As many of you know, I started a podcast awhile back, called Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman.  It’s not connected with the blog, but it deals with stuff most blog members would be interested in.  (And hey, it’s free!  Available both as a podcast on all the main podcast servers and on Youtube.)

A new episode comes out every Tuesday, and it occurred to me that you might be interested in knowing what’s happening on it.  So, I’ve decided to make weekly announcements here, in case you’re interested in going there!

This past Tuesday, the topic I discussed with my host Megan Lewis, was “Was Jesus a False Prophet.”  Here’s the description, in case you’d like to check it out.

 Historical scholars for over a century have maintained that Jesus predicted that the end of history as we know it was to come in his own generation. Conservative Christians — laypeople and scholars alike — have insisted that this is a complete misportrayal of Jesus. And many people — possibly most? — believe that if Jesus really did preach this message, not only was he obviously wrong but also Christianity cannot possibly be true. A Jesus who was *demonstrably* mistaken about a central element of his preaching could not be a prophet of God, let alone the Savior of the world.

In this episode we consider the issue and its implication: did Jesus proclaim the imminent end of the world? If so, can Christian faith even be possible, let alone reasonable? Bart and Megan tackle such questions as:

-What does it mean when we say that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet?

-Were there other apocalyptic prophets in the ancient world, or was Jesus a one-off?

-Was there anything different about Jesus’ message compared to his prophetic peers?

-How were they viewed by the general population – were they taken seriously, or were they viewed in the same way that we may view people on a street corner with “the end is near” signs??

-If Jesus was anticipating that the Kingdom of God would be a physical reality before the end of his life, is it fair to say that he wasn’t expecting to be crucified?

-How do the writers of the gospels deal with this complication, and how do their reactions differ?

-Was Jesus, then, a false prophet?

-How did early Christian cults and sects deal with the world not ending?

Over $2 Million Donated to Charity!

We have two goals at Ehrman Blog. One is to increase your knowledge of the New Testament and early Christianity. The other is to raise money for charity! In fact, in 2022, we raised over $360,000 for the charities below.

Become a Member Today!

2023-05-06T11:24:48-04:00May 1st, 2023|Public Forum|

Share Bart’s Post on These Platforms


  1. fishician May 1, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    I heard you talk about the Jesus Seminar (on a God Q&A maybe?), and how they thought so many of Jesus’ recorded statements are questionable, but they also did NOT see Jesus as an apocalypticist. Well, no wonder they question so many of Jesus’ teachings: many (most?) of them don’t really make sense if you take them out of an apocalyptic context. How can you give away all your possessions unless the world is going to end soon? Likewise with giving away your clothes, or turning the other cheek. Ironic that people resist the idea that Jesus was wrong while also refusing to follow the commands Jesus taught.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:38 am

      Crossan and others argue that Jesus is better seen like a kind of Jewish Cynic philosopher who urged people to live strictly for spiritual not material things. The cynics were quite (in)famous for spurning possessions of every kind…

  2. giselebendor May 1, 2023 at 1:27 pm

    Jesus was wrong about The End,but he was right about the Temple.Maybe the prediction about the Temple was inspired by the fact that the Temple had already been destroyed before.Seeing how pronounced the zeal for redemption was all around him -including amongst some of his followers-,he could have felt,as also the Priests feared, that the breeding violence would erupt and prompt the Romans to act as the Babylonians did.It was a very reasonable prediction.Prediction is a word more attuned than « prophecy » to our many modern accepted forecasts.

    Here is what I don’t understand:

    historically, all we can establish is that Jesus existed and that he was crucified by Rome. For everything else, we assume things or make very educated guesses. Much of what he was supposed to have said or done is disputed.

    Why,then,are we so certain that he expected ,and so stated, that The End and the Kingdom would occur in his generation or the next? Couldn’t this sense of immediacy have been entered by,say,Mark, the one who so often said
    «  and immediately…. ».?
    The Resurrection is also something to be accepted on faith only.Yet Jesus predicted it, as he did his suffering.Or did he?And so on and so forth.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:39 am

      I don’t think Jeuss expected to be betrayed, tried, and crucified. He expected the Kingdom to arrive. After his death, his disciples had to make sense of it, and argued that he knew about it all along and that this was the divine plan.

      • wbhiggins May 7, 2023 at 1:40 pm

        Professor Ehrman I am confused. There are multiple verses in the Bible that read like Matthew 20:17-19. Are you saying that the disciples made this whole thing up and Jesus never really said this? If your opinion is accurate and I don’t doubt it, wouldn’t this also mean that the empty tomb story was also made up?

        • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 8:12 pm

          Yes, I think both are later traditions that are not accurate represenations of what actually happened. I don’t think at all that Jesus predicted his death and resurrection or that an empty tomb was discovered (or that he was even given a decent burial). I talk about this at some length in my book How Jesus Became God.

          • wbhiggins May 9, 2023 at 3:11 pm

            This is very interesting Professor. One more follow up if I may. I have learned from you that Paul was writing before the Gospels were written and that Paul did not write much about the life of Jesus, but I would assume that he was hearing these stories that were being circulated about Jesus. Do you think he suspected these stories were greatly exaggerated or do you think he believed them to be true?

          • BDEhrman May 11, 2023 at 6:42 pm

            Ah, tha’ts the topic of my upcoming online course, to be announced tomorrow, Paul and Jesus: the Great Divide! (May 27-28) I think there’s some genuine question about how many stories Paul had heard. A lot more than he lets on? A few more? How could he not know more? If he knows more, why doesn’t he say more? Great questions. I’m spending 8 lectures talking about them! BUT, I would say that ther’s nothing to suggest he heard some that he thought were exaggerated. I’d love to know though!

    • DavidFord May 8, 2023 at 10:26 am

      “so certain that he expected ,and so stated, that The End and the Kingdom would occur in his generation or the next?”
      The decisive end of the Old Covenant occurred by the end of A.D. 70.

      [BDEhrman]”He expected the Kingdom to arrive”
      And it did.

      Jesus Returned

      “argued that he knew about it all along and that this was the divine plan”
      Do you think the book of Daniel gives a timeline prediction about the arrival of the Kingdom?

      • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 8:43 pm

        Yes, the author of Daniel believes the end will come in his own day, with the death of Antiochus Epiphanes.

  3. tawanda May 1, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Dr. Ehrman. I listened to that episode last week, and was wondering something.
    The gospels were written much later, probably after most people who’d known the historical Jesus were dead. Do you have any theories as to why the gospel writers ommit such uncomfortable statements. More importantly, why didn’t scribes, who we already know were in the habit of doctoring manuscripts, remove stuff like “this generation shall not pass away” etc over the next couple of centuries?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:40 am

      I suppose like so many millions of Chirstians today, they had no problem understanding these predictions as being true — and about to be realized in their *own* day. Jesus was speaking to them.

      • sLiu May 7, 2023 at 9:31 am

        I love OT predictions of Jesus.

        My logic 10 years ago taking St Paul’s theory that all scripture is god breathed:

        God the Creator made sure Jesus- conveniently fit into those predictions.

        Thanks for telling that the fanaticism I grew up on was derived by JN Darby 1850s & not Biblically-based.

        As a kid, I always wondered what faithful followers of God [not Jewish] ended up before us [having perfect information to be overcomes].

        with SARS2 aka COVID pandemic, I fervently prayed 2nd God’s more faithful followers to overcome that be granted. I lost faith over my prayers over MH370.

        When I flew over from Hong Kong 2021, I repeated that Satan won [since the Chinese Communist Party is atheist] & God again ignored his faithful.

        Thanks for your commitment to us Fundamentalist Anonymous!

    • DavidFord May 8, 2023 at 10:35 am

      “The gospels were written much later, probably after most people who’d known the historical Jesus were dead”
      Which if any New Testament books were written after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70?
      Which if any NT books hint or state that Jerusalem was destroyed?

      Do you think Rev 11:1-2 was written before, or after, the temple’s destruction?

      Revelation 11 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
      1 And a reed was given to me like a rod and the Angel was standing and said, “Rise and measure the Temple of God and the altar and those who worship in it,”
      2 “And the inner court of the Temple leave out and do not measure it, because that is given to the Gentiles, and they will trample The Holy City forty two months.
      3 “And I shall grant my two witnesses to prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days while wearing sackcloth.”

      • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 8:45 pm

        Apart from the seven “undisputed” letters of Paul, all the books of the NT are generally thought to have been written after 70 CE; intimations of the destruction of the temple can be found in all four Gospels; and that fact that the enemy of God in Revelation 13 is said to be a city on seven hills named “Babylon” indicates that it was written after the destruction of the temple; so too the book of 1 Peter.

  4. 1SonOfZeus May 1, 2023 at 2:42 pm

    Dr. Ehrman, these are some of my favorite verses. Could you speak on one of these verses someday please? I just want to hear your professional opinion on what was being said. Also, it is a story of what was going on during these verses. What was going on? Thanks.

    Corinthians 15:51
    Matthew 28:3
    1 Corinthians 15:47
    Revelation 4:5

  5. MarkWiz May 1, 2023 at 4:50 pm

    Great decision to announce them here! Although I get email announcements, it’s great to have “one-stop shopping”! 😉

  6. shelleyso May 1, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Hello Dr. Ehrman, thanks for the wonderful podcast. You and Megan have done a wonderful job!!

    Given the stated purpose of speaking in parables (Mark 4:11), could the word “world” be part of “parable sayings” as well? In that case, the “old world” of Jewish-Temple-Worship did end with 70AD and the “new world” of Worship-YHWH-Anywhere-in-Spirit had already be underway at that point.

    Could the apostles be sent out to guide early Christian cults with this interpretation/understanding?

    After all “apostle” was a new “job title”, right? It wasn’t prophet or priest but a new job offer, with good pay raise hopefully, in the bigger new world of Worship-YHWH-Anywhere-in-Spirit.

    Can it be viewed this way?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:48 am

      I’d say that this is roughly Paul’s view, that the word has now gone into the world. so that all people will come to the worship of the God of Israel, Jew and Gentile.

  7. Stephen May 1, 2023 at 9:45 pm

    Re: How did early Christian cults and sects deal with the world not ending?

    Would it be overblown to say they responded to the delay of the Parousia by writing the New Testament?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 2:23 pm

      Yeah, that’s be a bit much. Most Christians dealt with it by reexplaining what it meant (“soon” by God’s calendar, not ours) or why it was delayed (God is giving people more time to repent) etc.

  8. Steefen May 1, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    Steve Campbell, author of Historical Accuracy

    To the extent ! ! !
    the biblical John the Baptist, Jesus, his brother James, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are Apocalyptic,
    their position did not materialize by AD 73 and hold for 40 years.

    Frontline/PBS: From Jesus to Christ

    “You said they were preparing the way for the Lord. What exactly were the Essenes preparing for in their mind?”

    The Essenes are what we might best call an apocalyptic sect of Judaism. … The end, as they understood it, of the present evil age is moving upon them inexorably. And they want to be on the right side when it comes. In their understanding, there will come a day when the Lord revisits the Earth with power. And in the process establishes a new kingdom for Judaism.

    “What was their expectation of what would happen?”

    The Qumran Scrolls reveal a variety of scenarios for the end of days. The most conspicuous one or the best known one perhaps, is the scroll called the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.

  9. AngeloB May 1, 2023 at 11:43 pm

    I’m a huge fan of the podcast! 🙂

  10. kt May 2, 2023 at 2:27 am

    I believe the answer to that question depends on the premises from which we approach it.

    In my mind, if we consider the “kingdom” as a physical/tangible, earthly realm and awaiting the arrival of a divine being to descend and be placed in a throne within a physical structure in the Middle East, then the answer could be, “Yes”.

    On the other hand, if we view the “kingdom” as an internal state of being, upon a premise that we were not born/created/placed into this world to be saved but rather we came out of this world to transcend it and evolve toward this spiritual “Kingdom,” then I would answer “No”.

  11. petfield May 2, 2023 at 4:32 am

    This episode was really amazing! Exciting and quite illuminating as always!
    I recently read Elaine Pagels’s “Beyond Belief” (which is supposedly -according to its subtitle, at least- about the Gospel of Thomas, but I think maybe it is more about Irenaeus!) and, in it, she points out something really interesting about the issue. Namely, that, as you mentioned on the podcast, in John’s gospel (as well as in Thomas’s) the Kingdom of God is not to come but is already here, and the author(s) of John allude to that through Lazarus’s resurrection story, where Jesus asks his sisters, Mary and Martha, if their brother is going to be resurrected, Martha responds that he will “in the last day” (11:24), but, then, Jesus goes on and resurrects him on the spot. Ms. Pagels notes that what they expect to happen in the end of time actually happens here and now! What a brilliant correlation!

  12. giselebendor May 2, 2023 at 8:29 am

    Clarification:I do believe Jesus was an apocalypticist.The End of Days was spoken about with fervor at that time.The Jews were so sick of the Romans,and all those who preceded them.There had to be something better,in the next world. Daniel must have made a great impression.

    Interesting how this idea grew from within the Judean Pharisees, Judaism’s survivors,and yet was later left out from the core beliefs,as Rabbinic Judaism became more rational,whilst the “cooler”,more rational Jews who never believed in the afterlife,the Saduccees,disappeared.

    I only question the claim that in Jesus’ prophecy the End would come in their generation. If Jesus did *not*predict the immediate End,then the apologetic “Second Coming” would not be a corrective repeat,but “ the Coming” itself,in power and glory,whenever it pleased God to bring it.
    Didn’t Jesus say that even he,the Son,could not know the time or the hour?Then which is it? Did he or didn’t he know when the End would come?Why would Mark include in his Gospel a failed prophecy?
    One could ask,for the same reason,why Mark included a naked youth at Gethsemane.Did Mark think all was well with that?Whether Morton Smith forged his passages or not,the kernel idea is in Mark,with Smith’s “Mark”passages just an expansion of what was and remained in the Gospel.

  13. RICHWEN90 May 2, 2023 at 10:09 am

    I wonder whether it might be accurate to think of Jesus as a kind of crackpot, one among many, who just happened to develop a cult following? On the one hand, it is possible to feel sorry for him, on the other hand one might well wish that he had never been born. But then people might be worshipping some other crackpot. As crackpots go, he was probably fairly benign, but what followed after his death I don’t see as benign at all.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:05 am

      I personally don’t think that’s a helpful categorization. “Crackpot” is a psychological assessment and trying to psychoanalyze someone in a completely different time, place, and culture is impossible. In 2000 years nearly everyone will think that American capitalists are “crackpots” — but in our context they’re everywhere. The problem with crackpot as a category is that it invariably means someone who is way different from you who must be off their rocker to think what they do. But that’s not a particularly useful metric!

  14. chen1988 May 2, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Dr. Ehrman, I have a general question hoping you can address (if not yet in this blog):

    We usually say Paul is the major author of NT (contributing 7 authentic books), but if just considering the volume maybe the author of Luke/Acts is competitive to Paul given both Luck and Acts are super lengthy.

    Obviously Luke knew Paul (since Paul is the hero in Acts), but Luke’s description on Paul is in many ways at odds with Paul (e.g. in Gal.). More than that, I feel Luke and Paul differ a lot in their understanding of basics for Christ, meaning of his death, path to salvation, etc. (Do you agree?)

    So, do you think Luke had access to Paul’s letters and his theology? To me, Paul is all about his Christology and there was no better way in knowing Paul other than his letters in the first century (his legendary stories must be developed later), and Luke seemed to prefer written sources (as mentioned in his Chap. 1). If so, did Luke find Paul’s theology so contradicting to his own? And if so, why Luke still described Paul as a hero (instead of someone like, a false teacher, to him)?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:11 am

      Yes, Luke wrote far more words than Paul! Nearly a fourth of the entire NT. But I don’t think Luke did konw Paul, precisely for the reason you cite. Almost everything he says about Paul is at odds in small or large ways with what Paul says about himself, when there is overlap in what they are discussing. Luke was almost certainly writing 25-30 years after Paul (at least) and knew about him, but there’s nothing to suggest that he knew the letters we have.

  15. exnikhilo May 4, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    If I understand Dr. Ehrman correctly, he stops short of calling Jesus a false prophet because that comes with severely negative connotations (deceit/maliciousness/evil). But he regards Jesus instead as a failed prophet who believed in an imminent apocalypse that did not materialize. This is in keeping with Albert Schweitzer’s view of Jesus as well. Yet Schweitzer considered himself a (liberal) Christian. I wonder how it is possible to be a devotee of someone you see as a failed prophet? I wonder if Dr. Ehrman has insight on this as well since I believe you were a liberal Christian for some period before embracing atheism?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 2:17 pm

      I don’t like the term “failed prophet” either. It seems to provide an overarching characterizatoin of a very long and complicated message simply with the term “failed.” Jesus preached lots of things, based on many ideas, views, interpretations of Scripture, and so on; one aspectd of that was a prediction that he got wrong. I’d be OK probalby with saying he made a false prophecy, and a stickler would say that this makes him a false prophet. But on those grounds, every professor you’ve ever had is a “false teacher,” but I’m not sure you’d want that to be the main way you describe / characterize them.

      • chen1988 May 5, 2023 at 4:38 pm

        Thanks for your answer about Luke vs Paul!

        Based on your analysis, yes, I think it makes sense that Luke does not know Paul in person and had no access to Paul’s letters (more likely than he did read Paul’s letters and still describe him as a hero although their theologies differ so much).

        Does this mean, at the time of Luke (end of first century?) There are already legends about Paul circulating around Christians, which differ so much from Paul’s own theology (or at least missed the key message of Paul’s theology, such as believing the death and resurrection (alone) brings salvation)? If Paul came back to life and saw Lukan Christians in Luke’s community, cannot imagine what Paul would call them…

        • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 11:20 am

          Oh yeah. There were legends and false reports about Paul’s life and teaching already in his day. He writes the letter to the Romans to correct a number of them that he knows are circulating in Rome.

  16. dankoh May 5, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    The Synoptics, to varying degrees, all say Jesus (and John B before him) were proclaiming the imminent end of the world. But when I get to John, the nearest I can find is John 5:25-29, which is (to my mind) deliberately vague. And the Baptist never says anything about the kingdom being at hand. Is there anywhere in John where he is more specific about the end of world about to happen? (I think not, but wanted to double-check.)

    • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 11:17 am

      Nope, that’s basically the one remnant of an apocalyptic view in John,. He’s gotten rid of it all otherwise, and some places ispeicalitly (e.g. his discussion with martha in John 11).

  17. meohanlon May 5, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    Dr. Ehrman (and fellow bloggers),
    Why presume the view of Jesus as a cynic sage vs. apocalyptic prophet are mutually exclusive?
    As I see it, both you and Crossan could be correct.
    He may have preached wisdom teachings and perhaps a more nuanced vision of God’s kingdom than we give him credit for (mustard seed parable for instance, which doesn’t strike me as being particularly apocalyptic). Believing these things to be valuable in and of themselves, he may also have been somewhat convinced of an immanent world-transformation (possibly pre-staged by apocalyptic upheaval, that he thought necessary).
    Perhaps he believed different things at different stages, or felt he needed to customize his message for which ever audience he had at the time. Was his view distinctly different from John’s or did he see himself merely as the torch-bearer of John’s message? Did he see himself, and his following as being the catalyst that would usher in the kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven? (according to the famous prayer – which btw, didn’t he credit that one to John any way?)
    If you can address any of these questions (especially, most centrally the first one), I’d be greatly appreciative!

    • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 11:21 am

      Yes, I think he could have had some Cynic tendencies, even though he was an apocalyptic prophet. Crossan states it as a strong either/or. My view, though, is that Jesus would not have been *influenced* by Cyunic philosophers/philosophy since in rural Galilee he would not have *heard* of them/it there.

  18. DShields May 7, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    Bart, you mentioned in the podcast that you are reading the works of the Greek and Roman moral philosophers. I want to point out that Prof. Luke Timothy Johnson has an excellent course on this subject for The Great Courses titled, Practical Philosophy: The Greco-Roman Moralists.

    • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 8:10 pm

      Yup! Thanks. Back in Luke’s Yale days, that was a bit of a rage, between Wayne Meeks and Abe Malherbe!

Leave A Comment