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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] [...]

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection in Mark: Another Blast from the Past

I have been talking about how no one in Mark's Gospel (as opposed to the other Gospels) knows who Jesus is -- not his family, his townsfolk, the Jewish leaders, not even his disciples.  But the reader knows.  Yet  even the reader is not given the full scoop until the end.  Here is how I explain the matter, in a post from years ago. ************************************************************ Jesus' Death as the Son of God It is clear from Mark's Gospel that Jesus' disciples never do come to understand who he is. As we have seen, he is betrayed to the Jewish authorities by one of them, Judas Iscariot. On the night of his arrest, he is denied three times by another, his closest disciple, Peter. All the others scatter, unwilling to stand up for him in the hour of his distress. Perhaps Mark wants his readers to understand that the disciples were shocked when their hopes concerning Jesus as messiah were thoroughly dashed: Jesus did not bring victory over the Romans or restore the kingdom to Israel. [...]

2020-04-03T01:46:56-04:00November 27th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Ehrman vs Licona Debate on the Resurrection

On April 16, 2011 I had a kind of radio debate with Mike Licona, a conservative Christian apologist and professor at Houston Baptist University.  The venue was the English radio broadcast, "Unbelievable," hosted by moderator Justin Brierley, and the main question under discussion was whether there is "evidence" that Jesus was raised from the dead. Mike had just published his (large) book, called The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach and wanted to talk about it. He is also the author of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.  The debate careens among different topics as the conversation escalates into scholarly challenges. Here it is, for your listening pleasure.

2020-04-08T15:27:36-04:00November 10th, 2017|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Video Media|

Paul on Trial for the Resurrection

In previous posts I have discussed the different Jewish sects that we know about from the first century, at the dawn of Christianity (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Fourth Philosophy) in order to show that (a) there were different understandings of the afterlife among them, but (b) there was a belief in a future resurrection of the dead attested in at least two of the groups: the Pharisees and Essenes.   We don’t know what the eschatological views of the Fourth Philosophy were; possibly different Jews who wanted the violent overthrow of the Roman overlords had various expectations.  We really don’t know. One reason we don’t know is that we don’t have any writings from any of them.  On other hand, that’s true of the Sadducees and the Pharisees as well.  That may seem weird, but it’s the case.   We have no clear and certain writing from any Sadducee in all of antiquity that explains what it is they thought and believed.   Even more strange, from all of antiquity up until the time of the Jewish war, leading [...]

2020-04-17T13:13:03-04:00September 26th, 2017|Acts of the Apostles, Early Judaism, Public Forum|

Physical Persecution and the Physical Resurrection of the Dead

In this post I’m thinking out loud rather than making a definitive statement.   A question occurred to me a week or so ago that, since I am on the road and rather unsettled just now, I have not had a chance to look into.  Maybe someone on the blog knows the answer.  Prior to the persecution of Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE, do we have a record of *any* group of people in the entire Mediterranean world being violently opposed precisely for their religious practices? I can’t think of any, with the (partial) exception of the Roman suppression of the Bacchanals in 186 BCE (it was a partial exception because they were suppressed for their illegal and dangerous social activities that allegedly involved ritual sexual violence and murder). There was, of course, lots and lots and lots of violence in the ancient world.  Most (all?) of the “world empires” – Assyria, Babylonia, (Persia?), Greece, Rome – throve on violence.  Powerful dominance was the accepted, promoted, and assumed ideology; it was not (as for [...]

A Resurrection for Tortured Jews (2 Maccabees)

I have pointed out that the notion of “resurrection” first appears in Jewish writings in the book of Daniel, and I am arguing that this notion is intrinsically connected with the apocalyptic view of the world that developed at the time.  In this view of the world, as I’ve laid it out on the blog before (e.g.: https://ehrmanblog.org/the-rise-of-apocalypticism/) the people of God suffer *not* necessarily because God is punishing them for their sins but because there are forces of evil in the world aligned against God and his people who are wreaking havoc among the faithful.  But after this life, God will raise his faithful from the dead and reward them for their fidelity to his law. This view can be found in the apocalypses that began to be written around the time of Daniel and then for the next several centuries first among Jews and then among Christians, such books as 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and the New Testament book of Revelation (see further: https://ehrmanblog.org/a-new-genre-in-jewish-antiquity-the-apocalypse/) But aspects of this view could be [...]

Was Resurrection a Zoroastrian Idea?

I have been arguing that at some point before the middle of the second century BCE, Jewish thinkers developed the idea that death was not the end of the story, that people did not simply end up in the netherworld of Sheol for all eternity, a place of no pleasure, pain, excitement, or even worship of Yahweh.  Instead, at the end of the age, God would raise people from the dead, and the faithful would be rewarded with eternal bliss. There is a lot to say about the idea of resurrection as it developed in Judaism and then, especially, in Christianity.  But first I have to address the question of origins.  Where did the idea come from? I was always taught what I imagine every critical biblical scholar for the past century was taught, that the idea of resurrection came into Judaism from the Persian religion known as Zoroastrianism.  In fact, several readers of the blog have asked me just this question (or made just this assertion), about Zoroastrianism as the source of the idea.  [...]

2020-04-03T02:05:53-04:00August 10th, 2017|Afterlife, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Daniel and a New Doctrine of Resurrection from the Dead

Biblical scholars have long held that the first relatively clear and certain reference to a doctrine of “the resurrection of the dead” occurs in Daniel 12.   This is striking, since Daniel was almost certainly the final book of the Hebrew Bible to be written.  Because of the barely disguised allusions to Antiochus Epiphanes in the second half of the book, it is almost always dated to roughly the Maccabean period, in the 160s BCE. As I have indicated, in the prophets there were earlier references to some kind of national “resurrection” – as in Ezekiel 37 (and probably, for example, Isaiah 26:19) – in which the nation that had been metaphorically wasted away, killed, destroyed, would revive and once again come to life.   But the prophets – from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, to the twelve so-called “minor” prophets – all shared the older Israelite view about what happens to a person who dies.  She or he goes to Sheol, along with everyone else, to exist forever in a shadowy netherworld where nothing much happens – [...]

A Resurrection of the Dead in the Prophet Ezekiel?

In this thread I have started to argue that a new view of the afterlife began to emerge within ancient Israel around the time of the Maccabean revolt.  For some Jewish thinkers it was no longer satisfying to imagine that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked in this life.  That clearly was not happening. The oppressive policies of the Syrian monarch Antiochus Epiphanes showed that the people of God suffer precisely when they followed the law of God, not when they broke it.  So, if God is sovereign over all, and completely just, his justice must not be manifest in this life.  For that reason there arose the idea that it would come after this life. Within the apocalyptic tradition that emerged at this time, there developed the idea of a future resurrection of the dead.   The people who died because of their righteousness – or, in a later version of the idea, anyone who happened to be righteous who died – would be raised from the dead and given an eternal reward. [...]

2020-04-03T02:06:13-04:00August 7th, 2017|Afterlife, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Did Paul Think Jesus’ Body Remained in the Grave? Mailbag July 14, 2017

  I will address two very different questions in this edition of the Readers’ Mailbag.  If you have a question you would like me to address, ask away, and I’ll add it to the list.   QUESTION: I just finished reading scholar Gregory Riley’s Resurrection Reconsidered. He presents the position that people in the Greco-Roman world had a very different perception about spirits (ghosts) than we do today. Riley states that people living in the first century Roman Empire believed that dead people frequently came back to visit the living, appearing in “bodies” that looked exactly like their former fleshly bodies, and having the same capabilities of their former fleshly bodies: capable of eating food, drinking wine, and even engaging in sex…even sex with the living! The ONLY difference between a spirit body and a fleshly body was that USUALLY a spirit body was impalpable (could not be touched). Riley believes that Paul would have been shocked to hear about an empty tomb as he would have believed that Jesus’ fleshly body would OF COURSE [...]

Bart Ehrman Resurrection of Jesus: A Blast from the Past

The resurrection of Jesus: On this Easter Sunday, I thought I should say something about the resurrection.  It turns out I've said a lot over the years on the blog (I just checked!). Here's a post from about five years ago, giving not my personal views but those of another well-respected New Testament scholar who, like me (we are a rare breed), is not personally a believer. Bart Ehrman Resurrection of Jesus: What Are My Thoughts? One of the first books that I have re-read in thinking about how it is the man Jesus came to be thought of as God is Gerd Lüdemann’s, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (2004). Lüdemann is an important and interesting scholar. He was a professor of New Testament at Göttingen in Germany, and for a number of years split his time between there and Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. He is a major figure in scholarship and is noteworthy for not being a Christian. He does not believe Jesus was literally, physically, raised from the dead, and [...]

2022-06-06T21:43:39-04:00April 16th, 2017|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Paul and His Letters|

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 [...]

A Final Word (I Think!) on Group Visions

I am getting some push-back on my discussions of visions.  One of the most informed and hard-hitting critiques was this. I certainly agree that it is within your scope of expertise as a New Testament scholar to use the term "vision" to describe the beliefs of people in Antiquity who used this term to describe certain religious experiences.  It is within your scope of expertise to define this term as defined by those ancients.  However, with all due respect, as a physician I must point out that it is not within your scope of expertise to use this term to determine what was going on physiologically or psychologically during these experiences.  This determination belongs to experts in the field of medicine and psychiatry.  That is why I believe you should stop using the terms  "veridical vision" and "non-veridical".  Medical experts and psychiatrists/psychologists believe that these ancients experienced one of three things in these "vision" experiences:  a dream (a nightdream or a daydream), an illusion, or an hallucination.  That's it.  There are no other options.  For [...]

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|

Gerd Luedemann on the Resurrection: A Blast From the Past

Here is an interesting post on the resurrection of Jesus that I made almost exactly four years ago today.  It's interesting because (a) I don't remember writing it (and only vaguely remember having read the book) and (b) my own views ended up being very similar indeed (even though I don't at all remember being influenced by the book!).   These are views not widely shared by my colleagues in the field of New Testament studies, as will seem obvious (since most of my colleagues are committed Christians who believe in the resurrection!).  In any event, here's the post.  Happy reading! ******************************************************************************   One of the first books that I have re-read in thinking about how it is the man Jesus came to be thought of as God is Gerd Lüdemann’s, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (2004). Lüdemann is an important and interesting scholar. He was professor of New Testament at Göttingen in Germany, and for a number of years split his time between there and Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. He is [...]

2020-04-03T03:02:34-04:00October 4th, 2016|Afterlife, Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|

The Inerrancy of the Bible? And Those Who Doubt. Readers’ Mailbag October 2, 2016

  How did I deal with inconsistencies and discrepancies as a young Christian?  And why does the NT indicate that some of Jesus' own followers doubted the resurrection?  Those are the two questions I deal with in this week's readers' mailbag. QUESTION: I assume that Bart Ehrman today when he reads the books of the New Testament sees large discrepancies between them.  My question is about the precocious sixteen-year-old Ehrman, Did he too see this variety (which opens up the possibility of inconsistency)? Or did it all as he read it cohere, seem of a piece, convey one doctrinally comprehensive and orthodox and uniform message? And if it did, how does today’s Ehrman think young Ehrman managed to overlook all those obvious discrepancies?   RESPONSE: Ah, right, my former life!   When I was young and Christian – say, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two – I was already passionate about the Bible, but was absolutely convinced that it was, in every way, the Word of God.  I never doubted it.  And I never saw [...]

What the Resurrection of Jesus MEANT

In my previous post I indicated that I was a bit disappointed at my public debate with Michael Bird at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that he did not propose an alternative solution to “How Jesus Became God,” some other sense of how it happened different from the one I proposed.  If he disagrees with my scenario, what scenario does he himself imagine?  I’m not sure. Part of the problem is that he himself said during the debate that Jesus did not go around during his public ministry saying something like “Hello – I’m God, the Second Member of the Trinity.”  That’s exactly right, he certainly didn’t.  But later Christians were saying that about him. So how do we get from point A to point B? I don’t see any viable alternative to the one I mapped out (I’ll point out in a second where Michael does disagree with it, even if he doesn’t propose an option).   It is clear as day from Mark’s Gospel that... The Rest of this Post is for MEMBERS ONLY. [...]

2020-04-06T12:53:51-04:00February 24th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Book Discussions, Public Forum|

Heaven and Hell, Part Two

In my previous post I explained how Jewish thinkers began to develop the idea of an afterlife when they devised the idea of a future resurrection of the dead, an apocalyptic event that explained how God would ultimately make right all that was wrong, rewarding those who had sided with him but punishing those who sided with evil.  But how did that idea of a future *bodily* resurrection morph into the Christian teachings of heaven and hell?  I try to explain that here in this post, once again as taken from my book Jesus Interrupted.  The first two paragraphs are repeated from yesterday’s post, to provide a better context for what I say here. **************************************************************************** Thus, eternal life, for Jesus, Paul, and the earliest Christians, was a life lived in the body, not above in heaven, but down here, where we are now.  Paul emphasizes this point strenuously in the book of 1 Corinthians.   The fact that Jesus’ body was raised from the dead shows what the future resurrection would involve.  It would involve bodies [...]

The Resurrection in Paul

I have been discussing an apocalyptic understanding of Jesus’ resurrection.  For the earliest followers of Jesus, coming to think that Jesus was raised from the dead provided both a confirmation and an elaboration of their understanding of the end times.  Prior to Jesus’ death they had come to think that they were living at the end of the age and that God was soon to bring history to a climactic end through a cataclysmic act of judgment; this final event in history would involve a resurrection of all those who had died to face judgment.  When these disciples came to think that Jesus himself had been raised, they naturally concluded that the resurrection had begun.  Jesus was the first to rise; he had been exalted to heaven; he himself was to return to earth as the powerful Son of Man to raise all people from the dead.  All this would happen very soon. As it turns out there were other apocalyptic lessons that could be drawn from Jesus’ resurrection.  One of the most interesting – [...]

2017-11-16T21:35:46-05:00January 3rd, 2016|Afterlife, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Jesus’ Resurrection as an Apocalyptic Event

In my previous post I started to discuss the eschatological implications drawn by Jesus’ followers once they became convinced that he had been raised from the dead.  I pointed out that the very fact that they interpreted their visions of him as evidence of “resurrection” shows that they must have been apocalyptic Jews prior to his death (as I have argued on other grounds ad nauseum on the blog!).  And I also suggested two of the key conclusions they drew with respect to eschatology (their understanding of what would happen at the end):  they came to conclude that Jesus himself was the Son of Man that he had been proclaiming as the future judge of the earth, and they came to believe that they were living at the very end of time. In this post I am not going to talk about Jesus as the Son of Man – that will require several posts that I will take up soon.  But I do want to talk about this business of Christians thinking that they were [...]

2020-04-03T03:57:47-04:00December 30th, 2015|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|
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