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More Responses to My Newsweek Article

When the editor at Newsweek ask me if I would be willing to write an article on the birth of Jesus, I was hesitant and wrote him back asking if he was sure he really wanted me to do it. I told him that I seem to be incapable of writing anything that doesn’t stir up controversy. It must be in my blood. Still, he said that they knew about my work and were not afraid of controversy, and they did indeed want an article from me.

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve been getting it from all sides. I don’t know why that should surprise me. It seems to be the story of my life. For years my agnostic and atheist readers were cheering me on from the sidelines as I talked about the problems posed by a critical study of the New Testament: there are discrepancies and contradictions, the Gospels are not written by eyewitnesses, and the stories they contain were modified over time, and many of them were invented, in the oral traditions before anyone wrote them down. Etc. My “non-believer” readers were pleased that all this was coming out in a popular format for the general reader.

And then I wrote Did Jesus Exist?, arguing that there is no serious doubt for virtually any real scholar of antiquity (whether biblical scholar, classicist, historian) that Jesus of Nazareth really did live.  And many of my agnostic and atheist allies suddenly felt completely betrayed and began to attack me even more virulently than the conservative Christians had earlier done.

You can’t please all the people all the time, and sometimes you just never can please everyone.  But so it goes.

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The Mayan Calendar, Y2K, and the Letter of Barnabas
Responses to my Newsweek Article



  1. Avatar
    Bertrand  December 19, 2012

    Without going into all the gory details, let me just say that I have followed a path similar to yours, from Christian to agnostic. I reserve judgement on whether there is a God, and even if there is, I don’t believe that he (she/it/they) has made himself known clearly. However, it continues to nag at me that maybe I’ve left some stone unturned. Maybe there is a God, and maybe he doesn’t make himself known clearly, and maybe he doesn’t make himself known through words and through deeds, but through what the Quakers call the light within. So, I continue to poke into areas such as near death experiences (“Proof Of Heaven” by Alexander), evangelicalism (“When God Talks Back” by Luhrmann), mysticism (“I Was A Monk” by Tettemer), and reading this blog. Do you think I’m driving down a dead end?

  2. Avatar
    Bertrand  December 20, 2012

    Question: Do demons exist? If they do, that might mean that something else in the spirit realm might exist that at least somewhat restrains them from committing evil. I don’t wish to try to find out the answer to this question personally, because of the potential risk. However, there might be others with experience in this area, such as the exorcists in the Roman Catholic Church. Dr. Ehrman, do you have any experience or opinions in this area, or do you know anyone who does? Have you ever interviewed an exorcist?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 20, 2012

      I actually used to believe in demons and was taught how to exorcise them at Moody Bible Institute! One of my professors was a professional exorcist. He had previously been a professional golfer. I’m not sure what that means exactly….

      • Avatar
        Bertrand  December 20, 2012

        Sounds like you’re just as agnostic about the existence of demons as you are about the existence of God. Still, I think it would be worthwhile to do a study of exorcism and publish something on it.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  December 21, 2012

          Well, no, actually, I don’t believe in demons at all. (So, OK, that is my view of God too….).

  3. Avatar
    CameronLock  December 28, 2012

    Hi Bart,
    Thanks for your clear and informative words, both written and spoken – I find them so valuable.

    I also am an agnostic-atheist (from Australia). I am also an ex-Christian of the evangelical Anglican tradition.

    I have only just bought your book “Did Jesus Exist?” On Kindle, and am about to start reading it. The main reason I bought it was to find the answer to a question that I can’t yet resolve – perhaps you can help me.

    I believe that it is probable that Jesus existed, based on the work of biblical scholars such as yourself. I am not an expert in the field and hence can only rely on other experts, and in particular the areas where the vast majority of experts agree.

    However, I don’t understand how the words of Tacitus in The Annals are considered to be historical evidence of Jesus existence. His words appear to be hearsay, and could have been found out by him researching what Christians believe. Who was this “Christus” who these Christians were following? A man who was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

    Could you please help me to understand how Tacitus is evidence for Jesus existence, and not just reportage, or hearsay.

    Many thanks,

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2012

      Yup, I touch on that in the book. If what I say doesn’t satisfy, try me again!

  4. Avatar
    shakespeare66  December 28, 2013

    I so enjoy your perspective, and the way that you see the Bible as another work of literature that one can take inspiration from. I, too, love to revel in the words of literature and found myself being the only one truly entertained and intellectually inspired by the words of the authors I taught for 37 years. I often felt that my students just did not relate the language and could not grasp a lot of the deeper meanings reserved for one who has lived a longer life, one who has had a compliment of experiences. I, too, detest the use of the Bible to justify arguments against homosexuality, etc. Those who engage the Bible for the sake of justifying their views about such things are just ignorant and have not spent enough time exploring the truth. Thanks for writing these views as they help me deal with the people who find being an agnostic objectionable.

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