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Jesus’ Teaching in Aramaic and the Books of the Canon: Mailbag February 24, 2017

There are two interesting questions in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag: one about Jesus’ teaching in Aramaic and the other about which books did not make it into the New Testament.  If you have a question yourself, ask it as a comment and I will add it to the burgeoning list!

 

QUESTION:

Even though Christ taught in Aramaic, was there absolutely nothing written down in Aramaic? Is there much of a language translation problem going from Aramaic to Greek? (Again, it’s mind boggling to consider how many opportunities for error to creep in by accident or design)

 

RESPONSE:

Yes, I’m afraid that’s right: we don’t have any writings from any early Christians in the language that Jesus spoke, Aramaic.  That makes things rather complicated when it comes to deciding what Jesus really said – that is, if we want to have an idea of his exact words.  Let me make two points about that.

First, there are some passages in the Gospels where the author will preserve an Aramaic word or phrase on Jesus’ lips and then translates it back into Greek for his Greek-reading audience.  This happens, for example, in Mark 5:41, when Jesus is raising a young girl from the dead and he says to her “Talitha cumi.”  Mark then tells us that this means “Little girl, arise.”

Some interpreters have thought that the Aramaic was preserved because it makes the scene sound more mysterious and even magical.  Others have thought that Mark is preserving the punch line in the original because it packs more of punch and seems, then, more authentic.  Others have other ideas.  One leading question is whether Mark himself has produced the Greek translation – in which case he would know (some) Aramaic – or if this is the story as he heard it from an earlier story-teller.  I don’t think there’s any way to know for sure, though Mark seems unaware of important features of Palestinian Judaism, so maybe he simply inherited the story in this way. (For a second such occurrence in Mark, see 15:34 “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)

Second, those who are linguists among us can translate the Greek sayings of Jesus back into Aramaic, and sometimes – this is very much worth noting – they actually make better sense in Aramaic than they do in Greek.  This does not necessarily show that such sayings were actually said by Jesus, but it does show that the sayings originally circulated in Aramaic-speaking Palestine, that is, that they are very ancient sayings that may well go back to Jesus himself.  My favorite illustration again comes from Mark, where Jesus justifies his disciples’ actions when they violate Jewish traditions about (not) working (for food) on the Sabbath.  Jesus informs his Jewish opponents, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  Therefore the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”  When you look at that saying closely and try to figure it out, in fact it doesn’t actually make sense.  What is the “Therefore” there for?   Why does the fact that Sabbath was created for the benefit of humans, not humans for the benefit of the Sabbath make the Son of man (Jesus) the Lord of the Sabbath?

The saying does make sense when put back into Aramaic, however.  That’s because “man” and “son of man” are the same term in Aramaic; bar enash.   And so what Jesus said was “Sabbath was made for bar enash, not bar enash for the Sabbath.  Therefore bar enash is lord even of the Sabbath.”  Now the saying makes perfect sense.  Humans are lords of the Sabbath, not the other way around.  Human need takes priority over the commandment not to work on the Sabbath.

 

QUESTION:

You mentioned quite a few times – both in your books as well as here on the blog – that there were certain writings that were once considered scripture by some orthodox church fathers, but didn’t make it into the NT. And on the other hand there are some writings in the NT that were disliked by certain church fathers.  Could you name some examples for either case (if possible with the name of the scholar who approved/disapproved of the text)?

 

RESPONSE:

I probably should devoted a series of posts to questions of the canon.  But for now, I can give a couple of quick answers.

First, yes there were sustained debates among proto-orthodox church fathers (those who embraced the views that eventually came to be dominant among Christian leaders and their churches) about some of the books that were considered by one Christian group or another to be Scripture.  (And of course “heretical” Christians – those who embraced other views – often had completely different sets of authoritative books they read and revered.) The twenty-seven books that we now consider the New Testament did not all get included by almost everyone until about the early fifth century.  (This is another problem for anyone who thinks that Christianity is “belief in the Bible.”  What we think of as the Bible was not formed as a group of books for centuries!)

Some books stood on the margins, accepted by some proto-orthodox Christian groups and leaders but not others, but eventually did not come to be accorded canonical status.   These include a few books that are now found among the collection called “The Apostolic Fathers”: 1 Clement (a letter written by the church of Rome to help correct problems in the church of Corinth); the letter of Barnabas (an anti-Jewish tractate allegedly, but not really, written by Paul’s companion), and the Shepherd of Hermas (a very long apocalypse).  Each of these is actually included among the books of the New Testament in a surviving Greek manuscript.

Moreover, some of the books of the New Testament were debated: should they belong or not?  Among these were 2 Peter (church fathers disagreed over whether it was actually written by Peter or was forged; they ultimately decided on the former but they got that one wrong); Hebrews (was it written by Paul even though it didn’t claim to be?  And is it too focused on issues of Judaism?); and Revelation (who wrote it? Was he an apostle?  And isn’t its predictions of what will happen in the end simply too bizarre?)

There never was an early church council that ultimately decided these issues (they were not discussed at the Council of Nicea, for example, even though a lot of people say it was).  There was instead simply a kind of consensus that emerged.  The issue is never widely or seriously discussed among church leaders today, and in my opinion never will be.  The twenty-seven books we now have will be the twenty-seven books we will always have, till kingdom come.

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Christians Who Thought Jesus Was Adopted by God: A Blast From the Past
An Interesting Scribal Change at the Beginning of Mark

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    jdh5879  February 24, 2017

    In your class on the historical Jesus you said John 3:3 does not work in Aramaic. Can you give more detail on that issue.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      I”m afraid I’m rethinking that, thanks to a comment made on the blog. I had always heard and thought that the word for “born *again*” in Aramaic could not have the double meaning of “born *from above*.” But one Semitic expert on the blog has now said that’s not actually true. So… I’m not sure just now!

      • Avatar
        Habakuk  February 26, 2017

        Would love to see a blog post about your final conclusion on that…

    • Avatar
      Barnsweb  April 10, 2017

      As a companion study, there is the AENT (Aramaic English New Testament). aent.org

      “Y’shua answered and said to him, “Amen, amen I say to you, that if a man is not born from the beginning, he is not able to see the Kingdom of Elohim.”

      Footnote in from the beginning: “Literally, “from the start” as Adam who was born into perfection without sin. This refers to the Ruach haKodesh birthing the “image of Elohim” (perfection) into the Neshama (spirit of man). The term “born again” can be rather misleading at though being born once more, or a “rebirth” rather than experiencing the indwelling of the perfection of YHWH. See Genesis 1:27; 6:9; 17:1; Deut. 18:13. Another handicap of the term “born again” is that many are told that they are “born again” when they accept certain theologies or become part of a Christian denomination, or get on a “religious high.” But then, some are informed that they’re when they diagree with the teachings of the religious status quo. The term “obrn again” has become a religio-political term that is used to judge souls and/or manipulate them intosujection to various religious heirarchies. Many followers of Mashiyach experience a series of “born anew-like” experiences as from “faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). However, you have confidence of being “born anew” when your soul thirsts for righteousness and follows in the footsteps of Mashiyach, observing Torah, and living to pease Master YHWH. This is evidence that you’ve entered into Covenant with YHWH which is established in Mashiyach’s blood. See Appendix, Born from the beginning.

  2. talmoore
    talmoore  February 24, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus didn’t teach in Aramaic. But the reason is not that Jesus didn’t speak Aramaic. I think he did — at least in normal conversation, for the most part, he did. No, I don’t think Jesus taught in Aramaic because I don’t think Jesus taught. I don’t think he was a teacher. At least, not a proper teacher, who instructed students, who made halakhic rulings or any of the other things that rabbis did back then. I think Jesus was by and large a prophet and preacher. That is, he didn’t so much teach as preach. He didn’t “teach” his disciples about the eschaton. They were probably already well aware of it, hence why they were following an eschatological preacher/prophet! I would even go so far as to suggest that any instance of Jesus “teaching” in the Gospels is more or less made up. Church leaders were trying to instruct new recruits as to the rules of being a Christian, so they attributed their rules to Jesus to give them extra legitimacy. (For example, Jesus purported “teaching” on divorce in Matthew 19, I think, is mostly, if not completely, a fabrication of the early Church. If Jesus’ entire ministry lasted, at most, several months, and if he believed the eschaton was going to arrive any day now, why would he make a big deal about divorce? How many of his, at most, several dozen followers were burdened with a need to divorce their spouse at that point? That’s something that would only concern a person who was expecting to be in a marriage of indefinite length, not a marriage that could be interrupted by the apocalypse any day now. Hence why I think the divorce “teaching” was a product of the early Church, and only after such mundane concerns as divorce became a real concern for the members. Same goes for most of the “teaching” of Jesus. Anyway, I digress.)

    So if I’m correct, one would have to reasonably ask, if Jesus’s followers already new about the eschaton, and they didn’t rely on him to “teach” them anything, why would they bother following Jesus around? Well, the answer is right there in the Bible: they believed Jesus had a hotline to God, via the gift of the Holy Spirit, and by hitching their wagon to Jesus they were basically hedging their chances of surviving the impending Day of Judgment. In other words, the followers of Jesus already knew, A) that God’s Army was coming soon to vanquish the army of Satan, B) after defeating Satan, God would resurrect every person who has ever lived, and C) based upon his judgment, God would send the wicked to be punished in Gehenna (Hell) and save the righteous to live forever on a new paradise on earth (or Heaven). They already assumed that much. But what made Jesus special was that he was connected. Jesus had God’s ear, so to speak. Jesus could vouch for his followers, thus giving them special treatment. Jesus’ followers had a free pass; they could cut in line. And that was why they followed him, all the way to Jerusalem during the Passover in 30CE, where he was ultimately, shamefully executed. Those followers who realized Jesus was only a charlatan left the movement. Those who continued to believe, they became the Christians.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      Yes, it may hinge on what we mean by “teach.” I don’t think he was the head of a rabbinic school. But I think in addition to preaching (making a public proclamation) he certainly did explain his views to people.

      • Avatar
        Barnsweb  March 4, 2017

        It appears to me that Matthew was written with the intent to provide foundation to the conclusion of the book – that disciples be made who would remain followers of his teachings – the interpretation and application of the Instructions, Psalms and Prophets – to also include what God desired all men iive who desired His kindness and blessing. The teachings find foundation in the Torah, and he clearly said his disciples – and all men – should live by the word of God.

        So what Church simply says their doctrine is teaching men to be disciples of Jesus (Y’shua) who grow in their faithfulness through continuing in his Testimony (teachings/prophecy/example) and the words of God in the Hebrew Holy Scripture of his day?

        Anyone can look at the Hebrew to English OT and compare it to the LXX translations and see they have been altered in the Christian versions – it’s no wonder Jews reject Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity – they all defy the OT in one way or another. Why lie about the truth? Or, why not repent to believe the truth as given by God and the Holy Prophets?

    • Avatar
      Salvador Perez  February 26, 2017

      talmoore you have some great points there, I do follow your argument because it makes a lot more sense and isn’t contradictory to what most people say about the historical Jesus. I would also add that its very likely Jesus was also illiterate just like his brother James; illiterate people are not good at having intellectual conversations, much less at teaching anything highly philosophical or political.
      There is however something that strikes me as very strange about your points, let me list it:
      A) that God’s Army was coming soon to vanquish the army of Satan
      * I’m not sure that was a widely shared view on Judaism, as far as I know, and I could be wrong, the view in Judaism (before there is any type of Christianity) is that a new “anointed one” (king) would come to rebuild Israel and defeat their enemies
      B) the gift of the Holy Spirit
      * The holy spirit isn’t an entity in Judaism, ruach hakodesh (holy spirit) is the inspiration through which attuned individuals perceive and channel the Divine through action, writing or speech. We could say that “holy spirit” is a state of being in the context of Judaism, something I call “a happy state of trance.”
      The problem Jews were having at the time, is the diaspora and the concurrent persecutions of the Jewish people, achieving a state of happiness was difficult, and so prophecy and the Holy Spirit ceased among the Jews. However, the echo of the heavenly voice known as the bat kol continued, since this is a lesser level of revelation than the Holy Spirit I don’t think Jesus would have said he could be in the state of holy spirit, that would come later and within Christianity.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  February 27, 2017

        “I’m not sure that was a widely shared view on Judaism”
        The bulk of the Dead Sea Scrolls are occupied with this war between God and Satan. I highly recommend reading the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been translated. Even if this view wasn’t a majority view amongst 1st century Jews, it certainly existed, and was probably widespread, especially in Galilee.

        “The holy spirit isn’t an entity in Judaism”
        By the time of Jesus and 1st century Judaism, the Holy Spirit had, indeed, already been personified, in a similar way to how Wisdom (Chakhmah) was seen as a separate entity that emanated from God. (It’s abundant in the intertestimental literature.) Christians adopted a concept that had already existed in contemporary Judaism.

        • Avatar
          Salvador Perez  February 28, 2017

          as far as I understand, the dead see scrolls were made by the known yet very small community of the Essenes. If this is the case (even though we lack strong evidence to confirm so) then the idea of a war between God and evil isn’t really wide spread, it would be contained within the Essenes and some scarce Pharisees, I would say the then modernist views of personifying the holy spirit and war between God and Satan were not wide spread until after 70CE. I would definitely agree with you that they existed probably as far back as the first century BCE

          • talmoore
            talmoore  March 1, 2017

            Read Josephus. You’ll get the sense that a sizable chunk of the Jewish population, especially in Galilee, was burning up with eschatological fever. It’s not a coincidence that some of the most well-known Jewish rebels and messianic claimants came from Galilee (e.g. Judas of Galilee, Zadok the Pharisee, John Gischala). The Dead Sea Scrolls put into explicit words what Josephus had already hinted at.

      • TWood
        TWood  February 28, 2017

        “why would he make a big deal about divorce?” I see your point, but I can imagine a reason beyond it being a need among the apocalyptics (like Jesus and Paul)… and that would be because the Jewish authorities made a big deal about it… and Jesus and Paul liked to challenge authority it seems… I can imagine a context where someone like Jesus would “make a big deal” about an issue for the sole purpose of challenging the authority of the Pharisees/Sadducees/Essenes/et al. Just a thought… it also seems that apocalyptic figures like Jesus were considered teachers even if their basic eschatology was already well known… the Essenes’ Teacher of Righteousness is an analog I can think of off hand… I think the evidence Jesus did teach his twelve disciples (and others) is well attested… IDK for sure like everyone else.

    • tompicard
      tompicard  February 26, 2017

      Talmoore,
      How do you decide which preachings of Jesus to consider authentic and which to reject

      and what does it mean
      “God’s Army was coming soon to vanquish the army of Satan”? or
      “resurrect every person who has ever lived”

      can you explain?

      spiritual beings holding physical swords who are better wielding those swords than Roman soldiers ??
      zombies arising facing mysterious/magical judge ??

      of course you are free to imagine Jesus believed/preached such nonsense.
      and yet not believe he taught a strict and consistent moral code on leading a spiritual life, especially if your imaginings reinforces other preconceived ideas you may have about religious folk.

      Now I believe Dr Ehrman takes Jesus teaching/preaching on divorce as authentic ( see Jesus The Apocalyptic Prophet pages 172-3) Please correct me if I have misunderstood that.

      you could much more easily reject as inauthentic the much fewer teachings in the Gospels in regards to magical events, as other scholars, but maybe not Dr Ehrman, do.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  February 27, 2017

        Ah, good question!

        I use a series of criteria. The simplest criterion I use, which is admittedly lacking in accuracy but is a very efficient way of making a preliminary selection, is by replacing instances of “me” with “him” and see if the quote makes more sense as something a normal human being would say about themselves or as something that someone would say about another person.

        For instance, Mark 9:37: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Does that sound more or less like something a normal person would actually say about themselves in comparison to, “Whoever welcomes one such child in his name welcomes him, and whoever welcomes him welcomes not him but the one who sent him.”

        Well, the first version (the one actually in Mark) sounds like something a crazy person would say. Besides pathological narcissists, who talks like that? Allowing for the possibility that Jesus was a pathological narcissist, the second version (expressed by a third party), sounds a LOT like something a votary would say about their “lord and savior”. That is, if we were to evaluate the probability of whether this was expressed by a narcissist or a sycophant, the odds are much more in favor of a sycophant. Hence, that’s one notch against authenticity in my book.

        From there I go on to use more advanced and accurate methods.

  3. Avatar
    Habakuk  February 24, 2017

    Just a follow-up question, Bart: Were there debates about the four gospels as well? Or were they always considered scripture (well, at least suitable for reading) by all proto-orthodox church fathers?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      The debates about John were pretty much on the margins, and we have no record of debates about the other three that I can recall. Other Gospels were sometimes debated — should the Gospel of Peter be accepted as a scriptural authority, e.g.?

  4. Avatar
    godspell  February 24, 2017

    There’s a strain of earthy pragmatism in Jesus that doesn’t get enough attention in some quarters. You find this in many reformers–an impatience with an excessive fetishizing of ritual and tradition, which can become ends in themselves, and thus end up defeating their original purpose. And that, of course, is a debate that always exists in any religion. Jesus didn’t originate it, he’s merely the most famous person to get caught up in it.

  5. Avatar
    living42day  February 25, 2017

    Why couldn’t Mark’s Greek for “man” and “son of man” provide the same basic meaning that you have noted for the presumed Aramaic phrases? The phrase “son of man” need not always refer to Jesus, right? Thus, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the son of man (a human ) is lord of the Sabbath.” Can’t that be an example of the sort of parallelism we see in Psa 8?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      That’s what I’m arguing. It means “human” not “THE Son of Man” (the latter in Mark’s Gospel refers to Jesus, not to humans)

      • Avatar
        living42day  February 26, 2017

        My point is that, in Mark, “the son of man,” in the Sabbath story can/could have meant (assuming Jesus said them) humans. Mark didn’t write in English and capitalize the words “Son of Man” as you and other translators have done. What Mark meant is open to question/discussion.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 27, 2017

          Yup, fair enough. The question is what Mark meant by the phrase son of man. He uses it a *lot*. And I believe in every other instance it refers to Jesus himself.

          • TWood
            TWood  February 28, 2017

            This was my question too… the question I’d follow up with is: Is the Greek word for “man” and “son of man” the same in this passage of Mark’s gospel? If it’s the same Greek word then I’d ask the same question living42day did again (why shouldn’t we assume the Greek is doing what you see the Aramaic doing?)—but if Mark uses two different Greek words then I see why you argue it seems Mark used “The SOM” as a title for Jesus. I’m not sure if I asked that very lucidly… but I hope you see what I’m asking…

          • Bart
            Bart  February 28, 2017

            No, that’s the problem: in Greek as in English Mark first says “man” and then “son of man”

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  February 25, 2017

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of interesting and crucial issues that are never discussed by church leaders. It seems to me that learning what we can about when and how books were selected to be included in the Bible is the very first step one needs to explore in studying the Bible. How can we know for sure that the Bible is “God’s Word” if we have not studied who selected the books of the Bible and how this selection was done? Who voted these books into the Bible? We certainly don’t have any claim that God said “These are the books.”

    For those who are new to the blog, I strongly recommend Dr. Ehrman’s “Lost Scriptures” as an excellent place to start.

  7. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  February 25, 2017

    Are there any Hebrew Bible books originally written in Aramaic? What are a couple of the best known non-biblical works in Aramaic? What language did Josephus write in?

    I’ve always understood that the Greek of the NT (Koine?) was somewhat substandard from a literary point of view, eg, ungrammatical, awkward, unclear, abrupt, maybe even crude, etc. — or at least very ordinary and colloquial, perhaps too much slang. I don’t recall you commenting on that other than saying that the NT writers were highly-educated speakers of Greek. What’s the standard opinion among scholars and/or your opinion of the quality of NT Greek?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      Parts of Daniel and Ezra are written in Aramaic. Josephus’s native tongue was Aramaic. He had to learn Greek as a second language, and that is the language his books have come down to us in. Koine Greek is more like “every day” Greek that would be used in regular conversation, unlike more literary Greek that was more advanced stylistically. It wasn’t ungrammatical or unclear, it was for the most part simply less refined.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  February 26, 2017

      Josephus claims that he had originally written the entirety of his Jewish Wars in his native language, which would most likely be Aramaic, and only later did he either translation or re-write from scratch his Aramaic Jewish Wars into the Greek. He further claims that he sought the help of experts in Greek in order to polish his Greek version. One can imagine, therefore, that Josephus spoke broken Greek (similar to how, for example, a native Japanese person might speak broken English).

      As for other Aramaic works of the time, the most valuable resources are the so-called Targumim, which are Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible, with additional scenes and expansions (e.g. Midrash). The most well-known and well-utilized Targumim are Targum Onkelos, which is an Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch, and Targum Jonathan, which is an Aramaic translation of the Prophets.

    • Avatar
      Barnsweb  March 26, 2017

      Have you ever heard of the Aramaic English New Testament? (Andrew Gabriel Roth – Netzari Press, 2010)

      A number of odd passages are enlightened by the oldest Aramaic texts translation.

      Such as not camel, but rope through the eye of a needle; eating with Simon the potter – not leper; and even notes what has changed from the oldest textual evidence: virgin birth narrative to Matt. 1; woman caught in adultery, etc.

      So far I’ve found the translation a wonderful study aid.

  8. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  February 25, 2017

    Maybe it’s too big of a topic for a short response but I’m interested in how the doctrine of the divine inspiration of scripture arose, how it was understood originally and how it may have changed during early Christianity. And maybe how that relates to the idea of the Bible being divine revelation, ie, the word of God.

    Offhand I would guess that, for the NT, divine inspiration may not originally have meant much more than that the writers were thought to be-or in very close contact with-eyewitnesses to the Jesus’s presence on earth–and therefore Jesus himself provided the divine inspiration in a pretty direct and ordinary way. And also that what Jesus said and did was by definition divine revelation. But that doesn’t account for the OT.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      None of the New Testament claims inspiration for itself. Some NT authors do suggest that the Hebrew BIble is inspired, and by that they mean that it is in some sense conveying the message of God, not that of humans. “Inspire” = “breathed into”: God breathed his words, or meaning, into the the texts that were produced.

  9. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  February 25, 2017

    So Jesus was probably not saying that he himself is Lord of the Sabbath–rather he was saying that humanity is the Lord of the Sabbath?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      Yup. Humans.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  February 26, 2017

      And this wouldn’t have been unique to Jesus. The Talmud suggests that this was a sentiment shared by some influential rabbis. For instance, in the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Yoma, folio 85b, one Rabbi Jonathan ben Joseph is quoted as saying: “For it [i.e. the Sabbath] is holy unto you; I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to your hands, not you to its hands.” The implication of saying the Sabbath is “committed to your hands, not you to its hands” has a similar sentiment to Jesus purportedly saying “the Sabbath was made for men, not men for the Sabbath”.

  10. Avatar
    Tempo1936  February 25, 2017

    “The issue ( A church council never approved the New Testament books, they just happened) is never widely or seriously discussed among church leaders today, and in my opinion never will be.”

    I disagree. With the vast amount of information now available to all and great trade books, This issue cannot continue to be ignored. However it will take time. My fundamentalist friends have no knowledge of actual Bible history even though they can quote thousands of scriptures .
    I’m going to challenge some of them to join your blog .

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      We’ll see if the question is ever opened up! My guess is, no way!

      • TWood
        TWood  February 28, 2017

        This isn’t a question, just an observation. I think you’re right the canon can never be changed/challenged within Catholicism (which made it official at Trent), but within Evangelicalism I think it’s possible… I think critical scholars like you (and your Christian counterparts) have almost already done this by showing pseudepigrapha exists within the canon… when more serious-minded Christians realize this… they’ll necessarily see books like 2 Peter as “deuterocanonical” (practically if not officially). In this sense, I can imagine a modern antilegomena becoming the dominant view… I think the problem is ignorance… most Christians aren’t given the chance to challenge certain books… their “shepherd” either don’t know themselves, or they hide the information from their “sheep” (I use sheep in the worst way possible here). Keep up the good work educating everywhere.. esp on this blog!

      • Avatar
        Barnsweb  March 26, 2017

        If God gave commandment regarding testing those we hear – and how to determine who He commands we hear and who He commands that we ignore:

        Why isn’t THIS the standard, or given the weight it should contain in the debate?

        Deut. 4, 12, 13, 18

        In “Forged”, there is much good thoughts on the subject, but it doesn’t seem to be on your main truth detector dial.

        Any explanation for this? (to Bart)

  11. Avatar
    Hume  February 26, 2017

    There is only one verse in Isaiah that uses the name Lucifer. Technically Lucifer is not the Satan, at least not for sure. Would you agree?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 26, 2017

      Yup. THe word occurs only in Isaiah 14:12, and most people probably think it is referring to Satan because of Milton, not Isaiah — who is talking about a king of Babylon (see v. 4).

      • Avatar
        Hume  February 26, 2017

        1. Oh my, so Isaiah is talking about Nebuchadnezzar?

        2. And do you think 666 is Nero’s name in Aramaic?

        3. Does this mean Satan is used to represent kingly adversaries to the Jewish people with a supernatural twist?

        4. Also I think you seem to know everything Bart.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 27, 2017

          He’s talking about *some* king (but this is long before Nebuchadnezzar). 666: yup, in Hebrew. No, Satan is not menitioned in the passage. I wish I did!

      • Avatar
        Pegill7  February 26, 2017

        Are you referring to “O Day Star,son of Dawn” in Isaiah 14!?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 27, 2017

          Yup, that’s the passage. King James: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning”

  12. Avatar
    Hume  February 26, 2017

    What is the origin of Angels having wings? You would think powerful beings could instantly teleport, or fly without wings.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 27, 2017

      I suppose it’s passages such as Isaiah 6. The idea eventually came to be that with wings they could move quickly through the air. This was before Star Trek.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  February 27, 2017

      Most angels in Near East cultures had wings. For instance, the Cherubim of the Assyrian Empire had a man’s head on the body of a four-legged animal (e.g. a lion) with wings. The assumption must have been that, as messengers, they were meant to fly down to earth and back up to heaven.

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    Jana  March 1, 2017

    It makes me wonder how an Aramaic New Testament would read … Wouldn’t most of the Jesus stories have been told in Aramaic?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 3, 2017

      At first, yes. But not after the movement shifted to outside of Palestine.

  14. The Agnostic Christian
    The Agnostic Christian  March 4, 2017

    There are of course a few canons here and there that include a few extra books in their New Testament. Doesn’t the Ethiopian Tawahedo Orthodox Church have more NT books? At least in a kind of deutero-canon status? And I’ve also seen somewhere a few now obsolete canons from well after the fifth century that included more books. Wikipedia has a very comprehensive article on it.

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    SidDhartha1953  March 4, 2017

    There is a parallel to Mk. 5:41 in Acts, where Peter raises a dead woman named Tabitha. If he spoke to her is Aramaic, he would have said, “Tabitha cumi.” Though Mark was written before Acts, is there any evidence to determine which oral tradition came first, Tabitha or talitha, and do you think one was a direct variation on the other – or is it just a weird coincidence that two sayings are that nearly identical?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2017

      I think ultimately the stories go back to the same story, that got garbled somewhere along the line in the retelling.

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    JKilmon  April 13, 2017

    Hi Bart:
    I am new to this blog and look forward to discussions. One of the major difficulties with the Greek translations of Aramaic saying material is idiom. Din ‘nash la mithyled min dresh…help me out Dr Ehrman, unless a person is NOT born from…??? dresh? Not “tuba?”
    It would not be the first time an idiom did not make it through. An example is “they will pick up snakes and drink any deadly thing and it will not hurt them” Translation, “they will be in danger and hear wrong teaching and it will not affect them.” It’s a good thing Yeshua didn’t say “OK, let’s hit the road” and today there would be Christians out in the middle of highway I-10 slapping the tarmac and being flattened by 18 wheelers. Can you explain “dresh” to me? Thanks for your books,
    Jack

    • Bart
      Bart  April 15, 2017

      I’m sorry to say I’m not a scholar of Aramaic. Others on the blog can probably address your question though!

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    heronewb  May 28, 2017

    I know traditional Christians believe Jesus spoke Aramaic, but what about the evidences that support the idea that religious jews in Judea spoke hebrew? Some of the evidences i refer to include Josephus saying that jews frowned upon jews learning other languages, non-religious writings from that time written in hebrew (such as some letter by or about bar kobah), one of the church fathers refering to to an original gospel of Matthew being in hebrew etc? I know jews in exile amd non-religipus jews would have easily not known hebrew, but religious jews in judea?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 28, 2017

      Hebrew appears to have disappeared as a spoken language in Palestine in the Persian period. Josephus himself had Aramaic as his native language.

    • Avatar
      JKilmon  May 28, 2017

      The vernacular in the 2nd temple period was Aramaic, Judean Aramaic in the 1st century. That was true for commoner and priests. Aramaic was called “The Hebrew tongue” and Hebrew was called lashon qaddesha, “The Holy tongue.” This is well demonstrated when Yigael Yadin showed Ben Gurion the Aramaic letters of Shimeon bar Kochba and Ben Gurion flew off the handle because they were not in Hebrew (They were mainly in Aramaic). Bar Kochba wanted to restore Hebrew just as the Maccabees but it was too onerous a task. When he wanted to write in Hebrew he used a scribe. The Gospel of Matthew was never in Hebrew nor Aramaic. The Matthean writer was not that good at either. The “Hebrew Matthew” was the Aramaic “Gospel of the Hebrews” which was used by the Nazarenes which they called “Matthew.” It was not canonical Matthew, written by an author in Syria. Of course literate priests and scribes knew Hebrew but that was about 3% of the population. Josephus represents Aramaic words as “Hebrew.” In fact, he wrote the draft of Antiquities in Aramaic and used synergoi (helpers) to transcribe it in Greek.

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