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What It Takes to be a Graduate Student

I often get questions from people who have been in a career for a while who want to know if it is feasible for them to go back to school and get a PhD in my field of New Testament/Early Christianity.  In most cases it is not feasible at all, simply because it is way too complicated and involved — and takes way more time than one would think.  Here is what I said about what being a graduate student working toward a PhD involves, from my perspective as one who teaches these students.

***********************************************************************************

I teach one undergraduate and one graduate course a semester. Teaching undergraduates is a passion of mine. I love doing it. These are nineteen year olds who are inquisitive, interested, and interesting. I enjoy lecturing to a crowd like that, figuring out what can make complicated material intriguing and compelling, keeping them attentive, helping them understand such important topics Some of my colleagues find teaching undergraduates a real chore; others find it very difficult. I find it to be a pleasure and it comes naturally to me. So I’m very lucky about that.

What is really HARD, though I enjoy it intensely too, is teaching graduate students. The graduate student seminar is a very focused experience. A seminar usually last three hours (meeting once a week) and it involves an intense pouring over texts in the original ancient languages (Greek, for my classes), discussion of heavy-hitting scholarship, critique of students’ work, and so on.

But even though it’s hard, it is very rewarding.  And there is nothing – absolutely nothing – that can substitute for graduate teaching to expand a scholars’ own horizons and competencies.  The students are mature men and women who are devoting their lives to scholarship who already know a lot and are hungry to devour more and more knowledge.   They are interested in things that I may or may not know a lot about already (usually not, as it turns out).  And so I’m forced to learn a lot.

Here are two recent examples. Today one of my students defended her dissertation.  It was about views of martyrdom in three Christian texts/authors of the second to third centuries, Clement of Alexandria (a proto-orthodox church father of the end of the second century), the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter, and the Testimony of Truth (the latter two are “Gnostic” texts from Nag Hammadi).   The defense was before five of us professors on her committee; we grilled her for an hour and a half about it, then voted whether to pass her.  (We did.)

The second was a master’s student who needed to talk today about his MA thesis.   It is on the view of demons in the neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus as it relates to views of demons in other pagan texts and in Christian Platonists of the second and third Christian centuries.

Directing work like this can’t help but…

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Comments

  1. perishingtardis  April 25, 2018

    The process in the USA seems much longer (and more rigorous) than elsewhere. I’m in the UK, and last year I finished a PhD in theoretical atomic physics. A completely different field obviously, but the duration of any PhD in the UK is just 3 years. There are no written exams. You work on your research project for 2.5 years or so, write up your 80,000 word thesis, do the 1-2 hour oral exam (we call it a “viva” in the UK), and that’s it. You come out of the PhD with an excellent knowledge of your chosen project area but can often lack a broad knowledge of your field.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Yup, very different — not just in the sciences but also in the humanities

      • abir_louvain  May 29, 2018

        Another important thing is that graduate students from UK/Europe typically end up with little or no teaching experience unlike most graduate students in the US. This creates a problem for those of us who are interested in pursuing an academic career in the US.

  2. John  April 25, 2018

    “Sometimes I get charged – as do other of my colleagues – of having a kind of “elitist” attitude toward scholarship, thinking that only people with PhD’s are qualified to talk about religious topics authoritatively. ”

    I can’t find the link but do I remember correctly that you said something like the the opposite to that to Matt Dillahunty about Robert Price recently?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Not sure!

    • Lev
      Lev  April 26, 2018

      Bart – you are occassionally dismissive of the opinions of those who don’t have the right sort of experise in scholarship. I remember a while back we were going back on forth on the dating of 1 Clement and you dismissed about 4 or 5 biblical scholars (some of whom I believe had PhDs or were professors) who held the view that Clement was c70, because they weren’t recognised experts in the Church Fathers.

      I hope you don’t mind me saying, but it did feel a bit snobbish / elitist of you to dismiss their views because of a lack of expertise in the field, rather than engaging in the arguments they present.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 29, 2018

        Sorry if I gave that impression. I reject the idea that 1 Clement was written ca. 70 because there is pretty compelling evidence that it has to be later. Most (but not all) people who assign an earlier date simply have never considered the evidence. Usually (but not always) that’s because they simply don’t know.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  April 26, 2018

      I believe Dr. Ehrman did express during that debate that he tends to ignore those without the requisite PhD in the specific discipline being debated. Because I remember Matt Dillahunty bristling at the idea, believing it to be elitist and dismissive. I think can argument can be made in support of both views.

      In Bart’s defense, there’s the bandwidth issue. If he were to take seriously any and every hypothesis and theory he came across, there isn’t enough time in the day for him to thoroughly entertain them all, so, in a way, only paying attention to those ideas coming from those with the requisite credentials is an efficient and convenient way (though not necessarily foolproof way) of filtering out the noise and the nonsense.

      But on the other hand, Matt has a point when he makes the argument that plenty of people outside of a specific discipline and without the requisite credentials have made very important contributions to those disciplines — some contributions even being paradigm-shifting. Just take for example, within Bart’s own field, Albert Schweitzer’s effect on NT studies. It took someone outside of the academic field of NT studies to uncover something that should have been obvious to every PhD up to that point: the historical Jesus was just one of many apocalyptic Jewish preachers and prophets of 1st century Palestine.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 29, 2018

        I don’t recall saying that. Are you sure those are my words? I do remember explaining why expertise matters, but that’s a different issue.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  April 29, 2018

          Dr. Ehrman, your exact words were: “And so, for it not to be a laughable argument, I think it has to be advanced by people who are recognized by the academic world as serious academicians.”

          The implication, of course, is that you won’t take anyone’s argument seriously until they have the requisite credentials. As it stands with Mythicism, such an implication may be warranted, because Mythicism is, itself, a thoroughly half-baked theory. But if you were to generalize this implication to ALL hypotheses outside of said academic world, then, alas, poor Albert Schweitzer could have and should have been readily ignored, as well. Hence the pushback.

          Link to your full quote –> https://youtu.be/oIxxDfkaXVY?t=1h44m50s

          • Bart
            Bart  April 30, 2018

            Sorry — I’d have to see the context of that statement. Either I misspoke or I was referring to something in particular. (Like “I’m going to consider the claim that the earth came into existence 6000 years ago laughable unless…”)

    • John  April 28, 2018

      Matt D: “What do you think it would take to make this viable in serious scholarship?”

      Bart E: “…. is by people establishing their credentials in the academy and showing that they publish books on topics, not on mythicism, just publish books on topics with Oxford University Press or Harvard University Press or Yale University Press and get positions in universities as professors in some cognate field, ancient history, classics, early Judaism, early Christianity and on the basis of having some authority, argue the position. Because at present, it’s just looked at as view that outliers have who just think that religion is nonsense and so they are just coming up with these argument to show that religion is nonsense. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily the view people have but that is how it’s perceived and people think that the argument itself is just nonsense, people just think it’s laughable argument and so for it not to be a laughable argument it has to be advanced by people who are recognised by the academic world as serious academicians.”

      Some might argue that what you described here was elitist.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 29, 2018

        I’m just arguing for the importance of expertise. For me it is not a debatable issue when I go to the dentist.

        • John  April 29, 2018

          So are you saying that people need to have PhD’s, write books and be professors in order to be experts such that they can talk about religious topics authoritatively?

          That doesn’t seem to what you saying here but it does seem to have been implied by your answer to MD.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 30, 2018

            Nope, it’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying to be trained as an expert in a field you need to be trained as an expert in the field. There are some few exceptions — highly unusual people who have been able to train themselves. But they are an exceedingly rare breed. (And I’m not talking about “experts” in “religion” — the Dali Lama is certainly *that*!! I’m talking about experts in, say, the study of early Christianity) I’m not completely sure why I’m getting so much push back on this. In what other field do we object to the idea that people with advanced training are the experts? (Nuclear physics? International law? Semitic linguistics? Professional baseball? — not anyone can perform at the highest level without a highly refined set of skills/abilities and years of training and experience.)

          • talmoore
            talmoore  April 30, 2018

            “I’m not completely sure why I’m getting so much push back on this. In what other field do we object to the idea that people with advanced training are the experts?”

            Dr. Ehrman, it seems you are missing the point. It might help to think of it syllogistically.
            ~What you appear to be saying is A) All people with the requisite credentials in a topic are experts in that topic.
            ~What other people appear to be hearing is B) All experts in a topic have the requisite credentials in that topic.
            Now, of course, logically, both statements can be true at the same time, but they are not the same statements. Statement A allows for the possibility of experts who don’t have the requisite credentials. Statement B does not allow for that possibility.
            What we’re all trying to figure out is, which statement, A or B, do you hold to?

          • Bart
            Bart  May 1, 2018

            A. No I’m not saying that; B. I’m not saying that either. Plenty of people have credentials who are not competent; and plenty of people who are competent do not have credentials. That is to say, there are some bad scholars out there who have a PhD; and there are people without a PhD who could in principle be good scholars. They are hard to find though. Let me put it in its basic terms: someone who does not read Greek is not able to do a competent exegesis of the Greek text of Galatians. They just can’t do it. It doesn’t mean that someone who does read Greek *will* do a competent exegesis. And it doesn’t mean that someone can’t read Greek without having a PhD in NT studies. But training in Greek philology requires… training. It is the very, very rare person who actually knows the ins and outs of Greek exegesis without it.

          • Lev
            Lev  April 30, 2018

            “I’m not completely sure why I’m getting so much push back on this.”

            I may be wrong, but I think it’s because you appeal to “the majority of scholars” or “the majority view” frequently in your comments with us, and as most of us aren’t experts, we aren’t really in a position to argue so the debate is often brought to a sudden close.

            I don’t qualify as an expert (or even a scholar!) so I’m interested in the opinions of experts. Quite often I find that the experts aren’t always united, and alternative or minority views are worth considering. When I’ve presented these, you’ve briskly judged the authors to be insufficient in their expertise (ala the 1 Clement debate) or more recently when I raised the evidence of Mara bar Serapion (re: ‘the King of the Jews’ sign), you first claimed this was dismissed by the majority of scholars as a late document, but when I presented you with a bunch of scholars who said otherwise you stated that was “interesting” and that was the end of it.

            I find the most interesting blog entries and books of yours are the ones that get into the evidence and the scholarly arguments. Lesser scholars than yourself appeal lazily to ‘majority opinions’ or ‘the accepted view’ in their works without explaining why those views are held. I think you can occasionally resort to that in the comments, and whilst we recognise you can’t get into the weeds in all the comments, we can get a little frustrated when that’s all that’s offered.

          • Bart
            Bart  May 1, 2018

            Yes, it’s very difficult to explain the history of scholarship on any particular point when one has dozens of points to make, and the history of scholarship on any one of them literally would require a book. I don’t know a good way around that….

      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  April 30, 2018

        Dillahunty said there was only one answer in his mind: mythicists need to do a better job in presenting evidence to support their claim…what is said is independent of credentials….we should be evidence/data driven. Dillahunty then claimed Bart said that the problem is the mythicists themselves, the people need to get better credentials, publish, and do stuff that’s respectful.

        Mmmm….I think Dillahunty has misinterpreted what was said. The perception of mythicists is a negative one based on their own statements that demonstrate hatred toward religion and ignorance in biblical knowledge. Then we have two scholars, Price and Carrier, who do not hold academic positions in any university. And why is that? There’s a problem here. It’s hard work being a professor. It requires continuous education and learning, especially when it comes to mentoring doctoral students, not to mention all the other types of expectations, requirements, and pressures that come along with it.

        Price is a nice man, but he and Carrier engage in scholarship at their own leisure and believe the scholarly community is in error when it’s them who are uninformed and err on a regular basis. And that’s partly because they won’t (because this is a choice) put in the hard work necessary as a teaching professor. They, as well as other mythicists who write books on mythicism, want to declare those who don’t engage with them as “elitist” but don’t recognize their own sense of entitlement. They need a reality check.

        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  May 2, 2018

          This post: “Sometimes I get charged – as do other of my colleagues – of having a kind of “elitist” attitude toward scholarship, thinking that only people with PhD’s are qualified to talk about religious topics authoritatively. Actually, that’s not true about me (or my colleagues) AT ALL. There are lots of unbelievably knowledgeable people without advance degrees, and we all know it.”

          The definition for authoritatively—substantiated or supported by documentary evidence and accepted by most authorities in a field; in a way as being trusted as accurate or true.

          Matt D: “What do you think it would take to make this viable in serious scholarship?”

          The definition of scholarship—academic study or achievement; learning at a high level.

          Bart’s answer: “by people establishing their credentials in the academy….and on the basis of having some authority, argue the position. Because at present, it’s just looked at as a view that outliers have who just think that religion is nonsense…it has to be advanced by people who are recognised by the academic world as serious academicians.”

          Matt responded later in a YouTube video that he hated Bart’s answer because (paraphrasing) his problem is with the people who don’t have credentials. It should just be about the evidence.

          Again, Matt misinterpreted what was said. Besides that, the two most well-known scholars who have argued for the position (Price and Carrier, credentials and all) have not demonstrated authority for the topic. Nor has the lay audience who, in general, has a problem with religion and show massive ignorance in biblical knowledge. Therefore, the argument is not taken seriously by academics.

          There’s nothing elitist here. This post and what was said to Matt are being conflated here causing a whole lot of confusion.

  3. Cheryl
    Cheryl  April 25, 2018

    Hi Bart, About four years ago I was one of those people who asked you this very question. I was appreciative of your honest response. As an armchair Christianity in Antiquity enthusiast, who is “slightly” beyond the age to take this on, thank you for generously sharing your knowledge through books, blogs, interviews, etc.

  4. Hon Wai  April 25, 2018

    My hunch is people who had a career outside academia, never studied religious studies at undergraduate level, and wanted to pursue research degree in the field, should first pursue a 1-year Diploma in the discipline (for example, Oxford University – which has the top-ranked religious studies department in the UK if not also Europe – offers a Postgraduate Diploma degree consisting of modules selected from years 1-3 of their undergraduate Theology & Religious Studies programme, including ancient languages), followed by another 1-year masters (further picking up more language skills on top of subject knowledge), and then try to get admission to a 3 year PhD programme at a UK university.
    It appears in the UK, language requirements, both ancient and modern, for PhD in theology are much less important than for PhD in biblical studies. I know a few people who completed British PhD in theology/religious studies who went from scratch at masters level (one completed a PhD in Patristics at Durham University, two in Theology at King’s College London, one in Religious Studies at Edinburgh University; their PhDs took 3-5 years). Is my hunch roughly on the mark?

  5. Raemon  April 25, 2018

    Bart, is a Masters degree required before entering this PhD program? If so, what restrictions are there for the subject/scope/institution of that Masters degree? If not, how many students enter the PhD program directly with only a Bachelors degree?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      It differs from one program to another. *Most* PhD programs require a masters; some, though, have you do the masters en route. We admit both kinds into our program; the majority of our entering students already have an MA, but not all of them.

  6. RonaldTaska  April 25, 2018

    Wow!

  7. jjtechno2  April 25, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,
    I posses and enjoy much of your published work. I wonder if you could address a couple of questions?
    What roll do Libraries play in graduate studies? Where are the majority of documents relative to each languages studies housed? Are said documents available beyond graduate studies? Do lay readers have access beyond translations by others?
    Thank You

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      These days physical libraries are somewhat less important than they used to be because of the easier accessibility of materials in the net; but yes, a PhD program requires still a very good library. Gotta have the important scholarship, and most of it is not available electronically. Rarely does a student ever need to consult an actual Greek manuscript, though; these are accessed in other ways (often electronically)

  8. mannix  April 25, 2018

    Don’t worry…after reading your texts and books, your “Great Courses” remain my speed…no exam, no homework, and I can drink wine while watching!

  9. Lev
    Lev  April 25, 2018

    Very interesting read, Bart.

    Do you know how many PhDs are awarded in the field of New Testament/Early Christianity in the US or UK every year? Or if this data isn’t available, do you know how many people with PhDs in this field of study are currently in circulation?

    I’m curious to know how many experts are out there.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      I actually don’t know. In the Society of Biblical Literature, the professional society for biblical scholars, most of whom have PhD there are thousands — about 4000 or so attend the annual meeting, and others choose not to attend!

  10. UCCLMrh  April 25, 2018

    There is only one good reason for getting a Ph.D. It is that you can’t figure out any possible way to imagine a life without one. None of the other reasons will fly.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      I completely agree.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  April 26, 2018

      I still have a dream of one day getting a PhD, and the only reason is so people have to address me as Dr. Moore. A middle-aged man can dream.

    • jjgarlandjr  May 8, 2018

      I am an attorney who is also ABD, Phd in New Testament. Working on the Phd was the greatest experience! Life changing in so many ways.

  11. Pattylt  April 25, 2018

    During my final year of my Medical Technology program I was unable to take an undergraduate level parisitology class due to the professor taking ill. My advisor arranged for me to take a graduate level class instead assuring me, “you’ll do fine”. I did get an A but I never worked my rear end off for one class before this one. Our final was a 4 hr written exam with one question! I used all 4 hours pouring out all I had learned just to answer it. When all was done, I was amazed at the intensity of education needed at the graduate level and had I not been married with 2 children, I would have pursued a PhD in laboratory science. Oh well, missed opportunities. I thoroughly enjoyed my many years working in a hospital lab and am enjoying my retirement more! I fully understand the discipline and in depth learning involved and respect any PhD in any field for their extensive knowledge.

  12. Pegill7  April 25, 2018

    In your response to the question asked in the previous post you listed the book of Acts as a forgery. If this is so what does that say about the gospel according to Luke? Isn’t the same person considered to be the author of both?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Yes, but one is a forgery (making an authorial claim) and the other is not (making no authorial claim).

      • fishician  April 27, 2018

        But if the author of Acts simply spliced in some stories written in the first person, it may not be forgery, just sloppy editing, correct?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 29, 2018

          Yup, it’s possible. I used to think it involved his taking over someone else’s travel itinerary. But after I looked at it long and hard, I realized that inserting a first person narrative into a text was a common ploy used by (other) forgers, which is what started making me suspicious.

  13. J--B  April 25, 2018

    In the early 1970s, I did a junior year abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. I decided to attend a semester of lectures on the Pentatuch given by Klaus Westermann. I was not really up to the task, but in order to receive academic credit for my college in the U.S., I needed to have a “grade” from my professor. When I approached Professor Westermann about this, he asked me how many years of Hebrew and Greek I had had. I felt rather foolish with my 2 years of high school Latin. But he was very gracious and allowed me to be examined on his excellent book for lay people “Schöpfung”, which I was able to understand. Only later did I discover what a famous scholar he was.

    I did eventually take 3 semesters of ancient Greek and got my MA in German, but realized that I was not suited to the rigors of scholarship. I’ve been enjoying your most recent book though.

  14. Judith  April 26, 2018

    These graduate students often have families and jobs, too???

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Families, sometimes yes; jobs, no. The grad program is a completely full time occupation, and students who get admitted to the program receive funding.

  15. exPCman  April 26, 2018

    Not a criticism (in the pejorative sense) … for you laid out everything both clearly and well … and it is all true … but you did leave out one thing – if you are in “the right place,” what fun it is! Fond memories for me and I rather suspect for you as well! “Thanks for the memories!”

  16. jbskq5  April 26, 2018

    Thanks for this explanation. It’s sometimes difficult for a layperson to understand the weight behind the statement “Most scholars think that….”. It really is a qualifier that comes loaded with a wealth of experience and knowledge that are simply beyond the casual reader. Do you know if religious seminaries have similar rigorous requirements for analogous degrees, in general?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Yes, my PhD was actually from Princeton Theological Seminary. Same basic principle.

  17. fishician  April 26, 2018

    I’m curious – do any of your students aspire to follow in your footsteps by writing for the general public? It seems to me scholarship would be more fulfilling if you can reach the public with it, rather than just sharing it with other scholars (although building knowledge within the field is important, too).

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Yes, more and more. But I tell them they won’t be qualified to do so until they’ve spent years on their scholarship and written two or three scholarly books.

  18. Tony  April 26, 2018

    Hard long work! To what degree will this add to the students ability to think critically – and outside the dogma bubble? Will they be able to question assumptions about the very origin of Christianity, or will the historical Jesus meme stick with them for life? Will some of them secretly pick up a copy of “on the historicity”….? I have high hopes for the next generation!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2018

      Massively. In one sense, it is a multi-year program in critical thinking.

    • Pattycake1974
      Pattycake1974  April 29, 2018

      I haven’t read many books of scholarship, but from what I have read, it’s not about starting with the premise of Jesus as a historical person. It’s about working through a particular specialized topic. Put it all together and the historical person of Jesus emerges.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  May 1, 2018

      Tony, I seriously have to wonder sometimes if you’re just trolling us.

      Allow me to put this question of the historicity of Jesus in terms that a skeptic, such as yourself, should appreciate. The late, great Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” In fact, we might even call this The Skeptic’s Credo. I will call it Sagan’s Law: Extraordinary evidence is necessary to support extraordinary claims. Moreover, let us extend Sagan’s Law to its converse. Let’s call it Sagan’s Lemma: Ordinary evidence is sufficient to support ordinary claims.

      So now let us ask ourselves if the claim for an historical Jesus is an ordinary claim or an extraordinary claim. Well, Carrier, Price, Fitzgerald and the other Mythicists appear to be under the assumption that such a claim is, indeed, extraordinary. So let me ask you, is it extraordinary or ordinary to claim:

      ~ That there was a Jewish man named Jesus who lived in 1st century Galilee? If you think it’s extraordinary, why? But if it’s an ordinary claim, is the evidence we have so far sufficient to support it?

      ~ That this Jesus guy was baptized by John the Baptist ca. 29 CE, and as a result of said baptism, Jesus believed the Holy Spirit had descended upon and into him? (I should stress that I’m not talking about the claim that the Holy Spirit actually entered into Jesus, but the claim that Jesus BELIEVED the Holy Spirit entered him.) If you think it’s extraordinary, why? But if it’s an ordinary claim, is the evidence we have so far sufficient to support it?

      ~ That this Jesus guy, believing he possessed (or was possessed by) the Holy Spirit returned to Galilee, where he proceeded to claim the ability to prophesy, heal the sick, expelled demons, etc. via the power of the Holy Spirit? (Again, I should stress that I’m not talking about the claim that the Holy Spirit actually gave him these powers, but the claim that Jesus himself CLAIMED to others that the Holy Spirit gave him these powers.) If you think it’s extraordinary, why? But if it’s an ordinary claim, is the evidence we have so far sufficient to support it?

      ~ That this Jesus guy amassed a following of Galileans who came to believe his claims of his powers that were bestowed on him by the Holy Spirit. (Again, I should stress that I’m not talking about the claim that the Holy Spirit actually gave him these powers, but the claim that Jesus himself CLAIMED to his followers that the Holy Spirit gave him these powers.) If you think it’s extraordinary, why? But if it’s an ordinary claim, is the evidence we have so far sufficient to support it?

      ~ That this Jesus guy traveled to Jerusalem with his followers to celebrate the Passover, and while in Jerusalem he was arrested by the Jerusalem authorities and crucified for sedition by the Roman governor Pilate. If you think it’s extraordinary, why? But if it’s an ordinary claim, is the evidence we have so far sufficient to support it?

      Before you answer, consider the following:
      1) Jewish men named Jesus were exceedingly coming in 1st century Galilee.
      2) Many, if not most, apocalyptic Jews in 1st century Palestine believed the Holy Spirit would enter upon righteous Jews at the time of the coming Messiah, giving the power to prophesy. (Cf. Joel 2:28; Micah 3:8; Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1; Proverbs 1:23; Luke 1:67; Luke 4:18; Acts 2:17; John 7:39)
      3) The Romans were crucifying the leaders of Jewish revolutionary movements so often that Josephus himself says that it caused deforestation around Jerusalem. (BI V,11)

      • Tony  May 1, 2018

        Your comment appears to be based on a misunderstanding. The debate from the Mythicists point never identifies Jesus as a historical figure as an extraordinary, or illegitimate, hypothesis. It is certainly possible that there was such a person. Your Jesus guy points summarizes the historicity hypothesis.

        The debate, which seems to have turned into a hostile argument, is about relative probability. Historicity and mythicism are based on two very different hypotheses – and models – of the origins of Christianity. The proper, and only, way to establish relative probability is to determine which of these two hypotheses fits the available data best. This process does provide no absolute answers, but gives relative probabilities only. Is it possible to skew this process? Absolutely! Selectively using only data/evidence supporting one hypothesis over the other is the obvious one.

        Based of this best fit analysis some scholars have decided that, in all likelihood, Christianity started as a religion based on a celestial angel who had never been on earth. This was a mystery cult, and the basis of Paul’s religion, as documented in the NT.

        You, on the other hand, appear to consider mythicism not a legitimate hypothesis. Other than your hostility you provide no evidence why this is so.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  May 2, 2018

          “It is certainly possible that there was such a person.”

          I accept your concession. Now, was that so hard?

  19. jimdomino@comcast.net  April 27, 2018

    Dear Professor Ehrman:

    Thanks so much for your scholarship, and for sharing that scholarship with a non-scholar reader like myself.
    I have a real thirst to learn as much as I can about the historical Jesus. I find it unbelievable that Christian religious knowledge doesn’t begin with an understanding of the historical Jesus, but that is a long conversation for another time.
    In terms of your blog above, it’s fascinating to learn all the various requirements of a PhD in biblical studies. I would not be someone interested in pursing this type of rigorous study. However, and fortunately for me, there are many ways of gaining additional knowledge on this subject, without gaining a PhD in it. One, of those ways is reading your wonderful books. I’m in the process of reading “How Jesus Became God” right now, and I’m finding it quite illuminating and enjoyable. Thank you for providing your knowledge and scholarship to me, a non-scholarly reader.

  20. Matt7  April 27, 2018

    Glad I settled for an MBA. I have enough trouble understanding text books written in my native tongue, and there’s no way I would have lasted 8 years.

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