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Did Nazareth Even Exist in the Days of Jesus? The Weird Claims of Rene Salm

Some people who claim that Jesus did not even exist argue that there never was a town of Nazareth.  So hey, how could he be from there?  It didn't exist and he didn't either.  It's all a myth. Really.  They base this claim on a book written by a fellow named Rene Salm. I was asked about Salm's book a couple of weeks ago, and remembered I had posted on the issue, and Salm's book, in 2012 (!).  Here's the (current) question and my (previous) answer.   QUESTION: Rene Salm’s 2008 book “The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus (Scholar’s Edition)” makes an archaeological argument that Nazareth was not settled until after the First Jewish War, c. 70CE. It goes into great detail and appears to be quite scholarly, but I don’t know what to make of it. Bart, are you aware of this book or its author?   ANSWER When I dealt with Salm's book in 2012, it was because he presented a paper at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting and [...]

2022-04-04T11:00:13-04:00April 16th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Mythicism|

The Book of Genesis, the White Jesus, and Debating the Resurrection: Interview with Seth Andrews

I've been doing a lot of interviews and podcasts over the past couple of months, and for my money this is absolutely one of the best, with Seth Andrews the Host of "The Thinking Atheist."   He's a terrific interviewer: intelligent, knowledgable, and gifted at directing a conversation.  We talked about all sorts of things from my views of the book of Genesis, to the white Jesus, to debating whether Jesus was raised from the dead, and on and on.  Check it out!  

2022-04-04T22:08:56-04:00April 14th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations, Video Media|

Reminder: You can enter the Blogiversary Lottery!

Hey Fellow Bloggers,      Here is a reminder that we have a lottery going on with prizes!   Entry deadline is in FIVE days.  Interested?  Here is the original announcement, with all the details. ****************************** I am very pleased to announce that the Blog’s ten-year anniversary is on April 18!   We have been going at it this whole time, ten years, non-stop!  HA!   Tempus is fugiting…. We are celebrating the upcoming date in a variety of ways.  There will be at least one celebratory event,  special announcements, reposting of favorite posts from years gone by, and a couple of fundraisers.   Today I announce the first fundraiser.   A LOTTERY with prizes, with all proceeds going to disaster relief in Ukraine. As to the Lottery:  Each ticket is $10 and you can buy as many  as you like.  So if you want to have a shot (see prizes below), buy one!  If you want to increase the odds, buy more.  The limit to the number you can buy is ….  well, it is limitless. Tickets can be purchased UNTIL [...]

2022-04-14T10:12:45-04:00April 13th, 2022|Public Forum|

Gold Members Q&A for April!

Dear Gold Members, It's that time again.  Time for the Gold Q&A for April -- a perk of your membership!  Do you have any questions you'd like to ask, on anything related to the blog?  Ask away, and I'll do my best to answer. To get your question on the list: zap a note to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Midnight (your time) on Thursday April 21. I will record the Q&A that weekend, and it will be available, if all goes to plan, on  Thursday, April 28. I’m looking forward to it!   Bart

2022-04-14T10:10:51-04:00April 13th, 2022|Public Forum|

Jesus and Sexual Immorality

Jesus and sexual immorality.  I began to discuss yesterday the interesting case that NT scholar Scot McKnight advances for thinking that maybe Jesus *does* speak of same-sex relations in the Gospels.  The last (group) of his three references are the ones he thinks are the most likely instances: Matthew 5:32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. The Greek word for “sexual immorality” here is porneia.  It is a broad term that probably does mean something like “sexual immorality.”   Scot argues that any Jew in the first century who wanted to know what sexual immorality was would automatically think and turn to Leviticus 18, the passage I referred to in an earlier post, a passage that considers sex with certain others is not just inappropriate but an “abomination.”   Included in the list is “men with men.”  Jesus, therefore, [...]

Did Heretics’ Texts Describe Their Incestuous Rituals?

In my previous post I talked about the church Father Epiphanius's attack on a heretical group of Gnostics called the Phibionites.  They allegedly based their practices on a now-no-longer-surviving book the Greater Questions of Mary (Magdalene).  Epiphanius indicates he knows the book.  Did he?  Did it actually exist.  Here I conclude the discussion, from my book Forgery and Counterforgery. ****************************** The prior question is whether Epiphanius’s description of the activities of the group is at all plausible.  Historians have long treated Epiphanius in general with a healthy dose of skepticism.[1]  No Patristic source is filled with more invective and distortion; Epiphanius frequently makes connections between historical events that we otherwise know are unrelated, and he expressly claims to write horrific accounts precisely in order to repulse his readers from the heresies he describes (Pan. Proem. I. 2).  His description of the Phibionites and their sex rituals, nonetheless, has been taken as historically grounded by a dismaying number of competent scholars.   For Stephen Gero, the fact that other heresiological sources down into the Middle Ages mention [...]

2022-04-04T10:46:50-04:00April 13th, 2022|Fourth-Century Christianity, Heresy and Orthodoxy|

How Can Paul Say that Jesus Appeared to The Twelve?

Why did Paul say Jesus appeared to the twelve? Here is an interesting question from my Readers’ Mailbag connected to the tradition that Judas Iscariot killed himself soon after Jesus’ death, leaving only eleven disciples. Did Paul know about this tradition? Why does he seem to think there were still twelve disciples after the resurrection? QUESTION: What do you think about Paul saying that Jesus appeared to the "twelve" (Apostles) after his resurrection? (1 Cor. 15:5) I find this to be a big mistake; given the multiple gospel stories about Judas's betrayal and subsequent suicide. Wouldn't Paul have known that there were only eleven Apostles at that time? How Can Paul Say that Jesus Appeared to The Twelve? RESPONSE: Ah, an interesting question, and answering it involves a number of rather unexpected complexities. The basic question: does Paul know that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and afterward committed suicide? The first issue to address: who among the authors of the New Testament does know about the suicide of Judas? Here’s an interesting point. It is not [...]

2024-02-22T17:03:23-05:00April 12th, 2022|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Fabrication, Forgery, and Accusations of (Heretical) Christian Licentious Rituals!

Two weeks ago I was asked to lead a PhD seminar on the use of literary forgery in early Christianity for the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures in the Department of Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Cultures, at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.  Thank God for Zoom. In preparation I reread parts of my book Forgery and Counterforgery and came across a section that I thought might be of interest to (some) members of the blog, dealing with Christian authors who fabricate stories and forge books to attack their heretical opponents. This will take two posts.  TRIGGER WARNING: it involves rather scandalous sex acts (and worse) by an early Christian group.  Or so our source tells us.  And he indicates he has first-hand knowledge of it.  Whoa. Here’s part one. ****************************** As a further example of a forger who perpetrated a fraud, we might consider the work of the doughty defender of the apostolic faith, Epiphanius of Salamis (late fourth century).  Throughout his major work, the Panarion, an eighty-chapter refutation of all [...]

2022-04-04T10:30:58-04:00April 12th, 2022|Fourth-Century Christianity, Heresy and Orthodoxy|

Teeth Will Be Provided

Teeth will be provided seems like a strange title right? Well, we will get to that soon. I have had a long thread of fairly heavy-hitting posts for over a week now, dealing with whether Matthew and his audience, were Jewish.   I still have a few things to say about related issues (such as whether, at the end of the day, Matthew and the apostle Paul would have been able to see eye-to-eye, and whether rather than being Jewish Matthew should be considered *anti*-Jewish).  But I think it’s time for a break from the hard-hitting discussions for something a bit different and humorous.  And so I have an anecdote to tell about a passage that I quoted in one of my earlier posts from Matthew, where Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into [...]

2023-02-22T10:29:37-05:00April 10th, 2022|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

Does Paul Know That Judas Iscariot Betrayed Jesus?

I sometimes get asked about Paul and Judas Iscariot: did Paul know Jesus was betrayed?  I was asked it again a couple of weeks ago and have decided to repost an answer from some years ago.  SO:   QUESTION: Do you think that Paul, without naming him, is referring to Judas in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24? (The verse in the NRSV: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”)   RESPONSE: Ah, it’s a great question. Paul never explicitly mentions Judas Iscariot or indicates that Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples. But couldn’t this verse contain a reference to Judas? It refers to the night on which Jesus was betrayed! One reason the question matters is that Paul says almost *NOTHING* about the events of Jesus’ lifetime. That seems weird to [...]

Christian Pastors Who Have Lost Their Faith

Are you curious about Christian Pastors who have lost their faith? You may not know this, but if you’re in a Christian church – whether it’s a traditional Roman Catholic church, Episcopalian, Southern Baptist, Independent-Bible-Thumping-Fire-and Brimstone-Fundamentalist – your priest/pastor may be losing his/her faith, or already lost it.  And yet still be in the pulpit.  There are some times when you might suspect something was up.  Other times, you’d have no clue. I’ve been there, on both sides of that equation.  I won’t talk about the loss of faith on the part of pastors who were preaching in front of me every week.  But I can say something about myself, in the pulpit, desperately trying to hold on to my faith, and seeing it ooze away from me while preaching every week on the radio.  It’s not a pleasant feeling and can lead to massive confusion, self-doubt, self-condemnation, and uncertainty about what to do and where to turn. My Journey I was never a permanent ordained minister in any denomination.  I was *trained* to be [...]

2022-05-29T22:56:02-04:00April 9th, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

The Apocalypse of John and the Gospel of Jesus: My Final Thoughts

Here now is the conclusion to my lecture on the ideology of domination in the book of Revelation. ****************************** I conclude with several more focused reflections on whether the Revelation of John represents the Gospel of Jesus.  To sum up what I have been emphasizing: there is not a single word in all of Revelation about God loving others and no instruction to the followers of Christ to do so either.  Instead, they are called to be “conquerors” – and once they overwhelm the rest of the earth with divine military might, they become its rulers, kings who control “the nations with a rod of iron.”  Whether John meant this literally is beside the point.   This is how he sees God, Christ, his followers, and the rest of the human race: powerful rulers and abject subjects. Is this what Jesus meant when he told his followers to abandon all desire for greatness?  To live lives of service to others?  To become slaves?   In the book of Revelation Christ’s followers are slaves, but only to God.  [...]

2022-03-28T11:14:48-04:00April 9th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Revelation of John|

The Criterion of Dissimilarity

The criterion of dissimilarity. Over the past couple of class periods, I have introduced my undergraduate students to the problems that confront critical scholars who try to reconstruct what Jesus really said and did.  These problems are created by the nature of our materials especially the New Testament Gospels.  This is why I begin my course, which focuses on the historical approach to the New Testament, in something other than the chronological order of events or writings.  Irony! But an irony with pretty compelling logic.  If we began with a chronological order of writings, of course, we would begin the course with the writings of Paul, since these are the first surviving writings from any early Christian. Earlier by 15-30 years than the Gospels.  But it doesn’t make sense to start with Paul (in my opinion) if you don’t know something about Jesus.  And you can’t begin with Jesus unless you know something about our sources for Jesus, our Gospels.  And so for a historical approach to the New Testament, we go out of chronological [...]

2022-05-29T16:47:53-04:00April 8th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Did Early Christians Believe in Reincarnation?

In my previous post I talked about how Origen's view that souls existed before being born as humans related to his view that in the end, all things -- including the most wicked beings in the universe -- will convert and return to God: salvation for all!   Also connected to this idea was Origen's notion that after death people would be reborn to, in a sense, "give it another go."  Origen is our most famous Christian proponent of the idea of reincarnation. Reincarnations - Before Origen The idea of reincarnation had been floated for centuries before Origen.   In ancient Greece, the great philosopher Pythagoras was widely believed to have been the first to perpetrate, or at least popularize the idea.  Later it was allegedly held by such figures as Parmenides and Empedocles, the latter of whom had allegedly said “Before now I was a boy, and a maid, a bush and a bird, and a dumb fish leaping out of the sea.” So too we find it in the Roman tradition, as when Virgil’s Aeneas [...]

2023-03-15T15:26:26-04:00April 8th, 2022|Afterlife|

Matthew’s Fulfillment Citations

Fulfillment citations - one of the most distinctive aspects of Matthew’s infancy narrative is his insistence that everything that happened was a “fulfillment” of Scripture. Why was Jesus’ mother a virgin? To fulfill what the prophet said (he quotes Isaiah 7:14: “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son”) Why was he born in Bethlehem? To fulfill what the prophet said (he quotes Micah 5:2: “And you, Bethlehem…from you shall come a ruler” Why did Joseph and the family escape to Egypt? To fulfill what the prophet said (he quotes Hosea 11:1: “Out of Egypt I have called my son”) Why did Herod have the boys two years and under killed? To fulfill what the prophet said (he quotes Jeremiah 31.15 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation”) Why did Joseph and his family relocate to Nazareth? To fulfill what the prophet said (he quotes … well what does he quote, exactly? “He will be called a Nazorean.” Huh?) Fulfillment Citations These so-called “fulfillment citations” are found in Matthew and only in [...]

2023-03-14T19:47:48-04:00April 7th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

We Need A Volunteer to Record Audio Versions of the Blog Posts. Interested?

As you probably know, we have audio versions of all the blog posts that are available for all Gold and Platinum level members.  The audio versions go out on the same day as the written posts themselves.  It's a great benefit (if you're not Gold level yet: consider it!).  But it takes a lot of work by volunteers who are very generous with their time.  The volunteers record each post, and they are then produced and published by Ben Porter, Chief Technology Officer (who does all the technology that makes the blog work). We have two volunteers currently alternating in their reading of the posts, and we need to add another in order to keep the operation running smoothly.   Would you be interested?   To be considered, you would need to fill out a form and then submit an audition recording (all explained in the link below). We are looking for someone with a very good reading voice.  The position would take time and commitment, but the position does NOT require a lot of technical expertise.  You [...]

2022-04-10T18:41:26-04:00April 7th, 2022|Public Forum|

Are the Teachings of Jesus Realistic? Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson

Platinum members on the blog (Check it out!  Register | The Bart Ehrman Blog ) are allowed to submit guest posts to other Platinum members, and among those submitted we (they) vote on which ones to include on the whole blog.  Here is an extremely interesting and challenging one posted by Platinum member Doug Wadeson.  Read it and see! Doug will be happy to reply to comments. ****************************** Jesus is generally thought of as a great moral teacher, but I have heard that questioned on occasion.  For example, Jesus said, “Do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also” (Matthew 5:39).  Really?!  Does Jesus want us to be target practice for bullies?  Won’t that just enable and embolden them?  And on a societal scale, if America is attacked are we not supposed to defend ourselves?  Otherwise evil will win.  A real sore point for some people is that Jesus never condemned slavery, which was a common institution in his day (e.g., Matthew [...]

2022-04-07T10:07:59-04:00April 7th, 2022|Historical Jesus|

John of Patmos and the Passion for World Domination

I move on now to discuss Revelation’s view of ruling the world.  If at the end of time God destroys everyone other than his followers, whom will they rule?  I begin by picking up my final question in the last post. ****************************** Where does the book of Revelation stand on the morality of domination?  There is really not much doubt.  When the catastrophes have run their course, Christ’s followers are granted world dominion. To understand what that might mean for John of Patmos we have to consider one of the stranger anomalies of his narrative.  After the wrath of God has been satisfied: what remains of the population of earth?  At the last judgment in ch. 20 everyone whose name does not appear in the “book of life” – that is, anyone who is not a follower of Jesus – is sent to the second death in “the lake of fire” (20:11-15). Doesn’t “everyone” mean everyone?   John stresses that it does: after earth’s entire non-Christian population is cast into the fiery lake, so too are [...]

2022-03-28T10:55:15-04:00April 6th, 2022|Revelation of John|

Reminder: My Debate on Saturday. Did the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happen?

This is just a reminder that on Saturday I'm holding a day-long (!) debate on Saturday on whether Jesus was actually raised from the dead.  Tickets are still available. Here was the original announcement, in case you're interested. ****************************** I would like to announce a major public debate that I will be having with the well-known conservative evangelical apologist Mike Licona on the resurrection of Jesus.  The title is “Did the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happen? Two Bible Scholars Debate the Evidence.”   It will be held remotely on April 9th from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm EST. The debate is not directly connected with the blog but is my own thing, done in conjunction with the courses I've been recording for the Bart Ehrman Professional Services.  There will be a charge for the event.   Some of the profits will be redirected to the blog, and blog members will get a discount (see below). If you have any interest at all, check out the video below. And if you want to learn more or sign up, [...]

2022-04-07T09:43:10-04:00April 5th, 2022|Public Forum|

O Frabjous Day, Callou Callay

I'm chortling in my joy.  Today is a big day for me!  At last my academic study of guided tours of the afterlife came out:  Journeys to Heaven and Hell: Tours of the Afterlife in the Early Christian Tradition.   As many of you know, this is the scholarly monograph that is roughly similar at least in topic (almost all the material is actually completely different) to my trade book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, which came out two years ago. I STARTED out -- six years ago, in 2016 -- thinking I wanted to do further research into afterlife in the early Christian tradition, and was specifically interested in writing a scholarly book on "Katabasis," the technical term for "a journey to the realms of the dead" (it literally means "a going down").  I got two full years of research leave to do it, a fellowship at the National Humanities Center in 2018-19 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019-20.   I did nothing but work on it full time both years, and I've [...]

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