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Thanksgiving Musings 2018

Some musings on this Thanksgiving, 2018.

To be honest, like so many others, I find it much easier to be thankful when I have a lot to be thankful for.  I suppose being a truly thankful person would entail being thankful even when most of life was very hard and difficult.   I’ve had times like that in my life, and at least as I recall, even then I found things to be thankful for – a loving family and the possibility, at least, of a good future at least.  But lots and lots of people don’t have even those.   Maybe thankfulness isn’t for everyone.

On the other hand, there are lots and lots of people (I know a number of them, and I know *about* far more) who have masses and masses of good things, unbelievably good things, who aren’t thankful at all.  They are simply greedy.  No matter how much they have, it is never enough.  Instead of being grateful for their good fortune, they relentlessly reflect on how they want more and more, and rather than live lives of gratitude they live self-centered lives as those around whom the rest of the universe is to circle.  It’s a pity, for the rest of us (especially if they have any power or influence over us), but even more for them, as they can’t break out of their cocoons.

I wonder if being a thankful person is comparable to being a giving person.  For many of us, it is easier to be generous  when we have a lot.  For me, at least, it is easy to give a lot away if there is a lot still to keep, just as it’s easier to be thankful when there’s nothing much to complain about than when life is hard.

I was thinking this morning of that passage in the Gospels, where Jesus is sitting across from the treasury in the temple and his disciples are amazed at how much money the rich folk are donating; Jesus sees a poor widow who gives a penny to the fund, and he tells his followers that she has donated far more than the wealthy.  They gave out of their abundance (and so kept a lot), whereas she gave all she had.

It’s a beautiful lesson.   And I think about it in connection with the blog a good deal.  I have received donations from $5000 to $5, and I often think that the $5 donation may be truly the more hard, difficult, painful, and generous.  And it makes me realize how different we all are, both in terms of our circumstances and out attitudes towards ourselves and others.

Like many of us, I wish I were more thankful and generous, less greedy, self-centered, and oblivious.   Maybe reflecting not only on those in need, but also on those who are both generous and thankful despite their need, can help those of us who have lots not only appreciate our lives more and break out of our cocoons more regularly, but develop lives of thankfulness and generosity.  That would be a good thing.

And so my random 2018 Thanksgiving thoughts.  I hope you have a good day, enjoy the food and drink to the utmost, the presence of family and friends in your life, the memories of good times past, experience thankfulness for what you have, and that you can find a way to extend your thankfulness for yourself to your goodness to others. I hope I do the same.


Seriously. How Many People in Antiquity Could Write?
Question: How Do I Read Books?

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Comments

  1. Nichrob  November 22, 2018

    I’m thankful for you Dr. Ehrman. I’m thankful that I (we) got the opportunity to have dinner with you in Chapel Hill. (From the Texas guy)

  2. rivercrowman  November 22, 2018

    By coincidence, I just made a modest donation to your blog about 15 minutes ago. I was planning to anyway, as today is Thanksgiving Day.

  3. nichael  November 22, 2018

    Amen.

    And dude, I just have to say this (and I’m sure I speak for many, many others here):

    Thank you so much for doing this wonderful, beautiful thing, this ‘blog.

    The knowledge (and, yes, the joy) that it brings to us, your readers, is important to all of us. And the thought that, on top of this, you’ve undertaken all the the efforts involved in the charitable aspects of this. Wow…. just wow…

    I realize that we, your readers, can only make the vaguest guess at the real amount of work this must entail (and, needless to say, all this aside from the other responsibilities that you have). But it is important that you understand, too, that this is all something that we are most thankful for.

  4. Steefen  November 22, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Question about the Parable of the Wicked Tenants
    Do you consider this parable not to be told by Jesus but a product of the early church’s reflection upon the death of Jesus?

    Starts at Mark 12: 1
    Starts at Matthew 21: 33
    Starts at Luke 20: 9

    I have been told Adela Yarbro Collins has a commentary on the gospel of Mark which might show she and other scholars do not attribute it to Jesus but to an oral tradition that developed in the church and placed on the lips of Jesus.

    I do not recall you mentioning this in Jesus Interrupted, other books, lecture DVDs, and posts here; so, kindly refer us to whatever for further background you’ve already provided on this topic.

    Thank you.

    Extra Information:
    Adela Yarbro Collins has an excellent commentary on the gospel of Mark, which contains the earliest version of this parable. On pp 541-544, she very briefly summarizes and lightly comments upon various analyses of this parable by 20th century scholars Jülicher, Bultmann, Dodd, Jeremias, Hengel, Klauck, Snodgrass, Brooke, Stern, and Kloppenborg, before giving her own brief exposition of each verse on pp 544-549.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 23, 2018

      Yes, it is widely seen as a parable put on Jesus’ lips by later story tellers trying to explain what it means that the Jewish people by and large rejected him.

      • Steefen  November 23, 2018

        “Recent Research on the Parable of the Wicked Tenants: An Assessment” (1998 Bulletin for Biblical Research) by Klyne Snodgrass, North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago

        Part I
        From a tradition-critical standpoint, the parable is Jesus’ critique of the Temple establishment. – C. A. Evans

        Part II
        Isa 5: 1-7
        1) My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
        2) He dug it up and cleared the stones and planted the finest vines. He built a watchtower in the middle and dug out a winepress as well. He waited for the vineyard to yield good grapes, but the fruit it produced was sour!
        3) I exhort you to judge between Me and My vineyard.
        4) What more could have been done for My vineyard? Why, when I waited for it to yield good grapes, did it bring forth sour fruit?
        5) Now I will tell you what I am about to do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be consumed; I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled.
        6) I will command the clouds that rain shall not fall on it.
        7) For the vineyard of the LORD of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the plant of His delight. He looked for justice but saw injustice; for righteousness, but heard a cry of distress.

        Steefen
        Jesus who stands up in the synagogue and reads Isaiah 42: 1 and/or 61: 2 surely knew Isaiah 5: 1-7 and was capable of making up his own version of a parable on it.

        Second, “the central premise that Jesus spoke in advance about his death as the outcome of his activity should be received as a solid datum.”

        – “Jewish Martyrs and the Death of Jesus,” David deSilva’s book, “The Jewish Teachers of Jesus…”,
        p. 169

        Third, Jesus would have read chapter 5 of Isaiah instead of jumping over it to chapters 42 and 61 and would have been capable of composing his version: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Even if he didn’t he would hv agreed w/ the current version for the reasons above.

        Prof. Ehrman,
        Why would you not agree that the parable in question is not one of many times Jesus spoke of his death in advance?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 25, 2018

          No, I would not.

          • Steefen  November 25, 2018

            We would like to know why.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 26, 2018

            The reason why: the parable is clearly presupposing a situation within the life of the church after the death of Jesus.

  5. MaryPetra  November 22, 2018

    I am thankful for the joy that came into my heart when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior some years ago, at the age of forty. I used to try to be more thankful, now I live a generously loving life out of an abundance of joy. And I would give anything, if only I can keep this joy.
    My heart goes out to everyone who is still lacking!
    Maybe I can help somebody with the following words.
    I think that there are two keys to hearing from God and thus to the personal experience of his reality.
    1. Seeking answers: Moses went up to the burning bush. He wanted to know. He cared.
    2. Humbling ourselves: Moses took off his shoes. He conceded that God was holy, and that he, Moses, was not.
    A prideful heart cannot receive God’s words any more than a hardened ground can take in any seed. God never wants to hold back on anyone! He just needs to be given access by his free-willed creatures.
    Invite him in and see what happens!! Please do!!

    1
    3
    • MaryPetra  November 25, 2018

      By the way, I just happened to read the fascinating posts which David Lambert contributed to this blog in January 2016. Does anyone remember?
      The two concepts or terms I understand Lambert to identify as the “meanings of repentance” in the Hebrew Bible seem to correspond pretty well to the points above, don’t they?
      1. shuv – (re)turning to the Lord
      2. nikhna – humbly demonstrating that one realizes to be subject to the power of God

      Would those who dislike my first comment mind telling me why?
      Is the testimony of a radical personal transformation not worth sharing and not of interest?

  6. Bamayorgo  November 22, 2018

    Said well, Dr.!
    Luke 12:48

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and a big Roll Tide! (I’ve read your a football fan!)

    • Bart
      Bart  November 23, 2018

      Thanks. Yes, big football fan. But not so much for UNC this year. Yuk!!

  7. JulieGraff  November 22, 2018

    Mr Ehrman, as you are writting about the afterlife, and now about thanksgiving I would like to add a little bit of my own thoughts on this…

    As I have already mentionned on this blog, I have lived an experience of being brought out of my body, and seeing a great Unconditionaly Loving Light…

    Looking back on that experience, I can only imagine that to become a little bit more like that Light, I have to learn to love unconditionaly too, which means to love regardless of the conditions…

    And as the hardest, and often most growing of the time to love is when there are difficult conditions to do so (i.e. what merit to you have to love someone who loves you, or… what merit do you have to love a G.od who just seams to love you, read here without problems on earth (we can talk about that merit of unconditional love with the jews comming out of the holocaust) we have our work cut out for us! (Btw we can find that reference of that work in Genesis 2,18 with “ezer kenegdo” wish doesn’t translate as ‘a help the same as’ but ‘a help opposite, different’).

    And one other thing I have had the chance to live, is a deep personnal story about reincarnation… whish showed me that even though we are not capable to reach that kind of unconditional love in one lifetime (well at least I know I’m not!) we have lots of lifetimes to work on it!

    So let’s all be greatfull for where we are at this moment, all at different places, on this journey of learning unconditional love! 🙂

    And p.s. thank you again for your answer about the “Parting of the Ways” in an other post, it helped a great series of events! 🙂

  8. Hume  November 22, 2018

    Do you think the notions and imagery of Hell is influenced by volcanoes? Sulphur, smoke, under the earth, etc..

    • Bart
      Bart  November 23, 2018

      Seems like it! The underworld occasionally erupting forth on earth!

  9. Hume  November 22, 2018

    Would you say you are not convinced of the historical accuracy of the Bible because:
    1. The NT was written decades after
    2. The books have been redacted and copied
    3. There is inconsistency and contradictions

    Anything else?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 23, 2018

      Also: historical mistakes. Scientific mistakes. Geographical mistakes. Lots of mistakes! But maybe “accuracy,” in the end, is not really the point.

  10. John4
    John4  November 23, 2018

    I had a great-uncle, Bart, who was a fine country-boy Methodist preacher. I remember almost nothing from the innumerable sermons I’ve heard over the years. But, I remember two very personal stories that Uncle Jay once used to illustrate a stewardship sermon that he preached a half-century ago, a sermon on the widow’s mite. Memory, as you well know, is a funny thing.

    Well, I guess that *two* can muse on Thanksgiving, lol!

    Thanks so much, Bart, for all you do for us. 🙂

  11. nbraith1975  November 23, 2018

    Exactly what is the moral base/criteria you use for judging certain people as being greedy and self-centered?.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 23, 2018

      You’re asking how we can know if someone is greedy? I wouldn’t say there are precise criteria that allow for a mathematical calculation.

      • nbraith1975  November 24, 2018

        With respect, if earth and life – humanity in particular – are a result of some random natural occurrence, are there really any rules or morality or meaning to anything.

        If you believe greed is bad, how do you feel about someone who chooses not to work and instead lives off others?

        Nothing personal Bart, I’m just wondering how someone who doesn’t believe in God can believe there is some sort of code of morality.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 25, 2018

          As you probably know that “ethics” is a major topic of intellectual discourse on all levels; in most philosophy departments (and writings) around the world, ethics is discussed apart from a God hypothesis. Many, many, many scholars have devoted their lives to these discussions. If you’re really interested in this question, you should definitely plunge into the literature.

          • nbraith1975  November 25, 2018

            I’ve read quite a bit on the ethics issue apart from the God hypothesis and find it odd that anyone who believes in random evolution can seriously believe in ethics as defined as “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.”

            Christians like to argue for the existence of God by pointing to a “universal” innate morality embedded into humanity by a creator God while atheist scholars tend to equate morality with higher intelligence.

            It would be great if you posted something on this subject as it relates to the teachings of the OT, NT and other ancient religions and philosophies. And specifically, what you think on the subject.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 26, 2018

            The authors of the Bible naturally do agree that God is the root of all morality. I thought you were saying that any different view doesn’t make any sense, and I’m simply pointing out that the majority of ethicists in the world disagree heartily. For openers, many of us who don’t believe in God do believe that we should be good people, not because we will be punished otherwise or because there has to be moral absolutes rooted in the one absolute being in teh universe, but because we are humans and we believe that being human entails behaving in certain ways (possibly because we are hard wired that way for evolutionary reasons).

          • Duke12  November 26, 2018

            Thoughts of someone on their own journey regarding these matters (and who hasn’t read the literature, so take it for what its worth): it is possible that what we call “love, truth, and beauty” are objective principles of the universe still not fully understood, just as the principle of gravity is still not fully understood. But it does not necessarily follow that the ultimate source of “love, truth, and beauty” is a sentient, omnipresent, omniscient being. Took me decades to come to that understanding (I used to believe that God was the _only_ possible source for “love, truth, and beauty.”)

  12. jdub3125  November 23, 2018

    Speaking of not being a believer….

    From time to time the professor states that he is not a Christian. Har! Har! Must be kidding. Just read the post again. Not the fake, false, and superstitious type that is so prevalent in our churches, but rather a type far superior.

    And BTW, when does the free membership effort begin? Can hardly wait to contribute.

  13. roybart  November 23, 2018

    I want to add my thanks to those of others. This blog, your approach to the bible here and n your books, and the quality of the intellectual and spiritual (yes) voice I find here have been life-changing for me.

    Your Thanksgiving wishes made me think of all the people who, for various reasons, did not have “family and friends” around them during this holiday — or possibly have not ever had such support.

    I recently came across a prayer which is also very appropriate to those who are alone, and possibly homeless, or in emotional or physical distress.

    “Oh, merciful God,
    take pity on those
    who have no particular friends and intercessors
    to recommend them to you;
    who, either through the negligence of those who are alive,
    or through length of time, are forgotten by their friends and by all.

    Spare them, o Lord,
    and remember your own mercy
    when others forget to appeal to it.

    Let not the lives which you have created
    be parted from you, their Creator

    Amen

  14. RonaldTaska  November 24, 2018

    Thanks to you for your books, your blog, your great Courses and so on. I would not be exaggerating to say that your work has changed my life. No kidding.

  15. Apocryphile  November 26, 2018

    I was brought up in an upper-middle class household, but due to various life circumstances, have experienced times when it was difficult to find two nickels to scrape together to buy something to eat. Thankfully, I’m a bit better off than that now, and am glad I have the opportunity to contribute my $ and ideas to the blog. Like you, I’m mystified over people who have much and yet are not thankful or generous with what they have. Maybe it takes experiencing real personal pain and adversity to make us more compassionate individuals. If life has any purpose at all, I think developing a real sense of empathy and compassion for others is at the top of that list.

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