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Charges and Anti-Supernatural Biases! Readers Mailbag August 6, 2017

I will be dealing with two interesting questions in this weeks’ Readers Mailbag, one involving a criticism of my work by the well-known New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, who apparently challenges me (publicly) for taking a position that, in fact, I have never taken, and the other about whether it is pure anti-supernatural bias to think that prophets like Daniel did not predict the future.

 

QUESTION:

I saw a Youtube clip with Dr N T Wright giving a short talk on Gnosticism, where he mentioned Elaine Pagels’ and your names, stating:  “…scholars like Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, several others, have said quite stridently: this [Gnosticism] was the real early Christianity; and Mathew, Mark, Luke and John tried to cover it up, muddle it up, and they told this very Jewish story about things going on on earth, and with, um, sacraments and all of these things, um, whereas this Gnosticism was the really exciting, subversive stuff, which the orthodox church then squelched…”

 

RESPONSE:

              Let me say at the outset that I have not seen this Youtube clip and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the questioner’s quotation of it.  Possibly someone else on the blog can.  But it appears that he is quoting it verbatim.

I have to admit that I find the quotation very surprising indeed, since it indicates that I “have said quite stridently” something that in fact I’ve never said at all.  And never thought at all.  Ever, in my entire career.

N. T. Wright is one of the best known scholars of the New Testament in the world. He and I are on friendly terms but are not close and do not really spend any time together.  He is an extraordinarily committed Christian (he was for a time the Anglican bishop of Durham, England), tends to be conservative in his historical and interpretive views, and is much beloved by American evangelical Christians who consider him a bulwark of faithful biblical scholarship.  Like me he can be polemical at times, and this quotation from him comes from one of those times.

He is claiming that I have argued Gnostic Christianity was the original Christianity, which came earlier than the Gospels of the New Testament, and the Gospels of the New Testament were trying to attack and cover up this “original” form of the faith.

The truth is that I have never argued any such thing, written such a thing, taught such a thing, lectured such a thing, believed such a thing, or thought such a thing.  Ever.

My view has always been – from the time I first started studying about Gnosticism over forty years ago, until today – that it was a second century development within the Christian tradition; we don’t have any secure evidence of what we might think of as actual Gnosticism until the middle of the second century, some six or seven decades after the Gospel of Mark was first written, at best.  It is a much later development from the forms of Christianity found in the Gospels (or in any of the other books of the New Testament).  True, I think these earlier forms of Christianity were very different from one another, and that early Christianity was amazingly diverse.  But I have never ever thought Gnosticism was one of the earliest forms of the Christian religion, let alone the “original” form.

Why does Wright assert otherwise?  I suppose because he hasn’t actually read what I’ve written about it, and because it is much easier to attack a straw man than a serious scholar.   But I think it’s too bad.  I don’t agree with a lot of what he himself has to say about the New Testament, the historical Jesus, the sweep of the biblical narrative, and lots of other things.  But I do try my best to understand someone’s views before attacking them.  I suspect he usually does as well – but this time, for some reason, it didn’t happen!

 

QUESTION:

Just to play Devil’s advocate…I’ve read others saying, and would have said myself years ago something like, ‘Your anti-supernatural bias is showing. Just because the events occurred exactly as predicted doesn’t mean they were written afterwards. These are prophecies and God worked them out.”  Are there any textual/grammatical/historical evidences that Daniel was written late?

 

RESPONSE:

This is a question about my statement that modern biblical scholars recognize that the book of Daniel was not written in the sixth century BCE by a Hebrew prophet named Daniel who was sent into exile to Babylon in the days of king Nebuchadnezzar, but much later – chapters 7-12 around the time of the Maccabean revolt (in the 160s CE).   One reason for thinking so is that “prophecies” of these chapters appear to be related specifically to the rule of the Syrian monarch Antiochus Epiphanes, whose rule (in 175-164 BCE), policies, and demise are with fair specificity predicted.  Doesn’t that indicate that the book was written precisely by someone who knew about Antiochus Epiphanes?  Or does that question itself suggest an anti-supernaturalist bias, that God couldn’t inspire a 6th century prophet to predict precisely what was going to happen four hundred years later?

It is a very good question and I think it is important to address it head on.  The first point to make is that this view can hardly be as ascribed to anti-supernaturalist bias, since it was a view I had when I was a supernaturalist!  This is the view taught in every major divinity school and seminary in America – apart from the fundamentalist and conservative evangelical schools that do not engage in critical scholarship.  It was the view avidly embraced by my professors at Princeton Theological Seminary, one of the leading seminaries, by any count, in North America, training Presbyterian ministers (none of whom is an anti-supernaturalist!) for their pastoral ministries.  It is the view you will find in all the standard critical commentaries on the book (none of them that I can think of written by someone outside an established faith tradition).

Taking such a view is not anti-supernaturalist.   It is simply taking a historical approach to the task of interpretation, instead of a non-critical one.  There are indeed linguistic reasons for thinking that Daniel was written long after the period of the Babylonian exile.  About half the book is written in Aramaic (unlike virtually all the rest of the Hebrew Bible), which became the lingua franca of Palestine only after the Persian period, and philologists who have examined the language have argued that it appears to derive from this later period.

But the most convincing point for most critical investigators – whether believers (the vast majority) or non-believers (a few of us lone voices crying in the wilderness) —  is the specificity of the predictions about what was going to happen in the decades and centuries after the Exile.  If you want to see what I mean, just read Daniel 11.

Here’s the deal.  Of course it is possible for people to have a sense of what might happen in the future in a rough sense.  But if you read someone predicting in great and very specific detail what is “going” to happen, and you have no reason to think the person was actually living before the events “predicted,” you’re going to be suspicious.

It’s like this.  Suppose a writing was uncovered, allegedly from the 1990s, that said there would be an attack on America soil by foreign terrorists.   Fair enough, one could imagine that someone could foresee later tragic events in general terms.   But what if the writing instead said that on the morning of September 11, 2001, four American airplanes would be highjacked by Al-Quaeda terrorists, and two of them would be flown into the twin towers of the World Trade center causing the collapse of the buildings and killing some 3000 persons?  Would you really be inclined to think this was something written in 1995?  And would you really think that they only reason to suspect it was written after 9/11 was because of an anti-supernaturalist bias?

People who charge interpreters of Daniel with an anti-supernaturalist bias are deeply influenced by their own supernatural biases, in thinking that if a book is in the Bible it must be inspired by God.  But remember, whoever wrote Daniel did not know he was writing the Bible.  His book was included in the Bible only long after he wrote it.  He was simply writing an apocalypse – as other authors were doing in his time.  He had no way of knowing that a later group of people would decide that he had been divinely inspired, and that later readers would take his words to be the Word of God.  That shouldn’t stop us, though, from applying reason, common sense, logic, and critical historical acumen to interpreting his writing, not in an anti-supernaturalist way but in a way that tries to the best of its ability to situate the writing in its own, actual historical context.

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A Resurrection of the Dead in the Prophet Ezekiel?
The Origins of Heaven and Hell

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Comments

  1. davitako  August 6, 2017

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of NT Wright’s books, but I have read some of his articles online and watched some of his lectures/interviews. I noticed that he makes a lot of factual and logical mistakes. The video you responded to I watched long time ago and I’ve notice elsewhere his negligence (even lies) when criticizing someone. All this happens too often.

    Bart, I’m not being sarcastic, I’m just not well familiar with his scholarship. Why is he considered one of the biggest names in New Testament studies? What were his contributions?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 6, 2017

      He has produced a whole lot of scholarship, including some very large books, for example on the resurrection and on the interpretation of Paul, along with an incredible number of publications for the non-scholar interested in the New Testament.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  August 6, 2017

      I agree with davitako. I’ve read some pieces by Wright online as well, and I can’t tell if he’s confused or can’t retain information. There’s definitely something amiss…

      At any rate, there’s a comments section on the video, and several people stated that Wright was incorrect. I don’t think anyone believed him.

  2. crucker  August 6, 2017

    If I remember correctly, in Dr. Dale Martin’s “Introduction to the New Testament” course that Yale posted on YouTube, he made the comment that the author of Daniel made many “predictions” regarding historical events falling around the time scholars date the book (which you seem to agree with). What he added that made it more intriguing, is that he said the author starts off with several predictions that line up quite well with historical events, then made a few more that didn’t actually happen or line up with history. Therefore, he must have been writing after the correct events occurred, but before the incorrect predictions.

    1.) Do you agree with that? If that’s true, it seems like it would make the text easier to date to that time period without having to worry about anti-supernatural bias.

    2.) If that is true, what are some of the predictions that never came to pass?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      Yes, he predicts (with his symbolism) that Antiochus Epiphanes will soon be taken out of power and killed, and that Israel will become an independent state forever. That obviously never happened. So the the author was living during the reign of Antiochus.

  3. leo.b@cox.net  August 6, 2017

    Are there critical textual scholars(sorry for the description) who do what you do with the old testament and do you have any interaction with them?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      Yup. And yup. Two of them are in my department, David Lambert and Joseph Lam.

  4. epicurus
    epicurus  August 6, 2017

    The anti supernatural bias claim is hypocritical because many conservative christians do not accept the miracles in Islam or Mormonism or other religions. Or I suppose they may say the devil is performing them. Did Mohammed really fly up to heaven on a horse? Probably not. Anti supernatural bias!

  5. James Cotter  August 6, 2017

    Dr Ehrman

    a christian apologist posted the following on your discussion forum :

    Yet, Ireneus and Tertuallian in the second century were able to prove the Gospel Texts by appealing to the objective system which identified the original text of the apostles,

    :::::
    Dr ehrman, what would be the “objective system” does any christian father in the second century spell out how they knew which text really belonged to john and which didn’t?

    the apologist continues :

    and the means that secured the text down through the ages which is witnessed to by thousands of independent Apostolic Churches that basically witness to the same text with minor scribal variations throughout the Mediterranean world.

    So Mr Ehrman, why do you ignore the objective system identified in the writings of Tertullian and Irenaeus, that proves the the preservation of the New Testament? I am waiting for your response.

    • James Cotter  August 6, 2017

      the apologist wrote :

      Now, Erhman and Metzger have accused the Greek Orthodox Churches of corrupting the text of the New Testament, and cite the PA as one of the most famous examples of this; Since there assertion is that this passage is an interpolation, then they need to document who created this passage of scripture? who were the scribes? under which bishop at what Apostolic Church did this occur? and how did they get this passage into Greek, Latin and some Aramiac Texts prior to Jerome’s Vulgate in 384 A.D. Augustine in the Churches of North Africa quotes this passage as part of his text; Pacian in Spain quotes this passage, Ambrose in Milan quotes this passage, Didamus the blind the head of the Greek Catechism at Alexandria quotes this passage, and Jerome says he found it in many Greek and Latin Manuscripts. How did these so called scribes, that history has failed to record or make mention of get this passage throughout the Mediterranean world?

      Ireneus and Tertullian defined how the Apostolic Churches preserved the text of the New Testament and provided the objective criterion to establish the original writings of the apostles, ruling out Marcion shorter readings, by demonstrating the text commonly received by the official churches of Paul don’t have that shorter version (That we still have to day and are still using Greek Texts). Remember Ireneus was a follower of John, through Polycarp, and Tertullian stated Polycarp was installed for Asia by the Apostle John himself. Ireneus and Tertullian referred Marcion and the other gnostics who claimed that their texts were the original writings, back to the official churches of John and Paul to see the official texts of the apostles that are publicly read before the congregation. Why do you ignore the system the Apostolic Churches set up to preserve the text of the New Testament. Irenaus and Tertullian both challenged the Gnostics to establish the legal chain for their texts, and we are challenging your apocryphal texts in the same way.

      ///////

      i still don’t know the system that was employed to know what really was penned by the original authors.

      • Bart
        Bart  August 7, 2017

        Maybe the author of these comments can tell us!

        • Duke12  August 8, 2017

          I presume the author is referring to Greek Orthodox sources which may or may not have ever been translated into English. I have no idea how old those sources would be.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      I must confess, I don’t know what he’s talking about with respect to Irenaeus and Tertullian. It sounds like he must have read this somewhere, but it certainly isn’t true.

  6. doug  August 6, 2017

    Per “anti-supernatural bias”: some people say they are afraid of ghosts. But I think ghosts are afraid of me. Because wherever I go – they never appear.

  7. dankoh  August 6, 2017

    You say that other authors in Daniel’s time (when he really wrote it, that is) were also writing apocalypses. I assume you are using “apocalypse” in the sense that we understand it now, meaning eschatological elements, so we can discount Zechariah (who was much earlier in any case). I was under the impression that Daniel is the first of such writings to have survived, so are you aware of any other apocalyptic writing from period of the Maccabean revolt?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      The lengthy first section of 1 Enoch was probably written before Daniel.

  8. DestinationReign
    DestinationReign  August 6, 2017

    Mr. Wright clearly needs to improve upon his open challenges!

  9. caesar  August 6, 2017

    One argument raised against a late date for Daniel is–it was copied very early, and it seems to have been venerated very early as well–wouldn’t readers within a couple of generations know it was a forgery? There is a Daniel fragment from the DSS dating to about 125BCE. Carbon dating of course is not accurate to an exact date so it may be a little later, but that is only 40 or so years after the later part of Daniel was supposed to have been written. And apparently there are also commentaries written about Daniel in the DSS writings. Daniel was also included in the LXX or OG, supposedly finished late first century as well.

    What is your response to this argument?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      Most forgeries are not detected within their *own* time. Ancient authors talk about writers forgers passing off copies in their own names while they were still alive and well.

  10. rivercrowman  August 6, 2017

    Bart, here’s the YouTube clip. You and Elaine are mentioned early on. Based on your book “Lost Christianities,” I’m lead to believe Proto-Orthodoxy and Gnosticism may have co-existed for a while, but you don’t assert which was first. When exactly did proto-orthodoxy become orthodoxy? Thanks! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOzQnDRIp7s

  11. godspell  August 6, 2017

    I must confess, with some embarassment (but less than would have been the case before reading this) that I am not familiar with his writings.

    I don’t even associate you with the Gnostics, though I assumed you were highly familiar with them–I’d think of Pagels first in that area, since she did as much as anyone to reach a larger audience with her book about the Gnostic Gospels–make people aware of who they were. Has any scholar, to your knowledge, ever made such an argument? Pagels certainly did not.

  12. Stylites  August 6, 2017

    I just found the You Tube piece where N. T. Wright unfortunately does claim that you and Pagels see the Gnostics as having an earlier form of Christianity which the institutional [proto-orthodox] church later attacked. I have to wonder if he has ever seriously read either yours or her work. I have read Wright’s “Simply Christian.” He definitely is no fundamentalist, but the book despite having merit in some places, leaves much to be desired as an introduction to Christianity. Perhaps most disturbing is his attack on homosexuals.

    • godspell  August 10, 2017

      Who I am sure he refers to as ‘homosexuals’ (in his mind, that would be him being polite), and in purely technical descriptive terms the word isn’t inherently derogatory, anymore than heterosexual is–but–I’ve found that my gay friends, male and female alike. very strongly prefer not to be called that, and I respect their wishes in this matter.

      Wright is an Anglican Bishop, retired (but you never really retire from a job like that ask Pope Benedict), and there’s been a quiet struggle going on inside that religion for some time now. It is simultaneously very liberal and oddly reactionary.

      Catholicism has similar conflicts, but deals with them differently, having a centralized authority structure.

      What Catholics do or don’t do, they do or don’t do together. Anglicans/Episcopalians can pull strongly in multiple directions at once.

      Wright wouldn’t be so angry if he didn’t know his side was losing. He needs somebody to blame for that. Bart should be honored to make his list. I would be.

  13. John4
    John4  August 6, 2017

    The YouTube clip in which Wright made his careless error regarding your views, Bart, on Gnosticism:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wOzQnDRIp7s

  14. RonaldTaska  August 6, 2017

    As always, I admire your interest in responding to critics in a respectful and scholarly way. I particularly like your example of the 9/11 details. That is quite helpful

  15. turbopro  August 6, 2017

    Prof Ehrman, re “Charges and Anti-Supernatural Biases!”, I be he that posted the original question to the blog last July 14.

    The clip is here –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOzQnDRIp7s
    (verbatim quote: @2:21 thru 2:47)

    I asked because I had neither read nor heard either from Dr Pagels or from you that which the goodly Dr Wright mentioned in the clip. Thanks for elaborating further.

  16. deanegalbraith@yahoo.co.nz  August 6, 2017

    The quote from NT Wright is, in fact, a verbatim quote, and you can hear it here (at 2:20–):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C-p91SA2BY

    Needless to say, this is a gross misrepresentation of your own views, Dr Ehrman.

    And NT Wright does seem to toss this term (Gnosticism) around a lot, usually without any great precision. He wrote a letter to The Times (London) this week, in fact, in which he claimed that modern acceptance of the variety of gender identities not only confuses children (think of the children!) but is essentially “Gnosticism”!!

    “… the confusion about gender identity is a modern, and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance (in Rifkind’s apt phrase, the “ungainly, boring, fleshy one”). This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.
    The Right Rev Professor Tom Wright
    St Mary’s College, St Andrews”

    It reminds me a lot of the polemical rhetoric thrown tossed around by the early Christians, and as a former Bishop, Wright is the very modern form of such a tosser. But such views have serious consequences for children with gender identities that differ from the sex they were born with. Wright’s reactionary nonsense is not only a loose use of language, but potentially very damaging to such children.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      Good grief…

    • turbopro  August 7, 2017

      Lol.

      I have to agree that in this instance, perhaps Dr Wright’s faux pas here makes him appear to be a modern form.

  17. keithalford  August 6, 2017

    Here is the link to the video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOzQnDRIp7s.

  18. caesar  August 6, 2017

    I always thought it was strange that ‘Daniel’ was writing in about 165BCE, making predictions vaticinium ex eventu–and then he makes actual predictions about the next few years…which he ended up being wrong about. Are there other examples in apocalyptic writings of prophets making predictions after the fact…and then making actual predictions about their future?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      Yes, that’s how some of these writings can be dated: they are accurate up to their own point of time and then not. The ploy is designed to show that they’ve been accurate *so* far, and so no doubt will continue to be. Woops.

  19. Seeker1952  August 6, 2017

    With regard to so-called “anti-supernaturalist bias,” I think the burden of proof should be on the supernaturalists. Why is the “common sense” explanation of the accuracy of the predictions inadequate? Wouldn’t a supernatural explanation require an enormous amount of evidence–that goes beyond the circular argument that the claim is true because it’s in the Bible? It also seems like Occam’s razor should apply here, the simplest explanation is adequate to the evidence so there’s no evidence that needs a more complicated explanation.

    But I still have trouble “absolutely” or “apriori” ruling out the possibility that the predictions were divinely inspired before the fact. That does seem like anti-supernaturalist bias. But even that, in my mind, is a philosophical problem rather than a historical question. As you often point out, historians have no way of assessing supernatural explanations. But the heart of the problem is that historians can’t even consider supernatural explanations so they tend strongly not to be considered by anyone else–except maybe on the basis of a precipitate leap of faith.

  20. Steefen  August 6, 2017

    Two Questions
    1) Podcast? You read your original posts into podcast form? Trying to see if I should check it out.
    2) I just did an ehrmanblog search on revolutionist and revolutionary. Anyway, is it only pastors and teachers of adult Sunday classes who make Jesus out to be a revolutionist within Judaism / his ideas were revolutionary (maybe not newly revolutionary); or, would you agree that some of what is attributable to the biblical Jesus was revolutionary?
    Thank you, Professor.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      1) It has started to happen, and I will discuss it soon; 2) No this is a view some authors have had as well, most famously Reza Aslan in his book Zealot.

  21. anthonygale  August 6, 2017

    I found a video called “TOM WRIGHT ON GNOSTICISM” posted by StJohnsNottingham on August 25, 2009. He says it around 2:22 (of a video that is 8:50). It may have simply been an error. This clip is clearly part of a longer interview and he is mentioning your name while talking about an idea rather than discussing your ideas per se. Perhaps he was answering questions that he didn’t have ahead of time. I bet when you’ve read loads of books and papers, and know a lot of scholars that you aren’t always that well acquainted with, you might misattribute from time to time. It would be an egregious error if done in a published work but could be an honest mistake in the context of an interview.

  22. hasankhan  August 7, 2017

    Your example of planes flying is quite detailed indeed but the prediction of daniel was very vague. I’m not sure how they compare. The interpretation glances over the lines ‘God sitting on his throne, with thousands and thousands worshiping him, before the books of judgment opened up’. This line has no interpretation, how does it make sense that it was pointing to some point in the past? When was God sitting on throne and books of judgement opened up?

  23. Silver  August 7, 2017

    Re women being silenced, you commented that one woman was named as an apostle. Do you refer here to Junia? Burer and Wallace have written a fascinating piece where her position is questioned (Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Re-examination of Rom 16.71 MICHAEL H. BURER AND DANIEL B. WALLACE). They argue that she was ‘well known by the apostles’ rather than ‘prominent’ among them. They base their argument on the meaning of ‘επισημοι’.
    Do you have any comment, please?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 7, 2017

      Yes, as very conservative evangelicals who are opposed to women preaching or having other leadership roles int he church, it is not surprising this is their view. If you would like a balanced assessment, see the book by Eldon Epp on Junia.

  24. talmoore
    talmoore  August 7, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, if I were to venture a guess, I would say that Wright is taking issue with your view that 2nd century “orthodox” scribes and apologists were “corrupting” passages of the NT that were originally gnostic in flavor. For example, you talk about how some of the proto-orthodox feared the scene of the bestowing of the Holy Spirit on Jesus, which in some texts has God say to Jesus, “Today I have begotten you,” could be used by Gnostics to justify an adoptionist christology, so the proto-orthodox willfully altered the “original” text (e.g. Luke 3:22). So I’m assuming in Wright’s mind you think that the “original” texts were more gnostic. Of course, if that’s Wright’s thinking, then he has it backwards. The original Christology of Jesus’ disciples was almost certainly an adoptionist one, but it was only later that Gnostics adapted the adoptionist Christology to their own Gnostic worldview. That is, the causation is the other way around — adoptionism first, then gnosticism; not gnosticism then adoptionism. But for Wright, for whom anything other than a strict Nicene trinitarianism is anathema, the idea would never occur to him that the original Jewish followers of Jesus could have a non-gnostic adoptionist Christology. For Wright, if the first Christians were adoptionist, then they must have also been gnostics, which is by no means necessary.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2017

      Yeah, that would get him off teh hook. But he knows full well that Orthodox Corruption refers to what was happening among later scribes, and is of no relevance to what the authors of the Gospels — and their predecessors — were writing, saying, and thinking.

  25. talmoore
    talmoore  August 7, 2017

    As for the Book of Daniel, there are signficant linguistic clues as to when its chapters were originally composed — clues that one would only notice by reading it in the original language, which is what I do. An example that sticks in my mind is chapter 3, where the writer makes reference, three times, to a musical instrument that he calls a “sumponiya”. That’s not a Hebrew word for a musical instrument. It’s not an Aramaic word either. It’s not even a Semitic word. It’s Greek! Here, let me re-write the word the way we would see it in English: Symphonia. Look familiar? Literally, it’s Greek — sym = “together”; phonia = “sound”. It was an instrument that could sound more than one note at a time. As to what kind of instrument it was is still up for debate. Some think it was a stringed instrument like a harp. Some think it was a wind instrument like a bagpipe. Either way, one thing we can be absolutely sure about was that it had a Greek name.

    Why would a 5th century BCE Hebrew/Aramaic speaking Jew in Babylon use a Greek name for an instrument? He wouldn’t. The most sensible conclusion is that the writer was writing in a time and place where Greek names for instruments were already commonplace. That very strongly suggests a Hellenistic origin to the writing, i.e. after Alexander’s conquest.

  26. Wilusa  August 7, 2017

    I don’t believe any apocalypticists made genuine “prophecies.” But I still think we should acknowledge a distinction between the “supernatural” and the *paranormal*. If someone really did make a stunningly correct “prophecy” – and thought he’d been “inspired by God” – it wouldn’t prove a deity had been involved, or even existed. The prophet himself might have possessed some ability we don’t fully understand.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  August 9, 2017

      I agree with you Wilusa. I’ve had my own experiences with “knowing” things. Except I don’t actually know where it comes from.

    • TheologyMaven  August 9, 2017

      “Supernaturalist” seems to me to be one of those words that academics love because it doesn’t have a definition and you can therefore make judgment calls and even write books on whether someone is or isn’t one. I guess I’d claim myself as one as I would say that “there are things beyond the material world as we currently know it that include the realm of the mystic and the psychic. How that relates to God and other supernatural beings or forces is still open.”

      Given that definition, just because we supernaturalists believe that some things are supernatural, that does not mean we believe that everything that scripture says was supernatural was actually supernatural!

      Seers of various kinds were common in the ANE and only some were thought to be in touch with the Hebrew God. Discerning which ones are and aren’t in touch with Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit has been an issue for Christianity from the beginning to the present day.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  August 9, 2017

      I should clarify what I mean by “knowing.” I think we all have a heightened sense of awareness or intuition that helps us along at times in our lives. I don’t think science has a full explanation for it yet, but it’s getting there. I’ve posted a link to an article about several independent studies for precognition. They found that the body will react to stimuli up to ten seconds before it happens. It’s an interesting read.

      http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00146/full

      • Wilusa  August 10, 2017

        I admit most of that is over my head! But if it’s real, scientific evidence of some kind of precognition, it’s intriguing.

        I’ll give you a link to an essay of mine, about reincarnation, parallels in readings given me by different psychics, strange experiences of my own – and yes, instances of precognition, mostly in dreams. I couldn’t sort out and give you just the instances of precognition, because they’re so connected with other things.

        https://www.fictionpress.com/s/1238886/1/Born-Again

        That’s a link to the first chapter; if it isn’t obvious, there are three chapters.

  27. SidDhartha1953  August 8, 2017

    The quotation from Wright is right (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C-p91SA2BY) but he seems to be speaking extemporaneously, not from a script, so he may have been meaning to lump you and Pagels together as critics of the Orthodoxy was always the majority opinion notion. He mentions the two of you again later in the talk with some disparaging remarks about Americans not understanding the way the church works.

  28. talk2miguel  August 13, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, you say: “About half the book is written in Aramaic (unlike virtually all the rest of the Hebrew Bible), which became the lingua franca of Palestine only after the Persian period, and philologists who have examined the language have argued that it appears to derive from this later period.”

    However, Aramaic’s use in the region preceded the 6th Century BCE by centuries. According to Wikipedia, Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC), and then the succeeding Neo-Babylonian Empire (605–539 BC). If so, this would imply that it was in widespread use in Asia Minor by the “early” Daniel dates.

    Care to comment on this?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2017

      I’m not a historical linguist, so I really don’t know, other than that we don’t have any Jewish writings (from the Levant or elsewhere) until after the Persian period. Maybe someone else on the blog can comment.

  29. Schmitty422  August 14, 2017

    I’ve always been intrigued by N.T. Wright. Do you think he’s a ‘good’ scholar who’s writings (particularly on Paul) are worthwhile or is he simply a more refined and nuanced apologist?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 14, 2017

      He is generally seen as one of the most prominent NT scholars today.

  30. gabilaranjeira  August 28, 2017

    Hi Bart!

    I’m not sure how to ask this without sounding disrespectful – which I am sincerely not. But I am curious about something. What do scholars that believe the bible is inspired and so on say about the fact the God never inspired anyone, anywhere ever again?

    Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  August 28, 2017

      Ha! They say that there is a perfect revelation already available, so God has nothing more he needs to say!

  31. DavidNeale  August 29, 2017

    It’s very weird that Wright says this; it suggests he hasn’t read much of your work. I recently read How Jesus Became God and, for the sake of balance, Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. It struck me that there is actually a great deal on which you’re in agreement – many of Wright’s broadsides seem to be directed against earlier generations of critical scholars whose views are very different from yours. There’s a lot of common ground in your respective discussions of Jewish and Greek beliefs about the afterlife, and the meaning of resurrection in apocalyptic Judaism. And you both make clear that Paul and other Christians of his time believed in Jesus’ resurrection as a bodily event. He spends a lot of the book establishing what early Christians believed about the resurrection, and none of that material undermines your views at all, as far as I can tell.

    The clear blue water between you would seem to be (2) that Wright thinks historians can and should assess whether Jesus was in fact resurrected (whereas you say that this is outside the remit of historical scholarship) and (2) that he thinks the evidence establishes, to a relatively high degree of probability, that Jesus was in fact resurrected. I don’t find Wright’s arguments on (2) convincing at all.

    (Sorry if I’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick. I’m a lawyer, not a Biblical historian, and I’m a dilettante at best when it comes to this stuff.)

    • Bart
      Bart  August 30, 2017

      No, it sounds like you have the stick very much by the right end

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