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More on Mark

I started this thread by mentioning that when I teach my undergraduate class on the NT, I not only teach them about the four Gospels, but I teach them different *methods* for studying the Gospels – for example redaction criticism and “literary-historical” criticism. In my class I use the latter to explore the Gospel of Mark, and in order to illustrate here, on the blog, how it works (establishing the genre of a writing then seeing how that genre “worked” in the relevant historical period) I started showing how Mark can be interpreted as an ancient biography.

But now that I’ve given several posts on that, I realize that I’m deep into the interpretation of Mark but haven’t actually pointed out the really important themes of the Gospel in its portrayal of Jesus. So that seems unsatisfying. I’ve decided to continue on to the end, and give the rest of my discussion of Mark from my textbook, to show what a fuller interpretation (which, of course, just scratches the surface) would reveal. This will take several more posts


Jesus The Misunderstood Son of God

One way to establish “misunderstanding” as a Markan theme is to read carefully through the first half of the Gospel and ask, “Who realizes that Jesus is the Son of God?” The answer may come as a bit of a surprise. Clearly God knows that Jesus is his Son, because he himself declares it at the baptism (1:11). And since this declaration comes directly to Jesus (“You are my beloved Son”), the reader can assume that he knows it as well. In addition, the evil demons recognize Jesus as the Son of God; on several instances they scream it out when they encounter him (3:11, cf. 1:24). Who else knows? Oddly enough, only two other persons: the author of the Gospel, who recounts these various tales, and you the reader, who reads them.


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Snake-Handling and the Gospel of Mark
More on the Beginning of Mark’s Gospel



  1. Avatar
    RecoveringCalvinist  February 19, 2014

    Great stuff! Is there an evangelistic motivation for the “misunderstood” theme? A gentile who you are trying to convert might respond, “Why should I accept him as the Son of God, the Jews I know in town don’t believe that? It’s their religion, they should know!”

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 20, 2014

      Good question. My sense is that the Gospels were in-house literature, not for the outsiders. The “misunderstood” theme has been interpreted in lots of ways; it may be a literary device to explain that the idea of a suffeirng messiah was so odd that not even the disciples could get it at first….

  2. Avatar
    Michael Burgess  February 19, 2014

    Beelzebul is a typo. Right?

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    TomTerrific  February 19, 2014

    Dr. E, you mentioned the other day that you and many of your colleagues do not consider the Last Supper historical.

    Could you, perhaps, go over your thinking that arrived at this position?


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 20, 2014

      Ah, that would take an entire post. I’ll think aobut it. For now: the precise prediction about shedding blood “for you” seems like a Christian interpretation of the crucifixion.

  4. Robertus
    Robertus  February 20, 2014

    “If Peter uses the term “messiah” the way most other first-century Jews did, then he understands Jesus to be the future deliverer of Israel, a man of grandeur and power who would usher in God’s kingdom in a mighty way (whether as a warrior-king or as a cosmic judge of the earth).”

    Thus, Peter is portrayed as believing as the apocalyptic historical Jesus believed! And yet ‘Mark’ most likely remained an apocalyptic himself. This is one of the reasons why I think that Jesus was apocalyptic, but that does not completely define him.

  5. Avatar
    FrankofBoulder  February 20, 2014

    Does anything in the Gospel of Mark ring true? Mark’s gospel recounts a series of absurd events — a voice from the sky spoke to Jesus, demons were sent into swine, Jesus’ disciples suddenly dropped everything to follow him, a blind man suddenly regained his sight, Jesus walked on water, Jesus calmed a storm, loaves and fishes multiplied miraculously, Jesus had ESP about his fate and so on. The gospel consists of a lot of preposterous improbable stories. Even the description of John the Baptist was lifted from 2 Kings, as you pointed out. So even ordinary details are non-historical.

    Mark’s gospel is a work of fiction, a series of tall tales. There is no corroboration for anything in the Gospel of Mark. What percentage of the gospel is hogwash? 95 percent? 98 percent? 99 percent? For all we know, the author made up the whole thing! Or else, he relied on spurious legends. Who knows? In any case, the gospel isn’t a reliable source of information. What’s worse, Mark’s fraudulent gospel was the basis for the other gospels that were written later.

    Aside from the far-fetched miracles in Mark’s gospel, the author pretends to know how Jesus prayed when he was alone in Gethsemane and what Jesus said to Pilate — even though there were no witnesses. The author also reports what Jesus said on the cross, even though the author tells us that the women “watched from a distance.” So how could they have heard what he said? Obviously, all these stories are made up.

    And yet, Prof. Ehrman, you consider this gospel to be a source of information about Jesus. Really? Considering how much of Mark’s gospel is nonsense, how can we believe anything in it? The gospel didn’t even use Jesus’ real Jewish Aramaic name, *Yeshua* (if that really was his name).

    As you pointed out, the author shaped the story to make certain points. The author wasn’t much concerned with historical truth. Do you accept any of Mark’s story-telling as credible? You can analyze it as a fictional story, but please don’t tell me that you take it seriously.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 20, 2014

      Lots of it does not ring true. But lots of it does as well!

      • Avatar
        FrankofBoulder  February 20, 2014

        I disagree. There’s not much that rings true in Mark’s gospel. When you subtract all the miracles and other improbable events, what’s left? Mark isn’t a trustworthy source, even for non-miraculous events. For instance:

        * Is it believable that Pontius Pilate would have allowed Jesus’ body to be taken down from the cross so soon (or at all)? That wasn’t the Romans’ practice with crucifixions.

        * Is believable that Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night after he was arrested? Very unlikely. Besides, how could the author of Mark or anyone have known the details of such proceedings which weren’t public?

        * How could Mark have known that Jesus was abused and mocked by soldiers after his arrest? Jesus’ followers weren’t there to witness it, so how could anyone know about it?

        * Is it believable that a strange man in white clothes showed up at the tomb to tell the women that Jesus has risen and gone to Galilee? Luke contradicts this statement.

        * Is the release of Barabbas believable? Is it believable that Pontius Pilate talked with Jesus? How could Mark or anyone possibly have known about a private encounter between Jesus and Pilate? The public wouldn’t have been privy to such information.

        * Is it believable that Jesus had psychic powers to know his future — and yet he couldn’t avoid his crucifixion? Is it believable that he acquiesced to his own torture and execution? It’s absurd, but that’s the main theme of Mark’s gospel.

        All these stories are made up. I’m sorry, I don’t know where you find “lots” of credible material in the Gospel of Mark. I can’t trust any book that strains credulity on every page — indeed, almost in every paragraph.

        • Avatar
          willow  February 21, 2014

          FrankofBoulder, if I may, and when it comes to things such as this:

          * Is it believable that Pontius Pilate would have allowed Jesus’ body to be taken down from the cross so soon (or at all)? That wasn’t the Romans’ practice with crucifixions.

          * Is believable that Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night after he was arrested?

          Contrary to “he was despised” and “we esteemed him not”, Jesus had quite a following, as is indicated in his having fed 5,000 and all who came from near and far to be healed by him, and the like. As the story goes, at one point he separated himself from the crowds, but then took pity on them:

          Matthew 14: 13-21 (See also: Mark 6:30-56)

          When Jesus received this news of John’s beheading, he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the crowds heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

          Might it not be that the Sanhedrin, like Pilate, simply hoped to avoid an uprising?

          • Avatar
            FrankofBoulder  February 24, 2014

            How do you know that Jesus fed 5,000 people? Simply cause the Gossip of Mark says so? The author wasn’t an eyewitness. The story about the 5,000 is fiction, as shown by the fact that the crowd was fed with a few fishes and loaves that multiplied miraculously. That’s impossible, The story is impossible. It never happened. This is just another fable about Jesus.

            If you reply that Jesus was a miracle worker who could supernaturally produce food out of thin air, then why were he and his disciples so hungry at another time that they were groveling for grain (gleaning)? Sorry, these tall tales don’t make sense.

            Even the crucifixion isn’t an absolute certainty — because, according to Mark, Jesus’ disciples deserted him and didn’t see him on the cross, Nor did anyone discover his corpse afterward, so we are told. According to Paul, Jesus was “buried.” The only witnesses to the crucifixion were the women who allegedly “watched from afar.” What could they see? Were they really able to identify Jesus on the cross from a distance?

            It’s possible that Jesus was killed by other means and then his body was thrown in a pit — “buried,” as Paul said. That would explain why his body was never found. In that case, we wouldn’t have to believe the unlikely story that his body was taken down from the cross soon after he died. That’s not how the Romans carried out crucifixions.

            The gospel is full of improbable details about the crucifixion, such as the exact time that Jesus expired, his alleged last words (altho no one was there to hear him) and a Roman centurion who declared that “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” How preposterous. None of Mark’s gospel can be trusted as fact.

            As George and Ira Gershwin put it in a song:
            “It ain’t necessarily so,
            the things that you’re liable
            to read in the Bible,
            it ain’t necessarily so.”

      • Avatar
        Rosekeister  February 21, 2014

        I’ve been thinking about Mark and the narrative gospels a lot lately. You can blame April DeConick’s books on the Gospel of Thomas. It’s not so much what she says as simply reading how the sayings gospels were structured. Between Q and the Gospel of Thomas it looks like Jesus’ life was not remembered as a narrative. It was remembered as what he said and that the sayings were remembered as short sayings rather than long arguments or talks. Then you read Paul and you do not see narratives or even much of anything about the historical Jesus. Then you read Mark from c.70 and suddenly there are these narratives and themes. A Jewish leadership theme that blames the crucifixion on the Jews parallels a disciples themes that shows they did not understand Jesus or his teachings before they finally betrayed, denied and abandoned him. The two themes then merge into the Passion narrative and the gospel ends with a young man proclaiming the resurrected Christ while the remaining women flee the scene.

        So it looks like rather than history Mark is an account that reflects the gentile church in c. 70 separating itself from the Jewish religion and the Jewish-Christian beliefs in Jesus as the true prophet and Messiah (rather than as a physically resurrected Christ who saves humanity from its sins).

        Do you think that Mark and the Synoptic Gospels that are based on his account and supplemented with others actually tell too intricate and involved a story to be historical after 40 years of oral tradition and sayings Gospels?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  February 23, 2014

          I don’t think sayings Gospels were the only things floating around in the early church, and its very hard to know whether Mark had written predecessors or not. Lots of scholars think that he had access to a written Passion narrative at least.

      • Avatar
        FrankofBoulder  February 21, 2014

        The problem with the Gospel of Mark is that since most of the gospel is preposterous nonsense (a meeting with Moses on a mountain top, Jesus walking on water, Jesus rising from the dead, etc.), the validity of the whole gospel is suspect. Since the gospel consists almost entirely of miracles and other far-fetched happenings, nothing in the gospel can be taken at face value.

        Mark’s gospel is so replete with fairy tales that none of its uncorroborated stories can be trusted. Almost the entire gospel may be a work of fiction, made up by the author. The later gospel writers built upon Mark’s fabrications, adding their own dubious material, such as Luke’s report that the risen Jesus simply floated away up into the sky (the Ascension). It’s all a hoax.

        The effort to discover the “historical Jesus” from these tall tales is futile. The stories about Jesus are false, so the scholarly effort based on those stories is useless. The gospels contain alleged quotations from Jesus 40 to 60 years earlier, written down by authors who never met Jesus and who never seem to have even met anyone who knew Jesus. Obviously, the quotes from Jesus aren’t reliable. The quotes are constructions.

        Prof. Ehrman, you and other biblical scholars grew up believing that the gospels are true. Later, you realized that the gospels contain errors, contradictions, improbable evens and dubious claims. But you still retain some faith in these gospel accounts, a holdover from your naive youth. Your work depends on you believing that the gospels contain genuine historical material. Unfortunately, they do not. It’s time for you to go further and finally come to the radical realization that New Testament scholarship is a bankrupt project that should be exposed and discredited as a venture in futility.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  February 23, 2014

          OK, I’ll take up your challenge. What do I think is historical in Mark that you think is obviously not?

          • Avatar
            FrankofBoulder  February 24, 2014

            I’m not sure what you think is historical in Mark. I think the Gospel of Mark is a work of fiction from the beginning (a voice speaks from heaven) to the end (Jesus rises from the dead). In between, most of Mark consists of far-fetched miracles (walking on water, instantly healing people, rebuking demons, etc) and other unlikely events. If you never heard of Jesus, and then you read Mark ‘s gospel for the first time, would you believe any of it? Or, would you think that it’s a fairy tale?

            The overall theme of Mark is that Jesus was a miracle worker who knew full well that he would have to die as part of God’s plan. What nonsense. According to Mark, Jesus kept his messianic identity a secret, for some strange reason, until he allegedly confessed his identity to Pontius Pilate — although no one could possibly know what Jesus said in private to Pilate. I don’t buy the made up stories in Mark.

            Mark’s gospel isn’t history. It’s merely a series of tall tales. Jesus couldn’t perform miracles, and he couldn’t have known beforehand how he was going to die. The overall theme of Mark is a fictional construction, sort of like a novel. New Testament scholars can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. The Gospel of John is also a work of fiction. The gospels are bogus. I’m not a mythicist, but I think Jesus is mostly a myth.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  February 25, 2014

            There are historical accounts in Mark though. Jesus did live. He did come from Nazareth. He did have a mother, brothers, and sisters. These family members did not believe in him. He was baptized by John the Baptist. He did preach about the coming Kingdom of God. He did tell parables. He did have controversies with Pharisees. He did spend his preaching ministry in Galilee. He did go to Jerusalem the last week of his life. Etc etc etc….

          • Avatar
            Rosekeister  February 24, 2014

            I think you believe elements of Mark’s disciples narrative specifically that there was a Judas, he betrayed Jesus to the Romans, and the other disciples then deserted Jesus leaving him to a painful death on the cross. However you scholars are tricky (yes, I typed it right out loud) and it’s hard sometimes to tell when a scholar is talking about whether a gospel narrative has historic value as opposed to discussing how the gospel author has structured his story and why.

            It is reminiscent of 20+ years ago (and sometimes even now) when scholars would write about the resurrection in such a nuanced technical manner that non-scholars could not tell whether the author believed Jesus actually rose from the dead and walked from the grave before ascending through the clouds to heaven.

            I also think you (as well as many if not most scholars) believe some elements of Mark’s Jewish narrative in which the blame for Jesus’ death is placed on the Jewish authorities rather than squarely on the Romans.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  February 25, 2014

            I always try to differentiate clearly between what I think Mark (or any other Gospel) is saying and what I think is historically correct. I’m never meaning to be tricky! If you (or anyone) has any questions about what I mean, I’m always happy to answer!

  6. Avatar
    gavriel  February 20, 2014

    Do you think Mark 8:33 is a Markan construction only, or does it go back to some real inner tensions among the disciples? Tensions that ultimately brought Judas to desert?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 20, 2014

      I think it’s a later Christian construction predicated on the idea that Jesus as the messiah had to die — something that was unheard of before Christians came up with the idea.

  7. Avatar
    Rosekeister  February 20, 2014

    Mark would not need to tell the story this way if everyone believed that to begin with. Does that mean that in the 70s there were communities that did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God or the necessity for a suffering Messiah? Were they located in Galilee since Mark stresses the people there did not have faith in Jesus and he was unable to do miracles there?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 20, 2014

      That may be pushing the evidence too far. Another view is that the community was in regular dialogue with non-believers who didn’t buy the view, and Mark is explaining why the view is right, as hard as it is to believe, for the sake of those inside the community constantly being barraged by those outside.

      • Avatar
        brcworks  February 20, 2014

        Much the same way you provide arguments to those of us in THIS community who are constantly barraged by our fundamentalist friends…

  8. Avatar
    willow  February 20, 2014

    Exactly, or as I understand it: The entire sacrificial lamb of God theory was is a misinterpretation and elaboration of the Passover that occurred during the time of Moses, when the blood of a lamb was smeared on the doorposts so that the “angel of Lord” would pass by those houses so marked, and not bring death upon the firstborn – not everyone – only the first born males.

    In the same way, by being covered with the “blood of the lamb” Jesus, Christianity teaches that transgressions are not counted and death loses its “sting”. Eternal life in glory awaits those covered with the blood and who simply believe. Never mind that the Passover Lamb atoned for nothing and no one, nor was it meant to.

    It’s also a misinterpretation and elaboration of Isaiah’s “suffering servant” of 53 and of whom Isaiah clearly states, if one reads to the end, “if he would render himself as a guilt offering”, (and there’s a difference between an offering and a sacrifice) he would “see his offspring”, “prolong his days”, and prosper. Did Jesus live long? Did he have children? Did he prosper? It’s widely held that he remained poor, isn’t it? Aside from that, nothing is said in 53 about this suffering servant dying on a cross, being raised up again and serving as king forever and ever, when he comes back again. Christianity wrote that in.

    Forgive me the length of this; but, to clarify:

    Sacrifice vs. Offering

    What is the difference between an offering and a sacrifice? The terms are important to distinguish.

    Offering (minha) is the broader category. It refers generally to anything brought to the cultic establishment as a donation to the deity and (indirectly) to the priestly personnel.

    Sacrifice (zevach; the same word is used for feast in 1 Samuel 20:29) refers only to offerings that are burned in fire, either totally or partially.

    (Did you get that? Burned with fire. Jesus was not burned with fire. Nor was he likened to a goat.)

    (Duly noted:) There is a high degree of interconnection, however, among the various terms used for sacrifices and offerings, which greatly complicates the categorization process.

    An offering can simply be a gift or a tribute. In a cultic context, it is primarily a cereal offering. Since most people in ancient Israel were agriculturalists, most tithes and offerings given to the sanctuary were in the form of cereal offerings. So, the routine term for bringing gifts to be dedicated to the deity (and eaten by the priests and Levites) eventually was associated only with cereal offerings. The cereal offering, even though it belongs in a separate category from animal sacrifices, is nevertheless often paired with the burnt offering (Hebrew ‘ola) because it functioned as the poor person’s equivalent to the burnt offering. The interlinking motifs among these various terms for sacrifices and offerings reveal the highly complex and nuanced nature of these cultic traditions.
    In essence then, BLOODshed was NOT required, and the Scriptures concur.

    Micah 6:7-8
    Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to “do” (works) justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

    See: Deuteronomy 12:30-31. Jeremiah 19:4-6. Psalm 106:37-38. Ezekiel 16:20. I readily admit that I did not see these things until after I’d left Christianity. They’re so often left out of the teachings of the church.

    Furthermore, regarding Isaiah 53: “He was despised and forsaken of men”? Which men? All men? Or just a handful of men counted among the hierarchy of the temple and the Romans who’d have no god other than Caesar Augustus. “He was despised, and “we” did not esteem him,” is pure nonsense. He was highly esteemed and in particular by all (the many) who were convinced he was “the” Messiah who would LIVE to see the end of Roman rule and the Kingdom of God, and peace forever, descend upon all of the earth, then and there, if read and understood correctly.

    Again, my apologies for the length. Another excellent topic by the way, Bart. Thank you! I regret being too busy to follow more closely.

  9. Avatar
    Wilusa  February 20, 2014

    “If Peter uses the term “messiah” the way most other first-century Jews did, then he understands Jesus to be the future deliverer of Israel, a man of grandeur and power who would usher in God’s kingdom in a mighty way (whether as a warrior-king or as a cosmic judge of the earth…”

    Are you saying “most” Jews who believed in a Messiah also believed in the kind of Kingdom in which the righteous dead would be restored to life, no one else would ever die, and so forth? I’d always imagined that at least as many people who believed in a Messiah expected something less extreme – a sovereign, respected state of Israel as they thought it had been in King David’s day, with people there and elsewhere in the world leading normal lives.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 21, 2014

      No, when I mentioned “God’s Kingdom” I didn’t mean the utopian kingdom of apocalyptic expectation; many Jews *did* look forward to that, but others were looking forward to Israel being established as a sovereign state, and “God’s Kingdom” in that sense.

      • Avatar
        willow  February 22, 2014

        It seems to me that Christianity is also divided, in its system of belief, between those (the majority) who believe that when one dies he/she goes to heaven or to hell, and that’s the end of it, while others, albeit a minority, believe there will be no resurrection of the dead until Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on earth, at which time the dead will be raised and all will be judged – according to their – “works”.

        Revelation 20:13: And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their “works”.

        What sense does that make of Paul’s: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

  10. Avatar
    FrankofBoulder  February 25, 2014

    Prof. Ehrman, OK, I will grant that was Mark was correct in that Jesus lived, he had a mother, he went to Jerusalem. But. . .

    Based on Mark, you say that Jesus’ “family members did not believe in him.” And yet, somehow, Jesus’ brother James turned up as a leader in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. Also, Acts puts Jesus’ mother in Jerusalem. James’ emergence as a leader is unexplained and contradictory to Mark. So how are we supposed to believe Mark?

    You say that Jesus had sisters. How do you know? Because you trust Mark? Because of one uncorroborated passing reference in Mark to Jesus’ unnamed sisters?

    We don’t know for a fact that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. It’s possible, but there’s no proof. Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism isn’t credible — the heavens tore open and a voice from the sky spoke to Jesus. This is myth, not history. Josephus’ description of John the Baptist contradicts Mark’s description of John. And as you’ve pointed out, Mark borrowed his description of John from 2 Kings. So, how can we trust the sentence in Mark that “Jesus was baptized by John” — considering that everything else Mark says about the baptism is false or absurd?

    We don’t know for a fact that Jesus spoke in parables. Our only source for these parables is the gospels which are preposterous fables. They aren’t reliable sources of information. The quotations from Jesus aren’t reliable.

    Jesus may have argued with Pharisees. Sure, he was probably apocalyptic since Paul seems to have taken that belief from the Jesus cult. But Mark’s inclusion of a few basic facts doesn’t establish Mark’s gospel as an historical work. Almost everything in Mark’s gospel is outlandish — so we can’t have confidence in even the things that aren’t outlandish.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  February 25, 2014

      Yes, it is possible to doubt everything. But the question is whether you want to do serious history or whether you want simply to doubt. The latter is by far the easier option.

      • Avatar
        FrankofBoulder  February 26, 2014

        I’d much rather do history than doubt everything. I used to think it was possible to uncover the historical Jesus. Now, I realize that you can’t do much history with fables about a demigod who rose from the dead and floated up into the sky. Christianity and all religions are hoaxes, not history. It’s better to be a doubting Thomas if doubt is justified. Jesus was an insignificant figure who should be returned to that status.

  11. Avatar
    FrankofBoulder  February 26, 2014

    “…one comes to realize that, in many ways, we never get back to Jesus himself. . . The Jesus of history remains ever elusive, obscured by the passage of time as well as later efforts to portray him.”
    — L. Michael White, “Scripting Jesus,” p. 7

  12. Avatar
    TheCaseGuy  November 22, 2017

    This is quite a bit after the fact, but this back’n’forth dialogue, primarily between Bart Ehrman and FrankofBoulder in early 2014, is most enlightening. In general, I will have to concur with Frank’s conclusions that the account in Mark is wholly fiction. Nonetheless, I appreciate and value Bart’s approach to dealing with these surviving New Testament writings, mostly because it serves as a catalyst for others to analyze and question much of this Christian dogma which so many were taught to blindly accept. Going back to the initial best-seller “Misquoting Jesus,” it opened the door, in an easily understandable way, for many people to feel comfortable with questioning things which they may have been told to never question. With accounts which were written decades (or even a century) after the events they purport to describe, we are never going to get to the truth of the matter. It is the scholarly questioning which matters, followed by the informed speculation which we can construct.

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