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Did Paul Invent the Resurrection?

QUESTION:

There is no doubt that Paul had visions of Jesus. And as we all agree the gospels (and Acts for that matter) were written AFTER Paul and certainly influenced BY Paul. In one way or another they reflect his way of thinking (to a certain degree).

Wouldn’t it be possible that the story of visions started with Paul only and was incorporated into the gospels because… well, how could it be that Jesus appeared to Paul and not to his disciples?

I find it suspicious that there are such deep discrepancies in the different accounts of Jesus post-resurrection appearances….

In other words: Couldn’t Paul be the sole starting point of this vision thing?

 

RESPONSE:

This question gets to the heart of a very big issue: what was Paul’s role in the development of early Christianity. Is he responsible for starting it? Was he the first to claim that Jesus had appeared after his death, as the risen Lord of life? Is Paul the real founder of Christianity? Should we call it Paulianity?

Maybe I’ll devote a post or two to that question, as it is completely fundamental to understanding the beginnings of the Christian religion. In this post I’ll deal with the question this reader has asked directly; my answer will, of course, be related to the larger issue.

So my basic view is that Paul could not have been the sole source for the idea that Jesus was raised from the dead. I have a very big reason for thinking that he was not, and a subsidiary reason for it. There are probably lots of other reasons, but these two stand out in my mind.

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Paul’s Importance in Early Christianity?
Modern Appearances of Jesus

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    LuckyJoyce  April 23, 2014

    One thing that has always puzzled me about Christianity is: why the insistence that Jesus’ physical dead body be the part of him that is resurrected? I mean, Jesus resurrected Lazarus too, and he went on to then live and die like any normal person. It almost seems as if those who became, basically, Pauline Christians felt so compelled to insist the resurrection was that of his physical body, they added a story about Doubting Thomas sticking his fingers into the open wound. I can’t figure out why THAT would be important.

    Wouldn’t the more important thing be that Jesus’ soul, or consciousness, or spirit, or whatever you want to label it, continued to exist after his death, and that THIS was the great miracle? I was reading James Tabor’s book on Paul the other day while I was on a plane, and according to him, that was more the Jewish view of resurrection at the time (not including the Sadducees, who thought resurrected was bunk). The person’s dead body doesn’t come back to life. The person–whatever element of that person that is THEM–is clothed in a new form altogether. So, in Paul’s vision, Jesus is a great light. Others see Jesus and at first don’t even recognize him. Etc. In Matthew, Jesus even tells the priests that they misunderstand the Resurrection, that in the Resurrection, there is no marriage and that people are basically genderless.

    Bart, any thoughts on why Christians insist on a physical Resurrection of Jesus in the same body? As opposed to a spiritual Resurrection?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      Yes, this is what made Jesus’ resurrection different from Lazarus’s. Lazarus’s body was reanimated. Jesus’ body was transformed into an immortal body, as all other bodies will be at the end of time. This was the apocalpytic view, and the Christians held to it because they were apocalypticists.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  April 28, 2014

        Google Search: Prophets Who Ascended to Heaven:
        According to the Old Testament account, about 850 BC Elijah the Prophet ascended “into heaven.” (see: II Kings 2) Then, about four hundred years later (in about 450 BC) the Prophet Malachi promised that Elijah will return from heaven before the Christ appears.

        Correction: Jesus Ascended but Mary, Elijah, and Enoch underwent an Assumption (pulled up by God while Jesus went to God by his own power); everybody else who deserves to go to heaven will experience a rapture assumption

        So, if St. Paul’s * * theory * * is correct, Mary, Elijah, and Enoch must have had a transformation to a Pauline resurrection body. Perhaps his theory is not correct and we do not need to apply his theory to past assumptions (Elijah and Enoch) and a post-Jesus ascension: Mary’s assumption.

        This may just be a theological question outside of Dr. Ehrman reporting what’s in the Authentic Letters of Paul.

        Dr. Ehrman, you say you have friends and/or colleagues who are Josephus-New Testament Scholars. Can you refer any good blogs/websites/books by them? I just bought Steve Mason’s Josephus and the New Testament.

        THE IMPORTANT QUESTION is whether or not the two passages on “Religion Taking Advantage of People” following the Testimonium Flavianum * * which gives a nod to a * new * religion were, along with the TF, also missing from early copies of Antiquities of the Jews. (I believe you would get a cover article on some magazines for this.)

  2. Avatar
    jonfoulkes  April 23, 2014

    Hi Bart, wouldn’t it be more cautious to say that the early followers of Jesus came to believe that somehow he hadn’t died, he was still with them but in what sense they felt this and why exactly, is difficult to ascertain. I accept that it may have involved visions (but other than Paul, we don’t know who else had them or when they had them) but it may also have been dreams, a voice or just a strong feeling of religious fervour. I understand that Paul states that Jesus ‘appeared’ to Peter and James but couldn’t he have interpreted their experience through the lens of his own vision. He also said Jesus went on to appear to over 500 brothers at one time. If we accept Paul’s testimony that he appeared to Peter and James, shouldn’t we accept it in it’s entirety and accept the 500 claim also? Many thanks for all your time on the blog!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      “Visions” can be auditory as well as visual; and ancient people did not differentiate, the way we do, between visions while sleeping (dreams) and while awake. With Peter and James we are in different territory than with the 500, since we have other evidence that they both came to believe Jesus was raised from the dead, but the 500 are mentioned nowhere else.

      • Avatar
        oswajl  May 14, 2014

        “and ancient people did not differentiate, the way we do, between visions while sleeping (dreams) and while awake.”

        How do we know the disciples did not dream independently of one another about a risen Jesus and then later kind of put it together that this was a resurrected appearance to them? Are there any books that you know of that discuss ancient views of visions/dreaming? Thanks, love the blog, just extended for a year!

      • Avatar
        jhague  June 2, 2016

        So what Paul, Peter and James are calling visions could be dreams that they had while sleeping and they took them to be visions?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 3, 2016

          Yes, in the ancient world there was not a clear line of demarcation between what we would think of as waking-visions and sleeping-dreams.

          • Avatar
            jhague  June 3, 2016

            I understand that the ancients did not differentiate between waking-visions and sleeping-dreams but doesn’t making life changing decisions based on dreams seem a bit delusional? It makes sense that most of the Jewish people in the first century did not want any thing to do with the Jesus Movement.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 4, 2016

            I’d say it seems more delusional to us today than it did to most people throughout history.

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 18, 2017

            Would it not seem delusional to most people throughout history due to the ancient people living before the enlightenment and scientific education?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 20, 2017

            sorry — I’m having trouble following your question!

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 24, 2017

            Now I’m not sure what I was asking! 🙂 I think I may have been asking if most people since the enlightenment would find it delusional or unusual to make life changing decisions based on a dream. I’m sure there have been people all throughout history including now where people believe their dreams are sending them a message though.

          • Avatar
            jhague  April 24, 2017

            Since today we do know the difference between waking-visions and sleeping-dreams, wouldn’t it be clearer if we called the visions that the Bible speaks of as being most likely dreams? I think most people today think of a vision being when a person is awake.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 25, 2017

            In many instances (most?) it’s not clear if the vision came when the person was awake or asleep.

  3. Avatar
    EricBrown  April 23, 2014

    The question contains an assertion that, if supported, would change my understanding. Do you agree that the Gospels were influenced by Paul? Would the author of Mark been familiar with Paul’s preaching or writings? I guess Acts must be, or at least acknowledges Paul because Paul is a character in Acts, but what little effort I’ve put in to that suggests, if I recall correctly, that the character “Paul” himself doesn’t seem to be influenced, overmuch, by Paul as we know him directly.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      I think Mark and Luke were familiar with Paul, though Luke, for whom Paul is a hero, radically changes his theological views.

      • Avatar
        Rosekeister  April 26, 2014

        Would either Mark or Luke have been familiar with Paul’s letters? I’ve been seeing arguments saying Luke took much of his info about Paul from his letters. Mark seems too early but could Luke have known the letters? My impression is that the collection of Paul’s letters would have been after Luke although the books arguing Luke’s knowledge of the letters are also arguing a later dating for Luke.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 28, 2014

          Luke certainly knew about Paul — but he shows little evidence in my opinion of knowing about his letters. So too, in my judgment, Mark.

  4. Avatar
    Steefen  April 23, 2014

    Earlier on this site, you said we have no proof that Paul existed. I think someone asked what proof do we have of a historical Paul outside of the Acts (not a good source of History) and the Letters of Paul ( all of which aren’t authentic )? I think your response was, there is no evidence of Paul outside of these sources.

    So, if it is questionable that Paul existed and some of his letters were written by others, how do we know for sure that Paul’s letters came before gospels and are not post-dated (the letters were not dated) creations–a head letter writer and unauthentic letter writers who create these letters writing Paul into history–Woody Allen’s Zelig?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      No, I did not say that. We have abundant proof Paul existed.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  April 25, 2014

        If I come across the post again, I’ll come back with the date. (And, no, it’s not about Paul or Joseph of Arimethea going to Spain.)

        I do look forward to the non-Christian abundant sources of people who had first-hand experiences with him. He writes letters but people don’t write back to him?! With your knowledge of 1 century writings, I think you may have at least one return letter to Paul. Written by whom? Which churches wrote back to Paul or initiated correspondence with Paul such that the canonized letter is the second correspondence in the pair?

        If Paul was not Josephus, he definitely knew Josephus and Josephus knew him.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  April 25, 2014

        Please see Jan 8 – Final Loose Threads on the Zealot Hypothesis

        Jan 8 Toddfrederick
        I have a question that is not related to the Aslan book (though I think you did a great job with your critique and I do agree that Jesus was not a militant Zealot).
        ***Question*** a friend asked me if there are any references to the apostle Paul that are NOT in the NT and that are NOT Christian sources….such as Josephus. I don’t know of any. Josephus make two references to Jesus which are probably added to Josephus’ history. Paul created more of a fuss than Jesus in the Greco-Roman world than did Jesus, but I know of no one who mentions him. Do you know of any? A quick answer is OK. thank you.

        Jan 9 Dr. Bart D. Ehrman
        No Paul is never mentioned outside the New Testament, except in later Christian sources (although 1 Clement, which mentions him, is late first century).

        Today (My birthday, 4/25)
        Steefen
        “Paul is never mentioned outside the New Testament.” I’ll call this “Paul’s Proof Problem.”

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          But it’s true that Paul is not mentioned outside the NT in the first century, apart from 1 Clement. But I do NOT use that as evidence that Paul didn’t exist!! And I never have.

  5. Avatar
    SJB  April 23, 2014

    Prof Ehrman

    I guess I’m somewhat confused about the chronology and logistics of Paul’s early experience and conversion. Where was his persecution of the early church taking place? How far afield could the faith in Jesus have spread by the time he was converted?

    And lastly, do you think there were gentile converts to faith in Jesus before Paul was converted or do you think the ministry to the Gentiles was purely a function of Paul’s evangelism?

    Thanks!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      Paul must have converted in 32 or 33 CE. The persecution was before then. *Where* it was is hard to say — I’d assume in a major city in the diaspora with both a large Jewish and Gentile population.

      • Avatar
        jhague  April 18, 2017

        Did Paul take his mission to the Gentiles because the Jews for the most part did not accept the message?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          That may have been the *real* reason (or part of it) but in his view it was because he realized that Jesus’ death was teh way God had designed to fill his promises to save the entire human race, not just the Jews.

  6. Avatar
    willow  April 23, 2014

    Okay, so, this might be an asinine question but I still need to ask it. What good purpose might it have served Paul to invent such visions/revelations?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      Good question! I don’t really know. I don’t think Paul did invent them.

      • Avatar
        willow  April 25, 2014

        I used to think he didn’t invent them either; but now I’m not so sure.

        But of course, it may just be my ignorance rearing its ugly head again.

        Nevertheless, surely he would have heard the stories circulating about the dead and risen Christ/Messiah, prior to his experience/conversion. And as in all other things, when it came to the other Disciples/Apostles, he “had” to present himself as far, far superior, in knowledge, in relationship, in gifts, in experiences, so why not in visions/revelations as well?

        Granted, but for some extraordinary experience chances are he wouldn’t have converted; but who’s to say his experience was visions? Who’s to say his revelations weren’t inspired and or contrived by a measure of self-induced competition – say, with the “so called elders”? Paul? Who heralded himself above all others?

        Usually, people who think and speak so highly of themselves, as Paul so often did, are hiding behind an alter ego, or something like that. (Simply my opinion). ‘-)

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          They could have been self-induced, if you mean psychologically. But Paul explicitly says that he “saw Jesus” as the other apostles did, and that Christ “appeared” to him. He may have been lying, but I’m not sure why we should think he was….

          • Avatar
            willow  April 26, 2014

            I don’t think he was lying. I do think he may have been imagining things, or exaggerating his experience, in his (psychological) need to be equal to or greater than say, James, Peter and John, for whatever reason that was.

          • mini1071
            mini1071  May 4, 2014

            Paul was a zealous Pharisee who persecuted Christians, perhaps, as a mean of advancing his stature therein? But, as I understand Pharisaic Judaism, seniority was a function of age and study – not zeal. Purely as conjecture I wonder if Paul didn’t switch sides as a way to advance to the top quickly.

      • Avatar
        jhague  April 18, 2017

        If Paul did “invent” his visions, maybe it was to be at the same level of those who he had heard about having visions. He had to say he had seen the Christ if he was going to successfully claim to be an apostle. Does that make sense?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          It’s a coherent idea, yes; but I don’t think he invented the visions intentionally. He led a life of extreme physical misery because he believed he had seen Jesus. I think he really thought he saw him.

    • Bethany
      Bethany  April 24, 2014

      Paul pretty much seems to have spent the rest of his life traveling from place to place getting beaten, shipwrecked, and otherwise having a variety of bad things happen to him. It doesn’t seem to me like he had any incentive to make the whole thing up, either.

      This is something I’ve thought about Jesus mythicism more generally. If the idea that this was all the product of some sort of conspiracy involving Paul, Peter, and James (it seems like all of them would have to have been involved) then they would have done it… why exactly? It’s not like they gained fame and fortune by the spread of Christianity; on the contrary, all of them ended up dead.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

        Maybe they *wanted* to make their lives miserable? 🙂 (!)

        • Avatar
          jhague  April 18, 2017

          My thought is not that they wanted to be miserable. They were mostly uneducated (with the exception of Paul) and were apocalyptic. The apocalyptic ideas of the Jews being back to the supposed former glory days took over their thinking and made them what we today think of as delusional. Even though Jesus (Christ) never returned. They could not stop thinking about him ushering in God’s Kingdom until the day they died.

  7. Avatar
    thelad2  April 23, 2014

    Bart, I’ve always thought Paul’s conversion came on too suddenly. If Jesus died in 30 CE,is it realistic to expect Paul to have persecuted Jewish Christians and had is conversion experience within 3-4 years? I wonder why more scholars don’t place Jesus’ execution closer to 27-28 CE? That would, A) still make Jesus around 30 years old at his death, B) would still fall into the timing window of Pontius Pilate’s governorship and C) would allow Paul more time to learn about, persecute and ultimately to have his life altering conversion experience. What are your thoughts. PS: i enjoyed your Smithsonian lecture the other day.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      Good question. I suppose technically Jesus’ death simply has to be sometime between 26-36.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  April 25, 2014

        If that range of dates is accepted, is there *any* year where Passover fell on the day before the Sabbath? (I have no idea where to look up something like that.)

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          I don’t know!

          • Avatar
            Wilusa  April 28, 2014

            “The point is that different Jews in Jerusalem did not celebrate Passover on different days”? I don’t get it. Did you mean that some of them *did* celebrate Passover on different days? That would explain there being confusion, but *why* would they have celebrated it on different days?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  April 28, 2014

            The Essenes at Qumran followed a different calendar for technical … calendrical … reasons (that I’ve never quite gotten my mind around).

          • Avatar
            Esko  January 2, 2015

            “The two most accepted dates are Friday, AD 30 April 7, and Friday AD 33 April 3.”

            http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/newton.html

            “majority of modern scholars favouring the date April 7, 30 AD.” “Another popular date is Friday, April 3, 33 AD.”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus

        • Bethany
          Bethany  April 26, 2014

          I am *so* not an expert, but I spent an hour or so Googling exactly this on Easter because I was curious, and I get the impression that part of the problem is that during that time period the Jewish calendar was an observational calendar — as in, before agreeing that the new month had started, actual witnesses had to see the new moon and certify that it was indeed a new month. Because at that time the calendar wasn’t based on calculations, there’s actually no way for us to know for sure what days corresponded to Passover in what years… if it was overcast on what would normally be the first day of the month, the month didn’t start until the next day and Passover would have been a day later.

          At least that’s what I gathered from my Googling. If someone who actually knows what they’re talking about tells you differently, listen to them, not me!

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  April 28, 2014

            The point is that different Jews in Jerusalem did not celebrate Passover on different days.

          • Avatar
            Wilusa  April 28, 2014

            Wow! That’s fascinating – thanks for sharing. It would certainly explain why the conservative scholars who have the greatest concern for everything being literally true haven’t settled on a specific year. Hard to believe there wasn’t one, if we consider Pilate’s entire tenure.

        • Avatar
          Steefen  April 29, 2014

          Hi Wilusa,

          Handbook of Biblical Chronology is an idea for looking up something like that. I was at Dallas Theological Seminary’s Library about two weeks ago and looked up Death of Jesus in the book. The problem that you will see in the table is two sets of dates: one set factors in intercalation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include year 35 and year 36 in the tables of dates.

          Perhaps, Dr. Ehrman likes this source or can refer another source.

          • Avatar
            Wilusa  April 30, 2014

            Thanks for the info, Steefen! I suppose there are a lot of things that still have to be researched in actual libraries, rather than online.

  8. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  April 23, 2014

    Bart, does Paul mention somewhere in his texts what the ‘resurrected Christ’ that he allegedly ‘saw’ looked like? I don’t remember any quote where he does (except him claiming to see a ‘bright light’ during his conversion) … but my memory might be faulty.

    And what do you make of Paul’s statement that he didn’t get the good news (= the resurrection and thus the triumph over death) from other humans but from the ‘risen Christ’ himself? If he persecuted the Christians because of a resurrection belief then he would have heard about it before, from other humans, no?

    Thank you.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      No, no descriptions of Jesus’ physical appearance, by Paul or anyone else. Paul’s own gospel came from Christ — ah, but what does that mean?! I’ll deal with that in a post soon.

      • Avatar
        Xeronimo74  April 25, 2014

        I’m looking forward to that post about Paul’s own Gospel!

        As for the look of the ‘risen Christ’, what I meant was this, Bart: the Gospels DO describe the post-resurrection Jesus, namely as a humanoid, with hands and feet, someone who can walk (even through doors …), eat, etc. But Paul only describes him, as far as I remember, as a bright light. Shouldn’t that make us think? Doesn’t this indicate that the views of Paul, regarding the ‘resurrection body’, differ from those of the Gospel writers?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          No, Paul does not describe him that way. Maybe that’s the root of your problem?

          • Avatar
            Xeronimo74  April 26, 2014

            I’m sorry if I’m making this complicated again … Paul does not describe ‘the risen Christ’ in which way? As ‘bright light’? Or as humanoid? Because as far as I remember he claimed seeing ‘a light’ when ‘the Christ’ spoke to him on the way to Damascus, and not a humanoid figure (unlike the Gospel authors)?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  April 28, 2014

            No he doesn’t describe his vision at all, and certainly not as a bright light. You’re thinking of the narrative in Acts.

          • Avatar
            Xeronimo74  April 28, 2014

            True. Mea culpa.

  9. Avatar
    jhague  April 23, 2014

    As you say, Paul flashed his credentials whenever he could. So I think Paul also exaggerated his credential whenever he could. But in any case, how is it that Paul’s writings predate the Bible’s gospels and his writings greatly influenced how the gospels were written, but there is no mention of Paul in the gospels?

  10. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  April 24, 2014

    Dear Bart,
    Your answer to the questioner is clear, but it does spark further questions. On page 188 you write that Gerd Ludemann argues that Peter and Paul’s visions were psychologically induced. (And I realize that your ultimate concern here is not to explain visions as such, but their *significance* for what other people later came to believe, and how that, in turn, laid the foundations for a new religion).

    But, if Peter’s vision was a classic example of a vision caused by bereavement, or caused by a longing to see a beloved and respected religious figure, than how do we explain Paul’s vision? (Since he neither knew Jesus personally, and actively disliked what fellow Jews were saying about him.)

    And what reason do you have for saying that we can “take him [Paul] at his word” as you say on page 192? (I personally think we no have reason to not take him at his word, but this question comes up because on page 202 you write that Paul reports that “500 brothers” all saw Jesus at the same time, which is reported in no other Gospels.)

    I might be missing something here!

    tracy

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      Yes, the psychology behind Paul’s vision would have to be very different from that behind Peter’s. But I think it’s impossible to psychoanalyze him at this distance — so who knows? Guilt? Shame? Unresolved problems with his father? Something he was deprived of as an infant? 🙂 Who knows!!

      I don’t have my books with me (I’m in the mountains just now), so don’t know what I said on p. 192 or 202. But it depends *completely* on what he said in each place.

      • TracyCramer
        TracyCramer  April 25, 2014

        Well, enjoy those mountains and stop blogging!

        But when you get back…

        I think I read somewhere among some reviewers that since you mention bereavement and a desire to see religious figures as causes of visions, what about Paul since those don’t apply to him (and therefore does not support your using Ludemann or others as explanations.) (I just think you will get hit with that question in your future debates!)

        But yes, of course, who knows, perhaps “…an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

        (“There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”)

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          As a general rule, my view is that no one has ever said it better than Dickens. Or ever will.

          • TracyCramer
            TracyCramer  April 25, 2014

            Oh that’s right, you are a huge Dickens fan. 😀

  11. Avatar
    JBSeth1  April 24, 2014

    Hi Bart,

    I’m not trying to be rude here, but I’m not convinced by what you wrote above.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but as I understand it, Paul had some sort of vision of Jesus. Then perhaps 3 years later he met with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. This meeting took place perhaps 3 – 10 years after the crucifixion and there are no records about what was discussed during this meeting.

    During the following years we have the “oral tradition” time period. Then some years later, Paul writes his epistles.

    After this, we get the Gospel of Mark, and somewhere in this time period, “Q” is written.

    Neither Mark nor Q mentions a resurrection. Mark mentions that the tomb was empty, but as you state in your latest book, there could be many reasons why this occurred, if in fact Jesus’s body really was put a tomb.

    Then later we get the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, where a resurrection story is written about.

    If Paul mentioned his vision to Peter and James and afterward they talked about this with others, isn’t it possible that during the “oral tradition” this vision of Paul’s was embellished into the resurrection story that was written about in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John?

    Is there any historical data which indicates that this probably didn’t occur?

    John

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      Mark definitely mentions a resurrection and contains the resurrection. What he does not narrate are appearances of Jesus *after* the resurrection. HUGE difference! As to Q, my view is that we don’t know whether it contained a resurrection appearance or not. All we know is what was *in* Q, not what was *not* in Q. Maybe I’ll expand on both points in a post soon. Good issues to raise!!

  12. Avatar
    Arlyn  April 24, 2014

    Is it possible that Paul’s actions against followers of the way was in the capacity of a Roman agent? That at some point, he came to think he could be more effective by infiltrating the movement, but at some point had a vision and had a genuine conversion.

    If I recall, the Ebionites thought Paul had a Roman connection. If he had a conversion and vacated his post as an agent for Rome, it would explain why he might not be able to minister in Jerusalem and changed his name.

    It would also explain why Paul was able to play a Roman connection card that saved his hide. It would answer a very nagging question of why Paul was sent to Rome, to explain why he’d vacated his post, and what he’d learned after doing so. The traditional given reason because he was a Roman citizen and deserved trial there never made sense. Trial for what?

    It would explain why Josephus never named the follower (if indeed it was Paul) for which he traveled to Rome to speak on behalf of. With the speculation that Josephus was a Roman agent, Paul and Josephus may have been brothers in that corp.

    Again, I’m not inferring in any way that Paul did not have a genuine conversion and was not totally enthusiastic to the movement or didn’t have some sorts of visions.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      I don’t think there’s anything to tie Paul to Romans. In fact, I think the claim that Paul was a Roman citizen (found only in Acts) is highly dubious. In fact, I don’t buy it! The Ebionites never mention Paul (assuming they wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls; we have no other writeings by them).

      • Avatar
        pbrockschmidt  April 25, 2014

        I thought the Dead Sea Scrolls were pre-Jesus and the Ebionites (as Jewish-Christians) were post-Jesus. How do the two overlap?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          Sorry, my bad. I’m brain dead hear at the end of term. You wrote Ebionites and I was thinking Essenes. Go figure….

      • Avatar
        maxhirez  April 25, 2014

        So was the claim that Paul was a Roman citizen just part of the campaign to legitimize Christianity in the empire? What does that mean for the traditions about the end of his life and his house arrest/petition of innocence?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          Luke wants to make Paul a Roman citizen both to elevate his importance and to make his trip to Rome be voluntary…. I do think much of the last part of Acts is indeed legendary.

          • Avatar
            Rosekeister  April 26, 2014

            With the resurrected Christ, miracles and angels I thought much of the first part of Acts is also considered legendary. Do you think they are legends of the founding of the Hellenistic church and the seven placed in Jerusalem to connect their beliefs and leaders to Peter and later James but which caused literary problems like Paul being sent to Damascus by the Jerusalem church? A selective persecution that scatters the Hellenists while leaving the apostles in Jerusalem. The odd explanation of how the seven were chosen by the apostles. The communities with the baptism of John instead of the baptism of the spirit.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  April 28, 2014

            Yes, the trick with Acts is the same trick we have with the Gospels: separating historical information from legendary materials.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  April 25, 2014

        Did Paul actually “change his name” at any point? Or did his use of “Saul” or “Paul” just depend on what culture he was living in at the time?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2014

          Saul is the Hebrew name used in Acts; Paul is his Greek name, used in both Acts and by Paul himself.

      • Avatar
        KevinBradshaw  April 25, 2014

        In recently re-reading Acts it occurred to me that the Roman citizenship claim was apparently invented by the Lucan redactor (or so it seems reasonable to me to conclude) for the purpose of scenes like that before King Agrippa in Chapt. 26. And of course it seems as if none of this (Roman citizenship and an audience of Roman officials sympathetic to the Christian movement in the 4th decade or so of the 1st Cent.), on a theory of internal coherence and is far too fanciful. (Of course, the only rational view is that the speeches were invented, but the whole scenario is only slightly more probable than the healing powers of Paul’s handkerchief.)

        My point is that in my view the Roman citizenship claim is the anonymous author’s plot device to illustrate a comparatively sympathetic Roman/Gentile audience. For Luke, this is a major theme that Christ represented the fulfillment of the Jewish scripture and teachings of the prophets. Luke’s Pilate wants to let Jesus of light- with a flogging.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  April 29, 2014

        Dr. Bart Ehrman:
        I don’t think there’s anything to tie Paul to Romans. In fact, I think the claim that Paul was a Roman citizen (found only in Acts) is highly dubious.

        Steefen:
        How does Paul get himself carted off to Rome, then? The Authentic Letters of Paul do not sync with him getting himself carted off to Rome?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 29, 2014

          How do you know Paul was carted off to Rome? It’s only in Acts. And Acts is the only book that claims he was a Roman citizen.

          • Avatar
            Steefen  April 30, 2014

            Dr. Erhman
            How do you know Paul was carted off to Rome?

            Steefen
            You disagree that Paul went to prison in Rome? You disagree with what seems to be a majority of scholars who say there are Prison Epistles? (See below from Western Reformed Seminary–Tacoma, WA–John A. Battle, Th.D.)

            There are three major suggestions for the identity of the place from which Paul wrote the Prison Epistles.
            1) Ephesus, A.D. 51-53
            There is no explicit mention in the NT of an imprisonment in Ephesus, although he was often in prison (2 Cor 11:23). Some passages in his epistles suggest that he had serious troubles during his time in Ephesus (1 Cor 4:9-13; 15:32; 2 Cor 1:8; 4:7-12; 6:4-5). The closer proximity of Ephesus to the recipients of the Prison Epistles is an argument in its favor. However, this view lacks substantial historical evidence (it is mentioned in the Marcionite prologue to Colossians). Kümmel (Introduction to the NT, pp. 324-32) maintains that Paul probably wrote Philippians from Ephesus, but not the other epistles.

            2) Caesarea, A.D. 54-56
            Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years, during the rule of Felix (Acts 23-26). However, Paul does not mention Philip in his greetings (Acts 21:8; cf. Col 4:10-11), and it is unlikely that Onesimus the slave would have sought refuge there. Also the great degree of freedom Paul had in preaching during that imprisonment (Acts 28:30-31; Phil 1:12-13) does not correspond with the limited audience in Caesarea (Acts 24:23).

            3) Rome, A.D. 57-59
            This is the traditional view, as noted by the subscripts in MSS K and L (9th and 8th centuries). The circumstances in the epistles match best with the conditions of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, as described in Acts. This is especially true for the list of Paul’s companions. Most scholars favor this solution.

            Steefen:
            You’re not placing Paul ever in prison in Rome?
            Given Paul’s dedication to Judaism lite, there was no social contract for him not to cross over to Roman citizenship as Josephus did.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  April 30, 2014

            I have no trouble believing he was in prison in Rome. I just don’t know that he was “carted” there from somewhere else (as Acts relates).

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    shakespeare66  April 24, 2014

    Still, without Paul, there probably would be no Christianity would there? He seems to have been the glue that kept them all together on the same page. But your argument about his buying into Christianity later makes sense, and is logical given his outcry against it at first until he had his own “vision.”

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    maxhirez  April 24, 2014

    I’m curious-do you think Paul is given disproportionate credit as an apostolic father above others who appear as bit players in Acts (like Aninias or Apollos) simply because his letters survived? Or did his letters survive augustly because he was so important to the early churches that they felt such a strong compulsion to copy his epistles above all others?

  15. Avatar
    shakespeare66  April 24, 2014

    Were the terms heretical and orthodox in vogue in early Christianity or were these terms developed later as in the middle ages? Obviously the wrong view was considered to be “something” but did they consider it to be heretical then…the term had to be some Latin or Greek phrase, right?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      They developed in the third and fourth centuries especially. Orthodoxy means “right belief” and heresy means “choice” — and came to mean “choice to believe the wrong belief”!

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    gavriel  April 24, 2014

    ” Paul found this view blasphemous. And so he persecuted them.” Not entirely convincing. This supposedly took place in the Jewish communities in Damascus, and Paul, in order to violently persecute the first followers of Jesus there, would have to have support from important and many members of theses communities. So it would have to be a common view there that the Jesus-followers violated some traditional rules of religious conduct. Could it be more than just believing in a “ridiculous” Messiah concept? Common meals with gentiles?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      I’m not sure it was in Damascus. And Paul hints in Galatians that it was because they were worshiping a man who was crucified, when the Law explicitly says “cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree”

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    fishician  April 24, 2014

    Do you think the vision Paul describes in 2 Cor. 12 is related to the vision story told in Acts 9? In both cases they say only that Paul “heard” something, not that he “saw” something (other than a bright light, in Acts). (As a doctor I would point out that auditory hallucinations are much more common than visual ones.)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      I’ve never htought so — but others have! 2 Cor. 12 seems to be about a post-conversion ecstatic experience where he learned additional divine truths that he is not allowed to discuss.

  18. Avatar
    greenbuttonuplift  April 24, 2014

    great stuff Bart. It is so encouraging to see that in light or further research and study of your own your ideas are evolving. just a quick question. Do you think early christianity exalted jesus to emulate what was happening in Rome to their imperial leadership. You may cover this in your book but I pre-ordered on Amazon UK and its not due till May 1st.
    Can you have a word 🙂

    PS When are you thinking of a face to face debate and who would be a good interlocutor to create most heat and *light*?

    Thanks

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 24, 2014

      I don’t think they exalted Jesus *in order* to make him a competitor with the emperor, but I strongly think that it was no accident that at the same time Romans had started more widely calling the emperor God is precisely when Christians started calling Jesus God. It was indeed a competition, but it was not cynically invented in order to be that. I do deal with it in the book.

  19. Avatar
    Jim  April 24, 2014

    A question like “why didn’t someone living 2K years ago do something” seems unanswerable, so I suppose this is more of a comment. I find it somewhat surprising that Paul doesn’t track down Jesus’ mother Mary to talk to her about Jesus’ (earthly) life.

    Paul didn’t have an aversion to travel and he did go to Jerusalem to meet Peter and James. If Mary still lived in Nazareth (rather than Jerusalem) at the time, it’s somewhat on the way to Damascus. Maybe Paul had a personal diary or other writings that do mention him meeting Mary and that haven’t survived, who knows.

    So your point that it’s unlikely that Paul invented the resurrection is well taken. However it seems from Paul’s letters that he is mainly interested in the Jesus of his own vision(s). It also seems that the Jerusalem disciples were likely more interested in the Jesus of their own visions. It’s a bit like a song from a while ago, everyone had their own personal Jesus, with Paul’s becoming the more famous.

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    jrhislb  April 24, 2014

    I would love a post on Paul’s role. In particular if you think he was the one who invented the idea that gentiles could become Christians without embracing Judaism.

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