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Richard Carrier: A Fuller Reply to His Criticisms, Beliefs, and Claims about Jesus

Richard Carrier - My Response to His Criticisms Richard Carrier is one of the new breeds of mythicists.  He is trained in ancient history and classics, with a PhD from Columbia University – an impressive credential.  In my book Did Jesus Exist I speak of him as a smart scholar with bona fide credentials.  I do, of course, heartily disagree with him on issues relating to the historical Jesus, but I have tried to take his views seriously and give him the respect he deserves. Richard Carrier, as many of you know, has written a scathing review of Did Jesus Exist on his Freethought Blog.   He indicates that my book is “full of errors,” that it “misinforms more than it informs” that it provides “false information” that it is “worse than bad” and that “it officially sucks.” The attacks are sustained throughout his lengthy post, and they often become personal.  He indicates that “Ehrman doesn’t actually know what he is talking about,” he claims that I speak with “absurd” hyperbole, that my argument “makes [me] [...]

Was Paul the Founder of Christianity? If Not, Then Who Was?

Who is the founder of Christianity? It is often claimed that the Founder of Christianity was the apostle Paul – or at least that he was the co-Founder, along with Jesus. The idea behind this claim is that Christianity is not really about the historical Jesus. Yes, his words are hugely important, and yes it is also important to know that he did all those miraculous deeds.   But his public ministry is not the core of Christian belief.  Instead, the core of Christianity is the belief in his death and resurrection. And this is what Paul preached, not what Jesus preached.  So that even if Jesus’ life and teachings are important, they are not really what Christianity is about.  Christianity is about believing in his death and resurrection for salvation.  And since, in this view, it was Paul who first formulated that belief, he is the founder of the Christianity religion (or co-founder). Paul vs. Jesus: Who is the Christianity Creator? I have never found this line of argument convincing, for two reasons.  The first [...]

2022-06-20T00:07:31-04:00April 24th, 2022|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Why I Am Not A Christian: Is Bart Ehrman a Christian?

A lot of people wonder why I am not a Christian? Is Bart Ehrman a Christian...is a very popular question.  Just now – fifteen minutes ago – I came to realize with the most crystal clarity I have ever had why I am not a Christian.   Of course, as most of you know, I have not called myself a Christian publicly for a very long time, twenty years or so I suppose. But a number of people tell me that they think at heart I’m a Christian, and I sometimes think of myself as a Christian agnostic/atheist.  Their thinking, and mine, has been that if I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, in some respect I’m a Christian, even if I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God....or that he was raised from the dead, or even that God exists.  In fact, I don’t believe all these things.  But can’t I be a Christian in a different sense, one who follows Jesus’ teachings? Fifteen minutes ago I realized with startling [...]

My Interview with Michael Shermer

On Sunday, February 18, 2018, I did a podcast interview with Michael B. Shermer, a well known author on issues related to science and religion (the one I most recently read: The Science of Good and Evil), based on my new book: The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World. The interview is part of the Science Salon series, number eighteen. Dialogues are hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society, in California. Dr. Michael B. Shermer holds a graduate degree in experimental psychology. He is a historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. Shermer engages in debates on topics pertaining to pseudoscience and religion in which he emphasizes scientific skepticism Among other things in this interview we discuss the modern atheism movement, religion and politics, the intractable problem of evil, the early understandings of Jesus (how could he be both man and God?), the beliefs of ancient pagans about the gods and [...]

Would I Be Personally Devastated if the Mythicists Were Right? A Blast From the Past

For my mailbag this week I dug into one from the past -- almost exactly five years ago.  I would probably answer it the same today.  My thoughts here on how we go about knowing what actually happened in the past strike me as having very broad application (not just to the question I was asked), and (especially toward the end of my answer) to have even greater relevance now than they did then, given our current historical moment.   QUESTION: Was also wondering - and maybe you addressed this in your book ... would you feel an emotionally traumatic disappointment if it was conclusively proved that Jesus was indeed a mythical figure? In all honesty how would you feel if it were true beyond a doubt that all the arguments the 'mythicists' have presented were found to be correct (or mostly correct) regarding his assumed existence? This question is not meant to be offensive or unnecessarily provoking - I'm just curious. RESPONSE: I don’t address this in the book, and I think it is a terrific [...]

Eyewitnesses and the Gospels: A Blast From the Past

Five years ago today I received and answered this question on the blog.  I thought it would make a nice break from my current discussion of my change of faith, a topic to which I'll return tomorrow.  For now, here's a blast from the past.   *********************************************************************** QUESTION One of the major points of your work (if I understand correctly) is that the contents of the New Testament are at a vast remove in time, place, and source from any eyewitness account of Jesus' life. But when I consider this point in my ignorance, and simply from the perspective of chronology (from the time of Jesus to the accounts in the earliest gospels), it seems to me that at least one very old eyewitness of Jesus' life might have been able to report a significant amount of information about Jesus and his teachings directly to, say, Mark. In view of this, I wonder how scholars know that no New Testament account of Jesus could have been received directly from any eyewitness. RESPONSE It’s a very [...]

My Meditation Practice and Women at the Empty Tomb: Readers Mailbag April 9, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this week’s mailbag, one about me personally – do I meditate? – and one about the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection: in all our narratives it is specifically women who are said to have found the empty tomb and so to be the first witnesses to the resurrection.  Given ancient views that denigrate women, is it likely that anyone would make up such a story?  If someone made up the tomb-discovery story, wouldn’t they have claimed that that *men* found the tomb empty?  And doesn’t that suggest the story really happened as narrated?   QUESTION: Do you meditate? If so, which techniques do you use? Do you find it helpful?   RESPONSE: Yes indeed, I do meditate.  Every New Years I make it a resolution to meditate each and every day.  This year I’m doing pretty well *except* when I’m traveling (which, unfortunately, is a lot this semester); that’s probably when I need most to meditate and I just have real trouble scheduling it in.  Not good. [...]

Bart Ehrman & Robert Price Debate – Did Jesus Exist?

As many of you know, this past October I had a public debate with Robert Price on the question of whether Jesus actually existed.  To my knowledge Robert is the only "mythicist" (one who thinks Jesus is a complete myth) who actually has a PhD in the relevant field of New Testament studies.   For years I've been asked by people to debate a mythicist; I've always resisted, in part because I've thought that by doing so I would lend credibility to their view, which, in my judgment, is not credible.   But Robert is a nice guy and I finally yielded and said OK.  This is the debate.  It was lively in places and -- to my surprise -- ended up being a nice experience. The event was part of the "Mythinformation Conference" Buzzed Belief Debate Series presented by Mythicist Milwaukee at Turner Hall in Milwaukee, WI on Friday October 21st 2016.  Mythicist Milwaukee focuses on educating the freethought/skeptic/atheist community about what the organization considers to be the mythological origins of religion.  The people [...]

Questions on the Resurrection and My Personal Spiritual Experiences: Readers’ Mailbag

I'll address two questions on this week's readers' mailbag, one about what we can say about the resurrection of Jesus (a specific question about it) and one about whether my (one-time) faith was based on the Bible or on spiritual experiences I had.  (The answer is apparently not what the questioner expected.)   QUESTION: How do you separate the fact from fiction on the risen Jesus?  You accept, as historical, that the disciples believed they had visions of the risen Jesus – so how do you reject, as legendary, the physical interactions with the risen Jesus as they are drawn from the same accounts? RESPONSE: Ah, this is a good question: it gets to the heart of what it means to engage in a historical analysis of our early Christian traditions.  Each and every tradition (e.g.: the followers of Jesus came to believe he was raised from the dead because they saw him alive afterward; or Jesus ate some fish in their presence after he had died) has to be evaluated on its own merits [...]

Does Jesus Claim to Be God in Mark? And My Former Converts. Mailbag March 19, 2017

Two questions in this week’s Mailbag, one about whether Jesus was claiming to be God in the Gospel of Mark, and the other about my personal life: whether today, as an agnostic, I ever meet people I once converted when I was a gung-ho conservative evangelical Christian.  If you have a question you would like me to address, ask away!   QUESTION: Dr. Ehrman, the other day I was discussing with an Evangelical pastor that the sayings of Jesus in which he claimed to be God were only found in the Gospel of John. He had me read Mark 2:5-7. This is the verse where Jesus heals a paralytic and says to him “Son, your sins are forgiven”. The religious leaders say “Who can forgive sins but God alone”. The pastor said that this shows that even in the earliest Gospel Mark, Jesus claimed to be God. I wasn’t sure how to respond but told him that there was still a big difference in the comparison. Do you have any thoughts or comments in which [...]

Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I: A Blast From the Past

  A former colleague of mine contacted me last week -- not a colleague from any of my teaching positions, but a colleague in ministry from forty years ago when I was the Youth Pastor at Trinity Covenant Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois.  I've been reminiscing about those days, and I remembered an event connected with that church that I talked about in my book How Jesus Became God, involving a moment when my doubts about the Christian faith were starting to take hold.  Here is a post that I made about it exactly four years ago today. ************************************************************** When I attended Moody Bible Institute in the mid 1970s, every student was required, every semester, to do some kind of Christian ministry work.   Like all of my fellow students I was completely untrained and unqualified to do the things I did, but I think Moody believed in on-the-job training.   And so every student had to have one semester where, for maybe 2-3 hours one afternoon a week, they would engage in “door-to-door evangelism.”  That involved being [...]

Group Visions and Agnostic Jesus Scholars: Mailbag March 12, 2017

I will be dealing with two interesting questions on this week’s Readers’ Mailbag.  The first has to do with whether hallucinations can explain why Jesus’ followers thought he had been raised from the dead; the second involves with me personally: if I no longer believe in Jesus, why do I keep studying, writing, and teaching about him? To make sense of the first question I need to provide some background.  In my book How Jesus Became God I argue that the followers of Jesus believed he was raised from the dead for one and only one reason, that some of them (I don’t think we know how many) had visions of him after his death, and they concluded that he must have been raised from the dead (I argue that the “empty tomb” did not lead anyone to believe; either did anything else).  In my book I stress that this explanation works for everyone, whether a Christian believer or not.  Christians would say that the disciples claimed to see Jesus after his death because he [...]

2017-09-22T13:20:08-04:00March 12th, 2017|Reader’s Questions, Reflections and Ruminations|

Christians Who Thought Jesus Was Adopted by God: A Blast From the Past

I have been talking about some of the textual variants in the Gospel of Mark, and I want to discuss the very first one in the Gospel, whether Mark 1:1 calls Jesus the "Son of God" or not.  But to make sense of what I want to say about that matter, I need to provide some background that at first sight may not seem all that relevant.  But it's highly relevant.  It has to do with how some early Christians understood Jesus not to be innately the Son of God, but the Son of God because God "adopted" him, the man Jesus, to be his son at some point of his life.  I've covered that issue before on the blog, and so this is a blast from the past: ****************************************************************************** For some posts now I have been talking about “docetic” Christologies in the early church – views of Christ that said he was so much divine that he was not really a human – and about how these influenced proto-orthodox scribes who changed their texts [...]

2020-04-03T02:34:25-04:00February 26th, 2017|Heresy and Orthodoxy, Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Jesus’ Teaching in Aramaic and the Books of the Canon: Mailbag February 24, 2017

There are two interesting questions in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag: one about Jesus’ teaching in Aramaic and the other about which books did not make it into the New Testament.  If you have a question yourself, ask it as a comment and I will add it to the burgeoning list!   QUESTION: Even though Christ taught in Aramaic, was there absolutely nothing written down in Aramaic? Is there much of a language translation problem going from Aramaic to Greek? (Again, it’s mind boggling to consider how many opportunities for error to creep in by accident or design)   RESPONSE: Yes, I’m afraid that’s right: we don’t have any writings from any early Christians in the language that Jesus spoke, Aramaic.  That makes things rather complicated when it comes to deciding what Jesus really said – that is, if we want to have an idea of his exact words.  Let me make two points about that. First, there are some passages in the Gospels where the author will preserve an Aramaic word or phrase on Jesus’ [...]

An Interesting Scribal Change at the Beginning of Mark

Since I’ve started saying something about how scribes altered the Gospel of Mark over the years as they copied it (yesterday I mentioned eight changes made by scribes in just the five verses, Mark 14:27-31) I would like to pursue this theme a bit, and talk about some of the more interesting changes.   In this post I’ll pick just one that occurs right at the beginning of the Gospel.  It’s an interesting change because scribes appear to have made it in order to eliminate a possible contradiction that was originally found in the Gospel – already in verse 2! The first verse of Mark’s Gospel is often understood to be a kind of title for the entire account: “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”  To that opening statement, most manuscripts add the words “the Son of God.”  I’ll talk about that textual variant in my next post, because it is complicated and interesting too – were those additional words originally found in v. 1 or not?   And why would it matter?  It turns [...]

2020-04-03T02:34:33-04:00February 22nd, 2017|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

The Gospel Truth: Sometimes A Little Hazy

One of my all-time favorite interviewers is Terry Gross, the host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air on NPR.  I have done her show six times over the years for various books I've written, and it has been a terrific experience each time.  She is an amazing interviewer.  She asks really perceptive questions and knows how to get to what is especially interesting about a guest's work. If you've listened to her show, you'll know that it always sounds like she is in the same radio studio with the person she is interviewing, talking to them face to face.  That's not how it is.  The person being interviewed is physically somewhere else, in a radio studio in their own location, and the interview is happening over headphones and cable hookups.  It certainly never seems that way!  But I've never met her face to face. Here is an interview I did with her on March 4th, 2009 about my book "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them)." [...]

Drew Marshall Show – Jesus Before The Gospels

I was a guest on the The Drew Marshall Show on March 12, 2016 for an interview about my book Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Early Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior.  The broadcast was recorded from the studio of CJYE based in Oakville, Ontario Canada. Like the book, the interview discusses both what we know about the phenomenon of memory, based on research done in the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology, and how this research can be applied to the Gospel stories of Jesus.  Did the followers of Jesus -- both those who knew him and those who heard the stories told and retold about him in the decades before our accounts were actually written -- remember accurately what they heard?  Did the stories about Jesus change as memories failed and as story-tellers molded their tales for their audiences?   Obviously what is involved is the historical accuracy of the Gospels, the way we read and think about them, and how we view history. Please adjust gear icon for [...]

2017-09-22T13:32:25-04:00February 5th, 2017|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Video Media|

Ehrman vs Craig: Evidence for Resurrection

Ehrman vs Craig. Over ten years ago now (March 28, 2006) I had a debate with William Lane Craig, author of Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics and On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, at the College of the Holy Cross, on the question: “Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?”  Craig is a conservative evangelical Christian philosopher.  Yes, a real philosopher -- that is, he teaches courses in philosophy and writes about it; but from a very conservative Christian perspective. Ehrman vs Craig - Our First Time Meeting I never met Craig before the debate, and in places, the debate gets a little ... lively.  Even testy. Craig and I have had zero contact with each other ever since. Craig provided a full transcript of the debate on his site Reasonable Faith here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-there-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-craig-ehrman  I would assume that since he posted the transcript he thinks he pretty much mopped me up.  Maybe he did! Please Note - Bart Ehrman Debate William Lane Craig: Please note: The video quality from the [...]

2022-06-27T00:21:06-04:00January 25th, 2017|Bart's Debates, Historical Jesus, Video Media|

Biblical Scholars – Don’t Typically Call Themselves a Biblical Historian

Biblical Scholars, are they Biblical historians....and will I create a book from my blog posts? Two interesting questions on this week's Readers Mailbag.  If you have a question, just ask away! Biblical Scholars - How are They Seen? QUESTION: I just had a debate with a Mythicist who had no idea that any biblical scholar could be a historian.  I have to admit, I was just as ignorant of this fact until a little less than two years ago. How mainstream is it that biblical scholars are also known as historians? Maybe people think of biblical scholar–historian as two entirely separate entities.   RESPONSE It’s a good question!  I would say that most biblical scholars in fact are not historians.  But some are.  It depends on what their interests and expertise are. In most PhD programs in biblical studies – for example, those provided in seminaries and divinity schools – the training is focused principally on the texts of the Bible and their meaning.  The emphasis, in those circles, is on “exegesis,” that is, the [...]

Lecture at Fresno City College

Here is a video of a discussion that I had on my book "How Jesus Became God" at Fresno City College, with Professor of Philosophy Wendell Stephenson, on February 18, 2016 at 7:00p.m. After our back and forth the floor was opened opened to Q&A from the audience. News release about event: http://www.therampageonline.com/news/2016/02/23/author-of-how-jesus-became-god-draws-hundreds-to-college-auditorium-2/ Please adjust gear icon for high-definition.   IF YOU DON'T BELONG YET to the blog, JOIN!!!  It doesn't cost much, and you get unbelievable bang for your buck!  And every buck goes to charities helping the needy.  So join!!!

2017-09-25T21:39:01-04:00December 13th, 2016|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Video Media|
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