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When Does Life Begin? The Status of the Unborn in the Biblical Tradition.

I'm pleased to announce that I will be doing a new two-lecture course on a rather timely topic, When Does Life Begin: The Status of the Unborn in the Biblical Tradition.  The course is not connected with the Blog per se, except insofar as I'm doing it and many of you might be interested.   For more information and registration, go to Even if you can't come to the live lectures, you will be able to get a recording of the course to watch at your leisure. Here's a description of the course: **********************               The issue of abortion is one of the most divisive controversies in our country.  In many ways it comes down to a very basic question:  When Does Life Begin? At conception?  Later in gestation?  When the fetus is viable?  At birth? For many people the question is intimately connected with the Bible.  Does the Bible declare, intimate, or assume that the fetus is human?   Some emphatically say yes.  Others say no.  Other are not so sure. In these lecture, we address the question [...]

2024-05-15T12:45:47-04:00May 17th, 2024|Public Forum|

A Major Argument That We Can Be Sure We Have the Original Text

There is one particularly interesting argument sometimes used by those who believe we can know with good certainty what the original text of the New Testament books said.  This is the argument called the “tenacity of the tradition.”  The argument is prefaced on the very interesting phenomenon that whenever papyri manuscripts are discovered – say from the third or fourth Christian century – they almost *never* contain new variant readings that we did not already know about from later manuscripts, of say the seventh to fifteenth centuries.  Instead, the readings of these early manuscripts re-appear in later manuscripts. The conclusion that is sometimes drawn, then, is that that tradition is “tenacious.”  That is to say, later manuscripts did not invent their variant readings, but in almost every instance replicated variant readings that they got from earlier manuscripts.   And one corollary that is sometimes drawn, then, is variant readings do not disappear but continue to be replicated in later witnesses.   If that is the case, then the “original” readings almost certainly still survive somewhere in the [...]

2024-05-08T11:51:02-04:00May 16th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

Even If We Can Imagine an “Original” Text, How Could We Know if We Had It?

Scholars sometimes debate whether we can know that we have reconstructed the original text of the New Testament at every point – or even every important point.  To me the answer was and is self-evidently, no, of course not.  Many of my conservative evangelical critics think that I’m being overly skeptical, that since we have thousands of manuscripts of the NT, we can surely know better what the authors of the NT said than any other authors from the ancient world.  My view is that this might be true, but that simply shows that we can’t know what *most* authors of the ancient world actually said, word for word. Why does that matter?  I’ll explain in a second, for the bulk of this post.  But first let me put the matter in very simple form, at least insofar as I can.  Suppose Matthew’s Gospel was circulated for the very first time in Antioch of Syria around the year 85 CE.   We’ll call that first circulated copy the “original.”  Someone copied the original in his church.   [...]

2024-05-08T15:14:28-04:00May 12th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

Is There an Original Text Even of One of MY Books??

  Here's a way to think about what it can even mean to talk about an "original text," from a post many years ago, published when I was just finishing up one of my books. ****************************** In my debates with other scholars about whether we can know (for certain) (or at they sometimes put it, with 99% certainty) what the original words of the New Testament were, I always argue that we cannot “know,” and they argue we can.   Let me explain one reason that I find their position highly problematic by dealing with a broader issue.  What exactly *is* the original text of a document?  If we can’t agree on that very basic and fundamental question, then we can’t very well agree on the possibility of getting back to the original. I’ve dealt with this problem on the blog before, but let me approach if from a different angle this time.  I have just finished my recent book on how memory studies can help us think about the oral traditions of Jesus [...]

2024-05-06T23:41:53-04:00May 11th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

May Gold Q&A: Keep Those (Metaphorical) Cards & Letters Coming!

Gold and Platinum members, Time again for our monthly Gold Q&A. But I can't do it (literally!) without YOU!  Send me your urgent (short, to-the-point) questions on any blog-related topic.  Have you submitted a question in the past that wasn't picked? Feel free to try again. Don't put your question in a Comment, though--send it to Diane at [email protected]. DEADLINE: Please get your question in by Friday of next week (05/17/2024) at midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone).  

2024-05-08T11:43:32-04:00May 9th, 2024|Public Forum|

How Can We Even IMAGINE an “Original” Text of the Gospels?

QUESTION: When it comes to the gospels, how do we define the ‘original text’? Do we define it as the original manuscript that was first penned by the author, or do we define it as the gospels in their most settled canonical form?   RESPONSE: As it turns out, this is a complicated and endlessly fascinating question that, so far as I have been able to work out over the past twenty years of thinking about it, has no clear and obvious answer! By way of very simple background for readers not completely on top of the textual situation we are confronting when it comes to the Gospels (or any of the other books of the New Testament) (or of any ancient Christian writings at all) (or, in fact, of any writings of any kind at all that come down to us from antiquity) we do not have the “originals” (however we define that term: see below!).  What we have are copies made from copies, which were themselves made from copies.  Most [...]

Women in the World of Jesus

In my previous post I talked about the traditions that indicated that Jesus associated with women publicly during his ministry – in an attempt to use established historical criteria to know whether the prominence of women in the earliest Christian communities may have had precedence in the life of Jesus himself. What about the contextual credibility of these traditions? It is true that women were generally viewed as inferior by men in the ancient world (see below). But there *were* exceptions: philosophical schools like the Epicureans and the Cynics, for example, advocated equality for women. Of course, there were not many Epicureans or Cynics in Jesus' immediate environment of Palestine, and our limited sources suggest that women, as a rule, were generally even more restricted in that part of the empire with respect to their abilities to engage in social activities outside the home and away from the authority of their fathers or husbands. Is it credible, then, that a Jewish teacher would have encouraged and promoted such activities? We have no solid [...]

Reminder! WHY PROPHECY FAILS! Fundraiser for Sudan With James Tabor

If you haven't taken note of this yet, please do!  It's gonna be a really interesting topic.  Here's the original post. ***************** I am very pleased to announce a fund-raiser for the Bart Ehrman blog on MONDAY May 6, a special event in which I interview fellow New Testament scholar and social commentator Dr. James Tabor on a topic sure to be of interest.  James, as you may know, is a retired professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.  He is a public figure who has a large following on his own blog and in his many public appearances.  Among his numerous popular is Why Waco, which deals directly with the 1993 disaster at Waco just over 31 years ago.  James was consulted by the FBI, testified before a joint Committee in the US Congress on Waco, and was able to interpret the apocalyptic views endorsed by the Branch Davidians under David Koresh. The topic of our conversation will be connected to a broader issue that lay behind the disaster.  As you [...]

2024-05-03T18:05:56-04:00May 3rd, 2024|Public Forum|

Jesus and Women

In my previous post I tried to show that women – contrary to what one might think – were quite prominent in the ministry and churches established by Paul. One naturally wonders why that might be, given the fact that women came to be silenced in later Christian traditions (continuing on in some rather notable circles today). One answer for why women played important roles in the life of the early church is that they may have played an important role in the life of the historical Jesus. As readers of this blog know, it is not an easy matter establishing what actually happened in Jesus’ life. Historians need to apply historical criteria to all of the traditions that survive about Jesus: independent attestation (if a tradition is independently attested in multiple sources, it is more likely to be authentic); dissimilarity (if a tradition cuts against the grain of what Christians would have wanted to say about Jesus, it is more likely authentic); and contextual coherence (any tradition that cannot make sense in [...]

Does My Work on the Historical Jesus Confirm the Quran?

Here is a final post dealing with the Quran.  Well, a post from years ago that dealt with the Quran and two other unrelated issues, in one of those rare moments some years ago where I decided to try a rapid-fire approach to questions I get.  They're all great questions!  Here's the repost: ****************************** Here is the weekly Readers’ Mailbag, three questions this time – one about my  alleged “support of Islam against Christianity,” one about why we think the NT Gospels were originally written in Greek, and one about what I mean when I talk about the views held by the majority of “critical” scholars (as opposed to what other kind of scholar?). COMMENT:  [After this person pointed out that whoever said I was about ready to convert to Islam was obviously makin’ it up, or influenced by someone else who was makin’ it up, this Muslim reader commented as follows:]  Anyways, that won’t stop us from using your awesome arguments against Christianity. You confirmed like 99% of Islamic belief about Jesus without [...]

2024-04-30T22:58:34-04:00April 30th, 2024|Public Forum|

Fundamentalist Christians Are Not the Only Ones to Make Dumb Arguments…

My high school debate colleague (who later became a national debate champion as a sophomore in college...) used to always say:  "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."  Boy did he ever get that right.  Here's another post connected with the Quran.  The post is NOT dealing with anything at all negative with Islam or the Quran itself.  It's about horrible arguments that people make about it.  They are right down there on the ridiculousness-scale as those fundamentalists sometimes make about Christianity and the New Testament.  As I point out in this republished post from years ago. ****************************** I’m always puzzled about why smart people make (and believe) such stupid arguments.  We see this all the time, of course, in political discourse and family disagreements, not to mention department meetings, but since my field is religious studies I hear it the most in connection with the great religions of the world.  Actually, I guess I find it less puzzling than aggravating. A lot of conservative Christians get upset with me when I push [...]

2024-05-02T22:28:10-04:00April 28th, 2024|Public Forum|

Am I Converting to Islam?

While I"m on the issue of Islam...  Here is a post of a question I still get at times, to my amazement. ****************************** READER COMMENT: I received a message on Facebook a couple of weeks ago from a person who has been proselytizing to me about the Muslim faith. This has happened a few times with others on your FB page. I guess that’s what they do. Anyway, the other day I asked him if he was on your blog. He responded with a yes. Then he said that we (the members) were going to get a surprise from you soon. I asked him how so, and he said that you would be reverting to the Muslim faith. Apparently, reverting is something like converting according to him.  I asked him how he knew this information, and he said a friend of his (a friend that he only knows through FB) that is a neighbor of yours said you were very impressed with the Quran and that you haven’t made it public about reverting, but you [...]

2024-04-21T16:53:02-04:00April 27th, 2024|Public Forum|

Wanna come to the live recording of the Gold Q&A? Saturday May 27

Dear Goldies and Platinums. I'm going to be recording the monthly Gold Q&A session tomorrow (Saturday, May 27) at 5:30 pm EST.   I won't be taking any live questions -- the list is already too long to cover -- but if you're interested in coming to watch and listen, come along! Here's the link. Meeting ID: 927 8932 9355 Passcode: 686914 --- One tap mobile +13052241968,,92789329355# US +13092053325,,92789329355# US --- Dial by your location • +1 305 224 1968 US • +1 309 205 3325 US • +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) • +1 646 931 3860 US • +1 929 436 2866 US (New York) • +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) • +1 360 209 5623 US • +1 386 347 5053 US • +1 507 473 4847 US • +1 564 217 2000 US • +1 669 444 9171 US • +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) • +1 689 278 1000 US • +1 719 359 4580 US • +1 253 205 0468 US • +1 253 [...]

2024-04-26T17:56:49-04:00April 26th, 2024|Public Forum|

More Hard Issues on the Qur’an Fragments

Here are a couple of more reflections on the fragments on the Quran that were discovered some years ago, in a post that I published at the time. ****************************** My plan is to make this the final post for now on the issue of the Qur’an fragments discovered at the University of Birmingham.  Obviously the discussion could go on forever (it’s been going on for 1500 years and is not likely to stop any time soon).   But I’m not a scholar of the Qur’an or of Islam, and I would prefer sticking to topics that are within my realm of expertise. I know that comment itself will prompt emails from two groups of people, (a) from Muslims urging me to study the Qur’an so I will see that it is true and convert to Islam and (b) from Christians urging me to subject the Qur’an to the same kind of scrutiny to which critical scholars have subjected the NT, in order to show that Islam too has abundant problems.   The reason I [...]

2024-04-21T17:36:21-04:00April 25th, 2024|Public Forum|

Responses to my Post on the Discovery of an Ancient Manuscript of the Quran

After I posted on the discovery of an ancient manuscript of the Quran (years ago; but I reposted it yesterday) I received a bunch of comments (years ago) that I responded to (years ago).  Here's a repost of the back and forth, with a couple of tough ones here. ********************* My post on Saturday about the discovery of two pages of the Qur’an in the library of the University of Birmingham that appear to date from the time of Mohammad himself. or a decade or so later, evoked more than the usual response.   My Facebook post has received nearly 260,000 hits. I think before that my previous highest hit total was 25,000 or so.  Amazing amount of interest in this. And so I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on the 3+ years of the blog:  I’m going to post several comments that I have received (on the assumption that many people reading the blog do not read all the comments and my responses to them) (if I’m completely wrong about [...]

2024-04-21T17:43:27-04:00April 24th, 2024|Public Forum|

An Astounding Quran Manuscript Discovery

In my previous posts I've mentioned the course I'll be doing on the Quran and the NT with scholar of Islam, Javad Hashmi.  In the course I won't myself be dealing with the Quran, since it's not my expertise and I prefer as a rule talking about things I know about.  But in past years on the blog I have published some posts on aspects of the Quran and Islam that I AM able to say something about, and thought this would be a good time to re-air them.  Here's one of them: ****************************** Those of you who follow the news have heard that a truly great manuscript discovery has been made public this week, coming out of the University of Birmingham, England.   The university has a very important collection of manuscripts, and for New Testament scholars it is famous for its Institute devoted to the study, analysis, and editing of Gospel manuscripts, an institute headed by my long-time friend and colleague David Parker, indisputably one of the top NT textual scholars in the world. [...]

2024-04-21T16:28:52-04:00April 23rd, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

Fundraiser for Sudan With James Tabor

I am very pleased to announce a fund-raiser for the Bart Ehrman blog on May 6, a special event in which I interview fellow New Testament scholar and social commentator Dr. James Tabor on a topic sure to be of interest.  James, as you may know, is a retired professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte.  He is a public figure who has a large following on his own blog and in his many public appearances.  Among his numerous popular is Why Waco, which deals directly with the 1993 disaster at Waco just over 31 years ago.  James was consulted by the FBI, testified before a joint Committee in the US Congress on Waco, and was able to interpret the apocalyptic views endorsed by the Branch Davidians under David Koresh. The topic of our conversation will be connected to a broader issue that lay behind the disaster.  As you know, modern “prophets” in the Christian tradition (not just Koresh) use ancient texts to support their prognostications of what is soon to [...]

2024-04-23T19:08:53-04:00April 21st, 2024|Public Forum|

Major Ways to Compare and Contrast the Quran With the New Testament

In my previous post I announced the new course I'll be doing on May 4 and 5, with scholar of Islam, Javad Hashmi, in which we both apply rigorous historical methods to analyzing the NT (me) and the Quran (Javad).  To register for the course, go to For a $5 blog member discount, simply enter the code Blog5. Here now are the topics and specific lectures we'll be doing.  We shot for the really important and interesting issues; I'm really looking forward to what Javad has to say about them with respect to the Quran.  I'm sure it won't be what I've normally heard! After each of us lectures on a topic, we'll discuss the issues between ourselves. And at the end of each day (two topics/day) we'll open it up for audience Q&A. Topic A – Getting Back to the Originals: Knowing What the Authors Actually Wrote   Lecture 1:- The New Testament: Do We Have the Original Text?           The New Testament is often called “the best preserved writing of [...]

2024-04-21T16:30:17-04:00April 21st, 2024|Public Forum|

The Bible and the Quran: Their Historical Problems. A New Course!!

Most Muslims argue that the Quran is absolutely perfect in every way: it represents God's words, accurately recorded, with no contradictions, and no textual changes by scribes.  Most fundamentalist Christians argue the same thing about the New Testament.  Is either one true? I'm pleased to announce that I will be hosting a special event on May 4-5, an eight-lecture course on "The Bible and the Quran: Assessing their Historical Problems."   I will be giving half the lectures discussing textual, literary, and historical problems connected with the New Testament, and an expert on Islam, Javad Hashmi, will be dealing with the SAME problems with the Quran. Now THIS is something you've never heard before.   It is not connected directly with the blog (except to the extent that I'm involved with both and that blog people will certainly be interested in it!).  I myself am planning on learning a ton.   Here is some information on it: ******************************* Overview This course will consist of eight 45-50 minute lectures, alternating between Christianity and Islam, exploring the Bible and the [...]

2024-04-21T16:14:37-04:00April 20th, 2024|Public Forum|
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