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Should the Old Testament Even Be in the Bible?

A week or so ago I started to describe how I’m thinking of one of my future books, that I’m tentatively calling The Battle for the Bible.  The book (if I write it) will be about how Christians got the Old Testament and saw the Old Testament as *their* book rather than the Jews’, who had misinterpreted it and given up (without their knowledge) any claim to it.  My argument is that this dispute is what ultimately led to the history of anti-Judaism among Christians, which is eventually what led centuries later to anti-semitism.

It will take a long time in the book to show how it worked – it’s a complicated issue.  In my first two posts I stated the thesis in its bald terms, and I received several negative comments about it by readers who thought it can’t be that simple.  And of course they are right.  It’s not.  But I haven’t started to explain how it all worked.  You have to see the whole system before you can tell whether it works or not.  (I’ve just spent three days in in Pythagorio on the Greek Island of Samos, birthplace of Pythagorus, the famous Greek philosopher and mathematician. If you were to tell a person who knew absolutely nothing about math that with a right triangle the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square of the two other sides, they would think you were nuts.  You have to show it and explain it before it makes sense.  So too any historical view.  You can’t just state it and expect anyone to buy it.  You have to show how and why it works….)

Anyway, my proposal to myself will not adducing all the evidence, but it will be doing more of that then I’ve done so far.  My entire proposal is about 8000 words lone, and so this will take a few more posts at least to lay out the skeleton of the case.   Here’s the next bit.  (If you’re not remembering the lead-in, see the two earlier posts https://ehrmanblog.org/why-do-christians-have-an-old-testament-another-trade-book/ and https://ehrmanblog.org/is-the-old-testament-a-christian-book/)

 

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The story of how it happened – how Christians, in effect, co-opted the Jewish Bible – is both historically intriguing and socially tragic.  One part of my book will explore the historical intrigue; the other the social tragedy.

 

An Early Christian Conundrum:  Is the Hebrew Bible Part of the Christian Scripture?

First I must deal with the all-important prior question I have already alluded to.  If, very early in their history, Christians chose to bypass precisely the laws and instructions the Bible enjoins on the people of God, why did they see any utility of having the Old Testament at all?  If it was outdated, why not simply jettison it altogether?

Early Christians took a number of different approaches to that question.  One view can be assigned to the historical Jesus himself and his very earliest followers – the disciples and their converts.  These were Jews …

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How “Jews” Became “Children of the Devil” in the New Testament
Is the Old Testament a Christian Book?

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    jrblack  June 11, 2019

    A fascinating topic, but the proposed title might cause some confusion, since Harold Lindsell of Fuller Theological Seminary used the exact same title for his 1976 book defending biblical inerrancy.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 11, 2019

      Might drive up sales! (A terrible book by the way.) But the real point is, no one in my intended audience will have been influenced by a fundamentalist book from over 40 years ago.

      • Avatar
        jrblack  June 11, 2019

        I was influenced by it–just not in the way Lindsell probably intended. It’s been some years now since I read the book, but if I remember correctly he made a convincing case that many people who work for evangelical institutions and sign “statements of faith” affirming their belief in biblical inerrancy do not in fact believe in biblical inerrancy. If true that would seem to present some rather serious problems for both institutional evangelicalism and biblical inerrancy.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 12, 2019

          Yup, he was attacking his own Fuller Theological Seminary. Not exactly a bastion of liberalism, but not fundamentalist enough for his taste.

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  2. Avatar
    Todd  June 11, 2019

    Your intro here got me very excited about learning more of this. Please do write your book.

  3. Avatar
    AstaKask  June 11, 2019

    Of course, *we* know that “do not eat weasels” *actually* means “do not have oral sex.”

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  4. Avatar
    brenmcg  June 11, 2019

    Matthew has Jesus teach against the law in the sermon on the mount – and also later.

    The law allows people to divorce, Jesus teaches this would be adultery
    The law allows oaths to be made, Jesus teaches never to make oaths
    The law says an eye for an eye – Jesus says this is a wrong teaching and you shouldn’t resist evil.

    I think the line “do not think I have come to abolish the law … ” indicates, as elsewhere in Matthew, that Jesus and his disciples were at least accused of teaching against/breaking the law during his ministry.

    Matthew seems to be the only one of the gospels who at least attempts to reconcile Jesus’s teaching with the law.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 11, 2019

      I don’t see these as teaching against the law. Jesus never says, The Law says do not commit murder, but I say you do. What he says is that if you want *really* to keep the law you will go beyond the literal, surface meaning and get to the heart of the matter. If the law says the punishment should fit the crime, and not exceed it (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; rather than, your head for my tooth), Jesus says you should go a step further and show mercy (turn the other cheek). He *never* takes a law in the other direction (not an eye for an eye but two eyes and an ear for an eye….)

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      • Avatar
        AstaKask  June 11, 2019

        This similar to “building a fence around the Torah”, right?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 12, 2019

          That was the Pharisees’ explicit approach, and the historical Jesus was not a fan. It’s a bit different with him, I think, though possibly the intent is very similar (interesting point: thanks!). He wasn’t so much defining what specifically could and could not be done to ensure the law was literally followed. He was trying to get to the heart of the law and saying you should be interested in intent, motivation, and the real point rather htan the literal observation. If you see what I mean. A bit different.

          1
      • Avatar
        brenmcg  June 11, 2019

        He doesn’t think the law in its entirety is wrong – just some of it.

        Eye for an eye is retribution, Jesus goes in the opposite direction. no retribution and turn the other cheek.
        The law says you can give your wife a certificate of divorce – Jesus says you cant.
        The law says fulfill your oaths to god – Jesus says no oaths and anything more than yes or no comes from the evil one.

        He’s teaching people to set aside parts of the law.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 12, 2019

          Not really. The Old Testament doesn’t *require* you to divorce your wife or to swear oaths. It limits the times to do these things. Jesus limits them further. If you do what he tells you to do you do *not* break what the Law says. So he is not telling his followers to do away with the law. He’s telling you to keep it more fully. (If there was a law that said: Do not commit adultery with more than seven people a month, and someone came along and said Do not commit adultery at all, that person would *not* be doing away with the law. They would be making it more extreme, thinking that this is really the ultimate point)

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          • Avatar
            brenmcg  June 13, 2019

            I don’t know, if the law teaches you to only worship one god and jesus teaches you to worship no gods, I don’t think he could be described as just preaching a further limitation.

            The teachings on murder and adultery are further limitations, but he is teaching against the law on divorce, oaths and eye for an eye.

            When he says “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning”, he’s teaching that part of the law is man-made.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 14, 2019

            Yes, that would be different — and it would be precisely the kind of thing Jesus is NOT doing when he talks about the law. The law specifically directs people to worship the God of Israel. If Jesus said not to do so, it would ve a violation on the law. The law eoes not REQUIRE a person to have a divorce or to swear an oath. So when Jesus says not to, he’s not telling anyone to break the law.

            1
          • Avatar
            Iskander Robertson  June 16, 2019

            woudl you agree that whenever jesus said to love x or y, he is limited by the FIRST commandment ? the first commandment says not to have any other god beside god. so the way you show loyalty to your god is by listening and obeying him, jesus was not for the rights of all religions, do you agree? do you agree that jesus would hate hated idol worshipers ? i am sure he would have hated the person than the act because the act is not even independant, it is dependant on what your mind wants. it makes no sense to say “jesus hates minds” it does make sense to say jesus HATES the actual person, do you agree?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 16, 2019

            I don’t think Jesus equated “love” with “worship.” Loving a neighbor is not equivalent, in his mind, to worshiping the person ahead of God.

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      • Avatar
        Iskander Robertson  June 12, 2019

        “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”

        surely this cannot mean, if anyone strikes you with a weapon , then turn the other cheek or does it?
        what if someone strikes and teeth fall out ? it doesn’t seem to me that jesus is doing away with the punishment laws in torah, otherwise their would be broken teeth and jaws and people would have no right to justice. do you agree?

        if for example there is one with broken jaw and broken teeth and the law says do not exceed the punishment, but jesus comes along and says “show mercy” then has the law for punishment been broken?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 14, 2019

          Yup, Jesus seems to have meant to submit to violence. That’s one reason most Christians don’t actually do what he tells them to do!

          1
          • Avatar
            Iskander Robertson  June 14, 2019

            that would mean broken jaws, broken eye socket , broken teeth….
            the torah says that their is punishment for this, jesus says forget about your rights . who is right?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 16, 2019

            Jesus was reading the OT not as *requiring* punishment but as *limiting* it. Other Jews could well have said that no, you’re doing more than that, but he and his followers would disagree.

            1
  5. Avatar
    Kavsor  June 11, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman
    As you have said on other occasions
    Christians needed antiquity because in ancient world people liked ancient stuff. Religions had to be old to be acceptable. That’s one of the reasons Christians kept the old testament.
    It makes sense but since it’s not an easy task to reconcile the God of Hebrew bible with the God of Jesus and Paul ( like unifying the general relativity with quantum field theory),
    was there ever any attempt by Christians to rewrite the old testament to make it suit their agenda or did they simply have bigger problems to deal with? Christians redacted , changed and modified their own scripture, so why didn’t they do that with the old scripture? Could they have kept the Genesis, the prophesies, some of the commandments and have exclueded whichever part they didn’t like?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 11, 2019

      There’s not a lot of evidence of Christian scribes altering the texts of the Old Testament — at least I can’t think of any off hand…

      • Avatar
        dannawid  June 12, 2019

        no need for the christian scribes to alter the text of the old testament. the septugent did the damage already. translating misriam as egypt placed the children of isreal in that country while no trace of moses and his followers could be found there.

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      • Avatar
        jrblack  June 14, 2019

        Since very few Gentiles could read Hebrew, it would not be necessary for Christian scribes to alter the text of the Old Testament in order to change its meaning as far as Gentile Christians were concerned; that could easily be accomplished simply by altering the vernacular translations. A good example of this occurs in some translations of Genesis 3:15, where God curses the serpent who tempted Eve. A fairly literal translation of the Hebrew says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall strike your head, and you shall strike his heel.” But early Latin translations of this passage changed the last part to say, “SHE shall strike your head, and you shall strike HER heel.” This was then reinterpreted to refer the “she” of this verse not to Eve but rather to Mary the mother of Jesus, with the result that even today some Catholic churches have stained glass windows showing a triumphant Mary standing with her foot on the head of a defeated snake.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 14, 2019

          I don’t think the fact that teh Jewish Bible was in Hebrew, would require Christian scribes to alter its *meaning*. It would require them to translate it into Greek. (Or Latin) That can be done accurately.

          1
  6. Avatar
    godspell  June 11, 2019

    Much of what Jesus taught wouldn’t make any sense without the OT passages he was influenced by, or the Jewish history he was reacting to. The problem with including the OT is that most Christians didn’t have the context to understand it then (and probably still true today, though at least the resources are there for those who want to try.)

    What was the alternative–footnotes? Appendixes? The NT authors didn’t have any of those tools. They were writing what they thought of as a continuation of the OT story. Whether the original authors of the OT books would have agreed with that is beside the point, since I’m pretty sure most of the OT authors wouldn’t have entirely agreed with each other either. Judaism isn’t all of a piece, any more than Christianity is. All religions are a process of accretion, with some ideas taking precedence in certain times and places.

    A bit like Windows software–with all the inherent bugs. But starting from scratch just isn’t an option with an operating system in wide use, which in a sense is what The Bible is–arguably for all three Abrahamanic faiths. Muhammad sure put a lot of the OT and NT into the Qu’ran.

    • Avatar
      dannawid  June 12, 2019

      besides the nt and ot the quran also relates a story from the infancy gospel of thomas, when jesus as a child made birds from clay and order them to fly. and they flew.

  7. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  June 11, 2019

    Please write this book. This could be one of the most important books you’ve done yet. I’m not aware of anyone who has examined this issue in the manner you are outlining here. This needs to be written, in my humble opinion.

  8. Avatar
    Cliffschilke  June 11, 2019

    Your discussion focuses on the ethical and moral dimensions of Jesus’s life and teaching, and how the New Testament attempted to portray and embody those teachings in the Gospels. It seems to me however that any understanding of how Christianity appropriated the Old Testament must begin with an understanding of the very central role of the cult of sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple. You and others have argued, convincingly I believe, that Christianity began as a Jewish sect, continuing to follow the Jewish moral and dietary laws, but also continuing to participate in the sacrificial rites of the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus never, as far as I know, repudiated such participation. I assume therefore that it continued for the Jerusalem church until the traumatic event of A.D. 70, when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed. The vital heart of Jewish religious life was destroyed. Judaism itself had to be reinvented in its early rabbinic form, focusing on the synagogue and the study of the Torah. It was not possible to offer sacrifices to God any place other than in the Temple of Jerusalem. Once the Temple was gone, the theological and ethical meaning of the sacrificial rites there no longer had any empirical referent, and meaning could subsequently imposed upon those rites, and upon the written texts which supported those rites, which would not have been the implicit understanding of anyone who actually participated in those rites.

    Jacob Milgrom’s brilliant commentary, “Leviticus”, offers a clear example of this. From page 30 on “The Purification Offering”. “The first question to ask is naturally: who or what is being purified? Surprisingly, it is not the person with the moral or physical impurity…. The telling clue is the designation of the blood of the sacrifice. It is not smeared on the offerer: it is smeared rather on the altar. Thus the first principle: blood is a ritual cleanser that purges the altar of the impurities inflicted on it by the offerer.” The sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple, in Milgram’s understanding of this, purified the Temple, so that God would remain there. This distinction is, in my opinion, completely unknown to most contemporary Christians, and was probably lost rapidly to the early Christian church, particularly the church outside of Jerusalem itself, after the destruction of the temple. Christians could no longer sacrifice at the Temple. How would they then understand the sacrifice of Jesus’s death and with that reinterpretation the Old Testament?

    2
    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      Very interesting indeed. Many thanks. I don’t know if we can say for certain that the Jerusalem Christians continued sacrifice until 70, but I suspect you’re right. One of the big issues, of course, is that Jerusalem was not dictating what Christianity was like elsewhere — and it was most growing elsewhere. That’s why, in my view, it is important to know how many Jews were actually converting in those early years, as opposed to pagans. Contrary to a lot of scholars, I suspect that already by 70 the church was largely gentile. And so the question would be: what influence did Jerusalem have on the rest? Not an easy question.

      5
  9. Avatar
    fishician  June 11, 2019

    I see (at least) 2 major problems with Christians holding onto the Old Testament as divine scripture: 1) many of the laws are just terrible! Selling your daughter as a slave, or executing disobedient children, for just a few of many examples. 2) God is often portrayed as cruel, arbitrary and unjust. The God of the OT was very much like a typical arrogant earthly king, not a divine transcendent being. One of my major reasons for departing from the church was when I read through the OT for myself. If there was a church of Marcion today, maybe I’d still be a member! Although it sounds like his theology was darkened by some anti-Semitic thoughts, and I wouldn’t abide that.

    • Avatar
      Rpkruger  June 13, 2019

      Regarding executing disobedient children, the Bible requires that both the father and mother have to agree to this, lessening the likelihood of it being carried out. Dennis Prager makes the further observation that the parents have to bring the kid to the town elders and they’re the ones who make the decision on whether or not to execute. In effect, this law outlaws honor killings and thus protects disobedient children. I might add that the Talmud says this law was never carried out and never will be.

  10. Avatar
    Jim  June 11, 2019

    So two (hopefully) straightforward questions (not trying to take you away from time spent on sipping Ouzo):
    1. Is there actual evidence that Marcion rejected gMatt, or is that mainly a deductive conclusion?
    2. Regarding Marcion’s favorite gospel, can Luke 24:44 be interpreted as referring to the “entire Hebrew Scriptures” as found in the Protestant OT, or is this an anachronistic idea.
    Think of my question more like a drinking game … one Ouzo shot after each question. 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      Yeah, actually, I had a bad experience with Ouzo about 25 years ago (don’t ask), and so I haven’t touched the stuff for a very long time. I *will* say I think Greek wine has gotten much better over the years. Or maybe I can just afford better stuff now. But for heaven’s sake, avoid the Retsina.

      The Church Fathers claimed Marcion used only Luke (which he edited to get rid of the parts he did not think were authentic) to the exclusion of others. It’s never been clear to me, but my *suspicion* (we don’t have a lot of evidence) is that Luke was the Gospel he was raised on and he didn’t know the others when he was first developing his thinking.

      Luke 24:44 almost certainly refers to the entirely of the Hebrew Scriptures, but it’s not possible to figure out whehter all the books of the “Writings” (the third division of the Hebrew Bible) would have been included in Luke’s community (e.g., books such as Song of Solomon or Ecclesiastes); certainly the Torah and Prophets (both former and latter) would have been included, I should think.

  11. fefferdan
    fefferdan  June 11, 2019

    Bart:
    A couple of things bother me: 1. I don’t think “The Jews” in Jesus’ time had a “bible” per se. Probably not in Marcion’s time either. They had many scriptures, some of which [the NT refers to the Book of Enoch for example] didn’t make it into either canon. That objection is easily overcome by clarifying what you mean by the Jewish Bible at the time of Jesus etc.

    2. More important: I don’t think it’s quite true to say ” it was absolutely, and literally, to be followed. All of it: circumcision; Sabbath observance; kosher food laws; festivals.” This was somewhat true of the Pharisees but not the Jews in general, many of whom did not live as strictly as the Pharisees wanted, whether they were kings like the Herods, or the uneducated “people of the land” — the lost sheep of the house of Israel, in Jesus’ parlance. Moreover, I don’t think “literally” is correct even for the Pharisees, especially those of the Hillel school, which already predominated by the 2nd c. One also thinks of Philo of Alexandria and his allegorical interpretations, or the rabbis of the early Talmudic periods whose non-literalistic approaches became authoritative as Oral Torah. And notably, by the time of Marcion, the entire corpus of sacrificial law had become obsolete. Also — a minor point — some festivals don’t come from the Bible [Hanukah for example].

    Looking forward to the book though.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      1. I would say that various Jewish communities *did* have “a” Bible (or rather a collection of books they called the Bible), but that the edges of the collection (in the part called “the Writings”) would have differed from one community to another. In other words, there was not ONE collection of books that everyone agreed on, but virtually all did agree on the Torah and both the Former and Latter Prophets.

      2. There were certainly Jews who did not believe in a literal interpretation at all — e.g., the ones Philo attacks. But I would say that even the Jews who held to what we might think of as creative interpretations (e.g., Essenes with their Pesharim or Philo with his allegorical interpretations; and certainly the Pharisees and Sadducees; and oi polloi as well) thought that the literal reading was very much important, esp. when it came to the laws themselves. Philo insists that even though the figurative is of utmost importance, you *still* have to keep the literal laws.

      • fefferdan
        fefferdan  June 12, 2019

        I think it boils down to the question, in today’s terms, of observant vs. non-observant Jews. I take the view that the people to whom Jesus ministered were not observant, and these were probably the majority. His own disciples were typical of this group, having to ask questions that literate Jews would never ask such as “why do the Scribes say Elijah must come first”? I think they were the silent majority, so I react to generalizations about “The Jews” that doesn’t give them enough credit IMO.

  12. Avatar
    Tempo1936  June 11, 2019

    I did a search Regarding 1 & 2 Timothy in the blog and found “forger-who-was-caught-the-case-of-salvian” who confessed to the Forgery in about 400 ce. This seems to be late As I assumed most of the canon was already established

    Are there any manuscripts of Timothy earlier than this?
    In which of your trade books cover of this subject?
    I’m listening on Audible “forgery and counter forgery” as well as “ misquoting Jesus”. I highly recommend both. I continue to be amazed by your Energy and talents.
    You must drive the fundamentalists absolutely crazy.🤪

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      Yes, Salvian was writing in the fifth century, and the Pastorals were found in earlier manuscripts (e.g., the fourth-century codex Sinaiticus)

      • Avatar
        Tempo1936  June 12, 2019

        I am trying to discuss the forgery of 1-2 Timothy w a friend. Which of your books cover this issue? Please refer to a chapter since your books are so comprehensive I might get lost trying to find it.
        Thanks so much

        • Bart
          Bart  June 14, 2019

          The simple discussion is in Forged pp. 93-104; a more sustained and scholarly treatment is in Forgery and Counterforgery pp. 192-217.

  13. Avatar
    joks  June 11, 2019

    Has anyone ever compiled a listing of the many verses in the Old Testament that Christianity uses to connect those verses to the coming of Jesus? Also, who is most likely responsible for those connections and when were they most likely made?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      Yes, I’m sure there are lots of books like this, though I don’t know of any by name. Should be easy enough to find. Don’t know if there are any that list one after the other with brief explanations. Eveyrone, of course, would have different lists! There was no one figure we can point to who started this process. It was already firmly in place by the time Paul was writing in the 50s, and continued on, sometimes in highly imaginative ways down to the middle ages (Genesis 1: when God said “Let US create man” he must have been talking to Jesus; Genesis 3, when got made the “britches” for Adam and Eve, to replace their fig leaves, he must have had to sacrifice an animal, which foreshadowed the sacrifice of his Son Jesus later; etc. etc…)

      1
  14. JulieGraff
    JulieGraff  June 11, 2019

    What would be the Moon without the Sun?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      Well, technically, non-existent! I guess that’s your point. Unless you wanted me to say: Part of Mars.

      5
      • JulieGraff
        JulieGraff  June 12, 2019

        HaHa… got the first point..

        and part of the other one: let’s have fun! (Unless you wanted me to say: Part of Mars 🙂 )

        As it is fun to enjoy the games of words with the Hebrew teachings… as for them Moshe’s Torah is known as the Sun.. Josue’s book, is known as the Moon …

        let’s have fun exploring it all! 🙂

  15. Avatar
    KSS  June 11, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman: Christian apologists often say “slavery” in the OT didn’t mean slavery in the sense of what the US saw before the Civil War. Rather, it meant indentured servitude, and when the slave debt was paid, the “slave” was free. Thus, the OT/God didn’t condone “slavery”. Seems a rationalization for the apologists? Does the word “slavery” in the OT literally mean what it says in the original/copy texts? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      I don’t have any books with me just now, but my sense is that in addition to indentured servitude there was real ownership. (There is, of course, in the New Testament). But maybe someone can look it up and tell me: I don’t have any verses springing to mind offhand.

  16. Avatar
    HawksJ  June 11, 2019

    To his credit, Marcion at least put forth by far the most (indeed, the ‘only’, in my estimation) plausible explanation for why god needed a ‘do-over’ after a 1,000 years or so of a flawed covenant – and why he let the world suffer for thousands of years before he ‘sent’ Jesus.

    Why didn’t Jesus show up right after the serpent did his dirty work?

  17. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  June 12, 2019

    Why would Matthew include this in his writing if he wasn’t following the Law himself?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      I would assume he was.

      1
      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  June 14, 2019

        Do you think Matthew was Jewish or a converted Gentile who followed the Law?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          I sometimes flip a coin. Usually tails wins (Gentile). But I don’t really know.

  18. Avatar
    VEndris  June 12, 2019

    Another point in your favor was that Peter was fervently on the side of the Jewish law. However, I understand I have not heard your whole argument, but, to me, the hardest part about this project would be to show that Jesus showed a strict adherence to the “literal” law. I’ve always been taught that Jesus ‘re-interpreted’ the law or at least that he read the law through the lens of “love god and love your neighbor.” I don’t see anything in the New Testament that contradicts this. In fact, the “eye for an eye” verse seems give support to it. I know very committed liberal Christians who would say they adhere to the words of the bible, but not to the literal interpretation. Jesus seems like a ‘liberal’ Jew to me. However, that could also be because that is how I’ve been taught to read it.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Yes, it’s a tricky business. But Jesus never tells anyone to *disobey* the law; he insists that htey follow it more rigorously. So when it says an “eye for an eye” he doesn’t say, no, it’s OK to crucify someone who has gouged out your eye, just as he doesn’t say, that if the Law says you should not murder, I say you should.

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      • Avatar
        VEndris  June 15, 2019

        That is a terrific point. I’m going to press the issue just a bit because I think it might be helpful when considering this question in your book. If you don’t find it helpful, please feel free to move on. I won’t be offended.

        Working with my Christian analogy – I don’t know many Christians who would say you should disobey the New Testament. What they would do is make up some excuse as to why what was said doesn’t really apply today, i.e., “Paul told the church in Corinth that women must remain quiet because there were women there who were interrupting the service – this doesn’t apply to everyone”, or, my favorite on the evangelical side, “Jesus was actually talking about a gate called the eye of the needle which we have absolutely no evidence for. Of course it is o.k. to be rich.” Further, if they do disagree with the NT, they might not say so directly. Most liberal Christians don’t like the gospel of John with Jesus specifically saying that you must believe in him. However, they don’t straight up disagree, they just talk around it.

        This seems like what Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery. He never contradicted the Hebrew Bible by saying don’t stone her. But he did imply it. He never actually said that you should work on the Sabbath and disobey Deuteronomy 5:14, but it seems he redefines what he thinks work is. To me, the closest he comes to directly disagreeing with the HB is in Mk 7 when he “declared all food clean.”

        My point: I think a good argument could be made that Jesus treats the Hebrew Bible much like Christians treat the NT – strictly adhere to those things you like, redefine those things you don’t.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          Yes, possibly. I would extend the argument further to say that there is *no* objective understanding of the Old Testmanet or any other book that does not also involve some form of interpretatoin of it. (BTW: the story of hte woman taken in adultery was not originally in the NT; it was added by a later scribe! I’ve posted about that on the blog before, if you want to look it up)

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    PeterB22  June 12, 2019

    Dr Ehrman: Just a hypothetical question. What would have happened if the Christians HAD NOT co-opted the Hebrew Scriptures into their version of the Bible? What if the Book of Genesis had simply been disregarded by Christians as a book of Jewish mythology? Where, then, would they have gotten their Creation story? From the Romans, perhaps? How different would our culture be today without Genesis, etc. in the Bible?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Great questions!! I wish we knew. (the Christian theologian Marcion, who rejected the OT, thought the world was created by an inferior divine being who botched it very badly indeed)

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        PeterB22  June 14, 2019

        Interesting that the Demiurge might now be thought of as the Creator of the Universe (it does explain how much of human history has gone wrong). But how could Michelangelo have painted him on the Sistine ceiling?Or Masaccio
        in the Brancacci Chapel instead of Adam and Eve? It is stunning to think of how much of Western art and literature derives from Genesis alone!

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          Yup! But I’d say that Michaelangelo and Masaccio would not have done their work if Genesis ad continued to remain Jewish and not Christian. (E.g., Jews never understood the story of Adam and Eve as the disastrous “fall” that Christians argued.)

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    Ryweiland  June 12, 2019

    Had brunch with a friend of yours Micheal Gorman . Small world . The more I listen to you the more Jewish you sound or noahide. I listen to rabbis’ tovia singer and Micheal Skobac and historically you sound alike , even counter missionary with proof texts . I like it I’m surprised your agnostic . I’m glad to see people who think there are problems with what we been taught and try to get to the truth without reinterpreting scripture to justify a mistake .

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Yup, we go way back. Ended up moving in nearly opposite directions, but have remained very friendly all these years. When I was thinking about leaving the Christian faith I did indeed consider becoming Jewish. But then I realized I did’nt believe in God at all, and Judaism was simply not my own culture.

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