20 votes, average: 5.00 out of 520 votes, average: 5.00 out of 520 votes, average: 5.00 out of 520 votes, average: 5.00 out of 520 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (20 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.

Christians Against Christians: Already In the New Testament

I’ve long been intrigued by the fact — I think it’s a fact — that the people we get in the BIGGEST fights with are those closest to us: spouses, siblings, parents, good friends.  Sometimes we fight with others, of course.  But it’s those closest to us that really seem to annoy us.  Which of us has not had situations get completely out of hand?

That has made some people wonder about the New Testament.  For example, Jesus’ main opponents during his ministry are with the Pharisees.  Is that because he was particularly close with them in some way?

Five years ago today (I checked) I posted on an interesting parallel situation from the life of Paul.  As you know, Paul can be a bit, uh, vitriolic at times.  And never more than in the letter to the Galatians, written to a group of churches with which he was really peeved.  This is one fierce letter (many people don’t see that because they simply aren’t expecting it; the fierceness is even more pronounced when you read it in the original).

Paul had fierce enemies there.  They didn’t like each other and thought the views of the other were, literally, damnable.  We know Paul’s view of the situation.  But we wish we had the *enemies’* view.  Would they have anything to say for themselves?   Of course.  But what?  That’s what I posted about.  Here ’tis.


Among the lost writings of early Christianity, one batch that I would especially like to see discovered would be those produced by Paul’s enemies among the Christians.   I don’t know how many of his opponents were writing-literate, but possibly some of them were, and their own attacks on him and defenses of their own positions would be fascinating and eye-opening.   Among these, I would especially love to see what his opponents in Galatia had to say for themselves.   My hunch is that they were every bit as aggressive and confident in their views as Paul was in his.

I’ve always found the letter to the Galatians to be one of the most forceful, intriguing, and difficult letters of Paul.   I’ve studied it for over forty years, and there are still verses that I don’t understand.  My view is that most scholars don’t understand them either — even the scholars who think they do!   It is a packed and theologically dense letter in places.

But the basic point is clear.   A person is made right with God by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, not by observing the Jewish law.  Gentiles who believe in Jesus must not think that they have to follow the law in order to be fully justified before God.   Anyone who thinks so – who, for example, decides that he needs to be circumcised – has completely (not just kind-a) misunderstood the gospel and is in danger of losing his salvation.

Paul’s opponents among the Galatians think just the opposite.

As with all of Paul’s letters, the only way to make sense of Galatians is…

If you want to keep reading, just join the blog.  t doesn’t cost much, and all the money goes to charities helping those in real need.  More and more are.  You can help out and get a huge benefit yourself.  Everyone wins!

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.

Did Paul Know that Judas Betrayed Jesus? Readers’ Mailbag!
Did Paul Really Have *That* Exalted a View of Jesus?



  1. Avatar
    godspell  March 24, 2020

    I’d venture a guess Jesus would not have completely agreed (or disagreed) with either side in this dispute. He did not think you had to be Jewish to achieve the Kingdom, and following the law in and of itself would not guarantee that you made the cut. But somebody who never even heard of Jesus, but behaved properly towards others out of a spirit of good will, would be saved.

    Believing as he did that the Kingdom was coming very soon, and that he would reach only a handful of people even in Palestine, Jesus had to believe only God and the Son of Man would be able to properly evaluate each individual as an individual–God is the final judge, because only God can see past the fronts we put up, know not only what sins we commit in reality, but also the sins we commit in our hearts.

    For Paul, this is not enough, since he’s trying to organize all members of this diverse Christian flock around his own personal revelation, and he believes that revelation came from Jesus directly–therefore whatever he believes carries the ultimate authority, and anyone who differs is not merely wrong, but committing a grievous sin, by leading others astray. (Jesus was somewhat comparable in this regard, but his revelation differed greatly from Paul’s).

    In the modern world, we often talk about the difference between the ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’ of the law–laws are made to give us a shared understanding of what we should and should not do, but laws are made by men. Jesus may believe that the 10 Commandments were handed down to Moses, but the Jewish law derived from them is far more specific, and in some cases (as he sees it) too onerous, obsessed with the fine points, ignoring the deeper meaning. They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, because they only care about the letter of the law.

    Jesus might say the Galatians are likewise being overly legalistic and pedantic, but Paul is missing the point more, since he’s moving away from what really matters–the voice of conscience God has put in us all, which tells us when we’re doing wrong, and we only need listen. Jesus doesn’t think he’s God. And only God can judge.

    • Avatar
      RICHWEN90  March 27, 2020

      I like what you say. Those who “reject” Jesus have been condemned by various writers at various times, but what does that mean? Let us suppose that I’ve visited a “Cowboy Church”– we have those in my area, and I’m told that Jesus hates girly boys and showers grace like dandruff upon those who carry their weapons openly. God bless the NRA! The point being that the Jesus we are presented with is always a Jesus distorted by some lens or other, and the particular distortions we encounter might not be to our liking. I might favor Flower Child Jesus, while others might place their faith in a pistol-packin’ take no prisoners Jesus. And so on. It appears that “knowing” Jesus has never been a simple thing to do. How does any mortal avoid personality quirks and tastes and interests and the mechanism of projection, to the extent that one can encounter the true, the real, the undistorted Jesus? Since that appears to be impossible, it could be that even the “real” Jesus has nothing to do with how we are judged. If we are judged at all. Somewhere, long ago, I read a pulp fantasy in which it turns out that we judge ourselves. And THAT judgement is final.

  2. Avatar
    LeRoy  March 24, 2020

    In a time where Kings & royal lineage was the only form of government that anyone knew, wouldn’t the belief of Jesus’ brother, James, carry tremendous weight? You also throw in Peter, who walked and talked with Jesus. Was Paul’s greatest strength in this battle evangelizing to pagans who were ignorant of Jewish practices? Starting with a “clean slate” if you will?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      Yes, as Christianity developed, direct connection with Jesus himself became important — but you’re right, more so with James and Peter than the others. Paul in his day may not have been teh important figure he was after his death, maybe in part because his connection with Jesus was remote, to say the least.

  3. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  March 24, 2020

    Do you think Jesus actually said what is recorded in Matt. 5:17? Seems like that statement would be a HUGE necessity for early Christian evangelists and missionaries.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      You’ll need to quote it and ask the question in the same comment so other readers will know what you’re referring to.

    • NulliusInVerba
      NulliusInVerba  March 26, 2020

      Matthew 5:17 proclaims: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill”.

      Do you think Jesus actually said what is recorded in Matt. 5:17? Seems like that statement would be a HUGE necessity for early Christian evangelists and missionaries.

      • Bart
        Bart  March 27, 2020

        My guess is that he did not, because it presupposes that Jesus understood himself to be the one who fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture (e.g., that he “fulfilled” the need for sacrifice by being the perfect sacrifice.) My sense is that Jesus did not have that grandiose of a view of himself, though I’m open to being persuaded differently. The saying seems to me to be a second-stage effort by a later Christian to insist that even though Jesus is the fulfillment of teh law (as Christians later believed) that does not mean that the law is therefore no longer in force (as many Christians also believed).

        • NulliusInVerba
          NulliusInVerba  March 27, 2020

          Thank you. I too take the position that Jesus did not speak those words. As a non-scholar, I see it as manufactured proof of divinity. Your position is much more reasoned than mine and I appreciate your reply.

        • Avatar
          mgamez777  May 8, 2020

          If he was a Jewish Rabbi is obvious that he followed the Law, he would not have been accepted if he was rejected the law. He never told the disciples to not follow the law. And I don’t think someone add these verses on the contrary if the gospels were corrupted it was corrupted by the anti-jews, remember that people like Marcion and Martin Luther made their own canon taking off all the jewish of the scriptures so its more credible that Jesus says these words than the opposite.

  4. Avatar
    flshrP  March 24, 2020

    Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or
    the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
    Matt 5:17 KJV

    So maybe Paul concentrated on “but to fulfil” and fervently believed that what he preached was that “fulfillment”.

    And maybe his opponents concentrated on the “Think not that I am come to destroy the law” and just as fervently believed that every bit of the Jewish law still had to be obeyed by everyone, including converted Gentiles, who had to become “God-fearers” or “God-worshippers”.

    It seems to me that Paul and his Galatian opponents were talking past each other. And I wonder if this is not a pretty obvious example of Paul’s anti-Jewishness and likely self-hatred as a converted Jew who now followed Christ.

    It’s commonly observed that converts make the most fervent and obnoxious proselytizers for their new-found beliefs. Paul certainly seems to fall into that category.

  5. Avatar
    JeffinVA  March 24, 2020

    Great post, Dr. Ehrman.

    In the letter of James don’t we have the expression of the anti-Pauline position? In it the author cites the very example of Abraham that Paul uses in Romans 4:3 to argue for salvation by faith (to which Luther added “alone”) to argue (James 2:21) the opposing argument that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    It’s interesting that the author of James appeals to the pre-Mosaic Abraham. In a sense, it seems to me that Christianity of both kinds is a move away from the later accoutrements of the religious evolution into Judaism toward a simple, more primitive form of ethical and religious behavior as exemplified in Abraham–in tune with a Hellenistic, Roman world where so many traditions and systems met, wrestled, and cross-fertilised to create a more universal religio-ethical system.

    I’m also intrigued by the Ebionites that Eusebius talks about in his Church History. Aren’t they the custodians of this pre-/anti-Pauline position? What are the best sources for their views?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      My view is that James is attacking a view advanced by Paul’s *followers* rather than Paul himself. (Paul would never have said that it doesn’t matter how you live)

  6. Avatar
    RichardFellows  March 24, 2020

    Have you read my “Paul, Timothy, Jerusalem and the Confusion in Galatia” Biblica 99.4 (2018) 544-566? If not, do you have access to it while sheltering in place? In that article I argue that the agitators were saying:

    “You Galatians should be circumcised. Paul thinks so too, for he circumcised Timothy. Paul preaches against circumcision, but only to please the Jerusalem apostles, for he has always been ambitious for advancement, but he does not believe his message”.

    This is why Paul repeatedly denies that he believes in circumcision (e.g. Gal 5:11; 5:2-3; 2:5; 1:8-9) and asserts that he is not just saying it to please the Jerusalem church leaders (e.g. 1:10; 2:6).

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      Interesting. What convinced you that either he circumcised Timothy or was reputed to have done so, at that early point in time, or that the Galatian opponents knew about it?

      • Avatar
        RichardFellows  March 27, 2020

        Timothy, being a fellow-missionary of Paul (2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 3:2), would need to be circumcised so that he could be a Jew to the Jews (1 Cor 9:20). Consistent with this is Acts 16:3, which gives only one reason why Paul circumcised Timothy: Paul wanted him to accompany him. Acts 16:3 goes on to explain why Timothy was not able to simply pass himself off as a Jew without actually being circumcised: everyone knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek. As Shaye Cohen shows, the status of a man’s father was what revealed to people whether he was a Jew. The implication of Acts 16:3, therefore, is that Timothy would not have been circumcised if he had been able to keep his Gentile background a secret. We have evidence from the Talmud that those of mixed parentage often passed themselves off as Jews when they could.

        Some confirmation of all this is found in Gal 2:2-5, but we would need to discuss the identity of Titus, and that is not a quick discussion.

        The Paul of Galatians presents himself as being much more uncompromising in his opposition to circumcision than the Paul of Acts and the other letters (e.g. Romans). He does so, I suggest, because he is correcting the view that he believes in circumcision. The Galatians are thinking that it is only to please the Jerusalem apostles that Paul is writing to them not to be circumcised. Paul must therefore exaggerate his opposition to circumcision because he knows that his audience is inclined to doubt his sincerity. He must go over the top, lest they continue to conclude that he does not believe in Gentile liberty at all. He is in the exasperating situation of knowing that almost anything he writes will be dismissed with “Yeah, right! You’re just saying that to please the pillars”. His only hope is to express strong emotion that no secret supporter of circumcision would be able to fain. Thus, Galatians contains the rhetoric of anger, but was not necessary written in anger.

        My point is that Paul’s forceful words in Galatians do not show that he could not have circumcised Timothy. Rather, in Galatians Paul exaggerates his own opposition to circumcision, precisely to correct the view that his circumcision of Timothy shows that he does not oppose circumcision at all.

        Anyway, read my Biblica article and let me know what you think. Incidentally, I build there on Stephen Carlson’s work on Gal 2:12.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 27, 2020

          My senses is that without Acts 16:3, the idea wouldn’t occur to anyone that Paul circumcised Timothy. 1 Cor. 9:20, of course, doesn’t say that Timothy was a Jew to the Jews. Timothy is not even named as one of the authors, but Paul is decisively speaking in the first person singular here, talking about himself.

          • Avatar
            RichardFellows  March 27, 2020

            Sure. I’m using 1 Cor 9:20 only to show the plausibility of Timothy’s circumcision. The direct evidence comes only from Acts, of course. The main arguments for the historical unreliability of Acts are based on traditional assumptions about the background to Galatians. In my article I show that most (but not quite all) of these arguments are reversed or neutralized when we correctly discern the background of the letter. You will be pleased to hear that my article does not use Acts as its starting point, to avoid circularity.

            What is your take on Gal 5:11? How does it fit its immediate context? Did the Galatians think that Paul was now preaching circumcision? If so, why?

            One important point has been missed. If Titus remained uncircumcised Paul is citing him as an example for the Galatians to follow. However, if that were the case Paul would have referred to Titus by his nomen or cognomen, rather than by his praenomen. Paul, like other authors, avoids using a praenomen, or other informal name form, when he wants his readers to follow the example of the person in question. So Titus WAS circumcised. I suggest that the circumcision of Titus led the Galatians to believe that Paul now supported circumcision (hence his denials at Gal 2:5b and Gal 5:11).

            Notice that my interpretation of the background of Galatians does not require the circumcision of Timothy: the circumcision of Titus will do just as well. However, I can use Acts 16:3 to support my case because the Corinthian correspondence shows that Titus was Timothy’s praenomen. And, incidentally, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis itself demonstrates the accuracy of Acts on a number of points, so it is all very consistent.

          • Bart
            Bart  March 29, 2020

            My sense is that Paul is saying it’s yet another lie being spread about him by the false Judaizers; that’s why he proves it isn’t true: if he was, Jews woud not be persecuting hijm.

          • Avatar
            RichardFellows  March 29, 2020

            Yes, the agitators said that Paul was preaching circumcision. Evidently, the Galatians were receptive to this misinformation. This surely shows that Paul was not as uncompromising on circumcision as many modern readers of Galatians suppose. If Paul was an inflexible opponent of circumcision the agitators would not have been able to propose that he actually preached it. Also, Paul sometimes speaks positively about the Law (e.g. Rom 3:31; 7:7, 12).

            Do you, in spite of all this, still feel that Paul could not have circumcised Titus or Timothy, even as a ploy to reach Jews with the gospel? If Titus was never circumcised, why does Paul refer to him by his praenomen instead of by a more honorable name?

            I agree that Paul presents himself as being uncompromising on circumcision in Galatians (Gal 5:2, for example), but this is rhetoric. Here he exaggerates his own position, lest his audience responds, “The Jerusalem church leaders decreed that we need not be circumcised, and you are writing in accordance with their ruling because you are their sycophant, but we know that you actually want us to be circumcised.”

          • Bart
            Bart  March 30, 2020

            Yes, I absolutely think that. The whole point of the book of Galatians is that you MUST NOT DO THAT. It is not an unnecessary act that causes needless pain. It is a violation of the gospel, and anyone who says it is a good idea, even if it is an angel of God, misunderstands the Gospel.

          • Avatar
            RichardFellows  March 30, 2020

            It has dawned on me that it is unrealistic to expect you to engage with the arguments that I offer, or read my paper, given all your other duties and coronavirus disruptions. But I would encourage you to look into the issues when time allows, as they are relevant to much of your thinking.

          • Bart
            Bart  March 31, 2020

            Thanks, you’re right about that. But as you probably can surmise as a fellow NT scholar, this is an issue I’ve thought about since graduate school — not every day, but whenever I read either Acts or Galatians. I’m always open to persuasion! Do you have a different interpretation of Galatians than the one I summarized in my last response? The whole point of the letter is that you must NOT circumcise followers of Jesus who are not already circumcised.

          • Avatar
            RichardFellows  March 31, 2020

            Yes, I too used to take Galatians at face value and therefore infer that Paul was against circumcision in all circumstances (at least for Gentiles). I now realize that his strong statements in Galatians are rhetoric. The Galatians believed that Paul was not being honest with them when he claimed that circumcision was not necessary. They believed that he thought that circumcision WAS necessary. To convince them otherwise, he has to exaggerate his opposition to circumcision by saying things that no secret supporter of circumcision (even a dishonest one) could bring himself to say. The evidence does not depend on Acts and is laid out in my article.

        • Robert
          Robert  April 10, 2020

          Hi, Richard.

          This is a really interesting topic and I am inclined to your view (if I understand it correctly) that Paul may have made exceptions on occasion, including regarding circumcision of a mixed co-missionary who may also need on occasion to interact in a Jewish setting. Paul’s whole ministry to gentiles was built on a huge exception in how he lived his life (1 Cor 9,20-21), as was his principle basis in counseling others on how to deal with to similar issues (1 Cor 10,23-33).

          However, I wonder how strong the argument based on the use of a more formal or honorable nomen or cognomen as opposed to an informal praenomen really is. It seems rather weak to me, but I must admit that I have never looked into this so I am certainly interested in being corrected.


  7. Avatar
    fishician  March 24, 2020

    I can picture Paul preaching his gospel, and someone in the crowd speaking up and saying, “Wait a minute! I actually heard Jesus preach in Galilee, and he said to enter the kingdom we should follow not only the letter of the Law but also the spirit of it.” I imagine there could have been some heated exchanges. But Paul had the advantage of being literate and sending out letters, whereas he depicts believers as generally being lower class (like in 1 Cor. 1:26, 27). So, maybe his letter-writing campaign won the day for his version of the gospel? Or maybe his missionary zeal simply surpassed that of his opponents so he was destined to win eventually.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      And then there’s that famous scene when Jesus confronts Paul in The Last Temptation of Christ!

    • Robert
      Robert  March 26, 2020

      Bart: “And then there’s that famous scene when Jesus confronts Paul in The Last Temptation of Christ!”

      Perhaps the only good part of Kazantzakis’ book that made it into the rather lousy movie. But a fantastic book. Hilarious.

      • Bart
        Bart  March 27, 2020

        Yeah, teh film could have used some rather serious editing. And better acting in places. Harvey Keitel, for one, was not on the top of his game. But Barbara Hershey: teh best Magdalene ever (though some of the writing for her scenes: also awful). still, the more often I’ve seen it the more I’ve appreciated it.

        • Robert
          Robert  March 27, 2020

          I’m really only critical of the movie version of The Last Temptation of Christ because it does not come close to the genius of the book by Nikos Kazantzakis. One of my all-time favorite books! Have you read it? Not just Jesus meeting Paul, which is truly classic, but the idea of Matthew writing and embellishing his account as the events transpired are absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend it!

  8. Lev
    Lev  March 24, 2020

    Do you think the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies preserve the arguments against Paul? Although written in a different age to Paul’s opponents, they are hostile to him, admire James, and whilst I’ve only read a summary of PCH, it seems they argue against the theological significance of Jesus’ death and argue in favour of living a just life according to the law.

  9. Avatar
    tskorick  March 24, 2020

    There seem to be a lot of diversity of opinion among early church leaders on the subjects of christology, redemption, etc. I enjoyed Orthodox Corruption and Forgery and Counter Forgery a great deal and I know you’ve dealt with this subject in those works. I’m wondering if anyone has written a thorough treatment of exactly how Christian efforts (contortions, more like) to harmonize early Christian beliefs with one another affected English-language translations of the New Testament …

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      I don’t know of anything from that *precise* angle, but it would be interesting.

  10. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  March 24, 2020

    Opposition to Paul seems very reasonable. Here you’ve got a kind of johnny-come-lately, never had any actual contact with Jesus, but he’s insisting that his hallucinatory experiences trump everything. Paul really seems to have been a kind of nut case, and I’m surprised that anyone took him seriously. Of course, there were a lot of people running around spouting things that sound nutty to a modern ear, and at least some of them were taken seriously. So I guess Paul was not that much worse, and he had, apparently very strong convictions, and he was articulate. History teaches us to be wary of such people. Now we should know better. Not.

  11. Avatar
    Stephen  March 24, 2020

    Do you see Paul’s comments in Galatians as an implicit attack on James and the Jerusalem leadership? Could the “Judaizers” have simply between overzealous converts (as converts often are) or do you think they’re reporting directly to James? It’s just hard for me to see Paul saying some of the things he says about his opponents in Galatia to James and Peter and the disciples, who presumably would have known Jesus best.


    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      There are certainly attacks on Peter here; possibly James as well, personally, but it’s less obvious.

  12. Avatar
    AstaKask  March 24, 2020

    I’m not a theologian, so maybe it’s just me, but his position on the Law is puzzling to me. On the one hand he is adamant that you don’t have to follow the Law. But he is equally adamant that we should not sin (Romans 6:15) – how does he define sin if not “failing to live according to the Law”? He doesn’t seem to be keen on people stealing, lying or fornicating. What parts of the Law should we follow and what should we ignore?
    I’ve heard it explained that we should follow e.g. the commandments, but not out of fear of punishment but out of love for Christ – I don’t know if that solves the problem.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      You’re not alone. Many, many honest New Testament scholars who have read the passages in Greek for decades can’t quite figure out how they fit together either. It’s widely thought that either he is not fully consistent, or that his views changed over time, or that he doesn’t always express what he actually thinks accurately. But he does seem to insist on following the ethical principle of the law, but NOT the ritual requirements. But that doesn’t solve all the problems. What counts as “ethical”? I.e., what about when your ox gores your neighbor….

  13. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 24, 2020

    Good post! Thanks. Did Jesus ever mention the importance of believing in Him and His Resurrection?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      THe historical Jesus? In my view, absolutely not. In the Gospels, only explicitly in the Gospel of John. Not the others! All of which were earlier and closer to his time.

      • Avatar
        clerrance2005  March 28, 2020

        Prof Ehrman,
        So in this regard, what was the overarching theme of the historical Jesus and who was his target audience (Jews only or both Jews and Gentiles, or the entire world???)

        • Bart
          Bart  March 29, 2020

          That requirest a *book*! Mine, on the topic, is Jesus:Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, though I cover it briefly in lots of my books (e.g., Jesus Before the gospels). Very very simplified version: Jesus taught that God was soon to destroy the forces of evil in the world, and eveyrone who sided with him, to bring in a new kingdom that would restore teh earth to its utopian state; people needed to repent in order to enter that kingdom. If they did not, they would be annihilated.

  14. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  March 24, 2020

    Thanks for sharing this insight, good to have this in mind !

  15. stevedemarco
    stevedemarco  March 24, 2020

    In your opinion, do you think Paul had a narcissistic personality?

    When I read Galatians 5:12 and Paul trying to prove he had the right to be called an apostle in chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians, I can’t help but think and wonder if Paul was just jealous with others that disagreed or had a better argument then he did.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      I can’t provide an actual psychological analysis, but I”m pretty sure that Paul thought that the predictions of the ancient prophets, especially Isaiah, about the “light” of the Jews reading the rest of the world at the end of time was referring specifically to *him*, personally, and his ministry!

      • stevedemarco
        stevedemarco  March 28, 2020

        But would you agree that it would be important to understand Paul psychologically. We do have 7 undisputed letters of his and may offer a insight to what was going on as far as his thinking. Paul I feel is the only character in the New Testament that we can know of his personal side.

        • Bart
          Bart  March 29, 2020

          I agree it would be massively important. But it is also impossible. It’s not the kind of information/evidence you need to do a psychological evaluation.

  16. Avatar
    brenmcg  March 24, 2020

    When Paul says he didn’t receive the gospel through teaching from men I don’t think he’s claiming to be bringing some new gospel, unheard of before his conversation.

    It’s qualified by Gal 1:13 “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.”

    He’s claiming he was persecuting the church not receiving teaching from it. It was a revelation from christ that convinced him the church was right, not a revelation from christ which taught him the gospel.

    Paul is claiming the gospel he preaches is the very thing he tried to destroy the church for. Given that he tried to destroy the church from its very beginning, anyone preaching against Paul’s gospel must have a later version of it.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      Yes, he’s not bringing something new in the sense that Christ’s death and resurrection aer what bring salvation. But it *is* new in the sense that this salvation can go to gentiles who do not have to become Jews, as well as to Jews.

    • Avatar
      Hormiga  March 26, 2020

      > the church of God

      i.e., “την εκκλησιαν του θεου”

      I wonder what Paul, presumably writing in the 50s about what he did in the 40s, meant by “the church”? It was my understanding that at time Chistians were distributed among scattered congregations that were loosely organized at best.

      • Bart
        Bart  March 27, 2020

        The term actually just means something like “people who have been called together,” so something more like “congregation”?

  17. Avatar
    doug  March 24, 2020

    Do you have any idea what the attraction of circumcision was to the early Jews who decided God wanted Jewish men to be circumcised? I wonder why they couldn’t have come up with a less painful/dangerous way of having the mark of the covenant on them.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      I don’t think it was an “attraction” in the sense that they sat around and thought about it and said, I Like *that* idea. It was an ancient custom, in other cultures, sometimes as puberty rite, and the Hebrews were among the people who had it. We actually don’t know why it started, in any of these cultures, though as you can imagine there is a lot of speculation about it.

  18. fefferdan
    fefferdan  March 24, 2020

    I agree it’s unfortunate we have only one side of this story. Do you think the Ebionites represented an actual group that opposed Paul’s teaching within the early church? And can we accept any of the writings/teachings attributed to them as authentic?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      I think there were a range of Jewish Christian groups, which we might for convenience call Ebionites (thoguh technically that would have been just one of the groups), who saw Paul as the arch-heretic, enemy, yes. We don’t have any surviving writings actually attributed to them. But it’s widely thought that, eg., the Pseudo-Clementines come out of that way of thinking. They are massively large. If you want to get a taste, read the introductory “Letter of Peter to James” (probably available online somewhere)

      • fefferdan
        fefferdan  March 27, 2020

        Thanks, interesting!

        “…some from among the Gentiles have rejected my legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trifling preaching of the man who is my enemy. And these things some have attempted while I am still alive, to transform my words by certain various interpretations, in order to the dissolution of the law; as though I also myself were of such a mind, but did not freely proclaim it, which God forbid! For such a thing were to act in opposition to the law of God which was spoken by Moses, and was borne witness to by our Lord in respect of its eternal continuance; for thus he spoke: “The heavens and the earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.”


  19. Avatar
    timcfix  March 24, 2020

    I am pleased to know that not understanding parts of Paul is shared, no matter what language is read. On a side subject, I am considering acquiring Logos 8 to see some of the Greek and Hebrew words. Is it worth a look?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      Yup! I’m a neanderthal at bible software, but that appears to be the tool of choice.

      • Avatar
        dankoh  March 29, 2020

        I have found Strong’s Biblical Concordance (https://biblehub.com/strongs.htm) to be extremely useful for both Hebrew and Greek. It gives the text in the “original” language (it doesn’t do variant readings, as I recall), with a number of translations (NIV, KJV, , and most important, it lists all the places where the original word, in any of its variations, appears elsewhere in the OT/NT. Even has Brown-Driver-Briggs.

  20. Avatar
    clerrance2005  March 25, 2020

    Prof Ehrman,
    I looked up the start of Galatians. It begins with Galatians 1:1-4 “1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,
    To the churches in Galatia:
    3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”
    Your statement “He begins the book by indicating that anyone who preaches a gospel that differs from the one he preaches is cursed by God” doesn’t really depict what is in verses 1 – 4.

    It made me wonder if the earliest form of the Greek text do not contain verses 1 – 4 or there is some textural variation/ Interpolation at play here.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 26, 2020

      The verses are found in all our manuscripts and because of similarities with what we find throughout the letter, in thought, sentiment, and, well, vigor, they are almost certainly original.

      • Avatar
        scandler7  March 31, 2020

        Some posters to these Comments say they agree with the Galatians, and question whether Jesus would have too. I should have prefaced my question by saying that. Well, assuming the fig tree was not an actual fig tree, but symbolic of Israel, and that Jesus cursed it for not bearing fruit out of season (i.e. the time when it would have traditionally born fruit), and then went down to the Temple in Jerusalem and cursed it for failing to bear fruit out of season with their tradition (their law as in MT 15:6) by accepting him as the Messiah (JN 15:6), does that not affirm Paul’s position in Galatians 5.4-6? I know some scholars (perhaps yourself included) believe the fig tree in JN 1:48-9 is symbolic of Nathaniel studying the Law. But when Jesus said he saw him under the fig tree Nathanael immediately abandoned the Law to declare Jesus the Son of God (JN 19:7). So in light of the debate in these Comments as to whether Jesus would agree with Paul or the Galations, do you find what I have written a convincing, or at least interesting arguement that Jesus would agree with Paul?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 31, 2020

          It’s hard to say whom Jesus would agree or disagree with in a later dispute because the dispute itself would have made no sense in Jesus’ context, so he would never have imagined it as a dispute, let alone had any way of taking a side in it.

You must be logged in to post a comment.