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Jesus and My First Girlfriend

Just a short anecdote today.  Not sure if I’ll use it in the book.

My first serious girlfriend was Lynn, whom I met when we were starting our sophomore year in high school.  She was funny, personable, attractive, intelligent, and Jewish.   I’m not sure I had ever known a Jewish person before her.  I think she was somehow related to the Levi-Strauss branch of reality, although she and her two sisters and mom (who was divorced and a single mother) were not rich.  But they were pretty much like me and my family, middle class and doing fine.

I don’t recall that we ever talked about religion, and looking back I suppose it’s a bit surprising.   They certainly weren’t observant Jews and my uninformed sense is that they were completely secular.  I don’t know if they went to synagogue or kept any of the holidays, but I kind-a doubt it.  In any event, at that point in my life religion wasn’t really my main concern when it came to a girlfriend.

We were a hot item for months, and then at the end of my sophomore year, disaster struck.  Her mom got a new job in Topeka, which was only about 20 miles away but seemed like light years.  I got along great with her mom, but she (the mom) was quite firm that with the move, it would make better sense for us not still to be “going together,” as we used to do in those days.   So that was that.

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Seriously off topic….
Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I

32

Comments

  1. Avatar
    philologue  March 15, 2013

    Loved this.

  2. Avatar
    hwl  March 15, 2013

    What did Moodys teach you about how to answer “If I have God in my life, why do I need Jesus?” ?

    With your extensive knowledge of the NT now, do you think the evangelical notion of “having a personal relationship with Jesus” is well supported exegetically? My impression is that Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church leaders are not keen on the evangelical language of “having a personal relationship with Jesus” as it smacks too much of individualism, especially when this notion is viewed as a guarantee of salvation right now with absolute certainty irrespective of future actions – something anaethma to Catholic doctrines.

    Do you know when was the phrase “having a personal relationship with Jesus” first coined? I don’t think any of the Protestant Reformers used the phrase.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 17, 2013

      In the view of the people at Moody, Jesus is the whole point: “No one can come to the Father except by me.” I don’t know where this phrase came from; my guess from the pietistic movements of the 19th century, but I really don’t know.

  3. Avatar
    kidlat  March 15, 2013

    I think she’s on facebook. Nice story, too personal though maybe leave out her last name. This could be the beginning of another book or a chapter on “How Jesus became our Savior”. I too became a born again in my high school years but I never understood the logic or theology behind it. It was just too easy so why not. They said I will be free but felt more like I was in jail. I became very judgmental and the things I like the best are either sinful or worldly. Maybe you could explain the reasoning behind it and its flaws. If you know then what you know now, how would you answer her?

    Waiting for the book so best wishes to you.

  4. Avatar
    Jdavis3927  March 16, 2013

    Oh well, you win some and you lose some Bart..do not let it get you down:)

  5. Avatar
    DMiller5842  March 16, 2013

    It wasn’t long before I had all the answers, just about absolutely all of them. LOL

  6. Avatar
    toddfrederick  March 16, 2013

    You could relate her statement…”If I have God in my life why do I need Jesus? …to the issue to Jesus bein g God. For Jews (and probably Jesus), that was blasphemous. It’s also a question I deal with regularly as do others, I’m sure. That story would fit nicely if you expanded on how Jews saw God and what Christ is said to be.

  7. Avatar
    natashka  March 16, 2013

    Lynn got away in the nick o’ time! You’d only have had to de-program her years later 🙂

    I think it’s great when you include your own personal stories like this in your books. Readers are interested in not only the facts of Christianity, but also, in the psychology of belief…and what leads people toward belief and then, away from it. And all the nuanced stages of thinking and feeling in-between.
    And it’s interesting to see how Lynn reacted to what you were telling her…she just wasn’t buying it. Because, of course, it sounded…illogical. I’m curious to know if, after that chat on the phone when you tried to convert her her…did you two ever talk again? Was she put off by your new beliefs? Was she worried about you and did she try to talk you out of it?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 17, 2013

      Oh yes, we talked further. I actually took her to the senior prom, one of the highlights of my high school career. But during college we lost touch and I don’t know what ended up happening to her.

  8. Avatar
    proveit  March 16, 2013

    I grew up in a rural area and took a bus to school. I was in first or second grade when I discovered one of the girls on the bus was Jewish. After talking with my grandmother about this I told the girl, “My grandmother said you are going to hell because you don’t go to church on Sunday.” She never said anything.

    We never got to be close friends, but we get together now and then as adults. One time I tearfully apologized to her for saying that. I found out later her father had tattoos on his arm from the Nazis.

  9. Avatar
    Adam0685  March 16, 2013

    It’s funny how many also share your experience of first becoming a Christian and then being absolutely obsessed with knowing and understanding the Bible and interpreting all of what it says to fit within a particular Christian paradigm (Calvinist for me) and then zealously evangelizing and defending the faith. I became a born again believer when I was 13 and the thing that set me on the path of biblical and theological obsession was a question someone asked me when I was 14-15. They asked, “how do you know the trinity is true.” Up to that point I have never asked the “how do I know question.” I never questioned what the Bible or pastor said. What followed was a 10 year obsession (in the true sense of the word) of trying to understand my faith and defend it. I remember how proud my youth pastor and church was of me at that age and they always marveled on how much I knew about theology at a young age. I did a year long full time certificate program in bible at Moody when I was 16. I had at least 100 books on bible and theology by 17. Then I did a certificate program in apologetics from Biola; then an undergraduate degree at Moody (I even TA’d and helped teach the apologetics class one semester); My last year at Moody my faith started to fall apart as I studied the historical issues in relation to what I believed. But I decided anyways to do Master’s degree in NT at the university of toronto – hoping that I would sort out the issues I saw. For a good 3-4 years I tried to hold on to my faith and became what I before considered the enemy, a “liberal” christian. It was a painful process leaving Christianity altogether. Christianity was my entire life; my entire identity. Loosing it was one of the most painful things I’ve experienced. Some will find this silly, but there will be those who will fully relate. The good thing is I’ve finally gone through the denial, anger, depression, etc. phrases. Two years ago I came to accept it and now generally live a unconflicted life.

  10. Avatar
    RecoveringCalvinist  March 16, 2013

    Bringing your new Catholic girlfriend home for the first time to meet your Protestant parents was always an exciting event. I remember a reasonably similiar response from her: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! what’s this constant obsession with Jesus?”.

  11. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 17, 2013

    I think inserting such personal stories into your book is a great idea. In fact, I could see starting each chapter with such a story illustrating some of the content of the following chapter. Again, this opens you up to criticism and attacks, but it would give the reader interesting breaks from the heavy theology. Have you ever had some long discussions with a firm believer in Biblical inerrancy that went well?

  12. Avatar
    dallaswolf  March 17, 2013

    Bart,
    What are your thoughts on the just-released “A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts, edited by Hal Taussig”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 17, 2013

      I haven’t seen it yet, I’m afraid.

      • Avatar
        FrancisDunn  March 17, 2013

        I have looked this over some…..nothing here we dont already know….selling the same old used car

      • Avatar
        David Chumney  March 19, 2013

        Saw Taussig’s book and looked through it. Nothing really new that I could see. The various ancient texts are all available in other formats such as Ehrman and Plese’s Apocryphal Gospels, Meyer’s Nag Hammadi Scriptures, and Robert Price’s Pre-Nicene New Testament. The articles and essays by Taussig, Crossan, etc. would be interesting reading, but doubt there’s much you couldn’t find in their earlier work. For my money, you’re better off reading Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities. On the other hand, if you’re unfamiliar with Taussig and his colleagues, this might be an interesting introduction to their work.

  13. Avatar
    tooronga  March 18, 2013

    I am a new member. If this query is inappropriate to this forum, my apologies. I liked the story of the changing meaning of ‘Dude’. My query relates to translation.
    I am wondering if Eusebius (EH 2.15) is telling us that Papias said that Peter was in Rome when writing 1 Peter.
    I have read five different translations of this passage. All are slightly different, with some being more ambiguous than others. i note that two have punctuation, being a full stop, while the other three don’t. The translations are from K. Lake, Stephen C Carlson, yours (Apostolic Fathers-Papias fragments), G. Williamson and A. C. McGiffert.
    Eusebius appears a little confused, partly by having the later writer being confirmed by the earlier, and by providing contradictory descriptions of what is said by Clement about Peter’s attitude to Mark’s writing, 6.14-no special encouragement and 2.15- delighted and authorised reading in churches.
    Jerome in ‘On Illustrious Men -8’ does not appear to help. The second paragraph, unlike the first does not tell us if the source of information is Clement, Papias or both.
    I have also wondered if “they say” or “they maintain” in 2.15 may mean contemporaries of Eusebius, rather than meaning Clement and Papias.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 18, 2013

      Yes, I read it to mean Peter was in Rome when he wrote 1 Peter, but it’s a bit ambiguous if Eusebius means “the ancients” say this or that “this is generally said today.” I think the more natural meaning of the Greek is the former.

      • Avatar
        tooronga  March 19, 2013

        Thank you. Does this make it possible/probable (?) that Papias is the first to clearly put Peter in Rome? I had thought that honour went to Dionysius of Corinth. I feel that Clement of Rome and Ignatius do not provide clear statements to this effect.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 19, 2013

          Well, 1 Clement seems to assume Peter and Paul met their deaths there; it’s usually dated around 95 CE.

          • Avatar
            tooronga  March 21, 2013

            Thank you. I do understand that it is the ‘traditional’ view. As I understand the English of 1 Clement, the author is writing to the Corinthians as to the consequences of behaviour motivated by envy and jealousy. Three examples are given in three different paragraphs – historical and contemporary paradigms (P. Lampe).
            The first relates to Old Testament identities. The second to Peter and Paul, drawn I presume their epistles and from the Acts of the Apostles, with no reference to how, when or where they died or to Peter being in Rome. At least paul is said to have been in the West, even to the limits, as well as in the East. I note that the detail about Peter is less than that given about Paul, Cain and Moses. In this paragrapf 5, there is no “among us” phrase.
            In the third example, when I read 6.1, I take “To these men” to be those mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs , 4 + 5, not just to 5. I then understand that “a great multitude of the elect” who have also suffered due to jealousy are to be added “To these men”. It is this “great multitude” which has “set a superb example among us”.
            Whether this means that the great mulitiude was in Rome, or simply setting an example for the elect regardless of location, as I consider more plausible, it seems to be a long stretch to extend the “among us” in the final paradigm, to also include those named in the second and not the first paradigm.
            I can see someone with other information to hand making this assumption. If one only has 1 Clement, then it does appear to be a somewhat optimistic assumption and certainly not clear. I note that Shotwell and Loomis describe the reference in 1 Clement as “utterly vague”.
            May I repeat my query of the 19th March regarding Papias?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  March 22, 2013

            You’ll need to remind me what hte query wsa, if I didn’t answer it!

  14. Avatar
    stephena  March 20, 2013

    Dr. Ehrman: Finally became a member! This is a great story, one that clearly resonates with people. The sad thing about this is that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say “let me come into your heart” or “Once you verbally assent to believe this list of things about me, you’ll instantly get into heaven.” It was a long, winding road through Paul, Luther and Calvin to get us to the American version we see so much today.

  15. Avatar
    tooronga  March 23, 2013

    Me -I am wondering if Eusebius (EH 2.15) is telling us that Papias said that Peter was in Rome when writing 1 Peter.
    I have read five different translations of this passage. All are slightly different, with some being more ambiguous than others. i note that two have punctuation, being a full stop, while the other three don’t. The translations are from K. Lake, Stephen C Carlson, yours (Apostolic Fathers-Papias fragments), G. Williamson and A. C. McGiffert.
    Eusebius appears a little confused, partly by having the later writer being confirmed by the earlier, and by providing contradictory descriptions of what is said by Clement about Peter’s attitude to Mark’s writing, 6.14-no special encouragement and 2.15- delighted and authorised reading in churches.
    Jerome in ‘On Illustrious Men -8′ does not appear to help. The second paragraph, unlike the first does not tell us if the source of information is Clement, Papias or both.
    I have also wondered if “they say” or “they maintain” in 2.15 may mean contemporaries of Eusebius, rather than meaning Clement and Papias.
    Your Reply to the above -Yes, I read it to mean Peter was in Rome when he wrote 1 Peter, but it’s a bit ambiguous if Eusebius means “the ancients” say this or that “this is generally said today.” I think the more natural meaning of the Greek is the former

    Me -Thank you. Does this make it possible/probable (?) that Papias is the first to clearly put Peter in Rome? I had thought that honour went to Dionysius of Corinth. I feel that Clement of Rome and Ignatius do not provide clear statements to this effect.
    I don’t think you answered this question as to who clearly puts Peter in Rome first. Your reply was that 1 Clement “seems to assume” that Peter was in Rome.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 24, 2013

      I still think 1 Clement is evidence of Peter in Rome… (I personally don’t think Peter was there.) I do discuss all this further in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene.

      • Avatar
        tooronga  March 25, 2013

        Thank you. i do appreciate the time you take to read and reply to my queries. I do have your ‘Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene’ book as well as several others, including your recent one on Forgery and counterforgery. I enjoy your writing very much.

  16. Avatar
    AlanGoldman  March 25, 2013

    This is my first submission to this Blog, just having become a member today, so please excuse any awkwardness.

    Have you dealt directly (or do you plan to in your draft book on how Jesus became God and the evolution of Christology) with the theme that it is the very concept of Jesus as “God” (and of the Holy Spirit), together making the “Trinity,” that is so utterly anathema to traditional Judaism simply because it directly violates the tenets of the Shema, which as you know is the core creed of Judaism, that proclaims: “…the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” (Echod) (Deuteronomy 6:4)? (Similarly, I understand that Muslims confess that “There is no God but God…”) And that this core confession of faith is immediately followed in Deueteronomy by the injunction — somewhat ironically quoted by Jesus himself (at least in the Synoptic Gospels) — that “You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, and with ALL your strength (emphasis added)?

    Perhaps that’s why your first girlfriend, Lynn, even though only somewhat of a nominal Jew as you describe her (in a very touching and most human story), so immediately, and instinctively, recoiled at your insistence that an inner belief in Jesus, whether as a God or otherwise, was necessary to achieve salvation? Thus, if one confesses a faith in “one God,” what need indeed (echoing what Lynn said to you) of a Jesus (or of the Holy Spirit as well), whether as either another God (or Gods), or as some sort of essential “intermediary” between Humanity and the notion of God? For Deutoronomy also teaches that: “For this commandment…is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven that you should say, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN AND BRING IT TO US, THAT WE MAY HEAR IT AND DO IT?’ … But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” (30:11) (emphasis added.) (All Biblical quotations are taken from the NKJV, so they should sound familiar to evangelicals and fundamentalists).

    In any event, I salute your historic breakthrough in making the scholarly exegesis and other learning found in the Princeton Theological Seminary, and taught so well by such traditional academic scholars (like your self-described mentor and “Doctor-Father,” Bruce M. Metzger) so very accessible to the lay public for the first time, and in your opening up, and so profoundly impacting, an entire line of inquiry into the origins and evolution of Christianity. Peace be with you.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 25, 2013

      No, I haven’t dealt with the Trinity at any length yet, but it obviously caused considerable consternation among those (even Christians) who concluded that the doctrine advocated the worship of three gods!

      • Avatar
        AlanGoldman  March 26, 2013

        Thanks for your response. The “Holy Spirit” that “Proto- rthodox” Christianity propounded as a co-equal divine being with the Father and the Son, and sometimes referred to as the “forgotten God,” would seem to be the ultimate “deal breaker” between Judaism and Chirstianity. For even if Jesus as the Messiah, or as God’s “King/Deputy here on Earth.” could somehow be incorporated into Judaism (and there are precedents for this sort of thing as you have written about extensively), I don’t see how the introduction of a third co-equal divinity, yet still claimed as being just another “person” existing within the the assertedly still Monotheisitic God, or so-called “Godhead” (actually, a Hindu concept), seems irreconciliable with Monotheism as Judaism, at least, has conceived of it. Curiously, the evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t seem to be proclaiming that inner belief and acceptance of the “Holy Spirit” is necessary to Salvation, just Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. An exploration of the role of the Holy Spirit would indeed seem to be a worthy next line of endeavor for your efforts in unravelling the origins and evolution of early Christianity.

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