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False Rumors (or lies?) About My Teaching

QUESTION:

In my talks with my family I have referenced your work, and my family typically rolls their eyes and tells me that they hold no respect for your work. When pressed on why I have gotten different answers most of them I can dismiss easily but lately they have been sticking to a new story and it goes like this.

“I have a friend from church who has a son and he as a faience who took one of Dr. Ehrman’s classes at UNC. The first day of class he walked in and asked if there were any Christians in the room. He then told them that if they were still Christians by the end of the course that they are idiots and would probably fail. “

So first off please let me know if you have ever said anything like this before and if so why or was it in jest?

 

RESPONSE:

I find this comment about me (from the person’s family) to be deeply disturbing and really offensive.  It’s not their fault, of course.  It’s something that they heard from someone else.  But depending on how it originated, it is either a patently false rumor or a malicious lie.  In either case, it is not simply untrue.  It is the opposite of the truth.

I am not opposed to Christians and have never been opposed to Christians.  Ever.  I have never tried to deconvert my students.  Ever.  I have never tried to destroy my students’ faith.  Ever.   This is just false.  The only question is if someone for some reason innocently thought it was the case, even though it’s not, or if someone intentionally made it up in order to slander me.  That is to say: is it an erroneous rumor or a mean-spirited attack.  I don’t know and have no way of knowing.

So let me tell you what my approach to my Christian students *really* is.  My approach to Christians is the same as my approach to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, pagans, and everyone else.   I don’t try to make them change their personal views or get them to agree with mine (that is, their religious views).   Whatever their views, I want them to become more thoughtful about these views and to hold to these views intelligently, rather than blindly.  The opposite of an intelligent faith (or lack of faith) is an ignorant faith (or lack of faith).  Are there people who really prefer ignorance over intelligence?  Unfortunately, we know that the answer is a resounding YES.   But such people do not teach in universities and presumably do not enroll in universities.  Anyone connected with a university prefers knowledge to ignorance.

I do not teach a particular set of religious views over another.  When I teach the New Testament, I do so from a historical (and a literary) point of view.  This point of view does not bias one religious set of beliefs over another.   No one who takes my class is required to accept the historical views that are advanced in the class.  But if a student disagrees with them, I encourage him or her to come up with *reasons* for disagreeing – preferably historical reasons (since they are historical views).  I don’t think it is good enough to oppose a historical point of view because it is not what you were brought up on, or because it’s not what your mother taught you, or your Sunday school teacher.  People need their *own* reasons for disagreeing with something.  I encourage disagreement in my classes, and I encourage independent thinking.  In my syllabus, and on the first day of class, I emphasize that I want the class to help students develop their analytical skills so they can evaluate the views of others – even the views of their professor.

The information about the New Testament I convey in my classes is not inimical to Christian belief.  Not in the least.  It may be inimical to some forms of ignorant fundamentalism – but even so, my goal in the class is not to attack fundamentalism.  If a student is a fundamentalist, I hope they finish the semester as a wiser and more thoughtful fundamentalist than when they came into the class. If that happens, I’ve done my job.

The reality is that the information that students learn – historical and literary information about the New Testament – is just about the same as they would learn in any major college or university in the country.  I get attacked only because of my personal religious views, not because of what I teach, even though people who attack me think that they are attacking me for what I teach.  But in fact what I teach is pretty much what ever critical scholar in North America teaches when they teach a class on the New Testament, whether they are teaching in an Ivy League school (Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, etc.); major state school (Florida State, University of Texas, U.C. Berkeley – take your pick on any coast or in the middle); private universities (University of Richmond, Loyola Marymount, Wake Forest, whatever); liberal arts colleges (Oberlin, Newberry, Washington and Lee, wherever).

Many – probably in fact most, by a large margin – of the professors who teach in these schools are themselves personally Christian.   But they teach pretty much the same historical information about the New Testament that I do.  I know this for a fact, because I know many of them.   How can they teach such things if they’re Christian?  Because historical knowledge is historical knowledge.  It’s not Christian knowledge or Jewish knowledge or Muslim knowledge or agnostic knowledge or atheist knowledge.  It’s historical knowledge.  Anyone of any persuasion can learn about history.   And can approach the New Testament from a historical (or a literary) point of view.

This kind of knowledge is also taught in a wide range of Christian divinity schools and seminaries, by people training future ministers.   It is simply ignorant to say that such information is non- or anti-Christian.

And it is offensive to me personally for someone to say that I want to deconvert people from being Christian, or try to deconvert them, or have my goal to deconvert them.  That is not just false (and malicious): it is just the opposite of the truth.  I want the Christians in my class to be better Christians, more knowledgeable Christians, more thoughtful Christians.  Just as I want all people of all faiths – or people who have no faith – to be better, knowledgeable, and more thoughtful.

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Comments

  1. BrianUlrich  February 9, 2015

    It doesn’t surprise me that this rumor exists. Based on your work into the pre-literate period of Christian accounts of Jesus, you can probably see lots of ways it could congeal.

    There are multiple legends circulating as Facebook shares and e-mail forwards in which an unnamed openly anti-Christian professor states his intention of deconverting a class, disproving God, or some such, only to have a courageous Christian student stand up for this faith, out-argue the professor, and win the admiration of his peers. It sounds a bit like maybe your name got attached to a half-remembered one in someone’s memory.

  2. Judith  February 9, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman,

    None of this that you just posted was necessary because we KNOW you would never – even in jest – say such things.

    Judy

    • Bart
      Bart  February 10, 2015

      Yes, I’m sure that’s true. But still, one needs to fight ugly rumors instead of simply letting them spread.

      • Kabir  February 10, 2015

        Dear Prof. Bart,
        I quite agree with you in refuting these piece of rubbish lies from haters of reality facts.
        That reminds me of the story of “Galen” (p115) in your book Jesus Interrupted. I still have the feelings soon or later they would resort to writing Forgeries in your name since they cant actually refute your facts scholarly.
        Keep your good work flowing to us and dont get distracted by these Fundamentalist.
        What is your views on writing a booklet much like “Galen”? Lol.

      • Alane  February 16, 2015

        Dr. Ehrman – I have/had been a Christian for 35 years. Interestingly, I’ve followed your personal spiritual trajectory, coming to my own conclusions through research and critical reading sources which I was warned NOT TO DO! (I took your Great Courses class, for instance!) The result of my journey? I was asked to leave the church where I was in charge of “Women’s Ministries” (I was not allowed to be called a ‘Deaconess’ lest it go to my head). My crime? In a speech at a Women’s Lunch, I challenged those who called themselves Christians to be a welcoming face to all ‘outsiders’, because Jesus would have been the first to invite gays/Muslims/tatted-up people inside! I was branded (I’m dead serious) a HERETIC. As in Elders coming to my home, using that actual term. My point is that the stories of what I ‘supposedly’ said have circled back in ways that are just laughable – the speech was recorded, and I did not EVER try to ‘change’ anyone’s belief system or poison the good souls of the Righteous. Last I heard, I was been branded as a witch. NEVER move to a small town. Oh, and don’t become a woman, either!

        • Bart
          Bart  February 17, 2015

          Wow. I won’t move and won’t make the switch. Thanks for the warning!

  3. Aleph82
    Aleph82  February 9, 2015

    The first time I learned about the textual variants, historical vs vertical dualism, the Gnostics, the Ebionites and the like was in my mandatory religion class freshman year at the very baptist Baylor university. Baylor’s president was courting William Dembski of intelligent design notoriety, so that gives you an idea of what the culture was like at the time. I do remember the occasional student righteously storming out of the classroom, and one student sent an email to his classmates in an attempt to organize a boycott. So if it makes you feel better, you’re probably not alone!

  4. veryrarelystable  February 9, 2015

    “he as a faience” – do you have much glazed ceramicware inyour class?

  5. markjokinen  February 9, 2015

    Dr Ehrman,
    I like what you say, and completely approve, and I am a Christian.

    Mark Jokinen

  6. RonaldTaska  February 9, 2015

    This quote attributed to you is very close to what the professor in the movie “God’s Not Dead” says to his students on the first day of his class. The professor in the movie is outdebated on the subject of God’s existence by a freshman and the professor ultimately converts as he is dying after being hit by a car. It’s really an awful movie.

    I have no idea how you put up with some of this stuff. Critics almost never actually discuss the issues that you present.

    • Prizm  February 24, 2015

      haha I was about to say it sounds like they’ve watched God’s Not Dead too many times (and probably read too many Chick tracts).

  7. Alfred  February 9, 2015

    I don’t think you should be surprised that people revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely. When someone chooses to believe something which cannot be believed in the light of observation and rational thought, that person needs to adjust reality in their on minds. Maligning the bringer of observations and rational thought (shooting the messenger) is a tried and true way of maintaining belief in the face of reality. You have brought us many examples of exactly this from early church writings. It is part of the human condition. Your respectful approach to the beliefs of others is an example to us all, especially to me. I have learned a lot from reading your dignified and intelligent defences against your critics and your willingness to think the best of whoever you are debating with. Please don’t let this sort of thing worry you, or offend you. I is not that they know not what they do. They know, and it hurts them, but it is all they have in the face of rational thought.

  8. alienvoodoo  February 9, 2015

    Amen!!

  9. jbjbjbjbjb  February 9, 2015

    Interesting response and well argued. However, I for one am also interested to see if you said that and don’t think you answered the person’s question, and if so how it connects to the above :

    “So first off please let me know if you have ever said anything like this before and if so why or was it in jest?” [my addition: or for some other reason?]

    • Bart
      Bart  February 10, 2015

      I must be a terrible communicator then. I certainly meant to answer his question. Have I ever said anything like this, seriously or in jest? NEVER. (Wasn’t that clear?)

  10. RonaldTaska  February 9, 2015

    At the end of the “God’s Not Dead” movie, as the credits roll, there is a list of 40 First Amendment lawsuits regarding university students not being given freedom of religion.

  11. MikeyS  February 9, 2015

    Hi Bart, I have heard you say exactly all that in many youtube videos that I have seen. I think you are spot on and some are out to get you from the Christian Apologetic Community. Although we have to respect all those with faith, its difficult for me to see anyhow that when ‘anyone’ looks critically at all holy scripture and all the evidence that is now available and all those Professors are teaching it as you do, I wonder how its possible they can remain almost ‘exactly’ with the same faith position as they did before? This is all faiths btw, not just Christianity. Isn’t this not like Christian Science Professors teaching creationism as fact?

    Just to labour one point. Most educated people now believe in evolution at least 99% of all scientists do (And I know that doesn’t mean something IS true etc) but that overturns the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve narrative and the FALL of mankind. Therefore salvation and redemption by the blood of Jesus cannot be the will of God at all. Not to say that why would an all loving God require such a thing when a simple loving parent just forgives their kids, unconditionally?

    Freeing one’s mind from indoctrinated beliefs is almost impossible but it has to be done. I have a science degree and it took me 40 years and it IS difficult. But once that door opens..WOW!

    ATB and thanks for all your contributions and thoughts here.

    Mike

    • Steefen  February 10, 2015

      MikeyS:
      Just to labour one point. Most educated people now believe in evolution at least 99% of all scientists do (And I know that doesn’t mean something IS true etc) but that overturns the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve narrative.

      Steefen:
      No it does not. The Adam and Eve narrative functions on more than one level.
      See this video: http://youtu.be/L8PMyWbcxls

      Who is ATB?

  12. RonaldTaska  February 9, 2015

    With regard to your upcoming book on memory, you might, if you have not already done so, take a look at “Time, Narrative, and History” by New Times writer David Carr. The book emphasizes how stories tend to grow over time and if they are told often enough they harden into truth. The Brian Williams saga is a good example of such storytelling;

    • Bart
      Bart  February 10, 2015

      Thanks!

      • gavm  March 12, 2015

        also the great courses has one on “how ideas spread”. It made me think a lot about how early christianity and Islam must have been transmitted. I don’t know if it it would help yr book but it was a damm fine course, interesting as hell and only 12 Lecs.

  13. Wilusa  February 9, 2015

    It’s a shame that people are telling these lies about you. (I find it hard to believe stories like that could have started in any way other than as malicious lies.)

    Certainly, believers in any given faith can remain firm in that faith, despite learning historical facts that they hadn’t expected. *If* one believes in the existence of an omnipotent Deity – and that *is* a plausible explanation of the origin of the Cosmos – any type of “miracle” is possible. And it’s also possible that when things are hard to understand, the Deity may be “testing one’s faith.”

  14. webattorney  February 9, 2015

    I am at a point where I realize that Christianity might be a good way to live one’s life whether it’s true or false, even if we will never know certain claimed events actually occurred. 🙂

    • Arlyn  February 10, 2015

      I held a similar conviction for twenty years after abandoning belief in the traditional Christian narratives. Ultimately that conviction waned with a conclusion to no longer identify as a Christian. The time between the two points gave the necessary adjustment time. I’m not implying that all who lose belief in the traditional narratives will or ought to end their Christian identities or take a long time to do so.

  15. Goat
    Goat  February 9, 2015

    Leaving aside the concerns resulting from these misrepresentations, if faith requires a leap, why would anyone choose to make that leap from a place that lies well within the boundaries of what can be known? Your books and lectures are not inimical to Christian belief, but instead point to a more reasonable jumping off point for those who want to make that leap and are able to do so, consistent with their own consciences. Understanding that your mission is theologically neutral, I thank you nonetheless for your contribution to my religious journey.

  16. Steefen  February 9, 2015

    There are numerous people and circumstances which require people to seek Salvation. This is why Christianity is classic.

    However, Preservation of Christianity dictates that Christianity be appreciated for what it is and never criticized. There is no deference in criticism. “Don’t go changing … I love you just the way you are” Christianity. One thread of Christianity pulled by New Testament Criticism ruins the whole thing; and, don’t go looking at it too closely, either.

  17. paul c  February 9, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I know next to nothing of your field, but I think that I can recognize a thorough and thoughtful scholar when I see one. You certainly are one of those.

    But perhaps there is a pertinent lesson here. It seems to me that this is an exemplary case of the distortions that can develop in and emerge from oral tradition. Who knows how that story started or how it will be modified in the future, but once set to paper (or papyrus, as the case may be), an untrue statement will take on a life of its own as though it were fact.
    I look forward to seeing more of your work. Thanks again.

  18. Sharon  February 9, 2015

    Take solace in knowing your supporters and BIG Fans (yup, that’s me!) know the truth of your commitment to the truth.

  19. Hank_Z  February 9, 2015

    One suggestion for the member who posed this question. You’ve NEVER seen Bart try to deconvert anyone from their Christian beliefs on this blog. And when someone tries to convert him to Christianity, he posts their comments and does not even respond to them. He’s always refused to participate in any such discussions.

    Your own experience with this blog is consistent with Bart’s answer to the issue you raised. You have the option of telling your family this, if you choose. It could help shoot down at least some of the false rumors and/or lies your family has been exposed to.

  20. rbrtbaumgardner  February 9, 2015

    In the three years I’ve subscribed to this blog I’ve never seen the alleged offensive behavior from you. In fact, you are more charitable toward your former religion than I have sometimes been toward mine and you’ve caused me to rethink my feelings. (In other words, you’ve been a *good* example!) Also, I assume like many other universities, UNC solicits student feedback about teachers at the end of each semester and if you were offensive you would hear about it from the university.

    It’s sad and upsetting people spread rumors or lies.

  21. Jana  February 9, 2015

    My meditations remain with you and your friends. Regardless of the thickness of skin, these kind of simplistic mean spirited attacks must hurt. Whatever one’s faith is, it should be strengthened by fact. And what you provide is a service to the truth.

    • Steefen  February 10, 2015

      Dr. Ehrman,
      Do you have it worse than Richard Dawkins? I don’t think so.
      I’m referring to two youtube videos: 1) Love Letters to Richard Dawkins and 2) Hate E-mails with Richard Dawkins.

  22. Eric  February 9, 2015

    I Think fundamentalists have talking points drilled into them at church I’ve been talking to 2 that I know and they have said the same things almost word for word.When trying be get them to read Dr Ehrman’s books or any other books they give almost the same response,that Dr Ehrman is trying to destroy God,he or any scholar doesn’t know what they are talking about ,or what can you really know,they say these kinds of things about science,history and archeology .One actually said too much knowledge is a bad thing,and the thing that gets me me is he is a pretty sharp individual.i’ll never understand this line of thinking or lack thereof

  23. prairieian  February 10, 2015

    I certainly understand your disappointment with the assertions levied against you in the query posed by your reader above. Obviously upsetting.

    However, we live in strange times – perhaps times are always strange! Some Foghorn Leghorn blowhard on Fox, responding to, I believe, Michael Moore’s criticism of the movie about the USMC sniper, asserted that “…good on the sniper for sending so many jihadists to the lake of fire, prepared for all unbelievers” (or words to that effect). This, I presume, is someone pretending to be Christian. The pinheads with a public pulpit, forgive the deliberate word choice, make one weep for humanity.

    All to say, there are a lot of very strange opinions floating around out in the general population that are utterly incomprehensible to at least me. The fact that your historical approach to Christianity’s early days is threatening to, I presume, folks like the Fox fellow, is no surprise. An historical approach threatens a world view and as such is never welcome. It should be meat and potatoes in the setting of any institution of higher learning. Obviously an anthema to any institution of higher indoctrination.

    Keep plugging away.

  24. Gerald Smith  February 10, 2015

    Bart, that story sounds like the story line behind the movie, “God’s Not Dead”, starring Kevin Sorbo. It is about a science professor who tells his students that by the time the course is over, each of them will be atheists, and so to save time, he has them write “God is Dead” on a paper and sign it, then pass it in. One student refuses and tries to prove otherwise. You are definitely not the bad professor of the movie.

  25. zpocket  February 10, 2015

    Hi Bart, I’m new to your blog and this is my first time adding a comment. My question is really not related to the topic above, so if there is a protocol for asking a general comment, please advise me on how to ask a general question of you and I apologize if I’ve breached the protocol/etiquette of your blog. I just watched a You Tube video posted in 2008 (“How the Bible Explains Suffering”) during the audience Q & A, you make a statement referring to Harris, Dawkins & Hitchens and their discourse on religion as being “sophomoric and silly” because they know very little about religion. I’m curious to know specifically why you have this opinion and I’m assuming you don’t have the time to address my curiosity directly, so I’m wondering if you have addressed this in any of your books and or videos (I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I’ve not read any of your books (Yet!) but have watched several of your video lectures/debates).

    Thanks if you’re able to reply to this!

    • Bart
      Bart  February 10, 2015

      Hmm… I don’t remember saying that! Even though I have often thought it. Hitchens was the one who knew about religion the best. But they all attack a straw man in a lot of instances. I never have dealt with this in print, but a good book that does is Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution.

      • zpocket  February 11, 2015

        Thanks for the reply Bart. I will definitely check out the book you recommended. In case you want to hear how the comment you made regarding Hitchens, Harris & Dawkins I’ve included the link. (You make the comment at about the 52:35 mark in the video. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh6KFtW4a4Ozr81GI1cxaBQ

        Thanks again for your reply. I look forward to purchasing and reading your books. Any suggestions on the order of reading your books?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 11, 2015

          Maybe start with Misquoting Jesus, and then Jesus Interrupted?

          • zpocket  February 12, 2015

            Sounds good! Thanks!

  26. dragonfly  February 10, 2015

    Bart -> fiance -> son -> friend -> poster. That’s only 4 transmissions. Assume the person posting the question is fairly accurately conveying what they heard, that makes it 3. Jesus’ message had no hope!

  27. Triassicman  February 10, 2015

    Bart, you were wise to respond to this slur. My father once told me that all professors, that did not claim to be born again Christians, were agents of Satan and were determined to destroy people’s faith in the risen Jesus. I found it a great struggle to think for myself as I felt like I was betraying my parents who I loved. Later in life I discovered that my parents were in fact frightened of life and hence were not able to think for themselves. Parents who create or perpetrate malicious lies, in order to keep their children ignorant, commit child abuse. It was my determination to find TRUTH that enabled me to break through my parents influence and discover what ‘I’ really believed. I became a reluctant agnostic but a much happier person because of it. I trust your letter writer discovers his own truth despite his parents.

  28. Ryan Pence
    Ryan Pence  February 10, 2015

    If it didn’t upset me on the basis of it’s slanderous nature, I would find it LOL laughable! With so many books, and videos, and audio with your introduction consisting of your sensitivity of peoples belief AND of how you start many of your classes from day 1!, how could anyone thats able to see, read, and/or hear believe in such things!! I hope this questioner goes and shows everyone they know, your response , at least it may stop one circle of ignorance. If only the truth spread as wildly as lies.

  29. Wilusa  February 10, 2015

    I’d never heard of that movie “God’s Not Dead” – don’t give a hoot, really, about movies. But the premise of that one strikes me as ridiculous. Why would a professor, presumably an atheist, want his students to write “God is dead”? To be described as “dead,” someone or something must previously have been alive. And I doubt there are many atheists who believe “God” *once did* exist!

  30. spiker  February 10, 2015

    “Easter is no longer just a time for Christians to celebrate the Resurrection and non-Christians to celebrate Easter bunnies. It’s also a time for anti-Christians to come out with highly publicized books attacking biblical accounts. Annually they debunk all the way to the bank. Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee is one of this year’s efforts.”

    Who wrote that? Why it was non other than Mike Bird and Simon Gathercole So much for not bearing false witness.)The very same folks who on the one hand complain they don’t get the attention you do and on the other were allowed to view your unpublished manuscript in order to present an alternate view: http://www.worldmag.com/2014/04/raining_on_bart_ehrman_s_easter_parade.

    I bought both books based on the latter , but now am very skeptical about the substance of their criticism.
    I have a rather dim view of Christian apologetics to begin with and they never cease to provide example after example of why I should continue to doubt their credibility.

    Lastly a friend that knows someone whose grandmothers cousins brother took your class!? Could they be any more obvious!? Thou shall not bear false witness certainly takes quite a beating. Is it that they covet their neighbors fame, house, etc. How many more commandments are they willing to trod under?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 11, 2015

      Yeah, I know. My third cousin was once engaged to a woman whose mother….

  31. walstrom  February 10, 2015

    The so-called New Atheist is more aggressive and activist than ever. Among them are–let’s say–non-intellectuals who only want to use your work by weaponizing your historical views and conclusions–not fairly represent them in context. In view of this, the entrenched conservative Christian is hard pressed to respond on merit. I think the confluence of pressures creates rumor, innuendo, lies, and misattribution. Certainly it is a poor substitute for evidence and honest rebuttal. It is an atavistic ‘war’ of survival–at least existentially from the standpoint of defending the absolutes of the ‘faith.’
    I don’t think the Pharisees were to keen on fairly representing Jesus–do you?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 11, 2015

      You’re right! He wasn’t so fair in representing them! (At least in the NT — see Matthew 23.)

  32. desire_Knowledge  February 11, 2015

    They are afraid of this uncomfortable truth and at they have no problem in falsely making you out to be a demon. I have listened to you and read a couple of your books, never was I presented with some kind of life changing choice to make. You ask so many great questions and provide as much evidence as possible to answer those questions. I think the best thing about your teaching is questions. Thinking of questions ( not being afraid to ask them) and discovering the answers to those questions. This has allowed me to get closer to the truth or in some instances arrive at the truth about the bible! I’m actually more interested in the bible and its history because of your teachings.

  33. Joseph  February 11, 2015

    A few days before this posted, I was lucky enough to find the film Inherit The Wind playing (once again) on a TV station.

    After seeing it, I marveled at the fact that the real-world legal case on which the thing is based took place in 1925. We are still arguing — still, see the Texas schoolbooks! — about Creationism vs. Evolution. I imagine in 10 years we can have a national postage stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary — with the words “100 Years Of Proud Ignorance”…..

    It could be considered a reading of the relative internal strength of the beliefs of SOME people who are Christian that, in between attacks on Darwin’s theory, they take the time to slam YOU. I guess you probably should feel Honored (in my opinion, it’s quite something to be, more or less, in the same league as Charles Darwin).

    If you speak the truth, you will be slammed — or worse — even in a republican democracy such as ours. They threw Eugene Debs into a prison. Martin Luther King’s efforts on behalf of humanity (not just “his people,” but all of us) fetched him a bullet.

    You certainly DO need to defend yourself. You probably need to find a way to do that, however, without this crap getting under your skin.

    On the other hand, at least these folks haven’t commenced the gathering and piling-up of loose wood, tied you to a stake, and started roasting marshmallows — and you!

  34. Wilusa  February 11, 2015

    Someone’s mentioning Darwin here made me remember a topic that bugged me months ago. I didn’t ask a question about it then, but…here goes.

    Months back, someone said in a Comment that Carl Sagan had embraced Christianity before he died, and Darwin had “renounced evolution” on his deathbed. In your reply, you said you’d never heard anything like that.

    I’d never known (or wondered!) what either of those men personally believed. (And “renounced evolution” is such a vague phrase that it’s meaningless. At least one idea Darwin held – that species are changing gradually, all the time – was plausible in his day and was later found to be wrong; but he couldn’t have learned that before he died. And it certainly doesn’t cast doubt on his overall theory.)

    Anyway, I checked out Wikipedia, and their articles said both those men identified themselves as agnostics – Sagan’s widow having specifically denied claims that he changed his views before he died. Wikipedia can be wrong, of course! But the person who posted the Comment hadn’t cited *any* source.

    When I thought of replying here, I couldn’t find the Comment. Did I just overlook it? Or did the poster realize he or she had been wrong, and ask you to delete it?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2015

      I don’t think I deleted the comment; and when I said I had never heard that before, what I meant, really, was that I wasn’t sure it was right and doubted it….

  35. spiker  February 11, 2015

    Think I got a bit carried away with my post. There isn’t an ability to edit
    So once you’ve crossed the line, all you can do is wait for the hook. Upon rereading the stub,it appears this may have been written by an editor although Mike Bird and Simon Gathercole are listed as the authors. I’m going to assume they have no control over what an editor writes.

    It’s instructive that one reader commented that you chose “to attack the divinity of Christ by examining scripture directly”. Imagine that! Examining scripture directly! What’s next!? Attacking it by putting it in context!?

    Why is it always an “attack” with these people?

  36. walid  February 12, 2015

    I have been introduced to history through Dr ‘Bart Ehrman’ ..
    He made me love knowledge and research and I owe him a lot.
    Even though I became a ‘mythicisit’ as he like to call people who don’t believe in jesus’ existence.
    Yet, I have only respect, love, admiration, and utmost high value for this great person.
    My family only mention him as a great person who will go down history as one of the greats.

    Love him or hate him, he is a gentleman and a man of honour and integrity.

  37. walid  February 12, 2015

    PS: please note, when I say ‘Gentleman’ I mean it as a British person understands it which is like, brave, gallant and an honourable person. I am not too sure if our American friends understand it the same way or as just a man.

  38. Steve  February 13, 2015

    This question is not directly related to the horrific murder of the 3 Chapel Hill Muslims yesterday ( I would be asking it anyway). Im interested to know if the University is equally comfortable with having its courses related to Islam taught in the same vigorous, critical way that Christianity and Judaism are approached. For instance, I see that there is a course called “Muhammad & the Qur’an” taught by Professor Lynch. Would this course be taught from a strictly historical point of view? I believe you have indicated that there are always a number of fundamentalist Christians who attend your courses. Would there also typically be a number of fundamentalist Muslims attending say “Muhammad & the Qur’an”, and if so, how do they receive a secular presentation of their sacred texts and beliefs? Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  February 13, 2015

      Yes, the university does not interfere to require courses in religious studies (or in any other field) taught in one way or the other, regardless of the course. None of our religious courses is taught from a religious point of view.

  39. CharlieDoe  February 14, 2015

    I am not sure if it would be fair use of your blog to ask for help finding sources about a topic not specifically discussed in this blog. Namely, the discrepancy between the dogma of a given religion and what adherents to that religion actually believe. For example, to what extent do the members of a given congregation actually believe the dogmatic cant they recite on a given Sabboth day? In a sense I am inquiring about the meaning of a religious form of believing (such as, “I believe in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost . etc…”) as opposed to a more pragmatic, every-day form of belief (such as “I believe in electricity.”) But of course I am also inquiring about the difference between what a person (or group of people) professes to believe and how he or she (or the group) actually behaves. Im guessing there might be a terminology for my search which would make my googling more productive. Thank you.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 14, 2015

      Yes, that would be interesting to know. In my experience, even within a single church there are enormous variations in what people actually believe.

  40. Deek  February 18, 2015

    I continue to run across the idea that it is better to ‘stand’ on one’s Bible than to read it. Knowing too much of the contents of ‘God’s Word’ is a dangerous thing that may well cause one to stumble in one’s faith. I teach Historical/Critical courses on the historical origins of both the Protestant Christian Old Testament and the Christian Canon New Testament. I am informed that a few churches are praying for the people who attend to be vigilant of the devil and stay strong in their faith. Yikes.

  41. Mark  February 23, 2015

    Are there people who really prefer ignorance over intelligence? Unfortunately, we know that the answer is a resounding YES. But such people do not teach in universities and presumably do not enroll in universities.

    I do not agree. Especially when it comes to religion, many educated people do no want their religious views disturbed and prefer willful ignorance. This also goes for their political views.

  42. mechtheist  March 2, 2015

    My first post as new member. I’d like to say anyone familiar with Dr. Ehrman’s work would immediately know the falsity, and ridiculousness, of this charge. The idea of the movie as source is quite plausible, not so different from one of the more common sources of rumor I’ve personally witnessed, which is when one person poses a hypothetical, and someone else without very critical ‘hearing’ skills, takes it as something real. I almost got the crap beat out of me by this a few years ago. I’ve been on another Ehrman youtube binge over the last few days, that’s made it easy for me to feel how disturbed this rumor would leave you Dr. Ehrman, I would bet most who believe it have some prior bias and the rumor serves as confirmation, the all too common ‘confirmation bias’.

  43. gavm  March 12, 2015

    The ironic thing is you didn’t even become agnostic based on probs with the bible ,it was the prob of suffering! And you’ve said this about a billion times.
    I have a question if you please. I know almost all critical nt scholars are Christian, but how many are on the conservative side? It’s seems like the vast majority of you guys are pretty liberal. I guess the more evangelical go into ministry rather than accidemia?
    Thank you again

    • Bart
      Bart  March 13, 2015

      There are probably more conservative NT scholars than highly critically oriented ones, just because there are more conservative Christians in the world than liberal ones.

  44. spiker  December 4, 2015

    Don’t know if this tidbit fits here, but I recently read a mythicist piece that described How Jesus Became God
    as being about the influence of middle eastern dying and rising gods on Judaism etc.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2015

      Yes, I show why that view doesn’t work in my book Did Jesus Exist.

  45. spiker  December 7, 2015

    Yes, that oddly enough is one of my favorite books of yours. I really thought the idea of the book was interesting. Even though I’d not been a Christian for many years, I never doubted Jesus existed, but I would not have known what to say if I was asked for the evidence. This book lead me to a new found respect for expertise.
    It’s instructive that people who want to say that the Jesus of the bible is the result of
    some sort of misreading of the Bible are not more careful with the way-or for that matter with what, they read.

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