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Did the Original Gospels Describe Jesus’ Miracles?

      While I’m on the topic of miracles, here’s a particularly interesting question I received a long time ago, and my response.

QUESTION:

I have looked up the content of all the papyri I’m aware of (off of links on wikipedia, so who knows if they’re accurate).

It is my understanding that although p52, p90, and p104 are dated around 125-150 AD, they contain fragments of John 18 and Matt 21 only, and that it’s not until 200 AD that manuscripts emerge which actually contain accounts of supernatural actions by Jesus.

So, it’s possible that accounts of miracles existed in copies that got destroyed, but is it fair to say that the earliest available copies of accounts of Jesus’s supernatural actions date from around 200 AD?

In other words, assuming people on average had kids by age 20 back then, and thus 20 years counts as a generation, is it fair to say that the earliest available accounts of miracles by Jesus were written by the great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson of somebody who would have been alive at the same time as Jesus?

 

RESPONSE:

This is an interesting question!   It is true that we do not start getting relatively complete manuscripts of the Gospels until around the year 200.   But I don’t think it would be fair to say that this means that we do not have reports of Jesus’ miracles until then – unless we want to be overly-literalistic in our thinking.

This is why:  as I have indicated in other posts, we have far more manuscripts, and early manuscripts, of the New Testament than for any other book from the ancient world.   These manuscripts were themselves copied from earlier ones, which were copied from earlier ones, which were copied from earlier ones.   That’s a key point.

For the Gospel of Luke – just to pick an example – we have an excellent manuscript, P75, from around 200 CE.  It is not a complete manuscript, but a large fragment.  It does, however, contain the reports of Jesus’ miracles.  Now P75 did not make up these reports itself.  It was copying an earlier manuscript (a very good one, from what we can tell).

And as it turns out, we have…

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Is There Sarcasm in the New Testament?
My First Taste of Critical Scholarship

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Comments

  1. godspell  August 2, 2018

    There is every reason to be skeptical about Jesus being able to perform miracles, in the sense of negating the basic laws of nature and physics through faith (which is what he claims to be able to do in the gospels. He claims anyone else could do the same, if they believed enough, and we’re told the disciples are able to work miracles as well, though not to the same extent.)

    There is no reason, however, to assume that the legend of Jesus the wonder worker began only after his disciples came to believe he’d been resurrected. He clearly did faith healings (which often doubled as exorcisms) and we know many living people do those today, and people believe in them, rightly or not. He clearly did get a reputation as somone who could do amazing things while he was still alive, which helps explain why his disciples might believe he’d been resurrected.

    So it is not stretching anyone’s powers of credulity to think that there was a core foundation of stories told about his miracles, dating from before his death, that grew with the telling in the years after it. That is the most rational position one can take, based on a working knowledge of folklore, and human nature.

    And human nature never changes. Hate to tell ya.

  2. fishician  August 2, 2018

    1. Paul says nothing about Jesus’ miracles, but since he says little about Jesus at all, can we infer anything from that? 2. To be clear, there were non-miracle early writings, were there not? Like the Gospel of Thomas? Wasn’t the Q source primarily (or exclusively?) Jesus’ teachings without miracles? 3. Therefore, what’s your best estimate of when the miracle stories started to accumulate?

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    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2018

      Paul thought that he himself did miracles as one who was an apostle, filled wit hthe Spirit (e.g. Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12); it’s not impossible, I should think, that he thought Jesus too had done them. It is a bit odd he doesn’t say anything about them, but one can think of reasons (his readers already knew; he was talking about other things; etc.) 2. yes, Thomas doesn’t narrate miracles, but it doesn’t narrate *anything*! Q does have one healing story (centurion’s son) 3. See the next coule of posts!

      • Iskander Robertson  August 3, 2018

        didnt paul say that jesus became empty ?

      • Iskander Robertson  August 3, 2018

        When mark says that jesus was unable to do miracles (i think the greek said he had no power/unable) because people lacked faith.

        Surely faith cannot mean belief in triune god and sacrifice of jesus

        So what could , “they had no faith mean” ? is the idea of “faith” developing from one gospel to the other ?

        i think john does not seem to share his understanding of faith with marks understanding, is this correct?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 5, 2018

          For Mark it means something like “belief that Jesus had the Spirit of God within him and so was able to do miracles.”

      • Lev
        Lev  August 4, 2018

        I think Q has two miracles. Q 11:14 (http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~kloppen/iqpqet.htm) describes how Jesus cast out a demon that made a person mute.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 5, 2018

          I suppose it might be debated if that is actually Q, since there are very few verbal overlaps (none precise) between Luke 11:14 and Matt. 12:22. But I haven’t looked into it or read any scholarship on it.

      • Thespologian  August 22, 2018

        After many hours of hearing you lecture online and reading various posts, I’m curious if scholars have ever discussed the idea that Paul invented the story of his vision. Was there something to gain in promoting Christ at that place and time? Not unlike a campaigner becoming a sudden advocate for the poor — who make up a continuously growing majority. Or can we truly attest for Paul’s sincerity? Additionally, though Paul seems most responsible for spreading Christianity, I wonder if poverty and a lack of education in the masses were superior elements in the transmission of Christianity.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 22, 2018

          I’ve never heard that seriously proposed, but I’m sure it has been! Seems like Paul put up wiht a lot of torture for no reason if he knew he had simply made it all up.

  3. snf7893  August 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    A little off topic, but am I wondering if you would ever participate in a debate with Dr. Richard Carrier on the existence of historical Jesus? I think a lot of people would really enjoy that debate were it ever to occur!

    Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2018

      No, I’m not interested in sharing a stage with him. He seems to think insult and invective are forms of intellectual discourse, and I’m not eager to promote this kind of discussion.

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      • snf7893  August 3, 2018

        Thanks for the reply, Dr. Ehrman!

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  August 4, 2018

        I don’t blame you for not wanting to debate RC. Several have said he’s “the” person to debate because he’s just that good. I don’t see it. In fact, I’ve always thought you’d mop the floor up with him.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 5, 2018

          Thanks. My view is that he really doesn’t know much about biblical studies or ancient religion, but since most of his readers don’t either, they don’t know that. (These were not fields he received any advanced training in.)

          • talmoore
            talmoore  August 5, 2018

            Richard Carrier is basically a conspiracy theorist promoting an ancient conspiracy. What are the three criteria for determining a conspiracy theory?

            1) The conspiracy is even more logistically improbable than the “official story”. Which is more feasible? Turning an already existing man into a legendary figure, or creating a legendary figure out of whole cloth within one generation? What’s the logistical requirement for manufacturing literally twelve disciples for a non-existent teacher compared to there being twelves disciples for a man who actually existed?

            2) The conspiracy is essentially an argument from ignorance and a false dilemma. It seeks to create doubt in the “official story” (Jesus existed) and while you’re doubting the “official story” the conspiracy theorist uses that doubt as evidence for his own theory (Jesus didn’t exist). Meanwhile, the conspiracy theorist doesn’t actually have any positive evidence that supports his own theory (i.e. there’s no actual evidence that Jesus’s existence was fabricated; e.g. there’s no ancient document where someone writes, “Hey, let’s make up Jesus”.) The conspiracy theorist disingenuously forces you to choose between the “questionable” “official story” and his, arguably even more absurd, alternate theory.

            3) When confronted and asked to provide positive evidence for his alternate theory, the conspiracy theorist insists that he’s “only asking questions” (e.g. simply look at Carrier’s responses and replies to just about everything). That is, he’s not there to actually prove anything. He’s only there to sow the seeds of doubt, like some noble crusader for truth. In any event, the conspiracy theorist really just ends up being an attention-seeking nuisance.

          • webo112
            webo112  August 23, 2018

            I agree, when you properly educate yourself in this topic, it’s hard to stand by a claim that the historical Jesus did not exist….in my opinion there is plenty of actual and true “conspiracy” and manipulation in the actual history and development of Christianity (i.e scribble edits, forgeries, literal exaggerations, bias heretical claims and debates etc), that you clearly see and understand how humans medaled (from the beginning) within this whole journey, that you don’t even feel a need to try to inject even more.

  4. John Murphy  August 2, 2018

    Bart.

    Do you believe that the people who originally came up with the accounts of miracles did so because they wanted listeners or readers to take them as historical events? Or do you believe it’s more likely that the miracles, e.g. Peter’s walking on water, were meant as metaphors but ‘became facts’ as the decades passed?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2018

      Yes, I think they believed they were things that actually had happened.

      • Amy  August 4, 2018

        Dr. Ehrman,
        The question John Murphy wrote above is a version of one I have been wanting to ask as well. But I want to be sure I understand your answer. You believe that the people who were present believed Jesus brought back the dead, walked on water, fed 5000 with just 5 loaves, etc? Are you saying that the people who originally came up with these accounts were people who were actually there?
        In my own mind, through my readings and listening to you, I thought that you would say that people who were there came up with it later to embellish the story to make it more “God-like” to fit the narrative of the early Christians who began to see Jesus as divine…..and to convince skeptical Jews of his divinity? (Not that the early followers were trying to do wrong but because they felt an urgency to convince people (of Jesus’ divinity -that they definitely believed in) before the end times so needed to have as many miracles in the stories as possible?
        This has been on my mind because I have heard you say you believe that people actually believe they saw his risen body after being crucified. That surprised me too. I DO believe that masses of people can have visions, but that seemed a leap to make, when I thought the easier explanation would be that the earliest followers would come up with this as a “exaggeration” because of the urgency they felt to save as many souls as possible before Jesus returned again.
        As I said in my first (and only other) question, I am a newbie but love to learn. Honestly I’m astounded by your willingness to engage with us in such a regular way! As such I hate to think I’m wasting your time with incomprehensible ramblings or questions you have already answered. So apologies in advance!

        • Bart
          Bart  August 5, 2018

          No, I’m not saying that Jesus actually did things that people observing understood to be miracles. I’m saying the people who later told stories about him and those who even later wrote the stories believed they actually happened (even though they didn’t).

          • Lev
            Lev  August 5, 2018

            Hi Bart,

            So would the following accurately represent your view?

            1. Disciples of Jesus witnessed his ministry and told stories about him to others.
            2. Some of these stories were accurate accounts of what happened, and are preserved in the texts we have today (primarily certain sayings and non-miraculous deeds of Jesus).
            3. Some of these stories were inventions of the disciples, such as the miraculous deeds.
            4. As these stories were passed on, they evolved and were added to.
            5. The oral stories of Jesus circulating in Christian communities were eventually written into gospels, and through careful examination, we can detect the historical and non-historical elements.

            Step 3 is the bit I’m unclear on – do you think it was the disciples (eyewitnesses) of Jesus, or people further down the chain of transmission (in step 4) who invented the miraculous deeds?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 6, 2018

            Yes I pretty much agree on all five, but also have some reservations about 3. I’m not sure how many miracles stories were invented by his earthly followrs — probalby there’s no way to know.

          • Lev
            Lev  August 6, 2018

            So I’m a little confused – if miracles don’t happen, and it’s the eyewitnesses who are first telling the miracle stories, then doesn’t that mean they also just made them up? And if they knowingly invented the stories, then surely they can’t also believe them to be true (as you assert to Amy)?

            If we accept the two premises you’ve offered:

            1. Miracles don’t happen
            2. Those who first told the miracle stories believed them to be true

            Then it could not have been the eyewitnesses who first told the stories, because how could they believe a story to be true if they were there and know it didn’t happen?

            So under these conditions, can we safely rule out the disciples as being the sources of the miracle stories?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 7, 2018

            Yes, I”m questioning whether the stories were originally told by eyewitnesses.

          • Lev
            Lev  August 7, 2018

            In two of the miracle stories in Mark’s gospel – 5:41 (raising of the Daughter of Jairus) and 7:34 (healing the deaf-mute) – they include Aramaic phrases of Jesus.

            Does the inclusion of these Aramaic phrases increase the likelihood that these stories originated from an eyewitness source?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 8, 2018

            Certainly they make it more likely — but not necessarily probable. What the Aramaic shows is that these were stories circulated already in Palestine, probably in the early years/decades of the Jesus movement.

          • Lev
            Lev  August 8, 2018

            We can easily imagine *true* stories sourced to the eyewitnesses coming out of Palestine in the early years – you have shown how we can identify these in the gospel records – and it is easy to imagine *invented* stories being added later by people in far removed places – you’ve also shown how that has happened.

            But, how likely is it that *invented* stories survived the early years in Palestine where the eyewitnesses were still alive and kicking and were acting as a control on the Jesus story? Could the early Christian communities in Palestine really have got away with inventing miracle stories whilst the disciples of Jesus were still circulating amongst those communities?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 10, 2018

            I don’t think the presence of eyewitnesses has *ever* affected the spread of rumor and misinformation. Just think of our modern political situatoin! (I know of many stories about myself that have been in circulation, which simply aren’t true. My being alive at the time has no bearing on it. How can I possibly know what others are saying about me, miles away?)

          • godspell  August 8, 2018

            But don’t people living today often believe they’ve witnessed miracles, even though they haven’t?

            We have many first-hand accounts of Jesus’ mother appearing to vast crowds of people–in the modern era, all over the world. They built a huge airstrip at Knock, Ireland, to shuttle pilgrims to one of these sites. The Catholic Church alone acknowledges twelve such manifestations.

            And of course, as you know, faith healing–both of a conventional religious nature, and of a more New Age bent–continues to go on, and some people report miraculous results.

            Can we assume all these people are lying? No. Can we assume they’re all mentally ill? No. Should we assume this means the miracles in question happened? No. But we do have first-hand accounts of events science can’t explain or endorse. People often believe they have witnessed miracles, even when they haven’t.

            If Jesus’ followers were capable of believing they’d seen the resurrected Jesus, why wouldn’t they be capable of believing they’d seen him make someone feel better? It’s certainly much easier than believing they’d seen a dead man walking around. We know many people believed in miraculous healings, and that many illnesses were caused by evil spirits, that can be expelled by a holy man (or woman). It’s actually one of the oldest human beliefs in existence.

            Wouldn’t the disciples believing they’d seen Jesus perform miracles help to explain why they’d come to believe he’d risen from the dead?

            And if John the Baptist was not known for such miracles, that might explain why no such stories accrued around him after his own execution.

          • Bart
            Bart  August 10, 2018

            I think the reality is that honest, well-meaning people sometimes think they have seen a miracle when they’ve seen nothing of the sort. The reasons why probably vary.

          • Lev
            Lev  August 11, 2018

            “I don’t think the presence of eyewitnesses has *ever* affected the spread of rumor and misinformation.”

            Whilst the earliest records of Jesus miracles (Q and Mark) are astonishing in their own right, they are not in the same league as later accounts which seem to have an additional level of absurdity: the raising of the many saints in Mt 27, the giant risen Jesus in the Gospel of Peter and the clay sparrows coming to life in the infancy gospel of Thomas. Given that the absurdity of miracles seems to increase the further away we move from the eyewitnesses, does this not indicate that the eyewitnesses were able to keep a lid on some of the rumor and misinformation?

            “I know of many stories about myself that have been in circulation, which simply aren’t true. My being alive at the time has no bearing on it. How can I possibly know what others are saying about me, miles away?”

            That’s not quite true – I think the first question I asked on this blog last year was about a rumour I had heard, that you lost your faith after you discovered the bible wasn’t inerrant. You (and another blog member or two – I think godspell was one?) quickly corrected that, and I learned the truth. Since then, I remember talking with a friend in the UK about you and they repeated the same rumour, but I was able to put them right. So there you have it – by being accessible online in the US, you were able to correct false rumours circulating about you all the way over in the UK!

          • Bart
            Bart  August 12, 2018

            Sorry, I don’t mean there were never any instances of mistakes being corrected (Happens all the time; this past week: 50% approval rating?) I meant that hte presence of eyewitnesses is never a guarantee that false stories can and will be placed in circulation and believed. I didn’t phrase my comment very well! so what else is new. But, yes it is true that htere are lots of stories about me that I hear about that are absolutely not true.

          • Lev
            Lev  August 13, 2018

            “(Happens all the time; this past week: 50% approval rating?)”

            Oh, was this a blog post that was poorly rated? Or a book of yours?

            On the broader note you make, I agree there’s no guarantee, but the point I was making was that if stories can be located close to the eyewitness source, as in the two miracle stories in Mk 5:41 and 7:34, it’s more likely to be accurate.

          • Bart
            Bart  August 13, 2018

            No, I was talking about presidential ratings and a news story connected with them from last week.

          • Bart
            Bart  August 13, 2018

            You may be interested in reading my book that deals with these issues, Jesus Before the Gospels. It’s about eyewitness testimony and the problem of memory.

    • rburos  August 7, 2018

      I know people today who believe that Christ conducts miracles today through them (healings, opening safes, etc.). I’m not into miracles, but I can say that these friends of mine sincerely believe that Christ conducted this miracle through them. I can’t help but wonder how similar this must be to the first generations.

  5. darren  August 2, 2018

    Hey Bart! Knowing that you must have a list of a requests a mile long, I’d like to add one: I’d love to see a post (or several!) on pre-Christian Jewish traditions related to the two powers in heaven idea, whether it be David or Enoch. Daniel Boynarin (also from Jersey!) has a nearly three-hour lecture on it, arguing that this belief was more mainstream than sectarian, and that it simultaneously influenced both early Christians and the later Metatron/archangel concepts after the destruction of the second temple. Did Paul believe that Jesus was this archangel? Did Jesus see himself as this angel figure? Did Christians get the holy spirit concept from the Logos concept, to make the trinity? Just how polytheistic were ancient Jews? Boynarin is fantastic, but I lack the academic background to grasp a lot of what he says and would love to hear some of it in the Ehrman vernacular.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2018

      Interesting idea. I do deal with the issue at some length in my book How Jesus Became God.

  6. gavriel  August 2, 2018

    When do you think the miracle stories became “invented”? Very soon after Jesus’ death?

  7. seahawk41  August 2, 2018

    Here is another comment not related to today’s post. In your book “The Triumph of Christianity”, you briefly mention that there is no evidence of a great persecution of Christians under Emperor Domitian, even though later Christian writers said there was and this non-existent persecution became accepted “fact” until recently. Readers of the blog might be interested in a detailed discussion of this by Mark Wilson that was posted on the Bible History Daily web site recently. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/post-biblical-period/domitian-persecution-of-christians/?mqsc=E3976110&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHDDaily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=ZE8A74Z40 It seems like a pretty thorough discussion, complete with references. Oh, by the way, your post is a nice illustration of the “multiple independent sources” concept!

    • Lev
      Lev  August 4, 2018

      That’s interesting. I didn’t know Bart had accepted that point (no Domitian persecution).

      Bart – doesn’t this mean that there’s very little evidence to support a late (mid-90s) date for 1 Clement? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to date it to the late 60s?

      • Bart
        Bart  August 5, 2018

        No, the evidence for the dating fo 1 Clement is not related to whether there was a Domitian persecution, for which there really is almost no evidence. It is based on other internal features to the letter. I suppose I could post on that, but I explain it all in the Introduction to my ediiton of the text in the Loeb Classical Library. (I’m not sure there would be a lot of interest in that — the dating of 1 Clement — among readers of the blog!)

        • Lev
          Lev  August 5, 2018

          Thanks Bart – I would love to read your thoughts on the dating of 1 Clement, but as you say, I’m probably in a minority on the blog.

  8. forthfading  August 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I know many ancient accounts ascribe miracles to other individuals, but is Jesus unique in how much independent sources ascribe miracles to him and the quantity of miracles?

    Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2018

      Independent sources, yes probably; quantity, not really (e.g., Apollonius of Tyana)

  9. prestonp  August 2, 2018

    “I too do not believe that Jesus did the miracles ascribed to him in the Gospels” B

    Why wouldn’t God send His Son to the earth? If God exists,, why would He not come to the earth in human form and prove His divinity through miracles, among other means? What would prevent Him from doing such a thing? Or, why wouldn’t it be something He’d be interested in doing?

    Our universe is miraculous! Especially if you don’t think God had anything to do with it. How the heck do you explain it? We live in an incredible place whether you believe in God or not.

    So, if He is, why would He make it impossible for us to get to know Him? Why wouldn’t He want to hang out with us? “What if God was one of us?…Just a stranger on the bus, just trying to make His way home?” Joan Osborne

    It makes sense that He was one of us, and we didn’t even recognize Him for 30 years! And he did make it Home. He tries to bring as many of us as possible with Him. He never forces anyone. He bleeds and pleads and cries and He took upon Himself our filth, all of it, every vile, petty, disgusting, slimy, embarrassing deed and thought, He took it all on and in Him.

    “Jesus became the representative sin-bearer. He identified 100 percent with the sin of the world when he died on the cross (John 1:29). God treated Jesus as if he were sin itself. And the benefit is that we are joined to him in faith; we become “righteousness”—the opposite of sin. Again, Paul’s language is careful. He went further than saying, “We become righteous.” Rather, we become the very righteousness of God himself. Jesus, who was sinless, became sin for us so that we, who are sinful, might become righteousness when we are united to him.” Ken Easley

    Pete says He bore our sins in His body! This is the conquering Messiah, not what was expected, but it was His mission: To set the captive free. He was the propitiation for our sins, so that we could be united with a Holy God.

    That is why we feel a oneness with the universe. That is why we love Him. He paid the price we could not pay.

    The N.T. shouts, exclaims, cries out, Jesus is God!

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    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2018

      I don’t know, why wouldn’t Zeus really come down and beget Heracles??

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      • NulliusInVerba
        NulliusInVerba  August 3, 2018

        Professor Ehrman, do you think it a coincidence that the Immaculate Conception bears at least general resemblance to Zeus’ taking the form of a swan to deceive and impregnate a mortal woman in mythology that is BCE?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 5, 2018

          Yes, there are numerous stories of divine beings impregnating mortals. All of them, of course, are different from one another. The one distinctive thing about the virgin birth stories of the NT are that God doesn’t actually become embodied to have sex with Mary — she’s a virgin, not someone who has had divine sex.

          • NulliusInVerba
            NulliusInVerba  August 5, 2018

            Even though the Holy Spirit is, at times, depicted as a Dove?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 6, 2018

            Not in the infancy narratives.

      • Iskander Robertson  August 4, 2018

        “why would He not come to the earth in human form and prove His divinity through miracles, among other means? What would prevent Him from doing such a thing? Or, why wouldn’t it be something He’d be interested in doing?”

        what would prevent him from doing something like becoming a COMPOUNDED god is his own “holy bible,” which says do not worship the MOVING hosts of heaven(deut 4:19). it seems like biblical authors didn’t like worshipping the sun or the moon, and here you are telling people that god came as “man-god”
        one can imagine many compounded gods
        “moon-god”
        “sun-god”
        “sheep-god”

    • SidDhartha1953  August 3, 2018

      “Especially if you don’t think God had anything to do with it. How the heck do you explain it? We live in an incredible place whether you believe in God or not.”
      That’s not a bad question, but you’re asking the wrong person. Check out a book or some YouTube videos by a recognized physical cosmologist — Lawrence Krauss, for instance. It’s a fascinating subject and God was not necessary (at least not the kind of God that thinks and acts with intent) to make it all happen.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  August 3, 2018

      “How the heck do you explain it?”

      This is what a dialectician would call an argument from ignorance. Namely, just because I can’t explain how the universe came into existence, that does not mean that your opinion on how it came into existence must be correct. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You actually have to provide positive evidence that backs up your claim. Indeed, we could both be wrong. I could be wrong in saying that the universe didn’t come into existence via a god, and you could be wrong in saying that the universe came into existence via the god YHWH. As far as we know, the universe could very well have come into existence via the Hindu god Vishnu.

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  10. jhague  August 3, 2018

    I too do not believe that Jesus did the miracles ascribed to him in the Gospels (that, though, would require an entirely other post).

    Can you post on this? Thanks

  11. RonaldTaska  August 3, 2018

    A great question indeed with Dr. Ehrman’s usual scholarly analysis. Thanks.

  12. SidDhartha1953  August 3, 2018

    I’ve read that itinerant rabbis would sometimes practice medicine on the side to support themselves, since it was considered unethical to charge money for teaching the Law. Do you think it plausible that Jesus was that kind of healer and that miracle stories developed from his actual practice?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 5, 2018

      There’s no indication that Jesus worked for hire, which would make him different from the kind of people you’re talking about.

  13. prestonp  August 3, 2018

    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    .

    In the earliest years, perhaps the
    earliest months, some followers of Jesus
    believed he had not only been raised
    from the dead but exalted to a place of
    unprecedented authority and power.
    More compelling still, already in these
    earliest circles Jesus was included in the
    worship of the God of Israel by first-century
    Jewish monotheists. Unfortunately, the full force of
    these findings does not come through.
    In the midst of the myriad of Jewish
    professions that there is one Creator and
    Sovereign who is worthy of worship,
    the early extension of cultic devotion to
    Jesus is downright shocking. However,
    set in the context of Ehrman’s opening
    chapters on Greco-Roman and Jewish
    religion the impression is quite different.
    The Creator-Creature distinction receives
    mention, is scrutinized, and finally connects
    earthen feet and God’s throne in
    one great continuum.
    The issue here is not that Ehrman
    was wrong to catalog Jewish parallels
    with apotheosis and the exaltation of
    great men in the Greco-Roman world.
    These are well-known aspects of the
    ongoing debate about how properly to
    characterize first-century Jewish monotheism.
    The key is to avoid letting the
    analogies steamroll the critical differences.
    This is what goes wrong in the
    opening chapters of How Jesus Became
    God. More attention is due to the actual
    religious life of the relevant practitioners
    in everyday life. The Greco-Roman world
    of this period was littered with altars,
    rites, prayers and invocations to many
    or most of the pagan examples offered
    by Ehrman. However, we would be hard
    pressed to find a single uncontroversial
    example of a religious cult being offered
    to anyone but YHWH in Jewish space
    by Jewish people who still claimed to be
    Jews. This says something, or at least it
    ought to.

    John Genter

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  14. elwoody  August 6, 2018

    There seems to me an unspoken inference one might reasonably draw from the apparent fact the gospels were unwritten until some forty to seventy years after Christ. If that was so, then we may infer that the gospels needed faith more than the faith needed the gospels. Arguably then the faith endured, and became established in various places throughout the Roman Empire without the aid of some evangelical literature. Also: therefore the apparent errors or omissions of the early writings were not consequential to the practice of the faith. As well, more accurate early writings would not have made the early faith better or more effective.

    Moreover a readily evident truism seems applicable. Most believers seem largely indifferent to the detail and nuances of the scriptures and gospels. That idea could be tested by giving a biblical knowledge quiz to the learned church workers and the ‘multitudes’ of various churches.

  15. alikaraca  August 11, 2018

    In his thesis “The Variety of Readings in the Text of the New Testament.” , J.J.Wettstein concludes :’Variant readings
    can have no weakening effect on the trustworthiness or integrity of the Scriptures.”….” Thus, variant readings may affect minor points in scripture, but the basic message remains intact no matter which readings one notices.”

    How should we understand this? I understand that his initial aim was to find a solution to variations in scriptures. But he was helpless. And this conclusion was the short cut for him.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 12, 2018

      Yes, he certainly, at this point of his life, wanted to stress that despite the findings of his predecessors and contermmporaries, the NT could be absolutely trusted.

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