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Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: February 18, 2016

 

Here is the weekly Readers’ Mailbag, three questions this time – one about my  alleged “support of Islam against Christianity,” one about why we think the NT Gospels were originally written in Greek, and one about what I mean when I talk about the views held by the majority of “critical” scholars (as opposed to what other kind of scholar?)?

Feel free to ask questions you have; some I will not be able to get to (either because I don’t know the answer or because the answer is a one-liner instead of a two-paragrapher or for some other reason); and the list is always growing (making it harder and harder to answer them all).  But give it a shot!  I love to hear your questions.

 

COMMENT:  [After pointing out that whoever said I was about ready to convert to Islam was obviously makin’ in up, or influenced by someone else who was makin’ it up, this Muslim reader commented as follows:]  Anyways, that won’t stop us from using your awesome arguments against Christianity. You confirmed like 99% of Islamic belief about Jesus without even resorting to the Quran. That is pretty impressive and no wonder Muslims flock to your blog and FB.

RESPONSE:  I’m completely happy for my work to be used by Muslims.  Or by Mormons.  Or by Jews.  Or by Buddhists.  Or by Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, or anyone else.   But I have to say that I do not see my scholarship as advancing the agenda of any of these groups.  I’m simply engaged in historical scholarship.  I do not think that the Qur’an has any particular insights about the historical Jesus that are to be taken as independent reports by historical scholars.  Neither does any other historical scholar that I know (or anyone who works seriously on the historical Jesus).

And I doubt very much that my views coincide with 99% of Islamic belief about Jesus.  For one thing, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was physically crucified and died on the cross.  That is rock-bottom certain in my books.  And it stands completely odds with standard Islamic beliefs.

Finally, I do not, I decidedly do not, see my work as involving ANY …

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Christ as Son of God in Mark’s Gospel
The Son of God, the Council of Nicea, and the Da Vinci Code

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Comments

  1. Adam0685  February 18, 2016

    You noted that “you can be opposed to fundamentalist Christianity without being opposed to Christianity […] not a single piece of my biblical scholarship contradicts Christian thinking as properly conceived.” How do you define the Christianity you’re scholarship is not contrary to? Is this definition of Christianity different from early Christianity/Christianities? In other words, is the Christianity that your work is not contrary to a modern version different from how Christianity was defined in the period you study (to the fourth century)?




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 20, 2016

      Christianity is belief in Christ for salvation. It’s not belief in the Bible.




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      • Rick
        Rick  February 21, 2016

        I have for some time wondered about academic work to anonymously categorize what Christians really believe. I grew up in a very liberal Methodist church (which to this day shares a joint Thanksgiving service with the reform Temple close by); and, early on believed much of the NT were just stories. Much later, at a more centrist Episcopal Church with my wife, I found myself saying the Nicene Creed and …. stopped because I suddenly felt it inappropriate to stand there and lie. I decided I had adopted a quasi or cosmetic Christianity in which Jesus was a very spiritual nice guy warranting being followed.




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      • Omar6741  February 22, 2016

        If Christianity is not belief in the Bible, then when did the belief in the Bible’s infallibility become important to Christians? Was it at the Reformation?




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 23, 2016

          Strictly speaking it was at the end of the 19th century at the Niagara Conferences.




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  2. Wael Ibrahim  February 18, 2016

    I am a Muslim myself and here is my input regarding what you said on Jesus’ crucifixion in this article:
    ” I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was physically crucified and died on the cross. That is rock-bottom certain in my books. And it stands completely odds with standard Islamic beliefs.”

    Actually the Quran does not conflict with the historical fact that “someone” was indeed crucified and people called him Jesus. But how can we actually prove “historically” that this man was in fact the same Jesus of Nazareth the son of Mary? No one can tell.

    Here is what the Quran specifically mentioned: “And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.”But they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but it was made to appear to them so. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.” Quran 4:157

    So here we are told that Jesus was not really crucified or killed but the entire scene was MADE TO APPEAR to the people so, and that’s why it was recorded in history. But the fact is, we are told that he was not killed no crucified.

    So the Quran does not conflict the historical records here [because people have seen “someone” was put on the cross], however there was a correction being made as well that the whole event was made to appear to those who wanted to kill him.

    I hope that made sense 🙂




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  3. spiker  February 18, 2016

    Great stuff! Do you think the Koran suffers from the same problems as the NT? I suspect that while the problems aren’t as big, they are stil there. Does anyone know the number of variants, if any.
    Just found an interesting review on Larry Hurtado’s site https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/textual-criticism-the-new-testament-and-the-quran/




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 20, 2016

      I think there are probably problems with the Qur’an, but they would be different kinds of problems from the NT. But I’m not an expert.




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      • MMahmud  February 21, 2016

        I’ve read through that blog post. It almost seemed like the Evangelical who did the study threw up his hands and said “oh well, there are no variations I could find but there definitely must have been since early Islamic tradition attests to it” while conveniently neglecting to mention that literally every single scholar on earth knows about these variations, agrees on these variations and that it has been known from the earliest Muslims that the Messenger S recited the Quran in different ways. In fact literally today some Muslims recite a certain phrase “King of the day of recompense”(Maliki yawm id deen) and others “Owner of the day of recompense”(Maaliki yawm id deen).

        Very typical unfortunately of certain “researchers” to conveniently leave out what isn’t very convenient to their theology.

        Professor Larry Hurtado does not seem particularly well acquainted with the fellow who conducted that “study.”

        As for variants, currently about 10 have been passed down authentically. They still exist on paper and some Muslims still recite them.

        However one has become predominant (Hafs) and this along with the next most popular recitation (Warsh) comprise 90+% of the Muslim world.

        In any case, this does not in the slightest dampen the Muslim claim that the recitations today are exactly recitations recited by the Messenger of God S himself.

        It’s unfortunate that disingenuous “scholars” are propped up as “the brave new guys who will finally study the Muslims book and tell them the news they don’t want to hear.”

        I think this points to a greater need for Muslim preachers in the West to get educated and publicly debate(and rip to shreds) the meager arguments of those desperate to portray Islam as flawed.

        We are more than eager to directly refute the false claims of such people, publicly.




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    • Omar6741  February 21, 2016

      The existence of variants means something different in Quranic studies than it does in other fields of textual research, since it is unanimously accepted by Muslim scholars that some degree of variation was a self-conscious and well-attested part of the original revelation of the Quran.
      Any particular variant is accepted as authentic only if it is transmitted by reliable authorities, it agrees with Arabic grammar, and it accords with the original written codices. Once it meets those conditions, it *has* to be accepted as revealed; if it doesn’t, there is room for discussion about the reading.
      There is no doubt whatsoever, as far as Muslim scholarship is concerned, about the fact that the readings found in the publically available copies of the Quran are definitely authentic; nothing in non-Muslim Western scholarship has cast doubt on this position, (though you *know* that is what they would love to do:-)).
      The mere existence of variants in some copy or other, then, does not cast doubt on the text as known and recited by Muslims generally.




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  4. Stephen  February 18, 2016

    Prof Ehrman

    I’ve enjoyed your posts on the historical development of the ideas and controversies that led to the concept of the Trinity. However I’ve noticed that the Father and the Son do seem to absorb most of the available bandwidth in these sorts of discussions. There remains the Other Guy, the mysterious personage known as the Holy Spirit(or the Holy Ghost, being raised as I was rural Southern Baptist).

    Would you consider devoting a post or series of posts to the Third Person in the Trinity?

    In the meantime, can you recommend an authoritative text (or texts) in your field that you would assign your students if you were conducting a seminar on the subject?

    I thank you!




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 20, 2016

      Yes, the Holy Spirit and discussion about it tend to take a back seat in the trinitarian discussions. You might look at the book on Nicaea by Lewis Ayres.




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  5. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  February 19, 2016

    The impression I get when conversing with Muslims is that they seem to view you as their primary spokesperson for bringing “the truth” to Christians as well as the general public. They quote your books and blog posts to prove that Christianity is a false religion. Some of them make incorrect inferences from your blog posts. One example is a thread from last year about the discovery of the Qur’an fragments. Some Muslims have read it and somehow think you’re endorsing the Qur’an or studying it or more interested in it than you’re letting on or even realize.




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    • MMahmud  February 21, 2016

      Bart has made it clear he is not interested in Islam.

      Many Muslims are not well versed in English and can get a wrong impression from what Bart is saying. Heck, many blog readers misunderstand issues such as what is historical vs. theological and so on.




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  6. MMahmud  February 19, 2016

    Woo so honored my comment comes up here, not even a question lol. How often does that happen? (Maybe a lot I never notice) I must be special!!!! Thank you for the mention.

    Also fun to get called a fanatic or exaggerating by other Muslims but I suppose that is inevitable.

    Anyways, I HAVE affirmed probably more than once that Islam is opposed to the “historical fact” of Jesus AS getting crucified or killed on the cross.

    Of course this is NOT historical because a non-Muslim historian is not about to take God as a witness-non Muslims don’t believe in Allah in the first place. And we can’t exactly have history discussions if we are all affirming the claims of one religion.

    I accept that Islam is making a demand of faith-not what I would consider a big leap of faith but still a demand of faith.

    As for 99% well-yes! Considering you literally argue that his exaltation to son of God, God and the trinity were all claimed by Christians after him and that the historical Jesus would have been totally unaware of these developments-I think considering how audacious those claims are and how integral they are to Christianity and how opposed they are to what Muslims claim, I can’t help but say this is 99% of Muslim belief of Jesus affirmed by you Bart!! In front of “The Messiah is God!!!”, crucifixion is minor.

    What is our job after you? Convince people he wasn’t killed? Convince people he warned about hell? I stand by what I said despite insults from other Muslims-you’ve done more of a job for us than for any other religion on earth. And seeing as we are the second largest, yeah it is a big deal!

    I don’t remember EVER claiming that the Quran is a *historical* source for the life of Jesus AS. Accurate? Certainly since it comes from God Himself it is more accurate than any Christian manuscript that has been preserved or anything a historian or heck, even a living disicple could inform us about.

    But historical? I don’t remember making that argument EVER. If I did I retract it now. Perhaps some would insist on the strawman to refute us Muslims. However it is not likely either I or most Muslims would be willing to claim the Quran is historical. The Quran is a miracle. And miracles are not historical.

    So once again, thank you Bart. Learning from you has been a wonderful journey. You answered most of my questions about Christianity. And I think without realizing it, you left a legacy. God has furthered this religion by you. Your arguments will probably not be forgotten or heard only by those who are willing to listen-rather we are likely to use them every time we argue with Christians, bringing them to the forefront of debates that have not ended in over a millenia.




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    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  February 20, 2016

      I have to disagree with you here. When I read this blog or any of Bart’s books, I acquire a deeper understanding of Christianity especially from a historical perspective. I never even considered relating his work to Islam because that is not its intended purpose. However, after reading so many comments and receiving several messages from Muslims who use Bart’s work to prove various points about Jesus and the New Testament, I did relate his work to the Qur’an.

      When comparing his historical views to the Qur’an, it’s obvious to me that they’re in direct conflict with the Qur’an. Not only that, but if I agree with every single point he’s made about early Christianity, then I have no choice but to reject the Qur’an as being an infallible, inerrant text. The only way to reconcile the two is by rejecting some of his work and accepting the Qur’an as truth. That means I would be taking on a new faith knowing full well it’s in direct conflict with what’s been accepted historically. It’s not logical to jump from my former faith that has issues to a new faith that also has issues. If anything, I would fall back to Christianity. So, in the end, arguing with Christians will not further the religion of Islam.

      Furthermore, it’s apparent that this blog has a variety of followers: evangelical and conservative Christians, liberal Christians, atheists, Muslims, pantheists, etc… I see nothing that shows me Bart’s work is being used by God to further the Islamic religion. If there is a God at work here, I would think that He would use a Muslim scholar to further the religion of Islam, not an atheist scholar whose whole life has been wrapped around Christianity and without him even knowing that God is using him!




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  7. MMahmud  February 19, 2016

    The following is what a lot of Muslims believe about the events. However It’s not necessarily taken as 100% certainty since the following is not found in the Quran or attributed to the Prophet (S) but rather one of the earliest Muslims. So since it is from one of the earliest Muslims it has a strong air of authenticity, but is not 100% confirmed Islamic belief.

    Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “Just before Allah raised `Isa to the heavens, `Isa went to his companions, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping water and he said, `There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after he had believed in me.’ He then asked, `Who volunteers that his image appear as mine, and be killed in my place. He will be with me (in Paradise)’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered and `Isa asked him to sit down. `Isa again asked for a volunteer, and the young man kept volunteering and `Isa asking him to sit down. Then the young man volunteered again and `Isa said, `You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of `Isa was cast over that man while `Isa ascended to heaven from a hole in the house. When the Jews came looking for `Isa, they found that young man and crucified him.

    I just thought I’d mention it here. I think I also heard that some early Christians believed the same-that Jesus was so much God he couldn’t actually have been crucified rather someone was substituted in his place.




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    • Omar6741  February 21, 2016

      Muslims believe in a king called Dhu’l-Qarnayn, based on the Quran; at one time many Muslims used to think he was the same as Alexander the Great, though now they reject this view.
      In the same way, Muslims believe in a prophet called ‘Isa son of Maryam, peace be upon him, based on the Quran. Right now, they also think he was the same man as Yeshu’a son of Yosef, the first-century Galilean preacher from Nazareth.
      I think Muslims should reject the identification ‘Isa = Yeshu’a, just as they have rejected the identification Dhu’l-Qarnayn = Alexander the Great. After all, the two men have different names — don’t listen to anyone who says “”Isa’ is the Arabic form of ‘Yeshu’a'”, as this is ignorant rubbish.
      For what it is worth, I think ‘Isa, peace be upon him, lived several hundred years before the first century of our era. Those who read Arabic should consult F. al-Rabi’i, al-Masih al-Arabi: al-Nasraniyya fi al-Jazira al-Arabiyya wa al-Sira’ al-Bizanti al-Farisi [The Arabian Messiah: Christianity in Arabia and the Byzantine-Persian Conflict, Beirut 2009].
      Al-Rabi’i argues that in contemporary Arabic Christianity there are traces of an old
      clash between two images of the Messiah: the prophet called ‘Isa- b. Maryam, on one hand,
      and the Lord Jesus Christ, on another. The earlier, according to al-Rabi’i, reflects an old
      religious view known to the Arabs as “Nasraniyya” (Nazarenism), whereas the second
      designates a new religious view shaped by Greek philosophy and burdened with deep debates
      over the identity of the Messiah, namely “al-masihiyya” (Christianity) that was
      founded by the apostle Paul and other apostles. Contrary to the conventional identification
      of “Nasraniyya” and “Masihiyya”, al-Rabi’i argues that the Arabs of the Peninsula in their
      oral stories and reports about the Nazarene tribes in the Peninsula, Yaman, Iraq and Bilad
      al-Sham narrate about an old, Arabic form of Christianity, which existed long before Paul
      established churches in Asia Minor and the faith in Jesus Christ permeated the four corners
      of the Roman world. This primitive Christianity spread around the whole of Arabia, and it
      enjoyed wide influence up until the fifth century, when it started to vanish from the whole
      area because of its followers’ involvement in the Byzantine-Persian struggle, maintaining,
      eventually, an implicit presence within the Christian heritage that flourished in the Hira
      kingdom in the southern Arabian Peninsula.




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      • MMahmud  February 21, 2016

        (For what it is worth, I think ‘Isa, peace be upon him, lived several hundred years before the first century of our era.)

        That does not make sense historically or Islamically. We know from ahadith that there is 600 years between Isa AS and Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam.

        Furthermore, you would need to provide proof that Isa AS the Messiah and Messenger was mentioned before the first century.

        Unless I am misunderstanding what you are saying.




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        • Omar6741  February 23, 2016

          (That does not make sense historically or Islamically.)

          I expect to get reactions like that! I assure you that this reaction is wrong though. 🙂 I know what I am speaking abut here, by the grace of Allah.

          (We know from ahadith that there is 600 years between Isa AS and Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam.)

          Can you please cite a sound hadith from the Messenger himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to confirm what you are saying about “600 years”?

          in the meantime, I ask that you think about the implications of the following hadith, collected by Tabari, whose narrators are men of Bukhari and Muslim etc. This is an eyewitness report from a very reputable early Muslim scholar, and it deserves to be taken seriously:

          One of our womenfolk had made a vow to climb to the peak of al-Jamma’, a mountain in al-Aqiq, [south of] Medina. So I climbed with her until we reached the mountain top. There stood an enormous sarcophagus with two huge tombstones, one [at each end], which bore inscriptions in a writing unknown to me. I carried the two stones back with me. But as I was crossing a passage down the mountainside, the two of them became too difficult for me to carry; so I dropped one and descended with the other. I asked people who knew Syriac if they could read [the inscription on that stone], but they could not. Then I showed it to people from the Yemen who could write [Hebrew], or who wrote the South Arabian script, and they could not read it. So, when I found no one who could make sense of [the inscription], I put it away at home under a chest, where it remained for years. Then some Persians arrived [in Medina] from [the town of] Maha to buy beads. I asked them: “Do you have a written language?” They answered: “We do.” So I brought out the [inscription] for them [to see] and, behold, they were reading it, as it was in their script: “This is the grave of Issa ibn Maryam, the messenger of God to the people of this land.” It turned out that [Persians] had inhabited the area at that time, and [Issa] died in their midst, so they buried him on top of the mountain.




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 24, 2016

            OK, guys — I don’t want the blog to be a forum for the discussion of alternative views of Islamic theology. I’m all *for* that kind of debate; but this blog has a different purpose or function. Thanks!




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  8. RonaldTaska  February 19, 2016

    Wow! I have often wondered whether or not the Gospels were first written in Aramaic and then translated to the Greek and, lo and behold, here is the answer. Good question and good answer especially the third reason.

    Assuming one’s conclusions and making the evidence fit those conclusions or, instead, going where the evidence leads is, for me, the big dividing line in understanding stuff.




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  9. fahd  February 19, 2016

    Dr Ehrman,
    it is not true at all that your research confirm 99% of ISLAM !, on the contrary, it destroys Islam and Quranic beliefs about Jesus .
    I was an Muslim, and I know what I am saying.

    these viewers are just happy that you are creaming Christians apologetic, and in their happiness they are obviously closing their mind and eyes from the fact that all your research makes them look like a fool also.

    I cant understand how they claim you are teaching as Islam has tough ? how come? see the Jesus in Islam below and compare on in what world you are teaching same?

    1. Jesus was born a Virgin Birth
    2. Annunciation to Mary was done by Gabriel
    3. Mary know from the start that Jesus was a Prophet
    4. Jesus was Muslim ! ( ha ha ha ha)
    5. Jesus was born when the spirit of God breathed upon Mary
    6. “And We gave unto Jesus, son of Mary, clear miracles” Giving life to dead, removing demons etc. Quran Chapter 2
    7. Jesus use to speak even in cradle !
    8. Most atrocious, Gospel (Injil) was Received scripture directly from god to Jesus ! same like quran (and you spent that much time proving this?)
    9. Jesus was never crucified, he was taken to heaven, ah.. poor you, trying to prove this ?
    10. Jesus is alive in heavens, and will come back for Kingdom of god to prove Islam.

    tell me any one, in which bizarre world , you can use Bart’s teaching to prove any of these main aspects of Jesus in Islam?

    I left Islam because Bart’s research made it clear to me that Jesus was man, a jew, got killed while preaching Kingdom of god, was not a miracle worker, and got elevated to GOD in many stages which took many years to complete !

    come on Muslims, where is your sense?




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    • Omar6741  February 20, 2016

      Fahd, don’t leave Islam so quickly!
      It’s likely that ‘Isa son of Maryam was not the same person as Yeshu’a son of Yosef; they have very different names, but in Greek they are both written Isous/Iesous. So it is entirely possible that the two men were confused by the Gospel writers working in Greek.
      Read through the Quran’s descriptions of ‘Isa: is there anything about Nazareth, Joseph, Galilee, cleansing the Temple, the Pharisees, baptism in the Jordan, Herod, arguing about the Sabbath, Pontius Pilate, the Romans, descent from David, and so on?




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      • MMahmud  February 23, 2016

        Omar, he said he’s left already. In any case, America is a free country. I welcome all apostates and heretics and hypocrites of the Muslim nation to this free land.




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        • fahd  February 24, 2016

          Not in US I am. I am What I am … born and living in pakistan.

          And don’t u use ridicule falacy on me. I know all these muslim tricks. I was one!




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          • Omar6741  March 1, 2016

            (I know all these muslim tricks. I was one!)
            To Bart or the moderator; this sort of language is just bigoted smearing of an entire people.




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      • fahd  February 23, 2016

        Hi Omar,
        come on, enough playing around words and casting doubts.
        you mean Muslim called christian ‘Nisara’ (Nazarian) for nothing?
        and you mean to say quran refer to all stories in details for all prophets except Jesus?

        you pick few, and you missed many.

        Quran explicitly use the stories from Gospals (Injil) to refer to Isa. please you dont get confused, stop playing around with words, and call spade a spade.




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        • Omar6741  February 23, 2016

          I am not casting doubts, I am saving you from doubts, if Allah wills! 🙂
          The Quran refers to the real events of the life of ‘Isa (as), and the Christians who wrote the Gospels got confused between these and events in the life of Yeshua, who has a different name altogether. that is where the illusion of ‘Isa’s crucifixion was generated, peace be upon him: in the Gospels, and not because of some imaginative “substitution” on the cross.




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          • fahd  February 24, 2016

            This is called theological evolution and apology. Trying to make sence of other wise clear problem in theology. You. . And millions before u have tried this. In all religions and all traditions. While this can work on illiterates, not on me.
            So All stories taken from gospels are same. Except the person and his name. Ah..the irony.




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        • Omar6741  March 1, 2016

          I mean to say that the Christian Gospel ‘Jesus” is a composite character; stories of his birth are drawn from traditions of the virgin-born ‘Isa, and stories of his crucifixion and resurrection from traditions about a Galilean preacher named Yeshu’a. A good introduction to this general idea (though I don’t agree with all of it) is the book by the renowned Christian historian Kamal Salibi, “Who Was Jesus?”.




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        • Omar6741  March 1, 2016

          (you mean Muslim called christian ‘Nisara’ (Nazarian) for nothing?)
          You should learn that the word “Nasara” does not necessarily have to do with Nazareth in Galilee. A common view is that it derives from a passage in the book of Isaiah. So your argument fails. 🙂
          You should also know that the Church Father Epiphanius in his Panarion mentions a pre-Christian group called the “Nasareans”, whose views correspond closely with those of Islam, and which has nothing to do with “Nazareth”. So you should know there is no proof that the Arabic word “Nasara” has to do with “Nazareth”; the relationship is much debated in fact.




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    • MMahmud  February 21, 2016

      Injil does not refer to the four gospels written decades after the events.

      However I thank you for you comment, it increased my faith. Allah guides some and misleads others by the Quran.

      In any case,

      1) There are a number of reasons we Muslims believe in those miracles

      2) We use Bart to refute Christians on the deification of Christ and the authenticity of the New Testament

      3) Just because we accept his compelling arguments in some ways does not mean all of his arguments are compelling. For example, I am not convinced that Jesus Christ AS did not preach about hell.

      4) The early record is scant on what he taught. It’s clear from very early on Christians took a radically different path then when he was on earth. So it’s not troublesome to us to take God as a witness for what he preached and did.

      Hope that helps




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      • fahd  February 23, 2016

        My Friend,
        Injil = Good News
        Gospal = Good News
        any doubts?

        you mean to say there was a book on Jesus, in his 3 years of ministry, and God was not able to save it in original?
        what kind of Power is this?

        1. please mention the reson. there are number of reason Hinus belive in Maha Bharat. should we agree?
        2. use bart? really? is he a mediam ? so you are just cherry picking bart to refute Christians and closing your eyes and ears for what is against islam?
        3. Jesus was Jew, and the concept of Hell ‘Gahnam Valley’ (in Islam changed to Ghanam) is totaly different. this is clearand no doubt and debate about this.
        4. Take god as witness? by Quran? you are using argument from AUthority Fallacy. God of quran can say million things, but what is the proof that this is wording of GOD? why this god with out showing him self is the true one and all 3 million other god are wrong? just becuasse you were born a muslim does not make the god of Quran right . what if you were born a hindu? we will not be having a debate today on Jesus as there is no jesus in Hindu books, so…who cares !




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  10. Garrett20
    Garrett20  February 19, 2016

    I appreciate your answer to the first question. I have never thought you held the same view of Jesus as Muslims (not even close). For the record, there are several conservatives, including myself, that use your research as well. I love studying how broad early Christian views were in relation to different views today. Off subject, but you need to attend a UNC wrestling match sometime (next season of course, this season is almost over). They have a great team!




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  11. Wilusa  February 19, 2016

    “Christian thinking as properly conceived”? Hmm. That, of course, requires a judgment as to what the “proper” nature of the Christian belief-system is!

    My first thought was that you’re wrong in thinking your work isn’t “contrary to Christianity,” because Roman Catholicism is the form from which all the other sects broke off – and for Roman Catholicism, belief in the Resurrection is absolutely essential.

    But then I remembered that Roman Catholicism only emerged as the “last survivor” after there were numerous early forms of “Christianity.” So I’ll acknowledge that your work isn’t necessarily contrary to all forms of it. But IMHO, there’s *no* one “proper” way of conceiving it!




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  12. Wilusa  February 19, 2016

    A further thought: If *I’d* still been a believing Catholic when I encountered your books and video courses, I’m sure I would have abandoned Christianity…*unless* I was so desperate to believe in the Christian “Heaven” that I refused to consider the possibility of its not being real.

    Bottom line, I think: Some Christians are really *happy* being Christians, and can’t easily be turned away from it. Others are miserable, and will be delighted if they learn there are solid grounds for rejecting it.




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  13. nazam44  February 19, 2016

    Dear, Dr. Ehrman.

    I have personally no conflict with the testimony of history to the crucifixion of Jesus and the Qur’anic stament that Jesus appeared to have been crucified but rather God raised him unto Himself.

    From the point of view of history, Jesus was crucified and what happen to his body afterwards is a mystery but from a Muslim theological prespective, Jesus only appeared to have been killed but God took him.

    The late John Hicks pointed out in a lecture that he delivered to a Muslim and non-Muslim audience,

    “Historically it is very difficult to dispute the qur’anic verse since presumably it would not be possible for observers at the time to tell the difference between Jesus being crucified and his only appearing to be crucified”

    http://www.johnhick.org.uk/article12.html

    Kindest regards!

    Nazam




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  14. paul c  February 19, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman

    Please clarify “…not a single piece of my biblical scholarship contradicts Christian thinking as properly conceived.”
    Properly conceived by whom? The statement seems to say that there is a correct way of Christian thinking.




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 20, 2016

      I mean by serious and enlightened theologians. My friend Dale Martin is writing a book that argues precisely this point very convincingly, a book that is a “Theolohgy WITH the New Tesatment”




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      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  February 20, 2016

        I really liked what Dale Martin had to say. If he’s still writing his book, then it will be a while before it’s available. I recently discovered that Amazon has a “Follow” feature for authors. Now I don’t have to remember when a new book is coming out. Very convenient!




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      • MMahmud  February 21, 2016

        I listened to a few of his online Yale lectures. He is really engaging and the kind of awesome teacher everyone wants to have for a course for like that.
        I just wonder, how on earth he is still a Christian.




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 21, 2016

          It’s easier to understand if you do not equate Christianity with faith in the infallibility of the Bible.




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        • fahd  February 23, 2016

          The right Answer Dr Bart, is the same way Mmahmud is still an Muslim. by ignoring facts.




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  15. talmoore
    talmoore  February 19, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, I understand and agree that the gospels as they exist now in the Greek are clearly not word-for-word translations of an (some) Aramaic original(s). However, that does not preclude the possibly of (an) Aramaic (or Hebrew) source document(s). Could the proposed Q document or even an inchoate form of Mark have been in Aramaic as some scholars, such as Maurice Casey theorize? As a Hebrew speaker myself I have found at least a dozen lines in the gospels that, when back translated in the Hebrew or Aramaic, sound remarkably more semitic than Greek.

    For example, consider Jesus’ “Salt of the earth…” analogy from Mark 9:15||Matt. 5:13||Luke 14:34. The Aramaic/Hebrew word for “salt” — מלח — is very similar to the word for “king” — מלך — so Jesus could be making a pun about how the disciples are both the kings of the earth and the salt (flavoring) that will make the earth be palatable, i.e. righteous (or it could simply be a matter of the translator confusing “king” for “salt” since both words sound so similar).

    Furthermore, one important difference between Mark, Luke and Matthew is that Matthew says “You are the salt of the earth” while Mark and Luke say “Salt is good.” In Aramaic “good” is — טב (Heb. טוב) — so a direct Aramaic back translation of Mark/Luke would be — מלח טב — “Salt (is) good”. However, טב can sound a bit like the a word for “world” — תבל — so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one translator confused one word for the other. (It’s important to remember that, just as copyists could make errors in copying, translators could readily make mistakes in translation.) One reason for the error may be that the word for “flavorless” — תפל — looks and sounds similar to “world” — תבל — the tranlator of Matthew read it as a rhyme scheme. Not only that, but the word for “to season (i.e. add flavor)” is — תבּל — which just so happens to be spelled the same as (though pronounced differently from) “world” — תבל! So it’s even more likely that Mark and Luke made the mistake and Matthew got it right, which is certainly possible because — תבל — is a rather obscure word for world in Aramaic/Hebrew, so it’s possible that the translator of Mark/Luke didn’t know the word well enough to translate it correctly, so, instead, translated it as “good” instead of “earth”.

    (You are the) salt (of the) תבל (earth)
    But if the salt (becomes) תפל (flavorless)
    With what can you תבּל (season) it?




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 21, 2016

      There can be Aramaic influence on the tradition (since many of the sayings go back to Aramaic) without the source themselves being written in Greek. Q can’t really have been in Aramaic because then you couldn’t explain the Greek verbatim agreements of Matthew and Luke in Q material.




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  16. godspell  February 19, 2016

    Again, we see that for some ‘Christians’, hatred for Muslims (regardless of how they practice their religion) has become an article of faith, and a loyalty test to boot.

    How can anyone who believes the gospels are literally OR metaphorically true believe that this is what Jesus himself would want?

    It’s hard to love your enemies. Maybe for most people it isn’t even possible. But it’s what he asked. And yes, I believe he did literally ask us to do that.




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  17. Usman  February 19, 2016

    Hello Prof. Ehrman,

    I’d be interested to know your views on the following, even if brief comments.

    1. Whilst you are not attacking Christianity at all, the fact is – whether you like it or not – that many hyper conservative Evangelicals view you as an enemy of their faith. This even includes quite a few Evangelical scholars, who we’ve seen criticising you over the years. This particular group also hates and despises Muslims. They get angry when they come across any writing which cites you or refers to you in any manner. When they come across Muslims on the internet citing your work or referring to you, whether on the subject of textual criticism or, say, the historical Jesus subject, they get particularly upset and typically hit back with this type of reply: “But Ehrman also does not believe in the Quran!” Many conservative evangelical Christians on the internet have been trying to find a statement of yours which they feel they can use whenever they find a Muslim referring to your work. Hence there have been attempts to get you to make, what they perceive to be, any seemingly negative reference towards the Quran. This is their holy grail.

    2. The Quran does not assert nor imply that the crucifixion is a “made up” story. The key wording in the relevant verse is, “but it so appeared to them…” i.e. that Jesus was crucified. Therefore, the story is not “made up” according to the Quran. Since it appeared to them that Jesus was crucified, people would say that Jesus was crucified. Whilst an attempt was made to kill Jesus and it appeared that Jesus was crucified, in fact God rescued Jesus. This is the Quranic take. The detail of how God saved Jesus is not specified. This, obviously, is a miraculous event. Miracles, as you’ve explained previously, are taken on faith and are beyond the scope of the historical method. In Christianity, Jesus was killed, resurrected and then ascended to heaven. According to the Quran, God rescued Jesus and he then ascended to heaven. Instead of the resurrection, there is the saving/rescue of Jesus in the Quran.

    3. Only the most ignorant Muslim would assert that you “confirm 99%” of Muslim beliefs. Just as there are ignorant Christians around – primarily the evangelical types in my opinion – you will likewise come across ignorant Muslims as well. On the topic of the historical Jesus, however, whilst there’s absolutely no reconstruction of the historical Jesus which “100% or 99%” tallies with the presentation of Jesus in the Quran, the latter’s outline tends to be least problematic. If I were not a Muslim and solely reliant upon mainstream historical Jesus scholarship, my view of the historical Jesus would not be radically different from the general Quranic outline. I would be of the opinion that Jesus presented himself as God’s prophet, that he probably presented himself as the messiah, that he was believed to be a miracle worker, that he was accused of being a sorcerer, that he had disciples, that he did not claim to be divine or God, that he restricted his preaching to the Israelites, that he did not abrogate or override the Jewish law, that he intensified and edited some elements therein, though accepting it overall, that it is unlikely that he was preaching that he was to die for the sins of humanity, that he preached the kingdom of God, called for repentance, insisted upon the worship of the One God. This is putting aside all of the miraculous elements of the Quran – the miracles attributed to Jesus. Thus, the basic Quranic outline is not much “problematic.”

    4. You are correct in noting that no serious scholar of the historical Jesus takes the Quran to contain something independent about the historical Jesus. I think you will agree that this does not mean that the Quran is not or is the word of God. Historians do not deal with miracles, revelation and inspiration. They only deal with earthly matters and consider natural explanations. If a priori the possibility of revelation is dismissed out of hand, then certainly there is no need to refer to the Quran. The Quran, of course, states that it is revelation directly from God. God is its source, as per its assertions. This is beyond the reach of the historical critical method. If one is not an atheist, he/she can study the Quran and see if they are convinced in their heart if it is coming from God. I doubt you would have a “problem” with this. Your Christian colleagues believe that Jesus is God even if Jesus did not claim to be God. They say this because they believe that revelation convinced the early Christians that Jesus was divine. I personally find this view problematic as it makes the words and acts of the earthly Jesus irrelevant. Nonetheless, I know you do not have a problem with this theological stance of theirs. The Muslim stance is different, but the same when it comes to revelation – the Quran is revelation from God and it is up to the reader to investigate it with an open mind and to derive any conclusion that touches the heart. Be that as it may, as noted in #3 above, someone who takes the historical Jesus subject seriously is likely to see far less “problems” and “difficulties” in the Quranic presentation of Jesus than compared to, say, the typical evangelical beliefs about Jesus, even when the element of miracles is caste aside.




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  18. dentalhygiene  February 19, 2016

    Would you consider commenting on John Shelby Spong’s latest book: Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy?




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  19. shakespeare66  February 19, 2016

    It is easy to see how Muslims might use your works to “argue” against the authenticity of Christianity if, in fact, it was based on the creation of Jesus of Nazareth, a poor peasant, who aspires to being God himself. It is easy to see how they can interpret almost anything is such a bizarre fashion that no wonder they look to you to discredit Christianity. I believe in a back handed way, you have handed them that license. However, I know your intentions a lot better than most Muslims who would not explore the entirety of your work. They would “cherry pick” stuff from your books to somehow enhance the virtues of their own beliefs or of their own religion. Despite what many Muslims do every day to support their faith, too many of their radicals smear their religion and make it appear to be all ugly. It isn’t any different than the Christian right who cannot believe anything you say. I understand your position because when I try to explain to my sister that the apostles did not write the gospels, my sister, a practicing Catholic, will just not believe me, no matter what I say. I simply do not envy the position that you sometimes find yourself in, but I guess you are used to it. If anyone can contest these outrageous onslaughts, it is you. All my best in doing so.




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  20. Mhamed Errifi  February 20, 2016

    hello bart

    you said : And I doubt very much that my views coincide with 99% of Islamic belief about Jesus.

    yes when it comes to jesus nature




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  21. Monarch  February 20, 2016

    Related to the above, “Jesus’ followers were lower class peasants . . . who were uneducated and unable to read and write,” I think there may be some suggestion that some of them may have been literate, for example, Peter and Andrew having a fishing business, Matthew being a tax collector, and some of the women apparently being women of means. But my real question is, what are your thoughts on the literacy of Jesus himself? If I’m not mistaken, I think you may have suggested in one of your books that even Jesus may have been or was likely illiterate, although two passages that immediately spring to mind are John 8:6, “They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger,” and Luke 4:16, “He came to Nazareth, . . . entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read” (although Mark has that he merely “taught.”) Thanks in advance for any further comments on this subject!




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 20, 2016

      I’d suggest you read CAtherine Hezser’s book Literacy in Roman Palestine. These rural Jews would not know how to read, let alone write. Could Jesus read? It’s possible, but he would be a clear exception to the rule.




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      • Monarch  February 21, 2016

        Yes, I recall your summarization of Heszer’s study, or ideas similar to it, in your book, Did Jesus Exist? I’m not suggesting that literacy was widespread, by any means, but then, the entire Jewish society was based on a Book and the contents therein. And for Jesus to functions as and be called a “rabbi?” Modern studies and statistical presumptions aside, I think it likely that he, at least, could read and write.




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        • Monarch  February 21, 2016

          I might add that Jesus obviously had a deep interest in the Torah and knew it well, that learning to read is not that difficult, and that the resources of Sepphoris were but a stone’s throw away from Nazareth.




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          • Omar6741  February 23, 2016

            I don’t think it is “not that difficult” to learn to read! It only seems that way given a very specific legal and cultural background that we take for granted in modern times. In modern times though, it can be a real battle for an illiterate adult to learn to read, even in a society where this is needed badly; all kinds of issues get in the way, including self-image.




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 21, 2016

          I don’t think there’s much evidence he could write (well, none actually), but I’m willing to believe he could read.




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  22. llamensdor  February 20, 2016

    I believe that Jesus could read — there’s no evidence that he could write and despite the passage of millennia no-one has come up with a text “written by Jesus.” Many say that Jesus was a peasant. If there’s any reality to the stories that Joseph was a carpenter, or some other kind of builder, it might not be accurate to call him a peasant. There are many gospel passages where Jesus is in a synagogue and reads from scripture. I don’t know why so many scholars are determined to think of him as an illiterate peasant. It’s easier to discount him that way, but why should we think that all the references to him reading are invented? I suppose that it’s not inconceivable that Jesus heard people reading from Torah, and committed it to memory, aurally. I’ve written a series of historical novels published on Amazon as e-books, entitled “The Murdered Messiah,” and in my version, w/o going into details, Jesus was literate. Actually, I think that’s the most obvious interpretation. Deeming him an illiterate peasant actually requires a more complex approach.
    Len Lamensdorf




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    • Eric  March 1, 2016

      According to what I learned from one of Crossan’s books, being a carpenter (actually, I think the word in Greek tekton(?) would encompass any artisan, including potters, perhaps weavers) would suggest you were even LESS likely to read.

      According to this representation, people became potters, carpenters, etc only when they had no land to work (i.e. to farm as a “peasant”). These roles in rural society were filled by the very lowest economically, with one foot in the grave due to always being on the edge of starvation.

      So if this is accurate, it is easier to imagine a land-working (owning) peasant (remember, peasant is not the same thing as feudal “serf”) having sufficient surplus to get his son some rudimentary literacy than to imagine an artisan doing the same.




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      • Bart
        Bart  March 1, 2016

        TEKTON means someone who did manual labor with his hands. I’m not sure about potter or weaver (there are other words for those professions); but possibly stone mason or blacksmith,e.g.




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  23. Omar6741  February 20, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Here is a hypothetical question.
    Suppose a scholar adopts, as a tentative working hypothesis, the claim that
    “*The Quran and the other canonical books of Islam preserve or alludes to traditions about an Israelite prophet named ‘Isa son of Maryam, who lived long before Yeshu’a son of Yosef from Nazareth. The Gospel writers mistakenly confused the two men together and so mixed up traditions about them in their writings.*”
    Suppose the scholar goes on to show that about 10 independent contradictions or difficulties in the Gospels can be easily and naturally explained on the basis of this working hypothesis. Would you or other scholars find that interesting or worth pursuing?
    I ask because ‘Isa and Yeshu’a are very different names, yet they both end up being written very similarly in Greek, so one can see how Greek writers could make this confusion. Moreover, the traditions about them are very different as well; the *canonical* Islamic tradition is clear that ‘Isa was born at “Bayt Laham” (i.e. Bethlehem), and never associates him with Nazareth or Galilee, for example.




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 21, 2016

      My sense is that most New Testament scholars are not convinced that the Qur’an provides historically reliable information about Jesus. But it sounds as if you’re not giving a “hypothetical” but are thinking that this is actually the case. Still, that may help explain the Qur’an but probably not the NT Gospels




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      • Omar6741  February 21, 2016

        Has any scholar suggested that there were two Israelite holy men whose names could be rendered “Jesus”?
        (I think there is evidence for that in the fact that ”Isa’ and ‘Yeshu’a’ are just very different names, and one is not a different linguistic form of the other; the Quran speaks about the former, though has nothing to say about the latter.)




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        • Bart
          Bart  February 23, 2016

          As it turns out, “Jesus” was a very common name in the first century.




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          • Omar6741  February 23, 2016

            Well yes, “Yeshu’a” was a very common name in the first century. But the name “‘Isa”, which is very different and can also be written “Isous/Iesous”, does not even appear in the list of 100 most common Palestinian male names cited by Bauckham.
            Do you know of any scholars who have suggested a confusion between ‘Isa and Yesu’a as lieing behind some of the puzzles of the NT?




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 24, 2016

            No, of the many thousands of scholars I’ve known and read, I’ve never heard a single one speak of this.




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          • Kazibwe Edris  February 24, 2016

            but then the muslim apologist also believes in virgin. did the jews think virgin birth miracles were known before the christian jesus existed? how about brining dead to life? was that known 100 years before christian jesus?




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          • Bart
            Bart  February 25, 2016

            Yes, there are other prophets who allegedly brought the dead back to life (e.g., 1 Kings 17)




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  24. wje  February 20, 2016

    Good evening, Bart. That guy asking about the holy ghost has a good question for the reader mailbag. What exactly “is” the holy spirit? Is it the consciousness of God? Is it the same thing that makes living people “alive”
    when they are living in this world? Speaking of the trinity, I read somewhere that the verses in John about the trinity were not the original. Is there anything really definitive in the earliest gospels about the trinity, or is this idea something that came after the gospels were written?




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    • Bart
      Bart  February 21, 2016

      In traditional Christian thinking the Spirit is a separate being from God and Christ, not just God’s consciousness and not the spirit that lives within each of us. Yes, 1 John 5:7-8 was not originally in the NT.




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  25. garytheman  February 24, 2016

    As a graduate of a highly respected conservative theological seminary (not evangelical) we were taught that the Gospels were written in Greek. Also we had in front of us the Interlinear translation. If someone thinks that the Gospels were written in Aramaic they need to do some critical theological studying. Even the most learned scholars today will agree that the Gospels were written by men having knowledge of Greek grammar and structure. I would sincerely hope that people who belong to your blog are smart enough not to write such silly questions. I thought that the majority of individuals who belong as subscribers have some theological knowledge of the Bible. Historians cannot always give the correct answer unless they also research theologically. Thank you.




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  26. Muhammed  April 29, 2016

    This was so fun reading, at one point I kinda felt bad for Dr/professor Erhman lol. I kept imagining All this back and forth debate with him in the middle just hoping it will all stop lol.

    As a very fundamentalist/conservative down to earth muslim id like to say def what you say doesn’t agree 99% to what Islam teaches. But so much the vast majority is so compatible with Islamic teachings.

    I Read on your blog a heading that said something like “Jesus from Prophet to son of God” . Which is what Muslims have all along been saying. He never claimed divinity nor claimed to be a literal son of GOD ( if he did claim to be a son at all would have meant it in a servant type of way ).

    we believe that Jesus (p) ( Not his disciples or students of his disciples ) was given scripture ( could have been just verbal or also written )

    We believe he made birds of clay and gave life to them and spoke as a baby to defend his mothers honor. Things which were discovered recently in the lost Gospels found in egypt which you wrote about in your book.

    we dont believe Jesus died thus he was never resurrected. Someone was crucified in his place ( maybe one of the romans who tried to capture him, maybe judas ) .

    as a historian you cant deal with miracles or GOD. So the Quran can not be historical evidence for you, but when Muslims hear from you what we have been taught for hundreds of years its like a “we told you so ” moment.

    You should study a bit about the Quran and try to “attack” its credibility dont worry Muslims wont try to harm you lool ( i hear you on video joking about you liked life too much to go against the Quran/Islam )




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