I am pleased to announce that I will be doing a six-lecture online (recorded) course called: “In the Beginning:  History, Legend and Myth in the Pentateuch.  Part 1.  The Book of Genesis.”   This will not be in connection with the blog per se, but there is an important connection worth noting for blog members (see below).

The plan is to make this course the first installment of a rather long series of courses that I am calling, “How Scholars Read the Bible.”  (The next six-lecture course – no surprise! – will be the rest of the Pentateuch after Genesis).  Each lecture in this course, and the ones that follow, will be thirty minutes of length.

We will later be announcing the release date of the course (it will probably in February).   But I want to let you know about it now, so that it can be on your radar screen.  And because there is a special opportunity connected to it.  I will be delivering the lectures to a live audience (remotely), and anyone who purchases the course will be allowed to watch the live presentation with the added benefit of two live Q&A sessions (which will not be included in the course package itself when published.)

If you are interested in learning more about the course and how to register for it: go to the site that we have just started on my courses:  https://www.bartehrman.com/courses/

Here is the deal for blog members.  If you decide to come to the live lecture, we will use your registration fee FOR THE BLOG, to go to the blog’s operating expenses.  All you will need to do is let us know that you have made the purchase, and BINGO, the fee will go to the blog.

I will be doing TWO recording sessions:  Sunday January 30; 12:30-3:00  (lectures 1-3) and Sunday Feb. 6 (lectures 4-6), from 3:00-5:30 pm.   For each session I will deliver the three lectures in sequence (with a short break between each for me to catch my breath) and then, after the third, have a 30 minutes Q&A with participants.

Are you interested?  It is easy to register.  Again, it is https://www.bartehrman.com/courses/ .  As a blog member, if you will notify us, we will direct your fee to go to the blog’s operating expenses.  Just send a quick note to [email protected] .

PLEASE NOTE: If you are a blog member and have ALREADY PURCHASED A REGISTRATION, let us know so we can direct the fee accordingly.

Here are the six lectures I’ll be giving.  Interested?  Check out the site for registration details.


  1. Mysteries and Meanings of the Pentateuch.

The five books of the Pentateuch are foundational not just for the nation of Israel and the history of Judaism but for the history of civilization in the West.  Yet they are rarely read, even more rarely understood, and often simply dismissed.  This lecture shows why these accounts continue to be intriguing and can in fact be hugely important, even for readers who don’t “believe” them.


  1. Myth, Science, and How it All Began.

Many people today – even internationally esteemed scientists – try to reconcile the creation myths of Genesis with the claims of science.  This lecture shows why the endeavor is not only futile but also misguided.  These are not scientific accounts, as can easily be shown.  But when understood as “myths” they can illuminate important understandings of the world, and so are still worth our attention and reflection.

  1. Did Genesis Borrow Its Stories from Other Cultures?

Among the most surprising and influential findings of modern archaeology are ancient texts produced before the book of Genesis that narrate older forms of many of its stories – especially its accounts of creation and the worldwide flood.  How do we explain such works as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish?  And how does their existence affect how we assess the uniqueness of the biblical narratives and their importance?

  1. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph: History or Legend?

Some of the greatest stories of antiquity come to us from the book of Genesis, in its delightful accounts of the ancestors of Israel:  Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebecca; Jacob and Rachel (and Leah and his other paramours); and Joseph and … Asenath?  Some of these are relatively well known (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!), others not (Asenath?).  What can we say about these accounts as historical records?  If they are more legendary than historical, should they simply be dismissed as unimportant?

  1. The Bible and Morality? Case Studies from the “Patriarchs”

Most of the billions of Christians in the world believe – and many insist – that their moral views come from the Bible, with its stress on monogamy, sexual restraint, truthfulness, non-violence, and fairness.  But what about the stories of Genesis that describe (promote?) their opposites: polygamy, sexual license, deceit, brutality, and injustice? Are these simply to be overlooked when considering “the biblical” views of morality?

  1. Who Wrote the Pentateuch?

For most of Jewish and Christian history, Bible readers have assumed that Moses himself wrote the first five books of Scripture, the Pentateuch.  Scholars since the nineteenth century, however, have maintained otherwise. How do the stories of the first book, Genesis, help us decide the matter?  If Moses did not write them, who did?  Were there multiple authors?   When did they write?  And how would we know?



Suggested Reading


John Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 3rd ed. (Fortress Press), 2018.  This is an introduction to the entire Bible with a superb discussion of Genesis and the critical problems it presents.


Michael Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press), 2017.  Another strong introduction from a critical perspective, widely used in colleges and universities.


Bart Ehrman, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press), 2017.  Not as in-depth but possibly more accessible to lay readers, covering the major critical issues in the study of Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch.


Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford University Press, 2015).  A very nice collection and translation of myths from other cultures that predate the writings of Genesis.