Sorting by


Whoa. End of Year Review of the Blog, 2022.

I’m happy indeed to be writing this end of the year assessment of the Bart Ehrman blog.  And so, how we doin’?  Yowsers! To start with the climax:  We blew the top out of our charity-giving this year, by bringing in and distributing $503,000.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but that, well, is half a million dollars.  Whoa.  Many thanks to ALL of you for paying your membership fees and for MANY of you for making separate donations to the work of the blog.  This is a magnificent outcome, well beyond what anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. For some perspective, in our first full (calendar) year of operation (2013) we raised $51,500.   More interesting, just three years ago (2019) we raised $144,000.  We have more than tripled that this year. None of this would be possible without significant help from generous supporters of the blog, including, I say again!, you, the members.  In addition, there are several specific groups of blog participants I’d like to mention: First:  [...]

2022-12-31T10:02:16-05:00December 31st, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Did Jesus Believe in Hell? My Interview With Kevin Grant

I am pleased to post here an interview that I had with Platinum blog member Kevin Grant, who has recently published a book Did Jesus Believe in Hell?  You can get the book here:  Did Jesus Believe in Hell?: New Words on Old Beliefs: Grant, Kevin: 9781737082026: Books.  As you will see, it has received very high rankings on Amazon. Kevin and I see eye-to-eye on most of the critical points, and we flesh them out here in the interview.  His book strives to reach a different audience from mine, people who would not be inclined to read one of my books but would be open to hearing the views of someone they take to be sympathetic with their religious convictions but who wants to provide them with assurance from the Bible itself that they do not need to stand in fear of eternal torment. We cover all that and much more in this interview.  I hope you enjoy it!  And feel free to comment.

2022-12-31T16:09:14-05:00December 30th, 2022|Early Christian Doctrine, Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

If the King James Was Good Enough for Paul, It’s Good Enough for Me

On my podcast ("Misquoting Jesus Podcast," with Bart Ehrman) I recently interviewed my friend and colleague Jennifer Knust about the problems involved with producing a modern translation of the Bible.  It made me recall some lectures I gave in 2012 about the King James Bible, in celebration of it's 400th year anniversary.  I made some posts about the great strengths and interesting problems posed (now) by the KJV.  I looked, and lo and behold I posted about it too.  Here's what I said (this will take several posts): ****************************** In a couple of weeks I’m going off to Los Angeles to give a lecture at Loyola Marymount University as a keynote address for their putting on of the (traveling) exhibition on the King James Bible, started in commemoration of its 400th year (in 2011). The exhibition is called Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, and my lecture is entitled: “What Kind of a Text Is the King James Bible? Manuscripts, Translation, and the Legacy of the KJV.” In addition to [...]

2022-12-27T11:25:55-05:00December 29th, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Just Follow That Star!

In the previous post I commented that this idea of trying to follow a star to get anywhere (say, Bethlehem) would lead to problems.  Some years ago I had pointed out that trying to do that would send them around in circles:  since the earth is not "fixed" -- it rotates and is in orbit around the sun -- stars are never in the same place in the sky, so "following" one would take you all over the place. After posting on that, I found a hilarious illustration of what would happen if the wisemen followed a celestial body to find Jesus. I have borrowed this (no permission required, only acknowledgment) from here: Acknowledgement is here: ****************************** Three Wise Men The story of the three wise men got me wondering: What if you did walk towards a star at a fixed speed? What path would you trace on the Earth? Does it converge to a fixed cycle? —N. Murdoch If the wise men leave Jerusalem and walk toward the star Sirius, day and [...]

2022-12-15T11:08:25-05:00December 27th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Reflections and Ruminations|

Christmas Reflections 2022 (from ten years on)

Ten years ago I posted a Christmas reflection that I just now reread and think encapsulates some of my deepest feelings about the season still.   This is what I said and say: ****************************** So, we have managed to make our way to another Christmas.  I hope all of you – whether fundamentalist, liberal Christian, seeker, Jew, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, or none of the above – are having a very nice, relaxing, rejuvenating, and fulfilling holiday. In the opening chapter of my book God’s Problem, I talked about going to church on Christmas Eve in 2006 with my wife Sarah and brother-in-law Simon, in Saffron-Walden, a market town in England where Simon lives, not far from Cambridge.  It was a somber but moving Christmas Eve service, and yet one that had the opposite of the intended effect on me.  It made me realize just how estranged I was from the Christian faith, from the notion that with Christ God entered into the world and took its sufferings upon himself.  I just didn’t see it, and it [...]

2022-12-16T11:24:54-05:00December 25th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|

O Little Town of Nazareth?

On several occasions on the blog I have discussed the similarities and differences between the accounts of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2), most recently, I think, two years ago at this time (check out the archives for December 2020).  I won't go over all that turf again just now, but I do want to hit several of the key points because I think the *discrepancies* between the two accounts that appear irreconcilable tell us something significant about the birth of Jesus.  I think they help show that he was actually born in Nazareth. Both accounts go to great lengths to show how Jesus could be born in *Bethlehem* when everyone in fact knew that he *came* from Nazareth. It is a particular problem for Matthew, because he points out that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2 , that a great ruler (the Messiah) would come from Bethlehem (Matthew 5:2).  If you read the account carefully, you'll see that Matthew explains it by indicating that Joseph and Mary were [...]

2022-12-26T08:09:17-05:00December 24th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Want to Watch/Discuss a Jesus Movie with Me? The Blog Movie Club!

People often ask me what my favorite “Jesus Movie” is, and they  almost never expect my answer.  For me it’s hands down.  A clear forerunner.  A movie most people have never heard of, but in my opinion, the best of all time: “Jesus of Montreal.”   This is not just my favorite Jesus movie of all time but one of my very favorite movies of any kind of all time. Want to watch it and then have a discussion about it with me? This will be our first ever Blog Movie Club event (BMC)! The main event, the discussion with me, will be on Sunday, January 22, 4:00-5:30 pm EST. The Movie Club viewing will not be that day, but before; and you have two (well three!) massively convenient options.  You can: Watch it on your own at your leisure. Join other blog members in watching it simultaneously in silence, with a brief introduction and discussion afterward (without me) led by movie club organizer and blog member Lance Boyer, on January 14, 8:00 pm; Join other [...]

2023-01-03T13:48:12-05:00December 23rd, 2022|Public Forum|

Instead of “From Nazareth” was Jesus a “Nazarite”??

In my previous post I showed why Jesus almost certainly came from the small village of Nazareth.  There have been some writers (OK, mythicists who don't believe there ever *was* a historical Jesus), who have argued that Jesus could not have come from Nazareth since the place did not exist.  I dealt with this problem in several posts back in April of this year (check the archives for that month). Here, though, I want to address a related issue -- the claim that the early Christians who started saying Jesus was from Nazareth actually just made a *mistake*.  They misunderstood that when some believers in Jesus called him a Nazirite -- someone who had taken a Nazirite vow.   Nazirite vows come from the Hebrew Bible (Numbers 6): an Israelite who wanted to be particularly holy for a period of his life would take the vow, which would include not consuming grape products (think: wine!), not touching corpses (because of ritual defilement), and not cutting their hair (think Samson). Jesus was said -- according to this [...]

2022-12-15T10:57:12-05:00December 22nd, 2022|Historical Jesus|

Did Jesus Actually Come from Nazareth?

When you ask most anyone where Jesus came from, they will say he was born in Bethlehem.   The reason is not hard to find: the only references to Jesus’ birth in the New Testament squarely place his birth in Bethlehem.  There are, as many of you know, only two passages of the New Testament that narrate the events surrounding Jesus’ birth: Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.  And they both agree in placing it in Bethlehem.  (Neither of the other Gospels says anything about it, nor do any of the other 23 books of the New Testament.) And yet there are compelling reasons for questioning that view, so that a large number of critical scholars – even prominent Roman Catholic scholars – think that it is more likely that Jesus was born in Nazareth.   Let me explain why. The first thing to stress is that  all four Gospels – including Matthew and Luke – agree that Jesus came from Nazareth.  That is to say, Nazareth (not Bethlehem) was his hometown.  In my view, that tradition [...]

2022-12-15T10:34:07-05:00December 21st, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Are You Willing To Give a Holiday Gift Membership To Someone Who Needs It??

We are five days from Christmas and twelve days from the New Year.  At about this time for nearly every December of the blog's existence I have opened up a holiday giving option that can help out people who really want to be on the blog but cannot afford the membership fees. In most years we we have been able to give out something like 70-80 gift memberships.  To qualify to receive one, a person had to send me their contact information and to tell me a bit about their circumstances, why they could not afford membership fees (I don't pry: I just want a general idea).  I provided gift memberships only to people who really needed them.  Some of the stories have been heart-breaking.  Luckily, virtually everyone who contacted me has been able to be given a gift membership. I will post on my social media (Facebook and Twitter) as well as on a public post here, the availability of memberships.  I will give out as many as we have.  Would you like to [...]

2022-12-21T14:52:25-05:00December 20th, 2022|Public Forum|

Did Jesus Appear to 500 People After His Resurrection?

What do we make of Paul's claim that 500 people at one time saw Jesus after the resurrection (in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5)?   I get this question every now and then -- maybe five or six times just this year.  These days, among other things, I point 0ut something I hadn't thought about in most of the years of my existence, that there was almost certainly no Christian group (meaning: a group of people who believed Jesus was raised from the dead) of that size in Paul's day anywhere in the world!  (I discuss the numbers of Christians at different time periods in antiquity in my book The Triumph of Christianity.)  So on that level alone it seems highly implausible. But jut now looking through old posts from many years ago, I see I was asked the question and dealt with it in a different way.  I'd forgotten all about it, but see now that I give a bit of analysis that tries to unpack Paul's claims.  Here's the Q and the A: ****************************** QUESTION on [...]

2022-12-15T10:24:49-05:00December 20th, 2022|Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

Did Christ Save *Everyone* When He Descended to Hades?

In my previous post I started to discuss the famous doctrine of the “Harrowing of Hell,” where Christ is said to have descended to Hades after his death (since he was a human, after all, and when humans die, they go to Hades.  Part of the reason for the doctrine, then, is that if he didn’t go, he wouldn’t have had all the human experiences); but he did not go there forever obviously (in this way he was *unlike* everyone else!) but as the son of God he went to bring his salvation to those who had died previously (who could not be saved by his death because it hadn’t happened yet.) I pointed out in the previous post that some theologians said that Christ went to Hades to preach to those who were there to give them the chance to repent (who wouldn’t want to get outta there??  Apparently some or lots?) but others claimed that he went to assert his raw power over his enemies to show who was Lord and King. These [...]

2022-12-23T14:17:13-05:00December 18th, 2022|Afterlife, Christian Apocrypha, Early Christian Doctrine|

Did Jesus Descend to Hell After He Died?

Someone on the blog recently asked me about the idea that after Jesus’ death, and before his resurrection, he “descended into hell.”  This is an affirmation found in the Apostle’s Creed, and so continues to be recited by millions of Christians still today.  But what does it mean? Throughout the history of the church it has usually been thought – by those who thought and/or affirmed such things -- that Jesus descended to the realm of the dead to provide salvation to some (all?) of the people there, to liberate them from their condemnation (which was impossible *before* then because salvation can only come when Christ died – in this view – and so not before.  So when he died he went down to save some (or all) of those who were there, taking them from Hades to heaven.  This notion has traditionally been called “The Harrowing of Hell.” But how did it work, exactly?  And were did the idea come from? As it turns out, I devoted a chapter to the question in my [...]

2022-12-15T10:13:16-05:00December 17th, 2022|Afterlife, Early Christian Doctrine, Historical Jesus|

What Would the Apostle Paul Think of The Trinity? Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

Now here's an intriguing question about early Christianity, posed and answered by Platinum Blog member Joel Scheller in a guest post for all you other Platinums.   One way to put the question is this: Would the apostle-Paul have been considered an arch-heretic in the fourth century?  A good case can be made!  Read on. And think about contributing a post yourself, on any topic connected to the blog.  Have an idea/thought?  Get it out there! For now -- here's Joel's most recent contribution.  He'll be happy to address your comments. ****************************** I find it interesting that so much Christian teaching is based on the Apostle Paul’s influence and yet the doctrine on the very nature of God for most Christians seems out of step with what Paul has to say on the subject. To start off with, The Nicene Creed was originally provoked by the question of how Jesus was God in relation to God the Father, with the inclusion of The Holy Spirit in the creed as almost an afterthought, and whose relationship in [...]

2022-11-29T10:59:06-05:00December 16th, 2022|Early Christian Doctrine, Paul and His Letters|

The Mind-Body Problem As My Personal Dilemma. What Do YOU Think?

Is there an I in me? For several years now, I have been increasingly fascinated by the brain as an organ, and by consciousness as a phenomenon.  These are not topics you can figure out simply by taking some time to muse about them – although I strongly advocate taking time to muse about them and putting some effort into musing about them seriously.  There are, of course, incredibly smart people out there with massive expertise who know and understand things beyond the ken of us mere mortals.  But even they haven’t figured out the brain (or even close; but whoa do they know a lot about it).  Or consciousness: even though, in this case, a number of people – usually philosophers – certainly claim they have, or at least that they *basically* have. It is worth reading what these folk have to say when they write simplified versions of their views in trade books designed for the rest of us who ain’t on their level.   And these versions can indeed get us to think [...]

2022-12-15T10:01:47-05:00December 15th, 2022|Public Forum|

December Gold Q&A

It is time to schedule the Gold Q&A for December!   My plan is to record it this weekend -- which means I need your QUESTIONS. So you have something to ask?  It can be holiday related, non-holiday related, and anything-related-to-the-blog related.  Go for it!   I'm more likely to answer questions that are relatively short and to the point than those that go on for a long paragraph.  So be concise, I'll try to be informative, and the world will be a happy place. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] The DEADLINE for your question is this Saturday, December 17 midnight (whenever midnight is where you live). As has become our wont, we will release the recording in both video and audio --  for Gold members only.  I'm looking forward to it! Bart  

2022-12-14T11:55:31-05:00December 14th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Truly Great New Testament Scholar: E. P. Sanders in Memoriam

I am dedicating this blog post to the memory of E. P. Sanders, one of the truly great scholars of the New Testament in modern times, who died November 21, 2022, age 85.  I was heavily influenced by his scholarship, already during graduate school, and I always considered him as the kind of massively learned and rigorous scholars that all of us should strive to be.  He more or less single-handedly revolutionized three major areas of New Testament studies, in times when virtually no one had a huge impact on *any* area.  In my view he was the most influential NT scholar of our time. Ed was born in Texas and did his PhD at Union Theological Seminar under one of the greats of the previous generation, W. D. Davies, who was himself unusually erudite scholar who focused on understanding the historical Jesus and the Gospels in light of ancient Judaism – a VERY difficult field to master.  Ed started out with religious leanings, but as he advanced in his education he moved toward a [...]

2022-12-05T15:08:10-05:00December 14th, 2022|Public Forum|

What about Forgeries IN the New Testament? Is it Possible?

I’ve been talking about some of the early Christian forgeries, books that Christian authors published claiming to be apostles when they were … someone else.   Could we have such things actually in the New Testament?  That is the topic I discuss in my book Forged (HarperOne: 2011).  I give extensive arguments and evidence throughout the book, but here is the opening gambit. ****************************** There are thirteen letters in the New Testament that claim to be written by Paul, including two to the Thessalonians.  In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians we find a most intriguing verse, where the author tells his readers that they are not to be led astray by a letter “as if by us” which indicates that the “day of the Lord” is almost here (2 Thess 2:2).  The author, in other words, knows of a letter in circulation claiming to be by Paul, which is not really by Paul.  This other letter allegedly teaches an idea that Paul himself opposes.  Who would create such a forged letter?  Obviously someone who wanted [...]

Forgeries in the Names of the Apostles: Some of the Most Interesting

As I pointed out in my previous posts, taken from the Preface of my book Forged (HarperOne, 2011), we still have numerous forged documents that emanated from the early church, numerous Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses (these are the four literary genres of the New Testament) all of them claiming to be written by apostles.  Many of these non-canonical books are fascinating and still worth reading.[1]  I’ve talked about a number of them on the blog before, but here it may be worthwhile to give a quick summary of some of them. Among the Gospels, for example, there is an account allegedly written by Peter, which gives a detailed narration of the resurrection.  This is striking because – most readers have never noticed this – the New Testament Gospels do not narrate the resurrection.  They do say that Jesus was buried, and they indicate that on the third day his tomb was empty; but they do not narrate the account of him actually emerging from the tomb.  There is such an account in the Gospel [...]

Writing Forgeries to Show the Truth

In my previous post I pointed out a major problem that confronted the earliest Christians, as I discuss in the Preface to my book Forged  (HarperOne, 2011).  From the beginning the followers of Jesus insisted that they had the “truth” and that it was only by accepting the “truth” about God as revealed by Jesus that anyone could have salvation.  But they disagreed on what the truth was.  There were numerous widespread views already in the earliest years of Christianity about who Jesus was, what his death meant, how one was to have salvation, whether one had to keep, or begin to keep, the Jewish law, and about lots of other things. How was one to get around these problems?  The obvious answer presented itself early on in the Christian movement.  One could know what the apostles taught because they left writings behind.  These authoritative authors produced authoritative teachings.  And so, the authoritative truth could be found in the apostolic writings. Even though this might sound like a perfect solution to the problem, the solution [...]

Go to Top