18 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 518 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (18 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

My Resistance to Change at Princeton Seminary

Several people have asked me to unpack what I meant in the last sentence of yesterday’s post because, well, it doesn’t make sense.  What I was trying to say was that I had a crisis of faith in Seminary – as many people do, as it turns out – because I thought I could prove my faith claims were true (an Enlightenment position: “truth” is objective and can be proved), but the more research I did, the more I found that the facts seemed to contradict my faith claims (as many scholars of the Enlightenment had long realized).

Let me explain.  First I want to stress – in case anyone queries me on it (as people do) – that my faith ultimately, in my own head at least, was based on what I took to be a personal relationship with God through Christ.  How personal?  We talked all the time.   So, on one level, my faith was not simply a set of propositions that I thought could be demonstrated (God exists; Christ is the Son of God; Christ was physically raised from the dead; The Bible is the Inerrant Word of God; etc.); it was a relationship with a greater divine being.  That, of course, is not something that is subject to objective verification.

At the same time, this relationship was, to some extent, mediated to me through a source of revelation, the Bible.  I had come to think that the ultimate authority for what to believe and how to behave was the Bible, the holy, inspired, infallible word of God.  Now I suppose it would be impossible, really, to prove one way or the other whether God inspired the Bible.  Even if there are accommodations to the worldviews of ancient people (in stories about the origin of the world, for example), or different perspectives (say among the Gospels), or myths (such as Adam and Eve) etc. – one *could* argue (and some have) that God allowed these into the Bible for reasons of his own.

Even so, at the same time, it *would* be possible, in theory, to demonstrate…

The Rest of this Post is for Paying Members.  If you’re not a paying member, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!!  It costs much less than a Starbuck’s a month, and will perk you up far more.  So JOIN!!!

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.


How I First Realized There Are Mistakes in the Bible
My Encounter with the Enlightenment

64

Comments

  1. NewKnox  May 8, 2017

    Bart, would you say that your early indoctrination into Christianity blinded you to what was clearly in front of your eyes? What do you think is the difference from what you experienced and what young people that are being indoctrinated by radical groups? The mind is most susceptible to ideas (that turn to beliefs) between the ages of 16 and 25 and those beliefs are nearly impossible to change! I am surprised that you were able to break through. Not many do as you are well aware and I imagine that you probably have been called the antichrist by some of your students. Love you posts.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      In my case I decided that what I had earlier been told was simply open to question, and that if it were true, it should withstand rigorous investigation. My sense is that most people don’t approach faith-issues like that.

  2. talmoore
    talmoore  May 8, 2017

    All I can say is, for a book that supposedly contains the words of the creator of the universe, the Bible reads suspicously like any other book written by human beings.

  3. doug  May 8, 2017

    I once believed that faith, including belief that the Bible was inerrant, was more important than what someone claimed was knowledge of Biblical errors. It reminds me of what Martin Luther said: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has” (from “Table Talk” by Martin Luther).

  4. darren  May 8, 2017

    ” We talked all the time.” When you were ‘talking’ to Jesus, did he respond or was it a one-way conversation? And if he was responding to you, did this experience inform your argument that early Christians had hallucinations?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      I never heard an audible response, but I believed he gave me thoughts.

  5. RevJoni  May 8, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, I’m trying hard to understand why the Bible having errors, would negate everything about your faith. It makes perfect sense to me that a product written by human beings, from oral traditions of tribal people would have errors, especially the way you so often explain them. What I don’t understand is why you would throw out the baby with the bath water? You said initially in this post, that you had a “relationship” with God. Was it only the errors, and the obvious contradictions of men in this book that made you lose your relationship with God? Or did you stop believing/trusting in a “god” because your faith was based solely on this book? I would think an experience of the Divine would supercede any book, if indeed you had such an experience.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      Oh, I think you’re misunderstanding me. When I came to realize the Bible had errors, I didn’t lose my faith at all. I remained a committed Christian for many years. I’ll get to that in my posts on this thread.

  6. Robert  May 8, 2017

    It seems amazing to me that someone could begin graduate studies in theology with such evangelical assumptions. And yet, I know for a fact that your experience is not that unusual. Princeton Theological Seminary is relatively liberal, at least compared to many other seminaries in United States. Thank goodness you did not attend one of the more conservative seminaries, where your views would not have been challenged.

  7. cheito
    cheito  May 8, 2017

    DR Ehrman:

    I heard you say once, that when Paul states that he’s not lying, that you would tend to believe Paul.

    Paul testified in his writings, that Jesus appeared to him IN THE SAME MANNER that he appeared to the rest of the Apostles.

    Paul also stated that he did not receive his Gospel from any man, nor was he taught it by any human institution, but that Jesus Himself was the one who taught him the Gospel he preached.

    Paul didn’t know Peter, John, or James before he met them three years later, after he saw Jesus;
    so obviously Paul didn’t learn his teaching from them.

    I can’t objectively prove that Paul literally saw the risen Jesus, but I believe Paul is telling the truth.

    So no one can objectively prove nor disprove, that Paul saw the risen Jesus, or that God created the universe and our lives. We can only debate and argue about it.

    By faith in Paul’s testimony, in my own subjective experiences, and in what I perceive, observing nature and all things and persons in it, I believe in God, and I believe He raised Jesus from the dead with the body and the spirit.

    As for the books in the various bibles we have, (Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, etc;) each book should be looked at individually. The book of Romans is not the Gospel of Mark. The book of Revelation is not the book of Jeremiah.

    I accept Romans and Jeremiah but I don’t accept ‘Mark’ nor Revelation. Some books in our bibles have been altered more than others, and some books in our bibles are the inspiration of humans, while others, I believe, are inspired by God.

    This is how I see it DR Ehrman.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  May 9, 2017

      What’s wrong with Mark?

      • cheito
        cheito  May 13, 2017

        Patty:

        I don’t accept “Mark” for various reasons:

        1-We don’t know who wrote The Gospel of “Mark”. Mark was written anonymously.

        2- The person who wrote “Mark” was not an eyewitness. He never met Jesus.

        3-There are discrepancies and contradictions in Mark’s story when compared to the accounts of Matthew, Luke and John

        Dr Ehrman points out a few differences, (i.e. contradictions) between the Gospels, in his blog, ‘How I First Realized There Are Mistakes in the Bible:

        Mark says that Jesus was crucified the day after the Passover meal was eaten (Mark 14:12; 15:25) and John says he died the day before it was eaten (John 19:14)

        Luke indicates in his account of Jesus’ birth that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth just over a month after they had come to Bethlehem (and performed the rites of purification; Luke 2:39), whereas Matthew indicates they instead fled to Egypt (Matt. 2:19-22)

        I don’t believe Mark is historically accurate.
        I don’t believe that Mark is quoting Jesus accurately.
        I don’t believe Mark is the inspired word of God.

        Unlike DR Ehrman I do believe in the Gospel of John.

        I do believe Jesus is the son of God.

        • cheito
          cheito  May 13, 2017

          Note; To me the Gospel of Mark is like Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Jesus, or Like the Proto-Gospel of Thomas

    • Petter Häggholm  May 10, 2017

      I heard you say once, that when Paul states that he’s not lying, that you would tend to believe Paul./blockquote>
      Which of course doesn’t make Paul right. You can be honest but honestly mistaken, by (e.g.) being deceived by others, mistaking experiences, &c.

      Paul testified in his writings, that Jesus appeared to him IN THE SAME MANNER that he appeared to the rest of the Apostles.

      To my mind, this suggests that the disciples also had visionary experiences of Jesus, like the one Paul reports, and not physical encounters as reported in the post-Markan gospels. I expect many Christians would argue the other way, but you can’t arrive at that conclusion from Paul without reading the gospels into him.

      Paul also stated that he did not receive his Gospel from any man, nor was he taught it by any human institution, but that Jesus Himself was the one who taught him the Gospel he preached.

      Paul didn’t know Peter, John, or James before he met them three years later, after he saw Jesus;
      so obviously Paul didn’t learn his teaching from them.

      And apparently he was at odds with them at some points…

      It doesn’t seem very surprising or remarkable if they shared a common core of beliefs. They all started out as religious Jews, so they had the bulk of their beliefs, and cultural context, in common. Additionally, if Paul really did spend his time persecuting the heresy of the Jesus movement before he converted to it himself, then presumably he learned something about their beliefs in the course of persecution—and even before: if he thought they were heretical and blasphemous, he must first have learned what their beliefs were, in order to judge them heretical!

      Given that they already shared a core of Jewish beliefs, and that Paul must have known something about proto-Christian beliefs before he converted, and given that his message resulted in some clashes with the Jerusalem church, is there anything here that cannot be explained by a visionary experience that (a) convinced him that the Christian beliefs he already knew were right, and (b) inspired his own innovations?

      • cheito
        cheito  May 12, 2017

        Peter:
        Your comment:

        To my mind, this suggests that the disciples also had visionary experiences of Jesus, like the one Paul reports, and not physical encounters as reported in the post-Markan gospels. I expect many Christians would argue the other way, but you can’t arrive at that conclusion from Paul without reading the gospels into him.

        My comment:

        In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8- Paul states that Jesus appeared first to Cephas, then to the twelve, after that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, then He appeared to James and to the rest of the apostles. and last of all He appeared to him, i.e. Paul.

        How likely is it that all these people had a visionary experience of Jesus and not a literal physical one?
        There were more than five hundred people, and Paul says that some of them were still alive.

        Paul must have met some of them. Paul certainly met Peter, John and James three years after He believed in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

        Peter, John and James knew Jesus before he was crucified. If they accepted Paul, it was most likely because they believed that Jesus has also appeared to Him.

        Paul doesn’t say that all these people had a vision of Jesus, He states simply that Jesus appeared to them. And that Jesus also appeared to Him. He never mentions the word vision.

        Also, when Jesus appeared to Paul, He didn’t know the apostles of Christ. He hadn’t met them yet.
        Paul was not mourning the death of Jesus. Why would Paul have a visionary experience of Jesus?
        Paul was trying to destroy the church.

        Considering the type of person Paul was, it makes a lot of sense, that the only way Paul would believe in Christ, is if he saw Christ for himself. I believe that’s exactly what happened.

        Jesus appeared to Paul, and Paul states that it was this Jesus who taught him the Gospel that He was preaching. Paul did not learn it from Peter, John, James nor any other person.

  8. zipzom  May 8, 2017

    Within me there is a battle between rational logic and the emotional pull of Christianity. On a logical level, I approach everything with an attitude of scepticism. This means maintaining an attitude that includes a questioning mind, and a critical examination and evaluation of what is presented. I sincerely do appreciate your blog, books, and debates that are most thought provoking. Reading about your journey from faith to agnosticism is most interesting.
    On a more emotional level, I feel drawn to the attraction of the faith. I enjoy the Christian worship songs, prayer and the company of others who share a belief in more than themselves and have a hope for eternity. I doubt that “God” intervenes through prayer, but perhaps prayer like meditation changes something within one or others. “God” does seem far away when there is much pain and suffering in the world. Heaven, if it does exists, sounds attractive, and one can take out an “insurance policy” just in case. In other words, I think there is greater risk for the unbeliever than the believer.

    • ajlandt  May 9, 2017

      There are thousands of religions in the world. Taking out just one “insurance policy”, as you put it, seems hardly enough when you’re ignoring all of the other possibilities. What if one of the other religions is right?

  9. Chuck205  May 8, 2017

    i used to be able to convert these postings to pdf for easier reading. Not sure what has changed.

  10. mjt  May 8, 2017

    What I really can’t figure out is–there are people in your exact position, who get just as much training as you’ve had, and they remain conservative or even evangelical. Do you have an explanation of how that happens? It can’t just be presuppositions. It’s just too clear that conservative bible scholars are in the wrong. As a layman I hesitate to be that sure…but I’m sure.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      Yes indeed, lots of such folks. It’s hard for me to get my head around too, after all these years….

  11. J--B  May 8, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Could you describe what those conversations with God (“We talked all the time.”) were like?

  12. BrianUlrich  May 8, 2017

    How would you explain pre-Enlightenment views of truth? I admit this is something I grapple a lot with, especially in trying to teach about the Enlightenment shift to students, and so I am hoping you have a good, understandable explanation that I can simply steal.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      Wow. Now *that* would take a lot of posts! And I’m afraid I’m not a scholar of the history of philosophy, so I’m not the best guy to write them….

  13. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  May 8, 2017

    I suppose we all find different paths to enlightenment. Part of the reason I left fundamentalism was because I thought my pastor had misinterpreted some of the scriptures, especially when it came to the godhead and rules for hair and clothing. I also remember a “prophet” who told me that God was going to send me a husband, just the very one I was praying for. (God’s matchmaking abilities are very attractive among the youth in the UPC.) I was 24 years old before I gave up on this prophecy. I knew women who were in their 30’s, 40’s, and some who went their entire lives never meeting anyone even though they desired to be married. People would say it wasn’t God’s Will. Be faithful anyway. The real reason I think was due to the lack of social contact within the church organization and an unwillingness to date outside the faith. But I did make a conscious decision to leave and take my chances on going to hell so I could live the life that I wanted. When I made the decision to leave, my world became bigger. And since my life became better instead of worse, I knew something wasn’t quite right with what the scriptures said and the reality of my circumstances. I just didn’t know what that was exactly.

    • Wilusa  May 9, 2017

      About praying for a husband…I can’t help remembering this bit of nonsense from my youth.

      One of the things I had to read in my Catholic high school was a chapter of a novel (?) about a young Catholic girl in Canada. The chapter was titled “A Thousand Aves,” and it dealt with a French-Canadian tradition: that if you said a thousand Hail Marys on the day before Christmas, you’d get what you prayed for.

      The whole point, really, was that prayer *doesn’t* work that way. But I decided to give it a try. I actually did say a thousand Hail Marys on the day before Christmas. And what I was praying for was..I’ll say, discreetly, the “attentions” of a certain guy! An older student who probably didn’t know I existed.

      And my “experiment” proved that the author was right: the trick *didn’t* work.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  May 11, 2017

        There was a lady I knew who (supposedly) fasted 40 days to win a family member to the Lord and it worked! So, if we wanted to win someone to Christ, then we should fast 40 days. Some people believed it was a full proof plan.

        • Tony  May 13, 2017

          Patty, your emailed comment does not show on the posting. So, I just link to your earlier comment.

          You are right. Carrier does state that there were virgin births in paganism and that cultural diffusion may have lead to incorporation in Matthew and Luke. Ehrman argues that the virgin birth part were later additions to those gospels.

          I don’t see any contradictions between those two positions except that Ehrman considers the Virgin story uniquely a Christian invention (I think). Why all this impacts the existence of Jesus is beyond me. I think the Virgin story is irrelevant. Another academic squabble about small stuff. The way Ehrman raised it in a posting as proof of mythicist ignorance is questionable by motive.

          I have little doubt that early Christianity absorbed Hellenistic/pagan components. The bread an wine ritual from 1Cor 11: 23-26 is an obvious, and early, example.

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  May 14, 2017

            I think the virgin birth concept was there, but I don’t see that Jesus’ birth narrative was a copycat of some other myth floating around in the 1st century.

            I couldn’t really find where Ra or Hephaestus were connected to virgin births other than websites that didn’t provide the actual texts to read. I haven’t read the Trypho dialogue entirely either, but again, websites claiming Trypho believed Jesus as never existing pulled out one paragraph in isolation. I read the paragraphs surrounding it, and it seemed to suggest Trypho fully believed he was a real man who existed just not the Christ. I’m not positive though.

            Perseus seems to be the best case for a virgin birth I’ve found at present, but there are texts that explicitly show Danae as having sex with Zeus. The only issue I have with those texts are that they were from around 2nd century and weren’t the earlier versions. Carrier claimed virgin births were a common theme in pagan societies. I’m not convinced of that.

          • Pattycake1974
            Pattycake1974  May 15, 2017

            The comments have to be moderated before they can be seen on the blog. Yes, I realize the convo may be a fabrication in Justin’s mind to prove a point. As to this quote:
            “But Christ–if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere–is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.”

            That’s the paragraph I was referring to that’s taken out of context frequently. Trypho was specifically referring to Christ not having been born, not the man Jesus–

            xxxii — “…But this so-called Christ of yours was dishonourable and inglorious, so much so that the last curse contained in the law of God fell on him, for he was crucified.”
            xxvi -“Now show if this man be He of whom these prophecies were made.”
            xxxviii – “For you utter many blasphemies, in that you seek to persuade us that this crucified man was with Moses and Aaron, and spoke to them in the pillar of the cloud; then that he became man, was crucified, and ascended up to heaven, and comes again to earth, and ought to be worshipped.”
            xxxxix — And Trypho said, “Those who affirm him to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become Christ, appear to me to speak more plausibly than you who hold those opinions which you express. For we all expect that Christ will be a man [born] of men, and that Elijah when he comes will anoint him. But if this man appear to be Christ, he must certainly be known as man [born] of men; but from the circumstance that Elijah has not yet come, I infer that this man is not He [the Christ].”

    • Tony  May 10, 2017

      Author: Pattycake1974
      Comment:
      Carrier himself claims the virgin birth story in the gospels are from paganism, so I’m surprised that you or anyone you know wouldn’t think so too. http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11161
      Permalink: https://ehrmanblog.org/mythicists-and-the-virgin-birth-readers-mailbag-may-6-2017/
      ———————————————————
      Patty, the emailed link to your comment does not work. But, being a staunch Ehrman supporter you are easy to locate. Thank you for the link to Carrier’s blog. You misread the article. Carrier does not say that, “the virgin birth story in the gospels are from paganism”. Please read what he says carefully. Here is the text:

      “Ehrman says “we do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum [sic] in their propagandized versions).” Taken strictly literally, this sentence is true. But that is misleading, and therefore disingenuous. As such, it amounts to a straw man (at least of many mythicists; some few mythicists, the more incompetent of them, make that specific claim, but attacking only the weakest proponent of a position is precisely what makes this a fallacy). No competent mythicist makes this claim. Rather, they claim that virgin-born gods were a common phenomenon in the region at the time and dying-and-rising gods were a common phenomenon in the region at the time (in precisely the way these were not anywhere else, e.g. in ancient China), and so for Jews to suddenly start claiming they have one, too, looks pretty easily explained in terms of standard theories of cultural diffusion. (See my chapter on the origins of Christianity in The End of Christianity, ch. 2, pp. 53-74.)”

      http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11161

      • Bart
        Bart  May 12, 2017

        Yes, as you can imagine, I take offense at the claim that I was being disingenuous — given the fact that Mythicists make precisely the claim I was attacking. I suppose he simply doesn’t classify these proponents as “competent.” But who, then, is being disingenuous? As to his claim (that he somehow thinks contradicts what I was saying) that virgin-born gods were a “common phenomenon” — OK, if that’s the case, name one. Name a single god who was thought to have been born of a woman who never had had sex.

        • Tony  May 12, 2017

          According to the link above, Ra, Hephaestus, and Perseus. Justin’s dialogue defends against analogy with Perseus, which suggest that Christianity was accused of copying Perseus. Did Trypho not also argue that there was no evidence of an historical Jesus?

          Carrier also references M. David Litwa’s Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God

          https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Iesus+Deus%3A+The+Early+Christian+Depiction+of+Jesus+as+a+Mediterranean+God+

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  May 13, 2017

          “Name a single god who was thought to have been born of a woman who never had had sex.”

          Perseus

          Justin Martyr wrote about Perseus in The First Apology.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 14, 2017

            Yes, Perseus is a *possible* exception, but it depends on how you read the Danae myth. Does Zeus physically go into her? Sounds like it, but it could be read both ways. But in any event, the original Virgin Birth story we have about Jesus is simply that he fulfilled prophecy. It was not “invented” in order to come up with a man who was also God.

          • Tony  May 14, 2017

            You realize that the Trypho character likely was a literary tool. Justin is answering accusations directed against Christianity at the time. Here is “Trypho”:

            “But Christ–if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere–is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.”

            Justin gives a faith based theological response. No Jesus details countering the “groundless report”

            Means much? Who knows. But historicity dies by a thousand cuts…

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  May 14, 2017

          I think Perseus was perceived as a virgin birth in antiquity considering what Justin Martyr wrote about it, but I agree that in Jesus’ case, it showed he fulfilled prophecy.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 15, 2017

            yes, but you need to consider Justin’s personal agenda as well: he wanted to show that Christianity should not be persecuted because it said things “just like” pagan religions did, and therefore did not deserved to be punished. He had reasons to alter general perceptions of the mythical traditions to his own ends.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  May 15, 2017

          Good point concerning Justin M’s agenda

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  May 12, 2017

        Tony,
        When Carrier wrote, “No competent mythicist makes this claim,” I believe he was referring to the quote about Bart that included 3 specific elements: a virgin birth, a god dying as atonement for sin, then rising from the dead. However, concerning the virgin birth itself, Carrier wrote,” So the notion that the virgin birth was not a lift from paganism is highly improbable,” and “…it was a syncretic creation, combining those Jewish elements, with pagan, producing a hybrid…” He went on to say that the virgin birth was borrowed from paganism and the idea that a woman could still be a virgin after giving birth was entirely pagan. He doesn’t say that it’s 100% pagan because it combines Jewish elements, but basically his title sums up his thinking, “Virgin Birth: It’s Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.”

        I don’t entirely disagree with his assessment of the virgin birth story for Jesus. What I don’t believe he’s correct about is claiming that Bart is misleading people by focusing on the weakest argument by the most incompetent mythicists and is thereby being disingenuous. Mmm, no.

  14. wje  May 8, 2017

    So which error brought it all down?

  15. redshrek  May 9, 2017

    Dr. Erhman, I identify strongly with what you wrote. Growing up and being indoctrinated with fundamentalist Christian beliefs, the bible was for us without error. That is until, I learned to read the bible differently thanks to you. I remember taking your advice on reading the gospels horizontally to compare stories across the gospels. The discrepancies started coming out pretty quickly. It got to a point where the cognitive dissonance became to much for me to handle and I retreated into my fundamentalist beliefs. Stepping away from my fundamentalist beliefs was one of the hardest thing I ever did. It was not fun and in a few ways, I have scars from that process that are still healing almost 2 years later.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      Thanks for letting me know. Keep hanging in there! It gets better….

    • Adam0685  May 9, 2017

      @ redshrek – I can relate. Giving up my old conservative evangelical faith that shaped my life in a very big way (I graduated from a Bible college and did a Master’s program in religion and church and God was a big part of my life) was a terribly difficult experience that is hard to describe. I tried very hard to hold on to it. Took me a a few years to come to grips with giving it up. Time made it better for me and now I don’t even think about it much (which I thought would never happen).

  16. Silver  May 9, 2017

    “My faith ultimately, in my own head at least, was based on what I took to be a personal relationship with God through Christ. How personal? We talked all the time.”
    Looking back, do you now feel that this was something akin to a child’s imaginary friend and as such delusional and quite unhealthy? Did you ever feel that you were directly receiving answers (indeed hearing God actually speaking to you [other than just getting a sense of an answer which was, in the event, self supplied])?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 9, 2017

      I don’t think children’s imaginary friends are unhealthy at all — on the contrary! And yes, I did think God responded to me, in my head.

      • Wilusa  May 9, 2017

        I’d been thinking about the “imaginary childhood friend” parallel too, but couldn’t decide whether it would be appropriate to mention it. I agree with you that there’s nothing unhealthy about it…because, as I understand it, the child always knows the “friend” is imaginary. It’s just a game.

        If the phenomenon is real at all! I never had an “imaginary friend,” and I’ve never known anyone who said they had.

      • Silver  May 9, 2017

        Perhaps OK for a child but surely something one should leave behind.

  17. RonaldTaska  May 9, 2017

    I have also repeatedly heard the argument that God will explain all of these Bible problems to you when you get to heaven.

    Since, for me, putting it all together is the main point of all this study, this series is, for me, the very best series that you have written so far in your five years of blogging. So, please keep going! This series has the making of a really great book. It reminds me a lot of “Clear Pictures” by Reynolds Price where the author gives an autobiographical account of his intellectual journey as it was influenced by important teachers and books.

    P.S. I did not have any trouble with yesterday’s blog. It was as clear as the morning dawn.

  18. RonaldTaska  May 9, 2017

    P.S. Your religious journey is essentially my journey except you add more study and intellectual support to it.

  19. crucker  May 9, 2017

    This was posted on a physics listserv that I’m subscribed to and thought you might find it interesting in light of this discussion:

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe

  20. nbraith1975  May 9, 2017

    Bart – I used to believe the bible was without error but have come to the conclusion that it is simply a compilation of stories and letters written by men about what or who they perceive to be “God” and his son – the Messiah.

    I find nowhere in any NT writing that Jesus or any of his apostles/disciples intimated that a book would be written and attributed to being inspired by God as “his” word, which would be the foundation of a new faith/religion called Christianity.

    It is clear that Jesus told his disciples to go an “preach” the word – not compile a book.

    My problem is that this “book” has done nothing but confuse and divide Jesus’ followers into thousands of competing denominations that all claim to have the doctrines taught in the “book” figured out better than the other denominations. I can’t believe the “God of the bible” had this in mind or didn’t know this would happen.

    At this point I believe I’ll continue to study the bible as a book of stories and letters written by men about who they believe to be God and the Messiah.

    I still believe we have a creator and I will continue to try and communicate with him regarding my life and will consider what the authors of the bible have to say regarding who they believe the creator is.

    I am now more inclined to see a creator as the native Americans did. They recognized a creator through observing creation and they gave him respect and thanks for their lives and his provisions for their lives. I like the fact that they didn’t try and give him a name or go into great detail about how, when or why he created anything. And especially that they didn’t write a book about him. Isn’t it interesting how we can still know what native Americans believed about a creator without a book written by them specifically about the creator.

    I can’t prove there is or is not a creator, but am inclined by my observations and study to lean toward their being one.

    Here is a good scholarly study you may find interesting:

    “Why Abiogenesis Is Impossible”
    https://www.trueorigin.org/abio.php

    Written by Jerry Bergman who has seven degrees, including in biology, psychology, and evaluation and research, from Wayne State University, in Detroit, Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and Medical College of Ohio in Toledo. He has taught at Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, Medical College of Ohio and at other colleges and universities. He currently teaches biology, microbiology, biochemistry, and human anatomy at the college level and is a research associate involved in research in the area of cancer genetics. He has published widely in both popular and scientific journals.

  21. Boltonian  May 9, 2017

    Appositely, I am having lunch tomorrow with a dear friend who was once a committed Christian – a faith she was indoctrinated into when she was a child. We don’t usually talk about religion but I happened to mention a while ago that I was a member of your blog. I know one or two people here have mentioned the pain they felt when they chose to either leave the faith or at least to jettison fundamentalism. My friend, on the other hand, felt nothing but the joy of liberation when she realised for the first time that the historical justification for Christianity was so much hocus pocus, and that there were far simpler explanations for what might have actually occurred. I promised to lend her ‘Misquoting Jesus,’ which I shall take along with me tomorrow.

  22. rburos  May 9, 2017

    I’m hesitant to try and reproduce what might have been going on inside someone’s head, but you have mentioned several times that the Book of Job was pivotal in your journey. But as I have just been through Richard Friedman and Nahum Sarna (getting ready to hit Finkelstein and Silberman you recommended), I can’t help but wonder how your hardcore fundamentalism survived critical study of the Pentateuch to even get to Job?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 11, 2017

      I was very good at reconciling potential problems! 🙂

      • rburos  May 11, 2017

        Your entries have been very personal lately, and serve a very good purpose. You’re highlighting both academic and personal growth while still maintaining the highest professional respect for your subject and people who may disagree with your current views. Watching the news over the last four months makes me appreciate your method and manner more and more.

        It might be a fascinating if you would highlight a particular problem you reconciled at the time, and how your position on it evolved. I would be more interested in process over product though, more of a teaching us how to fish than giving us a fish we might not yet understand.

        Again, thanks for everything!

      • flcombs  May 11, 2017

        I think it also has to do with how creative someone is and how slim a chance they are willing to accept. Ever since I saw it in “Dumb and Dumber” I can’t help but think of this scene in these situations. The guy asks the woman if he has any chance with her. She says, “one in a million….”. The guy gets happy and says, “I HAVE A CHANCE!!!!”.

  23. John1003  May 11, 2017

    Once the words of the bible are proven to be man made. There is no easy path to believe any part of the bible is written by God but rather they are the philosophies of different people. Maybe Good and true philosophies but that can be said of many great atheist writers as well. Once you decided the bible was written by man and not God, on what basis did you Dr erhman decide to remain a Christian. You could have Just as easily decided at that point to be a good man. You could have still remained a theist. I guess I am asking you how you could give Christianity any more credence than any other good philosophy about how to live ? If God becomes man, gets crucified, and rises from the dead, surely he is trying to make a point. If he does not even go to the trouble to preserve the message he is trying to gve to us, which is much easier than rising from the dead. The truth of the resurrection must then be suspect. I think evangelicals would consider the Bible a miracle which gives us some evidence that a transcendent God is working and Jesus Did Rise from the Dead. You still believed in the resurrection ?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 12, 2017

      Yes, I continued to believe the basic doctrines of Christainity long after I realized the Bible had mistakes in it.

  24. jhanna2  May 23, 2017

    David Dockery has a definition of inerrancy that I find satisfactory. He writes:

    When all the facts are known, the Bible (in its original writings) properly interpreted in light of which culture and communication means had developed by the time of its composition will be shown to be completely true (and therefore not false) in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and his creation.

    Of course, all definitions can be improved upon (including the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy)

    Source: David S. Dockery, Christian Scripture: An Evangelical Perspective on Inspiration, Authority, and Interpretation (Eugene, OR: Wimpf and Stock Publishers, 1995), 64. See all of 63-66

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2017

      Is that his definition specifically of the term “inerrancy”? Or is it of “inspiration”?

You must be logged in to post a comment.