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The Pope and the Lord’s Prayer

I have received numerous queries about the Pope’s recent comments about the Lord’s Prayer.   There has been a good deal of news coverage on the topic.  Here is an article from my local paper:

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODN/NewsandObserver/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=NAO%2F2017%2F12%2F09&entity=Ar05202&sk=CF05DD44&mode=text

The issue is summed up in that article as this:

In a new television interview, Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer – “lead us not into temptation” – was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

And so I have been asked by several people what I think about that.   There are at least three issues involved:

  1. What should Christians today pray?  On this, unlike the Pope, I have no opinion.  I completely understand that the Pope does not want anyone to think that God himself is responsible for bringing temptation.  And I suppose as head of the Catholic Church, he has the right to suggest that Christians pray something appropriate rather than inappropriate.  But, as most readers on this blog probably realize, I myself am in no position (and have no inclination) to make suggestions about people’s prayer lives.
  2. What does the Gospel of Matthew actually indicate that Jesus told his disciples to pray? On this I’m more of an expert.  The Greek is completely unambiguous.  It decidedly does not say what the Pope wants it to say.  It does not talk about Satan leading people into temptation or about people “falling” into temptation.  Matthew’s wording is clear:  KAI MH EISENEGKHiS HMAS EIS PEIRASMON.   The key word is EISENEGKHiS (“lead us into”)  It is an aorist, active, subjunctive, second person, singular, with the subjunctive being used with an imperatival force in a negative command.  The word itself is a compound verb with EIS (“into”) and ENEGHKiS (“bring”).   The proper translation then, is “Do not bring us into temptation.”  It’s not ambiguous.It is directed to “Our Father” and it is asking God not to put a person into a time of temptation or trial.  The word “temptation” can mean what we mean by it – the temptation to do something wrong or sinful.  But it can also refer to a test or trial.   So it could mean something like:  don’t make us undergo a time of trial at the end of this age.
  1. What did Jesus actually teach his disciples to pray? This is a tricky historical question, and I don’t have a definitive answer.   The prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-13 is partially found, as well, in Luke 11:2-4 – including this line “Do not bring us into temptation/trial.”   That means that the prayer – or at least the heart of it, including the line in question – comes from Q.  So it is older than both Matthew and Luke.  Does the prayer go back to the historical Jesus?  My inclination is to think that it does, in no small measure because it coincides so well with his apocalyptic message otherwise.   The prayer is asking for God to bring his kingdom soon to earth, to help his followers live till then (“daily bread”), to make them qualified for the kingdom (“forgive us our debts”), and to keep them from facing trials and tribulations at the end of the age.Short story: if Jesus did teach this prayer – as I’m inclined to think he did – he probably did teach his disciples to ask not to be brought by God into a time of trial.   Whether that’s what Christians ought to pray today or not is up to the individual Christian.  And, apparently, to the Pope.Members of the blog can read posts like this all the time, at least five times a week.  If you don’t belong yet, you can join for very little money (less than a dime a post).  All the money goes to charities fighting hunger and homelessness.  So why not JOIN???

 


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The Exasperatingly Fragmentary Gospel of Peter: Readers’ Mailbag December 4, 2017

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Comments

  1. DavidBeaman  December 10, 2017

    In Luke 11:1, it appears that the so-called Lord’s Prayer was originally taught by John the Baptist. As for the Pope, he means well I guess, but the Roman Church has invented a religion that wasn’t the religion of Jesus and one that Jesus would find appalling. Christianity is the biggest brainwashing job that was ever perpetuated in the history of the world.




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2017

      I don’t think Luke 11:1 is saying that this is the prayer John taught his disciples. The disciples of Jesus are asking him to teach them to pray just like John taught his disciples to pray, and Jesus offers this as a prayer they might say. Neither Luke nor Jesus says that this is a prayer John taught.




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      • DavidBeaman  December 11, 2017

        In your colleague’s book, THE JESUS DYNASTY, Professor Tabor says, “In the Q source Jesus’ followers once asked him to ‘teach us to pray as John taught his disciples’ and Jesus repeats to them the prayer that he had learned from his teacher John: …” So, if I was applying to UNC to get my doctorate, should I choose to learn from Professor Tabor at UNC Charlotte or from you at UNC Chapel Hill?




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 12, 2017

          Well, I’m afraid you would have only one choice, since UNC Charlotte doesn’t have a PhD program! 🙂




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          • DavidBeaman  December 12, 2017

            A cute way to avoid answering the jist of my question. However, my question, bluntly put, is from whom can I find the truth, you or Tabor?




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          • Bart
            Bart  December 13, 2017

            James and I very much respect each other’s work, and we agree on a lot of things. The present instance is not a major disagreement. I would agree that John the Baptist probably would have agreed with the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. But the text, in my judgment, is not recording Jesus’ statement about a prayer he was taught by John. He is responding to the request to follow John’s example in teaching his followers what kind of prayer to say, not to reveal the exact prayer that John had taught.




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          • DavidBeaman  December 13, 2017

            Thank you for your reply. I had no doubt that you and James respect one another even though you may have differing opinions on some matters. In this case, James think Jesus got that prayer from John the Baptist. I also think that was the case.




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          • Bart
            Bart  December 15, 2017

            It may be the case. But it’s not what any of our sources says about it, so I’m not sure why we should think so!




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          • DavidBeaman  December 16, 2017

            Perhaps you should ask James why he thinks so.




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      • talmoore
        talmoore  December 11, 2017

        Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer sounds exactly like one would expect a prayer from John the Baptist to sound like, or am I missing something?




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 12, 2017

          I don’t think there’s any way to gauge with great accuracy what John the Baptist would sound like — we just have a couple of sayings attributed to him in Mark and Q. But, yes, possibly — they were both Jewish apocalypticists living in the same time and place, after all, and Jesus was his follower for a reason! My friend Joel Marcus has a book coming out on John the Baptist that we will all want to read.




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    • godspell  December 11, 2017

      Jesus would no doubt find the mere existence of any religious institutions, long after his death, to be appalling. He had hoped that The Son of Man would come at God’s behest, and transform this world in such a way as that no such institutions would be needed anymore. He was not at peace with his own religion, Judaism, as the gospels attest–he accused its leadership of many sins, made enemies of them. He would never have approved of any human institution that could possibly exist, because he was looking, quite literally, for a state of perfection, in an imperfect world. This was his nature, and he was neither the first nor the last to embrace such a Quixotic quest.

      So I don’t find your statement terribly meaningful, though I don’t disagree with it. If The Son of Man is not, in fact, coming, then we need to find ways to regulate and improve our treatment of each other. No doubt Christianity, as such, is extremely flawed. And so is every other system I know of, but on the whole, I think Christianity has been one of the less signal failures. And Pope Francis is, I think, at least as good and wise a man as yourself. I would certainly rank him over myself.




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      • DavidBeaman  December 12, 2017

        Thank you for the compliment, godspell. Jesus was a Jew. He criticized the Temple officials. However, I do not see where he was against the synagogues. Were he alive today, I think he would still be a Jew and attend the synagogue of his choice. He hoped for the perfection of the Kingdom of God, not perfection in the world as it exists. So, had he lived and the Apocalypse never came, I think he would still hope for it to come at some time and in the meantime remain a practicing Jew.




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        • godspell  December 13, 2017

          Were he alive today, he might well be an agnostic/atheist like Bart, since the voice he believed himself to have heard, telling him of the imminence of the Kingdom, did not materialize on schedule, or, to date, at all. But really, are we supposed to seriously talk about what a man who is thousands of years old would or would not believe? Maybe best inquire with Mel Brooks about that (and he is Jewish, but pretty sure he does not attend synagogue).

          Jesus was widely documented to have been at odds with the Pharisees, who did represent the synagogues, so your argument seems at odds with the facts. Of course he’d attend synagogue, as an observant Jew, which no one can seriously deny that he was. But only as a stopgap against the day when such things would no longer matter. If God rules the earth, then all the world is a synagogue. You are never out of synagogue. You attend it simply by living a good and honest life, loving your neighbor, fulfilling the commandments. To do this in the world we live in now requires faith. And those people with faith–REGARDLESS of their specific religious beliefs–will enter the Kingdom, where such minor details are no longer of any importance. Everyone will be Jewish.

          I think he was so committed to this vision that it would have broken him had it not come to pass. I think he set himself against both religious and secular authorities in an attempt to make it come to pass. I think he’d have rather died horribly, as he did, than to admit there was no immediate solution to the problem of humanity.

          I mean, Martin Luther was a Catholic, and never meant to create a new form of Christianity, but having crossed the Rubicon, he kept going. I think Jesus would have done the same, had he lived.




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          • DavidBeaman  December 16, 2017

            The majority of those in charge of the Temple were Sadducees. I do not think that Jesus would ever have become an agnostic, nor an atheist. Look at James, his brother. He was committed to his brother’s mission, but when his brother died, he carried on the dynasty and became the leader of the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem. They accepted that they had been mistaken about when the apocalypse would occur and settled down to await for it whenever it would come.




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          • godspell  December 18, 2017

            Yes, but I was talking about the Pharisees, and Jesus’ attacks on them are actually better known. I think he was rebelling against basically every conventional expression of Judaism, which would make sense if he was John the Baptist’s disciple, and perhaps influenced by the Essene Cult. You can’t think of him as an ordinary practicing Jew. Most Jews of the time considered him very strange, which is one reason why his disciples made such poor inroads in terms of converting their fellows Jews, if conversion is the right word in that context. A Jew he was born, a Jew he died, but very much a Jew after his own fashion.

            I wasn’t saying he’d become an atheist, I was just saying that his beliefs were centered around the Kingdom coming soon–if he’d lived long enough to realize that wasn’t happening, it’s hard to know how that would have affected him. He may already have been experiencing doubts, which could have been the trigger for his trip to Jerusalem, and his seemingly provocative behavior there.




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          • llamensdor  December 24, 2017

            The idea that Jesus was at odds with the Pharisees is a post-Jesus invention. In reality, Jesus’s views were largely
            Pharisaical. Jesus may have been at odds with the Sadduccees, but he was definitely not against the Temple or
            Judaism.




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  2. rivercrowman  December 10, 2017

    Bart, thanks for this post. As they said back in my day, you are a knowledgeable, issue-driven educator.




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    • Healy53  December 20, 2017

      Using a phrase that a colleague coined, we are in heated agreement. I thank you for choosing the words that you was unable to identify myself.




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  3. rbrtbaumgardner  December 10, 2017

    While the Pope says a good father would not lead us into temptation, it seems the least of the wrongs God might do given the great and apparently needless suffering living beings experience. Does the Pope really want to step into an argument about evil and the goodness of God? Thank you for your clarification of “temptation” and “trial,” Bart. “Trial” makes good sense for the reasons you give.




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    • Rick
      Rick  December 12, 2017

      When ” the Pope says a good father would not lead us into temptation” is her referring to the same god who drowned every living thing except his chosen boat load – infants of all species included?




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  4. Wilusa  December 10, 2017

    I’d never heard about any of this! But something the Pope said in a TV interview would certainly not have been (or intended as) an “infallible” statement. No Catholics who understood that would feel *obliged* to change the wording in their own prayers.




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  5. Pattylt  December 10, 2017

    I am old enough to have had to recite this prayer every morning in school until the US courts outlawed it. I remember how outraged so many Christians were at the removal of this “harmless tradition”. As an Orthodox Jew at that time, I was not allowed to say it but was to bow my head respectfully, which I did. My 5th grade teacher noticed that I was not actually saying the prayer and chastised me in front of the class. When my mother found out she went nuclear and we had a meeting with the teacher and principal and the teacher had to apologize in front of the class as well since she had publicly performed the chastisement. The teacher was emphatic that the Lords Prayer was not just a Christian prayer (it most certainly is!) and she just didn’t want me to go to hell (bless her little Baptist heart). To this day, when ever I hear a version slightly different from what we said, it kind of jars me. It is very hard to hear or say wording different from what your brain was initially trained to say so, even if the wording is “better”. I think anyone older than about 8 years old will resist it just because it sounds “wrong”. So, good luck to the Pope!




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    • Robert  December 12, 2017

      While some Jews consider the ‘Our Father’ in and of itself to be compatible with Jewish faith, they may still object to it for cultural reasons or because it comes from the New Testament, which is seen as antithetical to the Jewish scriptures and covenant. See, eg, here:
      http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/848875/jewish/Is-the-Lords-Prayer-Non-denominational.htm

      Other Jews claim (and recite) the prayer as thoroughly Jewish, eg, Schalom Ben-Chorin in his book, Bruder Jesus, der Nazarener in jüdischer Sicht.




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    • godspell  December 18, 2017

      Since Jesus composed the prayer as a Jew, who intended to continue being a Jew (after his own noncomformist fashion) you could make a case for it being a Judaeo Christian prayer. Muslims revere Jesus, so you could bring them in. And that just leaves all the people who don’t practice one of the abrahamic faiths, or any theistic faith at all. No prayer of any kind should be imposed on children in public schools. It’s not that it’s Christian. It’s that it is a prayer. Children should not be taught religion in public schools. There are other institutions–including the family–that can attend to that. We are safer–religious and non-religious alike–if we make faith a private matter.

      I was raised Catholic, and I went to CCD, and even there I learned very little about religion. Never even taught me how to say a Novena! I did learn about all the other major world faiths. Vatican II, you know. 😉




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  6. RonaldTaska  December 10, 2017

    Hmm? Having prayed this thousands and thousands of times, I have never ever thought about what it actually appears to be saying about asking God not to lead people into temptation. Interesting. On this blog, I learn new stuff most every day. Thanks for helping me learn and think.




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  7. ardeare  December 10, 2017

    That’s a huge difference. “Bring” vs. “Lead” changes the way I perceive it. It also brings it much more in line with what the historical Jesus appeared to represent. “Lead” implies that there’s one test after another and the praying individual wants to be excused. “Bring” implies that the tempter is in the form of evil entities and the praying individual seeks help in avoiding them.

    I like the Pope. I’m not a Catholic, never gonna be, but I appreciate his effort to bring more peace and love into a world full of greed, hate, idolatry, and power. Besides, we have no access to the originals. I like the idea of continuing and personal revelation. I also think it’s something that’s available to each of us, not just those who sit at the top.




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  8. talmoore
    talmoore  December 10, 2017

    If this does come from a Semitic original (either Aramaic or Hebrew), then it probably comes from the root n-s, which can mean to try, to test, to tempt, to attempt, to examine, etc. (e.g. this is the same root used in Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not test the Lord your God.”) This root is also related to the Semitic word for a miracle (i.e. “sign”), suggesting that the original connotation was of a visual demonstration of the truth of something. That is, the implication is one of scrutiny and evaluation. This fits in perfectly not only within the context of the Lord’s Prayer (“No need to take us through the whole rigmarole, God. You can let us in through the VIP entrance.”) but it also fits in with the mood of 1st century apocalyptic Judaism, where a select few of the Righteous (The Elect) are granted immediate access to the Age-to-come.




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  9. Hildore  December 10, 2017

    The New English Bible has “And do not bring us to the test, but save us from the evil one..” Maybe someone should bring that to the Pope’s attention.

    Thanks Dr. Ehrman for your generosity in sharing your wealth of knowledge with us on this blog. I visit often and am learning a lot. I have given a contribution last week and did again today in answer to your appeal. I too support Dr. without Borders apart from your blog, but am glad to contribute to them again via your blog as well as the other three that you support. May your tribe increase.




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  10. Adam0685  December 10, 2017

    Random question:

    I also identify as an agnostic. I believe there is probably no god, but I ultimately do not know. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that there is no personal/active god. For me, it has varied over days, months, and years.




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2017

      I don’t think I’ve ever given a statistical level of probability!




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    • talmoore
      talmoore  December 11, 2017

      Since everyone has their idea as to what God is, it’s much easier to think about the probabilities of proposed traits of God.
      What are the odds that God is:
      — truly “all-powerful”? Zero.
      — truly “all-knowing”? Zero.
      — eternal? Hard to say.
      — the creator of the universe? Very close to zero.
      — a supreme being who spoke through the Israelite prophets? Zero.
      — the father of Jesus? Zero.
      — the first person of the Trinity? Zero.




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      • DavidBeaman  December 12, 2017

        I agree with some of what you have said. However, I do believe in YHWH. I am not Jewish, but I am no longer a Christian. At this stage in my life, I am of the Abrahamic faith. The Bible I read is the Tanakh. Whenever anyone says they believe in God, there are all sorts of arguments that can be raised against such a belief. However, I still believe. I have tried not to believe, but to no avail. Before I joined the clergy, I was an NYPD officer, then a licensed, doctoral level mental health professional; I am aware of the literature on the psychology of religion. Yet, I still believe. I worked as a missionary in a war-torn country in Africa. When last I left, the runway was being shelled and the plane just managed to lift off before we ran into a blast hole or got hit. I am not naive about the realities of life and the world. I have seen hunger, atrocities and death in many forms. Yet, I still believe. When it comes to the so-called New Testament and Jesus, I rely on scholarly truth. I also accept scholarly findings with regard to the Tanakh, yet I still believe. The best I can say to you is that I have a fervent belief in God and hope that it turns out to be true. However, there is no way that I can objectively prove to you that God really does exist, so I don’t try because it would be futile. You can even say it may just be a psychological need to avoid a fear of death. I won’t argue with you. Yet, I still believe.




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        • godspell  December 15, 2017

          You are arguing, and nobody told you not to believe. All of us believe in things that can’t be proven. And then we try to prove them. That way lies madness. Render unto history what is due history. Render unto faith what is due faith.




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          • DavidBeaman  December 18, 2017

            Godspell, I am not arguing; I am expressing my opinion which I have every right to do. The point I was making, which you seem to have missed, was that history has changed the nature of my beliefs, but in spite of the odds stated by Talmore, I still seem to believe. It was a statement on human nature in regard to beliefs. Some biblical scholars don’t believe, some do. It has nothing to do with probabilities, nor with how well educated someone is. Bart has pointed out that he gave up his belief in God based on what he learned. He also pointed out that there are other Biblical scholars, including one of his mentors, who still believe in spite of knowing what Bart knows. My two favorite Biblical scholars are Bart Ehrman and James Tabor. Bart doesn’t believe in God, James does. Bart gets along fine with James.




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  11. DeanMorrison  December 10, 2017

    I was going to ask you the same question Bart. So good to be a member of this forum to get an answer from someone who I trust to give an honest answer.




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  12. Robert  December 10, 2017

    I agree that the real issue is not the verb but the interpretation of peirasmon as an apocalyptic trial rather than the more spiritualized ‘temptation’, thus something like, “don’t make us undergo a time of trial at the end of this age.” But, isn’t such a request somewhat at cross purposes with ‘thy kingdom come’? The trials and tribulations that precede the final coming of the Kingdom must also come if one wants the kingdom to come. This may perhaps be one of a few other minor nuances that sometimes soften an overly simplistic view of expressions of apocalyptic thought even in the earlier Jesus tradition.




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  13. godspell  December 10, 2017

    He’s a very learned man, but this is not his area of specialization.

    When Jesus asks God (in Mark and Matthew) to let the cup pass him by if possible, he’s asking precisely what you’re talking about here–let a time of trial pass him by. But if it’s in Mark as well (slightly different wording) that can’t just be in Q.

    The temptation is to falter on the path God (or fate, pace atheists, though what difference does it make?) has set you on. To choose safety and comfort over doing the right thing–which I would think anyone could agree is often a terrible choice to make. We’re lucky indeed if we’re never faced with hard choices, where doing the right thing will come with a high cost, and most of us do falter when faced with such choices. We look for a way out. Not just bad people. All people. Jesus faltered, according to his own followers. Even though I think it highly likely that he was faced with this terrible choice because of choices he himself had consciously made, to place himself in harm’s way.

    Although this is a temptation of sorts, it’s not the same kind of temptation Jesus reportedly faced while fasting in the desert, therefore not the kind Pope Francis is talking about here, and I humbly suggest (as a lapsed Catholic who holds him in high regard) that he’s got the wrong end of the stick here. But of course, he is not speaking Ex Cathedra. (Popes hardly ever do, in practice).




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  14. anthonygale  December 10, 2017

    If you believe that the Lord’s Prayer goes back to Jesus, then (perhaps helping you get back to the subject of your upcoming book) what do you make of the distinction between heaven and Earth when Jesus says “your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”? Also considering that you believe the sheep and goats story goes back to Jesus. Heaven is sounding like a distinct place, whatever the nature of that place may be. Plus eternal reward and punishment are happening somewhere.




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2017

      By earth he simply means where humans live; by heaven he means where God and his angels live. Up there, everything happens in the way God wants it to (he is the ruler there), down here, not so much (he is not the active ruler here, given all the sin and suffeirng in the world)




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      • anthonygale  December 11, 2017

        Would you have a term to describe the broader place where heaven and earth are? Texas and New York are in the US. Planets exist in galaxies and galaxies exist in the universe. What do heaven and earth exist in? What I am getting at is trying to better understand the distinction between the heaven and hell you dont think Jesus believed in versus these concepts of heaven, earth, and eternal reward/punishment that sound something like the heaven and hell many people today believe in. I assume there will be more when the book comes out.




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 12, 2017

          Not sure how to answer. Ancient people had no conception of the universe in the way we do. There was here, and down below, and up above. We are here ,the dead are down below, and God was up above.




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          • anthonygale  December 12, 2017

            I look forward to your book on heaven and hell. Based on what you have said so far on the blog, I am wondering if Jesus had a different conception of heaven and hell, compared to modern notions, rather than not having believed in them. I’m not sure if there is a consensus on the definition of heaven and hell. But I think most people think of heaven as the place God resides and where saved people go after they die. And hell is the place where the devil has been banished and bad people are punished, whether it be torment or eternal separation from God. You make a very clear and significant distinction in arguing that Jesus believed in a future bodily resurrection rather than the disposition of souls after death, which is in line with apocalyptic thinking. But if the Lord’s Prayer and the sheep and goats story go back to Jesus, that suggests he believed in a future state with most of the above characteristics of heaven and hell. He explicitly states there is a heaven, which is identified as the place God resides. The good people are also eternally rewarded (if this is in a utopian earthy kingdom, that is distinct from going up into heaven) and the wicked forever punished (location not specified but separated from heaven and the utopian kingdom). Is that close enough to say Jesus believed in some form of heaven and hell? At the very least, it would suggest the modern notions are based on what the historical Jesus thought.




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          • Bart
            Bart  December 13, 2017

            Right — that will be the core of my book!




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      • godspell  December 11, 2017

        And that brings us to the meaning of “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done”–the Lord’s Prayer, much as few of us who were raised with it ever realized while saying it, is an invocation of the Kingdom of Heaven, where God’s rule will be imposed directly upon earth, through the Son of Man.

        And when we say “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” I think we also often miss the point. We shall ONLY be forgiven to the extent that we ourselves forgive others.

        It’s strange to me, that I understand and revere the words so much more, now that I no longer believe in most of what lay behind them. They are still The Truth to me, and always will be.




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  15. anthonygale  December 10, 2017

    This is totally off topic, but since you mention the pope…do you ever wish he’d use “papal infallibility”, or at least his influence, in other ways? He could assert that unbaptised babies do not go to hell when they die. Or that people who go on shooting sprees outside abortion clinics do. Or order people to give 1% of their income to the poor. Or sell some of the Vatican art to feed the hungry. If he wants to order people to believe Jesus’ mother was taken up to heaven before death, I will withold my opinion on that matter. And I understand that matters such as interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer are important to many. But why not use authority more often for practical matters that seem at least as important? I dont mean to single out the pope. Why arent more leaders or more people in general more focused on such matters?




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2017

      Ah, I”ve never thought about giving him advice! But I MUCH prefer this current pope and his passion for the poor and suffering to his predecessors.




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      • anthonygale  December 11, 2017

        I wouldn’t give advice either. But I am puzzled that so much emphasis is placed on what to believe while it seems more could be placed on what to do. I realize belief and prayer are important to many though.




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 12, 2017

          This pope places much more emphasis on doing good than on correct doctrine.




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      • RVBlake  December 11, 2017

        Francis is more skilled than his predecessors in projecting his image; I am not convinced that he has more passion for the poor and suffering than John Paul II or Benedict XVI.




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 12, 2017

          Ah, then we completely disagree! Whatever his doctrine, he has massive compassion.




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          • RVBlake  December 12, 2017

            Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I’m not denying Francis’ passion, I’m saying that he may be more skilled in displaying it at every turn. Benedict XVI is famously bookish, and perhaps not given to frequent displays of passion, but that does not mean that he doesn’t have concern for the poor and suffering.




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    • RVBlake  December 11, 2017

      It has not been a teaching of the Catholic Church that unbaptized babies go to Hell after they die…They were consigned to Limbo, a state between Heaven and Hell, not unpleasant but not Heaven. I believe the Church has abandoned that teaching recently.




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    • SidDhartha1953  December 11, 2017

      I think you have misunderstood the Catholic idea of the assumption (a wonderfully ironic choice of words, in my opinion) of Mary. As I understand it, she is not said to have been taken alive into heaven, like Enoch or Elijah, but rather received body and soul into heaven upon her death (or dormition, as it is called by orthodox Christians) so that there was no body to entomb. If I’m wrong about that, please point me to a source.




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  16. Tony  December 10, 2017

    Why do neither the earlier Paul, nor Mark, show any knowledge of the Lord’s Prayer? Conveniently, Matthew lays his hands on the mysterious Q – and likely the very words Jesus spoke. Luke can be made to do the same, independently from Matthew, and bingo, the creation of two independently sourced attestations to the words of Jesus! If only nuclear physics was that easy…

    How about the birth stories? No sexy Jesus sayings for sure, but are they independent creations? I doubt it very much. Luke read Matthew’s birth story and liked what he saw, but modified the details. Luke recognized Matthew’s birth narrative as a clever creation making Jesus not just fulfilling prophesy, but Moses incarnate. Luke had a different agenda.

    But, if Luke got his birth story idea from Matthew, then Q is dead on arrival! So, I assume there must be a narrative explaining Luke birth story as independent. Am I right?




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 11, 2017

      Probably because they had never heard it. Just as I haven’t heard most of the things Jesus said. Doesn’t mean he didn’t exist.




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      • Tony  December 11, 2017

        True, but we’d expect more accuracy and reality from the earliest attestations about Jesus – whatever he was. As you well know, the fabrication factor increases exponentially over time. The silence of Paul to the motormouth of John confirms that.




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  17. Telling
    Telling  December 10, 2017

    Good that you are here to make this observation and make correction for the Almighty Pope.

    I do not agree with your conclusion, however. It is because you and I both have preconceived notions of the Jesus mission, you believing he taught of apocalypse, and I of present moment awareness.

    I thus naturally interpret the phrase “lead us not into temptation” to mean just what you suggest per the translation from Greek, that God himself leads us into temptation because God is all things manifested, and so God is indeed the culprit, Satan himself working as an agent of God, as in the book of Job, as in God bringing a curse on those who fail to put him first, etc.

    But it’s an elevated teaching. When we turn away from our inner core being and become mesmerized by the outer forms — losing our critical bond to all other life — our world naturally fails: we fall into sickness, slavery, and death. This element is said by Jesus also in the Gospel of Mary. “You get sick and die because you love what deceives you”.

    The original text flows better than the Pope’s version, as well. On your advice as to the translation, I think it should be left as it was.




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    • godspell  December 18, 2017

      I really think the words are just asking for God to not put believers to the test, if the test can be avoided. But sometimes it can’t. Jesus was tested, and it’s anybody’s guess whether he thought he’d passed or not.




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      • Telling
        Telling  December 20, 2017

        Well, you know the argument: God brings curses on us for failing to worship him, leading us to ask what kind of God would do that.

        But the answer is of course the term “God” is understood way too simplistically. God speaking as “I” is actually us; we are “I”, and by our own thoughts and actions we suffer. Understanding this, God’s “punishment” makes perfect sense.

        And I agree with you, the simpler definition is most probably the correct one.




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  18. AnotherBart  December 10, 2017

    Great post Dr. Ehrman!

    \/ THIS \/ I did NOT KNOW!!!
    -\/—-\/—-
    From Bible Hub: http://biblehub.com/greek/3986.htm
    Strong’s Concordance:
    πειρασμῶν:
    Short Definition: trial, testing, temptation
    Definition: (a) trial, probation, testing, being tried, (b) temptation, (c) calamity, affliction.
    -/\—-/\—-

    “Lead us not into…. TRIALS!!!”

    You’ve also drawn my attention to what should’ve been a ‘no brainer’ for me, but something I’ve missed: The connection between the Lord’s prayer:: “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors” and the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

    Since you mentioned that the Lord’s Prayer is from Q, it is interesting to note that the Unmerciful Servant is from UMatthew or “unique Matthew” (correct me if I’m wrong). What do you make of that?

    Although you know I find the two source hypothesis unconvincing, what I hope you’ll help me understand is why ‘late date'(ing) scholars such as yourself consider ‘Q’ to be any more trustworthy than UMatt or ULuke or Mark?

    For onlookers, my position at this time is that Matthew first wrote in 41 AD around the time James the brother of John was put to the sword by Herod. That John Mark was the translator of Aramaic speaking Peter, that they were both in Rome 42-46 AD, and as a longterm translator of an itinerant preacher could do, he wrote all of Peter’s messages from memory, at the bequest of their hearers. Whether he knew Aramaic Matthew is an open question. That Luke wrote his Gospel beginning in Philippi c. 51-55 A.D. (finishing sometime before the writing of 2nd Corinthians). That Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, possibly Nicodemus, were alive when Matt & Mark were written, that Acts and the first three chapters of Luke were written in preparation for the Paul’s Trial c. 62 A.D. That it worked (they were set free). That Matthew would have been a disaster if presented at the Trial of c. 62. Thus the necessity of and drastic softening (especially towards the Pharisees) of tone in Luke. And that John wrote (or dictated) his Gospel with full awareness of Matt/Mark/Luke (per Eusebius’ account–see below) clearing up so many of the mysteries left by Mt/Mk/&Lk. That Lazarus, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene were dead by the time John wrote c. 90’s (after 1 Clement). And that Greek Matthew’s literary relationship with Mark stems from his use of GrkMark for some translation ease.

    Regarding John’s knowledge of Mt/Mk/Lk:
    As translated by G.A. Williamson:
    “And when Mark and Luke had now published their gospels, John, we are told, who hitherto had relied entirely on the spoken word, finally took to writing for the following reason. The three gospels already written were in general circulation and copies had come into John’s hands. He welcomed them, we are told, and confirmed their accuracy, but remarked that the narrative only lacked the story of what Christ had done first of all at the beginning of his mission. …. This tradition is undoubtedly true. Anyone can see that the three evangelists have recorded the doing of the Savior for only one year, following the consignment of John the Baptist to prison, and that they indicated this very fact at the beginning of their narrative. After the forty days’ fast and the temptation that followed Matthew show clearly the period covered by his narrative when he says: ‘Hearing that john had been arrested, he withdrew from Judaea into Galilee …….. ” From Eusebius History of the Church 3:24

    Blessings Dr. Ehrman.




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    • llamensdor  December 24, 2017

      None of the gospels were written before 70 CE; Paul’s letters much earlier.




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  19. 4Erudite  December 10, 2017

    Thanks…this is just one of hundreds of questions I have in the margins of my Bibles. This line and translation has always bothered me…always wondering was it translated properly, what does it mean, etc. Interesting that it possibly goes back to Q but is not found in Mark which I understand that over 95% of Mark is found in either Luke and/or Matthew, with Mark considered the oldest of the three. How much of Mark is considered related to Q?




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  20. mannix  December 11, 2017

    Interestingly, the New American Bible (Catholic) uses the words “…do not subject us to the final test…” for both Mt. 6:9-13 and Lk 11:2-4. The older Vulgate contains the controversial sentence. The NAB was published in 1970 and signed by Paul VI, along with the usual Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat. The NRSV says something like “…do not bring us to the final trial…”.
    Here’s my question (as someone totally unfamiliar with Aramaic and Greek): could Jesus have actually said something like “…lead us OUT OF temptation…” instead of “…NOT INTO…”? I realize that it changes the meaning of the sentence as a whole, but “out of” and “not into” seem to mean the same thing by themselves. Could Q or other translator, or simply oral tradition, have made that switch at some point, unknowingly changing the meaning? After all, it was roughly 50 years between Jesus’ prayer and the gospels.




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 12, 2017

      He certainly *could* have said something like that; but we have no record of it. What he is recorded as saying is “do not lead us INTO temptation”




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  21. Steefen  December 11, 2017

    I’ve always seen God as one who:
    1) hardened Pharoah’s heart which is worse than leading someone into temptation
    2) Put the fruit tree in Eden without Keeping Out of Reach of Children
    3) Made his son cry in the Garden of Gethsemene and didn’t find a better way for him to be a savior
    4) and more.




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  22. SidDhartha1953  December 11, 2017

    I like Mark Twain’s take on that line of the Our Father. In “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg,” the entire town was taken in by a scheme that required them to rationalize a lie because their belief that they had never succumbed to temptation of any sort of temptation rendered them arrogant and proud. Once exposed, they deleted the word “not” from the town motto so it read, “Lead us into temptation.” Temptation allows us to discover what kind of people we really are. In fact, the same gospels that include the Our Father agree with Mark that Jesus was led (or driven) by the Spirit to his place of temptation, though the Spirit may not have done the actual tempting.




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  23. HenriettePeterson  December 12, 2017

    Regarding “EISENEGKHiS”. How can you possibly judge what was in the original prayer? This is a Greek word recorded, as you are convinced, by someone who had never even met Jesus. The original prayer was in Aramaic. What if the original author mistranslated what he was told? What if what he was told was already mistranslated in the oral tradition, since it was supposedly not given by an eyewitness? I can write volumes about “EISENEGKHiS”, but Jesus probably never used “EISENEGKHiS” once in his life…




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 12, 2017

      That’s what scholars of the historical Jesus do for a living! One has to look at all the evidence and then evaluate it.




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  24. mjordan20149  December 12, 2017

    If you recite the prayer in Spanish or Italian, you say “don’t let us fall into temptation” (no nos dejes caer in tentacion, or non ci indurre in tentazione) so it looks to me like the pope is thinking in one of those languages instead of English.




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  25. Jana  December 12, 2017

    Please help me clarify Dr. Ehrman. I’m unclear …If I recall correctly from one of your earlier blogs … Since Jesus spoke in Aramaic and taught in Aramaic, wouldn’t the Lord’s Prayer have been in Aramaic? And then do we know how the prayer would have read including the word “temptation/trial” in Aramaic?




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 13, 2017

      Yes, it would have been. I’m not sure how the Aramaic would have been worded — but there are some other experts on the blog: maybe they can make a suggestion.




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  26. AnotherBart  December 12, 2017

    Dr. Ehrman, do you think Jesus had read 1st & 2nd Maccabees?

    Great Points:
    ….. Matthew 6:9-13 …..Luke 11:2-4 ……. “Do not bring us into temptation/trial.”
    ……… it coincides so well with his apocalyptic message otherwise.
    The prayer is asking for God to bring his kingdom soon to earth,
    to help his followers live till then (“daily bread”),
    to make them qualified for the kingdom (“forgive us our debts”), and
    to keep them from facing trials and tribulations
    at the end of the age.
    Short story: if Jesus did teach this prayer – as I’m inclined to think he did –
    he probably did teach his disciples to ask not to be brought by God into a time of trial.”

    I would add that it is easy for us to project our 21st Century mindset that sees “Trial” and “Temptation” as two and not one concept. “Is it a TRIAL or is it a TEMPTATION?” Could it be that Jesus and his followers had a concept that sometimes/often merged the two?

    Now that I’ve digested 1st and 2nd Maccabees, I tend to think so.

    Elderly Eleazar was tempted to pretend to eat sacrificial meat in order to avoid being tortured to death.
    https://www.bible.com/bible/431/2MA.6.GNBDK

    The youngest of seven sons who had watched his 6 older brothers refuse to eat the sacrificial meat, was also tempted. He watched as Antichous IV Epiphanes, one by one, had the scalps ripped off of his brothers’ heads, their hands and feet chopped off, and their bodies ‘reduced to a heap of breathing flesh’ placed in searing pans, cooked like pigs.

    Antiochus offered to give him the special honor “friend of the King” if he would eat the meat. What a temptation! What a trial! His torture was worse than his brothers who preceded him.
    https://www.bible.com/bible/431/2MA.7.GNBDK




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 13, 2017

      No, I don’t.




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      • AnotherBart  December 20, 2017

        Don’t you think Jesus, at the least via oral tradition, knew the stories?

        2nd Maccabees 6:10 CPDV
        For two women were denounced for having had their boys circumcised. These, with the infants suspended at their breasts, when they had publicly led them around the city, they cast down from the walls.

        Luke 21:23
        How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 21, 2017

          Strictly speaking, there is absolutely no way to know.




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          • AnotherBart  December 30, 2017

            I’ll rephrase the question:
            Considering the passages below, could
            **[the Jesus that Matthew presents]**
            1) be alluding to the events described in 2nd Maccabees?
            2) Might they suggest the author’s knowledge of the contents of 2nd Maccabees?

            \\\Temple for people, not people for temple. (Maccabees)\\\\\\
            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
            2 Macc 5:19 (Good News Bible Catholic Edition in Septuagint order)
            19 “But the Lord did not choose his people for the sake of his Temple; he established his Temple for the sake of his people.

            \\\Sabbath for people, not people for Sabbath. (Jesus) \\\\\
            Mark 2:27-28 (GNBDK)
            And Jesus concluded, “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; they were not made for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

            \\\\\\Pregnant women, nursing mothers\\\\\\\\\\\\
            2nd Maccabees 6:10 CPDV
            For two women were denounced for having had their boys circumcised. These, with the infants suspended at their breasts, when they had publicly led them around the city, they cast down from the walls.

            Matthew 24:19
            How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
            /////////////////////

            \\\\\Don’t be deceived!/Run for the hills!/\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
            2 Maccabees 5:25-26
            Apollonius arrived in Jerusalem, pretending to be on a peace mission. Then on a Sabbath, when all the Jews were observing the day of rest, he led his troops, who were fully armed, in a parade outside the city. Suddenly he commanded his men to kill everyone who had come out to see them. They rushed into the city and murdered a great many people.

            Matthew 24:20
            Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
            Matthew 24:23
            At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.
            Matthew 24:15
            “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.




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    • Abongile Mafevuka  December 29, 2017

      I think this is quite appropriate but as Dr Bart very well have explained he is quite aware how the meaning of the same words today denoted something else centuries back. So the context in which Temptation is used should not be forgotten




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  27. steveandcris  December 13, 2017

    When I first researched the Lord Prayer I found what was supposed to be the original as close as could be told what Jesus said in Aramaic.What I found for that line was:
    we’ AL ta ‘elinNA lenis YONA (do not lead us to the test) or (do not allow us to come to the test)
    The source was supposedly Q. Have you seen this version? Is the translation correct? Is it Aramaic?
    The whole prayer was as follows:
    Father
    Holy is your name
    Your Kingdom come
    Our daily bread give us today
    Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors
    And do not lead us to the test




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 15, 2017

      It’s semitic — I assume ARamaic. But realize that it is a retroversion back into Aramaic from teh Greek, so that naturally the ENglish translation will sound like an English translation of the Greek itself.




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  28. madmargie  December 29, 2017

    I have a problem believing most of the gospel stories really happened. It is my understanding that few of the peasants that followed Jesus could read or write even if they had the materials to do so. They were too busy just trying to make a sparse living. And I also doubt that there were throngs of crowds that followed him. They would be too busy working from sun up till sun down just to exist..

    If nothing was recorded for 70 years except Paul’s writings (and Paul never knew Jesus) even word of mouth would be highly corrupted.




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    • Bart
      Bart  December 30, 2017

      Yup, that’s more ore less my position. I play it out in my book Jesus Before the Gospels.




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      • AnotherBart  December 30, 2017

        If you were the one writing the Gospel of Mark–post 70 AD–would you choose to include as one of your characters a person (Levi/Matthew) with a profession that required literacy (a tax collector) who then chose to sit on his quills and papyri for 40+ years?




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        • Bart
          Bart  December 31, 2017

          I don’t believe being a tax collector required literacy (although people today always seem to say that it did). There were different levels of people in the tax-collection corporations in the empire. The guy who banged on your door demanding your money simply had to be able to add to know how much money was sitting in the palm of his hand.




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          • AnotherBart  December 31, 2017

            Interesting. Thx. Which level do you think would have been sitting at a ‘tax collector’s booth’? (Some translations call it an ‘office’.)

            Matthew 9:9 NIV:
            As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.




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          • Bart
            Bart  January 1, 2018

            I suppose someone who could count the money.




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          • AnotherBart  December 31, 2017

            Dear Sir:

            I know you’ll get a kick out of this website:
            the “Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS UMichigan)

            The link below takes you to my search for “tax” with dates -99 BCE to 100 CE
            It resulted in about 240 tax receipts + other documents in Greek, some on pottery shards, some on papyri.
            https://quod.lib.umich.edu/a/apis?med=1;op2=And;op4=And;q2=tax;q4=-100;q4=100;rgn2=ic_all;rgn4=apis_year_range;select2=all;size=20;sort=apis_inv;start=101;type=boolean;view=thumbnail

            Blessings,
            AnotherBart




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  29. Stanislaw Ruczaj  March 21, 2018

    Prof. Ehrman,

    Do you think that Jesus himself used the Lord’s prayer? I.e., that he prayed, using these particular words?




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    • Bart
      Bart  March 21, 2018

      Yes, I basically think so. Of course the prayer is very different from Matthew 6 to Luke 11.




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      • Stanislaw Ruczaj  March 22, 2018

        It seems to me that maybe early Christian orthodoxy, which forced Matthew and Luke to change the accounts of Jesus’ baptism, is hard to square with the words of the Lord’s prayer, concerning the forgiveness of trespasses? That is, if they believed Jesus to be sinless, they probably not believed that he prayed to God to forgive him his sins, as he didn’t have any?




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        • Bart
          Bart  March 22, 2018

          Interesting point. I guess the orthodox would say that he was teaching his *disciples* what to pray, not that he himself was praying that prayer.




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