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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. [...]

By |2020-04-03T01:46:56-04:00November 27th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|62 Comments

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.

By |2020-04-08T15:27:36-04:00November 10th, 2017|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Video Media|101 Comments

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 [...]

By |2020-04-17T13:13:03-04:00September 26th, 2017|Acts of the Apostles, Early Judaism, Public Forum|35 Comments

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.  [...]

By |2020-04-03T02:05:53-04:00August 10th, 2017|Afterlife, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|78 Comments

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. [...]

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 [...]

One Scholar’s Take on the Resurrection of Jesus: A Blast from the Past

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. ***************************************************************** 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 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 he thinks that apart from belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection, it is not [...]

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