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You Have No Right To Question Why You Suffer. What???

We come now to the conclusion of the dialogues of Job.   His friends have stridently insisted that he is suffering because he has sinned.  He vehemently argues he has not.  As it turns out, he's right.  Then why is God making him suffer?  Here God himself appears to explain.  Or rather, to insist that he is not going to explain and that Job has no right to ask him to. Is this an answer to suffering?  Or, well, a satisfactory one?  We can't even ask? Decide for yourself.  Here's how I explain the climax of the book of Job in my book God's Problem (HarperOne, 2008). ****************************** Job has no time – or need – to reply to this restatement of his friends’ views.  Before he can respond, God himself appears, in power, to overwhelm Job with his presence and to cow him into submission in the dirt.  God does not appear with a still, small voice from heaven, or in human guise, or in a comforting dream.  He sends a violent and terrifying whirlwind, [...]

2023-03-14T13:37:26-04:00March 18th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Creation Stories of the Ancient World (Part 1): On Enuma Elish and Genesis 1 Guest Post by Joseph Lam

My colleague Joseph Lam is an expert on the languages and texts of the Ancient Near East, including the Hebrew Bible.  In terms of languages, he not only teaches ancient Hebrew, but also (brace yourself), Ugaritic, Akkadian, Syriac, Semitic linguistics, and, well, so on.  He is particularly expert in the relationship of the texts and myths other Ancient Near Eastern religions with those of the Hebrew Bible. Joseph is also a superb teacher, and so he was invited to to a course for the Great Courses (Wondrium) called "Creation Stories of the Ancient World."  The course just came out, and so I have asked Joseph to do a couple of blog posts for us, to introduce all of you to the kinds of things he covers there.   Here are the links to his course and, then, his first post: Wondrium link: The Great Courses link: ****************************** Creation stories tell us who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. They not only describe the origins of the world in [...]

2023-03-16T15:48:46-04:00March 16th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Does God Punish Those Who Do *Right*?

In my last post I began discussing the dialogues at the heart of the book of Job, where Job's friends declare that he is simply getting what he deserves because he is so sinful, and he defends himself by saying he has done nothing to deserve this.  It turns out he's right.  But why then is he suffering?  Here is how the dialogue continues, as the "friends" intensify their attacks on his morals and Job stands firm in declaring his righteousness. ****************************** Sometimes the friends bar no holds in accusing Job, wrongly, of great sin before God, as when Eliphaz later declares:   Is it for your piety that he reproves you, and enters into judgment with you? Is not your wickedness great? There is no end to your iniquities. For you have ... stripped the naked of their clothing. You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry... You have sent widows away empty handed, and the arms of the orphans you have crushed. Therefore [...]

2023-03-17T10:52:12-04:00March 15th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Job and His “Friends.” With Friends Like These…

I have been doing a series of posts on the views of suffering in the book of Job.  I quite intentionally use the plural “views” because, unlike what most people think or assume (those who have any opinion on the matter) the book of Job does not present a solitary view but several views that are at odds with each other.  One of those views is opposed by the author.  But two of them – that are at odds! – are embraced by the author.  Or, rather, we need to use the plural again: by the “authors.”   As I point out, there are at least two authors behind our book of Job, writing at different times, in different places, for different audiences, and setting forth different views.  Only later did some unknown third person combine the writings – one of them a narrative folk tale told in prose (chs. 1-2, 42) and the other a set of dialogues presented in poetry (chs. 3-42). If you haven’t read the previous posts, no worries.  This one and [...]

2023-03-07T13:22:23-05:00March 14th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Is the God of Job Worthy of Worship?

Is there any way to consider the God portrayed in Job as a morally upright being who deserves complete devotion?  Read the account yourself.  I have summarized the "folktale" of Job (found in Job 1-2, 42) in my previous post.  This is a tale that portrays God, Job, and the reason for human suffering very differently from the (different) composition of Job 3-42, a set of dialogues between Job and his friends and eventually God that I will discuss in my next posts.  For now I'm interested in the reasons God crushes the righteous Job with suffering in the tale. The overarching view of suffering from the story is clear: sometimes suffering comes to the innocent in order to see whether their pious devotion to God is genuine and disinterested.  Are people faithful only when things are going well, or are they faithful no matter what the circumstances?  Obviously for this author, no matter how bad things get, God still deserves worship and praise. But serious questions can be raised about this perspective, questions raised [...]

2023-02-27T11:13:48-05:00March 11th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The Story of the Righteous Job and His Righteous God

In my previous post I explained how the book of Job comprises both a folk-tale written in prose about a righteous man named Job (chs. 1-2; 42) and a set of dialogues written in poetry between Job, his so-called friends, and eventually God (chs. 3-42).   These are two different compositions with two different authors living at two different times with two different understandings of why Job and people like him suffer. To unpack these understandings, I begin with the folktale as discussed in my book God's Problem (HarperOne, 2008). ****************************** The Folktale: The Suffering of Job as a Test of Faith The action of the prose folktale alternates between scenes on earth and in heaven.  It begins by indicating that Job lived in the land of Uz; usually this is located in Edom, to the southeast of Israel.  Job, in other words, is not an Israelite.  As a book of “wisdom,” this account is not concerned with specifically Israelite traditions: it is concerned with understanding the world in ways that should make sense to everyone living [...]

2023-02-26T12:34:23-05:00March 9th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Suffering in the Two Books of Job. Two Books?

  After I finished my short thread of posts about the problem of suffering a couple of weeks ago, I realized that it might be helpful for me to discuss one or two of the books of the Bible that deal with the issue head-on -- in part because many people don't read these books much, even if they know about them, and in part because many people who *do* read them don't know how expert interpreters have explained them. For no book is this more true that that gem in the Hebrew Bible, the book of Job.  Or rather those two books, the two books of Job. To talk about Job and what it is really about will require several posts.  This is the first, an introduction to the single most important issue connected with the book that most people have never heard and that completely affects how the book is to be interpreted. This is how I discuss it in my book God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question [...]

2023-02-28T13:57:00-05:00March 8th, 2023|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Why Would Evolving Beliefs about Sin Lead to the Idea of an Afterlife? Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski

Last Week I published the first of three guest posts by blog member Daniel Kohanski, based on a book that he recently published that will be of interest to many blog readers.  Here now is the second post. ******************************             Apocryphile Press has just published my latest book, A God of Our Invention: How Religion Shaped the Western World ( The book first examines how the western world’s idea of God developed, from the Israelite worship of many gods, Yahweh included, through the first centuries of Christianity. It then looks at how that idea of God has impacted the way we deal with sex, war, and death, and how the belief that Jesus is coming back has interfered with our ability to handle crises. Here is an edited excerpt from the first part of the book, exploring how the Jews first came to believe in judgment after death. (I’ve relied on some of Bart’s books, and other scholars, for some of this material, but omitted the references for space reasons.) --------------------------------------------------------------- In the days of [...]

2023-02-27T20:08:14-05:00February 25th, 2023|Afterlife, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Is Judaism Legalistic? Misunderstanding the Law of Moses

In my upcoming course "Finding Moses" I'll be discussing the final four books of the Pentateuch (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) (for more information, see:  Finding Moses – Online Course Covering the Historicity of the Pentateuch - Bart D. Ehrman - New Testament Scholar, Speaker, and Consultant ( Apart from the opening chapters of Exodus, these books are not well known to most Christians, even those on fairly good terms with the New Testament.  I've known many a reader who was determined to read the entire Bible from beginning to end, but who quit early into Leviticus.  In part that's because these books are both hard to understand and difficult to see as interesting when not explained.  A huge chunk of them is made up of the laws given to Moses (almost the entire second half of Exodus, all of Leviticus, a good chunk of Numbers, and most of Deuteronomy).  How can reading a bunch of antiquated laws be interesting? Of course, many (MANY!) Christians just love to cherry pick these laws in order to [...]

2022-11-27T16:45:46-05:00December 6th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Is The Exodus a Myth?

In my upcoming course on Finding Moses I will be discussing some of the most important features of the foundation of Judaism -- in particular, the Exodus and the giving of the Jewish Law, both connected directly in the Hebrew Bible with Moses (8 lectures, given live with Q&A on Dec. 10 and 11: Finding Moses – Online Course Covering the Historicity of the Pentateuch - Bart D. Ehrman - New Testament Scholar, Speaker, and Consultant ( These are hugely important events for all of world history (without them, we wouldn't have Judaism, Christianity, or Islam: so imagine what the world would be like otherwise!).  And it is very much worth studying what we know about them, both as literary narratives of the Hebrew Bible and in relation to what actually happened historically. I'm giving here just a taste of the sorts of things I'll be covering in the course.  One key question for historians, of course, is "what really happened"? (There are lots of other questions and issues too -- we'll be covering a [...]

2022-11-27T16:38:37-05:00December 4th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Are There Contradictions in the Pentateuch?

Yesterday I began a short thread dealing with problems in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, as a kind of foreshadowing of the sorts of things I'll be covering in my online course of eight lectures, that I'll be giving live, with Q&A, on December 10-11; again, if you're interested, you can find out about the course here:  Finding Moses – Online Course Covering the Historicity of the Pentateuch - Bart D. Ehrman - New Testament Scholar, Speaker, and Consultant ( The course will be a followup to my earlier one on Genesis (called "In the Beginning").  Many of the same problems that I have discussed on the blog and in my course about Genesis apply to the other books of the Pentateuch as well.  For many of us, some of the most interesting ones involve contradictions among the various narratives. I talk about that a bit in my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.   Here's some of what I deal with there, edited here and there [...]

2022-11-27T19:15:59-05:00December 3rd, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Do We Have the Original Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)?

On December 10 and 11 I will be giving my eight-lecture remote course on "Finding Moses: What Scholars Know about the Exodus and the Jewish Law."  This was supposed to happen a month earlier, but life got in the way and we had to postpone it.  The course is not connected to the blog per se, it is part of my other outreach program the Bart Ehrman Professional Services (BEPS), which hosts public courses and lectures.  To find out about the course and others like it, here's the address: Online Courses by Dr. Bart Ehrman (10% Off First Order) The course is one of a long series that I've started on the entire Bible, both Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) and NT.   My expertise, of course, is mainly NT and early Christianity; but all the way back in graduate school (about the time the book of Isaiah was written) my secondary field of training was Hebrew Bible, and I taught Introduction to Hebrew Bible at both Rutgers and UNC. Some years ago when I [...]

2022-11-27T15:54:21-05:00December 1st, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Did the Israelites Practice Human Sacrifice? Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

Now HERE is an eye-opening Platinum post, by Platinum Member Joel Scheller for all you other Platinum members to chew on.     What do you think? Remember: you too can offer a guest post -- with the chance of it being voted to be published on the entire blog.  It doesn't have to be erudite and massively learned: just anything you're thinking of about the Bible, Christianity, or, well, most anything else related.  If you don't know if what you have in mind is relevant, zap me a note to ask; if you know it is, write it and send it along! For now, well, check out this provocative one! *********************** What do you think about BBQing your children? When I look back at the raising of my two, fine sons I remember times when the option was probably not off the table. But in all seriousness, there is nothing more repulsive to people than to think of such a thing. Certainly, a believer in the God of our bible would find such a notion [...]

2022-10-06T17:29:43-04:00October 10th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

A Major Forgery in the Hebrew Bible? Guest Post by Platinum Member Dennis Folds

Members of the blog at the Platinum level have the opportunity to publish posts (just) for other Platinums, and after a number of these appear, the members vote on which should be posted on the blog itself.  Here is the most recent winner, an insightful and intriguing Platinum guest post by Dennis Folds.  Many of you on the blog are interested in Christian pseudepigrapha (= forgeries), especially those in the New Testament.  But what about the Old Testament?  Now *here* is a bold thesis!  Read it and remark! Being allowed to publish these posts is a very nice perk of the Platinum level of membership.  Another is that I do a a special platinum webinar every three months.   Are you interested?  Check out the various membership tiers and the perks that come with them all:  Register - The Bart Ehrman Blog. And now, check out the post! ****************************** Jeremiah Versus the Deuteronomist Forger   Dennis J. Folds, Ph.D. Given the interest in potential forgeries of NT books and other early Christian writings, I’d like to [...]

2022-10-11T10:28:32-04:00October 6th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The Problem: Not Enough Killing! Platinum Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying these Platinum posts -- posts by Platinum members for Platinum members with Platinum Content!    Here is one that will take you aback--Doug Wadeson, grappling deeply with one of the most disturbing aspects of the Bible. ****************************** Recently we had lunch with a delightful Christian couple, very nice people.  They mentioned how their grandchildren were getting such good teaching at their church, especially the Old Testament stories.  I suggested, “That probably includes the story of Jericho?”  (Joshua 6) “Sure.” “Do you think they were taught what the soldiers were to do when the walls fell down?” “You mean, kill the people?” “Yes, every man, woman and child.  So, if I was teaching their Sunday School class, I would pose this question to make it more real for them: Suppose you were one of the Israelite soldiers and you entered a home in Jericho and found a family.  Now, would you kill the children first so they wouldn’t have to watch their parents die, or would you kill [...]

2022-09-20T18:10:00-04:00September 30th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Reflections and Ruminations|

Did King David Actually Exist?

I am starting to do research for my next online course, to be given in November, dealing with the Hebrew Bible.  I'll be calling it "Finding Moses" and it will be dealing with four of the books of the Pentateuch (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and what we can actually know, historically, about the exodus from Egypt (Is there any archaeological evidence? Any reference to it in other texts outside the Bible?  Any reason to think it did, or reasons to think it did not, happen?) and about the law of Moses (Were Jews legalistic?  Did they have to keep the law for salvation?  Why do some of the laws seem so strange today?  Why do some people insist that some of the laws are still binding but others not?  etc.). One book I'll be rereading in thinking through the various historical issues of the Pentateuch is Israel Finkelstein and Neal Asher Silberman’s, The Bible Unearthed. I remembered I had talked about the book on the blog long ago - it's not about Moses, but [...]

2022-09-23T10:23:06-04:00September 20th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Reader’s Questions|

A Major Forgery in the Hebrew Bible? Platinum Guest Post by Dennis Folds

I am pleased to publish this insightful and intriguing Platinum guest post by Dennis Folds, for all you fellow Platinum members.  Many of you are interested in Christian pseudepigrapha (= forgeries), especially those in the New Testament.  But what about the Old Testament?  Now *here* is a bold thesis!  Read it and remark! Remember: you too can submit a Platinum guest post.  It does not have to be sophisticated, learned, or novel.  Just write something you'd like to share with all of us, on anything at all connected to the blog and send it to me! ******************** Jeremiah Versus the Deuteronomist Forger   Dennis J. Folds, Ph.D. Given the interest in potential forgeries of NT books and other early Christian writings, I’d like to describe what may have been the most consequential forgery in the history of our Judeo-Christian faith:  the “discovery” of the long-lost book of the law of Moses, which purportedly contained the original covenant between YHWH and the Hebrews. The discovery is described in 2 Kings 22, during the renovation of the [...]

2022-08-08T12:55:40-04:00August 8th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

What’s the Point? Hey, *IS* There a Point? The Book of Ecclesiastes

In a previous post I began talking about the distinctive views of the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the real gems of the Hebrew Bible, a book that refuses to accept easy answers or blithe truisms about life, but faces reality head on.   No matter what we do or how we try to explain it away, life is short.  Very very short.  The author of course had no conception of what we know now about time in relation to lifespan.  What would he say if he knew that the world (what we would call the universe — something about which also he had no knowledge) was not a few thousand years old but 13.8 billion? My guess is that he would say the same thing he already does, but possibly with a few more exclamation points.   Given how incredibly brief our life is, even if we live to “old” age — what’s the point of it?  Is there a point?   I think there is.  And I find not just value but also hope in his [...]

2022-07-01T19:51:29-04:00June 30th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

A Skeptical View of Life … From the Bible!

To celebrate the tenth-year anniversary of the blog on this past April 18, I've been posting all the previous April 18 posts.  This one is from 2020; in it I discuss one of my favorite books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes.  The post was originally part of a series of posts on "Wisdom Literature" in the OT, as I indicate at the outset. ****************************** In my previous post I pointed to the “Wisdom” literature of the Old Testament (usually said to comprise Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes), suggesting that this is a good time for all of us to ingest some wisdom from those who went before.  The book of Ecclesiastes has long been my favorite in the Old Testament.  It seems so modern in so many ways.  Even though written over 2000 years ago, it considers ageless questions about what the *point* of it all is. If you don’t know it, it’s worth reading; it won’t take long.  If you do know it, it’s worth reading again.   To provide some orientation to the overall theme of [...]

2022-06-27T21:06:20-04:00June 28th, 2022|Afterlife, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Onan the Barbarian: How an obscure Bible character affected reproductive rights. Platinum Guest post by Douglas Wadeson MD

I'm pleased to post this intriguing contribution by your fellow Platinum member and Medical-Doctor- Not-Afraid-to-Talk-About-Onanism-In-a-Public-Forum Doug Wadeson.  Hey, it saves *me* the inconvenience of having to post on it! Seriously, it's a very interesting discussion.  Doug will be happy to address your questions and comments. I hope you too will consider submitting a post!  If you're interested, let me know. ****************************** As background, there was an ancient custom that if a man died without children then his brother was expected to marry the widow and have children with her so that the brother’s family line would not die out.  This was incorporated into the Jewish law: read Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  I particularly like the part where the widow gets to spit in the face of her brother-in-law if he refuses.  It is also interesting that it does not say what to do if the widow does not want to marry her brother-in-law: I suppose she had no choice, since the intent was to continue her late husband’s family line and her opinion didn’t matter (she’s just [...]

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