Jesus had a distinctive ethical view, significantly different from the ethics propounded and followed by most people in his world.  And, well, by most people in ours.  Even some (many? most?) who claim to be Jesus’ followers.  Or so it appears to me when I look at what Jesus actually teaches and observe what some (many?) modern Christians both do and say.


I’ve spent the past five posts summarizing what I plan to cover in my book The Origins of Altruism: How the Teachings of Jesus Transformed the Conscience of the West.  If history holds the publisher will be giving it a different title, and at this point for me the title’s not the main thing.  Writing it is!

The foci are Jesus’ teachings on love, charitable giving, and forgiveness, how these teachings contrasted with those commonly followed in the Roman world at the time, how they were modified and softened by his own followers after his death, and how they nonetheless came to play an oversized role in the understanding of “how should we live” throughout the Western world till today.

At the end of the book I plan to have a conclusion, probably (possibly?) something like this:



To wrap up the book I will discuss these Christian discourses and practices in the modern world, asking, basically, “How we doin’ with all that?”

As to love: We live in a world where many Christians quite happily and with surprising vigor engage in hate-speech and action directed to the “other”: with Christian racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, hatred of immigrants, the homeless, anyone of different sexual or gender identity, and … on and on.  I don’t even wonder what Jesus would make of that.  Some evangelical (!) Christian leaders have started to argue that the teachings of Jesus, for example in the Sermon on the Mount, were too soft.  Good grief.Some evangelical Christian leaders have started to argue that the teachings of Jesus, for example in the Sermon on the Mount, were too soft.  Good grief.

As to charity: we live in a world where many Christians consider wealth a gift from God, where, in an ever-increasingly popular manifestation, the oxymoronic “Prosperity Gospel” continues to thrive, where fabulously wealthy televangelists and mega-church pastors thrive on the donations of their well-endowed followers and, far worse, the poor hopeful they convince to give all they can for a divine gift in return.  Possibly a Mercedes.

As to forgiveness: we live in a world far more interested in payback and revenge rather than peace and reconciliation, with many Christians outspokenly obsessed with retributive justice instead of reconciliation and reform, pursuing a socio-political agenda they wrongly claim is biblical (e.g. abolition of abortion and gay rights) while ignoring sins the Bible quite explicitly condemns — social injustice, opposition to immigrants, and oppression the “undeserving other.”

STILL, that’s the way of the world.   Ours is not the only time when Christians have engaged in acts of violence and hatred in the name of God.

But we also need to think of the positive sides of modern life that would not be possible without Jesus and his followers, whose ethical teachings took over the world.  The children’s hospitals; the homeless shelters; the food banks; the literacy centers, the millions and millions of people in the world who sacrifice something of themselves, their time, their resources, for the sake of others, to help those in need, to care for those who are sick, or displaced, or hungry, or homeless.  Those who send their hard-earned money to victims of famine, war, natural disaster.

I am not a Christian myself, but I respect and admire the Christians of today who continue to do their best to follow the actual teachings of Jesus, caring for those who are in need, even strangers, even foreigners, even aliens.  These are teachings that can make our world a better place and can transform the people who try to follow them, whether Christian or not, into better human beings.

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2024-01-22T11:43:32-05:00January 24th, 2024|Book Discussions, Reflections and Ruminations|

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  1. Judith January 24, 2024 at 7:17 am

    I’m looking forward to reading your new book and would pay extra for a signed copy.

  2. 1SonOfZeus January 24, 2024 at 10:26 am

    Well said! Positive is positive. I am not Christian either, but I go to a Christian church ,
    New Lif” in Colorado Springs because they are good people. Even though I believe in Zeus, I go because they are there for positive reasons. There is lots of evil in this world. We need to counter that by positive foot prints in the sand. I live life and treat people nicely, I don’t need to a reason to. I want to have footprints of my life being nice to people and being the opposite of evil. I have a laurel wreath on the back of my neck. For Apollo, but also victory over evil.

  3. Seeker1952 January 24, 2024 at 11:13 am

    In an earlier post you discuss the Greek/Aristotelian idea of eudaimonia, often translated as happiness but with an actual meaning more like well-being or satisfaction.

    Over the years, I’ve tried to understand the difference between our common sense idea of happiness and the idea of well-being. I’ve also wondered about the difference between happiness and pleasure. Happiness-as distinct from pleasure-and also well-being, are often characterized as underlying, more or less constant, states or conditions of persons. Pleasure on the other is rather easily seen as episodic, something time-limited and often fleeting.

    Would you say that a big part of the idea of eudaimonia is analogous to our idea of physical health? Health is an underlying condition or state that is more or less continuing and constant.

    I’m not saying that physical health is the same as eudaimonia—though I do think it’s a significant part of eudaimonia. I would say that eudaimonia is more distinctively a psychological or mental state than a physical one. But I do think it’s analogous to physical health in being an underlying state.

    Eudaimonia seems to refer to all the needs and goals of a person being integrated and established into a whole life.

  4. TTHorne56 January 24, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    “[W]e also need to think of the positive sides of modern life that would not be possible without Jesus and his followers, whose ethical teachings took over the world.”

    This sentence seems to make the claim that without Christianity there would be no ethic of loving others as we love ourselves. While it is certainly true that Christianity was a dominant force, particularly in Western cultures, from the time of Constantine, it by no means follows that Christianity is the necessary and sufficient cause of Western ethical and charitable values (to the extent those are even followed).

    What you have presented is a counter-factual that is not testable. I would point out that the dominant Greco-Roman culture of the time did accept these values. The teaching found fertile ground in that culture. There is no way of knowing whether or not these values would have developed under a different “religious” system.

    • BDEhrman January 26, 2024 at 7:25 pm

      I’m not saying ALL positive sides of modern life!! I”m talking about those that came about because of Xty (public hospitals, public charities, orphanages, governmental aid for the needy).

      • TTHorne56 January 27, 2024 at 12:32 pm

        With all due respect, I think you missed my point. The claim, as I understand it, is that without Xty these things (public charities of different sorts) would never have happened. Since we cannot go back and see what happens without Xty, the claim is untestable and unfalsifiable. For me, it is equivalent to the claim made by some Xians that without Xty science would never have developed.

        To say that these thing developed within a Xian context is one thing. That correlation certainly exists. But correlation is not causation, and the claim that Xty is a necessary cause of public charity strikes me as taking the argument further than the evidence warrants.

        • BDEhrman January 29, 2024 at 11:17 am

          Yes, that’s right. We don’t know what would have happened. I agree. I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t imagine another scenario coming out of the Roman world; but you’re right that there theoretically could have been someone/something else that made the difference. My point really is that nothing else *did* make that difference. It’s kind of like saying that the Chiefs would not have won their playoff game yesterday if Mahomes and Kelsey hadn’t had such amazing games. They *may* have won, but the reason they did was because of those two amazing games and it’s hard to imagine some other scenrio (with reserves playing, eg.) that would have led to a win.

  5. blclaassen January 24, 2024 at 12:23 pm

    My view is that primates developed altruism as an evolutionary advantage long before religions were formed. I can’t say that the modern world of charity would be the same without being prompted by Jesus’s or other religious leaders’ teachings, but it is an interesting thought experiment. I share your respect and admiration of Christians who provide for the less fortunate, Bart, but I like to think this is secular behavior built in to humanity regardless of institutionalized spirituality, perhaps crystalized through Christ’s teachings, but not sourced from them.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 2:27 pm

      I completely agree on evolution. The difference is that altruism developed as in-group behavior evolutionarily, benefitting family, friends, and community members — not outsiders, let alone enemies. Jesus taught not love of those close to you but even of the enemy, and that is different I’d say.

  6. baolsen January 24, 2024 at 2:46 pm

    Hello from Wake Forest, NC. How do the so-called Christians you call out in this post defend their positions as consistent with the teaching of Jesus or do they just not care. Thanks.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 2:30 pm

      I’m afraid there simply isn’t one consistent stance/view among Christians (on this or much any topic). Most would probably say that the sorts of things they’re sayig/doing are not the ones JEsus was talking about.

  7. forestweld January 24, 2024 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Bart– Thanks for this excellent summary. I haven’t been able to keep up with every post, so maybe you’ve already done this, but it would be great to have a short compendium of passages from the New Testament that prescribe these values, especially passages that present statements of Jesus himself, and possibly statements of Paul, and that have supporting context – that is, can’t be assailed as taken out of context. Such a compendium would help many of us in dialogs with friends who want to be good Christians but might be misled. I’ve been meaning to pull together such a compendium myself, but I am sure that one compiled by you would have more effective content.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 2:31 pm

      Yup, that’s what I’ll be doing in my book, especially with Jesus, but also to an extent with Paul and Christains after him, to show how Jesus’ own teachings were changed. For me two of the major passages will be the Good Samaritan and the Sheep and the Goats, but I’ll be addressing lots of them.

  8. Sashank January 24, 2024 at 7:43 pm

    My mother passed in February, and my experience with her and a cousin who suffered a 1/10,000 stroke at age 39 in 2021 have had me questioning the world and my place in it more than ever. Already a history buff (my senior history thesis was on the Confucianization of the Boddhisattva (of Compassion) Guanyin after his/her gender transformation in China), I was familiar with your work on and interested in the historicity of the Bible. But in addition, I was also looking into ethics including what religion had to say. What makes something right or wrong? Why? I’m already looking into the evolutionary and psychological and rational basis of morality (Jonathan Haidt, Nowak,Tomasello), but I was interested in what each of the religions had to say as well. So, I’m really excited to read your book when it comes out.

    One fan wish list request: in addition to comparing the ethics of Judaism and Jesus to the classical European ethicists, is there any social/cultural/archaeological history available of how altruism was practiced in those societies? Also, maybe A Revolution in Altruism is a better title? Buddhism was contemporary to Christianity and radical too.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks. Yes, I definitely am not going to be suggesting there was no altruism before Jesus (it’s there as soon as there are homo sapiens) or that he was the only one to be altruistic — just that his form of altruism is not well attested (much of anywhere?) in the West before him and his teachings explain why it became such a prominent feature of westenr ethics. Early on I’ll explain what my title doesn’t mean. And I’ll try to talk about both discourse (Greco-Roman and Jesus/Christian) and action, though in many ways discourse is much easier to access.

      • Sashank February 6, 2024 at 8:55 am

        I was in your Matthew class this last weekend (similar to you I’m agnostic, but leaning atheist rather than fully atheist like yourself). And I find Jesus’s parables to be really powerful in cutting through the chaff in a way esoteric/abstract discussions of rightness and wrongness of an action fail to (so parables like the Good Samaritan or historically questionable parts of the story like the stoning of the adulterer are things I often come back to like they’re axioms). In fact, I think the emotional power of Jesus’s story is similar to the parables in regards to how it hits you with the injustice of his death and the selflessness of his sacrifice (and I think a lot of psychologists and evolutionary psychologists point out how our sense of morality is actually an emotion, and so it makes sense that stories cut through the logical reasoning regarding ethics and directly hit our emotions). So I thought it was interesting when you pointed out that Matthew says that you’re not supposed to understand the parables (I’ll have to listen again). And then I remembered the Gospel of Thomas and its list of esoteric Jesus sayings.

        • BDEhrman February 8, 2024 at 1:05 pm

          Ah, that’s *Mark* who says Jesus gave the parables so others would not understand. Matthew changes it. For Mark it’s part of his claim that Jesus’ identity was kept secret during his life.

  9. AngeloB January 24, 2024 at 9:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing your plan. I look forward to reading the book one day!

  10. galah January 25, 2024 at 9:38 am

    I live in the Bible Belt where most people are Protestant Christians. I’ve openly shared my views about Jesus in the past and it has come back to haunt me. Here, you’ll likely prosper more easily if you’re part of the status quo.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 2:39 pm

      Yeah, ain’t easy down here, unless you live in a fairly liberal conclave like I do….

    • sLiu February 2, 2024 at 7:07 pm

      saw in interesting pBS Newshour on X-ian nationalism in the USA: I’m part of a flock, I wonder which one though. but the leaders how sinless are they from what they spout?
      Love thy neighbor &
      What did CS lewis think of his “shadowlands” marriage?
      If they consider wealth a gift from God, why do a sizable %age of Nationalist be bigoted & conduct illegal activities?
      I can’t remember the source, but I heard recently; San Francisco Billionaires [huge tax deductions] maintain [support] the homeless situation and other criminal activity in this city.

  11. Wayne S. January 25, 2024 at 2:14 pm

    Off Topic question…
    Have you seen The Book of Clarence? I would love know your take on it.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 2:41 pm

      Not yet. I plan to. I saw the trailer and the writing and acting looked a bit weak to me, but I love the idea.

  12. Jcbrava January 25, 2024 at 2:26 pm

    Dr. Bart – I’ve read only a couple of your books so far, but have listened to many podcasts and a few very arresting debates. The most surprising response I have felt to your work is compassion, even kindness. It’s in your voice and noticeable even when subtly dissing a debater who was rude! This new book of yours might be a challenge to write compassionately, without blaming or harshly judging.

    And a question: on a podcast recently, you mentioned packing a bible for a trip to study for a new book…what version do you use, personally, or is it something you have collated from manuscripts into a compendium? ‘Asking for a recovering “born-again” friend ;-)) who misses many inspiring passages after years of shelving it, until the mind and heart could get clear of extreme beliefs.

    Thank you and be well.

    • BDEhrman January 28, 2024 at 3:05 pm

      In some ways this will be a particularly generous book toward the virtues of the Christian faith, even though you’re right, it’ll be challenging pointing out how the ideals aren’t workin’ out so well these days in lots of places (without getting vitriolic about it).

      I normally read the NT in Greek for my work, but if I turn to a translation it’s almost always the New Revised Stnadard Version.

  13. MarkWiz January 26, 2024 at 4:01 pm

    Might I humbly suggest a modification for your consideration? Start with the good news about what The world has gotten right. I think the reason for this is subtle: when practicing Christians read this up-coming book, I wonder whether beginning with the negative will seem like a bashing of the faithful. It may immediately put them on the defensive. But starting with what Jesus’s teaching have contributed to the good of altruism is an affirmation; moving onto “but here’s what has been lost over the centuries” serves as a reminder that as moral codes evolve, messages get corrupted. I know you are writing as neither a proponent nor an opponent of Christian belief, but a reporter of how it has gotten to where it is. That may be more easy to see for Christians by leading with the carrot instead of the stick.

    • BDEhrman January 29, 2024 at 11:09 am

      Ah, most of the book will be about how Christianity has benefited the world. No way I’m starting off on the negative.

  14. galah January 26, 2024 at 10:01 pm

    I believe the work of many scholars, if not all, who began their lives as Christians, is still somewhat slightly misguided by the religion’s early influence. They still see some things in light of their past beliefs. Having said that, there’s no scholar I admire more than you Dr. Ehrman. I’m convinced that your work has advanced the world in leaps and bounds and has pointed us in the right direction. Nonetheless, and with all respect, I don’t think it will go down in history as the final portrayal of the historical Jesus. The world seems really flat now, but in spite of that, someday we’ll learn that it’s a sphere in the vacuum of space.

  15. improv58 January 27, 2024 at 6:55 am

    “Some evangelical (!) Christian leaders have started to argue that the teachings of Jesus, for example in the Sermon on the Mount, were too soft. Good grief.”
    This statement made me lol. I look at X sometimes with mouth agape at what Christians write about a political figure who they treat as a new lord and savior and they copy and paste his new “sermon on the mount” from another platform.
    (Note my comment has nothing to do with ideology. It has to do with “devout” Christians deifying a human who routinely releases toxic thunder like, well, like a god!)

    Prosperity gospel: Pastor Joel Osteen’s humor, energy, and positive thinking are infectious. But yes, the money issue is, an issue! Profits from books: Understandable. But why the jets and mansions? I wonder if Joel ever read Acts 5?

    On the “good” Christians. I call them Jesus’s silent army. They collect and deliver food to the poor, provide shelter, counseling for free and much more and they don’t ever mention it. My parents did it. I do it (since I am anonymous here I can say it.) Thanks for the shout out.

    • BDEhrman January 29, 2024 at 11:10 am

      May your tribe increase.

  16. Seeker1952 January 27, 2024 at 12:21 pm

    As a semi-Christian, I’ve always supported Christianity’s advocacy of government social welfare programs and civil rights but I’ve also opposed things like Christian nationalism, religion in public schools, restrictions of individual liberties on the (supposed?) basis of Christian morality, eg, it’s opposition to divorce, same sex marriage, or LGBTQ

    I suspect there are a lot of liberal Christians with similar views.

    But I occasionally worry about a positive attitude toward governmental social welfare being inconsistent with my own support of the separation of church and state—to the extent that people’s views on social welfare are influenced by Christianity. There seems to be at least some sort of significant tension there.

    Do you think there’s inconsistency between Christian support of governmental social welfare programs at the same time as they support separation of church and state?

    I try to resolve it by: (1) supporting social welfare and compassion because they are human values that are “motivated” in part by one’s Christianity but not directly “dictated” by it; and (2) there are substantial reasons to support those values that go well beyond the Bible and religious dogma.

    The contrary set of values seem to be primarily supported by religious dogma.

    • BDEhrman January 29, 2024 at 11:14 am

      Yes, I think Christians can support the government’s efforts to help those in need without making it a religious issue. They are governmental policies Christians can approve of for their own reasons, and so should be actively promoting them as much as possible, even if they are administered by a secular agency with power. And the great thing is that it’s one area that committed Christians can make serious common cause with committed atheists, agnostics, humanists, and committed folk of other religious traditions.

      • TimOBrien March 22, 2024 at 2:11 pm

        I look forward to your new book, professor — whatever the title. Meanwhile…

        I’ve heard you say on a number of occasions that you hold to a personal ethic that people should be free to follow their own beliefs so long as they don’t harm anyone else.

        A laurel and hardy: “Hear, hear!” 😏

        While this seems like a straightforward, uncontroversial (even commonsensical) paradigm, the political implications are anything but!

        People do, indeed, embrace your litany of wrong-headed beliefs. But they only become a danger when they employ government compulsion for “pursuing a socio-political agenda.”

        I spent decades trying to make the Libertarian “Non-Aggression Principle” the guiding axiom of our political system. Merely affirm the statement, “I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals,” and we (like the PFJ 😉) would say: ”Right. You’re in!”

        Unfortunately, no on else wants that kind of *voluntary* social order. Both liberals and conservatives are so utterly convinced of the rightness of their cause that they wish to impose it on all of us — at gunpoint!

        Every political philosophy wants to claim that Jesus is on *their* side. IMHO only libertarians (who, ironically enough, are mostly atheists) genuinely can.

        • BDEhrman March 25, 2024 at 8:39 pm

          I’d say religoius views, to pick a kind of view, can be dangerous apart from a governmental/political agenda. They can hurt family members, as an obvious example.

          • TimOBrien March 26, 2024 at 2:06 pm

            No question. That’s undoubtedly why most of my fellow libertarians are not even agnostic, but atheist. Many are erstwhile Randroids who recognize the inherent threat of any church/state alliance — a moral code their sainted, Pope Ayn I, ascribed to “the mystics of spirit and muscle.”

            There’s no predicting or constraining what those who pronounce themselves led by a higher authority (that they can’t even prove exists) will do — from immolating the unconvinced to crashing hijacked airliners into office buildings.

            It’s one thing to believe God has told you how to fix the world. It’s quite another to go about working His will at gunpoint! 😨 And the danger posed *isn’t* limited to their own family members.

            Nor does, first, having a show of hands on the rightness of their cause, either justify aggression or mitigate the danger to the minority who will then be sacrificed to the crusade/jihad. Adolph Hitler was in fact the flowering fruit of a modern, liberal, western democracy.

            If “people should be free to follow their own beliefs so long as they don’t harm anyone else,” doesn’t it necessarily follow that everyone, liberal and conservative, must rely on *persuasion*?

            Shouldn’t both sides put down the f#@%ing guns? 😎

  17. srslien January 27, 2024 at 3:00 pm

    There is a church here in Norway (Brunstad Christian Church) that claim to be followers of Jesus, but if a couple get divorced, they are forced to remain celibate for life. What Jesus would think about that?

    I’ve read all your books and I am looking forwaed to the new one! You are amazing.

    • BDEhrman January 29, 2024 at 11:27 am

      Check out Luke 16:18!

  18. Seeker1952 January 27, 2024 at 7:18 pm

    In part it’s almost inevitable for the elderly (like myself) to become acutely pessimistic about the future of humanity. But until about 2016, I might have been willing to go along with the thesis of Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” (about not Buddhism but the contemporary triumph of 18th century European Enlightenment values) that, overall, things are in fact getting better for humanity. But since Trump’s election, Putin’s aggression, the failure of humanity (including my own) to do anything close to what needs to be done about global warming, the extinction of species, and the continuing population explosion which feeds into all these other problems, long term pessimism seems fully justified. Even Pinker has grave concerns about unchecked global warming and risks of nuclear warfare from the actions of powerful dictators like Putin.

    Anyway, it makes certain Christian ideas more attractive though not any more true. Humanity is never going to create an earthly utopia even if assisted by an increasingly doubtful God. Utopia, if it ever comes, requires cataclysmic intervention by God. Or a supernatural heaven is our only (albeit false) hope. There’s no long term hope for this world.

    There’s only Epicureanism or Buddhism.

  19. micclan January 28, 2024 at 8:14 am

    Bart, here you are on your personal soapbox again about abortion.

    Because there is no record of Jesus words on this specific topic of abortion in writings deemed “scriptural” or “biblical” -(by church politicians centuries later)- you assume a great deal. Hardly an evidence-based historical approach.

    Simply because certain other ancient Old Testament biblical writers promoted only minor fines for abortion or imposed no sanction at all is no indication Jesus felt likewise.

    Jesus was deeply committed to the concept of the Jewish Law. Yet Jesus himself and the Pharisees and other Jewish people were constantly arguing about what the Law meant.

    Furthermore, if one wanted historical insight into what Jesus himself may have thought about abortion, one might at least read and quote the Didache document of Jesus’s early Jewish followers. The pro-life injunction there is clear.

    One might alsotest the consonance of abortion with Jesus’s other moral values.

    Jesus message was one of justice, care and inclusivity. In modern parlance, he may well have advocated the position that “all human lives matter- regardless of race, gender, chronological age, etc”.

    I find it exceedingly hard to see Jesus as a “choice” advocate on a human life..

    • BDEhrman January 29, 2024 at 11:43 am

      You’re right, we don’t know what Jesus said about it. My guess is he never said anything about it. If he did say something about it, his folowers decided not to preserve the sayings. But that’s why it’s so very bizarre to me that pepole claim they do know what he said (or thougt), and they clain to know what the Bible says about it, when it doesn’t say anything explicitly, though the two relevant passages — Exodus 21 and Numbers 5 — both presuppose that forcing a miscarriage is not murder. What we do know is that the Bible is passionate about promoting the welfare of living human beings. I don’t see any of these statements as controversial. My view is that if people want to promote the Bible as a guide for how we are to live our lives, they should actually see what the Bible teaches. That too doesn’t seem very controversial. As to your point, I agree with you completely Jesus valued human life, on every level. The issue, though, is whether he, and other Jews at the time, considered the fetus a living human being or not. My strong sense is that the answer is no. Later Christians and later Jews certainly did, and I too think the Didache is the first instance where the issue is addressed. But I see nothing to see that Jews did earlier (especially if they revered the Biblical passages that relate to the matter), and anyone who didn’t think the fetus was a human being would not have thought that the loss of a fetus was the loss of a human life.

  20. micclan January 30, 2024 at 4:20 am

    So in the time of Jesus, adults could presumably observe that a woman was pregnant and her offspring was growing. And a phrase of that time, “a child jumping in the mother’s womb”, presumes an offspring “growing, active and alive”? Here I am trying sketch how a life in the womb just may have been perceived in Jesus time.

    As for those dedicated and culturally close Jewish Jesus follower/s, who wrote the Didache handbook, at a time not too remote from Jesus’ death, how likely might you think the author/s just would have gone autobiographical. Please.

    You are discarding your historical-based methodology for the “Scriptural Authority Card”, written in another era and world.

    Finally, we know from a huge recent study that 96% of the 5,577 qualified academic biological scientists from around the world confirmed in a formal survey based on their evidence-based knowledge and empirical observation, an actual human life/being/organism is present from the of fertilisation. (Issue Law Med 2021 Jacobs 2021 Fall).

    I am aware that “opinion” inevitably remains free. But recall, facts are not; they are precious.


    • BDEhrman January 31, 2024 at 11:08 am

      I should be clear, nothing in the Bible has any connection with modern scientific views, claims, opinions, or evidence. I’m saying that the Bible itself has no bearing on the question of whether abortion is murder, except for two passages (Numbers 5, Exodus 21) that give clear evidence of at least these two authors’ views, and in both cases the fetus is decidedly not considered human. No other passage is directly related.
      The big question in abortion is in many ways a scientific one that science cannot answer. When is a human being a human being? The ‘fact” that a survey of biologists express a view is not the same thing as saying that the *view* is a fact. A “living organism” is not the same thing as a “human being.” (My finger nails are living.) The question is “what is a human” and when is “ending life” the same as “ending the life of a human”?
      You may not have noticed, but I have not taken a stand on this issue.

  21. markdeckard January 30, 2024 at 8:10 am

    Human nature is such that even the most virtuous systems and creeds can become corrupted. Jesus arrived on the scene in the midst of a Jewish religion that was off the rails with greed, heartlessness, theological civil war and militant nationalism. Yet there were many good souls scattered in and around these institutions. So in answer to the question “How are we doing today?” I would say about the same as we always have.

    • BDEhrman January 31, 2024 at 11:09 am

      Yup, pretty much….

    • micclan February 1, 2024 at 7:40 am

      I do believe that you avoid the central point.

      In the simplest of terms, 96% of highly qualified biologists, on the basis of their empirical observations and scientific methodology, have confirmed that a human life or being does exist from fertilisation, however long the duration of that life turns out to be.

      In the modern world, all sorts of thoughts are expressed about early lives, in a sea of opinion, ideology and advocacy.

      Nevertheless, evidence-based knowledge remains critical to the understanding of what is.

  22. Neurotheologian February 11, 2024 at 7:02 am

    Dear Bart, I ejnjoyed the video introduction to the ethical impact of Jesus. I wonder whether ‘evil’ is causing others to suffer harm in the service of obtaining benefit for oneself; and maybe the ultimate ‘good’ is suffering harm to oneself in the service of giving benefit to others? Maybe this is more a definition of ‘love’ in the sense of “greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life………” By this definition, Jesus’s ethical teaching arguably scores higher than anyone in history. Whether he scores higher in the way Jesus lived his life and died, I suppose, depends on whether you regard ‘the messianic secret motives’ in Mark as retropsectively inserted re-interpretations, or genuine sayings of Jesus about his destiny and purpose as in the Isaiah 53: 3-6 suffering servant / lamb of God passage. On this matter, I’ve just posted a comment on the ‘Isaiah 53 most commented on blog post’ thread

  23. Disbeliever.02 March 19, 2024 at 5:08 pm

    This articles is so on point. I left religion a long time ago but respect those of any religion who are ethical, charitable and value justice.

    But the White Xtian nationalists in America today are not doing much of that. I wonder what gospel they are reading. (Is there a book of the Meana** Jesus?)

    I recently read (and highly recommend journalist Tim Alberta’s book Kingdom, Power & Glory. He is an evangelical Christian but not a fundamentalist, and gives an insider’s perspective of how Christianity is being weaponized for political purposes. That’s not a new problem, but the magnitude of this current movement is truly shocking to me.

    I had no idea! I live in my bubble of niceness and rationality in a university town, and don’t really know any Christian Nationalists (or they aren’t saying that’s what they are).

    Anyway, cheers for Dr. Bart – keep up the good work!

  24. sLiu March 31, 2024 at 8:12 pm

    a christian: 1) treats his neighbor well 2) is humble 3) follows christ’s lead AKA bible checked
    #ChristianNationalism is some perversion of Bigotry & Racism AKA Trump do not pay worker’s their daily wages

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