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Why Paul Persecuted the Christians

I have been side-tracked by other things, but now can get back to the thread I started to spin, or rather the tapestry I started to weave.  The ultimate question I’m puzzling over is how Christianity became the dominant religion in the empire, and my point at this stage is that before Christianity began to thrive, it was persecuted.  The persecutions go all the way back.  Our first Christian author is Paul, who must have converted to be a follower of Jesus just three years or so after Jesus’ death.  Paul tells us explicitly that before becoming a follower of Jesus he was a persecutor of the church.  And why was he persecuting it?  He doesn’t say directly, buy my sense is that it was for a very basic reason.  He despised their message.  Specifically he could not abide what Christians were saying about Jesus.  Why was that a problem?  Because they insisted he was God’s messiah. In my previous post I indicated something of one of the common views of what the messiah was [...]

Pilate Released Barabbas. Really??

I received recently the following question, which deals with an issue I had long puzzled over.  It involves the episode in the Gospels where Pilate offers to release a prisoner to the crowds at Passover, hoping they will choose Jesus.  But instead, they choose a Jewish insurrectionist and murderer, Barabbas.  Could that have happened? Here's the Question and my Response: Did Pilate Release Barabbas? QUESTION: Pilate condemns Jesus to execution for treason against Rome. Pilate gives the Jewish crowds the option of releasing Jesus or a Jewish insurgent, Barabbas (15:6–15).   I did a quick search to see if this was an attested practice in the Roman Empire and couldn’t’ find any relevant information.  So, I have two questions:  Do you think this detail is accurate?  Is there any evidence that Roman officials actually freed condemned prisoners at certain local festival times? RESPONSE: This was an issue I worked on while writing my book Jesus Before the Gospels.  After doing my research I came to a definite conclusion, that I state rather strongly (!).  Here is [...]

2022-05-26T19:47:32-04:00April 30th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

A Reflection on Easter. My Most-Commented Blog Post: #2

This post appeared on Easter day, four years ago, and received the second-most comments of any that I have done (218 of them).  It is, in fact, a reflection on the significance of that holiday and how Christianity itself actually began.   ****************************** An Easter Reflection 2018 April 1, 2018 It is highly ironic, but relatively easy, for a historian to argue that Jesus himself did not start Christianity.  Christianity, at its heart, is the belief that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about salvation, and that believing in his death and resurrection will make a person right with God, both now and in the afterlife.  Historical scholarship since the nineteenth century has marshaled massive evidence that this is not at all what Jesus himself preached. Yes, it is true that in the Gospels themselves Jesus talks about his coming death and resurrection.  And in the last of the Gospels written, John, his message is all about how faith in him can bring eternal life (a message oddly missing in the three earlier Gospels of Matthew, [...]

2022-04-17T20:27:23-04:00April 30th, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Are The Gospels Called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

Matthew.Mark. Luke.John. I recently received an important and puzzling question about the names attached to our four Gospels.  All four books were written and circulated anonymously, and only later did Christian leaders maintain that they were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Why these names?  Here’s the question: QUESTION:  I understand why the names John and Matthew ended up being part of the tradition concerning authorship for gospels, but why a tradition for Mark and Luke?  Today, they seem like unlikely characters for a tradition since they were not eyewitnesses. In the 2nd century did John, Mark (companion of Peter), and Luke (companion of Paul) hold more significance to the early church? RESPONSE: Even though the question is only about Mark and Luke, I think I should provide some context by discussing Matthew and John as well.  I devoted some thought to the question for my book Jesus Before the Gospels.  Here’s what I say about it all there. Why Were the Names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Chosen? They are the names of two of [...]

2022-05-26T19:50:05-04:00April 29th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

The Plausibility of the Fourth Gospel: The Chronology of Jesus’s Ministry. Platinum Guest Post by Dennis Folds

I'm pleased to publish this guest post by Dennis Folds, dealing with one of the most important issues in the study of the Gospels: how do we know which (if any) is the most, and the least, accurate?  Usually it is argued that John is the latest, most theological, and least reliable account.  But is it?  Dennis takes on the question.  See what you think!  Then let him know!  He'll be dealing with comments. And remember: you too can submit a post.   It does NOT have to be highly academic and "expert" -- at all.  Why not post something just saying what you think about a topic?  Let me know! ****************************** The fourth gospel – John – is quite different than the other three in its narration of the events of Jesus’s ministry, and in its rendering of what Jesus taught. The other three tell the same basic story; that’s why they are called the Synoptic Gospels. The differences between the Synoptics and John are so stark that since antiquity John has been thought to [...]

2022-05-09T18:33:55-04:00April 29th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

A Revelatory Moment about God: Most-Commented Blog Post: #3

Here now is my #3 all time most commented-on post, coming in at 210 comments.  It's about my religious views as an agnostic.  Or an atheist?   Or, actually, how should we think about whether we even *could* imagine a God.  Read on.   ****************************** A Revelatory Moment about “God” January 12, 2020 I had a “revelatory moment” last week that I think may have changed my view about “God” for a very long time – or at least about the existence of superior beings far beyond what we can imagine. As most of you know, I have long been an agnostic-atheist, and as some of you may recall, I define “atheist” differently from most people, at least in relationship to “agnostic.”   The word “agnostic” means “don’t know.”   Is there a God?  I don’t’ know.  How could I possibly know?  How could you?  I know a lot of you do “know” – or think you know.  But my view is that if you’re in that boat you “think” there is a God – really, really think [...]

2022-04-17T20:05:42-04:00April 28th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Full Reply to Mythicist Richard Carrier. Most-Commented Blog Post: #4

Here now is my most-commented-from-the-last-ten-years-post #4.  It is also by far the longest post I have done in all this time.  It addresses an attack on my stupidity and ignorance. I should say at the outset that the one issue/topic I do NOT enjoy going into on the blog these days (for the past three or four years) is the "mythicist" view of Jesus (the idea that Jesus never existed; there never was a Jesus of Nazareth; it's all made up).  The people who hold this view tend to have completely boundless energy and no matter what you say, they keep coming back at you like a terrier.  It's exhausting.  And so these days I stay away from it all.  Let them get on with it. But it is the topic of one of my books (what was I thinking?), and oh boy did it provoke a response.  I thought *Christian fundamentalists* were a hard audience.  HA!  Welcome to the mythicists. All that is explained in this post, which in the end elicited 207 comments. [...]

2022-04-17T20:25:53-04:00April 27th, 2022|Public Forum|

The Religion of a Sixteen-Year Old. Most-Commented Blog Post: #5

We are counting down the TOP TEN commented posts in our TEN year venture on the blog.  We've had a range of topics so far, and here now is Post #5, with 207 comments.   ******************************   The Religion of a Sixteen-Year-Old June 1, 2014 I just got home from spending a week in Lawrence Kansas, my home town.   As I’ve done now for years, I took my mom fishing in the Ozarks for a few days.  She’s 87, and on a walker, but still able to reel them in! I go back to Lawrence probably three or four times a year, and each time it is like going down memory lane.  I left there to go to Moody Bible Institute in 1973, when I was all of 17 years old; I still called it home for years, but never lived there full time, not even in the summers usually.  I was married and very much on my own only four years later.  So my memories of the place are entirely of childhood through high [...]

2022-04-17T20:09:50-04:00April 26th, 2022|Public Forum|

Richard Carrier: A Fuller Reply to His Criticisms, Beliefs, and Claims about Jesus

Richard Carrier - My Response to His Criticisms Richard Carrier is one of the new breeds of mythicists.  He is trained in ancient history and classics, with a PhD from Columbia University – an impressive credential.  In my book Did Jesus Exist I speak of him as a smart scholar with bona fide credentials.  I do, of course, heartily disagree with him on issues relating to the historical Jesus, but I have tried to take his views seriously and give him the respect he deserves. Richard Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog.   He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.” The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal.  He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] [...]

Was Paul the Founder of Christianity? If Not, Then Who Was?

Who is the founder of Christianity? It is often claimed that the Founder of Christianity was the apostle Paul – or at least that he was the co-Founder, along with Jesus. The idea behind this claim is that Christianity is not really about the historical Jesus. Yes, his words are hugely important, and yes it is also important to know that he did all those miraculous deeds.   But his public ministry is not the core of Christian belief.  Instead, the core of Christianity is the belief in his death and resurrection. And this is what Paul preached, not what Jesus preached.  So that even if Jesus’ life and teachings are important, they are not really what Christianity is about.  Christianity is about believing in his death and resurrection for salvation.  And since, in this view, it was Paul who first formulated that belief, he is the founder (or co-founder) of the Christian religion. Paul vs. Jesus: Who is the Founder of Christianity? I have never found this line of argument convincing, for two reasons.  The [...]

2022-05-16T15:48:31-04:00April 24th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page? Most-Commented Blog Post: #6

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #6, with 200 comments. This one deals with one of THE most significant issues in the study of the New Testament and Early Christianity.  Maybe the single most significant.   ****************************** Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page? January 26, 2018 In response to my previous post on the importance of Paul, I have had several people ask me about the relationship between the teachings of Jesus and Paul: are they actually representing the same religion?  I dealt with that question some years ago on the blog.  Here is the first of two posts on the issue. ****************************** I have 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. But in all of these ways, it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that mattered. It was not keeping the [...]

2022-04-11T09:47:38-04:00April 24th, 2022|Public Forum|

Could Jews Bury Crucified Victims? Most-commented Blog Post: #7

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #7, with 198 comments. Let me say that I think this is one of my most important posts in the history of the blog, since it argues against a view that most NT scholars simply assume to be right without ever thinking about it....   ****************************** Did Romans Allow Jews to Bury Crucified Victims? Readers’ Mailbag January 1, 2018 January 1, 2018 Here on the first day of the new year, I was digging around on the blog and I found a post that I *meant* to make a couple of months ago that I never did.  Don’t remember why!  But here it is.  It is from the Readers’ Mailbag, and about a very interesting and controversial issue: would the Romans have allowed anyone to bury Jesus the afternoon on which he was crucified?  I think not, even though I’m in the decided minority on that one.  Here’s the post:   ******************************   QUESTION: [...]

2022-04-11T09:47:06-04:00April 23rd, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Did Judas Betray Jesus? Most-commented Blog Post: #8

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #8, with 187 comments.   ****************************** Why Did Judas Iscariot Betray Jesus? June 3, 2018 In this edition of the Readers’ Mailbag I address an interesting and perplexing question about Judas Iscariot:   QUESTION You may have mentioned this (I cannot recall) but why did Judas go to the authorities in the first place?   RESPONSE               I wrestled with this question long and hard while writing my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, which includes a section on what we can know about the historical Judas.  In the book I argue that there are some things that we can know with relative certainty about Judas (he was one of the Twelve and was the one who actually betrayed Jesus); other things we can profitably surmise based on our evidence (e.g. what it is Judas betrayed to the authorities – not just Jesus’ whereabouts, I argue); and other things that are almost entirely [...]

2022-04-11T09:36:00-04:00April 21st, 2022|Public Forum|

Reminder! A Free Webinar on Saturday on “The Bible and Homosexuality”!

Just a reminder in case you missed it the first time!  Come one, come all!   In celebration of our TENTH anniversary for the blog, I'm happy to announce a FREE webinar for anyone who is interested.  No need to register, no need to pay, no need to donate, no need to do nada.  Just come. It will be this coming Saturday, April 23, 5:00 EST.    And GOOD news.  If you can't come, it will be recorded and I will make it available to the entire known universe. The topic.  An unusually important one.   "Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?"   Well, does it?  The lecture will deal with the issues of sex, gender, and same-sex relations in both Old and New Testaments. I will give a 50 minute lecture and then take questions for 25-30 minutes. Interested in coming?   Below is the link.  Just come to it.  Want the recording?  I'll be posting it on the blog so no need even to inquire. Thanks so much for being part of the blog.  I hope you [...]

2022-04-20T10:56:55-04:00April 20th, 2022|Public Forum|

Burials for the Crucified. Most-commented Blog Post: #9

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #9:  Decent Burials for Crucified Victims in antiquity, with 180 comments.   ****************************** Decent Burials for Crucified Victims October 20, 2017 My post a couple of weeks ago about the burial of Jesus (understandably) struck a nerve for some readers; I was just now digging around in the archives, and see that I addressed most of the important issues, head on, in this rather controversial post I made back in 2012.  All these years later, I’m still open to being convinced otherwise!!! ****************************** In my previous post I quoted a number of ancient sources that indicated that part of the torture and humiliation of being crucified in antiquity was being left, helpless, exposed not just to the elements but to scavenging birds and other animals. These sources suggest that the normal practice was to leave the victims on the cross to be pecked and gnawed at both before and after death; in some instances [...]

2022-04-11T09:48:07-04:00April 19th, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Was Jesus Crucified: Bart Ehrman Crucifixion Thoughts

Why was Jesus Crucified? All the questions I get from members of the blog are good and interesting and deserve lengthy posts.  Every now and then I get one that is absolutely fundamental to understanding Jesus, the New Testament, and the history of early Christianity.  Here is one of them, from many years ago, with an issue that everyone interested in these topics really needs to have a reasoned view about.  Here's the question, and my view Why Was Jesus Crucified? QUESTION: I don’t see the rationale for the Romans to crucify Jesus. It doesn’t appear that he verbalized any anti-Roman propaganda nor was anything anti-Roman alluded to in Josephus’s couple of lines on Jesus. Pilate probably didn’t even know who Jesus was (possibly the bouncing back and forth between Herod was legend). RESPONSE: Yes, it’s a great question and completely central to the story of Jesus: why was he crucified? First off, I agree the Herod story is almost certainly not historical. It’s found only in Luke and is part of Luke’s attempt to [...]

2022-05-22T23:20:10-04:00April 18th, 2022|Historical Jesus|

10 Year Anniversary for The Bart Ehrman Blog!

A Post From Bart's Advisory Circle:   Today, April 18, 2022, the Ehrmanblog.org marks its Ten Year Anniversary! We take this opportunity to thank all of the Donors, Members and other followers who have made this adventure possible. This blog brings world-class scholarship about the New Testament and early Christian literature to an enthusiastic audience of over 10,000. Twelve wonderful people have been on board ever since Day One (see their names below), and 237 others have been Members since that first year. We thank all of you for being here, and for your generosity. Over the years, the Blog has raised more than $1,500,000, and every nickel of your Blog Membership fees goes directly to charities dealing with poverty, hunger, homelessness, and medical needs.   Many volunteers contribute to the effort, helping with everything necessary to keep the website running smoothly, and many incredibly generous supporters provide gifts beyond membership fees that cover all the essential costs of operations. Many readers of the blog contribute with incredibly insightful comments on Bart's posts, adding richness and [...]

2022-04-18T09:05:59-04:00April 18th, 2022|Public Forum|

The Blog’s TENTH Year Anniversary!! Most-commented Blog Post: #10: My View of Revelation!

Today is the TENTH year anniversary of the blog.  We began this venture in April 2012; I wrote my first post on April 3, but we didn't open up access to the blog until April 18.  And it's been a steady stream ever since.  I've published 2964 posts since then, over five a week for every week.  These posts have received nearly 127,000 comments, and I've replied to about 42,000 of them (2/3 are just comments, not asking for replies). As you know, we are celebrating the blog in various ways -- principally because it has raised so much for charities helping those in need, raising so far well over $1.5 million, with more every year.  Last year we hit $360,000 and are doing better so far this year. So what's not to celebrate! One way we will be doing so:  to celebrate our completion of Year Ten, I will be devoting the next Ten posts to republishing the Ten most commented-on posts from the outset.  Of course, posts in recent years are favored by this [...]

2022-04-11T09:48:46-04:00April 18th, 2022|Public Forum|

Free Webinar!!! Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

In celebration of our TENTH anniversary for the blog, I'm happy to announce a FREE webinar for anyone who is interested.  No need to register, no need to pay, no need to donate, no need to do nada.  Just come. It will be this coming Saturday, April 23, 5:00 EST.    And GOOD news.  If you can't come, it will be recorded and I will make it available to the entire known universe. The topic.  An unusually important one.   "Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?"   Well, does it?  The lecture will deal with the issues of sex, gender, and same-sex relations in both Old and New Testaments. I will give a 50 minute lecture and then take questions for 25-30 minutes. Interested in coming?   Below is the link.  Just come to it.  Want the recording?  I'll be posting it on the blog so no need even to inquire. Thanks so much for being part of the blog.  I hope you enjoy the event!  Here's the link: ******************** Topic: Blogaversary Webinar! Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality? Time: [...]

2022-04-19T10:05:22-04:00April 17th, 2022|Public Forum|

More on Nazareth (Or: Why Non-Archaeologists Should Definitely Not Claim to Be Experts)

In my post yesterday I began to explain why René Salm’s claim that Nazareth did not exist in the days of Jesus is dead wrong and is rejected by every recognized authority – whether archaeologist, textual scholar, or historian; whether Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other. Here is my second and final post on the subject, again, from my treatment in Did Jesus Exist? ****************************** Salm also claims that the pottery found on the site that is dated to the time of Jesus is not really from this period, even though he is not an expert on pottery. Two archaeologists who reply to Salm’s protestations say the following: “Salm’s personal evaluation of the pottery … reveals his lack of expertise in the area as well as his lack of serious research in the sources.” They go on to state: “By ignoring or dismissing solid ceramic, numismatic [that is, coins], and literary evidence for Nazareth’s existence during the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman period, it would appear that the analysis which René Salm includes in his review, [...]

2022-04-04T11:25:38-04:00April 17th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Mythicism|
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