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Mythicists and the Stories Told of Jesus

Back to my debate with Robert Price this past Friday.  I started this thread by indicating that the majority of my 30-minute talk was devoted to explaining the positive evidence that I think shows beyond reasonable doubt that there was indeed a man Jesus of Nazareth.  I’ll be discussing that evidence later in the thread.  I began my talk, however, by pointing out that Mythicists often adduce arguments that simply are not very convincing.  At least to me.  The first was the topic of my last post, the idea that there was no Nazareth at the time of Jesus, which is both wrong (archaeologists have dug it) and irrelevant (if you wrongly think I was born in Topeka that doesn’t mean I don’t exist).

The second is argued with particular vim and vigor by Bob Price himself in several of his publications.  This is that virtually all the stories about Jesus (Bob would say all of the stories, I think) can be seen as modeled on stories known to early Christians, especially in the Old Testament.  If Jesus heals someone in the Gospels, that is like Elijah healing someone in 1 Kings; if Jesus can control nature by speaking a word, that is like Moses or one of the prophets doing the same thing; and so on.  The stories have been molded on the basis of familiar tales and so cannot be taken as historical.

I have never found this to be a convincing argument for lots of reasons.  For one thing…

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The Gospels and the Existence of Jesus
My Milwaukee Mythicist Debate



  1. Avatar
    moose  October 26, 2016

    Mr Ehrman, I would like you to answer a specific question from me regarding Paul! Because it seems to me like there is a connection between the OT and Paul in 1. Corinthians 15. This connection I would like to ask your opinion about.
    1. Corinthians 15 explaines this connection.
    “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.

    This is nothing more than an chronological expansion of whom the Lord(YAHWE) appeared to after he came down on Mount Sinai, on the third day in Exodus 19. I’ll show this point by point.

    1. He appeared to Cephas.
    In Exodus 19, the Lord reveals himself on the third day to Moses – Cephas/Peter. Exodus 19:16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire(…)20 The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. “Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death” – NT: “Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

    2. and then to the Twelve.
    This has always been a problematic verse, because it could imply that Peter was not numbered among the twelve, and it could imply that Judas also was present. But the real meaning is that the twelve is just a representation of the elders of Israel. Because the next time the Lord appears after that is in Exodus 24, when the Lord reveals himself to seventy of the elders of Israel. Who were the seventy? From Exodus 1: The descendants of Jacob(In Egypt) numbered seventy. The descendants of Jacob could (for the first Christians) be numbered as the seventy elders, or the twelve tribes of Israel. In fact, in the story of Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish, the number of disciples are now seven. And these seven disciples refer to the same incident. We see this again in Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples. Seventy or seventy two? Well, it depends on whether we count Nadab and Abiud as present,

    3. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
    Now, This is an interesting verse! This comes from Deuteronomy 5:23-26: ‘When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me. 24 And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived?’
    How many were the leaders of the tribes? The leaders of the tribes were something Jethro had recommended Moses. They should be leaders for thousand, one hundred, fifty and ten. We must remember that they used Roman numerals, where 1000=M, 100=C, 50=L and 10=X. So, the Roman numeral MCLX, equivalent to 1160, is read as thousand, one hundred, fifty and ten – 1000+100+50+10. In this way, The leaders of the tribes could be leaders for as many as 1160. This is of course the highest estimate. Notice that there were 600,000 Israelites who left Egypt. We can therefore easily calculate how many leaders of the tribes there must have been. 600.000/1160 = 517 !
    There must have been more than 517 leaders of the tribes. And some had fallen asleep because they had seen the Lord!

    4. Then he appeared to James.
    James is just another name for Israel. Finally the Lord appeared to all the Israelites, which is the same as Jacob. Leviticus 9: On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel(…)Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. 24 Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. The Lord consumed the burnt offering on the altar. Could a spirit do such a thing?
    After that the Lord wandered 40 years with Israel, but many doubted. Compare this with Jesus who walked 40 days after his resurrection.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 27, 2016

      Interesting idea. I don’t see a quesiton here, but thanks for the suggestion.

    • Avatar
      VincitOmniaVeritas  November 10, 2016

      This is an interesting theory, but your comment here has several flaws.

      1) Where is the OT comparison with the revelation to Paul himself, the author of 1 Corinthians ?

      2) James can not be merely synonymous with Israel, unless you mean simply that the revelation is synonymous or symbolic of Israel. James is known to have existed, as mentioned by Josephus in Antiquities, Book 20. It is also known from the NT in Galatians, which is authentic to Paul.

      3) Cephas/Peter was originally named Simon, which is known to have been a common name among religious sects and zealots in Galilea as per Josephus’ Antiquities. Cephas/Peter was a later given name by Jesus as a leader of the movement,

      • Avatar
        moose  November 13, 2016

        I have just noticed your reply,VincitOmniaVeritas. It would surely take a lot of effort from me to describe precisely what I mean because my English is not all that good, and because I don’t have much spare time this weekend. But I guess my answer to question 1, in a way, will give an answer your next two questions as well.

        So Your question: 1) Where is the OT comparison with the revelation to Paul himself, the author of 1 Corinthians ?

        First of all: My view is that the figures we find in the New Testament are representations of the ancient patriarchs from the Old Testament. Peter/Cephas symbolizes Moses as you may have noticed. And James symbolizes Jacob/Israel. When the prophets in the OT speaks of James doing this and that, they really speaks of the entire population of Israel. Israel IS the Lords Brother. Israel was chosen (adopted) by God to be a son of God. Jesus was a son of God. Ergo: Jesus and James had to be Brothers.

        What I elaborated in my first posting was only the people the Lord appeared to in the Pentateuch. AFTER THAT he appeared to Gideon, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah etc. All the remaining prophets in the Tanakh.

        “And last of all he appeared to me(Paul) also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect”

        What do we know about Paul?
        We know that Paul was originally named Saul. We know that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. We know he persecuted the church. We know he converted after he had a vision of Jesus, where Jesus said “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” We know he named himself “the least of the apostles” and “one abnormally born”. And we know that Paul was saved by Grace not Works.

        It does not take too much imagination to see that this is strikingly similar to when King Saul persecuted David, and David was yelling “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” King Saul was rejected by the Lord for his deeds, and the only way he could be saved was by grace.

        Look what Tertullian have to say about Paul. Tertullian “Against Marcion” Book 5

        “Because even the book of Genesis so long ago promised me the Apostle Paul. For among the types and prophetic blessings which he pronounced over his sons, Jacob, when he turned his attention to Benjamin, exclaimed, «Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall impart nourishment.» He foresaw that Paul would arise out of the tribe of Benjamin, a voracious wolf, devouring his prey in the morning: in order words, in the early period of his life he would devastate the Lord’s sheep, as a persecutor of the churches; but in the evening he would give them nourishment, which means that in his declining years he would educate the fold of Christ, as the teacher of the Gentiles. Then, again, in Saul’s conduct towards David, exhibited first in violent persecution of him, and then in remorse and reparation, on his receiving from him good for evil, we have nothing else than an anticipation of Paul in Saul— belonging, too, as they did, to the same tribe— and of Jesus in David, from whom He descended according to the Virgin’s genealogy”.

        “Paul in Saul” as “Jesus in David” it says. Saved by Grace. And why not? We know of Cainites – Why not Saulites?

  2. Avatar
    ComputersHateAndrewLivingston  October 26, 2016

    Doc, have you ever thought of podcasting? It’d probably take less time and effort than a blog.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 27, 2016

      Blogging would take less time if I would do it less!! But thanks for the suggestion. I have to admit, I’ve never been attracted to podcasting….

      • Avatar
        J.J.  October 27, 2016

        Fwiw, I hate podcasts. I much prefer blogs and online articles so I can peruse to find the pertinent parts for reading. I don’t have 5-10 minutes to watch a video only to find out there wasn’t something I really needed to hear in it. Blogging is much more efficient, at least for me.

  3. Avatar
    Tempo1936  October 26, 2016

    You do not think justice, mercy and compassion were core teachings of the historical Jesus.
    Why not, since They are included in multiple sources , synoptic gospels and likely Q.
    So What were Jesus’ public teachings?

  4. Avatar
    unique  October 26, 2016

    now that jesus do not exist what havei been preaching all these years where did that come from what do i do from here

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  October 30, 2016

      What do you mean? Jesus DID exist.

  5. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  October 26, 2016

    Is it more difficult to argue against mythicists that certain things in the gospels probably did happen than it is to argue against the vast majority of Christians that certain things probably did not happen? With the latter, there is already agreement that at least some of the things in the gospels probably did happen. Mythicists want to see proof that at least some of those things happened.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 27, 2016

      I find them both incredibly difficult! Probably because both types of person are so fully convinced and, as a rule, so unwilling to look at contrary evidence.

      • Avatar
        Rogers  October 29, 2016

        To me they’re kind of two sides of the same coin – both camps hold their beliefs based in emotionally charged ideological inclination/indoctrination. The Mythicist are motivated by an emotional animus against religion (on some personal level they’ve had a bad impact from religion or religious people, etc.). So they come at what they believe not through an actual science of history approach to arrive at most probable accounts of the past, but with an intent to radically undercut the religious. Some of the most prominent Mythicist have personal stories that they’ll share when they’re talking to their fellow travelers that gives their back story of some negative impact from religion.

        That people get upset about negative impacts from religion is entirely understandable – it just doesn’t make for an intellectually honest approach to matters of history, though.

  6. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  October 26, 2016

    This is lengthy, but I hope anyone who is leaning toward mythicism will read it:

    “There are other stories that Bob argues were derived from other sources (even though he also says that all the stories were based on the Old Testament!) and are therefore not credible.”

    I noticed he did that again and again in his book, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. He would take a certain aspect of Jesus life, such as his family, and tie it to an OT story, specifically, Moses. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, suggested that Moses needed assistance with his workload because he would wear out and be overburdened if he didn’t have help. (The reader is supposed to infer that if Moses doesn’t get the help he needs, he will lose his mind; in other words, go crazy–according to Price.) So Moses recruits the 70 elders. Jesus also needed assistance with his workload, only Jesus’ family thought he had lost his mind. (Another inference to be made by the reader–Jesus is crazy because of his workload so he needs help.) The author of the Gospel of Mark *purposely* made Jesus’ relatives think he was crazy because Mark’s group, who was not Jewish, was competing with other Christian leadership groups during this time period. Mark wanted to prove that James the Just, who was a Jewish Christian leader that claimed to be related to Jesus, had no “privileged claim to Christian leadership.” In order to do that, Mark had to make Jesus’ family think he was crazy, but Jesus also had a heavy workload, so Jesus himself comes up with the idea of the 12 disciples and, thereby, relieved his workload–just like Moses. Price goes on to *help* the reader to understand more clearly–

    “In the first version, the concern of the relatives of Jesus was similar to that of the mother of Sathya Sai Baba: ‘Why don’t they leave him alone? Look how they make him work…’ ” For those that don’t know, Sathya was an Indian guru (real person by the way) who died only five years ago. This doesn’t have one thing to do with whether or not Jesus lived. What really bothers me is that he wrote about the “concern of the relatives of Jesus.” It’s like he’s trying to manipulate the mind of the reader. He just finished stating that Jesus’ family wasn’t concerned and that they thought he was crazy but then flips it around and says they *are* concerned and intertwines it with Sathya.

    The way I see it, Price is suggesting that the writings of the NT was a political game between Jewish Christian leaders and non-Jewish Christian leaders; in other words, it’s one huge conspiracy theory. Anything that the gospel of Mark messes up is because the author didn’t understand all the Jewish nuances, and that’s where Matthew steps in to correct Mark. He goes on to tie Luke to the birth stories of Isaac and Samson. And Galations is nothing more than a writer forwarding his own political agenda.

    What really gets me are those tiny little details he inserts like Jesus’ family being concerned for him over his workload, so Jesus ends up recruiting The Twelve. Much like Moses’ family was concerned for him, so he recruits the elders. Only, that’s not what he actually wrote! He’ll write a piece of truth and follow it up with something that seems like it’s correlated when it really isn’t. It leaves the reader confused and, ultimately, believing that Jesus was a myth. I have a hard time believing that’s not on purpose!

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  October 27, 2016

      Oops. What I meant to write was that the reader is supposed to infer that Jesus is overburdened (not crazy), so he needs help.

    • Avatar
      Rogers  October 29, 2016

      I’ve listened to Bob Price in some podcast interviews – he has an encylopedic mind of information but the way he starts making conjectures is utterly maddening. I’ll just say it here – there is no science of history methodology to Bob Price – that I can detect. He ties things together by the convenience it serves his current argumenatative purpose, but historical methods rigor is lacking. One already has to be in Bob’s camp to appreciate any of his speculative alternative histories.

      They (Mythicist) don’t always come out explicitly on the conspiracy theory admission (some of them certainly do though), but it is unavoidably implicit in much of their thinking. And that is where their enterprise really starts to come apart at the seams – when one starts to contemplate the probability of their conspiracy theory version of history of Christianity vs. the historical critical take. It’s as though none of these guys has ever heard of Occam’s Razor.

  7. Avatar
    davitako  October 27, 2016

    Hi Bart,

    I watched the debate and I’ve to say that you did really well. Bob is a very smart man, but he seemed nervous, confused and his arguments were very unconvincing. I can see now why you never debated Mythicists before; many of them are clever guys, but they’re arguments are too poor, ignorant or misinformed. It’s a lot like why Dawkins never debated Creationists.

    Thank you for the fantastic performance! <3

  8. Avatar
    Colin P  October 27, 2016

    Is it not possible that the story of the baptism was made up to connect the little known figure of Jesus with the far better known John the Baptist? This would have been necessary to counter the common objection – “I have heard of John, but who is this Jesus bloke?”. I take your argument that it gives Jesus a subservient role, but doesn’t his status develop from Mark to the later gospels?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 27, 2016

      It’s certainly possible — but why would someone want to make that connection and show Jesus was inferior (and got baptized for “the remission of sins”), if they were a follower of Jesus?

    • Avatar
      Scott  October 27, 2016

      Oh man! You talking my language. Although, as Dr. Ehrman points out, an invented story attempting to connect the two figures would more likely have placed Jesus in the superior position. Maybe they could have had Jesus baptizing John, as the Baptist requests in Matt 3. Instead we get Jesus saying, “Suffer it to be so now.” Matthew is obviously (and weakly) trying to paper over an uncomfortable story he inherited.

      I still believe that John’s teachings, followers and communities play a bigger role in spreading Jesus post-resurrection church than is recorded. 😉 Hey, everyone needs a hobby horse!

  9. Avatar
    godspell  October 27, 2016

    It is very important to mythicists like Price to proclaim the gospel truth that the gospels are plagiarized. Now whatever your beliefs, one would think we could all agree they are among the most original and influential books ever written. Influenced by and drawing upon previous books and stories, like every book ever written (and certainly any book Mr. Price himself has ever written).

    No originality of thought or inspiration can be permitted to Christianity, because to Price and other mythicists, it is an evil and pernicious belief system, that the world would have been better off without, and they can’t grant it a single compliment (a classic sign of insecurity).

    So like the birds in that story by Aesop, they start tearing off what they perceive to be borrowed finery from the Jackdaw Jesus. And some of his rainments clearly are borrowed, and he was not claiming complete originality–it hardly suited his cause to be completely original. He was appealing to the authority what was even then an ancient religious tradition. He never claimed to have thought of anything himself–it came from God and from scripture. His originality was largely a matter of interpretation. But he did understand himself to be a revolutionary within that tradition–new wine in new skins.

    They focus on in trivial details, that might be drawn from earlier stories, but the similarities are often so vague as to make the comparisons dubious. Any study of world mythology shows us that very similar stories have been told by cultures that never encountered each other, or knew of each others’ existence. Did Price never read Jung? We all tell the same stories because these stories exist within all humans, are part of our collective consciousness, our desire to know ourselves, to defeat death, to understand the world around us, and our place within it. Anyone who thinks mythology is just a fancy word for lies is himself incapable of ever knowing real truth.

    Washington didn’t chop down the cherry tree. Therefore there was no Washington. Well, that simplifies matters.

    • Avatar
      turbopro  October 27, 2016

      If I may please: ” Now whatever your beliefs, one would think we could all agree they are among the most original and influential books ever written.”

      Perhaps I may be allowed to ask what characteristics of the Gospels could make us all agree that they are among the most original books ever written?

      • Avatar
        godspell  October 29, 2016

        Could I ask what stories that appeared before the gospels TRULY resemble them?

        The basic ideas, as I said, are universal. Virgin birth, resurrection, miracles–common to many cultures.

        But the specific way the story is told–the humanity of Jesus. His sacrificing himself in place of his followers. The concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. The parables.

        He was drawing primarily on certain strains of Judaism, but he was expanding on those. The Golden Rule, in its previous Jewish form, said don’t do unto others what is unpleasant to you. He said do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a positive activist statement of the principle.

        People get hung up on the supernatural elements, but most of the really powerful parts of the gospel story don’t require any belief in the supernatural at all.

        If you want, you can take any work of world literature–and find antecedents for it. Rip it to pieces, subject it to a withering deconstruction, ‘prove’ to your satisfaction that it’s not so much.

        Every play Shakespeare ever wrote was derived directly from a pre-existing story. Bernard Shaw tried to say the plays were only remarkable for their ‘word-music’, but at the end of the day, he failed to persuade many people.

        What do you want to persuade me of? 🙂

        • Avatar
          turbopro  November 1, 2016

          Thanks for your elaboration.

          Know that I was just curious that’s why I asked the question. I was not trying to persuade you of anything. Your statement sounded somewhat like a bold claim, so I asked.

  10. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  October 27, 2016

    Sounds convincing to me as you usually do to me.

    Sounds like the story of Gilgamesh influencing the story of Noah and the Ark.

  11. Avatar
    Jana  October 27, 2016

    Extremely interesting …. I particularly enjoy the applied logic .. it’s always a learning experience. Thank you.

  12. TWood
    TWood  October 27, 2016

    When you say “amazing things that Jesus was never said to be able to do: make himself invisible and fly through the air, for example.’

    It seems to me that certain NT stories do claim Jesus did these things. For example, in John’s gospel, Jesus appears in the middle of a locked room (he must have been invisible before he appeared because it doesn’t seem like they saw him “quantum tunnelling” through the wall—he was invisible one second and visible in the middle of the room the next second). And Acts’ description of the ascension is hard to see as anything other than Jesus flying through the air.

    Maybe you meant he never did these things before he was crucified. But the NT authors see him as equally alive before and after the cross (that’s their whole point). So to me, it seems that Jesus was said to have been able to make himself invisible and fly through the air. Maybe not in the exact same manner as Baal Shem Tov. But still, these abilities seem to have been attributed to Jesus nonetheless. Where am I going wrong?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 28, 2016

      Yes, I’m referring to what they (both) did before they died, not afterward.

  13. Avatar
    gabilaranjeira  October 27, 2016

    I learned during the debate that the Mythicists are the kind of people that one day, for whatever reason, will say that Neil Armostrong never existed and the story about him going to the moon was a myth.

  14. Avatar
    flyboydh1  October 27, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, your example concerning the Baal Shem Tov forgets to mention we have his original writings in addition to what you mention. We don’t only have second and third person accounts of him, unlike the accounts of Jesus. Also, can you include the sources you are referencing? -Danny

    • Bart
      Bart  October 28, 2016

      Which original writings of his do we have? I have a long discussion in my book. OUr main source is the book In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov published in 1814 in Poland by Rabbi Dov Ber.

  15. Avatar
    Petter Häggholm  October 27, 2016

    Maybe you’ve already seen or been sent this, but just in case, Matt Dillahunty (the debate moderator) posted a video of a talk where he described his impression of the debate:


    This is part of his ongoing series about debating in general rather than just the debate in question, but it does provide one independent data point on what the people listening thought.

  16. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  October 31, 2016

    I’m still not clear about the criteria for judging what legendary/mythicized characters did or did not exist? Just to name a few: Paul Bunyan, Hercules, Jesus of Nazareth, Pecos Bill, the Besht, John Henry, Krishna: most if not all the stories we have about them are “made up” or wildly embellished. But that alone doesn’t mean the men did not exist. How does a historian sort it out?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 1, 2016

      You take each figure and you proceed one story at a time.

  17. Avatar
    VincitOmniaVeritas  November 10, 2016


    One thing I’d like to point here about a flaw in the mythicists’ argument concerning Zoroastrianism is that they put more trust in the authenticity of Zoroastrian texts, and the historicity of Zoroaster, then they do in Christian texts and Jesus.

    This is very puzzling from a historical perspective, given that Zoroaster lived centuries before Jesus did, and there is extremely little, if any, evidence about Zoroaster’s historical existence, and certainly far less than what exists for Jesus. Furthermore, the oldest extant Christian texts, as you know, date to between 100 and 350 AD. The oldest existing Zoroastrian texts only date to the 6th century, and those about much of Zoroaster’s life to even later, in the 8th to 9th centuries. This is well over 1000 years after Zoroaster would have supposedly lived in northeastern Iran.

    Essentially, there is zero contemporaneous evidence for the historical existence of Zoroaster, and what texts do exist are from a time when Zoroastrianism itself is known to have been significantly influenced in its doctrines firstly by Christianity in Iran, and then heavily by Islam in Iran.

    Thus, there is absolutely zero evidence that the account of “purification of Zoroaster” even existed by Jesus’ time in Zoroastrianism itself, let alone that it was in the current form seen today and mentioned by Price.

  18. Avatar
    Marko071291  June 6, 2018

    Dear Bart,

    Two questions.

    1. In which language were these tradition passed down? Did stories of Jesus spread first in aramaic and then in greek or?

    2. Is there a difference between cousin and brother in aramaic language?


    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2018

      We have them only in Greek; *some* of the traditions started in Aramaic, but in many instances it is hard to know. Good question about Aramaic. Mine is so rusty I don’t know off hand, and don’t have any reference books with me just now. Maybe someone else on the blog can answer.

      • Avatar
        Marko071291  June 7, 2018

        I ask this because I heard one of the theories about Jesus’ brothers. It goes something like this: the first Christians in Palestine, not having a word for cousin, would normally have referred to whatever cousins Jesus had with such a general term and, in translating their writing or speech into Greek, it is quite likely that the Aramaic word ܐܚܐ aho would have been rendered literally with the Greek word for brother adelphos. I found out that tthere is no word for “cousin” in Aramaic. If one wanted to refer to the cousin relationship, one has to use a circumlocution such as “the son of his uncle” (ܒܪ ܕܕܐ bar dodo). Conclusion of the theory is that James for example wasn’t really Jesus’ brother. Rather he was his cousin. What do u think about that theory? Thanks.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 8, 2018

          Interesting idea. One of the problems with it is that Paul, who did not know Aramaic, but wrote in Greek identifies James as Jesus *brother* (not his cousin). So the Aramaic issue doesn’t work there. Moreover, in the Gospels, these brothers are with his *mother* and sisters in several accounts. They sound like a nuclear family, not cousins.

          • Avatar
            Marko071291  June 8, 2018

            I have to ask one more question. On what grounds do scholars think that Paul didn’t speak Aramaic? After all, he lived in Palestine and he was a Jew? Thanks.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 10, 2018

            The book of Acts does indicate that Paul lived in Jerusalem for a while, and if that’s right then he would have spoken Aramaic. But Paul himself never says so, and when he cites all of his qualifications in his pre-Christian life (e.g., Galatians 1:14-15) he says nothing about studying with the great Gamaliel, as you would expect had he done so. Nothing in his letters clearly suggests he know any semitic language. So it is usually thought that he was born and raised in teh Greek speaking diaspora and that Greek was his language. That may be wrong! But it’s like anything: if someone thinks a person knows a language other than the one he speaks, they need to find *evidence* of it somehow…. (Most Jews, of course, didn’t speak Aramaic then, but their own native language)

  19. Avatar
    john76  September 23, 2018

    I think one of the key New Testament events to be considered in debating Price’s “Haggadic Midrash” argument is Paul’s vision/conversion experience. As Price points out, Paul’s conversion story in Acts is modeled on 2 Maccabees 3’s story of Heliodorus and Euripides’ “Bacchae.” But what Price fails to emphasize is that there is a historical core to this literary embellishment (as we know from the description of the event in Paul’s letters). Thus, the fact that a pericope may have literary coloring is in no way evidence that the pericope has been invented out of whole cloth.

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