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My Pod Cast Interview with Sam Harris

On May 1, 2018 I was interviewed by Sam Harris for his podcast “Waking Up.”  Ostensibly the interview was to be about my book “The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World” but we covered a wide range of topics, from my autobiography to numerous substantive issues, including the nature of miracles, the composition of the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus, the question of heaven and hell, the book of Revelation, the End Times, contradictions in the Bible, the concept of a messiah, whether Jesus actually existed, and the conversion of Constantine! Now *that’s* a lot to talk about in a single interview!

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  1. Avatar
    mcmemmo  January 4, 2019

    I am an Ivy League educated person with a Ph.D in the Social Sciences and psychometrics in particular. My opinion is that Sam Harris is an idiot. The TRUTH is that the odds the Jesus literally rose from the dead is either 0 or 1 – either he did or he didn’t. However, we can’t KNOW the TRUTH about ANY event from the past – not even our own memories or perceptions. We can only construct probabilities of what is likely to have happened. These could be .9999, but never 0 or 1 – there will ALWAYS be some degree of uncertainly. Given the number of people who will have lived and died until the human species is extinct – the claim that only ONE rose from the dead is not statistically impossible. It may even be more likely than that the universe that emerged from the big bang would be fine tuned to ultimately support a self-aware carbon based life-form like us – something I hope we all agree did happen. So while I find the anti-intellectualism of fundamentalist Christians to be tiresome, I find the pompous intellectualism of Sam Harris to be equally annoying. What a Ph.D gives truly intelligent people is a profound sense of humility from gaining insight into the depths of your own ignorance. Sam Harris seems to have missed that lesson. Your patience with him is admirable.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      Ha! I get it. But he’s not an idiot. He simply is *completely* invested in the scientific method and can’t get his mind around other ways to understand either history or religion. That’s especially clear in his book The End of Faith. He’s actually very smart and well read. But sometimes a person is in a paradigm and it proves determinative for how *everything* is looked at. For me it’s a bit like using a sledgehammer to turn a screw.

      • Avatar
        nichael  January 6, 2019

        Yes, I think this gets it exactly right; i.e. Harris –and others– being so heavily invested in a method which is exactly the right technique in its approropriate domain (Science) but then assuming it is the correct technique for use in any and all other situations.

        I’ve couched the problem in terms of literalism. That is, the fundamentalist Christians who base their faith on a belief in the strict historicity of the Bible. And the fundamentalist atheists who basically claim that, because the underlying texts and myths don’t represent factual history, then religion can’t possibly have any value. I think both are wrong for the same reason: they’re badly misunderstanding what’s going on here.

        And speaking of scientists:
        Do you know Stephen Jay Gould’s book on this topic “Rocks of Ages”? (To oversimplify –a lot– his thesis is that Science –dealing with factuality– and Religion –dealing with, for want of a better word, faith– each do a great job in their respective domains, but they each are dealing what are ultimately quite separate things, each with their own measures for “success”. But, needless to say, he says it a lot better than I do.)

        In any case, most highly recommended.

      • Avatar
        godspell  January 6, 2019

        It’s fine to be invested in the scientific method, but I can’t help but note that Sam Harris isn’t trained as a scientist, but as a philosopher. He got a degree in neuroscience very recently, and consider me skeptical he’s achieving any eminence in that field.

        Dawkins is a scientist, but he’s a theoretician, meaning that he deals primarily with ideas, ways of thinking about the known facts on how life evolves–his main idea, of ‘selfish genes’ is really just an elaboration of an idea by George C. Williams. Apparently his field got boring for him, and he found a new career as a lay preacher. 😉

      • Avatar
        mcmemmo  January 6, 2019

        OK, how about “sophmoric” instead of “idiot”? His comment about John the Baptist was like 🤦

      • Avatar
        SHameed01  July 26, 2020

        Professor he may not be an idiot, but he still has a lot of homework to do. For example in one speech he was talking about how Old Testament violence is problematic for Christians and that the argument that we live under the dispensation of grace does not work. In that same context if I recall correctly he also ended up using some church father as evidence that heretics can get burned, while failing to prove that this individual is in any an infallible doctrinal authority in Christianity and failing to also acknowledge that different groups of Christians don’t define doctrine in the same way. The problem is not with the Bible or with Christianity since both have been and still are subjected to different interpretation. And I also honestly go further on. The problems with Sam Harris cannot be undermined or trivialized.

    • Avatar
      turbopro  January 6, 2019

      “My opinion is that Sam Harris is an idiot.”

      How is the above a representation of humility?

      And, what are “truly intelligent people”? Are these a special type of home sapien, or another species from the homo genus?

    • Avatar
      HawksJ  January 6, 2019

      Has Sam said, definitively, that an alleged historical event did or did not happen with 100% certainty? I’d love to see a citation on that.

      Or, are you upset that he draws conclusions about the nature of reality based on the same notions of historical probability that you champion above?

      Can you explain, for the benefit of the unwashed public University-educated, how you differ from Sam?

    • Avatar
      Kirktrumb59  January 7, 2019

      Dr. Mcmemmo, I’ve admittedly yet to listen to the entire podcast, so I’ve so-far no referent to Dr. E’s “sledgehammer to turn a screw” comment.
      I’ve read Harris’ book. Not an idiot.
      I’m a neurologist.
      As with any argument, definitions matter, in this case the definition of “dead” or “death.”
      My understanding of “dead,” I suppose, could differ from yours.
      We don’t and can’t know at what point Jesus was “dead.” But from that point on, at least in my universe, probability, quantum or otherwise, disappears and statistics become irrelevant. The probability that Jesus or anyone else has ever “risen” is: zero

      • Bart
        Bart  January 8, 2019

        This didn’t come up in the interview. I simply meant that epistemology is a complex field (as Harris knows full well, of course!), and that scientific ways of knowing aren’t applicable to other realms of “knowledge” (or at least “thinking”). But I agree with you: if someone is really, truly dead (not nearly dead), they cannot return to life. Just can’t happen.

    • Avatar
      SidDhartha1953  January 9, 2019

      I won’t argue probability, but Harris’s behavior on his podcasts is a darned sight more grown up than when he used to hang out with the other Three Horsemen. He actually wants to understand what makes religious people tick. I found his questions honest and relevant. Hopefully his skills as an interviewer will continue to improve.

      • Bart
        Bart  January 11, 2019

        Yes, I too thought he really was refreshingly interested in knowing what made religious people tick.

    • Avatar
      paulfchristus  March 2, 2019

      “given the number of people who will have lived and died until the human species is extinct – the claim that only ONE rose from the dead is not statistically impossible.”

      There were many resurrections in the Bible. There are also many resurrections in many other myths and religions. So resurrections seem to happen all the time in ancient history, not just once.

      Elijah resurrected the son of a widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24).
      Elisha resurrected the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-35).
      A dead man came back to life when he touches Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21).
      Jesus resurrected the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-15).
      Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, a Synagogue leader from the dead (Matthew 9:18-25, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56).
      Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44).
      Many saints were resurrected at the death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:50-53).
      The resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:5-7).
      Peter raised a female disciple named Tabitha from the dead at Joppa (Acts 9:36-42).
      Paul raised Eutychus from the dead at Troas (Acts 20:6-12).
      Paul was revived from a near-death condition. (Acts 14:19-20).

  2. Avatar
    fishician  January 4, 2019

    Good interview. I’m curious: has anyone undertaken a study of Biblical scholars and whether their studies affect their religious beliefs over time? Like, become more liberal or conservative, move away from or to fundamentalism, deconvert altogether, etc. Or perhaps you have an opinion on whether there is an effect over time?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      Not that I know of, at least in terms of modern scholars. It would be a fascinating study. Very few move from non-belief to belief on the basis of study; lots of conservative Christians, though, change their views once they are exposed to scholarship. Happens a *lot*.

  3. Avatar
    mcmemmo  January 4, 2019

    Do you think Jesus really said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” as Paul reports (1 Cor. 11:25), or do you think this verse is a later interpolation? For me, the entire notion of whether or not Jesus intended to start something fundamentally new in terms of a “religion” hinges on whether he actually said what his earliest followers told Paul he said.

    If this verse was written before the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, then what the earliest followers of Jesus were doing by ritually drinking a cup of his “blood” would have been totally subversive to the sacrificial system of Second Temple Judaism. Jewish priests used the blood (i.e., life) of a pure victim to cleanse the space that the Spirit of God would inhabit in the Temple. By having his followers drink HIS blood, Jesus was either mocking this practice or fundamentally changing the location of the Holy of Holies. Either way, he was shutting down the old Temple based religion and starting something fundamentally new. At the very least, his earliest followers saw it that way.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      It’s original to Paul. I doubt, though, whether Jesus said it (25 years earlier) Yes, it would have been seen as subversive by others!

    • Avatar
      Steefen  January 8, 2019

      From this

      Psalm 27
      …7Hear, O LORD, my voice when I call; be merciful and answer me. 8My heart said, “Seek His face.” Your face, O LORD, I will seek.

      To this

      Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people.
      …I have given the blood to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar…
      Leviticus 17: 10-11

      To this
      Jesus’ remembrance in body and blood to be consumed in communion.

      That became really a sacrament of defeat and atheism in the God of Moses and David. That is Rome’s poisoning of Judaism via a created Jesus. Even Josephus calls the creation of belief in Jesus, which he recites, a calamity in the very next sentence after the Testimonium Flavianum.

      No historical character as one of the many in the Biblical Jesus said that. It was inserted to “blow up” militant messianism, a direct attack on Psalm 27 and it was inserted to neutralize the Hebrew God: God turns his back (his face away from) those who consume blood: God excommunicates those who consume blood.

      The Romans were beyond exasperation with the Jewish religion used by Zealots. The Zealots likely set fire to Rome as Nero’s investigation uncovered: the Zealots definitely thought God was destroying Rome; 2) the Zealots attacked Legion 12 to begin their First Jewish Roman War, 3) then their infighting produced a Civil War which gave Rome a second reason to march on Jerusalem. When Rome got to Jerusalem, the Civil War had taken over the Temple with leaders of the Civil War killing high priests at the Temple and Civil War factions holed up inside the Temple.

      The cannibalistic nature of body and blood remembrance is a commemoration of the cannibalism that occurred when the Jews were under siege by Civil War and by sieges in their past: Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. Deuteronomy 28: 53

      With Jesus being a composite character of historical fiction, some of the characters in his composition were real, so we ask did any of the historical characters in the Biblical Jesus say this, that, or the other thing.

  4. Avatar
    KSS  January 4, 2019

    Bart…on YT I just noticed Joseph Atwill. What are your thoughts on his view that the Roman Flavians treated Christianity to control the Jews? I’d never heard that before. Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      I’m afraid it’s completely bogus. He just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  January 8, 2019

        It is not completely bogus because you first need to read Jesus was Caesar by Framcesco Carotta.

        Second, Rome did poison Judaism via a created Jesus. Even Josephus calls the creation of belief in Jesus, which he recites, a calamity in the very next sentence after the Testimonium Flavianum.

        Christianity was created to undermine militant messianism and make a non-violent messiah.

        The Romans were beyond exasperation with the Jewish religion used by Zealots because the Zealots likely set fire to Rome as Nero’s investigation uncovered: the Zealots definitely thought God was destroying Rome; 2) the Zealots attacked Legion 12 to begin their First Jewish Roman War, 3) then their infighting produced a Civil War which gave Rome a second reason to march on Jerusalem. When Rome got to Jerusalem, the Civil War had taken over the Temple with leaders of the Civil War killing high priests at the Temple and Civil War factions holed up inside the Temple.

        I read Joseph Atwill’s book Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus.

        I gave it an amazon reader review of 2 out of 5 stars because only 5 of 18 sections of his book earned an A- to an A+ from me. As for the other 13 sections, one of them got an F.

        Nevertheless, it is not completely bogus: I highly recommend reading Chapter 3, Chapter 9, and Chapter 11 of the book (which I gave a 2-star rating).

        I will be evaluating this book again probably two weeks from now.

        • Avatar
          Steefen  January 11, 2019

          The Romans were beyond exasperation with the Jewish religion used by Zealots because the Zealots likely set fire to Rome as Nero’s investigation uncovered: the Zealots definitely thought God was destroying Rome; 2) the Zealots attacked Legion 12 to begin their First Jewish Roman War, 3) then their infighting produced a Civil War which gave Rome a second reason to march on Jerusalem. When Rome got to Jerusalem, the Civil War had taken over the Temple with leaders of the Civil War killing high priests at the Temple and Civil War factions holed up inside the Temple.

          So, Christianity was created to undermine militant messianism and make a non-violent messiah.


          Hmmmm. The Jews were not Rome’s only opponents when they got to Jerusalem. General Titus, son of General Vespasian, later Emperor Vespasian, fought against the Idumeans and “help from beyond the Euphrates” which probably meant Adiabenic Parthia and/or Edessa in Upper Mesopotamia. Long story short: The Manu roayal line from this area can be traced back to King Monobaz and Queen Helena who converted to Judaism.

          Furthermore, Rome was well aware that Jerusalem’s population swelled during High Holidays. So Christianity was created to undermine not only local militant messianism but the non-violent messiah was a Roman icon against those at-large who could be sympathizers lending support to the culture of zealotry.

          Jerusalem was reduced in size at the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. So, the Gospels were written in Greek not only for the Hebrew university at Yavne, but for Alexandrian Jews and converts to Judaism, and as we know from Paul’s travels, for Asia Minor and the Jews and converts to Judaism there. The Roman Empire had a Commune Asiae, the Asia Minor Council which regulated not new religions and new gods (which the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciundis handled, with the Emperor being one of the 15) but the worship of the emperor.

          Conclusion: Christianity was created to undermine militant messianism by making a non-violent messiah worthy of the cult of Julius Caesar which was joined with the cult of Caesar Augustus. This is why there is evidence of the biography of Julius Caesar in the gospels and Christian traditions (ex.: Caesar’s wife holding Caesar’s dead body becomes the mother of Jesus holding the dead Jesus in the Pieta who really is too young in the statue to be anything more than a wife, not a mother).

  5. Avatar
    nichael  January 4, 2019

    >>”Sam Harris discusses with Bart Ehrman about his experience of being a born-again Christian….”

    This reminds of a somewhat off-topic question I’ve wondered about.

    In other places (e.g. in your books) you’ve written of having “had a born-again experience in high school…”

    Is this –the details of the experience itself– something you’d be comfortable describing?

    (On the other hand, if you’ve addressed this in detail elsewhere, please feel free to give a pointer.)

    ((On the other –third?– hand, if this is too personal and/or you’d rather not get into this for other reasons, please feel free to skip over this question altogether.))

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      I was going to refer you to a couple of my books, but I realize that there I don’t ever actually explain what happened. Seems like I did once on the blog. I’ll look!

      • Avatar
        nichael  January 6, 2019

        (I’ll just mention I’m pretty sure it’s not in any of the books; I’ve read just about everything I can get my hands on and I don’t remember it. Maybe in the blog, but so far I’ve hot had any luck searching. Thanks.)

  6. Avatar
    Lopaka  January 4, 2019

    If the historical Jesus said in the “sheep and goats” speech that people from all nations would be judged on their treatment of others, rather than on what they professed about God or did in his name, isn’t Paul’s and the early Christian idea that calling on Jesus name or confessing him as savior being the only factor in your salvation rather than how you treat people a complete contradiction or rejection of Jesus’ idea?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      I’d say it does stand at odds with Paul’s view. If helping others in need could bring salvation, for Paul, there’d have been no point in Christ dying (notice: the sheep not only don’t believe in Christ; they’ve never even seen or heard of him before!)

      • Avatar
        mcmemmo  January 6, 2019

        It blew my mind the first time I heard you point that out about the sheep. I can honestly say it was a turning point in my understanding of the Gospel. The way I see it, this passage essentially rules out the doctrine of Sole Fide. How could the 16th century reformers and so many Protestants today not realize it?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 7, 2019

          My guess is they’ve never been pushed to think about it!

  7. Avatar
    EldonTyrell  January 4, 2019

    I just joined the blog, and the Sam Harris interview is what introduced me to Dr Ehrman. I must say, it’s good to be here!

  8. Avatar
    HawksJ  January 4, 2019

    If I believed in heaven, the experience would be something like listening to that podcast.

    My two favorite intellectuals in the entire world, talking about the most interesting topics.

    Speaking of podcasts…as I’ve mentioned before, the first time I ever heard of you was on “Unbelievable”. Just a few weeks ago, Justin re-aired that very first interview since he was busy with something else that week. It brought back fond memories and made me reflect on how much I’ve learned from you since.

    Thank you for all that you do, Dr. Ehrman!

  9. Avatar
    Hume  January 5, 2019

    I suggested going on Sam’s podcast last year! I should be your manager.
    Next podcast (in which gets 20 million views a month) is Joe Rogan’s. For love of everything good in this world you have to push for that one.
    Finally, you should watch ‘A.D.’ Kingdom and Empire on Netflix.

    Remember I was right about Sam! 😉

  10. Avatar
    Aion666  January 5, 2019

    Hi Bart, l listened to the fascinating interview with Sam Harris and was intrigued by your spontaneous laughter when making polemic points about the paradoxes of orthodox and so-called heretical beliefs.

    It reminded me of your revelation that Jesus laughs a lot in the good news of Judas, and if memory (the mother of all my musing or rumination, if you will) serves me well, that there is some notion of Judas being a ‘twin’ of Jesus?

    And l wonder, wonder I do, if Carl Jung was r. ight that if Christ is a Symbol of the Self, then is Judas a Symbol (as in the Parable Teachings of the truly Wise) of the subconscious Self & self-betrayal?

    And from a Greek perspective on apocaliptic Self-Revelation, why does Plato, famous for his Allegory of a Cave, confess a fear of seeing himself as nothing but Words?

    Why does Jesus quote Isaiah on the common perception of ‘they,’ who in no ‘wise’ perceive?

    And last but not least, why would the great mythologies scholar Joseph Campbell say; the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek?

    Campbell also said that The Apocalypse is about the end of days, when humanity is ruled by fear and ignorance, and some wise Buddhists even suggest that the apocaliptic (to uncover, reveal) spirit of science is actually fulfilling the prophecy of Christ-Time.

    But HOW would Buddhists know ‘what’ time is? They often refuse to be ‘attached’ to our Christian ‘concept’ of a calender, and ask silly uncommon-sense questions like “what is time, and ‘how’ can it end?”

    While an old Yoda-like monk once asked me; “Human Being You Are, No?” “You Walk and you talk, No?” “Tell me if you can, how do you do that.”

    And l had to be authentically honest rather that authoritatively egoic and confess, “l don’t know.”

    Which instantaneously brought an ‘image’ of Temple wisdom to my mind’s eye, which seem to reside within a place that is interpreted as “the place of a skull,” and l saw the words; Know Thyself.

    And my head ‘reflexively’ bowed in shame, knowing just how much l previously imagined that l truly knew myself because l can remember numbers, letters of a language alphabet, and the words language skills create.

    Although, l confess that this comment comes after decades of contemplation on the existential psychiatrist R. D Laing’s comment: “We are all in a post-hypnotic trance induced during infancy.”

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      Too many questions for me to address! But in response to the first one, I have to admit I’ve never been drawn to Jung and his views.

  11. Avatar
    godspell  January 5, 2019

    Can’t say I think much of Harris’ interview style, but I understand it’s not his main gig. (Does he understand that? He seems to be going for the NPR voice. It’s not working.)

    You are familiar, of course, with the long tradition in evangelical Chrisitianity of converts talking about their past sins and follies, all the things they used to believe that they don’t anymore, now they’ve seen the light.

    Do you ever get that old familiar feeling when you do these interviews?


    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      Do you mean in respect to him? No, I’d say he’s been an inveterate scientist from birth, and can’t quite get his mind around religious experience.

      • Avatar
        godspell  January 6, 2019

        No, I meant did it feel like you were testifying. In the religious sense. Bad joke. Never mind.

    • Avatar
      HawksJ  January 6, 2019

      “It’s not working.”

      I think his manager, accountant, and investment advisors would disagree with you.

  12. Avatar
    gbsinkers  January 5, 2019

    Two thumbs up! Thoroughly enjoyed the wide ranging topics. Near the end there was a question from one of Sam’s followers about essentially the deconversion process and ramifications. You’ve touched on that in your blog and in at least one of your books that I am aware of. It has been 4 years now since I first read literature that allowed me to begin to see for myself the truths about the bible and also led me to your prolific writings. The sum of which caused me to walk away from my Christian faith. It has not been easy. There are times I long for my old faith, but once having seen the truth I cannot unsee it and cannot pretend. It is very much like finding out there is no Santa Claus but with bigger ramifications. My wife simply won’t discuss it with me. I haven’t told my adult kids who are Christians (because we raised them in a Christian home). I still attend a weekly men’s Christian small group (one that I started) where thankfully they allow me to voice what I have learned. I don’t try to deconvert them but I do try to impart the knowledge I have gained from you and other sources. I often forward them PDF copies of your posts that I find particularly interesting. My point is that deconversion is difficult and I think you should add to your list of future trade books a short biopic of your deconversion story, the struggles, the time it takes, the ramifications, etc. I could not find any resources in print or online that discuss this. I think the closest thing out there are books on loss/grief. Because let’s face it, losing one’s faith takes you through some difficult times and having a resource to help you as you go through it would be a good thing.

    • Avatar
      heccubus  January 8, 2019

      I think a helpful resource for you on your journey out of faith might be an organization called ‘Recovering From Religion’ .
      I’m not sure of the rules here around posting links so I’ll refrain but a quick Google search should take you to them.

  13. Avatar
    Spiral  January 5, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I enjoyed listening to your podcast interview with Sam Harris. But my question is unrelated to that. Perhaps you have responded to this question before, perhaps in a debate with a fundamentalist Christian.

    You make the case that we do not have the original New Testament manuscripts. In fact, we do not have any complete manuscripts of books that eventually became part of the New Testament until the 3rd century, correct?

    The response often given by fundamentalist Christians is this: So, you don’t believe that Socrates died by drinking hemlock? You don’t believe that Julius Caesar was Emperor? You don’t believe that Plato wrote Plato’s Republic? The manuscripts for Jesus are superior in quality to the manuscripts for other historical figures.

    This is sort of a sneak way of convincing people that if they don’t accept Jesus (his historicity or divinity?) than you don’t believe anything about ancient history. I am guessing that you aren’t a scholar of ancient Greece. But in a debate with a fundamentalist Christian, it’s often tempting to pretend to be one simply to swat away these silly arguments.

    What do you think is the best argument in response to this? Do your friends who are scholars of ancient Greek and Roman history believe that this argument has merit? Do they think that since we don’t have writings by Socrates that in order to believe that Socrates died from drinking hemlock, one must be a fundamentalist Christian?


    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      You inspired today’s post! (And yes, I’ve long been interested in questions about the historical Socrates)

  14. Avatar
    Hume  January 5, 2019

    What diet do you follow the most? Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, Plant-Based?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      Mediterranean, all the way. Love it. Lost a pound a week for seven months, and keep it off. Change of lifestyle, not a “diet” to try….

  15. Avatar
    Hume  January 6, 2019

    I’m reading John Casey’s ‘Afterlives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory”. He says Judaism originated from Canaanite religion. The Canaanites had a Pantheon in which the presiding God was El. The ancient Israelites Incorporated some of the character of El in their own tribal God, YHWH. Do you agree with this?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      It’s pretty complicated, but yes, El and Baal were major deities in the Canaanite pantheon, and the Israelites both borrowed and transformed aspecdts of the culture/religion they emerged out of.

      • Avatar
        Boltonian  January 6, 2019

        Don’t Finkelstein and Silberman in the Bible Unearthed suggest that Israelites were Canaanites? Their view is that there is little evidence of intrusion and Canaan in the Late Bronze Age (13thC BC) was poor and undefended, the settlements there being vassals of Egypt. The major invasion (or series of invasions) came a century later with the arrival of the ‘Sea Peoples,’ who devastated the whole of the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, Hattusas and the Mycenean civilization. Israel, according to their hypothesis, arose much later. The Israelites were not necessarily a separate people from the native Canaanites but perhaps represented a religious and cultural development or divergence and lived in the north of the region. Friedman, in ‘Who Wrote the Bible,’ proposed that the Torah and Joshua was a cobbled together attempt at a forging one (compromise?) belief system from at least two separate traditions, which occurred after the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians.

        • Bart
          Bart  January 7, 2019

          Yes, that’s right. And I pretty much agree with them.

      • Avatar
        brandon284  July 9, 2019

        Hi Dr. Ehrman. I know the OT isn’t your area of focus but do you think you could expound on this idea that the Israelites borrowed from Canaanite religion? Fascinating!

  16. Avatar
    osman  January 6, 2019

    hello prof ehrman.

    i have a unrelated question to this post.

    in the new testament we see that the jews are held responsible for the death of jesus. but if christians think jesus had to die to bring salvation, then shouldnt christians be thankful to jews for doing gods will? instead we see rampant antijewish sentiments in the new testament and later.

    i would appreciate if you could make a separate post on this.

    • Avatar
      osman  January 6, 2019

      and the same for judas, he was surely also doing gods will?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 6, 2019

      Yes, that point is often raised. So too about Judas: wasn’t he doing God’s will? Christians typically say that there is a balance between God’s will and human responsibility/behavior/culpability. But of course it leads to huge problems. If God made them do it, why are they at fault? Or did he simply *know* they would do it?

      • Avatar
        doug  January 6, 2019

        And if an all-knowing, all-powerful God knew Judas would do it, then God chose to let Judas do it.

      • Avatar
        hankgillette  January 8, 2019

        The same would be true of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. He was willing to let the Israelites leave several times before the Passover, but the Lord repeatedly hardened his heart, just to show his power. How could Pharaoh be held responsible for his actions, when he was being controlled by Yahweh?

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      Kirktrumb59  January 7, 2019

      Melito of Sardis (died roughly 180 or so CE). A bishop, maybe a former Jew. I used to know chapter & verse as it were but have forgotten. Melito’s essential argument: yeah yeah it was god’s will /plan for Jesus to die, bear the sins of the world, etc., but it wasn’t for you (i.e., the Jews) to accomplish this, to goad the Romans into killing my/our god. I don’t know whether Melito assigns this responsibility, i.e., being the instrument of god’s intention, preferably to another person or group or entity. My guess: nope, but would love to be educated.

      • Bart
        Bart  January 8, 2019

        Melito actually accuses Jews of deicide, the first Christian on record to have done so.

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    JohnKesler  January 6, 2019

    You state that 1 Corinthians14:34-35 is an interpolation. I know the argument for this: that this would contradict Paul’s other statements about women, e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:5. 1) Is there any manuscript evidence that these verses are interpolated? 2) Any other evidence for interpolation?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 7, 2019

      There is one manuscript that places the verses after v. 40, and some scholars have speculated that teh verses originated as a marginal note by a scribe, which some copyists then put after v. 33 and others after v. 40. The other key point is that if you take the verses out, the argument flow much more naturally, so they seem intrusive (both before and after the verses he is talking not about women but about prophecy)

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        JohnKesler  January 7, 2019

        But every manuscript of 1 Corinthians 14 contains vv.34-35, correct? It seems like a different situation from John 7:53-8:11, Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7. How did these verses get in so early if they are inauthentic?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 8, 2019

          Yes, it’s a different situation. Scholars tend to call 1 Cor. 14:34-35 an “interpolation” and the other changes to be “scribal alterations.” Important idfference. The latter is based on manuscript evidence, teh former not.

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    EldonTyrell  January 6, 2019

    Dr Ehrman,

    What was the pre-interview process with Sam Harris like? Meaning, did you guys have a preliminary chat beforehand, was there a list of topics to be covered, were any topics off limits, was there an established timeframe, etc.?

    Also, as I’ve seen others also express, it would be fantastic for you to appear on Joe Rogan’s Podcast in connection with your next book. He’s a curious, well spoken guy, albeit sometimes prone to outlier ideas (but seems happy to be pulled back with scholarship and reason). I’d look forward to hearing it!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 7, 2019

      We mainly talked about the technological difficulties I had recording the interview! I’m such a neanderthal, as he quickly came to realize….

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    hankgillette  January 7, 2019

    Is it just me, or do Bart’s posts no longer have the date associated with them? Sure, most of his posts are evergreen, but it is still nice to be able to see when it was posted.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 8, 2019

      It’s probably because you’re using a cell phone. The date appears on other devices. we’re working to get it fixed for phones as well, but there are technical problems.

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    Adam0685  January 23, 2019

    Your readers might be interested in your interview last month with KPFA.


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