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My Next Project

I’ve had several people ask what I’m working on, now that How Jesus Became God has come and gone from.   The answer is: the very next thing!   And it’s something that I’ve gotten really excited about, as excited as I was about How Jesus Became God.  For some reason, when I was doing that book over the past couple of years, I thought that it was going to be the climax of my trade book publishing career, and that everything would be downhill from there.   I was completely wrong about that.  I’m now just as passionate about the next project.

I mentioned the book earlier on the blog, before I decided for sure that it was going to be next.  But it definitely is.   It will be about the oral traditions of Jesus in circulation in the years before the Gospels were written.

So, just to give a bit of background — a review for some of you and new information for probably some others.    Scholars have long held that Mark was the first of our Gospels to be written, and that it probably appeared sometime around the year 70 CE.  Some scholars think it might have been a bit before that (I used to think that); more scholars think that it might have been a bit after.  But almost everyone agrees that Mark dates to around the end of the Jewish War (66-70 CE).  The only ones who consistently have argued otherwise are fundamentalists and very conservative evangelicals, who very much want Mark, our earliest Gospel, to be closer to the time of Jesus.

Maybe some time on the blog I’ll explain why 70 CE seems like a plausible date.   For now, let’s just say that this is the virtually consensus view among critical scholars.   The last Gospel has traditionally been thought to be John, and it is normally dated to 90 or 95 CE.   Matthew and Luke then were probably somewhere between these two (since they used Mark and must date after 70 CE, but seem to be older than John and so must be earlier than 90 CE) – so say 80 or 85 CE.

What is striking, and what I have long emphasized in my writings, is that time gap between the death of Jesus in 30 CE and the first accounts of his life in 70-95 CE.   It’s a gap (for those who are mathematically challenged) of 40-65 years.

And so the question is, what was happening during all those years to the stories being told about Jesus?   The Gospel writers themselves do not claim to have been disciples of Jesus, and do not claim to be eyewitnesses of the events they narrate, and do not claim (contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, largely by not reading the texts  in question carefully enough) to have derived their stories directly from eyewitnesses.   The Gospels were written anonymously, in different parts of the world from where Jesus lived, in a different language from the one Jesus used, four and more decades after Jesus died.  So where did they get their stories?

They got them from oral traditions about Jesus that had been in circulation over all that time, in different languages (at least Aramaic and Greek) in different places in different contexts.

All that is well known, and I’ve written about it before.

But what I’m interested in now is…

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My Future Books
ANT: Methods of Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    toejam  August 13, 2014

    Sounds interesting. I do hope you tackle some of the ideas presented by scholars like Richard Bauckham. I’m half-way through his ‘Jesus & the Eyewitnesses’ at the moment. Struggling to get through it because, although he makes the occasional noteworthy point, much of it seems very speculative and dressed up to be more than it is – e.g. at one point he suggests that the reason Lazarus wasn’t mentioned in the synoptics was because the gospel writers were concealing his identity operating under some kind of witness protection program! It was at that point I realised I was reading apologetics, not cautious scholarship.

    I also recently watched a debate between Richard Carrier and Zeba Crook on the historicity of Jesus. A question came up in the Q&A about the validity of the use of pre-gospel ‘oral traditions’ in attempting to reconstruct the past. Predictably, Carrier dismissed the use of oral traditions as completely untrustworthy speculation. But I was surprised that Crook too basically agreed – that even if there was a colorful oral tradition behind the gospel stories, that we really don’t have any reliable way to access them and as such it’s more or less a wild goose chase that requires a dose of circular reasoning just to get started…

    • Avatar
      Adam0685  August 15, 2014

      The position about the complete untrustworthiness of oral tradition seems to also imply the complete untrustworthiness of the gospels (which I don’t think Zeba holds!), since the gospels are based on that oral tradition (unless one argues that Mark, for example, completely made up the stories he wrote or based his account on eyewitness testimony).

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

        I think it is too much to say they are “completely” untrustworthy. If the oral tradition involved inventions of episodes and sayings of Jesus,and the alteration of historically accurate material, the task is to try to establish what is historically accurate. (Well, that’s one task, anyway)

  2. Avatar
    VirtualAlex  August 13, 2014

    Awesome.

  3. talitakum
    talitakum  August 13, 2014

    Ok, so the next Clash of Titans will be Ehrman vs. Bauckham 😉 Looking forward to it !
    Some quick considerations about your interesting post: an early dating of Mark is not only supported/proposed by “fundamentalists and very conservative evangelicals”, unless you want to count Casey (RIP) and Crossley among them.. and I don’t think it’s the case 🙂
    Mark gospel likely used some written sources, and Luke has been explicit about such existing written material circulating at his time, moreover some scholars propose an early composition date for the core Passion’s account: these things may challenge the assumption that oral traditions have been the only/main channel for tradition. Finally, I know that scholars like Anthony LeDonne recently explored this very interesting field of studies (memory, perception, tradition) that can actually challenge the “traditional approach” of Historical Jesus scholarship. So, once again you are going to give your contribute to a modern, fascinating topic ..
    Looking forward to reading more on this blog! 🙂 Regards

  4. Avatar
    TomTerrific  August 13, 2014

    Your new project sounds fascinating.

    Are you going to try to tie it in with other cultures with oral traditions? I understand it was quite strong in the Celtic peoples, which was roughly the same time and a lot of legend is attached to their methods.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2014

      Yes, the current plan (it may change!) is to talk about what we know about oral cultures from anthropologists (and others).

  5. Avatar
    stephena  August 13, 2014

    How will your book differ from the work of the Jesus Seminar, which attempted to determine the actual words of Jesus? I find this topic you’re taking up of supreme importance because the words of Jesus are at the core of my faith, rather than the second- or third-hand stories ABOUT him.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2014

      Our concerns and interests are broadly similar, but the Jesus seminar never produced a book about the oral traditions per se.

      • Avatar
        stephena  August 14, 2014

        Their analysis (in various colors!) of the Four Gospels and Thomas in “The Five Gospels” were close to that, though. I do wish there was a book with a detailed listing of the Logia or Sayings of Jesus that are considered “authentic” and reasons WHY they are considered so. Perhaps that will be part of this effort?

        I also really, really enjoyed your translations of the non-canonical books in your “Lost Scriptures” books and wish you’d tackle the Gospels themselves (highlighting the Variants, which NO Bibles currently do) unless you feel one or more versions “get it right,” or “close enough.”

  6. Avatar
    nichael  August 13, 2014

    For those of us waiting for these books, can I suggest two books on this topic that I’ve found both immensely informative as well as great reads (that is, “recommend” to my fellow readers; I’m sure Dr Ehrman doesn’t need any help in this area).

    The first is Walter J Ong’s classic “Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word”. This book serves as a great introduction to current thought about what the transition from purely oral cultures to literate ones means. The book discusses the (often significantly) different ways by which each collect, maintain, and transmit historical and cultural information; the different views each has on what “factual truth” can mean; and, perhaps most importantly, offers insights into how our assumption about, and answers to such question –and our understanding of their importance– that we share in a modern literate society, is very much an artifact of our belonging to such a society.

    The second is “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything” by David Bellos. The title is a touch too cute for my tastes, but this book provides a fascinating and highly enjoyable introduction to the issues involved in translation. While not directly focused on questions of literacy, it offers many insights into the technical, linguistic and cultural problems involved in transfering “meaning” from one language into another.

  7. Avatar
    AlanTaylorFarnes  August 13, 2014

    I’m excited to read your work on oral history. You state that the oral tradition was THE source for the gospel writers: “So where did they get their stories? They got them from oral traditions about Jesus that had been in circulation over all that time, in different languages (at least Aramaic and Greek) in different places in different contexts.” Of course I agree with you that much of their sources were oral but you’re not discounting written tradition, are you?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2014

      No, of course not! But even with earlier written sources (Q, e.g.) one has to ask: whence did they derive their materials? From the oral traditions!

      • Avatar
        prestonp  September 9, 2014

        How do you prove that conclusion? How does anyone know for certain that no one wrote down what Christ said immediately upon hearing his words?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 9, 2014

          History is a matter of probabilities, not certainties. Given what we know about literacy in Roman Palestine, it is *extremely* unlikely that Jesus’ followers could write. And given what we know about ancient speech writing, it is extremely unlikely that the later accounts of Jesus’ words were produced from hand-written notes.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 15, 2014

            “The assertion that Jesus is God is arguably the single most important development in Western civilization.” Dr. Bart

            I think history is fixed. I believe you are right that history is also probabilities. We simply can’t look back and see everything.

            Pretend jesus was god for a moment. It is probable he would make certain his message would become available to as many as possible and that it would be presented accurately. Look at the great mind of that little old S.O.B. saul/paul. What a complete jerk! Yet, he was brilliant, educated, articulate and was prolific, There is no evidence that among his many followers, no one besides him could write. Dr. Bart, if he had chosen you to follow him, wouldn’t you somehow find the means to record his words? I do not think it is an intellectually sound position to take that no one recorded what he said soon after he spoke. They gave up their lives for him/his cause. They valued what he said and did more than their own lives and the lives of their families and loved ones. They weren’t dull. They knew, obviously, that they had to preserve his teachings, his sermons, his parables if they were to advance his cause for future generations. How could they possibly not know how critical that was?

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 15, 2014

            But Dr., look at what you’ve just said here. “History is a matter of probabilities, not certainties.” Then, “Given what we KNOW about literacy in Roman Palestine, it is *extremely* unlikely that Jesus’ followers could write.” You’ve just said we can’t “know” and then add, what we “know”.

            “And given what we KNOW about ancient speech writing…” same thing.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 15, 2014

            We can know probabilities. You can “know” that if you sit down in your favorite chair, it won’t collapse and kill you. But in fact it’s only a probability.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 15, 2014

            Paul wrote and he could read. If he could, I think it is highly likely others who were very close to Christ could read and write, as well. I don’t think it is a stretch. Paul wasn’t exactly corned beef, either; he was a brilliant writer up there with guys like you. How could he do it and the probability that no one else could be “extremely” unlikely?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 15, 2014

            Yes, he was one of the urban educated elite among the early Christians. Unlike, e.g., Jesus’ disciples, who were rural illiterate peasants.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 16, 2014

            Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (15:40-41).

            We do know that some folks contributed to Jesus and his disciples. Luke tells us that certain wealthy women helped them out: “some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (8:2-3).

            Where do we find that none of his followers came from urban areas? Let’s keep open minds. If only 1% of that population was literate, that is a thousand people-based on a pop of 100,000.

            “string theory” which is supported by many top physicists, requires more than 10 dimensions to work. Let’s not limit our mindset to the mundane. God, if he exists, can do miracles

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 16, 2014

            I don’t think any of those women were educated — very few women were, even if they married rich husbands. And the men were drawn from rural areas.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 17, 2014

            Say it was extremely unlikely, it was possible. Not all of his followers were rural, either. Thousands followed him. Thousands heard him. Multitudes ate food prepared miraculously by him. Some drank superb wine he made on the spot. Many were healed. He brought the dead back to life– right before their eyes. Kings wanted to meet him.

            It did not require a genius to write and to record the words someone spoke. Btw, the jews were and are the smartest, most gifted people intellectually ever, anywhere, bar none.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 17, 2014

            “Given what we KNOW about literacy in Roman Palestine…” Dr. Bart.

            What we don’t know is how many of his disciples were from the cities. We don’t know that every rural follower was incapable of writing.

            What we know is that there is no proof that his disciples didn’t write the original documents that became the new testament. The odds are excellent that they did. They died, willingly, because they knew him and his cause and they were responsible for ensuring the world heard it. They would not give up everything for a walk in the park. Remember, too, that they thought his second appearance would occur any moment and they were instructed to go into every corner of the world with his message. Any way they could reach humanity with his message was utilized.

            Only 60 years later, somebody wrote those things, according to criticism. What changed so drastically in 60 years, you know?

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 18, 2014

            “Some women were watching from a distance” pp

            “I don’t think any of those women were educated — very few women were, even if they married rich husbands. And the men were drawn from rural areas.” Dr. B.

            They could afford to hire those who could record what he said. pp

            “Unlike, e.g., Jesus’ disciples, who were rural illiterate peasants.” Dr. B.

            That is not a statement of fact. Some peasants could read and write and not all his followers were peasants.

            Malcolm X taught himself to read in prison by memorizing a dictionary.

            The novelist Nicholas Delbanco taught himself to read at age six during a transatlantic crossing by studying a book about boats

            Fermi initially chose mathematics as his major, but soon switched to physics. He remained largely self-taught, studying general relativity, quantum mechanics, and atomic physics.

            Walter Pitts was an important logician and mathematician who made significant contributions to the cognitive sciences, psychology, artificial intelligence, and the generative sciences. As a boy growing up in Detroit, Pitts read works like Principia Mathematica to learn logic and math, and he also taught himself Greek and Latin at just 10 years old.

            George Washington never went to school but was taught by his brother and father at home.

            Truman Capote

            Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (Gauß) (April 30, 1777 – February 23, 1855) was a German mathematician, astronomer and physicist with a very wide range of contributions; he is considered to be one of the leading mathematicians of all time.
            Gauss was born in Braunschweig, Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg (now part of Germany) as the only son of lower-class uneducated parents.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 18, 2014

            Why don’t you read about what we know about literacy in the ancient world? I think I’ve already indicated the books that represent the best scholarship.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 19, 2014

            “Unlike, e.g., Jesus’ disciples, who were rural illiterate peasants.”

            Dr., as we pursue truth with all we are capable of, this, your airtight conclusion, isn’t indicative of your best scholarly reasoning, imo.

            I am reading Dr. I am. I am. And you are an amazing writer. So easy and enjoyable to read. So articulate. So knowledgeable. So good at making the complex understandable to your average boob like me.

            I don’t think a wanna be writer of a gospel omitted his name, like Jehoshaphat, because he was concerned about a lack of name recognition. At that point, who knew who Paul, John, Luke, Mark and Matt were? Nobody.

            If you haven’t already, let me recommend that you try Don Diego Cigars. At 14, when my folks took off for the shore, (I would swipe a handful from Dad’s humidor) immediately half the town raced up our driveway. I called the liquor store where they had an account, try to imitate my father and order gallons of vodka. “Oh, and if no one’s home when you get here, just leave the boxes under the light between the 2 garages.” It worked brilliantly until they handed me the bill.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  September 19, 2014

            Ah, the bill. I used to sneak my dad’s cigars too, but now I know they were truly awful. Marsh Wheelings. Wouldn’t touch them if they were the last cigars on earth…

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 20, 2014

            Ah, the bill. I used to sneak my dad’s cigars too, but now I know they were truly awful. Marsh Wheelings. Wouldn’t touch them if they were the last cigars on earth…

            As a man who seems to enjoy a fine cigar, I thought a Don Diego might hit the spot.

  8. Avatar
    BrianUlrich  August 13, 2014

    I love this topic idea, as difficult as it sounds to execute. There seems a tendency to treat that 30-40 years as a black box in which all manner of things are happening to reshape the tradition without any clear idea of the historical context in which various actors were doing the reshaping.

    For a comparative perspective, you might consider getting to know Sean Anthony, a historian of early Islam who works with similar issues in a very different source environment – later sources, but much more knowledge of the historical context and agents shaping them. I blogged about his dissertation book (http://bjulrich.blogspot.com/2012/07/tales-of-ibn-saba.html) concerning the evolution of an account of Shi’ite origins following the death of Ali, which represented a failed apocalyptic hope. He’s also worked on the material surrounding the life of Muhammad and published a book on crucifixion in Late Antiquity.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  September 9, 2014

      BrianUlrich, “There seems a tendency to treat that 30-40 years as a black box…” We treat that period of time as if we know for certain that none of Christ’s words had been recorded immediately after he said them and therefore no copies of those non-existent original documents were made and circulated.

      We don’t know that. There is no scientific proof of that. Common sense dictates that a number of people likely began writing down his words right after he spoke them. His followers were eager to spread the news about this guy long before he was murdered. He had to tell them over and over not to tell others about his miracles (he could have been crushed by the enormous crowds before completing his work). Yet, they did anyway. (So much for the “no free-will” argument.) Many people may have recorded those events through various time periods of his ministry which may have been combined later. Some may have been used as a source to write a portion of Q. Others for john. We just don’t know; we cannot state as factual, precisely, what took place.

      Verse 1. – Forasmuch as many have taken in hand. The Greek in which St. Luke’s Gospel is written is generally pure and classical, but the language of the little introduction (verse 1-4) is especially studied and polished, and contrasts singularly with the Hebrew character of the story of the nativity, which immediately follows. St, Luke here, in this studied introduction, follows the example of many of the great classical writers, Latin as well as Greek. Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, for instance, paid special attention to the opening sentences of their histories. The many early efforts to produce a connected history of the life and work of the great Master Christ are not, as some have supposed, alluded to here with anything like censure, but are simply referred to as being incomplete, as written without order or arrangement. They most probably formed the basis of much of St. Luke’s own Gospel. These primitive Gospels quickly disappeared from sight, as they evidently contained nothing more than what was embodied in the fuller and more systematic narratives of the “four.” Of those things which are most surely believed among us. There was evidently no questioning in the Church of the first days about the truth of the story of the teaching and the mighty works of Jesus of Nazareth. It was the incompleteness of these first evangelists, rather than their inaccuracy, which induced St. Luke to take in hand a new Gospel.
      Pulpit Commentary

      Luke, 1 “Seeing that many did take in hand to set in order a narration of the matters that have been fully assured among us, who from the beginning became eye-witnesses, and officers of the Word, — it seemed good also to me, having followed from the first after all things exactly, to write to thee in order, most noble Theophilus, that thou mayest know the certainty of the things wherein thou wast instructed.” Young’s Literal Translation

      • Avatar
        spiker  February 17, 2015

        @prestonp

        “We don’t know that. There is no scientific proof of that. Common sense dictates that a number of people likely began writing down his words right after he spoke them”

        First there’s no need for scientific proof of something that seems to be; particularly since the
        person in question seems to be offering his personal opinion.

        Why the switch, Prestonp? Why does Brian’s opinion require scientific proof while yours only requires “common sense” Why is it that someone in a largely illiterate society would find it
        common sensical to do something literate? And to steal from Bart, if it was comon sensical for
        people to begin writing down his words right after he spoke them, why didn’t common sense dictate
        their preservation?

    • Avatar
      Malik  January 8, 2018

      In Islam you don’t have ambiguity regarding what is happening since day 1 of the Islamic Calendar. Even if you were to exclude rigorously authenticated hadith, we still have non-Islamic sources to confirm the events of Islamic history and the existence of important figures. For example, I share with you a Coptic Account of Amr ibn Al-As , (a DIRECT companion of the Prophet Muhammad):
      https://islamicarchives.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/amr-ibn-al-as-the-liberator-of-the-coptic-people/
      (A little long, I apologize)

      When Amr took full possession of the city of Alexandria, and settled its affairs, that infidel, the governor of Alexandria, feared, he being both prefect and patriarch of the city under the Romans, that Amr would kill him; therefore he sucked a poisoned ring, and died on the spot. But Sanutius, the believing dux, made known to Amr the circumstances of that militant father, the patriarch Benjamin, and how he was a fugitive from the Romans, through fear of them. Then Amr, son of Al-Asi, wrote to the provinces of Egypt a letter, in which he said: “There is protection and security for the place where Benjamin, the patriarch of the Coptic Christians is, and peace from God; therefore let him come forth secure and tranquil, and administer the affairs of his Church, and the government of his nation.”

      Therefore when the holy Benjamin heard this, he returned to Alexandria with great joy, clothed with the crown of patience and sore conflict which had befallen the orthodox people through their persecution by the heretics, after having been absent during thirteen years, ten of which were years of Heraclius, the misbelieving Roman, with the three years before the Muslims conquered Alexandria. When Benjamin appeared, the people and the whole city rejoiced, and made his arrival known to Sanutius, the dux who believed in Christ, who had settled with the commander Amr that the patriarch should return, and had received a safe-conduct from Amr for him. Thereupon Sanutius went to the commander and announced that the patriarch had arrived, and Amr gave orders that Benjamin should be brought before him with honour and veneration and love. And Amr, when he saw the patriarch, received him with respect, and said to his companions and private friends: “Verily in all the lands of which we have taken possession hitherto I have never seen a man of God like this man.” For the Father Benjamin was beautiful of countenance, excellent in speech, discoursing with calmness and dignity.

      Then Amr turned to him, and said to him: “Resume the government of all your churches and of your people, and administer their affairs. And if you will pray for me, that I may go to the West and to Pentapolis, and take possession of them, as I have of Egypt, and return to you in safety and speedily, I will do for you all that you shall ask of me.” Then the holy Benjamin prayed for Amr, and pronounced an eloquent discourse, which made Amr and those present with him marvel, and which contained words of exhortation and much profit for those that heard him; and he revealed certain matters to Amr, and departed from his presence honoured and revered. And all that the blessed father said to the commander Amr, son of Al-Asi, he found true, and not a letter of it was unfulfilled.

  9. Avatar
    TJDonahue  August 13, 2014

    So exciting! Can’t wait – great choice of topics!! Clearly this gap between Jesus’ death and our first surviving records is key. Hopefully you might touch on whether you find evidence for whether there were non-surviving written records during that period too.

    In same period, I am thinking a lot about the importance of Paul on Christianity as a whole and the fact that he tells us he didn’t speak to any apostles or eyewitnesses for many years, but somehow formed a very full belief and understanding of what he felt was proper doctrine regarding Jesus. As perhaps the most important early mover in Christianity – it seems he pulled his entire teachings from his revelation (which he never mentions) and presumably from other early Christians he spoke to.

    I wonder if you have thoughts on h

    • Avatar
      TJDonahue  August 13, 2014

      Whoops sorry – to continue: I wonder if you have thoughts for a post on this topic of how Paul almost single handedly left us with the earliest Christian doctrine? Thanks again!

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2014

        I believe I’ve posted on that before!

      • Avatar
        JRH  February 22, 2015

        I would like to know more about how Paul went from persecuting Christians to becoming one. Was Paul responsible for anyone getting crucified? How many Christians died on account of Paul? How long did it take for Paul to convince the remaining apostles that he had converted? I get the impression in Acts that other followers of Jesus were rather cool towards Paul. (Which is quite understandable.) What happened on the road to Damascus? Heat exhaustion, hallucinations, extreme guilt? Was Paul really a “tent maker?” This sounds like a rather mundane job for someone who basically created a religion based on the life of Jesus. How likely is it a tent maker would be literate? Maybe Paul owned a tent making company instead of doing the work himself.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 23, 2015

          I’d suggest that you read some books about Paul, maybe starting with the recent one written by my friend Albert Harrill.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2014

      Paul was certainly in contact with other Christians from the very beginning, and that must have been his source of information. He did not meet up with any of the other apostles for three years, that’s true; and by then he evidently had a clear idea of what the crucial Gospel message was. But I don’t think he made it all up himself.

  10. Avatar
    z8000783  August 13, 2014

    So it looks like your going to be right up against Bauckham and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses on this one then. Will look forward to that.

    Usual 2 years before sales though?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 14, 2014

      The *plan* is to have it appear in about two years from now, assuming I can write it by then!

  11. Avatar
    qaelith2112  August 13, 2014

    Fantastic!! I share your excitement. Once again, as with “How Jesus Became God”, you have put me in a position of feeling as if I were again a child anticipating Christmas, feeling as if an eternity spans now and that time. This is yet another of those periods of some mystery which I have wanted more color to be added to the sparse bits that I know. As a non-scholar, I don’t really have reasonable access to what has been written about this as little of it trickles into popular publications and I only ever end up reading a very tiny handful of books meant for scholars and none of the journals (though would any of these be worth my while to subscribe to? I’d love to know).

    Suggestion — the recently late Maurice Casey might be one of the very few non-fundamentalist/non-conservative/non-evangelical scholars who propose relatively early dates for Mark and Matthew — though he remains mainstream for Luke and John. He has a chapter in his final book, “Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?” laying out his argument. He may simply be reiterating the arguments of James Crossley (he mentions Crossley a few times) — and Crossley has advocated early dating on the same basic premises and has written at least one book on it which I haven’t read. I’m thinking Crossley isn’t a conservative either, having been another to have debated William Lane Craig on the resurrection. In short, while I’m not sure what to make of this particular argument for early dating (I accept the mainstream dating but see this argument as interesting), I’d really love to see a more qualified critical treatment of it.

  12. Avatar
    MilkyWay  August 13, 2014

    This is a fantastic next book idea! One of the most interesting things I found in some of your books are about the oral tradition. In one you talked about Paul’s earliest letter, 1 Thessalonians, and although it was written around 50 (?) there was a part that was likely in oral tradition for at least a decade before.

    Please stress the fact that although those gospel’s date to 70-95 we don’t have those originals. The earliest copy on the Gospel of Mark is from about 250 CE. For some reason I think people believe we have the original copies!

  13. Avatar
    Matilda  August 13, 2014

    Sounds great. I like to think of things like this in terms of a kaleidoscope where the parts are the same but change around to form different patterns. I think this happens with language, with ideas like religious ones, and well, with life itself. I’m so glad you are here doing the work Bart.

  14. Avatar
    toddfrederick  August 13, 2014

    Regarding you proposed book on oral tradition…that issue is perhaps the #1 topic of interest to me. I will look forward to your book and hope you will share some of its progress as you research and write it. Thank you.

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    KenUmbach  August 13, 2014

    Another book I look forward to!

  16. Robertus
    Robertus  August 13, 2014

    “But almost everyone agrees that Mark dates to around the end of the Jewish War (66-70 CE). The ***only ones*** who consistently have argued otherwise are fundamentalists and very conservative evangelicals, who very much want Mark, our earliest Gospel, to be closer to the time of Jesus.”

    Maurice Casey must be rolling over in his grave right about now. Obviously, practically no critical exegetes agreed with him, but Maurice was certainly no evangelical fundametalist.

    “Matthew and Luke then were probably somewhere between these two (since they used Mark and must date after 70 CE, but seem to be older than John and so ***must*** be earlier than 90 CE) – so say 80 or 85 CE.

    There’s a growing view among scholars that Luke might have been considerably later and Brent Nongbri’s work on p52 has eliminated a frequently misused reason for dating of the gospel of John to the first century.

  17. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 13, 2014

    yes that is very important
    like for example if it was written by the wittness them selves there would be no confusion from
    when jesus was with them he can say one thing with body language but the author has written or displayed
    different from the true positive intention. and as well as text take out the emotion of what jesus what feeling, but by words we are to interpret what he was saying words that trigger emotions
    lets take the last supper have not researched ” the disciple ? that stated ” surley you don’t mean me ”
    ok if jesus was looking at him he found out then,
    and we would know thee true story just off that one line by adding body language and emotion.
    and we wouldn’t need to have found the jospel of judas just another example of why it is important that we interpret thee closet we can to the original wittness accounts

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    doug  August 13, 2014

    I wonder how much accurate info about Jesus survived, given that most of his ministry was in small towns, there were no microphones to help people hear what he was saying, and probably few who saw and/or heard him thought at the time that he was a prophet, much less the messiah. And it’s doubtful that anyone was taking notes at the time. Altho I wonder when someone first began writing down info about Jesus’ life and teachings (as opposed to writing about theology – he died for our sins, he rose from the dead, he’s coming back, etc.).

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    TrevorN  August 13, 2014

    In “telephone” the message (or “signal”) gets passed linearly from ear to mouth to ear to mouth. Forty years of that would lead to enormous changes in the signal text as anyone who has played “telephone” will attest. This probably isn’t a good analogy though because the first century traditions came from multiple sources – there were many competing signals.
    In one way this is far better than “telephone”, because differences in the signal text can be easily picked up by comparison and outlier signals identified and discarded. That’s when the motivation of the receptors is to keep the signal pure. But of course there is a competing motivation which operates to change the signal text even more effectively than “telephone” does. This is the motivation to tell the best possible version of the message, the one which is more persuasive or more dramatic.
    In the marketplace of alternative tellings of the story, the “most accurate” account is likely to lose ground to the “most memorable”.

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    JTShaw  August 13, 2014

    Do you anticipate engaging with April DeConick’s ideas about oral traditions? I found her take on the Gospel of Thomas (“a rolling corpus, or aggregate of sayings that represent different moments in the life and
    history of the early Thomasine community”) pretty persuasive. She strikes me as one of the sharpest scholars working in the area.

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