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My Life! An Interview with Frank Statio on “The State of Things”

On March 5 I had a radio interview at the local NPR station with Frank Stasio, host of “The State of Things.”   Most of the interview had to do with my religious journey from Christian fundamentalist to atheist; by the end we got to the ostensible reason for my being there, my then new book “The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World.”

Frank is one of the very best interviewers anywhere, extremely good, as you’ll hear.  He really knows how to get to the heart of an issue and to keep it interesting.  Enjoy!


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  1. Avatar
    Iskander Robertson  May 13, 2018

    I have a question about the conditions for divorce in christianity.

    The pharisees allow divorce . when they approach jesus,they ask him if divorce is permissable.

    jesus says that god marries people .

    “let no one separate what god has joined”

    jesus tells his followers to turn the other cheek,pray for enemies,take up the cross and pray for those who persecute….

    in the bible, love can entail violence and suffering.

    since marks jesus gives no exception for divorce, does that mean that women who are in violent relationship should never think of divorce?

  2. Avatar
    rburos  May 13, 2018

    He really is an excellent interviewer. Many of your opponents could learn from him.

  3. Avatar
    bensonian  May 13, 2018

    Thank you for sharing and for your transparency. If I interviewed you, I would ask: What keeps you from going back to Christianity? Is it related to truth, or related to suffering? If truth, is it because you found the truth (about the Christian God) in your research or is it because you found that the truth is somehow missing? I ask because I know that you care about truth and humanity (suffering), both are utmost honorable and respectable things to care about. It seems that many people today have lost focus on them.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      I’d say both, and that for me the two are closely related.

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 13, 2018

    It’s a great interview indeed!

  5. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  May 13, 2018

    Dr. Erhman, is there a military discount to purchase your new book? Also, I have changed my major and will be graduating from UCCS College of Business. Thank you for all you do Dr!

  6. talmoore
    talmoore  May 13, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, off-topic question. I’ve been reading the letters of Ignatius of Antioch and I was wondering what your view is on their authenticity?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      I think the Middle Recension is authentic. I discuss it all in my Loeb edition.

  7. Avatar
    jdub3125  May 13, 2018

    Prof, did any of your undergraduate students, or anyone else for that matter, ever ask you if you liked Coldplay’s song “Viva La Vida” ?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      Not to my knowledge. Just as well. I was never a Coldplay guy.

  8. Avatar
    Tony  May 13, 2018

    Bart, I’m glad to hear you’re an expert on Mark! I have a question and it does not require a trip into the esoteric weeds. I did with Mark and Paul what you recommended to do with the gospels – read them side by side – instead of sequentially. I only focused on three characters that are named by both Paul and Mark – Cephas (Simon/Peter), James and John.

    In doing so, I found glaring inconsistencies and very different portrayals of these characters between the narratives of Paul and Mark.

    Paul describes transactional relationships with Cephas, James and John. Paul deems them “Pillars” of the Jewish-Christian Jerusalem church. They were not poor (Gal 2:10). Paul is well educated, and a self-proclaimed Pharisee (Phil 3:5). Cephas, James and John appear to be equals to Paul’s social status and leadership capability. They made agreements among themselves as equals, (Gal 2:6-9). In 1 Cor 9:4-6 Cephas is a married, well regarded, and a traveled individual. Overall, Paul describes Cephas, James and John as strong leaders, probably educated, not poor, and likely travelers.

    Mark take a very different view of these characters. Simon/Peter/Cephas now has a brother Andrew and they’re both simple fishermen. They are followers, not leaders. So are James and John, who are brothers. Jesus pretends that James is not his brother. Later in Mark things get worse for Peter, who is slow in understanding Jesus and ends up denying him.

    Bart, do you have an explanation for these very different character descriptions? Are they one and the same? Is there any non-apologetic scholarship out there that tries to explain this?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      The kind of horizontal reading I propose is not possible with Mark and Paul, since they don’t have any narratives in common. And in any event, they aren’t the same figures, since it’s a different James. Pharisees were not wealthy — the ycould be dirt poor; and being a Pharisee did not provide any particular social status. 1 Cor. 9 says nothing about Cephas beig well-regarded. Paul says nothing about any of them being educated. etc. etc….

      • Avatar
        Tony  May 16, 2018

        “…not possible with Mark and Paul, since they don’t have any narratives in common”
        That’s precisely the point! Identical names though – what a coincidence!

        ” ..they aren’t the same figures, since it’s a different James.”
        Says who? Cephas is not Peter? John is not John? Selective reading on James – and we know why.

        “Pharisees were not wealthy — the could be dirt poor”
        Poverty is relative. Paul traveled, wrote, preached and worked. Gal 2:10 indicates that the four did not consider themselves “poor”.

        “1 Cor. 9 says nothing about Cephas being well-regarded.”
        Cephas had superior status compared to Paul and did not have to beg for free room and board. etc. etc.

        Cephas, James and John as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians and Galatians are real, and so are Paul’s interpretations of events. Mark had Paul’s letters (and other sources) in front of him. Mark’s use of Paul’s Cephas, James and John are literary fabrications. Mark’s agenda seems obvious.

  9. Avatar
    ginogiombetti@gmail.com  May 13, 2018

    Remarkable interview.

  10. Avatar
    Judith  May 13, 2018


  11. Avatar
    Iskander Robertson  May 14, 2018


    1. elizabeth unable to conceive because she is too old
    2. luke makes parallel between elizabeth and abrahams wife sarah

    so in order for elizabeth to have a child a miracle was required.

    luke then turns his attention on mary. mary asks ” how will this be since i am a virgin?”

    elizabeth was too old to have child… was luke saying that mary was too young to get pregnant?
    were female children described as “virgin” by the ancients?

    the angel said, “you will conceive…”

    the author argues that since mary had holy spirit in her , then a young mary(child) was able to conceive the natural way and get pregnant, no virgin birth here.

    any thoughts on this ?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      I’m not completely sure what you’re asking. Luke doesn’t say anything about mary being young; and female children were virgins so long as they had never had sex.

  12. Avatar
    forthfading  May 14, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Will you expound on the comment you made around 9:20 into the interview?

    You stated, “These committed conservative evangelical Christians are more children of the Enlightenment than almost anyone else in a university”.

    Mr. Stasio kind of changes the theme before you could explain what you meant.


    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      Ah, maybe I should post on that. What I mean is that many committed evangelicals — at least those with any apologetic inclinations — are firmly committed to “objectivity” and being able to “prove” the “truth” of everything, unreconstructed 19th century modernists, who accept Enlightenment understandings of objectivity but refuse to accept Enlightenment discoveries (e.g. in the sciences).

  13. Avatar
    Steve  May 14, 2018

    Since the basis of Christianity is we must be saved from something, would you consider a thread on the historical origins of the doctrine of “original sin?” Without it, what are being saved from, except this present, not so heavenly, world into a theoretical better one? And is this tied to your research on the origins of heaven and Hell? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      The term “original sin” means something specific that I suspect is different from what you’re asking about. It *is* an interesting question, though, where the Christian idea of “sin” came from because it is a bigger problem for (early) Christians than for (most ancient) Jews and certainly than for pagans! I’d love to know the development of the issue myself. One place to turn is my friend Jeffrey Siker’s book, “Jesus, Sin, and Perfection” (which he *wanted* to call “Jesus the Perfect Sinner,” but the publisher wouldn’t let him….)

  14. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 14, 2018

    Anyway, as I have said before, your life story would make a terrific autobiography for two very good reasons:

    1. It is the life story of many of us with more scholarship added in to support the main points;

    2. Putting it all together into a coherent theory/philosophy of our understanding of the world is probably the primary motivating force that drives most of us to read your books and your autobiography would do that better than anything else I can imagine.

  15. Avatar
    fishician  May 14, 2018

    Off topic, but with the unrest in Palestine this week related to us moving our embassy to Jerusalem, would you be willing to devote a post to your view on what the NT teaches about the end times, especially as it relates to Israel? I’ve always thought the idea was that Israel was to be transformed into a kingdom of God that transcended a place, that was to fill the whole world (some Christians would identify this as the church). Evangelical Trump supporters teach that a literal Israel is necessary to fulfill the end times prophecies. What did the early Christians actually believe was the future role of Israel, if any, in the long-term scheme of things?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      Ah, interesting idea. The nutshell: in 2 Thessalonians we’re told that the antichrist figure will go into the Temple and there declare himself to be God before Jesus can return. That requires the Temple to be rebuilt. That requires Israel to be in control of Jerusalem. That requires getting rid of the Palestinians. That requires American support of Israel. So American support of Israel will make it possible for Jesus to return. (!)

      • Avatar
        fishician  May 17, 2018

        Great, so a forged letter written to counter what Paul actually taught is helping to determine US foreign policy!

  16. Avatar
    Stevehorn  May 14, 2018

    Can you help me understand when Christians began thinking of the Bible as the equivalent of God? Bibliolatry seems to have become the test of whether or not someone is Christian. When did this happen?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      Short story, it’s a Christian fundamentalist phenomenon with roots in the Niagara Conferences at the end of the 19th century and coming to prominence in fundamentalist-modernist debates of the 1920s.

    • Avatar
      Steve  May 17, 2018

      Great question! I sent the following to a strict fundamentalist pastor friend: Timothy Keller’s, “The Reason for God; belief in an Age of Skepticism” (He is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC) writes, “An authoritative Bible is a precondition for a personal relationship with God.”

      I asked if he thought this was true . . . Crickets. No answer.

  17. Avatar
    Wilusa  May 15, 2018

    I enjoyed this so much that I listened to it twice, but I’ve only now thought of a comment.

    I don’t understand Mr. Stasio’s suggesting that the problem of suffering could somehow be explained and justified by the fact that *Jesus* suffered. Most if not all Christians believe Jesus was a deity, who *voluntarily* endured that suffering – for a purpose – and could have stopped it at any moment, if he so chose. I used to believe he chose to die in the most public possible way, so when he rose from the dead, no one would doubt his having *been* dead. How could that explain or justify anyone else’s *in*voluntary suffering?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      I think his point was more theologically oriented: God knows what it means to suffer.

  18. Avatar
    HawksJ  May 15, 2018

    Wow, he IS a great interviewer. Nice performance by both of you!

  19. Avatar
    gwayersdds  May 16, 2018

    Wow, what a great interview! It’s really nice to have an interviewer who is actually knowledgeable about your books and asks intelligent questions. Very refreshing. this interview also strongly reinforces my respect for you and your philosophy of life. The fact that you believe that the philosophy of Jesus was and is valid today speaks volumes about your character. Even though you are not Christian in theology, to me you act in a very Christlike manner.
    On a different topic, I have a question. When Jesus was being “interviewed” by Pontius Pilate, what language was spoken. I can’t believe that Pilate would have learned Hebrew or Aramaic. Did Jesus speak Latin, or Greek? Was there an interpreter? How did they communicate?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 16, 2018

      We don’t know. Either they had an interpreter or there wasn’t actually a “trial” wehre they communicated at all, just some charges and a decision.

    • Avatar
      GregAnderson  May 26, 2018

      That is a great question! I agree with Dr. Ehrman that the idea of any later author (of a gospel) having first-hand knowledge of such a trial is implausible. I do however wonder just how much Greek a rural Galilean of the 1st century might have picked up. While it’s unlikely someone like Jesus might have been given a formal Greek education, by the time of his birth, Greek was the language of the elites in Palestine for what, 200 years? I’d think ay least some of that language or vocabulary would have trickled down into the common speech.

      A more modern analogue would be the amount of 11th century French which entered the English language after 1066. The answer there is, quite a lot!

  20. Avatar
    HawksJ  May 16, 2018

    I have what seems like a dumb question, but one that I’ve wondered ever since I started following you: Is Princeton Theological Seminary affiliated with Princeton University? My inclination is that it is not, but the website for PTS seems to suggest that they were at one point, at least, saying:

    “The establishment of The Theological Seminary at Princeton marked a turning point in American theological education. The College of New Jersey, later to become Princeton University, was supportive of this plan because they recognized that specialized training in theology required more attention than they could give.”

    • Bart
      Bart  May 17, 2018

      They are not connected now (except in close proximity), but the university started out as the seminary training pastors, and eventually they separated into two different schools. So it’s different from, say, Yale, Harvard, or Duke, which each have a “divinity school” as a professional school comparable to the law school and medical school etc. For those schools the divinity school is part of the university. A *seminary* on the other hand is a free-standing institution.

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