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The Accuracy of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians


I’m a couple of days behind on my Weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  I’ve been so caught up in talking about the conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity that I forgot all about it!  So here is last week’s a day late.  IN it I deal with one question which turns out to be three questions, all of them related to the the historical accuracy of Paul’s letter to the Galatians..




Bart, quick question that’s bothering me. You often say that we can’t be sure of the gospels’ accuracy (due to intentional and unintentional changes over time and location). The idea is that we can’t know what the original really said (even if it names its author (e.g. 1 Tim, 2, Tim, etc.). You often say there are so many changes that we can’t really know what the original was. I always assume you mean in the small details and that you assume the main sense of the texts are fairly accurate to the original. Anyway, I’ve heard you say emphatically that Paul wrote Galatians, etc.. but by your standard for the other writings (say, Mark or John), then why don’t you have the same doubts that Paul wrote his letters? Surely we don’t have originals of Galatians…why no possible scandal here? So what gives? Why are you so sure Paul’s seven letters are solidly in the Pauline camp? How do you know he knew James and John?



Wow, this isn’t a quick question – and it’s not *a* question!  I think there are three questions here: (1) How do we know what the original text of Galatians said?  (2) How do we know Paul wrote it?  And (3) How do we know that what it says is historically accurate (e.g. about Paul knowing Jesus’ brother James)?

My first response is to say that these three questions may be somewhat related, but they are completely different questions, with different answers and different implications. Here I will address each one separately:

First, how do we know what the originals of this letter to the Galatians said? Strictly speaking we can never know anything like this with 100% certainty.  But I think many people have been led astray by some of the things that I’ve said and taken the matter too far.  My point has always been (for example, in Misquoting Jesus) that we can’t know with absolute complete certainty what was said in each and every passage of the NT.  That point – which I think cannot be refuted – is principally directed against fundamentalists who want to claim that every word of the Bible is inspired by God.  How can we say the words were inspired if we don’t know in a lot of cases what the words were???

But that doesn’t mean that we cannot know with relative certainty what is said in most parts of the New Testament.  True, we can’t have the level of certainty that fundamentalists require (which has always been my point), but we can have high levels of probability for lots of the Bible.

There are thousands of textual differences in our manuscripts of the Pauline letters, many thousands.  But in most cases it’s not too difficult to figure out what Paul probably actually wrote.  There are some places where it is up for grabs, but these are very much in the minority.   I don’t think anything *hugely* different can be found in any of our surviving manuscripts of Galatians (e.g., manuscripts that portray the occasion of the letter and Paul’s response to it in completely different ways).  Now it’s true that we don’t start getting manuscripts of Galatians until about the year 200.  That’s a fragmentary manuscript called P46.  And we don’t get a *complete* copy of Galatians until about the middle of the fourth century.   So in in theory early copyists may have changed the texts in ways that we cannot detect because our manuscripts are hundreds of years later.  That always has to be allowed as a possibility (to the discomfort of fundamentalists).  But as historians, as I’ve said time and time again, we work not on the basis of absolute certainties, but on the basis of probabilities.  And for most of the passages of Galatians – the vast majority of them – we have a pretty good sense that we know what the author wrote.   At least we think we do!  But we really think we do!

Second question: How do we know that Paul actually wrote it? Here the manuscripts are almost completely irrelevant.  Whether later scribes changed the text or not has almost no bearing on the question of whether the author was actually Paul (unless scribes widely changed the first word of the epistle, where the author names himself “Paul”) (and why would they do that?  Possibly because originally the author said his name was “Fred”???) (every textual scholar I’ve ever heard of thinks thinks that the author called himself Paul).   So the question of the authorship of the letter is not really related to the question of later scribal changes.

Why, though, should we think Paul wrote it?  Well that’s a very long story.   The short version is this.  We do indeed know that there were Christians who later claimed to be Paul and wrote letters in his name, knowing full well they were someone else.   In my books Forged and Forgery and Counterforgery I explain why even in ancient times readers would have considered such books forgeries.   They were.  And some such books made it into the New Testament: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, for example, are Pauline forgeries (scholars who are nervous about calling them forgeries tend to call them “pseudepigrapha,” which is a fancy way of saying the same thing).

So how do we know which of all the letters claiming to be by Paul really are by Paul?  (Again: this is the short version.)  There are a group of seven letters claiming to be written by Paul that cohere with one another in terms of vocabulary, writing style, theological point of view, and presupposed historical situation.  They appear all to have the same author.   It is easy to situate these letters in a historical context of the 50s of the common era when Paul was active.  Paul was therefore probably their author (note: probabilities again!) (but again, there frankly is very, very little dispute about these seven, even among otherwise cranky and skeptical scholars).  Galatians is one of the seven.  The forged Pauline letters are all different from these seven in writing style, theology, and presupposed historical situation.  And so they probably are not by Paul.

Third question: How do we know the letter is historically accurate? When Paul makes off the cuff historical claims in Galatians he appears to be detailing information that his readers either already know or could know by consulting with others.  He’s not telling stories, the way, say, the book of Acts or the Gospels do.  He’s simply indicating things that happened to him and things that he did and people that he met.  Now, to be sure, he has reasons for doing so, and so you always have to ask if his reasons for saying something are leading him to alter a historical fact.   But in most cases, after carefully examining that option, almost all scholars of Paul think that he hasn’t done that much, if at all, in this letter.  When he says that he met up with James the brother of Jesus, Peter, and John in Jerusalem, he is not trying to make the point “SEE!  There really was a James!”   He’s making a point about coming to an agreement with someone that everyone – both he and his readers – knows was an important figure in the Jerusalem church.  Paul *may* have distorted (slightly?) the nature of their meeting, and its outcome, because those are the points he’s trying to make and stress.  But he’s not trying to make and stress the point that James the brother of Jesus existed.  That’s simply something he knows, takes for granted, and states off the cuff.   And so it is almost certainly accurate. We may not know that with complete 100% certainty, , since ancient history almost never is 100% certain.  But it’s pretty darn close, up there around 99% in my judgment.


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  1. Avatar
    gchrist4  May 22, 2016

    Do you think it’s possible that the Q Source was written by Peter and that’s what led scholars or early church historians to say that Mark was a companion of Peter – that because the author of Mark possibly used as his source Peter’s recollection of the sayings and possibly deeds of Jesus that it led later readers to think Mark was associated with Peter? Along those same lines, do you consider any of the non-canonical Gospels or other “Bible” books to be as historically meaningful or accurate as those that made the cut? Reading about Paul’s mention of Cephas and his meeting(s) with James, John and Peter and digging into the back story between them has peaked my interest in a search for what really went on after Christ’s death and Paul’s role in basically usurping apostle status. I wonder if we have sources unaffected by Paul’s take on Christianity because it appears he preached something completely different than what the Apostles believed or even what Jesus believed during his lifetime. Knowing the Gospels were written long after Paul’s letters I wonder if they are just an extension of his beliefs rather than the original teachings or beliefs of Jesus himself.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      No, I don’t think Peter could have written Q. As a fisherman in rural Galilee, he was almost certainly illiterate (and didn’t know Greek — the language of Q).

  2. Avatar
    godspell  May 22, 2016

    Absolute certainty is not within the province of historical study, or even day to day existence. “Either I know 100% that this happened or it didn’t.” How could anyone function on those terms? Life is not a mathematical equation. There’s always some room for doubt, and sometimes doubts are so powerful that we have to say “This probably didn’t happen.” But if there hadn’t been original letters from Paul, why should anyone have bothered to write letters claiming to be by Paul? Who would have cared? We started off assuming they were all by him, and over time, methods of analysis become astute enough to separate the forgeries from the real thing. For an absolute certainty? No, and art historians often disagree about which old masters are genuine, and which are forgeries, but generally speaking even the most sophisticated forgeries can be found out. That’s probably quite a bit harder than telling a true letter of Paul from a false one.

  3. Greg Matthews
    Greg Matthews  May 22, 2016

    You should get Steven to make a new top level menu item called, something like, “Bart’s Commonly Asked Questions”, or “Bart’s FAQ” or something. Like the person who asked this question there are obviously many people finding out about your writings and blog all the time and the same questions occur to all of them. This question here is far and away the commonly asked question (and there are a few others) that I see all the time. Maybe if you had the answer to this question in an easily accessible place people could see your answers to this and other commonly questions more easily.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      I don’t recall answering these quesitons about Galatians before! But thanks for the suggestion.

      • Greg Matthews
        Greg Matthews  May 24, 2016

        The last 5 paragraphs of your reply have been addressed many, many times in different forms, this questions just happened to specifically ask about Galatians. 1) Is ____ authentic? 2) How do we know ______ wrote _____? 3) How do we know Paul wrote ______? 4) How do we know what _____ originally said? etc. I’m just offering a suggestion to make life easier for you 🙂

      • Avatar
        MMahmud  May 25, 2016

        It’s a good suggestion. It’s pointless for you to keep answering the same thing over and over. We’d rather you to be working on research.

  4. talmoore
    talmoore  May 22, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, some theologians — esp. hardcore catholics who must profess the eternal virginity of Mary — will fudge Paul (and other NT writings) by either taking up Jerome’s theory that James was not was not literally Jesus’ brother but was instead his cousin or somesuch, or some may hypothesize that “brother” isn’t meant literally but metaphorically as in the same way unrelated members of an organization will call each other brother. How far fetched are these theories?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      I think they simply don’t work. Paul calls James the αδελφος of the Lord, not the ανεψιος (brother, not cousin). And he differentiate him from everyone else by this designation. So I think he must have been an actual brother.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  May 24, 2016

        Are there instances in Paul where his use of adelphos (or adelphoi) is clearly metaphorical and not literal?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 26, 2016

          The broad term adelphoi, yes. When used of a specific person, no.

  5. Avatar
    Kazibwe Edris  May 22, 2016

    Dr ehrman

    “24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body.[a] 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; 5 and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?[b] 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Mag′dalene and Jo-an′na and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.[c]”

    correct me if i am wrong , but isn’t the text saying that the disciples thought that jesus predicting his death was IDLE TALE? i infer this from the words, “they told ALL this…”
    so the prediction jesus allegedly made was part of “all this…” right?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      No, they think the women’s story of finding an empty tomb is an idle tale.

      • Avatar
        Kazibwe Edris  May 24, 2016

        “. that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise..”

        so there is no indication in the greek that this reminder was spoken to the disciples? i guess then it was meant for lukes audience.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 26, 2016

          I don’t think Jesus really told his disciples this, no.

  6. TWood
    TWood  May 22, 2016

    Awesome… thanks! I know I pushed it… calling it “one question”… I smuggled in a couple “sub-questions” hoping you’d answer them… it worked! If I dare push my luck (I do)… In what sense was James Jesus’ brother? I’ve heard cousin, stepbrother (from Joseph), bloodbrother (from Mary), etc. Is there enough evidence to say which is probable?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      He uses the word for brother (not cousin), so he probably means brother.

  7. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 22, 2016

    Very clear and very helpful, especially the part about historians dealing with probabilities. Thanks

  8. Avatar
    marcrm68  May 22, 2016

    I’m glad I joined your blog Dr. Ehrman…it is extremely interesting. I’m a tradesman, a millwright working in a steel mill, but I have read most of your books, and many others on the subject of early Christianity. After all, your books are geared toward a general audience…that is me. I had some trouble getting through your new book after reading Carrier’s On The Historicity Of Jesus. I have come to the conclusion that unless some new evidence comes to light, we will never know if Jesus in fact really existed. But the more important question IMO, is how this small sect of Jews grew into a world religion. Some people are claiming that Paul actually started Christianity, but I find that view flawed because Paul mentions Peter as a rival preacher. This is interesting because Paul claims his sources as scripture, and divine revelation. But yet Peter is preaching Christianity also…what were his sources?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      They had the same sources! They just interpreted them differently. Still happens a lot today!

      • Avatar
        MMahmud  May 25, 2016

        I think this needs to be addressed-Paul literally has the chutzpah to disagree with the guy everyone knows was with Jesus his whole ministry, the very man who is likely one of the sources of most of the stories of Jesus.

        I really would like to see(obviously not pressuring, just a request from a reader, hope others are curious the same as me)

        1) How on earth we understand that Paul has the gall to take the companion of Christ as a rival

        2) How the very first stories of Christ were transmitted

        3) I know I’ve asked this but I keep feeling it hasn’t been answered….ok I think I wasn’t clear enough in the past but here goes

        4) At some point, disciples have visions of a revived Messiah. What specifically would bring them to believe he was “raised to heaven”? There is a difference between walking out of a grave and rising into the sky.

        5) What can we know of the “exaltation to heaven” from the earliest texts? Seems like a subject which needs more explanation.

        6) What we can know about Peter

        7) What we can know about Mary Magdalen

        8) What we can know about James

        9) What we can know about the early Christian community formed by the very followers who knew Christ.

        10) What we can know about the church of Rome and it’s stunning development over time

        Hope my questions peaked your interest and didn’t annoy you 🙂

        • Bart
          Bart  May 26, 2016

          I deal with a lot of these questions in my books. Some of them, e.g., in my book Peter, Paul, and mary Magdalene.

  9. Avatar
    Monty  May 22, 2016

    Comparing the authenticity of authorship of letters attributed to Paul and the authenticity of authorship of the gospels is to me trying to compare “apples and oranges.” As you have stated elsewhere, the gospels were written anonymously, and the names were simply appended by later church leaders to lend them a presumption of authenticity. These anonymous gospel writers were writing about their impressions of the life and career of Jesus, in a sense, biographies. So you have these anonymous biographies written decades after the fact on the one hand, and on the other, you have a man who names himself in his letters, writing not only “about” his own activities, but actually conducting those activities in the writing in real time long before the first gospel was written. Before you question the authenticity of a work written in the first person you should at least have a technical reason to doubt it, and given that the attribution of these letters is supported by all the technical elements you have mentioned and which are widely accepted by the scholarly community at large, wherein does the suspicion lie? What purpose would it serve? The same person wrote the letters. He said his name was Paul, Paul’s existence was later recounted in Acts, so how does this in any way relate to the authorship of the gospels, where no forgery is at issue, because how can you forge an anonymous gospel?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      Yes, they are different issues, I completely agree. And since they are different issues, they require different kinds of evidence and argumentation. You can determine if a letter claiming to be written by Paul lines up well with other letters you are pretty sure Paul wrote. You can’t do the same thing with, say, Matthew.

  10. Avatar
    gavriel  May 23, 2016

    Do you consider the entire 1 Thess. 2:13–16 to be a later interpolation or has it just been tampered with?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      I think it’s entirely authentic!

      • Avatar
        gavriel  May 24, 2016

        But what kind of event is Paul then hinting at , at the end of verse 16?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 26, 2016

          Do you mean 1:16? That’s where he is referring to his conversion — possibly his “vision” of Jesus after the resurrection, and the realization of what it meant.

          • Avatar
            gavriel  May 26, 2016

            No i ‘m talking about the end of 1. Thess 2:16 : ….But wrath has come upon them at last!”.
            Sorry for possibly being a bit off-topic, but i’m interested in interpolations into the authentic Pauline letters. The ending is often thought to be a reference to the fall of Jerusalem, and thus inauthentic. I have read other scholars claiming it to be a reference to possible other disasters. Maybe this could be a topic for the next mailbag?

          • Bart
            Bart  May 27, 2016

            Ah. Right. I do think that’s authentic, but I don’t know what he means. My view is that just because we have trouble knowing what Paul meant is not in itself a ground for thinking he didn’t say it!

  11. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  May 23, 2016

    My phone alerted me to this youtube post (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNIyyoRPbLM) when I woke up this morning. I listened to it and was surprised to hear you say, not only that early Christians read the more fantastic stories of Jesus literally, but also that the writers, in your opinion, meant them to be taken literally.
    Would you apply that even to the stories that, to us, are obviously modeled after stories in the Old Testament, for instance the feeding of the 5,000 and feeding miracles in Exodus/Numbers or Kings? Could the evangelists have forgotten they had read those stories (or heard them read on the Sabbath) and remembered them as something someone had told them about Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      Yes, my sense is that the writers and early readers thought these htings really happened.

      • Avatar
        SidDhartha1953  May 25, 2016

        Given that, would you say it is better not to make too much of symbolic meanings behind seeming parallels between events in the lives of OT figures and Jesus?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 26, 2016

          Do you mean for knowing what actually happened? Yes, I think we need to think in terms of literary motifs rather than histoircal realities.

          • Avatar
            SidDhartha1953  May 26, 2016

            There are two ways I’ve seen people use the OT in their NT interpretation. Some will see everything in the OT that resembles something in the gospels as a “type.” God orchestrated the lives of the patriarchs to help us understand the true meaning of Jesus. That is clearly illegitimate to me.
            The other, about which I was asking, is that every seeming parallel between an OT and a gospel narrative “proves” that the gospel story is “made up” to draw a parallel between Jesus and an OT motif. For instance, the parallel in Matthew between Jesus being taken to Egypt and then brought back parallels the Joseph cycle in Genesis, so Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth is a literary device, not a real person, who is there to prod the reader to a correct understanding of the meaning of the story. Would you take such an interpretation seriously?

          • Bart
            Bart  May 27, 2016

            I don’t object to the idea that some Gospel stories were “made up” to fit Scriptural antecedents, but I don’t buy it with Joseph. (There’s no reason to make him a carpenter)

  12. Avatar
    Eric  May 23, 2016

    Reading this sparked a whole new train of curiosity on my part about those who forged letters supposedly from Paul. Since these must have been written later (is it fair to assume after Paul’s day? Otherwise would he be an authority to forge?), not only must the authorship be fraudulent, but also the “addressee-ship”, isn’t that right?

    The forger didn’t write a letter to some church (or other recipient) pretending to be Paul, because that recipient would know Paul was long gone.

    So the fraud would have to go something like this “hey, I just ran across a copy of another letter that Paul guy wrote back when. To somebody named Timothy.” Of course when first written, the ink was fresh and both Paul and the recipient (if the recipient ever existed) were dust (or at least wormy).

  13. Avatar
    john76  May 23, 2016

    “When Paul makes off the cuff historical claims in Galatians he appears to be detailing information that his readers either already know or could know by consulting with others.”

    If we are using this criterion, are there “off the cuff” remarks in the forged epistles that we would have to admit as historical?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      First you have to determine if the writings are forged. If they are, then comments like that are used to provide verisimilitude.

  14. Avatar
    marcrm68  May 23, 2016

    The obvious answer is that he knew Jesus, but I wonder… An ancient stone tablet discovered around the Dead Sea, and predating Jesus’s life, talks of a dying suffering messiah. The meme must have been circulating in Judea at the time. The previous thread about whether Paul preached a fundamentally different Christianity than the original is intriguing. I don’t doubt that the original Christian message was apocalyptic, but maybe this dying suffering messiah theme was added to the mix. Paul did not put much stock in the original message apparently, whatever it was. He didn’t seem aware of a historical Jesus, which is odd, because he could have made his points better had he alluded the historical Jesus. He claimed to have visions… I worked with a guy who I will describe as a functioning schizophrenic, he had constant hallucinations… he saw little red and green men beside everybody he met, and claimed that he could tell whether a person was good or evil by the color of the little men. He also was fixated on bible prophecy, and thought that Gorbechov was the AntiChrist… Everybody knew he was nuts, but somehow he managed to get to work every day, and preform his job at a high level… Was Paul this type of person? In antiquity, people were steeped in the grossest of superstition, and maybe a crazy man’s ranting was more easily believed…

  15. Avatar
    Hormiga  May 23, 2016

    Thanks much. Do you have a chronology of Paul’s activities that you could recommend? I get confused in trying to relate his activities with other information. For example, he met up with Peter/Simon/Cephas and others in Jerusalem in 49-50 CE. But five-ish years later he wrote Romans, which can be seen as a business proposal, to the Roman Christians, who were supposed to have been evangelized by Peter. So did Peter build up a very substantial Christian community in Rome in those five or so years?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      The one I read most recently is Gerd Ludemann’s book Paul the Apostle.

  16. tasteslikecorn
    tasteslikecorn  May 23, 2016

    Some good stuff in Galatians and 5:12 is hilarious. I was wondering if 6:11, where Paul says “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” means that he wrote the rest of Galatians, 6:11-18 himself, or just 6:11? Is it believed he wrote with his own hand as a way of authenticating the letter, or emphasizing the last eight verses, which are an emphatic summary of the letter’s general points?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2016

      My guess is that he wrote the entire ending of the letter by hand; and yes, it was a way of authenticating it.

      • tasteslikecorn
        tasteslikecorn  May 24, 2016

        It seems odd that someone as educated as Paul would (apparently) be having trouble writing legibly, even considering the low literacy rate during this historical period. He was obviously gifted with words.

  17. Avatar
    Smiling_Monk  May 24, 2016


    All the narratives in the Gospels passed through message passing over may be 2 generations by many illiterates. Our famous management game called ‘pass the message’ clearly demonstrates how the message gets manipulated even in a controlled environment. Given these facts, why do even rational biblical scholars still want to take specific lines from Gospels and try to interpret as truth?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 26, 2016

      The stories have to be examined critically using rigorous historical criteria — just like every source from antiquity. See my recent book Jesus Before the Gospels.

  18. Avatar
    Prizm  May 24, 2016

    Hi Bart, I have just purchased your textbook After the New Testament which compiles a fascinating stack of early ‘heretical’ writings. The evangelical view of these documents is that they were all forged, pseudonomous, or just written too late to be taken seriously. And maybe I’m wrong, but that appears to be the case for the most part.
    So what defence would these gnostics etc have against proto-orthodox claims that their documents and theologies are based on forgeries? What makes them serious contenders for what orthodox christianity should’ve become?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 26, 2016

      They would claim that their books were actually by the apostles, but *other* books were forgeries!

      • Avatar
        Prizm  June 4, 2016

        Ok I’m confused. It seems the gnostic views never really had a leg to stand on, and the proto-orthodox position was almost destined to become orthodox anyway. I was under the impression (from scholars) that there were numerous sects at the beginning that had plausibly *legitimate* claims to the orthodox throne, based on texts/gospels that were closest to the original events. And that the proto-orthodox just happened to win the race, not necessarily based on merit.

        For example, if the closest gospels claim that Jesus’ God is Yahweh, then Marcion’s two-God idea is going to be a hard pill to swallow for most people — the documents closest to the events of Christ don’t seem to support this dual view. So his perspective is discounted by the (proto)orthodox. It seems one of the only serious doctrinal contenders with the proto-orthodox are the original Jewish christians.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 5, 2016

          I think proto-orthodoxy seems the most sensible and inevitable to us because we are its heirs. The other views seemed most sensible and inevitable to those who held them!

          • Avatar
            Prizm  June 5, 2016

            Thank you Bart.

  19. Avatar
    Bamayorgo  December 2, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Just wondering, does Galatians 2:6 seem to put the Apostles Paul met into past tense, meaning they’re dead?
    One scholar said this to argue against the authenticity of it , but it seems rather unconvincing.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 3, 2018

      No, it doesn’t mean that at all. He is talking about something that happened earlier in his life, so he talks about it in the past tense, as we always do.

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