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Article in the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post has just published an article that I wrote introducing How Jesus Became God. (Link below) Here’s the article as I wrote it and sent it in. I’ve written several others that I will be providing as well, as soon as they are available in their various venues, plus anything else of related interest.

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Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and set up a utopian kingdom on earth. And he would be the king.

It didn’t happen. Instead of being involved with the destruction of God’s enemies, Jesus was unceremoniously crushed by them: arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured, and publicly executed.

 

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  1. Fearguth
    Fearguth  March 30, 2014

    Your Huffington Post Article Opening (Revised): “Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and turn poor people into rich people and vice versa. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first you know.”

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    jmorgan  March 30, 2014

    Then historically, it appears that Jesus’s followers deserve the credit for starting Christianity. Jesus’s religion was merely a Jewish sect, and not even one he started (apocalyptic Judaism predates him). Paul on the other hand makes a distinct break with Judaism, and moreover spread the message around the Roman empire. I heard one historian claim that Christianity would be more accurately called “Paulism”.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 31, 2014

      The problem with that view is that Paul inherited a view of “Christianity” from those who came before him; he didn’t make up the idea that Jesus died for sins and was raised — that was already around.

      • Avatar
        FrankJay71  April 1, 2014

        In Galatians 1, Paul says he didn’t receive his Gospel from men, but through revelation about Jesus from God, and in in 1 Corinthians he says he’s seen Christ. Through out his writing he seems firm on the fact that he was not called by men, but by god. He mentions the church he persecuted and the other apostles he met, but he doesn’t mention their Christology, or that he inherited his from them. At some points in Paul’s letters he seems like he’s receiving revelations by reading them into the “OT”.
        So how can we be sure that Paul inherited his views about Jesus’ atoning crucifixion and resurrection from previous Christians?
        Maybe you next book could be about how Paul became Paul.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 1, 2014

          1 Cor. 15:3-5 is usually interpreted this way. Plus, he must have been persecuting Christians for *some* reason! No one (at least no one I know) thinks that Paul invented the idea of Jesus death for sins and his resurrection.

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    SJB  March 31, 2014

    Prof Ehrman

    I look forward to reading your book and if you discuss the issue I am raising I certainly look forward to reading about it!

    Can we say anything about the relationship (if any) between Jewish apocalyptic groups and so-called “ecstatic” practice? Did they encourage visionary experiences or even incorporate them into their worship? Paul seems comfortable with such practices. Mary and Joseph have visionary dreams. What was Jesus doing in the desert while he wasn’t being tempted by Satan? And I suppose you could even interpret the Transfiguration in this manner.

    So were Jesus’ followers predisposed to have these experiences? Shock and grief can certainly produce such experiences but if this was already a way they interpreted divine revelation then it would be an even more likely way to respond to Jesus’ death.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 31, 2014

      I don’t think we have anything to suggest that the Essenes engaged in ecstatic practices. Paul himself is, certainly. Whether Jesus was is anyone’s guess. My view is that neither the Temptation nor the Transfiguration traditions is historical.

      • Avatar
        SJB  April 3, 2014

        I didn’t mean to suggest that the Temptation and the Transfiguration stories were historical but rather that their presence in the gospel tradition might hint at an “ecstatic” component in that tradition.

        I’ve always been fascinated by the Transfiguration story. (I have a nice print of a 14th century Cretan Icon in my office.) I’ve read the traditional interpretations and have even heard it suggested that it might be a misplaced resurrection story (!). I’ve love to hear your take on it in some future post. Put it on your rapidly lengthening list.

        thanks

  4. Avatar
    toejam  March 31, 2014

    Finished the audiobook of ‘How Jesus Became God’ just now. Great stuff. Thank you! I learned a lot.

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    RonaldTaska  March 31, 2014

    Thanks for a clear and thought provoking summary. You have a real gift for writing clearly. The cascade of events still reminds me of the “Butterfly Effect” where an initial event (in this case hallucinations of Jesus) leads to progressively more and more consequences. I also think that these “hallucinations” were possible, but establishing their occurrence as “hallucinations” is the most controversial and debatable link in the argument. I agree that it is unlikely that the Romans would have allowed the burial of an executed man in a private tomb so the “empty tomb accounts,” which differ dramatically from one another, are probably legendary.

    I remain upset about some of the attacks on your scholarship that I have been reading. They seem to be more personal ad hominem attacks on you rather than being a respectful and critical examination of your very extensive work and scholarship. Hang in there! and keep writing!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 31, 2014

      I, luckily, remain blissfully ignorant of most of the attacks on my scholarship and personal integrity and mortal being… 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 31, 2014

    “We never would have had the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, or Modernity as we know it. And most of us would still be pagans.”

    These are the only statements of yours that I have a problem with…and I assume you won’t spell out the reasoning behind them in your book, since these are mere presumed “consequences,” not central to your thesis.

    I agree history would have been very different – so different that I wouldn’t try to guess at many specifics. But the terms you use imply that we’d be worse off than we are. Hey, I’d gladly give up the “Renaissance” – every painting in the Sistine Chapel, and all the rest of it – for a history that didn’t include the Crusades, the Inquisition, the throttling of science, and the destruction of Native American cultures, including those in Central and South America, in the course of forced conversions.

    I realize *printing* was given a jump-start by clerics’ wanting to distribute more Bibles. But I can’t believe the invention of the printing press, and other inventions crucial to the modern era, wouldn’t have come about at some point, as travel – motivated by commerce – led to an ever-increasing knowledge of the world.

    And i doubt present-day inhabitants of what we call America would be worshipping the Greco-Roman gods. There’s no way of knowing how many in the Empire, even in Jesus’s day, were just – cynically – giving lip service to those antiquated beliefs. But if we were worshipping them, it might be less degrading than worshipping or – in the caee of the “Blessed Mother” – semi-worshipping once-real people whom we might, if we knew them, not even have liked.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 31, 2014

      I think you misunderstand me. I’m decidedly *not* saying that we would have been worse off without the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and Modernity as we know it. We *may* have been worse off. Or we may have been much better off. I think for one thing we wouldn’t have the history of anti-semitism. But I’m not passing moral judgment on whether things would have been better or worse. I’m just saying they would have been DIFFERENT. Very, very, very different. That’s all. So the belief in Jesus as God is historically highly significant.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  April 1, 2014

        Glad I misunderstood you!

        Do you think that if Christianity had been less of a factor by the time of Constantine, he might have tried to “unite the Empire” through Mithraism? I’ve read that Mithraism was sometimes viewed as the “rival” of Christianity. And it seems not much is known about it. But since it was strongest among the military, one might guess that it would have openly glorified warfare, and given women even less of a role than they had in Christianity.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 1, 2014

          I doubt it. One problem is that it was not an “open” religion; another is that women were not allowed to participate, so half the population was already out of the picture.

  7. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 31, 2014

    And a P.S.: You yourself have said Christianity fostered the anti-Semitism that has led to terrible atrocities, culminating in the Holocaust.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 31, 2014

      Yes indeed!

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        theundyingfire  April 4, 2014

        Jerome Chanes, in Antisemitism: a reference handbook lays out 6 types of Anti-semitism

        1.Pre-Christian anti-Judaism in ancient Greece and Rome which was primarily ethnic in nature
        2.Christian antisemitism in antiquity and the Middle Ages which was religious in nature and has extended into modern times
        3.Traditional Muslim antisemitism which was – at least in its classical form – nuanced in that Jews were a protected class
        4.Political, social and economic antisemitism of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Europe which laid the groundwork for racial antisemitism
        5.Racial antisemitism that arose in the 19th century and culminated in Nazism in the 20th century
        6.Contemporary antisemitism which has been labeled by some as the New Antisemitism

        You’ll note that out of those 6, only number 2 is attributed to Christians. It was racial semitism that fueled the Nazi bloodlust. When your leader literally rewrites the Bible to fit his own agenda, and declares himself a god, can you really deem that to be a Christian product? Seriously with a straight face anyway?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 6, 2014

          Very interesting. The problem with this taxonomy is that it assumes that these six categories are *independent* of one another, but they’re not. Without #2 you would not have had #4; without #4, youwouldn’t have #5, etc.

  8. cheito
    cheito  April 1, 2014

    DR Ehrman:

    YOUR COMMENT:

    Jesus was a lower-class preacher from Galilee, who, in good apocalyptic fashion, proclaimed that the end of history as he knew it was going to come to a crashing end, within his own generation. God was soon to intervene in the course of worldly affairs to overthrow the forces of evil and set up a utopian kingdom on earth. And he would be the king.

    MY COMMENT:

    You’re basing your theological and historical arguments on unreliable sources. e.g. Matthew, mark and Luke. Unless you believe that Matthew Mark and Luke are historically reliable, Declaring that Jesus taught that the end of history would come in his own generation is simply not true. This is disingenuous on your part DR Ehrman.

    I have quoted scriptures from what I consider the reliable sources within the list of books we have available in the protestant bible, e.g. the letters of Paul John and Peter. In previous posts I have clearly shown that the Apostles of Christ taught that certain events had to occur before Jesus return. e.g. The revealing of the son of perdition, i.e. the antichrist. Jesus predicted he would return from heaven at a later time visibly and physically with great glory not in His generation. At that time the resurrection of the dead would take place, etc.

    YOUR COMMENT:

    It didn’t happen. Instead of being involved with the destruction of God’s enemies, Jesus was unceremoniously crushed by them: arrested, tried, humiliated, tortured, and publicly executed.

    MY COMMENT:

    It’s clear to me that Jesus clearly told his disciples many times that he would be killed and that he would rise from the dead after three days. Your assertions do not represent what the reliable scriptures teach.
    The problem we have is that the truth is mingled with lies and deliberate distortions. We must extract the precious from the worthless. At the end of it all, which comes very quickly for each of us individually, God will hold us accountable for our teachings DR Ehrman:

  9. Avatar
    J.J.  April 1, 2014

    Just curious… do you plan to respond to the book by Michael Bird?
    Also, what do you think are the more important critiques and responses they bring up?

  10. Avatar
    mary  April 1, 2014

    Could you explain a bit more of “ecstatic practices”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 1, 2014

      usually it involves going into a kind of trance and having a mystical experience, or speaking a revelation of some kind.

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    mjardeen  April 2, 2014

    Then again without Christianity we might all be Muslim…

    • Avatar
      kidron  April 4, 2014

      I doubt it .. without Christianity there probably would be no Muslims.

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