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Q&A with Bart on The Heretic Happy Hour

I joined the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast as a call in guest for twenty-five minutes on March 6th, 2018. I was asked a lot of questions on a range of issues (including, but not at all limited to, my book “The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World”).  It’s an interesting podcast in general, and this was a fun one to do.

The full program can be heard here: https://heretichappyhour.podbean.com/e/016-is-jesus-god-hotw-bart-ehrman/

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  1. Avatar
    mannix  April 17, 2018

    Another thought on the Sermon on the Mount:

    Every Sunday the priest addresses the congregation INDOORS, with the aid of a sound system. In our Church, anywhere from 100-300 people may be there. What if the priest stood OUTSIDE, in the front of the church, without a microphone, and the parishioners filled the adjacent parking lot? How many do you think would actually be able to HEAR him, much less remember what he said? Jesus is on a mountain (or some elevation) speaking to a “crowd”, “unplugged”…how far do you think His voice would carry?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 17, 2018

      The best take on that is in the opening scene of the Life of Brian. (!)

      • Avatar
        godspell  April 18, 2018

        There is now, believe it or not, a sort of concordance on that movie out now, that explains (in great detail) every single scene, line by line. It’s an amazingly detailed satire, written by people who had done a lot of reading–historical texts and newspapers.

        And anybody who thinks the Pythons were only making fun of religion isn’t paying very close attention. Non-theists might find some of their own sacred cows get gored as well. 😉

      • Avatar
        flcombs  April 18, 2018

        LOVED that movie. And aside from the humor it is realistic from things I’ve observed with people over the years.

      • Avatar
        thebigskyguy  April 18, 2018

        Blessed are the Cheesemakers!

  2. Avatar
    Wilusa  April 17, 2018

    I don’t have time to listen to this right now, but I got a kick out of someone’s thinking all those questions could be dealt with in 25 minutes. There must have been some pretty short answers!

  3. Avatar
    fishician  April 17, 2018

    Listened to the podcast last night. I kind of got the impression the guys on the podcast feel free to make up their own concepts about what God and Jesus are really like (since the Bible is not entirely authoritative). So, I got thinking about your colleagues who have similar beliefs about the Bible as you do, but maintain some form of Christian faith. Don’t they end up making up their own religion, to some degree? I mean, if the Bible is not authoritative then one has the choice of what to ultimately to believe and do. Or are they simply content to follow some particular line of tradition and not worry about the details? (For me, after the realization that the Bible is not a divine book, the rest fell apart pretty quickly.)

    • Telling
      Telling  April 18, 2018


      I was not raised in a church. I picked up the bible in a time of need and it didn’t resolve my problems nor did it give me satisfying answers, but it did offer hope, and I continued seeking, studying Eastern religion and Western metaphysics, and found my answer there.

      Now, some decades later, quantum physics is coming around to the idea that everything is mind, the material world rising out of mind, not the other way around. This is exactly Eastern religions and Western metaphysics.

      The Gnostic gospels were not yet in the mainstream back then, and I see a clear connection between the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Mary to a lesser degree with my own developed understanding of the nature and purpose of reality. I am convinced Jesus taught a message not of “beliefs” but of knowledge (gnosis). This knowledge is universal and so it is no mystery except that it can be difficult to grasp. The stories and myths found in the bible amount to an effort by people having not this understanding to make sense of the metaphysical through a material focus, essentially a flat-earth mentality.

      Phrases that are in the bible and attributable to Jesus like “when your eye is clear your whole body will be full of light”, and “love your enemies”, these are elements of the higher teachings, a world where all beings are dependent upon each other, there being a single body and it is “mind”.

    • Avatar
      Vroomfondel  April 18, 2018

      Isn’t it the case that people make up what they want to believe — even when they consider the bible authoritative?


      – Jesus’s comments on the rich and camels v. whatever rich people’s justification for amassing wealth is.

      – The recent discussions about Paul’s attitude to women: both sides later claiming him as being on their side.

      There are so many contradictory statements in the bible that you can always cite something to support your view.

    • Avatar
      Vroomfondel  April 19, 2018

      Slightly OT, but Life of Brian was mentioned…

      I just watched it again yesterday and it didn’t have a scene I thought it did namely an adulteress about to be stoned, Brian saying “he among you who is without sin” etc. And then a voice piping up saying “I’m without sin!” and so the stoning begins.

      Does anyone know where that comes from?

      Because if it’s not a scene from anywhere (but perhaps based on the joke where Jesus then says “mother! Sometimes you really tick me off!”) then that would be a superb example of me *remembering* something that never happened.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 20, 2018

        Not from Life of Brian!

      • Avatar
        SidDhartha1953  April 23, 2018

        There’s a joke where Jesus says, “Let the one without sin” etc. at which point a stone comes flying from the back of the crowd. Jesus scowls and says, “Mother! Sometimes you really piss me off!”

  4. Avatar
    Wilusa  April 17, 2018

    Hey, it did all get fitted in…and then some! Awesome! A very enjoyable experience.

  5. Telling
    Telling  April 17, 2018

    Re, your comment that the Sermon on the Mount cannot be accurate because it would have been impossible to remember it as it was said.

    Have you considered that the disciple Matthew might have taken notes, and those notes were later used by the author of Matthew, thus explaining why the Sermon of the Mount appears only in Matthew?

    Is it a reasonable approach to believe that maybe Jesus picked a literate disciple to follow him around and record his mission, and that some of those notes survived and were used to write one or some of the gospels?

    I am interested in your opinion on these questions, and to Aramaic texts, as to whether there was an interest by Christians in preserving such texts, before and particularly after they fell under Muslim control?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 18, 2018

      Yes, I considered that as an option. But there is nothing to suggest that Jesus’ disciple Matthew was literate, and nowhere is there any indication any source that any of the disciples took notes. (I should also point out that the Gospel of Matthew was almost certainly not written by Jesus’ disciple Matthew)

      • Avatar
        HawksJ  April 21, 2018

        Are there any ancient references to anybody ‘taking notes’ in the sense that we think of it?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 22, 2018

          Lecture notes in school settings, yes. Otherwise, no.

          • Avatar
            llamensdor  April 29, 2018

            In my historical novel, “The Murdered Messiah,” Jesus (Joshua) instructs his sister to recall and write down whatever he has taught that day as well as the responses. Bart has written a treatise on memory and human failings in their recall of events, but he greatly underestimates the ability of some people who have a version of total recall to retain astonishing amounts of information. I know because I was once one of those people. In college I was once accused of cheating because I wrote an answer verbatim on a test (in quotation marks) and later proved my ability by recounting from memory, accurately and in full, the paragraph that succeeded the one I had quoted. This “skill” departed after a serioius illness when I was 80 years old. I subsequently realized that I had inherited that ability from my father, who could quote (in Latin) whole sections of Caesar’s Gallic Wars when he was on his deathbed at age 91. Surely there must have been memoirists with the same ability in Jesus’ time. Bart is profoundly skeptical on thi subject, but he can’t testify to it himself because although he has a fine memory, he was not gifted, as I was, with a “photographic” memory. By the way, other respected researchers support Bart’s view and a paper was recently published in an important journal claiming there is no such thing. But I know better.

  6. Avatar
    jdub3125  April 19, 2018

    After hearing on the video about your 30 page paper in grad school about who was the high priest referred to in Mark 2:26, I simply googled Abiathar. There was a rather lengthy hit indicating this has been a question for scholars for centuries. Since I do not recall ever hearing about this from a Sunday school teacher or a pastor and it looks like a nonessential for faith, albeit a threat to inerrancy, the issue can remain with scholars who thrive on this kind of stuff. 😀

  7. Avatar
    Jon1  April 20, 2018


    Off topic question. Can we tell from the writings of Paul or the Gospels whether the authors thought Jesus got his final immortal body at the moment he was raised from the dead or later when he got to heaven?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 22, 2018

      It appears to be at the resurrection.

      • Avatar
        Jon1  April 24, 2018


        What do you make of Ascension of Isaiah 9:17-18 (late second century)? In this passage the raised saints from Matt 27:52-53 appear to ascend up to heaven with Jesus where they, and Jesus, get their final immortal bodies. This is what got me thinking that maybe Paul and the Gospel writers think the same thing, i.e., that Jesus was raised from the dead first into his mortal body (crucifixion scars and all but made to appear and disappear by God in the Gospel appearance stories) and then Jesus got his final immortal body that made him the “first fruits” of the general resurrection when he got to heaven. Do you think this is possible or have any thoughts about this possibility?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 25, 2018

          Interesting idea. In the Gospels, at least, he is able to walk through walls and such with his resurrected body before ascending, so it seems different from a revived corpse already.

          • Avatar
            Jon1  April 25, 2018


            Regarding the Gospel traditions where Jesus is able to walk through walls and such before ascending, do you think it is possible that the authors envision Jesus’ mortal body being made able to do those things by God even though Jesus’ has not yet put on his garment of imperishability, which is awaiting him in heaven?

            In a similar way, in the added ending to Mark, the mortal bodies of believers, presumably with the help of God, are able to drink poison without harm and have special healing powers with their hands. Maybe this is also intended in Mk 16:14-16 with the powers Jesus has that leads people to think he is John the Baptist raised from the dead (i.e., maybe no imperishable resurrected body is intended here, but rather a resuscitated mortal body with God given super powers and the ability to look like a different person than John the Baptist).

            Also, take note of what Paul says: “there are…HEAVENLY bodies..” (1 Cor 15: 40) and “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from HEAVEN”.

            Again, the idea that I am proposing here is that the earliest Christians thought Jesus was resurrected into his final immortal body, but if we could have questioned them further about the details, I wonder if they would have said that Jesus was resuscitated first at his grave site (like Lazarus) and then received his final immortal body when he got to heaven a few seconds later.

            Do you see anything that goes against this possibility or have any other thoughts about this possibility?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 26, 2018

            I hadn’t thought of that, but I’m not sure what would lead one to the conclusion. It simply seems that now Jesus’ body — his very own body, the one that had been placed in the tomb — no longer has the limitations of most bodies. It’s like with Paul — the believers will be given immortal bodies *at* the resurrection because their resurrection will be *like* his.

          • Avatar
            Jon1  April 26, 2018


            I wonder if, in Paul’s mind, believers will be given immortal bodies immediately *at* the general resurrection because at that time the kingdom of God (i.e., heaven) will come down to earth and bring everyone’s immortal garment *to them*. But when Jesus was raised from the dead, his imperishable garment was up in heaven, so he had to go up there first to “put on imperishability” (1 Cor 15:53). The precedence for this view by the earliest Christians might have been the belief that Enoch got is imperishable body (i.e., garment) in heaven (2 Enoch 22:6-10), and maybe Moses and Elijah too, so of course Jesus would get his imperishable body up in heaven too. Again, to summarize, I am proposing that maybe the first Christians thought that Jesus got his final immortal body in heaven a few seconds *after* his mortal body was brought back to life on earth, so Jesus’ raising is actually very similar to the live bodily assumptions up to heaven of Enoch, Elijah, and Moses. Do you have any more thoughts on this? Seems like it might be a good research project for one of your grad/PhD students.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 29, 2018

            I just don’t think that coincides with what Paul and the others say. (They certainly don’t say it!)

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