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Jesus as the Messiah

Here’s a draft of a few paragraphs from ch. 3 of my book How Jesus Became God. Again, it’s only in rough draft, but let me know if you see any problems with it.


It appears that some Jews who had this expectation of the future messiah saw him in purely political terms: a great and powerful king who would bring about the restored kingdom through military force, taking up the sword to dispose of the enemies. Other Jews – especially of a more apocalyptic bent – anticipated that this future event would be somewhat more miraculous, an act of God when he personally intervened in the course of history to make Israel once more a kingdom ruled through his messiah. Those who were most avidly apocalyptic believed that this future kingdom would be no ordinary run-of-the-mill political system with all its bureaucracies and corruption, but would in fact be the kingdom of God, a utopian state in which there would be no evil, pain, or suffering of any kind.

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Divine Wisdom
The Son of Man as Divine



  1. talitakum
    talitakum  March 25, 2013

    Same thing for the virgin conception, then. Zero expectations for a Messiah born from a virgin. Christians just searched and found in the Scriptures the prophecies they were looking for, even though they were not traditionally interpreted as messianic verses..

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    toddfrederick  March 25, 2013

    Or, Paul proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah…the Christ…whose death atoned for our sins, wherein belief alone was all that was needed for salvation, which he says he was told by Jesus / Christ himself through numerous visions of the risen and spiritual Christ. Paul rarely talks about the human Jesus or his teachings. Only about Christology.

    Any thoughts on Paul’s role in making Jesus the Messiah?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      I think it was all said and done by the time Paul came along. That’s almost certainly why he was persecuting the Christians.

      • Avatar
        toddfrederick  March 26, 2013

        I don’t have a specific opinion on that. I picked up that idea from James Tabor’s new book…Paul and Jesus. He said much on Paul’s visions of the Christ and creating a messianic Christology…I see so much of this as a jigsaw puzzle anyway, but fascinating. I anxiously awaiting the publication of your full book.

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    hwl  March 26, 2013

    How do we know, historically, the early Christians proclaimed Jesus as messiah very soon after the crucifixion?
    The gospels are full of verses of Jesus predicting his death. Do you think any of these are historical?
    Do you think it is plausible that Jesus also taught about his resurrection thereby explaining why the disciples came up with the belief shortly after the crucifixion?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      First quesiton is a long story… Second: I doubt it, but you never know. He may have seen the handwriting on the wall. Third: no, not really. (If he taught it, they didn’t come up with it!)

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    Kempster  March 26, 2013

    As the gospels develop, the gospel writers seem to be doing their best to paint Jesus in a more favorable light. At the beginning of holy week, Mark has Jesus cursing the fig tree for not having fruit, even though Mark tells us it’s not time for fig trees to have fruit. Matthew tells the same story but omits the fact that it wasn’t fig season, presumably since it makes Jesus look a little silly. Luke turns the whole episode into a parable, avoiding the whole issue of whether Jesus cursed the fig tree or not. This episode may not be directly related to whether the early followers saw Jesus as the Messiah, but it makes clear that they were quite concerned about his reputation as the tradition developed.
    Fantastic presentation at the Smithsonian on Saturday, by the way. I looked up and it was 4:15pm. Thanks for such a stimulating program!

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    David Chumney  March 26, 2013

    In your 13 February post, “Pushing Back the Exaltation,” you characterized exaltation Christology as “the oldest Christology there was,” noting that it is “attested in such places as the pre-Pauline fragment in Rom. 1:3-4 and in several places, pre-Lukan, incorporated in the speeches of Acts.” At the time, I went back and re-read John A. T. Robinson’s article, “The Most Primitive Christology of All?” [JTS, n.s. 7, (1956), 177-89], where he talked about the evidence of pre-Lukan material in the speeches of Acts.
    Robinson suggests that the speech attributed to Peter in Acts 3:12-26 may contain tradition that reflects the most primitive understanding of Jesus. Robinson sees Acts 3:18 (the idea that the “Messiah would suffer”) as characteristically Lukan and thus not part of the more primitive tradition. He then summarizes his reading of the understanding of Jesus embedded in the remainder of the passage. According to Robinson:

    Jesus has been sent by God as Servant and Prophet, in fulfillment of the prediction that God would raise up for his people a prophet like Moses. The purpose of this visitation was to bring the blessing covenanted to Abraham and an opportunity of repentance to Israel. Instead, the Jews have denied and killed God’s Servant. But even this has been within his plan: indeed, it has actually fulfilled it. He has not been defeated, but has exalted Jesus to his own splendor in heaven, where he must remain till the day of restoration which the prophets foretold. Meanwhile, because the Jews have acted in ignorance, opportunity for repentance is still open.* This they are urged to seize, that the age of renewal may dawn and God may be able to send Jesus, this time as their appointed Messiah. *[a footnote]: This is further evidence of the primitive setting of the speech. Contrast the tone even of 1 Thess. 2.15 f. It is incredible that this is what was preached in AD 90.

    So, according to Robinson’s analysis, some of Jesus’ earliest followers may have viewed him (AFTER his death and exaltation) as God’s “Servant” and “Prophet.” In this early stage of faith, only upon Jesus’ anticipated return to inaugurate the messianic age would he ultimately be designated as “the Christ.” Thus, Robinson’s approach would allow for the possibility that Jesus was recognized as the “Messiah” only after his death (and exaltation)–although, of course, that would still would have been a very early development.
    So, here is an important question: Is Robinson’s reconstruction totally implausible? It certainly doesn’t seem so to me.
    In the penultimate paragraph of today’s post, you write, “Here is what many scholars take to be the most reasonable scenario….” Of course, when you phrase it that way, the point has to be conceded. Nevertheless, in light of Robinson’s discussion, is it fair to say, “Jesus’ followers MUST have considered him to be the messiah in some sense before his death”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      Yes, Robinson’s article was standard reading when I was in grad school. I don’t think it’s completely implausible, but it’s not how I read the evidence, as will become clear in my book. For one thing, I don’t think there’s any way the disciples would think to call Jesus the messiah after his death if they weren’t calling him that already before his death. Believing in a resurrection, for exmaple, would not make anyone think that Jesus was the messiah, since the messiah was not supposed to be raised from the dead….

      • Avatar
        David Chumney  March 27, 2013

        I really don’t mean to whip a dead horse! I understand your logic: the disciples wouldn’t have called Jesus the messiah after his exaltation/resurrection if they hadn’t already done so before his death; your reasoning makes perfect sense.

        Nevertheless, Robinson’s reading suggests that some saw Jesus as prophet both before AND even after his death–a prophet whom God had exalted and whom God would send AGAIN, this time as the promised messiah. He doesn’t just pull that notion out of the air; he bases it on the pre-Lukan evidence embedded in Acts 3. You yourself suggested something not altogether different in Jesus, Interrupted in your discussion of Acts 2:36: “Here, again, it appears that Jesus receives this exalted status at the resurrection–that is when God ‘made him’ Lord and Messiah” (95). Are you saying (now) that that view couldn’t have really been there in the earliest tradition? Are you suggesting that some followers of Jesus must have already thought he was the messiah before his death in order for other followers to claim later that God made him the messiah “at the resurrection”?

        If I’m just nitpicking, please feel free to say so. I’m neither a scholar nor a son of a scholar. I’ll gladly wait until your book is published to see all the evidence laid out and the arguments fully developed.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 27, 2013

          Yup, that’s what I’m claiming. And the logic is that if someone thought God was sending Jesus back to earth, no one would think that he was therefore the messiah, since the messiah was not supposed to be someone from heaven sent back to earth. So the idea that Jesus was the messiah had to start somewhere else.

          But all that is part of a larger argument that I have and make, that involves why Jesus was executed. It was for calling him self the future king of the Jews. That is almost certainly the actual charge leveled against him. And the future king of the Jews, more or less by definition, was the messiah. If he didn’t agree to the charge, or if no one had ever applied it do him, it’s hard to see why he was tried for it and even more why he didn’t simply deny it at the trial.

          • TWood
            TWood  October 15, 2016

            You’re saying Jesus did call himself the Messiah and the Son of God (I think that’s what you’re saying).

            Do you think Peter’s confession and Jesus’ “I’ll build on you” response at Caesarea Philippi is based on a real event?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 16, 2016


          • TWood
            TWood  October 16, 2016

            Really quick

            1. But Jesus did call himself both Messiah and Son of God?

            2. Was the great commission based on historical event?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 18, 2016

            1. Messiah yes; son of God, possibly. 2. I don’t think so.

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    DMiller5842  March 26, 2013

    Didn’t the angel proclaim to Mary that Jesus would be God’s son? Was this forgotten or unknown to the family and those in the neighborhood? How could one be more “anointed” than that?
    I have often wondered what Mary and Joseph told the family and community about this declaration from the angel and then what understanding they gave Jesus himself as a child and young man about it. Don’t you think that if the parents thought he was the literal “son of God”, he would have been treated in a special way? Why wouldn’t they all have worshiped him right from the start? Interesting that he was not hailed as God sooner — as in the son of a cat is a cat…. Just my thoughts on it.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      That’s what Luke and Matthew said — but it’s important to separate out what the Gospels say from what is historical, and I don’t think there’s any way those stories are historical.

      • Avatar
        DMiller5842  April 11, 2013

        Sometimes I post questions that come to me when I am trying to view the Bible from the point of view of a believer. If I were to believe in what the Bible says, I would expect certain things to follow as a natural consequence of the “facts” stated in the Bible story. Natural consequences of a Jewish woman being told that she is going to give birth to “the son of God”, would seem to include a profound impact on the entire Jewish community, but which by the accounts in the Bible did not happen. So are we supposed to believe that they kept this a secret (why would they?) – yet what about the star and the wise men or the shepherds and the heavens bursting into celebration? Did that all go unnoticed or have no impact on the Jewish religion?
        I don’t really believe any of it can be trusted as truth – even if some parts of it may meet certain technical criteria for being considered “historical’.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  April 12, 2013

          Yes, I agree, these are all parts of the “story.” They are not historical realities.

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    Wilusa  March 26, 2013

    Can we assume the followers who considered him the messiah before his death were actually very few in number? And…am I right in having the impression that *most* Jews in that era weren’t “waiting for a messiah” at all?

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    Barbara  March 26, 2013

    … and it is possible that the New Testament authors have used the term “messiah,” with a different meaning from the Hebrew?
    I mean, in the story of Jesus could the word “messiah” mean something belonging to another culture (e.g. the myth of rebirth)?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      Since it’s a Hebrew word, and doesn’t get used in other settings, I don’t anyone would understand what it meant if they weren’t familiar with Hebrew and Jewish culture.

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    RonaldTaska  March 26, 2013

    Some minor editing to what I know is a quickly typed rough draft:
    1. Second paragraph: “every” should be “very.”
    2. Third line from bottom of second paragraph: “and” army should be “an” army.
    3. Second sentence, third to last paragraph, should end with a question mark rather than a period.
    4. I would probably not start sentences with “but” if I could help it.

    Main theme issues:
    1. I certainly understand that the Jews did not expect their Messiah to be crucified, but wouldn’t a Resurrection, by itself, be enough to change one’s views about a lot of things? Why not just conclude that the disciples expected a king type of Messiah, but, AFTER the death of Jesus and the belief in His Resurrection, their view changed to that of a suffering Messiah who died for our sins? In other words, wouldn’t the Resurrection convince people that Jesus was the Messiah even if they had not previously believed that He was the Messiah? So, I am a little confused by your concluding paragraph. I think I need to wait and see where you go next with this idea. Maybe your point is that the disciples believed that Jesus was a kingly type of Messiah and, then, after His death, one or more disciples saw a vision or visions of Jesus which resulted in the disciples modifying their views of what type of Messiah Jesus happened to be,
    2. I once spent considerable time studying the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. The first thing I did was go to the Old Testament index of my Bible and search for “Messiah” references. I, of course, found none. I eventually found a few possible references, but all of them were quite difficult, at least for me, to interpret, especially out of context. So, overall, what really amazed me was how little is written in the Old Testament about the Messiah and how hard it is to interpret what little is written. One would think that this subject would dominate the Old Testament. Why not? . .

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      Thanks for the corrections.

      On your first point, no one was expecting that a messiah would be raised from the dead. So even if a person came to believe that someone was raised from the dead, that would not lead them to say that the person was therefore the messiah. See what I mean?

      Second point: I’d say the messianic expectation was not an dominant obsession for most Jews.

      • Avatar
        Ron  March 26, 2013

        So, “no one was expecting that a messiah would be raised from the dead,” except, of course, Jesus and his disciples (Ps. 16:10; 22:1; Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Acts 2:24-27; John 8:51-58; 11:25-26; etc.) and the Qumran Jews, not to mention the Talmudic rabbinic Sages who linked the “Suffering Messiah” with Yeshua ben Joseph.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 27, 2013

          Well, among the hundreds of critical scholars that I know, I don’t know any who think this. They may all be wrong of course!

      • Avatar
        RonaldTaska  March 27, 2013

        Yes, I do see what you mean. Thanks. You really like to teach, don’t you?

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    Mikail78  March 26, 2013

    Bart, I have a quick question that is not directly related to your post. I hope you don’t mind. Would you say the argument that Jesus most likely was not put in a special tomb, but instead was buried in a mass grave is plausible and NOT a fringe, crackpot, crank argument?

    Also, would I be considered a nutcase for doubting the historical existence of Joseph of Arimathea? Is it plausible that good ol’ Joe of Arimathea was a made up person? Can Joe of Arimathea mythicism be regarded seriously? 🙂

    I’ve read your books, “Jesus interrupted” and “Did Jesus Exist?” but I can’t remember if you talked about Joe of Arimathea in those books or not. Thanks!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      I’m dealing with both issues in my book arguing that there are considerable reasons to doubt the Joseph of Arimathea traditoin and the discovery of the empty tomb tradition.

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        pdahl  March 27, 2013

        Did the Joseph of Arimathea tradition begin with Mark, who, when writing his Gospel, simply reached back to Isaiah 53:9 for the narrative details? Namely, that the Suffering Servant “made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death”?

        Did Mark use this midrashic literary genre to turn: (1) the Servant into Jesus, (2) the ‘wicked’ into the two criminals crucified with Jesus, and (3) the ‘rich man’ into Joseph of Arimathea?

        Did John then expand the Joseph of Arimathea tradition in his (later) Gospel, with a copy of Mark’s in hand?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 27, 2013

          I don’t think there’s any way of knowing definitively if Mark, his community, or earlier story tellers came up with Joseph. But yes, your way of construing it may well have been how the process worked. Dom Crossan has written a lot on this way of understanding th epassion narratives.

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        Mikail78  March 27, 2013

        OK, thanks!

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    Ron  March 26, 2013

    You say, “There was no expectation – zero expectation – that the future messiah would die and rise from the dead. That was not what the messiah was supposed to do. Whatever specifically any Jew thought about the messiah, what they all thought was that he would be a figure of grandeur and power who would be a mighty ruler of Israel. And Jesus was certainly not that.” And, then you stress again, “My point here is that no Jew before Christianity ever interpreted such passages as referring to the messiah.”

    You should know that Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen of Congregation Beth El in Manhattan calls this an “appalling falsehood” (http://bethelnyc.org/the-suffering-messiah-in-jewish-sacred-writ). He even quotes from Qumram texts, of which you should also be aware. If you think the Rabbi is off his rocker, you should underline this in your book, so readers will know how you feel about him. Or, you could also take a direct shot at the Talmudic rabbinic Sages in Sanhedrin 98b.

    The truth of the matter is that Jesus’ death and crucifixion was accurately predicted long before even Abraham was born, and I’ve provided the documentation for that in a private E-mail. The Hebrew prophets were aware of this, and Jesus was aware that they knew as well. A Messiah is no Messiah unless he “dies,” overcomes the great sea serpent, and is reborn (John 3:7). It’s laid out in sacred writ as well as in mythology from several, if not all, cultures. The Underworld dragon is variously described as Tiamat, Rahab, Typhon, etc., and Jehovah is even equated by certain mythographers with the Babylonian Marduk for accomplishing this heroic deed. This was the central message of Jesus (Matt. 16:21-28; Mark 8:33-38; Luke 9:22-24). And, the sign given? The “sign of Jonah” (Matt. 12:39), harrowing Hell and overcoming the sea monster. The sign was given in Theseus, Heracles, Dionysus, Orpheus, Bel and Marduk, Aeneas, as well as in others from Ireland, Britain and elsewhere.

    This equality between Jehovah and Marduk is seen in the OT where the scribe Ezra says, “The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia,” of whom then goes on to proclaim this: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jersusalem, which is in Judah …” (Ezra 1:1-3; 2 Chr. 36:22-23). Ezra, who lived in Babylon and was aware as anyone else living there, knew Cyrus worshiped Marduk, as we know from the famous cuneiform Cyrus Cylinder now in the British Museum. It was Marduk, the God of gods, who appointed Cyrus to build the Temple in Jerusalem, and Ezra is telling us that it was “the Lord” as well. They are different in name only, but both Jehovah and Marduk had some in common – they conquered the great sea serpent!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 26, 2013

      Yes, those are the sorts of views you typically find among messianic Jews, including Cohen. I don’t know of any scholar who holds to them.

      • Avatar
        Ron  March 26, 2013

        You know a good number of scholars who hold this opinion, maybe not within the ranks of those who refer to themselves as agnostic-atheist. I wanted to point out that Josephus (Antiq. 18,3,3) mentioned that the Hebrew prophets foretold of the Messiah’s death, crucifixion and resurrection, as you well know. Of course, it’s easy, if not obligatory, for some to believe that Josephus never said such a thing. I would think they would also summarily dismiss that the Architect of the Great Pyramid knew as well, despite the circumstantial evidence.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  March 27, 2013

          No, this is not held by Christian scholars either, unless they are conservative evangelical or fundamentalist. You don’t need to take my word for it — just ask some.

          • Avatar
            Ron  March 28, 2013

            They are scholars, nonetheless, despite how we view them. This was my point. Even without those ranks, there are those who, like Josephus, expressly believed that Jesus’ death, crucifixion and resurrection was foretold by the Hebrew prophets, unless you think those were words put in his mouth, which might be a cop-out.

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    Bonnie-Joy  March 26, 2013

    Yes, I agree, but we must remember that even before the journeys of Saul (Paul), the growth these earliest days of the the Jesus sect took place in an occupied and probably well Hellenized Jerusalem. As I commented on an earlier thread, I theorize that the notion of ‘divine men’ in the hierarchy of Roman pagan religion and the characterization of Jesus as a new addition this pantheon became an effective tool for proselytizing Hellenized Jews and Gentiles like. I believe that this effective post-demise characterization of Jesus as a neo-divine man sent the Jewish members of the emerging Jesus sect scrambling into the Tanak in order to ‘proof’ the notion of Jesus as messiah to create and validate a foundation for emerging myth of Jesus for both Jews and Gentiles alike. Perhaps this could have been one of the divisive factors that sparked such a violent response on the part of established Pharisaic Jewry against the Jesus sect as immortalized by the story of the brutal stoning of the deacon Stephen and the beginnings of Saul’s subsequent conversion experience.

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    Ron  March 27, 2013

    You mention those who were “most avidly apocalyptic,” and I’m thinking you might be referring to his disciples. Jesus, of course, taught in parables, except to a very few who were taught the “mystery” of the kingdom. From the mystery, we should realize, if not from what he said then later from our own spiritual experience, that the kingdom of God for Jesus was “not of this world” or “not of this realm [lit. from here],” otherwise his true disciples would have fought against his being delivered over to Pilate (John 18:36).

    So, if there are no “signs to be observed” of the kingdom (Luke 17:21-22) since it is within the individual, why would anyone (except someone who has misconstrued his parables) think he should raise an army, be a threat to Roman leaders, or expect him to appear in the sky on visible clouds to be seen by everyone? This is the part of Jesus’ ministry that people in general for 2,000 years have gotten totally wrong – Christians and Jews of all stripes, not to mention those who’ve lost or never had any faith in him. And, to build an argument and sell books and courses on a misconstruction of his parables under the guise of reconstructing the historical record is disingenuous, to say the very least.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 27, 2013

      I have a feeling you’re calling me disingenous. That assumes that you are right about all this and that I know you are. But I’m afraid you’re not and I don’t. I may be wrong, but I don’t see how I’m disingenuous.

      And by the way, Luke 17:21-22 does not say the Kingdom is within individuals. It says it is “in your midst” – -i.e., in your presence. For Luke, Jesus manifested the kingdom during his public ministry. It has to mean that (from the Greek) because otherwise Jesus is telling his enemies the Pharisess that the Kingdom of God is inside of *them* — which he certainly didn’t think.

      • Avatar
        Ron  March 28, 2013

        My view is that the Kingdom of God is within us, as individuals, with no exception. This would, of course, include the Pharisees. The fact that they were unaware of it, were unable to see that they were made in the image of God and his hosts and, therefore, microcosmic replicas of the Cosmos only means that their ignorance precludes them from access to that internal Cosmos. I maintain that this was what Jesus was expressing in this scriptural passage. I suppose it depends on whether you believe Jesus spoke in Aramaic or Greek here, as it appears you give the weight to a Greek text. I know various scholars have interpreted the Greek differently, that the various translations reflect this, with the KJV, AKJV, ASV, Douay-Rheims, ERV, Webster’s, Weymouth, WEB, Young’s, expressing the Greek as “within you,” not “in your midst.” The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says “within some of you.” I don’t even hold to this, obviously. Do we have the Aramaic saying of Jesus, or is this an interpolation?

        Given that many scholars have interpreted the Greek to mean “within you,” not “within your midst,” as evidenced in these translations, which, BTW, means the same thing to me, the question remains: If there are no “signs to be observed” of the kingdom (Luke 17:21-22) since it is within the individual (as so many translators are thinking as well), why would anyone (except someone who has misconstrued his parables) think he should raise an army, be a threat to Roman leaders, or expect him to appear in the sky on visible clouds to be seen by everyone?

        This is expressly why I say it’s disingenuous, given the knowledge that a good many scholars interpret the Greek (not the Aramaic, apparently) as meaning “within you,” not “without you” (this is how I interpret the intention of translators rendering “in your midst”). If it’s “in your midst,” according to these translators, then it’s not “within you.”

        • Avatar
          Ron  March 28, 2013

          Regarding Luke 17:21, the only other occurrence in the NT of the adverb ἐντός (entos) is in Matt. 23:26, which is rendered “within” or “the inside” (http://biblesuite.com/greek/1787.htm), which I think adds more weight to the argument that it should be rendered “within you” or “inside of you” in all translations of the Luke passage. The interpretation that it could mean “in your midst,” as if the “outside of you” or “among you” is the likely meaning, also runs counter to the previous verse that speaks of the kingdom as not detectable with “signs to be observed.” The mystery of the kingdom was only divulged to a handful of his followers.

          This argument is precisely the same as the alchemical magus Paracelsus’ who said: “As there are stars in the heavens, so there are stars within man, for there is nothing in the universe which has not its equivalent in the microcosm [the human body].” He also said: “Man derives his spirit from the constellations [fixed stars], his soul from the planets, and his body from the elements.” Plato taught the same to his followers. Sir Isaac Newton, if he wasn’t exactly on the same page, spent most of his life studying alchemy, biblical prophecy, and chronologies of ancient peoples. He got very close to explaining Jewish chronology using the Earth’s precessional cycle (if he only knew what we know today). The worldview of Paracelsus was not that far from Newton’s.

          • Avatar
            FrankBrierton  April 2, 2013

            You note above: “…My view is that the Kingdom of God is within us, as individuals, with no exception…The fact that they were unaware of it, were unable to see that they were made in the image of God and his hosts and, therefore, microcosmic replicas of the Cosmos only means that their ignorance precludes them from access to that internal Cosmos….”
            I don’t know much about the Greek vrs Aramaic you wirte of, or the Rabbi’s you reference, but doesn’t this note of yours indicate you are a Gnostic?

        • Avatar
          FrankBrierton  April 4, 2013

          You note above: “…My view is that the Kingdom of God is within us, as individuals, with no exception…The fact that they were unaware of it, were unable to see that they were made in the image of God and his hosts and, therefore, microcosmic replicas of the Cosmos only means that their ignorance precludes them from access to that internal Cosmos….”
          I don’t know much about the Greek vrs Aramaic you wirte of, or the Rabbi’s you reference, but doesn’t this note of yours indicate you are a Gnostic?

  14. Avatar
    dennis  March 30, 2013

    Bart , please forgive a question that maybe off topic or that you may have answered elsewhere . I have become a rabid ” Bartomaniac ” because of your lucid , erudite analysis has allowed me to make sense of the New Testament for the first time in my life ( I am 67 ) . The progression of the who Jesus was from Mark’s failed and quite human apocalyptic prophet through Mathew’s new Moses for the Jews to Luke’s Messiah for all and John wrapping it up with a theology which the historical Jesus probably would have found blasphemous if he could have comprehended it at all makes perfect sense . However , how sure can we be of the order of dating of the Gospels ? Sorry if you have covered this elsewhere . Thanks .

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 30, 2013

      If you’ll go back to May 7 you’ll find a post on Dates of the Gospels; does that help?

      • Avatar
        dennis  March 31, 2013

        Yes , thank you , it certainly does help and the posting is classic Bart ; rational , evidence based and refusing to make a claim beyond what the evidence supports . You are a very busy guy and I appreciate your taking the time to reply .

  15. Avatar
    FrankBrierton  April 1, 2013

    I am a new member on the Bart Ehrman Blog. As such I have been perusing the various posts, and was excited to see your post of Jan 21st on the Invention of Heaven and Hell.
    In my studies of the ancient history of the Middle East, the area of Zoroaster and the worship of Ahura Mazda gained my enthusiastic attention immediately, because it was all new to me. I share your theory that the Jewish exile in Persia had a strong effect affect on their belief system, but in a slightly different way. As I studied, given below are some of the thoughts I read. As Dr Ehrman notes often, some are legend, some tradition and some historical. I just want to share them with you.
    -Zoroaster was at first a priest, and then became a Prophet. Tradition says that at age 30, he was by a river, and had a vision. He was taken by Ahura Mazda into the Heptad, “The Seven”.
    -This is where the belief of heaven and hell enter the picture. Zoroaster introduced the idea of a last judgment for both men and women. Those who supported the good were promised paradise, while hell awaited those who promoted evil. Before the exile, the Jewish belief was that everybody went to a shadowy place called Sheol. The Jewish belief in Hell is post-exilic.
    -Ahura Mazda was the Supreme Deity, the only “Uncreated” god, but not the only one…at first. Ahura Mazda created people and gave them free will, Because of this, the world was divided between followers of truth or or followers of the lie, falsehood. Later, Zoroaster had become a true monotheist. For him Ahura – Mazdah was quite literally the one and only God
    -While under Persian rule, Persia was tolerant, more so than any of those prior. They did not persecute alien cults, unless they were thought to promote nationalistic threats of revolt. This being the case, new concepts entered easily and were accepted in even the most orthodox Jewish circles:
    – The religion that we know as Judaism originated not in Judea, but in the Diaspora.
    – Through the Jews, Zoroastrianism entered Christian theology.

    I agree with what Professor Ehrman noted above:
    “…Jewish apocalypticists were dualists, who believed that there were two fundamental components of reality, good and evil. God was of course over all that was good; the devil was over all that was evil (when Jews started thinking apocalyptically…”
    “…God has the power of angels, and life, and righteousness on his side – these are all cosmic forces in the world; the Devil has the power of demons, and death, and sin on his. All things—and everybody – participates in this dualism, and so is either on the side of God and good or the Devil and evil. There is no neutral territory…”

    What I disagree with is the sentences in between the two notes above, saying that they first came up with the ideas during the Maccabean Revolt:
    “…about 160 years before Jesus during the period known as the Maccabean Revolt – is when they first came up with the idea of the Devil…”

    I think it was there and all around them long before that thanks to Zoroaster and the Diaspora

  16. Avatar
    DMiller5842  April 9, 2013

    Just spent a week at the beach with my teenage nephews where I was introduced to the TV series “The Walking Dead”. So all of this interest in zombies made me think about the people who rose from the dead in the Bible.
    Interesting to me that there is not much made of these events. Even Matthew only has this to say about the walking dead ( resurrected).
    27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
    27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
    For me that lack of follow up reveals that the claims are false. We would all want to give great detail about this kind of event if in fact it had happened. What the zombies were wearing, did they need to eat, did they wonder around day and night frightening or harming people, did they bear wounds or were they in partial decay, what became of them? Could they speak ? What did they do while in the holy city appearing to many? Since they had already died and been resurrected, did they die again and the second time stay dead or what? Where are the zombies now? Were they buried a second time? So many questions — no answers.

    • Avatar
      DMiller5842  April 11, 2013

      Another thought …. Jesus was not the first to come back from the dead according to the Bible. So why would the resurrection event (coming back from the dead) be the factor that caused him to be proclaimed as the messiah?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  April 12, 2013

        Ah, good question. It’s because Jesus was not resuscitated to die again later, but was “resurrected,” i.e. made immortal and exalted to heaven.

        • Avatar
          DMiller5842  April 12, 2013

          BUT, BUT ,BUT….. Does the Bible say anywhere what happened to the other resuscitated people (particularly the saints) ? I could imagine that they ascended to heaven also — hard to understand why the saints would be brought out of their graves just to return there. What is the point of that ? Even though we agree that it is just a story,I must say, it is one full of illogical nonsense.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  April 13, 2013

            No, but in these other cases there is no sense that they were raised into something other than their old (mortal) bodies. The only two people who don’t die in the Bible are Enoch and Elijah. The point of being resuscitated was to give them longer life, just as many of us wish, for example, that our mom or dad could have lived another 20 years….

  17. Avatar
    crt112@gmail.com  November 19, 2019

    Hi Bart
    After reading all of your books, and especially the text book ‘The Bible’, it seems that there is one theme that influenced the gospel contents more than any other.
    It was the debate raging at the time about whether Jesus was the messiah or not.The new church was having a hard time convincing Jews that Jesus was the messiah and the gospels responded specifically to that situation.
    Mark started by his use the Messianic secret to explain the lack of belief in Jesus messiahship during his life time.
    He also tried to introduce the sufferring messiah concept to supercede the messian as king idea.

    Matthew then had another go, this time emphasising to his Jewish audience that Jesus was a fulfillment of OT scripture. He wasnt happy with the scribes/pharisees – due to their refusal to accept Jesus as messiah but he still wanted to convince the rank-and-file Jews.

    Then Luke took the path Paul started and aimed his gospel at a gentile audience – probably showing the churrh was starting to see their future was via the gentile world, as Jews were not coming on board.

    When John was written the contest was over, the majority of converts were gentile, and John fuelled anti-semetic beliefs by making his gospel the most anti-jewish of all. By 120AD John had decided the gospel was purely about who Jesus was, and not so much about what he taught, so its full of Jesus making claims about who he was. Jesus teachings were secondary by then.

    Each gospel just responded to the current stuation and the gradual awareness that if the Jews wouldnt believe, then there was a whole world of gentiles out there who would.
    Does that approximate your position ? It sure seems coherent to me. Until someone can prove it otherwiese, of course.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 19, 2019

      I think that’s a helpful way to look at it. And then as you dig even deeper, there’s more and more nuance. They really are fascinating books….

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