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Two Brief Comments on intriguing topics: the unknowability of God and scholarly subterfuge!


Several commentors on my post about the imperceptibility of a superior divine being have pointed out that Christians commonly talk about God as beyond our comprehension.  Yes indeed!!  When I was a fundamentalist we too used to say, all the time, that “God is far beyond anything we can imagine.”  And then we would go on and list his characteristics and attributes!  🙂



Several people have pointed out to me an article in the Guardian that deals at length with the fiasco of first-century Mark that I’ve talked about on the blog (again recently)  It really is a fine piece worth your reading:  https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/jan/09/a-scandal-in-oxford-the-curious-case-of-the-stolen-gospel?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other


Guest Post by James Tabor: The Historian and the Supernatural
A Revelatory Moment about “God”



  1. Avatar
    Pegill7  January 13, 2020

    I don’t think that I have violated any of your rules for posting a comment but once again my post has been deleted. What am I doing wrong?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2020

      I don’t recall deleting your post, but if you’ll send it to me as an email I’ll explain. The rules are pretty simple: as long as the post is relevant to the blog and not on something else (e.g., views of Trump, one way or the other) and are not disrespectful, crude, or snarky — I post them! I post 99%. More I suppose!

      • Avatar
        Boltonian  January 17, 2020

        I have had one not posted recently. It is the first time it has happened that I can recall. I don’t think there was a question for you so it might not have been sufficiently relevant.

  2. Avatar
    Zak1010  January 13, 2020

    Dr Ehrman,

    You are absolutely correct and right on Que if you use the Bible as a foundation for your conclusions.
    However, in other traditions, God is not characterized. To characterize means to define and to define makes it one of a kind and God is not one of a ‘kind’. God has Names and Attributes… hence uniqueness; a term used by early followers of Jesus, before the Church Fathers cherry picked the Canon characterizing God. Creation can not rise to the level of Divinity unless it becomes divine ( can not happen ), nor can creation have the intuitive apprehension to experience that concept. It contradicts or conflicts with God’s Uniqueness.

    Due to the controversies in Christianity about the substance or essence of Jesus, one seems to think that they can use the same rational with God. God’s essence can not be known.

    To know that you can not know…… ???

    • Avatar
      AndrewJenkins  January 15, 2020

      “We travel not for trafficking alone;
      By hotter winds our hearts are fanned:
      For lust of knowing what should not be known
      We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.”

  3. Avatar
    fishician  January 13, 2020

    Regarding the difficulty of perceiving a superior divine being, the same would apply to the God of the Bible, if He indeed exists! Perhaps He is unable to perceive the being above Him and mistakenly thinks He is the God to be worshiped. This is not a new idea: early theologian Marcion thought the god of the OT was an inferior god, which is why the world is so messed up, and Jesus came to teach us about the truly superior God. But then you could take it a step further – maybe Jesus’ God is not the superior one, either…and up the chain you keep going!

  4. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  January 14, 2020

    Thanks for the link. It is indeed a very good read.

  5. Lev
    Lev  January 14, 2020

    The Guardian article really is an eye-opening, jaw-dropping and an astonishing take on the FCM scandal. I suspect it will be used in future as the archetype to which any other scholarly scandals are compared.

    Bart – would you consider sharing some more reflections on this in future?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2020

      I’m not sure what more I have to say! Have you seen my blog posts on it?

      • Lev
        Lev  January 15, 2020

        I have, but I suspect the story isn’t over yet!

        We don’t yet know if Obbink was trying to steal, sell and cover his tracks, or – as he claims – it was all a misunderstanding and those purchase agreements were faked in an attempt to frame him.

        Aside from the Green’s rethinking their purchases, have you detected any impact this scandal has had on wider scholarship? I note that the article claims Obbink was seen as a most trustworthy scholar – beyond reproach perhaps – and I wonder if the automatic trust scholars would otherwise command has been eroded somewhat?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 16, 2020

          Yes, I don’t know what actually happened, any more than the next person. But the people whom I know who are very close to the situation think that he did it intentionally. No, I think mot scholars think this is a case of a loose cannon, not a complete infiltration of the ranks.

  6. Avatar
    nichael  January 14, 2020

    As a brief footnote with regard to the recent discussion, the following question appeared on an episode of “University Challenge” (Ser39, Ep23) which I saw last night:

    Question: First publicly coined in 1869 at the London meeting of the Metaphysical Society by T. H. Huxley, what term refers to the doctrine that humans cannot know of the existence of anything beyond the phenomena of their own experience?

    Answer: Agnosticism

    [P.S. At the risk of wandering off topic, for those who might not know the British quiz show “University Challenge” I highly recommend it. It can be found on YouTube, and I think many folks here might find it interesting.]

    {P.P.S. T[homas] H[enry] Huxley was also known by many as “Darwin’s Bulldog”.]

  7. Avatar
    veritas  January 14, 2020

    Thanks to those who brought forward this story on the Guardian, 70 million dollars is a lot of money spent by the Greens. Interesting but not surprising. No one has been charged, hard to make of who’s guilty. Mr. Obbink sounds like is living well. A couple of questions. 1) Bart, were your questions ever answered in regards to this fragmented Mark manuscript,originally posed to Daniel Wallace? And is this artefact surfaced yet for scholars to observe and if so, would it change anything else, as historical evidence, besides becoming the oldest manuscript? Lastly, it must of been difficult watching LSU come back against Clemson. I am an Ohio State fan and I can’t believe Joe Burrow was let go by them in 2018. Wow, what a change!.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2020

      1. yes, it is published, and the publication is what raised the scandal. I give the information about it in a blog post: probably easiest just to search for first-century mark; 2. Yeah, I went to bed at half time. Had to teach the next morning, and sway wehre it was going. Was Burrow let go, or did he transfer because they were to thick to realize how good he was?

      • Avatar
        veritas  January 15, 2020

        He transfered on his own choosing (LSU). The story goes he was injured in 2017 as a backup to Barrett, and Haskins came in for backup. In 2018 he was in a battle for the positon and decided to leave. Overcrowded, I think. Maybe felt Haskins would be the choice.

  8. Avatar
    crt112@gmail.com  January 14, 2020


    I really enjoy links to bible/jesus related articles in the secular media.They help add the perspective of the wider public.
    Please keep including them. 🙂

    • Avatar
      crt112@gmail.com  January 14, 2020

      Me again – this article is an excellent intro to the weird and wonderful world that Bart lives in !! 😉

  9. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  January 19, 2020

    A God beyond anything we can imagine is kind of scary. It implies that God is also beyond anything we can understand. So we think we understand justice and mercy but God might stand all of that on its head– HIS justice and mercy might be unrecognizable. If that’s the case, it really is not very reassuring in terms of what one might expect in an afterlife. Of what use is a God more alien than the alien in “Alien”– at least that horrific thing was understandable in human terms. Compared to God, that chest-bursting monster might seem cuddly and sweet!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 20, 2020

      Well, I would assume at least that he’d be better looking….

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