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The Afterlife in the Hebrew Bible: Sheol

When trying to figure out where the Christian ideas of heaven and hell came from, an obvious place to start is with the Hebrew Bible.  Jesus himself held to the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures.   To be sure, there was not a completely fixed canon in his day, which all Jews everywhere agreed to.  But virtually all Jews we know of ascribed to the high authority (and Mosaic authorship) of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); and most ...

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Eternal Life and Damnation

In my summaries of the Apocalypse of Peter and the Apocalypse of Paul, as a couple of readers noticed, there was a striking difference in emphasis.  Both of these early Christian texts (the first from the second century, the other from the fourth or possibly the fifth?) narrate guided tours of the realms of the blessed and of the damned, and both seem more interested in describing the torments of the lost than the ecstasies of the saved.

The former focuses ...

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Bart Ehrman & Robert Price Debate – Did Jesus Exist?

As many of you know, this past October I had a public debate with Robert Price on the question of whether Jesus actually existed.  To my knowledge Robert is the only “mythicist” (one who thinks Jesus is a complete myth) who actually has a PhD in the relevant field of New Testament studies.   For years I’ve been asked by people to debate a mythicist; I’ve always resisted, in part because I’ve thought that by doing so I would lend ...

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Questions on the Resurrection and My Personal Spiritual Experiences: Readers’ Mailbag

I’ll address two questions on this week’s readers’ mailbag, one about what we can say about the resurrection of Jesus (a specific question about it) and one about whether my (one-time) faith was based on the Bible or on spiritual experiences I had.  (The answer is apparently not what the questioner expected.)

 

QUESTION:

How do you separate the fact from fiction on the risen Jesus?  You accept, as historical, that the disciples believed they had visions of the risen Jesus – so ...

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Another Gory Account of the Afterlife: The Apocalypse of Paul

Yesterday I discussed the first surviving Christian account of a tour of heaven and hell, an apocalypse allegedly, but not really, written by Jesus’ disciple Peter.   Here is one other, this time allegedly, but not really, written by the Apostle Paul.   I have taken this description from my book Forgery and Counterforgery (which I have revised a bit to get rid of some of the scholarly jargon).

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Far more influential on the history of Christian thought than the Apocalypse of ...

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Touring Hell: The Apocalypse of Peter

I am about ready now (I think!) to dig more deeply into a thread on the Invention of the Afterlife – the tentative title of the book that I *hope* will be my next one.  I’ve been putting off starting the thread in earnest because, in fact, I don’t feel particularly ready for it.  I’m just at the preliminary stage of my reading and have many dozens of books I need to work through before I can even think about ...

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Does Jesus Claim to Be God in Mark? And My Former Converts. Mailbag March 19, 2017

Two questions in this week’s Mailbag, one about whether Jesus was claiming to be God in the Gospel of Mark, and the other about my personal life: whether today, as an agnostic, I ever meet people I once converted when I was a gung-ho conservative evangelical Christian.  If you have a question you would like me to address, ask away!

 

QUESTION:

Dr. Ehrman, the other day I was discussing with an Evangelical pastor that the sayings of Jesus in which he claimed ...

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A Final Word (I Think!) on Group Visions

I am getting some push-back on my discussions of visions.  One of the most informed and hard-hitting critiques was this.

I certainly agree that it is within your scope of expertise as a New Testament scholar to use the term “vision” to describe the beliefs of people in Antiquity who used this term to describe certain religious experiences.  It is within your scope of expertise to define this term as defined by those ancients.  However, with all due respect, ...

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What Really Happens With Group Visions

Several people on the blog have pushed back on my claim that group hallucinations (what I’ve called non-veridical visions) can occur.  Psychologically, is that really possible?  How is it actually possible that a group of, say, twelve people could have the same mental breakdown leading them to see exactly the same thing at the same time?

First, some people have objected to my term “vision” since psychologists don’t use that term.  They talk instead about “hallucinations.”   OK, I’ll concede the point.  ...

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Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I: A Blast From the Past

 

A former colleague of mine contacted me last week — not a colleague from any of my teaching positions, but a colleague in ministry from forty years ago when I was the Youth Pastor at Trinity Covenant Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois.  I’ve been reminiscing about those days, and I remembered an event connected with that church that I talked about in my book How Jesus Became God, involving a moment when my doubts about the Christian faith ...

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