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Mythicists, Jesus, and the Messiah

I am now able to finish off this thread dealing with my debate with Robert Price on whether Jesus existed.  I have already laid out most of the arguments that I gave during my 30-minute presentation at the debate.  As I did in that talk, I now would like to set forth the argument that seems to me to be one of the most convincing of all.

Mythicists say that the early Christians invented historical man Jesus, that there never was such a real person.  I think that view runs smack up against a brick wall.  The early Christians claimed Jesus was the messiah.  It was arguably the main thing they said about him – they said it so much that “Messiah” – or “Christ” – became Jesus’ last name.  They also claimed, incessantly, that he got crucified.  Why would Jews invent a messiah who got crucified?

To explain the problem I have to provide a bit of background.  That will be this post.  Once that is done, in the post to follow, I’ll explain why, given this background, it is completely implausible that Jews invented Jesus.

What I say below comes a post I made a year or so ago in another context dealing with a different issue.  But the background information is the same.  What did first century Jews expect from a messiah?

The word Messiah is a Hebrew term (the Greek equivalent is “Christ”) which meant “anointed one.”  In Jewish circles the term goes back to a kind of royal ideology (i.e., understandings of the kingship) from centuries before Jesus.  In the Old Testament, it was first and foremost the king of Israel who was thought to be the “anointed one.”  That’s because at the king’s coronation ceremony, he had, as part of the ritual, oil poured on his head to show that he was the one who stood under God’s special favor.   He was thus the messiah, the anointed one.

In one of our early narratives about kingship, we are told …

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Mythicists and the Crucified Messiah
What Is Gnosticism? A Blast from the Past

67

Comments

  1. Avatar
    godspell  November 9, 2016

    We know a lot more collectively now than we did then.

    Individually speaking, I’m not sure we’ve gotten any smarter.

    I’d like to think we haven’t gotten any dumber, but today……..

  2. Avatar
    jhague  November 9, 2016

    Is the only reason that some Jews believed that Jesus was the messiah was due to the belief that some Jews had a vision of Jesus resurrected and that story was believed as it was passed on?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      No, I think they must have thought he was before his death. I think I’ll deal with this in a post! thanks for asking it.

      • Avatar
        clipper9422@yahoo.com  November 10, 2016

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing as the questioner. Looking forward to your response.

  3. Avatar
    jhague  November 9, 2016

    We know that Jesus was a real person. Could it be that the term Christ took on a belief where the healings and walking on water events were added? It seems like the mythicists should be able to realize that the Christ title and all the miraculous events were added onto Jesus’ life. In other words, Christ (or Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, etc.) was not historical but obviously Jesus of Nazareth was historical.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      Yes, I think legendary accounts accumulated around him after his death (and maybe before!)

  4. Avatar
    Bilbo  November 9, 2016

    Prof. Ehrman,

    I understand your use of David Koresh as an analogy, but perhaps you should come up with a different person, who would be a better moral exemplar. Perhaps a young Bernie Sanders? Also, weren’t there some early Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53 that viewed it as Messianic?

    • Avatar
      Bilbo  November 9, 2016

      Or instead of Bernie, perhaps if people claimed that they had seen Martin Luther King, Jr. rise from the dead.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      Well hopefully Bernie won’t face a disastrous death!

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 10, 2016

      David Koresh is a perfect example. The historical Jesus was probably very similar to Koresh. (Not exactly sure what makes you think Jesus was necessarily a morally upstanding guy. Both Jesus’ followers and David Koresh’s followers thought they each were moral preachers. There’s no reason to think Jesus was any more or less moral than Koresh.)

      • tompicard
        tompicard  November 12, 2016

        I could probably come up with a gazillion differences, if I studied it
        .
        but here is one

        When one of these guys came to be arrested he accepted it and even demanded his followers not to take up a sword to defend him, the other guy started a gun battle.

        Granted I don’t know much at all about one of them and if there are any similarities, but given this at least one difference, I don’t have the inclination to learn more about that one.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  November 13, 2016

          “he accepted it and even demanded his followers not to take up a sword to defend him”

          Or so we’re told. How likely is that a realistic account? My sense is not at all likely.

  5. Avatar
    doug  November 9, 2016

    Reading your rational and compassionately written blog is always a breath of fresh air and hope, especially after the horrible election results of last night.

  6. Avatar
    Judi  November 9, 2016

    I think the most important thing about David Koresh was, he thought he was the Messiah. That really was not cause to blow the place up. The the child molesting did need to stop and was not so unlike King David , who ran off a son for defending his blood sister for having been raped by a half brother. That in my opinion made Kind David look like a moraless Putz. One thing that stood out to me personally, and I did phone the FBI about it. was that David Koresh could not have been king by his own interpretation for if you read the New Testament the way he did , you would have to be reunited with Sheba, i.e. the Queen . She would have to come first, for she was the one to help God pass judgement , in I think the book of Matthew. I no longer have those on the tip of my brain, but did at one time. There was a time when I could quote, those chapters and verses, but am old now. There should have been a dialogue there and I requested that a real scholar be sent to speak to him, not some raisin cake off a pulpit, but someone with real knowledge of the Book.

  7. Avatar
    Judi  November 9, 2016

    One more thing to add: When I called the FBI and told them that, I was asked if I was the Queen of Sheba, and my question to him was ” Do you really work for my country?” What a silly question. But there were many California self proclaimed psychic at that time, so maybe he felt the need, but even if some one did claim that what good would it do her, it did not help Shirley Mc Claine . Much like Jesus telling people that John was Elijah, even if he was , it didn’t do him any good and would not have a way to prove it.

    • tompicard
      tompicard  November 12, 2016

      You called the FBI and told them about David Koresh and the Queen of Sheba?

  8. talmoore
    talmoore  November 9, 2016

    A popular uprising that promised that a messianic figure would come to overthrow the corrupt established powers? I don’t think anyone today would recognize that concept!

    But seriously, as a social scientist, I’ve been studying politics and political science for decades now, and one thing that has always struck me as odd was how the label ‘tyrant’ and ‘dictator’ were clear perjoratives, and yet human societies, throughout history, have been riddled with tyrants and dictators! We can almost say that dictators and tyrants are the rule, and enlightened monarchs and republics are the exception (the ancient Greeks seemed to think so).

    So if we think that tyrants and dictators are so bad, why do we always end up with them? It’s because, deep down inside, in the primordial essence of every human being, there is a part of us that actually likes tyrants and dictators. Sure, we don’t think of them as tyrants and dictators. We think of him as a strong, powerful, benevolent figure who is willing to condescend to us peasantry, bestowing his favor, his grace, his magnanimity upon us. We like him because we believe this figure has the power, the resources and the will to give us what we want and need. And if he gives us those things, then we’re willing to overlook some abuses of that power. Funny enough, it is only when the amount of abuse we must take becomes incommensurate with the amount of largesse we are bestowed that we then start to vilify that figure as “tyrant” and “dictator”.

    Anyway, I’m sure none of this is resonating with today’s political atmosphere in America! We could never elect an ostensibly powerful figure who promises to bestow upon us peasants his grace and largesse, if we are merely willing to entertain and suffer his abuses. Would never happen in today’s America.

    But I digress. When I put myself into the mindframe of a 1st century Galilean Jew, I can see that this notion can be very appealing. A powerful (possibly all-power) messianic figure who will destroy all of our enemies and bless all of our like-minded fellows, who will make the sky rain chocolate and make rainbows taste like cotton candy. A powerful figure who will reward the “righteous” with peace and plenty, but punish the “wicked” with fire and brimstone. A figure who will establish “law and order”. A figure who will save humanity from its own wickedness. A figure who will be that tyrannical dictator we all secretly want.

    And all we have to do is bow down and kiss his feet.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  November 10, 2016

      I say this not because I am well-read in history and the social sciences but because it strikes me as logical and common sense: “that dictators and tyrants are the rule” does not mean they don’t deserve the pejorative; nor does it necessarily mean that we secretly want them. It only means that use of force, coercion, lies, manipulation, murder, spies, bribery, and more have often been effective tools for gaining power. There have been a lot of dictators and tyrants because doing what dictators and tyrants do so often has worked to get one into power and stay there, at least for a time.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  November 12, 2016

        I guess what I’m getting at is one man’s “tyrant” is another man’s “savior”. One man’s “dictator” is another man’s “messiah”. It’s the same as how one man’s “terrorist” is another man’s “freedomfighter”. Or one man’s “rebel” is another man’s “revolutionary”.

        Much of what we think of as definitive is actually relative. And vice versa.

  9. Avatar
    gavriel  November 9, 2016

    Can the idea of a suffering Messiah really have been such a worst-seller among Jews? Then why didn’t the early community re-work the message into something like Jesus as a suffering herald rather than a suffering Messiah?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      Because they already thought he was the messiah!

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  November 10, 2016

        Which takes us back to the question of why, if the expectation was a man of power and grandeur, any Jew would have believed Jesus was the messiah before his death.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 12, 2016

          I think I’ll need to deal with that in a post!

          • SBrudney091941
            SBrudney091941  November 12, 2016

            I, for one, would really appreciate that!

    • Avatar
      Scott  November 10, 2016

      Having a Suffering Herald means that you have to wait for the Heralded One to seal the deal. I don’t think they were interested in waiting.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 12, 2016

      The only thing more difficult than uncovering the truth is accepting the possibility that everything you’ve believed up until now has been false.

      When Jesus’ loyal followers unexpectedly saw their inspirational leader getting arrested, and upon catching wind of how he was shamefully executed, they only had two options. Either they could accept that they were wrong about him all along. Or they could find some way to rationalize the event so as to further confirm their previous beliefs. In light of my very first sentence, we would expect them to have chosen the second option. And that’s exactly what they did.

  10. Avatar
    gavriel  November 9, 2016

    Another question: Do we have any surviving early Jewish polemical writings which make exactly this point, that the Christian Messiah figure is crazy?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      I don’t think they use the term crazy. But it is clear they thought it was completely and utterly implausible. You might read, for example, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho.

  11. Avatar
    Tony  November 9, 2016

    Mythicist believe that the evidence shows that the followers of Paul (and the earlier Jerusalem church) was not based on the Christ definition as described in this thread. The main feature of Paul’s Christ was that his heavenly Christ would overthrow and destroy the powers of Satan and his demons – who control life on earth and who make it such an unjust and miserable place. Paul seems to have no problems at all with earthly Roman or Jewish rulers and speaks highly of them in Rom 13. Paul’s Christ would certainly not destroy earthly rulers since they, “have been instituted by God”.

    In fact, based on Paul’s views, the historical Jesus must have gotten what was coming to him since, “it is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer”.

    Mythicist agree that the notion of the earthly crucified Jesus being promoted, within a decade after his execution, to the Messiah is indeed far fetched. It seems strange to that the “Pillars of the Jerusalem church”, would get any traction with that idea at all, since presumably there were lots of living witnesses in Jerusalem still around who could contradict their claims.

    Therefore, mythicist believe that Paul talks about a heavenly, and not an earthly Jesus. Paul claims he got his information about his Jesus from scripture and revelations. Paul never identifies Peter, John or James as followers as an earthy Jesus.

    The term “crucifixion” that Paul uses does not necessarily refer to the Roman execution method. In Gal 3:13 Paul refers to Deuteronomy as he writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”. The Greek word for “crucifixion” can also apply to being hang from a tree, stake or pole. The Mythicist point is that Paul is not talking about an event that happened in Roman occupied Jersusalem, but in the world of Satan.

  12. tompicard
    tompicard  November 9, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, thanks for going over this again, I have read ‘Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet’ and read your explanation of how 1st century JEWS thought the Messiah would behave.

    But the interesting thing to me is not what the general population of JEWS in Palestine thought [clearly most were very very confused]; but what one Jewish person in particular thought the role of the Messiah was to be, and whether he himself felt called to fill that role.

    If Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. it is hard to believe he thought of himself fitting one of your descriptions above. Maybe the priest role though that does not seem likely to me.
    However we should be able to have a good view of what he thought from his words in the gospels.

    which of the roles do you think he thought he was filling, or none, or something different than those?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      My view is that Jesus thought he would be appointed the king of the kingdom that was soon to be brought by the Son of Man from heaven. I lay out the evidence in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

      • tompicard
        tompicard  November 10, 2016

        yeah, I read that,
        but that concept of the Messiah does not conform to any of the three descriptions above.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 12, 2016

          It does if they (or Jesus himself) thought Jesus would be appointed the future king when the kingdom of God arrived.

      • Avatar
        nassergayed  November 10, 2016

        Did Jesus think he was the Messiah? Or did he think the “Son of Man” who is to come would be the Messiah? It has to be one or the other. The third option is that he believed that the Kingdom of Heaven will start soon and the Messiah prophecies will never be fulfilled. Not likely if he was a true believer.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 12, 2016

          I’ll have to explain in some posts: but my sense is that Jesus thought he would be the future king of the coming kingdom (hence the messiah)

  13. Avatar
    benholman  November 9, 2016

    In your book ‘How Jesus Became God’ you write, “However one interprets Daniel in its original second-century BCE context, what is clear is that eventually in some Jewish circles it came to be thought that this “one like a son of man” was indeed a future deliverer…”(p65)

    But wouldn’t this same logic you apply to Daniel 7 also apply to Daniel 9? Where the text explicitly mentions a messiah dying? Of course we could say “that passage isn’t about the messiah, its about the Maccabean events ,etc..”. But, its original meaning is irrelevant (as you point out regarding the Son of Man in Dan 7). Who cares if its about Antiochus’s era? The only thing that matters is that a pre-Christian text says a messiah will die. End of story. Obviously, Jews reading after the time of the Maccabees still regard the book of Daniel as scripture, right? Do we forget how “prophecy” works? Scholars have no problem seeing how a Jew (e.g. Matthew) could read Micah, Exodus, Psalms, or Isaiah, take a passage out of context, and apply it to Jesus in his own time. But then when it comes to Daniel 9, it seems like a common response is “No way! There’s no way a first century Jew might’ve taken one of the most confusing, weirdly worded predictions in the entire bible, recalculated the mysterious timeline it gives, and taken a line about a messiah dying, to mean *the* messiah would die.” That strikes me as just ignoring the obvious. There’s no way there weren’t some number of first century Jewish fanatics, growing dewy eyed at the mere mention of prophecy, who didn’t think the Messiah might die. I understand we don’t have texts from them; but it doesn’t seem AT ALL improbable to postulate their existence given Daniel 9.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      Yes, that’s exactly the problem. Whereas we have Jewish texts (1 Enoch, e.g.) that portray the Son of Man as a future deliverer, we notably do *not* have texts that speak of the future anointed one (of Daniel or any other book) as one who would suffer and die. These texts simply were not interpreted that way.

      • Avatar
        benholman  November 10, 2016

        But you yourself write, “saying what Jews thought is itself highly problematic, since lots of different Jews thought lots of different things. It would be like asking what Christians think today” (HJBG p50)

        and “how would we know this about ‘every’ early Christian, unless all of them left us writings and told us everything they knew and did?.” (DJE p 193)

        Why would we *presume* such Jews didn’t exist? Especially given the existence of Daniel 9, is my question. Shouldn’t we at least be mentioning there’s a pre-Christian text (Dan. 9:24-27) that says a messiah will die when discussing this specific topic?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 12, 2016

          Doing history is a matter of considering the evidence. If I want to claim that something happened in history, I need evidence of it. If I want to say that Jews interpreted the messiah as a future king, I have to give evidence for it, and I can. If I want to say that Jews interpreted Daniel 9 as a reference to a dying messiah, I have to give evidence for it, and I cannot.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 10, 2016

      I’m assuming you’re referring to Daniel 9:26 specifically, where it talks about “cutting down” an “anointed one”. Now the word that’s used there in the Hebrew is, indeed, messiah (משיח), but I should point out that it doesn’t say THE Messiah (המשיח). It says A messiah, as in AN anointed one. Now, that might sound like quibbling, but it’s kind of important when you consider the Hebrew word just before it that’s sometimes translated as “cut down”. The implication, presumably, is that the Messiah is going to be killed. And the Hebrew verb used there — יכרת — could be used to metaphorically imply that a messiah will be killed, but it can just as easily mean “to dig up” or “to chop off”. In other words, to remove from the picture. Not necessarily killed.

      The very next phrase is the real problem. In English you might see it translated as “be no more”. But that’s not really what it says. In Hebrew it says ‘ein lo — אין לו — which literally means “There will not be for him”. In Biblical Hebrew that is the regular construction for a lack of possession (“He doesn’t have…”). Now, this is a rather ambiguous expression, which is why it can be conveniently translated “be no more”. But what the surrounding context suggests (talking about the City, its streets and moats and holy place, etc.) is that the Anointed One will lose the City (i.e. Jerusalem), and an evil prince will invade and defile and desolate it. The only way one would see it as a prophecy of a dying Messiah is if one actually brought that interpretation INTO the original Hebrew itself. It’s not explicitly there to begin with.

      • Avatar
        benholman  November 14, 2016

        I understand it says *a* messiah, not “the” messiah. I’m not aware of any passage in the Hebrew Bible that refers to “the” messiah. That’s how all of the messianic “prophecies” work (i.e. post dictions; reading into a passage a second meaning, the “prediction” that was supposedly hidden there by God). As I in an earlier comment–and Ehrman, in his book HJBG p65–stated, the original meaning of Daniel doesn’t matter. Many Jews in Jesus’s time still considered Daniel to be scripture, and still considered it to contain *unfulfilled prophecy*, relevant to *their* lives in the first century. When the passage of 9:26 can easily be read as saying a messiah will die, this piece of data should be listed when discussing this topic. It simply doesn’t matter that we don’t have another text testifying to later Jews interpreting Dan. 9:26 this way. The point is: its quite plausible, and likely, some Jews read it that way, because the text lends itself so easily to that reading. (e.g. it would be like us denying later Jews didn’t believe Daniel spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, because we hypothetically didn’t have a second, later, text testifying to this fact lol. But he obviously speaks to Nebuchadnezzar in the narrative. So its likely some later Jews believed that even though–hypothetically for this example– they didn’t leave us secondary documentation of that belief. Whether we have another text confirming that for us or not; its a safe assumption some believed it.)

        • talmoore
          talmoore  November 15, 2016

          It’s rather telling, however, that no New Testament writer cites that verse as a prophecy of a dying Messiah. In fact, Matthew actually cites the very next verse (Dan. 9:27) as Jesus establishing a new covenant, but fails to mention that the preceeding verse talks about a dying Messiah! Odd, don’t you think?

          • Avatar
            benholman  November 16, 2016

            First, your point doesn’t refute my argument. The fact that Matthew, or any NT writer, fails to mention it, is irrelevant to my point that (a) a dying messiah is in a Pre Christian text, (b) its a natural reading, and (c) we know first century Jews still considered Daniel relevant, *unfulfilled* prophecy.

            Second, to address your specific question: the New Testament writers fail to cite TONS of verses as prophecy. Tell me, when Paul says “that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” and then fails to cite any scripture, do you actually think he *doesn’t* have any in mind, because he doesn’t cite them lol? The Gospel writers lift lots of things from the Old Testament that are supposed to be winks to the knowledgable reader (“let the reader understand”) of Jesus fulfilling prophecy, and yet don’t cite it. What exactly do you think is going on when Jesus is on the cross and says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Do you think the Gospel writers *don’t* want us to think Jesus is fulfilling prophecy, just because they didn’t explicitly point it out in every instance?

            As you point out, and as is well known and studied, the Gospel writers are familiar with Daniel, and specifically that portion of the text (ch.9, “seventy times seven”, “abomination of desolation”, discussions about the destruction of the temple, etc…).

            Many scholars have suggested quite plausibly that when Josephus mentions that first century Jews started trouble with Rome, in this passage: //But now, what did most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, “about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now, this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure, and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city and their own destruction.// The Wars of the Jews, 6.312–6.315; that the ambiguous oracle dealing with a chronology (“about that time”), is likely referring to Daniel 9.

            All I’m saying is Daniel 9 should be mentioned by someone like Ehrman (by anyone) who is discussing what “no Jew” could imagine happening to the messiah. Based on this text, it seems quite plausible they could’ve imagined it. Not saying they 100% certainly did. Maybe no one did. But this text prevents us from confidently ruling it out

        • Avatar
          Michael  December 4, 2016

          I wonder if you have read Daniel Boyerin’s The Jewish Gospels. Boyerin is of the opinion that the idea of a “suffering and humiliated messiah” within Judiasm before and after Jesus “even well into the modern period”. was actually not at all foreign to some Jews in the first century and before it. He says that some Jews had a strong textual basis to support their views and used midrash to develop new ideas and narratives from various texts to support the idea of a suffering messiah. I tend to agree. If one reads the Gospel of Matthew, it’s easy to see how he used midrash to formulate his ideas for various events in Jesus’ life. Anyone unfamiliar with this way of interpreting and reformulating scripture who went back to the old testament and read his scriptural references in their original context would be baffled and confused because it’s obvious on reading the texts that they don’t support at all what he appears to be saying. That’s because people, particularly believers, haven’t read the old testament without Christian presuppositions and have virtually no understanding of what midrash is. I know because I was once in this boat myself.
          As I continue to read and study I have become amazed at how much Hellenistic concepts influenced diaspora Jews, and how combined with midrash gave new meanings and interpretations to various texts that opened up new and non-traditional ways of seeing things. How widespread the idea of a suffering and humiliated and even crucified messiah was, I’m not totally certain, but it could have been, and indeed probably was, and idea that was floating around in some form. That’s just my two cents on the matter.

          Boyarin, Daniel. The Jewish Gospels (Kindle Location 1863). The New Press. Kindle Edition.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 4, 2016

            You’ll notice that Daniel does not cite any texts prior to Christianity that endorse this view that he indicates Jews had (and he notes that no such texts exist)….

  14. Avatar
    Hume  November 10, 2016

    Your best guess – is the world becoming more or less religious?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      Western Europe: less. Other parts of the world: more. Just depends where you are.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  November 10, 2016

        What about the U.S.? The percentage of people who describe their religious identification as “none” is presumably still growing; yet you’d never know it, from the religiosity of politicians!

        I remember that when I was young, it never occurred to me that John Kennedy might let his theoretically being a Catholic influence him in any way. In my experience, most *men* in that era weren’t really religious at all.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 12, 2016

          Yes, “nones” are growing. But my sense is that other groups are too. What are dying are the mainline denominations.

          • Avatar
            Wilusa  November 12, 2016

            A few years ago, I read that the one mainline denomination that was keeping membership about steady was Roman Catholicism – not because they weren’t losing members, but because they were gaining enough through Hispanic immigration to replace them.

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  November 10, 2016

        I think the Pew study on religion a few years ago said that, even though the number of “Nones” in the U.S. is increasing, the numbers of evangelical and (fundamentalist?) Christians is increasing. Is that your recollection?

  15. Robert
    Robert  November 10, 2016

    ” The early Christians claimed Jesus was the messiah. It was arguably the main thing they said about him – they said it so much that “Messiah” – or “Christ” – became Jesus’ last name.”

    I think you have previously agreed with much old school Pauline scholarship that already sees in Paul’s undisputed letters a nontitular use of ‘xristos’ as a kind of last name. Is that (still) your position? And, if so, do you believe that usage had already developed within some contemporary Jewish circles without any influence from the earliest followers of Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      I’m not sure I’ve commented on it. But Paul seems to use it as a name, while keeping its titular meaning.

      • Robert
        Robert  November 10, 2016

        So, now I repeat the crucial question. Do you think Paul’s usage had already developed within some contemporary Jewish circles apart from any influence from the earliest followers of Jesus? Or was this, as far as we know, a novel Christian development. In other words, if Paul used the term ‘xristos’ as a name, while keeping its titular meaning, was this an innovation of the first followers of Jesus? Or is there any evidence in ancient Jewish sources for this usage?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 12, 2016

          It was an innovation by the Christians, almost certainly before Paul.

  16. Avatar
    Kazibwe Edris  November 10, 2016

    Dr, Ehrman

    when paul says ,

    Galatians 3:1, Paul wrote:

    You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed {as} crucified?

    1. are the galatians not convinced any more that there was a crucifixion?

    2. who is the one who bewitches? is it peter ?

    3. is paul doing a stage like play to portray crucifixion or is he reading stuff from the ot to demonstrate crucifixion?

    4. if your answer to number 1 is “yes” then If the crucifixion is an event of contemporary history, what would be the need to prove that it happened?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 10, 2016

      No, they agree he was crucified. Paul is stressing that the false missionaries (not Peter) have taken away the essential gospel message that he himself had preached, that the crucified messiah was the only means of salvation.

  17. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  November 10, 2016

    If most Jews of Jesus’s time – and in our own time – were/are not expecting a Messiah, did/do they have some kind of central belief similar to Christians’ heaven/hell and/or the Second Coming?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 12, 2016

      We only know what we have in the surviving writings, and the problem is that in a largely illiterate society, the literary elite may not represent the views of the majority of people. And so there are very few ways of getting back to what was *generally* thought.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  November 12, 2016

      As far as present day Jews are concerned, those who ARE waiting for the messiah are waiting for the first coming.

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    Alfred  November 12, 2016

    Bart you mentioned your course evaluations. I would love to read some suitably anonymised evaluations from students from a Christian fundamentalist background. I don’t mean ones we might laugh at, but ones that would help us get an idea of the full impact of your analysis and teaching on minds that already accept an alternative view of things.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2016

      Actually, most of my fundamentalists give my ocurses high marks. Though some think I’m unnecessarily biased. That’s code for them disagreeing with me!

  19. Avatar
    john76  November 18, 2016

    I think the “Jesus Mythicism” hypothesis posits too high a Christology (Jesus as a dying/rising God) to interpret the Jesus of our oldest sources.

    For instance, a very early source about Jesus preserved in one of the speeches in Acts says:

    “Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God through miracles and wonders and signs THAT GOD DID THROUGH HIM … (Acts 2:22-24).”

    So, it is not thought here that Jesus was an all powerful God doing miraculous things on earth, but rather that Jesus was a man THROUGH WHOM God was doing miracles That God, not Jesus, was the source of Jesus’ power is evident in the gospel of Mark where Mark has Jesus identify himself as a fallible human prophet who can’t perform miracles in his hometown (Mark 6:4-5). If Jesus had the powers of a God he would have been able to perform miracles in his hometown.

    • Avatar
      john76  November 18, 2016

      Many things also speak against interpreting Jesus as a “high Christology” divine figure resolutely going forth on a suicide mission to atone for the sins of the world (and expecting a speedy resurrection). Rather, Jesus is terrified of dying, as demonstrated by his desperate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42). This is even clearer when Jesus is on the cross, desperately questioning God as to why He has abandoned Jesus and begging for Elijah to miraculously come and save him from the cross (Mark 15:34-36). This is not a “God Incarnate” resolutely fulfilling his mission. The letter of the Hebrews also preserves the tradition that Jesus was frantically trying to get out of dying. Hebrews suggests Jesus offered up prayers and loud cries and tears to be saved from death (Hebrews 5:7)

  20. Avatar
    john76  March 25, 2017

    The epistles of Paul don’t say Christ died in an indeterminate mythic past as Wells, Doherty, Carrier et al argue, but rather that:

    “While we were yet weak, IN DUE TIME Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).”

    • Avatar
      john76  March 25, 2017

      Commenting On Romans 5, Carrier says:

      “That still allows a possible ancient death (and hence Paul could be saying ‘we’ in Romans 5 as in ‘humanity,’ not ‘we’ as in his current generation; likewise, he does not explicitly say the visions of Jesus occurred the third day after his death in 1 Cor. 15, only that he rose the third day after; Paul doesn’t actually say how long after that it was before Jesus revealed this).” see http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12220#comment-22654

      So Carrier is saying the crucifixion could have happened in distant ancient times, but no one found out about it until thousands of years later in the time of Peter and Paul!

      Why on earth would God wait so long for such a thing to be disclosed, when disclosing it could have been a blessing to untold multitudes?

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