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Freedom From Religion Foundation Lecture

On May 3 of this year I gave a lecture at a meeting of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Raleigh NC.    The lecture is about what it is like to be an agnostic who writes about religion.  That’s an irony that I am constantly aware of and most of the lecture is about my experience as a non-religious person who is an expert in something he doesn’t believe in.

I also used  the lecture  to stress that being “free from religion” is not the same thing as “attacking religion.”  I absolutely agree with the founding principle of the FFRF that no religion (of any kind, Christian or otherwise) should be imposed on us by the state.  But I do not at *all* think that this is the same thing as being opposed to religion.  I am personally not opposed to religion or people who practice it (although I *am* quite definitely opposed to fundamenalist kinds of religion — whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever).  And I think organized agnostic/atheist/secular/humanist attacks on religion per se are wrong-headed and (just as important) counter-productive.   In any event, I get into all that in my lecture, found here.  (I hope you like the statue I was given for the Emperor Has No Clothes Award !):

 

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Comments

  1. Matilda
    Matilda  August 16, 2014

    I think a lot of problems would be solved by coming up with a definition of what God is. I think a lot of religious people really don’t believe in a Biblical God except fundamentalists. The new God is “pure love” I’ve been told. Then there is the “who knows what God is” but there is certainly something more. When talking about belief in God people should be clear about what they mean.
    I like what you have said about the different types of god, Bart . I have come to learn that religion is mostly a hoax- maybe a well meaning hoax but non-the-less a hoax.

    • Bethany
      Bethany  August 17, 2014

      I recently read Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God” which argued, among other things:

      (1) There isn’t any one “Biblical God”. (I also recently read several interesting books discussing the development of Jewish monotheism and pointing out many places in the Jewish Bible where you can see the remnants of the older polytheistic traditions that monotheism arose from.

      (2) Far from being the only ones to hold the “traditional” view of God, the view held by fundamentalists is a recent development and theologically unsophisticated compared to many older views of God.

      I found it an interesting book.

      Personally, I’d argue that if you’ve come up with a definition of God, then you know right there your definition is incomplete.

    • VandaBlair  August 19, 2014

      I won’t say that I ‘know’ this as the reason, but a lot of religious people have redefined their definition of God as a way of shifting the goal posts. It’s a way to avoid certain arguments that might at least question the validity of their beliefs. That’s why there are so many vague definitions floating around.

      The more we debate the existence of God, the more people will change their definition of God in order to fit a round peg into a square hole. Suffering being round, God being square for example. The last thing believers I talk to will do is give up their belief.

      (It follows from something I have seen in most former believers I have met. They go through something similar to the Five Stages of Grief and Loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. All they want at the bargaining stage is to reach a workable compromise and not have to go further into the process of losing their faith.)

      So I don’t see a clear and precise definition of God coming any time soon from those that believe.

  2. Hana1080  August 16, 2014

    I apologize that at times my comments digress BUT they do pop up at odd times too while reflecting on what I’ve been reading .. Can the historical and current racism against the Jewish people be linked to Christianity in general and specifically the Gospel of John?

    • Hana1080  August 16, 2014

      If so, I am in fact horrified.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

      Not just to John, but in my view there was no such thing as anti-Judaism per se until Christainity arose.

      • Rosekeister
        Rosekeister  August 17, 2014

        Do you think the anti-Judaism arose because of the gospels or did the gospels reflect a growing anti-Judaism in the gentile churches? And for that matter, did this anti-Judaism arise because the NT documents were written in the run-up and during the Jewish wars against Rome or because, despite Jewish followers of Jesus, most of the Jews did not accept the Christian claims of Jesus as the Messiah?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

          Yes, I think anti-Judaism affected the Gospels andt he Gospels affected anti-Judaism, and that it all is tied directly to Jews not accepting messianic claims.

          • ksutherland  August 28, 2014

            messianic claims…. about Jesus. From what I understand Jews had messianic ideas but they did not align with the claims that Jesus was the messiah?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 29, 2014

            I talk about this in several of my books — you might see the discussion, for example, in Jesus Interrupted.

      • Hana1080  August 18, 2014

        Reading your affirmation literally gave me chills right now … how horrific. Then this is one of the worst examples of Religious imperialism.

      • willow  August 19, 2014

        Odd, isn’t it? Considering the fact that Jesus was not ever a Christian, but always a Jew.

        • willow  August 19, 2014

          P.S., As for the statue, well, it is so rather amusingly interesting. And shiny.

        • ksutherland  August 28, 2014

          Interesting thought…. with Jesus being Jewish…. he would be familiar with the particular prophetic scriptural references and therefore would never claim to be the messiah (?)

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 29, 2014

            I think Jesus did understand himself to be the messiah. You might look at my discussion in How Jesus Became God.

      • prestonp  September 10, 2014

        What do we call the history of the persecution of the jews before christianity arrived? Did Christ promote anti-Judaism?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 10, 2014

          What persecutions of the Jews before Christianity are you thinking of? There were sometimes political issues in Palestine (and in Alexandria). But I don’t know of any persecutions of Jews for being Jewish (other than a general sense that barbarians — such as Jews and Ethiopians and Gallic tribes and so on — had very peculiar customs that could easily be mocked. I certainly don’t think Jesus wsa anti-Jewish. Just the contrary. But his later followers certainly *became* anti-Jewish.

          • prestonp  September 12, 2014

            This didn’t make it and I don’t know why. Jews have been under attack since god chose Abe and his descendants as his very own people.

            Can you be specific regarding his followers who were anti-Semitic? How does a follower hate someone and be a follower?

            14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 12, 2014

            I am supposed to be writing a book soon (though it won’t be soon) on the rise of Christian anti-semitism (it didn’t exist before Christianity). But you might try Rosemary Ruether’s classic, Faith and Fratricide.

  3. pdahl  August 16, 2014

    Toward the end of your most candid FFRF lecture you mentioned some very smart people close to you who I presume are well aware of all the historical points you made in *How Jesus Became God* and yet still consider that Jesus indeed *was/is* God.

    I have three brief questions about this. 1. Do they understand your historical points about Jesus in HJBG but simply disagree with them or that these points bear upon Jesus’s divine status? 2. Or is that that they agree with your arguments but nonetheless still think Jesus was/is God, albeit for other reasons than those you address in the book? 3. Ultimately, then, why do these smart people close to you think that Jesus was/is God?

    Having read HJBG twice by now — and thanks so much for writing it, by the way — I was impressed by the sheer amount of logic, empiricism, and reason that underpins virtually all of your carefully crafted arguments. Others will no doubt rebut you based on their preference for advocating from tradition, authority, and/or dogma. And maybe therein lies at least a partial psychological answer to my own questions — namely, that for some people logic, empiricism, and reason simply trump tradition, authority, and dogma, whereas for others it’s just the other way around. Your thoughts?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

      They are theologically sophisticated people who realize that Jesus could be God even if he never said so and that this view was not recognized until later, long after his death. They think this not for historical reasons but for theological reasons, and argue that history is not hte only (or even the best) gateway to truth. On that I agree with them.

      • Rosekeister
        Rosekeister  August 17, 2014

        A good post or even series of posts would be on how extremely intelligent, highly educated, theologically sophisticated people define God and in what way Jesus could be this God.

      • prestonp  September 10, 2014

        “Others will no doubt rebut you based on their preference for advocating from tradition, authority, and/or dogma.”

        Others use reason, science, history, common sense and written and natural revelation that has withstood every argument for thousands of years to come to grips with his divinity. Additionally, there isn’t one speck of proof that jesus wasn’t exactly who he said he was. Quite the contrary, all known evidence makes an air-tight case for his divinity.

        To attempt to reduce the reasons why people believe in him to “dogma, authority and tradition” is a clever? way to try to hide the contempt of the christhaters. It isn’t subtle but it is a popular way to convey the bias many anti-christians use to express and to justify their hatred.

        These “haters” will not say, “Christians are stupid, subservient idiots to believe that nonsense” on Dr. Bart’s blog.

        This won’t make it as a post for the reasons I just listed.

    • willow  August 19, 2014

      Thanks for asking the questions I hesitated to ask, pdahl!

  4. DonakdDHeacock  August 16, 2014

    What is your opinion of Robert Eisenman’s work on James.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

      Eisenman is very smart and he knows a lot of things. And I think he is dead wrong about James.

      • asjsdpjk  August 19, 2014

        It would be amazingly intrresting if you could elaborate on that some time!

      • DonakdDHeacock  August 24, 2014

        Thank you Bart I have written on one other occasion (About Barbara Thiering) Please give us a short sketch of Eisenman’s view of James and yours.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 25, 2014

          OK, interesting idea. I’ll think about it!

          • ksutherland  August 28, 2014

            This would be very interesting! *toothy grin!*

  5. Rosekeister
    Rosekeister  August 16, 2014

    That was a stirring challange to the humanist associations near the end of your talk. It prompts me to ask if you think that the traditional view of religion is too small? That a religious worldview does not have to involve Jesus or the Buddha (or anyone else) as a founding figure, an institutional church, a set of required beliefs, faith in creeds or a belief in a personal (or impersonal) god. That a religious worldview could be more along the lines of taking personal responsibility for your choices and the way you live without the need for the reward of heaven or the pushment of hell. Having a blog to raise money for charity seems a religious choice in which views on faith and theism seem irrelevant.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

      Yes, defining religion is unbelievably difficult, as it turns out. Some undergraduate courses in colleges and universities spend an entire semester problematizing the term!

  6. Hana1080  August 16, 2014

    I’d like to clarify a point. Is then the mystical traditions (and for discussion I’ll isolate Vision although mysticism encompasses a broader range of sensory phenomena) including not only Christianity but Hinduism and Buddhism considered to be in fact only hallucinations?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

      No, there is a lot more to mysticism than that!

      • Hana1080  August 18, 2014

        Yes I think so too but as I haven’t read this book yet as I am engrossed in another one of yours at the moment, will wait to read and better understand why you think Christ’s appearance was hallucinations and not Vision?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

          Hallucinations are one kind of vision. (Visions can be things that are really there, or things not really there. If not really there, they are hallucinations.)

          • Hana1080  August 20, 2014

            Thank you. I agree with your definition … Visions are there 🙂 !! lol Succinct and to the point. Made me laugh. But you do not consider the appearance of the resurrected Christ a Vision? (I apologize if you do in your book as I haven’t read it yet .. working on another )

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 20, 2014

            Yes, it was a vision. But a non-veridical one, in my opinion (i.e., a hallucination).

          • Hana1080  August 22, 2014

            Well then I’m eager than to read this chapter and your working definitions and why the visions were non-verdical. Thank you.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 23, 2014

            In my book I leave open the question of whether or not they were veridical. But as a non-believer, of course, I do not think they were veridical. Otherwise I would be a believer!

  7. gabilaranjeira  August 16, 2014

    Great talk, especially when you emphasize the role (or lack of) of religious and non-religious groups on social and humanitarian issues. This talk was a perfect combination of knowledge, tolerance and service to others. I’m a big fan of yours.

  8. toejam  August 17, 2014

    Good stuff. Have you ever had much of a chance to speak to Dan Barker in private? What are your thoughts on him? You two must have a lot in common – going from evangelical fundamentalists to world famous atheists. Though it seems both of you gone about responding to your deconversions in very different ways – Dan being more of an ‘active’ atheist, for lack of a better term.

  9. RonaldTaska  August 17, 2014

    I look forward to hearing the lecture. Thanks for sharing it. I think the problem comes for me when religion does harm such as with religious wars, or its push against gay marriage, or its opposition to the teaching of evolution, or its attitude against women leaders and clergy. So, don’t you think religion of that sort, even if it’s not fundamentalist, needs to be opposed?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      No, I don’t think religion itself is to blame. People are. And people would find some other ideological reason to do evil things, if they couldn’t rely on religion to provide it….

  10. Hana1080  August 18, 2014

    In the video you said that Jesus becoming God was paramount to the spread of Christianity and I’ve been thinking about this and wondering why was IT necessary? You said that Christianity would not have spread but would have remained a Jewish sect without this Interpretation? But why? I don’t grasp the collective importance. In the church I attended in my youth, Jesus was not thought of as God … but again as I am fairly new at reading in depth maybe I should be doing more of my own homework before taking your time?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      Because Gentiles were not about to convert to become Jewish, and if Christianity remained a Jewish sect, that’s what Gentiles would have had to do..

      • Hana1080  August 20, 2014

        Without my being too tedious, so the Gentiles would have had to make Jesus a God in order to remove him from the Jewish religion and establish Jesus as their own? Reflecting last night on what I’ve been reading on your site, for me what I read is both highly emotional as well as intellectual. Emotional because although I’ve read a couple of your books before, they never struck home as they are now turning in my mind Christianity upside down. Can’t wait to discuss these points with my beloved Godmother who is a Trappist abbess. 🙂

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 20, 2014

          Not exactly. There were also Jews who understood Jesus to be God. But if Christianity stayed a sect within Judaism, then becoming Christian would involve becoming Jewish, and all that might entail (typically: circumcision; sabbath observance; kosher food laws; festivals; and so on), and most pagans simply didn’t want to go there.

  11. Hana1080  August 18, 2014

    I’m almost afraid to ask this question and possibly it should not be published respectfully .. how much of a jump then is it then that the Nazis exploited the Christian founded racism and therefore in some fundamental degree Christianity also shares responsibility? Why am I afraid to ask the question ? .. because I am extremely careful when combining the word Nazi with anything.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      My view is that modern forms of anti-semitism are unthinkable without an entire history of anti-Judaism from early modernity, back to the Middle Ages, and back to Late Antiquity. And anti-Judaism in Late Antiquity is unthinkable without the rise of Christianity.

      • Hana1080  August 20, 2014

        Gasp … That’s a lot of blood on “ones” collective heads. (My belief system includes philosophical concepts of karma)

      • prestonp  August 23, 2014

        ” And anti-Judaism in Late Antiquity is unthinkable without the rise of Christianity.”

        Specifically, whose christianity do you refer?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 23, 2014

          The world’s.

          • prestonp  August 23, 2014

            Often, the distinction between institutions that use words and phrases of a religious nature, that have nothing to do with following Christ, and those who follow him in loving devotion, is ignored. Sometimes intentionally, critics will combine them under one heading, christianity. It smears those who honor him with ugly, egregious behavior and attitudes without merit as It exalts institutions bloodied in chains of history as ambassadors of god somehow, when he had nothing to do with them.

            The white man should know better by now. We have lived through our black brothers and sisters valiant struggle to shed similar kinds of stigmas.

          • prestonp  August 25, 2014

            You, too, when you were a christian, supported anti-Semitism? Did that have anything to do with your religious experience or was it promulgated by any of your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Rhetorical. No need to answer.

  12. shakespeare66  August 18, 2014

    I especially liked the fact that you asked the FFRF to make a “name” for itself by doing what Christian groups do—help other people. I have also taken the position to my friends that religion does a lot of good for people, and religion does a lot of good for people and so I do not condemn it. I just think that those who condemn it must at least offer some concomitant help for those less fortunate in the world. I love that idea, and it makes perfect sense–one has to replace the “old” group with a new “group” that has some purpose. I hope you get my drift. This was an excellent talk and a great presentation of your beliefs and your work When Jesus Became God.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      Thanks. I’m not sure everyone there appreciated that point all that much! 🙂

      • toejam  August 22, 2014

        My concern with this is that most agnostics/atheists don’t advertise their philanthropy/charity *in the name of* agnosticism/atheism. I’ve always found it odd when people do that. There are plenty of secular charity organisations who do good for good’s sake – not in the name of “atheism” or “anti religion”. Those are the organisations that I donate towards. The FFRF’s goals are to help maintain the separation of church and state, offer support for those who have left their faith, and to help expose the superstitions of some of the world’s religions. Those are worthy goals – The FFRF should not be expected to “compete” with religious aid for the purpose of winning over converts. That to me would be just as sus as when religions do aid in order to win over converts.

        • prestonp  August 25, 2014

          “My concern with this is that most agnostics/atheists don’t advertise their philanthropy/charity *in the name of* agnosticism/atheism.”

          How would you know whether agnostics/atheists participate in philanthropy/charity?

  13. Wilusa  August 18, 2014

    “I am personally not opposed to religion or people who practice it (although I *am* quite definitely opposed to fundamenalist kinds of religion — whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever).”

    I have a bit of a problem with this. As I see it, given my personal views, the most “liberal” form of religion is just as *wrong* as “fundamentalist” forms. So why “oppose” one and not the other? Personally, I don’t “oppose” either. Some people holding fundamentalist views seem to derive great comfort from their faith.

    Of course, there can be problems with the definition of “fundamentalist.” I *do* oppose those who seek to force their religious views on others, or prevent people “born into” their faith from leaving it.

    And I’m very uncomfortable with religions being allowed to have *schools* . How can people have “freedom of religion” if they’re indoctrinated almost from the cradle? I wish all our youth were in public schools, with the churches being allowed no more than “Sunday school” or its equivalent. I endured many years of Catholic schooling, and eventually became an agnostic – the thing I’m proudest of in my life. But should it be necessary for individuals to resist indoctrination? I truly don’t know.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      I don’t think we should oppose views because they are *wrong*. If they are wrong, we simply should not adhere to them. But we should oppose views that are *dangerous*. Liberal religion is very rarely dangerous. Love one another; live and let live; be kind to strangers; do good to all. Liberal religion teaches such things, and even though I don’t agree with the religious views themselves, I agree with the ethical results.

      • Wilusa  August 20, 2014

        As I said, I don’t oppose religions because I believe they’re wrong (wrong *intellectually*). Like you, I would only actively oppose those that are *dangerous*.

        I think where we differ is on the definition of fundamentalism. For most of my life, I would have defined a “fundamentalist” as a person who, if asked, would say he or she believed literally in the Biblical account of creation. (And probably, would say offhand that he or she believed everything in the Bible was true.) That’s it! If they were Catholic, it was likely that (a) they’d never *read* the Bible, and (b) those “beliefs” didn’t impact their *lives* at all.

        And I would have thought of active, *aggressive* fundamentalists as being obsessed with denying evolution.

        I do have that concern about religious schools…indoctrination. I really don’t know where the line should be drawn -the distinction between being free to practice the religion of your choice, and being free to indoctrinate children by telling them they already *are*, from birth, Catholics or whatever.

        • prestonp  August 25, 2014

          I do have that concern about anti-religious schools…indoctrination. I really don’t know where the line should be drawn. The state of our public schools is appalling. Metal detectors will be mandatory, not just in our inner cities like philadelphia, but across the nation, imo.

    • prestonp  August 25, 2014

      And I’m very uncomfortable with anti-religious groups being allowed to have *schools*. How can people have the right to worship freely if the government interferes with that constitutionally protected right?

  14. shakespeare66  August 19, 2014

    While watching the question and answer session, I noticed that the person who asked about the existence of Christ did not believe what you said even after putting the “world” of scholarship behind it ( your book Did Jesus Exist? and other scholars work). I assume that because you apologized by saying “I sympathize with your view, but…” This led me to think that these mythicists are doing the same thing as what fundamentalists do in the face of overwhelming evidence–they just don’t believe it. It is ironic that they do what they protest against. I suppose all you can do is to present what you know, and let the chips fall where they may. I am often stunned by how flippant fundamentalists are about the work of a scholar ( as my fundamentalist preacher “friend” casts you off like you are nobody). I said “How can you think that you know more or better than a man who has spent his life working on these issues?” She said, “I studied at Princeton Theological Seminary!” I said “Really? and you think you know as much as he does?” It was a circular discussion, and I quickly decided that we would no longer engage in any discussion about religion. She is certainly not open to it. So how do you continue to go on in the face of this kind of opposition?

    • prestonp  August 25, 2014

      “I am often stunned by how flippant fundamentalists are about the work of a scholar…”

      Christians, too, are often stunned at deniers’ willingness to ignore overwhelming evidence that jesus is Christ.

      • shakespeare66  August 25, 2014

        Jesus is Christ? What does that mean? What Christians lack (too often) is a willingness to investigate the knowledge that is out there about a variety of things. How stunning is it that 64% of Christians in this country deny evolution? I think that is beyond stunning. It is mind boggling. Try reading Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. Oh, I’m sorry. People like you don’t read stuff like that because you can find all the answers in the Bible so you don’t need to read anything else. And even if you DID read it, you would still deny it it true and say it is a hoax or a conspiracy or some such nonsense. It is OKAY for you to live in your fantasy world. We don’t begrudge you living there, but please son’t step on my understanding of the world, of Jesus Christ, of evolution, of being gay, of anything that your “perfect” little moral Bible tells you is right about proper decorum for the world. Christians should be stunned at how flippant we can be about the life of Christ. I have read the 15 or so books that Dr. Ehrman has written on the subject because I wanted to know what scholars are saying about this subject. No one wants to take away your belief or your faith. Just leave those who don’t care for it alone. Instead of quoting me, ask a pertinent question—you might learn something for once in your life.

      • shakespeare66  November 3, 2014

        There is no overwhelming evidence.

    • prestonp  November 1, 2014

      “This led me to think that these mythicists are doing the same thing as what fundamentalists do in the face of overwhelming evidence–they just don’t believe it.” Shake

      There is no evidence that proves what you say. None.

      • shakespeare66  November 3, 2014

        Why is there a large group of mythicists? The facts are all over the intrrnet!

  15. Steefen  August 19, 2014

    Sorry, I’m 7 minutes into this and my orientation is yelling a big grumble. My Ancient Roman orientation is the Roman imposition that you bless the state, you bless the emperor. You express goodwill and cooperation to the state and you express goodwill and cooperation to the emperor. Why? Because a state is a fragile thing. The Republic fell. The Empire rose. Emperors were assassinated, went crazy, etc. The Empire fell.

    So, it’s like you’re jumping to an irresponsible conclusion.

    Bart Ehrman:
    Freedom from religion does not mean opposing religion.
    Freedom from religion means opposing the imposition of someone else’s religion on us.

    StephenOABC:
    But, we do not have Julius Caesar’s nephew in D.C. We do not have a fallen Republic raised to greatness by Augustus; Augustus who set the direction for the Roman Empire’s imperial cult, and as a result, Rome arguably was not a secular state.

    Before I agree with you, the question must be posed: would you have wanted freedom from religion in the religious pluralism of Ancient Roman territory first century B.C.E. and first century C.E., Judea or anywhere else?

    Was Rome a good influence, religiously, upon the areas it influenced?
    Do you disagree with Paul, Dr. Ehrman?

    Judaism did offer sacrifices for the emperor. When it stopped, the Jewish Revolt was on.

    So, you’re a proponent of religious isolationism–putting religion in a closet, a bathroom, closed-door activity? Once people get together and really talk this through, we can agree on the lowest common denominators:

    God is impersonal therefore persons need not interact with an impersonal God.
    Problem: people will awe at the Grand Canyon, an impersonal object.

    God is the Sun and the operation of its Solar System, provider of day and night. The Sun grounds us–keeping us from floating out into the Milky Way.

    Some will say, this sets us back to Constantine’s pre-Christian Sol Invictus and possibly to Akhen-aten’s Power behind the Sun.

    God is Authority and the ideal of Good Authority is partially how God gets personified.
    Problem: assigning the attribute of authority to God is not a lowest common denominator of God. Authority is subject to interpretation.

    In conclusion, if one takes the stance of Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, does your case really hold up against these? Would you be a Jewish zealot, rebel/bandit on this issue?

    After applying your answer to the times of the emperors, we can see if your answer can apply to our current case.

    Thank you.

    • Steefen  August 21, 2014

      Finished watching.

      Jesus is God in the gospel of John, not so much in the Synoptics was thought-provoking. It, to me, shows a contradiction in the New Testament.

      I would go further and say Jesus is not so much God in the Acts of the Apostles.

      As you mentioned months ago, Jesus becomes God in the works of Paul.

      “A religion needs a god: Jesus had to become God.” This helps separate Christianity from Judaism.

      For Jesus to have existed with God, one should ask where was Jesus when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

      Sorry, I don’t see Jesus as God. Jesus may be a third of a trinity, Jesus may be Lord, with authority over some areas. Jesus is a little light on his Heavenly Father being the Creator. His Father-God is a personification of “Life will work out, so, don’t concern yourself with what will you wear, what will you eat, you have enough problems for today.” Yes, the Earth was a place of abundant resources. When famine came to Judea, Prince-to-King Izates and Queen Helena fed the people, don’t worry. (We can say Prince and King Izates because he was a king of a small kingdom.) Yes, I can hear King Izates-Jesus speaking to the people as he fed them.

      You can say Jesus became God but what was the quality of that notion of God? What is the quality of the claim? Jesus could have talked Adam & Eve out of the Fall. All Jesus had to do was tell Adam and Eve to say, “Get behind me Satan” (and, “I’m not yielding to your temptation” or “lead us, Adam & Eve, not into temptation.”

      So, you’ve helped me see a major flaw in the Gospel of John.

      • prestonp  August 23, 2014

        “A religion needs a god: Jesus had to become God.” This helps separate Christianity from Judaism.

        Did jesus indicate he needed a religion?

        “For Jesus to have existed with God, one should ask where was Jesus when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.”

        Why?

        “His Father-God is a personification of ‘Life will work out, so, don’t concern yourself with what will you wear, what will you eat, you have enough problems for today.’”

        Do you see a problem?

        • Steefen  August 25, 2014

          Did Jesus indicate he needed a new religion? It seems he indicated it to Paul and he indicated it to James who allowed Gentiles some leeway with respect to religious customs of Judaism.

          It’s almost irrelevant whether or not Jesus indicated he needed a religion.

          1) Remember or read The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

          2) Jesus’ own succession plan failed. He did not need a religion if the Jewish people would have supported him in the first incarnation/coronation as Son of Man of the Kingdom of Heaven/Righteousness with Star Prophecy as harbinger. So, Titus fulfilled the prophecies of the Son of Man, then, he became Emperor, and you might as well say when he died, he was deified like his father and now sits at the right hand of his deified father, Vespasian.

          The irrelevancy. If Jesus’s Son of Man movement had succeeded, there would have been no need for him to start a new religion because Judaism would have been fulfilled and victorious. People would have come. Judaism would have grown had it delivered on Jesus’ promise of a kingdom of righteousness.

          “For Jesus to have existed with God, one should ask where was Jesus when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.” Why?

          John 8:58 (Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.)

          Well, either Jesus would have allowed God’s will to be done and he could find another garden where he could agonize over this or his “Good Father” notion of God would have created a different test of Abraham’s loyalty.

          according to Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire), child sacrifice was actually “rife among the Semitic peoples,” and suggests that “in that age, it was astounding that Abraham’s God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it.” Hertz interprets the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent. “Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required.” In Jeremiah 32:35, God states that the later Israelite practice of child sacrifice to the deity Molech “had [never] entered My mind that they should do this abomination.” – Binding of Isaac in Wikipedia

          Hm, It’s certainly in Genesis. God denies?! in Jeremiah. It comes back to mind in the first century with the Father and Son of the gospels–the Father not taking away this cup from Jesus. It also comes back when God allows the food supply for Jews to be destroyed during the Jewish Revolt and some of the people started eating any and everything, including the food of cannibalism (see Cannibal Mary, an account in Josephus’ Wars of the Jews).

          prestonp asked do I see a problem with this: “His Father-God is a personification of ‘Life will work out, so, don’t concern yourself with what will you wear, what will you eat, you have enough problems for today.’” Yes, prestonp, I see a problem: Some people who follow this become victims and they do not rise to the top to enforce this idyll for all.

          • prestonp  August 25, 2014

            Whom was he addressing?

          • prestonp  August 31, 2014

            “Jesus’ own succession plan failed”

            How? What was his succession plan, exactly?

          • prestonp  September 11, 2014

            “I see a problem: Some people who follow this become victims and they do not rise to the top to enforce this idyll for all.”

            Who specifically?

          • prestonp  September 11, 2014

            “prestonp asked do I see a problem with this: “His Father-God is a personification of ‘Life will work out, so, don’t concern yourself with what will you wear, what will you eat, you have enough problems for today”

            Who said that?

  16. Macavity  August 20, 2014

    Thanks for posting this lecture. I found it to be possibly the most valuable and interesting of all your lectures/debates I’ve watched.

    However, I was surprised to hear you say (41 min): “They ended up with the idea that there are three distinct beings all three of whom are fully God – they’re distinct from one another, they’re all fully God, they’re all equally God – but there is only one God. That’s the doctrine of the trinity, that’s there’s one God manifest in three persons. And it doesn’t make sense rationally and it’s not meant to make sense rationally.”

    If I understand you correctly you are saying that the doctrine of the trinity says there are three beings all of whom are God and that God is only one being. So, God is one being and God is not one being which obviously is a contradiction.

    I thought the classical (4th and 5th century church fathers) definition of the doctrine of the Trinity goes something like this: God is of one essence (being), God is a plurality of persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the words being and person do not denote the same thing. That statement is not a logical contradiction. Of course, just because a statement isn’t logically contradictory doesn’t make it true.

    Wouldn’t it be simpler and less controversial just to say that you know of no compelling evidence to believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is true and leave it at that—rather than creating a paradoxical/nonclassical version of the doctrine of the Trinity and concluding that it is not worthy of belief by a rational person because it is self-contradictory?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 20, 2014

      Yes, your understanding of the classical definition is how I understand it too. But it still defies rational understanding, even if it is not irrational. (What defies understanding is how the three can be one and yet three; I do understand: three in person, one in essence. But figuring out how that can be, without sacrificing either the unity or the plurality is, in my judgment, beyond rational sense. I’m not saying it’s wrong — the properties of light are beyond rational sense as well)

      • prestonp  August 23, 2014

        “Albert Einstein once told a friend that quantum mechanics doesn’t hold water in his scientific world view because “physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance.” That spooky action at a distance is ENTANGLEMENT, a quantum phenomenon in which two particles, separated by ANY amount of distance, can instantaneously affect one another as if part of a unified system.

        Now, scientists have successfully hijacked that quantum weirdness — doing so reliably for the first time — to produce what many sci-fi fans have long dreamt up: teleportation…”

        Nick Statt

        Sorry for posting too much. You are at fault. You are too interesting! (Will be finished in just a few more days. Hang in there.)

  17. Lostallfaith  August 24, 2014

    Thank you very much for posting your lecture. Your words are so important to me as I have lost my 22 year old son to a very religious, Christian Fundamentalist Cult in Texas last Dec. I have read all your books and others, studied the historical Jesus and how the Bible became Holy and now am an agnostic. My husband, went the other path, becoming religious (we did not even attend church prior), seeking solace and understanding from the very book (Bible) that destroyed our son. We are now completely at odds. And so when I heard you say your wife was Christian, I had a brief moment of hope that my spouse and I could somehow come together in our sorrow under no religious doctrine. Religion has destroyed my family and yet I am trying to “compromise” and attend church, go through the motions yet I feel like an imposter. Our son no longer is allowed contact with us as we are “apostate” and this was even before I lost my faith…..how do you have a relationship with your spouse when you don’t believe the same things anymore….thank you for all your help in this time of despair.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 25, 2014

      My wife and I have never believed the same things! But for neither of us is it a matter of eternal moment. It’s simply a disagreement in things we both find important — and so we work for mutual respect.

    • prestonp  August 25, 2014

      “Our son no longer is allowed contact with us as we are “apostate”…”lost”

      He’s an adult. If he wishes to speak to you, he can. If he’s prevented from doing so, he’s been kidnapped. He isn’t permitted to speak to his believing father, either, because he too is apostate?

      What denomination is this? Would you like someone to try to talk to him or to those in charge?

  18. prestonp  August 25, 2014

    “Did Jesus indicate he needed a new religion? It seems he indicated it to Paul and he indicated it to James who allowed Gentiles some leeway with respect to religious customs of Judaism.” steefen

    Jesus existed? If so, he was history when paul came along, wasn’t he?

    “For Jesus to have existed with God, one should ask where was Jesus when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.”steefen

    “Why?” Where was jesus and what difference does it make?

    • Steefen  August 27, 2014

      prestonp: Jesus existed?

      Steefen: They certainly did. Jesus is a number of historical persons crafted with much care into a biblical Jesus–even the Homeric Epics were used to craft the Biblical Jesus.

      Bart Ehrman says there are multiple attestations of Jesus.

      One of the leading Jesuses of the historical Jesus group is King Izates who:

      1) was an “only begotten son”
      2) fed 5,000 a number of times during the famine of approximately 47 B.C.E.
      3) had a royal blood line who wore crows of thorns
      4) had a father who appears in the teachings of Jesus, Matthew 6: 19-20 (See: The Greatest Bible Study in Historical Accuracy: Insights on the Exodus, King David, the 23rd Psalm, Jesus and Paul, 1st Edition, by Steefen, ps 126-128.)

      So, you are in error when you write: “He was history when Paul came along, wasn’t he?”

  19. Steefen  August 27, 2014

    prestonp, I forgot to put an important reason for putting King Izates at the top of the historical Jesuses list; so point 3 becomes 3a and the reason I’m adding to make the list complete is 3b below. I’m also adding an additional reason, 3c.

    1) was an “only begotten son”
    2) fed 5,000 a number of times during the famine of approximately 47 B.C.E.

    3a) had a royal blood line who wore crowns of thorns
    3b) some of the kings wearing crowns of thorns had the name Manu.

    Jesus is Em-manu-el which seems to mean With the Manu line of kings–who converted to Judaism with Queen Helena and following the example of Queen Helena and King Izates–is God. It does not mean With Us is God.

    3c) in my book, I make an issue about Jesus grilling the pharisees: Is it not written in YOUR law… as opposed to, Is it not written in OUR law. For me, Jesus is phrasing as Queen Helena or King Izates would question a Jewish authority. We are not Jews, we are proselytes. For me, it is also Roman writers of a pro-Roman composite Jesus questioning Judaism. More important and very important: Queen Helena’s palace would seem to obligate her and sons to have some sort of understanding with Rome when it came to paying taxes. So, when Jesus is questioned by enemies trying to entrap him to tell Jews not to pay taxes to Caesar, the Queen Helena royal family would have a politically correct response. Queen Helena (see http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/helene-queen-of-adiabene) had to co-exist under Roman authority of the region. Did her family get a tax break for the famine relief that year? It probably could have been negotiated or could have been an item to hold against the Romans; for, we know her family tree fought against the Romans during the Jewish Revolt.

    Mark 8: 18 “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? …”

    4) had a father who appears in the teachings of Jesus, Matthew 6: 19-20 (See: The Greatest Bible Study in Historical Accuracy: Insights on the Exodus, King David, the 23rd Psalm, Jesus and Paul, 1st Edition, by Steefen, ps 126-128.)

    Matthew 6: 19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  20. prestonp  August 29, 2014

    Most everyone agrees that there are huge differences between religion and spirituality. Anyone can claim to be speaking for god or jesus and many have. They do so in vain. They use his name to do all kinds of good and evil things and they are con-artists. Focusing on them or their institutions/churches is a choice and many choose it. Some are sure that that god and their words and actions are one. Some enjoy that perspective because it offers justification not to concentrate on the divine.

    This guy jesus is quoted as saying that god is spirit. He supposedly added, if anybody wants to hang out with this spirit, it is accomplished through spirit. The guy who was rescued at the last split second? wasn’t baptized, did no good works, didn’t repent of anything, never tithed, never quit drinking or lusting after babes. He did express a thought: He don’t deserve this. We do. He don’t.

    Instead of being “biblically correct”, jesus made a bizarre statement. Pal, this very day you and I will hang out in heaven together. (Wasn’t he supposed to wait a few days?) Some kind of connection sparked between them, spirit to spirit.

    • Steefen  August 31, 2014

      prestonp: He did express a thought: “He don’t deserve this. We do. He don’t.” Instead of being “biblically correct”, Jesus made a bizarre statement. Pal, this very day you and I will hang out in heaven together. (Wasn’t he supposed to wait a few days?) Some kind of connection sparked between them, spirit to spirit.

      Steefen: You’re missing important ingredients. It wasn’t just that he thought Jesus did not deserve to be crucified but also: 1) he had a fear of God when he asks the other crucified man, “Don’t you even fear God?” 2) he told Jesus he had faith in Jesus’s kingdom. Jesus appreciated that. That was the connection sparked, spirit to spirit.

      • prestonp  September 1, 2014

        And, he wasn’t a fundamentalist, or a literalist, or an expert on new testament inerrancy or dispensationalism. He wasn’t a Baptist, or rich or poor, literate, free or a slave, wasn’t cleansed from his sinful nature, didn’t speak in tongues, couldn’t define the trinity, Christ didn’t take him down miraculously, but he experienced the exact same “born from above” relationship as Dr. Bart from what I can tell.

        • prestonp  September 2, 2014

          So, what exactly did he “do” to become qualified to go to heaven? That very day, Christ promised, the two of them would be together in heaven. Where in the new testament does it say he gets to go to heaven? It wasn’t written at that point.

  21. Steefen  August 30, 2014

    The second most important historical Jesus, after King Izates, is Emperor Vespasian.

    Christ Jesus can be understood as terms as opposed to a singular person. Christ would mean Messiah. Jesus would mean Savior or God Saves. Three historians claim Emperor Vespasian was Christ Jesus because he was the leader promised in the Star Prophecy. Those historians were Josephus, Suetonius, and Tacitus.

    The third most important historical Jesus after Emperor Vespasian is the Woe-Saying Jesus.

    Now, the problem I have with Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman and How Jesus became God by Bart Ehrman is that we have three ancient historians who claim Paul’s Christ Jesus = Messiah Savior of the Star Prophecy to be Vespasian. With Rome, the Victors, writing history and writing a non-militant, pro-Roman Jesus and a religion about Jesus through Paul, — Did Jesus Exist does not have an index but — these books need to confirm, not the three tenors but the three historians. Vespasian becomes deified within 20 years of Jesus becoming God.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 31, 2014

      We don’t have any ancient historians who claim that Christ was Vespasian.

      • Steefen  September 1, 2014

        The “Star Prophecy” (or Star and Scepter prophecy) is a Messianic reading applied by radical Jews and early Christians to Numbers 24:17. The Star Prophecy was applied to the coming Messiah himself in contemporary radical Jewish documents, such as the apocalyptic War Scroll found at Qumran.

        Now for the Ancient Historians who claimed Christ was Vespasian, Josephus, Suetonius, and Tacitus:

        [Vespasian] had not arrived at the government without Divine Providence, but a righteous kind of fate had brought the empire under his power. Josephus War of the Jews 4, 10, 622
        But what more than all else incited them to the war was an ambiguous oracle also found in their sacred writings, that ‘At about that time, one from their country would become ruler of the habitable world.’ This they took to mean one of their own people and many of the wise men were misled in their interpretaion. This oracle, however, in reality, signified the government of Vespasian, who was proclaimed emperor while in Judea. – Josephus Wars VI, 312-313.

        There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief that it was fated for men coming from Judea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome–as afterwards appeared from the event–the people of Judea took to themselves. – Suetonius, Life of Vespasian, 4-5

        The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this exalted destiny was reserved for them and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth. – Tacitus, Histories, 5.13

        • Steefen  September 1, 2014

          Vespasian saved us from militant, zealous, messianic rebel Jews just as today we need to be saved from militant, zealous, rebels of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria committing genocide against Christians, beheading adults and children. (NPR transcript: http://wmra.org/post/spectacle-beheading-grisly-act-long-history )

          For people to miss the assignment of the Star Prophecy by three historians away from Jesus to Vespasian and Titus is to miss the historically accurate picture of Christianity in Antiquity. Jesus is assigned the title of Messiah as Roman propaganda to appease messiah loving zealots but corrupting the love for a militant messiah for a pacifist messiah. Josephus saw Vespasian and Titus as doing the work of the Messiah of God.

      • Steefen  September 4, 2014

        Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? (Matthew Chapter 2) Rome was the kingdom over the Jews. Who did King Herod the Great listen to? He listened to the emperor of Rome. After Herod the Great, who appointed his sons in authority in the region? Rome. Afterwards, who appointed Pontius Pilate? Who appointed the high priests? The kingdom that was at hand, politically, was Rome.

        Dr. Ehrman, the crown of Christ was taken away from any Jewish man or proselyte and given to Roman men, father and son, Vespasian and Titus.

        Regarding God empowering General and Emperor Vespasian (the father) and General and Emperor Titus (the son)–Rome–Matthew 21: 42-44: “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people (the Romans) that will produce its fruit. The one who falls on this stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” The stone will crush anyone on whom it falls is a reference to a Roman weapon of victory over Jewish rebels used during the Roman Jewish War. The Roman military threw stones that crushed anyone on whom it fell. God has done this. By Roman victory over the Jews, the Kingdom of God/Righteousness/Heaven and its king/emperor was taken away from the Jews and given to Rome. Even the early Christianity of the Roman Church did better than the early Christianity of Jerusalem.

        Historians, Bible, History, Jesus, and Star Prophecy claim Vespasian as Christ, later deified by Rome’s Senate, the Senate of the Kingdom of God. Then the Senate of the Kingdom of God deified the son, Titus as Father and Son became God in the new covenant, Christianity. The network of the emperor cults in Asia Minor was a network used by Paul. Paul working through the network of Palestine isn’t how history unfolded.

        • Steefen  September 9, 2014

          At Church Sunday, we learned that the Roman Empire WAS seen as God’s Kingdom after Christianity was the religion of the Empire. The minister said people were only allowed to read the book of Revelation metaphorically and not literally, as Rome, at the time of its writing was the evil empire.

          But what is this about Rome being God’s Kingdom for the Son of Man within jesus’s present generation (at or within 40 years from Jesus crucifixion, or at or within 40 years of Jesus’s last year of preaching ministry).

          Well, when Josephus fell for Rome as a political alternative to Jerusalem, he fell hard. Seriously, he had reason to do so. Last night, I was doing some reading in Josephus and it stated that when the rebels were fighting among themselves (John, Simon, and Eleazar), John and Simon burned the stores of corn, which led to the starvation of Jews during the Jewish Revolt. It also led to cannibalism, for at least one adult who ate her male child. Josephus lamented the state of Jerusalem under these three rebels/bandits/what have you, that he felt a need for a Messiah/Savior/Kingdom. He saw that in Vespasian, Titus, and the Roman Empire.

          I felt there was a need to add more to the concept of how the ancient historian Josephus saw the Star of Bethlehem/Star Prophecy fulfilled in Vespasian.

  22. prestonp  August 30, 2014

    As intelligent and knowledgeable as most of Dr. Bart’s posters are, they shouldn’t need to be reminded of the vast gulf between those who use his name and those who try to live in his name.

  23. prestonp  August 31, 2014

    One of the key discoveries that led to Flew’s recognition
    of the existence of intelligence was what modern
    science has learned about DNA: “Biologists’ investigation
    of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable
    complexity of the arrangements needed to produce life,
    that intelligence must have been involved” (p. 123).

    Three main arguments compelled Flew to admit the
    need for an Intelligent Source: (1) the presence of
    detailed laws of nature, (2) the finely tuned universe
    that was perfectly receptive to life, and (3) the question
    of how and why life emerged from nothing (p. 89).

    There Is a God
    by
    Antony Flew
    with Roy Abraham Varghese
    HarperOne Reading and Discussion Guide for There Is a God

  24. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  August 31, 2014

    Dr. Ehrman, overall, I am so appreciative of what you share in this lecture and of your your work generally. But there are some mistakes here, I think. First, I think you were quoting Mark: “Thou art my beloved Son….” This has nothing to do with miraculous birth virgin or otherwise or being the literal, much less the begotten, son of God as I think you were suggesting (at 68, however, my memory is slipping). And this RVS translation, in my view, cheats by capitalizing “son.” There is no divinity implied. But the other mistake that keeps getting perpetuated all around us every day is that of quoting John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” as evidence that John taught Jesus was God. On the face of it, sure. But later in 17:11 Jesus prays to his Father that “they [the people or believers before him] may be one, even as we [you and I, Father] are one.” Jesus is not praying to his Father here that the people may become identical with one another. The oneness in 10:30, therefore, means something other than identity.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 31, 2014

      No, I don’t think that Mark understands Jesus to have been born of a virgin or to have pre-existed his birth (did I suggest this?). On John 10:30, I’m not so sure. If he wasn’t making a divine claim, why did his Jewish opponents take up stones to stone him?

      • prestonp  September 9, 2014

        But Dr., you don’t believe any of the words in john are those of jesus.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 9, 2014

          There may be some authentic words of Jesus in John, just as there are in other Gospels. The question is always *which* words are authentic.

          • prestonp  September 10, 2014

            Dr., there is rejoicing sweeping across the land of my heart tonight! Do you realize what just happened?
            An earthquake shook the Northern Hemisphere! Dr. Bart acknowledged we may have the actual words spoken by Christ in the gospels! Just teasing ya.

            Why would Christ celebrate a last supper if he was unaware of his fate?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 10, 2014

            Yes, I’ve written an entire book indicating what in the Gospels actually goes back to Jesus, so it’s not a surprise that I think some things do!

            I never said Christ celebrated the last supper. I said he *had* a last supper. I.e., there was a final meal he had, probably with his disciples, probably a Passover meal. What he said and did then is up to debate.

          • prestonp  September 11, 2014

            How did he know it would be his last supper?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 11, 2014

            I’m not sure he did.

    • prestonp  September 1, 2014

      Read on. 31 “Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

    • prestonp  September 1, 2014

      Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

      Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? And, how does he know what will happen to people eternally if they put him and his mission above all? Why does he think he is so important that he can offer those who follow him abundance in this life and in eternity? And where the heck is he going, anyway, that people should follow him?

      • prestonp  September 10, 2014

        Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

        Dr., who else could have said the above? Who in his right mind would make up such promises for Christ to make? I just can’t imagine how it could happen. Why would anyone dream up stuff like that? What could its “creator” derive from making such claims? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I think they are his words.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 10, 2014

          Lots of people could have said or written that. Why couldn’t they? What would have stopped them? Do you think the words of Jesus in, say, the Gospel of Thomas must necessarily go back to him because they are so astounding and unlike what people normally say?

          • prestonp  September 11, 2014

            Dr., would you quote someone else who spoke words like those, please?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 11, 2014

            I’d suggest youread the non-canonical Gospels.

          • prestonp  September 12, 2014

            “After that again he went through the village, and a child ran and dashed against his shoulder. And Jesus was provoked and said unto him: Thou shalt not finish thy course (lit. go all thy way). And immediately he fell down and died. But certain when they saw what was done said: Whence was this young child born, for that every word of his is an accomplished work And the parents of him that was dead came unto Joseph, and blamed him, saying: Thou that hast such a child canst not dwell with us in the village: or do thou teach him to bless and not to curse: for he slayeth our children.

            V. 1 And Joseph called the young child apart and admonished him, saying: Wherefore doest thou such things, that these suffer and hate us and persecute us But Jesus said: I know that these thy words are not thine: nevertheless for thy sake I will hold my peace: but they shall bear their punishment. And straightway they that accused him were smitten with blindness. 2 And they that saw it were sore afraid and perplexed…”

            You are right. Anyone could have written this. It in no way compares with Christ’s words. No one has spoken like he did, imo. Do you believe, whoever wrote what is in Thomas, was on the same level with the canonical gospels?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 12, 2014

            Sorry — I was referring to the sayings in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, not the stories of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

          • prestonp  September 12, 2014

            Do you have others you could reference whom you find to be similar to Christ’s phraseology?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 12, 2014

            I’d suggest you look at the book my colleague Zlatko Plese and I produced, The Other Gospels.

          • prestonp  September 20, 2014

            “Lots of people could have said or written that. Why couldn’t they? What would have stopped them? Do you think the words of Jesus in, say, the Gospel of Thomas must necessarily go back to him because they are so astounding and unlike what people normally say?” Dr. Bart

            1. No one has.
            2. Good question. They are not god.
            3. No. The words in Thomas are nothing like christ’s words.

  25. prestonp  September 12, 2014

    “Lots of people could have said or written that. Why couldn’t they? What would have stopped them? Do you think the words of Jesus in, say, the Gospel of Thomas must necessarily go back to him because they are so astounding and unlike what people normally say?”

    Wesley Center Online
    Gospel Of Thomas Greek Text A

    From “The Apocryphal New Testament” M.R. James-Translation and Notes Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
    Introduction
    The older testimonies about this book have been given already. I now present the three principal forms of it, as given by Tischendorf: two Greek texts, A and B, and one Latin.

    The few Greek manuscripts are all late. The earliest authorities are a much abbreviated Syriac version of which the manuscript is of the sixth century, and a Latin palimpsest at Vienna of the fifth or sixth century, which has never been deciphered in full.

    The Latin version translated here is found in more manuscripts than the Greek; none of them, I think, is earlier than the thirteenth century.

    The stories of Thomas the Israelite, the Philosopher, concerning the works of the Childhood of the Lord.

    I. I, Thomas the Israelite, tell unto you, even all the brethren that are of the Gentiles, to make known unto you the works of the childhood of our Lord Jesus Christ and his mighty deeds, even all that he did when he was born in our land: whereof the beginning is thus:
    etc., etc

    Adam Clarke unequivocally affirmed the full trustworthiness
    or inerrancy of Scripture. In his article on “The
    Principles of the Christian Religion,” he stated, “The
    Bible . . . is a revelation from God himself, and declares
    his will relative to the salvation of men….men
    may err, but the Scriptures cannot; for it is the Word
    of God himself, who can neither mistake, deceive,
    nor be deceived” [Works, 12:132]. He frequently and
    approvingly quoted the saying concerning Scriptures
    that they have “God for their Author, salvation for
    their end, and truth, without mixture of error, for their
    matter” [Works,11:406]. In his Commentary he categorically
    stated that “The apostles were assisted and
    preserved from error by the Spirit of God; and therefore
    were enabled to deliver to us an unerring rule of
    faith.” The Holy Spirit did not permit them “to err in
    the delivery of what was thus indited in his name or
    which they had written as apostles of God the Father,
    and our Lord Jesus Christ” [Commentary, 5:9, 11].
    Clarke took inerrancy of Scripture as meaning that it
    is without error in all it affirms as fact, and not
    inerrant in what it does not affirm. For instance, the
    chronological sequence of recorded events may not
    be necessarily reflected in historical accounts, such
    as in the Gospels, unless the sequence is specifically
    affirmed. Furthermore, in the recording of conversations
    it is not necessary to have “the very words” but
    the “true intent and meaning” of the exact words.
    However, he believed that John 14:20 does promise
    exactness in the recording of Jesus’ exact words
    [Commentary, 5:10].
    Clarke stoutly defended the canonicity and textual
    purity of the Scriptures. The canon as we have it is
    complete and authentic. The Scriptures have been
    transmitted to us “without addition, defalcation, or
    willful corruption of any kind.” He refers to 2 Timothy
    3:16-17 in support of this. In Clarke’s opinion,
    the textual variants are not significant enough to lead
    to any doctrinal error or obscurity or confusion in
    moral practice. “All is safe and sound—all pure and
    holy, it is . . . the unadulterated gospel of Jesus
    Christ.” With regard to particular textual variants,
    such as 1 John 5:7, he honestly admits that he did not
    believe that was yet fully settled. He did believe
    however, that the Joshua 21:35-36 problem is solved
    by 1 Chronicles 6:78-79 [Works, 6:388, 415].
    Adam Clarke on the Use of Scripture
    Clarke believed in the eternal applicability of God’s
    Word. In his practical suggestions on how to read the
    Bible he advised Christians to read it as the very
    word of God Himself because God “considers it as
    much his word now as he did when he first spoke it”
    [Works, 11:416].
    THE ARMINIAN

  26. prestonp  September 13, 2014

    “…many biblical scholars who are deeply committed Christians would agree with Bart Ehrman that Jesus makes no explicit claims to be God in the Synoptics, and would also agree that the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are not to be taken as actual quotes of Jesus but as theological meditations or discourse…”

    If every bible scholar believed that, it still would have no bearing on his divinity. 2,000 years after he was here, he remains the central figure in human history.

    “No, I completely disagree. Intelligent and thoughtful Christians have substantial reason for thinking Jesus is GoDr. Bart
    d.” From a brilliant agnostic with strong atheistic tendencies. When people have a born again experience , as I am sure you know, there is a lot of emotion and a lot of hype at that moment

    “They are theologically sophisticated people who realize that Jesus could be God even if he never said so…”

    When did he fail to make his divinity known?

    No one mistook him for bozo. He wasn’t accused of being a circus clown. He wasn’t exactly concealing his miracles or denying his equality with god. He wasn’t murdered for being a nut job, was he? He wasn’t despised for being a hypocritical get-rich quit, smooth talking, slick, greedy preacher boy, right?

    “I AM” signaled nothing significant in those who heard him he say that?

    Even the demoniac recognized him immediately and was scared to death.
    ولدت من جديد

    tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
    hwl said, “Religious people do what they think makes sense to them. I think in some Christian circles, the idea that one needs a child-like faith encourages an infantile religious worldview…”
    shakespeare66 August 26, 2014
    said, “It appears to be the one you are holding.”

    llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

    by Rich Deem https://plus.google.com/105440427757499026037/posts?hl=en
    atheists are up in arms thinking that Professor Antony Flew has lost his mind. Flew, age 81, has been a legendary proponent and debater for atheism for decades, stating that “onus of proof [of God] must lie upon the theist.”1 However, in 2004, Prof. Flew did the unheard of action of renouncing his atheism because “the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.”2 In a recent interview, Flew stated, “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” Flew also renounced naturalistic theories of evolution:
    “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.”3
    In Flew’s own words, he simply “had to go where the evidence leads.”4 According to Flew, “…it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before.”2 Flew also indicated that he liked arguments that proceeded from big bang cosmology.

    “The assertion that Jesus is God is arguably the single most important development in Western civilization.”
    I don’t think Jesus ever claimed to be God. (There is nothing, nothing, that is more obvious, more clear, more certain, anywhere, about anything, than that Christ claimed to be divine. It is unmistakable. It is not possible for a healthy, rational, adult human being- one who is not impaired intellectually-to miss that reality as portrayed in the n.t. )

    You really should read my book How Jesus Became God.

    I am reading your extensive work and so far, I have found nothing that challenges his reality in a substantive fashion.

    But there have been lots and lots of people who *have* claimed to be God, as you surely know.

    Not one is anything like this guy. Not close, Dr. Bart.

    Some things are so true and real and alive and touching and life-giving and penetrating and sweet and powerful and special, that an explanation or words of any kind, and all arguments lay silent. The most beautiful piece of music, the most glorious sunset, the prettiest poem, the deepest feeling of love, the rapture of being born from above, cannot be defined, added to, subtracted from or enhanced. They are life itself.

    “I don’t think psychology is a matter of being tricked into ruses. The psychology of religion is a profound and complicated field. Again, I’d suggest you do some reading to help inform your opinions.” Dr. Bart

    What you experienced during your religious conversion, whatever else it was, it was not based on any facts and evidence that proved jesus was in fact god, because he wasn’t, in your opinion. “Jesus” never became real to you because he’s not real, period; he was not god and is not god. Whatever you experienced, by your definition, was not jesus.

  27. prestonp  October 28, 2014

    I like what you have said about the different types of god, Bart . I have come to learn that religion is mostly a hoax- maybe a well meaning hoax but non-the-less a hoax.

    Far from being the only ones to hold the “traditional” view of God, the view held by fundamentalists is a recent development and theologically unsophisticated compared to many older views of God.

    The more we debate the existence of God, the more people will change their definition of God in order to fit a round peg into a square hole

    Can the historical and current racism against the Jewish people be linked to Christianity in general and specifically the Gospel of John? If so, I am in fact horrified.

    Not just to John, but in my view there was no such thing as anti-Judaism per se until Christainity arose.

    Reading your affirmation literally gave me chills right now … how horrific. Then this is one of the worst examples of Religious imperialism.

    I am often stunned by how flippant fundamentalists are about the work of a scholar ( as my fundamentalist preacher “friend” casts you off like you are nobody).

    What Christians lack (too often) is a willingness to investigate the knowledge that is out there about a variety of things. How stunning is it that 64% of Christians in this country deny evolution? I think that is beyond stunning. It is mind boggling. Try reading Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. Oh, I’m sorry. People like you don’t read stuff like that because you can find all the answers in the Bible so you don’t need to read anything else. And even if you DID read it, you would still deny it it true and say it is a hoax or a conspiracy or some such nonsense. It is OKAY for you to live in your fantasy world. We don’t begrudge you living there, but please son’t step on my understanding of the world, of Jesus Christ, of evolution, of being gay, of anything that your “perfect” little moral Bible tells you is right about proper decorum for the world. Christians should be stunned at how flippant we can be about the life of Christ. I have read the 15 or so books that Dr. Ehrman has written on the subject because I wanted to know what scholars are saying about this subject. No one wants to take away your belief or your faith. Just leave those who don’t care for it alone. Instead of quoting me, ask a pertinent question—you might learn something for once in your life.

    Your words are so important to me as I have lost my 22 year old son to a very religious, Christian Fundamentalist Cult … Religion has destroyed my family and yet I am trying to “compromise” and attend church, go through the motions yet I feel like an imposter. Our son no longer is allowed contact with us as we are “apostate” and this was even before I lost my faith…..how do you have a relationship with your spouse when you don’t believe the same things anymore….thank you for all your help in this time of despair.

    (No one can prevent a 22 year old son from contacting his parents, legally. No one responded when asked what denomination this is or if she’d like help. I know of no CFC in the world that forbids a 22 year old man from contacting whomever he wants.)

    Racism. Anti-Christian accusations are inappropriate. Anti-Christian rhetoric is the “New Racism.” It flows freely, gleefully, and it is wrong.

  28. Epicurus13
    Epicurus13  July 6, 2015

    I dig this talk so much I have watched it twice on Youtube and once here. Dr Ehrmans explanation on being agnostic / atheist is so cool and how I feel I use it to describe myself to others and always get a great response.

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