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What We Now Know about the Manuscripts of the New Testament
My Work Habits the Letter allegedly by Jesus’ Own Brother: Mailbag 2/12/2017



  1. Gary  February 13, 2017

    Off topic question: Whenever I bring up the possibility that the Christian Resurrection belief possibly began due to one or some of the disciples imagining that they saw a resurrected Jesus, Christians tell me that first century Jews would never have confused a vision/hallucination with reality (they usually quote NT Wright on this). They say that the only way a first century Jew would have believed that one person had been resurrected prior to the general resurrection was if they had seen AND touched the body. But according to Paul, the Jews of Asia Minor did not need to see a resurrected body with their own two eyes, or poke their fingers into nail holes, to believe that Jesus had been bodily resurrected, they just needed to “search the Scriptures” and hear someone else’s “eyewitness testimony” (Paul’s) to believe.

    Doesn’t this fact debunk the claim by NT Wright that first century Jews would not have believed in the bodily resurrection of one individual unless they had visual and tactile evidence of a bodily resurrection?

    Therefore isn’t it completely plausible that the Christian Resurrection belief began when just one disciple, probably Simon Peter (based on the Early Creed found in First Corinthians 15), experienced an hallucination, either due to mental illness or due to a non-psychiatric health condition such as sleep deprivation or severe emotional distress, in which he sincerely believed that the resurrected flesh and blood body of Jesus appeared to him? He then reported this experience to the other disciples, who believed his Resurrection claim for the same reasons that the Jews in Asia Minor would believe Paul’s resurrection claim only a few years later.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 14, 2017

      I’m not sure I understand their point. Non-veridical visions can be tactile. That is, people who see their grandmother in their bedroom two weeks after they died can sometimes touch her — for example, give her a hug. In any event Wright is completely wrong about first century Jews not being able to have non-veridical visions.

      • Gary  February 14, 2017

        Sorry that I wasn’t clear. Christians claim that it is impossible that all the disciples could have had hallucinations. They say that they all could not have been mentally ill. They also reject the claim that first century Jews would have confused vivid dreams (visions) such as someone seeing their dead grandma with reality. They claim that unlike people today, first century Jews would have known better. I believe that the fact that the Jews of Asia Minor accepted one man’s (hallucination?) proves these Christians wrong.

        • Gary  February 14, 2017

          Here is a quote from “The Resurrection Fact”, a book recently published by my former denomination which expresses this position:

          “Hansen [one of the authors] straightforwardly contradicts Luedemann’s theses [that the disciples had non-veridical visions] by substantiating that the New Testament witnesses operated in a Semitic philosophical tradition that was intensely tactile and defined by a biblical narrative in which God was providential and miraculously active in space and time. It was the apostle’s deep commitment to a Jewish worldview that provided them resources to recognize the difference between trauma-induced visions and a bodily resurrection. Indeed, biblical Judaism had a profound understanding of material reality and, relatedly, its antithesis in terms of nonphysical entities. What the earliest Jewish Christians proclaimed was a bodily resurrection, and no one more so than Paul who was himself “a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees” (Acts 23:6).” —Dr. John Bombaro in the Introduction

          I run into this all the time in my discussion with Christians: “Unlike people today, first century Jews would never have done or believed X, Y, or Z.”

        • Bart
          Bart  February 15, 2017

          No, I got it. I’m saying that visions are not a matter of mental illness and vivid dreams/visions have *always* been taken to be reality. Ancient Jews would *not* have known better. What would make anyone think they would have (other than wishful thinking)??

    • doug  February 14, 2017

      The author of the story of doubting Thomas in the Gospel of John says that people should believe in the physically risen Jesus without seeing: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ ” John 20:29.

  2. Tempo1936  February 13, 2017

    Did the threat of eternal fire for unbelievers come from the same language in Matthew 25:41?

  3. Steefen  February 13, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, a question about your manuscript/book, Triumph of Christianity.

    Serapis figured among the international deities whose cult was received and disseminated throughout the Roman Empire, with Anubis sometimes identified with Cerberus. At Rome, Serapis was worshiped in the Iseum Campense, the sanctuary of Isis built during the Second Triumvirate in the Campus Martius. The Roman cults of Isis and Serapis gained in popularity late in the 1st century when Vespasian experienced events he attributed to their miraculous agency while he was in Alexandria, where he stayed before returning to Rome as emperor in 70. From the Flavian Dynasty on, Serapis was one of the deities who might appear on imperial coinage with the reigning emperor.

    It seems Christianity did not triumph over Serapis at the 100 C.E. mark.
    Serapis was an international deity and cult disseminated throughout the Roman Empire.
    Rome had a dissemination machine for international religion, the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciundis (the college of 15 men responsible for overseeing new gods and religions within the Roman Empire).

    You have mentioned that Christianity needed to separate itself from Judaism. With Hadrian, Christianity needed to separate itself from Serapis worship. (I just ordered the Loeb Classical Library volume Historia Augusta, Volume I which contains Hadrian’s letter to Servianus:

    From Hadrian Augustus to Servianus the consul, greeting. The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus, I have found to be wholly light-minded, unstable, and blown about by every breath of rumour. There, those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis.

    Can we look to your book for a discussion on the demise of Serapis worship while Christianity triumphed?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 14, 2017

      I don’t deal with the triumph of Christianity over one religion or god or another (Serapion, Mithras, Zeus, Diana, Mars, Apollo, Hera, etc. etc. etc.) but with its triumph over all the pagan religions of the Roman world en masse.

      • Steefen  March 2, 2017

        Rome disseminated the worship of Serapis/Osiris, Lord of the Resurrection., a resurrection religion. The tremendously horrible Jewish Civil War and Revolt exploded onto the scene. The spirit of that war on the side of the Jews was religion. As the super power over the Jewish territories Judea and Israel (including Galilee) the Jewish spirit (religion) needed to be de-militantized; so, we have a relatively pacifist stand on Rome from Jesus and a pro-Roman stance from Paul who runs to Caesar for Justice and protection. Paul definitely waters down Judaism (the post-Revolt mission of the Roman powers that be).

        So, we have the Jerusalem camp (11 disciples + the 70 minus those who left according to the Gospel of John when Jesus insisted that his body and blood be some sort of rite); we have the Stephen camp; we have Paul’s camp in Damascus; and Mark or somebody gets to Alexandria to plant the resurrection religion of Jesus in a city which is the capital of the resurrection religion of Serapis.. Anianus is bishop of the Jesus resurrection religion during and after the Jewish Revolt (68-85). However, Emperor Hadrian (117-138) sees two resurrection religion twins in Alexandria (the Ptolemaic Hellenized Egypto version, Serapis Worship, and the Jewish version, Jesus Worship, and considers them the same thing).

        So, Serapis (Osiris and the bull, Apis, with a likely link to Mithras) is quite significant and should not be grouped with Zeus, Diana, Mars, Apollo, Hera, etc., etc., etc. You really have a book on the triumph of a resurrection religion which has the same DNA as its older brother, the resurrection religion of Serapis/Osiris.

        Question: None of your textbooks bring us to Bishop Anianus in Alexandria? How about to the cultural acceptance of resurrection, given the capital for such in Alexandria and the dissemination of it throughout the Roman Empire?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 3, 2017

          I’m afraid I don’t know about Bishop Anianus. So far as I do know, the accounts of him are purely legendary.

  4. Steefen  March 2, 2017

    The Temple and religious establishment in Jerusalem was aware of the resurrection religion of Serapis and probably did not want it part of their religion. Serapis religion did take hold in Ephesus. No doubt when Paul was in Ephesus, he was exposed to resurrection religion concepts. Paul knows resurrection more than he knows the biography of Jesus.

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