerrancy of the Bible? If so, and if they write their term papers in support of Biblical inerrancy, is it possible for them to get a passing grade in your class?   RESPONSE: HA!  That’s a great question! So, part of the deal of teaching in the Bible Belt is that lots of my students – most of them? – have very conservative views about the Bible as the Word of God.    A few years ago I used to start my class on the New Testament, with something like 300 [...]

Who Would Invent the Story of Women at the Tomb??

Who in the ancient world would ever try to *prove* the resurrection by making up a story that women, in particular, discovered Jesus' empty tomb?   Weren't women seen as complete unreliable witnesses?  Their testimony never even accepted in a court of law?  If someone want to prove that Jesus had been raised -- and that therefore the tomb was empty -- they would have invented *men* at the tomb (reliable witnesses) rather than *women* (untrustworthy).  Right? I've been asked this question several times since my recent post on Jesus' women followers not doubting the resurrection.  The reason anyone ever has this question is because it is a favorite claim of Christian apologists wanting to prove that Jesus really was raised from the dead.  Proof?  The tomb really was empty.  How do we know?  We have witnesses.  How do we know we can trust the reports of these witnesses?  No one would have made them up: the witnesses in the stories are always * and no one would invent "unreliable" witnesses to back up "proof-claims." When [...]

A New Way of Explaining Contradictions in an “Inerrant” Bible

The other recent development in conservative evangelical apologetics – so far as I can discern as an outsider – is a real move to adopt serious historical scholarship on the Bible and apply it to the defense of the reliability of Scripture.   That may seem like a paradoxical move to non-evangelicals, since it is precisely serious historical scholarship that, since the 18th century, has been the major problem when it comes to the reliability of the Scripture.  In fact, it’s the *main* problem.  So, uh, how does that work? I believe, but I may be wrong, that Mike Licona is at the forefront of this development within evangelical circles.  Two of his most popular books are Evidence for God and The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. His view is that we should not try to harmonize different Gospel accounts in every instance.  Sometimes, of course, it’s perfectly suitable and appropriate (I agree on this).  But sometimes harmonization simply leads to weirdness and implausibility.  At least in the eyes of most reasonable human beings. And [...]

2020-05-05T13:02:24-04:00October 21st, 2019|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels|

Modern Evangelical Christian Apologetics

This particular post is open-access.  Anyone can read it.  I post five times a week on all sorts of topics related to the New Testament and early Christianity.  To read these posts, simply join the blog.  It doesn't cost much, and every thin dime goes to charities helping those in need.  No one loses, everyone wins, so join!!   I spent yesterday at a conservative evangelical apologetics conference outside of Chicago and, as you might imagine, I was the odd person out.   But I was very well received, people were overwhelmingly gracious and receptive and openly grateful that I had come.  There were jokes about being thrown into the lions’ den, but it didn’t really feel like it.  It felt like I was speaking to a crowd that wanted to hear, respected what I said, and simply fundamentally disagreed.  In particular there was a group of current Moody Bible Institute students there; really interesting, interested, and good humored, and we had a great time together. What I was most interested in was how Christian apologetics [...]

But the Women Who Did *NOT* Doubt the Resurrection

In my previous post I noted something unusual about the doubting tradition in the resurrection narratives (i.e., the tradition that some of the disciples simply didn’t believe that Jesus was raised) – in addition, of course, to the fact that there is such a dominant doubting tradition! (itself a fascinating phenomenon) – which is that there is no word anywhere of the women who discover the tomb doubting, but clear indications (either by implication or by explicit statement) that some or all of the male disciples doubted. This is true of three of our four Gospels. Mark 16:8. (This one is by implication only) We are told that the women never tell anyone that they have found the tomb to be empty. So, the disciples are not said to believe and, in fact, so far as we know from this Gospel, no one does come to believe. (Obviously someone did, otherwise we wouldn’t have the Gospel!) Luke 24:10-11. The disciples think the tale of women told that Jesus has been raised as he predicted is [...]

Startling and Disturbing Development Involving Manuscripts at the Museum of the Bible

There’s been a new and rather astonishing development in the story involving the so-called “First Century Gospel of Mark.”  If you recall, a few years ago some textual scholars began to claim that we now have in our possession the oldest copy of Mark (by a long shot) ever to be discovered.  The existence of the manuscript was first announced in 2012 by Prof. Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary, in a public debate he was having, as it turns out, with me at UNC Chapel Hill. Until now, our first fragmentary copy of Mark could be dated to around the beginning of the third century.  The earliest full copy of Mark comes to us form the middle of the fourth.  Mark itself was written, probably, around 70 CE.  So, well, that’s a long time between when the original was first published and when our first complete copy of it was made.  Around 300 years.  How many changes were made over the years?  Were there lots?  Were they massive?  How could we ever know? But [...]

2020-05-27T15:32:51-04:00October 15th, 2019|New Testament Manuscripts, Religion in the News|

Why Would Jesus’ Disciples Doubt the Resurrection?

I was just now browsing through posts from seven years ago, and came across this one, which is related to questions I get from time to time.  It is an absolutely fundamental issue for Christian faith, but I almost *never* see anyone talk about it.  Surprising!  Here's the interesting question and my response (back when I was starting just to do work on the resurrection stories for my book How Jesus Became God).   QUESTION: Are we to understand from this that some of the actual disciples, the inner circle, doubted? Is this the origin of the “Doubting Thomas” character in John? Maybe not everyone got a vision of the risen Christ? Perhaps these are hints that after the crucifixion some of the group ran away and DIDN’T come back! RESPONSE: This is a question specifically about the stories of the resurrection of Jesus, and it is one that I’ve been pondering myself intensely for a couple of weeks. It would help to have the data in front of us. The tradition that the disciples [...]

2020-04-02T14:40:11-04:00October 14th, 2019|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

More Free Memberships Available, 2019

Thanks to the incredible ongoing generosity of members of the blog, I am happy to announce that there are still a limited number of free one-year memberships available.   These have been donated for a single purpose: to allow those who cannot afford the annual membership fee to participate on the blog for a year.   I will assign these memberships strictly on the honor system: if you truly cannot afford the membership fee, but very much want to have full access to the blog, then please contact me.   Do NOT reply here, on the blog, as a comment.   Send me a separate email, privately, at [email protected].   In your email, please provide me with the following information: Why you would like to take advantage of this offer.  I don't need or want a full account of your history or financial affairs, only an idea of why you are not able just now to purchase a membership. Your first and last name. Country of citizenship (we're required, as a non-profit, to ask) Your preferred personal email. Your [...]

2019-10-14T20:13:08-04:00October 13th, 2019|Public Forum|

Crazy Things Textual Scholars Say

This post is free and available to anyone who wants to look.  On the Bart Ehrman Blog, there are substantial posts on interesting topics like this five days of the week, going back well over seven years.  If you belonged to the blog, you could get these posts, and access to all the archives.  The membership fee is extremely low, given the value; and every penny goes to charity.  So why not join?   It makes sense that scholars of the New Testament are predominantly committed Christians interested in knowing as much as they can about the Christian Scriptures.  That includes, of course, textual critics, the scholars who devote their research to trying to establish, to the best of their abilities, what the authors of the New Testament (whoever they were) actually wrote – what words they used, passage after passage, verse after verse.   The majority of these textual critics, as it turns out, are conservative in their religious/theological views.  The reality is that Baptists are more interested in this kind of question than Episcopalians.  [...]

2019-10-13T10:28:30-04:00October 13th, 2019|New Testament Manuscripts|

My Trip To Rome: Interested in Joining?

As I announced a few weeks ago, I will be going on a tour to Rome and other sites to the south, including Pompeii, Heraculum, Bay of Naples, Amalfi Coast on April 14-24, 2020 (six months from now!).   If you haven't been to these places before, this would be a great opportunity!  And even if you have been before this would still be a great opportunity!  It is a very impressive itinerary.  Every informed and interesting person on the planet really should see these sites before shuffling off their mortal coil. The tour is being sponsored by Thalassa journeys, which does a fantastic job in every way: thoughtful itineraries, great accommodations, unusually helpful tour guides. I will be giving lectures on the tour, focusing on the relations of pagans and Christians in the early centuries of the Christian movement, as Christianity moved from being a hated and persecuted little sect to becoming the dominant religion of the empire, eventually the most powerful social, cultural, and, of course, religious movement in the history of Western civilization.  [...]

2019-10-12T08:51:47-04:00October 12th, 2019|Public Forum|

Did God Want Us To Have His Word?

In my previous post I said that, in my opinion, the best way to approach the “original” text of the New Testament – given the fact that we don’t actually *have* it – is to make a working assumption that we are pretty darn close, in most places, most of the time.   I openly admit, and always have, that this is an *assumption*.  But since it’s one that “works,” well, I think I’ll continue calling it a working assumption!  And I’ll show why there are really very good grounds for it. But first I want to affirm strongly that the assumption is contrary to what most people think about the New Testament – both scholars and lay folk.  Among virtually everyone else that I’ve ever heard talk about it, there are two views, one the massive consensus and one the tiny minority; and I don’t agree with either one. The consensus view seems to be that we really do *know* what the authors of the New Testament wrote.   Deeply committed Christian readers of the Bible [...]

2020-04-02T14:41:19-04:00October 11th, 2019|New Testament Manuscripts, Reflections and Ruminations|

What I think of the Bible as Both a Critical Scholar and A Christian: Guest Post by Judy Siker

This is the second guest post by Judy Siker, who last week explained about her upbringing as a Christian in the south and then her move into the academic study of the Bible from a critical perspective.  If you recall, Judy was my student in the (very secular!) graduate program in New Testament/Early Christianity here at UNC, where she did both a Masters and PhD in the field, focusing, in her dissertation, on the socio-historical background to the Gospel of Matthew, in particular as that involved the relations of Jews and Christians in the author's community.   She had a rich and varied teaching career in a range of schools -- private liberal arts, Catholic university, and Baptist seminary, among them! In this follow up post Judy lays out her understanding of what the Bible is (among other things, a book that asks compelling questions about matters of faith) and is not (a book that gives us all the incontrovertible answers), partly in response to comments and questions she received.  She is willing once more to [...]

2020-04-25T12:28:01-04:00October 9th, 2019|Public Forum|

Misconstruing My Words. Can We Know What the Authors of the New Testament Originally Said?

Sometimes people take what I say to an extreme that I don’t mean to convey.  That especially happens when I talk about the textual criticism of the New Testament.   As a reminder, “textual criticism” is a technical term.  It does not refer to the interpretation of texts or to the history behind the composition of texts or to the assessment of the original context of texts or anything like that.  It is used to refer specifically to the attempt to reconstruct the words of a text.  That is, textual criticism is not interested in understanding what the text means; it is interested in figuring out what words the author originally used.  And in seeing how the author’s original words may have been changed over in the process of copying. Textual criticism is a fundamental aspect of literary study – certainly for the Bible, but for all texts.  There are textual critics who avidly work on the classics (Homer, Virgil, Cicero, etc. etc.); and on medieval literature and on modern literature.  It’s a huge field, e.g., [...]

2022-07-03T16:41:51-04:00October 8th, 2019|Bart's Critics, New Testament Manuscripts|

Modern Defenders of the Faith: Why Not Just Tell the Truth?

Next week I'm off to give a talk at an evangelical Christian conference that is dealing with contradictions in the Gospels; the other speakers will be explaining either why they don't actually exist or why they are completely insignificant or how they can be comfortably explained given ancient writing practices or ... or some other point that will assure their committed Christian audience that there's nothing really to worry about.  It will be in Chicago and is called the Defenders Conference. I quite admire the organizers of the conference because they genuinely want to hear the other side from me.  As y'all know, I think there are serious contradictions in the Gospel that cannot be reconciled or explained away, and these demonstrate that the Gospels are not historically reliable.  I'm not saying (I'm NOT saying) that there is *nothing* reliable in the Gospels.  Of course there are lots and lots of reliable materials in the Gospels (the key is figuring out which ones they are).  But anyone who thinks they give a fully reliable account [...]

2020-04-02T14:41:33-04:00October 7th, 2019|Bart's Debates, Reflections and Ruminations|

Who Wrote the Pentateuch? The JEDP Hypothesis

In response to my recent posts about the historical accuracy of the Hebrew Bible, especially in the opening five books, the “Pentateuch” (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) I have had several members of the blog ask about the “Documentary Hypothesis” which postulates that one reason for the discrepancies is that whoever published these five books was not a single author (Moses or anyone else) but an editor who combined earlier sources of information together, without smoothing out their differences. Like just about all scholars of the Bible, I agree with the basic premise of the documentary hypothesis, though these days most real experts think it is much more complicated than what we present to our first-year students.  If you’re interested in a bird’s eye view of it, I have a discussion in my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.  If you want an intriguing full presentation written for lay folk, in a convincing fashion, see Richard Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible. The traditional form of the documentary hypothesis was most famously promoted [...]

2020-04-02T14:41:39-04:00October 6th, 2019|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|
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