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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.

Where Did the Apocalyptic Views of Jesus (and others) Come From?

I have spent a few posts explaining the overarching views of the ancient Hebrew prophets; in this lecture I want to explain how a very different "apocalyptic" view -- one embraced by Jesus, John the Baptist before him, and the earliest Christians after him -- emerged within ancient Israel.  It has to do with how historical circumstances forced thinkers in Israel to re-evaluate what the prophets had said.   Here is the simple version of the story, as I lay it out in my textbook on the Bible, edited a bit. ****************************** The Prophetic Perspective We have seen that the classical prophets of the Hebrew Bible differed from one another in a number of ways, in the historical contexts that they addressed, in their manner of addressing them, and in the specifics of their messages.  But there are certain common features that tie all the prophets together, especially with respect to their understanding of God, his reaction to Israel’s failure to do his will, and the coming disasters that will occur as a result.  If you [...]

2022-01-18T18:06:19-05:00January 25th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Historical Jesus|

Reminder! My Remote Book Event, This Thursday

Just a reminder in case you haven't signed up yet:  I'll be doing a book event Thursday evening (Jan 27).  Here's the announcement from last week.  I hope you can make it! ****************************** I am excited to announce a new and unusual fund raiser for the blog, to take place on Thursday January 27 at 7:30 pm EST.  For anyone who is willing to make a donation, I will be holding a discussion on: “What Book Should I Write Next?”   Those who come will be able to talk it over with me and give me their opinions. Here’s the deal.  I have all but finished my book on Revelation: Expecting Armageddon: What Revelation Really Reveals.  I have just a couple of mop-up exercises, then it’s off to the publisher.  And now I have to decide what to do next. This is the first time in my adult life, since 1983, that I did not have the next writing project lined up, in my head, ready to be started, after finishing the current one.  For some [...]

2022-01-24T16:50:27-05:00January 24th, 2022|Public Forum|

Are the Gospels Too Early To Have Legends About Jesus? Platinum Guest Post by Bob Seidensticker

Here is an interesting and important post by Platinum member Bob Seidensticker for the rest of you Platinums.  In it he deals with a fundamental issue.  Some Christian apologists who otherwise are smart people have made the odd claim that "legends" about Jesus could not have sprung up in the forty years between his life and the first Gospel accounts.  There just wasn't enough time: forty years ain't enough!  In one instance, apologist William Lane Craig claims that this view was put forward by a famous historian of ancient Rome, Sherwin-White.  Is that true?  Read and find out! Remember: you too can prepare a Platinum post.  Just write up something connected with the blog, make it about 1000-1200 words, and send it to me; I'll put it in queue. But for now, read and enjoy Bob's post!  And if you have comments for him, bring 'em on!   Oral Tradition and the Game of Telephone: A. N. Sherwin-White’s Famous Quote The time from the death of Jesus to the writing of the first gospel was [...]

2022-01-24T01:59:58-05:00January 23rd, 2022|Historical Jesus|

The Maccabean Revolt

In order to understand the difference between what the prophets of the Hebrew Bible proclaimed, and what came to be the views of apocalyptic Jews, I need to sketch a set of historical events that the people of Israel had to live through.  Without this kind of historical knowledge, you simply will not understand ancient Judaism at the time of Jesus.  That is to say, you really have to know what happened among ancient Jews in order to make sense of what their theological beliefs were, since these beliefs were molded by and informed by nothing so much as the historical context out of which they emerged. And so here is a very brief sketch of the history of Judea over the four hundred years from approximately 540 BCE, when the Persians were in control, up to 63 BCE, when the Romans came in and took over.  I’ve taken the sketch from my textbook, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. ****************************** The Later History of Judea In the Persian period (starting in the late [...]

2022-01-11T14:57:39-05:00January 23rd, 2022|Public Forum|

What Is The Difference Between an Evangelical and a Fundamentalist?

I often get asked what the difference is between a fundamentalist and an evangelical, and I’ve realized that in my book on Revelation – almost done with the editing!  (I think…) – I may need to address the matter.   Here is my first shot at it.  Tell me what you think. ****************************** It is rather difficult to differentiate cleanly between “fundamentalists” and other “evangelicals” – in large part because If you're interested, join the blog.  I provide five posts a week, mainly on the New Testament and early Christianity, but also on modern religion as it relates to them.  There is a small membership fee, but it all goes to help those in need.  So why not?  Click here for membership options   conservative Protestantism is a continuum rather than a set of discrete categories.  The way I’m using the terms is this: “evangelical,” in the broad sense, refers to Protestant Christians who are deeply committed to the idea of personal salvation through a spiritual experience, often described as being “born again.”  Only those [...]

2022-01-11T10:40:28-05:00January 22nd, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|

The Prophets of Scripture: A Brief Summary of their Message and Mission

Let me repeat what I said at the outset of this thread in order to explain where it's going now. A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to give a couple of posts on the differences between the understandings  of “salvation” in Jesus and Paul; then I realized to explain either one I would have to go over the basic ideas of Jewish apocalypticism; then it occurred to me that it would be useful to address the historical roots and development of apocalypticism; then I realized I couldn’t really do that without talking about the classical prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.).  But then it occurred to me that to do that I’d have to explain what “prophecy” even was in the OT, before the classical prophets. I've seen this as an important discussion, since most Christian readers assume that the prophets of the Bible were mainly interested in predicting the coming of Jesus, or at least the coming of some kind of messiah who would save the people by suffering [...]

2022-01-11T10:38:08-05:00January 20th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The Message of First Isaiah

I've been talking about the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and giving some background on one of the earliest in particular, Isaiah of Jerusalem.  Here I'd like to summarize what he teaches to help provide an idea of the sorts of things Israelite prophets were saying.  A you'll see, Isaiah is deeply involved with political and military issues connected with his nation. The following brief exposition comes from my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. ****************************** The message of Isaiah, in essence, is that the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) have strayed from God; this is most evident in the social injustice that pervades society, but it is the leaders of the people who are principally at fault. These problems cannot be fixed simply by attending to proper religious rituals. The nation will be punished by God at the hands of the Assyrians. Right off the bat Isaiah laments how the people of Israel (meaning, in this case, Judah) have fallen away from God. God had raised them as his own children, [...]

2022-01-11T10:32:54-05:00January 19th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Special Live Event: What Book Should I Write Next?

I am excited to announce a new and unusual fund raiser for the blog, to take place on Thursday January 27 at 7:30 pm EST.  For anyone who is willing to make a donation, I will be holding a discussion on: “What Book Should I Write Next?”   Those who come will be able to talk it over with me and give me their opinions. Here’s the deal.  I have all but finished my book on Revelation: Expecting Armageddon: What Revelation Really Reveals.  I have just a couple of mop-up exercises, then it’s off to the publisher.  And now I have to decide what to do next. This is the first time in my adult life, since 1983, that I did not have the next writing project lined up, in my head, ready to be started, after finishing the current one.  For some time now, while in the throes of the last two books, I thought that I simply would stop now.  The past couple of years have been a bit hellacious for the ole' work [...]

2022-01-19T11:19:07-05:00January 18th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Particularly Intriguing Podcast Interview: Jesus, the Bible, and Early Christianity

On December 20 I had a very interesting interview on the Podcast called Blogging Theology (Blogging Theology – Exploring Life, the Universe and Everything with a former Christian, now Muslim Paul Williams, who, as it turns out, is highly knowledgeable about the Bible, early Christianity, and the scholarship connected with them..  This is the kind of interview I really enjoy: an astute questioner with the right queries that get to the heart of important issues. Here it is.  I hope you enjoy it!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeZrdgxi9bY    

2022-01-11T10:31:49-05:00January 18th, 2022|Public Forum|

Is the Book of Isaiah the Books of Three “Isaiahs”?

Divisions of the Book of Isaiah Before using the book of Isaiah to explain the kinds of things the Hebrew prophets generally proclaimed, I need to say something about the peculiarity of this long, 66-chapter writing in particular. A number of the books of the Bible appear to have been edited by later redactors -- for example, by someone who added a  conclusion in light of the new situation in which he was living.  In the case of Isaiah, however, we are dealing with a situation that is far, far more extreme. For well over a century scholars have recognized that major portions of the book do not actually derive from Isaiah of Jerusalem. The evidence is that a number of passages do not fit into Isaiah’s own historical context.   Evidence of Multiple Authors Most of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah clearly date to the ministry of Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century b.c.e. This is obviously true of the very end of the section, written when Hezekiah was king of Judah [...]

2022-01-11T10:31:00-05:00January 16th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

How Can We Understand the Prophets of the Hebrew Bible? Isaiah as a Case Study

I have started to discuss the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, in large part to correct widespread misunderstandings of what they were doing and what their books were about, and in part to emphasize just how interesting and important they are.  These are Israelite teachers who believe that God was delivering a message through them to the crises they were facing in their time. To understand their message, we have to know what the particular crises were – there were many different ones confronted by different prophets, and each had a message to deliver in the face of the one he was addressing. Even so, there is a broad consistency among the messages you will find in the prophets – though it is not at all what most people tend to think.  These prophets were not anticipating a messiah to come hundreds of years later or a cataclysmic end of the world to come thousands of years later.  They were talking about their own situations and what God wanted to be done – and what [...]

2022-01-11T10:22:00-05:00January 15th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Did My Shift in Thinking Destroy my Own Views? Guest Video Post #4 by Kurt Jaros

Kurt Jaros provides here the fourth in his series of videos about my views of whether we can know what the authors of the New Testament actually wrote.  It is an intriguing series: Dr. Jaros is a conservative evangelical Christian scholar who thinks that other public evangelical figures have misrepresented my views.  But this is a tricky one.  What do you think? Dr. Jaros will be willing to  address any comments/questions you have. ******************************   Misquoting Ehrman – Part Four: Ehrman’s Shift Oops! Did I get Dr. Ehrman’s position wrong? In a debate against Dan Wallace, Ehrman claims to have changed his mind on whether we can speak meaningfully about the original text. Does his shift lead to a significant change about the knowledge we can have of the original wording of the text? In this video, I look at the distinction between the “original” and the “earliest available form” of the text.  

2022-01-13T19:41:39-05:00January 13th, 2022|Bart's Critics, New Testament Manuscripts|

Aren’t They Predicting the Future? More on the Prophets of the Old Testament

In my previous post I began to explain who the prophets of Scripture are, what they stand for, and what their message is.  In my experience, most people -- even most Bible readers -- don't actually know.  The general idea appears to be that prophets were all about predicting the coming of Jesus and the end of the world.  Nope.  Just read them and see. Here I can give some broad historical information about the prophets to get the ball rolling.  I am taking this discussion from my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 2nd ed.  (Oxford University Press), slightly edited.   The Narrative Prophets: Elijah and Elisha The earliest major prophets of the Old Testament (after Moses) show up in the narratives of the collection of books scholars call the Deuteronomistic History  (the historical books that come right after the Pentateuch: Joshua through 2 Kings which tell about the establishment and early centuries of the nation of Israel).  These  prophets are not known to have left anything in writing (in contrast to [...]

2022-01-02T13:07:23-05:00January 12th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Gold Q&A for January!

Dear Gold Members, It's a new year!  And time for another Gold Q&A, our monthly audio for Gold members only.  As always, you provide written questions, I try to answer them; the audio recording will be released to Gold members only.  Have a question to ask?  Anything connected with the blog, directly or remotely?  Go for it. I will be recording the next Q&A on Saturday Jan 22 to be released  Wednesday Jan 26.  Send your question(s) to our blog COO, Diane Pittman, at [email protected]   The deadline is  noon EST, Friday December 21. The best questions are only a sentence or two long at most.   Send a zinger! Bart

2022-01-13T11:33:29-05:00January 11th, 2022|Public Forum|

They Ain’t Who You Think: Prophets in the Old Testament

One of the problems with blogs on the New Testament, and in fact in understanding the New Testament at all, is that it is very difficult to explain what’s happening in the New Testament without assuming a lot of knowledge about the Old Testament, but even devoted students of the New Testament don’t know much at all about the Old Testament.  So where do you begin? I wanted to have a couple of posts on the differences between the understandings about the very basic question of “salvation” in Jesus and Paul; then I realized to explain either one I’d have to go over the basic ideas of Jewish apocalypticism; then it occurred to me that it would be useful to address the historical roots and development of apocalypticism; then I realized I couldn’t really do that without talking about the classical prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.).  But then it occurred to me that to do that I’d have to explain what “prophecy” even was in the OT, before the classical prophets. I [...]

2021-12-27T10:51:44-05:00January 11th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The Famous Short Stories about Daniel

Here I continue and conclude my discussion of short stories in the Hebrew Bible, with some of the favorite Sunday School stories of all time, found in the book of Daniel.  Again, I draw here on my college textbook, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. ****************************** The book of Daniel is counted among the Major Prophets of the English Bible, but in the Hebrew Bible it is not one of the prophets at all; it is included in the Writings. This is almost certainly because it was the last book of the Hebrew Bible to be written (as we will see later), and when it came to be placed in circulation and more widely known, the collection of Latter Prophets was already considered to be a closed canon, containing, like the Former Prophets, four scrolls: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve. In some respects it makes sense that Daniel is included as a book among the prophets in English Bibles, both because the main character is portrayed making prophetic [...]

2021-12-26T11:13:19-05:00January 9th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Jewish Indifference to Jesus and the Problems it Caused: Guest Post by Dan Kohanski

As you know, Platinum members of the blog are allowed to submit posts for other Platinum members, and other members vote on which of them should be provided to the blog as a whole (It's a nice perk. You should think about moving up to Platinum.  There are other perks too--one, of course, is that you are contributing a larger amount to the charities we support!)   The most recent winner is this intriguing post by Dan Kohanski, about why most Jews had no interest in joining the Jesus movement. Dan will be happy to respond to your comments and questions. ****************************** Why did only a fraction of one percent of all Jews in the empire or even in Judaea ever believe in the message of the Jesus Movement?[1] The answer starts with that message itself. The first members of the Movement were all Jews themselves, saw themselves as Jews, and argued that Jewish traditions and beliefs inevitably led to their version of Judaism. However, the way they used those traditions and beliefs to solve the [...]

2021-12-24T03:55:56-05:00January 8th, 2022|Public Forum|

A New Course to Watch (Live!) Remotely: “In the Beginning”

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 [...]

2022-01-06T17:04:16-05:00January 7th, 2022|Public Forum|

How I Begin My Book on Revelation

I have finished a draft of my book on Revelation and am now having readers take a look at it, both layreaders and experts.  Once I get their comments back I'll make revisions and then get it sent out to the publisher; the plan is to have it published in the spring of 2022. I may change all this, but here is how at this point I'm planning to start the book, in ch. 1. ****************************** I was expecting a good deal of culture shock when I moved to North Carolina in 1988.  I had spent ten years in New Jersey, four of them teaching at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.  It was a position I loved: teaching New Testament to students who were curious but not, as a rule, particularly invested in the subject before taking the class. Most of my students there were Roman Catholic, at least nominally; others were Jewish or completely secular.  Not many were Bible-reading evangelicals.  I was pretty sure things would be different in the south.  The University of [...]

2022-01-07T17:52:50-05:00January 6th, 2022|Public Forum|

Did Abraham Actually Do It? Did He Sacrifice His Son Isaac? Platinum Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson

Do you like controversy?  Well HERE'S some controversy for you.  Maybe Abraham actually went through with it and slew his son.  What?  Read on.  Here's a scintillating guest post by Platinum member Doug Wadeson.  I'm sure he'll answer your questions.  I'm sure if I were you I'd have some! Remember: you too can submit a guest post as a Platinum member, for other Platinum members.  And it has the potential of going out to the whole blog.  You don't need to be a scholar of the Bible or an expert on early Christianity to do it.  It can be on anything of relevance to the blog.  Give it a shot, send it to me; I'm happy to give you feedback if you'd like. For now, here's Doug's post. ******************************* Most Jews and Christians are familiar with the story of Abraham taking his son Isaac and almost sacrificing him to God on Mount Moriah.[1] It is called "the Binding" or “Akedah.” The usual understanding is that God was testing Abraham’s faith, but that He stepped in [...]

2022-01-06T11:52:34-05:00January 5th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|
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