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The Next Trade Book: Jews and Christians


I was wondering if someday you will write a book on the rise of anti-Judaism in early Christian circles ?  If you were to write such a book, what would the title and the subtitle be ?


As it turns out, that is indeed to be the topic of my next trade book, which I plan to write in a couple of years.  As I have said on this blog before, I try to alternate the kinds of books I write:  trade books for a general audience, textbooks for college students, and scholarly books for the six people in the world who really care.   Now that I am putting the finishing touches on my trade book How Jesus Became God, I am getting ready to work on my next scholarly book.  This will be a heavy-hitting scholarly commentary on the early Christian Greek Gospel fragments from the early second century, including most notably the Gospel of Peter, Papyrus Egerton 2, the Jewish Christian Gospels (Gospel according to the Hebrews; Gospel of the Nazareans; and Gospel of the Ebionites), and a range of much smaller and scarcely known Gospel fragments.  This will be a commentary for the Hermeneia commentary series (one of the two best scholarly commentary series, in my opinion – the other being the Anchor Bible).

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More on Jews, Christians, and the Battle for Scripture
What Judas Betrayed



  1. Avatar
    Jim  May 27, 2013

    I’m glad you are pursuing this topic. Re “Many Christians appear to think that the entire point of the Old Testament is to point forward …”, I have often wondered which specific scripture addresses Luke 24.27 and John 5.39 might be referring to if Jesus actually spoke these words. Are you planning to cover any of this in your posts/book or is this too far off the path?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2013

      No, I’m afraid we don’t know which specific scriptures these passages have in mind….

  2. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 27, 2013

    Very interesting. The Old Testament does seem to get us into theological messes with all of the divine killing and the divine-ordered killing of the Amalekites, gays, and those women who are not virgins on their wedding nights. Moreover, the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are infrequent, hard to interpret in their context, and not that convincing. For example, the word “Messiah” does not even appear in the index of my Old Testament. So, for my two cents worth, the question of why the Old Testament was included in the Christian Bible is a good one. I think Martin Luther, for example, did not want to include the first five books of the Old Testament and also did not want to include Esther and Jonah. Maybe the better question is why in the world fundamentalists cling to the Old Testament so strongly?????

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2013

      I’ve never heard that Martin Luther did not want to include the Pentateuch or Esther or Jonah. You sure about that?

      • Avatar
        RonaldTaska  May 28, 2013

        No, I am not sure of much of anything. I got the information from multiple websites which may not be reliable. I think several of the websites are Catholic websites which, of course, might have an interest in criticizing Martin Luther. The general idea is that Martin Luther was anti-Jewish and, hence, opposed Jewish scriptures. Two examples of these websites are as follows:
        1. Google “Martin Luther Changed and/or Discounted 18 Books of the Bible” at “the Church of Good News” website.
        2. Google “Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?”
        One can also Google “Martin Luther did not think that Certain Books Should Be in the Bible” and get a long list of such websites. Of course, one can find most anything, especially about President Obama, on the Internet. If you have not heard of this, then I imagine it is B.S.

      • gmatthews
        gmatthews  May 28, 2013

        He’s on record describing how much he despised all things Jewish (obviously he was a well-known anti-Semite!) and those books in particular. I don’t recall ever reading that he did not want those in the Old Testament per se, but it isn’t much of a leap to think he would have preferred it. A quote by him: “”The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much…”” Again, I don’t know that he ever said he wanted to remove them from the Bible (Old Testament), but when you see his feelings on the matter it isn’t much of a leap… He wasn’t averse to purposefully changing a verse or two of the NT to better suit his views either so how much more would it take to imagine his desire to excise those parts of the OT that offended him?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 28, 2013

          OK, but I can’t imagine that hte Pentateuch was part of what he wanted to jettison. Just the contrary.

          • gmatthews
            gmatthews  May 28, 2013

            You could probably draw a pretty strong conclusion on his opinion of the Pentateuch from his quote: “We have no wish either to see or hear Moses”.

  3. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  May 27, 2013

    Sounds interesting. Looking forward to it.

  4. Robertus
    Robertus  May 27, 2013

    The Christian writers failed to get any of their works accepted as scripture. Luke gave it his best shot, but relations had deteriorated too far by that point, and the apocalyptic idea of admitting Gentiles would never overcome the animosity and continuing fervent of war with Rome. Both Judaism and Christianity lost so much in the split.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2013

      I’m not sure I understand. Luke’s work *did* become Scripture. As did the work of other Christian authors.

      • Robertus
        Robertus  May 27, 2013

        But not in the prestigious Jewish scriptures. They had to start their own self-publication enterprise, which includes even brief letters and first drafts. Imagine if Luke’s narrative had been accepted for review by the editors at Jamnia and seasoned over a couple of hundred years of careful scribal and rabbinical reflection.

  5. Avatar
    Adam0685  May 27, 2013

    Very interesting topic which will do well, no doubt. Is this an idea you came up with, or did your publisher suggest it. Just a little curious what the publishers role is in the process–do they come to you with book ideas, you go to them, or you both have a conversation.

    My former thesis advisor wrote a small book on anti-Judaism in the NT: http://www.amazon.com/Jews-Anti-Judaism-New-Testament-Interpretations/dp/1602582637

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2013

      It was my idea, but I worked out the precise approach with the publisher, who did not think that a straight-up historical sketch about the rising antagonism between Christians and non-Christian Jews in antiquity would be attractive to a wide range of readers. And so I hit on the angle of focusing on the status of the Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament….

  6. Avatar
    toddfrederick  May 27, 2013

    I don’t have time now to go into detail with my thoughts on this but just want to give a quick comment on this.

    IMO, Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, worshiped as a Jew and died as a Jew. Paul created Christianity and his writing dominate the new testament.

    I look forward to your thoughts on this. Blessings. Todd

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2013

      I agree on Jesus. But not on Paul. Paul *inherited* a good deal of what we think of as “Christainity” from those before him.

      • Avatar
        toddfrederick  May 27, 2013

        Clarification…..I am not sure what you mean when you say that Paul “…*inherited* a good deal of what we think of as “Christainity” from those before him.”

        This is a serious question which is a likely a lack of knowledge on my part…I do not know from whom he “inherited” what he thought about Christianity and who are you referring to when you mention “…those before him.”

        Any information you can add will be most helpful if you have time. I’ll check this post from time to time.

        Thank you.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 28, 2013

          Paul was persecuting Christians before he became a Christian — which means there were already developed theological views before he came on the scene. And he himself indicates that his basic message of the death and resurrection of Jesus “for our sins” was handed on to him by those who came before (1 Cor. 15:3). So he didn’t invent Christianity but inherited a lot.

          • Avatar
            stephena  May 30, 2013

            I’m not entirely convinced that he didn’t create “Christianity” nor do I trust his letters as 100% accurate or honest. (Why do you, BTW?)

            What constituted “Christian” in Jerusalem, says Papias, seemed to be obeying the Law and going to the Temple. I see a strong affinity with that group and the original apostles, which, in Acts, coincidentally keep the Law and go to the Temple! Paul derides the Jerusalem Church as “supposed pillars” and “Super Apostles.” Hard to see him keeping ANY of their traditions.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  May 30, 2013

            I don’t think his letters are 100% accurate. (Why do you think I do??)

          • Avatar
            stephena  May 31, 2013

            Why? Because you quoted Paul as if he was telling the truth in 1 Corinthians when he said he had inherited his theology and stories. Well, says him! But I wouldn’t conclude “So he didn’t invent Christianity but inherited a lot.,” as you just did – and have before, incidentally – taking him at his word. Anyone who repeatedly says “I’m not lying..I lie not… I’m telling the truth!” is a bit suspect in our culture, and perhaps he was being accused of lying even then about his “visions” of Christ, which he says at one point he received from “no man.”

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  May 31, 2013

            Just because I quote a passage of Paul that I judge to be historically accurate (based on thinking about it for years and reading what other scholars have said about it) doesn’t mean that I think all of Paul can be accepted at face value. I think as a source he needs to be used critically — just as every source does. But that doesn’t mean that the historian can simply junk him in toto.

          • Avatar
            stephena  June 1, 2013

            But isn’t to say that he “inherited a lot” a theological judgment? Surely one cannot know this with any historical certainty, since we weren’t there and it’s just as plausible that he made up details in his visions.

            And theologically, yes, I think we can junk him. Totally. It’s entirely plausible that he used the story of this wandering prophet/teacher and added to it his own visions and ideas, like original sin and salvation by belief without works, which contradicted the oral teachings of Jesus and was outside of Jewish beliefs.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  June 1, 2013

            No, the question of whether he had predecessors from which he acquired information is a strictly historical question, not a theological one.

          • Avatar
            stephena  June 4, 2013

            Since you trusted Paul’s words before, let’s try this. Paul tells us in Gal. 1:11-12, that he received his material directly from the risen Christ, and that, “the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” That said, sure, it’s likely that he received bits and pieces about the Jesus movement and about Jesus himself from others (but that’s entirely speculative, not historical, since we can’t get inside Paul’s mind.) My contention (and not just mine, but as you know, the weight of scholarship) is that he fashioned his own religion from this material. He clearly isn’t interested much in the human life of Jesus, even if the Gospel writers couldn’t entirely theologize it away (well, the Fourth one did, pretty much.)

            Sadly, I haven’t read your book, but I hope your argument for the historicity of Jesus doesn’t hinge on Paul “inheriting” all of his material from the original apostles. If he did, he surely misheard them, because they remained observant Jews, something even Acts couldn’t entirely cover up (Acts 2:46) and certainly Papias didn’t re: James the Just. That Paul fumbled the message of Jesus doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t exist, it simply means Paul created his own mystery religion. How am I off track on this, if I am?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  June 4, 2013

            My view is that Gal. 1:11-12 is no *more* “historical” than 1 Cor. 15:3-5 or 1 Cor. 11:22-24 (or less historical). They are all things that Paul actually wrote about his knowledge of what he knows. His “Gospel” (whatever he means by that in Galatians — is it that Christ died and rose for sins? Or is it, instead, that the salvation brought by Christ was to go to the Gentiles without the requirement of keeping the law? I suspect the latter) came from Christ. But he learned from others the creed about Jesus’ death and resurrection “for our sins” and about the last supper when Jesus predicted it. Whether you trust what Paul has to say or not is another matter, but my view is that you need reasons to distrust what someone says, not simply an inclination to do so; and trusting what someone says is not speculation or theology. It’s a historical judgment.

      • Avatar
        FrankJay71  May 28, 2013

        I believe Paul said the gospel was not taught to him by man, but received by revelation, I’d assumed for a while that what he probably did was reinterpreted some things out of the old testament to be referring to Jesus, and that he attributed his new found understanding of Jesus in light with scripture as the “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal).
        He seems to be denying that he *inherited* anything from previous converts. Do you think he’s just adding his own theology to existing Christianity when he talks about the Gospel he received?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 28, 2013

          Yes, I think he received some of the basics, came to realize they were true by a revelation, and then startd working out more ofthe theological implications on his own.

  7. Avatar
    gavm  May 28, 2013

    should be a good read Prof. i haven’t read heaps of yr books but i really liked “Forged” and “Jesus the apocalyptic prophet” it quite well argued. i wanna have a read of “did Jesus Exist” because it does seem like Jesus was similar to other gods at the time so im keen to hear why that probably isn’t so. I’m still hoping for a book on the resurrection one day.

  8. Avatar
    gavm  May 28, 2013

    oh also do you recommend any good books on the historical paul?
    thank you

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 28, 2013

      Albert Harrill’s Paul the Apostle is the most recent thing, and may be worth looking at.

  9. Avatar
    bobnaumann  May 29, 2013

    How much do you think Luther’s book “Jews and their Lies” was responsible for the persecution of the Jews in Europe? Will you discuss this in your book?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 29, 2013

      I really don’t know! My plan is to take the story up through the fourth century, but no farther. I believe in stopping where my knowledge ends….

  10. Avatar
    jkjensvold  May 29, 2013

    It seems natural to me that early writers of the Christian movement would feel compelled to extrapolate forward from the cherished Hebrew Bible. For if, in fact, Jesus represented a new way of being, it must have seemed logical that it proceeded from a well-intended but imperfect theological history. To an early Christian, I would suppose, to think otherwise would be to admit to a thousand years of completely wasted lives. The implication that seems to elude many today, however, is that this argument would open the door to a third, or “Newer Testament” – perhaps yet around the corner?

  11. Avatar
    brandyrose  May 29, 2013

    Oh I’m really looking forward to this! As a practicing Christian myself I’ve often wondered why we have the Old Testament, and exactly how and where it applies to Christians today. Really exctied to see your ideas!

  12. Avatar
    sstein02  April 10, 2014

    In 1903 on Easter Sunday in a small town of Kishnev in Moldolva, a group of Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary students vandalized the homes of the Jews in the village and murdered 49 Jews. This is certainly not the worst incident to happen, but it is notable because it happened in the 20th century and because the perpetrators were future priests. Easter has traditionally been the worst day of the year to be a Jew.

    I bring up this incident because you haven’t mentioned how the idea of Jews as Christ and/or God killers fits into your book about how Jesus became God.

    I also wonder if you have read David Nirenberg’s book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradtion.

  13. gmatthews
    gmatthews  February 22, 2015

    I was checking your CV last night for an article you wrote and noticed you had your upcoming books listed. In this blog post from 2013 you mentioned a book on Jewish-Christian relations. Is that the upcoming 2017 book on your CV “Jesus and the Battle for Scripture”? Also, you have one listed for later this year (2015) that looks like it’s going to be on the issue of oral history and memory that you’ve mentioned a few times on the blog. Is that going to be a Harper release? It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a Oxford scholarly type book. Any update on the release of the Hermeneia commentary? I’ve purchased 3 Anchor Bible commentaries and I have to say I REALLY enjoy them for the introductions especially! I hope to buy several more for the NT and a few from the OT eventually. I’ll check out one of the Hermeneia eventually to see how it compares for my taste.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 23, 2015

      Yes, that’s the one. It may be 2018 (I’ll have it written in 2017, gods willing, but it takes nearly a year after that for it to be published typically)

  14. Avatar
    Malik  January 14, 2018

    What do you think of “Progressive Revelation”, especially in terms of the Trinity?

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