19 votes, average: 4.68 out of 519 votes, average: 4.68 out of 519 votes, average: 4.68 out of 519 votes, average: 4.68 out of 519 votes, average: 4.68 out of 5 (19 votes, average: 4.68 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.

If Jesus Wasn’t Really Raised from the Dead, What Happened?

I’m celebrating my birthday today, a sparkling young 63.  No cards or happy wishes necessary.  Just send cash.   But it occurred to me to look through old posts done on my birthday, and there was this interesting one from six years ago, on a very hot topic indeed!   Very provocative.   So here you are — be provoked on my happy day!


One of the first books that I have re-read in thinking about how it is the man Jesus came to be thought of as God is Gerd Lüdemann’s, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (2004). Lüdemann is an important and interesting scholar. He was professor of New Testament at Göttingen in Germany, and for a number of years split his time between there and Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. He is a major figure in scholarship, and is noteworthy for not being a Christian. He does not believe Jesus was literally, physically, raised from the dead, and he thinks that apart from belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection, it is not possible for a person to be Christian.

This book is written for people with a lot of background in New Testament studies. It is exegetically based, meaning that he goes into a detailed examination of key passages to uncover their literary meaning; but he is ultimately interested in historical questions of what really happened. To follow his exegesis (his interpretation) requires a good knowledge of how NT scholars argue their points: the book is aimed at other NT scholars and, say, graduate students in the field.

The basic historical conclusions that Lüdemann draws – based on a careful analysis of all the relevant passages and a consideration of the historical events that lie behind them – is this:

To Read the Rest of this post you will need to belong to the blog.  If you don’t belong– you’ll never know!  So why not join?  It doesn’t cost much and gives a lot, and every dime goes to charity!

o When Jesus was arrested and crucified his disciples fled. They did not go into hiding in Jerusalem – then went back home, to Galilee (where *else* would they go? They went home, to get out of Jerusalem!)

o Soon after, it was in Galilee (not in Jerusalem) that belief in the resurrection occurred. It occurred because Peter had a vision of Jesus that included auditory features (he thought he saw and heard him).

o This “vision” was induced by psychological factors. Peter felt terrifically guilty for having denied Jesus, and the “vision” he had brought forgiveness from his deep guilt.

o This vision was like other visions that people have (all the time): visions of dead loved ones; visions of the Virgin Mary. In these visions, of course the loved ones do not *really* come back to life from the dead, and the Virgin Mary does not *really* show up at Lourdes, etc. These are psychologically induced visions.

o Still, like other people who have visions, Peter took the vision to be real and assumed that Jesus was alive again, in heaven.

o Peter brought the other disciples together, and maintained with them that the end time was near, as Jesus had originally preached, and that the kingdom of God was soon to appear. The evidence? The resurrection of the dead had already begun. The evidence? Jesus had been raised. The evidence? He had appeared to Peter. All this is happening in Galilee.

o The vision was infectious, and the mission got underway.

o Even Jesus’ brothers were caught up in the excitement and James became a believer in Jesus.

o The other person who had a genuine vision of Jesus was much later, the apostle Paul, who too experienced a psychologically induced vision of Jesus. In this case, he found Jesus’ teaching of forgiveness and mercy appealing, even as he was violently persecuting the church as an enemy. But forgiveness won out and in a cataclysmic break from his past, Paul had a vision of the living Jesus, convincing him that Peter and the others were right: Jesus was still alive, and therefore had been raised from the dead.

o Some Christians thought that these visions showed that Jesus was spiritually exalted to heaven – not that his body had been physically raised from the dead.

o Others, including Peter and Paul, insisted that in fact Jesus had experienced a physical resurrection of the body, which had been transformed into an immortal body before being exalted to heaven.

o The implication was that the tomb was emptied before Jesus’ started to make his appearances (other Christians also claimed to see him, but it is hard to establish that any of the others actually had any visions – they may have simply been building on Peter’s original claim).

o But by this time it was too late to know whether the tomb was really empty. For several reasons:

 We don’t know how much after his death the vision to Peter came; Acts suggests that it was fifty days before the preaching began; if so, the body would have decomposed.

 No one knew where he was buried anyway (the story of Joseph of Arimathea may be a later account, not something that really happened; Jesus may have been buried in a common grave or somewhere no one knew.

 It is worth pointing out, Ludemann notes, that Christians in Jersualem appear to have placed ZERO emphasis on the location of the tomb. It was not until 326, according to Eusebius, was the alledged site of burial “rediscovered” under a temple dedicated to Venus. Life of Constantine 3.26-28.

And so, the short story: Chrsitianity started among Jesus’ followers in Galilee, sometime after his death, after Peter had a vision of Jesus that was psychologically induced.

So, to be clear, I’m not saying I agree with this entire reconstruction. But it’s very interesting, based on a detailed examination of all the evidence from the NT (and outside) by a skilled interpreter, and worth bearing in mind when trying to figure out what really happened both to Jesus’ body and to the followers of Jesus to make them believe it had been raised from the dead.[\private]

Did Jesus Call Himself God?
Did Jesus Believe Sinners Would Be Annihilated? The Sheep and the Goats



  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  October 5, 2018

    This is really interesting and addresses THE CENTRAL question/belief of Christianity. I would like to make one small suggestion. Maybe Peter had a dream and not a vision. Over five decades of psychiatric practice, I was amazed about how often people told me that a loved one had actually visited them in a dream. So, I think a dream is far more likely than a vision. Moreover, the Bible is filled with meaningful dreams. With regard to Paul, I suggest an epileptic seizure provoked by sunlight flashing through trees resulted in Paul having a seizure with Paul falling down, etc. Finally, Freud considered the analysis of dreams to be the road to revealing unconscious wishes.

    Happy birthday. .

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      Yes indeed. It seems very weird to us today, but in the ancient world they did not differentiate neatly between what we would call dreams (when asleep) and visions (when awake). I have a student who wrote a dissertation that dealt (in part) on this. Very odd!

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  October 7, 2018

        The problem with putting the resurrection narratives down to a dream/vision or epilptic seizure is that lots of people have visions or seizures and they dont all lead to a new religion. Given peter had a vision and paul had a seizure – how this turns into a new religion still needs to be explained.

        Even if Peter had actually seen the risen jesus that doesnt lead to anyone believing him.

        • Avatar
          stevenpounders  October 8, 2018

          The dream/vision and seizure would only have been two of many factors leading to a new religion. Other factors would be: the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus, the gathering of disciples who had left former lives to follow him, the need for Jesus’ followers to explain his death and continue the apocalyptic message of a fast-approaching end and general resurrection, the organization of Christians in Jerusalem and Antioch, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, followed by a diaspora of Jews and Christians, the adaptation of Christian teachings for Greek followers, the theological and organizational work of Paul in his letters, the gradual realization in the church fathers that an apocalypse was not quite as imminent as they had thought.

          Jesus had already been teaching about a general resurrection in the last apocalypse, an idea that developed among some Jews during the Second Temple period. An individual resurrection and ascension of Jesus, was the only addition needed for Jesus’ followers to continue the preaching what they had already been preaching under his guidance.

          I think that the real innovation of Christianity was not the resurrection – it was the inclusion of gentiles. Including everyone paved the way for a religion that could be widely accepted all over the existing empire.

      • NulliusInVerba
        NulliusInVerba  October 8, 2018

        In Fiddler On The Roof, Tevye has a “dream” that is a masterpiece of… pragmatism! Do you think pragmatism can be ruled out in the matter under discussion?

    • Avatar
      anthonygale  October 7, 2018

      I’ve always considered that as well. I’ve experienced several lucid dreams (I wasn’t able to control the dreams but was aware that I was dreaming). Two of them were particularly vivid and occurred shortly after the deaths of my grandmother and one of my dogs. I remember feeling the warmth of my dog’s breath when he licked my face as I leaned down to pet him. It was just as he had done thousands of times. My grandmother made her distinct mannerisms while talking, just as she had in life. It felt different than being awake, but closer to being awake than like being in any other dream that I can remember. If I didn’t know what a lucid dream was, or perhaps if I was more religious, I might have thought I was seeing their spirits.

      In considering whether Paul may have had a hallucination caused by a psychiatric or neurological condition, the different accounts of his conversion are problematic. If a person has visual hallucinations without auditory ones, that is probably something medical. I agree that seeing a flash of light, falling off a horse and waking up with a religious focus sounds like a seizure. But hearing voices and believing you are the apostle sounds a lot like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with psychosis. Depending on which account of the conversion you read, he might be having a visual or auditory hallucination but he is not having both in either one, he is having one or the other (Bart please correct me if I got that wrong). So which is it? There is also the problem of taking into consideration what is within normal limits in a culture and whether a phenomenon might be a “cultural syndrome.”

      At the end of the day I think it is hard if not impossible to diagnose someone living 2000 years ago based on a few letters. Yet I must confess I’ve had the same suspicions about Paul and wonder if some of the prophets and religious leaders throughout history might literally have been psychotic (I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, it is a medical term referring to types of symptoms including hallucinations and delusions).

    • Rick
      Rick  October 7, 2018

      Very interesting, is there (other) evidence Paul was epileptic?
      Dr. Ehrman,
      Happy Birthday!

      • Avatar
        fishician  October 8, 2018

        Geschwind syndrome?

        • Avatar
          Kirktrumb59  October 9, 2018

          Geschwind syndrome! “Geschwind syndrome” (Arch Gen Psychiatry 1975; 32:1580-1586) refers to an inter-ictal (that is, between seizures) personality change occurring in SOME sufferers of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). It ‘s characterized by, among other things, hyposexuality, hypergraphia, “cosmic concerns,” a “stickiness” to ideas and persons, and investing non-emotionally charged (for most of us) events and ideas with high emotional valence. Sounds like Paul, eh?
          (There are) Reams of commentary in the medical literature about the event ‘on the road to Damascus’ and Paul’s conjectured TLE, based in great part on the account in Acts 9. I long ago commented about this on this blog, several times, and provided references for anyone interested.
          Big problem: As Dr. E has demonstrated on this blog alone, Acts is not a reliable historical document, particularly related to this (Acts 9) event, and Paul’s undisputed (by most NT scholars) letters contain zero documentation other than the vague assertion of 2 Corinthians 12:7. Maybe Paul had a seizure, maybe he had epilepsy, maybe he had TLE. Maybe. Conjecture on.

          • dschmidt01
            dschmidt01  October 11, 2018

            or more likely Paul just made it all up and we don’t have to invent seizures or physcocis that might have inflicted him.

  2. Avatar
    mkahn1977  October 5, 2018

    Happy birthday anyway sir

  3. Avatar
    smackemyackem  October 5, 2018

    I am currently reading Michael Alters book The Resurrection a critical inquiry. He is a Jewish scholar who rebutts the apologetics in regard to the resurrection. Have you read it? What is your take?

    John Loftus recommended it…
    “Christian Apologist Vincent J. Torley Now Argues Michael Alter’s Bombshell Book Demolishes Christian Apologists’ Case for the Resurrection”
    From Loftus fb page

  4. Avatar
    saavoss  October 5, 2018

    Very interesting reconstruction. I am no Bible scholar, but I thought that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see or experience Jesus after the “resurrection”, not Peter. She was the one who told Peter about the empty tomb. Different points of view I guess. Possibly there is no way we can/will ever really know. I have a soft spot for Mary Magdalene, so I prefer having her be the first witness.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      In the Gospels it’s Mary (and other women); in Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-8) it is Peter. Very intriguing.

      • Avatar
        Iskander Robertson  October 9, 2018

        no wonder mark says paul never got to hear from the women, “they said nothing to anyone”

        When i ask apologists why paul does not mention the women witnesses, they reply “argument from silence”

        how is it an argument from silence when a source written later on admits that the women never told paul ?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 11, 2018

          The stories *about* the women were being told by people *other* than the women.

          • Avatar
            Iskander Robertson  October 11, 2018

            paul does not mention any appearance to the women or that the women told peter.

            Mark says that they told no one.

            i am not taking the story as real i am saying pauls silence is understandable because he didnt know anything about the women seeing jesus or the women reporting because they dod not tell anyone anthing.

          • Avatar
            Iskander Robertson  October 11, 2018

            in mark, there is nothing which says that the women saw jesus. In mark, the text says that after the eerie experience at the tomb , the women ran away with trembling and fear and said nothing to anyone. this news never reached paul, this explains why paul did not mention any appearance to the women,because he really didnt know and mark admitted that he is revealing to his hears they said nothing. So the oral traditions in marks day was that the women said nothing to anyone.

      • Avatar
        Iskander Robertson  October 9, 2018

        why would pete tell paul about his vision, but omit mention of womens testimony? Is it because they were women? So, werent the women verified by pete?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 11, 2018

          We don’t know what Peter knew or said about the discovery of the tomb.

  5. Avatar
    mattsanders  October 5, 2018

    Happy day of birth, mate.

    Thanks for reposting this. Without any professional training in the subject, I came to a similar hypothesis when I was a teenager — without all the facts in place. This is very helpful for me to start digging into the Gospel of Mark. What also helped me grapple with the notion that much of what happened wasn’t recorded at all and the accounts of what we have weren’t recorded until much later, was the realization that Jesus and his followers, Peter and Paul, all appeared to believe the apocalypse would occur in their lifetimes. Reading the NT chronologically based on the current proposed dates of original authorship, certainly aided in clearing this up for me. I can see the evolution of authorships thought processes over time…

  6. Avatar
    anthonygale  October 5, 2018

    Happy birthday Bart!

    Was James the brother of Jesus thought to have been one of the two James’ who were apostles? Or part of Jesus’ ministry during his lifetime? I ask because if James the brother of Jesus isn’t in the gospels but was a leader of the early church, perhaps he got on board after the disciples returned to Galilee and someone had a vision?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      James was a common name; James the brother of Jesus, by all accounts, was not one of the earthly followers of Jesus, but became a “believer” after he had a vision of Jesus following his death.

  7. Avatar
    Hogie2  October 5, 2018

    Thank you for the post. You’ll have to settle for birthday wishes, and no cash today. Sorry. This post brings up a strange question that occurred to me regarding the nature of the resurrected body of Jesus, as held by Christian theologians. Could you discuss what Paul meant, and what the common “orthodox” understanding is, in 1 Cortintians 15, when he spoke of being raised a “spiritual”body? That wasn’t the strange question btw. The strange question is, given the belief in a bodily resurrection, reports of the disciples handling him, and Jesus eating with them, do any Christian scholars discuss if Jesus resurrected body still preformed normal “bodily functions”, if you know what I mean? I told you it was strange.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      Yes, I devote a discussion of this in my book. In short, the resurrection *was* of his actual body, but it was no longer a purely physical body but a glorified, immortal one (“spiritual”).

  8. Avatar
    godspell  October 5, 2018

    I have a number of quibbles:

    1)While I agree the disciples would have fled Jerusalem, I don’t believe all or even most did so immediately. For one thing, escaping a city as well-guarded as Jerusalem would have been during Passover season would have taken some time. For another, some would have believed Jesus would survive. Perhaps even that this would be the moment he’d proclaim the Kingdom, and the Son of Man would come. I don’t think they would have been sure he had failed until he was sentenced to be crucified. The story of Peter denying Jesus hardly makes sense if Peter just ran away the moment Jesus was arrested. They would have hoped against hope that this was all part of the plan. I don’t believe any of the disciples witnessed the crucifixion. Assuming by ‘disciple’ you mean ‘male follower.’

    2)Peter might well have had a vision of Jesus, but why would account after account tell us that it was Jesus’ female followers who first bore witness to the resurrection? Why would that honor be granted to them by what was already becoming a patriarchal religion by the time the gospels were written? I think Mary Magdalene is a more likely candidate for having first spoken of seeing the risen Jesus. To be sure, Mark only has her seeing an angel robed in white, but that might in fact be a way of diminishing her role, without outright denying it. The women closest to Jesus would not have fled Jerusalem, for the simple reason that they didn’t need to. The Romans wouldn’t take them seriously, because they were women. Whatever kind of tomb Jesus was given, they would have tried to go there. Some of them very likely did witness the crucifixion. They were the ones in a position to tell a story, and they did. And we have altered fragments of the story they told. In that sense, they were the true founders of Christianity. Because they could not accept that the only man who had ever treated them as an equal was gone, his life rendered meaningless. They would give it meaning.

    3)We’d still have to speculate about what happened after the crucifixion, even if Jesus had risen from the dead. 🙂

    • Avatar
      stevenpounders  October 8, 2018

      1) We really don’t know how well guarded Jerusalem was or how interested the Romans would have been in the disciples once they’d captured Jesus. That can only be speculation. Since it was Passover, there would have been many visitors passing in and out of the city.
      2) Though the gospels give conflicting versions of the tomb story, they all begin with elements in the first gospel, Mark. Bart argues elsewhere -https://ehrmanblog.org/women-at-the-tomb/- that an invented story of women at the tomb makes sense if you want to tell a story about the resurrection but it’s already historically known that the men had fled to Galilee.
      3) True – it’s all speculation.

  9. Avatar
    anthonygale  October 5, 2018

    Do you think the followers of Jesus would have known that crucified victims were usually left on the cross? If they lived in the boonies, perhaps they didn’t. Maybe they had never been to a city before, perhaps never met a Roman before and didn’t stay in Jerusalem long. Might they have assumed then that Jesus was buried and wouldn’t have known otherwise?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      That’s a good point. The rural folk in remote Galilee maybe didn’t know this.

      • Avatar
        FL  October 7, 2018

        Hello Doctor Ehrman,
        Sorry for my difficult writing of English! But if History could not erase the crucifixion (considering the ecclesiastical embarrassment about the crucifixion as the most sure evidence of the historical reality of Jesus) how could it have erased the fact that Jesus has rotten several days on his cross?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 8, 2018

          My guess is that hte disciples fled town and didn’t know what happened to the body.

      • Avatar
        John Murphy  October 8, 2018

        Wouldn’t folk in those parts have known because of what happened in Sepphoris?

        • Bart
          Bart  October 8, 2018

          Only if they happened to see crucifixions in Sepphoris. My guess is most people never went there, and I can’t recall any evidence of crucifixions happening there (there was not a Roman presence there regularly)

          • Avatar
            John Murphy  October 9, 2018

            Didn’t the Romans put down pretty savagely an uprising there around the time Jesus was born? I believe they crucified several hundred Galileans, so I assume that event would have been discussed at length in those parts.

            Maybe I’m mixing it up with some other uprising, though…

          • Bart
            Bart  October 11, 2018

            Yes, it was destroyed by the Romans because of an uprising right around the time Jesus would have been born. So maybe so. Good point.

  10. Avatar
    J--B  October 5, 2018

    Happy Birthday, Doctor Ehrman!
    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us.

  11. Avatar
    jbskq5  October 5, 2018

    What would you say are your primary disagreements/reservations about this proposal?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      My main questions have to do with whether it is possible to psychoanalyze Jesus’ followers and know the psychological reasons for the beliefs they had.

      • Avatar
        HawksJ  October 7, 2018

        Is he claiming to “know” that, or does he admit it’s (obviously) speculation based on the evidence?

  12. Avatar
    Steefen  October 5, 2018

    I’ve never been convinced that there is any stoicism in Jesus’ teachings (apart from “generally held wisdom”).

    Stoicism in Early Christianity Edited by Tuomas Rasimus et al.
    – Chapter 2: Stoicism as a Key to Pauline Ethics in Romans
    – Chapter 4: Jesus the Teacher and Stoic Ethics in the Gospel of Matthew

    I would like to add:
    “Stoic ideas from the very beginning permeated Christian teaching. Seneca and Epictetus were regarded as Christians by nature, as it were, though they had been deprived of Christian revelation.”
    – Ludwig Edelstein, Preface to “The Meaning of Stoicism” pages ix and x

    I would like to acknowledge a divergence of Jesus from Stoicism. Some say Jesus is too emotional to be a Stoic. I bring up the anguish in the Garden of Gethsemene.

    Edelstein also says in his Preface:
    …if the sage finds himself at a place and in a situation where he cannot do the right as he sees it, then he believes that it is his duty to die [like Cato the Younger]; and he says to God: “I do not abandon Thee [though you abandon me and my taking a living role in the Kingdom of God/Righteousness of the Son of Man Movement], heaven forbid! But, I recognize that Thou has no need of me.”

    How strikingly different these words are from those of Christ: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The Stoic’s are daring words. They can be spoken because the sage and God are equals, friends on the same level. Like God, the sage has the power to will and not to will, to desire and to reject, in short to master his thoughts. He has in his possession the true nature of good and evil. The sage is like God and distinguished from Him only by his mortality.

    Jesus could be forgiven by Stoics for his anguish given the end of his taking a living role in his ministry and the horror of crucifixion. His acceptance of his fate could be Stoic resignation.

    Jesus is one with the Father in that he is the Stoic Sage of the gospels.
    = = =
    You, Bart, may take the position that when Edelstein speaks of Stoicism permeating Christianity that is not in the gospels but in the literature after the gospels. Is that your position?

    Do any of your trade books or textbooks mention the permeation of Stoicism on Christianity?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      No, I don’t address it because I do not think it is a central point. Jesus certainly never studied or even read any Stoic philosophers.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  October 8, 2018

        Jesus certainly never studied or even read any Stoic philosophers.

        And you seem to say Stoicism is not central to Jesus’ words in the gospels and first century Christianity.

        First, we don’t know that Jesus never studied Stoicism through Jewish scribes exposed to Stoicism.

        David A. deSilva (PhD, Emory University), Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, author of over twenty-five books in his book The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude tells us Jesus was acquainted with the works of the Hebrew scribe Yeshua Ben Sira who lived and taught during a time of Hellenization which opens the door to Greek as opposed to Roman Stoicism. “Ben Siira remained open to the contributions other cultures could make to the pursuit of Wisdom.”

        Second, we don’t know if Jesus came in contact with Stoic speakers in Palestine.

        Silva says there were Stoic philosophers who were in Palestine and Syria or who traveled to Palestine and Syria including the Stoic Antiochus of Ascalon.

        = = =
        The Our Father Prayer and the Golden Rule, both with at least one Stoic element are quite central to the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

        I already discussed how the Stoic Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus informs the Our Father Prayer with the Matthean phrase deliver us from evil which is not in Luke.

        The Golden Rule:
        “A noble and high-minded spirit will assist others and help them out. Those who confer benefits imitate the gods; those who seek repayment imitate loan sharks.”
        Seneca, On Benefits (Ben) Book 3, 15.4 translated by Miriam Griffin and Brad Inwood p. 68

        In the context of Jewish ethics in general and Jesus’ teachings in particular, the Golden Rule has more to do with the elaboration of the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself than with the ethic of reciprocity and inciting beneficent reciprocal relationships. Luke correctly understands that the Golden Rule is indeed moving the hearers beyond the ethos of reciprocity … toward an ethos of imitating God’s self-motivated, self-sustained beneficence. [Luke 6:30-34, not just Luke 6: 31] (The understanding of giving as a means of provoking generous response was, incidentally, censured by Seneca as a poor way to engage even the social practice of reciprocity.
        The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude ps 278-279

  13. Avatar
    fishician  October 5, 2018

    1. The sudden appearance of Mary Magdalene in the gospels – does that suggest she might have been the first to have such visions, not Peter? Otherwise, why mention her? (Luke just mentions Peter’s vision as an aside, 24:34.)
    2. If the movement started in Galilee, why is Acts so clear on it starting up in Jerusalem? Legendary account to tie the Jewish and Gentile Christians together?
    3. Happy birthday!

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      1. It suggests there were certainly stories that she was the first; Paul seems to have other stories; 2. Luke has a theological investment in making Jerusalem the center of his story. He does this in all sorts of ways. Notice, e.g., how he switches the order of the Temptations so that the third is in Jerusalem. 3. Thanks!

  14. Avatar
    wreker  October 5, 2018

    It appears like a simple conclusion from examining the writings through the lense of their context in time and history. Considering Luudeman studied NT most of his adult life… I’d say the weight of his conviction not accepting the resurrection is very persuasive. It is NOT reasonable to believe people come back from the dead just because one person has an experience they claim to eyewitness resurrection; especially AFTER someone is has been dead long enough to decompose. Now we know people can die and spontaneously come back to life within a few minutes- there are people alive today you can find who folks thought they were dead😵… and 😮 they wake up and scare everyone. ‘Tis a miracle (of the sturdiness of human biology)! But those people eventually die and do not come back to life. Luudeman’s reliance upon an almost common sense approach to human psychology and sociology applied to the ancient texts actually makes the whole story more enjoyable because as a fable, it’s pretty cool. Christianity DOES contain a lot of good stuff. Like anything else, THE READER gets to decide what to keep and what to throw out. Bart, thank you for modeling your own personal style the way you have evolved as a student and master of thinking. For your birthday 🎂 I wish your big 🧠 good health and longevity ❤️. You made it possible for me to go back to To my old Quaker church and enjoy the whole experience again. No God required. You behave as a really good Christian… regardless you don’t believe anymore or identify as a believer. In the end, “belief” only matters to the people who remember us after we die. While YOU have been alive 62 years, you really have made many people’s lives better- even if they don’t recognize it. Not just your books, or your professor ship, nor those 4 old NT classes of yours I watched ON VHS TAPES😜. All your debates and constantly pushing and challenging people to THINK. I bestow upon you the birthday gift of a new name:
    “Bartcratese, of Chapel Hill” (yes – you are a the reincarnated/resurrected Socrates. Metaphorically of course). Happy 62

  15. Avatar
    Matt7  October 5, 2018

    You mention that Lüdemann thinks that a person cannot be a Christian without believing in the physical resurrection of Jesus; however, Jesus did not refer to his followers as Christians. What did people need to believe about Jesus during his ministry in order for him to accept them as his followers?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      They had to implement his teachings and, possibly, credit him with them.

  16. Avatar
    darren  October 5, 2018

    Happy birthday, Bart! In a world where people increasingly look for information that confirms their personal biases, this blog is my oasis of logic and rational argument.

  17. Avatar
    Pattylt  October 5, 2018

    Sort of off topic but I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of Paul’s persecution of Christians. I can accept that he spoke against them and perhaps hassled and annoyed the hell out of them but what do we really know about his persecution of them? It seems Christians have blown this into everything from killing them to torturing them, etc. Do we have any evidence as to what his persecution actually was? Part of the problem is that he was outside of Judea and had no authority to really DO anything other than speak ill of them. Is there more information I’m missing?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 6, 2018

      My view is that it’s relatively certain *that* he persecuted Christians, but virtually unknown *how* he did so.

      • Avatar
        jhague  October 8, 2018

        Isn’t it likely that synagogue leaders gave out the lashings and Paul gave his approval?

  18. Avatar
    Omar Osama  October 5, 2018

    Happy Birthday Professor Bart I hope to live to the next century

  19. tompicard
    tompicard  October 5, 2018

    inconceivable . .

    Lüdemann’s “exegetically based New Testament studies” led to the conclusion that
    “. . . by psychological factors. . Peter felt . . .terrifically guilty for having denied Jesus, and the “vision” . . had brought forgiveness from his deep guilt”

    I did not know that NT exegeses could lead to determination of a person’s psychological state .

    [absolutely totally and in all other ways]

    • tompicard
      tompicard  October 6, 2018

      also though i know nothing about exegesis and i have never even taken a college class in religion
      i find Gerd Lüdemann claim
      ” that apart from belief in Jesus’ PHYSICAL resurrection, it is not possible for a person to be Christian”
      somewhat pretentious .

      Not that it necessarily bothers me whether Gerd Lüdemann considers me a christian or not

  20. talmoore
    talmoore  October 5, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, as I’ve stated in previous comments, I think this explanation has is somewhat backwards. The most sensible order of events to me seems to be as follows:

    ~ Jesus and his followers already believed that they were living in the end times, and that the Mass Resurrection and Judgment were going to happen any day now. Moreover, they already believed that the “saints” — i.e. those who were especially holy or righteous, such the martyrs of the previous generations — would be raised first (cf. Matt. 27:52).

    ~ When Jesus was arrested and killed, his followers really had only two options: either A) they could realize that the end times weren’t coming after all and, therefore, they should disband the movement, or B) they could continue to believe that the end times were imminent, so, therefore, they should continue their movement.

    ~ Clearly many, if not most of Jesus’s followers chose option B. That would naturally lead them to expect that Jesus would have to be resurrected soon anyway, to satisfy what they already believed would happen soon. Moreover, since they believed that Jesus was now a holy and righteous martyred saint that he would be one of the first to be soon raised.

    ~ This expectation of Jesus’s imminent resurrection is what primed this followers’ brains to then experience visions of Jesus alive (in dreams and/or in waking hallucinations), which then led to outright proclaiming that Jesus was, indeed, resurrected as the “first fruits” of the soon to arrive Resurrection of the Saints.

    ~ But when they proclaimed to other Jews that Jesus was resurrected, their Jewish critics sensibly asked, “So where is Jesus now if he was raised from the dead?” The apostles couldn’t just say they didn’t know where he was, because that would undermine the message. So they gave the obvious answer. They gave the risen Jesus the same fate as other great prophet’s like Elijah. “Jesus was taken up to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God.”

    ~ And, as one would expect, the critics needed more proof that Jesus was resurrected and taken up to heaven, and thus was started the “empty tomb” legend, as a way to answer the naysayers and justify expectations. And it basically just snowballed from there.

    This is the only explanation, as far as I can tell, that answers each and every question one would have about the resurrection story.

    • Avatar
      brenmcg  October 7, 2018

      A movement based solely on the belief in the end times and that jesus just the first of many to be resurrected would quickly die out when no more resurrections occured. It doesnt explain christianity. You’ll need to come up with a further explanation for why Jesus susequently became the messiah and son of god.
      And if you come up with a further explanation for christianity you may as just use that one from the beginnning.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 8, 2018

        “A movement based solely on the belief in the end times and that jesus just the first of many to be resurrected would quickly die out when no more resurrections occured.”

        One would think, but the tenacity of strongly held beliefs says otherwise. For example, the Branch Davidians still exist.

        The way such movements continue to exist is by rationalizing away the unfulfillment of expectations. For instance, the current version of the Branch Davidians rationalize away their failures under David Koresh’s leadership by simply claiming that Koresh was a false prophet who misled the group. The Jews did the same thing when the Temple was destroyed. They rationalized it away as evidence that God had a different plan for the Jews. After the 17th century Jewish messianic claimant Shabbatai Tzvi ended up converting to Islam, there were STILL loyal followers of Tzvi who believed he was still the Messiah! Why?!? This is such a common feature of being human — rationalizing away the disappointment of expectations — that we actually have a word for it: HOPE. Even after further disappointment, we still cling to our beliefs, because we have “hope”.

        If you look back at the NT tradition, what do you see? You see exactly this same kind of rationalizing away the disappointment of expectations. Why hasn’t the Resurrection happened yet? Because God is waiting for the Gospel to be spread to all of humanity.
        Or because “about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
        Or because “if anyone tells you, ‘There [the Messiah] is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”
        Or because “nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
        Or because maybe there actually were resurrections after Jesus! such as when “They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matt. 27:53)

        And so on. The entire NT is essentially one giant collection of rationalizations as to why the Resurrection has not happened yet! It’s basically a manual for inspiring “hope” in Christians. Just read Paul’s letters! The fact that so many Christians do not see this fact only goes to prove how we as human beings are biased on our beliefs.

        • Avatar
          brenmcg  October 9, 2018

          Sure – but the rationalising that Jesus was messiah and son of god and died for humanities sins should happen after the crucifixion not later on when the full resurrection of the dead fails to happen.

          otherwise you’re proposing two rationalising events (jesus is first-fruits of resurrection and later jesus died for sins) when one will do.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  October 11, 2018

            Once you’ve rationalized your way into a firm belief, it’s very difficult to rationalize your way out of it.

            Dr. Ehrman himself regularly talks about how it took years — decades, really — for him to realize that his firmly held Christian beliefs were basically wrong — even though the actual facts and evidence that would have shown him that his beliefs were wrong were right in front of him the whole time. Once your beliefs have become a part of you, almost like a body part itself, it becomes very difficult change them. Changing your entire weltanschauung in one fell swoop is almost like trying to cut off your own foot with one swing of the ax.

    • Rick
      Rick  October 7, 2018

      I’ve always also wondered if the “Jewish Critics” did not also accuse the apostles of “seeing a ghost”, thus prompting the doubting Thomas story as well perhaps as the empty tomb.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  October 8, 2018

        Quite possibly. If you want to get a good sense of what Christians’ Jewish critics were like, the kind of questions they asked and the kinds of doubts they held, just read Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho.

You must be logged in to post a comment.