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Do I Need to Suffer Myself to Question Whether God Exists?

When I talk about how the problem of suffering has made me question the existence of a loving God in control of the world, I sometimes get asked “What *happened* to you?”  The assumption seems to be that the only reason a person would question the existence of God is if something terrible had occurred that didn’t make sense in light of their beliefs.

I’ve always thought this was a very curious way to think about it, as if the only reason a person would think there was a problem is if they themselves had undergone some horrendous kind of suffering.

The fact is that I’ve never experienced suffering in extremis.  I’ve never had leprosy, never starved, never had multiple family members die in a senseless accident, never … never had any really excruciating suffering that stands out as unusual.   Just the standard fare for middle-class Americans: death of loved ones, shattered relationships, hard times, divorce, and so on.  Nothing that would be completely inexplicable if there were a God in charge of my world.

That’s not why I came to question the existence of God.  It has always been, instead, the suffering of others.  When I explain that to people, I often will get one of two responses.   The first is never meant to be heartless, I think, but in the long run, in my opinion, it actually is.  It’s when someone doesn’t understand: Well if nothing has ever happened to YOU, then why would you have a problem with it?  This response seems to me to suggest that we should simply ignore the terrible suffering of others as having no relevance for ourselves.  WE are the only ones that matter.  If nothing happens to US, then there is no problem.

I’ve never felt that way.  I’m very glad, of course, that I’ve had such a good life.  But I consciously have to fight myself not to …

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Why Was Marcion Declared a Heretic?
Why Not Believe in a Different Kind of God?

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Comments

  1. godspell  July 2, 2017

    None of these things you mention are what troubles me about your recent posts.

    I don’t believe anything you say is taking away anyone’s faith, assuming they had it to start with. I don’t think you believe that either.

    But I am bothered by the way you’re universalizing your own particular response. You must know that most people who have had strong faith had it precisely because they have suffered, or (the story of The Buddha comes to mind) have witnessed the suffering of others. Yet you say suffering is why you can’t believe. This goes against the entire logic of world history, with regards to religious faith. People believe in things precisely in order to deal with their problems, and those of others.

    Not believing isn’t going to solve anybody’s problems.

    As to the logic of your claims here, there doesn’t seem to be any. We don’t have a logical basis for saying what an all-powerful all-knowing being would or would not do. Or even what such a being could or could not do.

    We also have many belief systems that posit a God who is counter-balanced by other forces. This is not the Christian God, to be sure. But to be an agnostic, again, is to doubt all theistic systems, not just the one you are familiar with.

    As you say, you’re just one person, and you have as much right to your beliefs as anyone.

    But that’s all they are. When you speak on history, you speak with some authority. Here, you do not. Yet you keep going, because the fact is, you’re still a religious person. Religion is not dependent on a belief in God. Comte could tell you that. You’re trying to recreate some kind of system you can take refuge in.

    I don’t think this one’s going to work, but of course, no system ever works perfectly. We are imperfect beings, seeking perfection, never attaining it. That’s a big part of how we ended up having conversations like this. 😉

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2017

      I”m not sure what you mean about my “universalizing” my response. I’m simply explaining why I came to be an agnostic.

      • godspell  July 3, 2017

        ::sigh:: Okay. Let’s drop it. Rolling my eyes a bit, and looking forward to when you go back to Jesus. Historically speaking, I mean.

    • HawksJ  July 3, 2017

      In your comments elsewhere in this line of posts, you repeatedly suggest that Dr Ehrman is somehow unqualified to comment on the issue of suffering.

      If you believe that, then you must believe that others are somehow more qualified.

      Can you explain who, and – more importantly – how, one becomes becomes more (or less, for that matter) qualified to express an opinion on a subject that is literally nothing but personal opinion and interpretation?

      TIA

  2. Alfred  July 2, 2017

    And the suffering of non-humans? It always seems to me that this is less easy for a Christian to explain because they have no future heaven to look forward too.

  3. GTGeek88  July 2, 2017

    I haven’t read your books, but what I see in these entries about your faith journey (from believing wholeheartedly to not believing much at all) is that you aren’t stepping outside our present Earthly situation and looking at this from another angle. If we are to be given eternal life, what will be our opinion of our suffering when we look back on it 60 billion years later? Might it change? Might we have a different understanding of it? Could we possibly see it as a necessary learning experience? Are these not valid questions?

  4. RVBlake  July 2, 2017

    Excellent article…Your thoughts echo mine. I’m old and have spent my entire life indifferent to religion. Late, nearly 4 years ago, I decided to join the Catholic Church, for reasons I’m not sure. It wasn’t till afterwards, newly baptized and confirmed, filling my spot in the pews, studying the Bible, listening to professional Catholic commentators, that doubts began to bubble to the surface. I stopped attending Mass, though continuing to study the Bible. A few weeks ago I began attending again, after confessing my doubts to my priest. But the doubts are continuing to surface I’ve not yet been satisfied with answers to the question of suffering. For awhile I buried my questions with the promise of afterlife, but that rings hollow. My finite sensibility cannot cope with the trade-off of Eternal Bliss against the realities of lingering, excruciating pain suffered by uncomprehending Innocents. The only solution I’ve arrived at is the absence of benevolent celestial supervision.

  5. Wilusa  July 2, 2017

    “The second response I get is more thoughtful and thought provoking and has to be taken more seriously. It is this. It’s one thing for you (meaning *me*) as an arm-chair philosopher to question whether God exists because of the suffering of others. But the reality is that those who do suffer in such horrible ways find comfort precisely in their believe that their *IS* a God. By denying his existence, you’re taking away their one and only source of solace.”

    A point you didn’t mention: It certainly isn’t true that *all* of “those who do suffer in such horrible ways find comfort precisely in their believe that their *IS* a God”!

  6. screwtape  July 2, 2017

    As a Christian I found it easy enough to rationalize the sufferings of this world. One minute a person is in pain and in the next they are beholding the glories of heaven in the afterlife forgetting all about their “momentary light affliction”. This even worked when thinking about the animals. Jesus said that God even cares for the sparrows.

    Then you think that for the vast majority of humans, according to orthodox Christian doctrine, the sufferings of this world are only a foretaste of what is in store for all eternity. How a person can continue to rationalize that kind of injustice and still believe in a God of love is something I can no longer fathom.

    • GTGeek88  July 3, 2017

      A God that can create the entire universe and life itself is going to be unfathomable to us. That means some people are going to have completely the wrong beliefs about that God. I believe the idea of an eternal Hell was made up by humans and comes from their desire for revenge and retribution. Lots of Christians don’t believe in eternal Hell and so believing in a loving God is not something they even need to rationalize.

    • godspell  July 3, 2017

      Me neither, but it’s not what all Christians believe.

      And are you saying there never was anybody in this world who deserved punishment in the next, assuming there was one?

      I don’t think anyone believes that.

      I feel some affinity, I must confess, for the idea of Purgatory. Your sins from life are purged, at which time you may move on to some blissful realm–or perhaps oblivion–or perhaps get another chance on earth. (Though what good would that do, if you can’t remember the previous ones?)

      All well and good, but we don’t know what happens after death. We seem to have imagined there would be something for a very long time before Jesus.

      I don’t fancy the notion of sitting on a cloud strumming a harp for all eternity.

      And I don’t much fancy the notion of a perfectly ordered material world where I have no freedom to make mistakes, either.

      I don’t know precisely what I want, and I question whether anybody on this thread does either, including Bart.

      • GTGeek88  July 4, 2017

        Good points, all. I was speaking about eternal Hell. Yes, there are definitely people that need some sort of punishment in the next life, at least from our vantage point. My father, a Methodist minister, also has some affinity for the idea of purgatory. But if one of my thoughts about the next life were to somehow be true, it might elminate the need for punishment. It’s just a thought, but if God had us leading multiple lives so that we get a true understanding of different experiences and perspectives, then punishment might be not needed at all. What if in one life we were the murderer and in another life the victim? In one life poor and another life rich? In one life male and another life female? Rapist/victim? Athlete/handicapped? Honest/dishonest? If we lived many, many lives like this, would there be a need for punishment for the wrongs we committed? How do you punish a person who was so many things? Isn’t the knowledge gained more important? Isn’t it more important that a person can learn what receiving the hurt feels like in comparison to the alternative and thereby know the right path? Is punishment necessary then? Especially if this was God’s plan? This is obviously not the traditional Christian view and it does probably borrow elements from the Hindu idea of reincarnation and from the idea of a multiverse. It’s really just a thought, but it has an appeal to me. And, at the very least, and I do like how this says that God can make it work any way he wants and it may work in ways that we are completely incapable of understanding in our present life.

        • godspell  July 6, 2017

          These are all interesting ideas, but without any reliable information about what happens after death, that’s all they are. Many deeply devout theists have believed there was no afterlife, or that the afterlife is the same for all, or that you simply keep coming back in different forms.

          It says something about us, the stories we tell. It doesn’t say anything about God. God we can only know from looking at the world God made. I’m more bothered by what we’ve made of that world.

          • GTGeek88  July 7, 2017

            Yes, no proof, I’ll admit. Just a thought of how it could work. I’m trying to answer why we have this life at all if we ultimately have an eternal life in Heaven as enlightened beings (I don’t think we’ll continue to be our highly flawed selves – or at least that seems to be the general line of thought). We can’t learn very much at all in just one short life, so if we learn so little in this life and then get so much later, why have this life to begin with? The analogy I’ve used elsewhere is that it’s similar to asking a child to learn one plus one before then giving her all the knowledge of mathematics. The first step is so inconsequential as to be completely pointless. Living multiple lives addresses that issue. But, yes, it’s just conjecture. And, yes, we should be concerned about what we’ve done and what we are doing to this world.

  7. doug  July 2, 2017

    Your column really hit home with me. When someone thanks God when they hit a home run, I think “Did he think it was more important for God to help him hit a homer than for God to save countless babies who are screaming in pain from birth defects, disease, etc.?”. I doubt that the person thought about that, but the idea that a home run is more important than human lives is pretty cold.

  8. Judith  July 2, 2017

    The way you think has led you to do something (blog) to help those unfortunate others. In so doing, you provide us with support and a wonderful place to be with like-minded people who can no longer believe as many of our Christian friends believe.

    Perhaps this is a good time to show our appreciation by adding to your effort with donations. Mine is on the way. And maybe it’s not too early to begin bombarding Terry Gross to have you back with your new book coming out in the fall. Scheduling is probably done in advance. Now might be the best time. tgross@whyy.org

  9. Robert  July 2, 2017

    “If I thank God for my good life, what am I saying exactly?  That he has blessed me?  Me in particular?  Me because I’m such a great guy and he has wanted to reward me for it?  As opposed to those milliions and millions of other people (billions over the centuries) who have had down-right miserable existences?  That he chose me, as opposed to those that he decided to be born with horrible birth defects, or to have starve to death, or to contract leprosy, or to die of malaria, or to lose all of their loved ones one night in a mudslide? … If I’m thanking God for the food in front of me, if I’m acknowledging that I have this food only because of him, what am I saying about those who don’t have any food?  Aren’t I implicitly saying that the reason I have food and they don’t is that God has chosen to give it to me, but not to them?  That God has withheld food when he gave it to me?  Aren’t I, in an ironic but powerful sense, blaspheming God by thanking him?  Blaming him for the world’s problems?”

    This is why we should rightfully be shamed by those who have so much less, who have suffered so much more, and yet who are so much more profoundly grateful and generous in their lives. First world problems. We do not even know how to be properly thankful for anything.

    • GTGeek88  July 3, 2017

      I try to avoid using the word “blessing” in the sense of something good and desirable that God has given to me. What happened to the innocent child that was murdered by her own parent? Why was that child not blessed? Was that child cursed, even? I am thankful for what I have, but until God tells me that it was a blessing, I’ll refrain from making that arrogant assumption.

  10. talmoore
    talmoore  July 2, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, modern research into the various politico-religious mindsets has found that conservative people, both politically and religiously conservative, tend be, on average, more self-centered than politically and religiously liberal and progressive people. (This has a lot to do with what psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error, which I believe I’ve explained in detail in comments on the blog before.) This is not intended to offend conservatives. It’s merely borne out by the research. And, in fact, it’s borne out by the anecdotal evidence as well. Just look at all the conservative politicians who exhibit such a myopic conceit, to the point of shameless hypocrisy. Take, for example, Republican congressman David Jolly who essentially said in an interview on MSNBC that he opposed Obamacare when it helped other people, but when Obamacare came to help him, he was suddenly in favor of it. Or take Senator Rick Santorum, who, when he was in the Senate, sponsored a bill to cap the amount a malpractice suit can pay out in damages, but when his wife later sued a hospital for malpractice for more than Santorum’s proposed cap, Santorum said that this case was different because it involved his wife.

    This type of stuff is all too common amongst conservatives, which isn’t to say that liberals and progressives are never self-centered or hypocritical; conservatives merely take it to the next level by making it a central tenet of there worldview: “I got my, Jack!” Indeed, this is such a big part of the conservative mentality that they often project it onto the intentions and actions of non-conservatives. Conservatives naturally assume that all non-conservatives are just as self-centered and parochial in worldview as conservatives, which is why conservatives can be so cynical about government and other public entities meant to help the greater good. They assume that since everybody is really only out for themselves and their own that such public entities are merely fronts for policies and programs that are meant to help only liberals and progressives, just as conservative policies and programs are meant to help only conservatives.

    That’s the mentality we’re dealing with in today’s politico-religious climate in America.

  11. epicurus
    epicurus  July 2, 2017

    Interesting that some of the conservative evangelicals that don’t seem to worry about suffering if it doesn’t happen to them, seem to be very worried that one might go to hell if one doesn’t accept their version of Christianity. I suppose their response would be nothing in this world compares to an eternity of torment.

  12. Raemon  July 2, 2017

    Good column, Bart.

  13. john76  July 2, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman said: “But I consciously have to fight myself not to ‘Thank God’ for it.  If I thank God for my good life, what am I saying exactly?  That he has blessed me?  Me in particular?  Me because I’m such a great guy and he has wanted to reward me for it?  As opposed to those milliions and millions of other people (billions over the centuries) who have had down-right miserable existences?  That he chose me, as opposed to those that he decided to be born with horrible birth defects, or to have starve to death, or to contract leprosy, or to die of malaria, or to lose all of their loved ones one night in a mudslide?”

    – I don’t know why people defend God. It’s the whole “God is to thank for everything, but blame for nothing.” I’m agnostic, but my thoughts on God are that if I was a prosecutor of the divine, I would prosecute God for “depraved indifference” to human life.  In United States law, depraved-heart murder, also known as depraved-indifference murder, is an action where a defendant acts with a “depraved indifference” to human life and where such act results in a death. In a depraved-heart murder, defendants commit an act even though they know their act runs an unusually high risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to someone else. If the risk of death or bodily harm is great enough, ignoring it demonstrates a “depraved indifference” to human life and the resulting death is considered to have been committed with malice aforethought. The example that comes to mind for me is God creating a world with earthquakes, which have killed millions over our history. On the average about 10,000 people die each year as a result of earthquakes. God could have easily created our world without earthquakes.

    • GTGeek88  July 3, 2017

      We presume a LOT when we deign to judge God. If we are to be given eternal life, is it not possible that billions or trillions of years of that life might not give us a different perspective on suffering?

  14. Stephen  July 2, 2017

    Not much for me to comment about your views on suffering because I agree with them. So allow me to chase a rabbit. In your response to a post in the previous thread you made the comment that you didn’t think Zoroastrianism had any effect on early Christianity. My understanding is that some scholars believe that Persian thought had an influence on such Jewish concepts as the Messiah being a cosmic figure (rather than simply a nationalist political figure), and the development of apocalyptic thought including the character of Satan. So by extension Persian thought would have affected early Christianity by its effect on the Jewish milieu out of which Christianity arose. Do you disagree with this opinion?

    Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2017

      I used to think that. But there are real problems with it. One is that apocalyptic thinking did not come into Judaism in the Persian period, but only two centuries *after* Persia controlled Judea. The chronology doesn’t seem to work. (Also, it’s veyr hard indeed to date the apocalyptic strands of Zoroastrianism itself)

      • GTGeek88  July 3, 2017

        In terms of the timeline, why is it not possible that Jewish scholars rejected that thought for a period of time since it was new to them and foreign but that over time it did influence their beliefs?

        • Bart
          Bart  July 4, 2017

          Yes, it’s possible. But since there isn’t any evidence of other Persian influence on their thought at the time (that I’m aware of), as opposed to Greek influence, it seems improbable. And again, note, we don’t actually know that Persian religion was even embracing these views at the time.

          • GTGeek88  July 4, 2017

            Ok, thanks for that answer. It seemed the timeline alone did not rule it out.

      • godspell  July 3, 2017

        Also, we find comparable religious ideas in cultures that couldn’t have interacted at all, all over the planet.

        However, it should be mentioned, people did travel back then. Jews, most definitely.

        • mjkhan  July 7, 2017

          Jews travelled most definetley!Are you saying that all inherited from judaism?Jews were the first people who deviated very much from the teachings of Moses (pbuh)even in his life time.Then through Paul played an indelible role in corrupting teachings of Jesus(Pbuh)so much that christianity today is not what Jesus taught.Jews also couldn’t have gone into jungles of Amazon or Australia or in India,but interestingly the beliefs of different people point to one Ness of God.Even the phrases are same in different books.This area of commonalities,Bart needs to be explored for the sake of peace on the planet.

      • Stephen  July 3, 2017

        A fascinating argument. Have you written on this issue? If not is there someone you know who has? I’m very interested.

        thanks!

        • Bart
          Bart  July 4, 2017

          I may be writing about it in my next book on the afterlife. Jan Bremmer says some important things about it in his book on the afterlife.

          • antoinelamond
            antoinelamond  July 5, 2017

            When that book you are working on comes out I HAVE to get it in hardback. Just saying. . .

        • mjkhan  July 7, 2017

          Read Quran and u will be surprised.U can get a copy free from Gainpeace.com

    • talmoore
      talmoore  July 3, 2017

      We should be careful about confusing a direct influence with an indirect influence. It’s hard to say that Zoroastrianism itself had a direct influence on Christianity. It’s even hard to say it had a direct influence on Judaism. A better way to think about it is that there was a revolutionary shift in the cultural, political and religious milieu of the entire Imperial Region (the region that made up first the Achaemenid and later the Alexandrian Empires) over the course of the several hundred years leading up to Jesus. And this included cultures on the periphary of this region, such as the Hindu and Buddhist subcontinent, China, various pastoral nomads of the steppes, the Romans and Cartheginians in the West, and the Celtic and Germanic peoples of pre-Roman Europe. Continent wide there was a massive paradigm shift in cultural exchange, and golden ages of literature, art and philosophy. The German philosopher Karl Jaspers called it The Axial Age (Achsenzeit) because the entire course of human civilization appears to pivot around this one period in human history from roughly Cyrus the Great to Augustus. Just think about all the influential people who lived in that time, all the influential works written in that time, all the influential ideas and knowledge that comes from that time, all the beliefs and worldviews we hold today that were developed in that time.

      — China: Confusianism, Taoism, and the other “Hundred Schools of Thought”
      — Subcontinent: the Hindu Mahabharata, Ramayana and Upanishads; Buddha and the Pali Canon (spread by Asoka); East meets West at the Indus valley between Alexander and Chandragupta Maurya (look up the Kushan Empire for a great example of the confluence of Greek, subcontinent and Chinese cultures that met at this important crossroads of civilizations); and Jainism in the south of India
      — Middle East: Zoroastrianism and the Avesta; (probably) Ezra’s redaction of the first half of the Hebrew Bible as we have it today and the development of Messianic Judaism in subsequent centuries
      — Europe: Classical Greek philosophy, from Thales of Miletus up to the Stoic and Epicurean schools

      Pretty much every major religion in the world today can find its origins in that period. Even Christianity and Islam are really just offshoots of Judaic thoughts and beliefs that originated in the Axial Age.

      So, in a sense, Zoroastrianism did influence Judaism and Christianity, but only in the sense that everyone and everything were influencing each other during that crazy period in history, when new and exciting ideas were crossing thousands of miles to find their way into philosophies as disparate as Hinduism and Plato (transmigration of souls) or Confucianism and Aristotle (The Golden Mean) and even Confucianism and Christianity (The Golden Rule). Everybody was influencing everybody. We might even call it the Great Forum period, as the “marketplace of ideas” stretched across continents.

  15. mjkhan  July 2, 2017

    Well,Bart what you say is what all those Christians say who have slipped out of their faith on the same ground.,that why so much suffering in the world?Their thinking still is affected by the christian mindset. that Jesus(god) died for our sins.But they forget if he had to ,then why were we created in the first place?If he(god) is just then where is the accountability?As a Muslim I believe there is accountability we are here on the earth to prove that we are his obedient servant (by not only acknowledging him i.e.God but by being good to his other creations,our fellow human beings,animals,earth ,nature etc)The God is just so there has to be accountability and punishment for evil deeds and rewards for good deeds.But many many people get away without suffering while doing bad deeds including not believing in one God,God says in Quran to some we judge by depriving our favors and others we test by offering them in abundance.It is like a big hall where you have hundreds of students taking exam,but every one has a different exam,because man on your left is architect,on right is pharmacist,in front is medical doctor and behind you is an engineer.There exams are different because their education(enviornment),training(i.e.upbringing) is different.We should thank God in both cases,when we have it and when we don’t.Because every action one takes has two factors,one is internal and other is external,one you can control and other you can’t.You studied and were born in a prosperous home,this is enough to thank.But if someone doesn’t have it then still he should thank because he could have been worse than this.Sufferings is because of two reasons,one could be punishment from God due to on’es evil deeds and second could be a test and in such case if you still thank God and remain patient then you passed the test.You may ask why innocent kids are born with diseases like heart and others this child would suffer but his parents suffer more for any of the above two reasons,and this is the world not heaven.Here we have come for test.What you should be asking instead is why humans inflict sufferings on other human beings?Because these people don’t believe in accountability they think enjoy as much as you can in this world at the cost of others and other humans beings are may be inferior due to their race or color or place of birth or may be you will get away with it anyway.One of the basis in Islam is to believe in unseen.Yes,ever thought,a man is born of a sperm,which you can’t see with naked eye,yet when he is born his development was following a map,that even foretold how he will die,(which geneses are weak)And this one cell changes into different cells for lungs,heart,brain,bone,hair the digestive system.And the man even follows the social genes,how he smiles may be how his uncle does,how he makes decisions,i.e.jumping on to without thing is how his mother does etc.Thats why in Islam one of the article of faith is to believe in”Qadar”i.e.fate.Besides being true it inculcates in followers a certain amount of patience and adjustment with what he is born with and to try doing good deeds to make God and his creation happy.Yes today the only unchanged divine book is Quran and every person who thinks,ponders and questions should read Quran and that is what it says.sorry for a long reply.

  16. theOrthodoxFaith.org  July 2, 2017

    ‘God became man so that man might become a god’ – Saint Athanasius

    – – –
    Dear Prof. Bart and others,

    It is actually possible to prove the Divine Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures by using Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

    The proof is unique in that it is the first in the entire history of countless such attempts to arrive at what is *not a mere philosophical argument*, but an actual proof of the Existence of God. This proof is furthermore remarkable in that it is not merely a proof in an abstract or general sense of the existence of some ‘generic deity’ which any of the false religions or heterodoxies may lay claim to, but it is specifically a proof of the Existence of the *Triune God* Worshipped by the *Holy Eastern Orthodox Church*.

    The proof revolves around a very beautiful, simple, and repeating pattern within the Scriptures involving *the number 40* which is intricately and wondrously interwoven into the Holy Scriptures, functioning as a self-authenticating mechanism (a numerical watermark if you will), and attesting to its Divine Authorship i.e. the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    The numbers 40 (and by extension 41) points to the Incarnation of the LOGOS. There are 40 (sometimes 41) calendar weeks between the Orthodox Feasts of Annunciation and the Nativity.

    I will be posting the proof here on this blog in a series of posts.

    Slava Bogu! Doxa to Theo! Glory to God!

  17. theOrthodoxFaith.org  July 2, 2017

    ‘To whom [the Apostles] also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many INFALLIBLE PROOFS, being seen of them FORTY days’ – Acts 1_3

    [An Orthodox Proof of the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures]

    Proof 1 – there are *exactly 40 instances* within the NT Scriptures where the words ‘ἐγώ εἰμι’ (I AM) is spoken by God.

    (this is the first proof in a series of many i will be posting involving the pattern of the number 40 throughout the Holy Scriptures)

    – – –

    [Proof 1] The Deity of Christ | I AM ‘ego eimi’ (x40) | 40 Instances

    (1) But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Take courage; I AM [egō eimi]; fear not. Matthew 14_27

    (2) I AM [egō eimi] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Matthew 22_32

    (3) For many shall come in My Name, saying, I AM [egō eimi] the Christ; and shall deceive many. Matthew 24_5

    (4) For they all saw Him, and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them, and saith unto them, Take courage: I AM [egō eimi]; fear not. Mark 6_50

    (5) For many shall come in My Name, saying, I AM [egō eimi] the Christ; and shall deceive many. Mark 13_6

    (6) And Jesus said, I AM [egō eimi]: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Mark 14_62

    (7) And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My Name, saying, I AM [egō eimi] the Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. Luke 21_8

    (8) Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And He said unto them, Ye say that I AM [egō eimi]. Luke 22_70

    (9) Behold My hands and My feet, that I AM [egō eimi]: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have. Luke 24_39

    (10) Jesus saith unto her, I AM [egō eimi] that speak unto thee. John 4_26

    (11) But He saith unto them, I AM [egō eimi]; fear not. John 6_20

    (12) And Jesus said unto them, I AM [egō eimi] the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and He that believeth on me shall never thirst. John 6_35

    (13) The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I AM [egō eimi] the bread which came down from heaven. John 6_41

    (14) I AM [egō eimi] that bread of life. John 6_48

    (15) I AM [egō eimi] the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6_51

    (16) Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I AM [egō eimi] the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8_12

    (17) I AM [egō eimi] one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me. John 8_18

    (18) I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM [egō eimi], ye shall die in your sins. John 8_24

    (19) Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I AM [egō eimi], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things. John 8_28

    (20) Jesus said unto them, Amen, Amen, I say unto ye, Before Abraham was, I AM [egō eimi]. John 8_58

    (21) Then said Jesus unto them again, Amen, Amen, I say unto ye, I AM [egō eimi] the door of the sheep. John 10_7

    (22) I AM [egō eimi] the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. John 10_9

    (23) I AM [egō eimi] the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. John 10_11

    (24) I AM [egō eimi] the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. John 10_14

    (25) Jesus said unto her, I AM the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: John 11_25

    (26) Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I AM [egō eimi]. John 13_19

    (27) Jesus saith unto him, I AM [egō eimi] the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. John 14_6

    (28) I AM [egō eimi] the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. John 15_1

    (29) I AM [egō eimi] the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. John 15_5

    (30) They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I AM [egō eimi]. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. John 18_5

    (31) As soon then as He had said unto them, I AM [egō eimi], they went backward, and fell to the ground. John 18_6

    (32) Jesus answered, I have told you that I AM [egō eimi]: if therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way: John 18_8

    (33) And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I AM [egō eimi] Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Acts 9_5

    (34) For I AM [egō eimi] with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. Acts 18_10

    (35) And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I AM [egō eimi] Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. Acts 22_8

    (36) And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And He said, I AM [egō eimi] Jesus whom thou persecutest. Acts 26_15

    (37) I AM [egō eimi] Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1_8

    (38) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I AM [egō eimi] the first and the last: Revelation 1_17

    (39) And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I AM [egō eimi] which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. Revelation 2_23

    (40) I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I AM [egō eimi] the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. Revelation 22_16

    – – –
    Slava Bogu! Doxa to Theo! Glory to God!

  18. Hume  July 2, 2017

    Every commentator’s explanation on the sword verse is that it is a metaphor. I’m skeptical, what do you think?

    Or

    Book of Kells, a Celtic illuminated manuscript copy of the Gospels, uses the word gaudium, meaning joy rather than gladium which means sword, rendering the verse in translation: “I came not [only] to bring peace, but joy”

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2017

      It’s hard to see how it can *not* be metaphorical, unless you think that he came out of his mother’s womb with a sword in his hand.

      • SidDhartha1953  July 12, 2017

        Like John Henry? Sword or hammer, either way it would be darned uncomfortable for the mom.

  19. Hume  July 3, 2017

    Is Amos the first book to be written?

  20. Hume  July 3, 2017

    In The Bible Unearthed pg. 18 it says that in 1207 BCE Pharaoh Merneptah mentioned a great victory over a people named Israel, and Pharaoh Shishak demanded tribute from Israel, etc..

    Why do you resist other cultures influencing the Jewish scriptures, and the syncretism that Riahard Carrier promotes? (Not to mention the Greek and Babylonian influences)

    • Bart
      Bart  July 3, 2017

      I’m not sure why you think I resist this view. It’s one of the major themes in my writing about both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. You might want to read my books where I deal with such things, for the Hebrew Bible, for example, my book: The Bible: A Historical and LIterary Introduction.

  21. hasankhan  July 3, 2017

    As Muslims we believe we are creations and there is nothing we can do to benefit God, therefore Whatever we get by default is a blessing. Whether it’s one leg, one eye or half brain. We’re not entitled to anything since it’s not a transaction. For example when we go to work, we can claim that we deserve to be paid because we provided some service. But we can’t offer anything to God that He doesn’t have. So our only response can be of gratitude for whatever we get. But with blessings come the burden to be grateful that’s why the more blessings we have the more accountable we are and the less we have the less accountable we are. God says that He doesn’t test anyone with more than what they can bear. Sometimes God takes away our blessings while knowing already that this servant will continue to be grateful and then rewards us in afterlife for being grateful in thick and thin. That’s why story of Prophet Job losing health and wealth is a lesson for us. He was grateful even in sickness so God elevated his status.

    Basically Creator may let a landslide happen and take the life of many at once because they were meant to live that much longer and among them would be four kinds of people

    1) babies and kids who are not accountable for anything since they didn’t reach the age of maturity
    2) those who never got the message of God and were lost souls just getting by their life. These will be tested again on judgement day and then rewarded or punished
    3) those who got the message and rejected it. They are the ones to be in hell
    4) believers who will have their good and bad deeds weighted and maybe forgiven and granted paradise straight away or they maybe briefly punished if their sins outweigh their good deeds

    Considering this, death can happen in any way. We also believe that every difficulty in life makes some ease in hereafter I.e takes away burden of some sin.

    That’s why most of the inhabitants of paradise are the poor, not the rich. When a person of paradise will see what they got in exchange for difficulties in life, they would wish they did not have any blessings in life.

    • godspell  July 4, 2017

      I have the greatest respect for Islam, but I must comment, looking at world events, it is very hard for me to think that Muslims all believe the same things in the same way. Nor do all Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.

      I think it would be better if you talked about what you, personally, believe. And not speak as if you perfectly represent the beliefs of 1.6 billion people, of many cultures and languages and sects. Some of which, tragically, spend their lives fighting each other. Christianity, of course, went through this phase as well, and very horrible and bloody it was. Islam is still there. How do you explain that, if you all believe the same things?

      • mjkhan  July 5, 2017

        I an a Muslim but not the same person whom you addressed.These days the war is an industry .Have you heard the recent American idiom that war is good for economy.But whose economy?surely Syria,Libya,Iraq,Afghanistan,Pakistan Palestine,Lebanon all suffered for the prosperity of the perpetrators. So when war is an industry then the strong party does use the propaganda,also called “psywar” in war terminology.But it still means same i.e.spread lies over and over again until world believes the victims as bad guys.You also heard another saying “everything is fair in war and love”Not in Islam.In Islam there are rules which protect the rights of the weak,the victims.And lastly have you heard of “False flag.Have you heard of “Co intelpro”this was started to disrupt malign and demoralize the activities of the then Communist party in USA and then it spread to be used to inject the black provocateurs into crowds of blacks with Martin Luther King in 1970’s to do wrong and violent actions and then arrest the good guys with MLK.and blame all the freedom movement as evil.Same is happening today but the victims are Muslims.But what surprises me that in this educated country people like you can’t see this and join the band wagon in maligning Muslims under which ever cover they can find.Read the book”Another French false flag?Bloody tracks from Paris to San Bernadino.Knowledge never hurts it only opens the mind.

  22. saavoss  July 3, 2017

    I love this post. You and I seem to have very similar beliefs and opinions about such things. Be well.

  23. erudite  July 3, 2017

    Would Occman’s razor conclude that simplest explanation to the question would be that God does not exist?

  24. RonaldTaska  July 3, 2017

    You are a very “thoughtful fellow” in a world and field where thought is often underappreciated to say the least. Those new to this blog should read “God’s Problem.”

  25. dougckatyBE  July 3, 2017

    This post should begin with a wink, but I don’t know how to do that in this context. wrt “But the reality is that those who do suffer in such horrible ways find comfort precisely in their believe (BELIEF) that their (THERE) *IS* a God.” 50,000 copy editors out of work, and our language is getting more and more corrupted by the auto-fill and auto-correct gremlins (or is it DEMONS?) I’m also seeing it in more and more books these days. And we’re supposed to be enthusiastic about the promised advent of Artificial Intelligence! (Yes, my attempt at levity is out of place in a discussion of such a serious subject. – ;.) Sorry.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 4, 2017

      Sorry bout that. I just don’t have time to proof read things more than once for the blog! I need a copy-editor!

      • GTGeek88  July 4, 2017

        Have you thought about starting a Google group of long-time, trusted participants on the blog and making that group solely about copy editing? They could post something to the group and with its email notification features you’d get a notification once a day about errors, misspellings, etc. Anybody not sticking to the very narrow reason for the groups existence could be disinvited. It would probably *not* need to be about “it would be better if you worded it this way” entries, but merely about obvious grammatical errors. This would make it highly efficient and you’d have a group of people to help you catch this stuff. The same type of thing might be accomplished in a different way, not necessarily through a Google group, but that would be one way to do it.

        • Bart
          Bart  July 5, 2017

          Not really. Seems like a lot of work to correct my “their” to “there” (especially since everyone can read it for themselves and see that that’s what I meant! This is just an Internet blog after all!)

          • GTGeek88  July 5, 2017

            Sacrilege! The English language is sacrosanct! 😉

            It’s only a little work at the outset. Then it’s not much. It was just a suggestion. Yes, we can generally see what you meant, even when you wrote “either” when you meant “neither” in something of yours I read recently. I just figured that since you analyze language – or, more accurately, the meaning and intent of certain languages and writings – you might want your writing to be as correct as possible and this suggestion just gave you free copy-editing.

          • Bart
            Bart  July 6, 2017

            I’m afraid that I can devote only an hour or so a day to the blog. It takes me about 20-25 minutes to write a post, then I have to proof it (just once, unfortunately). It takes 10 minutes to load it up and get it onto Facebook. And on my good days that leaves 30 minutes to approve and answer comments. I wish there were more of me!

          • GTGeek88  July 6, 2017

            Thanks for that time and the blog. I enjoy it a lot.

          • godspell  July 6, 2017

            I’ve been doing a book review blog for some years now.

            I rarely reread one of my articles without finding some error in it, sometimes well after I published it.

            But that’s what the edit button is for.

            The Navajo weavers supposedly can make perfect rugs, but they always put a mistake in there somewhere, to avoid angering their gods.

            I’m not worried about any gods being angry at me.

  26. bill1600  July 3, 2017

    You see a similar type of misguided thinking whenever there is a plane crash, because, for some people, there is no such thing as a chance event. There has to be a reason.
    And so, invariably, one of the survivors will say “I asked myself, why am I alive? And that’s when I realized that God has a plan for my life.”
    It never seems to occur to such people to ask “What about the other schmucks on the plane? What was God’s plan for them?”

  27. Erick  July 4, 2017

    I have attended quite a few black churches in the USA where there seems to be a different orientation to suffering. People will tell you that they put up with a lot of suffering (both major and minor) during the week, and they come to church on Sundays to get support. Congregations can provide both concrete as well as spiritual support. The church is used a tool for coping with stress and oppression. The persistence of suffering may drive some people away from religion, because they see it as ineffectual, causing them to disbelieve the shibboleth that God is Good. But in some communities the persistence of suffering seems to bring people into religious congregations because they experience religion as supportive. My experience is with black churches in the USA, but I understand that congregations in oppressed communities elsewhere have a similar orientation to suffering. So maybe we can say that God is a Tool.

    • godspell  July 6, 2017

      The black churches have been one of the most progressive forces in American history, though like all institutions, they have their shortcomings.

      I don’t think God is a tool. Community definitely is. But it’s also an end in itself.

      Theists tend to be better at community. But you have to look at what kind of community is being created. It varies a lot. And a lot depends on who’s leading it. Many false prophets out there. Well, Jesus warned us about that too.

  28. SidDhartha1953  July 12, 2017

    Regarding suffering and belief in God(s), I think one could just as easily speculate that suffering is the cause of belief. If we lived in a perfectly engineered world where all of our needs were provided by nature and no one ever got sick or experienced pain of any sort, it might never occur to anyone to attribute the perfection of nature to a higher power. God(s) may be a grasping at straws in an uncertain world.

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