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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.

Specious Arguments for the Truth of the Bible

Professors who have taught the same subject for decades often get tired with covering the same material time after time and, as a result, answering the same questions time after time.  I've had friends who teach New Testament tell me: "If I have to teach the Synoptic Problem ONE MORE TIME I am going to SCREAM…." I've never felt that way. It's probably just a matter of personality and brain chemistry.  For me, teaching someone who doesn't know something that I’ve taught for many years just means they haven’t had the chance to learn it. It’s the same outside the classroom with questions/comments I get – the same questions all the time. I’ll admit that often in the first nano-second I sometimes think: Why don’t they just GET IT?  But then I remember: Wait a second.  This person hasn't heard the answer.... Here is a question that comes to me all the time.  I got it again a few days ago.   QUESTION: I have a brief question. I was a biblical studies major in college [...]

2022-07-27T10:26:09-04:00July 24th, 2022|Bart's Critics, New Testament Manuscripts|

Doing Critical Scholarship as a Committed Christian: Anniversary Guest Post by Jeffrey Siker

As part of our ten -year anniversary on the blog, we requested special anniversary posts from scholars who had, over the years, made guest contributions; our instructions were that they could post on any topic of their choice for the event.  We had a gratifying number of scholar-colleagues-friends of mine graciously respond.  I'll be posting one of them a week, and then at the end figure out a way to combine them into one big kind of anniversary blog post e-book for distribution. Here is the first in line, written by one of my closest friends Jeff Siker, Professor Emeritus at Loyola Marymount University, an expert in New Testament studies publishing in international venues since our graduate student days oh so many decades ago.  Jeff is an ordained Presbyterian minister who, like me, has trouble understanding why so many people seem to think that critical scholarship is necessarily inimical to being a Christian.  On the contrary, as he says, he has one foot in the academy and the other in the church. Here are some [...]

Did Christians Invent Hospitals?

This will be the last of my posts on this thread, connected with what I hope is my next book, that I’m calling tentatively, The Creation of Charity: How Christianity Transformed our World.  Here I talk about one of the lesser-known aspects of early Christianity – a surprising one to most people. Arguably the most important development in the Christian history of charity came in the institutionalization of giving, not on the governmental level but through extra-mural ecclesiastical organizations.  Of these, none proved more historically significant than the invention of the hospital. Most health care in the Greek and Roman worlds took place in the home, with families bearing the responsibility of nursing the sick.  That, of course, is not the most effective mode of health care, but even simple nursing often produces salubrious results.  Certainly, there were doctors trained in medical science who attended the sick, but these were private initiatives and as a rule benefited only with those of means.  Doctors worked as individuals, out of their homes or through home-visitations to those who [...]

2022-07-11T14:33:45-04:00July 21st, 2022|History of Christianity (100-300CE), Public Forum|

Were Early Christians Really Charitable? Or Was It All Talk?

In this thread on “charity” in early Christianity I’ve been discussing what the Christian writers said about the importance of giving money to those in need.  But did all this preaching have any real-life effect on anything? In his classical discussion of wealth in antiquity, Paul Veyne pointed out that it is important to “distinguish carefully between the ethic that a society practices…and the ethic that this society professes.  The two ethics usually have little in common.” (Bread and Circuses, p. 25)  To this point I have been discussing early Christian rhetoric.  But what about its practice? There is solid evidence that the rhetoric had at least some effect on the ground, and I will be arguing that over time the effect was highly significant.  I have already mentioned Paul’s collection for the poor in Jerusalem.  This was a real action in real time, and it set a pattern for times to come.  Some fifty years after Paul the ... Blog membership gives you the chance to read this entire post -- and all [...]

2022-07-11T14:05:22-04:00July 20th, 2022|History of Christianity (100-300CE)|

Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Write Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Free video.

As you may know, I have started producing a series of online courses that consider in a systematic way how historical scholars understanding the Bible.  These are not connected with the blog, but are a separate activity I have for the Bart Ehrman Professional Services (BEPS; website: www.bartehrman.com)   In June I did a freebie as part of the series and invited all blog members to come.  Many did!   If you missed it, or would like to see it again,  just click this link! It's a 50 minute talk, with Q&A following, on one of the important issues confronting readers of the New Testament:  were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?   When did the Gospels start being called that?  Why don't the authors actually identify themselves?  Is there evidence for these attributions?  In short, how would we know.   Take a watch, and let me know if you have more questions! https://www.bartehrman.com/did-matthew-mark-luke-john-write-the-gospels/

2022-07-05T10:55:52-04:00July 19th, 2022|Canonical Gospels|

Announcing a New Live Course on the Gospels! Interested?

I am pleased to announce that I will be doing another online course, the second in the series: How Scholars Read the Bible.  The first, if you recall, was a six-lecture course on Genesis.  This one will be an eight-lecture course called:  The Unknown Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As with all the courses I do online, this one will NOT be in connection with the blog per se – it is part of my separate venture (Bart Ehrman Professional Services) that you can find at my personal website http://www.bartehrman.com.   I am announcing it here on the blog because I know some of blog members will be interested (and some would be rather aggravated if I didn’t mention it….). I will be giving the course live on Saturday August 6 and Sunday August 7 (four 30-minute lectures each day; each day’s session followed by a live Q&A).  You don’t need to come to the live sessions to purchase the course; those who do come will also receive the recorded version. I see this [...]

2022-07-22T19:08:54-04:00July 18th, 2022|Public Forum|

Our Platinum Webinar! Tuesday July 19.

I'm looking forward to our re-rescheduled Platinum-Onlies Webinar on Tuesday!     Topic:  Peter and Paul: The Dueling Apostles     Time:  7:30 - 9:00 pm.     Link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83457463872?pwd=aGl5eHVRNURscllOdEN0SEZNdnJ2dz09 Meeting ID: 834 5746 3872 Passcode: 334283         Hope to see you there! = Bart

2022-07-19T12:02:37-04:00July 17th, 2022|Public Forum|

How Could Jesus Be BOTH Divine and Human at Once? An Intriguing Ancient View

This now is my tenth and final April 18 anniversary post.  The blog started on April 18, 2012, and with this post I will finish all the previous posts from April 18.   This one, from 2021, is especially interesting for anyone intrigued by early Christian attempts to figure out who Christ was.  God?  Human?  Half of each?  Both at once?  How's *that* work??? ****************************** 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 [...]

Christians Who Reversed Jesus’ Teachings: Wealth is GOOD!

In this thread I’ve been giving a short history of ancient Christian views of giving to charity – a matter of real interest for the blog itself, but of bigger interest for the world at large.  Surprisingly, before Christianity started to take over the Roman world, no one apart from Jews appeared to think that the “poor” mattered enough to do much of anything to help them.  Jesus, though, as a Jew, stressed the importance of taking care of those in need.  That’s what God does and it’s what his people should do – give everything to help those without resources. After his death his followers moderated Jesus’ views and began to stress that wealth was not necessarily evil or opposed to God.  Those who had it could keep it, as long as they were generous with it when it came to helping out those who were poor, hungry, homeless, ill, and so on. Eventually Christian leaders started actually to celebrate wealth, a rather serious change in the views promoted by Jesus.  But how could [...]

“Redemptive Gifts”: Can Giving to Charity Save Your Soul?

In my previous post I began to show that after Jesus’ death, his followers started to soften his message that it was necessary for his followers to give up all their material goods.  In fact, Christian leaders started seeing the virtue of wealth in their communities and began to claim that wealthy people who gave of their goods generously (without getting rid of them all) could help provide salvation for their souls. Such views become standard within the Christian tradition, creating two intriguing ironies for the religion, one related to the proclamation of Jesus during his life and other connected to the proclamation of the salvation he brought by his death. Jesus’ own views of wealth came to be reversed by his later followers, making it possible for them to increase their numbers in a world not at all likely to follow his example and message of voluntary poverty for the sake of the kingdom. On the other hand, precisely these missionary successes led subsequent generations of Christians to modify the original Christian understanding of [...]

Softening Jesus’ Message on Giving up (Literally) Everything

In my previous post I showed that Jesus himself appears to have taught that his disciples (not just one or two of them) had to give up *everything* in order to be his followers.  Most likely this insistence on voluntary poverty was related to his message that the Kingdom of God was to arrive soon, so people needed to devote themselves entirely to it and to spread the message before it was too late. It is difficult to imagine that the Christian mission would have become massively successful if an entrance requirement was the complete divestment of property and a life of itinerate beggary.  It is no surprise that after Jesus’ death (most of) his followers modified his discourse on wealth: what mattered was not voluntary abject poverty but generosity.  That view came to be endorsed in later Gospel traditions – sayings placed on Jesus’ lips by story tellers and Gospel writers– and became the standard view among Christians down till today. Already in Luke’s Gospel we find Jesus’ encounter with the fabulously wealthy Zacchaeus [...]

Early Christianity and War. Guest Post by Dan Kohanski

As you may know, Platinum level members of the blog are allowed to make guest posts to their fellow Platinum members, and periodically they vote on one to be posted for all blog members.  Here is the most recent winning post, by Dan Kohanski.   (You may want to check out the benefits that accrue to the different levels of membership, and consider moving to a different level!  Just go here:  Register - The Bart Ehrman Blog )! In this post Dan treats a perennially important topic: how ancient people (including biblical authors) understood the legitimacy of war, particularly in light of their specific historical and cultural contexts.  What could be of more on-going relevance? Dan will be happy to address questions and comments. *******************************             The history of how religions approach war is evidence that theology is a product of reaction to events rather than the application of eternal and unchanging laws. Look at the ancient Israelites, who lived in a period of endemic local wars, in which one petty kingdom after another (including those [...]

2022-06-26T15:00:16-04:00July 12th, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Did Jesus Insist on Voluntary Poverty?

I am returning now to my discussion of understandings of wealth and charity in the early Christian tradition, as I think through how I want to draft my prospectus on a book on that topic for my publisher.  If you want to see the earlier posts on views of wealth and giving in the Roman world (which stand in stark contrast with what arose in Christianity), just do a word search for “wealth” on the blog and you’ll see all the recent articles. Now I move to the views of the historical Jesus and his followers; after that, in subsequent posts, I’ll talk about how these views changed significantly over (Christian) time, and consider the real life practical effects they had in understanding the importance of helping the poor in the Western world. ************************ The later Christian discourse appealed to such traditions as found in the Hebrew Bible, but it found yet greater impetus in the recorded teachings of Jesus. For the purposes of my analysis, it is important to remember that historical scholars can [...]

2022-07-15T11:25:11-04:00July 10th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Mike Licona’s Response to My Post on Contradictions

Several people alerted me to Mike Licona's response to my post on our debate over a specific contradiction in the Gospels.  I checked it out and thought it would be interesting to get your response before giving my own.  I asked Mike if it was OK to share it on the blog, and yes indeed, it is. As you'll see, it is over a very simple matter.  When Jesus sent his disciples on a mission to preach the kingdom, did he tell them explicitly to *take* a staff with them (Gospel of Mark) or tell them explicitly *not* to take a staff (Matthew and Luke)? Mike does not think it's a contradiction.  If Matthew reports that Jesus said TAKE a staff and Mark reports that he said DO NOT take a staff it means basically the same thing.  That may sound counterintuitive, but Mike explains his reasoning: if you look at the entire context, the gist of the saying is the same between the two accounts; Matthew is just simplifying a detail in Mark. For [...]

2022-06-27T10:58:51-04:00July 9th, 2022|Public Forum|

Does Luke Have Contradictory Views of the Atonement?

I return now to the seemingly simple but inordinately complicated question I received that has led to this short thread over the past week or so on Luke's understanding of why Jesus died.  In the thread so far (in case you haven't read it) I've argued that Luke (author of both the Gospel and Acts) did not have a doctrine of atonement.  He certainly thought that Jesus had to die: but Jesus' death is not what brought a reconciliation with God (= salvation) per se.  It made people realize their personal guilt before God, leading them to repent.  Because they repented, God then forgave them.  Jesus' death, in other words, was a motivation to return to God, it was not a bloody sacrifice that took away sins. With that as background: here again is the question. QUESTION: Although the gospel of Luke doesn’t have an atonement message, what are your thoughts about Acts 20:28 [were Paul is recorded as saying:] Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit [...]

2022-06-20T18:37:49-04:00July 7th, 2022|Acts of the Apostles, Early Christian Doctrine|

If Jesus’ Death Was Not an Atonement: Why Did He Die??

I have been dealing with the question of Jesus’ death in the Gospel of Luke and have been arguing that Luke does not appear to have understood Jesus’ death to be an atonement for sins.   He has eliminated the several indications from his source, the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus’ death was an atonement, and he never indicates in either his Gospel or the book of Acts that Jesus died “for” you or “for” others or “for” anyone.   Then why did Jesus die? It is clear that Luke thought that Jesus had to die.  For Luke it was all part of God’s plan.  But why?  What is the theological meaning of Jesus’ death for Luke, if it was not a sacrifice that brought about a right standing before God (which is what the term “atonement” means)? You get the clearest view of Luke’s understanding of Jesus’ death from the speeches delivered by the apostles in the book of Acts.  As you probably know, Acts is about the spread of the Christian church throughout the Roman Empire after [...]

2022-06-20T18:30:27-04:00July 6th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Early Christian Doctrine|

Does Luke Get Rid of the Atonement?

In my previous post I tried to argue that the longer version of the account of Jesus’ Last Supper in Luke could have been created by a scribe who wanted to make the passage sound more like what is familiar from Matthew, Mark, and John, and to stress the point made in those other accounts as well, that Jesus’ broken body and shed blood are what bring redemption.   The passage as you recall reads like this: 17 And he took a cup and gave thanks, and he said: “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you that from now on I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” 19 And taking bread he gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body that is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  20  Likewise after supper (he took) the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood that is shed for you.  21 [...]

How Do You Decide What an Author Actually Wrote? The Last Supper

In my previous post I started to discuss a textual variant that I covered in my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, a very important variant for understanding Luke’s account of Jesus’ last days, for grasping Luke’s view of the importance of Jesus’ death, and for seeing how scribes occasionally modified their texts for theological reasons. The passage has to do with what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper.  Here is the form of the text as found in most of the manuscripts.  (I have put verse numbers in the appropriate places) 17 And he took a cup and gave thanks, and he said: “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you that from now on I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” 19 And taking bread he gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body that is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  20  Likewise after supper (he took) the [...]

2022-06-20T18:20:35-04:00July 3rd, 2022|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

What Did Jesus Say at the Last Supper?

Here is a seemingly simple but inordinately complicated question I received from a read on the blog:   QUESTION: Although the gospel of Luke doesn’t have an atonement message, what are your thoughts about Acts 20:28: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”? This sure sounds like it has atonement implications.   RESPONSE: When I got the question my idea was to give a direct and simple response. But I realized that would be neither easy nor satisfying.  It would take a post.  But then I realized that wouldn’t be enough either: it would take several posts.  So, right – this will be a thread. I begin with some background.  I have dealt with this particular question about Acts 20:28 only once in my life, to my recollection (never on the blog, I believe), in my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. To set up that discussion I need to [...]

Which James in Galatians? Platinum Guest Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller

I'm pleased to publish this guest post by Platinum member Gregory Hartzler-Miller. It is dealing with a tricky issue with broad implications. Is there more than one James active in the early Jerusalem church? Which one is Paul concerned about? Check it out and see! ***************************** Which Mary? Which James? 8 theses for distinguishing two Jameses in Galatians based on clues from Mark By Gregory Hartzler-Miller, MATS "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (Μαρία ἡ Ἰωσῆτος) saw where his body was placed. When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the James (Μαρία ἡ τοῦ Ἰακώβου), and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body" (Mk 15:47-16:1). “Mary the mother of Joses” and “Mary the mother of the James” are two different women. Granted, in the larger context of Mark, it is stated that Mary of Joses has another son named James. As a result, scholars tend to assume these two Mary’s are the same. Against this tendency, I will present an alternative. The evidence will [...]

2022-07-04T14:59:04-04:00July 2nd, 2022|Paul and His Letters|
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