Recent Posts

Knowing Paul’s Views of Women…

By |May 19th, 2024|Paul and His Letters, Women in Early Christianity|0 Comments

I recently received this important question from a reader that is closely related to the current thread about whether we have the "original" text of the books of the New Testament. QUESTION: The question was specifically about about women's roles in the church based on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is something they want to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” The questioner said:  I [...]

When Does Life Begin? The Status of the Unborn in the Biblical Tradition.

By |May 17th, 2024|Public Forum|0 Comments

I'm pleased to announce that I will be doing a new two-lecture course on a rather timely topic, When Does Life Begin: The Status of the Unborn in the Biblical Tradition.  The course is not connected with the Blog per se, except insofar as I'm doing it and many of you might be interested.   For more information and registration, go to http://www.bartehrman.com/life Even if you can't come to the live lectures, you will be able to get a recording of the course to watch at your leisure. Here's a description of the course: **********************               The issue of abortion is one of the [...]

A Major Argument That We Can Be Sure We Have the Original Text

By |May 16th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|0 Comments

There is one particularly interesting argument sometimes used by those who believe we can know with good certainty what the original text of the New Testament books said.  This is the argument called the “tenacity of the tradition.”  The argument is prefaced on the very interesting phenomenon that whenever papyri manuscripts are discovered – say from the third or fourth Christian century – they almost *never* contain new variant readings that we did not already know about from later manuscripts, of say the seventh to fifteenth centuries.  Instead, the readings of these early manuscripts re-appear in later manuscripts. The conclusion [...]

Dubious Arguments That We CAN Get to the “Original Text”

By |May 15th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts|4 Comments

When I have public debates with scholars over whether we can know the original text of the New Testament or not, I stake out the claim that we cannot, and they stake out the claim that we probably can.  Part of my argument is always the one I started to outline in the previous post.  If we take something like the Gospel of Mark, our first complete manuscript of Mark is 300 years after Mark was first produced and put in circulation.  So how can we know if that manuscript is extremely close to the original?  We don’t have an [...]

Don’t the MOST Manuscripts Show What An Author Wrote?

By |May 14th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts|13 Comments

Suppose you have thousands of manuscripts of a New Testament book and a particular verse is worded in one way in 98% of them but another way in just 2%?  Surely the 98% is right, right?  That was an issue I addressed many years ago on the blog, and to some of you, the answer may be surprising.  Here's how I said it then. ****************************** Early on in my study of textual criticism I came to understand one of the major issues confronting scholars in the field – an issue that scholars have been contending with since the eighteenth century.  [...]

Even If We Can Imagine an “Original” Text, How Could We Know if We Had It?

By |May 12th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|11 Comments

Scholars sometimes debate whether we can know that we have reconstructed the original text of the New Testament at every point – or even every important point.  To me the answer was and is self-evidently, no, of course not.  Many of my conservative evangelical critics think that I’m being overly skeptical, that since we have thousands of manuscripts of the NT, we can surely know better what the authors of the NT said than any other authors from the ancient world.  My view is that this might be true, but that simply shows that we can’t know what *most* authors [...]

Is There an Original Text Even of One of MY Books??

By |May 11th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|7 Comments

  Here's a way to think about what it can even mean to talk about an "original text," from a post many years ago, published when I was just finishing up one of my books. ****************************** In my debates with other scholars about whether we can know (for certain) (or at they sometimes put it, with 99% certainty) what the original words of the New Testament were, I always argue that we cannot “know,” and they argue we can.   Let me explain one reason that I find their position highly problematic by dealing with a broader issue.  What exactly *is* [...]

May Gold Q&A: Keep Those (Metaphorical) Cards & Letters Coming!

By |May 9th, 2024|Public Forum|36 Comments

Gold and Platinum members, Time again for our monthly Gold Q&A. But I can't do it (literally!) without YOU!  Send me your urgent (short, to-the-point) questions on any blog-related topic.  Have you submitted a question in the past that wasn't picked? Feel free to try again. Don't put your question in a Comment, though--send it to Diane at [email protected]. DEADLINE: Please get your question in by Friday of next week (05/17/2024) at midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone).  

How Can We Even IMAGINE an “Original” Text of the Gospels?

By |May 9th, 2024|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|25 Comments

QUESTION: When it comes to the gospels, how do we define the ‘original text’? Do we define it as the original manuscript that was first penned by the author, or do we define it as the gospels in their most settled canonical form?   RESPONSE: As it turns out, this is a complicated and endlessly fascinating question that, so far as I have been able to work out over the past twenty years of thinking about it, has no clear and obvious answer! By way of very simple background for readers not completely on top of the [...]

Two KINDS of Originals. How Do We Know We Have Either?

By |May 8th, 2024|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, New Testament Manuscripts|19 Comments

I have recently been asked about how we know we have the originals of the books of the Bible.  By that, the questioner meant both how do we know the words we think the authors wrote were actually the words he wrote and how do we know the books we have are in the shape they were when they were written -- that is, is it possible chapters or passages have been added here or there or that several books were combined into one book even before scribes started copying what we have today? I've decided to deal with BOTH issue in a [...]

A High-level Intellectual with an Infuriating “Solution” to Why There is Suffering

By |May 7th, 2024|Bart's Debates|32 Comments

A blog member recently commented on a radio debate I did on the Problem of Suffering many years ago; over the years I've forgotten a lot of my debates -- or at least what actually happened in them -- but not this one.  I found it completely infuriating.  So I thought I would repost it.  I'm happy to hear your views, whatever they may be! ****************************** This is a radio debate that I had on January 10th, 2009 with Richard G. Swinburne, a philosopher who teaches at Oxford; Swinburne is a Christian and is well-known in philosophical circles.  The debate [...]

Did Paul Favor Gender Equality?

By |May 5th, 2024|Paul and His Letters, Women in Early Christianity|29 Comments

In this thread I have been talking about the role of women in the early church, starting with the ministry of Jesus, then in the churches of Paul (the first churches we have any real record of). In this post I continue by reflecting on Paul’s actual *views* of women; this strikes me as a particularly important topic since Paul is frequently condemned as the first Christian misogynist (or at least one of the first bad ones). Is that justified? The following represents some of my reflections as found in my discussion in my textbook on the NT for university [...]

Women in the World of Jesus

By |May 4th, 2024|Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Women in Early Christianity|19 Comments

In my previous post I talked about the traditions that indicated that Jesus associated with women publicly during his ministry – in an attempt to use established historical criteria to know whether the prominence of women in the earliest Christian communities may have had precedence in the life of Jesus himself. What about the contextual credibility of these traditions? It is true that women were generally viewed as inferior by men in the ancient world (see below). But there *were* exceptions: philosophical schools like the Epicureans and the Cynics, for example, advocated equality for women. Of course, there [...]

Reminder! WHY PROPHECY FAILS! Fundraiser for Sudan With James Tabor

By |May 3rd, 2024|Public Forum|16 Comments

If you haven't taken note of this yet, please do!  It's gonna be a really interesting topic.  Here's the original post. ***************** I am very pleased to announce a fund-raiser for the Bart Ehrman blog on MONDAY May 6, a special event in which I interview fellow New Testament scholar and social commentator Dr. James Tabor on a topic sure to be of interest.  James, as you may know, is a retired professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.  He is a public figure who has a large following on his own blog and in his many [...]

Jesus and Women

By |May 2nd, 2024|Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Women in Early Christianity|15 Comments

In my previous post I tried to show that women – contrary to what one might think – were quite prominent in the ministry and churches established by Paul. One naturally wonders why that might be, given the fact that women came to be silenced in later Christian traditions (continuing on in some rather notable circles today). One answer for why women played important roles in the life of the early church is that they may have played an important role in the life of the historical Jesus. As readers of this blog know, it is not an [...]

Was Paul a Misogynist?

By |May 1st, 2024|Paul and His Letters, Women in Early Christianity|19 Comments

I have recently had some discussions with other scholars about the role of women in the early church.  I've dealt with that issue on the blog before, of course, but now that I look I see that my fullest discussion was a thread from over ten years ago.  Time to do it again!  These posts deal with a variety of issues, starting with Paul, notorious in some circles for his views.  But ... justifiably? In my NT course I have every student participate, as part of their grade, in a formal debate on this or that topic. The topics are [...]

Does My Work on the Historical Jesus Confirm the Quran?

By |April 30th, 2024|Public Forum|20 Comments

Here is a final post dealing with the Quran.  Well, a post from years ago that dealt with the Quran and two other unrelated issues, in one of those rare moments some years ago where I decided to try a rapid-fire approach to questions I get.  They're all great questions!  Here's the repost: ****************************** Here is the weekly Readers’ Mailbag, three questions this time – one about my  alleged “support of Islam against Christianity,” one about why we think the NT Gospels were originally written in Greek, and one about what I mean when I talk about the views held [...]

Fundamentalist Christians Are Not the Only Ones to Make Dumb Arguments…

By |April 28th, 2024|Public Forum|47 Comments

My high school debate colleague (who later became a national debate champion as a sophomore in college...) used to always say:  "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."  Boy did he ever get that right.  Here's another post connected with the Quran.  The post is NOT dealing with anything at all negative with Islam or the Quran itself.  It's about horrible arguments that people make about it.  They are right down there on the ridiculousness-scale as those fundamentalists sometimes make about Christianity and the New Testament.  As I point out in this republished post from years ago. ****************************** I’m always [...]

Am I Converting to Islam?

By |April 27th, 2024|Public Forum|47 Comments

While I"m on the issue of Islam...  Here is a post of a question I still get at times, to my amazement. ****************************** READER COMMENT: I received a message on Facebook a couple of weeks ago from a person who has been proselytizing to me about the Muslim faith. This has happened a few times with others on your FB page. I guess that’s what they do. Anyway, the other day I asked him if he was on your blog. He responded with a yes. Then he said that we (the members) were going to get a surprise from you [...]

Wanna come to the live recording of the Gold Q&A? Saturday May 27

By |April 26th, 2024|Public Forum|10 Comments

Dear Goldies and Platinums. I'm going to be recording the monthly Gold Q&A session tomorrow (Saturday, May 27) at 5:30 pm EST.   I won't be taking any live questions -- the list is already too long to cover -- but if you're interested in coming to watch and listen, come along! Here's the link. https://unc.zoom.us/j/92789329355?pwd=aTZiTVkxMmhNQmtuck9NK3dFdG15UT09 Meeting ID: 927 8932 9355 Passcode: 686914 --- One tap mobile +13052241968,,92789329355# US +13092053325,,92789329355# US --- Dial by your location • +1 305 224 1968 US • +1 309 205 3325 US • +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) • +1 646 931 3860 US [...]

More Hard Issues on the Qur’an Fragments

By |April 25th, 2024|Public Forum|21 Comments

Here are a couple of more reflections on the fragments on the Quran that were discovered some years ago, in a post that I published at the time. ****************************** My plan is to make this the final post for now on the issue of the Qur’an fragments discovered at the University of Birmingham.  Obviously the discussion could go on forever (it’s been going on for 1500 years and is not likely to stop any time soon).   But I’m not a scholar of the Qur’an or of Islam, and I would prefer sticking to topics that are within my realm of [...]

Responses to my Post on the Discovery of an Ancient Manuscript of the Quran

By |April 24th, 2024|Public Forum|24 Comments

After I posted on the discovery of an ancient manuscript of the Quran (years ago; but I reposted it yesterday) I received a bunch of comments (years ago) that I responded to (years ago).  Here's a repost of the back and forth, with a couple of tough ones here. ********************* My post on Saturday about the discovery of two pages of the Qur’an in the library of the University of Birmingham that appear to date from the time of Mohammad himself. or a decade or so later, evoked more than the usual response.   My Facebook post has received nearly 260,000 [...]

An Astounding Quran Manuscript Discovery

By |April 23rd, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|37 Comments

In my previous posts I've mentioned the course I'll be doing on the Quran and the NT with scholar of Islam, Javad Hashmi.  In the course I won't myself be dealing with the Quran, since it's not my expertise and I prefer as a rule talking about things I know about.  But in past years on the blog I have published some posts on aspects of the Quran and Islam that I AM able to say something about, and thought this would be a good time to re-air them.  Here's one of them: ****************************** Those of you who follow the [...]

Fundraiser for Sudan With James Tabor

By |April 21st, 2024|Public Forum|3 Comments

I am very pleased to announce a fund-raiser for the Bart Ehrman blog on May 6, a special event in which I interview fellow New Testament scholar and social commentator Dr. James Tabor on a topic sure to be of interest.  James, as you may know, is a retired professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.  He is a public figure who has a large following on his own blog and in his many public appearances.  Among his numerous popular is Why Waco, which deals directly with the 1993 disaster at Waco just over 31 years [...]

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