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Early Christianity and War. Platinum Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski

I am pleased to publish a new guest post by Platinum member Dan Kohanski, for all you Platinums.  Here Dan treats a perennially important topic: how ancient people (including biblical authors) understood the legitimacy of war, particularly in light of their specific historical and cultural contexts.   Dan will be happy to address questions and comments. Remember: you, too, can submit a Platinum post.  It can be anything of any relevance to the blog.  Have an idea?  Send it along! ******************************             The history of how religions approach war is evidence that theology is a product of reaction to events rather than the application of eternal and unchanging laws. Look at the ancient Israelites, who lived in a period of endemic local wars, in which one petty kingdom after another (including those of the Israelites) made frequent attacks on their neighbors for territorial and monetary gain. Canaan was also the land bridge between Egypt and the empires of Mesopotamia. When those giants went to war, lesser nations such as Israel and Judah often became collateral damage. [...]

2022-05-15T15:22:05-04:00May 20th, 2022|Public Forum|

Fabulously Rich But Not Attached to the Lucre (?)

In the previous post I talked about how and why ancient Cynics condemned wealth – as in fact they condemned anything that a person had and considered important to their happiness and wellbeing.  If wellbeing resides in things you possess, they can be taken away from you, leading to misery.  And so, the key to happiness is not to be attached to anything.  And the only way to assure that you’re *not* attached to something is not to have it at all.  So Cynics maintained you should give it all away – for the sake of your happiness. This was considered an extreme view, but it reveals an underlying sentiment among many ancient philosophers, that happiness cannot reside in your possessions.   Most of these philosophers, though, maintained that the problem was not wealth per se, but a personal attachment it.  For these thinkers, it was perfectly fine, even good, to be abundantly affluent.  The (potential) problem was being obsessively attached to possessions and allowing wealth to control the course of life.  That is: you could [...]

2022-05-19T11:55:44-04:00May 19th, 2022|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

Reflections on Teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill

In celebration of our tenth year anniversary on April 18, I'm publishing all the posts from previous years on April 18.  It's a random collection.  Here's the second in the series, from 2013; it's a self-congratulatory one (!)  that I was using to explain the different kinds of colleges/universities around the country (in later posts on that thread). ****************************** It is always interesting for me to travel around the country giving lectures at different colleges and universities. This past week I have been struck with just now different institutions of higher education can be from one another. Let me preface my remarks by saying – in this post -- that I absolutely love my university. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is always ranked very near the top of state research universities in the country, and for very good reasons. The faculty are on the whole absolutely stellar. Just within my own Department of Religious Studies we have eighteen full time tenured or tenure-track faculty, not counting adjuncts and emeriti, and every single [...]

2022-04-30T22:39:27-04:00May 15th, 2022|Public Forum|

May Q&A

Dear Gold Members, These monthly Gold Q&A's have been a lot of fun to do.  Time for another one!  Have a question?  Ask it!  Anything related to the blog! To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Monday May 16, midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will try to get it recorded a soon after that, with a goal of releasing it that following weekend. Questions that are relatively short (a sentence or two) are more likely to be chosen; and feel free to ask a zinger! I'm looking forward to it!   Bart  

2022-05-12T14:53:21-04:00May 12th, 2022|Public Forum|

Do My Research Assistants Do My Work for Me?

In celebration of our blog 10 year anniversary on April 18, I've decided to post the past ten years posts that were posted on April 18 of each year!   Here is the first, from April 18, 2012.  You will notice (if you pay attention to how I write these posts), that I was even more thin-skinned, defensive, and argumentative than I am now!  Ha.  I thought about editing these then thought, ah, why?  In this first from ten years ago, I was responding to an accusation that I don't do my own work. (!) ****************************** I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, incredulous, and well, OK, pretty ticked off and aggravated when some of the mythicists that I deal with in my book, Did Jesus Exist, went on the attack and made it personal.   Let me make a confession: before getting ready to do this Blog, and getting into Facebook as a preparation for it, I had no idea how grimy the Internet can be.   It is one messy place.  I know, I know – welcome to [...]

2022-04-27T22:42:38-04:00May 8th, 2022|Public Forum|

What Is the Didache & When Was the Didache Written

What is the Didache (pronounced DID-ah-kay)? In the recent exchange that I posted on the blog (dealing with the existence of Q) the document known as the Didache was mentioned. Especially by guest contributor Alan Garrow, who thinks that the Didache was a source used by the authors of Matthew and Luke.  I think even Alan will agree that this is a highly anomalous view; I don’t know of any other scholar who accepts it (though if Alan knows of any who do, I’m sure he can tell us in a comment).  The Didache is almost always assumed to have quoted the Gospels – or at least the traditions found in the Gospels – not vice versa. I realized this morning that I haven’t talked about it much on the blog.  I better do so! What is the Didache I published a translation of the Didache (the title means “Teaching”) in my two-volume edition of the Apostolic Fathers in 2003, in the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press).   In that edition, I talk about what [...]

Does Isaiah 53 Predict Jesus’ Death and Resurrection? Most-Commented Blog Posts: #1

Here now is THE post that has received the very most comments in the past ten years - 233 - more than any of the 2,965 OTHER posts.  And as it turns out, it's on an unusually important topic, for both Christians and those who want to understand Christians:  is Jesus' death and resurrection predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures?  Read on:   ****************************** Readers Mailbag: Does Isaiah 53 Predict the Death and Resurrection of Jesus? May 8, 2020 I would like to get back into the practice of devoting one post a week to answering questions raised by blog members.  I have a fairly long list of good questions I haven’t been able to get to, so why not just go through them week by week?  If you have any pressing questions that are particularly intriguing or perplexing for you about the NT or early Christianity or any related topic, let me know as a comment on a post (any post will do, whether relevant or not).  If it’s not something I can address or [...]

2022-04-17T20:29:11-04:00May 1st, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Paul Persecuted the Christians

I have been side-tracked by other things, but now can get back to the thread I started to spin, or rather the tapestry I started to weave.  The ultimate question I’m puzzling over is how Christianity became the dominant religion in the empire, and my point at this stage is that before Christianity began to thrive, it was persecuted.  The persecutions go all the way back.  Our first Christian author is Paul, who must have converted to be a follower of Jesus just three years or so after Jesus’ death.  Paul tells us explicitly that before becoming a follower of Jesus he was a persecutor of the church.  And why was he persecuting it?  He doesn’t say directly, buy my sense is that it was for a very basic reason.  He despised their message.  Specifically he could not abide what Christians were saying about Jesus.  Why was that a problem?  Because they insisted he was God’s messiah. In my previous post I indicated something of one of the common views of what the messiah was [...]

A Reflection on Easter. My Most-Commented Blog Post: #2

This post appeared on Easter day, four years ago, and received the second-most comments of any that I have done (218 of them).  It is, in fact, a reflection on the significance of that holiday and how Christianity itself actually began.   ****************************** An Easter Reflection 2018 April 1, 2018 It is highly ironic, but relatively easy, for a historian to argue that Jesus himself did not start Christianity.  Christianity, at its heart, is the belief that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about salvation, and that believing in his death and resurrection will make a person right with God, both now and in the afterlife.  Historical scholarship since the nineteenth century has marshaled massive evidence that this is not at all what Jesus himself preached. Yes, it is true that in the Gospels themselves Jesus talks about his coming death and resurrection.  And in the last of the Gospels written, John, his message is all about how faith in him can bring eternal life (a message oddly missing in the three earlier Gospels of Matthew, [...]

2022-04-17T20:27:23-04:00April 30th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Revelatory Moment about God: Most-Commented Blog Post: #3

Here now is my #3 all time most commented-on post, coming in at 210 comments.  It's about my religious views as an agnostic.  Or an atheist?   Or, actually, how should we think about whether we even *could* imagine a God.  Read on.   ****************************** A Revelatory Moment about “God” January 12, 2020 I had a “revelatory moment” last week that I think may have changed my view about “God” for a very long time – or at least about the existence of superior beings far beyond what we can imagine. As most of you know, I have long been an agnostic-atheist, and as some of you may recall, I define “atheist” differently from most people, at least in relationship to “agnostic.”   The word “agnostic” means “don’t know.”   Is there a God?  I don’t’ know.  How could I possibly know?  How could you?  I know a lot of you do “know” – or think you know.  But my view is that if you’re in that boat you “think” there is a God – really, really think [...]

2022-04-17T20:05:42-04:00April 28th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Full Reply to Mythicist Richard Carrier. Most-Commented Blog Post: #4

Here now is my most-commented-from-the-last-ten-years-post #4.  It is also by far the longest post I have done in all this time.  It addresses an attack on my stupidity and ignorance. I should say at the outset that the one issue/topic I do NOT enjoy going into on the blog these days (for the past three or four years) is the "mythicist" view of Jesus (the idea that Jesus never existed; there never was a Jesus of Nazareth; it's all made up).  The people who hold this view tend to have completely boundless energy and no matter what you say, they keep coming back at you like a terrier.  It's exhausting.  And so these days I stay away from it all.  Let them get on with it. But it is the topic of one of my books (what was I thinking?), and oh boy did it provoke a response.  I thought *Christian fundamentalists* were a hard audience.  HA!  Welcome to the mythicists. All that is explained in this post, which in the end elicited 207 comments. [...]

2022-04-17T20:25:53-04:00April 27th, 2022|Public Forum|

The Religion of a Sixteen-Year Old. Most-Commented Blog Post: #5

We are counting down the TOP TEN commented posts in our TEN year venture on the blog.  We've had a range of topics so far, and here now is Post #5, with 207 comments.   ******************************   The Religion of a Sixteen-Year-Old June 1, 2014 I just got home from spending a week in Lawrence Kansas, my home town.   As I’ve done now for years, I took my mom fishing in the Ozarks for a few days.  She’s 87, and on a walker, but still able to reel them in! I go back to Lawrence probably three or four times a year, and each time it is like going down memory lane.  I left there to go to Moody Bible Institute in 1973, when I was all of 17 years old; I still called it home for years, but never lived there full time, not even in the summers usually.  I was married and very much on my own only four years later.  So my memories of the place are entirely of childhood through high [...]

2022-04-17T20:09:50-04:00April 26th, 2022|Public Forum|

Richard Carrier: A Fuller Reply to His Criticisms, Beliefs, and Claims about Jesus

Richard Carrier - My Response to His Criticisms Richard Carrier is one of the new breeds of mythicists.  He is trained in ancient history and classics, with a PhD from Columbia University – an impressive credential.  In my book Did Jesus Exist I speak of him as a smart scholar with bona fide credentials.  I do, of course, heartily disagree with him on issues relating to the historical Jesus, but I have tried to take his views seriously and give him the respect he deserves. Richard Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog.   He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.” The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal.  He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] [...]

Was Paul the Founder of Christianity? If Not, Then Who Was?

Who is the founder of Christianity? It is often claimed that the Founder of Christianity was the apostle Paul – or at least that he was the co-Founder, along with Jesus. The idea behind this claim is that Christianity is not really about the historical Jesus. Yes, his words are hugely important, and yes it is also important to know that he did all those miraculous deeds.   But his public ministry is not the core of Christian belief.  Instead, the core of Christianity is the belief in his death and resurrection. And this is what Paul preached, not what Jesus preached.  So that even if Jesus’ life and teachings are important, they are not really what Christianity is about.  Christianity is about believing in his death and resurrection for salvation.  And since, in this view, it was Paul who first formulated that belief, he is the founder (or co-founder) of the Christian religion. Paul vs. Jesus: Who is the Founder of Christianity? I have never found this line of argument convincing, for two reasons.  The [...]

2022-05-16T15:48:31-04:00April 24th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page? Most-Commented Blog Post: #6

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #6, with 200 comments. This one deals with one of THE most significant issues in the study of the New Testament and Early Christianity.  Maybe the single most significant.   ****************************** Are Paul and Jesus on the Same Page? January 26, 2018 In response to my previous post on the importance of Paul, I have had several people ask me about the relationship between the teachings of Jesus and Paul: are they actually representing the same religion?  I dealt with that question some years ago on the blog.  Here is the first of two posts on the issue. ****************************** I have spent several posts explicating Paul’s understanding of his gospel, that by Christ’s death and resurrection a person is put into a restored relationship with God. He had several ways of explaining how it worked. But in all of these ways, it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that mattered. It was not keeping the [...]

2022-04-11T09:47:38-04:00April 24th, 2022|Public Forum|

Could Jews Bury Crucified Victims? Most-commented Blog Post: #7

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #7, with 198 comments. Let me say that I think this is one of my most important posts in the history of the blog, since it argues against a view that most NT scholars simply assume to be right without ever thinking about it....   ****************************** Did Romans Allow Jews to Bury Crucified Victims? Readers’ Mailbag January 1, 2018 January 1, 2018 Here on the first day of the new year, I was digging around on the blog and I found a post that I *meant* to make a couple of months ago that I never did.  Don’t remember why!  But here it is.  It is from the Readers’ Mailbag, and about a very interesting and controversial issue: would the Romans have allowed anyone to bury Jesus the afternoon on which he was crucified?  I think not, even though I’m in the decided minority on that one.  Here’s the post:   ******************************   QUESTION: [...]

2022-04-11T09:47:06-04:00April 23rd, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Did Judas Betray Jesus? Most-commented Blog Post: #8

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #8, with 187 comments.   ****************************** Why Did Judas Iscariot Betray Jesus? June 3, 2018 In this edition of the Readers’ Mailbag I address an interesting and perplexing question about Judas Iscariot:   QUESTION You may have mentioned this (I cannot recall) but why did Judas go to the authorities in the first place?   RESPONSE               I wrestled with this question long and hard while writing my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, which includes a section on what we can know about the historical Judas.  In the book I argue that there are some things that we can know with relative certainty about Judas (he was one of the Twelve and was the one who actually betrayed Jesus); other things we can profitably surmise based on our evidence (e.g. what it is Judas betrayed to the authorities – not just Jesus’ whereabouts, I argue); and other things that are almost entirely [...]

2022-04-11T09:36:00-04:00April 21st, 2022|Public Forum|

Reminder! A Free Webinar on Saturday on “The Bible and Homosexuality”!

Just a reminder in case you missed it the first time!  Come one, come all!   In celebration of our TENTH anniversary for the blog, I'm happy to announce a FREE webinar for anyone who is interested.  No need to register, no need to pay, no need to donate, no need to do nada.  Just come. It will be this coming Saturday, April 23, 5:00 EST.    And GOOD news.  If you can't come, it will be recorded and I will make it available to the entire known universe. The topic.  An unusually important one.   "Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?"   Well, does it?  The lecture will deal with the issues of sex, gender, and same-sex relations in both Old and New Testaments. I will give a 50 minute lecture and then take questions for 25-30 minutes. Interested in coming?   Below is the link.  Just come to it.  Want the recording?  I'll be posting it on the blog so no need even to inquire. Thanks so much for being part of the blog.  I hope you [...]

2022-04-20T10:56:55-04:00April 20th, 2022|Public Forum|

Burials for the Crucified. Most-commented Blog Post: #9

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary of the blog (April 18) by reposting the ten most commented-on posts, here now is #9:  Decent Burials for Crucified Victims in antiquity, with 180 comments.   ****************************** Decent Burials for Crucified Victims October 20, 2017 My post a couple of weeks ago about the burial of Jesus (understandably) struck a nerve for some readers; I was just now digging around in the archives, and see that I addressed most of the important issues, head on, in this rather controversial post I made back in 2012.  All these years later, I’m still open to being convinced otherwise!!! ****************************** In my previous post I quoted a number of ancient sources that indicated that part of the torture and humiliation of being crucified in antiquity was being left, helpless, exposed not just to the elements but to scavenging birds and other animals. These sources suggest that the normal practice was to leave the victims on the cross to be pecked and gnawed at both before and after death; in some instances [...]

2022-04-11T09:48:07-04:00April 19th, 2022|Public Forum|

10 Year Anniversary for The Bart Ehrman Blog!

A Post From Bart's Advisory Circle:   Today, April 18, 2022, the marks its Ten Year Anniversary! We take this opportunity to thank all of the Donors, Members and other followers who have made this adventure possible. This blog brings world-class scholarship about the New Testament and early Christian literature to an enthusiastic audience of over 10,000. Twelve wonderful people have been on board ever since Day One (see their names below), and 237 others have been Members since that first year. We thank all of you for being here, and for your generosity. Over the years, the Blog has raised more than $1,500,000, and every nickel of your Blog Membership fees goes directly to charities dealing with poverty, hunger, homelessness, and medical needs.   Many volunteers contribute to the effort, helping with everything necessary to keep the website running smoothly, and many incredibly generous supporters provide gifts beyond membership fees that cover all the essential costs of operations. Many readers of the blog contribute with incredibly insightful comments on Bart's posts, adding richness and [...]

2022-04-18T09:05:59-04:00April 18th, 2022|Public Forum|
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