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One Scholar’s Take on the Resurrection of Jesus: A Blast from the Past

On this Easter Sunday I thought I should say something about the resurrection.  It turns out I’ve said a lot over the years on the blog (I just checked!).  Here’s a post from about five years ago, giving not my personal views but those of another well-respected New Testament scholar who, like me (we are a rare breed), is not personally a believer.


One of the first books that I have re-read in thinking about how it is the man Jesus came to be thought of as God is Gerd Lüdemann’s, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (2004). Lüdemann is an important and interesting scholar. He was professor of New Testament at Göttingen in Germany, and for a number of years split his time between there and Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. He is a major figure in scholarship, and is noteworthy for not being a Christian. He does not believe Jesus was literally, physically, raised from the dead, and he thinks that apart from belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection, it is not possible for a person to be Christian.

This book is written for people with a lot of background in New Testament studies. It is exegetically based, meaning that he goes into a detailed examination of key passages to uncover their literary meaning; but he is ultimately interested in historical questions of what really happened. To follow his exegesis (his interpretation) requires a good knowledge of how NT scholars argue their points: the book is aimed at other NT scholars and, say, graduate students in the field.

The basic historical conclusions that Lüdemann draws – based on a careful analysis of all the relevant passages and a consideration of the historical events that lie behind them – is this:

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o When Jesus was arrested and crucified his disciples fled. They did not go into hiding in Jerusalem – then went back home, to Galilee (where *else* would they go? They went home, to get out of Jerusalem!)

o Soon after, it was in Galilee (not in Jerusalem) that belief in the resurrection occurred. It occurred because Peter had a vision of Jesus that included auditory features (he thought he saw and heard him).

o This “vision” was induced by psychological factors. Peter felt terrifically guilty for having denied Jesus, and the “vision” he had brought forgiveness from his deep guilt.

o This vision was like other visions that people have (all the time): visions of dead loved ones; visions of the Virgin Mary. In these visions, of course the loved ones do not *really* come back to life from the dead, and the Virgin Mary does not *really* show up at Lourdes, etc. These are psychologically induced visions.

o Still, like other people who have visions, Peter took the vision to be real and assumed that Jesus was alive again, in heaven.

o Peter brought the other disciples together, and maintained with them that the end time was near, as Jesus had originally preached, and that the kingdom of God was soon to appear. The evidence? The resurrection of the dead had already begun. The evidence? Jesus had been raised. The evidence? He had appeared to Peter. All this is happening in Galilee.

o The vision was infectious, and the mission got underway.

o Even Jesus’ brothers were caught up in the excitement and James became a believer in Jesus.

o The other person who had a genuine vision of Jesus was much later, the apostle Paul, who too experienced a psychologically induced vision of Jesus. In this case, he found Jesus’ teaching of forgiveness and mercy appealing, even as he was violently persecuting the church as an enemy. But forgiveness won out and in a cataclysmic break from his past, Paul had a vision of the living Jesus, convincing him that Peter and the others were right: Jesus was still alive, and therefore had been raised from the dead.

o Some Christians thought that these visions showed that Jesus was spiritually exalted to heaven – not that his body had been physically raised from the dead.

o Others, including Peter and Paul, insisted that in fact Jesus had experienced a physical resurrection of the body, which had been transformed into an immortal body before being exalted to heaven.

o The implication was that the tomb was emptied before Jesus’ started to make his appearances (other Christians also claimed to see him, but it is hard to establish that any of the others actually had any visions – they may have simply been building on Peter’s original claim).

o But by this time it was too late to know whether the tomb was really empty. For several reasons:

 We don’t know how much after his death the vision to Peter came; Acts suggests that it was fifty days before the preaching began; if so, the body would have decomposed.

 No one knew where he was buried anyway (the story of Joseph of Arimathea may be a later account, not something that really happened; Jesus may have been buried in a common grave or somewhere no one knew.

 It is worth pointing out, Ludemann notes, that Christians in Jersualem appear to have placed ZERO emphasis on the location of the tomb. It was not until 326, according to Eusebius, was the alledged site of burial “rediscovered” under a temple dedicated to Venus. Life of Constantine 3.26-28.

And so, the short story: Chrsitianity started among Jesus’ followers in Galilee, sometime after his death, after Peter had a vision of Jesus that was psychologically induced.

So, to be clear, I’m not saying I agree with this entire reconstruction. But it’s very interesting, based on a detailed examination of all the evidence from the NT (and outside) by a skilled interpreter, and worth bearing in mind when trying to figure out what really happened both to Jesus’ body and to the followers of Jesus to make them believe it had been raised from the dead.[\private]

Mythicists and the Virgin Birth: Readers’ Mailbag May 6, 2017
My Meditation Practice and Women at the Empty Tomb: Readers Mailbag April 9, 2017



  1. Avatar
    Seeker1952  April 16, 2017

    Understanding Peter’s vision/audition psychologically is not that much of a stretch but Paul’s is a lot more difficult to explain – though a lot easier than understanding it to have happened objectively. Paul didn’t know Jesus personally, and the vision/audition took place a lot longer after Jesus’s death.

    is there reason to think that Paul knew very much about the teachings of Jesus, eg, about forgiveness, independent of the “fact” that in his vision/audtion he experienced forgiveness?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      I wish we knew how much Paul *had* heard of Jesus’ teachings!

      • Avatar
        Tony  April 18, 2017

        There is no evidence that Paul heard anything about any teachings of an earthly Jesus.

        Are you saying that, when Paul states that he received his Gospel from no human origin or source, he was lying?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          No, he received his “gospel” from the appearance of Jesus. But at that appearance Jesus did not instruct him in his earthly teachings (for example, the Sermon on the Mount). But Paul does quote *some* of jesus’ teachings, so he had heard about some of them at least from other sources.

          • Avatar
            Tony  April 20, 2017

            But Paul must have heard about the Jesus “Gospel” well before he had his initial vision as per 1Cor15. He initially did not like it, and decided to persecute its followers. This tells us that he knew the basics of the apocalyptic Christ message from human sources, prior to his vision.

            Therefore, Paul’s visions must have been unique and different from others. It became “his” Gospel, as he so clearly states. That also explains the appearance of others with competing Gospels – the apostles’ visions were, as expected, inconsistent.

            As well, if Paul did quote “some” historical Jesus’ teaching, as you speculate, it would have been an easily detected lie when he proclaimed those teachings to be obtained by a direct personal revelation.

            It may be redundant to state that a reverse process is a better fit. That is, rather than Paul quoting an historical Gospel Jesus, it was instead the Gospel writers who used Paul’s revelations and incorporated those in their writings.

      • Avatar
        flcombs  April 20, 2017

        I remember reading about Hillel the Elder and his teaching just prior and partially contemporary with Jesus. And doesn’t the NT say Paul was a student of his son or grandson? As a nonexpert and at face value: it seems that a lot of what Jesus and Paul taught was already around in Jewish circles. So except for Paul’s views specifically of Jesus and role as Christ, were they really that radical? Christian sermons and discussions I hear from conservatives ignore my understanding of the historical context and talk like Jesus and Paul had new radical teaching.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          The book of Acts says that Paul studied in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. I doubt it myself. Jesus’ own teachings were not a radical departure from those of other teachers at the time. Paul’s definitely were.

  2. Avatar
    Seeker1952  April 16, 2017

    Aren’t there Christian NT scholars and theologians who would acknowledge that, say, Peter’s experience was private and that the vision/audition would not have been perceived by anyone who was with Peter — but that it nevertheless did or could have “objectively” happened in a spiritual dimension?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      I don’t know. I don’t recall hearing anyone express that view.

  3. Avatar
    fishician  April 16, 2017

    Paul claims Peter was the first witness; the Gospels say the women. They all could have had visions of Jesus, from guilt or grief. Do you have an opinion on who started the resurrection claims?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      My guess is that it was Peter, though it may have been one of the women.

      • Avatar
        spazevedo  April 18, 2017

        It makes no sense that the narrative that women were the first to see the resurrected Jesus did not actually happen. At that time, the female testimony was not very reliable. So, why would anyone invent the story that it was the women who first saw him?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          That’s the question I addressed earlier this month on the blog, here: https://ehrmanblog.org/my-meditation-practice-and-women-at-the-empty-tomb-readers-mailbag-april-9-2017/

        • Avatar
          Nabal  May 24, 2017

          First, it’s not true that women could not be witnesses, they could under certain circumstances. Secondly, it is fallacious to extrapolate that because women were restricted in legal proceedings that nobody ever believed anything a woman ever said in day to day life.

          All of that is moot, though, because Mark does not present the women as witnesses, Mark says the women ran away and never told anybody about the tomb. Mark uses the women as a device to explain why no one had ever heard of this tomb before.

          Moreover, while the other Evangelists were dissatisfied with Mark’s ending and all independently invented their own appearance narratives, none of them have anybody take the women’s word for anything. The disciples go back to check the tomb themselves before seeing Jesus themselves (in mutually contradictory accounts). The audience is never expected to take the women’s word for anything.

  4. Avatar
    thelad2  April 16, 2017

    Good morning, Bart. Long story short, went to Amazon to find the Gerd Lüdemann book and stumbled upon another volume containing a Ludemann and William Lane Craig debate. Apparently, it did not go well for Gerd. I’ve seen Craig debate before and am always baffled by how much defference his NT claims are given. My question is, why do scholars allow Craig to claim that the Gospels are eye witness accounts containing “evidence” of the resurrection? Why not simply state at the outset that most critical scholars believe that the NT is a collection of oral traditions that no court of law would allow into court as evedence? Just wondering.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      I haven’t seen the debate. What makes you think it didn’t go well for Luedemann?

      • Avatar
        thelad2  April 18, 2017

        Hello again and thanks for the response. To answer your question, I got the impression that Ludemann didn’t fair too well from the Amazon customer reviews accompanying the description of the book. Not a scientific sampling, I know. That said, most of the reviewers mention that Ludemann seemed caught off guard by Craig’s analytical presentation of the NT “evidence” of the resurrection. I’ve seen video of Craig’s debating style many times, and I can never understand why he is allowed to site NT stories as objective evidence rather than the highly subjective oral traditions that they are. I know you’ve debated Craig in the past. What was your experience in this regatd? Thank you.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          Yes, consider the audience. Very few Amazon customers interested in the debate are going to be on Luedemann’s side going in. I think Craig is a skilled debater and a smart guy, but in my debate with him I thought he tried to belittle me, and that he came up with some very strange arguments.

          • Avatar
            llamensdor  April 25, 2017

            You blew him away, but Craig has too much invested in his point of view to admit it.

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  April 16, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, I’m pretty much convinced at this point that this scholarly view is flawed. For one, I question the premise that Peter and the disciples believed Jesus was raised from the dead because they saw “visions” of him. I think it’s the other way around. Peter and the disciples already believed the eschaton was coming any day now — not years, not even months, but weeks or even days away. Just about every Jewish document I have read from that period, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, to 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra, to the Testaments of Moses and the Patriarchs, to the New Testament itself, and on and on and on…they all point to that one unifying belief: Judgment Day is coming — maybe not today, or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but it’s coming soon! and God will raise everyone from the dead to be judged; and everyone must be prepared for Judgment or he will not have a part in the next world. I can’t think of one source that says: Relax; take your time; Judgment Day is still a ways off; don’t stress about it. They ALL say: It’s an emergency! Don’t wait! Don’t waste anymore time! This could be your only warning! Prepare yourself now! Now! Now! Hurry!

    So just imagine a group of apocalyptic Jews with this mindset, and suddenly their charismatic leader, who they believed was going to be their guide into the coming Kingdom, was suddenly and ignominiously executed by the state. Would they suddenly think, oh wait, maybe the eschaton isn’t coming soon then; maybe God is going to take his time now; maybe there’s no rush now. No, of course they wouldn’t think that. If anything, they would think the opposite, that Jesus’ death was a sign that Judgment Day was really right around the corner, and with it the Mass Resurrection of the Dead Saints. And since Jesus must have been one of the Saints, then that means he’s going to be amongst the first resurrected. And since Judgment Day is coming any day now, then Jesus has probably already been raised from the dead.

    And then, and only then, did Peter and the disciples start actively seeking to connect with the risen Jesus. They purposely tried to induce “visions” of the risen Jesus, to confirm his resurrection, to confirm their steadfast beliefs in the coming eschaton. So I don’t think it was like how it is often portrayed by scholars, with the disciples going off to continue their lives as before, as if this whole escapade never happened, and then only after they saw “visions” of the risen Jesus did they decide that their mission must continue. No, they were as dedicated as ever to their mission after Jesus’ death, and they actively, purposely tried to communicate with his risen form so as to confirm their beliefs. Everything I know about human psychology tells me that this is what likely happened.

    • Rick
      Rick  April 18, 2017

      Points well taken… I suspect such apocolyptic fervor could have started a bunch of “I saw him too” lies amongst apostles and followers not wanting to be out done or left behind in thier personal commitment.

    • Avatar
      dragonfly  April 18, 2017

      The way I imagine it is the disciples still believe judgement day is coming very soon, but Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, it must be someone else.

    • Avatar
      Jim  April 19, 2017

      Interesting thoughts, but I wonder if the disciples were really in any position (education, social status, etc.) to formally push their claims related of the risen Jesus beyond more than say informal dialogue with family, friends and acquaintances. Have you considered the possibility that maybe a more formalized presentation of Jesus resurrection narratives originated with the community of Jesus followers in Damascus (diaspora Jews or proselytes to Judaism) where there may have been scribally literate Christian converts and where Paul had some of his initial contacts? Interested in your thoughts on this.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  April 20, 2017

        I don’t agree with Dr. Erhman and other scholars who hold that Jesus’ disciples were scriptural neophytes or otherwise too ignorant to posses and develop a complex Jewish eschatology. I think the portrayal we get of them in the New Testament as naive rubes is a fiction created solely for the purpose of dramatic irony.

        • Avatar
          llamensdor  April 25, 2017

          No, it’d early antisemitism.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  April 26, 2017

            It eventually became anti-Jewish, but it started out as a literary technique for dramatic irony. It is also a rhetorical tool used for the sake of proselytizing.

            Non-Christian being proselytized to: “If this Jesus guys was the Messiah, then why isn’t he the most famous person in the Jewish world?”

            Proselytizing Christian: “The reason Jesus isn’t more well-known as the Messiah is that he kept the secret between his own personal companions, so that the enemies of God could be kept in the dark, and, in fact, the disciples didn’t even realize he was the Messiah at first! They only really knew for sure he was the Messiah after he died and he came to them in visions.”

            Non-Christian person: “Oh, so I’m being privileged by God with receiving this eschatological secret?”

            Christian: “Exactly! It’s your lucky day!”

            This is a typical huckster tactic. God has singled you out for a cosmic secret. Don’t be foolish enough to ignore it.

            It’s so clearly a rhetorical technique and a rationalization for questionable holes in the apostolic message that it’s kind of astonishing that not all NT scholars can see it.

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 16, 2017

    Very interesting blog as usual. Thanks

    My comments:

    1. Would Ludemann contend that James, the brother of Jesus, was not a believer in Jesus during the lifetime of Jesus? If, so, I wonder how Ludemann would support that conclusion?

    2. Without the physical Resurrection of Jesus, the atonement, and the divinity of Jesus, it seems to me that Christianity becomes very close to being secular humanism. These three beliefs seem to form the necessary core of Christianity.

    3, It seems to me that If Jesus were who many contend that He was and is, then He would have been able to make all of this very clear, about His Resurrection, the atonement, and His divinity, to His disciples long before He died. Otherwise, all this theology becomes something the disciples made up in an attempt to cope with the unexpected death of Jesus. Moreover, if this is all true about Jesus, surely He and God would have found a better way to make it all clear than through a set of very old and problematic books which contain many contradictions and historical discrepancies.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      1. Yes, he probably would say that. It seems to be the clear undestanding of Mark 2 and of John 7.

  7. Avatar
    gee140  April 16, 2017

    Thanks very much for the post! One question I had had to do the the very existence of Jesus. Having read most of your books I think I know where you stand on the topic but I recently heard that some of the evidence often cited, specifically comments made by Josephus regarding Jesus, are now under question as to their meaning and that they don’t point toward an existing person, namely Jesus. Have you run any to any of those arguments? Sorry I am not more specific on the evidence itself.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      Yes, I deal with the entire matter in my book Did Jesus Exist?

      • Avatar
        gee140  April 18, 2017

        I picked that one up a week or so ago. Looking forward to getting into it. Thanks!

  8. Avatar
    ffg  April 16, 2017

    Thanks, Bart. I deeply respect your integrity as a biblical scholar. I hope in 30 years from now you and others like you such as John Shelby Spong and James Tabor would be given the respect that you deserve . I know you don’t really care too much about that, but in my view the Christian church owes you guys a lot.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      Thanks. I actually don’t feel disrespected at all. Those who do disrespect me hardly ever let me know!

  9. Avatar
    Tony  April 16, 2017

    Wow! Rarely have I read so much convoluted story telling based on absolutely nothing. I would have expected better from Ludemann, who seems to be mixing Paul and Gospels resulting in a “reconstructed” stew of weird fantasies. Some very creative exegesis!

    Will the concept of Occam’s razor ever penetrate critical NT scholarship?

    Obviously, the evidence based hypothesis of the celestial Christ of Paul – later transformed into the fabricated Jesus of Nazareth by Mark – wins the explanation, by simplicity alone, hands down.

    Yes, the lack of tomb interest by early Christians is notable, but we don’t have to wait until 326 CE to note another major lack of interest – in Jesus of Nazareth himself! Paul, in Galatians 1:18, visits Cephas in Jerusalem (resulting in the infamous “brother” kerfuffle), but says about the earthly Jesus of Nazareth, presumably executed in Jerusalem only a few years earlier, absolutely NOTHING.

  10. Avatar
    doug  April 16, 2017

    It seems interesting to me that in some of the cases where Jesus’ followers supposedly “saw” Jesus, that they did not recognize him at first. It seems like, as their leader, he would have been a pretty familiar face to them. Or Jesus could have said, “Hi – remember me?”.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      Right! I talk about this in How Jesus Became God. (connected with the idea that many “doubted.” What were they doubting exactly???)

  11. Avatar
    Wilusa  April 16, 2017

    “Peter felt terrifically guilty for having denied Jesus”…

    Does this mean Ludemann accepts the story about Jesus having “predicted” he’d deny him as fact?

    I don’t care about the supposed discrepancies about when and how many times he’d deny him. From my modern perspective, any leader worth his salt would have told his followers to scatter if he was apprehended. And told them that if they *were* stopped and questioned, they *should* deny having been with him! Jesus should have shown concern for *them*. Are scholars sure that era was so different that he didn’t?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      I doubt it. He is saying that after the fact Peter felt guilty.

  12. Avatar
    Gary  April 16, 2017

    It is amazing that when I present a version of this very possible, very plausible scenario to conservative Christians they dismiss it as implausible. When I ask why, they say it is implausible because it is not what the Gospels say happened. They also point out that there is no evidence for this version of events. When I ask them how they can be sure that the Gospel stories are 100% historically accurate, they tell me to prove they are not! Conservative Christians seem to believe that the onus is on skeptics to prove an alternative explanation is THE explanation for the Resurrection belief. If we are unable to do so, they seem to believe we must accept the one explanation that exists—theirs.

    In western cultures, the onus is on the person making an extraordinary claim to prove his claim, not on the skeptic who questions it. Skeptics do not claim to KNOW how the Resurrection belief developed, we are simply suggesting possible and plausible alternative explanations for this ancient belief based on the little evidence that does exist surrounding the death of Jesus. It is exasperating that Christians cannot understand this.

  13. Avatar
    Wilusa  April 16, 2017

    P.S. to previous: I do, of course, accept that Jesus’s followers would have experienced “survivor guilt” over their still being alive, when their leader had been executed. And that could account for “visions.” My question was just about Peter’s feeling guilty for having “denied” Jesus…and whether the living Jesus would have *made him* think that was something he should feel guilty about.

    Am I right in thinking you believe more disciples had “visions” than just Peter and Paul?

    Personally, I think there should be greater emphasis on *dreams*, as distinct drom waking “visions.” I think mentally healthy people are more likely to have vivid dreams than “visions”…and more likely to take dream experiences *seriously*. The same may have been true two thousand years ago, even if the languages didn’t make the distinction clear.

    • Avatar
      fcp  April 19, 2017

      “I think mentally healthy people are more likely to have vivid dreams than “visions’…”
      It must be noted that this is a culturally-rooted belief. You couldn’t sell it in most traditional tribal cultures, nor in the Levant of late antiquity.

  14. Avatar
    godspell  April 16, 2017

    To me, the most interesting idea, which makes a lot of sense, is that there were few if any witnesses of the crucifixion and its aftermath among Jesus’ followers. Think about it. If you were a member of a cult whose leader had been arrested, found guilty of sedition, and nailed to a piece of wood until he died, would you hang around to see if the notoriously unforgiving Roman authorities were willing to leave it at that? And of course they had plenty of enemies there to point them out.

    I could believe Peter hanging around a while after Jesus was taken, hoping against hope that he would survive, as he had in the past. But once it became obvious this wasn’t going the way he’d hoped, his faith would have temporarily broken, because this was not what was supposed to happen to the Messiah he already believed Jesus to be. The obvious thing to do is to get out of Jerusalem. And honestly, that’s probably what Jesus would have wanted them to do.

    But he couldn’t stop believing in Jesus. So he couldn’t forgive himself for having abandoned his master. So he had to find some way to turn the tragedy into a triumph. We talk a lot about how Paul is the true founder of Christianity, and theologically speaking that’s probably true, but devotionally speaking, there’s a reason Peter takes precedence. A belief system isn’t much good without believers, is it now? Peter’s devotion was not just religious–it was personal. He loved this man. They all did. They couldn’t let him die for nothing. They had to make it mean something.

    So how could they have gotten all these ideas about an empty tomb, come up with all these stories that make no sense? They had to piece it all together, well after the fact, with few if any witnesses to say this isn’t what happened. And they were deeply unhappy with the actual sequence of events that had occurred. They were not going to just wish away their failure as disciples, but they were going to reshape it. And make it something that had to happen, that was destined to happen, that was necessary in order for God’s will to be done, and Jesus to triumph over sin and death.

    It would be nice to know more about how the Romans conducted crucifixions. In this case, there had been no actual insurrection, and Jesus was known to be popular. Pilate would have talked to Jesus, would have realized there was no real harm in him, but Roman law wasn’t much for second chances. They might not have left his body to rot (an affront to Jewish sensibilities). They might have felt the best thing was to just get him out of sight. Not his own private tomb. But once he’s buried, and nobody knows how to find the body, people can believe whatever they want.

    As to people mocking Jesus on the cross–who would have been showing up for the crucifixion? People who didn’t like him. They had nothing to fear. Maybe some neutral onlookers, who felt sympathy for him, thought this was overly harsh punishment for some heterodox religious reachings. (well, that much is indisputable, at least).

    • Avatar
      dankoh  April 18, 2017

      The reason Paul is more often cited as the founder of Christianity than Peter, in my view, is because Paul took a Jewish sect and expanded it to the gentiles, which enabled it to survive the destruction of Jerusalem. Also, Paul at least left a record of his theology, more than Peter did.

      I would not look for any sensitivity to Jewish custom on the part of the Romans; they had none. That’s why there was always so much tension between them. Pilate, from everything we know about him, would not have talked to Jesus beyond a perfunctory question or two, much like a judge asking “how do you plead? It’s unlikely they even had a language in common. Jesus was an insurrectionist who had stirred up trouble at Passover, the most volatile moment in the year, so Pilate would certainly have seen “harm in him.” Remember they crucified two others that day for being “lestai” – which technically means bandits, but which was used to describe guerillas fighting against Rome.

      • Avatar
        godspell  April 20, 2017

        I get all that, but for the sect to expand to the gentiles, it had to survive and expand among the Jews first. It could have just died right after the crucifixion.

        Any secular power has to think about what might trigger an uprising, because uprisings are expensive. The later uprising in Palestine cost Rome a great deal in treasure and lives, and of course they had much more than just Palestine to worry about. Pilate’s job was to try and prevent such messy occurrences. If he failed, he’d be removed. Rome didn’t care about offending Jewish religious sensibilities, but they worried about what might happen if they crossed a line they didn’t even know was there (they never understood the Jews–which is why for so long they assumed Christians and Jews were the same thing, since they seemingly worshiped the same God).

        The problem with leaving Jesus’ body hanging on the cross to rot is that it might be stolen. Safest thing to do would be to take him down from the cross and either bury him in a mass grave, or burn him and scatter the ashes in secret.

        However, it’s impossible to believe they’d let him have a private tomb that could become a martyr’s shrine, and of course–why didn’t it? Why was the location forgotten for so long?

        In any event, the really important things were going on elsewhere–and Peter was behind that. Paul wouldn’t have had a cult to persecute and then join, if Peter hadn’t held it together.

  15. Avatar
    Stephen  April 16, 2017

    Interesting. I missed this one the first time out.

    How does Prof Lüdemann get the disciples back to Jerusalem with James in charge?


    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      I don’t know. I suppose they simply decided to return. (Because they thought Jesus was going to come back there from heaven?)

      • Rick
        Rick  April 18, 2017

        Did not the governor/legate in Damascus pull Pilate and send him back to Rome in 36 due to an incident of brutality? Perhaps after 36 it was safer in Jerusalem. Perhaps the “gospel” didn’t go over so well in the Galilee….

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          Yes, Pilate was removed from teh governorship in 36. We don’t know what happened to him afterward; he simply disappears from the historical record.

  16. tompicard
    tompicard  April 16, 2017

    sounds like a bunch of psycho-babble nonsense

    Exactly how much experience has Lüdemann had with treating/diagnosing psychological disorders of patients experiencing hallucinations?

  17. Avatar
    mjt  April 16, 2017

    Is there any reason to question Paul’s honesty when he claims that he was persecuting Christians? I have always been skeptical of this claim – Paul wasn’t a law officer. Why would Rome grant him, or anyone for that matter, authority to persecute others for religious beliefs?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      He seems to be ashamed of it, so most scholars don’t doubt it (in fact, I’m not sure if I know anyone who does). He wasn’t authorized by Roman but by local Jewish authorities.

      • Avatar
        llamensdor  April 25, 2017

        I don’t claim to be a scholar, but Paul’s story of persecuting Christians and being sent to Damascus to root them out is the supreme fantasy in Christian lore, although Paul’s claim to have met Jesus (using the words of the old Negro Spiritual) “in the air,” is right up there with the best religious fairy tales.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  April 18, 2017

      If Paul was in fact a Pharisee, and the Pharisees were in fact openly critical of the first Christians, then not only would we expect Paul to be critical of the first Christians, but we would expect him to be openly hostile to a sect of Jews who the Pharisees believed were spreading a potentially treasonous and incendiary belief.

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        llamensdor  April 25, 2017

        Do you mean treasonous to the Romans–especially if he claimed to be king of the Jews? Some scholars opine that Jesus was a Pharisee–at least his opinions were closer to theirs than to the sadducees who didn’t believe in resurrection at all. The gospels portray the Pharisees as the bad guys because they were written after the destruction of the Temple and most of Jjerusalem, effectively eliminating the priestly orders and their hangers-on as a viable force in Israel. So the newbies (the proto-Christians) needed a different enemy, and lo and behold, up stepped the Pharisees–hiding in plain sight

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    webattorney  April 17, 2017

    I was wondering what did you think of The Case for Christ, the book or movie. As an agnostic, I thought it was a decent portrayal of one man’s dilemma ( don’t know why he had such an adverse reaction though of his wife becoming a Christian) of having a zealous Christian wife, but another person could have easily come to a different conclusion if they interviewed different experts.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      Yes, expert opinion, as you know better than most of us, is, well, opinion, not evidence. I think the whole enterprise is completely flawed.

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        webattorney  April 18, 2017

        If would be nice if you could do several posts on the reasons.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2017

          I never seem to run out of things to talk about on this blog!

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            webattorney  April 20, 2017

            Because your subscribers give you good topics to write about. Lol I would be very interested to see a perspective of an expert on the Early Christianity. I was thinking to myself while watching the movie
            “I bet the author would not have arrived at the conclusion if he interviewed Bart Herman. Why didn’t he interview Bart Erhman? Oh, maybe Bart wasn’t famous at the time.”

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      stevenpounders  May 25, 2017

      Despite claiming to have the position of an atheist/skeptic in the beginning, Lee Strobel operated under the odd presumption that the only “experts” were apologetic evangelical Christians.

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    John1003  April 17, 2017

    His senario seems plausible. I think its also possible that peter and others claimed falsely to have visions. They had already achieved a substantial number of followers from Jesus ministry. A way to make a living that didn’t involve the menial labor of just plain fisherman. They could be important people. You can already see Paul reminding people to pay there bishops in his letters. So people are now being paid to share truth. As for Paul. He is Just one Pharisee among many as a Jew but As a Christian he can be a very learned person who commands alot of respect from the much less educated. A religious movement like mormonism, Christianity, Jehovahs witnesses offer many things to many people. Community, status, money, and most importantly purpose. All those movements have many people in them who dont ask too many hard questions because of the benefits they get. I have heard that the evidence that most of the disciples died for their faith is not very good. Is the evidence that peter and paul actually died for their faith strong enouph that dishonesty on their part is highly unlikely. Is there good evidence that they had the opportunity to recant their faith and save themselves ?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      They do appear to have been martyred, but we have zero evidence of what actually happened and why.

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    FadyRiad  April 17, 2017

    Off topic: What do you think makes a bestseller? I mean you published a dozen trade books and the most successful of these was Misquoting Jesus. What drives the sales?
    I ask, of course, because I am interested in generating interest in my own book as you know.
    Also, what would you advise new authors who are yet unknown?
    Fady Riad
    The Gospel of Lie: amzn.to/2pjfno6

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      Well, a book has to be widely interesting, dealing with questions people have, in ways others have not written about; they need to be very well written and gripping; they need to be written by people who know what they’re talking about based on expertise. But what makes a bestseller? End of the day, massive media attention!

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