I have already devoted to a post to argue the AFFIRMATIVE side to the debate resolution: “Resolved: The Book of Acts is Historically Reliable”  (see the post two days ago, and for an entire post devoted to showing a major irrelevancy in the affirmative case, see the one from three days ago).

In this post I will lay out the NEGATIVE case, as well as I can in this amount of space, arguing that Acts is NOT reliable.  Again, I am not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with this argument; I’m giving it as I would in a debate.

******************************

The New Testament book of Acts is not historically reliable.  Before showing that to be the case, I want to make two preliminary remarks, both of them related to the question of what it means for an ostensibly historical account (a narrative of what allegedly happened in the past) to be reliable.

First, when readers today want to know whether the book of Acts is reliable, they mean that they want to know whether the events that it narrates actually happened in the way it describes.  Or not.  Readers are not primarily interested in knowing if he wrote his account the way other authors in his day would have done.  They are mainly interested in knowing whether his narrative happened the way he says it did.

Second, it is indeed important to know whether the author of the account had a solid and accurate knowledge of the laws, customs, and institutions of his day.  If he did not, then obviously he cannot be historically reliable.  But even if he does, that in itself has no bearing on whether the stories he tells actually happened.  An author may well know that in the city of Lystra there was a temple of Zeus outside the city walls; but that has no bearing on whether what he says *happened* in that temple is historically true or not.  The affirmative side wants to argue that the fact that Luke was knowledgeable about the first century and that can easily be conceded.  Of course he did.  He lived in the first century.  Naturally he knows about it.  But that has no relevance to the question of whether the narratives he sets in the first century happened the way he says they did.

There are two major ways to check to see if Luke is historically accurate.  The first is to see if he is internally consistent in his telling of his stories.  If not, then that would show that he is not particularly concerned to get the facts straight.  The second is to compare him with other reliable sources of the time to see if they coincide or not.  As it turns out, a number of things that Luke says about Paul are things that Paul himself talks about, so we can compare the two.  Whenever they talk about the same thing, they are at odds with one another.  Luke does not appear to be historically accurate.

First, internal consistency.  Luke sometimes tells the same story two or even three times.  When he does so, there are striking contradictions, which show, among other things, that Luke is more interested in spinning a good yarn than he is in preserving a historically accurate narrative.  Let me cite two examples.  First, Jesus’ ascension.  In Luke 24 (you can read it for yourself and see) Jesus rises from the dead, on that day meets with his disciples, and then, again that day, he ascends to heaven from the town of Bethany.  But when you read Acts 1, written by the same author, you find that Jesus did not ascend on that day or at that place.  Jesus instead spends forty days with his disciples proving to them that he had been raised from the dead (it’s not clear why he would have to prove it!  Let alone do so for forty days!); and only then — forty days after the resurrection– does he ascend.  And here he ascends not from Bethany but from Jerusalem.  Luke tells the same story twice, and in two radically different ways.  Historical accuracy does not appear to be his major concern.when readers today want to know whether the book of Acts is reliable, they mean that they want to know whether the events that it narrates actually happened in the way it describes.  Or not. 

Second example.  On three occasions Acts narrates the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, chapters 9, 22, and 26.  Compare them closely to one another, and you find very odd contradictions.   In chapter 9, Paul’s companions hear the voice of Jesus talking to Paul, but they don’t see anyone; in chapter 22 they see the light but don’t hear anything.  Which is it?  In Chapter 9 the companions are left standing while Paul falls to the ground; in chapter 26 they are all knocked to the ground.  Which is it?  In chapters 9 and 22 Paul is told to go to Damascus to be instructed by a man named Ananias about what to do next.  In chapter 26 Paul is not told to go be instructed by Ananias, instead Jesus himself instructs him.  Well, which is it?

All these examples simply show that Luke was far more interested in telling a gripping story than he was in being consistent. His artistic license has seriously undercut his historical accuracy.

But even more noteworthy are the external contradictions with a reliable source: Paul himself.  Whenever Acts relates an incident from Paul’s life that Paul himself discusses, there are striking and irreconcilable differences.   Sometimes these involve small details.  For example, Acts 17 is clear and unambiguous: when Paul traveled to bring the gospel to Athens, he came by himself, without Timothy or any of the other apostles.  But Paul himself is also clear and unambiguous; in 1 Thessalonians 3 we learn that he came to Athens precisely in the company of Timothy, not by himself.  It couldn’t be both.

Sometimes the differences really matter.  When Paul himself talks about his conversion in Galatians 1 he insists that after he had his vision of Jesus he did not – he absolutely and positively did not (he swears to it!) – go to confer with the other apostles in Jerusalem.  Not for years.  And what happens when Paul converts according to Acts 9?  What is the first thing he does after he leaves Damascus?  He makes a beeline to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.  In Acts he does precisely what he himself swears in Galatians 1 that he didn’t do.

Even more striking than the contradictions in the itinerary and travels of Paul are the discrepancies in his preaching.  Here I give just one example.  In Acts 17 when Paul is preaching to the pagans of Athens, he tells them that they worship idols out of ignorance.  They simply don’t know any better.  And because of that, God overlooks their mistake; but he now gives them a chance to recognize the truth and worship him alone.  That stands in sharp contrast with the views that Paul himself lays out in his letter to the Romans.  In chapter one Paul states his views of pagan idolatry and false worship, and they are completely contrary to what he allegedly said in Acts 17.  In Romans Paul tells us that pagans worship idols precisely because they DID know that there was only one God who was to be worshiped, and they rejected that knowledge in full consciousness of what they were doing. And because of that God has cast his wrath down upon them.  Well which is it?  Do they commit idolatry out of pure ignorance so God overlooks their mistake?  Or are they fully aware of what they’re doing so God judges them?  Assuming Paul himself knew what his own views were, you would have to say that Acts has misrepresented the very core of his preaching message.

Every time you compare what Acts has to say about Paul with what Paul has to say about himself, you find discrepancies, just as you find discrepancies internally whenever Acts recounts the same event more than once.  As valuable as Acts may be as an interesting story about the first years and decades of the early Christian movement, the reality is that the book of Acts is not historically reliable.

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2024-03-17T13:58:14-04:00March 20th, 2024|Acts of the Apostles, Bart's Debates|

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37 Comments

  1. fishician March 20, 2024 at 9:37 am

    Do you think Paul swears in Galatians that he did not consult the apostles precisely because the story was already circulating that he did, which is what gets incorporated into Acts anyway?

    • BDEhrman March 21, 2024 at 9:06 pm

      Yup. More specifically I think that’s what his opponents at Galatia have been saying, that he got his informatoin from the jerusalem apostles and altered/corrupted it.

  2. charrua March 20, 2024 at 1:42 pm

    “He insists that after he had his vision of Jesus he did not – he absolutely and positively did not (he swears to it!)– go to confer with the other apostles in Jerusalem. ”

    I believe that when Paul wrote “what I am writing you IS NO LIE ” (Gal 1:20) he is referring to the two prior verses (Gal 1:18-19). Paul swears that he DID MEET with Peter and James; it was a PRIVATE meeting, and NOBODY ELSE knew about it. That’s why he “was personally UNKNOWN to the churches of Judea” (Galatians 1:22).

    Paul is not defending his INDEPENDENCE from the Jerusalem church; quite the contrary, he is stressing his LINK with the Jerusalem church (Gal 2:9).

    Why?

    The “troublemakers” in the Galatian churches were saying that Paul was just a former persecutor of the church who began to preach on his own (Galatians 1:23), with no links to the Jerusalem church.
    But Paul, as we know (1 Cor 16:1-3) was raising a collection for the saints in Jerusalem, so he has to stress he DID have links with the Jerusalem church.

    The climax of Paul’s storytelling of his alleged meeting in Jerusalem is Gal 2:10, an obvious reference to the collection.

    • stevenpounders March 21, 2024 at 10:33 am

      I do not remotely see how you can see Gal 1 as stressing a LINK with the Jerusalem church. Paul is clearly stressing that “that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin, for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

      This is why he makes perfectly clear that after he was set apart directly by God, “I did not confer with any human, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterward I returned to Damascus.”

      • charrua March 21, 2024 at 11:48 am

        What Paul clearly stresses is that his gospel comes directly from Jesus.

        However, that does not mean he had no links with the Jerusalem church.

        Paul was raising a collection for ‘the saints in Judea.’

        Do you think he had his own church there?

        No, it was the church of James, Peter, and James—the one and only church of Christ.

        Paul obviously considered himself as part of it, as we can infer from his own words:
        ‘we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised’ (Galatians 2:9).

        There are not two churches—one for the Gentiles and one for the Jews.
        Rather, it is just that Paul and his companions will preach among the Gentiles.

        Were the Corinthians who said ‘I follow Cephas’ (1 Corinthians 1:12) considered part of another church?

        To those Corinthians, Paul’s answer is ‘Is Christ divided?’ (1 Corinthians 1:13).

        Of course not, neither Christ nor the church.

        • stevenpounders March 22, 2024 at 10:27 am

          Yep. The stress of Galatians 1 is that Paul received the gospel from Jesus, not humans like the apostles in Jerusalem.

          Who is suggesting that there isn’t a “link” between Paul and the church in Jerusalem? Certainly not me. But it’s hardly the stress of Galatians.

          • charrua March 25, 2024 at 11:07 pm

            “Who is suggesting that there isn’t a link between Paul and the church in Jerusalem? Certainly not me. “

            And who speaks about Galatians 1? Certainly not me.

            Read my own passage: ‘he is stressing his link with the Jerusalem church (Gal 2:9).’

            Do you see the reference to Galatians 2:9? TWO-nine.

            Don’t you see a link between Paul and the Jerusalem church in Galatians 2:9 as I wrote before?

            But even in Galatians 1:18-19, Paul says that he stayed with Cephas fifteen days and also met James. My point is that what he really swears to is that he did meet them. This ‘first’ meeting is really odd. How did a former prosecutor of the church ‘personally unknown to the churches of Judea’ manage to meet the church leaders? And there were no witnesses like in the second meeting when Barnabas was with him; in the alleged first one, Paul was alone.

            Weird, very weird. That’s why he has to swear… even though I do not believe him

  3. charrua March 20, 2024 at 2:23 pm

    But Paul is clear that his first visit to Jerusalem occurred about three years after his conversion(Gal 1:18), Luke addresses this fact by using the phrase ‘After many days had gone by'(Acts 9:23). This expression is quite ambiguous and could be forcefully interpreted as ‘three years’ in order to avoid contradicting Paul’s own words. At the same time, it gives the casual reader of Acts the impression that Paul met with the leaders of the Jerusalem church shortly after his conversion.

    This led us to the alleged discrepancies between chapters 9, 22, and 26 regarding Paul’s conversion. My only platinum article was about that ‘discrepancy.’ One thing to consider is that while chapter 9 is Luke’s narrative of what happened, chapters 22 and 26 consist of Paul’s speeches about the same event.
    So when Bart says that ‘In Chapter 9 the companions are left standing while Paul falls to the ground; in chapter 26 they are all knocked to the ground,’ this is a discrepancy between Luke and Paul (who was blind by that time). Any discrepancies between chapters 22 and 26 are not Luke’s fault but Paul’s.

    However, as I tried to explain in my article, all these ‘discrepancies’ have an explanation.

    • stevenpounders March 21, 2024 at 10:41 am

      Interpreting “many days” as “three years” requires being forceful? No, it requires being nonsensical.

      • charrua March 22, 2024 at 10:15 am

        What sounds nonsensical to you is the correct interpretation for Richard Fellows (see his post here in this same article). In his own words:

        “The issue about how soon Paul went to Jerusalem boils down to whether the sufficient days (ἡμέραι) in Acts 9:23 could be about two years. Luke uses “ἡμέραι” for long periods of time. He does so more often than all other NT writers combined. Luke 1:5, 7, 18, 39, 75; 2:1; 36; 4:25; 6:12; 17:26a, b; 19:43; 21:6; Acts 1:15; 2:17; 7:25; 13:41; 15:7.”

        Although he pushed his argument too much I think he made his point that at least it is not “nonsensical” to interpret “ἡμέραι” as “three years.” I would rather say it is “forceful.”

        Looking at the problem from Luke’s perspective, how could he write a new version shortening the time period between Paul’s conversion and his visit to the Jerusalem church without directly contradicting Paul?

        Indeed, it is not easy. The “many days” solution functions as a sort of “quantum number.” When you read Paul’s official story in Acts, it is interpreted as “about 30 days.” However, when you consider that Paul speaks about three years in Galatians, it stretches to “about 1,000 days.

        • stevenpounders March 22, 2024 at 10:44 am

          How could Luke write something “directly contradicting Paul”? Apparently easily. Luke also directly contradicts Mark, one of his primary sources. The writers of Matthew, Luke, and John don’t seem to worry about whether anyone his going to be comparing their versions of the gospel to other contemporary versions – hence the numerous contradictions found. Today virtually anyone can compare most extant first century Christian texts with indexes and digital search tools. In the first century, gospels and the letters of Paul were not compiled for easy access by the few Christians with ability to read them. The ability to compare the gospels, acts, and the epistles in the first century would have been rare, even assuming such a first century reader knew of the existence of every pertinent gospel, acts, or letter.

          Even with today’s indexes and search tools, I’m amazed by how many contemporary Christian readers seem blissfully unaware of biblical contradictions.

          • charrua March 25, 2024 at 10:41 pm

            Apparently easily? I would say exactly the other way around.

            Paul is the super-hero in Acts. Do you think Luke depicted him in such a way only to contradict Paul?

            The major goal of Acts is to recount how the gospel journeyed from Capernaum to Rome totally unaltered, with all the apostles in total harmony. There were no quarrels between Paul and Peter regarding doctrine. It is obvious that the author of Luke considers himself as part of this tradition, with every link in the chain preserving the doctrine unchanged.

            With the gospels, it would have been total confusion for early Christians if each generation rewrote Jesus’ gospel. Therefore, the early Christian writers, particularly Luke, were experts in “rebranding”.

            That’s why we have the Synoptics. It seems like the same history, but in fact, Matthew and Luke made their modifications, but never easily!

            Luke has his own theology and ideas that could differ from those of Mark or Paul, but he has to present them as if they were part of the gospel from the start, unchanged. It is precisely because it is not easy that we can detect that this is not the case.

    • emancipated_from_judeo_christian_mythology March 22, 2024 at 12:26 am

      Hello Dr Erhman

      Off topic of the Book of Acts , my sister whom I’ve never met is named Tirzah. It sounds semitic to me, but that’s a guess.

      What type of language is the name and it’s meaning. Is it biblical ?

      Lastly, thanks for confirming intellectually my intuition since I was 10 years old, the bible is a wholly man made, quite undivine.

      Julian 🍀

  4. Stephen March 20, 2024 at 2:34 pm

    In the Triumph of Christianity your present us with two important conversion accounts. Both of which seem rather ambiguous in retrospect. Acts makes it seem as if Paul instantly understood who appeared to him and why.

    The historical Paul was probably already a full blown Jewish apocalypticist before his conversion and likely imported much of it into his Jesus belief and even filtered his Jesus belief through that lens. Before his conversion Paul was probably already an ecstatic, used to having personal visions he regarded as divine in some way. He had some kind of overwhelming experience which he only later came to regard as a vision of Jesus after some internal deliberation process that might have lasted months or even years.

    Would you quibble with any of this?

    Thanks!

    • BDEhrman March 21, 2024 at 9:11 pm

      I agree pretty much up to the point that Paul was an “ecstatic.” I don’t think there’s evidence one way or the other of htat. Most people who see a vision that changes their lives, still today, have never had a vision before. That’s one reason they are so crazily convincing to them.

  5. mini1071 March 20, 2024 at 5:29 pm

    Professor, I know your “arguing” with your sola scriptura fundamentalists “self” for the class…
    But, in arguing the consistency of Jesus ascending why not also note that…. dead people don’t walk talk and then ascend. They decay and stink pretty badly in a few much less 40 days…in 33 BCE as well as today.

    In general, are not supernatural events without extraordinary evidence axiomatically not historical?

    • BDEhrman March 25, 2024 at 7:43 pm

      That’s not an inconsistency between the accounts, but a problem of miracle. I’d say it’s not historical axiomatically if you / we mean, “something that can be shown to have happened.” That’s not the same thing, of course, as saying “something that can be shown not to have happened.” Most things in history cannot be shown to have happened, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t Those who think miracles don’t happen are right, in my view, but it’s not, strictly speaking, a historical view but a philosophical/scientific one.
      (That’s why plenty of historians believe that miracles have happened) disabledupes{7eee1245b9c0cb680bd4772d85f03891}disabledupes

  6. daniel.calita March 21, 2024 at 12:38 am

    Hi,

    What does Matthew 12:43-45 mean?

    [43] “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. [44] Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. [45] Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”

    Unclean spirit = Satan/demons?
    Gone out = cast out by Jesus/apostles?
    House = person’s body which it possesed before?
    What is Jesus predicting that will happen to that evil generation? (“Last state of that person will be the worst”) What is the context?

    • BDEhrman March 25, 2024 at 7:46 pm

      It’s often taken to be a metaphor for what happens to the people living in Jesus’ day who experience a delivery from evil in Jesus’ ministry but then don’t commit to the truth and are “empty” of it, leading to their worse situation before. The metaphor is dependent on the idea that an exorcised person (literally having had a demon removed) most fill themselves with God or they’ll eventually be worse off than before. Think, apostates.

  7. RichardFellows March 21, 2024 at 1:26 am

    Thanks, Bart, for the continued discussion of this important and strangely neglected issue.

    Luke knows the details of Paul’s Aegean itineraries and the names, locations, and often movements, of his companions. These things were not common knowledge.

    Acts 1 says that after one of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances, he was taken up to heaven. Luke does not actually say that this was Jesus’s last appearance. I suppose he could have written, “after being taken up, Jesus appeared to them periodically over the next forty days or so”, but that would have been anticlimactic. The ascension in Acts is from the mount of Olives, or nearby, so there is no contradiction with Luke 24.

    Acts 17:15 says that Paul was left alone in Athens when he sent his Macedonian friends back to Macedonia to tell Timothy to join him soon. From 1 Thess 3:5 we know that Paul was eager to hear from the Thessalonians. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that the instructions were for Timothy to come to Paul via Thessalonica. Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica using his friends as messengers. There is no contradiction with 1 Thess 3:1, which does not require that Timothy was ever in Athens.

    • BDEhrman March 25, 2024 at 7:47 pm

      That’s right. Luke had more knowledge about the places he describes than most people of his time would have had. It wasn’t common knowledge. What I know about Lawrence Kansas is not common knowledge either.

  8. RichardFellows March 21, 2024 at 1:28 am

    Paul’s companions fell to the ground in Acts 26:14. When they got up (which they surely did) they were speechless (Acts 9:7). No contradiction. The question of whether they heard the voice remains, however.

    The issue about how soon Paul went to Jerusalem boils down to whether the sufficient days (ἡμέραι) in Acts 9:23 could be about two years. Luke uses “ἡμέραι” for long periods of time. He does so more often than all other NT writers combined. Luke 1:5, 7, 18, 39, 75; 2:1; 36; 4:25; 6:12; 17:26a, b; 19:43; 21:6; Acts 1:15; 2:17; 7:25; 13:41; 15:7. Do you still feel that there is a contradiction?

    Paul seems to be saying in Rom 1 that the gentiles are willfully ignorant of God. In Acts 17, when trying to make converts, he underplays the willfulness, as we would expect, since he was “all things to all people” to save them (1 Cor 9:22). Similarly, he was not completely up-front when introducing himself to Jews, for they even came to believe that the believed in circumcision for Gentiles (Gal 5:11).

    • stevenpounders March 23, 2024 at 12:21 pm

      Yep. There’s still an obvious contraction. Every single “ἡμέραι” reference that you cite uses a different definition of “days” to refer to a particular period of time in the past: “in the days of Herod”, “in the days of Elijah”. We use similar contrasting definitions of “days” in English. But context makes the difference as clear and obvious as the difference in English between “many days later” and “in days of my grandfather”.

      Acts 9:23 uses the very specific phrase “ἐπληροῦντο ἡμέραι ἱκαναί” (many days had passed). I don’t think you’ll be able to find any biblical use of this phrase, or even the simpler “ἡμέραι ἱκαναί” (many days), to mean anything akin to 3 years.

    • Serene March 24, 2024 at 2:38 am

      To Richard Fellows and Charua, thank you. I feel that using “a long period” as a literary device, if you’re aiming for accuracy and don’t have first-hand experience of an event, to be logical.

      And thanks to Dr. Ehrman for this exciting post. I believe the author of Luke-Acts is writing to High Priest Theophilus. This is a tiny time window before 40 AD. This is after Jesus survives (likely 33 AD) and the Nabataea war against Herod Antipas is won by 36 AD. It’s because (lineage Edomite) Herod Antipas divorces (Arab) Phaesalis for (partly Jewish) Herodias, but doesn’t give up Arab towns in Moab. The marriage that John the Baptist rocking the camel wear protests.

      Imo, Paul is pursued by Nabataea’s Aretas for questioning because of his crimes against Jesus’ followers. Legally, any crimes against Transjordanites would need to be accounted for, right?

      So whyyyy would Paul, escaping “The King of Arabia” — who could find him even in Damascus – say that he immediately traveled to Arabia?

      This is contradicty.

      Ino, this is because this a later letter, when how involved Aramean-founded Arabia (Nabataea, their Puteoli community, and the Abgarid Dynasty) was in The Way and the fulfillment of deutero-Isaiah came to light. But also, Paul may be unwittingly using ‘God’ for the Obodas Theos ancestor cult.

  9. daniel.calita March 21, 2024 at 1:52 am

    Hi again,

    My second question on this post: What is the origins of the english translated word “Lord” that we find in the Gospels that people use to refer to Jesus. Is it a word that is addressing a divine being (but not God himself), God himself or what rank/title exactly? What is the context people use it?

    Thanks

    • BDEhrman March 25, 2024 at 7:51 pm

      It’s the word Kurios. It can be used as a term of reverence for anyone who is your superior: your husband, your employer, your master, your local officials, your king, your emperor, your God, etc. In the OT it is used of God and for humans, and so too in the NT (e.g., Matt 24:14-26, in a parable where it is used to refer to a “master”); in the NT “Jesus is Lord” usually means that he is the Master of All.

  10. vinsapone123 March 24, 2024 at 7:42 am

    As far as the Acts 17 and Romans comparison, there is no reason to imagine Paul couldn’t have been inconsistent with himself at times or even changed his own views. People, ourselves included, often hold to views that seem inconsistent with other views they have. Sometimes we have a lot of nuance in our brains and other times it’s just fuzzy thinking and inconsistency. Not to mention Paul’s views could have changed or developed nuance over time. I would remove this point.

    • BDEhrman March 27, 2024 at 6:47 pm

      Yup! And then one has to ask: What did Paul think? (Answer: all sorts of contradictory things!) It’s possible.

  11. Serene March 24, 2024 at 10:32 pm

    I found it!!! The use of “many days” to mean a period of years is on the Meshe stele — it’s a *Transjordan* term.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesha_Stele

    It’s about the 9th C BCE dispute over Moab — the same dispute of the early First Century I mentioned above. If you’ve read your Epistle of Barnabas, they love them some archetypes.

    Imo, the Euangelions might originally be part polemics of this war, using insider language and roles similar to the Qumran Essenes’ Righteous Teacher. Son of Man, The Liar (diabolos, probably Trajan). Revelation’s Beast.

    Father is a role, too. This assumes Jesus is the chosen heir of Aretas through the mechanism of Ketubot 3B, which sought an engaged Jewish virgin for intercourse with a Lord. Similar to the Elephantine Papyri records of a (converted Jewish) handmaiden to a Lord, who also had a Jewish husband (a minor temple official, like a Zechariah.) I mean, King David even tried passing his son as Uriah the Hittite’s.

    Who could read the Meshe stele? Nabonidus, the world’s “first archaeologist”, had ancient texts translated. He removed the Edomites (as prophesied in deutero-Isaiah) and put his own stele over Sela. Others could have continued this education.

    • stevenpounders March 25, 2024 at 11:34 am

      The Meshe stele was not written in 1st century Greek. It is a Canaanite inscription written in a variant Phoenician alphabet. It’s also not clear how much time is implied by “many days” (if “many days” is correct – this is a 19th century English translation).

  12. wje March 25, 2024 at 10:50 pm

    Good evening, Bart. Having rebuttals against yourself is like playing a two-person game with yourself. Trying to put yourself in the other position and honestly trying not to know what is on the other side is difficult. Did they have classes in college to teach a person these skills?

    • BDEhrman March 27, 2024 at 6:56 pm

      Nope. But if you’re trained in debate you are required to argue the affirmative and negative of any resolution with equal conviction.

  13. samdog March 29, 2024 at 3:33 pm

    I’m liable to get myself into deep water since I haven’t read Acts or Paul in decades, but here goes….
    First, wouldn’t it be plausible that the author of Acts would have an intimate knowledge of Asia Minor and the Aegean given that he likely lived and traveled there? Second, I’ve heard it argued (don’t hold me to this) that the author tends to emphasize locations Paul has a lot to say about, and gloss over locations Paul has little to say about. In other words, he basically ignores locations that Paul just mentions in passing. Thus, this suggests the author might have had a basic itinerary of Paul’s travels, which he then filled in with oral tradition that was floating around.

    And finally, I have a question for you Dr Ehrman. Assuming “Luke” was not an eyewitness on Paul’s missions, do you think it was likely that he had direct access to any of Paul’s letters? Or do the discrepancies in the details argue against that?

    • BDEhrman April 1, 2024 at 7:03 pm

      Yes, he could be well traveled. No he doesn’t have a better knowledve of only places Paul refers to. And yes, he may have had a basic itinerary of Paul’s travels. And no, I don’t think he had access to the letters of Paul — at least the ones that *we* have. If he did, that would make it even more strange that he presents Paul the way he does — not simply in the small contradictions but in the major differences (e.g., indicating that Paul never ever violated the Jewish law; and that he DID consult with the apostles immediately after converting; etc.)

  14. sLiu April 1, 2024 at 7:54 pm

    “the bible is a wholly man made, quite undivine”

    the Bible or specifically OT was inspired by the Holy Spirit, not written by. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 exactly man made!

    my questions in middle school, what about the translations as the church I grew up in found every other thing of the devil.

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