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End of the Year Assessment: The Blog, 2021

Here we are at the end of the year.  What a year.  We thought we would see the end of the pandemic and the good times would roll.  Well, not exactly.  They sure seemed about to roll but, nope, just when we thought the thing was ending … hello Omicron!   I hope you have come through it OK so far, and that you can keep safe as we move forward. Not for all, but for some there have been bright spots through the darkness, and we should certainly celebrate them.  It’s been a very good year for the blog – the best ever – and so that part’s good.  We started this blog venture in April of 2012, so this is the conclusion of the ninth calendar year.  We now head into year 10!  Who woulda thought?  Certainly not me…. As you know, I have had two goals for the blog from Day 1, and have never wavered on them. I’d say we’ve done unusually well this year in achieving our goals for the blog, [...]

2021-12-31T01:46:06-05:00December 31st, 2021|Public Forum|

What I’m Reading These Days. You?

Before Christmas this year I read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  It’s a great story.   (Novella?  It’s about a hundred pages in my edition.)  I used to read it every year.  In my first marriage, for a number of years, my wife and I read it out loud to each other on Christmas Eve. Just about everyone knows the story but almost always from the movies and stage productions.  Most of those are just fine, some are actually pretty good.  BUT, there is nothing like the book.  It’s extraordinarily moving, and even beyond that, the writing is fantastic. For about thirty years now I’ve read high quality fiction, by which I mean fiction that is thoughtful and thought provoking and written by people who really know how to write.  Most novels aren’t written particularly well, but when you read one that is, you just sit back and admire.  My GOD that’s a fantastic sentence!  I wish *I* could write a sentence like that!  For my money, Dickens is one of the best of all time.  In [...]

2021-12-20T17:25:19-05:00December 29th, 2021|Reflections and Ruminations|

On Misreading The Gospels: Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

I am pleased to present this interesting guest post to Platinum members to fellow Platinum Joel Scheller.  Joel has taken on one of the most important issues that we can ask of the New Testament:  Are the Gospels meant to be read historically?  Or, as John Shelby Spong argued, are they meant to be symbolic and liturgical expositions of the significance of Jesus? If you have comments and questions for Joel, let us hear from you!   *************************** After Dr Ehrman wrote a tribute article regarding the late Anglican Bishop, John Shelby Spong, I began reading this man’s books, and became enamored with many, but not all, of his assertions. His book “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy” really struck a chord with me because of Spong’s explanation regarding the difference in what we actually know about the historical Jesus from what we read in the Gospels. As fellow blog member, Dan Kohanski, so recently and aptly explained in his guest blog “What We KNOW About Jesus”, our actual knowledge of Jesus’ life and ministry is [...]

2022-02-13T11:01:21-05:00December 28th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

The Bible’s Best Known Short Story: Jonah

Now we come to the most famous short story of the entire Bible: Jonah!  Again, since it is “short” it does not take long to read – just four brief chapters – and it’s surprising so few people have actually read it.  And a pity.  It’s a terrific little book that is adventurous and thought-provoking.  Here is what I say about it in my textbook  The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Oxford University Press). ***************************** Of the various short stories found in the Hebrew Bible, Jonah is no doubt the best known of all. As it happens, the book is not located among the Writings, as are the other short stories we are considering. Jonah is one of the Minor Prophets, included among “the Twelve” in the Hebrew Bible. To some extent that makes sense, since the book is about Jonah making predictions of a coming destruction brought by God against a sinful people—a motif that we saw repeatedly in the other prophets. Moreover, the main character, “Jonah son of Amittai” (1:1) is named [...]

2021-12-20T11:44:17-05:00December 28th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Gold Q&A (Slight Delay)

With apologies: I won't be able to have your Gold Q&A out by December 29, but I am highly sanguine that it will be before the end of the year!  Sorry!  I'm in London and spending a good deal of time and effort in playing dodgeball with Omicron.  So far so good; but it has created certain logistical problems with my life.  So, we may be a day or two late. I hope you all are having a mawvelous holiday season.  It's been great seeing family over here.  At least the vaccinated, boostered, and tested ones!

2021-12-27T12:40:00-05:00December 27th, 2021|Public Forum|

Evangelical Support for Misquoting Jesus: Kurt Jaros, Guest Post #3

Here now is the third of Evangelical theologian and apologist Kurt Jaros's videos supporting my views of the manuscript tradition of the New Testament against critiques leveled by fellow evangelicals.  Watch, see, and enjoy! Misquoting Ehrman – Part Three: Methods “After describing how some Christian scholars have built a strawman out of Bart Ehrman’s view, I offer a theory as to why some Christian apologists and scholars have misunderstood Bart Ehrman's position. It is not because they intentionally seek to destroy Ehrman, but because they conflate some ideas. One scholar in particular does a far better job at understanding Ehrman's view from Misquoting Jesus than others. Also, the video ends on a cliff hanger, so watch all the way through!”  

2021-12-27T14:30:37-05:00December 26th, 2021|Book Discussions, New Testament Manuscripts|

Which King of the Jews Do You Prefer? Christmas Message, 2021

Over the years I’ve said a lot about the New Testament, usually showing its manifold and various problems.  But at most that’s half the story, and probably a lot less.  There is something far more important:  once you realize there are problems with a literal or historical reading, there is still the STORY.  And the story can be quite powerful.  Like all good stories, those of the New Testament can and should make us think and reflect. These are, at any rate, some of the most famous, influential, and life-changing stories in the world, not necessarily because they are historical (some are, some aren’t) but because they have a message to convey. One of the most powerful and paradoxical stories involves Jesus’ birth in Matthew 2.  He is born in Bethlehem and wisemen astrologers from the East realize that something of cosmic significance has happened.  It is proclaimed in the heavens.  They follow a star to where the King of the Jews has been born and come to Jerusalem to make inquiries.  The Great King [...]

2021-12-17T15:23:11-05:00December 25th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Reflections and Ruminations|

Two Apocryphal Short Stories

We've been doing short stories in this thread, and now I will introduce two more.  These are from the "Apocrypha."  This is the term that Protestants use for a group of Jewish books not in the Hebrew Bible that are, however, accepted by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians as having a secondary canonical status.  In these denominations, therefore, they are called "Deuterocanonical Books." There are some terrific narratives among these books.  Here I describe two of the best known, Tobit and Judith, again from my textbook on the Bible. ****************************** Tobit Tobit is a work of historical fiction—by which I mean it is a fictional tale set within a real historical context. Originally the book was written in Aramaic, either in the late third century B.C.E. or the early second. The narrative is set in the eighth century B.C.E. in the city of Nineveh, where the hero of the story, Tobit, has been exiled from his town in Galilee during the conquests of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser. In other words, the account is [...]

2021-12-14T11:19:43-05:00December 23rd, 2021|Public Forum|

A Better Kind of Fundamentalist!

Here now is my second post on that intriguing little article by Louis Markos in the journal First Things, which he entitled “Errant Ehrman.”   If you’ll recall from my last post, Markos starts the article by indicating that he felt “great pity” for me because I was the wrong kind of fundamentalist back when I was a conservative Christian.  My problem, he indicates, is that I applied modern standards to decide whether the Bible was inerrant.  Here are his words: He [Ehrman] was taught, rightly, that there are no contradictions in the Bible, but he was trained, quite falsely, to interpret the non-contradictory nature of the Bible in modern, scientific, post-Enlightenment terms. That is to say, he was encouraged to test the truth of the Bible against a verification system that has only existed for some 250 years….. And so, as I pointed out last time, the right kind of true believer is obviously one who does not “test the truth of the Bible” by modern standards using modern criteria, but only by pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment [...]

2021-12-14T11:14:32-05:00December 22nd, 2021|Public Forum|

Recording of Platinum Webinar: Six Versions of the Advent of Jesus

Dear Platinum members, A number of you were able to come to our quarterly Platinum webinar a few days ago; and a number weren't!   Whether there or not, you can see it here.   I thought it was an unusually interesting topic, that I've never lectured on before: six different understandings from early Christianity of how Jesus came into the world .  Enjoy! https://youtu.be/80q3Z5AYz4k

2021-12-21T09:50:55-05:00December 21st, 2021|Public Forum|

If Only I Were the *Right* Kind of Fundamentalist….

I was breezing through some old posts and came across this one from many years ago; I'd forgotten all about it, but it still make me smile and scratch my head. ****************************** Several readers of this blog have pointed me to an article in the conservative journal First Things;  the article (a review of a book by the evangelical scholar Craig Blomberg) was written by Louis Markos, an English professor at Houston Baptist University.  The title is called “Ehrman Errant.”   I must say, that did not sound like a promising beginning. I had never heard of Louis Markos before – had certainly never met him, talked with him about myself or my life, shared with him my views of important topics, spent time to see how he ticked and to let him see how I do.  I don’t know the man, and he doesn’t know me.  And so it was with some considerable surprise that I read the beginning of his article. “I feel great pity for Bart Ehrman.” So, from someone I don’t know, [...]

2021-12-14T11:04:45-05:00December 21st, 2021|Public Forum|

Gold Q&A for December! Ask Away….

Dear Gold Members, Tis the Season!  And time for another Gold Q&A, our monthly audio for gold members only.  As always, if you provide written questions, I'll answer as many as I can the best I can, and I release the audio recording to gold members only.  Have a question to ask?  Anything connected with the blog, directly or remotely?  Go for it. I will be recording the next Q&A on Thursday December 23 to be released  Wednesday December 29.  Send your question(s) to our blog COO, Diane Pittman, at [email protected]   The deadline is midnight (in whatever time zone you’re in) Wednesday December 22. The best questions are only a sentence or two long at most.  I hope to hear from you! Bart

2021-12-20T11:43:28-05:00December 19th, 2021|Public Forum|

Another Fantastic Scriptural Short Story: Esther

In my last couple of posts I talked about one of the great short stories of the Hebrew Bible, Ruth; now I move to another – Esther.  This one will take only one post.  Again I am taking this material from my book The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction. *******************************            The book of Esther is another short story with a woman as the main character, and it too is about an intermarriage of a Jew and a non-Jew. But in this case it is Esther who is the Jew; her husband is a pagan figure of rather grand importance. He is, in fact, the King of Persia. As with the other short stories, the book of Esther is difficult to date, but as its action takes place during the period of the Persian empire it is certainly postexilic, probably from the fourth century b.c.e. It tells the story of a Jewish queen who saves the entire Jewish people from destruction. As such, it provides us with the first recorded attempt of a [...]

2021-12-14T10:56:55-05:00December 19th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

End of the Year Option?

As we barrel forward in the holiday season, a lot of people are thinking about end-of-the-year giving.   If you’re one of them, would you consider making a donation to the Bart Ehrman Blog?  Every penny you donate goes straight to the charities we support (see below); we take nothing out ourselves to pay for overhead.   And if you’d like, we can apportion your donation to just one or more of these charities as you prefer. Our goal for the blog heading to December 31 is to raise $325,000 for the year (through membership fees and donations).  We’re close.  Wanna help?   Just go to the homepage and scroll to the bottom of the screen, and you’ll see the two easy options for making the donation. In case you don’t know, or in case you’d like a reminder,  here are the charities we support through member donations.   The Urban Ministries of Durham: This charity is near and dear to my heart, the agency that deals with hunger and homelessness in my own part of the universe. It [...]

2021-12-14T10:51:11-05:00December 18th, 2021|Public Forum|

Reminder! Platinum Webinar on Saturday. You Platinums Only!

In case you forgot or misplaced the post!  For Platinum blog members we have a special webinar, once every three months.  And this Saturday, 12/18, noon ET, is the date for the final one of the year.  And it's an intriguing topic that I would be my house you've never heard addressed this way before.  Or at least I never have.  Here's the topic, explanation, and Zoom link:   The date:  Saturday December 18; noon (Eastern Time).   No need to register; just show up. The topic:  Six Views of How Jesus Came Into the World:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, and Marcion. Here’s what it’s about: Every Christmas Christians celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, and even non-Christians hear a good deal about it.  What almost no one realizes is that Jesus’ appearance in the world is understood differently by our various early accounts.  In this talk I’ll discuss the various ways of understanding Jesus’ appearance in the world. I will be trying to show that all four Gospels appear to have different understandings (either significantly [...]

2021-12-16T16:47:18-05:00December 16th, 2021|Public Forum|

Terrific or Terrible? What’s Your View of Christmas?

Of all the holidays we celebrate in the U.S., Christmas evokes the most extreme emotional reactions.  Where do you line up? Many of us grew up thinking Christmas was the most sacred time of the year, a time to remember and celebrate the most wonderful, touching, and humbling event in human history, the entrance of God into our world as a little child, come to save us all from our sins. Even for many of us who no longer celebrate the religious side of the holiday, it can be a time of joy, of appreciating others, of giving, and of reflection. But Christmas is obviously about a lot more than even that, at least as it has come to be institutionalized in our world.  And so many of us growing up absolutely thrived on receiving gifts and having special times with family.  And many of us have loved all the accoutrements of the season: snow, Christmas trees, lights, candles, decorations, festivities, carols, the movies (A Christmas Carol!  The Christmas Story!  It’s a Wonderful Life!  White [...]

2021-12-14T10:46:05-05:00December 16th, 2021|Public Forum|

Vote for your Favorite Platinum Guest Post!

Dear Platinum Members, It is time to vote for the next Platinum guest post to become a blog guest post.  The winner's post will go to all blog members for reading and comment.   All the winners so far have been a big success, with  very interesting and postive feedback. Now it's the next round.  Do you remember them?  Wanna read them again?  Willing to vote? Here are the four options.  If you’re willing to vote, please remember:  I am NOT asking which one you think is the most scholarly.  They are all high quality.  I’m asking: which did you find most interesting and, given what you know about the members of the blog, would best address the interests of most blog members? To vote, please send an email indicating your choice to my assistant Diane Pittman, at [email protected] .    You will have until Monday midnight, December 20.  We will tabulate the votes then I"ll announce the winner,  place it in queue, nd let you know when it will appear. Here are the posts! July 29, [...]

2021-12-15T12:52:24-05:00December 15th, 2021|Platinums|

Strawmanning Ehrman: Guest Post by Kurt Jaros

This now is the next post by Kurt Jaros, who himself is a Christian theologian and apologist but who explains how other conservative apologists have misrepresented me.  For the record, I swear, I ain’t payin’ him to say this! Kurt will be happy to respond to your comments or questions.  Enjoy!    Misquoting Ehrman – Part Two: Strawmanning Ehrman “In this video, I begin exploring how it is that some Christian scholars and apologists have misconstrued Bart Ehrman’s views in Misquoting Jesus. This isn’t to say these particular Christians intentionally misconstrued his position, but perhaps were hasty in their analyses. Christians have a moral duty to fairly and accurately convey their opponents’ claims (1 Peter 3:16), so it’s time to steelman Ehrman, not strawman him.”  

2021-12-08T15:39:21-05:00December 15th, 2021|Public Forum|

A Suggestive Story in the Book of Ruth

In my previous post I talked about the book of Ruth, a gem of a short-story in the Hebrew Bible.   Now that I’ve explained how the plot works, I’d like to make just a couple of points about what it is trying to teach, starting with a comment about an episode that many readers over the years have found rather intriguing. It is definitely one of the confusing and suggestive passages in the book.  It comes in chapter 3, where Ruth and her rich (and drunk) relative Boaz end up asleep together on the threshing floor, and in the dark Ruth “stealthily uncovered his feet.”  The next day he arranges to marry her.  What??? Different cultures, using their different languages, use different euphemisms for sexual organs. In older English literature, for example, a man’s penis is sometimes referred to as his “member.” Hebrew had its own euphemism for genitals. They were called You don't want to miss this one.  Join to see more.  Who knew this kind of thing was in the Bible??  Click here [...]

2021-12-04T22:12:27-05:00December 14th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Do You Want (and Need) a Free Membership to the Blog? Gift Offer 2021

Thanks to the incredible ongoing generosity of members of the blog, I am happy to announce that there are 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 us a separate email, privately, at [email protected]  .In your email, please provide me with the following information: Your first and last name. Why you would like to take advantage of this offer -- that is, why you  can't afford it. I don't need or want all the details, just an idea of why you aren't able just now to purchase a membership. Country of citizenship (we're required, as a non-profit, to ask). Your preferred personal email. Your preferred user [...]

2021-12-14T10:41:22-05:00December 13th, 2021|Public Forum|
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