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The Religion of a Sixteen-Year-Old

I just got home from spending a week in Lawrence Kansas, my home town.   As I’ve done now for years, I took my mom fishing in the Ozarks for a few days.  She’s 87, and on a walker, but still able to reel them in!

I go back to Lawrence probably three or four times a year, and each time it is like going down memory lane.  I left there to go to Moody Bible Institute in 1973, when I was all of 17 years old; I still called it home for years, but never lived there full time, not even in the summers usually.  I was married and very much on my own only four years later.  So my memories of the place are entirely of childhood through high school.   I can’t help reflecting on this, that, and the other thing in my past as I drive around town, remembering doing this thing here, that thing there, and so on.

This time, for some reason, there was an unusually high concentration of “religious” recollections, of my different religious experiences in one place or another.   As I’ve said a number of times, I had a born-again experience in high school, when I “asked Jesus into my heart.”  I must have been 15 at the time. The odd thing was that I was already a committed church person before that – for my entire life, in fact.  I was an acolyte in the Episcopal church from junior high onwards, every week praying to God, confessing my sins, thinking about the salvation brought by Christ, and so on.   So looking back, it’s hard to know what really I was thinking when I finally “became a  Christian.”  What exactly was I before?

But what really struck me this time around, in particular, was this.   Most of my family and friends who also became evangelical Christians – at least the ones who have stayed that way – are, naturally, upset and confused about why I left the faith.   In their view, the faith I had when I was 16 was the “truth,” and now I have gone over to the way of “error.”  I should stress that my mom and I never talk about such things – we both know it would do no good and that we would just both get upset.  So instead we talk about basketball, and family, and fishing, and lots of other things – but not religion.  Still, I know that she, like the others I knew way back then, think that I used to be right; that I made a terrible mistake when I became a “liberal” Christian in my late-20s; and that I really went off the deep end when I became an agnostic.

But here is what struck me.   About what other form of knowledge or belief would we say that it is better that we should think the way we did when we were 16 than the way we think now?

Would we say that our understanding of science was better then?  Our understanding of biology or physics or astronomy?   Were our views in 1972 better than our views now?   Or how about politics?  Or philosophy?  Would we be better off thinking what we did when we were 16?   Or what about our views of sexual relations?  Or literature?  Or economic investments?  Or … Or anything else?

Isn’t it very strange indeed that so many people of faith – not all of them, of course; and arguably not even most of them; but certainly some of them; in fact a *lot* of them in evangelical circles – think that even though they are supposed to grow, and mature, and develop new ideas, and chart new territories, and acquire new knowledge, and change their understandings  as they get older in every *other* aspect of their lives, they are supposed to hold on to pretty much the SAME religious views that were satisfying to them as a sixteen year old?

That is one of the things that I find most puzzling and dissatisfying and frustrating about many of the good, concerned, committed evangelical Christians who contact me via email or in person (say, at one of my talks): the views they put forth, in trying to “win me over,” are views that are at the intellectual and spiritual level of sophistication of a 16 year old.  They may be successful businessmen, or teachers, or investors, or … name your profession.  And in other parts of their lives they may have considerable maturity and sophistication.  But when it comes to religious belief, they are still back where they were in 1972.   There’s something wrong about that….

I should emphasize that there are lots (and lots) of theologians who are serious scholars, some of them quite brilliant.  They obviously do not work with a 16-year-old’s view of religion.   they are philosophically astute and intellectually impressive, people like Rowan Williams, Herbert McCabe, Fergus Kerr, and Stanley Hauerwas (they are not all like each other, either).   I have no argument with them.  My argument is with the intelligent Christian people who check their intelligence at the door when they enter the church, who think that it makes sense to have a sophisticated view of the world when it comes to their investments, their business practices, their politics, their medical preferences – but not when it comes to their religion.


Larry Hurtado’s Critique of How Jesus Became God
More on Jesus’ Wife!

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    DBybee  June 2, 2014

    Changing my views on chemistry, or investments doesn’t really affect the way I live. But changing my reliegious views has rocked my world. Like you I was a committed believer with a very literal interpretation of scripture until I couldn’t reconcile the religious world view with the real world as I experienced it. Adam and Eve verses evolution for example. Your scholarship on the New Testatment has been a true revelation. What I’ve always wanted to ask you is if you have (or had) the same feelings of massive betrayal that I’ve felt. I know that my parents thought they were teaching me the truth and have no fault in this but realizing that I have been mislead for 40 years by people that I trusted to tell me the truth has left me angry and embarrassed that I couldn’t see what seems obvious now. Has that been an issue you’ve dealt with?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 2, 2014

      Not so much with my family as with the fellow who “led me to Christ,” and to some extent with my training at Moody Bible Institute. On the other hand, if none of that had happened, I would not have had the life and career I’ve had. So how can I really complain??

    • Avatar
      prestonp  August 25, 2014

      When I became a believer, my family rejected and mocked me for the rest of their lives (except dad who found god just before he went to the next dimension. He was a saul of tarsus until then. For 30 years whenever he had the chance, he pummeled me with insults and disgust.)

  2. Avatar
    Foxtank  June 2, 2014

    I have given this question much thought over the years as I have traveled a similar path, but much later in life. I think the short answer for most is two fold. First there is fear. Fear of eternal damnation. Second, and I think the most powerful is loss of community in all its aspects. Church becomes ones life. To lose it is to lose your history, in a way. And in the evangical community, there is no maturing beyond the basic doctrinal standards. Unless you think moving those standards into the political community is progress. This is a very puzzling question, but only if you ponder it from outside the fold.

    • Avatar
      Scott F  June 4, 2014

      When I lost my faith at twenty, I had a hard time deciding what was right and what was wrong. Thank goodness I was an engineer and could fall back on science for certain truths but others were a real struggle.

      It is very scary to “step out of the boat” with no idea of whether you will sink or swim, no idea of what lies on the other side.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 26, 2014

        “When I lost my faith at twenty…”

        Let me make a suggestion, if you don’t mind. Perhaps instead of losing your faith, you gave it away. To be a true follower of Christ, life will be grueling at times, even brutal, It is less painful to give up.

        I don’t know if I have ever heard a former christian admit she preferred indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, yielding to the attractions of our world and was swayed by a slick, deceiving con artist.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 31, 2014

        “When I lost my faith at twenty, I had a hard time deciding what was right and what was wrong. Thank goodness I was an engineer and could fall back on science for certain truths but others were a real struggle.”

        “Biologists’ investigation
        of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable
        complexity of the arrangements needed to produce life,
        that intelligence must have been involved” (p. 123).

        Andrew Flew
        World renown former atheist

  3. Avatar
    Unhookthestars  June 2, 2014

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. Your reflection reminded me of what Karen Armstrong says in her book “The Case for God” regarding how our ideas about Santa Claus and God change (or not) over time:

    “We learned about God at about the same time as we were told about Santa Claus. But while our understanding of the Santa Claus phenomenon evolved and matured, our theology remained somewhat infantile. Not surprisingly, when we attained intellectual maturity, many of us rejected that God that we had inherited and denied that he existed.”

    Here, she’s suggesting that as we develop cognitively and emotionally, some of us are unable to square the intellectual propositions foisted on us by the more conservative elements of our religious traditions (“If you appeal to your God as a personal God, he will intervene to save you from personal disaster”) with our own maturing understanding of the non-black-and-whiteness of the world (“Even if you appeal to God as a personal God, tragedy may still strike”). One response is agnosticism/atheism – that is, a rejection of that official, received version of God. But the other response, as exemplified by evangelical family/friends/detractors you wrote about, is fundamentalism — a desperate clinging to an immature, literalist, absolutist version of God.

    This is why even as an agnostic, I can relate to the liberal Christians you mention in the opening to the last chapter of “How Jesus Became God.” While these Christians don’t believe in the theological propositions laid out in the Nicene Creed or even understand the nuances inherent in each statement, I don’t see their regular church attendance or continued identification as Christians as necessarily inconsistent with their lack of belief. As many thoughtful theologians have pointed out (Harvey Cox immediately comes to mind), there is a difference between “faith” IN Jesus’s message and “belief” in propositions ABOUT Jesus. You can have faith in Jesus’s call for a world of social justice and participate in bringing about “the Kingdom of God” he preached about without subscribing to doctrinal beliefs about Jesus, which are bound up in the time and place in which they first emerged. To paraphrase Armstrong, if intellectual assent to the doctrine of the Trinity somehow helps you become a better (i.e., more compassionate/empathetic) person, then there’s absolutely no harm in it. But if your insistence on the literal truth of the “Divine Triad” just makes you unproductively combative, then how exactly are you making straight the way for God’s kingdom of social justice?

  4. Avatar
    IamWilliamLocke  June 2, 2014

    I had a similar experience to you. I am an agnostic/cultural Christian (I attend a liberal Anglican church because I like choir music and it functions as my social life). For a while I attended a very fundamentalist bible study with a few engineers (like myself), scientists, and other university educated young adults. All of them were fundamentalist. I have talked with some of them individually, I have even lent them some of my books (technically speaking, some of them are your books as well), despite this they still stick to the idea that the bible is inerrant, continuous, and 100% historically and scientifically accurate despite the evidence that is in plain sight. From what I have gathered from speaking with them, I think the whole issue lies with the fact that they do not want to leave their “16-year-old” faith. I think this mindset has to do with emotional security and emotional.

    (The following is just my own speculation, each case will be different, but this is a general trend that I see)

    When people have a born again experience , as I am sure you know, there is a lot of emotion and a lot of hype at that moment (I never had one even though I was an evangelical fundamentalist until I was 21, it probably has to do with the fact that I have high functioning autism and don’t really do the whole “emotional” thing). The born again moment for them in genuine, and that is when they “knew” Jesus . The time when they “knew” Jesus the best and the most clearly, was when they had the knowledge and intellectual capacity of a 16-year-old. The Jesus that they experienced at a concert, revival, or youth group was built on their 16-year-old understanding of who Jesus was and how he interacted with the world. They had trust and faith in the Jesus that they “knew” when they “felt” him. I was told by a girl attending my group “The Jesus I knew then has to be the same Jesus I know now, I felt him move in my life, and I felt him change me”.

    It seems that they don’t want to change the Jesus they had. Accepting the historical and scientific facts could drastically change that Jesus that they knew at 16. It could get very messy, everyone in evangelical circles has heard the horror stories of the ones who go to a secular college and lose their faith because they questioned the fundamental principles (At the bottom I have linked a picture given to me before I left for university with the words “Don’t take that first step”) . If they accept something as simple as the fact that the bible has mistakes, or the fact that we don’t know that Jesus said everything in the red letters, that doesn’t just change the interesting historical portrait of the life of Jesus, it changes the Jesus that they knew, felt, and loved. If that Jesus changes, then what do you happens? Do you accept that your understanding of Jesus when you “met” him was flawed and attempt to restructure the very foundations of your faith, completely reforming the fundamental building blocks and deal with the subsequent change in world view? Or do you stay with what you first felt, keeping the foundations of your faith and maintain your core moral and ethical beliefs, your world view, and your emotional support/spiritual guidance? One is clearly easier, safer, and more secure. For those of us who go rogue (that is to say become a liberal Christian or *gasp* an agnostic/atheist), I think it is the acceptance of the former that forces us to grow and change. For the ones who stick to their first “16-year-old” experience, they can keep going on as it was before, biblical archaeology, textual criticism, evolutionary biology and the likes are interesting but have almost no effect of their day to day lives. They can keep the comfortable belief, the support, the community, the certainty and the security that comes with the “faith like a child” (I know that is taken out of context).

    Before I left my group, they asked me why I changed my views to fit with the new body of knowledge I discovered rather than keeping the faith. In a very tongue and cheek manner I quoted Paul saying
    “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (needless to say, they were not very impressed with my quotation)

    As for the family and friends who are confused and upset. I think that has something to do with the whole “us against the fallen world” mentality that comes with evangelicalism. When I was still in the church, I remember them talking about two students who were with them. They told me about how they had “fallen” to the lure and seduction of “darkside”. Their change of world view was always attributed to sin, temptation, and the seduction of “the ways of this world”, it was never seen as an intellectual reform, a sincere search that ended for answers, or a legitimate problem with the way fundamentalism addresses science, history, and politics. My reasons for leaving the faith were completely intellectual and had nothing to do with passions, lust, or sin, however the emails I keep getting from them seem to presuppose devious and deceitful intentions. I think the problem with mentality is they “know” they have the right answer, so if you are at a different stage, it couldn’t have been from a search for understanding, it had to be from a corruption of truth (but I really haven’t researched this enough to know for certain)

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, kindest regards,

    Jonathan

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-y0VaBITxb5k/T1d_UaxxtrI/AAAAAAAADW0/EhjmVp2VABA/s1600/descent.jpg

  5. Avatar
    shakespeare66  June 3, 2014

    Thanks for bearing your soul to us about the experiences of going home. It struck a chord with me because it has been challenging taking the other side of religion. People in general are not willing to listen to any view about their religion that they do not agree with. It is like trying to convince a Republican that Obama really is a good guy. It is a fruitless exercise. So, too, is trying to reveal information that might take them out of their 16 year old mind set. But we call it a “mind set” because that is exactly what it is—my mind is set on these ideas and no one can change them, and if one tries, then it is considered the work of the devil or the dark side or whatever they want to call it. I have a Jehovah Witness brother who has not seen the light of day in 40 some years….he is so imbued with what he believes that he cannot entertain another idea. He has a Jehovah Witness mentality and it mirrors any cult religion I know. But your point about growing intellectually in all aspects of one’s knowledge is a good one. Those who choose to learn more about any given avenue of knowledge are going to change their understanding of the given knowledge studied, but so many people abate their learning that they become entrenched in a kind of fairy land of existence, never really understanding anything, must less the complexities of religion.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  September 11, 2014

      “But your point about growing intellectually in all aspects of one’s knowledge is a good one. Those who choose to learn more about any given avenue of knowledge are going to change their understanding of the given knowledge studied…”

      Right you are,
      “atheists are up in arms thinking that Professor Antony Flew has lost his mind. Flew, age 81, has been a legendary proponent and debater for atheism for decades, stating that “onus of proof [of God] must lie upon the theist.”1 However, in 2004, Prof. Flew did the unheard of action of renouncing his atheism because “the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it.”2 In a recent interview, Flew stated, “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” Flew also renounced naturalistic theories of evolution:
      “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.”3
      In Flew’s own words, he simply “had to go where the evidence leads.”4 According to Flew, “…it seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before.”2 Flew also indicated that he liked arguments that proceeded from big bang cosmology.”
      by Rich Deem

  6. Avatar
    JeffinFairfax  June 3, 2014

    I hear you, Dr. Ehrman, and I think there are many of us. I was a devout and active evangelical who had a slow and painful “de-conversion” experience while doing graduate work in philosophy at UVA. I could no longer, with integrity, sustain belief in light of the logical inconsistencies, factual errors, and moral problems in the Bible. Moreover, I felt I owed an explanation to friends and family for why I was leaving the faith to be agnostic and so I gave it, leading to a social rending that followed the intellectual one. To some degree this rift continues to the present but, as you’ve noted, religion often becomes an unmentioned feature in the landscape for the sake of peace. In any event, new births of any kind can be painful but they can also lead to new places of happiness, for which I’m grateful.

    I’ve had discussions over the years with a friend (who’s traveled a similar path) about how to reconcile and weave together our very different early and later lives. Like you, I’ve come to see that were it not for that very different early environment I would not have come to be where I am and who I am today. New wine in old wineskins, I think (despite Jesus’ reported words to the contrary). Our stories and their meanings are always changing, it seems, and we incorporate old truths and experiences in new ways, just as Jesus and Paul did with the Jewish prophets.

    To your point, though, I think many hold to their child-like religious formulations because of the enormous role that the worldview/group myth of one’s kith and kin play in forming and maintaining one’s identity and in providing social cohesion. In ironic obedience to Jesus’ command to leave behind old, traditional social ties for the sake of truth, we who have made an intellectual exodus from the thinking and community of our youth have untied one of the strongest cords used to bind (“religare”) people together internally and to each other–religion. This is a risky thing for a person to do–and even more for an entire culture to do. But, as you say, how can we stay stuck in our 16th year–or in the first century? I don’t regret the migration and have no plans to go back but I do sometimes feel nostalgic for the old country.

    In any event, I’m new here and not sure where to ask this or if you’ve already posted about this (I can’t see it anywhere), but what do you think about these metal plates?
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1371290/70-metal-books-Jordan-cave-change-view-Biblical-history.html

    Jeff

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 3, 2014

      The metal plates have been shown to be forgeries.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  September 11, 2014

      To your point, though, I think many hold to their child-like religious formulations because of the enormous role that the worldview/group myth of one’s kith and kin play in forming and maintaining one’s identity and in providing social cohesion. In ironic obedience to Jesus’ command to leave behind old, traditional social ties for the sake of truth, we who have made an intellectual exodus from the thinking and community of our youth have untied one of the strongest cords used to bind (“religare”) people together internally and to each other–religion. This is a risky thing for a person to do–and even more for an entire culture to do. But, as you say, how can we stay stuck in our 16th year–or in the first century? I don’t regret the migration and have no plans to go back but I do sometimes feel nostalgic for the old country.

      I think you are wrong.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  September 11, 2014

      “I could no longer, with integrity, sustain belief in light of the logical inconsistencies, factual errors, and moral problems in the Bible.”

      “…logical inconsistencies, factual errors, and moral problems in the Bible.”

      For example?

  7. Avatar
    FrankJay71  June 3, 2014

    Hey, since you’re kind of on the subject, what exactly is being “borne again?” From what I thought I understood, in Greek, in John 3:7, Jesus uses a sort of double entendre, where the phase “borne again” also means “borne from above”. And the joke is that Nicodemus, doesn’t get that Jesus means from above, but that he is supposed to literally reascend from his mothers womb?
    So, how do “borne again” evangelicals understand the phrase. Is seems that in the context they use the term, and how the describe it, they literally mean reborn, but in spirit, or something like that.
    In short, do they misuse the term??

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  June 3, 2014

      Are you asking what “born again” means in the passage in John? There Jesus means that you have to be born from the heavenly realm in the spirit if you hope to see eternal life. The emphasis is not when (“again”) but where (“from above”).

  8. Avatar
    maxhirez  June 5, 2014

    How about fashion? I wish I could dress the way I did when I was 16. That wouldn’t fly now…

  9. cheito
    cheito  June 6, 2014

    DR EHRMAN:

    I still believe what I first believed when i was 20 years old: That God raised Jesus Christ from the dead! This is what attracted me to Jesus. I was lost, empty and slave of sin. When I heard for the first time that God had raised a man from the dead, I thought, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard, but surely this has to be a fairy tale. I began reading the new Testament and after reading for about a year or so I came to the conclusion that Jesus’ resurrection was indeed true and I received Him by faith. This was 42 years ago and although today I don’t believe that all the books in the bible are inspired by God I do believe that many of the books in our canon were inspired by God himself but men have altered and perverted the originals. Among the collection of the inspired books and letters we possess, Some have been altered more than others. Still however there’s no way to alter what the message of the apostles concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead with body and spirit means, and there’s absolutely no way to alter what the statement, “God is Love”, means! You may not believe it but you can’t alter it ! It is what it is, believe it or not!

    • Avatar
      gavm  June 11, 2014

      it sounds like your just following the religion you fell into. everything you said could easily be parroted by a muslim. it annoys me when people treat there own religion as special but disrespect other faiths.

  10. Avatar
    gavm  June 11, 2014

    yes religion has a way of preventing one from thinking to much. i suppose people have the same biases in other areas of life. for example i know many very intelligent agnostics who have very silly socialist attitudes about economics which almost no economist worth there salt would even slightly agree with

  11. Avatar
    prestonp  July 31, 2014

    This time, for some reason, there was an unusually high concentration of “religious” recollections, of my different religious experiences in one place or another. Dr. Ehrman

    Tell us more about those religious experiences you had, if you would.. Sounds as if they were significant, powerful and deep. In fact, you began to make adult kinds of decisions that would inform the rest of your life as a result of what took place at that time: to go to Moody, which led to Wheaton and on to Princeton. All were all born out of what occurred then, as a young man in your youth (beginning at 15!) Whatever it was, it was unique to you, substantial and had nothing to do with the way you had been praying, reading or confessing your sins, did it? Did you change? Your memories that surfaced had nothing to do with doctrine, dispensations, or attending church services, I bet. You had “religious experiences.” You didn’t have them before you, “asked Jesus into my heart” did you? Memories of how you viewed your friends, your enemies, your family, you, strangers, God, differently? With love gushing from your heart, the way the sunlight seemed to caress the trees, did the air smell different, pure?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 31, 2014

      Maybe I will some time!

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 2, 2014

        “But here is what struck me. About what other form of knowledge or belief would we say that it is better that we should think the way we did when we were 16 than the way we think now?”

        When he was a kid, he blew the minds of older folks with his understanding of spiritual matters, and he never went to school. No biblical mandate that one should remain satisfied with her level of understanding at any age. Remember milk to meat and studying always to be approved. Dr. Ehrman, looking back, you wonder aloud what was it, actually, that was different for you after your religious experience. I think your memories yield truth. I think your memories refresh what was happening In your Heart, In You. Those things, whatever they stem from, were so important that they created within your gut a burning desire for spiritual understanding, and biblical truth, for god himself. You prayed, sincerely, for Christ to enter your heart and he did, at least it seems like it from what you say. If you had prayed for Julius Caesar to enter your life, would you have had such recollections visiting Lawrence? Your love for others, for everybody really, especially the needy, rat on you.

  12. Avatar
    prestonp  July 31, 2014

    The Telegraph on Rowan Williams

    By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor

    7:49PM BST 02 Jul 2014
    (I don’t know if I’m allowed to quote others or not.)

    John Shelby Spong once accused Williams of being a ‘neo-medievalist’, preaching orthodoxy to the people in the pew but knowing in private that it is not true. In an interview with Third Way Magazine Williams responded: “I am genuinely a lot more conservative than he would like me to be. Take the Resurrection. I think he has said that of course I know what all the reputable scholars think on the subject and therefore when I talk about the risen body I must mean something other than the empty tomb. But I don’t. I don’t know how to persuade him, but I really don’t.”

    and

    “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” he explained

    “Walking meditation, pacing very slowly and coordinating each step with an out-breath, is something I have found increasingly important as a preparation for a longer time of silence.

    “So: the regular ritual to begin the day when I’m in the house is a matter of an early rise and a brief walking meditation or sometimes a few slow prostrations, before squatting for 30 or 40 minutes (a low stool to support the thighs and reduce the weight on the lower legs) with the ‘Jesus Prayer’: repeating (usually silently) the words as I breathe out, leaving a moment between repetitions to notice the beating of the heart, which will slow down steadily over the period.”

    Far from it being like a “magical invocation”, he explained that the routine helps him detach himself from “distracted, wandering images and thoughts”, picturing the human body as like a ‘cave’ through which breath passes.

    “If you want to speak theologically about it, it’s a time when you are aware of your body as simply a place where life happens and where, therefore, God ‘happens’: a life lived in you,” he added.

    He went on to explain that those who perform such rituals regularly could reach “advanced states” and become aware of an “unbroken inner light”.

  13. Avatar
    prestonp  August 10, 2014

    “The general public today is widely unaware of how remarkable were the beliefs about Jesus and the extraordinary place of Jesus in the devotional practices of earliest Christian circles. So, if the book sells as well as his previous general-reader books, in addition to enriching Ehrman’s bank balance further, this one might help general readers to appreciate more how astonishing these early beliefs and devotional practices were.”
    A review of How Jesus became “God,” per Ehrman by Larry W. Hurtado

    Some professional jealousy imo. Some of Dr. Bart’s peers seem a little resentful of his enormous success. While they praise his wonderful communication skills, they usually can’t leave him alone until they take a few swipes at him. Notice he never retaliates. He’s earned every penny and he raises funds for the less fortunate by investing his time and efforts.

    I do not think the early christian beliefs were more astonishing than one might expect, given what they encountered. Rather, if their response to what they believed had happened was more tame, that would be astonishing. After all, Dr. Bart describes the profound impact that his religious experience had on and in him 40 years later. That is powerful, in my estimation.

    This isn’t textual criticism. I apologize.
    I find it difficult to believe on an intellectual level, that which changed Dr. Bart’s perception of the universe and gave him relief and lifted his burden, hold no value in a thoroughly honest and fair analysis why the new testament was written. As we attempt to examine the things that influenced those ancient writers and try to assess what they intended, while ascribing no value to the very words they penned and to which he responded, how is that different than the fundamentalists?

    • Avatar
      shakespeare66  August 18, 2014

      How is what different from the fundamentalists? Odd.

  14. Avatar
    prestonp  August 11, 2014

    “I’ve never, ever written a book that, in my opinion, is as important as this one, since the historical issues are of immense, almost incalculable importance,” Ehrman said. “The assertion that Jesus is God is arguably the single most important development in Western civilization.”
    Ehrman sees the Gospel of John, which traces the divine origins of Jesus all the way back to the beginning of creation, as belonging to a category unto itself. In this Gospel, Jesus makes overt and explicit statements about his own divinity.
    When it comes to John’s Gospel, Ehrman and some of his evangelical critics agree: The fourth Gospel should be understood as a theological treatise and an imaginative re-enactment, not an eyewitness account containing verbatim quotes.
    On “How Jesus Became God”
    John Murawski

    If jesus did not say the following, who did? In all of literature throughout the ages, about which we know, did anyone ever compose statements like these? No. At least, I am unaware of any. Who would or could walk around on the face of this planet and contrive such declarations (and be sane?). Why would they? I wonder if experts in the field of “Forensic Linguistics and Recognizing Individual Written and Spoken Word Usages” would conclude that many individuals had a hand in creating this document?

    * “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a 4Where [I] am going you know the way.”* 5Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b 7If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c 8Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g 12Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h 13And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i 14If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

    15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k 17the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l 18I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.* 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.m 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n 21Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”o 22Judas, not the Iscariot,* said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”p 23Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.q 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

    25“I have told you this while I am with you. 26The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r 27Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.s 28* You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’t If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.u 30I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world* is coming. He has no power over me, 31but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.”

    These words are the heart of the gospel. They pour forth, they gush, honest, sincere unrehearsed thoughts, feelings, instructions and promises of someone unique to this world. Dr. Bart was an active member in his congregation, partaking in various religious functions and rituals. It wasn’t until he was born again that god became real to him. (I believe that is an accurate way of stating what happened. I pray I am not putting words in his mouth. That is when he had a profound religious experience, from what he’s written and it a common experience. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, entered into him, just as promised.) This was not a fleeting, momentary happening to some teenage space cadet. And, Dr. Bart trusted this “spiritual awakening” until his late twenties.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  August 13, 2014

      Again, who said these things in what we call John 14? who said the following from john 15? Who on god’s green earth could possibly have thought of these things to attribute them to some fictitious godman? “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you, 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. 26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.”

      Can anyone identify even one human being with the potential ability to create what is written here?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2014

        There have been scores and scores of brilliant authors of deeply moving and powerful religious and philosophical works. I’d suggest you read them!

        • Avatar
          prestonp  August 13, 2014

          Like that?

        • Avatar
          prestonp  August 13, 2014

          “There have been scores and scores of brilliant authors of deeply moving and powerful religious and philosophical works. I’d suggest you read them!”

          Those people claimed to be god? and said things like, “These things I command you, that ye love one another”?

          And, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”?

          “8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things…”?

          I always thought no one else spoke like this.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2014

            I don’t think Jesus ever claimed to be God. You really should read my book How Jesus Became God.

            But there have been lots and lots of people who *have* claimed to be God, as you surely know.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 15, 2014

            Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things…

            Dr B., specifically, who wrote these words, and the others I quoted from John 14 and 15, any idea? There are plenty of scholars who wrote “deeply moving and powerful religious and philosophical work” but not these guys. They were mostly poor, non-professional scribes for the first few centuries, not brilliant scholars, from what you wrote in Misquoted.

            I have an idea. Let’s identify everything we believe Christ actually did say. Let’s build a complete record of each and every word that he spoke and add to it as we discover more and more words that can be attributed to him alone. We could approach this argument from a more balanced perspective that way, wouldn’t that make sense?No need to answer.

            I have never read or seen anything like that which we find in these verses. We read the words of a human being, known to have existed, as he’s saying farewell to his friends and companions, as their god and as god almighty. He’s eloquent. Utterly human, but much more than human, obviously. He says things that people don’t say to one another, ever. In fact, he spent his ministry saying things that confounded the well educated. Who put those words in his mouth?

            32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it[d] is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This apparent discrepancy has been resolved as have many other issues raised by textual criticism.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

            I”m not completely sure what you’re asking. The author of the Gospel of John wrote those words. Or the source that he used wrote them. I can’t think of any alternative. They almost certainly cannot be the actual words of Jesus. The Gospel was written 60 years after Jesus’ death. 60 years earlier, a the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, no one was tape-recording or even taking notes on what he said at the meal, so that after six decades someone else could write them down exactly as he said them.

        • Avatar
          prestonp  October 3, 2014

          Besides the gospel of Thomas, which fails miserably on this score, imo, who or where else, specifically can we find someone who sounds just like Christ?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 3, 2014

            I think the bigger question is how you know what Jesus sounded like. No one was recording his teachings at the time. The accounts of his words were weritten 40-60 years later. And the way he sounds in Mark is VERY different from the way he sounds in John (and in the Gospel of Thomas, or Philip, or Nicodemus, or Mary, or … take your pick)

          • Avatar
            prestonp  October 10, 2014

            “I think the bigger question is how you know what Jesus sounded like. No one was recording his teachings at the time. The accounts of his words were weritten 40-60 years later. And the way he sounds in Mark is VERY different from the way he sounds in John (and in the Gospel of Thomas, or Philip, or Nicodemus, or Mary, or … take your pick)” Dr. Bart

            I have read and reread what he said many, many, many times. I have studied the words attributed to him intensely. Reading is a passion of mine and I’m not altogether unfamiliar with how others express themselves verbally.

            We have no credible evidence that his words were not written down soon after he spoke them. Ms. Hezser has written that well to do people of that time could afford to and did have such people writing down what was said immediately after it was spoken.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 10, 2014

            Yes, if you assume that the words in the Gospels are the words that Jesus really spoke, you don’t have much of a problem!

          • Avatar
            prestonp  October 12, 2014

            “Yes, if you assume that the words in the Gospels are the words that Jesus really spoke, you don’t have much of a problem!” Dr. Bart

            I made no such assumptions. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It just wasn’t possible 1. that god existed. 2. that he had a kid. 3. that his kid visited planet earth. 4. that he loved us. 5 that he died to set me free from me. 6. that any kind of true record existed. 7. at best we had a santa claus nut running around back then. In fact there were many of them. that’s what I believed when I opened that book

            COULD NOT BE TRUE.

        • Avatar
          prestonp  October 12, 2014

          “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love”

          “There have been scores and scores of brilliant authors of deeply moving and powerful religious and philosophical works. I’d suggest you read them!” Dr. Bart

          I have not found a single example of someone who spoke like this guy, nor have I seen anyone quoted who sounds anything like him, either. I don’t know what kind of scholarly discipline it is called, or even if there is one, but it is fascinating to come to understand that his words are indeed, “the unmatched expression” as an argument for his divinity.
          (“Divine non-criticism”, perhaps?)
          Not one of these many brilliant, powerful, deeply moving authors has produced anything like the gospel of John has he?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 13, 2014

            It is important to notice that “he” doesn’t sound like this in Matthew, Mark, or Luke either. Also: you’ll notice that John the Baptist sounds just like “him” in the fourth Gospel. And so does the narrator. Why is that? They are not three different voices. They are all the voice of the author.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  October 13, 2014

            “It is important to notice that “he” doesn’t sound like this in Matthew, Mark, or Luke either. Also: you’ll notice that John the Baptist sounds just like “him” in the fourth Gospel. And so does the narrator. Why is that? They are not three different voices. They are all the voice of the author.” Dr Bart

            Dr Bart, would you cite some examples, please?

            Imo, John was a melancholic or he had a melancholic personality, if that is more accurate. He viewed the world and everyone in it from that inborn perspective, He was very sensitive. He was a “feeling oriented” man who valued human relationships and interactions above all else.

            Say General Schwarzkopf and Michelangelo lived 2,000 years ago and had gotten to know jesus, or of him, and set out to describe him. Can you see how differently their views of him might have been expressed?

          • Bart
            Bart  October 15, 2014

            The lines you cited from John do not sound anything like Jesus sounds in any of the other Gospels. You cited the examples yourself! As to the three sounding the same. Ask yourself: who is talking in John 3:13-15? Who is talking in John 3:16-18? How do you know? And consider JB’s words in John 1.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  October 13, 2014

            The brilliant, spiritually powerful and deeply moving authors to whom you refer did not emerge from that time and place, did they? None of them wrote about a godman sharing his life with others with radically different ideas like jesus, did he?

            Off topic a bit: Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage blew me away.

    • Avatar
      shakespeare66  August 18, 2014

      You banter around with words that make no point. You assume the reader of your comments will discover the point in your verbal wanderings. Make a point.

  15. Avatar
    prestonp  August 12, 2014

    “My argument is with the intelligent Christian people who check their intelligence at the door when they enter the church, who think that it makes sense to have a sophisticated view of the world when it comes to their investments, their business practices, their politics, their medical preferences – but not when it comes to their religion.”
    Dr. Bart The Religion of a Sixteen-Year-Old

    At the beginning of every season, Jack Nicklaus took time out to return to the basics of the game and stayed there until he was confident in his grip, his stance, his set up routine, his putting, his turn, etc. Vince Lombardi ran the sweep in practice until Kramer, Thurston and Hornung consistently could go full speed and get their footing within one half inch of the route he designed for them to take. Over and over and over and again and again, repeatedly, and then again and again…It was their bread and butter. The play they relied upon to gain a chunk of yardage, no matter what. Off of it they built various formations and complex plays and passing schemes, even a few trick plays. In fact, Lombardi boasted that opponents might very well know what play the Packers would run next (some version of the sweep). Didn’t matter. They would simply run it perfectly. The point is we can grow, and we must grow, but we don’t have to shed the foundation.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 12, 2014

      But if Jack Nicklaus played golf the way he did when he was sixteen, for his entire life, he never would have won a *single* golf tournament, let alone a major, let alone 18 majors! And if Lombardi coached when he was 40 the way he would have when he was 16, he never would have been the most awe-inspiring figure in football coaching history….

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 12, 2014

        Ha! on a more serious note, Dr. Bart wasn’t delusional or susceptible to brain washing or hocus pocus magical thinking. How was the burden lifted? How did he connect in such a powerful fashion to the universe in a way never known to him? Why have multitudes proclaimed they too found the same kinds of things? “For me, at the time, it felt like an enormous relief, a lifting of burden, a sense of connecting with the universe in a way I never had before. Very powerful!” Dr. Bart to this day maintains this was a very real, very significant, true experience for him. Burden lifted. Enormous relief. A sense of connecting with the universe. How did it happen?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2014

          There’s really no difficulty explaining religious experience psychologically. You may want to read some psychological literature, starting with William James!

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 13, 2014

            I agree with James that many of us may experience a variety of special states of mind for different reasons. No doubt. That doesn’t disprove the born again experience. Dr. Bart, what happened to you? When you say you were born again, did god become real to you, or no?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2014

            Of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t have remained a Christian. But there really is no difficulty in explaining Christian conversion — or conversion to Judaism, or Islam or Krishna or to any other religious view/person on psychological grounds.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 22, 2014

            Dr. Bart, what happened to you? When you say you were born again, did god become real to you, or no?

            Bart Ehrman August 15, 2014
            Of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t have remained a Christian. But there really is no difficulty in explaining Christian conversion — or conversion to Judaism, or Islam or Krishna or to any other religious view/person on psychological grounds.

            God became real to you, not something psychological. It wasn’t a conversion to christianity that became real to you. God, himself, revealed to you, Bart, that he was REAL, in the present tense. Experiencing God cannot be explained away on psychological grounds, or any other grounds, can he?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 22, 2014

            I think I’d rather that we focus principally on the historical study of early Christianity. I occasionally say things here about what I believe, or used to believe, but it’s not really the central feature of the blog.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 23, 2014

            “Why Join Bart’s Blog?
            As a member, you will gain full access to read Bart’s thoughts and dialogue with him about his books, debates, beliefs and more! All membership fees will be used in full to aid the poor in the most difficult living conditions.”

            Dr. Bart, If you prefer not to go in depth about your beliefs, that is ok. I have no desire to be a thorn in your side. I do think, in light of the promised benefits upon joining your blog, and your very warm and open, personal style of communicating, not sharing with your audience the details of your transformative shift from knowing god is real to denying that fact, is quite a let down.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 23, 2014

            I have gone into considerable depth into my beliefs in my books and on the blog. I just don’t want to keep repeating the same things about it — with so many other issues that we could be addressing.

  16. Avatar
    prestonp  August 12, 2014

    Nicklaus won the Tri-State High School Championship (Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana) at the age of 14 with a round of 68, and also recorded his first hole-in-one in tournament play the same year. At 15, Nicklaus shot a 66 at Scioto Country Club, (Site of five Major Tournaments: 1926 U.S. Open. 1931 Ryder Cup. 1950 PGA Championship. 1968 U.S. Amateur. 1986 Senior Open.) which was the amateur course record, and qualified for his first U.S. Amateur. He won the Ohio Open in 1956 at age 16, highlighted by a phenomenal third round of 64, competing against professionals. In all, Nicklaus won 27 events in the Ohio area from age 10 to age 17.

    Lombardi “went to church 365 days of the year. He never missed.” In fact, while he coached the Packers, he not only attended church every day, but also served as the altar boy (as an adult)… Lombardi often shared his beliefs with players and coaches….

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 13, 2014

      I’m not sure what your point is. My point is that if you stay where you were as a sixteen year old, you will be a stunted adult.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 13, 2014

        Nicklaus was a phenomenon before he was 16! I am approaching this lightheartedly. My point is this: I don’t have to become “sophisticated” and “more advanced” in every area of my life to prove that I’m a growing, fully-involved adult. To grow and to develop as a human being who follows him means that I will become more like him as I pass through young adulthood, midlife and old age. Initial contact with god is exhilarating for many. We are “high on Christ” some say. We are not meant to stay forever in that state of pure ecstasy. Nor do we need to deny the wonder of it to be able to move forward.

        Dr., I am just saying that followers aren’t supposed to rot after conversion, but that doesn’t mean we have to study and interpret the new testament in a more “modern”, a more “sophisticated” fashion, necessarily. Truth is truth, wherever it originates and wherever it takes us. I may fear the outcome, but if god is god, can’t he lead me into more truth that confirms his presence and reality when I encountered him at first? If he is not the real deal, he wasn’t then and he cannot be now. If he was then, he is now. IMO, anyway. Dr. Bart, no one can or will interpret “the book” perfectly, imo, and we don’t have to, at least in terms of enjoying friendship with god. I think as we learn and grow, we find he is more interested in sharing life with us as a co-traveler, a co-creator, happy to be as intimate with us as we want to be. Don’t mean to preach. Trying to point out that we are designed to keep maturing, as you say, just in a different realm.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 14, 2014

        “I’ve never, ever written a book that, in my opinion, is as important as this one, since the historical issues are of immense, almost incalculable importance, Ehrman said. “The assertion that Jesus is God is arguably the single most important development in Western civilization.”

        Whose assertion? A multitude of anonymous scribes over 15 centuries who spun a ridiculous tale based on unreliable 50 to 70 year old oral traditions from the first century? How and why did their various assertions challenge anyone to do or to think anything of significance? I mean, how did they manage to pull off such a huge fraud? Their assertion arguably is the most important development in the history of the development of the West? (Not to mention the same assertions enormous impact on the East.) All kinds of nuts were running around back then claiming all kinds of things. For centuries, some have asserted that Santa is real. All kinds of myths have been perpetuated throughout the millennia. What makes Dr. Bart and many others believe this “assertion” about jesus rises to such an extraordinary level?

        If you don’t believe in miracles, these unknown, non-professional scribes, who were biased and unrelated, these lying forgerers separated by thousands of years and concocted this absolute nonsense conning the western world, might make you think twice.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2014

          The assertion that Jesus is God is made and has been made by most Christians from the first century down until today. I’m not completely sure what you’re objecting to.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 15, 2014

            If you are correct, there’s no valid reason to believe that jesus was god. So, how did they con the world? How did they pull off a hoax that revolutionized the world? The written stories about jesus were embellished, modified, and altered repeatedly over the centuries and were the product of hear-say. So, how did they manage to fool so many for so long? If they had tried to do create a story that would have such phenomenal results, they couldn’t.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

            No, I completely disagree. Intelligent and thoughtful Christians have substantial reason for thinking Jesus is God. I just disagree with them. My book is not about whether Jesus is God. It’s about how the idea that he is God arose and developed. Those are two very different things.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 16, 2014

            Are you referring to the assertions we find in the new testament?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

            I’m not sure what you’re referring to. (When I get comments for moderatoin, they do not include the comments on which the comments are commenting on — so you need to make sure you explain what you’re referring to)

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 17, 2014

            Right from the start, one gets the impression Ehrman’s Jesus is a truncated version construed by a historical-critical scholar—and an unduly skeptical one at that. This isn’t only Ehrman the historian; it’s also Ehrman the ex-believer and notorious skeptic. [3]

            From beginning to end Ehrman dichotomizes between faith and reason, history and theology, the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. [4] With such premises in place, the outcome of his historical research is predictable: Jesus never claimed to be God; he viewed himself as an apocalyptic prophet (echoes of Albert Schweitzer); and his followers never considered him to be God either. In customary fashion, Ehrman assigns the emergence of the notion of Jesus’ divinity to the latest possible date. He asserts ancient people frequently thought of a particular human as a god or of a god having become human, so there’s nothing unique about Christians’ claim that Jesus was divine. [5]

            How Jesus Became God

            Bart D. Ehrman | Review by: Andreas Köstenberger

            While Dr. B. is unusually gracious and attempts to be fair to all sides, unfortunately Kostenberger is correct. His commitment to skepticism is as strong or stronger than any fundamentalist’s devotion. It is his religion and his god. Dr. B. is so smart (perhaps too smart) and articulate it is easy to ignore his weaknesses. One expects him to be practically perfect in everything he tackles as a scholar, to recognize his faults and to modify his positions accordingly.

            He’s only human, after all, and though a remarkably talented one, he’s prone to all the weaknesses which challenge the rest of us. George Will uses a line that applies here. To accept Dr. B’s view, we have to overlook volumes of data and common sense.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

            This seems to be mainly name-calling and branding to me. If there are substantive points that can refute my position, I’d rather deal with those.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 20, 2014

            When we consider what you believe to be overwhelming evidence that the new testament is a farce, a forgery, a twisted batch of distortions based on unreliable 60 year old collections of hear-say, how can anyone assign any significance to it? After decades of research, you have proven it does not represent what most christians claim it does: a revelatory expression of god’s incarnation. Therefor, any assertion or claim that the new testament presents the case that Christ is divine must fail. It does no such thing. Isn’t that your position?

            I am reading your books and related material. My questions remain.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 20, 2014

            No, just the opposite. I maintain that the NT *does* present Christ as divine.

        • Avatar
          shakespeare66  August 17, 2014

          The Christian world is doing the asserting that Jesus was God. Who else is making that assertion? Muslims? Jews? Hindus? Where is the proof that Jesus was God or the son of God? So what is your point?

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 24, 2014

            What substantial reasons do christians have for believing in Christ according to Dr. Bart, do you know?

    • Avatar
      shakespeare66  August 17, 2014

      I cannot for the life of me understand where you are going with these arguments. The point is that as one investigates the truth of any matter, one’s mind changes over the course of that investigation. I used to think certain things about Shakespeare until I read a great deal more about his life and his work at the Globe.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 20, 2014

        I cannot for the life of me understand where you are going with these arguments. The point is that as one investigates the truth of any matter, one’s mind changes over the course of that investigation. I used to think certain things about Shakespeare until I read a great deal more about his life and his work at the Globe.

        As some investigate this matter, they become more certain that Christ is god.

  17. Avatar
    prestonp  August 16, 2014

    “I”m not completely sure what you’re asking. The author of the Gospel of John wrote those words. Or the source that he used wrote them. I can’t think of any alternative.” Dr. B.

    The original account given in John was altered and added to and subtracted from depending on the scribes who copied it, in your opinion, I thought.

    “They almost certainly cannot be the actual words of Jesus. The Gospel was written 60 years after Jesus’ death. 60 years earlier, a the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, no one was tape-recording or even taking notes on what he said at the meal, so that after six decades someone else could write them down exactly as he said them.” Dr. B.

    What he said on that occasion, and every other time he opened his mouth, could have been written down at any moment after he spoke them. Maybe someone did take notes at the last supper. The “many” Luke refers to in chapter 1 may include some of those present at that meal. They were free to record everything they could remember, whenever and wherever they could. We have no reason to believe they would wait 60 years to begin jotting down their recollections of what was said and had occurred. Just the opposite. The earliest band of followers were supercharged to tell the world, everyone/anyone/all who would listen to them, or read what they wrote, concerning those things that had taken place in that obscure tiny dot on planet earth.

    How much scripture did you memorize after your religious experience?

    If you peer back in time and observe them (silently from the shadows) you can tell they were absolutely overwhelmed (smitten) by the reality of having spent many months hanging with the one they were certain was god, himself. They couldn’t help themselves. They engaged in every conceivable activity to inform others what they had just seen and heard and handled. 1 john 1: 1, even as you began telling everyone about what happened to you. Some were better at preaching, some organizing, some writing.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

      I memorized a number of the shorter books of the NT.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 24, 2014

        “No, I completely disagree. Intelligent and thoughtful Christians have substantial reason for thinking Jesus is God.” Dr. Bart

        Can you tell us what a few of those reasons Are? Thanks

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 25, 2014

          Personal experience. Decision to stand within a certain faith tradition. Sense of the meaning of the world.

    • Avatar
      shakespeare66  August 17, 2014

      How is your certain account of these witnesses conceivable in a time when most people were illiterate? You sound like everyone walked around with notebook and pen and paper writing down comments. How silly. No one had that ability to do so. If you had taken the time to read many of Dr. Erhman’s books, one would find how this “story” of Christ emerged through a long litany of concocted stories.

  18. Avatar
    prestonp  August 18, 2014

    Bart Ehrman August 17, 2014
    This seems to be mainly name-calling and branding to me. If there are substantive points that can refute my position, I’d rather deal with those

    I am sorry Dr. My errors.

  19. Avatar
    prestonp  August 18, 2014

    The words spoken in John 14, 15, 16 and 17 were extraordinary. In all that has ever been written down, of which we are aware, what comes closest in content and meaning? What is the most similar example that you can recall or find? Anyone?

    Dr. Bart, can a valid argument be made regarding the authenticity of certain words having been spoken by a particular individual from antiquity in part using the process of elimination?

    Do we have any good reasons to believe the followers would (or could restrain themselves) for 60 years to begin jotting down their recollections of what was said and what had occurred?

    “The Gospel was written 60 years after Jesus’ death. 60 years earlier, at the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, no one was tape-recording or even taking notes on what he said at the meal, so that after six decades someone else could write them down exactly as he said them.” Dr. B., how can we say that no one took notes or wrote down soon after the supper, what he said?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      Jesus’ own followers would not have been restraining themselves. They were illiterate. They couldn’t write down what Jesus said even if they desperately wanted to do so.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  August 20, 2014

        Ehrman’s argument that Peter and John were illiterate based
        on the use of the word !”#$%%&Therefore'() to describe the two disciples in Acts 4:13
        is unconvincing. The word !”#$%%&'() is the opposite of “#&%%&’*+), which
        is used in the NT to denote a professional scribe. , !”#$%%&'() can
        simply mean to lack rabbinical training. 7 In the context of Acts 4, the Jewish
        council is described as “#&%%&’*,) (Acts 4:5), in contrast to Peter and John
        who are !”#$%%&'(-. It is evident that the contrast is between those who have
        formal rabbinical training (the Jewish council) and those who do not (Peter
        and John). In any case, as Carson asserts, “The astonishment of the authorities
        was in any case occasioned by the competence of Peter and John when
        they should have been (relatively) ignorant, not by their ignorance when they
        should have been more competent.” 8 Moreover, most Jewish boys did learn to
        read, and since John’s family was not poor (Luke 5:3 and Mark 1:20 indicate
        his family owned boats and employed others), it is highly probable that he
        received a better-than-average education. 9 Ben Witherington responds pointedly to Ehrman’s overall argument that the first disciples were mere illiterate peasants: First of all, fishermen are not peasants. They often made a good living from the Sea of Galilee, as can be seen from the famous and large fisherman’s house excavated in Bethsaida. Secondly, fishermen were businessmen and they had to either have a scribe or be able to read and write a bit to deal with tax collectors, toll collectors, and other business persons. Thirdly, if indeed Jesus had a Matthew/ Levi and others who were tax collectors as disciples, they were indeed literate, and again were not peasants. As the story of Zaccheus makes perfectly clear, they could indeed have considerable wealth, sometimes from bilking people out of their money. In other words, it is a caricature to suggest that all Jesus’ disciples were illiterate peasants.
        JETS 54.3 (September 2011) 449–65
        DISUNITY AND DIVERSITY:
        THE BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF BART EHRMAN
        Josh Chatraw

        Dr., they could have asked others to take dictation, too. Many probably did. They were not proud. Christ had some wealthy women who supported his ministry as well. They were besides themselves with joy, preaching and sharing the good news with everyone in sight. They were overwhelmed by the same “religious experience” that meant so much to you and others you helped to find god.

        Isn’t it “illogical” or against some debating rule to make a blanket statement about what others could or couldn’t do without knowing for sure? Just look how important writing about jesus is to you, and he isn’t your god. (Now, you’re brilliant, but you could write about many topics.)

        I am convinced, in my own non-scholarly way, that it was jesus and none other, who spoke the words recorded in john 14-17. No human being thought up what was said there. It is not possible. It is a different language. The words are words we use yes, but on a different level, a different plane and from a different dimension. I don’t know how to speak that language. Nothing like it is spoken by mankind, as far as I know. At least, I have never seen anything or heard anything like it, anywhere, have you Dr.?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 20, 2014

          If you’re interested in a full discussion of the dictation theory, I’d suggest you read my extended discussion in Forgery and Counterforgery. I show there why that can probalby not account for the books we have.

          Most Jewish boys certainly did not learn how to read. Don’t take my word for it. The definitive study is Catherine Hezser, Literacy in Roman Palestine. She is quite clear and convincing on this point. On fishermen not being peasants — good grief. This is Romance, not History. I’d suggest you read up on what we know about the social context of rural Galilee.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  August 20, 2014

            If you’re interested in a full discussion of the dictation theory, I’d suggest you read my extended discussion in Forgery and Counterforgery. I show there why that can probalby not account for the books we have.

            Will do. Thanks for the reference. I just hope I get a passing grade when I’ve finished all the reading you’ve assigned to me!

            Most Jewish boys certainly did not learn how to read. Don’t take my word for it. The definitive study is Catherine Hezser, Literacy in Roman Palestine. She is quite clear and convincing on this point.

            Ok. As soon as I’ve finished my homework, remember the 37 volumes you gave me?

            On fishermen not being peasants — good grief. This is Romance, not History. I’d suggest you read up on what we know about the social context of rural Galilee.

            I will. Got to catch my breath

            Dr. Bart, let’s say fisherman were illiterate, dictation is not an option and most jewish boys were illiterate. Among his followers were tax collectors, 2 members of the Sanhedrin, several wealthy women, etc.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 21, 2014

            A tax collector was not necessarily educated; he could simply be the guy who bangs on your door telling you to pay up. And tehre were no members of the Sanhedrin among Jesus’ followers.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  October 13, 2014

            “We shall obviously never know in a clear-cut numerical way how many people were literate, semi-literate, or illiterate in the Graeco-Roman world in general, or even in any particular …”

            Catherine Hezser, Literacy in Roman Palestine.

          • Bart
            Bart  October 13, 2014

            That’s right — we will never be able to put a number on it.

      • Avatar
        prestonp  September 11, 2014

        Bart Ehrman August 19, 2014
        “Jesus’ own followers would not have been restraining themselves. They were illiterate. They couldn’t write down what Jesus said even if they desperately wanted to do so.”

        Dr. Bart, as a true scholar, (an amazing one at that) are you unaware that your statement here cannot be true? You do not Know they were illiterate. You Cannot know that, so you cannot make that an honest statement of fact, isn’t that true?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 11, 2014

          History is a matter of probabilities, not certainties. I have no trouble saying that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, even though it is only *probably* true.

          • Avatar
            prestonp  September 13, 2014

            Bart Ehrman August 19, 2014
            “Jesus’ own followers would not have been restraining themselves. They were illiterate. They couldn’t write down what Jesus said even if they desperately wanted to do so.”

            “Dr. Bart, as a true scholar, (an amazing one at that) are you unaware that your statement here cannot be true? You do not Know they were illiterate. You Cannot know that, so you cannot make that an honest statement of fact, isn’t that true?” pp

            “History is a matter of probabilities, not certainties. I have no trouble saying that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, even though it is only *probably* true.” Dr. Bart

            Would this be a more acceptable statement from an intellectual such as yourself? “Jesus’ own followers may not have been restraining themselves. They may have been illiterate. They may not have been able to write down what Jesus said even if they desperately wanted to do so.”

            Jesus’ followers may have been unable to refrain from writing all about him from the moment he called them. A few of them may have been literate. They certainly may have written down exactly what he said.

            As a scholar, as a widely respected and even a beloved, true-blue, “peoples’ scholar”, you may not have given this particular matter enough purely objective analysis, imho.

            It appears very probable that they wrote down what they heard and the world has never been the same. Their pronouncement that god dwelt among us, died and was resurrected was the most significant factor in the development of Western civilization. I agree. pp

            Unrelated, have you watched old tapes of NASA test firing the Saturn 5 rockets on the net, from Huntsville, Alabama? Got to

  20. Avatar
    prestonp  August 19, 2014

    There’s really no difficulty explaining religious experience psychologically. You may want to read some psychological literature, starting with William James! Dr. B from above.

    I cannot imagine You were somehow tricked into a psychological ruse–that you were the victim of a pseudo-spiritual experience, especially given the way you changed and the profound influence you describe it has had on your life. Some other people? Absolutely! You? Dr. Bart, that is tough to swallow. I bet most people who know even a little bit about you would say you would be the last person to be fooled by some kind of bull. “I told my friends, family, everyone about Christ,” he remembers now. “The study of the Bible was a religious experience. The more you studied the Bible, the more spiritual you were. I memorized large parts of it. It was a spiritual exercise, like meditation.” Some of those you reached out to continue to enjoy him and walk with him. Not, I expect, the kind of response we’d anticipate from normal, healthy people who rely on forged, misquoted, altered, added to, removed from, embellished and twisted words of biased boobs, primarily and originally built upon information that was 60 years old, which itself was mere hear-say and rumors– all about some obscure, uneducated, average appearing, jewish peasant who lived 2,000 years ago.

    • Avatar
      prestonp  August 19, 2014

      “In fact, as I argue in the book, the followers of Jesus had no inkling that he was divine until after his death.” Dr. B. Huffington Post on “How Jesus Became God”

      When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

      14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

      15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

      16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

        You really need to read my book.

        • Avatar
          prestonp  August 20, 2014

          I’ve been reading your books, Dr. and they are great.

          To say that his followers had no clue he was Christ before he was resurrected, when we have examples from the new testament that contradict that position, is a legitimate argument, I think. I am enjoying your books very much. haven’t found your explanation for this yet. I do think that your position that his followers were illiterate is not supported very well. To conclude that no one wrote down what he said for 60 years is a leap of faith and cannot be proven. Components of your arguments, I suggest, weaken its foundation.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

      I don’t think psychology is a matter of being tricked into ruses. The psychology of religion is a profound and complicated field. Again, I’d suggest you do some reading to help inform your opinions.

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