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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.

The Work of a Professional Scholar 3: Undergraduate Theses

In addition to my regular teaching, I often get asked to direct Independent studies – where an undergraduate student will pursue a research project of his or her own choosing, something that normally is not taught in a regular class that we offer – and senior honors theses. I rarely am able to do an Independent Study, I’m sorry to say, as I have so many other demands on my time. But some of my colleagues are able to do several a year. I do occasionally direct honors theses, though, especially when a student looks especially promising as someone who may be able to go on and do graduate work in the field. The honors thesis is done by a graduating senior who has a certain (rather high) GPA who wants to have some experience doing original research on any topic of his or her choosing. I direct ones, of course, that have to do with the New Testament or the history of Christianity during the first three centuries. The thesis takes two semesters to [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:00-04:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

The Work of a Professional Scholar 2: Supervising PhD Dissertations

In describing what professional scholars in the academy do – at least those who teach in the Humanities, the one area I know something about – the first thing that comes to my mind is probably not what would come to yours.  It comes to mind because I have just now been traveling across country (I’m now in an airline lounge in Chicago) and in the plane I have been reading a (very fine) doctoral dissertation, whose author will be “defending” (that is, being subject to interrogation by the five faculty members on her committee) tomorrow. It’s a very good dissertation, I think.  Like all dissertations it is book-length (will be turned into a published monograph, I should think), highly technical in places, very learned, the result of something like three years of full time labor.   This particular student is not one that I am directing (each student has one faculty member directly responsible for supervision of the dissertation); I am just one of the other committee members. One of the things I like best [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:08-04:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Teaching Christianity|

The Work of the Professional Scholar 1: Introduction

                In some of the back and forth that I have been involved with over the past few weeks there have been questions raised about whether “experts” in a field have any privileged standing when it comes to making judgments about the acceptability or force of evidence that is adduced for one position or another.   I am not going to go into that question here, but a related topic did occur to me as I was thinking about it:   My hunch is that there are a lot of people outside the academy who do not know what it is professional scholars actually do.   That’s not surprising.  I, frankly, don’t really know (or understand) what a hedge fund manager does, or a state lieutenant governor, or an industrial chemist.      And so, with that in mind, I thought maybe I should describe what it is that someone like me – a senior professor at a major research university – what a person like me actually does with his time (one quick answer: NOT watch a lot [...]

2017-12-14T23:35:27-05:00May 3rd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Public Forum|

A Recent Interview

Here, for anyone interested, is a link to a recent interview I did (2012).  It is relatively short (Q&A via email), but it covers a range of topics, with some really terrific questions, I thought. http://www.theporpoisedivinglife.com/porpoise-diving-life.asp?pageID=657 Post Update 10/2014: The original post resided on now an expired blog "The Porpoise Diving Life: Reality for the Rest of Us or Picking Up Where Purpose-Driven Peters Out" moderated by Bill Dahl, who interviewed me after the printed release of "DID JESUS EXIST?". The following interview was fully restored from the Internet Archive Way Back Machine by my blog support. ______________________________________________________________________________ First, allow me to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Bart D. Ehrman of UNC - Chapel Hill for agreeing to this interview. Thanks also to Julie Burton, Publicity Director at HarperOne in San Francisco. His most recent book is "Did Jesus Exist?" (HarperOne 2012). First, my review of the book: This, I believe, is one of the MOST IMPORTANT books the vast majority of purported Christians will never read. Why? Because most have a self-confessed understanding of Jesus wrapped up in a tidy [...]

The Irony of our Earliest Manuscripts

                It’s a little hard to get one’s mind around the irony of our early manuscripts, as I was alluding to in my earlier post.   To reconstruct the “original” text of the New Testament – by which, for my purposes here, I mean the text that the author himself produced and put into the public sphere by “publishing” (or sending) it – we would love to have lots of early manuscripts to look at.  Unfortunately, we don’t have lots of early manuscripts.  94% of our manuscripts are 800 years after the fact.  We have only a handful of manuscripts, at best, that can plausibly be dated to the second century.   These are all *highly* fragmentary (the oldest is just a scrap with a few verses on it).  And even these are decades after the authors were all dead and buried. The problem is that every time a manuscript gets copied, mistakes – either intentional or accidental – are introduced.   And then when that manuscript serves as an exemplar for the next scribe, its mistakes are [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:17-04:00May 2nd, 2012|Bart's Debates, New Testament Manuscripts|

For the “Original” Text: What Kinds of Manuscripts Would We Need?

                As I pointed out in my previous post, in my debates with Dan Wallace I have stressed that we simply don’t have the kinds of manuscripts we need in order to know with certainty (let alone complete certainty!) what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote.   Dan will typically argue that we have so many more manuscripts of the New Testament than for any other ancient author, that of course we can know the originals.  My reply is that what we have – even though we have 5560 or so Greek manuscripts – is not enough.   Out of some frustration, Dan or a member of the audience during the question –answer period sometimes asks, “Look!  What exactly do you want?!? ” It’s a fair question.  What do I want? Of course, what I really want are the originals.  But it seems unlikely that I’ll ever be getting them.   They disappeared long ago, probably within a couple of centuries of their being written, at the latest (the great textual scholar of the early third [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:26-04:00May 1st, 2012|Bart's Debates, New Testament Manuscripts|

The Text of the New Testament: Are the Textual Traditions of Other Ancient Works Relevant?

I have had three debates with Dan Wallace (author of Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament and Reinventing Jesus) on the question of whether or not we can know for certain, or with relative reliability, whether we have the “original” text of the New Testament.   At the end of the day, my answer is usually “we don’t know.”   For practical reasons, New Testament scholars proceed as if we do actually know what Mark wrote, or Paul, or the author of 1 Peter.   And if I had to guess, my guess would be that in most cases we can probably get close to what the author wrote.  But the dim reality is that we really don’t have any way to know for sure.   Our copies are all so far removed from the time when the authors wrote, that even though we have so many (tons!) of manuscripts of the New Testament, we do not have many (ounces!) that are very close to the time of the originals, and it is impossible to say whether the texts were altered [...]

2020-04-26T23:34:56-04:00April 30th, 2012|Bart's Debates, New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

A Final (for now) Post on the Resurrection

     A final posting, for now, on the question I was asked on the resurrection. Most people – even those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection – never stop to think about what the idea of resurrection would have meant to first century Jews.  Jesus’ followers, of course, were just that, Jews from Palestine in the first century.   Today people (Christians) are so accustomed to thinking of Jesus’ resurrection that there is nothing odd about it – it fits directly into our (their) way of thinking about the world.  But in fact the very notion of resurrection is a thoroughly Jewish notion with deep roots in the Jewish apocalyptic (as opposed, say, to the American capitalistic) world view. Throughout most of their earlier history, Jews did not hold to the idea of a resurrected afterlife.  In the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), most authors (e.g., of Job and Ecclesiastes) think that death is the end of the story, so that there is no afterlife, or that if there is an afterlife it is a shadowy [...]

More on the Resurrection

     As I pointed out in the previous posting, we cannot know that there was an empty tomb three days after Jesus’ death.   We also cannot know which of his twelve disciples came to believe that he had been raised from the dead, or when they started to believe it.  They later indicated that he was raised on the third day, as Paul, a later Christian who knew some of the disciples, tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5.   But Paul does not indicate that the disciples of Jesus started to believe that it was three days after Jesus’ death that his disciples started to believe he had been raised –only that that was the day on which he was raised.  They may have come to realize it weeks later. The Gospels, written decades after Paul, indicate that the disciples came to believe on the third day.   And it indicates that they all (except Judas Iscariot, of course) came to believe.   I don’t know if that is historically right or not.  There are a lot of Christian [...]

Another Question on the Resurrection

[h3]EMAIL QUESTION[/h3] From all of my studies, I still have one open question about the resurrection…or the resurrection story.  I do not understand how or why or when that story was invented.  It is easy to understand the retroactive invention of the virgin birth stories and other theoretical miracles of Jesus, but it seems to me that no one would have gone to the trouble to create those prior stories if they had not believed sincerely in the resurrection. …but how did the resurrection story get started?   Practically speaking, after Jesus’ crucifixion, I imagine the Disciples were terrified.  My hunch is they wanted to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible.  So, after the horror of the crucifixion…..what in the world triggered one of them to say…”you know, Jesus was really the Messiah…we have to spread his message…but nobody will believe us so how do we get the message across? O.K. Let’s make up a story about him being resurrected…and then we will tell everyone about that miracle and then certainly they will believe [...]

2020-04-03T19:46:04-04:00April 28th, 2012|Afterlife, Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

Response to Carrier

A lot of people have been asking me when I will be replying to Richard Carrier's full-frontal assault (!) on my book. I've started to reply in a couple of posts (maybe some haven't noticed....), but I hope to have a fuller set of comments soon, on his charges of "Errors of Fact." I know what I want to say, but am simply overwhelmed right now with other things to do. Long story, I won't bore you with it. But I *hope* to have a fairly sizeable posting on the topic by Wednesday (I'm saying this here so I don't need to reply individually to everyone who has asked). I have decided that I will post it on the Public Forum, since I really do take his charges of scholarly incompetence seriously and feel that I need to address them. In the meantime, someone forwarded to me the following post on R. Joseph Hoffmann's blog. I think it's pretty good and amusing and worth reading. I don't think I've ever met Hoffmann, but I've known [...]

What Do Tectonic Plates Have To Do With Suffering?

I have always found it interesting that when I talk about how there can be suffering in the world if there is a good God who is in charge of it, someone will tell me that it is all because of “free will.” I think most of us – not Sam Harris, of course, or some others, but most of us – think that there is such a thing as free will, that our actions are not completely determined for us but to some extent (not completely! Or even nearly completely) we can decide what to do (we can’t decide to walk on the ceiling without special equipment; most of us can’t decide to understand the general theory of relativity; and so on. But we can decide whether to cross the street, or go to a movie, or punch our neighbor in the nose). Moreover, most of us would agree that a good deal of suffering happens as the result of humans exercising free will. Your own broken nose may be because your neighbor was [...]

2020-04-03T19:46:20-04:00April 23rd, 2012|Bart's Debates, Reflections and Ruminations|

Acharya S, Richard Carrier, and a Cocky Peter (Or: “A Cock and Bull Story”)

As I indicated in my earlier posting, I will make an exception in this case and post these comments on the Public Forum, although normally I reserve my Responses to Critics to the Members Only section of the blog. As many readers know, Richard Carrier has written a hard-hitting, one might even say vicious, response to Did Jesus Exist.  I said nothing nasty about Carrier in my book – just the contrary, I indicated that he was a smart fellow with whom I disagree on fundamental issues, including some for which he really does not seem to know what he is talking about.  But I never attacked him personally.  He on the other hand, appears to be showing his true colors. Still, the one thing this bit of nastiness has shown me is that even though I seem to stir up controversy everywhere I go and with everything I write, I really don’t like conflict.  I would much prefer that we all simply get along and search for truth together.   But alas, the world does [...]

2020-05-27T16:00:39-04:00April 22nd, 2012|Bart's Critics, Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Public Forum|

Concerns for the Blog

I have been getting two unrelated sets of comments lately, and I would like to address them both here.   Some readers have understandably expressed a wish that I would change the format of this blog and make it free.  Many of these readers point out that they already give to charity, and that they think blog content should be available to anyone and everyone.   I have real sympathy for this point of view – especially when it has been expressed by people who simply cannot afford the membership fee (say, $3.95 for a month; it is $24.95 for a year – and I can see how the latter, especially, might be a burden for someone). But if I were to get rid of the membership fees, it would completely undermine the entire point of the Blog – which is for me to raise money for charity.  Yes, people could donate of their own free will, but they can do that anyway.  I’m truly sorry that some people cannot get access to the full site, but [...]

2020-05-27T16:04:08-04:00April 22nd, 2012|Public Forum|

Richard Carrier on The Huffington Post Article (1)

I began to write replies to Richard Carrier’s rather heated response to my Huffington Post article before his now more extensive review of my book appeared on his blog.  I will first reply in a series of posts to the first response, and then deal with the more extensive and, well, overly heated (!) later response. This was my first response: Richard Carrier has written a rather intemperate reaction to my piece in the Huffington Post in which I summarize, in about a thousand words, some of the major points I make in my new book Did Jesus Exist (361 pages!  It is not easy to condense that much material in three pages!).   One thing he objects to most vehemently to is my claim that there are no scholars trained in the relevant fields of academic inquiry (e.g., New Testament; early Christianity) and teaching at a recognized institution of higher learning who takes the position that he and his fellow mythicists take, that Jesus never existed. I can understand why Carrier is so upset.  He [...]

2020-05-27T16:01:15-04:00April 21st, 2012|Bart's Critics, Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|

Do My Research Assistants Do All My Work For Me?

I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, incredulous, and well, OK, pretty ticked off and aggravated when some of the mythicists that I deal with in my book, Did Jesus Exist, went on the attack and made it personal.   Let me make a confession: before getting ready to do this Blog, and getting into Facebook as a preparation for it, I had no idea how grimy the Internet can be.   It is one messy place.  I know, I know – welcome to the 21st century! One of the charges against me that is being made is not just atrociously wrong but insulting to my integrity, something I take very seriously.  It’s one thing to have a disagreement about how to interpret historical data; it’s another thing to charge a scholar with dishonesty.   The first instance I know of the charge was suggested by Achyra S on her blog, and most forcefully by Robert Price on his podcast.  The charge is that I did not actually do any of the research for Did Jesus Exist myself, but that [...]

2020-04-03T19:47:18-04:00April 20th, 2012|Bart's Critics, Historical Jesus, Mythicism|

What Charities Does The Blog Support?

I was going to entitle this posting “What Charities Does the CIA Support?” but in a saner moment I thought that maybe that was not such a bright idea…. I have received several emails from potential members who have indicated that they are reluctant to pay a membership fee for charities without knowing exactly what those charities are.  Fair Enough!  A couple of these people have also indicated that they aren’t convinced that I am giving all of the money raised to charity, but that some of it is being used to line my own pockets.   To which I have numerous comments, but will simply say, instead, “Good Grief!!!”   But just to be sure everyone understands, do let me say again – I am not making a single penny from this venture.  It is all done to support charities that deal with issues of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be glad, in the long run, that I’ve taken on this task, as it is very time consuming and I have [...]

2020-04-03T19:46:51-04:00April 20th, 2012|Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

First-Century Copy of Mark? – Part 1

On February 1, I had a public debate in Chapel Hill with Daniel Wallace, a conservative evangelical Christian New Testament scholar who teaches at that bastion of conservative dispensationalist theology, Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also the author of several books, including Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament and Reinventing Jesus. I have known Dan for over thirty years, since we were both graduate students interested in similar areas of research: my field (at the time I too was an evangelical) was textual criticism, the study of the ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and of what they can tell us about the “original” writings of the New Testament; his field was the grammar of the Greek New Testament. The term “textual criticism” is a technical term. It does not refer to any study of “texts.” It is specifically the study of how to establish what an author wrote if we do not have his or her actual writings, but only later copies of them. In the case of the New Testament we [...]

2020-06-03T15:41:12-04:00April 6th, 2012|Bart's Debates, New Testament Manuscripts|

Q & A – Historical Events in Jesus Tradition

[h3] EMAIL QUESTION [/h3] Sir, I have inquiries regarding your view on two supposed historical events found in Jesus Tradition: (1) the burial by Joseph of Arimathea; (2) the discovery of the empty tomb by some of Jesus' women followers. It appears that when you gave a lecture for The Teaching Company (published in 2003) you regarded these two event claims to be "historical facts." You stated that "the earliest accounts we have are unanimous in saying that Jesus was in fact buried by this fellow, Joseph of Arimathea, and so it's relatively reliable that that's what happened. We also have solid traditions to indicate that women found this tomb empty three days later." Source: "From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity," Lecture 4: "Oral and Written Traditions about  Jesus" (The Teaching Company, 2003). However, in your debate with W. L. Craig in 2006, you stated, "The payoff is this: We don't know if Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. What we have are Gospel stories written decades later by people who [...]

2020-04-03T19:48:11-04:00April 5th, 2012|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Latest HarperOne Book: Did Jesus Exist?

[h4] Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth [/h4] Book Publication Date: March 20, 2012 Large numbers of atheists, humanists, and conspiracy theorists are raising one of the most pressing questions in the history of religion: "Did Jesus exist at all?" Was he invented out of whole cloth for nefarious purposes by those seeking to control the masses? Or was Jesus such a shadowy figure—far removed from any credible historical evidence—that he bears no meaningful resemblance to the person described in the Bible? In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible expert Bart Ehrman confronts these questions, vigorously defends the historicity of Jesus, and provides a compelling portrait of the man from Nazareth. The Jesus you discover here may not be the Jesus you had hoped to meet—but he did exist, whether we like it or not. Publisher Reviews “Ehrman’s clarity is something to emulate.” —Newsweek “Ehrman] is a lucid expositor.” —The New Yorker “[God’s Problem is a] serious inquiry. . . . Ehrman pursues it with an energy and goodwill that invite [...]

2020-04-03T19:47:05-04:00April 4th, 2012|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Mythicism, Public Forum|
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