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Were Jesus and Christ Two Different Beings?

As we have seen, the New Testament in places seems to indicate that of Christ was a human being who, in some sense, had been adopted by God and so made into the Son of God, a divine being.  There were groups of Christians who continued to believe that for centuries.  (Some still do!)  Others had an opposite view, that Christ was completely God, so much so that he was not actually ever a full flesh-and-blood human being.  There were lots of variations within these views, and there were other views as well, including one I call “separationism.” A separationist view is especially prominent among certain groups of early Christian Gnostics.  (For a basic introduction to what Gnostics were all about, check out the lecture in the previous post OR do a word search for “Gnosticism” on the blog).  Here is what I say about separationist Christologies view in my book How Jesus Became God, using as an example one of the most fascinating Gnostic writings to come down to us from antiquity, The Coptic [...]

What Is Gnosticism? A Video Introduction

I am in the midst of a thread describing different views of Christ found among early Christian groups of the second century: some Christians thought Jesus was human but not divine; others that he was divine but not human; others (the side that ended up winning the debates) that he was somehow both (that may seem common sense today, but it did not to many of Jesus' followers in the second century!). I haven't begun yet to describe how that final view came about, and before doing so I need to explain a view different from all of these, one that maintained that Jesus Christ was actually *two* beings: one  human and the other divine  -- distinct from one another, but temporarily united for Jesus' ministry.  It's unusual, and not a view you find in a lot of pews these days. To make sense of how the view worked and why people held it, I have to put it in a broader context.  There were a number of Christian groups who held the view, most [...]

2021-03-24T17:05:14-04:00March 30th, 2021|Heresy and Orthodoxy|

Fantastic Story. But History? Some Doubts about the Triumphal Entry

In my previous post I provided an excerpt from Jesus Before the Gospels where I summarized the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry.”  Here is the second part of that two-part post, another excerpt, where I call this tradition into question, arguing that it cannot be right historically and that it must, therefore, represent a distorted memory. "Memory,” of course, is not simply a recollection of what we ourselves experienced (what you had for dinner last night; the name of your first-grade teacher; etc.).  Memory involves anything that you “call back to mind” (the literal meaning of “remembering”).  It can be factual information (what is the capital of France?), even of something you haven’t experienced (e.g., if you have never been to Paris); it can be a shared understanding of a person from the past (Einstein; Karl Marx), even if you never met them.  And it can be a recollection of a past event even if you were not involved, such as the Triumphal Entry, to pick one example out of countless trillions. Christians [...]

2021-03-24T17:03:27-04:00March 28th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|

Did Jesus Really Have a “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem?

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the day on which Christians commemorate Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem.  It is a terrific holiday in the Christian calendar, a celebration of victory and joy, prior to the dark events to occur at the end of the week on Good Friday. The historian would want to know: did it really happen?  Did Jesus really ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to the acclamation of the crowds proclaiming him to be the coming messiah, laying down their cloaks and palm branches before him in full celebration?  It's a *terrific* story; a climax of Jesus' ministry, in a sense.  Is it historical? I deal the question in my book Jesus Before the Gospels and will excerpt the discussion here.  This will take two posts.  This one sets the stage and the next one asks how we can figure out if it really happened. ****************************** The Triumphal Entry There seems to be no reason to doubt that Jesus spent the last week of his life in Jerusalem looking ahead to the [...]

2021-03-24T17:03:59-04:00March 27th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

Modern Christians Who Follow Marcion (Unawares)

Before I move on from Marcion to talk about "Gnostic" understandings of Christ -- all in this long thread on where the Trinity came from -- I'd like to return to an issue I mentioned briefly in my first post on Marcion, that in many ways his views are alive and well among us.  As I have said on the blog before, I have known Christians over the years who in fact have views in many ways close to what Marcion taught.  These people would, of course, deny they have anything like the touch of the heretic about them.  But at the end of the day, their views are not so different.  Maybe they are not as extreme as he was, but they do seem to be dwelling on the fringes of his camp. First, I have known a lot of Christians who think that the Old Testament has a God of wrath and condemnation and the New Testament has a God of love and mercy.  Students say this to me with some regularity.  The [...]

Quotations of Non-Canonical Writings in the New Testament: Platinum Post by Douglas Wadeson

Platinum member Douglas Wadeson has provided us with another thoughtful, provocative, and informed post, this one about how authors of the New Testament sometimes quote writings *other* than those of the Old Testament.   Feel free to make comments! *************************   If you read the New Testament you will find many references to the Old Testament, i.e., the Hebrew Bible, the Scriptures that Jesus and His disciples knew.  The early Christians thought of Jesus as being the sequel to and fulfillment of those Scriptures.  If Hollywood had developed the New Testament perhaps they would have called it, “God the Father II: This Time Its Personal!”  Dr. Ehrman has written and posted on the reasons the early church retained its connection to the Jewish Scriptures even as the church became predominantly Gentile. However, there are also allusions to writings outside of the Old Testament.[1]  I suspect many people miss such references because they assume they are referring to some OT story, or they are subtle enough that one doesn’t catch that an allusion is being made.  I [...]

2021-03-24T19:12:00-04:00March 24th, 2021|Early Judaism, Reflections and Ruminations|

Did Marcion Know the Gospels or Not??

I've said something about Marcion's canon of Scripture in the past couple of posts, and last time I did that -- many years ago -- some people got confused.  The issue has to do with what at first seems a different issue.  Did the apostle Paul  (during his ministry) know about the Gospels?  My answer to that is no, he probably did not.  Especially since, well, he was writing before they were written!  And he shows no knowledge of any written Gospel (even of ones we don't have.) But then when I say elsewhere that Marcion promoted only Paul's "gospel."  Uh...? Here's the original question and my response. Question: You wrote: “The apostle Paul – well-connected and well-traveled and familiar with lots of churches – shows no knowledge that such a thing as Gospels exist.” I should have asked you about this earlier. I was surprised when, back in a post on Marcion, you said the other “gospel” Paul talked about was “a version of our Gospel of Luke.” Would you explain? RESPONSE: OK, so [...]

2021-03-16T12:14:00-04:00March 24th, 2021|Public Forum|

Gold Members: Audio Q&A! This week!

Dear Gold Members, As you know!  Gold-level members will receive a special 45-50 minute audio post every month, in which I respond to questions gold-level members have asked me. Have a question?  It can be on anything connected to the Bible, early Christianity, or anything else related even remotely to the blog.  Ask away!  We can take questions until this Saturday March 27, noon, EST. To send in a question, simply zap an email to my assistant Diane Pittman [email protected].   She will collect the questions and I will record the session Saturday afternoon;  it will be posted as an audio file by Tuesday  – and only to you, those with Gold privileges! I’m looking forward to talking about anything you want me to talk about.  And I hope you are enjoying the blog experience otherwise.  If there is anything we can do to make it better, please let me know.   Bart        

2021-03-23T12:16:28-04:00March 23rd, 2021|Reader’s Questions|

More on Marcion’s Theology

Yesterday I mentioned Marcion as one of the prime early Christian thinkers who argued that Jesus was so much divine he was not at all human.  I have decided that I need to provide more background to make sense of the particular way he appears to have come to that conclusion, by discussing in a bit greater depth his overall theological views, so far as we can know them. I did that before on the blog many years ago.  Here I do it again! Marcion was active in the 130s and 140s; he came to Rome to become part of the Christian community there in 139; he apparently was booted out about five years later when the church leaders found his forcefully-proclaimed views unacceptable.  He then went around Asia Minor (whence he originally came, from Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea) establishing churches.  He held popular views that attracted lots of followers. Marcion and his followers believed that Jesus -- whom they considered their Lord and Savior -- was not connected with [...]

2021-03-26T19:07:51-04:00March 23rd, 2021|Public Forum|

Lost Christian Writings I’d Love to Get My Hands On!

I thought it might be fun to intersperse some posts from years ago to break up here and there the thread on the Trinity, for those who have, well, lots of other interests too!  So here's a good option. I did a short thread before the vast majority of you were on the blog (and maybe before you were born. :-) ) based on a question:  among all the ancient Christian writings that have been lost, which ones would I especially love to get my grubby paws on? Here's the original question and my first response to it.   QUESTION:  What lost early Christian books would you most like to have discovered?   RESPONSE: Ah, this is a tough one.   There are lots of Christian writing that I would love to have discovered – all of the ones that have been lost, for example! But suppose I had to name some in particular.  Well, this will take several posts.  To begin with, I wish we had the other letters of Paul.   Let me explain. In [...]

A Phantom Jesus: The Teachings of the Second-Century Marcion

In the past couple of posts I have talked about early Christian “docetists,” those who were so convinced that Jesus was completely God that they denied he was a “flesh-and-blood” human being.  In the early Christian centuries, no one advanced that view more than the “arch-heretic” Marcion.   Marcion had a huge following.  In some parts of the Christian world at the end of the second century, there were apparently more Marcionites than other kinds of Christian.  One could argue he his views are still broadly popular today, even among Christians who have never heard of him and among those who, if they have, would say that he was a “heretic.”   Do you know Christians who think that there is a difference between the God of Wrath in the Old Testament and the God of Love in the New Testament, and who think that the Old Testament does not really apply anymore?  That is a weakened version of Marcion’s thought.  Or do you know people who say Christ was God and so he wasn’t [...]

2021-03-26T19:55:06-04:00March 20th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Heresy and Orthodoxy|

The Value of Amulets for Reconstructing the New Testament Text: Guest Post by Brice Jones

Now here is a topic I bet you've never heard of before.  The value of what?  Amulets?  For what?  Really? Yup, really.  Sometimes the most interesting issues are ones you haven't heard of before.  And hey, now you'll be able to talk about it. This is a guest post from Brice Jones, a textual specialist on this topic, who has written the definitive book about it.  I've asked him to tell us about it in layperson's terms.  This will take him a couple of posts. Here is a brief bio on him so you have a sense of who he is, followed by post number one, in which, among other things, he tells you what this is all about. - Brice Jones is the author of New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity and Matthean and Lukan Special Material. ************************************ Brice C. Jones is an ancient historian specializing in the study of Early Christianity and papyrology. He received his Ph.D. in Religion from Concordia University (Montreal) and his M.A. in New Testament from Yale University. [...]

Announcing the Ehrman Blog Newsletter – Please Check Your Email!

Today, I'm excited to announce the launch of the Ehrman Blog Newsletter - and want to be sure that you're getting it! The first email went out on Saturday, so if you didn't receive it, please read the following: What is the Ehrman Blog Newsletter? A regular, new email I'll be sending - at least weekly - which will include: A recap of the week's new articles on the Blog Announcements Notice about all my public lectures, debates, and interviews and more! Who is it for? The newsletter is for anyone interested in keeping up to date with me and the Blog, whether you're a member or non-member. Note to Blog Members: You should already be on my email list and should have received an email from me on Saturday.  If you're a Blog Member and didn't receive it, I'll tell you what to do below. Note to Non-Members: If you're not a member but are interested in keeping up to date with all the important goings on at the Ehrman Blog, please click here [...]

2021-03-17T19:08:45-04:00March 17th, 2021|Public Forum|

Two Live Lectures, Sunday March 21: The Death of Jesus and the Life of Paul.

This Sunday, March 21, I will be giving TWO live Zoom lectures for anyone who wants to come.  They will be recorded for my undergraduate course on the New Testament and there will be a 30-minute Q & A to follow the second one. There is no charge per se, but I would like to ask for a donation to the blog in exchange, if you can see your way clear to do it.  If not, that’s fine – we all have our circumstances!  But one of the main reasons I’m doing these lectures is to raise money for the Food Bank of North Carolina; as with all food banks right now, it is in desperate need.  Your donation is completely tax deductible. To make a donation now, go to the blog home page and scroll to the bottom to find the blue "One-time Donation" button. Here is the info you need: Time: Sunday, March 14, 2:00 pm  and 3:15 pm (EST) The Lectures will last about 50 minutes, with Q&A to follow the second. First [...]

2021-03-17T21:00:11-04:00March 17th, 2021|Public Forum|

Christ as Non-Human (but fully God) in the Early Second Century

On this slow path we are taking to see where the doctrine of the Trinity came from (it may seem slow, but of course a full analysis would take volumes!) I have been trying to show how different understandings of Christ emerged in early Christianity – starting from the original belief of his disciples in his resurrection and exaltation, to later exaltation views (he was a man who became divine at his resurrection; NO! at his baptism; NO! at his birth) and then incarnation views (he was never a man who was not God.  He was God who became a man). Paul has both views: Christ was a divine being who became human but then got exalted to a higher level of divinity; the final view is found in the Gospel of John: Christ was completely divine from the beginning, and in fact was the Creator of the universe. Wow. In the last post I showed that this incredibly “high” Christology in John was taken yet higher in the later Johannine community, as some members [...]

Was Christ So Divine That He Was Not Human? The “Antichrists” of 1 John

Just as there were “adoptionist” Christians in the second century, who maintained that Christ was not really a divine being, but a human being who had been “adopted” to be divine by God (so: not pre-existent; not born of a virgin; not “equal” with God; etc.), so too, on the other end of the spectrum, there were others who claimed that he was so *entirely* God that he was not actually human. Here is how I talk about early representatives of that view in my book How Jesus Became God. **************************** We have seen that those holding adoptionist views of Christ claimed to represent the earliest views of Jesus’ own apostles.   Of course, every group representing every view of early Christianity claimed that its views were the original teachings of Jesus and his earthly followers – but in the case of the adoptionists, they may well have been right.  The view we will consider now is in some ways the polar opposite: it maintained that rather than being completely human, and so not – by [...]

2021-03-08T15:03:26-05:00March 16th, 2021|Catholic Epistles, Early Christian Doctrine|

How to Make Sense of (or at least Peace with) What’s Strange in the Bible: Guest Post by Kristin Swenson

Three weeks ago we had a guest post by Kristin Swenson about her new book A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible.  Here's the link if you haven't read it yet:  Her post raised a lot of interest, and so now we are fortunate to have her back for a second, related post. Kristen has PhD in biblical studies from Boston University and is an associate professor of religious studies (affiliate) at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has written other books as well, including God of Earth: Discovering a Radically Ecological Christianity and Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time. ********************************** One of the things about writing is how frequently the process of writing itself reveals something new. In the case of A Most Peculiar Book, I set out to discuss some of the Bible's many weirdnesses. It quickly became clear that the topic has two, general parts – what's weird about the Bible, and what's weird in it. So that's how I continued (and what [...]

2021-03-08T14:57:22-05:00March 14th, 2021|Book Discussions, Public Forum|

Was Christ Human But Not Divine? Another Early Christian View

In my previous post I talked about Jewish Christians of the early centuries who held to an “adoptionistic” view of Christ, the view that he was not by nature divine but was a human being who at some point came to be adopted to be God’s son.  This view was held by other groups as well (and still is); one that we know of from ancient sources comes not from Jewish but gentile circles.   This was a group known as the Theodotians, named after their founder,  a shoemaker who happened also to be an amateur theologian, named Theodotus.   Since they were centered in Rome, scholars sometimes refer to this group as the Roman Adoptionists. The followers of Theodotus did think that Christ was unlike other humans in that he was born of a virgin mother (and so they may have accepted either the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Luke as Scripture).  But other than that, as the church father and heresy-hunter (i.e., "heresiologist") Hippolytus, tells us, for them “Jesus was a (mere) man” [...]

2021-03-01T18:06:24-05:00March 13th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Heresy and Orthodoxy|
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