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What Paul’s Conversion Meant

In my previous posts I talked about Paul’s life up to his conversion and the conversion experience itself.  Now, for two posts, I want to talk about what the conversion actually *meant* to Paul, particularly in terms of how it affected both his thinking and his life (which, for Paul, were very closely related to one another).  His thinking involved his theology and his subsequent life involved missionary work as the newly minted apostle of Jesus with a distinctive message.

It is easiest to understand Paul’s subsequent missionary activities and evangelistic message by realizing how an appearance of the living Jesus would force him from “fact” to “implications.”  (I’ve discussed some of this on the blog before, but indulge me for a bit: I’m trying to clarify in my own mind exactly how I’m imagining all this…)

For him the “fact” was that Jesus was alive again (it was a “fact” for him because he had seen Jesus alive three years after he had died).   And from that fact Paul started reasoning backwards.  This backward reasoning must have proceeded through a number of steps.  They ended in a remarkable place.  Paul came to believe that he himself, the chosen apostle, had been commissioned by God to fulfil the predictions of Jewish Scripture, prophecies recorded by those inspired by the Spirit of God hundreds of years earlier but looking forward to his day, to his labors, and to him personally.  It’s a breath-taking conclusion.

Here is how the thought process appears to have worked.   Paul, as I indicated, started with the “fact” that Jesus was alive again.  Since Paul also knew that Jesus had been crucified, his reappearance must mean that he had come back to life.  There was only one way for that to have happened.  God did a miracle.  God had raised Jesus from the dead.  But if God raised Jesus from the dead, that would mean that Jesus really was the one who stood under God’s special favor.  He was the one chosen by God.  He was the anointed one.  But then why would he die?  If he was in God’s special favor, why would God let him be executed?  Would God require him to be executed?  Tortured to death?  Is this what God does to the one he favors?  What does he do to his enemies?

The matter was actually a bit more complicated than that for Paul, because Jesus didn’t die just any death, not even just any excruciating death.  He was killed on a cross.  That was a particular problem for Paul because he knew full well (as he indicates in his letter to the Galatians) that Scripture itself pronounces God’s curse on anyone who dies on a tree (Galatians 3:13; quoting Deuteronomy 21:23).  If Jesus was the one blessed by God, how could he be the one cursed by God?  Paul drew what for him was the natural conclusion.  Jesus must not have died for anything he himself had done wrong.  He was not being cursed for his own deeds.  He must have been cursed for the deeds of others.

Paul, as a good citizen of the ancient world, and a good Jew in particular, immediately saw that Jesus must have been a kind of human sacrifice.  A sacrifice who suffered not because of his own misdoings but because of the misdoings of others.  Jesus’ death was not an accident or a gross miscarriage of justice.  It was an atoning sacrifice that could remove sins.   And why would God ordain that?  Because he wanted to save people from their sins.   And it was Jesus’ death that did it, as proved by the fact that God raised him from the dead (which was proved by the fact that Paul had seen him alive).

From here came a further and all-important thought.  If the salvation of God comes by the death and resurrection of Jesus, this must be how God had planned all along to save his chosen people.  That in turn must mean that salvation cannot come by the zealous adherence to the prescriptions of the Jewish law.  If salvation could come by belonging to the covenantal community of the chosen people, there would be no reason for God’s messiah to have suffered an excruciating death.  And so following the law must have no bearing on how a person stands in a right relationship with God.

That in turn has inordinately significant implications.   If the law has no bearing on a person’s standing before God, then being a Jew cannot be a requirement for those who want to belong to God’s people and enjoy his gracious act of salvation.   The only thing that must matter is trusting in the sacrificial atonement provided by Christ.  And that means that the message of salvation is not for Jews only – although it certainly is for them, since it was through the Jewish messiah sent to the Jewish people in fulfilment of the plans of the Jewish God as set forth (Paul came to realize) in the Jewish scriptures.  But the message is not for Jews only, those who observe the law.  It is for all people, Jew and gentile.  And it comes to gentiles apart from observing the Jewish law.

To be members of God’s covenantal people, it is not necessary for gentiles to become Jews.  They do not need to be circumcised, observe the Sabbath, keep kosher, or any of the rest.  They need to believe in the death and resurrection of the messiah Jesus.   This was an earth-shattering realization for Paul.   Prior to this, the followers of Jesus – the first Christians – were of course Jews who understood that he was the messiah who had died and been raised from the dead.  But they knew this as the act of the Jewish God given to the Jewish people.  Certainly gentiles could find this salvation as well.  But first they had to be Jewish.  Not for Paul.  Jew or gentile, it didn’t matter.  What mattered was faith in Christ.

(A lot of this I’ve said before on the blog: but not, I think, the next set of implications, which I’ll address tomorrow.)

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Paul’s Converted Vision of Himself
Reading Suggestions for the New Testament: A Blast from the Past

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    gabilaranjeira  June 19, 2016

    Hi!

    Is this idea of apostleship and missionary activities unique to Chritianity? Do you think the concept of “spreading the good news” goes back to Jesus? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      Yes, as I’ll be arguing in my book, there was really nothing like it in the ancient world. That’s one of the reasons it succeeded.

      • Avatar
        gabilaranjeira  June 20, 2016

        What would be the diference between missionary activity and the preaching of a prophet? Is it the targeted audience meaning Jews and gentiles as opposed to Jews only? Kind of a silly question, but thanks! :o)

        • Bart
          Bart  June 21, 2016

          Not silly at all! I suppose a prophet feels directly inspired by God, whereas a missionary feels commissioned to spread a message.

  2. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 19, 2016

    “Breath-taking” conclusions indeed leading, I guess, to the current widespread emphasis on having the “correct beliefs” as being more important than all else.

  3. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 19, 2016

    I wonder what he would have thought of people – Jews or non-Jews – who didn’t believe in a coming apocalyptic “Kingdom,” and wouldn’t understand the kind of “salvation” he was preaching? People who, regardless of whether they believed in any kind of afterlife, couldn’t see why they needed to be “saved”?

  4. Avatar
    john76  June 19, 2016

    So your position is that the author of the pre-Pauline Corinthian creed thought Christ died for “our” sins, but “our” only meant the Jews?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      No, the creed is “pre-Pauline” meaning that it wsa floating around before he quoted it and before he preached to the Corinthians, not that that it was necessarily pre-33 CE.

  5. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  June 19, 2016

    When you put it that way, it makes more sense to me that Paul saw a physical appearance of Jesus which caused his epiphany, and not just seeing him in a dream or sudden realization because it was so profound to him.

    Something else I found interesting in Acts 16:9, “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” The vision may not be historically accurate, but Luke wrote that the man was *standing*. It reminds of when someone wakes up in the middle of the night and literally sees someone standing beside their bed; that’s not really the same as having a dream. Maybe Luke didn’t mean anything with that particular word, but it’s interesting to think about.

  6. talmoore
    talmoore  June 20, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, I think your line of reasoning is, well, reasonable, but I’m afraid I don’t find it at all persuasive. It kind of smacks a bit to me of the seminary. That is to say, it sounds like something a 2nd century apologist — e.g. Justin Martyr — might believe, but it seems too theologically sophisticated for a Jew living in Paul’s time.

    My sense is that Paul started from the very Jewish understanding that in order to be saved on the Day of Judgment a Jew must absolutely, unwaveringly believe in the Resurrection itself. That is, you can be the best possible person in every other regard, but if you don’t actually accept the Resurrection, then you’re doomed. Maimonides made the belief in The Resurrection a requirement for all proper Jews (in fact, number 13 of his 13 Principles of Jewish faith). And Maimonides got that belief from the Talmud itself, particularly b.San 11, where the Gemara reads “Is he who does not believe that the resurrection is hinted at in the Torah such a criminal that he loses his share in the world to come? It was taught: He denies resurrection therefore he will not have a share in it, as punishment corresponds to the deed; for all retributions of the Holy One, blessed, be He, are in correspondence with man’s doing.” And this Gemara is based on the Mishnaic ruling: “The following have no share in the world to come: He who says that there is no allusion in the Torah concerning resurrection.”

    So some scholars might then say that the Mishnah was compiled ca. 200 CE, so we can’t be certain that 1st century Jewish legalists required such a belief. That’s a reasonable objection. However, if we peruse Paul’s words, even at just the surface level, doesn’t is seem like he is pretty much saying exactly what the Rabbis of the Mishnah are saying, namely, that belief in the Resurrection is, at the ground level itself, the first, most basic thing that anyone MUST believe in order to be saved on Judgment Day. “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain…Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1-23

    Now, someone steeped in centuries of church exegetics may read this passage and come away with your argument that Paul is saying, specifically, that belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection is what will save you. But read it again without this assumption, but consider that Paul is trying, instead, to persuade his readers that they must believe, at minimum, in the Resurrection itself, in general, not necessarily in Jesus’ resurrection in particular. In fact, consider that Paul is only using Jesus’ resurrection as an example that the Resurrection itself is real! That is, he’s trying to convince his audience that resurrection, in general, is not only real and possible, but that they MUST believe it in order to be saved. Why? Because Paul believed — just as the Rabbis who created the Mishnah believed — that belief in the Resurrection itself was, at rock bottom, necessary in ordered to be saved! If you don’t, at minimum, believe in the Resurrection, then you’re lost.

    I think this is what Paul is trying to get across. Paul is merely using Jesus’ death and resurrection as evidence that resurrection is possible and that the Resurrection (capital R) will happen, so that his readers will truly believe — as any apocalyptic Jew at that time believed — that that belief will save them on Judgment Day. And Paul sums up this sentiment perfectly with one expression: “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Notice Paul doesn’t say if we don’t believe Jesus died for our sins, let us eat, etc. Paul says “If the dead are not raised.” It’s all about belief in the Resurrection! All that stuff about salvation through faith in Jesus, that’s all theological mumbo jumbo tacked onto Paul post facto, in my humble opinion.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      Yes, my sense is that first-century apocalyptic Jews were *very* different in their thinking from the compilers of Mishnah, let alone Maimonides! For Paul the resurrection was absolutely central. But so too was Jesus death. Read Romans 3!

      • talmoore
        talmoore  June 20, 2016

        Dr. Ehrman, fair enough. I presume you’re refering in particular to Romans 3:21-26, esp. where Paul says “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” That certainly makes it seem as if Paul is proclaiming that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice in atonement for sin, not unlike, say, the Paschal lamb. I’ll give you that. But from what I understand, most scholars — including yourself, I presume — think that Romans was one of Paul’s later epistles, and by that time Paul had developed a much more sophisticated christological and theological explication of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’m reminded of Muhammad’s increasingly sophisticated “revelations” within the Qur’an. As one reads each Sura in reconstructed chronological order, it’s rather obvious that Muhammad is being forced to fine-tune his thinking in response to criticisms of his theology. (For example, most of Muhammad’s early Suras are primarily obsessed with proclaiming hellfire and damnation, while his later Suras become increasingly obsessed with retelling Bible stories of the Prophets and Patriarchs, along with denouncing Muhammed’s critics — all obvious reactions to critics of Muhammed’s evangelizing.) Reading Romans comes across similar to me as Muhammed’s “The Cow” Sura, as both men have spent years answering critics and developing very strong arguments against their objections. My sense is that by the time Paul had written the letter to the Romans he pretty much had an answer ready for any and all questions, and his “faith in Christ crucified” was just one of those answers — probably in regard to the sensible question, “but why have him crucified?” In the end, it probably all went back to Paul’s original belief and original intention, to get all the righteous, both Jew and Gentile, to believe in The Resurrection.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 21, 2016

          It’s not just Romans though. 1 Corinthians: we knew nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified. Galatians: Who has bewiteched you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. And on and on — just look up “cross” and “crucified” in a concordance. It’s a big deal for Paul, early and late.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  June 22, 2016

            I did a concordance search for “crucified” and the only instance I found there Paul connects faith in Jesus (specifially, faith in the “Son of Man”) is Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” And even in that case Paul is talking about “faith” in Jesus Christ in a similar way to how we would use the word trust. Nothing I’ve read in Paul contradicts or counters anything I’ve written above. Where modern exegetes and Christian theologians say Paul is claiming that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and “Christ crucified” (alone!), I’m saying that Paul is claiming that salvation comes from trusting that Jesus Christ died — and was resurrected! It all goes back to the belief in the resurrection, even where Paul seems to go off into tangents about faith in “Christ crucified” or “the cross of Jesus”.

            It looks to me that Paul is getting forced to fine-tune his argument as his critics are bringing up valid criticisms, such as “Why crucifixion?” or “Doesn’t Deuteronomy say that a dead man left to hang on a tree is a curse not only to himself but to the land itself?” Paul painted himself into a theological corner, and his only way out of it seems to have been “trust me — or better yet, trust God, and trust Jesus Christ! Have faith that the crucifixion was necessary…as long as you continue to believe that the Resurrection is real.” Belief in the Resurrection was the first and last of Paul’s main argument. Everything in between is him struggling to fend off reasonable objections.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 23, 2016

            I count 15 occurrences of stauros/stauroo in the Pauline corpus; but the main think is what he says when he uses it. (And that’s not counting all the occurrences of “death” “dying” etc.)

  7. Avatar
    teresa  June 20, 2016

    Hi Prof Ehrman,
    Yet I think Paul saw things much more clearly than the set of reasonings you’ve outlined. Keeping the law would never be enough to obtain salvation for either Jew or Gentile because of the fact that we all descend from Adam and are born to ” die”. I believe in Romans he says that sin is not put to account wher there is no law and that law was brought in to show the sinfulness of sin, it was never intended to make anyone righteous. So really, Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat they both need to be part of the “New Adam” . . Christ.
    I also think a revelation may not be a cerebral process entirely. It is possible that he saw everything at once and didn’t have to reason it out. Of course we just don’t know.
    Best wishes, Teresa

    • Avatar
      teresa  June 20, 2016

      Prof Ehrman, I’ve reread your post and see that you have covered the points I raised so please ignore my previous post. I must learn to read things more carefully but at the age of 64 it may be a case of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks ?
      Teresa

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 21, 2016

      I presume you’re talking about Paul’s beliefs, not your own? If the latter, though, I suggest re-reading Genesis 2-3 a few times and, while doing so, completely putting out of your mind any Pauline or Christian ideas about the Fall taking place in Eden. As I read these chapters, I see no such story there. It’s all been read into it.

  8. Avatar
    dragonfly  June 20, 2016

    Paul’s conversion was clearly not your typical 1st century conversion of Jew to Christian. He didn’t convert to a Christian so much as a Christian missionary. He wouldn’t have been able to be a Christian who just believed and went on with his normal life. We have those types in society today, but they don’t usually start by making such a fundamental modification to the rules!

  9. Avatar
    jhague  June 20, 2016

    The part where I have trouble understanding Paul is how he got to the point of having his dream/vision. He must have been having debate like conversations with others (his compatriots who believed before him) who were trying to convince him that Jesus was alive again after being crucified. The conversations were weighing heavy on his mind causing him to have a dream about Jesus, who he had never even met. He was in a mental position where he believed that the dream was an actual appearance of Jesus to him (even though he wouldn’t know Jesus if he saw him). In Paul’s zealous (unstable) mind, he then accepted what these other people were trying to convince him of. Then for himself, he needed to create his message of gentiles being saved without becoming Jews. Does this sound like how he likely got to the point of having a dream/vision that set his efforts in motion?

  10. Avatar
    JOS  June 20, 2016

    I am afraid I am a bit confused. In your 2 June 2016 post you said “There is a second reason for thinking that Paul is not the one who invented the idea that Jesus’ death was some kind of atoning sacrifice for sins. That’s because Paul explicitly tells us that he learned it from others”. But in this post (19 June 2016) you said “Paul drew what for him was the *natural conclusion*. Jesus must not have died for anything he himself had done wrong. He was not being cursed for his own deeds. He must have been cursed for the deeds of others. … It was an atoning sacrifice that could remove sins.” So which is it? Did Paul work this out for himself, or did he get it from others?
    Even if he got it from others, you could argue directly as you did that Paul then reasoned the idea did not depend on Jewishness and could apply to non-Jews as well.
    The ambiguity you seemed to have introduced undermines the idea that Paul got the “atoning sacrifice for sins” idea from others. By the way, who did he get it from? Brother James and the other actual disciples of Jesus who knew him personally?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      Yes, I’m saying that others were saying this, and Paul had an inner revelation where he realized its truth. But his revelation was more than that, because he saw the implications for the mission to the gentiles.

  11. Avatar
    Todd  June 20, 2016

    This current post is an outstanding and clearly written statement of Christian message of the doctrine of the atonement for all humanity, JEW and non-Jew….the message that Paul passed on to his churches.

    This was based on Paul’s vision of the living Christ. It was not based on what others told him about Jesus as the messiah…as he said.

    **Question** you prefaced this by saying “For him…” That is, for Paul, who saw the risen Chrisy, this became truth “for him” ….what about those in the churches Paul served who did not see the risen Christ (as I have not seen the risen Christ in a vision) but only heard about this…how did he convince his followers that what he experienced is true for them as well?

    I hope you get into that as well (personally, this is an issue I deal with…how is this true for me?) since I have not seen the risen Christ in a vision, just as most of his followers had not, and will not have the visionary experience as Paul had.

    I would like your thoughts on that.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      Paul thought that the appearances of Christ to him and others were enough for yet others to believe he had been raised from the dead. How did he convince them? I wish we knew for sure!

  12. Avatar
    flshrP  June 20, 2016

    Wow! If this logic is anywhere near correct (and I had to read this post several times to let it sink in), then Paul was truly one delusional disciple of Christ. First delusion: taking a vision in his mind as proof of the risen Jesus. Second delusion: thinking that he knows and understands the mind of the Deity regarding the reasons why Jesus had to suffer even though presumably guiltless. Third delusion: that he (Paul) is God’s chosen instrument to bring the message of salvation to the gentile world. Paul had a very inflated (i.e. delusional) idea of his importance in the scheme of things. Paul gets a lot of credit for the expansion of the Christian belief, due to his letters and Acts (excellent PR). However, IMHO, the real work was done at the grass roots level by anonymous believers who converted family, friends and neighbors.

  13. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 20, 2016

    A stray thought I just had…

    Paul’s life was changed completely when he had a “vision” (either a hallucination or a vivid dream).

    Is it possible Jesus himself may have had the same kind of experience – *his* hallucination or dream convincing him he was the Messiah? Or at least, that he had *some* lofty destiny (with his not thinking he was the actual Messiah until after the death of John the Baptist)?

  14. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  June 20, 2016

    It’s hard to imagine Paul going through such steps in his thinking when there were these things to consider (unless these things were not so embedded and alive in Judaism at the time).
    1. Aren’t there indications in the Tanakh that ancient Hebrews did sacrifice children at one time? Wasn’t / isn’t there a strain of thought in Judaism that the lesson of Abraham being called upon to sacrifice Isaac is that God did not ever want human sacrifice again? Had not Jews rejected human sacrifice well before Jesus’ time? Yet that seemed no impediment to Paul’s idea about Jesus’ sacrifice.
    2. It might have been in one of your Great Courses that I think you said “salvation” for the Jews had already come in the form of their release from bondage and in God’s gift of the Torah. And, in Deuteronomy 30:8-14, we can see that there are not only the commandments and statutes to follow but the commandment to follow them. In that commandment, God says to Israel that the commandment to follow the Commandments was “not too hard” but “is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it”? Wouldn’t Paul have know all that? If living by the Torah was so do-able, why would there have been a plan along to move away from it?
    3. Maybe early Israelites were different but turn-of-the-era Jews did not generally believe in the first place, did they, that all gentiles would be condemned if the End of Days ever did come? Wasn’t the basic sentiment of the Noahide Laws not in place in Jewish culture generally by the time of Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      too many questions for me to answer at one go! But I’ll address the first one. Humans were not allowed to sacrifice one another. But God was allowed to sacrifice his own son. We’re not told if Paul thought this might be inconsistent.

  15. Avatar
    pdahl  June 20, 2016

    Bart,

    Do you think that James, the brother of Jesus, *also* thought that Jesus’s death was a sacrifice that atoned for sins? Or do you think that the sacrificial ‘death-for-sins’ reasoning you’ve outlined in today’s post is strictly of Paul? I’ve always been curious about this.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 20, 2016

      Yes, I think others thought so too.

      • Avatar
        pdahl  June 21, 2016

        So, then, the step-by-step Scripture-based process of “thinking backwards” to arrive at the momentous “theo-logical” conclusion that Jesus’s death atoned for our sins — which you and other NT scholars (E.P. Sanders, for example) ostensibly attribute to Paul — actually preceded him? I understand from your post and response to the comments that Paul’s main innovation was to carry the gospel of Jesus’s death and resurrection to the Gentiles. However, that valid point seems to me as something quite separate from the question of who actually originated the “theo-logical” assertion that “Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15. Could it not have been Paul himself, rather than the pre-Pauline Christians?

        Either way, any Pauline appeals to “according to the Scriptures” are arguably problematic and illogical in their own right, so in that sense I can see that my own questions are rendered somewhat moot for anyone of similar mind.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 21, 2016

          Yes my sense is that Paul “saw” it because of the revelation; but the “it” that he saw had been around before him. He realized that it was both true and full of enormous previously unexplored implications.

  16. Avatar
    Wilusa  June 21, 2016

    This just occurred to me. Might Paul have had his dream/”vision” while he was in a hypnagogic state – drifting off toward sleep, but not completely there? I think we do sometimes have “experiences” – usually, I admit, fragmentary – while we’re in that state. And if the person is startled into snapping back to full wakefulness, he’d be sure he’d never been asleep.

    I was impressed by someone’s idea that Paul may have had the dream/”vision” after, and *because*, he’d been discussing the topic of Jesus with others. I think we tend to forget historical personages were real people, interacting with others the same way we do. (That, for example, is why I feel sure the living Jesus and his disciples knew he – supposedly the Messiah! – couldn’t perform miracles. And therefore, they would have pooh-poohed the notion that *anyone* could.)

    • Bart
      Bart  June 21, 2016

      Yup, it’s possible. Ancient people did not differentiate between dreams and visions the way we do.

  17. Avatar
    gchrist4  June 23, 2016

    prof. Ehrman, if you could go back in time so you could witness a few key events in Christianty so you could have clarification or verification of what “really” happened, what events would you choose to witness? I’ve often wondered what I would actually see and what would be the best moments or conversations to witness for my own curiosity.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 23, 2016

      I would want to spend time with Jesus in his last week and hang around for a couple of weeks after his death!

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  June 23, 2016

        We’ve had similar time-machine daydreams. And we’d probably want to be there at the crucifixion and keep an eye on his body. See who takes it where. And then hang around there. Then, of course, later, take your Moped to Galilee for his all-star appearance. Maybe do dinner and catch a film with Mary Magdalene in Sepphoris at the Orpheum Theater.

        On the other hand, I’d love to meet my paternal grandfather who’d been through pogroms in what is now Belarus, was a young Socialist, and could sing La Marseillaise in French, Russian, and Yiddish.

      • TWood
        TWood  June 24, 2016

        After his death I think the term “hang around” might not sound so good! Paul says Jesus died according to the Scriptures… I believe you’ve said there’s no pre-Christian understanding of a suffering Messiah in Judaism… To make sure I understood you right, are you saying the Jewish tradition of a “Messiah ben Joseph” postdates Paul? If so, that seems like a strange concession Judaism has given to Christianity about its own Scriptures…

      • TWood
        TWood  June 29, 2016

        Hi Bart… I’m wondering if you missed my question or if it wasn’t deemed worthy of a reply! If it’s the latter then no problem… but on the chance you missed it I’m still curious to get your perspective… I’ve pasted it below in case you missed it…

        After his death I think the term “hang around” might not sound so good! Paul says Jesus died according to the Scriptures… I believe you’ve said there’s no pre-Christian understanding of a suffering Messiah in Judaism… To make sure I understood you right, are you saying the Jewish tradition of a “Messiah ben Joseph” postdates Paul? If so, that seems like a strange concession Judaism has given to Christianity about its own Scriptures…

        • Bart
          Bart  June 30, 2016

          Ah, sorry. Yup, I missed it. If you’re referring the Messiah ben joseph in the Talmud, yes, I think that postdates Paul.

  18. Avatar
    Jana  June 25, 2016

    Wow! So clearly stated Dr. Ehrman!!! (I wish I could fave this blog 🙂 Oh I just did!) In a small way, this is what I was unclear about and questioned Paul’s literal interpretation of his spiritual experience … afterwards, he literally connected the dots. in order to buttress his thinking would he have drawn from many floating ideas and from other sects? Did he in fact unify an interpretation from many circulating Jesus interpretations as well? You seem to state so??? or am I misunderstanding? I hope I’m clear. To leap from Jesus died for the sins of others rather than for anything personal seems huge to me.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 26, 2016

      Yes, the big question is how much Paul knew before his conversion. I wish we could tell!

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        Jana  June 27, 2016

        Extraneous question again … which of the options did you choose regarding your work load? Did you choose (paraphrasing) “suck it up and quit complaining” 🙂 or one of the others? Is your back better?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 28, 2016

          Back is much better thanks! I’m trying to streamline what I do, post a Blast from the Past on occasion, and sucking it up with great success! 🙂

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