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Response to my Newsweek Article on Christmas

Earlier this week I posted my Newsweek article on Christmas from four years ago, and several people have asked me what kind of reaction I received.  I made two posts about that at the time.  Here’s the first.  I find this post rather humorous now, years later, since I was obviously being wildly defensive (halfway through the response) before denying I was defensive at all (at the end)!  What funny people we can be….


My Newsweek article this week has generated a lot of response.  I have no idea what kind of comments they typically get for their stories, but so far, as of now, there have been 559 on mine; and most of them are negative – to no one’s surprise – written by people (conservative evangelicals and fundamenalists for the most part, from what I can tell) who think that the Gospels are perfectly accurate in what they have to say about Jesus – not just at his birth but for his entire life.  A lot of these respondents think that anyone who thinks that the New Testament contains discrepancies is too smart for his or her own good and blind at the same time (not sure how it can go both ways, but there it is).

I’ve also been getting a lot of email from incensed readers, including a sixteen-year old girl who tells me that she is a Pentecostal Christian who has read the Bible 160 times and is now starting her 161st; she was very upset with me and is praying for my soul.

I appreciate the animosity that people feel: I would have felt the same way…

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Is the New Testament Authentic? Readers’ Mailbag December 4, 2016
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  1. ronaldus67
    ronaldus67  December 4, 2016

    Well, maybe a little defensive. But in the end you are still right! Right? 😉

  2. Avatar
    dankoh  December 4, 2016

    To paraphrase Sinclair Lewis: It is difficult to persuade someone to a different perspective when his belief in immortality depends on his not believing you.

    I would just add that all the scholars you listed are not scholars because they like the sound of the word. They are scholars because they have devoted years to careful, intense study of these materials and spent decades of professional (or occasionally amateur) time trying to understand them. And essentially all of them, after all that study, came to the same conclusion (give or take usual scholarly battles over the head of a pin).

    Also, many scholars started out, as you did, Bart, as a firm and true believer. But true scholarship means following the best evidence and coming up with the best analyses, no matter where they lead.

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    nassergayed  December 5, 2016

    Merry Christmas Professor Ehrman.
    Here is a tradition from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt that you might find interesting. It’s about Simeon who met the Holy Family in the Temple in Luke 2. He was previously involved in the copying of the Scripture. And He was convinced that Isaiah 7,14 was mistranslated and should read something like “young woman” instead of “virgin”. While trying to convince the other elders, he had a vision. In the vision he was told to leave it as is and that he will live to see it happen. That is the explanation of Luke 2,26, that “It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not experience death until he had seen the Anointed of the Lord”
    On a totally unrelated note, if you have a minute, please read my blog post at “Dr. Gayed’s Blog” about what Abraham was thinking when he was about to sacrifice Isaac and what was lost in the translation. Let me know what you think. God bless.

  4. Avatar
    Eric  December 6, 2016

    It is funny to read this with your hindsight of how defensive you now find it and how you denied that so explicitly at the time. Self-awareness is a too-rare trait. Thanks for sharing your current thoughts about it.

  5. Avatar
    madmax2976  December 8, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman,

    You note that many of your views are shared by a wide number of biblical scholars around the country and even the world. Can you think of – and perhaps list – views on biblical scholarship that aren’t commonly agreed upon?

    For instance, as a possible start to the list:

    1. I don’t think Jesus was buried in a tomb or that Joseph of Arimathea lent out a tomb. (Assuming that most biblical scholars would disagree with you on this topic – I don’t know myself)


    • Bart
      Bart  December 9, 2016

      Yes, that would be one view that I hold that is not widely held. My sense is that *most* of my scholarly views are pretty standard fare which is why it’s rather odd that I get attacked as a bogey man, as if I had way out there views that I devised to destroy people’s faith). But virtually every position in biblical studies is disputed by someone or another (Was Mark the first Gospel? Did Q exist? Was John written after the Synoptics? Is Acts historically reliable? Did Paul remain a Jew? Did Paul write the Pastoral epistles? Did he write Philippians? I could go on for days…)

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