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New Thread on the Burial of Jesus

As many of you know, when my book How Jesus Became God appeared in March, a response book appeared, simultaneously, in which a group of evangelical Christian scholars provided their contrary views on many of the topics that I dealt with.  They called their book – to no one’s real surprise! – How God Became Jesus.   I devoted one post to their book on May 2, and you may want to look at that again if you’re interested.

The five scholars who produced the response each wrote an essay or two on various aspects of my discussion – e.g., Michael Bird on whether Jesus thought that he was God; Simon Gathercole on what the earliest Christains thought about Jesus; Charles Hill on issues related to later debates over Christology on the church.   Also contributing were Chris Tilling (the one of them I don’t know) and Craig Evans.

I thought some of the essays were learned and interesting, though not entirely relevant to the claims or arguments of my book; others I thought were a bit turgid and less than compelling; others were a bit infuriatingly full of rhetoric and short of substance.

I decided long ago not to do a point-by-point response – in part because most people reading the blog haven’t read the book, and in part because I’m not sure there is really much reason to do so.  The weak essays can be seen as weak by anyone who reads them and point-by-point refutations are rarely interesting.   I should remind readers, though, that I did have a two-hour debate with Simon Gathercole, who, as I just indicated, contributed one of the essays, on the Unbelievable radio program here (where I currently am) in the UK.  I posted the two episodes of the show, in case you want to listen to them, here on the blog, back in April.  They were helpful and friendly discussions, I thought; he’s a smart fellow and a good scholar.

The one essay from the response book that people have repeatedly asked me about is “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right” by Craig Evans.  It deals with an important issue in my book, the question of whether we can trust the traditions of Jesus’ burial as found in the New Testament, or whether these are legendary.

For my entire life, until about two years ago, I was convinced (even as a solid agnostic) that….

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Argument Against Jesus’ Burial in HJBG, Part 1
Violent Opposition to the Romans in the Days of Jesus (or Brian)?



  1. Avatar
    Matilda  July 1, 2014

    I read your book and enjoyed it thoroughly. I need to do a re-read at some point. Anyway, scholarship aside, I think when dealing with resurrection issues leaning towards the plausible and the most common sense approach should take priority. I think there is just too much denial going on with die-hard Christians including some scholars who insist that there was a physical resurrection and a decent burial. At some point they need to recognize that miracles just don’t happen no matter who claims to have witnessed them. Scholars just can’t build reality around hearsay and wishful thinking. That’s why I like your books. You have both feet planted in the real world and use the most probable theories as a springboard for your research. Thanks.

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    Hana1080  July 1, 2014

    I eagerly await .. !

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    RonaldTaska  July 1, 2014

    This sounds quite helpful. I also think you have been more respectful of their views than some of them have been of your views. I am sure that I would not have been able to handle their critiques as calmly as you have handled them. Like with so many of these differences, I do not see these issues as being a matter of belief or opinion with one opinion or belief being as good as another, but a matter of following the best evidence we have and you follow the evidence quite well even to the point of changing your views.

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    RonaldTaska  July 1, 2014

    Some of your blog readers might have an interest in a recent series of blogs on the “Peter Enns Rethinking Biblical Christianity” website. He is having a series of evangelical scholars write about the factors that resulted in these scholars giving up their views about Biblical inerrancy, but yet remaining Christians of the more liberal variety. It reminds me of your early struggle with this and my own struggle as well. I have an interest in learning how others make this transition without just giving up on Christianity.

  5. Avatar
    JEffler  July 1, 2014

    I will be looking forward to this.

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    Dick Pickett  July 1, 2014

    This should be interesting.

    I just finished reading “How Jesus Became God” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20149192-how-jesus-became-god along side of Tabor’s “The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity”. Tabor thinks he has found Jesus’ tomb and even presents a DNA analysis of Jesus in the last chapter. http://thejesusdiscovery.org/

  7. Avatar
    nazam44  July 1, 2014

    My friend Shabir Ally reviewed both books on his tv show which is broadcast nationwide across Canada.

    1. Dr. Shabir Ally reviews “How Jesus Became God?” by Bart Ehrman


    2. Dr. Shabir Ally reviews “How God Became Jesus?”


  8. Avatar
    LoganM76  July 1, 2014

    Sounds great. I think we’re all interested to see a detailed response from you, so I for one certainly do not mind a bit of duplicate posting. I thought the Unbelievable shows you mentioned were excellent as well. I think I’ll end up reading both books, but from what I’ve heard it sounds like the authors of How God Became Jesus were perhaps a little unprepared for the reasonableness of your arguments! Looking forward to your detailed response (although I’d also be curious to see Craig Evans response to your response!)

  9. Avatar
    maxhirez  July 1, 2014

    For those of us that have your book, what are the relevant chapters for this? I have the e-version but it’s harder for me to commit to reading that way for some reason.

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    toejam  July 1, 2014

    Oooooh! This is going to be good! I recently read Evans’ “Jesus: The Archeological Evidence” in which he has a chapter devoted to this question (which I presume he more or less reused for his chapter in “How God Became Jesus”). He definitely makes a good case. At least he makes it seem contextually credible that crucified victims could well be handed over to their families and tombed. And if it’s contextually credible, and the gospels are all consistent on the point… would we be dismissing it prematurely?? My concern with the narrative (as I’m sure yours is as well, of course) has always been that it’s linked so definitely to the resurrection empty-tomb narrative which defies reality (you might say “defies historical investigation”, but I’m happy to go a step further – it defies reality!). And if that part is made up, couldn’t the whole post-crucifixion narrative be? At this point, I remain 50/50 on the question. But maybe you can sway me! Looking forward to this!

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    Wilusa  July 2, 2014

    Say, there’s a question I’ve wanted to ask, but I’ve been a bit hesitant to do so.

    Given what you actually argue in your book, it seems to me that a more grammatically correct title would have been *How Jesus Became “God”*. Since I know you expected, even wanted, controversy…did you omit those quotation marks for the *purpose* of providing a title that could easily be reversed, without changing anything but the order of the words?

    I’m really looking forward to these next posts…

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    danielkurtenbach  July 2, 2014

    So, I’m a disciple of the now-dead Jesus. It’s been a tough week, and I take a walk outside the city walls trying to figure out what to do next. I go back and meet some of the Twelve, who tell me, “We have seen the Lord! He spoke to us! He ate with us! We touched his wounds! He is risen!” So I tell them, “Uh, guys, I was just outside, and Jesus is still hanging there.”

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      Yes, if you were still in Jerusalem instead of having fled to Galilee with the others of the Twelve, that would indeed be a problem! (You may want to read my book How Jesus Became God — I deal with this issue).

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    jmorgan  July 2, 2014

    In “How Jesus Became God”, you argue that Jesus’s followers had visions of him shortly after he had died. And as a pronounced criminal, Jesus received no proper burial. Moreover, the Romans would leave bodies of crucified criminals up on the cross to decompose as a deterrent against future criminals. So how can Jesus’s followers have a “vision” of a resurrected body when they can easily see the real body of Jesus rotting on a cross? Anyone who claimed to have a vision of Jesus must have had to ask himself, “Then what body is that rotting on the cross?” The actual body of Christ must be gone before the visions can happen? Or the followers must be in a different city?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      You missed the part where I argued that the disciples fled and headed home to Galilee. They didn’t stick around — probably for fear that they’d be next!

      • Avatar
        gavriel  July 3, 2014

        But not some female followers, who went to look for a grave quite near the execution place.

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