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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.

My New View of the Book of Revelation

The Apocalypse of John is a book many people revere, many dread, and few actually read.  Most who do read it approach it like every other book of the Bible – they’ll read a few verses here or there when someone says something about them but do not read the whole thing from beginning to end.  I do find this a bit irritating as a rule, at least among people who insist that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and our guide for all belief and practice, who virtually worship the Bible but have no clue what is actually in it.  What’s *that* all about??? Having just typed that reminds me of the spiritual leader I had as a teenager, the man who “led me to Christ” (away from the Episcopal church where I faithfully attended every week, saying the prayers, confessing my sins, taking communion – where I was the head altar boy!).  He repeatedly said with complete conviction that the Bible is the best book ever written.  Even then I felt [...]

2021-08-05T08:14:04-04:00August 5th, 2021|Book Discussions, Revelation of John|

The Naivety of the Nativity: Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

This week's Platinum Guest Post comes to us from Joel Scheller.  As you know, only Platinum members can read these posts and only Platinums can write them.  This is a platinum thing.  BUT, once a month we vote on one to appear on the entire blog.  Are you interested in reaching the Platinums with your ideas?   And possibly the entire blog?   Submit a post to me, on any topic related to the blog that you're interested in, simply at my email [email protected] Joel's post is about an interesting and important topic: the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, with much broader implications for our understanding of the entire Bible.  Feel free to comment! *************************************** I am a Christian. I have a respect for the bible as containing the sacred scriptures of my faith. However, that does not mean I accept all that is written in the bible as fact or truth. It is undeniable that the writings are those of human beings, and, as such, must be weighed with reason, taking into consideration all the [...]

2021-08-04T15:18:57-04:00August 4th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Cephas and Peter: Final Arguments, Summary, and Implications

Here I give my last supporting arguments that Cephas may have been someone other than Peter, despite widespread assumptions and views that go back at least to the time of the New Testament, e.g., John 1:42, where they are explicitly identified as one and the same!  But were they? It's an intriguing question rarely asked.  Below is the final bit of my article on the topic, written for a scholarly audience but obviously with a view toward what non-scholars would be interested in.  At the end I provide a summary and draw out the implications. In the next post I will discuss whether now -- all these years later, when I'm older and wiser (or at least older) -- I still buy the argument.  (!) ****************************** What now of Paul's other references to Cephas?  Here the one thing that cannot be overlooked is that, taken at least on face value, they appear to stand somewhat at odds with what we "know" about Peter's role in the early Christian church, at least as Paul describes it [...]

More Hints that Cephas Was Not Peter

I have received a number of emails asking me about the Cephas and Peter article I started giving a couple of posts ago, and most of the questions, as it turns out, are answered in the *second* half of the article, which I had originally planned not to provide here on the blog.  So now I’ve decided, well—why not? And over the next two posts I'll provide the rest of the argument for anyone who is interested.  As with the rest of the article, I have not included any of the footnotes, where I give some of the logic and evidence for my sundry points.   But here are is some of the argument itself.  If you don't buy  it, fair enough.  If you do, fairer still! ****************************** The evidence of Paul has not been exhausted by this consideration of Gal 2:7-9.  There remain the other references to Cephas in Paul's letters, references that provide other points of interest.  Indeed what is striking is that in virtually every instance, Paul's references to Cephas contain something that [...]

2021-07-20T11:03:34-04:00August 3rd, 2021|Paul and His Letters, Reflections and Ruminations|

More On Bruce Metzger and Me: How I Got Interested in my Dissertation Topic

THIS POST RESUMES MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY INTERACTIONS WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR.  Remember: when I say "textual criticism" in this post, I am NOT referring simply to the "study of texts."  Textual criticism is the technical term used by scholars (in all fields) to refer to how we establish what an author wrote if we don't have his/her original writing itself.  For the New Testament that involves studying ancient Greek manuscripts and other sources; since all the surviving sources word the NT in different ways -- usually completely insignificant ways, but sometimes important -- we need to figure out what the "originals" said and how scribes changed them.  That's "textual criticism." ****************************** When I entered my PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary, I knew already that I wanted to specialize in the study of the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament. As I indicated in my earlier posts, that’s why I went there, because Metzger was the country’s leading expert in this field, and one could argue the leading expert in the world [...]

Some Evidence that Cephas and Peter WERE Two Different People

In my previous post I gave the evidence that in the early church there were writers who maintained that Cephas and Peter were *not* the same person, despite what is explicitly said in John 1:42.  As some readers have noted to me, later authors *may* have differentiated between the two (saying they were not the same person, even though they were) for a very clear and certain reason: in Galatians 2 Paul confronts “Cephas” and blasts him for not understanding the Gospel.  Could there have been a major rift between the two most important apostles of early Christianity (Paul and *Peter*)?  Surely the apostles were more unified than *that*!  Well, if Cephas was not the same person as Peter, it is a much, much smaller problem.  So maybe that is what was driving early Christians to claim there were in fact two figures, the apostle Peter and the other person Cephas. That post came from a scholarly article I wrote on the topic many years ago.  I’ve decided not to give the entire article here [...]

2021-07-20T13:30:59-04:00July 31st, 2021|Paul and His Letters, Reflections and Ruminations|

Congratulations Fredrick Ackun!

The voting is in on the Platinum guest posts.  Among four options, one is to be published on the blog itself for all members.  I'm pleased to announce that the winning post is the Essence of Religious Literacy: A Christian Perspective. Guest Post by Fredrick Ackun.  The post will appear on August 16, if all goes to plan. I have to say it was an extraordinarily close vote.  We had four outstanding choices and only one could win.  But thanks to all four posters.  And, you the Platinum member, may yourself be interested in reading (again!) these outstanding offerings.  Here they are, once more:   Feb 11: The Essence of Religious Literacy: A Christian Perspective. Platinum Guest Post by Fredrick Ackun   Feb 20: A Christian Is Not Necessarily a Disciple (Monthly Platinum Post: Douglas Wadeson)   Feb 23: The Buddhist Scriptures and the Gospel of Luke: Platinum Post by Steve Sutter   Mar 2: Christian Attitudes toward War, Through the Ages: Platinum Post by Dan Kohanski   In a week or so we will vote on the next four [...]

2021-07-30T14:58:32-04:00July 30th, 2021|Public Forum|

Jesus Healing the Paralyzed. How Do We Explain the Stories? Platinum Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson, MD

This week's Platinum Guest Post (for and by Platinum members only!) is again by Doug Wadeson, M.D.; it is the second of four dealing with Jesus' healing miracles in light of modern medicine.   I find this one especially interesting.  How do explain these stories in the Gospels?  Here are some options. ****************************** In the previous post I discussed how demon possession may have been assumed in cases of neuropsychiatric disease, and how Jesus could have achieved apparent cures of such disorders.  Another type of neurologic disorder we see in the Gospels is paralysis, or some sort of crippling disease.  One of the earliest miracles in Mark is such a healing.  In Mark 2 we read of Jesus teaching in a house when four men bring a paralyzed man, but the house is so crowded that they have to dig a hole in the roof and lower the man on a pallet in front of Jesus.  Jesus first tells the man that his sins are forgiven.  This upsets the scribes present, who see this as blasphemy.  [...]

2021-07-29T07:28:50-04:00July 29th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Were Cephas and Peter Two Different People? A Blast from the Past

Five years ago on the blog I started a thread that I never quite finished, for reasons long forgotten, but I sometimes get asked about it.  It involved an issue that the vast majority of avid Bible readers -- including professional scholars -- have never even considered.  I staked out a position on the issue and then later indicated that I was not completely satisfied with my answer.  My plan had been to explain my doubts more fully, but for some odd reason I never posted the explanation.  So let's consider it a five-year cliff-hanger.  Even today, I haven't decided! I've decided to repeat the three relevant posts from 2016, and then go ahead and try to complete the thread.  Here's the first.   QUESTION: I remember your saying that you once – wrongly – entertained a theory about “Cephas” and “Peter” being two different people. I *don’t* remember your explaining why you’d thought that, and what convinced you the theory was wrong. I’d still like to know!   RESPONSE: I get asked this question [...]

Bruce Metzger and the “Favor” He Did Me On My PhD Exams

I have been posting some reminiscences of my relationship with my mentor, Bruce Metzger, one of the great New Testament textual scholars of the twentieth century.  Here I talk about one of my direct involvements with him as his student. Metzger directed my PhD exams, and was responsible for writing the questions for one of them.  To explain that situation requires a good bit of background. In a typical PhD program, at the end of two years of taking seminars (usually three a semester, for four semesters), a student takes the PhD exams.  These go by different names: “Comprehensive exams” (that’s what we called them at Princeton Seminary); “Preliminary Exams” (i.e. preliminary to writing a dissertation); “Qualifying exams” (i.e. that qualify you to move on to the dissertation stage) – all of these refer to the same battery of exams.  In most respects the way it was set up at Princeton was fairly typical – it is the way we also have it set up in the PhD program that I teach in at UNC.  [...]

2021-07-13T05:20:42-04:00July 28th, 2021|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

Understanding the Apocalypse as an “Apocalypse”

  In two previous posts I talked about the "genre" of the book of Revelation (see  and ).  Now I can give a brief description of how the book of Revelation functions as an apocalypse – that is, how the features of the genre, that I’ve already mentioned, work themselves out in the narrative of the book.  Again, this is taken from my textbook on the New Testament (Oxford University Press; 7th edition 2020). ****************************** In general terms, Revelation corresponds to the basic description of apocalypses that I have given.  It is a first-hand account written by a prophet who has been shown a vision of heaven that explains the realities of earth, a vision that is mediated by angels and that is chock-full of bizarre and mysterious symbolism.  The nature of the book is indicated at the outset, in the magnificent vision of the exalted Christ that the prophet describes in ch. 1.  Here Christ appears as "one like a Son of Man" (cf. Dan 7:13-14, where the phrase describes the cosmic judge [...]

2021-07-14T20:06:50-04:00July 27th, 2021|Christianity in the Classroom, Revelation of John|

Returning to the Whore of Babylon

In this thread I have been discussing the importance of putting the book of Revelation in its own historical context instead of transplanting its (bizarre) symbols and message into the 21st century, as if the author was trying to communicate not with the churches that he actually names as the recipients of his book (in Asia Minor at the end of the first century) but with us (in America in the twenty-first).  Instead of modern interpretations (666 is Saddam Hussein!  The Whore of Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church!), surely it is better to interpret the book in light of what the author and his audience would have themselves understood. That can be illustrated many times over from the book; for this post I would like to do so by returning to one of the key images that I have posted about several times before.  Apologies if this is old news for you from a relatively recent post, but to make my point about the book of Revelation as a whole, this is the most relevant and [...]

2021-07-13T04:43:40-04:00July 25th, 2021|Revelation of John|

Nazis and the Meaning of the Word “Jew”: Guest Post by Jason Staples

I am very pleased to announce that the book of my former student, Jason Staples, The Idea of Israel in Second-Temple Judaism, has just appeared from Cambridge University Press.  Jason did his PhD here at UNC and this is part of his dissertation.  I say "part" because the dissertation was large, and he has divided it into two separate monographs; the second will be dealing with how the term "Israel" is used in the writings of Paul -- in particular, what Paul might mean when he says "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26) -- an unusually thorny statement that has generated a huge amount of research and opinion over the years (all the usual and fairly commonsense explanations are problematic, for one compelling reason or another).  Jason thinks he has found the solution.  That will be volume 2! Here he presents for us one of the issues he address in vol. 1, related to the overall topic of the book.  Short question: what is the difference in the ancient world between talking about "Israel" [...]

2021-07-25T13:34:06-04:00July 24th, 2021|Public Forum|

Is Revelation Describing Warfare in the Twenty-first Century??

I have been arguing that if we want to understand the book of Revelation, we need to situate it in its own historical context in the Roman Empire of the first century rather than assume it is talking about our own world in the twenty-first.  Very few people read it that way, of course (or are interested in reading it that way).   It's far more intriguing to think the author was predicting what would happen in our own future.  It's ALL COMING TRUE!  God has REVEALED IT TO US!  We can NOW SEE THE SIGNS OF THE END! But, alas, like every other book of the Bible, Revelation was written to address an ancient audience in a different context, and its bizarre symbols need to be read with their own context front and center in mind.   Here is how I sometimes try to illustrate the problem. (Parts of this are taken from my book The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings; Oxford University Press; 7th ed.) ****************************** One of the most [...]

2021-07-12T21:11:28-04:00July 22nd, 2021|Revelation of John|

Problems with Comments on Revelation!

A lot of terrific comments have come in on James Tabor's posts on Revelation.  I'm afraid we've been having technical difficulties on the blog in making it possible for him to reply to them.  But we think we have it worked out now (long story; I won't bore you with it).   So hopefully responses will be coming.  He will not be able to reply to all of the comments, but will take on some, and we will make sure that all of them, whether replied to or not, are published!  Thanks for your patience.   The difficulty is about to be resolved.  It is "coming soon"!

2021-07-21T13:47:34-04:00July 21st, 2021|Public Forum|

An Interview about Heaven and Hell: American Freethought Podcast

Here is an interview I did about a year ago on the American Freethought Podcast, hosted by John C. Snider.  The focus was on my book on heaven and hell.  Among other things it deals with key questions such as whether the Bible clearly teaches that humans have eternal souls (hey, what else could be goin' on inside me otherwise?) and that heaven and hell are literal realities.    

2021-07-12T07:05:41-04:00July 21st, 2021|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Video Media|

Jesus the Healer: Those Darn Demons. Platinum guest post by Douglas Wadeson MD

I'm pleased to be able to begin publishing short thread of posts for Platinum members only, focused on Jesus as a healer.  Our guest poster is Doug Wadeson, himself a medical doctor with (obviously) a lifelong interest in healing but also a keen interest in the historical study of the NT Gospels.  In this series he combines these two interests and provides some some unusually interesting reflections. This is one of the perks of being a Platinum member.  You can read -- and more important, WRITE! -- posts for other Platinum members.  I can can post up to one a week, and there is plenty of room in the queue for you!  Want to give it a shot?  Your post can be on any topic of relevance to the blog and I'm happy to preview for you if you would like.  Once it is posted, you can then get feedback from Platinum members.  Hey, Express Yourself!  You have ideas and thoughts.  Get them out there!  If you're interested, let me know. Here now is Doug's [...]

2021-07-20T12:52:26-04:00July 20th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Is the Book of Revelation a Revised Version of a Non-Christian Apocalypse? Guest Post by James Tabor

Here now is the second guest post by my friend and cross-state colleague, New Testament scholar James Tabor.  Other scholars have suggested Revelation started out as a Jewish text that was later "Christianized" by an editor who produced the version we have today.  Here James embraces that view and mounts an argument for it.  See what you think! James originally posted this on his own blog.  Check it out! Can A Pre-Christian Version of the Book of Revelation Be Recovered? Can A Pre-Christian Version of the Book of Revelation Be Recovered? APOCALYPTICISM  FEBRUARY 22, 2017 The thesis of this post is a simple one. Behind the New Testament book of Revelation, formally called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” (Rev 1:1), is an older Jewish apocalyptic document that had nothing to do with Jesus or the early Christian movement. The question is, can such a older text be recovered, given the overtly Christian editing? In my post titled “The Destruction of Pompeii and the New Testament Book of Revelation,” on the destruction of Pompeii by the volcanic eruption [...]

2021-07-26T18:39:32-04:00July 20th, 2021|Revelation of John|

Interested in Hearing Three of My Lectures? Jesus according to the Early Christians

Two months ago I did a three-part lecture series on Zoom as a fundraiser to help defray the expenses of the blog.  I recorded the lectures and have now decided to make them available -- still as a fundraiser -- to anyone who would wants to hear them.  For details how to get access to them, see further below. The lectures all discussed stories involving Jesus that are not widely known to the world at large.  Or to *Christians* at large.  Or to *Blog Members* at large.   I'm pretty sure you didn't hear *these* growing up....  Want to hear them?  These  are the titles and topics:   Lecture One.  Jesus and the Other Divine Men Jesus may be the only miracle-working Son of God people know about today, but in antiquity there were others – “Divine men” who were miraculously born, who could do miracles, and then, at the end of life, ascended to heaven to live with the gods.  How could anyone think such things of mere mortals?  And is there anything that makes [...]

2021-07-12T21:02:25-04:00July 18th, 2021|Public Forum|
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