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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.

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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

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    VEndris  April 17, 2017

    This is not a comment for this post but a question for the reader’s mailbag:
    I finished watching your debate with Robert Price and was, as always, very impressed with your knowledge and presentation. While, due to my bias I’m sure, I always think you win your debates, this was the first one I watched that I thought was surely evident on both sides that you obviously knew more than and outperformed your opponent. It was also most obvious in this debate that your opponent conveniently got rid of evidence he didn’t like. In fact, Dr. Price went so far as to claim the book of Galatians was not written by Paul because he didn’t want it to be. One thing I’ve always admired about you is your intellectual honesty. My question is, is there any evidence presented inside or outside the bible that YOU find particularly troubling for your own reconstruction of the life of Jesus that you wish simply was not there? Another way to say this is, is there an argument that you dread coming up in a debate because you feel it does hurt your case? How do you deal with it?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      It completely depends on what aspect of Jesus’ life you’re referring to. There is difficult counter-evidence for nearly every position a scholar of the historical Jesus takes.

  2. Avatar
    jwesenbe  April 17, 2017

    I prefer to follow the path of least resistance, which means not trying to explain the resurrection as a phenomenon brought on by either an individual or group psychologically induced vision. The easiest answer is that they did what people do all the time, they lied. I can see this much more likely, as their leader lay dead, to encourage and convince others of their movement, they shouted, “He Lives”, and thus the seeds of the resurrection were sown.

    • Avatar
      dragonfly  April 18, 2017

      What people do even more than lie is to be mistaken.

  3. Avatar
    jhague  April 17, 2017

    What parts do you not agree with?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      I agree with a good deal of it, but I don’t think we can psychoanalyze ancient people to figure out the psychology behind what they did and why.

      • tompicard
        tompicard  April 18, 2017

        agree with that! I mean I agree we cant psychoanalyze people who lived 2000 years ago.
        nothing else as you’ve presented Lüdemann’s thesis seems very controversial

      • Avatar
        dragonfly  April 18, 2017

        Yes, I can’t see how we can say why Peter had a vision, when we don’t even have an explicit reference to him actually having a vision. Guilt is just one possible cause for someone to have a vision, and I’m not sure that it’s even the most common. When my wife was a child, her 5 year old friend next door died, and her parents didn’t let her go to the funeral. Soon after, she saw Jesus carrying her up through the ceiling. This wasn’t a dream, it was as real as real. We both think this was probably caused by her brain needing some sort of closure on it. As for Paul’s vision, neuroscience has shown that intense focus on an object (or person, or God) is enough to trigger a transcendental experience (or vision) of that object. We even have documented cases of this sort of thing happening completely out of the blue, changing the person’s life from then on. Scholars should just say that Peter and Paul probably had some sort of a vision, and leave it at that.

  4. Avatar
    dragonfly  April 18, 2017

    I suppose the general outline is probably right. Just wondering, would the disciples have had any real reason for fleeing? They weren’t claiming to be messiahs or kings or anything that the Romans would care about. Were they fleeing from the Jewish authorities or the Romans?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2017

      Well, if their leader was charged with insurrection, and they followed him, they could be next. They were probably fleeing eveyrone in authority.

  5. Avatar
    HawksJ  April 18, 2017

    {{ 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.}}

    This is an incredibly salient point, it seems. If there was a real (empty) tomb, it would have been marked and made into a memorial or a Shrine from the very beginning. It’s pretty obvious that did NOT happen.

  6. Avatar
    Stylites  April 18, 2017

    Ludemann makes two big assumptions to get to his conclusion. The first is that Peter’s denial of Jesus is a historical event and not simply Passion drama. It may be historical but can we say with certainty? The second is that Paul found Jesus’s teaching of mercy and forgiveness appealing. Given that he found the claims that Jesus was the messiah fraudulent, it is questionable that he found anything about the man or his teaching appealing.

  7. Avatar
    dankoh  April 18, 2017

    I am always suspicious of psychoanalysis from a distance, the more so when done (as it almost always is) by people who are not psychologists. I think it is sufficient to note that visions of dead people were nothing unusual in that time, which I hold is one reason why Paul’s testimony was so readily accepted. (That he was probably a charismatic personality also helped.)

  8. Avatar
    nbraith1975  April 21, 2017

    The Romans would not have capitulated to any directives of Jews regarding the crucified Jesus’ body. Once the Romans were in charge they would have crucified Jesus just like any other person. His body would have been left on the cross to decompose and be eaten by crows, etc. After a period of time, if they needed the cross he was nailed to, they would have simply tossed his body in a mass grave or dumping ground. The only other reasonable alternative is that Jesus’ family or followers would have waited for the Romans to take him down and then they could have buried him.

    There are just to many contradictions in the gospels regarding Jesus’ death and alleged resurrection to believe they were historical facts.

    • Avatar
      ftbond  May 13, 2017

      My guess is that you’ve never read Josephus or Philo, or the Roman digesta? You seem quite sure Jesus’ body would have been left on a cross, yet, we have physical remains of a crucified victim that were found in a sepulchre – clearly not left on a cross.

      It may be true that the vast majority of crucifixion victims in Palestine were left hanging on their crosses, but, that is because the vast majority of those crucifixions were done in wartime, or in an insurrection. But, the bodies of criminals that were crucified could indeed be returned to their families, or whomever requested them, except in the case of High Treason.

      Was Jesus crucified for HIgh Treason? I doubt it. He was crucified on Jewish charges, not Roman charges – at the insistence of the Jews (as Josephus notes). Pilate probably had no idea who he was. And, in any case, it certainly wasn’t the Romans that arrested him or brought charges upon him.

      You might ought to check out your history a bit better on this one…

      • Bart
        Bart  May 14, 2017

        You may be interested in my lengthy discussions about all this on my blog from earlier. I talk about both Philo and Josephus there. Search for Craig Evans on the blog and you’ll find the posts.

        • Avatar
          ftbond  May 14, 2017

          Craig Evans – I’ll check it out! Love to read more! Thanks, Dr!

        • Avatar
          ftbond  May 15, 2017

          I found that info you referred me to, and read it all. Oh, and, I gave myself a bonus, and listened to your debate with C. Evans (P1 & P2).

          As to the info you referred me to: I totally appreciate your views on Josephus, including questioning whether what he said about Jews burying crucifixion victims was really accurate. We can take that approach with just about everything we read (of a “factual” nature), as a matter of “critical thinking”.

          You seem quite certain, though, that Jesus was officially charged by the Romans for being an insurrectionist. This seems to be the main point you use in order to show why Jesus would have been left on the cross.

          The really odd thing is that I have *never* seen Jesus being charged by the Romans with *anything*. The “reconstructed” Testamonium says “…And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, condemned him to the cross…”

          This seems in line with what the gospel accounts say. I, for one, have no problem imagining that the Romans required that executions would be carried out by them, thus, the Jews needed to hand Jesus off to the Romans for execution. But, that doesn’t at all imply that the Romans themselves necessarily had any charges against Jesus at all. If one Jew had murdered another Jew, and was found guilty by the Jewish court, they’d have to be handed off to the Romans for execution. But, that does not at all imply that the Romans accused the man of murder, and certainly doesn’t imply that the man was found guilty in some type of Roman court.

          I’m of very high confidence that you know the account Josephus gives regarding Ananus’ “illegal assembly” of the Sanhedrin (without Roman approval), and of his attempt to have James stoned to death, etc, etc – and, that Albinus “wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him…” The point being: the Jews, in this passage, don’t really seem to have had the authority to execute anyone without a Roman stamp of approval.

          I’m just saying, though, that a “stamp of approval” was all that was necessary. It wasn’t at all necessary for the Romans themselves to have any charges whatsoever against a criminal tried in a Jewish court.

          So, I’m just not sure how you are so certain that Jesus was charged by the Romans with anything at all, especially insurrection. I read your reasoning, and, I realize it’s just your take on it, your theory. If I were writing a book on the topic, I suppose I’d have a much different take on it. I’ve found information that is quite contrary to your view in (for example) Roy A. Stewarts “Judicial Procedure in New Testament Times”, and both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds.

          Me? I’d figure the Jewish authorities wanted Jesus dead for blasphemy or something, and simply took him to Pilate in order to have the Romans carry out the execution.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 16, 2017

            There are pretty solid reasons for thinking that he was killed for calling himself King of the Jews — but the argument is too lengthy for a comment here! I’ll add a truncated version of your post to the Mailbag and try to answer it there.

  9. sschullery
    sschullery  April 23, 2017

    Are there such things as gnostic Christians anywhere anymore? If so, wouldn’t they qualify as Christians who don’t believe in the physical resurrection?

    Steve Schullery (newbie)

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2017

      There are certainly people who identify as Gnostics — in fact, Gnostic churches (e.g., in parts of California). The problem with “qualifying” as a Christian is knowing who gets to decide on the official definition.

  10. webo112
    webo112  April 24, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,
    On a historical Jesus course (greatcourses) you mention early on and compare the description of Apollonius of Tyana’s life to Jesus; in so, you mention that the followers of Apollonuis were in competition with Jesus’s followers and that they each claimed the other was a “fraud/magician ” etc (I’m paraphrasing).
    But I have never seen you mention or quote any written sources of any of Apollonius’ followers for reference to Jesus (as say evidence for historical Jesus), in your various books…?
    You mention all the non-Christian (Roman) early sources, Jewish sources etc.
    I was wondering if there are any? And how come you don’t quote these sources…Are they too late in the records to be trustworthy? Or are they only mentioned instead in writings from early (Christian) church fathers in respond- so that we don’t have any of the original writings (like Marcion’s views etc)

    Thanks in advance,

    • Bart
      Bart  April 25, 2017

      The source is Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana. Eusebius, in his work Against Hierocles, talks about the disputes between the followers of Apollonius and the Christians.

  11. Avatar
    SARABLISSMORRIS  April 28, 2017

    As a newly retired high school Latin teacher who has relocated to Chapel Hill from New Haven, I am really enjoying this blog as well as the Women’s Bible Study group I attend. I’ve always been interested in the 1st century AD and the confluence of Jewish, Christian and Pagan religions, philosophies and ethics. By the way, I cannot find the answer to this question…AD being Latin and BC being English…when did that start? What Latin would Eusebius have used since he certainly didn’t use BC.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 28, 2017

      I’ve long wondered that and don’t know the answer! Maybe someone else could tell us. The use of the birth of Jesus as the time to separate the eras (AD/BC or now CE / BCE) was made after Eusebius, by the 6th century monk Dionysius Exiguus. Most authors in the Roman world dated events by the reign of Roman consuls or emperors.

  12. Avatar
    roycecil  April 29, 2017

    I think the guilty vision theory is a bit far fetched . How can you explain for eg. people seeing Jesus together ? Some kind of shared “vision” ? That sounds ridiculous.

    Secondly if at all Jesus died on the cross and birds was picking on his body and his body dumped into a mass grave and eaten by animals it is hard for at least one of his followers ( one of the 120 mentioned who gathered in the upper room to say he did not ressurect ) If I was one of the 120 of his followers living in israel at that time and I was a jew ( ie the obstinate holding onto one God belief etc. ) it is hard for me to not totally follow what happens to Jesus. Id be just watching him on the cross, following the moments of his dying and what happens to his body afterwards ( say to pay respects ) So if the body was thrown into a dump and dogs was eating it and I saw with my own eyes, there is no way any ones testimony that they saw jesus is going to sway me unless I saw him myself with my own eyes. And if there was a bunch of guys going around ( his followers ) saying he ressurected ( as a follower of him , I would refute it because i saw him being eaten by dogs in a dump )

    Ressurection is rare but do happen . For eg. https://www.thelocal.fr/20170426/paris-woman-declared-dead-by-paramedics-then-brought-to-life-by-police

    The real problem is not ressurection but where did he vanish after some days. If you just looked at “comming back to life” statistics there is 1 in a billion or some such odd for some one to come back to life. But most likely people who come back to life are again dead as time goes by. I think what is more rare is ascension narrative.

    So it is more likely that he was dead and placed in the tomb and he came back to life , rolled the stone and meeting his followers. But what happened to him afterwards ?

    How will you refute the above argument ?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 30, 2017

      I’m not sure if the visions were inspired by guilt or something else. And I very much don’t think there were 120 believers in Jerusalem a month after Jesus’ death.

      • Avatar
        roycecil  April 30, 2017

        Acts chapter 1 verse 15 says there was about hundred and twenty gathered . Why is it not reliable ?

        In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)

        • Bart
          Bart  May 1, 2017

          Acts is notoriously unreliable about numbers. 3000 Jews in Jerusalem convert in chapter 2; another 5000 in 4:30. More and more are being added every day. So within a few weeks of Jesus’ death, there are some 10,000 Christians. Can’t be right. These are later legendary accounts, almost certainly not reliable reports of what was really happening.

          • Avatar
            John1003  May 1, 2017

            This is probably a dumb question but why those thousands of early conversions not possible ?

          • Bart
            Bart  May 2, 2017

            Because of tens of thousands of people converted, there would be a record of it in non-Christian sources. Christian sources are completely profligate when it comes to estimating their numbers. I’ll be talking about this in the book that is coming out in September.

          • Avatar
            roycecil  May 1, 2017

            Thank you for that insight. I have not thought about that. But are there any numbers in Acts that seems reasonable ?

            I have also watched you speak in a few places that as a historian, you have to attach a probability figure to how likely some event is to have happened. So I want to go back to my original question. As people living in the modern age ( shall I say twitter age ) as a historian if you heard the story in the link below
            https://www.thelocal.fr/20170426/paris-woman-declared-dead-by-paramedics-then-brought-to-life-by-police

            1. How probable do you think that story is likely to be true ?
            2. If it is probable, ( applying the same logic and standard you would apply ) Why is Jesus’ ressurection not probable ? ( can you please also explain the standard you apply so I can understand your reasoning )

          • Bart
            Bart  May 2, 2017

            Sorry — wish I had time to read other things. Not enough minutes in the hour or hours in the day!

  13. ronaldus67
    ronaldus67  April 30, 2017

    Dear Bart,
    On your recommendation I just read Gerd Lüdemann’s ‘The resurrection of Christ’. I managed to lay my hands on a Dutch copy.
    Very interesting book! I can see both similarities and differences between you and him. Although the consensus amongst historians like you and him seems very high.
    Anyway, thanks for the recommendation. If you have any more suggestions within this scientific field that are readable to ordinary blokes like me, please continue to give a hint now and then.

    Greetings from the Netherlands,
    Ronald Bezemer

  14. Avatar
    ftbond  May 12, 2017

    About this: “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!)”

    Jesus was arrested during the night, on a “Jewish day” (remembering that days began at sundown) before a Sabbath (maybe, two Sabbaths). At Jesus’ arrest, there was no way for any of them to know that He was going to end up being crucified. They couldn’t possibly know the outcome of Jesus’ arrest (which was, of course, his crucifixion) until that outcome (the crucifixion) actually happened, which was apparently just hours before the Sabbath(s) began.

    So, according to this theory, the disciples learn of Jesus’ crucifixion *only because it happened*. They couldn’t know beforehand that it was *going* to happen.

    At *that* point – the point at which Jesus’ is taken out for crucifixion – this theory then says that Jesus’ closest disciples unanimously decided “hey, let’s just leave, OK?” Not a single one of these guys had been arrested with Jesus (when they could have been), but now, all of a sudden, they’re so afraid that they all decide to leave. Not one of them simply decides to “lay low”, hunker down in Jerusalem some place till it blows over, and leave with the masses of Passover pilgrims. No. They *all* decide to leave. Not a single one of them sticks around even for the purpose of paying some kind of respect to this man Jesus, who had been so very important to them. Yep, they all say “hey, they’re out there crucifying the guy right now, I’m outta here, even though they didn’t even bother to arrest me when they had the chance”.

    And then – a scant few hours before the beginning of the Sabbath (and, maybe two Sabbaths – a weekly Sabbath and a High Sabbath for the Passover) – they take off. They’ve got a few hours before the Sabbath(s). But, on those Sabbaths, how far are they going to travel? Jewish law says not more than about 3000 feet. Yep, they get to travel about a mile in the first few hours (before the Sabbath), then in the next 24, they get to go maybe half a mile. And, if it was two Sabbaths, why, they can cover a mile in 48 hours! That’s some pretty slow “fleeing”.

    And, they couldn’t really carry anything on the Sabbath(s), like a backpack with food and water. You can’t carry objects from the house out into the street. You can’t carry stuff for more than a few feet. So, these slowly-fleeing disciples are looking right at 24 to 48 hours with no food or water. All for the sake of traveling a half a mile, maybe a mile. Great plan.

    And it’s not as if they could stop at a local eatery on their half-mile (maybe a mile) trek in those 24-28 hours. Business transactions weren’t allowed on the Sabbath.

    So, exactly when did this “going home, back to Galilee” actually take place? If somebody postulated that the disciples “laid low until after the Sabbath(s), and then took off for Galilee”, I could buy it. But, then, that’s pretty much what the gospels say, isn’t it?

    Nope, this “going home, back to Galilee” idea *must* mean they took off pretty durn quickly after hearing that Jesus’ was being crucified. But, I guess I fail to see the point of fooling with that: They weren’t going to get far, they wouldn’t have food or water, they’d be stuck out on the open road between Jerusalem and Galilee for at least 24 hours, maybe 48 hours, and – they really didn’t have much of a reason to think anybody was even looking for them. And, if somebody *was* looking for them, it was going to be a far better strategy to just “get lost in the crowds” – the couple-hundred-thousands of Passover piligrims.

    I dunno. This first idea that “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!)” – it looks pretty shakey to me. Not convinced at all.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 14, 2017

      Yes, I wish we have more information!!

      • Avatar
        ftbond  May 15, 2017

        Well, with the lack of information – and, with knowing that Jews couldn’t travel on a Sabbath, and certainly couldn’t carry travel provisions – I believe it’s infinitely more plausible that they did, in fact, go into hiding in Jerusalem, waiting for the Sabbath to end before leaving – rather than taking off immediately, once they learned Jesus was being crucified (which was just a matter of hours before the beginning of a Sabbath -or Sabbaths – during which they couldn’t realistically travel at all). Of course, if they waited for the Sabbath(s) to end (before they left), then, well, that’s exactly what the Synoptics say. *shrug*

        Heck, if I had been faced with the decision as to “when to leave”, I’d say “what’s the point in taking off right now? If they wanted to arrest *us*, they could have done that already. And, we ain’t goin’ nowhere after a couple of hours, until after the Sabbath(s). So, i’m just stayin’ here. No point in doing otherwise”. But, that’s just me. I’ve always had a “practical” side to me. I don’t usually run when I’m not being chased, and usually don’t plan travel when all the airports have been shut down. I’m just that kinda guy.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 16, 2017

          In my reconstruction, they got out of town the day *before* sabbath, and so didn’t need to wait for it to end.

          • Avatar
            ftbond  July 4, 2017

            From “How Jesus Became God”: “The disciples feared for their own lives and went into hiding or fled town in order to avoid arrest. Where would they go? Presumably, back home to Galilee – which was more than one hundred miles away and would have taken at least a week on foot for them to reach…”

            Also ~ “If it is true that the disciples fled from Jerusalem to Galilee when Jesus was arrested, and it was there that they “saw” him, they could not have seen him on the very first Sunday morning after his death”.

            [ At this point, in your book, you mention – as I have mentioned – that “if they fled on Friday, they would not have been able to travel on Saturday, the Sabbath”, and then you simply raise a number of questions, ie: “Maybe some of them, or one of them, had a vision of Jesus in Galilee soon after he was crucified – possibly that following week? The week after that? The next month?” ]

            So – which was it? Did they “go into hiding”, or did they “[flee] town in order to avoid arrest”? You do, after all, give both options in your book.

            I don’t see, in this “reconstruction”, that they *necessarily* headed out of town immediately following Jesus’ arrest (in the middle of the night, traveling on foot, in darkness, BTW). What I see is that they might well have indeed stuck around, but remained in hiding.

            BUT ADMITTEDLY – l may not have gotten to the part where you say, definitively, that the disciples did indeed take off for Galilee, in the middle of the night, when Jesus was arrested. So, I’ll take your word for it that that is indeed your “reconstruction”.

            So – the issue: If the disciples *did*, in fact, take off for Galilee the very night Jesus was arrested, then, they could *not* have possibly known that Jesus was, indeed, headed for crucifixion and death; nobody was going to know that that was going to happen until it happened. So, upon arriving in Galilee – not really knowing what happened with Jesus – why on earth would any of them have visions of Jesus being alive??? They wouldn’t *know* that Jesus died in the first place, would they?

            If you say “a news-bearer came to Galilee two weeks later and told them that Jesus had been crucified”, then, is it not entirely possible that this same news-bearer might also *know* that Jesus’ body was still hanging on the cross? I mean, if the news-bearer took notice of the crucifixion, then, is it not possible that by the time he left Jerusalem, he’d still seen the body on the cross? Or – if there was *one* news-bearer, then is it not entirely possible that there could have been *many* news-bearers, any one of which could potentially have witnessed the disposition of Jesus’ body?

            MY BIG QUESTION: If the disciples took off for Galilee on the night when Jesus was arrested, and didn’t even learn of his death until maybe a couple of weeks later – through a “news-bearer” – then how on earth can we expect – realistically – that a message of the resurrection of Jesus would ever get started in the first place, since the disciples themselves could not possibly *know* how many *other* people (besides this news-bearer) potentially could have seen that Jesus’ body was left on the cross or thrown into a communal grave? There could have potentially been thousands that could refute the resurrection claim, for all the disciples knew. How, then, are any of them supposed to go out and preach that Jesus was resurrected, knowing full well that the story could get refuted by (potentially) thousands of people who were actually there (including the news-bearer)?

          • Bart
            Bart  July 5, 2017

            The message of the resurrection would have started just as soon as one of them (Peter? Mary?) had a vision/dream of him; they probably had a pretty good idea that he was going to be executed, I should think. My hunch is that no more people saw him buried in a public pit than saw they other two guys crucified with him the same day; or the ones the day after; or the ones the day after.

  15. Avatar
    gage.crowder97  October 19, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,

    A (possibly stupid) question that I think about of then is, Why didn’t anyone just produce the body of Jesus to show that he really was dead? The Bible seems to give an answer to this when it says in Matthew that the Jewish leaders said to spread the rumor that his body was stolen. Doesn’t this seem to indicate that THEY thought that his body was gone, too?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 20, 2017

      Are you asking why they didn’t do so historically? In my view it is because he was tossed into a common grave and deteriorated quickly, so when the question arose, there was no way to know which remains were his.

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