I am not going to belabor the point much longer, that Jesus is best understood as a Jewish apocalypticist who anticipated that God was soon to enter into history to destroy the forces of evil and bring in his good kingdom; he was not a lestes, one who supported a military uprising against the Roman forces.  Rather than subscribing to the idea of military violence, Jesus believed that the Son of Man was coming in judgment and that he would destroy all that was aligned against God.   I’ll be giving more evidence for why Jesus was not a lestes later.  For now, it is enough to stress that an alternative understanding accounts much better for the evidence that survives. I have already given fairly compelling reasons for thinking that Jesus was an apocalypticist.  In this post I’ll give another kind of argument, which to me has always seemed like a slam dunk. In a nutshell, the argument is that we know beyond any reasonable doubt what happened at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and we know what happened in its aftermath.  The continuity between the two is Jesus’ public ministry itself.  This ministry began on a decidedly apocalyptic note; its aftermath continued apocalyptically.  Since Jesus is the link between the two, his message and mission, his words and deeds, must also have been apocalyptic.  That is to say, the beginning and end are the keys to the middle. I lay out the argument in the following terms in my book on Jesus, modified a bit for this post.


2020-04-03T17:36:52-04:00December 31st, 2013|Historical Jesus|

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  1. Hon Wai Lai December 31, 2013 at 12:36 am

    If Jesus had told Pilate or the Jewish authorities passed on the information to Pilate, that Jesus believed the Son of Man was coming in judgment and that he would destroy all that was aligned against God (including the Romans), do you think it would be suffice for the death penalty?

    • BDEhrman January 1, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Probably not. My guess is they would have flogged him and let him go.

      • Hon Wai Lai January 1, 2014 at 1:18 am

        because they would just think Jesus is a religious nutter, but otherwise politically harmless?

  2. Hon Wai Lai December 31, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Do any major scholars dispute that Paul was an apocalypticist?

    • BDEhrman January 1, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Absolutely! The entire Jesus seminar voted against this view (headed by Dom Crossan and Marcus Borg).

      • Hon Wai Lai January 1, 2014 at 1:15 am

        What are the alternatives to an apocalyptic reading of Paul’s letters?
        Does the Jesus Seminar also reject the claim that the Baptist was an apocalypticist?

        • BDEhrman January 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm

          My sense is that most scholars see Paul as an apocalypticist. Your second question is especially interesting. I may want to post on it separately (short answwer: no).

  3. TracyCramer December 31, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Dear Bart,
    Even with a dictionary, I still can’t get the difference between Jesus being called an apocalyptic prophet, and an eschatological prophet. I know you always use the former designation, but could you explain the difference for the thicker headed such as myself?

    • BDEhrman January 1, 2014 at 1:11 am

      Not such a thick-headed question. The problem is that even scholars confuse the issue. (I could name names, but won’t….). The term “eschatology” refers to ones views about the “end of time.” For some people that will be when you die and go to heaven; for others it is when we blow ourselves off of this planet; for others it is when the sun explodes; etc. Any view of the end of time (the human races, the world’s, or your own) is an eschatology. Apocalpyticism involves one *kind* of eschatology — usually one in which God intervenes in the course of human history to put an end to this world of pain and misery and to usher in a utopian kingdom. So apocalyptic eschatology is simply one kind of eschatology. Jesus could just as easily been a non-apocalpytic eschatologist. But, well, he wasn’t.

      • TracyCramer January 1, 2014 at 8:39 am

        That is very clear to me. I appreciate your taking the time to explain the difference.

        And on that topic, is it possible for scholars to say from their reading of `every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire` what John’s and Jesus’s audiences would have understood that to mean for them personally? Would their listeners have understood that to mean that God himself, or his judge, was soon going to physically exterminate those who had not sincerely repented and loved God and their neighbors with all their heart (and actually helped the poor, etc.), or is that too crude a reading?

        And Happy New Year!

        • BDEhrman January 4, 2014 at 12:19 am

          I think it’s usually thought that they understood that destruction would come to all who did not behave in ways God wanted.

      • judaswasjames January 2, 2014 at 5:45 am

        Yes, he was. “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” -Matt. 16:28. There’s a non-end-of-the-world apocalyptic eschatology. “Apocalyptic” means vision, doesn’t it — not kablooey?

        • BDEhrman January 3, 2014 at 11:46 pm

          It literally means “revelation” — a “revealing” or an “unveiling” of the heavenly secrets that make sense of our earthly reality.

  4. judaswasjames December 31, 2013 at 7:55 am


    Well, you are not right that these ideas are from our “earliest Christian author, Paul”. The earliest Christian writings were from QUMRAN, and were authored by JAMES, as the Righteous Teacher, where he fled after Paul tried to KILL him, and eventually did (Clement, Recognitions, ch. 70, and Acts 7, James as ‘Stephen’):


    The letters of Paul were polemic against the Habakkuk Pesher, and similar writings known to Paul, as shown in the brilliant work of Dr. Robert Eisenman. When this is finally apprehended by the scholars careful and observant enough to recognize it, we will at last be on the threshold of comprehending just what was going on in first century Palestine. The true teacher of “Christianity” wasn’t Jesus or Paul, but JAMES. The Pauline church wanted him GONE. So, they commissioned the gospels. James? GONE. Jesus? INVENTED: picking up Paul’s heavenly redeemer and making him a pagan-Hellenist sacrificial hero. There isn’t a SHRED of verifiable first-hand historically verifiable proof that the man ever even lived (‘Judas’, either). James is attested multiple times, and by multiple authors, as ‘successor’, but not in the canon, except negatively, in disguise as ‘Judas’ — which is easily proven even without outside help, from Luke.

    That we are talking about this is testament to how successful these re-writers of history were. Are you going to stand by and let it continue (for *another* 2,000 years?), or are you going to look more seriously at the ruse that is right before your eyes? “Surely I am coming SOON.” — Rev. 22:20. Oh, …. really?

  5. donmax December 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Yes, of course, Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher. Like John before him and Paul after him, he thought the world would end…SOON. But that’s not the whole story, is it? If that were all there was to him, to his mission and his message et al, you wouldn’t have written all those books, and billions of people would not have become so enamored of him. His end-of-times theology, though part and parcel of his culture, his mindset and his peripatetic life, was not the most important aspect of who and what he was. Otherwise, Christianity would not have survived and flourished after it became apparent that no one, not even Jesus himself, could predict when.


  6. fishician December 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    One of the criticisms I hear of Jesus’ teachings was that he did not address serious moral issues like slavery. Well, he did – the end of the age was coming soon and all those injustices were going to be set straight. So there was no need to worry about things like slavery. Or marriage and family (according to Paul also, 1 Cor. 7). This makes sense if Jesus and Paul were apocalypticists. In fact, I find all of Jesus’ teachings make more sense when you put them in the context of an impending apocalypse where God was going to remove evil and set things straight. Of course, the end didn’t come, and evils like slavery and gender discrimination continued for another 2000 years, often supported by the use of the Bible!

  7. RonaldTaska December 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Very interesting and helpful. Keep going.

  8. bobnaumann December 31, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I could not agree more and would find it hard to argue otherwise. I have read a number of reviews of Aslan’s book (by no means all of them) and find it strange than none of the reviewers I have read so far raised issue that the Gospels portray Jesus to be far more an apocalyptist than a zealot.

  9. David Chumney December 31, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    You write, “John appears to have been one of the ‘prophets’ who arose during the first century of the Common Era in Palestine, an apocalyptic preacher of the coming end, in some ways comparable to the Essenes who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish thinkers of the day.”

    On what basis outside the New Testament gospels can one say that John himself was “an apocalyptic preacher”? Does Josephus say that anywhere? He doesn’t seem to be saying that in Ant. 18.5.2. Are there other non-Christian sources that describe John’s message?

    It seems to me that what one finds in the N.T. references to John is material that has already been strongly influenced by what Crossan calls “prophecy historicized.” That is, what Mark and Q say about John and his relationship to Jesus has already been heavily developed in light of what Christians viewed as O.T. scripture (e.g., the idea of John as Elijah).

    So, on what basis can one argue that the gospel portrayal of John’s message as “apocalyptic” is historically accurate? Do scholars accept that portrayal as “probable” simply because there’s no evidence to contradict it?

    • BDEhrman January 4, 2014 at 12:18 am

      No Josephus doesn’t say this. I’m not a scholar of Josephus, but I understand from those who are that he tried to downplay apocalyptic movements among Jews whenever possible. I think almost everyone who studies the matter (at least everyone I happen to know or have read) thinks John was an apocaypticist because that’s how he’s portrayed in both Mark and Q, and the portrayal of Josephus makes sense in light of it. For a fuller treatment, I’d suggest reading the discussion in Sanders, Jesus and Judaism. Crossan, by the way, agrees that John was apocalyptic.

    • prestonp October 30, 2014 at 4:18 am

      What are “non-Christian sources”?

      • BDEhrman October 30, 2014 at 2:22 pm

        They are sources written by people who are not Christian.

        • prestonp October 30, 2014 at 3:27 pm

          They are sources written by people who are not Christian.

          Does that imply they don’t have an agenda? Do “Christian sources” necessarily infer a religious bias?

          • BDEhrman October 31, 2014 at 8:42 pm

            Yes, Christian sources are always biased. And so are non-Christian sources. There’s no such thing as an unbiased source. But they may not be particularly biased with respect to a *particular issue*.

  10. Michael Burgess December 31, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    The late, great Christopher Hitchens agrees with you (albeit in the crudest of terms):

    1. That Jesus was an apocalypticist.

    2. That the very fakery behind the nativity story tends to prove that Jesus really existed.

    Moreover, Hitchens quotes C. S. Lewis to support your point about the apocalyptic message of Jesus. “It means that the man must either have been a maniac, a sick man, an evil man, or he must have believed that the world was coming immediately to an end and that he was commanded to announce this fact to the deluded bronze-age inhabitants of Palestine.”

    Here’s the short video, in case you’ve never seen it. http://youtu.be/vMo5R5pLPBE

  11. Eric Paoletti January 1, 2014 at 1:40 am

    This is off topic really, but i was wondering if you had written anything regarding the similarities between El and Yaweh? Possibly even Chemosh of the Moabites. Also views on their consorts, as it seems that Asherah may have been shared?

    • BDEhrman January 2, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      I’m afraid I haven’t. These are pretty technical issues for a Hebrew Bible scholar. But highly interesting!

      • Eric Paoletti January 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm

        Would you recommend and particular scholars that may have touched on this subject. I’ve found it interesting that so much of the Old Testament talks about El and his ELohim. Even the Decendants of Jacob came to be known as Israelite ISRA -EL. As to say that they were establishing a kingdom of those who followed El and that Yahwists had emerged later or out of the Elohists this maybe around 1000bce.

        • BDEhrman January 3, 2014 at 11:49 pm

          I’ll need to look into it!

        • dewdds January 4, 2014 at 2:55 am

          Eric, try Mark Smith’s “The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities in Ancient Israel” (2002). Its a great review of religious developments in the ancient Levant and Amazon has an e-book version for a decent price.

          • Eric Paoletti January 22, 2014 at 1:12 am

            Thankyou for the recommendation.

        • qaelith2112 January 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm

          … and the late Frank Moore Cross, Jr.’s excellent works that address this:

          From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel
          Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel

          Along with Mark Smith’s other books on the subject aside from the one mentioned above. It also doesn’t hurt to see Raphael Patai’s “The Hebrew Goddess”, which isn’t really directly related to the El-YHWH question but does tie into the whole pre-Israel to Israel transitional category of work, and maybe a couple of William Dever’s works to bring in the archaeological continuity.

          Start with Cross and Smith, though.

          • Eric Paoletti January 22, 2014 at 1:13 am

            Thanks alot.

  12. judaswasjames January 1, 2014 at 3:38 am


    There’s so much to say about this, it’s hard to know what to hit first. This “Bart Ehrman: Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet” thing is a real derailment. You’ll notice: he never talks to me. He has learned that I don’t believe his orthodox viewpoint on this stuff. There is little recognition from those who came OUT of Christendom that they have a Christian bias, even if they no longer ‘believe’. It doesn’t matter, for it still affects the mind. *I* have it, and haven’t been a Christian since the day I left: February 4, 1974 — the day Patty Hearst was kidnapped (that’s how I remember it). I was living in a brothers’ house in an Evangelical outreach group (The Local Church) in Norfolk, VA, and left without telling a soul — on a DC-8 jet for San Francisco (on which I ate my last non-vegetarian meal of poached salmon [ – all Masters and devotees are vegetarian]). This was the same period Bart was getting a start at Moody Bible College, or Wheaton, I forget which, a stone’s throw away. I prayed on a beach in Santa Cruz, CA, that God tell me where to go next. A year later, and on the very same beach, no less, I heard about the living Masters. It was like meeting a long-lost friend (the book, Sar Bachan: http://www.scienceofthesoul.org/product_p/en-036-0.htm). THIS is ‘the Way’. I knew it immediately (the phenomenon is called “sanskaras”). The Master must be alive at the time the devotee is alive for ‘salvation’ to be effected. (“Salvation” is saved from rebirth, not saved from death. For example: John 5:14, “lest a worse thing come unto thee” is rebirth.)

    The entire NT is a cover up. JAMES THE JUST is ‘Judas Iscariot’ anywhere he appears (all four canonicals in the ‘Betrayal’ and Acts 1), and even in the gnostic gospel by his name. I believe Jesus is invented, too, but he is a minor player, believe it or not. The early church, as it turns out, was trying to hide the ‘successor’ in order to write the rules of the game without interference from the true leader of the new church, which should be who appears at the ‘Last Supper’, and in the Acts 1 phony “election of successor TO JUDAS” ( of all things). Dr. Robert Eisenman has ALREADY proven that Judas, Matthias, and Joseph Barsabbas JUSTus are James. “Joseph Barsabbas” is ‘son of father’ Joseph, James THE JUST ONE: James the Just, brother of Jesus. The ‘headlong’ language for Judas falling to his death is the same as used for James’ death by CLEMENT in his Pseudoclementine Recognitions, chapter 70:

    The ‘election’ of ‘Matthiasis’ to fill “the office” of Jesus, leader of the Jerusalem Assembly (he leads it in Acts 15, Jerusalem Council). But in the meantime, James is gone from the narrative. He pops in and out (Peter says “tell James” he is sprung from prison in Acts 12, metaphor for something far more spiritual; and he is killed off as ‘James the brother of John’ right before), appearing without introduction later, but is not accorded his rightful place, usurped as it was by Peter and Paul, in Luke’s accounting. Paul takes over the narrative completely by his invented seafaring journey and novelistic shipwreck later. All this is Lukan fiction (see Pervo’s excellent demolishing of Lukan historicity in “The Mystery of Acts”).

    The details in the Betrayal are all overwritten Mastership succession. I wrote 45 pages on it in my book, so to do it all here would tax Bart’s patience, and my clumsy fingertips. I’ll send the entire book FREE to anyone by pdf, or you can look up the appropriate chapter Six on my website (hyperlinked): http://www.judaswasjames.com/

    Trust me, the whole thing, every passage, is a cover up. I don’t call it “conspiracy” because that unnecessarily exercises some, and I don’t really know how organized it was, but I’d say it certainly had to be a concerted collusion of some sort since all four canonical gospels develop the same theme of covering James with Judas. The “sacrifice the man that bears me” in the Gospel of Judas, which all scholars so far think — even the “opposition” ones like April DeConick — is Jesus in the orthodox reading, is actually JAMES, as successor, not ‘betrayer’ — the ‘sacrifice’ paralleling the “woe to that man who delivers me” of the canonicals (‘paradidomai’ is Greek for “to deliver”, not “to betray” — see John 19:16). This is the “GOOD NEWS” (“Gospel”), not the bad news, of Judas! Right after, he says “Your horn has been RAISED, your wrath has been kindled [”against YOURSELF” – First Apoc. of James], your star HAS ASCENDED [DeConick trans.], and your heart has GROWN STRONG.” Does that sound like a dirge for a betrayer, or an ode for a successor??? Get real, BART. Judas is the sacrifice, NOT JESUS! And he is James. In 36:1, Judas leads the Twelve [including himself] to the Father, after he is *replaced* BY JESUS, not ‘Matthias’ — and he dreams he is stoned to death by fellow disciples in 44:25-26, AS WAS JAMES in Clement-Hegesippus].

    The essence of mysticism (‘gnosticism’) is submission to one’s Master, and replacement spiritually. The cites are too numerous to go over here. I have seen two Masters myself (Maharaj Charan Singh, Baba Gurinder Singh). I know what I am talking about.

    Just this week I picked up a new textual proof for my thesis on the ‘Betrayal’ as succession event, inverted: John 18:9. It is linguistically connected to 18:10, and has NOTHING to do with 18:8, as all extent translations have it, some even detaching it from BOTH 18:8 and 10 as a stand-alone clause — very strange, indeed. (Bart — Did you know about this?) The conjunction “oun” in 18:10 is Greek for a CONTINUATIVE conjunction: “Therefore” (not “Then”! — and “follows necessarily what goes before” (Strong’s Lexicon and commentaries), led by another conjunction, “That” (not “This is so that”, which most trans. have, and is exactly *opposite* what it should read). This means when Jesus says the prophecy, “So that none should be lost” (John 17:11), it is fulfilled by MALCHUS and his ‘ear-cutting’, not Jesus preventing the arrest of his disciples. Malchus is a metaphorical initiation event. The “right ear” is “cut” by the sword of the Master, “Peter”, his Word initiating Malchus. (“Sharp two-edged sword issued from his MOUTH” in Rev. 1:16) in the RIGHT ear. The right side is the side that hears the mystic inner Sound or Voice of the Lord. That is why it is “Name of the Lord”. You call on someone ‘by name’. Note when Jesus intervenes (because he is the intended Master, not ‘Peter’ or James), he “touched it and healed HIM”, not just “the ear”. The “put your sword away; shall I not drink the cup that the Lord has given me” is Jesus saying that the karmic burden he assumes from the initiate is to be his (18:11). This is all very deep mystic esoteric teaching. It is taught this very day in India, at RSSB, Beas, India (www.RSSB.org).

    John 13 is the key set of passages here: “I am HE”, “I know whom I have CHOSEN”, “NOW is the Son of man glorified” … I’ll go over them at another time. It is too interesting and involved to get into now.
    -Bob Wahler

    • TracyCramer January 3, 2014 at 3:44 am

      Dear Mr. Wahler,
      I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but this theory that you write about seems way outside the mainstream of biblical scholarship. Not that that makes these ideas wrong, but simply that Professor Ehrman is a mainstream scholar who researches, writes about and reports on the more or less *main* streams of NT scholarship (which in themselves are incredibly rich areas of discussion.) I can’t speak for Mr. Ehrman on the topic you are proposing, but it seems like a new topic.

      • judaswasjames January 4, 2014 at 6:56 am

        Cute kid, Tracy ~ I don’t have any kids. I do this instead, I guess.

        The mystic interpretation of the canon is only “out of the mainstream” because “the mainstream” is clueless. Why do you think we still argue about what the New Testament means 2,000 years on? I have asked Bart to open a thread on the amazing Gospel of Judas, because it deserves a new and thorough airing, if only for what I bring to the table, which is an understanding of it from the point of view of a practicing Mystic (aka, ‘Gnostic’). It is completely misconstrued. *I* even misconstrued it at first, my formerly Christian mindset clouding my vision. I woke up, thankfully, and now have it straight. What it holds is the key to deciphering the meaning of the composition of the canon.

        It is not actually a ‘new topic’ because it is so all-encompassing on its on terms, so as to warrant a place at front and center of ANY Bible discussion (New T). Its importance cannot be overstated because of the light it sheds on the origins of the canon. I can lead everyone to a new and complete understanding of the gospel origins just from analyzing the ‘Betrayal’ of Jesus alone. If I don’t succeed in breaking through the clamor, someone else will, when this line of investigation is again picked up off the Internet. But why not now? This is the place for it. I offer my full 250 page book on this for free to anyone who asks (my email is at my website). Few would do such a thing, including Bart. Writing is a lot of work. I care only about learning and teaching what the New Testament is really about. This is a precious moment in history.

        • TracyCramer January 6, 2014 at 4:16 am

          Dear Bob (JesusWasJames),
          Thanks. That’s Serena. She is five. And that is a Shinto shrine behind us. We have one more girl, Sophia, age 7.
          And thanks for writing back. I will look into what you write about a little more closely at your website.

          Best, Tracy

          • judaswasjames January 11, 2014 at 1:16 am

            ‘Judas’ was James. That’s the key to the New Testament. It is a cover-up. Not a conspiracy, necessarily, but definitely a concerted letter writing campaign to hide James’ coming as successor savior. The evidence fairly tumbles all out when you know Mysticism. These were Mystics. (Mystics = Gnostics, only modern). There are modern Mystic Masters who can straighten all the kinks and ambiguities out. http://www.RSSB.org and books by the score, some written in English by recent Masters are for sale at cost, shipped free here: http://www.scienceofthesoul.org/

            The ones not to miss are my Master’s books on Matthew and John. These are the most informative exegeses on the NT you will ever read. And I have read A LOT of them.

    • willow January 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm


      “Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet” thing is a real derailment.”

      How so? You don’t agree that Jesus was apocolyptic? If not, why not?

      • judaswasjames January 4, 2014 at 7:53 am


        The “Last Days” is misconstrued. The “End of the world” is misconstrued. “Apocalypse” is misconstrued. Most run them all together. I used to. But the “Last Days” are not what most think for another reason. Bart Ehrman is the premier world proponent of the Apocalyptic Jesus. He cites John and the early church as evidence for why Jesus in the middle must be an Apocalypticist, not realizing he errs at both ends. John did not say the world would end: “who told you to flee from the wrath that is to come? Even now the ax is laid at the root of the tree, and every tree that does not bear fruit is cut down and will be cast into the fire” – Luke 3:7-9. NO! This is wrong thinking. This is *assuming* that you know what he means by what he is saying in metaphor. You cannot read the sayings of these Masters this way. They spoke to the masses one way, to their inner circle another. (See Gospel of Judas.) It is not to be taken so literally! None of the Bible is!

        Look at what follows: John was asked whether HE was the Christ. He tells them, “I baptize you with water, but but He who is mightier than I is coming; the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie; He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit [the correct translation from original Hebrew Matthew 3:11].” This is altered text to try to separate the baptisms of John and Jesus. They were THE SAME. Any Master who baptizes is a savior. John means to say that the “second coming” — OF JOHN — in his disciples, was to be the baptism of the fire of the Holy Spirit, not the water baptism that John the human master performed on them. This Holy Spirit is John the Baptist! John the Evangelist says in John’s Prologue that “He was not that Light, but came to bear WITNESS to the Light [– within himself!] And to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God.” – John 1:6 and 12. There is no Jesus in John 1:6-13. This is savior JOHN. He introduces the successor master, ‘Jesus’, in 1:14 by way of 1:15 with the segue, “AND the Word was made flesh [again!] … ” I learned this from a real Master — Maharaj Charan Singh — from his book, “Light on St. John”. It is real Mysticism. John was lauded by Jesus: “you were willing TO REJOICE for a season in his Light” – John 5:35. Who has ‘Light’, but a savior?

        Predecessor lauds successor, so disciples will accept him, and vice versa so that they will honor the line of succession: “I am not the Christ [because Jesus was now the Messiah]”, “none greater born of women than John” – John 1:20, Matt. 11:11 (“least in the kingdom is greater than he” is a gloss, as Bart can tell you). The foot-washing in the ‘Betrayal’ scenario in John 13 is the setting of the succession of James to follow Jesus (Psalm 41:9/John 13:18 is about Jacob and Esau, Jacob ‘supplanting’ Esau, as model for James replacing Jesus, not “lifting his heel” — see the DRB version). “I know whom I have chosen” and “I am HE” are mystic truths about JAMES (Yacov = Jacob = JAMES in English, ‘aqab’ root letters for ‘heel’). “He who receives him whom I send receives me”, is about James– HE is the Son-of-man Spirit, as ‘Judas’ walks out the door and is *immediately* glorified (13:31).

        The betrayal is all literary invention to cover the succession event. The Malchus ear-cutting is fulfillment of prophecy of John 17:11/John 18:9, as the text shows with *continuative conjunction* ‘therefore’ not ‘then’ in 18:10, a metaphoric initiation event of the new master, and is mistranslated in every version. The arrest is not why someone may be ‘lost’, but preventing the ‘ear-cutting’ is! It is an initiation! What’s arrest got to do with becoming ‘lost’ to the Father? The gospel authors were under orders to eliminate the predecessor and successor to Jesus, so the church could have ONE GOOD DEAD master around whom to write the script to control the masses. And they did. They invented ‘Judas’ to hide the successor, James, after locking John up in Luke so he couldn’t even be equated with Jesus by baptizing him, as he does in the other Synoptics. Thank God we have all these conflicting and informing sources to tell us what was really going on!

        Bart: PLEASE begin the new year with a Reader’s Forum. We need it for this sort of discussion.

      • judaswasjames January 4, 2014 at 8:01 am

        One more point: “*even NOW* the ax is laid” is JOHN baptizing as a savior. It isn’t projecting forward to Jesus, any more than John is projecting forward to Jesus by saying “the one who is mightier” is coming to baptize with fire. It is not Jesus, but JOHN who is mighty! John is no mere herald, Willow. He is the historically recorded Master of his day, a status that even ‘Jesus’ does not enjoy. Did you know John has followers to this very day in Iraq in the Mandaeans?

        • willow January 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

          That’s a lot to take in, JWJ. I’ll have to read through it again and research a few points you make, such as John being asked if he was the Christ. I’m more clear on his having been asked if he was Elijah, who was to precede the Messiah, but his answer was no. He denied being so, which would make who and what of Jesus; and was or was not prophesy fulfilled. In my opinion, no, it wasn’t. Many an apologist has explained this away by saying that neither John nor Jesus knew who it was they were. I don’t buy it. John, like Jesus, in my opinion was absolutely apocalyptic, calling for repentance at what he believed to be the very brink of the end of the age, not the end of the world.

          Know, that I don’t believe the thought of the day, or the intent, was “the end of the world”; rather, the end of the “age” – that age old way of doing things (such as how the temple was run, who would run it, govern the people, and even who the people would worship) would change as heaven, and I believe the Scriptures are clear on this, would descend upon the earth, even as Jesus would descend (come down from or upon) the clouds of heaven and rule over the newly formed kingdom. Mathew 23:30; Mark 13:26. See also: 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-4; Isaiah 65:17 & 66:22.

          • judaswasjames January 11, 2014 at 2:06 am

            You need to get up to speed on Mystic teaching. That is the control. THEN read the Bible. The Bible was written 2-3,000 YEARS ago to different people of a different time. YOU are not going to understand it.

            John said he wasn’t Elijah reincarnated because John was JOHN. Simple enough. Why should John say he was Elijah, even if he WAS Elijah reincarnated? He was, but he was NO LONGER Elijah. Got it? He said one would come after him whose shoe-latchet he wasn’t worthy to unloosen (Matt. 3) because he was talking about the Second Coming of JOHN, as Holy Spirit, not the coming of Jesus. He says it again in John 1, but means Jesus there. He wanted HIS disciples to hear him defer to successor Jesus. The Holy Spirit is A GHOST. It comes and goes in different BODIES (‘Masters’). Read John 1:6-13. This is JOHN. Where do you see “Jesus”? You don’t . JOHN is the Master who “gave Power to become children of God”. I got that directly FROM a Master (Charan SIngh, “Light on St. John”).

            This sort of dynamic is again and again misinterpreted by gospel authors, scribes, and church elders for their own benefit. They don’t CARE about the truth, or don’t know better. You need a real Master to teach you. Fortunately there are plenty of their writings available. THEY wrote the books, and some in English. Available at cost, and shipped free > http://www.scienceofthesoul.org/

            The two to be sure to get are by my Master, Charan Singh,

            The gospel message will look very different from his eyes!

            I have SEEN succession happen (it happened in 1990 in Beas, India). Otherwise their natural attachment to HIM wouldn’t be broken. Successor defers to predecessor in, for example, John 5:35, “You were willing to rejoice for a season in his Light”. Who has ‘Light’ but a savior? Jesus also says, “NONE greater” than John (Matt. 11:11, the “least in the kingdom is greater” is a gloss. Ask Bart, he knows.) Matt. 11:13 is MISTRANSLATED, It says, in Hebrew original Matthew, “The Law and Prophets prophesied CONCERNING John”, not “until” John. You need to SEE your Master to be saved by him — or at least be alive at the same time (John 6:40). Jesus said his ministry was TIME-LIMITED in John 9:4-5 (Codex Sinaiticus “sent US”). How is it so many miss this? Orthodox corruption of scripture (Bart wrote the book on it!) is so prevalent hardly any see it anymore. *I* even have it, and I haven’t been Christian in 40 years!


  13. newswriter January 1, 2014 at 4:17 am

    So your position is that Jesus started out as a Jewish apocalypticist whose position was “revised” by his subsequent followers — when the end failed to happen — so it would appear Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, not this mortal coil.

    • BDEhrman January 2, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Yes, his Kingdom of God was an actual kingdom, here on earth, to appear within his own generation.

      • judaswasjames January 3, 2014 at 6:30 am

        here on earth


        I want to see your support for this.

        • BDEhrman January 4, 2014 at 12:04 am

          Read my books!

          • judaswasjames January 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm


            I looked at your earlier post on Apocalyptic Jesus, and the cites you use to support Jesus as Apocalyptic prophet. I think I have proof from the Greek that you are wrong, not to rub it in, but that what I know is meant to help you understand it. Mark 13:25, has “heaven”, singular, not heavens, as in sky.
            This passage, like all the gospel quotations from Jesus describing “the end” is an INNER visionary experience, with metaphoric language, not meant to be taken literally. Strong’s has the morphology as masculine ‘singular’ from Biblehub >

            ◄ 3772. ouranos ►
            Strong’s Concordance
            ouranos: heaven
            Original Word: οὐρανός, οῦ, ὁ
            Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
            Transliteration: ouranos
            Phonetic Spelling: (oo-ran-os’)
            Short Definition: the sky, the heaven
            Definition: heaven, (a) the visible heavens: the atmosphere, the sky, the starry heavens, **(b) the spiritual heavens**.
            HELPS Word-studies

            3772 ouranós – heaven (singular), and nearly as often used in the plural (“heavens”). “The singular and plural have distinct overtones and therefore should be distinguished in translation (though unfortunately they rarely are)” (G. Archer).

            That “overtone” is the difference. “Heaven” (RSV) is **spiritual heaven**, not ‘the sky’, where ‘stars fall’, and flashes of light are seen that are like ‘lightning’. “Power in the heavens” is the Archons. This is mystic inner seeing, or experience of “gnosis’. I have the mystic exegeses from my Master on this and the rest of Matthew in “Light on St. Matthew”. You can order it for yourself, at cost, to read at your leisure:

            Many similar mistaken assumptions abound in the gospels. They are quotes from a Master, likely James, and misinterpreted in translation and exegesis. John 18:9 is a good example, and is also textually proven. You should pick up on this, like you did in “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture”. You really shine on textual criticism. Malchus is the fulfillment of “That none should be lost” (18:8) as the continuative conjunction leading off 18:10 begins the second half of the sentence begun in 18:9. Since only a Mystic will comprehend how an “ear cutting” is a good thing (a metaphor for baptism into the Word) no one thought to render it properly! I can, along with the rest of the covering-up betrayal story inversion hiding James as coming Master.

      • prestonp October 30, 2014 at 4:29 am

        “Yes, his Kingdom of God was an actual kingdom, here on earth, to appear within his own generation.” Dr B

        The kingdom of heaven is within you.


        • BDEhrman October 30, 2014 at 2:17 pm

          Only for Luke. And “within” is a mistranslation. It means “among you” or “in your midst” (i.e., in the words done by Jesus).

  14. judaswasjames January 1, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Here is an example of a clear mistake in interpretation Bart and all other orthodox exegetes make in reading the gospel story:

    BART: Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:7‑9). Judgment is imminent: the ax is at the root of the tree. And it will not be a pretty sight.

    Me: John is the Master here. Note the TENSES: “ax IS LYING, tree DOES not BEAR, IS CUT down, (IS) THROWN into the fire.” The judgement is not “imminent” (American Heritage: “ABOUT TO occur”). The Judgment is NOW: “even NOW”. John THE BAPTIST (“baptism” means saved by initiation) was A MASTER (a ‘savior’). The John prologue 1:6-7 are verses describing JOHN, not Jesus. I learned this directly from a Master (mine, Maharaj Charan Singh, “Light on St. John”). JOHN gave “power to become children of God” in John 1:12. John was “not the Light” (1:8) because he came to “bear witness to the Light WITHIN HIMSELF”. This is why one needs a living Master. Without one to interpret such an esoteric passage, you will never apprehend its meaning. John was not the “herald” or “forerunner” to ‘Jesus’, whoever he might have been. He was his PREDECESSOR. He BAPTIZED him! James the Just was the successor.

    Just the same, tense in John 3:16 is revealing. “God gave his only begotten Son” is not Jesus given, but the Holy Spirit given. Jesus isn’t “given” at birth, but at death. Salvation came FROM THE CROSS, not from Mary’s womb, as orthodoxy has it. Right? AM I RIGHT? Jesus was referring to John and other Masters who went before, like Moses, also mentioned in John 3. And the six verses at the end of John 3 are spoken BY JOHN, not Jesus, or John the author, and can only be spoken by a Master: “he who comes from heaven is above all”. Can you imagine anyone NOT a Master saying such a thing? This is gnosticism: Many Masters, teaching Word — the Power to become children of God — while living, not from anyone’s death.

  15. GregHack January 1, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Bart, Couldn’t the sources you give to prove that Jesus was an apocalypticist refer not to the end of the world but (metaphorically) to the end of outside rule? For instance, when John the Baptist preached a message of coming destruction and salvation couldn’t that have meant the end of the centuries of occupation and oppression the Hebrew people had suffered when ruled by one foreign ruler after another? Could ancients have imagined the kind of “apocalypse” that we in the era of nuclear weapons can imagine? Could we be projecting onto them the idea that they could imagine the kind of cosmic end-of-the-world destruction that we can imagine? Maybe they were poetically referring to the end of occupation and a new day of idealized Kingdom of God (ie. Hebrew self-rule)? Maybe you can slam down my idea instantly, but still, I wish I had time to go through all of the evidence you cite to see if I think it could be metaphorical. I recently read a book claiming that ancients DID understand metaphor, that is that something didn’t have to be literally true to hold truth. Thanks for your blog! Interesting! (BTW, this is Tina, not Greg)

    • BDEhrman January 3, 2014 at 11:45 pm

      Hey Tina,

      I knew from the depth and clarity of your question that it was you, not Greg. 🙂 (Tell Greg that I’m just kidding) (And tell yourself that I’m not…)

      My view is that many people today just can’t *believe* that apocalypticists would really mean what they were saying (notice things like Matthew 24 — with the sun going black, the moon turning to blood, the stars falling from the sky: how could anyone take that seriously?!?) and so conclude that, well, they didn’t meant it! My view is that they probably meant it, not in a symbolic way. But I can certainly understand the view you’re sketching (since it’s the one I used to hold as well!). All best,
      – B

      • judaswasjames January 4, 2014 at 9:40 pm

        Tina is right. But, again, it is metaphor for an INNER visionary experience. The moon turning red, has to do with the light of Daswan Dwar, in the second region, and the ‘sun’ going ‘dark’ is what reportedly happens to the first glimmers of inner light before the vision of the inner form of the Master comes into view, I believe it is called Maha Sunn, a region of darkness, beyond the third inner region. (Think: “Transfiguration”, or the appearance to Thomas, for example. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” in John 20:29 is not about the physical, but ‘not seen’ the ASTRAL, or light-form of the Master within.).

  16. TracyCramer January 2, 2014 at 4:04 am

    Quick follow up. Your answer to my question about the difference between eschatological and apocalyptic has been very helpful as I am just now reading Chapter 13 (Jesus with and without John) in Volume 2 of John P. Meier’s extraordinary `A Marginal Jew`. On pages 110 and 111 he writes:

    `We first meet Jesus as a 1st century Palestinian Jew who thought Israel’s world, at least as presently known, was swiftly coming to an end, that all Israel was threatened by God with destruction by an imminent fiery judgment, and that being plunged into the Jordan River by a certain John could, along with repentance and a reformed life, help one escape this judgment. … *it is a gain for scholars who need to be reminded constantly not to project their pet theoretical agendas onto the legitimating figure of Jesus.`*

    It is that last sentence that caught my eye in light of Bart’s comments on Mr. Aslan’s book.

    PS: If any of you have ever been daunted by the thought of reading A Marginal Jew, I can happily report that as a total lay reader, it is remarkably accessible. Professor Meier will carry you through each step of his thinking. It is a history book, not a work of theology.

  17. willow January 2, 2014 at 11:43 am

    “This means that Jesus’ ministry began with his association with John the Baptist, an apocalyptic prophet”.

    As surely as it is written: Mathew 4:17: From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

    Jesus’ entire ministry, if you will, centered around repentance and NOT sacrifice, to include his own, as well as lawful compliance. He made this clear enough, which is contrary to Paul’s atonement doctrine.

    Mathew 9:13: “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and NOT SACRIFICE: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to REPENTANCE.” KJV I find it interesting that many versions of the Bible leave out “to repentance” at the end of the passage, such as the NIV.

    “There can be little doubt that Jesus went out into the wilderness to be baptized by this prophet. But why would he go? Since nobody compelled him, he must have gone to John, instead of to someone else, because he agreed with John’s message.

    I have always found it rather curious that Jesus would seek to be baptized if, in fact, he was sinless, blameless. Why would there have been a need for him to do so, for the remission of sins, even again as it is written:
    Mark 1:4,5: John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” (All?)

    Jesus himself gives us the answer to this matter of why: Mark 10:18: “And Jesus said unto him, ‘Why callest me good? There is no man good but one, that is God.'”

    But of course, this passage has been muddled and muddied through the ages, which I attribute to the teachings of Paul who reinvented Jesus – Jesus, the apocalyptic prophet who scrambled after baptism for just that, the remission of sins, for as much as he believed the end had come, and the kingdom of God was indeed at hand, even so that the paths of every MAN had to be made straight (sinless/blameless through repentance and thereafter compliance) in preparation for that/then/there coming of the Lord GOD and His kingdom. Paul, in my understanding, reinvented Jesus, making him the sinless, spotless deity, as well as the sacrificial lamb, the church presents to us. (This is my opinion, based solely upon my understanding. I look forward to any refutation.)

    “The earliest Christians were Jews who believed that they were living at the end of the age and that Jesus himself was to return from heaven as a cosmic judge of the earth, to punish those who opposed God and to reward the faithful.”

    So, wouldn’t this mean, Bart, that these same Jews believed Jesus to be the Son of Man, and not some separate person? I find this whole Son of Man thing rather confusing. Perhaps I’m just dense.

    Happy and blessed New Year to you and yours, by the way, as well as to all here!

    • BDEhrman January 3, 2014 at 11:47 pm

      Yes, the early Christians thought Jesus was the Son of Man. And Jesus did not think so! I’ll devote some posts to this eventually, but I do deal with it in my new book, due out in March!

      • willow January 4, 2014 at 12:02 am

        I have ordered your book, via Amazon, and look forward to reading it.

  18. willow January 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    ARG. I left something out, regarding the baptism of Jesus which was said to have occurred to fulfill all righteousness. You probably know where I am going with this. Christianity’s response to the question suggests that because Jesus “became” sin for us, he needed to be baptized not for the remission of his sins, but for ours. That flies in the face of such passages of scripture as Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-31; Psalm 49:7; Ezekiel 18:20, and that well worn story of Moses and how it was that when he sought to suffer for the sins of the people God would not allow it: Exodus 32:33-34.

  19. WBoutros January 3, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Hello Mr. Ehrman

    I’ve been reading about possible references to Jesus in ancient Jewish texts. What are your thoughts on the following passages from the Talmud ?

    1. ‘On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged. For forty days before
    the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to
    be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.’
    (Sanhedrin 43a)

    2. ‘The Teacher said: ‘Yeshu practiced sorcery and corrupted and misled Israel.’’ (Sanhedrin 107b)

    3. ‘Did not Ben Stada bring forth sorcery from Egypt by means of scratches on
    his flesh?’ (Shab. 104b)

    Is there historical significance to the idea of tattoos in Jesus’s skin somehow relating to his perceived “magical” abilities ? Or even the idea of “the word” or name of God scratched into his skin ?

    Also, even if this does not refer to Jesus, what is known of tattoos , magic “in the flesh” and the relation of magic to Egypt in the time of Christ ?

    Thank you

    • BDEhrman January 4, 2014 at 12:11 am

      I think the standard line is that these passages represent Jewish polemic that was caricaturing what Christians were saying about Jesus in order to attack it (and him). I’m afraid I don’t know anything about tatoos and magic. Wish I did!

      • WBoutros January 4, 2014 at 1:01 am

        Thank you.
        Yes, they are clearly attacks on whomever the subject is. So by ‘standard line’ you mean that you and many scholars think the passages do in fact refer to Jesus and not another Yeshu ?

        I find it interesting that there isn’t more research or study of these passages (maybe there is , I just haven’t seen it). If the passages do refer to Jesus, couldn’t they be based on actual rumors that were circulating at the time ? They corroborate Gospel accounts of Jesus going to Egypt, but as an adult, and hint that he brought back ideas and/or healing skills from there and support the “Jesus as a magician” idea. Scholars should look into this further : )

        • BDEhrman January 6, 2014 at 12:25 am

          Yes, it is usually thought that these passages refer to Jesus. And yes, there is scholarship on them. You might look at Peter Schafer’s book on Jesus in the Talmud.

  20. judaswasjames January 5, 2014 at 4:21 am

    Even more seriously, it would not explain what clearly emerged in the aftermath of his ministry. I have argued that we are relatively certain about how Jesus’ ministry began; we are even more certain concerning what happened in its wake


    I’m sorry, but there is a huge assumption here that there even was a character by the name of Jesus and that he did things. All we have to prove it are some wildly fantastic and inaccurate writings by four anonymous but admittedly talented writers. There isn’t a shred of historically verifiable evidence that he lived. Whatever is there is invention by interpolation, and hearsay.

    • willow January 11, 2014 at 11:09 am

      I’m confused, JWJ. Or not. You question the existence of Jesus but seem to quote him and his teachings, often. For example: Saviors: Beyond Qumran, Nag Hammadi, and the New Testament Code you write: “These are the secret sayings which the LIVING Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas the Twin (Jude) wrote down.” You also state in this book, Jesus “lived as a Savior”. Aren’t you being rather contradictory? Are you not yet clear in your beliefs?

      You also connect Christianity with Greek Mythology, and indeed there is a connection, but is it not so that the Mysticism you teach also has deep roots in ancient Greek Mythology? How then is it, in your opinion, more credible than Christianity or any other religion? Moreover, what has Mysticism or any “Master” of Mysticism accomplished that Christianity and its masters fail(ed) to accomplish? How do your, or anyone else’s, deep meditations that connect you with the spiritual realm and which serve no purpose other (seems to me) than your own self edification, benefit the sufferings and sufferers of this world, and how is that any different than say, a holy roller (slain in the spirit) experience, which misdirects (in my opinion) the attention of its participant away from God in seeking the personal, it’s all about me, “experience”?

      The mind is an amazing thing. Delve into it deeply enough and it can and will and so oftentimes does conjure up all sorts of things. You should know this.

      • willow January 13, 2014 at 12:51 am

        I should have thrown Kaballah in the mix as well, which relies more heavily upon meditation and a belief in several levels of heaven/dimensions than I have found among the charismatics.

      • judaswasjames January 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm

        I do know the mind is an amazing thing. This is beyond mind. It has nothing to do with any mythology.

        I also do shift back and forth referring to Jesus as a character of history, and not a character of history, because it is too time consuming to always explain that I think he was invented. “Living Jesus” meant living *for his disciples*. Just as my Master is dead to the world and his body is gone, but lives IN me, in spirit, Jesus lived for Thomas. One needs a living Master to become initiated. That’s the main problem with Christendom.

        Making people’s lives better here is good, but not the ultimate good. That is doing what we were born to do, for the Father: return to Him. My Master built a whole charitable full-service regional hospital in Punjab to set an example.

        My main goal is to show others the reason the NT was written was not to inform, but TO DISINFORM. ‘Judas’ was James the Just, the successor Master that the church wanted desperately to hide from everyone.

        Thanks for asking. This is the Way. I can save you the trouble of looking, Willow.

        • willow January 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm

          So, who do you attribute all of the sayings/parables/teachings of Jesus to, in the NT? If he was nonexistent, he said nothing, and there was nothing to write, so why write anything at all? Why create the character? Why hide James who you refer to as the successor Master? Successor to whom if not Jesus? John the Baptist? who you, if I am understanding you correctly, liken to the Holy Spirit.

          It seems to me that the only reason the church would have for hiding such as James would be to hide truth, even truth as Jesus taught it and James continued to teach it, in the wake of his brother’s death, and one of those truths is that NO MAN can become God, nor can God ever become a man. The invention of Jesus would serve the church no other purpose, in my opinion, but to distract away from/take away from God and give man the glory, enabling man to do as he pleases (washed in the blood so what does it matter? Even Ted Bundy’s in heaven, right?) rather than as God commands: repent and do that which is right.

          It is my lifelong understanding that God is NOT a man who can be so divided into pieces and parts, but solely Spirit (insurmountable energy and power that is, in and of itself, Himself, glorious) and is Himself, then, the Holy Spirit that is all in all and in all and all, rather than a separate entity. I believe He is life, and the source of life and all living, moving, regenerating things from the grass that grows to the stars that explode, or as surely as it is written and repeatedly spoken by Jesus, which is, in my opinion, near the only clear understanding: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE.” Not two: God and His Spirit. Not three: God, His Spirit and Jesus. But One. God, who is spirit. Had Jesus been standing in Spain I am certain he would have addressed the Spaniards. “Hear O Spain…” Might it not be that Jesus felt the need for such a teaching because Israel, as it was, under Roman occupation, was being influenced by many a mythic teaching, even of many gods?

          You continuously speak of “masters” and of one’s need for a “master” “initiator”, and I cringe at the thought, for it all seems not only so rather cultist, but another diversion that serves to take man’s attention away from God, not toward Him, and again for the sake of the “experience”; “experience” being that which is driving so much of our society as a whole these days, which isn’t to say that it hasn’t always, as so many seek after little more than a feel good feeling, and oftentimes no matter at whose expense.

          My brother lost his wife, and his children their mother, when she got all caught up in the charismatic movement and traded her family for that “slain in the Spirit” feeling/experience, as did many others give up all, and no less than absolutely believing that they’d found a direct path to God via their trances and deep meditations and succumbing to a myriad of senses and feelings, and those who didn’t do likewise were no less than evil!

          You’ve not seen horror until you witness a mother attempting to cast the wicked demons (spirits) out of a five year old who hardly knows what evil is! Thank God my brother got his kids out of there! But of course, to this day their mother believes they are all hell bound because they don’t have the “spirit” – this entity they revere even as one separate and apart from God. How is what you believe so much different than that, and what makes you right and them wrong? What would you or have you given up in pursuing what it is that you do? Would it matter to you that your actions might traumatize others?

          You say “this is the Way”, but again, what is it that makes you right? Your experiences? My experiences tell me I’m right, which is to say that the God I knew as a child (who got lost in all of the religiosity of various churches and church doctrines as well as varying experiences, some of which were even forced upon me, I mean, how many times can one go to the alter and accept Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior? Why isn’t just once enough? ) is the one true God, whose not near as complex as He’s made out to be, nor do I need some sort of master nor to be initiated into anything in order to have a relationship with Him – all I really need do to know Him near is to stop for just a minute and breathe!

          “Love that which is good. Hate that which is evil.” Be ever discerning. Discern between good and evil, and just what it is that is evil? Taunting spirits from other dimensions (that can’t be proven to have killed anybody), or creation itself heaving, creating earthquakes and famines and innumerable deaths that are far outnumbered by the hatreds between men? What sense does that make of “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

          Love the forests that replenish themselves after the fire. See the saplings sprouting forth from the parched ground and marvel at the creation recreating itself. But hate the fire that devoured all that was once before, and do all you can to keep the same from happening again.

          It is my belief that God doesn’t expect us to believe that everything’s all peaches and cream when it’s not. He simply expects us to right the wrongs, to the best of our ability to do so, and to make better the bad. I don’t need some mystic master to tell me that. I don’t need my spirit to separate from my body and to travel to places unknown to find peace for my soul. Perhaps you do. But I don’t.

          I started to take notes on some of your comments, in an attempt to get and keep them straight, but gave up as it became just too much trying to make sense of such things as:

          James disguised as Judas. Judas is the sacrifice. John is the Savior. John is the Holy Spirit. John was John and not Elijah, though he was Elijah in his former life.

          As such go my notes. I am muddling through Eisenman’s book on James but it’s a hard read. It’s going to be a while, and of course, I’m taking notes on that too.

          With much respect, JWJ.

  21. jwe4 January 9, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Dr. Erhman
    Do Mark 10:19,30 where Jesus talks about rewards for his followers in this life and eternal life in the age to come fit into the apocalyptic theme, or they possibly a later addition. The “eternal life” sounds like John.


    • BDEhrman January 9, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      My sense is that some apocalypticists as well believed that “death” would be defeated in the future kingdom, so that there would be no more death (this is Paul’s view, for example)

      • judaswasjames January 11, 2014 at 1:24 am


        Why don’t you *read* some of what real masters (small s if you like) say on this? I tell you, after 38 years on their ‘Path’ they can explain everything. Write a book synthesizing the Eastern and Western traditions, why don’t you? This is not a threat to your bastion. You have *no idea* what awaits. I spent all these years since you and I started nearly same time, same place as Evangelicals (1973 Norfolk, VA) but on wildly divergent journeys, learning at the feet of real living Masters. I can tell you EVERYTHING they teach. It will blow your mind. I guarantee it — I know your work.
        -Bob Wahler

      • judaswasjames January 11, 2014 at 2:19 am

        You yourself point out Matt. 17:12-13 as example of orthodox corruption of scripture. I can show WHY. There are several more telling alterations from original Hebrew Matthew, showing an overt attempt at hiding John as full equal to Jesus. The entire “Betrayal” is an overwriting of a subtext transfer of Mastership event, inverted into a ‘betrayal’ as a tendentious rewriting of history to hide the successor master to Jesus, James the Just.

        Why are you not asking me about it? I have dozens of examples, some from the very Greek you specialize in.

  22. DouglasBatesIV January 13, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    Professor Ehrman,

    I have a fairly progressive Sunday School class that has been on a year plus long thematic journey that is studying death, the afterlife and end of time from Genesis to Revelation. I have relied heavily on some of your books, most especially for the portion of Jesus the “Apocalyptic Prophet.”

    We went through in about 6 classes the theory well illustrated by you that the strong and definitive use of the Son of Man in Mark and the role reversal (and other) prophecies in Q sayings to prepare the followers for the Kingdom of God and then moved on to explain the Jewish Revolt and how it shaped Christianity.

    So then one member asks this, “if Mark created the verse “foretelling” the Jewish Revolt and the coming destruction of the temple…isn’t it also possible that Mark created the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus as well?

    I spent the day reading Burton Mack “Lost Gospel of Q” again and he flirts around the issue well enough. His interpretations, as I assume most of the Jesus Seminar does, of Q remove the apocalyptic bent. I

    I apologize for a long winded question…but do you refute the claim that perhaps Mark just created the apocalyptic mission of Jesus to conform to the reaction to the Jews losing the war to Rome?

    • BDEhrman January 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      Good question. The problem is that Mark could not have invented these sayings because they are found in Q, M, and L as well — adn these sources didn’t have access to Mark.

      • DouglasBatesIV January 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm

        Thank you. I’ve ordered the book “Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate” and will follow back up (either here and/or with the class) after reading it. Your thoughts on the book before I tackle it?

        Mack writes with conviction, but without much reference to support his thesis that the Q sayings are not apocalyptic. I’m interested how the other Jesus Seminar people defend the position. His “kingdom of God” theory is that Jesus used it in the Cynic use and it should not be read as coming kingdom of God as prophesied elsewhere. I just don’t find evidence for that theory, but I owe it to the class to present it. His verses that he recreates the Q sayings completely remove the apocalyptic bent on them.

        Thanks again for your response.

        • BDEhrman January 16, 2014 at 5:17 pm

          I was asked to participate in the book but declined, when it was clear that the person putting it together wanted more representatives of a non-apocalyptic Jesus to participate than the view found more widely among scholars. Dale Allison stuck it out, so he is the only one in it that takes the position that has been the dominant view for the past century.

  23. Farmer_Geddon January 23, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Sorry to come to this conversation so late but I’m curious, you state that: “Nor is it a story the early Christians would have been inclined to invent, since it was commonly understood that the one doing the baptizing was spiritually superior to the one being baptized.”

    I have spent a good couple of hours searching for proof that “it was commonly understood that the one doing the baptizing was spiritually superior to the one being baptized” in Jesus’ day…

    I’ve trawled through many pages claiming to explain mikveh and/or mikvaot. All I got was psuedochristian sites which state that Jesus was superior to John in every way!!

    Can you point me in the right direction?

    • BDEhrman January 24, 2014 at 1:26 am

      It’s implied all over the place where baptisms are mentioned in the NT: the Christian leaders are the ones who baptize the converted. And sometimes it is suggested that there was real power involved (as in 1 Cor. 1).

  24. Josephsluna July 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

    heres something i think he would say

    loving god is like laying in bed with your loved one and knowing that god is coming
    but yet you two still lay there waiting for gods wrath to be in the works for his plan. laying there yes but filled with love and joy knowing that GOD will save and call his people to him. for the day of the lord will be terrible but yet most great.


  25. ofredw June 12, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Hello Dr. Ehrman,
    If Jesus preached the imminent end of the world, and the world didn’t end, doesn’t that argue against his divinity, or authority, or whatever else Christians profess in his wake.
    Kind of like the 88 reasons the world would end in 1988, which of course you’ve written about. Shouldn’t that be game over for Christianity?
    I don’t hear this argument made in the various debates between evangelicals and atheists (unless I missed it). How come?
    Thanks so much for this blog. It is really fun!

    • BDEhrman June 14, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Not necessarily! In fact, not at all. Traditional Christian theology has almost always insisted that when Christ hte divine being became human he laid aside his divine attributes, including his omniscience, so that he could be fully human.

      • badgett January 1, 2016 at 3:41 pm

        Is it possible that Jesus was not preaching an apocalyptic kingdom, but rather in the synoptic Gospels was rejecting tyranny as Borg proposed in Convictions? Then others, maybe including Paul, writing years later either misunderstood this or intentionally revised this?

        • BDEhrman January 2, 2016 at 11:35 am

          The problem is that this apocalyptic kingdom message is in all our earliest sources for the Gospels (Mark, Q, M., and L). I try to explain all that in greater length in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. (i.e. I think Borg is wrong on this one)

          • badgett January 2, 2016 at 3:05 pm

            Thanks for response. No need to reply to this comment; I look forward to detail in your book. Luke 17:20 and Thomas 113 seem to meet criterion for dissimilarity and suggest to me that Jesus’s apocalyptic sayings are continuation of metaphorical Old Testament rhetoric common to the time period. Alternatively, Luke 17:20 and Thomas 113 might support that the apocalyptic sayings may be early, pre-Markan embellishments to Jesus’ original message. This strategy is timeless and continued by ourselves in the names of contemporary military operations in Iraq – ‘Centaur Rodeo’, ‘Dragon’s Breath’, ‘Phantom Fury’, etc. If one accepts this interpretation, then interesting alternative interpretations of Jesus’ goals, such as Borg’s and others, arise.

          • BDEhrman January 3, 2016 at 10:59 am

            Yes, these are debated points! My view is that these passages cannot pass dissimilarity since they are embodying anti-apocalyptic views that came to the fore (and are evident elsewhere in Luke and Thomas) when the expected end never arrived.

          • geofff September 4, 2021 at 12:40 am

            Dear Prof Ehrman – I see your last input to this post was 4 years ago, and that itself was 4 years after your initial post! Your characterisation of Jesus as a Jewish apocalyptic prophet has been quite helpful to me, thankyou. My question is prompted by a recent news story (here in Australia) about various people who have left the Jehovah’s Witnesses – & your post here seems to have some relevance. The news item touched on various articles of faith for JWs, one of which is the imminent earthly overthrow of all God’s enemies & establishment of an earthly paradise for the elect. That seems to align much more closely with the apocalyptic words of Jesus than any mainstream Christian denominations (if I am kind) or other para-Christian sects (if I am less so).
            Qn : What do or would fundamentalist evangelicals make of this view that JWs seem to interpret literally – & I gather you would say really was the intent of Jesus’s Kingdom teaching?
            Qn : How do contemporary conservative evangelicals still wriggle out of their “red letter” reverence for the Scriptural words of Jesus concerning his imminent apocalyptic pronouncements?

          • BDEhrman September 5, 2021 at 3:25 am

            1. They would agree that it’s imminent and disagree that this will be a time of rejoicing for the JW’s (!). 2. They think he is speaking to *them* today, not to his hearers 2000 years ago.

  26. NulliusInVerba December 13, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Ehrman, for “How Jesus Became God”. I found it to be a very satisfying read. It has me wondering if apocalyptic Jews were a small minority within Judaism and/or were they perceived as being radicals, Jesus included. Have your studies led you to any conclusions about such?

    • BDEhrman December 15, 2017 at 10:24 am

      They appear to have been pretty widespread at the time; lots of our sources from teh period are apocalyptic.

  27. Pcrtje April 25, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    A question on the argument that Jesus must have been a Jewish apocalypticist (because the beginning was apocalyptic (John the Baptist) and the result of his ministry was apocalyptic (e.g. Paul’s letters etc.).

    What is essentially the way how John D. Crossan and Marcus Borg deal with this argument, since they do not hold the view that Jesus was an apocalypticist?

    • BDEhrman April 27, 2023 at 4:08 pm

      I don’t recall that Marcus ever dealt with it. Dom didn’t deal with it well, in my view. He said Jesus started as an apocalypticist, with John, but then changed away from the apocalyptic view; after his death Jesus’ followers were more influenced by the apocalyptic views of John than the non-apocalyptic views of Jesus (the one they were not following rather than the one they were).

  28. dwharder May 24, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    Sorry about a comment on an old topic. I’ve been reading through Matthew verse by verse, and as for the question about being an apocalypticist, I found two unmentioned passages:

    Starting at Matthew 11:21, Jesus curses Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, and what is not clear is that the two other towns are within a few miles of Capernaum (so towns closest to where he preached rejected him). Today, the first and last are ruins, while Chorazin is inhabited. Yet Jesus says “…on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon…” and Capernaum “will be brought down to Hades.” Does this make sense if the day of judgement is more than two thousand years into the future? Should the current denizens of Chorazin be worried about the Second Coming?

    With the narrative starting at Matthew 21:23, Jesus said “…the tax collectors and the prostitutes [who believed Jesus] are going into the kingdom of God ahead of [the high priests and community elders].” This makes sense if the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven was imminent, not the current narrative where one is judged when one dies, and then one is either sent to Hell, Heaven or possibly Purgatory.

    • BDEhrman May 29, 2023 at 7:28 pm

      Ah, right. Jesus thought the judgment day was coming in his own generation, not 2000 years later. So no, these predictions would not be literally relevant today. Also, he did not believe that hte soul would go to heaven, hell, or purgatory. he believed in a physical resurrection of the dead to eternal annihilation/destruction for the wicked and eternal glory on earth in the kingdom for the righteous. (I talk about all that in my book Heaven and Hell)

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