Sorting by


The Father and the Son. A Platinum Post by Omar Abur-Robb

A Platinum post for fellow Platinum members from Omar Abur-Robb:   ****************************** The Father and the Son   When and how the people of the Christian faith started to refer to God as “The Father”? Jews today refer to God as Adonai, Hashem, or Elohim. Karaite Jews do refer to God as Yahweh, but the Rabbinic Jews don’t use this name as they regard it sacred. But (to my understanding) there are no Jews (Karaite or Rabbinic) who refer to God as “The Father”. Also (to my understanding) there are no Jews in history who have referred to God as “The Father”. Therefore, I can establish the following null-hypothesis that Jews at the time of Jesus didn’t refer to God as “The Father”. Now ... if someone managed to extract a paragraph from an ancient Jewish manuscript (for example: one of the books of Philo, Josephus, or the dead sea scrolls, etc.) that demonstrate that Jews at the time of Jesus did refer to God as “The Father” then the previous hypothesis will fall [...]

2023-05-15T15:34:03-04:00May 15th, 2023|Public Forum|

How Can We “Remember” Someone (say, Jesus) We Never Knew?

A number of readers on the blog have objected to my understanding of memory, specifically to what a memory is, that is, to what constitutes a memory.  As a rule, these readers have argued – some with considerable force and conviction! – that a “memory” is a mental recollection of something that one has personally experienced. Let me cite one of the more closely reasoned expressions of this alternative view by one of my respondents, before explaining my view and why I have it. COMMENT: Bart, I think people might be confused by your definition of false memories. In the medical, psychological and legal literature, false memories are defined as BELIEVED-IN MEMORIES OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCES that are false or are falsely remembered by specific persons. Beliefs ,stories, narratives, myths, folklore and conspiracies that are false but are circulating in a community or culture are not considered false memories by memory experts since these are not claimed to be first-hand memories of personal experiences. For example, a false memory can be created in the mind of [...]

2023-05-04T13:29:32-04:00May 14th, 2023|Memory Studies|

In What Sense is a Made-Up Story about Jesus a False *Memory*??

In the past, when I've said that the Gospels sometimes contain “false memories” of Jesus people have objected:  these may not be memories at all, but simply stories the Gospel writers made up for their own reasons.  In that case Jesus isn’t being “remembered” in these ways.  Someone’s just making up stuff. In response to that view, let me make two points.  The second will be the most important, but first things first:  in most cases I don’t think there is any way to know whether a non-historical tradition in the Gospels is something that the Gospel writer inherited from others before him or invented himself.  Take Luke’s story of how Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem. In Luke, and only in Luke we have a specific explanation of how it is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, if – as evidently everyone knew – he actually came from Nazareth.  It is that when Mary was full-term pregnant, she took a trip to Bethlehem with her espoused Joseph in order to register for a [...]

2023-05-17T11:14:32-04:00May 13th, 2023|Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, Apostle to the Atheists. A Platinum Post by Robert Droney

Here is a Platinum guest post by Robert Droney where he objects (rather vigorously) to my self-identification as a "Christian atheist."   As always, he has a reasoned set of arguments!  I won't be replying here, but, well, what to *you* think? And remember, you too can write a Platinum guest post for other Platinum members, with the possibility of it being posted to the entire blog.   If you have one, or just an idea of one, let us know; zap an email to [email protected] *********************************   I think that most people and are familiar with Saul’s conversion story. Saul was a “Jew’s, Jew.”[1] A well-educated and zealous Pharisee who persecuted early Christians for their heretical belief that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.[2] However, on the road to Damascus, Jesus appears to Saul to reprimand him for his persecution of Christians.[3] Because of this experience, resulting blindness, and receipt of the Holy Spirit, Saul mends his ways, ceases persecuting Christians and becomes a fervent advocate for the belief in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.[4] Personally, I find [...]

2023-05-17T11:34:11-04:00May 12th, 2023|Public Forum|

Blog Announcement: Comments!

Just so you know!  Tomorrow I'm heading to the Galapagos and will not have reliable wifi for about a week.  That WON'T affect the blog posts -- I've got them all lined up and ready to roll.  BUT, I won't be able to respond to comments. But feel free to make them at will.  I will get to them when I return from the land of Darwin to the land of AI.  And maybe I should start using AI to respond to comments, for the sake of all involved!  (But never fear: it ain't gonna happen.)

2023-05-11T21:11:00-04:00May 11th, 2023|Public Forum|

Creation Stories of the Ancient World (Part 2): An Ancient Egyptian Account

Was the account of creation found in Genesis comparable to (or even borrowed from?) other ancient accounts in scattered throughout the world at the time? Last month my colleague Joseph Lam, an expert in the Hebrew Bible and the languages and literature of the Ancient Near East provided us with a guest post about some of the creation stories found outside Scripture in non-Israelite cultures -- stories in circulation before the ones written in Genesis ( Here now is a second and equally interesting post dealing with stories from ancient Memphis Egypt (not Tennessee!)! This is the topic of his lecture course for the Great Courses/Wondrium, "Creation Stories of the Ancient World" (links at bottom) **************************** In my last blog entry, I offered a brief description of the Babylonian Creation Epic, Enuma Elish, and reflected on how one might imagine its relationship to the seven-day creation story of Genesis 1. In this post, I turn to an enigmatic but fascinating text from ancient Egypt known as the Memphite Theology that has also been compared with Genesis [...]

2023-05-12T14:46:07-04:00May 11th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

May Gold Q&A: Submit your questions!

Dear Goldies, Our monthly Gold Q&A is coming upon us.  DEADLINE for your question(s):  this coming Friday, May 19, midnight your time.    Interested in anything I can deal with?   Now's your chance: Ask away! 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 answer as the spirit leads. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] My plan is to record the session sometime over the few days after that.  I will probably send out a note indicating when that'll be a day or so ahead of time in case any of you want to listen in live. So, let me hear what you're curious about and I'll do my best to respond! BDE  

2023-05-10T11:53:13-04:00May 10th, 2023|Public Forum|

Does Understanding “Memory” Have Any Bearing on the Study of the Historical Jesus?

In my earlier posts I began to discuss my book, Jesus Before the Gospels, which deals with how understanding how "memory" works can contribute to our assessment of the Gospels stories about Jesus.   Long before starting the book I had been intrigued the question of how eyewitnesses would have remembered the Jesus' life, and how the stories about Jesus may have been shifted and altered and invented in later times based on faulty or even false memories.  Those questions led me to be interested in memory more broadly. Memory is an enormous field of research, just within cognitive psychology.  I spent many months doing nothing but reading important studies, dozens and dozens of books and articles.  It is really interesting stuff.   Memory is not at all what I started out thinking it was.  Like most people I had this vague notion in my head that memory worked kind of like a camera.  You see or experience something and take a photo of it and store it in your head.   Sometimes the photo might fade, or [...]

2023-05-01T10:50:29-04:00May 10th, 2023|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|

Was Matthew Attacking Paul?

On my podcast this past week (Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman) someone asked me if I thought any of the Gospels of the NT were influenced by Paul.  It's an interesting question that I should post on (my view: Mark, maybe; Luke, unexpectedly and oddly not; John, I doubt it; Matthew?) Ah, Matthew.  As it turns out, I think Matthew shows a rather obvious and ironic connection with Paul.  Did he know Paul's writings?  I have no idea.  Did he know about Paul?  Same, no idea.  Did he oppose a major feature of Paul's gospel message?  Sure looks like it!!  (I'm trying to say that he could be opposed to Paul's views without necessarily knowing Paul's writings; the views may have been more widely spread than just by Paul.  In fact, they almost certainly were. Here's how I've discussed the matter once when I was reflecting at greater length in the issue: Paul certainly had opponents in his lifetime:  "Judaizers," as scholars call them -- that is, Christian teachers who maintained that followers of Jesus [...]

The Road From the “Duo of Philo” to the “Trinity of Nicaea” A Platinum Post by Omar Abur-Robb

I am happy to post this guest post to Platinum members by fellow Platinum member Omar Abdur-Robb.  The trinity is a complicated issue in early Christianity, closely related to Greek philosophical thought (it's not just some idea someone came up with once....).   Here Omar explores a key aspect of how it may have happened. Remember: you too can post a platinum guest post!  Simply send your submission to [email protected] ****************************** The road from the "Duo of Philo" to the "Trinity of Nicaea" Omar Abur-Robb   There is a clear relationship between the early Greek Christianity and the Greek metaphysical philosophy, and we will explore this here. But let us first show the genius of the Greek thinking process: Let us take an object. This object can be divided into two objects. Then each one can be divided into two objects, and so forth. But this process of division cannot continue forever; otherwise all objects are just a combination of zeros. Therefore, there need to be an elementary object that cannot be divided. The Greek [...]

2023-05-08T11:11:52-04:00May 8th, 2023|Public Forum|

Remembering Columbus, Remembering Christ

In my previous post on Abraham Lincoln I discussed how the collective "memory" of important persons from the past can be distorted.  We as a society "remember" things in certain ways -- e.g., Vietnam; Civil Rights Movement; Elvis; 9/11), -- different groups differently and not always accurately .  Here I give another example, not to be a definitive demonstration of my point so much as to help us think about the issue.  What about our memories of Christopher Columbus?  And, well, how about the early Christians' memory of Jesus? Again, this comes from the early part of my book Jesus Before the Gospels  (HarperOne, 2016). ****************************** Remembering Columbus Much the same can be said about most of the historical figures that we revere, from Caesar Augustus to Joan of Arc to Christopher Columbus.   Columbus is an interesting example.  He is not always remembered today in the same glowing terms that we remembered him when I was a child growing up in the 50s and 60s.  In those days, we remembered Columbus as one of the great [...]

2023-04-24T12:32:07-04:00May 7th, 2023|Memory Studies, Public Forum|

How Do We “Remember” Lincoln?

In my last post,  I mentioned a phenomenon known as “collective” memory.  It's how groups of people "remember" something in the  past.  This isn't quite the same as how you remember what you did on your last vacation.  It's more like how past events or figures are constructed in the broader "memory" of a society.  Sociologists have long studied this problem, and their findings can help us think differently about how later Christian societies (groups of people) "remembered" Jesus. Here's an example I cite in my book Jesus Before the Gospels (HarperOne, 2016). ****************************** Remembering Lincoln In 2014 a poll was taken of 162 members of the American Political Science Association, asking them to rank all the past presidents of the United States, from best to worst.[1]   Probably to no one’s great surprise, the top-ranked president was Abraham Lincoln.  Most of us – though certainly not all of us – remember Lincoln as a truly great and noble man who did remarkable things for his country.  But he was not always thought of in that [...]

2023-04-24T12:43:08-04:00May 6th, 2023|Memory Studies, Public Forum|

When I Got Seriously Interested in Memory (at least insofar as I remember)

(Recall: this post came from the past, when I was working on my book about Jesus and Memory, badly titled Jesus Before the Gospels.  I had forgotten about the post till just now!) As I indicated in my previous post, I have long been interested in memory for both personal and professional reasons.  On the personal level, I have known people very close to me who have experienced serious memory problems, for example through strokes.  Depending on what part of the brain is affected, different memory functions are damaged.   For example, someone may remember perfectly well what happened in an event 20 years ago, but forget a conversation they just had.   I have often wondered why and how that is.. And then there was my own memory.  For some things I have a terrific memory.  And for lots of things I have an absolutely terrible memory.   I especially have a terrible “episodic” memory (as psychologists call it), a memory for things that happen in your life and you experience.   Let me give an example. About [...]

2023-05-06T11:32:19-04:00May 4th, 2023|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions, Memory Studies|

Did The Twelve Become Only Three? Platinum post by Douglas Wadeson MD

Early Christianity had many stories about the adventures of the Twelve Apostles after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Thomas is tricked into becoming a missionary to India.1 John travels about evangelizing while demonstrating control of bedbugs!2 Andrew was said to travel to the area now known as Ukraine to evangelize there – I’ve been there several times and a statue of Andrew is seen outside their parliament building and elsewhere.3 The vast majority of these stories are so fanciful and written so late that scholars do not take them as factual, but they have worked their way into Christian traditions. What did the Apostles do after Jesus? Did they even remain faithful, let alone evangelize?   All four Gospels hint at doubts among the Apostles, even after Jesus’ reported resurrection appearances. Mark, our earliest gospel, portrays the Twelve as mostly clueless throughout Jesus’ ministry. At Jesus’ arrest “His disciples all left Him and fled” (Mark 14:50). In the original ending, at 16:8, the women flee the tomb and do NOT tell the other [...]

2023-05-03T10:04:28-04:00May 3rd, 2023|Public Forum|

My Forgotten Book on Memory

Of all the books I've written for a general audience, the one that I think got (by far) less attention than it deserved -- well, OK, less attention that I wanted and hoped (!) -- was Jesus Before the Gospels.  I've long thought I gave it a very bad title.  The book is really about memory -- what we know about how memory works and doesn't work, and how that affects our understanding of the Gospel stories about Jesus, which are based on memories of Jesus and usually among people who were remembering stories about him rather than things they observed themselves. I did some posts on the book many years ago, and thought it would be worthwhile to revisit them, and the book, since it really is crucially important for understanding the Gospels themselves and the problems with knowing about the historical Jesus.  The book discusses psychological understandings of memories and false memories, the value of eyewitness testimony, anthropological studies of oral cultures, and other things of relevance to New Testament scholars even though the vast [...]

2023-05-06T11:28:13-04:00May 3rd, 2023|Memory Studies|

And Here’s My Final Exam on The Birth of Christianity

Yesterday I posted an old final exam for my course Introduction to the New Testament.  And for your amusement, here is an exam for my course that I taught this semester, called the Birth of Christianity, which covered the developments within Christianity after the New Testament up through the conversion of Constantine. See how you do!  And again, I wish I could grade your answers, but, alas....     The Birth of Christianity, Reli 208 Final Exam   This is exam is in three sections; you have three hours to complete it.  We suggest you spend no more than an hour on each section. Section One:  Short Identification.  Write short answers up to 50 words on ten (and no more than ten) of the following.  Make your answers as detailed and informative as you can. Ebionites The Gospel of Peter Arius Apologists Theodosius I Tertullian The Great Persecution Thecla Donatism Asceticism Incarnation Christology Infancy Gospel of Thomas     Section Two:   First Essay.  Write an essay on the following topic.  Make it as detailed [...]

2023-04-24T12:47:50-04:00May 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|

Was Jesus a False Prophet?

As many of you know, I started a podcast awhile back, called Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman.  It's not connected with the blog, but it deals with stuff most blog members would be interested in.  (And hey, it's free!  Available both as a podcast on all the main podcast servers and on Youtube.) A new episode comes out every Tuesday, and it occurred to me that you might be interested in knowing what's happening on it.  So, I've decided to make weekly announcements here, in case you're interested in going there! This past Tuesday, the topic I discussed with my host Megan Lewis, was "Was Jesus a False Prophet."  Here's the description, in case you'd like to check it out.  Historical scholars for over a century have maintained that Jesus predicted that the end of history as we know it was to come in his own generation. Conservative Christians -- laypeople and scholars alike -- have insisted that this is a complete misportrayal of Jesus. And many people -- possibly most? -- believe that [...]

2023-05-06T11:24:48-04:00May 1st, 2023|Public Forum|
Go to Top