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Spilling the Beans on my Beliefs on the Last Day of Class

About fifteen years ago or so I started doing something completely different on my last day of class in my New Testament course.  I have a lecture scheduled for then, of course, but the scheduled lecture rehashes material that is earlier covered in the class and that students can pick up easily from their reading – so it’s not one of the crucial class periods of the semester.  Sometimes that last class is not even that (depending on how the semester schedule works out) but is a kind of review session.

But about two weeks before the end, I tell the students that I have an option for the last day, and I’ll let them vote on it.

The option is to do the class as scheduled or, instead, to have a non-required class (no taking of attendance, no reason to come unless they want to) in which I explain what I myself really believe and why I believe it.   That is of some relevance to the class, of course, since the beliefs I’ll be talking about are connected with the Bible – my own personal views of the Bible, of Christ, of God, of faith, and so on.   But if students would rather have the last class as scheduled in the syllabus I will do that, of course.   We take a vote.  How many students want me to blow off the last class and talk about what I believe?   99% of the students (these are large classes; they have ranged from 130 students to 420 over the years, depending on a number of factors, including whether I have enough graduate student teaching assistants) want me to talk about myself.

I started doing this years ago in part because …

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The Life Story I Tell My Students
Can Teaching Be Objective?

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Comments

  1. twiskus  May 2, 2017

    Have you ever had this classes video/audio recorded? Not sure if Chapel Hill would allow it or not.

  2. RonaldTaska  May 2, 2017

    Putting it all together seems to me to be the main point of it all. Keep posting on this subject. It is not a rabbit hole, but something of “ultimate concern.” The big question: Is there a reasonable way to be a Christian if the Bible is mainly legendary? Many of us would discount Mormonism very quickly because the Book of Mormon seems legendary. Yet, somehow the Bible and Christianity are treated differently.

  3. talmoore
    talmoore  May 2, 2017

    Young people are so used to being told what to believe by the adults around them that they relish those moments when an adult doesn’t lecture them on what to believe, but, rather honestly tells those young people why this adult does not hold those beliefs that the other adults insist you hold. (I honestly looked for a less confusing way to construct the previous sentence, but it eluded me.)

  4. Todd  May 2, 2017

    Just leave is hanging with anticipation !!
    😉

  5. Benjamin
    Benjamin  May 2, 2017

    You Da man!
    No one cares about my beliefs except my Evangelical friends. The rest of them don’t care. But if you are married to one, such as Daniel Everett, she walked out because he de-converted. So you are lucky to have an Episcopal wife, make sure you thank god for her, every day.

  6. wostraub  May 2, 2017

    I don’t think there’s any question that there’s an issue involving celebrity at that last optional class! But considering the fact that Bart D. Ehrman is without a doubt the brightest, clearest, most knowledgeable and most honest biblical author around, I’d happily attend that class even if I were still the devout Southern Baptist I used to be. Thank you, Bart!

  7. Tony  May 2, 2017

    May 2, 2017

    “Sorry, I’m not sure what you think I’m denying. Are you saying that Paul does *not* say these things about Jesus’ life?”
    —————————
    Yes, Paul never talks about an historical Jesus’ life. The fact that you’re asking tells me that I have not been communicating very effectively. You’ve created ad hoc interpretations pushing historicity and often read things into Paul’s letters that are not there. Would you like me to repost my earlier comments on your 14 points?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 3, 2017

      OK, if you don’t think so you don’t think so.

      • Tony  May 3, 2017

        Right, I don’t think so, and I base that on the evidence contained in the NT. Any explanation why we both look at the same evidence and come to such different conclusions?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 4, 2017

          My suspicion is that you simply aren’t reading the texts with an open mind. I don’t know anyone who was not previously committed to a mythicist view who takes that line, since a straightforward reading of Paul shows pretty clearly that he knows some of the things Jesus said and did.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  May 3, 2017

      Uh oh, a Mythicist. I’m curious, Tony, what do you think Paul meant when he wrote the following?

      “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15:12-19)

      I, myself, am an atheist. I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t believe Jesus “died for our sins”. (I don’t even believe there is such a thing as sin.) I don’t believe that Jesus’ death “redeems” us in any way. And, yet, when I read that passage with my skeptical eyes, the only thing I can think is: anyone who can read that passage and come away thinking that Paul did NOT believe that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood human being who walked the earth and died like all living, breathing human beings are wont to do — anyone who can seriously read that passage and not understand that Paul is taking Jesus’ human existence as a given, well, that person is either A) being incredibly disingenuous to the point of intellectual dishonesty, or B) a terribly confused individual whose judgment is clouded by an agenda.

      Just in case it is option B, I’ll explain what Paul is saying in a way that you and others can better understand. Paul is trying to reassure the members of the assembly at Corinth that even those believers who have already died (or, to use Paul’s euphemism, have “fallen asleep”) will surely be resurrected from the dead at the End of Days. How does Paul know this? Because he points to Jesus as the example of a man — a flesh-and-blood, living, breathing human being! — who physically died and was resurrected. That’s what Paul means when he says: “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.” In other words, if it’s impossible for human beings to be resurrected, then it was impossible for Jesus to have been resurrected. Why? Because Jesus was obviously a human being! Just to drive the point home using Aristotelian logic: A) No human being can be resurrected from death; B) Jesus was a human being; ergo, C) Jesus could not have been raised from the dead. QED

      If Paul doesn’t really believe that Jesus was at some point a real, existing, flesh-and-blood, living, breathing human being, then Paul’s entire argument becomes nonsensical. That’s why when Mythicists continue insisting that Paul doesn’t say that Jesus the man existed, it makes me want to pull my hair out.

      • jimviv2@gmail.com  May 5, 2017

        Very well stated. Thank you.
        Many layers of myth and legend have covered the historical Jesus, but at its core, to claim a human
        Jewish person called Jesus of Nazareth did not exist is an extraordinary claim. I do not see extraordinary evidence to support that claim and much evidence to the contrary.

        • Tony  May 6, 2017

          The sole source of a Jesus of Nazareth is the Gospels. Paul, writing a generation earlier, never mentions Jesus of Nazareth nor anyone remotely like the Gospel Jesus character.

      • Tony  May 5, 2017

        Thank you for your response. I noticed from your earlier comments that you have a great deal of knowledge about the Hebrew Bible and Judaism. Recently you observed the strong apocalyptic beliefs within Judaism around the beginning of the first millennium. That is an excellent point and a critical one in terms of Paul’s religion.

        I chuckled when you characterized those who, after reading 1 Cor 15:12-19, think that Paul did NOT believe that Jesus was an earthly human being, are either liars or idiots (I’m paraphrasing). Being a lying idiot I plead guilty, because I think that the evidence shows that Paul did NOT think his Jesus was a human who walked the earth.

        There are no absolutes in this matter. I don’t care whether Jesus was a nobody who was somehow elevated to the son of God postmortem, or whether Paul’s Jesus was the celestial son of God who was never on earth. Both options are possible (anything is possible), but on balance, the evidence strongly favors the second option.

        The evidence for my last statement comes in a number of forms: the apocalyptic Jewish beliefs, the Hellenistic/Jewish cosmological beliefs of that time, the letters from Paul, the Gospels, and a first century apocalyptic, Hebrew pseudepigraphical, document called “The Ascension of Isaiah”.

        That brings me to context. You’re arguing that a few verses in 1 Cor proof that there was a life human Jesus. Where, or when, was this “Christ” resurrected? What was Paul’s source of this resurrection information? Who actually is this Christ? Why does Paul NEVER refers to his Christ as “returning” or “coming again”, but always and only writes in future tense “to arrive” or “to come”? Please don’t tell me you got your Christ information from the Gospels, because those were written at least a generation later – and are actually based on Paul’s letters.

        It’s obvious you have not done your homework and have not read Paul’s letters thoroughly. If you had, you would have noticed that Paul never refers to an earthly Jesus or a Jerusalem Roman execution. Instead, Paul, and everyone else, know about his Jesus from Hebrew scripture and visions only. Paul identifies the killers of Jesus as “The Rulers of this Age” who mistakenly killed Jesus and are “doomed to perish”. Even the early church father Origen identifies these “Rulers of this Age” as Satan and his Demons who live in the Firmament and, according to Paul, are the “rulers”, “powers”, and “authorities” which will be defeated in a final cosmic battle. For starters, read all of 1 Cor 15 and not just a fragment.

        Here is the Ascension of Isaiah on the likely eschatology of Paul:

        “The Lord will indeed descend into the world in the last days, (he) who is to be called Christ after he has descended and become like you in form, and they will think that he is flesh and a man. And the god of that world will stretch out [his hand against the Son], and they will lay their hands upon him and hang him upon a tree, not knowing who he is. And thus his descent, as you will see, will be concealed even from the heavens so that it will not be known who he is. And when he has plundered the angel of death, he will rise on the third day and will remain in that world for five hundred and forty-five days. And then many of the righteous will ascend with him, whose spirits do not receive (their) robes until the Lord Christ ascends and they ascend with him.”

        I’ll explain it to you. God send his spiritual Son (Christ) down from the seventh heaven with a plan. God’s son is traveling incognito, and as he descends he assumes material form because the lower levels are increasingly material and less spiritual. The God of the firmament level (Satan) will be tricked into thinking he is human, “kills” him and hangs him from a tree. Of course, you cannot kill the son of God and he is resurrected. The reference to “robes” is the nature of he the spiritual body Paul writes about in 1Cor 15.

        But wait there is more. Because you’ll say, (I hope), but Paul’s Jesus was crucified! Google the word “stauros”. You’ll find that hanged from a tree, stake or pole and hanged from a Roman cross both use the Greek stauroo.

        Or alternatively, you can just take Bart Ehrman’s word for the whole historicity thing.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  May 6, 2017

          “but on balance, the evidence strongly favors the second option.”

          No, it does not. The fact that people like you keep insisting on this is what makes people like me roll my eyes at people like you.

          • Tony  May 7, 2017

            People like you – people like me… Let my people go Talmoore! Apparently, you people roll their eyes and pull their hair out a lot.

            But seriously, did you do an objective probability, or best fit, analysis on the subject? I guess not. I suggest you read Carrier’s “on the historicity of Jesus” He provides an extensive academic review and probability analysis.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  May 6, 2017

          The Ascension of Isaiah 3:11 But Beliar dwelt in the heart of Manasseh and in the heart of the princes of Judah and Benjamin and of the eunuchs and of the councillors of the king.

          13. For Beliar was in great wrath against Isaiah by reason of the vision, and because of the exposure wherewith he had exposed Sammael, and because through him the going forth of the Beloved from the seventh heaven had been made known, and His transformation and His descent and the likeness into which He should be transformed (that is) the likeness of man, and the persecution wherewith he should be persecuted, and the torturers wherewith the children of Israel should torture Him, and the coming of His twelve disciples, and the teaching, and that He should before the sabbath be crucified upon the tree, and should be crucified together with wicked men, and that He should be buried in the sepulchre

          4:2. After it is consummated, Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descent from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king, the slayer of his mother: who himself (even) this king.

          Every time Beliar (or Satan) is mentioned, he is referred to as an evil entity that works through people who live on earth–Manasseh, princes, eunuchs, etc…
          The author describes the Beloved (Christ) as a divine being from heaven who descended and became a man (the likeness of man).
          Beliar also descends from his realm and becomes a man (likeness of man), specifically, Nero. It says that the lawless king slayed his mother. Nero had his mother put to death.

          In all of these cases, the supernatural embodies the natural. The Ascension is not the work of just one author and has several interpolations. You chose a passage that is specifically Gnostic even though there are other passages to indicate otherwise. It says that the children of Israel tortured Him. How could they have tortured him if he wasn’t a human being? It also says he was put to death with wicked men. Not wicked divine beings but men.

          More importantly, Paul didn’t just call him Christ. He had a name, and a very common one at that: Jesus. It doesn’t make sense for Paul to believe all these cosmic events took place in a spiritual realm where he was given the ordinary, human name of Jesus. Paul also wrote in Romans that as an earthly man, Jesus was the descendant of David. In Galatians, he was born of a woman and born under the law.

          Finally, you said that Bart hasn’t done his homework –hasn’t read Paul’s letters thoroughly. What an insolent thing to say.

          • Tony  May 7, 2017

            The homework comment was addressed to Talmoore, not Ehrman.

        • dragonfly  May 7, 2017

          For those playing along at home, here is a lesson in confirmation bias, where a person selectively looks for evidence that supports their belief, and rejects or ignores evidence that contradicts it.
          Talmoore has pointed out some clear evidence that Paul thought Jesus was a human. In a debate you would have to address this evidence, in this case by reinterpreting it to mean something else. But Tony has just ignored it and gone back to pointing out the things Paul *doesn’t* say. Then he points out that you shouldn’t read a later document, such as the gospels, into Paul, which is absolutely true. But then he does exactly that by claiming a docetic document, dated from somewhere between the late 1st and the end of the second century, is “the likely eschatology of Paul”.
          The amazing thing is, because of confirmation bias, Tony won’t be able to see this at all.
          This should be a caution to us all. If someone can be blind to this level of confirmation bias, we all could be. this is something scholars need to be constantly aware of.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  May 7, 2017

            “For those playing along at home, here is a lesson in confirmation bias”
            BINGO!

          • Tony  May 7, 2017

            Wow, pot calling kettle…

            The fact is that, while Paul says little or nothing about a historical Jesus, he says plenty about a celestial being that has appeared to him (and Jerusalem church members) and that he, and others, had found in Hebrew scripture.

            It never seizes to amaze me that those with the historical Jesus meme thoroughly implanted can completely ignore the part where Paul sings like a canary. Confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance?

            Talmoore claims that Paul in 1 Cor 15 writes that Christ was resurrected. Yup, no problem there, but where does it says that Christ was human? In fact, I would suggest being resurrected is a very unhuman experience!

            The Ascension of Isaiah is thought to date end of first-early second century.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  May 7, 2017

          I see. I apologize for being mistaken, but then that still leaves talmoore as the one not doing his homework. I really don’t think that’s the case.

  8. JGonzalezGUS  May 2, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Since you say that for the last class students can bring mom, pastor, rabbi, etc. Has it ever happened that the last class turned into a debate?
    Just curious.
    Jose

  9. Wilusa  May 2, 2017

    Come to think of it… I first viewed some of your lectures in The Great Courses. But for some reason, none of them spelled out your personal views.

    Then I read some of your books. And I still didn’t know!

    I thought you might be keeping your personal views to yourself – which you’d have every right to do. But I was curious as to whether you were an agnostic, like me. Solely because I was wondering about that, I – finally! – looked at your profile on Wikipedia. And not only found the answer to my question, but learned about the blog!

  10. hasankhan  May 2, 2017

    Do you mind blogging the last class content? i.e what you believe and why.

  11. Jason  May 2, 2017

    Your trade books have brought you a measure of what could be called-without exaggerating-“academic celebrity,” somewhat akin to Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Jane Smiley (for example, I first learned of your work from Fresh Air on NPR, not my R.S. 105 class at ISU.) Have your class sizes (either in general or just the last day) grown or decreased as a result since say, “Jesus Interrupted?”

    • Bart
      Bart  May 3, 2017

      Ha! My classes have gotten smaller! But that’s because of what’s happening generally in the Humanities today, as there is such a huge push for STEM.

      • Jason  May 3, 2017

        Damn-that hurts to hear. I’m one of those people “evangelizing” for and working in STEM, but none of the most rewarding memories from my university days were really in my major. What ever happened to the well-rounded student approach-the universality that gave schools the title “University?”

  12. Hume  May 3, 2017

    Did Jesus mean Gehenna as the garbage pit outside Jerusalem, or did he mean Gehenna the garbage pit outside Jerusalem as a metaphor for ACTUAL eternal suffering in Hell?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 3, 2017

      I’m trying to figure that one out….

      • Hume  May 3, 2017

        What’s your hunch?! I could end up in Hell based on your response! 😉

        • Bart
          Bart  May 4, 2017

          Ha! My current view, open to being changed any time soon, is that Jesus thought that at the final judgment those opposed to God would be punished. But I’m not sure if that involved annihilation or conscious torment.

          • tompicard
            tompicard  May 7, 2017

            Dr Erhrmah,

            I would agree that “Jesus thought that . . . those opposed to God would be punished .. involve[ing some kind of] conscience torment”, In this passage referencing Gehenna Jesus likens that torment to being worm-eaten and burned, but I don’t think there is enough evidence to be sure that was meant literally.
            These ‘torments’ are very physical.

            In Matt 12:4-42 Jesus describes a different type of torment that those opposed to God will experience.
            they will have to listen to the condemnation of pagans of Ninevah and the Queen of Sheba.
            This is an internal torment.

            Now, both types of quotes by Jesus are not primarily focussed of the punishment/torment but rather on the urgency of repentance & preparing for the Kingdom of God. Still it may be (or maybe not) interesting to speculate which type of punishment Jesus considered forthcoming for sinners.

            Anyway if you only consider the physical torment vs annihilation, you are missing other possibilities that may be equally or even more consistent with the rest of Jesus’ ministry.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 8, 2017

            I’m having a bit of trouble following. Yes, Jesus’ point is about repentance, but he uses punishment as the incentive. The Ninevites were in danger of being (physically) destroyed, not (emotionally) distraught.

          • tompicard
            tompicard  May 10, 2017

            I originally learned from S.M. Moon, and later from your book, that Jesus understood his mission/responsibility to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth; not some John 3:16-ish mission to die, thereby somehow opening up a kind of salvation in a post life-on-earth realm.
            So understanding Jesus’ views of existence beyond the physical realm is sketchy.
            Be that as it may, the emotional distress is the faithless people of Jesus’ generation finally realizing their own sin in missing God’s anointed and having to listen to the condemnation of the more faithful idolaters – the Queen of Sheba and the Nenevites.

      • tompicard
        tompicard  May 4, 2017

        Hume,
        I think you need to look at the terms in the whole context.
        Suppose you are referring to Mark 47-48

        ‘Or if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out. It would be better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God half-blind than remain in possession of two eyes and be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die and the fire does not go out.’

        A literalist may read these verses and understand Jesus as making an existential statement regarding immortal worms inhabiting a garbage pit outside of Jerusalem. And therefore miss the main point.

        I personally read the two verses taken together to imply Jesus believes that avoiding ‘sin’ and ‘entering the Kingdom of God’ is the most crucial task a person should undertake. The tearing out the eye, and/or being eternally fried and eaten by maggots, were meant by Jesus to express the seriousness of the issue, not to be taken literally, but that is just my opinion. See a much better explanation in chapter 10 of Dr Ehrman’s “Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet’.

  13. dragonfly  May 3, 2017

    I’ll be interested to find out how you can spend a whole lecture saying you’re not a Christian. I would have thought 2 minutes would be plenty.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 3, 2017

      Ha! Yeah, it’s kind a like how you (I) can write an entire book saying that all of our manuscripts of the New Testament have differences in them (when I can say it in less than a sentence!).

  14. llamensdor  May 3, 2017

    In your posts about objectivity, I don’t believe you give yourself enough credit. I believe you try as hard as anyone I’ve ever known or read about to find and express the objective truth–if there is any. You are well aware of your own predilections and biases, and I’m certain you strive mightily to overcome them, or at least to acknowledge them. At the same time, you are working to acquire and evaluate all the evidence available for whatever subject-matter you are considering. Are you perfect? Not bloody likely, but that doesn’t stop you from trying.
    This makes me think of a related subject, much in the news today. One phrase we hear repeatedly is “conflict of interest,” and the assumption (or conclusion) we hear repeatedly is that if someone has a conflict of interest they are automatically disqualified from participating in, or adjudicating, whatever happens to be the issue of the day. This is false. If it were true, we would be disqualified from living–everyone has conflicts of interest every day and in virtually every endeavor. Every time I shop in a store, the owners/employees and I have a “conflict of interest.” I’d like to pay less for what I’m buying and they’d like me to pay more. Of course, if I’m a judge and the accused is my son, I should/must recuse myself. That’s obvious, but most of life is not that clear. The real rule for dealing with a conflict of interest is that it must be acknowledged, and that the trier of fact or the judge or the administrator must do what is right, reach a fair and balanced conclusion notwithstanding his/her personal preferences and beliefs.
    I suppose we might use Socrates as an especially poignant example of this. In a life or death situation when he might have saved his own life, he refused to do so–having lived under the laws of Athens, he would not act to escape these laws when they did not suit him personally.

  15. joeydag  May 3, 2017

    I saw you lecture at Stanford University years ago and you delivered a very entertaining and educational lecture. I can believe you would draw a large audience for that non-academic class. I’d go. Best wishes for a long and productive teaching and writing career.

  16. Alfred  May 3, 2017

    Bart do you distinguish between ‘knowing’ and believing? In general I consciously try to reject belief in favour of knowing but I’ve reached the conclusion we are programmed to ‘believe’. It explains North Korea, anyway.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 3, 2017

      Yes, I think there is a difference, but considerable overlap as well.

      • Wilusa  May 3, 2017

        Re “knowing” and “believing”: The way I think about it is that all we can *absolutely* know is “Cogito ergo sum.”

        So when I want to say I know something less than that as certainly as anyone *can* know, I say (or would, if I had to tell anyone) that I know it as certainly as I know Australia exists. Australia being a random choice of a place I’ve never seen, even from the air.

        And I would never say I “believed in” something *as serious as the existence of a deity* unless I *thought* I *knew* it, as certainly as the existence of Australia!

        That’s why I have trouble with your saying that you’re an agnostic, but you’re also an atheist because you don’t “believe in” the Christian “God.” It implies that an agnostic *could* “believe in” that “God.”

      • Wilusa  May 3, 2017

        Of course, there’s also a problem with the term “agnostic”! If it’s taken to mean solely, “I don’t know,” it could imply that the user of the term is open to the possibility of *any* current religion’s being the “one true faith” – and may be ripe for conversion.

        So if anyone were to ask me, I’d say I’m an agnostic because I *don’t presume to claim certainty* for my hypotheses. But I do have hypotheses…which are non-theistic.

        • dscotth  May 11, 2017

          T.H. Huxley, how coined the term “agnostic” said about it that

          “In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.”

          To be an agnostic does not mean a squishy “I don’t know;” it means a belief that evidence is required in order to reach firm conclusions. It doesn’t mean every faith is equally possible, but that all claims to supernatural knowledge are suspect.

    • dragonfly  May 7, 2017

      At one point everyone knew the earth was flat. At another point everyone knew the earth was a sphere in the centre of the universe. At another point everyone knew the earth revolved around the sun, our solar system was one of many in the galaxy, and time was absolute. We now know time is relative. Knowledge is just belief. We have no choice but to believe things, but can we really “know” anything? We live in the model of the world created by our brains. It is such a convincing model we think it’s reality, but it’s just a model of reality. Well, that’s what we currently believe, anyway.

  17. rivercrowman  May 3, 2017

    I think I discovered Jesus Interrupted and God’s Problem (a rare audio version) about the same time as Misquoting Jesus (probably before). A post or two about your becoming candid on your beliefs in Misquoting Jesus would be great!

  18. nbraith1975  May 3, 2017

    I am currently a 60 year old doubting Christian that is having a hard time reconciling historical facts with a faith that is based on miracles and teachings that can’t be historically corroborated. Your work has been helpful in my understanding of the historical facts regarding the New Testament.

    I would like to preface my question with the following:

    By logic and reason alone, I do believe that life could not have spontaneously generated from a cooling ball of fire – regardless of any period of time. The same goes for matter and energy spontaneously appearing from nothing.

    The random generation of even a single cell from in an environment devoid of any form of life is a statistical impossibility – let alone a cell that can reproduce. And yet we have a planet teaming with all sorts of life forms living in a seemingly cooperative existence.

    With that said, I would like to know where you stand regarding the appearance of any life-form or matter/energy from nothing? And please don’t tell me it might be from aliens because that argument simply goes down the rabbit hole of an infinite regression of causes.

    Thank You

    • Bart
      Bart  May 4, 2017

      Ha! I don’t think it involves aliens. (Where would *they* have come from?) I’m afraid I’m not smart enough to know how the beginning of all things happened. If I were, I’d be an extremely rich scholar….

      • nbraith1975  May 5, 2017

        Bart – I appreciate your response. My point is that while I’m having doubts about the Hebrew “god” and the “god” Jesus calls father; based on the insurmountable odds of life, energy and matter spontaneously appearing, I do believe there is a creator(s).

        My question to you is; do you believe there is a “creator(s)?”

        Thank You

        • Bart
          Bart  May 6, 2017

          No, not at all. I’m an atheist!

        • dscotth  May 11, 2017

          The ultimate mystery is why there is anything rather than nothing at all. The spontaneous appearance of energy, matter, or life are events about which statistics are completely meaningless. By definition, you can’t calculate the odds of a once in the duration of the universe occurrence. Positing a creator is no more satisfactory an answer, as then one has to ask from whence came the creator.

    • dragonfly  May 5, 2017

      A NT scholar might not be the best person to ask that question. A good starting point would be Stephen Hawking “A briefer history of time”. The universe is stranger than fiction. In regard to the beginning of life here, what sort of statistics have you tried to calculate that makes you think it’s impossible? By my calculations I think it’s unlikely life wouldn’t have started given the circumstances.

    • johnlein  June 9, 2017

      If you’re interested in thinkers who attempt to balance evolution and the latest scientific theories, critical scholarship, and Judeo-Christian faith, here are a few you might be interested in:

      * Teilhard de Chardin: mid 20th century Jesuit and geologist, developed the idea of God as the force of love that is drawing us toward greater unity and complexity in physical and consciousness areas, which we and nature always have the option of resisting and acting against. I haven’t read his books, just attended a lecture series on his life and thought.

      * Richard Elliott Friedman: Jewish scholar, I just read his book “The Disappearance of God” wherein he makes a case for a somewhat non-theist view of the divine directly from the Bible as well as drawing on quantum theories, the Big Bang, and Kabbalah. He brings up Stephen Hawking’s book, as the commenter above mentions. It’s from 1995 so not sure how all would continue holding up, but I found it interesting.

      * John D. Caputo: a philosopher and theologian who works with Derrida and other French philosophers on the idea of a “God who does not exist, but insists” which parallels de Chardin in some ways I think. His “Hoping Against Hope” is a book I recently read and loved. He deals more with Jesus in “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?”

  19. Eskil  May 3, 2017

    How far is it what you believe is true from what you wish would be true? If you could freely cherry-pick, would you choose some of the beliefs that you have held in your past or for example Valentinianism or do you simply prefer the reality?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 4, 2017

      I would like to believe that at the end of time God will make right all that is wrong and explain it to us, and that I will experience eternal bliss in heaven. 🙂

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