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Forgery for a General Audience

Last week I tried to show the contrast between my trade books for general audiences and my academic books for scholars, by posting the very beginning of my book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, a tradebook, 2020) and the beginning of my book Jouneys to Heaven and Hell in the Early Christian Tradition (Yale University, due out April 5 2022; a scholarly book).  The general topics are similar, as you can see by the titles, but they are not actually about the same thing.  And the level of discourse is different. So too with my books on forgery -- I wrote one for a general audience (Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible Authors are Not Who We Think They Are  Harper San Francisco, 2011) and the other for academics (Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in the Early Christian Tradition, Oxford University Press, 2013).  In this case the differences are more obvious, I think, from both the titles and the openings. Here is how [...]

2022-02-14T17:57:53-05:00February 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

Ask Bart Anything! Blog Event March 6

On Sunday March 6, 4:00 - 5:15 EST we are holding a blog event which will be a two-way affair: I will have the pleasure of trying to answer questions participants have and participants will have the pleasure of stumping me with questions I can't answer.  And a good time will be had by all! This will be a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders.  Donations are voluntary but encouraged for this great cause. To learn more, keep reading; to register and get the link: go here:  Register here for the ABA The format: I will take live questions through chat.  The questions can be on ANY topic that anyone is interested in.  If it is something I don’t know anything about (Kant's second critique or quantum mechanics) or that I would rather not talk about (that little incident when I was 16….) I’ll just say so.  I will get through as many questions as I can, answering easy ones briefly and taking as long as I need to deal with more complicated ones.  My only [...]

2022-02-26T18:00:28-05:00February 26th, 2022|Public Forum|

How Would We Know If We Found an “Original” Manuscript?

A reader recently asked a question I had dealt with on the blog many years ago.   When originally asked it, I responded by saying I had never thought about it before. (!)  Below is the question and my initial reflections.  My views haven’t matured much during the past seven years (and they ain't the only thing), so I give my initial response.  If someone can improve on it, let me know. First here is this week’s way of asking the question:   QUESTION: Suppose someone did claim to have found the original….    I get that you can show something isn’t original, such as by dating it to two hundred years later. But is there anything you can do to show it is likely original?   Here now is the original post. ******************************   READER'S QUESTION: Were we to have any *original manuscript* of any NT document in our midst, would we be able to recognize and confirm it as such?  If so, how? BART'S RESPONSE: Now that’s a question I’ve never been asked before!  And [...]

2022-02-14T17:48:06-05:00February 26th, 2022|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

Platinum Webinar! March 8. Why Is the Apocalypse of Peter Not in the New Testament?

It's time for another Platinum webinar; as you know, this is a four-time a year event, for Platinum Members only.  I'm devoting this one to a question that almost none of you will have asked yourselves -- one of those questions you don't realize is amazingly interesting until you realize the issues!   Why is the Apocalypse of Peter Not in the New Testament? You may not know -- or possibly you do: the Apocalypse of Peter almost DID get in (instead of, or along with, the Apocalypse of John).  It was far more popular in the early centuries than, for example, the book of 2 Peter which *did* make it in.   But then its support died out in the fourth or fifth century. But why? It claimed to be by Peter; it was well known; it was orthodox; it was declared canonical by church leaders; and it contains an incredible narrative: it is our first instance of a Christian guided tour of heaven and hell!  So what happened to it? Come and find out.  I [...]

What If Damascus Was In Arabia? Solving a Dilemma in the Life of Paul. Platinum Guest Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller

One of the unusually puzzling comments Paul makes about his life comes in Galatians where he says that right after he had his vision of Christ and converted he went to "Arabia" and spent three years there. For many years I thought he meant he was out meditating in the desert someplace. Then I came to think he was off in the Nabatean kingdom someplace, possibly missionizing -- maybe in Petra, e.g.? I still think that pretty much. But here's a solution I've never thought of! In this Platinum guest post, Gregory Hartzler-Miller makes an unusually intriguing suggestion. What do you think? ****************************** According to Gal 1:17, immediately after his conversion Paul “departed to Arabia.” Speculations about where specifically he may have gone to in Arabia and what he may have done there have traditionally been informed by an obscure mention of “Arabia” in Gal 4:25. Unfortunately for this line of inquiry, Stephen C. Carlson (The Text of Galatians) has found this to be a non-Pauline interpolation which originated as a marginal note: τὸ γὰρ [...]

2022-02-28T12:57:14-05:00February 25th, 2022|Paul and His Letters|

Must Jesus Divide Families? Guest post by Douglas Wadeson

As you know, Platinum members on the blog are allowed to compose blog posts for one another, and I choose one every month or so to publish on the blog at large.   Here is a particularly interesting one by blog member Doug Wadeson, based on a careful and interesting reading of the Gospels.  It's dealing with an incredibly timely issue and provides a rather unexpected answer.  It involves Jesus and family values. ****************************** People often think of Jesus as teaching traditional family values, but in fact he seems to be rather dismissive of the natural nuclear family.  To be fair, maybe his family was to blame.  In Mark 3:20, 21 we are told that some of his family [kinsmen] sought to take custody of him because they thought he had lost his mind.  Not very supportive.  Then when his mother and brothers arrived and called for him, Jesus responded: “Who are My mother and My brothers?”  Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever [...]

2022-02-14T17:43:09-05:00February 24th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Did I Have an Errant View of Inerrancy? (!) Guest Video Post by Kurt Jaros (#5)

This fifth installment of a six-part video thread by Kurt Jaros, an evangelical Christian apologist, considers my views of Scripture back in my hard-core conservative evangelical days and their (possible?) impact on my later decision to leave the faith altogether.  My ears are tingling! ****************************** In this video, I look at the young Bart Ehrman’s theological reflection on the doctrines of inerrancy and the preservation & inspiration of the Biblical text. Did the young Ehrman have a misconception, misunderstanding, or invalid inference pertaining to these doctrines? Image a world in which those doctrinal beliefs were formulated even slightly differently. It may have taken the young Ehrman down a different path.  

2022-02-13T12:01:38-05:00February 23rd, 2022|Bart’s Biography|

February Gold Q&A: Ask your Questions!

Dear Gold Members, It is time for our monthly Gold Q&A.  Have a question?  Ask it!  Anything related to the blog! To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Midnight EST this Friday, Feb. 25.  I will make the recording that weekend, and it will be available, if all goes to plan, on Monday, Feb. 28. I'm looking forward to it!   Bart  

2022-02-22T18:23:12-05:00February 22nd, 2022|Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Heaven and Hell at the Scholarly Level (for comparison)

In this short thread I'm trying to explain the difference between a trade book for a general audience and an academic book for scholars, through example.  In my  previous post I gave the beginning couple of pages of my trade book with Simon and Schuster, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. The academic book coming out on April 5 is not covering the same material but is dealing with a related aspect of it, and at a much deeper level.  The book does not pursue the question of where the ideas of heaven and hell came from (the topic of the trade book), but rather explores narrated journeys to the realms of the dead in a range of ancient texts.   The book is called Journeys to Heaven and Hell in the Early Christian Tradition (Yale University Press). You can get some basic sense of the different levels of the two books by comparing the way they begin.  So, in contrast with the trade book from yesterday, here is the academic book. (Again: Please don't [...]

2022-02-20T06:55:45-05:00February 22nd, 2022|Book Discussions|

Heaven and Hell at the Popular Level

I often get asked about the difference between my trade books for general audiences and my academic monographs for scholars.  Three times in my career I have written on the same topic for a popular and a scholarly audience.   The first was one on the manuscripts of the NT.  The popular book was Misquoting Jesus:  The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; the academic one was The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.    Just from the title it should not be too hard to tell which one is trying to cater to a wider audience and which one is directed to fellow academic nerds. So too with the next set, dealing with the issue of pseudonymity in the New Testament and other early Christian Writings.  The popular account:  Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible's Authors are Not Who We Think They Are; the academic one:  Forgery and Counter-forgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in the Early Christian [...]

2022-02-12T15:43:08-05:00February 20th, 2022|Afterlife, Book Discussions|

The Messages of Jesus and Paul: Basically the Same or Fundamentally Different?

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 been around for a couple of years before he came onto the scene. And it is probably too much even to say that he was the “Co-founder of Christianity,” for much the same reason. But it is safe to say that of all the early Christian thinkers and missionaries, Paul is the one we [...]

2022-02-07T09:43:58-05:00February 19th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Jesus and Paul: Are They on the Same Page?

I 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 (the “judicial” model; the “participationist” model; and the other models I described). 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 in the commandments to love God above all else and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Do these represent the same religion? I see this as one of the most fundamental and important questions in all of early Christianity. I’m not asking if Paul invented Christianity, [...]

2022-02-07T09:40:40-05:00February 17th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

Would Anyone *Invent* the Story of the Women at the Tomb?

I received a question in the comments recently that I've gotten a lot before.  Wouldn't the Gospel story about women being the first to realize Jesus had been raised be contrary to what Christians would have *wanted* to say, possibly even embarrassing?  If so, isn't it likely that no one made it up but that it's actually what probably happened?   It's been a few years since I posted on the question, so it seems like a good chance to post on it again.  Here's what I've said before: ****************************** 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? The reason anyone ever has this question is because it [...]

2022-02-05T16:01:12-05:00February 16th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

(Re)Thinking Everything. Guest Post by Glenn Siepert

As you probably know,  a number of volunteers work for the blog, graciously giving their time and talents to promote the work we're doing.  As one of the perks, volunteers who have published a book of relevance to what we do here on the blog can write a post on it for us.  I did an interview this past August with Glenn Siepert that I enjoyed very much; he is a very good interviewer (you can see it here:  Interview on Lost Christianities: "What If Project" Podcast | The Bart Ehrman Blog ).  Afterward he volunteered to design graphics for some of the blog posts, and we've all benefited from it. Glenn has just published a book about how he left a fundamentalist form of Christianity and the new world he then entered into.   Here is his description of his experience and the book. ****************************** Hello friends.  My name is Glenn Siepert and Bart invited me onto the blog today to share with you a bit about my new book that I recently self-published via [...]

2022-02-07T09:36:15-05:00February 14th, 2022|Book Discussions, Public Forum|

My Response to A Book That Responded To My Book: How Jesus Became God

I was browsing through some blog posts from many years ago and came upon this one, which I had completely forgotten about.   It gets a bit feisty at the end,  and that's because it was written back when I was ... feistier.   Even so, it makes an overarching point I still agree with.  It's  about  my book that tries to explain how the early Christians came to see Jesus as God. ****************************** My publisher, HarperOne, asked me to write a 1000-word response to the book that was written in response to How Jesus Became God.  As you probably know, the book is called, somewhat expectedly, How God Became Jesus.  I have toyed with the idea of giving a chapter-by-chapter response here on the blog.   I’ve grown a bit cold to the idea, though, since I’m not sure every chapter of their book really needs a response.  I may respond to a couple of the chapters.  In the meantime, here’s one response you can read that is, interestingly, written by Daniel Kirk, a professor of NT at the [...]

2022-02-06T19:43:49-05:00February 13th, 2022|Bart's Critics, Book Discussions|

The Heart of Jesus’ Message

To this point in the thread I have been talking about Paul’s “religion” – specifically, what he thought was important in a person’s relationship with God. He expressed his views in a variety of ways – I have talked about his judicial and his participationist understandings of salvation, and have made brief comments on yet other “models” that he used to express his view about the act of salvation that God had achieved through Christ. In all of these models, it was the death and resurrection of Jesus that was of paramount importance. It was that, nothing else, that brought about salvation. And what did Jesus himself think? This is arguably the most important point to consider about early Christianity. Did the best known apostle of Christ proclaim the same, or very similar message, to Jesus himself? Or not? In my New Testament class every semester I have my students debate, in class, a resolution dealing with the issue: “Resolved: Paul and Jesus represented fundamentally different religions.” Students are surprised by the topic. Until they [...]

2022-01-29T17:46:37-05:00February 12th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Preface to My Book on Revelation: Expecting Armageddon

I have sent my book manuscript off to my editor.  She will work it over, ask for edits, and we'll go from there.  The preface to the book, as it now stands, explains what the book is about and what I try to argue for in it.  I thought I'd pass it by you to see what you think. ****************************** Preface Many of the early Christians had serious doubts about the book of Revelation and did not think it should be included in the New Testament.  The author, they argued, was not an apostle and the book presented views that were clearly unacceptable.  In the end, of course, they lost the argument.  But once the book came to be widely accepted as Scripture, the followers of Jesus had to figure out how to make sense of it.  Over the long course of Christian history, many readers of the Bible have widely opted not to delve into its mysteries at all.  Even today, most find it bizarre and unapproachable. Those who do read it fall into [...]

2022-02-09T17:31:44-05:00February 10th, 2022|Book Discussions, Revelation of John|

Still Other Models of Salvation in Paul

I have been discussing various ways that Paul understands the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation, and have focused on the judicial and participationist models – mainly because these are the two that Paul most frequently appeals to (without calling them the judicial and participationist models!).  I need to clarify a few points before moving on to speak of yet other models that Paul appears to use. First, over the years when I've discussed these models in a public forum, people have asked me about my personal views of these models.   Several have asked how I could possibly believe such a thing.  And one has asked what right I have to talk about “sin” if I’m not a Christian and so do not believe in sin.  So let me clear: I’m not affirming or denying anything Paul says in any of his writings.  I’m simply describing what it is he says.  Some people have trouble understanding the difference between description and prescription, but there’s a big difference. I remember back when [...]

2022-02-11T21:35:11-05:00February 9th, 2022|Public Forum|

Paul’s Models of Salvation: Contradictory or Complementary?

I’ve been discussing how Paul understands the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation, and have done so by laying out as concisely as I could his two principal “models” of how salvation worked, the judicial and the participationist model. In this post I’ll make some brief concluding comments about the two models, in particular in relation to one another, again from my textbook on the New Testament. ****************************** Comparison and Contrast of the Two Models Let me emphasize that the two models of salvation we have been looking at are ways of understanding something. They are not the thing itself. Paul's gospel is not "justification by faith" or "union with Christ." These are ways of reflecting on or thinking about his gospel. His gospel is God's act of salvation in Christ; the models are ways of conceptualizing how it worked. The way it worked differed according to which model Paul had in mind. In both of them, the problem is "sin." But in one, sin is an act of disobedience that a person [...]

2022-01-29T17:28:23-05:00February 8th, 2022|Paul and His Letters|

The “Common Era”: Invented to Stop Speculations About the End of the World. Platinum Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski

I'm pleased to publish this Platinum guest post by Dan Kohanski.  I think I can *guarantee* that most of you will not have heard this information before!  And it's really interesting, the kind of thing you might wonder about but not know who to ask. Dan will be happy to respond to your comments and questions. Do you have anything you want to post about?  You don't have to do massive research or be a scholar in the field -- just have in interest in expressing your views, getting them out there, getting some feedback from kindly-disposed readers, your fellow Platinums!   If you're interested, just let me know!  For now, Here's Dan:   *******************************   The first Christians were driven by the expectation of the immediate end of the world as it then existed. It was going to happen right now, or tomorrow, certainly within a few days, definitely within their generation, surely within their own lifetime. The disciples preached that Jesus had gone to heaven to get the kingdom moving, as it were, and [...]

2022-02-07T10:13:11-05:00February 7th, 2022|Public Forum|
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