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Did Pontius Pilate Respect Jewish Sensitivities?

When I was in high school I was active on the debate team, and really loved it.  We were pretty good, although I was nowhere near being the best on the team.  My colleague and another fellow on the team ended up debating together in college and won the national championship as sophomores.  These guys were terrific.

One of the decisions we constantly had to make when arguing the negative side of a resolution was how to go about attacking the claims of the affirmative side.  There were two general approaches: one was what we called the “shotgun” approach.  This involved leveling lots and lots of arguments (like buckshot) and hoping that the other side could not respond to them all, thereby making the judge of the debate think that some of the arguments stuck, even if not all of them were that good.  The problem with the shotgun approach was that if a bunch of the arguments weren’t very good, the affirmative side could knock them down fairly easily, and by the end, it looked like just about everything they said showed that our arguments weren’t very good.

And so we usually opted to take the other approach, which was to develop two or three arguments at length that were very difficult indeed to refute.   If the affirmative side couldn’t win, say, two of the three arguments (as opposed to successfully answering 10), then the debate was in the bag for us.

Another way of looking at this is to say that a cumulative argument – lots of little arguments adding up to one big argument — can be seen as an effective mode of refutation, but ONLY if each one of the little arguments itself carries weight.  If each of the little arguments don’t carry any weight at all, then the cumulative effect also doesn’t carry weight.   You can accumulate all the zeros you want, and they’ll still add up to zero.

If I had been Craig and wanted to attack the views that I set forth in How Jesus Became God, I think I would not have taken the shotgun approach.   The accumulation of arguments that individually don’t carry much weight just ends of not being very convincing.  My view is that most of his arguments really don’t carry any weight – the “evidence” from Philo, the “evidence” that Roman governors sometimes showed clemency to convicted criminals, the claim that Romans allowed executed criminals decent burial, and – the evidence I’ll cite now.

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Did Pilate “Learn His Lesson”?
Discrepancies That Pay Rich Dividends

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Comments

  1. gmatthews
    gmatthews  July 17, 2014

    Surely someone, before now, has collected all the horrible things said about Pilate and shown that there is no evidence he ever did anything redeeming or merciful? I’ve read many times in the past that he was a harsh, violent —anything but benevolent— administrator of Palestine. Even if a thorough examination of Pilate has been done at an academic level it would seem like Craig Evans would already know about it?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 18, 2014

      No, Craig does not need to be informed about the sources about Pilate. He knows them intimately.

      • Avatar
        gabilaranjeira  July 18, 2014

        Hi,

        In regards to the sources mentioned above, I understand that the Gospels and Josephus are, obviously, some of them. I also kind of know that some Roman sources also mentioned his name like Tacitus and/or Pliny the Younger (I don’t remember which one – that’s why I just kind of know). Are there more sources? I ask this because both the Gospels and Josephus do not seem like disinterested sources when it come to the portrayal of Pilate.

        Thanks a lot!

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 19, 2014

          Do you mean sources for Pilate? Yes, I should have said, our only sources to tell us any stories are the NT, Jospehus, and Philo. They are all, obviously, biased in one way or another. But then again, all literary sources are!

  2. Avatar
    Matilda  July 17, 2014

    It seems from what you say that the matter of the shields was a big issue affecting all the Jews and the Temple. I can see why they would take it up with Tiberius. Jesus on the other hand seems like a no-body and no one would have bothered to approach Tiberius about him. This especially if the Priests thought Jesus was a trouble maker. Doesn’t it make sense that no special appeal was made for Jesus? I can imagine dispensation given to someone of import, but not Jesus.
    It seems some scholars just try to hard to make what was said in the bible literally true. What was it Shakespeare said, “The woman doth protest a bit too much?” Sounds like Bible apologists are protesting just a bit too much.

    • Avatar
      Steefen  July 18, 2014

      Paul can get an audience with Caesar, but the man for whom he claims to be a disciple cannot earn the same?

      Quoting Shakespeare isn’t what it used to be now that we know Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare didn’t like the idea of Vespasian and Titus turning Messianic Judaism into Cannibalistic Christianity. To put an angel with a blazing sword at the exit of Messianic Judaism, Vespasian and Titus made Pacifist Messiah Christianity have a cannibalistic communion to commemorate their having to starve Jerusalem to the point of at least one mother partaking of her son’s body and blood. (Remember http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_Andes_flight_disaster.) What does Shakespeare do about Vespasian’s and Titus’ corruption of the Jewish Religion into Cannibalistic Christianity?

      1) writes “Titus” Andronicus which ends with a gentile’s body and blood consumed at a supper.

      Second, Christopher Marlowe in the Jew of Malta writes:

      In spite of these swine-eating [synagogue of Satan calling themselves Jews but they’re not] Christians,
      (Unchosen nation, never circumcis’d,
      Poor villains, such as were 67 ne’er thought upon
      Till Titus and Vespasian conquer’d us,)

      So, in conclusion, there was no Paul and Jesus until Titus and Vespasian conquered Jerusalem, write history, write religion and backdate most of the New Testament by 40 years as a Hebrew literary technique to reference the Promise Land as Jewish kingdom to the Son of Man’s Kingdom as God’s kingdom of 73 when Rome’s Empire supplanted the Jewish self-determination in 66-67 C.E.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  July 19, 2014

        I don’t think Acts can possibly be accurate that Paul could get an audience with Caesar merely by asking for one. Every citizen of the empire simply had to ask? (I don’t think Paul was even a citizen. He himself gives no hint that that was the case.)

        • Avatar
          prestonp  August 29, 2014

          When did Christ ask for an audience with Caesar?

          From Acts

          15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for whe is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name xbefore the Gentiles and ykings and the children of Israel.

          Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

          The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

          From Mark

          “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known.”

          From Luke

          “When Herod saw Jesus, he was very happy. Herod had heard all about Jesus. So he had wanted to meet Jesus for a long time. Herod wanted to see a miracle. So he hoped that Jesus would do a miracle.”

          How did that happen? Why would Herod have heard anything about some little nobody and be pleased to meet him? He wanted to see a miracle! Who wouldn’t? Why did he think jesus could perform miracles? Unless he had been doing many amazing things in front of many, Herod wouldn’t have heard a word, I believe. Kings normally aren’t pleased to meet loony tunes preparing for execution.

          How does “criticism” explain away this most unusual occurrence?

  3. Avatar
    Wilusa  July 17, 2014

    About the (bad!) mistake Craig Evans made in quoting only part of something, and not what followed…

    Does it ever happen that a respected scholar includes a passage like that (which may be all that needs to be said, for his or her purposes), nicely footnoted, in a book that will be widely read…and subsequent scholars, especially if they need to pull things together quickly, will pick up the passage and footnote without checking the source themselves?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 18, 2014

      Yes, sometimes. But these passages from Josephus are well known by experts in the field.

      • Avatar
        Hank_Z  July 18, 2014

        Bart, I have the same question as Wilusa’s above. Your answer leads to a follow-up question.

        I understand that the experts in the field know very well the rest of the passage that Craig Evans chose to omit. But Craig knew he was writing that section as part of a book for the public (non-experts). There’s no way the vast majority of us non-experts would know what Craig chose to omit.

        Questions:

        1. Is it common practice for a scholar in this field…and who’s writing a trade book for the public…to use part of a passage of a historical document and choose to omit the next part of the passage when that omitted part is damaging to his argument?

        2. To your knowledge, did you choose to do this with any historical document when you wrote HJBG?

        Btw, I’m not trying to “crucify” Craig. HJBG impresses me in part because it does an excellent job of identifying many likely objections to your arguments and then using relevant evidence to explain why your specific arguments are the most probable.

        If it’s common for historians writing for the public and to use certain parts of documents and omit the passages that follow and that would damage their arguments, I want to know.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 19, 2014

          Well, everyone has to choose what to cite, and usually scholars like Craig and I try to cite what we think is most appropriate, since we can’t cite the *entire* thing usually. Sometimes maybe we don’t choose well. I don’t think I’ve ever cited something simply in order to deceive readers, and I’m absolutely sure Craig would say the same thing about himself.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 6, 2014

            To claim that Luke’s Jesus was calm and confident as his passion drew near and omit his, “sweat as it were drops of blood”, is a significant omission, a major mistake.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 6, 2014

            Yes, it would be, if that passage were originally in Luke! If you’re seriously interested, you might want to look at my lengthy discussion of all the ins and outs (it’s missing in lots of manuscripts) in my book Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, where I show why the passage was almost certainly added by second century scribes. If you’re just kinda interested, I have a shorter discussion in Misquoting Jesus.

  4. Avatar
    rrogers  July 17, 2014

    Dear Bart, I’ve followed the Crossan version of this “non-burial” theory in my teaching for many years now and have found your detailed book-and-blog analysis and articulation of the issues supportive (at a time when my confidence in the theory was wavering). As I’m sure you know, Craig’s student Greg Monette is doing a dissertation at Bristol on the burial of Jesus, no doubt with an extensive critique of what he takes to be the revived Crossan/Ehrman theory (see http://gregmonette.com/). After the rhetorical snarkiness in Gregs’ two-part review of your book, suggesting you should have consulted Jodi Magness before writing the JC burial section, I read Jody’s “Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit” (one of the better book titles). I know you and your colleagues have engaged in inter-blogging events. At the end of your series of blog-responses to Craig, would you and she be interested in a blog exchange here for our benefit? Her SDOS chapter 11 is not quite as supportive of Craig and Greg as they seem to think (I’m sure Greg is keeping tabs on this discussion here, too, since his dissertation committee is likely to press him on arguments similar to yours). If Jody is not interested or able, perhaps you could respond to some of her thoughts (those on p. 171 being of central importance). What do think?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 18, 2014

      I’ve talked with Jodi about this; part of it is that we disagree on the evidence of Josephus. I can certainly think about a back and forth about it.

      • Robertus
        Robertus  July 19, 2014

        This would be interesting as it seems to be the best argument for the other side.

  5. Robertus
    Robertus  July 18, 2014

    “The accumulation of arguments that individually don’t carry much weight just ends of not being very convincing.”

    In fact, it has the contrary effect. Lots of lousy arguments is even worse than one lousy arguement. Both sides should focus on their best argument. Word to the wise.

  6. Avatar
    Steefen  July 18, 2014

    Caiphas and Pilate seems to have had a good working relationship. (Reza Aslan had this in his book? I don’t remember.)

    Please bring in the Caiphas angle to Pilate blocking burial traditions and the difficulties that would have presented to Caiphas.

    (In fact, I don’t think it was Reza Aslan who brought out the close working relationship of Caiphas and Pilate: I think it WAS Craig Evans in Fabricating Jesus. Maybe both of them mention it.)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 18, 2014

      It’s commonly thought they had a close relationship, but that view — which I have no problem with — is principally based on the fact that Caiaphas stopped being high priest when Pilate was removed from his governorship.

  7. Avatar
    veryrarelystable  July 18, 2014

    In your quote “He feared least…” do I detect a copyist’s error? Perhaps the Vorlage had something akin to “He feared lest…”.

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 18, 2014

    I look forward to your discussion of Craig’s one or two good points.

  9. Avatar
    mdw91170  July 18, 2014

    I’ve very much enjoyed this blog since joining. I read through the Greg Monette rebuttal to your book and posted the following on his blog:

    “Very nicely designed and persuasive post, thank you. I have a couple of questions maybe you could clear up from your research after looking at both sides of this. If we are to use Josephus, wouldn’t be important to address his statement “At present, the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason” with high treason being the important part here? Seems if Jesus was justifiably convicted and sentenced to crucifixion for sedition then why would the Romans go against their own rules to allow the same people who brought charges up against Jesus to Pilate to allow them to bury him? This seems rather odd to me. If the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead they had the four modes of execution at their disposal to take care of him by themselves, however they brought him before Pilate to try him against Roman law. My next question relates to my first but addresses what you say about the how the Jewish people would have been infuriated by leaving corpses up during the Passover. Didn’t just hours before Jesus’ death these same Jews asked to have a thief and murderer released and Jesus crucified because they were so infuriated by what they said Jesus had claimed? Seems to me in this case both the Romans and the Jews would have reason to leave at least Jesus up on the cross to show to others not to claim to be the King or the Messiah. Finally, the one piece of archeological evidence of buried bodies after crucifixion gives no indication as to what the man was crucified for but if it had mentioned he was killed for sedition it would be a better piece of evidence. Of the many thousands of people the Romans crucified, why then do we only find evidence of one being buried if it had been so customary to do so respecting Jewish Law? Thank you again for your article and I find these questions fascinating.”

    Do you have any comments or answers to the questions I posed to Greg or am I just apparently a cynical skeptic too?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 19, 2014

      Many thanks. I’d be very interested in knowing his responses! He’s on the blog, so maybe he’ll say something here.

  10. Avatar
    Steefen  July 20, 2014

    mdw91170 and Bart Ehrman,

    In reference to: “and sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason” with high treason being the important part here? Seems if Jesus was justifiably convicted and sentenced to crucifixion for sedition then why would the Romans go against their own rules to allow the same people who brought charges up against Jesus to Pilate to allow them to bury him?”

    My Response:

    The rebels during the Jewish Revolt all committed high treason but Josephus secured Titus’ permission to have three crucified men taken down.

    Conclusion: Titus who would outrank Pilate, as a favor to Josephus in tears, a friend in tears, allowed three men in Jewish Revolt arms–of higher treason, and more dangerous than Jesus who was not in the midst of a violent and difficult revolt–to be taken down from the cross.

    Now, if this doesn’t win the debate, I give you a more powerful reason for the seditious not only to be saved from prolonged hanging for dogs, vultures, and weather but to survive deserved crucifixion all together. This comes from one of the composite Jesuses, Eleazar, of the singular biblical Jesus. (Emperor Vespasian is also a Jesus as he healed the blind with his saliva as the biblical Jesus did. Yea, write me into the book that will be oh, so important for thousands of years; but, not to digress.)

    I’m paraphrasing and quoting from Wars of the Jews VII, I believe vi, 194-206.

    There was a certain young man among the besieged [rebels besieged by Romans] of great boldness and very active of his hand. His name was Eleazar. He greatly signalized himself in those sallies and encouraged Jews to go out in great numbers in order to hinder the raising of the banks. This did the Romans a vast deal of mischief. …

    When the fight was over, Eleazar, contemptuous of the Roman enemy, thinking they wouldn’t begin the fight again, staid outside the gates.

    Well, Rufus runs him down and carries him to a Roman camp.

    Go straight to the cross? No: strip him naked and whip him in front of his city, then go to the cross.

    Well, the city cried their eyes out sorely lamenting him and the mourning proved greater than could well be supposed upon the calamity of a single person. (Oh, but Jesus is so insignificant, you say.)

    When the Roman general Bassus saw the lamentations he perceived a stratagem. He began to think of using this against the enemy and was desirous to aggravate their grief over a naked young man being whipped by the enemy as punishment. If they will lament so just over the scourging of Jesus, what gain is their in making a crucifixion of him the carrot before the horse?

    IN ORDER TO PREVAIL WITH THEM TO SURRENDER THE CITY for the preservation of that man, he turns his back and with a wicked military smile to his soldiers, he ordered them to “PUT UP A CROSS!”

    I’m going to crucify this Jesus IMMEDIATELY. (Talk about playing to the crowd.)

    The sight of this occaisioned a sore grief among those that were in the citadel and they groaned (GROANED, seriously and VEHEMENTLY), and cried out that they could not BEAR to see him thus destroyed.

    Whereupon Eleazar besought them not to disregard him now that he was going to suffer a MOST miserable death. He exhorted them to save themselves by yielding to the Roman power and good fortune.

    The Jews arranged a surrender of the citadel that they might be permitted to go away and take Eleazar along with them, attend to his Mel Gibson Passion of the Christ wounds and be done with this ordeal.

    The Romans and their general accepted these terms.

    Resolved: Romans did not always leave the crucified to hang (like Vlad the Impaler); a favor could break the rule, a political/military gain could break the rule.

    Do you agree?

  11. Avatar
    prestonp  July 31, 2014

    Pilate had affection for Christ and was amenable to have someone like Joe, who expressed empathy for the tragedy that had occurred, to bury Christ.

    11 And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
    Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

    13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

    Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

    18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. (Remarkable insight and appreciation for the debacle unfolding before him. This was a first for him, most likely.)

    19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” (A wife, warning a top official about the impending doom and informing her powerful husband how he should proceed, demonstrated more courage and perception than all the rest.)
    20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

    21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
    They said, “Barabbas!”

    Pilate tries to release Jesus. Amazing isn’t it, especially for one as callous and brutal as he?

    22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
    They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”

    23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” Pilate again tries to intervene for Christ, defying the crowd’s bluster. “Why, what evil has He done?” What? Are you kidding? He’s defending Christ!

    But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” 24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”

    26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

    The nails killed him by pinning him up off the ground leading to an excruciating and slow death through suffocation.
    The word “excruciating” comes from the Latin, excruciatus, or “out of the cross.”

    Dr. C. Truman Davis wrote an article titled “A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died,” published in Arizona Medicine by Arizona Medical Association.

    Davis wrote that the flagrum, a short whip with small balls of lead tied near the ends of each thong, was “brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’s shoulders, back, and legs, “cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally, spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.”

    Adding, “As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms – the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again, there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.”

    So, who was responsible? Roman soldiers drove in the nails. Pilate gave permission, and Jews demanded he be murdered—out of envy. It could have been any group of envious people, not just Jews. It was envy, it was a flaw in the heart of man that killed him. Even Pilate, of all people, could see that. Old Pilate was still human and he was moved by the horror. Go ahead, Joe, take him and bury the poor man.

  12. Avatar
    prestonp  August 7, 2014

    There are several problems with Ehrman’s argument. First, he fails to explain why, if the church wanted to use early church figures to gain widespread acceptance for these documents, they chose Matthew, Mark, and Luke, three less prominent figures in early Christianity. If they were simply assigning names to the documents to give the books greater authority, it seems likely that they would have chosen and held figures such as Peter who were more signifcant in the early church. Second, Ehrman’s argument that Peter and John were illiterate based on the use of the word !”#$%%&'() to describe the two disciples in Acts 4:13 is unconvincing. The word !”#$%%&'() is the opposite of “#&%%&’*+), which is used in the NT to denote a professional scribe. Therefore, !”#$%%&'() can simply mean to lack rabbinical training. 7 In the context of Acts 4, the Jewish council is described as “#&%%&’*,) (Acts 4:5), in contrast to Peter and John who are !”#$%%&'(-. It is evident that the contrast is between those who have formal rabbinical training (the Jewish council) and those who do not (Peter and John). In any case, as Carson asserts, “The astonishment of the authorities was in any case occasioned by the competence of Peter and John when they should have been (relatively) ignorant, not by their ignorance when they should have been more competent.” 8 Moreover, most Jewish boys did learn to read, and since John’s family was not poor (Luke 5:3 and Mark 1:20 indicate his family owned boats and employed others), it is highly probable that he received a better-than-average education. 9 Ben Witherington responds pointedly to Ehrman’s overall argument that the first disciples were mere illiterate peasants: First of all, fishermen are not peasants. They often made a good living from the Sea of Galilee, as can be seen from the famous and large fisherman’s house excavated in Bethsaida. Secondly, fishermen were businessmen and they had to either have a scribe or be able to read and write a bit to deal with tax collectors, toll collectors, and other business persons. Thirdly, if indeed Jesus had a Matthew/ Levi and others who were tax collectors as disciples, they were indeed literate, and again were not peasants. As the story of Zaccheus makes perfectly clear, they could indeed have considerable wealth, sometimes from bilking people out of their money. In other words, it is a caricature to suggest that all Jesus’disciples were illiterate peasants. 10 A third problem with Ehrman’s argument is the implication that a person with a vested interest should be assumed to be an unreliable witness. In fact, Samuel Byrskog has pointed out that Greek and Roman historians believed the ideal eyewitnesses were participants in an event who were able to draw on their experience to interpret its signifcance, rather than dispassionate observers. 11 Certainly, Ehrman is correct to argue that eyewitnesses do not always record events correctly.

    7 C. K. Barrett, The Acts of the Apostles (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994–1998) 2:233–34; Craig Evans, “Jewish Scripture and the Literacy of Jesus,” evans.pdf (accessed March 25, 2010). 8 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 74. 9 Ibid. 74; Carson adds, “Rabbi Akiba was apparently unlettered until the age of forty, and then became one of the greatest rabbis of his generation; it would not be surprising if some of the leaders of the church, decades after its founding, had devoted themselves to some serious study.”10 Ben Witherington III, “Bart Interrupted: Part 4,” bart-interrupted-part-four.html (accessed March 25, 2010). 11 Samuel Byrskog, Story as History—History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History (Tubingen: Mohr, 2000) 64. Along these lines, Carson o-ers a contemporary analogy in his commentary on John: “the Fourth Gospel can be accepted as what it manifestly purports to be: a reliable witness to the origins, ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus the Messiah. Such a witness does not have to be dispassionate, merely truthful. One accepts, for instance, that the first witnesses of Auschwitz were both truthful and passionate, even if in some circles they were at first easily dismissed because of their passion. But in retrospect, merely dispassionate witness regarding Auschwitz would be obscene.

    But if the Gospels were based on eyewitness testimony, it seems sensible to assume that the eyewitnesses would be passionate about making sure the events surrounding the life of Jesus were reported accurately.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 7, 2014

      These are all good and interesting points — but there are too many here for me to respond to them. If you want to separate them out and devote a comment to one at a time (preferably on different days) I’d be happy to address them.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 8, 2014

        That’s ok, Dr. Scholarly opinions vary on the subject and it fascinating to learn about them.

  13. Avatar
    prestonp  August 9, 2014

    “What we do know about him, however, all points in the same direction. He was a fierce, violent, mean-spirited ruler who displayed no interest at all in showing mercy and kindness to his subjects and showed no respect for Jewish sensitivities.”

    I don’t think everything we can know about him points in the same direction.

    John 19:38 What we see here is that even Pilate was human. This ancient book reveals another side to him. (He went so far as to try to free Christ. Why wouldn’t he? His wife warned him about this guy and what exactly was jesus guilty of that demanded he be executed? What harm is done if Christ is buried the same day he was murdered?)

    More importantly, a record of this event describes women as the first people to seek him at this tomb. Makes perfect sense. Women often demonstrated fearlessness while men cowered. It would have been far safer to say that men were the first on the scene. Instead, “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments… Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. ”

    Matthew 27:57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.

    Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

    Luke 23:51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.

    Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  August 18, 2014

      How easy it is to picture these guys doing exactly what is described. The ring of truth isn’t something scholars can rely on, but it sure makes what the writers of the new testament describe acceptable, human, believable. These were 4 dimensional events as real people acted out their roles in real time 2,000 years ago. .

    • Avatar
      prestonp  October 2, 2014

      Matthew 27:57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
      Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
      Luke 23:51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.
      Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.

      How easy for those who first read these words to check to see if, 1. Joe existed, 2. had been a member of the Sanhedrin, 3. had asked to bury the body.

      How dangerous for those who wrote these things if they were lies.

      Tons of people knew what had happened. His fame grew and spread all over, like wildfire. Many saw and heard him and were never the same. They were astonished. No one ever “spake” like that guy. He shook up the whole world and still does. These are facts. The world never saw anyone like him before or since. Fact.

  14. Avatar
    prestonp  August 29, 2014

    How easy to classify people and events in rigid boxes in our minds. Even evil personified, Hitler, showed a tender side on a couple of occasions to children and to his German shepherd.

    Who would/could have written john 14-17? Why would someone speak in the first person as if she was Christ? What was in it for her to attribute to Christ what she imagined might be suitable? How did she decide what Christ might say in those circumstances? Whoever wrote those chapters willfully deceived others, pretending she was jesus. Why? Could historical textual criticism start with that question and go from there? Usually, criticism begins with, that wasn’t original, or that is not what he said, and here is the proof. What if we said, who did speak these words? Why? What motive would someone have to say these things? Wouldn’t that be interesting and valid? It is there. We can’t simply ignore it.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 30, 2014

      There are lots of people who have written in the first person as if he was Christ. All you need to do is to read all the other Gospels. Start, for example, with the Gospel of Thomas.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  September 2, 2014

        Dr., to me, there is no comparison.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  October 23, 2014

        Who would/could have written john 14-17?

        “There are lots of people who have written in the first person as if he was Christ.” Dr Bart

        Why did they write john 14-17?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 24, 2014

          Why did they write Gospel of Peter 14-17? Or Gospel of Nicodemus 14-17? Or any other 14-17?

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    prestonp  September 16, 2014

    “There are lots of people who have written in the first person as if he was Christ. All you need to do is to read all the other Gospels. Start, for example, with the Gospel of Thomas.”

    To everyone, who, other than Christ, uttered words/phrases/thoughts similar to his? Would you quote that source/person? I have been unable to find anything close. Thanks

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  September 17, 2014

      Most of the teachings of Jesus in, say, the Synoptic Gospels are similar to teachings found on the lips of other rabbis. I’m not sure where to send you for a simple presentation of these others’ teachings: they ‘re in the rabbinic sources!

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    prestonp  September 18, 2014

    “There are lots of people who have written in the first person as if he was Christ. All you need to do is to read all the other Gospels. Start, for example, with the Gospel of Thomas.” Dr. B.

    “Most of the teachings of Jesus in, say, the Synoptic Gospels are similar to teachings found on the lips of other rabbis. I’m not sure where to send you for a simple presentation of these others’ teachings: they ‘re in the rabbinic sources” Dr. B.

    Let’s not forget the gospel named for the one over there reclining on Jesus’ bosom, one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  September 19, 2014

      If anyone finds what she/he believes compares to the words attributed to Christ in the canon, please quote a dozen or so of the most convincing phrases. So far, I haven’t found one reasonable facsimile.

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    prestonp  September 20, 2014

    Not a one can cite a single example. Don’t feel bad. I can’t either, that’s why I asked. Well then, how about this? Who was this Christ guy in the N.T.? Both Ehrman and Metzger have said over and over, when we subtract all the mistakes, additions, misspellings, forgeries and so on, the remaining balance, the vast majority of the n.t. contents are reliable and accurate! So, after stripping away all that which is false, how does the true jesus look as he surfaces into view? who the heck was he? What did he say and do? What was he all about?

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    richard  September 27, 2014

    “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”

    isn’t this a clear indication that jesus was EASY to locate?

  19. Avatar
    prestonp  October 2, 2014

    From Thomas:
    “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”

    2. Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]”

    3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

    When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”

    4. Jesus said, “The person old in days won’t hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live.

    For many of the first will be last, and will become a single one.”

    Like this?

  20. Avatar
    prestonp  October 2, 2014

    Akiba labored hard to earn a meager livelihood. When his child started school, Akiba accompanied him, and together they learned to read. Despite many discouragements, Akiba persevered in his studies and at the age of 40 entered the rabbinical academy of Johanan ben Zakkai, a Pharisaic teacher, at Yabneh (Jamnia). In the academy Akiba, himself a commoner, invariably championed the plebeian viewpoint rather than the patrician.

    1. one example of an ancient illiterate peasant who learned to read later in life. It cannot be proven as an actual fact that Christ’s disciples were illiterate and that therefore they could not have written the n.t.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  October 11, 2014

      This is solid proof that the argument of those who insist none of Christ’s disciples could read or write cannot stand. To form a complex, sophisticated and elaborate “interpretation” of the New Testament upon this foundation has no merit. None.

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