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Reminder! A Webinar for You? Topic: Do We Have the Original New Testament?

Here’s a reminder, for those who have not signed up yet.  I will be holding a webinar on Sunday June 28 at 4:00 – 5:15 pm to raise money for the Bart Ehrman Blog.  Anyone is welcome to join; the minimum donation is $10, the maximum is … well, there is no maximum.  Every penny that the webinar brings in will go directly to two of the blog’s charities, The Food Bank of Central/Eastern North Carolina and Doctors Without Borders, split equally between them.

The topic of the seminar is “Do We Have the Original New Testament?”  Among the issues to be covered are: How were the books of the New Testament copied in the years, decades and centuries after they were written?  Who were the copyists?  How many copies do we still have?  How old are they?  Why are there hundreds of thousands of differences among them?  Are many of the differences significant?  Is it possible we don’t know what the authors originally wrote?

In the webinar I will deliver a talk for about 40-45 minutes; the rest of the time I will entertain questions from participants, either emailed in advance or made during the webinar, via the chat function.  We will do the webinar on Zoom.

Space will be limited, since the system will only accommodate a finite number of human beings.  First come, first served.  So sign up as soon as you can.

IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS: To request a space, send a private email to me at behrman@email.unc.edu.  DO NOT reply here on the blog.  For the SUBJECT LINE simply say “Register for Webinar.”  In the text of the message, indicate that you would like to register and the amount you would like to donate.

We will then send you instructions for how to make the donation (donations must be received before the webinar) as well as further instructions about joining the webinar itself.

If you have any questions about the procedure, feel free to ask me on the blog or in a private email.

I hope we can raise a lot of money for worthy causes.  I’m looking forward to it!

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  1. Avatar
    d3zd3z  June 18, 2020

    You might want to specify what timezone the 4:00-5:15 is in.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 19, 2020

      I’m just trying to restrict the numbers. 🙂 But yes, the invitation will indicate 4:00 EST.

  2. Avatar
    Bennett  June 18, 2020

    Here’s a question for the mailbag. Matt 16:24 has Jesus saying “..let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I have always had a problem with this expression. I don’t think “take up your cross” would have been a common phrase at the time of Jesus. I think that those condemned to crucifixion may have had to carry their own cross to the place of execution, but could this have been a phrase common at the time? It really sounds like something edited in much later when the cross was an important symbol for early Christians.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 19, 2020

      You’re exactly right. This saying is widely recognized as one that was put on his lips by later Christians who knew full well that he had been crucified and that his followers should be willing to do so as well. it doesn’t make sense on the lips of the historical jesus himself.

      • Avatar
        JeffreyFavot  June 28, 2020

        You’re not telling the whole story Mr. Ehrman. You should be telling your blog member that the majority of the early manuscripts (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus most importantly) don’t have the phrase “take up your cross”. There’s never been an issue with knowing what the original author wrote due to the huge amount of evidence for the phrase not in the manuscripts.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 28, 2020

          What do you mean that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus do not have the phrase take up your cross? Of course they do. What are you thinking exactly?

          • Avatar
            JeffreyFavot  June 29, 2020

            Textually the phrase appears very early. Now inform everyone about how that phrase meets the criterion for “ independent attestation”.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 29, 2020

            Now I’m completely lost. I was asking why you were saying that these two manuscripts do not attest the phrase. Are you asking something different now? (Independent attestation: the issue is “independent”: if a saying is in Matthew, mark, and Luke, it is not independent by definition, since the other two got it from Mark) (that’s the point of the criterion) (moreover, i.a. does not prove authenticity; it’s one part of the evidence)

  3. Avatar
    janmaru  June 19, 2020

    Is there any chance that a heuristic comparison will be drawn between the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran and the scrolls found in The Villa of the Papyri at Pompei in a time where the main consensus locates the creation of Mark?
    Both they do not point to Christianity, they either are a measure of some important cultural movements (but not only), Hebrewism, and Epicureanism. Both placed roughly around 70 c.e. and both a mirror of the two main cultures from which early Christianity was born (i.e. Seneca in the Letters to Lucilius). And both very auto referential to their internal cultural structure.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 21, 2020

      I’m not sure what you mean by heuristic in this context. But I’ve never heard of Mark being authored in Pompeii

      • Avatar
        janmaru  June 21, 2020

        Sorry, I wrote “where” instead of “when”. An old scientific habit of thinking time as not being absolute but an extension of space.
        So I’m going to rephrase it: is not astonishing the silence outside later Christian sources if we look at literally and religious production of the time when the main consensus locates the creation of Mark?
        Is there a chance that the timing is wrong and the early attestation of the latter is just wishful thinking?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 22, 2020

          Sorry! I”m not sure what you’re asking still. Whose silence? About what? and I don’t know what “literally and religious production” means.

          • Avatar
            janmaru  June 22, 2020

            Given that:
            A. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found at Qumran and they go back at the time of Jesus (not really but in and around) and last ’till the destruction of Jerusalem.
            B. The scrolls found in The Villa of the Papyri at Pompei go back at the time of Jesus and ended with the eruption of Mount Vesuvio.

            And that:
            A. speaks of Jewish history while B. of Greek and Roman culture and history (roughly, maybe not the right wording.)

            And also that:
            A and B do not point to Christianity nor do they refer to any Christian myth or symbolism. But later their ideas (epicurism, stoicism, apocalypticism) permeate the Christian culture and faith.

            Can we conclude that even if Mark is dated around 65–75 it was not circulating widely sooner, hence it was not written at that time. I used the word heuristic to underline this logical shortcut. In this respect, what both A. and B. do not show reinforces the idea.

            It’s not an argument from silence.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 23, 2020

            The Dead Sea Scrolls were mostly written over a century before Mark; Mark would not have reached Pompeii, whenever he wrote it, since there was not a Christian church there. So no, I’m not sure the argument would work.

  4. Avatar
    Orhan Aşkın  June 22, 2020

    Hi , I have a question.
    Some evangelics argue that this verse indicates that John’ s Gospel Pre-70 ,because it uses present tense but Besthesda destroyed during Roman’s capture Jerusalem . Please comment on this verse . Thanks

    John 5:2, : “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.”

    • Bart
      Bart  June 23, 2020

      The vast majority of the stories in the Gospels were first circulated before 70CE, so a present tense may have simply been how the story had already been told. It’s also worth noting that Rabbinic texts written centuries later still speak about the temple in the present tense.

  5. Avatar
    janmaru  June 23, 2020

    Forgive my boldness and sorry to bother you again on the matter.
    So you don’t think the Christianos Graffito was real and it was made up by researchers. I’ve been crossed with studies showing that it’s almost certain that there were Christians as well as Jews in Pompeii before the eruption. Communities connected, also, with the Christians of nearby Puteoli, mentioned in Acts 28:13/14.

    What Tertullianus recalls in Apologeticus about Pompeii is irrelevant, since too late from the event and concerned more with the argument itself than to a precise historical period.

    For the Dead Sea Scrolls, I remember that most of them are classified Herodian or late Herodian, which at most would place them around 73 b.c.e but also very close to the birth of Jesus. The presence of people lasted (but not necessarily the production of documents) until Roman troops destroyed the settlement around 70 c.e.
    Carbon dating also, as usual very wobbly, arrives at ~130 c.e.
    (part 1)

    • Bart
      Bart  June 24, 2020

      Why would you summarize my thoughts about something you haven’t asked me about and I’ve never mentioned? Have I said something somewhere about researchers “making up” the Christanos Graffito? You really should not draw conclusions about what someone thinks without finding out first.

      • Avatar
        janmaru  June 24, 2020

        I truly apologize for making that statement. Somehow I saw it internally as a question mark.
        On the other hand, it seems quite difficult to convey any idea at all. When there are any.
        So now that I went through my purgatory, may I have my answer?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 26, 2020

          We’ll all be lucky if purgatory lasts just one day. Without paying any indulgences!

          You’ll need to rephrase and restate the question so everyone can see it and my response to it.

  6. Avatar
    janmaru  June 23, 2020

    But my argument was somehow more subtle. People are concerned about an early attestation of Mark ’cause they dream that it would make it more reliable. They don’t seem very concerned with the nature of time and its sluggishness. If I heard a song of the Beatles, for the first time, today would it make 60’s? And if nobody heard that song would it make it contemporary? The absence of trace of any Markian theme at any point in time when it supposed to be written speaks of a later dating of the document.

  7. Avatar
    clerrance2005  June 28, 2020

    Prof Ehrman,

    In the session we had with you, I was puzzled by two questions

    1. Say P45, when was this manuscript written and when was it discovered? (I somehow got the sense that the date of its discovery equates the period in which it was written)
    2. If the writing of P45 for example dates back to the 1st Century and discovery was made in the 3rd century, then isn’t it possible that to have an original amongst the several manuscripts? (Again my emphasis is on differentiating when these manuscripts were written and when they were discovered)

    • Bart
      Bart  June 29, 2020

      P45 — written around 220 CE. Discovered: early 20th c.

  8. Avatar
    clerrance2005  June 28, 2020

    Prof Ehrman,
    What accounts for the period after which the Gospels and other books of the NT were written and the period of rediscovery of these books. Did Christianity cease within this time frame, hence the disappearance of these books or bearers of the books died and hence the books became extinct?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 29, 2020

      The early copies of the books were almost certainly used and worn out and then tossed away. But no, Xty was spreading throughout this period. You may want to take a look at my book The Triumph of Christianity where I discuss that.

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