0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5 (0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.

Latest HarperOne Book: Did Jesus Exist?

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Book Publication Date: March 20, 2012

Large numbers of atheists, humanists, and conspiracy theorists are raising one of the most pressing questions in the history of religion: “Did Jesus exist at all?” Was he invented out of whole cloth for nefarious purposes by those seeking to control the masses? Or was Jesus such a shadowy figure—far removed from any credible historical evidence—that he bears no meaningful resemblance to the person described in the Bible?

In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible expert Bart Ehrman confronts these questions, vigorously defends the historicity of Jesus, and provides a compelling portrait of the man from Nazareth. The Jesus you discover here may not be the Jesus you had hoped to meet—but he did exist, whether we like it or not.

Publisher Reviews

“Ehrman’s clarity is something to emulate.” —Newsweek

“Ehrman] is a lucid expositor.” —The New Yorker

“[God’s Problem is a] serious inquiry. . . . Ehrman pursues it with an energy and goodwill that invite further conversation with sympathetic and unsympathetic readers alike.” —Stanley Fish, New York Times

“Bart Ehrman’s career is testament to the fact that no one can slice and dice a belief system more surgically than someone who grew up inside it.” —Salon.com

Review Book Further


What Charities Does The Blog Support?
Do My Research Assistants Do All My Work For Me?



  1. Avatar
    johnwgibson  April 19, 2012

    Your book is indeed clear and answers many questions. But I have a few.

    First, I don’t understand what you’re saying on pages 213-214. I hope you don’t mean that the church fathers were lying to deceive pagans when they wrote about a mystery tradition, including a secret oral teaching and initiation, all reserved for the few? They were writing not to pagans but to fellow Christians. And certainly once pagans became Christians and looked forward to experiencing the mystery, news would have spread fast that they were being lured with a hoax.

    I also am surprised that you say nothing about Origen’s claim that biblical books are honeycombed with esoteric
    writing and that incongruities in the texts point to examples of this. Origen’s claim fits with what Leo Strauss wrote about concealed meanings in ancient documents. It also dovetails with the secretiveness inherent in the mystery tradition and the many cryptic statements in the New Testament.

    And if the straightforwardness of the New Testament is called into question, does that compromise your view that what it says can be used as evidence for Jesus’s historicity?

  2. Avatar
    John MacDonald  April 20, 2012

    Excellent work Dr Ehrman

    “The idea of a suffering messiah ran so counter to scripture and the righteous expectations of God’s people that it was completely unthinkable, even blasphemous,”
    quote from Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?”

    “There were no Jews prior to Christianity who thought Isaiah 53 (or any of the other “suffering” passages) referred to the future messiah,” quote from Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?”

    Then where do the mythicists think the idea of Jesus as a crucified messiah came from (if not the crucifixion of the historical Jesus)? Price, Doherty, et al have not made any argument by virtue of historical analogy or otherwise about where the idea came from. Scholarly consensus agrees such an idea does not fit into Jewish thought.

    Mythicists are fighting a terribly difficult battle against your central argument about the suffering Messiah and the relation of that concept Judaism.

    Scholarly consensus has, for over a century, said that Jesus could not have foreseen his suffering, death, and resurrection because the concept of a slain savior who rises from the dead was alien to the Judaism of his time.

    On the other hand, some scholars disagree.

    Israel Knohl, on the basis of hymns found at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls, argues that, one generation before Jesus, a messianic leader arose in the Qumran sect who was regarded by his followers as ushering in an era of redemption and forgiveness. This messianic leader was killed by Roman soldiers in the course of a revolt that broke out in Jerusalem in 4 B.C.E. The Romans forbade his body to be buried and after the third day his disciples believed that he was resurrected and rose to heaven. Knol argues this formed the basis for Jesus’ messianic consciousness. For Knohl, it was because of this model that Jesus anticipated he would suffer, die, and be resurrected after three days.

    Similarly, Rivka Ulmer challenges the ideas that the Messianic expectation of Jesus was something imposed later, and she disagrees with the claim that the idea of a suffering servant as a messiah was not part of Jewish thinking. To her it seems reasonable to assume Psalm 22 was hermeneutically reconstructed by early Christian writers to tell a midrash story about a Davidic heir, namely Jesus, while analogously the rabbinic interpretation in Pesiqta Rabbati applies the suffering of King David in Psalm 22 to the future Messiah Ephraim (son of Joseph), who is not viewed as a descendant of King David.

    But generally speaking, it’s an extraordinarily difficult argument for mythicists to make.

  3. Avatar
    John MacDonald  April 20, 2012

    Richard Carrier has posted his critique of “Did Jesus Exist?” In his words, “Ehrman’s book is so full of egregious factual errors demonstrating his ignorance, sloppiness, and incompetence in this matter, it really doesn’t even need a rebuttal. It can be thrown straight into the trash without any loss to scholarship or humanity.” Here it is the full review: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier

    • Avatar
      john76  April 21, 2012

      As he is following Doherty, I have to admit Carrier’s mythicism is an “interesting” argument. Maybe Jesus was originally understood mythically everywhere, and then all of the sudden for no reason at all everyone everywhere forgot he was a myth, and started believing he existed as a real human. And no one who used to think he was a myth ever corrected anyone who started thinking he was real. It’s “interesting” he can make the argument and keep a straight face.

  4. Avatar
    John MacDonald  April 20, 2012

    One last thing Dr. Ehrman. It was very good of you to write the book. I know you have other projects that are more important, but lay people are taken in by these mythicists. And their arguments are so absurd. Take Robert Price. He thinks he can prove things like an entire New Testament story is midrash. That’s insane.

    No competent scholar on the planet would argue that, and I’ll show you why:

    Take this example of a hypothetical midrash:

    All Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians about the crucifixion is just one line: “Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”

    Did Paul record no narrative details of that event because there were no narrative details at the time he was writing? That is quite probable, because Mark tells us that when Jesus was arrested ALL the disciples “took flight and fled (14:50).” There is no reason for Mark to recount the embarrassing abandonment if it were not true. This would mean Jesus in all probability died alone, without any eyewitnesses. This would, of course, have made the details of the crucifixion impossible to record, since no one witnessed the event.

    Accordingly, the well known events in the narrative of the crucifixion could have been invented through midrash, exactly as Dr. Price describes below:

    “The substructure for the crucifixion in chapter 15 is, as all recognize, Psalm 22, from which derive all the major details, including the implicit piercing of hands and feet (Mark 24//Psalm 22:16b), the dividing of his garments and casting lots for them (Mark 15:24//Psalm 22:18), the “wagging heads” of the mockers (Mark 15:20//Psalm 22:7), and of course the cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34//Psalm 22:1). Matthew adds another quote, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now if he desires him” (Matthew 27:43//Psalm 22:8), as well as a strong allusion (“for he said, ‘I am the son of God’” 27:43b) to Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which underlies the whole story anyway (Miller), “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life: for if the righteous man is God’s son he will help him and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” As for other details, Crossan points out that the darkness at noon comes from Amos 8:9, while the vinegar and gall come from Psalm 69:21. It is remarkable that Mark does anything but call attention to the scriptural basis for the crucifixion account. There is nothing said of scripture being fulfilled here. It is all simply presented as the events of Jesus’ execution. It is we who must ferret out the real sources of the story. This is quite different, e.g., in John, where explicit scripture citations are given, e.g., for Jesus’ legs not being broken to hasten his death (John 19:36), either Exodus 12:10, Numbers 9:12, or Psalm 34:19-20 (Crossan). Whence did Mark derive the tearing asunder of the Temple veil, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38)? Perhaps from the death of Hector in the Iliad (MacDonald, pp. 144-145). Hector dies forsaken by Zeus. The women of Troy watched from afar off (as the Galilean women do in Mark 15:40), and the whole of Troy mourned as if their city had already been destroyed “from top to bottom,” just as the ripping of the veil seems to be a portent of Jerusalem’s eventual doom.”

    Even if everything in Price’s interpretation is true, if all the details of the narrative were just made up in the writer’s creative imagination, it doesn’t mean Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t a real historical event. Under the reconstruction posted here, even the fact that the apostles abandoned Jesus really happened.

    Any competent scholar will tell you that haggadic midrash as a literary form in the New Testament always presents two opposing poles of interpretation. (1) On the one hand we can say the entire story was invented through midrash, (2) and on the other we can say a little bit of the story is midrash and the rest is historical fact. And there is a lot of room in between

    That’s just the way biblical hermeneutics works. Mythicists may not like it but there is no way to argue that it is more likely than not that the core of the Christian story never really happened by claiming midrash.

    • Avatar
      Milo  April 23, 2012

      I agree. All of the wtitings in the gospels can not be midrash. It is true that the early Christians at some point after Jesus’ death data mined the Hebrew Bible to find sayings and alledged prophecies of the Messiah and then attributed them to Jesus. But many of the accounts of Jesus’ life that is recorded in the Gospels have a high probablity of occurence.

    • Avatar
      john76  April 23, 2012

      It’s clear that the story we are dealing with is highly fictional, for the reasons I posted, not only because the story contains what Jesus said from the cross, but what Jesus and the high priest said to each other and what Jesus and the crowd said to each other (who would have been around to record these conversations?). What we seem to have are liturgical interpretations based on Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The most straightforward explanation for midrash in the New Testament is not, as Robert M. Price claims, that the authors of the new testament just started rewriting stories from the Old Testament for no reason. What we are probably reading is how the oral tradition about Jesus was shaped in the synagogue in the light of the Passover and the messianic expectations of the prophets, etc. before the gospels were written.

      • Avatar
        john76  April 23, 2012

        Here is my last post Dr. Ehrman. I’ll visit your site often.

        There really isn’t a question that midrash in the New Testament is the result of Oral traditions about Jesus being shaped in the synagogue. References to the synagogue appears appears 11 times in Mark, 9 times in Mattthew, sixteen times in Luke, and five times in John (The Christian movement was expelled from the synagogue around 88CE, which is probably why the references drop off in John. And there is a heavy lining of Midrash in the gospels. Mark says “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ ; as it is written in the prophets.” Mark immediately interprets John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah (a la Elijah in II Kings 1:8). Mark then clothes John similar to Elijah (Mark 1:6. II Kings 1:8.) He then says John ate locusts and wild honey,the food of the wildernes in which Elijah lived (and so on and so on). So Robert M Price is pretty reliable on content in this article: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm, He just explains how it happened incorrectly.

        Only in the synagogue did people ever hear scriptures read, taught, discussed, or expounded. The vast majority of first century people could not read. So people didn`t own bibles. The Jews had access to their sacred stories in the synagogue. The memory of the historical Jesus would have been recalled, restated, and passed on only in the synagogue. And the gospel stories are also shaped in terms of Jewish liturgy. The crucifixion is shaped against the passover. The transfiguration echoes Hanukkah. Many things are reminiscent of Rosh Hashanah.

        So as it says in Acts, they would read from the Torah, then from the former prophets (Joshua through Kings), and finally from the latter prohets (Isaiah through Malachi). At that point the synagogue leader would ask if anyone would like to bring any message or experience that might illumine the readings. So followers of Jesus would then recall their memories of him which that Sabbath elicited. This is where all the midrash is coming from. This is what Paul does in Acts (13:16b-41). They went through this process for about forty years before the gospels were written.

        The explanation Price and Doherty give for why there is Midrash in the New Testament is just wrong.

  5. Avatar
    john76  April 22, 2012

    This is kind of neat.

    When Ehrman reconstructs Josephus on page 61, he has, in part, “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man … And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

    But Ehrman could be wrong here because why would Josephus say a tribe of “Christians” were named after “Jesus?” That makes no sense. There should be no connection in Josephus’ mind between the Word “Jesus” and the word “Christian.” The word “Christian” is named after “Christ.” And Christ shouldn’t be here in Josephus. So there may be good reason to argue the last line is an interpolation.

    • Avatar
      john76  April 22, 2012

      By the way, did you like the way I called “interpolation” on that Josephus passage:

      When Ehrman reconstructs Josephus on page 61 of “Did Jesus Exist”, he takes out the word “messiah” as an interpolation and keeps, in part, “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man … And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

      Why would Josephus say a tribe of “Christians” were named after “Jesus?” That makes no sense. There should be no connection in Josephus’ mind between the Word “Jesus” and the word “Christian.” The word “Christian” is named after “Christ.” And “Christ” shouldn’t be here in Josephus. So there is compelling reason to argue the last line is an interpolation. Christians are named after Christ, not Jesus.

      Consider this context though for the above: Even before we had Agapius’ version of the Testimonium Flavianum, some suspected that, rather than “He was the Christ” being an interpolation in its entirety, the original may have read “He was called/said to be Christ” or something along those lines. The later mention of James as the “brother of Jesus called Christ” would also fit well with this.

  6. Avatar
    james barlow  April 23, 2012

    “The idea of a suffering messiah ran so counter to scripture and the righteous expectations of God’s people that it was completely unthinkable, even blasphemous,”
    quote from Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?”

    “There were no Jews prior to Christianity who thought Isaiah 53 (or any of the other “suffering” passages) referred to the future messiah,” quote from Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?”

    Perhaps….but the gospels were written for Gentiles, not Jews….

  7. Avatar
    james barlow  April 23, 2012

    I don’t think the mythicists are claiming all of the gospels are fictional midrash, just Mark at the outset. It became believed as history by some Christians, and the communities that produced Matthew, Luke, and John ran with it. Lots of converts!

You must be logged in to post a comment.