15 votes, average: 4.87 out of 515 votes, average: 4.87 out of 515 votes, average: 4.87 out of 515 votes, average: 4.87 out of 515 votes, average: 4.87 out of 5 (15 votes, average: 4.87 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

The Burial of Jesus: A Blast from the Past

Two thought-events happened today that oddly enough coalesced.  First, I’ve been thinking about the fact that the blog is approaching five years old in about ten days, and musing on all that has happened on the blog over all this time.  I decided to look up my very first posts, and found this one among them.

Second, as it turns out, this post is exactly on a topic that I happened to lecture on today to my undergraduate class (what I said may well have scandalized some students, but I made sure to tell them that my opinion on this matter is a minority view among scholars; I always try to let them know if what I’m saying is standard fare — which is normally the case — or a minority opinion).

In any event, in both my lecture and in this primeval post, the topic is: was Jesus given a decent burial by Joseph of Arimathea (or anyone else)?  My views have considerably deepened over the past five years, but I still hold to what I said here.

Here is the post, which was a response to a question I got via email.

EMAIL QUESTION:

Sir, I have inquiries regarding your view on two supposed historical events found in Jesus Tradition: (1) the burial by Joseph of Arimathea; (2) the discovery of the empty tomb by some of Jesus’ women followers.

It appears that when you gave a lecture for The Teaching Company (published in 2003) you regarded these two event claims to be “historical facts.” You stated that “the earliest accounts we have are unanimous in saying that Jesus was in fact buried by this fellow, Joseph of Arimathea, and so it’s relatively reliable that that’s what happened. We also have solid traditions to indicate that women found this tomb empty three days later.” Source: “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity,” Lecture 4: “Oral and Written Traditions about  Jesus” (The Teaching Company, 2003).

However, in your debate with W. L. Craig in 2006, you stated, “The payoff is this: We don’t know if Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea. What we have are Gospel stories written decades later by people who had heard stories in circulation, and it’s not hard at all to imagine somebody coming up with the story. We don’t know if his tomb was empty three days later. We don’t know if he was physically seen by his followers afterwards. Bill’s going to come up here and tell me now that I’ve contradicted myself. But I want to point out that earlier he praised me for changing my mind!”

-Just to clarify, did you really change your mind? -Despite the two being found in the earliest accounts (since, as you stated, they are found in all four Gospels), what led you to change your mind? -Do you explain your view on these two in detail in any of your written published work? Your “A Brief Introduction to the New Testament” (2008) does talk about the Jesus’ women followers’ having discovered the empty tomb, but it seems you neither deny nor affirm the historicity of which.

 

RESPONSE:

This is a great question, and it is in fact a topic on which I have changed my minds in recent years.   Apologists for Christianity have frequently insisted that “everyone” agrees that whatever else you might want to say about Jesus’ resurrection, he was certainly buried publicly and three days later the tomb was empty.  This has led such evangelical apologists as Josh McDowell and a host of others in his wake to insist that …

The Rest of This Post is for Members Only.  If you don’t belong yet, JOIN!  It costs less than a pack of gum a day, and gives you much more to chew on.  And every penny goes to charity!

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.


Do My Research Assistants Do All My Work For Me?
Q & A – Historical Events in Jesus Tradition

76

Comments

  1. Avatar
    Salvador Perez  March 20, 2017

    Greetings Dr Erhman
    can you tell us where the Gospel writers got the 3 days from and what is their significance for before “the resurrection”?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2017

      It’s usually thought that it is drawn from Hosea 6:2 and/or the story of Jonah.

  2. Avatar
    darren  March 20, 2017

    When you say “the two killed with Jesus that day, for example,” do you mean you think there historically was two people crucified with Jesus? Or just anyone who was crucified at that time?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2017

      I don’t think we know historically if anyone else was crucified that day, or if many people were. I was just referring to the fact that in the Gospels Jesus is crucified with two others, and this must have seemed completely plausible to a first century audience familiar with Roman practices.

  3. Avatar
    Andrew  March 20, 2017

    I think we have to critically examine every aspect of the gospel accounts. I agree with you on the fate of Jesus’ body, but in your final para, you allow two details that may be inventions to serve the writers’ narrative or thematic goals – (1) that there were only two crucified with Jesus that day, and (2) that he was crucified during the Passover season.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2017

      Yes, I think (1) may be an invention, but (2) I would argue for rather strenuously on historical grounds.

  4. Avatar
    gavriel  March 20, 2017

    Is it likely that any disciples witnessed the crucifixion to the end of Jesus life?
    Would the temple priests consider the dead bodies outside the city walls an offense to the sanctity of the festival, and could that have spawned an official initiative to arrange a simple burial?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2017

      1. No, I don’t think so? 2. I doubt it (the Romans didn’t give a damn about what the locals thought)

      • Avatar
        ftbond  April 10, 2017

        Dr Ehrman –

        As to your point #2 (above), Josephus writes that the Romans do not require “their subjects to violate their national laws” (Contra Apionem 2.6) and notes that every Roman Procurator since Agrippa I for “abstaining from all interferences with the customs of the country [that] kept the nation at peace” (J.W. 2.11.6)

        It would appear to me that the Romans did acquiesce to Jewish customs, to at least some degree. And, Jewish burial customs were of tremendous importance.

        And, as I’m certain you know, the Digesta records “The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives …[and] should be given to whoever requests them for the purpose of burial.” (Digesta 48.24.1,3) [ note: this does not appear to apply to those accused of High Treason ]

        I’ve read your info on “Josephus’ Clearest Claim About the Burial of Crucified Victims” [ “although the Jews are so careful about burial rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset”], so I won’t go into that particular quote. If that’s just a matter of “how one interprets” that sentence, then, it could lead to an inconclusive round-and-round. But, I wanted to acknowledge that I had read your view (and, that, for the record, I wasn’t truly convinced of your view).

        Far More importantly: You pointed out a couple of times (in the above-mentioned writing) that Jesus “was crucified for calling himself king of the Jews”, and basically asserting that since he was an insurrectionist, he would have been left on the cross. [ perhaps insurrection would fall under the heading of High Treason]

        Now, turning attention to one more item – the Testamonium Flavianum: The “broad consensus” of scholars shows that the reconstruction of the Testamonium Flavianum reads “And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, condemned him to the cross…”, thus upholding the idea that it was Jewish charges, and not Roman charges, that Jesus was crucified for. The official Roman charges may have had nothing to do with any kind of “high treason”; as such, it’s entirely possible that Jesus’ body could well have been taken off the cross.

        Question: How do you know what Jesus was officially charged with? (no fair quoting the gospels; you have spent considerable time in your writings shedding doubt on their reliability)

        • Bart
          Bart  April 11, 2017

          I discuss all this in my book How Jesus Became God. (For starters, when the Romans left Jewish bodies on the cross for the Sabbath, they were not forcing Jews to violate their national laws. Jews were not refusing these bodies burial. The Romans were.)

          • Avatar
            ftbond  April 11, 2017

            Well, in your book, you say “I have just given for calling into question the idea that Jesus received a decent burial by Joseph of Arimathea, there are three more specific reasons for doubting the tradition that Jesus received a decent burial at all, in a tomb that could later be recognized as emptied.”

            And, in reading your book, I can see the reasoning employed in your writings, and you are, of course, presenting plenty of information to support that Jesus was very likely to not have gotten a decent burial from Joseph of Arimathea, or, that Jesus received a decent burial at all. And, I grant, it’s all good info, good argument, well-supported.

            But, here’s the deal: If such a case can be *convincingly* made, 2000 years after the fact, from the very limited information we have available, then *most assuredly* the same case could have *easily and convincingly* been made at the time of the writing of the gospels. (After all, crucifixions in the Roman Empire didn’t end until the time of Constantine).

            In other words, most anybody at that time, in the Roman-dominated Palestinian (and other nearby) cultures, would have read the story in the (then) newly-written gospel and dismissed it out of hand. They’d all *know* that bodies weren’t ever taken from crosses and given decent burials. If we can “see” that now (as in writings such as yours), then most assuredly, those people *living* “back then” would have seen it. Heck, they would have had *experience* with it. The story of Jesus being taken off the cross and put in a tomb is a story that wouldn’t fly, wouldn’t even get off the ground, as far as readers “back then” were concerned; virtually guaranteed to result in plenty of raised eyebrows, sideways glances, and a great deal of unabashed skepticism. (“What th’???”) At least the idea of a “resurrection” had the dignity to present itself as a “miracle”; but, if the idea of a crucified man being taken off a cross and placed in a tomb is seen by us, now, as “very highly unlikely”, then for readers back then – having first-hand info – it would have been something *entirely* unbelievable – it would have taken *more* than a miracle for that to have happened.

            What I’m saying is this: The more convincing you make your case, the more impossible it is to believe.

            If you are to make the case (as you have) that the story of “Jesus and the tomb of Joe of A” should be regarded as unbelievable by modern readers, then it *requires* that people back then would have found it even *more* unbelievable. The things you “suspect” (and try to support with argument, based on scant information) would have been things that they “knew” as realities. If you suspect Jesus was never taken from the cross – or if he was, then never given a “decent burial” – based on the scant info we have now, then people back then – *knowing what you infer they would have known* – would *never* have had reason to believe that story in the gospels; hence, they would have even less reason to accept the “broader story” of the gospels.

            Question: Are you therefore inferring that people “back then” were simply ignorant of the world in which they lived, and as such, would have accepted the story of Jesus being taken off a cross and laid in a tomb?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 12, 2017

            We have no way of knowing whether in fact people *did* argue just this point in antiquity. We don’t have any writings from any opponents of Christianity in the entire first Christian century.

          • Avatar
            ftbond  April 12, 2017

            It’s not an issue of whether people *argued* this point. The issue here is that they (back then) clearly *believed* the story. They found it believable that Jesus was taken off a cross, and they found it believable that he was given a “decent burial”. And, we know that to be true because *history* shows it to be true – evidently, people back then thought the story feasible, or plausible. We know this because this story had spread out, and was accepted, by believers everywhere from Judea to Corinth, Ephesus, Colosae, Galatia, (et al) and Rome.

            Even if this “Jesus taken off the cross & laid in a tomb” story didn’t begin until the writing of the first gospel, it was still “early in the game”, so to speak. Crucifixions happened by the thousands in Jerusalem, following the 70ad revolt. And, in the Roman Empire, the practice would continue until around 325ad – the Constantine era. (I have very serious doubts that this story just “popped up” in the first gospel, though).

            So, if “back then”, *they* didn’t balk on the story, then I fail to see any reason for saying, 2000 years after the event, that the story (of Jesus taken off the cross and put in a tomb) is somehow “unbelievable”, that “it couldn’t have happened”. *They* (back then) apparently believed things could have happened that way. The question is this: WHY should we believe someone – anyone – 2000 years later, claiming “oh, no, this story is totally unbelievable”?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 13, 2017

            Yes, it’s amazing what some people believe. (As we see everyday these days!)

          • Avatar
            ftbond  April 13, 2017

            It’s all true! These days, people will believe just about anything!

            I don’t know. I guess maybe I would have figured that, “back then”, people who actually *lived* with the *reality* of crucifixions as a common form of punishment would surely have *known* that nobody is ever taken off a cross and put in a tomb, and would have cried “bogus, bogus”, when hearing that story about Jesus’ crucifixion.

            I mean, these days (for example) I *know* that a car can’t fly. So, if somebody tells me their story, saying “I got in my car and flew above the Rocky Mountains”, why, I’m going to think “this guy is nuts”. But – not back then! They’d hear a story that Jesus had been taken off the cross and put in a tomb, and – of all things – *believe* it – despite knowing the reality of the thing.

            Yes, it’s truly amazing what people will believe. I totally agree with you.

            BTW – Thank You for reading my posts! And especially, for responding! In all sincerity, I truly find your views of tremendous interest, and enjoy your writing!

  5. Avatar
    Jason  March 20, 2017

    Setting aside the likelihood that Tabor’s Talpiot explorations found or didn’t find the ossuary of “that” Jesus, brother of James, son of Joseph, what do you make the odds that eventually his bones would have ended up in an ossuary? Were there just not enough christians left in Jerusalem between the sacking of the temple and Helena’s pilgrimage that you’d expect them to say “No, that can’t be right-see, he’s buried right over there…”?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2017

      I don’t think there’s any way. Ossuaries were for people who were given a regular burial and then a second-burial. This was almost always done by the family. But Jesus’ family was no where near where he was “buried” the first time.

      • Avatar
        llamensdor  March 25, 2017

        How do you know his family was nowhere near where he was buried?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 26, 2017

          Because he and his family were from Nazareth, but he was executed in Jerusalem. Not close.

  6. talmoore
    talmoore  March 20, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, I don’t want to spoil the ending of my Jesus novel (I hope someday you’ll read it, and, let me tell you, the ending is REALLY good!), but in having to reconstruct and recreate a plausible historical narrative for the passion, I created a hierachy of probabilities.

    1) What could Jesus’ disciples have known with certainty? (And thus have transmitted to us with some certainty)
    That Jesus was arrested by the Jerusalem authorities on the first night of Passover, and he never returned to them (at least, not in the form that he was with them before).
    2) What could Jesus’ disciples have known with relative confidence?
    That Jesus was crucified very shortly thereafter (possibly the very next morning), and that the charges against him, as publicly displayed, included claiming kingship, a definite act of sedition and rebellion. Since this all happened in public, it wouldn’t be terribly hard to learn this much.
    3) What could Jesus’ disciples have known with a little investigating?
    Where Jesus was crucified. How long Jesus was up on the cross. How long it took him to die. If his remains were carried off somewhere. Whether or not the disciples knew this much is up for debate
    4) What would the disciples have been hard pressed to find out?
    Where and how Jesus’ trial was held, if he was even tried at all. What was spoken at said trial. What Jesus said, if he said anything, from the cross. Where Jesus’ remains were taken, if they were taken anywhere at all.
    5) What would it have been difficult for the disciples to have learned, no matter how hard they tried?
    What exactly happened, minute by minute, from the moment Jesus was arrested until his remains were taken off the cross. This includes the route he took in carrying the cross, whether he fell at any point (let alone seven times), the name of anyone who may have carried Jesus’ cross for him at any point, where Jesus’ remains were interred, if they were interred at all.
    6) What would it have been impossible for the disciples to have known?
    That, upon Jesus’ expiration, a centurion said, “This man was surely the son of God.” Anything Pontius Pilate said that was not to “the crowds”. Anything that the priests and other Jewish leaders spoke to each other and to the Romans, especially anything that Judas and the Jewish authorities had discussed.

    What this suggests to me is the following onion layers for the passion story.
    Core of the onion (probably factual): Night of Passover, Jesus was arrested by the Jerusalem authorities, convicted of sedition and crucified as a rebel.
    First onion layer (good reason to assume factual): Charge of claiming kingship publicly displayed. Jesus was crucified with two other rebels.
    Second layer (starting to get questionable): Jesus’ words from the cross. “Via Dolorosa” route. At what time Jesus finally died.
    Third layer (at this point the disciples are seeking answers): What happened to Jesus’ remains? What happened at Jesus’ trial, assuming he had a trial? Who tried Jesus? What were the roles of Pilate and the Jewish leadership at said trial?
    Fourth layer (disciples are getting desparate for answers): What was said at Jesus’ trial? What did Pilate say and do at Jesus’ trial? What did the Jewish leaders say and do at the trial? If Jesus’ remains were interred, where were they interred?
    Fifth layer (the disciples, at this point, are fabricating things simply to fill in important gaps): If Jesus was interred in a tomb, from whom did the tomb come from? Maybe a wealthy Jewish supporter of Jesus? What did the Romans — Pilate, the soldiers, etc. — who crucified Jesus think about what they were doing?
    Sixth layer (at this point we’re in complete fantasyland as the disciples have tied themselves into knots trying to explain what happened): What was the name of the wealthy Jew who gave his tomb to inter Jesus? If Jesus was interred, what happened to his body before he started to appear to the disciples in visions? If he was raised, did he leave an empty tomb? Did anyone find his tomb empty?

    With each successive onion layer, the disciples were patching holes in their boat, desparately trying to keep it afloat. That’s why so much of the passion narrative in the Gospels appears ad hoc and internally inconsistant, because they were basically making it up as they went.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2017

      Yes, I pretty much agree with all of this.

      • talmoore
        talmoore  March 21, 2017

        Sorry for the mixed metaphor, by the way.

      • Avatar
        Gary  March 22, 2017

        Do you believe it was the disciples who invented these extra details or was it the non-eyewitness authors of the Gospels, writing Greco-Roman biographies, in far away lands, decades later; writing a genre of literature in which adding colorful details which do not change the central facts of the historical account was perfectly acceptable?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 22, 2017

          Strictly speaking it’s impossible to say, but my guess is that it was people *other* than the disciples themselves.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  March 22, 2017

          The empty tomb story probably comes from the disciples themselves, but the exact details of the story (one angel or two angels, the Roman guards, the number of women, etc.) probably comes from later Christians.

      • Avatar
        ftbond  March 23, 2017

        Here’s my take on it:

        Jesus was crucified.
        None of his followers actually knew, factually, what was done with the body (except that it had been removed from the cross)
        After “the sabbaths”, Jesus appeared, bodily, physically, to some of his disciples.
        This resulted in the story going around that Jesus had been resurrected. (duhhhh)
        Whatever had previously happened with Jesus’ corpse became immediately irrelevant, from that point on.

        Many decades later, a few authors sat down to write all that was known about the story, and (of course), it’s subject, Jesus.
        The writings they were doing were far more akin to “historic novels” than to “historical writings”, and certainly more akin to “historic novels” than to “fiction”.

        These writers seem to have shared a lot of commonly-held info (for example, quotes of Jesus), which were perhaps written down by someone else, earlier.

        For other parts of the story which were not documented, they relied on the most commonly-told “folklore” (or, at least, the versions each individual author had heard). Since the actual disposition of Jesus’ body was unknkown, a story had begun that the body had been put in a tomb (which is natural enough). But, that detail may not actually have been true. Jesus’ body may well have been put in a communal grave. But, again, what the writers were writing was more like a historic novel than actual history; hence, not all details could be historically confirmed, nor was there any necessity for all the details to be historically confirmed. And, in any case, the actual, specific “location” of Jesus corpse – whether in a tomb or in a communal grave – was not really relevant. What was relevant, and central to the story, is that Jesus was seen alive, physically, after the crucifixion. If there needed to be an “accounting of the funeral services and burial”, then the common “folklore” version would suffice. Had it been factually known, though, that Jesus’ body had indeed been thrown in a communal grave, it would still not alter the central fact of his subsequent resurrection. Resurrection can, after all, actually occur just as well in a communal grave as in a tomb. Granted, Jesus’ body being thrown in a communal grave does not quite have the “poetry” of a “garden tomb”, but, had the communal grave been the verifiable true story, then the gospels would have simply read “Jesus’ body was thrown into a communal grave”, and, “three days later, he appeared to his disciples”, but the lack of poetic appeal would hardly have changed the magnificent reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

        What I’m getting at is this (to put it plainly): My theory says several of you guys on this board got the whole thing bass-ackwards. There was not (as an historic necessity) an Empty Tomb which then led to the belief that Jesus was resurrected. It worked the other way around. There was an actual, physical resurrection of the body of Jesus – as a living person – that then led to the (possible) literary invention – many decades later – of the Empty Tomb (if the actual disposition of Jesus’ corpse had been unknown or unverifiable).

        Of course, I realize this “theory” of mine simply will not work for one who already believes – for whatever reasons – that the resurrection from the dead is an impossibility.

        I would add this: Paul’s version of the story is this: “[Jesus]…was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:3–7)

        Even to Paul, the LOCATION of Jesus burial was irrelevant. What was relevant was that – REGARDLESS of the burial location – Jesus “rose again”, and that “he was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (etc, etc). For Paul, EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS were the only relevant “proof” of Jesus’ resurrection.

        So, the Empty Tomb story? Well, maybe it’s totally true, maybe it’s folklore, maybe it’s fictional filler for fact that is missing. Whatever it is, the One and Only Thing the Empty Tomb indicates is this: The corpse of Jesus was put someplace, and it was expected to stay in that place. Dead people stay dead. The problem is that Jesus didn’t stay dead. So, where-ever his corpse MIGHT have been (tomb, communal grave), it was no longer where it was expected to be. It was alive again. That’s the story.

        You can’t look to the Empty Tomb (or, Empty Communal Grave, for that matter), as if to find some kind of evidence of the resurrection. The evidence is in the eyewitness accounts, including Paul’s.

        I would suggest this: If you had asked Paul “so, where was Jesus buried”, his answer might well have been “I don’t know. Does it matter”?

        But, I’m just adding that as an “aside”.

    • Avatar
      Silver  March 21, 2017

      Re your categories 3-5: Is it not the case that if John 19:25 and following are to believed then the women standing by the cross could have conveyed details of the events during the course of the execution to the disciples? Similarly Matt 27:61 (and parallels in Mark and Luke) claims Mary et al were present at the entombment and so could have furnished information. Granted the synoptics and John do not always tell the same story (Were the women at the foot of the cross or ‘at a distance’ ?) but do you not feel that parts of the narrative suggest that there was scope for the disciples to learn some of the information you feel would be lacking?

      • talmoore
        talmoore  March 22, 2017

        It’s entirely possible that Jesus’ female followers (who had a better chance of evading suspicion from the Jerusalem authorities than the guys) witnessed the actual crucifixion of Jesus. And they may be the source of the publicly displayed charges against Jesus, and possibly even any words he spoke from the cross. But any more than that and we would have to believe that the women sat at the cross for however many hours (or even days) it took for Jesus to die, and then watched as his remains were removed and carried off to where ever they were taken. At that point the story begins to strain credulity. The idea that a nobody from Galilee who died the most shameful, ignominious death would then be given a respectable interment, and that his female companions were there to witness it, that sounds suspiciously convenient.

        • Avatar
          llamensdor  March 25, 2017

          But he wasn’t a nobody in the sense that no-one disputes the idea that he preached in the Temple Courtyard. Also, by referring to his murder as a shameful, ignominious death has you buying into the theory (fairly common) that the Jews not only concluded that he wasn’t the messiah because he didn’t accomplish what the messiah was expected to do, but that Jews of the era despised him because he had been crucified which could only happen to the lowest of the low and that his remains were thus contaminated. do you really mean to espouse this theory?

          • talmoore
            talmoore  March 28, 2017

            It’s not a theory. Crucifixion was an intentionally shameful, ignominious form of execution. That’s why the Romans reserved it for particularly egregious crimes, such as treason and sedition, brigandry and rebellion, etc.

        • Avatar
          ftbond  April 2, 2017

          I don’t find it hard to believe that the women would sit at the cross for hours, waiting for Jesus to die. People will stay in hospital rooms for days and weeks as a loved one is dying. (at least, I’ve seen that in my family).

          And, Jesus was hardly a “nobody”. I mean, he ranked mention from both Josephus and Tacticus. Even his brother James, and his cousin John (the Baptist) got mention from Josephus, on account of their relationships to Jesus. So, he was a “known”.

          As far as his burial goes, one must remember it was the Passover. The walled city of Jerusalem at that time covered maybe one square mile. And at the time of the Passover, there could be 400,000 – 500,000 people in an around that city. They stayed in tents all over the place, outside the walls. A crucifixion outside the city walls would potentially have been visible by thousands of people. And, so would the disposition of the body. Literally thousands of people, staying outside the walls, could potentially have seen Jesus taken off a cross and either thrown into some “communal burial pit” (of which, I might add, archaelogists have never found evidence of), or could have seen them carry the body to a tomb.

          What can I say? There were thousands of potential witnesses to what happened on that day.

          I’m thinking maybe your theory needs to be reworked a tad…

    • Avatar
      JGonzalezGUS  March 22, 2017

      Just my 2 cents…
      RE: “Core of the onion (probably factual): Night of Passover, Jesus was arrested by the Jerusalem authorities, convicted of sedition and crucified as a rebel.”
      John Meier, in “A Marginal Jew” Vol I, pages 391-2, rejects an interesting theory:
      “… Annie Jaubert draws the radical conclusion that Jesus celebrated the Passover meal on Tuesday evening, with Passover falling on Wednesday according to the old priestly calendar. Jesus was arrested during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. After various hearings and trials on Tuesday night, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, he was put to death on Friday, which was the fourteenth of Nisan, the eve of Passover, according to the official lunar calendar of the Jerusalem temple. Thus, the Synoptics preserved a primitive tradition that reflected the old priestly calendar. John, with his interest in Jesus’ replacement of the Jewish feasts as celebrated in the Jerusalem temple, portrays the final meal and death of Jesus according to the official calendar. In Jaubert’s view, placing Jesus’ arrest on Tuesday evening has the added advantage of creating more time for all the hearings and/or trials described in both the Synoptics and John to take place.”
      Then, on page page 396, Meier argues for the following interpretation while refuting another: “Despite Joachim Jeremias’s deft command of the material, he cannot really establish the likelihood that, at the time of Jesus, the supreme Jewish authorities in Jerusalem would arrest a person suspected of a capital crime, immediately convene a meeting of the Sanhedrin to hear the case (a case involving the death penalty), hold a formal trial with witnesses, reach a decision that the criminal deserved to die, and hand over the criminal to the Gentile authorities with a request for execution on the same day—all within the night and early day hours of Passover Day, the fifteenth of Nisan! Yet this is what the Synoptic passion chronology and presentation of the Jewish “process” basically demand.”
      This last paragraph is continued in a footnote: “Moreover, it is not simply a question of whether this event or that event could have happened on Passover Day. One must face the larger question of whether it is likely that a whole chain of events (the arrest of Jesus, the convening of the Sanhedrin, the hearing of a capital case, the verdict that Jesus deserved to die, and the handing of Jesus over to Pilate with the request that he be put to death on the same day) could or did actually occur in the night and early morning hours of one Passover Day. When the question is posed in that way, I think that John presents the more historically probable scenario.”
      Regards,
      Jose

      • talmoore
        talmoore  May 25, 2017

        I’m familiar with Meier’s argument. I’ve read every A Marginal Jew book in the series published so far (1-5), and I have to say, I disagree with his conclusions. I’m 99.9% certain that Jesus was arrested the night of Thursday, April 6th, 30 CE (i.e. 15 Nisan) the first night of the Passover when the Paschal lamb was eaten (i.e. the Seder). That night was also a full moon, which means A) it was an ideal night for the disciples to make preparations in the dark of the Mt of Olives (where, traditionally, the Messiah’s forces would rally in preparation of the assault on Jerusalem through the Kidron), and B) the Jerusalem garrison sent out to capture Jesus wouldn’t need artifical light, such as torches, to navigate the terrain, allowing them the ability to suprise Jesus and the disciples. As for any time required for Jesus’ trial, it’s highly doubtful Jesus even received an actual trial. Trials were reserved for respectable people with some social prominence, not insignificant commoners from Galilee. In all likelihood, Jesus was taken before Pilate, who judged Jesus to be a rabblerouser and insurrectionist. So he ordered Jesus to be crucified as an example to any other pilgrims who thought to disrupt the festival, and that order was executed immediately the next morning. There is nothing even remotely contraversial about any of that.

  7. Avatar
    JGonzalezGUS  March 21, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman,
    I don’t think historians will ever figure out the truth about some (or most) of these stories. On a personal level, I am very suspicious of any account that has a hint of storytelling.
    Judas betrayal: a) “The fact that Judas is the only one from Judea..” (“Mark”, Collins, p.224). b) Judah was the one who proposed to his brothers selling Joseph into slavery. c) Apostle Paul’s apparent ignorance of Judas betrayal.
    Barrabas or Jesus: Etymology of the name Barabbas; Matt 27:16-17 Jesus Barabbas (son of the father).
    Zechariah and Elizabeth names: A prophet’s name and “his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth” (Luke 1:5) Turns out Exod 6:23 “Aaron married Elisheba”.
    Anyway, there are a few others…
    Jose

  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 21, 2017

    I agree that your explanation is more likely than the burial in a tomb and empty tomb account. Separating history from legend in such matters is quite difficult especially considering that these events occurred 2,000 years ago in a time and place where there was not much historical documentation, but extraordinary claims, like a Resurrection, require extraordinary evidence.

  9. Avatar
    Gary  March 22, 2017

    There are a number of scholars who believe that the Empty Tomb pericope was a theological invention of the author of Mark. Any opinion on that? If one removes this pericope from the New Testament not one Christian doctrine is affected. What do you think of the possibility that prior to circa 70 CE and the appearance of the Gospel of Mark, Paul and earlier Christians believed in the Resurrection based solely on appearance claims and not on an empty tomb? Paul never mentions J. of A’s empty rock tomb anywhere in his epistles.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 22, 2017

      I think it’s impossible to say, but it’s true that we have no reference to an empty tomb in Paul. Unfortunately, his letters are the only Christian writings definitely produced before Mark, so we’re handicapped in knowing if there were stories of an empty tomb floating around earlier or not.

      • Avatar
        ftbond  April 3, 2017

        Why would Paul mention an empty tomb? He wasn’t writing a “gospel”, he wasn’t telling the “life and times of Jesus”; in fact, he wasn’t even recounting history, except when it had some particular relevance to what he was writing about. Every single one of his “authentic” letters are letters of exhortation, encouragement, correction, discipline, and so on.

        The scripture that so many people use, in order to somehow bolster this (seeming) point, is in 1 Corinth 15, where Paul states “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

        So – Christ died, was buried, and rose – According To Scriptures. Nowhere in OT scripture is there any kind of reference to a tomb of a particular “Joseph of Arimathea”, so most certainly, Paul is not going to write “Christ died, was buried *in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (which was subsequently found empty), and raised…. According to Scripture” – because, it’s *not* according to scripture, is it?

        And, if Paul is citing a “creed”, as a great many well-educated scholars believe, then why would he screw up the creed by inserting something about “Joe’s Tomb And it’s Emptiness” if it wasn’t part of the original creed?

        I guess I would like to understand why you seem to think it is of any relevance at all that Paul doesn’t mention an empty tomb. Just given the two assertions above, I fail to see how one can say that the *lack* of Paul’s mention is any evidence of anything at all, except that perhaps he had no reason to mention it.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 3, 2017

          Well, he mentions the resurrection a lot, and he talks about seeing Jesus in several places. In 1 Corinthians 15 he wants to stress that Jesus was *bodily* raised from the dead, not just spiritually. So it just seems that pointing out that the body was no longer in the tomb would have helped his argument. But I’m not dogmatic on the point.

  10. Avatar
    John1003  March 22, 2017

    If the story was fabricated. Why have women discover the tomb. Certainly men would have been consdered more credible witnesses?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 22, 2017

      Depends who was telling the story. In my book How Jesus Became God I name several sources that might be interested in having it be women instead of men (e.g., women story tellers! Or even Mark himself, who wanted to stress that the disciples never *did” “get it” about Jesus)

  11. Avatar
    Philmonomer  April 1, 2017

    I’m a brand new member–this blog is great!

    With regard to the topic at hand, I’ve seen (on the internet) that the whole burial story is suspect because, in part, of the “Joseph of Arimathea” character. Specifically, there is no place known as “Arimathea,” and the name just means “city of the High Jews” (or something like that). Is that accurate? In your opinion, does the fact that the story mentions a specific person–Joseph of Arimathea–make it more likely, or less likely, to be true?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 2, 2017

      We’re really not sure what Arimathea means — we wish we did! And we wish we knew why the Gospels associate Joseph with the place (as you note, he is not mentioned elsewhere)

    • Avatar
      ftbond  May 7, 2017

      A quick look at wiki (for what it’s worth) shows this:

      In most of the Koine Greek New Testament texts, the Greek word for Arimathea has a rough breathing mark ( ῾ ) and this indicates aspiration (the presence of an /h/ sound) on the first alpha of Arimathea. Consequently, the place of Joseph’s origin should be pronounced “Harimathea”. That would correspond to Hebrew ha-ramathaim, with the initial heh (ה) forming the definite Hebrew article ha-. The Aramaic Syriac translation of John 19:38 literally reads, “Ramtha” which when anglicized comes to “Ramath.”

      Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Onomasticon (144:28-29), identifies it with Ramathaim-Zophim and writes that it is near Diospolis (modern Lod).[1] Ramathaim-Zophim was a town in Ephraim, the birthplace of Samuel, where David came to him (1 Samuel 1:1, 19).

      My comments: I don’t know if all this is true or not. If the Hebrew reading of ha-ramathaim is correct, and if it is indeed a reference to Ramathaim-Zophim, then that was a place about 5 miles northwest of Jerusalem….

  12. Avatar
    Seeker1952  April 5, 2017

    I can agree with your reasons for not thinking that Jesus really was buried as described in the gospels. And I know that multiple, independent attestation is not the only criterion for establishing historicity. But how can multiple, independent attestation about the burial and empty tomb be explained if it’s not likely that it really happened?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 7, 2017

      It’s a very early tradition that was widely spread. Multiple attestation really only indicates that a tradition is early, not necessarily that it is historical.

  13. Avatar
    Seeker1952  April 5, 2017

    I think that the empty tomb by itself is pretty weak evidence for the resurrection. But it seems much stronger when combined with the undoubted subjective experiences of some of Jesus’s followers that he was still alive. Nevertheless, it also seems a little too convenient for resurrection to be the best explanation after considering just a few alternatives. Going from an empty tomb to actual resurrection is an awfully big leap, even if supported by subjective experiences of resurrection. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It seems like there should be a much more systematic and comprehensive attempt to come up with alternative explanations before concluding that actual resurrection is the best one.

    Do you know of anyone who has attempted to look at this issue more systematically and comprehensively?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 7, 2017

      More systematic and comprehensively than what? There are massive studies. If you want two from believing perspectives, see those of N. T. Wright and by Mike Licona.

  14. Avatar
    Seeker1952  April 5, 2017

    It seems like the most common portrayals of Jesus’s tomb are of a cave with a fair amount of room to stand up and walk around in. But TV shows I’ve seen show tombs at that time being more like holes in the side of a (rocky) hill just big enough, at most, to slide a modern-day coffin into. Is the latter description more likely?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 7, 2017

      I’m not sure how to answer. I don’t think there *was* a tomb.

      • Avatar
        Seeker1952  April 8, 2017

        Ok, I think I simply mean what kind of tomb was common in Jesus’s time and, going a bit further, what kind of tomb would Jesus likely have if he had one.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 9, 2017

          I believe they were more like Hobbit holes than massive caverns — someone else may have more precise information for us.

  15. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  April 5, 2017

    I have a hard time thinking that Jesus hung on the cross for several days. Hanging for days meant he was denied a burial, but Paul said he was, in fact, buried and rose on the 3rd day, implying he died and was buried immediately. I have to go with Paul and the Gospels on this one!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 7, 2017

      What Paul doesn’t say is that this burial took place three days later in a private tomb. If Jesus’ body was tossed in a common grave it wold still be a burial.

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  April 7, 2017

        Fair enough

      • Avatar
        ftbond  April 16, 2017

        My guess – one for which I could supply a significant amount of support for – is that you’d never find a Rabbi that would agree that a “body …tossed in a common grave … wold [sp] still be a burial”. If anything, a Jew would consider this failing to meet most criteria for “burial”, and that tossing a body into a pit would be an abhorrance.

        So – no – I’d have to disagree: Paul would *not* have considered Jesus’ body, thrown into a pit, to be a “burial”.

        If you’d like supporting documentation, I’d be happy to provide.

      • Avatar
        ftbond  May 1, 2017

        Dr Ehrman –

        Well, I’m disappointed… I offered to post the many reasons why Paul would not have considered Jesus’ body “tossed into a common grave” as a “burial”.
        SO – I’m going to offer those reasons anyway… 🙂

        (To) Bury, in Greek, is thapto.
        The corresponding Hebrew word, translated as thapto in the Septuagint, is qabar.

        There is not *one single instance* in the OT when the word, or direct derivatives of the word are used in relation to anything other than a human burial, as “with rites” – except Jer 22:19, which speaks of a person being buried (qabar) with the “burial (qabar) of a donkey” – but the context here is extremely terse, and there is a sarcasm involved: donkeys weren’t given “burials”. This scripture is like saying “Sure, we’ll celebrate that nasty old farts wedding anniversary – just like we’d celebrate his dogs wedding anniversary”.

        Abasolom was *not* given a burial. He was “thrown into a pit”, it it was filled in with stones: an insult, a travesty. Not “qabar”, not “burial”.

        Josephs brothers wanted to kill him, and “throw him into a pit and say he was eaten…”: again, an insult, a travesty. Not “qabar”, not “burial”.

        When one had to “do one’s business”, one was to go outside the camp and relieve himself -and – *cover* (not “qabar”) – his poop. Poop doesn’t get a “burial” (qabar).

        Throwing people in pits – like throwing trash into a pit – is *not* “qabar”.

        In Hebrew, there is no phrase “decent burial”. By definition “qabar” *is* decent. If it is not, it is not “qabar”.

        Paul was, needless to say, quite Jewish. To him, “burial” *meant* “a decent burial”, because by all Jewish standards, that is what “qabar” *is*.

        I would assert that your contention that “If Jesus’ body was tossed in a common grave it wold [sp] still be a burial” appears to me to be utterly groundless. It flat doesn’t fit. If Paul said “Jesus was buried”, then he was saying Jesus got “qabar-ed” – buried decently.

        I would also assert that Paul had no need whatsoever to talk about an “empty tomb”: where-ever Jesus had been “buried” (qabar), it was a *known* place, because he was formally buried with attendants [implied, or understood, in “qabar”]. Thus, if Jesus rose from the dead, it was from a *known* burial place, because his body had been attended to, as per burial custom. And, most specifically, Jesus’ body would therefore *not* be “in whatever pit they threw crucified victims after their bodies had decomposed for some days”.

        Thus, there was no need at all for Paul to mention an “empty tomb”. It was a *given* that if Jesus had been buried [qubar], then he had been placed in a known burial place, and where-ever he was placed, he was no longer there. “Empty tomb” is in every respect implied.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 2, 2017

          Thanks for your thoughts. I’m not sure I understand why you’re appealing to a Hebrew word though. Paul spoke and wrote in Greek. He doesn’t show any evidence of knowing Hebrew (which was true of the vast majority of Jews in the ancient world) (just as it’s true of most Jews in the modern world)

          • Avatar
            ftbond  May 2, 2017

            I’m not appealing to a Hebrew word *as if* Paul spoke or read Hebrew. But, every time he opened his pocket-edition of the Septuagint and read the word “thapto”, it was corresponding to the Hebrew word. I’m figuring that he would have probably equated the two, don’t you think? And, his understanding – not only from the Septuagint, but also from his Jewish cultural view – would tell him what Jews always knew about burial: thapto = qabar = “decent burial with rites”. Even if thapto were used for something else at times – such that, in Greek, one might need to specify “a decent burial” – this would not at all have been Paul’s understanding of it. His understanding of it – whether he knew the underlying Hebrew or not – was going to be a Jewish understanding of the word. “Thapto” was going to *mean* a “decent burial”. “Being thrown into a pit” was going to be something altogether different. Just like it would be for practicing Jews today.

            I don’t have any idea whether Paul wrote or spoke Hebrew. In Acts (for what that’s worth) there is indication that he spoke Aramaic. And rabbinical studies and discourse were always done in Hebrew. Paul talks about “being advanced in Judaism”, and being a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”. I’m guessing he was educated in Judaism – in a rabinnic fashion. But, it’s just a guess. I dunno. Maybe he was entirely uneducated, but, that doesn’t *appear* to be the case. My guess is that he might have had a bar-mitzvah (such as they might have been), and thus, required to “read from the scrolls”. (Just guessing).

            But, there’s no guessing on the point that he was very Jewish, and spoke of very Jewish things, and had a very Jewish understanding. As such, his use of the word “burial” *meant* qabar – whether he knew the Hebrew or not.

  16. Avatar
    ftbond  April 7, 2017

    Dr Ehrman –

    In your opening “Response” (to a readers question”), you say “My guess is that like others (the two killed with Jesus that day, for example, and others crucified during that same Passover season), Jesus was thrown into a common tomb where he experience corruption like everyone else, so that wihin days he was no longer even recognizable. It’s just a guess. But it’s more historically plausible than the idea that the Romans would allow a decent burial.”

    If I could, I’d like to offer some information, followed by a question for you…

    1. Jesus was crucified
    2. Jerusalem was about one square mile in size at the time of Jesus’ execution
    3. A conservative estimate of the population, living both inside and outside the walls, is about 36,000 inhabitants (about 20,000 within the walls) [Jerusalem in
    the Time of Jesus: An Investigation Into Economic and Social Conditions During the New Testament Period; Joachim Jeremias; pp83-84]
    4. The population, both inside and outside the city, would be about 180,000 during the Passover [Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus; Joachim Jeremias; pp63-84]
    5. From 3, 4 – the population outside the walls of Jerusalem, during Passover, would be about 160,000
    6. Crucifixions were intended to be “public”, and easily visible –
    (a) “…they wanted some executions (for example, of low lifes and enemies of the state) to be as
    public, torturous, long and drawn out, degrading, and humiliating as possible” [ Bart Ehrman; blog ]
    (b) “…they would nail the lout to a cross, in a public place, so everyone passing by could hear him
    scream and watch him writhe for a couple of days”. [ Bart Ehrman, blog ]
    7. From 5, 6 – potentially tens of thousands of people, both from inside and especially outside the walls of the city would have seen Jesus’ execution
    8. From 7 – potentially those same people could have seen the body taken from the cross, and seen which direction it was carried
    9. According to Jewish custom of the time (or, perhaps, law), “Besides the relatives and friends (Gen. 1. 7), any stranger was also expected to follow when he
    saw the dead carried to the grave, lest it be said of him “the one who mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker. (Ber. 18a, after Prov. xvii. 5)”.
    [Jewish Encyclopedia, Burials]
    10. From 9 – potentially dozens (or more) “strangers”, camped outside the walls, could have done “as expected” and followed as the dead body of Jesus was
    carried to it’s final resting place, as was the custom.
    11. “The tomb, however, was not immediately closed over the dead. During the first three days it was customary for the relatives to visit the grave to see whether
    the dead had come to life again (Massek. Sem. viii.; see Perles, “Leichenfeierlichkeiten,” p. 10, and Brüll, “Jahrb.” i. 51).” [ Jewish Encyclopedia,
    Burials/Early Burials ] (NOTE: “to see whether the dead had come to life again” is not on account of a possible resurrection; it is in order to make sure a
    living person, only thought to be dead, was not prematurely, accidentally buried).
    12. From 11 – potentially dozens (or more) “strangers” that had followed as the dead body of Jesus was carried to it’s final resting place could have had “open
    access” to that burial place for three days (as could have the relatives of Jesus), and could have potentially viewed that body over the three-day period, as
    the body remained uncovered, as was customary.

    My question to you, given the information I (and, actually, you) have supplied (above):

    Do you think it more plausible that –

    (a) only a very few people – all of whom were somehow connected with Jesus or with his exection and/or burial – would have known what happened with the body of Jesus, or,

    (b) potentially dozens of “strangers” – not connected with Jesus, nor with his execution – would have known what happened with the body of Jesus, for having followed as the dead body was carried to it’s final resting place, and, for having access to that place (as did relatives) for three days after the interment?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 9, 2017

      I think just about everyone connected with Jesus had fled town and weren’t there, and so had no idea. And I don’t think dozens of others knew where he was buried, any more than they knew where the other two crucified that morning were buried, except to say that it was probably in whatever pit they threw crucified victims after their bodies had decomposed for some days.

      • Avatar
        ftbond  April 9, 2017

        Re: ..I don’t think dozens of others knew where he was buried, any more than they knew where the other two crucified that morning were buried, *except to say that it was probably in whatever pit they threw crucified victims*…”

        So, in other words, dozens *could* have seen that Jesus’ body (and, the other two bodies) were thrown into “whatever pit”?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 10, 2017

          My sense is that no one was generally watching what happened to crucified victims. You *could* say dozens saw it; or you could say thousands did! 🙂 My hunch is that no one paid attention since it was a common event. (We have to force ourselves from assuming that since it was Jesus, after all, lots of people were interested)

          • Avatar
            ftbond  May 8, 2017

            I don’t know that “interest” necessarily had anything to do with it. You’ve made it clear that Roman crucifixions were done in a most public fashion, in order to be highly visible. Jesus’ crucifixion took place at the Passover – a time in which Jerusalem would have literally been surrounded by 160,000 – 200,000 people. Whether they were interested or not, there were *thousands* that were going to see the crucifixion.

            And, likewise, there were literally *thousands* that could have seen the disposition of Jesus’ body. And, if just a *fraction* of those that saw Jesus’ body taken off a cross and carried away decided to follow the expected custom of joining in the burial procession, there could have been *hundreds* that saw where the body was taken. Even Mark notes that there were “many women” at Jesus’ burial – which, would make sense on the Passover: the men would probably not have been there because of Jewish purity laws.

            The point is this: there could have been literally thousands of people who could have said “hey, look, I *saw* them throw Jesus into a pit”, or “I *saw* them leave Jesus’ body on that cross for the whole duration of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread”.

            It would have been ludicrous for someone to start preaching about Jesus being buried in a tomb, then risen from that tomb (thus leaving it empty) when there were potentially thousands that could have said otherwise, as eye witnesses.

            But, hey, this “no empty tomb” thing, or this “Jesus left on the cross for a few weeks then thrown into a pit” stuff? – it’s a theory!

            So far, I’m not convinced, though. There were, at the Passover, just way too many other people that could have seen what happened – whether they had any interest or not.

            And, while it’s important to not assume that there would have been a lot of interest, just because it was Jesus, I think it’s equally important not to downplay that too much: he did, after all, make it into the historic record of Josephus, Tacticus, and others, did he not? It’s not as if he was a complete unknown…

          • Bart
            Bart  May 8, 2017

            My guess is that a few people noticed or cared about this person being crucified. He was an unknown from out of town. It just seems like thousands would have seen and cared, since, well, all of *us* would have!

  17. Avatar
    Luke9733  April 11, 2017

    This might be question better served for the reader’s mailblog. I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, I’m wondering if you can comment on specific points raised in Byron R. McCane’s article “Where no one had yet been laid: The Shame of Jesus’ Burial”. The specific points he makes can sort of be summarized by his statement: “The element of shame in Jewish dishonorable burial is most vividly evident in the specific differences between burial in shame and burial with honor. Honorable burial emphasized precisely what shameful burial left out: the family tomb, and mourning.”

    His overall point is that the burial described in the canonical Gospels is precisely a dishonorable Jewish burial, not an honorable one. He quotes numerous Jewish sources to show that an honorable Jewish burial would have taken place in a family tomb with a period of mourning afterwards and then argues that this is not what is described in the Gospels.

    He even comments: “By putting him alone in a new tomb, Matthew, Luke, and John do not deny the shame of Jesus’ burial; they merely spare him the disgrace of being placed in a criminals’ tomb. A residue of shame still clings to him as an executed convict.”

    My specific question could be summarized as this: Would you agree with McCane that a family tomb and a period of mourning were required for an honorable, Jewish burial at this time and that this is not what is described in the Gospels? If not, would you be able to point to where McCane goes wrong in his argument (if you’ve read the article – I found it online by Googling the name of the article)?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2017

      I think the problem is that burial of this sort was able to be practiced only by the wealthy. Most people did not have a tomb, let alone a family tomb, of the sort described in the Gospels. It was for the rich folk. But among that class, yes, I’m sure he’s right.

  18. Avatar
    ColinG  April 12, 2017

    Bart, what do you think of the ‘undesigned coincidences’ argument about the role of Joseph of Arimathea?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2017

      I’m afraid you’ll need to be more specific.

      • Avatar
        ColinG  May 11, 2017

        Apologies for the delay in getting back to you, Bart. You may recall your conversation with Tim McGrew about ‘undesigned co-incidences’. A recording of this may be found at: https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Ehrman-vs-McGrew-Round-2-Do-undesigned-coincidences-confirm-the-Gospels

        A question tackled by this form of apologetics asks: why does Mark record Joseph of Arimathea’s boldness? That is to say, Mark 15:43 mentions Joseph of Arimathea’s boldness without any seeming explanation for why that needs to be said. It is odd in itself. The explanatory undesigned co-incidence may by found in John 19:38, which mentions Joseph being fearful. Do you think this seemingly undesigned corroboration of witnesses adds credibility to this story of Joseph of Arimathea in the gospels? At least it seems to show a degree of consistency in how different people were telling his story without it being controlled by one version.

        • Bart
          Bart  May 12, 2017

          I think comments like “he was bold” are simply how good authors write good narratives. My sense is that McGrew simply has never studied, or possibly read, much good fiction. The early Christian stories were in wide circulation just as they are today, so it’s no surprise that there are similarities between different iterations of the same story.

  19. Avatar
    SARABLISSMORRIS  May 31, 2017

    I am new to this blog, new to being a retired Latin teacher, new to Chapel Hill. Having read two of your books, your writing “speaks to me”. I am a life-long learner, and not at all a scholar. Yet, in addition to studying Latin in college and grad school, I was lucky to have taken a course in paleography at University College in London. There I was first introduced to textual criticism. By using the wonderful “Cambridge Latin Course” exclusively in my teaching of Latin, my interest in manuscripts and scribes and scrolls grew and grew.
    Question: Since, in both books I have read, you share your personal journey of becoming an evangelical Christian as a teenager and young man, and of now being a ‘happy agnostic’, are you curious about the effects of your being initially raised as a traditional Protestant within the Episcopal tradition?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 1, 2017

      I’m sure it’s had some effect, especially in making me inclined very strongly to the social ethics I find in parts of the New Testament.

  20. Avatar
    Juannifer  June 17, 2017

    Mr. Ehrman my question is why was it so important for Jesus to be buried at all anyway? Did he have to be buried in the tomb in order to rise on the third day? Was the burial or the death an important part of the crucifixion I am confused. Sorry for my late coment.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 18, 2017

      Yes, that’s why there is a *tradition* of him being buried. If there was no tomb, the tomb couldn’t later be empty.

You must be logged in to post a comment.