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BDEhrman

About BDEhrman

Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has served as the director of graduate studies and chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

The Spirit of God in the Old Testament

I will not be giving a full account of the presence of the Spirit of God throughout the Old Testament (or the New) – just enough to give a sense of how the Spirit seems to have been widely understood in a range of authors.  The short story: biblical authors seemed to understand that one way God manifested himself and provided his power to specially chosen people was to send his Spirit upon them. In this understanding, the spirit is simply the divine force that God sends.  It is not seen as a separate “person” from God.  In an undefined sense (that probably the authors didn’t think about much), the spirit is both part of God (as your breath is part of you) and yet is separate from God (remember: spirit and breath and wind are all the same word in Hebrew). As an analogy: when you blow out a candle it is your breath doing it, and that act, the tool used to achieve it (the breath itself), and that which is actually achieved [...]

2021-05-01T11:36:49-04:00May 6th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

How Did the Holy Spirit Get Into the Trinity? In the Beginning….

Since I started this thread on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, I have received the same question over and again:  What about the Holy Spirit?  As I’ve repeatedly answered, I can’t really deal with that question until I finish explaining how the “orthodox” view of the relationship of the Father and Son came to be settled. In fact, that view never was really settled.  There were debates for a very long time.  But I’ve taken us up through the major issues, up to the council of Nicea, where it was decided that Christ was not a subordinate divine being from eternity past who at some point long, long before the creation of the universe had been brought into being by God, but that he had always existed, along with the Father and was not subordinate to him but was equal to him in every way, “of the very same substance” as the Father. And so, we have two persons, completely equal, both fully God, distinct from one another, but in some sense [...]

Was Paul Peter’s Enemy?

In a lecture I gave recently, I was talking about "forgeries" in the name of Peter, Jesus' disciple -- that is, books that *claimed* to be written by Peter but certainly were not.  They were written by Christians living later who *said* they were Peter -- possibly in order to get more readers for their books! There is a big question about the canonical books of 1 and 2 Peter.  The vast majority of critical scholars (i.e. those who make their historical judgments apart from questions of what they would personally like to believe about the Bible religiously) agree that 2 Peter was not written by Peter; whoever wrote it, it certainly was not the author of 1 Peter.  A lot of scholars, including me, somewhat forcefully, also argue that Peter could not have written 1 Peter either.  But that's a topic for other posts (which I've made in the past). In my lecture I mentioned three others, that no one disagrees about: the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Letter of [...]

The Council of Nicaea and The Resulting View of Christ

I have been discussing the Arian controversy over how to understand the relationship of the Father and the Son – the crucial element in establishing the doctrine of the Trinity.  It led to the Council of Nicea.  A lot could be, and has been, said about the Council.  It is NOT when church Fathers decided which books would be in the New Testament and is NOT when they decided that Jesus was divine (even though that’s what you read in the Da Vinci Code !!).  They did not discuss the first issue and everyone at the council already fully believed Christ was God.  The question was: in what sense? Here is what I say about the Council in my book The Triumph of Christianity, in a chapter in which I deal with the emperor Constantine and his involvement with the church after his conversion.  I begin by summarizing the two main positions in question – Arius’s view of Christ and his bishop Alexander’s view. ********************* Arius maintained that Christ, the Logos, could not be equal [...]

YHWH and Jehovah: Same? Different? Where’s Jehovah Come From?

I received a number of comments on my recent posts about whether Jesus was Yahweh (Hebrew: YHWH) in traditional Christian thinking/theology.  And a number of people have wanted further explanation of the name.  In particular: how does it relate to "Jehovah"?  In fact, where does the name "Jehovah" come from?   And is it in the New Testament? I was asked this question directly years ago on the blog, and posted on it.    Here is the question and what I said in response.   QUESTION: How firmly grounded in reality is the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the ‘divine name’ (Jehovah) belongs in the New Testament?   RESPONSE So this is an interesting question, with several possible ramifications.  At first I should explain that the divine name “Jehovah” doesn’t belong in *either* Testament, old or new, in the opinion of most critical scholars, outside the ranks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  That’s because Jehovah was not the divine name. So here’s the deal.  In the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) God is given a number [...]

Jesus Under the Influence (of Women): Guest Post by James McGrath

 New Testament scholar, blog member, and blogger with his own blog on topics you may be interested in, James McGrath, has given us one post already about a woman whom the apostle knows, Junia – who he calls his own “relative” -- who may well have been involved with Jesus in his ministry.  This comes from his most recent book. James has agree to provide us with a couple more guest posts, based on the book.  This is interesting stuff!  It should make you think.  Here’s the next one. - James McGrath is the author of What Jesus Learned from Women, and Theology and Science Fiction among other books. ****************************** There are two individuals that are the go-to examples for those who entertain the possibility that Jesus was a real human person influenced by other people. They are included in my book What Jesus Learned from Women, and in many ways served as the stepping stone and gateway to discovering that the same may be said of other people and stories in the Gospels.   [...]

2021-04-10T00:38:52-04:00April 29th, 2021|Historical Jesus, Women in Early Christianity|

The Letter Jesus Wrote from the Cross (!)

Here is some more of the intriguing (later) Gospel, allegedly written by none other than Joseph of Arimathea, the figure who, in the New Testament Gospels, buried Jesus.  It is entirely apocryphal, of course, based on some information from the Gospels, later legends, and an extremely vivid imagination.  The point of these posts has been to talk about whether Jesus ever wrote anything.  Here he does, kind of.  While hanging on the cross.  You don’t find stories like *this* every day... This is my own translation, taken from the book The Other Gospels, co-edited/translated with my colleague Zlatko Plese. *********************************************************** Jesus Put on Trial (1) At three o’clock on the next day, the fourth day of the week, they brought him into the courtyard of Caiaphas.   Annas and Caiaphas said to him, “Tell us, why did you carry off our law?  And why have you preached against the promises of Moses and the prophets?”  But Jesus made no answer.  Again a second time, when the multitude was also present, they said to him, “Why do [...]

2021-04-16T11:51:21-04:00April 28th, 2021|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

My Smithsonian Seminar: This Saturday!!

Do you know about the Smithsonian Associates?  It's a great organization that, among other things, puts on lectures and day-long seminars by scholars and experts in all sorts of areas, including religion.  For years and years they were live events in Washington D.C. as part of the Smithsonian (on the Mall); for the past year or so they have been remote Zoom events.  In some ways, these Zoom events are even better: you can come without flying to D.C.! I will be doing an event this Saturday, May 1.  It's an all-day affair with four hour-long lectures and Q&A after each.   The topic is "Four Controversies in Early Christianity." Are you interested in getting a ticket?  Check it out.  Below is a description of my talks -- three of which I've never given before and a fourth that I've never given publicly before! And here is the link to the registration page, to purchase tickets and register: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/more-great-controversies-in-early-christianity-bart-ehrman-ponders-four-new-questions   Another Four Controversies in Early Christianity Bart D. Ehrman   Numerous significant issues were debated by [...]

2021-04-27T17:25:21-04:00April 27th, 2021|Public Forum|

Live Chance to Ask Me Anything! This Sunday!

This Sunday (5/2/21) 3:00-4:15 pm I will be holding a live ABA (“Ask Bart Anything”).  It will be over Zoom and will be open to anyone on the planet who wants to come. The format: I will take live questions both orally and through chats.  The questions can be on ANY topic that anyone is interested in.  If it is something I don’t know anything about (i.e.,  most things) or that I would rather not talk about (that little incident when I was 16….) I’ll just say so.  I will get through as many questions as I can, answering easy ones briefly and taking as long as I need to deal with more complicated ones.  My only request will be that questions are direct questions, not lectures, sermons, admonitions, condemnations, expositions of one’s favorite views, or statements of one’s opinions so the rest of the world can hear and convert. Interested?   There is no need to register, no obligation of any kind.   And no cost.  Free to all.  BUT: If you you are willing and [...]

2021-04-27T16:25:27-04:00April 27th, 2021|Public Forum|

Another Letter Written By Jesus? Stranger and Stranger…

In a previous post I discussed a letter forged in Jesus’ name, written to the king of Edessa, Abgar. Of course we don't have anything *actually* written by Jesus (I myself don't think he could write); but there is another writing that  he is alleged to have written.  This one is even stranger.  Far stranger.  It is a letter he writes from the cross to the cherubim in heaven.  It’s in a (much) later gospel called the Narrative of Joseph of Arimathea, an account of Jesus’ Passion allegedly written by the obscure figure in the NT Gospels who buried him.  Among other things, it gives us “information” on the two robbers who were crucified with him. Here I explain what the text is and then give the opening scenes.  In my next post I will give the rest of it (it’s a short gospel).  All of this comes from the book I co-produced with my colleague Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels, a book you might be interested in getting!  It gives about 40 Gospel texts [...]

2021-05-01T09:26:57-04:00April 27th, 2021|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

Volunteer Needed to Read Audio Posts!

I need a volunteer!! As you know, we produce audio versions of every post that appears on the blog, available to members who subscribe at the Gold and Platinum tiers. We have two volunteers who take turns, on alternating weeks, to read the posts: John Paul Middleworth has been reading away, post after post; since we began this audio venture; over the past few months, his colleague-volunteer has been Sam Devis.  I’m very sorry to report that Sam needs to move on to other things.  He will be sorely missed.  And now we need a replacement. The task obviously requires the ability to read clearly and well and the time to do it – five posts every other week.   It does not require much technological skill or expertise.  Ben Porter, our expert in all things technical is already doing that. (In case you wondered, these audios do not compete with those recorded by our other stalwart audio volunteer,  John Mueller, who since 2017 has produced the weekly Bart Ehrman Podcast.  If you don’t know about [...]

2021-04-28T18:02:10-04:00April 26th, 2021|Public Forum|

Other New Testament References to Books Outside the Hebrew Bible: Platinum Guest Post by Doug Wadeson

I'm pleased now to be able to post Part II of Platinum Member Doug Wadeson's two-part thread on quotations/references in the New Testament to passages not found in the Hebrew Bible.  This one has a surprising and intriguing twist, something that would not have occurred to most readers (and certainly not in this detail!). Doug will be able to respond to your comments and questions. *************************** As I stated in my previous post, the books of the New Testament make a number of references to books outside the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. We tend to think of the Old Testament as “the” Scriptures of Jesus’ day, but clearly early Christians knew and used other religious texts.  We looked at two books referenced in the letter of Jude: 1st Enoch and The Assumption of Moses.  Now we’ll consider a few more. Although not really “outside” the Old Testament it is worth mentioning the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, widely used by Greek-speaking Jews and then Christians.  Whenever I run across a quote [...]

2021-04-26T15:16:50-04:00April 26th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

You Call *This* a Heresy? The Views of Arius, In His Own Words

Here I resume my previous post about the biggest theological controversy in Christian history, which, to modern ears, sounds rather, well trivial.  It certainly sounded that way to some of the people who were dealing with it at the time.  Others thought it was a life and death matter.  It had to do with who Christ was in relation to God. To refresh your memory, the presbyter Arius of Alexandria developed his understanding of Christ in the early fourth century.  In a nutshell, he thought that Christ was created in God’s own image by God himself, and so bears the title God, but he is not the “true” God.  Only God himself is.  Christ’s divine nature was derived from the Father; he came into being at some point in the remote past before the universe was made; and so he is a creation or creature of God.  In short, Christ was a kind of second-tier God, subordinate to God and inferior to God in every respect. Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, was not at all [...]

2021-04-06T20:50:33-04:00April 25th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine|

A Heresy that May Not Sound Heretical to You: Arius of Alexandria

I am getting far along now in my discussion of how the Trinity developed.  A major development occurred in the fourth century that, remarkably, that many people still have heard about, seventeen hundred years later.  Unfortunately *what* they typically hear about it is completely wrong. This is the “Arian controversy,” which was the dispute that let to the calling of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE by the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.  (After his conversion *every* Roman emperor was Christian except his nephew Julian, who ruled briefly – from 361-63 – before being killed in battle; his death was not mourned by the Christians. He had tried to stamp out Christianity and reinstate paganism as the state-approved religion.  Who knows what would have happened if he had ruled for 33 years instead of 3….) Many people think that the Arian controversy was over the issue of whether Jesus was God or not.  According to that inestimable authority of all things ancient, Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, [...]

2021-04-08T19:10:53-04:00April 24th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine|

Got a Question for Me? Gold Q & A for April!

Dear Gold Members, As you know, gold-level members will receive a special 45-50 minute audio post every month, in which I respond to questions gold-level members have asked me. Have a question?  It can be on anything connected to the Bible, early Christianity, or anything else related even remotely to the blog.  Ask away!  We can take questions until this Monday, April 26 midnight (Eastern Time). To send in a question, simply zap an email to my assistant Diane Pittman [email protected]   She will collect the questions; I will record the session; and we will have it posted an audio file by Thursday April 29.   It will be available only to you, those with Gold privileges! I’m looking forward to talking about anything you want me to talk about.  And I hope you are enjoying the blog experience otherwise.  If there is anything we can do to make it better, please let me know.   Bart        

2021-04-25T12:39:46-04:00April 23rd, 2021|Reader’s Questions|

Did Paul the Pharisee Learn about Christianity from his Relative, the Apostle Junia? Guest Post by James McGrath

Last week Prof. James McGrath, PhD in New Testament studies and long-time member of the blog, provided us a humorous guest post "50 Ways to Forge A Gospel."  And now he turns serious.  James has just published a book What Jesus Learned From Women, and one of the women he discusses is Junia, mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:7.  Paul calls her his "relative."  And says she was one of the foremost apostles. In this post James discusses an intriguing hypothesis that I had never heard before -- mainly because he just came up with it while writing his book.  It's not only highly provocative but also ... well, possible!  Read and see what you think.  James will be happy to respond to comments. ****************************** Seeking the Historical Jesus Through Women’s Eyes I’m delighted to have been invited by Bart Ehrman to offer a guest post on his blog. Bart and I share an array of interests in common, most if not all of them tied to Jesus in some way. Both of us care quite [...]

2021-04-26T21:46:32-04:00April 22nd, 2021|Public Forum|

Do We Have Any of Jesus’ Writings? (The Answer May Surprise You!)

In my previous post I talked about whether Jesus could read.  I came out with a definitely answer: Maybe.   And that brought to mind a related question I often get asked: could Jesus write? I posted on this a few years ago, and thought it'd be relevant to do it again.  This will take a couple of posts.  I had been asked about ancient "forgeries" -- when authors would write claiming to be someone famous.  Do we have any ancient works that claim to be written by Jesus? Answer this time: Yes indeed, there is a one-time famous correspondence between Jesus and a king who lived in Edessa in Syria named Abgar.  I translated it for the book I published (on all earliest Christian Gospels) with my colleague Zlatko Plese, called The Other Gospels. Here is what I say there about the letters (the one from Abgar to Jesus, then his response); at the end of the post I give my new translations of the two letters. ****************************************************************************************************** Jesus’ Correspondence with Abgar The apocryphal correspondence [...]

2021-04-12T14:39:44-04:00April 21st, 2021|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

Could Jesus Read?

Here’s a question I have gotten repeatedly over the years:  was Jesus literate?  I received a form of the question in a comment recently:   QUESTION: My question is: Could Jesus read? I thought I had read in your books or heard in one of your videos that you thought he, along with his immediate followers, were illiterate. But recently in one of your Sunday lectures you either stated or implied that he could actually read, and at least some of the instances in the gospels where he was reading from “the scrolls” were likely true.  Please straighten me out on this topic.   RESPONSE: I’ll begin with something that I've talked about on the blog several times before: literacy in Roman Palestine. The reality is that the vast majority of people then and there could not read or write. This comes as a surprise to many people who have heard the modern myth that all boys in Palestine went to Hebrew school and became literate there. Turns out, that’s not true. This is a [...]

2021-04-02T17:02:14-04:00April 20th, 2021|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

How Could Christ Be Both God and a Human — At Once? The Unusual View of Origen

In this long thread on the Trinity I have been trying to explain how Christians came to the view that Jesus was God but that he was separate from God the Father – that both were God, but they were two different persons, and yet there was only one God.  I will have far less to say about the Spirit, since he/she/it got added to the mix more or less because Christ was already in it, as we will see. So far I have taken us up to the early third century, where one view had come to be widely rejected even though earlier it had been prominent: that Jesus actually *was* God the Father, come in the flesh (often called “modalism”).   Now I want to look at a more sophisticated way of understanding the relationship of Christ to the Father.  This one comes in the writings of Origen, one of the truly important Christian thinkers of the first three Christian centuries. Origen came from Alexandria and was exceptionally learned and unbelievably prolific. According to [...]

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