I have been talking about different kinds of changes made in our surviving New Testament manuscripts, some of them accidental slips of the pen (that’s probably the vast majority of our textual variants) and others of them intentional alterations.  One of the points that I’ve been trying to stress is that at the end of the day it is, technically speaking, impossible to know what a scribe’s “intentions” were (or if he had any, other than the intention of copying a text).  None of the scribes is around to be interviewed, and so – as with a lot of history – there is a good bit of scholarly guess-work that has to be done.

This guess work is not simply shooting in the dark, however.   And it is dead easy for a highly trained expert to tell the difference between informed guesswork and just plain guesswork.   But at the end of the day we are always talking about historical probabilities, not historical certainties, when it comes to figuring out why a scribed decided to change a text.

And in some places it is very hard indeed to tell whether a change was made intentionally or not.

Let me give a prime example, again drawn from the Gospel of Mark.   This one occurs right off the bat.   In fact, it is in verse 1.

There is a significant variant in the opening line of Mark’s Gospel.   It may not seem significant at first, but in fact the more you study Mark’s Gospel, the more significant you realize it is.   The way Mark is said to begin in most manuscripts is this (these are the opening words):  “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”   But in several manuscripts, the final words are missing, so that Jesus is not called “the Son of God” in the opening line.

Now for casual readers of the Gospel , that

would make almost zero difference.  That’s because the question is NOT whether Mark ever portrays Jesus as the Son of God in his Gospel.   Quite apart from this verse, he very much does portray him that way.  When Jesus is baptized, the voice from heaven declares “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (1:11).   At his transfiguration, the voice comes again from heaven and says “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” (9:7).  At the crucifixion, the Roman soldier standing at the cross who has seen Jesus die declares, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (15:39).  So whatever 1:1 said originally, Mark does portray Jesus as the Son of God.  Then why does it matter if he began his Gospel by saying so?

It is hard to explain why it might matter without talking about the textual variant itself.  So holding in abeyance they question of why it might matter, let’s think about the textual problem.  Were the words “son of God” originally in 1:1 or not?

This is where life becomes very interesting for textual critics, because it is possible to explain the textual change on the grounds that it was an accident as well as on grounds that it was intentional, and it is very difficult to decide which one is right.  I ain’t gonna get into all the weeds on this one (trust me, you don’t want me to); but I can explain the two main options scholars tend to prefer, one in this post and one (the one I prefer) in the next (so that I can get the last word 🙂 ).  But the one I don’t prefer (here) is pretty cool.

Accident.   If the change was made by accident, then probably the text originally said “Son of God” and a scribe accidentally left the words out.  Scribes leave words out all the time.  And in this case, the four English words “the son of God” are actually just two words in the Greek:  UIOU THEOU.  But what makes this instance particularly interesting are a set of related phenomena.

First, these words are among those technical terms that scholars call the “nomina sacra.”   The nomina sacra were a group of words, about fifteen of them, that were commonly abbreviated by scribes copying them.  They are called nomina sacra (literally meaning “sacred names”) because most of these words were ones typically used of or related to God or Christ or the Spirit.  Thus, among the names were God, Christ, Lord, Spirit, Son, Father and so on.

The way these words were typically abbreviated was by giving only their first letter and their last letter, and drawing a line over the top.   It is often thought that this was a more reverential way to write the words.

Scribes were not entirely consistent in their renderings of the nomina sacra.  Sometimes they would forget to abbreviate them, sometimes they would abbreviate them, and in no instance did their decision affect what the text said or what it meant.  It made not the slightest bit of difference.

And so, the phrase “the Son of God” in this opening verse of Mark would not have been made up of eight letters ΥΙΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ (in English UIOU THEOU) but of four letters ΥΥ ΘΥ (with a line drawn over the top).  And there are two other issues that make this yet more interesting.   Remember, as I pointed out a few posts ago, ancient manuscripts were written in scriptio continua – that is, they did not separate the words from one another.  So the four words in English would have been found as ΥΥΘΥ in Greek.  And second, notice that the two words *before* these words are also nomina Sacra “Jesus Christ.”   Those too would have been abbreviated, so instead of ΙΗΣΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ they would have been written as ΙΗΥΧΥ.

The two lines of the Gospel then  (“The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  Just as is written in ….”  then would have appeared like this (I have underlined the words “Son of God”):


You can see how easy it would have been for a scribe simply to miss those four letters.  And that’s especially the case because the fourth of those letters is the SAME letter as the letter before the four (both are upsilons).   A scribe could very easily have written down the upsilon from the world “Christ,” returned his eye to the page, picked up the upsilon at the end of the word “God” and that that *that* was the upsilon he had just copied, and continued on from there (they both would have had a line drawn over the top, so they would have looked just the same).

If that’s what happened, the scribe would have accidentally dropped the words “Son of God.”  And that would explain why the words are found in most manuscripts, but not in others.   But is there a better explanation?  I’ll explore that question with my preferred option in the next post.

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2022-11-09T23:02:39-05:00November 17th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Early Christian Doctrine, New Testament Manuscripts|

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  1. giselebendor November 17, 2022 at 9:12 am

    So interesting. Look forward!

    I didn’t understand though

    “…instead of ΙΗΣΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ they would have been written as ΙΗΥΧΥ”

    So in IHYXY , the first 2 letters of ΙΗΣΟΥ , not just the first one ( I) were used?

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:28 pm

      The typical abbreviation would have been IYXY; there were various ways of abbreviating the nomina sacra, but normally the genitive was given simply with the concluding upsilon.

  2. SC November 17, 2022 at 11:16 am


    1. Why is it the Jerusalem authorities didn’t seem to make much of an effort (if any) to round up James, etc after John the Baptizer and Jesus ran afoul of the law and were executed?

    2. Doesn’t James seem to have been able to openly continue the movement in Jerusalem in the years following both of these men’s deaths?

    TY for your time,

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:34 pm

      James wasn’t a follower of either John or Jesus, so there would have been no reason to round him up. Or do you mean much later? They typicalyl went after people who were seen to be a threat to the public well being, and the early Christian community was probably not even known to the leaders in Jerusalem (even though, of course, in the New Testament the community is one of their MAJOR concerns. I don’t think that can be historical. In any event, John got in trouble with the secular authorities, and Jesus was a threat because he was calling himelf the future king. An apocalyptic movement such as early Xty would not have been seen as a political threat unless they were encouraging riots or revolution.

  3. kencreten November 17, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    Sorry to all for the off subject question, but Dr. Erhman, on a recent video in your Misquoting Jesus series with Megan Lewis (the video title: Faking It: Is the Bible Full of Forgeries?), you mentioned translating a wonderful quote by Epictetus at 42:54 in the video starting with, “when someone takes a stand against something that is simply true….” I shared this quote with a friend, and he was interested to know which Greek source this translation came from. Of course, there are many quotes online with no source. He wanted to share the quote with, not only who translated it, but what text is the source.

    Thank you very much.

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:35 pm

      It was my own idiomatic translation of the Greek; I was using the Loeb edition.

  4. SC November 18, 2022 at 7:30 am


    I heard a talk James Tabor did called When Prophecy Fails (avail on his youtube channel) and he goes into great detail about the 70 weeks prophecy and its apparent influence on the various 1’rst C Jewish apocalyptic groups and leaders incl The Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran, John the Baptizer, Jesus, Paul etc

    He believes these movements were highly influenced by this 70 weeks prophecy…

    What is your view on this topic and can you share any ideas/comments you would have –

    Do you think this 70 weeks prophecy was widely circulating among apocalyptic 1rst C Jews?


    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:37 pm

      I don’t know of a lot of evidence that it was widely known, but I haven’t seen/heard James’s argument about it.

  5. rtolmach November 18, 2022 at 8:36 am

    Hi Dr. Ehrman, thank you for your work. I am a college student who would like to ask a question. I know that people wrote the Bible, and that the New Testament was written at least a generation after Jesus. That’s why I was wondering these things:

    Could you please share when the wilderness temptation story about Jesus and Satan was written? Who wrote it? Why did they write it? Did the writer(s) think it happened, or was it a story intended to persuade people to be Christian and to maintain the church’s power through fear? As another way of phrasing it, was the story based on oral tradition, or did the church write it to encourage people to follow them (like did the writer think that it really happened or wanted to use it to persuade)? How do we know? If there are too many questions, I am most curious about the time period it originated from.

    Thank you for your time! I hope you have a good weekend.

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:40 pm

      The core of the story (without the three temptations themselves being narrated) is already in Mark 1. THe fuller three-temptation story is found in both Matthew 4 and Luke 4, with soem noticable differences. Since they both have it, word for word in places, most scholars think it came from the Q course, a hypothetical document that it appears both matthew and Luke used. Since it thereofre predated both of them, it must have been floating around in the 70s or 60s; many scholars date it to a period beore Mark (whidh is usually dated to 70 CE or so), to say the 50s, but I don’t think there is much evidence of that. The story is based on oral traditions, and is actually very complicated in its meaning and significance. On the most basic level, though, it means that Jesus refused to sin even when it would be do his advantage, and his followers should be as well.

      • sLiu November 29, 2022 at 2:07 pm

        if Jesus is divinity why would he need to stoop to Lucifer’s level?

        • BDEhrman November 30, 2022 at 8:47 pm

          I”m not sure what you’re asking. Are you asking why they temptations would have been tempting?

  6. notforcing November 18, 2022 at 10:02 am

    Isn’t it also plausible that the author of Mark wrote multiple drafts over time that said different things? Much like the author of Ulysses in more modern times? Mistakes can be corrected, but it’s tougher when the original author uses different words in different manuscripts.

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:41 pm

      It’s certainly possible — but I’m not aware of much evidence for it. There *does* seem to be evidence for both Luke and John to have been published in at least two editions; but if Mark was there doesn’t seem to be much of a trace of it.

  7. Seeker1952 November 18, 2022 at 11:44 am

    I’m rereading Triumph of Christianity. I understand how reports of miracles-without any actual miracles-could persuade people to convert to Christianity.

    But I’ve been puzzling over why Christian reports would be more persuasive than pagan reports of miracles—so that Christianity grew at the expense of paganism.

    I think the explanation is that the Christian reports interacted with other major factors, eg, evangelization, exclusivity, and afterlife beliefs. Evangelization made Christian reports more widespread and forceful than pagan reports. Exclusivity ensured that when Christian reports were persuasive the number of pagans was reduced—whereas the persuasiveness of pagan reports did not reduce the number of Christians. Belief in the afterlife, especially hell, made Christian reports more persuasive because there was so much at risk in not being persuaded.

    In summary, there may have been relatively equal numbers of miracles “initially” reported for Christians and pagans, but the effects of the Christian reports were greater because of these other factors.

    Is that more or less (a big part of) your argument?

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:45 pm

      Ah, one of my main points in the book is precisely that the Christian miracles did *not* have to be more persuasive. IN fact, they could have been much *less* persuasive than pagan versions, and Xty would have still triumphed. And yes, as you indicate, that’s because among all the religions it alone was exclusivistic. Check out what I say about exclusivism in the book. If a miracle worker of Apollo convinced 98 out of 100 pagans (who didn’t worship Apollo yet) that Apollo should be worshiped, no one would convert to paganism and no one would be lsot to Xty. If a Xn miracle worker convince *2* of htese 100, then paganism would lose 2 people and gain no one, Xty would gain 2 and lose no one. Do that for 300 years and Xty takes over the empire. I give the numbers in the appendix.

  8. Maxbreuker November 18, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    Apart from saying that Jesus’ followers weren’t educated/Greek enough to produce the gospels, are there other good reasons for saying that the gospels cannot have been written by eyewitnesses?

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:48 pm

      Well, another big point (not the only one) is that even if they were literate, they would necessarily have been literate in Aramaic, the native language of Israel. The Gospels were not written in Aramaic but in high level Greek. We have the writings of only *one* Jew from Israel in the entire first century who wrote in Greek, Josephus, and he was the very upper, upper echelon of literary elites who took years to be able to learn the language. Whoever these authors were, they were not among the literary elite. (ANd there are other things: not knowing the geography of Israel in places, the laws of Judaism, teh cultural contexts, etc.)

  9. balivi November 18, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    Perhaps not everyone knows, which is why I say that Mark’s gospel seems to have originally ended with verse 8 of chapter 16. It seems that the story ends when the people who discovered the empty tomb were so overcome with fear and dreaminess that they were afraid to tell anyone about what they had experienced. And that seems to be where the gospel ends. But this is not the case:-) The original and attentive readers must have realised that this ending could not be the end of the gospel, that is, the end of the good news. So the gospel has only just begun. In fact, the man dressed in white standing in the empty tomb sends the reader, along with the characters, to the beginning of the story, that is, to Galilee. The chiastic structure, which can be understood as an oval wheel, gives the story a new momentum and the gospel itself begins:-) the beginning of the gospel of Christ:-) Which can be read for as long and for as long and for as long and for as long as it takes the reader to come to faith in the Son of God.

  10. balivi November 18, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    This is how the gospel begins:

    “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.

    But we know that the Son of God is not in the correct translation, so it reads:

    “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    However, Paul did not use the word Jesus, so neither does Mark, so it reads:

    “The beginning of the gospel of Christ.”

    That’s right.

    • BDEhrman November 23, 2022 at 12:52 pm

      Paul does use the name Jesus, on numerous occasoins. So does Mark.

      • balivi November 23, 2022 at 1:46 pm

        Yes, but it cannot be that the name Jesus is inserted.

        • BDEhrman November 26, 2022 at 4:45 pm

          Any historical claim, of course, requires historical evidence — and so whoever thinks it was inserted needs to cite teh evidence.

          • balivi November 27, 2022 at 1:37 am

            Paul saw in Christ (who cannot be identified with Jesus) the divine solution to the curse of the law, the power of the law, because sin, according to Paul, has no power without the law. According to Paul, sin causes death, but sin receives its power from the law. But as a Pharisee he could not deny the law because it was holy and inviolable. He therefore saw in Scripture the realization of the concept that “the end of the law is Christ” (Rom 10:4), that is, a spiritual, renewed state of being in Christ offered by God through acceptance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, where the curse of the law no longer operates, where carnality no longer dominates human thought and action. This is possible because man is no longer identical with himself, who appears in the mirror as no other than Christ. Thus it becomes clear why Paul saw the Jesuit way of justification before God as “from faith to faith” and not from faith and works at the same time.

          • balivi November 28, 2022 at 4:00 am

            Where did Paul get the figure of the Son? Obviously, it was not the historical person of Jesus or his alleged vision on the road to Damascus (which he does not mention in his letters) that gave him the idea. I believe that Paul must indeed have undergone some kind of change of consciousness, which he describes as a revelation of the Son (Gal 1:16), and which he saw as being justified by some kind of scripture, since Paul justified almost all, if not all, of his theological ideas from scripture.
            In any case, there are scholars who believe that the Ascension of Isaiah/Isaiah (Ascensio Isaiae), an Old Testament apocryphal apocalypse, is Paul’s written source.
            The second part of the AI describes Isaiah’s journey through the seven heavens, and how he received revelation from God about the birth, death, and second coming of the Son.

          • BDEhrman November 30, 2022 at 7:57 pm

            I’m not sure what you’re asking? Being a son of God was a common theme in Judaism. As to Ascension of Isaiah, some of its defining motifs (ascent through the heavens with passwords) are not attested until the mid second century, and that’s almost certainly when it was written.

          • balivi November 28, 2022 at 4:00 am

            The events of the apocalypse may also form the basis of the Philippian hymn. In both writings, the “forma-μορφῇ-morphi” plays a major role. In the hymn, the preexistent being (the son) exchanges the “form” of God (Phil 2:6) for the “form” of the servant (Phil 2:7). In Isaiah’s vision, he takes the form of the inhabitants of the lower five heavens (Isaiah 10:20: “… in the fifth heaven he formed the form of the angels, and they did not praise him, because his form (μορφῇ-morfi) was like theirs.”) So a change of form is a kind of metamorphosis. From one form to another form. From the form of God into the form of men is the heavenly form, who, until the change of form, is transformed from a state of likeness into “human form” and then incarnated by God in death.

          • balivi November 29, 2022 at 1:18 am

            How did the Son die?
            When Paul says that “Christ became a curse” because “everyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed,” Paul is referring to Deuteronomy 21:22-23. A closer look reveals what hanging on a tree meant in Judaism.
            It is very important to know that according to the Torah, hanging or nailing to a tree was not a permitted method of execution. There were four possible methods of execution: strangulation, burning, the sword and stoning. Of these, burning was the most cruel. The point is that only after execution was he hanged from a tree. So hanging on a tree was already a dead body, a cursed corpse, which was a sign of the curse. This is what Paul is referring to when he says that the Christ/anointed became a curse. So on the cross it was not the death of the Son that happened, or did happen, since God had already done that, given the Son to die, but the curse, that Christ became cursed.

          • balivi November 29, 2022 at 1:22 am

            And then the evidence, Prof!
            Let’s look at the second chapter of Philippians.

            “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ (Jesus), who in the form of God did not regard himself as a spoiled prey, equal with God, but took upon himself the form of a slave, taking upon himself the likeness of men, emptying himself, and when he was in outward appearance like a man, he humbled himself, being humbled even to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).

            This text seems to be about Christ Jesus. Now the word Messiah is used instead of Christ/anointed. This word best reflects the word Christ. The Messiah is therefore Jesus. So the Messiah Jesus was the one who was “obedient unto death”. And what was the Messiah Jesus transformed into? Explain this to me!

            This is not what happens. It is a perfect description of the Son who was formally like a man, but only resembled one because he was not “flesh and blood”. Who will die and become Christ.

          • BDEhrman November 30, 2022 at 8:16 pm

            I believe Christ and Messiah are the same thing; one is Greek adn the other is Hebrew.

          • balivi December 1, 2022 at 1:31 am

            What then does the name messiah or christ mean? Does it have any meaning? The difference is not only in the fact that one is Greek and the other Hebrew, but also in the meaning. What does it mean?

          • BDEhrman December 3, 2022 at 6:19 pm

            Messiah (Mashiach) in Hebrew means “one who is anointed” (by God); the way you translate that term in Greek is with the word Christ (Christos). Means the same thing in both languages.

          • balivi December 1, 2022 at 1:56 am

            Both, so both means anointed, right? Paul calls it anointed for a reason. Just anointed. Not Jesus Christ, or Christ Jesus. Or Messiah Jesus.
            The word simply means anointed. When the Son dies, he will be anointed. He becomes Christ. He will be Messiah.
            But this Son is not Jesus.

          • BDEhrman December 3, 2022 at 6:21 pm

            Paul never says that Jesus became the Christ when he died. I’m not sure where you’re getting this from? Paul calls Jesus “Jesus,” and “Jesus Christ,” and “Christ Jesus,” and, lots of other things, but they are all in reference to the same person.

          • balivi December 4, 2022 at 1:43 am

            Paul never says that Jesus became Christ when he died. He does not say that! Paul says that the Son became Christ. But he says that! I say that, no! Listen!
            1 Cor 11:23-24 The key concept for us is the statement that “the Lord Jesus was betrayed that night,” and from here I’ll turn the floor over to Professor Barth Ehrman, who in his English book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, explains Paul’s words as follows:
            “This reference is certainly to Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus… The case is not so clear-cut. The problem is with the Greek word Paul uses to describe Jesus being ‘betrayed’… This word occurs frequently in the New Testament, Paul alone uses it more than fifteen times in his epistles, and once more in the chapter just quoted. When Paul says that the information he has imparted is the same information he had previously ‘imparted’ to the Corinthians, he is using the same word as when he speaks of Jesus’ ‘betrayal’. The Greek word is “paradidomi”, and literally means “to give or transfer someone or something to someone else”.

          • BDEhrman December 5, 2022 at 12:43 pm

            Where does Paul say the Son of God BECAME Christ?

          • balivi December 4, 2022 at 1:52 am

            Does Paul mean that Judas Iscariot handed Jesus over to the authorities to be condemned? Probably not, since in all other cases where Paul uses the word paradidom in reference to Jesus, he is referring to the act of God who “delivered” Jesus into the hands of death for the salvation of men”.
            The problem is that there is another, related word which means “betrayed”. This is the word prodidom. If Paul had wanted to refer to the betrayal of Judas, he would certainly have used this word. Instead, he uses the word paradidomi, according to Ehrman’s exegesis.
            As mentioned above, the “Lamb”, that is, the Son, is given by God Himself in death. God kills him. This is the Passover. But why is this necessary? Why must God give the Son in death, why did God not entrust Him to man? Because the Son in this narrative is not a real (flesh and blood) man. How can the blood of the Son be accepted if man does not have it?

          • balivi December 6, 2022 at 1:18 am

            “For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled to him, we are saved through his life.” Romans 5:10

            “And if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” Romans 6:8

            “For the righteousness of God is revealed in him by faith through faith. “Romans 1:17

          • balivi December 6, 2022 at 1:22 am

            ThreeNames Modell (TNM) is very important.

          • balivi December 7, 2022 at 12:34 am

            Let me ask you back. Where does Paul say that the Son of God became Jesus?

          • BDEhrman December 7, 2022 at 7:42 pm

            He doesn’t. (I don’t believe I’ve ever said he did?) He does speak of an incarnation, though, of Christ Jesus in Philippians 2:6-10. (He doesn’t use the term “Son of God” in taht passage)

          • balivi December 8, 2022 at 12:48 am

            Ascension of Isaiah= Philippians 2:6-10
            The second part of the AI describes Isaiah’s journey through the 7 heavens, and how he received revelation from God about the birth, death, and second coming of the Son. The events of the apocalypse may also form the basis of the Philippian hymn. In both writings, the “forma-μορφῇ-morphi” plays a major role. In the hymn, the preexistent being (the son) exchanges the “form” of God (Phil 2:6) for the “form” of the servant (Phil 2:7). In Isaiah’s vision, he takes the form of the inhabitants of the lower five heavens (Isaiah 10:20: “… in the fifth heaven he formed the form of the angels, and they did not praise him, because his form (μορφῇ-morfi) was like theirs.”) So a change of form is a kind of metamorphosis. From one form to another form. From the form of God into the form of men is the heavenly form, who, until the change of form, is transformed from a state of likeness into “human form” and then incarnated by God in death.
            Incarnation of Son.

          • BDEhrman December 9, 2022 at 2:38 pm

            I think you’d need some compelling reason to argue that it was composed before Philippians. I can’t think of any myself.

          • balivi December 9, 2022 at 3:33 pm

            Ok Bart!

            Thank you!

      • balivi November 24, 2022 at 2:16 am

        “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for God has power over the salvation of every believer, Jew first and Greek second.
        For the righteousness of God is revealed in him from faith to faith; as it is written, The just man shall live by faith.” Rom1:16-17

        Sonship is the heart of the Pauline gospel. This is where Paul wants to take his audience. But to get to this “faith” is not possible except by “faith”. In Paul’s gospel, “the justification of God (sonship) is revealed from faith to faith”. Not merely “by faith”, but “from faith to faith”. There is not, there is not one without the other. “By faith” (sonship), can only and only be attained “by faith”. From Christ the Anointed. Until you have the Christ/anointed faith, you cannot have the sonship faith.

      • balivi November 24, 2022 at 2:45 am

        “For now by a mirror we see dimly…” (1 Corinthians 13:12) “Look only at the things that are before your eyes. If anyone has believed himself to be the Anointed One (Christ’s), let him take account of himself, that as he is the Anointed One (Christ’s), so are we also.” (Chia; 2 Cor 10:7)

        According to Paul, the Christ/anointed is everywhere visible. If you believe this, then you only have to believe that you are a Son who is not yet visible.:-))))

        Thus it becomes clear why Paul saw the way justification before God as “from faith to faith” and not from faith and works at the same time. “Even to the point of death ourselves, so that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead…” (1 Cor 1:9)

        • BDEhrman November 26, 2022 at 4:58 pm

          If you look up some commentaries on Romans you’ll see that “from faith to faith” is a debated phrase — it’s hard to know what it means. (Though lots of people have opinions. Does it mean, for example, “It’s faith all the way — from beginning to end”? Or that “it starts in faith and it leads to more faith”? Or … well, lots of options. Part of teh problem is knowing what to make of the prepositions Paul uses “from” and “to”)

      • balivi November 25, 2022 at 3:03 am

        “…to count ourselves among those, or to associate ourselves with those, who offer themselves. And these, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, have no discretion.” (2 Cor:10:12)

        Where is the word Jesus here? Or anywhere before it? Nowhere!

        • BDEhrman November 26, 2022 at 5:23 pm

          I’m not sure I undrestand. Why are you citing a portion of one verse in which the name Jesus does not occur in order to argue that Paul never uses the name Jesus? Do you have a concordance of the NT? Just look up JEsus and see how often Paul uses it.disabledupes{7c1e59d6505721f7b73b5cf1f3e7360d}disabledupes

          • balivi November 27, 2022 at 1:29 am

            Paul was not interested in the empty grave, he never talks about it. For Paul, death was not when someone was put in a grave, but when he became like the Son. He wanted to be likened, he wanted to participate in the death of the Son (not the death of the cross). He wanted to be a slave of Christ, because that was how he could hope to participate in the resurrection of the dead:-) Paul thought of the old man crucified with Christ (not the Son) as dead:-) literally, not figuratively!

      • balivi November 25, 2022 at 3:17 am

        2 Corinthians 10 retains the original spelling and does not include the word Jesus. When Paul said anointed or Christ, his disciples did not mean Jesus, but what Paul meant by anointed.

      • balivi November 26, 2022 at 12:33 am

        The ThreeNames Modell (TNM).

        The Son: (Romans 8:3; Romans 8:32; Philippians 2:6-7; Galatians 1:16; Corinthians 11:23). By metamorphosis, after a change of form, he is made “in the likeness of men in the likeness of a body of sinful flesh”. The Son is a spiritual entity who is not part of “flesh and blood” and whom God gives over to death. His death is tied to Passover, and therefore His death cannot be considered an atoning sacrifice.
        The Christ (Anointed): the Son given by God to die. In fact, the Son incarnate in the giving up to death. The ekklesia, the community of believers, constitutes the “body of Christ”. His blood (for in the giving up to death, in the incarnation, He became partaker of flesh and blood) is the atoning sacrifice as a redemption for sins committed under the “previous covenant” (Romans 3:25).
        Lord: The name of the Anointed Son, raised from the dead, restored, and glorified by God, thereby made Lord.

      • balivi November 26, 2022 at 12:47 am

        “That I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made like unto His death” (Phil 3:10).

        ‘He’ here is the risen Lord according to Paul. The Son risen from the dead, who, being in a body like sinful flesh, was given up to death by God for the salvation of men. When was he given up to die for the salvation of men? On a night before his execution, not on the cross. Now then, how does Paul want to be likened to the death of the Son? By wanting to end it on the cross? Obviously not, but in the same way that the Son was given up to death by God.

  11. allesser37 November 18, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    Dr. Ehrman,
    I recently watched a “documentary” on Netflix called “Creating Christ.” The authors, James S. Valliant and Warren Fahy, proposed a thesis that the Flavium Romans created Christ and Christianity. I didn’t find it very convincing and have never heard such an idea before. Could you comment on this video and their book? Thank you very much. Al Lesser

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 5:49 pm

      Yeah, it’s completely bogus. Not a scholar on the planet gives a passing thought to it.

  12. balivi November 19, 2022 at 6:08 am

    In Mark’s Gospel, it is precisely because of the “it seemed” that there is a constant polemic about who the protagonist really is: the Son of God or the Anointed/Christ. Faith must be translated into faith. The Son, as the Anointed One (Christ), naturally has a flesh and blood body. For the Son died and became the Anointed/Christ. To recognize this, to come to this faith, that the One who is seen is the Anointed/Christ, is little in the Pauline system. From the belief (that the one they see is the Anointed/Christ, that is also a belief), one had to come to the belief that he is the Son of God (which is not visible).

  13. RichardFellows November 19, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    Have there been any studies on whether scribal slips are more common at the end of books than at the beginning? I have not detected a trend.

    Few mss lack “son of God”. Comfort thinks Sinaiticus’s copyist omitted the words by accident and that this omission was corrected before the manuscript left the scriptorium.

    Yes, an orthodox member of a church may have added “son of God” to refute the gnostic tendencies in his community. But couldn’t someone do a jujutsu move on you, turning the force of your argument against you, and suggest that a church member with gnostic tendencies erased “son of God”? I’m just wondering: I haven’t read Peter Head’s PhD thesis on this variant unit, or the responses to it.

    • BDEhrman November 22, 2022 at 6:31 pm

      It would be an intersting study, and it seems surely it would have been done. I don’t recall hearing of one though. What does seem clear is that there aren’t many (are there any?) in teh very opening words taht are highly signfiicant.
      And yes, Comfort is stating one of the common views from the past centuries. But there is no evidence at all that the accident was corrected in the scriptorium. What scriptorium is he thinking of, btw? We don’t have any evidence of any scriptoria at all in the earliest centuries. (see the study of Kim Haines Eitzen; The Guardians of Letters)

  14. Kirktrumb59 November 22, 2022 at 12:52 pm


  15. JoeWallack November 24, 2022 at 12:20 pm

    There is a strong inverse relationship between The Difficult Reading Principle (DRP) and External support. As “son of God” is one of the most important confessional statements of Christianity, it is more likely that the change was intentional and “son of God” is addition. Head’s article:


    demonstrates that the External evidence actually favors addition as well. The most difficult readings are typically a potentially negative statement regarding Jesus. The level of support here for addition supports that the omission was just difficult and not very difficult.

    Regarding the apologetic attempt at an omission defense, the copying argument looks anachronistic:


    There’s a big difference between an English speaking member of your blog trying to copy Greek capital letters with no punctuation and a trained Greek scribe 2,000 years ago doing the copying:

    1) The large CAPITAL letters make it easy to recognize words.

    2) Use of nomina Sacre creates attention to specific words, not obscurity.

    3) The nomina Sacre have lines above giving them even more attention.

    4) “Jesus Christ” and “son of God” would normally have separate lines above each.

    5) Instances of nomina Sacre being accidentally omitted are rare.

    More likely is that Nomina Sacre explains addition. Once you start replacing words with what you think they mean…

    • BDEhrman November 26, 2022 at 5:13 pm

      P. Head is a terrific scholar. It’s difficult to mount the case on external evidence though. It’s suggestive, but not probative.

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