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  1. Avatar
    PaulH  May 19, 2012

    If Mark is the earliest Gospel I would be more inclined to use its account of Jesus entering Jerusalem up until his death, over Matthew and Luke.

    That being said, if he travelled there to die he certainly went out with a whimper. Obviously shell shocked by what little he said to Pilate at his trial, and just as forsaken on the cross. I’d have expected a Patrick Henry “Give me liberty, or give me death” type of speech. But his death does not strike me as someone on a suicide mission, spreading his apocalyptic message.

    Matthew and Luke change stories to suit their theology on events. While John is John the Maverick Gospel.

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    SJB  May 19, 2012

    Prof Ehrman

    What about the possibility that Jesus and his followers went to Jerusalem thinking that the Kingdom of God was literally “at hand” and expecting divine intervention then and there? I infer from your comments that you accept that Jesus actually proclaimed the destruction of the temple and that this wasn’t just read back into his message after the events of 70 AD. If so this message could have easily produced some kind of incident in the Temple and that would have led to his immediate arrest and execution.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 20, 2012

      Could be! But I’m not sure that we have enough evidence to know what he thought at a particular point of his life. I do think that he imagined it would be soon. (Note: in the Gospels, at least, it is when in Jerusalem that he indicates that the end would be within his own generation; I think if he really said that then, he wasn’t thinking that it would be next week, but possibly some yeras off)

      • Avatar
        Scott F  May 21, 2012

        I have taken Mark 13:30 as an apologetic statement attempting to deal with the widely held understanding that Jesus had predicted an “immediate” ushering in of the Kingdom of God with the obvious delay by the time of the Gospels. Given Jerusalem’s place in Jewish scripture and culture, it seems likely to me that Jesus went to Jerusalem expecting SOMETHING to happen.

        But, as you say, “likely” and “seems” can only take us so far given the evidence we have been granted.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

          Interesting reading. I take it as authentic as stands, that Jesus thought the end would come some time within his own generation. As to Jerusalem: I think what he expected was to get a lot of people to repent in preparation for the coming kingdom. (not to die…)

          • Avatar
            Scott F  May 21, 2012

            Not die, surely. But for God to intervene once Jesus did whatever he had to do while in the capital… ?

            Then again, parables such as that of the mustard seed , if original, would mitigate against such an immediate expectation – the Kingdom starts small but grows, after a season or so, into something substantial.

          • TWood
            TWood  January 29, 2017

            I tend to agree he didn’t plan on dying… What do you think of these three ideas for why I suspect this (are they valid in your view?):

            1. In the gospels, when they say Jesus predicted his coming death and resurrection three days later… they seem to say the disciples didn’t understand what he meant at the time. This seems to be a method for “explaining away” the historical evidence that suggests the disciples were totally surprised by Jesus’ execution (e.g. they fled when he was arrested, they didn’t believe the reports that he was alive after his death, the Jewish expectations of the Messiah overthrowing Rome rather than being executed by it, etc.).

            2. The Aramaic phrase “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” (the only phrase recorded in two gospels) seems to suggest this phrase went back to Jesus himself. If this is likely, then it’s also likely that Jesus himself was surprised that he was being crucified. If he was surprised, then certainly his disciples were surprised too.

            3. Even though he didn’t plan on dying, I suspect Jesus could have been a bit nervous going down to Jerusalem in order to proclaim that his father (God!) will soon destroy the Temple and that he (Jesus) is their true King! Along those lines, I also suspect the Last Supper could have been a bit nerve wracking which could support the historicity of a real warning from Jesus to his disciples not to betray/deny him the next day (meaning he saw the potential for *something* bad to happen that would test his and the disciples’ bravery).

          • Bart
            Bart  January 30, 2017

            1. Yup. 2. Just because something goes back to Aramaic doesn’t mean Jesus said it.

          • TWood
            TWood  January 30, 2017

            Thanks… I know it doesn’t *mean that* — but I was more wondering if you think *in this case* it’s likely or unlikely he said *something like that*? (because it’d support the idea that he was questioning God for what was happening to him).

          • Bart
            Bart  January 31, 2017

            We have no idea.

  3. Avatar
    Mikail78  May 19, 2012

    The TRUE story (not the implausible story that has Jesus being born of a virgin, being god in human flesh, dying for the sins of the world, rising from the dead three days later, and then flying up to the sky) of the historical Jesus, is far from a story that inspires hope and faith. Rather, it’s quite tragic.

    Not only was the historical Jesus wrong about his predicted apocalypse. His proclamation of this false prophecy got him killed.

  4. Avatar
    rbrtbaumgardner  May 19, 2012

    I read The Passover Plot a number of years ago. It was highly entertaining.
    Do you think Jesus expected God to bring in the Kingdom and save him? He seemed to have died feeling abandoned.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 20, 2012

      I don’t think there’s any way to know. Wish we did!

  5. Avatar
    TomJull  May 19, 2012

    I can hear the lyrics of Andrew Lloyd Weber now, Dr. Ehrman. They are so good.

    Those lyrics fail to satisfy me. I find them too convenient, and leaving unanswered many questions about what happened subsequently.

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    jimmo  May 19, 2012

    Isn’t a key aspect of the Gospel of Judah that Jesus knew all along what was going on and he actually told Judah to deliver him to the Romans in order to release him from his earthly body? If I remember from your book, the Gospel of Judah is a gnostic text, right?
    That Jesus wanted to be crucified to be “released” would support the claim that he went to Jerusalem in order ot be crucifed. Granted that being a gnostic text it is much later than the canonical gospels (late 2nd century???), they could simply be modifiying an earlier, non-gnostic tradition that said Jesus knew what was going to happen. On the other hand, couldn’t it have been from a completely different tradition and thus support claims Jesus crucifiction was intentional?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

      Yes, that is more ore less how I understand the Gospel of Judas. But as I stress in my book on it, I do not think the Gospel of Judas provides us with historically reliable information about the life of Jesus itself, as it was written much later, with a clear Gnostic bent.

  7. Avatar
    bholly72  May 20, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Thank you for sharing your views of Dr. Schoenfeld’s book. I read it about a year after it came out, when I was 16 or so. It was eye-opening. Even at that young age, I found the actual ‘passover plot’ scenario highly unlikely, but there was so much more to the book. It was from that book that I first learned just how thoroughly Jewish Jesus was, how different the theologies of the four Gospels were, and what text criticism was. It was the first book I actually read all the footnotes to. And it generated a complete upheaval in my simplistic Sunday School understanding of the New Testament. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. And even the silly passover plot scenario, unlikely as it was, was more likely than the supernatural scenario preached by Christianity.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

      I think I did the same thing! But I was a fundamentalist at the time, and wasn’t fazed by it….

  8. Avatar
    lbehrendt  May 21, 2012

    Bart, it would be interesting to hear you discuss in this context the “Temple cleansing” incident. It’s hard to imagine how Jesus expected to survive any attempt to disrupt Temple activities, particularly during the sensitive time of the Passover season. Even if some of the Gospel accounts of this incident are exaggerated … overturning the tables of the money-changers would be something like overturning the tables at airport security … at O’Hare … on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving … would it not? Yes, I understand the argument that the Temple cleansing was primarily a symbolic action, but even symbolic actions can have real (and potentially deadly) consequences.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 21, 2012

      Good point. It’s not clear to me if the TEmple event was premeditated, or if Jesus just got angry on the spot and blew his top a bit. There were, of coruse, other Jewish prophets who made proclamations against the Temple who were not crucified for it. But it does appear to have led to his death in this case.

      • Avatar
        lbehrendt  May 21, 2012

        Good point back at you! The gospels make it seem like Jesus’ act was not premeditated. I’ve always wondered, with the level of security that must have been present at the Temple, particularly during the Passover season, how Jesus was able to turn over tables or do whatever he did do, and how he escaped from the Temple in one piece. It’s possible that the act was planned, and that his escape from the Temple was also planned … but then he would have had to have help, and you’d figure that once the authorities caught up with Jesus, that his helpers would have also been arrested and crucified.

        So maybe the gospels exaggerated whatever Jesus did in his “cleansing”. But why would the gospel writers have wanted to make the Jesus’ Temple activities seem more lawless and disruptive than they really were? Wouldn’t the gospel writers have wanted to DOWNPLAY anything Jesus might have done to disturb the peace, so as to emphasize Jesus’ innocence and his pacifism?

        Confusing stuff.

        BTW, not that you’d know it, but you’ve been teaching me this material for many years now, through your books and Teaching Company lectures. It’s quite a thrill to have this new avenue open up! Thanks for doing this.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 24, 2012

          Good questions. I wish there were definitive answers! My sense is that hte Gospel writers were themselves so opposed to Judaism and its institutions, that they had no problem with seeing Jesus violently opposed to the temple and its cult….

          I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my work.

      • Avatar
        RG959  August 31, 2018

        Doesn’t it say in the Hebrew Old Testament that god commanded the Israelis to buy, sell and drink in the temple? Deuteronomy 14:26. Why did Jesus throw a fuss over something god ok’d his people to do in the temple. I find it interesting other prophets grew angry over this same thing.

        • Bart
          Bart  September 2, 2018

          I don’t think Deut. 14:26 is saying to buy, sell, and eat within the Temple precincts themselves, but in Jerusalem.

          • Avatar
            RG959  September 2, 2018

            Do you think the Jews were following Deuteronomy 18:20 when it came to Jesus? And who was Moses specifically refereeing to as the new prophet? There were a bunch of prophets after him. Could he have been talking about the coming Jewish messiah or just a bunch of prophets in general? Seems to me the Jews were following moses orders when Jesus came becaus he spoke an entirely different message.

          • Bart
            Bart  September 3, 2018

            They certainly though Moses was referring to jesus. Historically, of course, the author of Deuteronomy had someone else in mind. It’s not clear who.

  9. Avatar
    timber84  May 21, 2012

    Maybe Jesus went to the temple to make a sacrifice. He was going to buy an animal and had to exchange his Roman currency for temple script. He felt the money-changers were not giving him a fair exchange and he was being ripped off. He lost his temper and started turning over tables. Could that be a possibility?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 22, 2012

      Yes indeed!

    • Avatar
      lbehrendt  May 22, 2012

      timber, that’s a possibility, but an unlikely one. There’s no indication in any gospel that Jesus was present at the Temple to perform a sacrifice. It appears instead that Jesus went to the Temple to teach — the gospels have Jesus doing a lot of teaching in the Temple.

      Nor is there any indication that Jesus’ objection was to an unfair rate of exchange. The gospels indicate that Jesus objected to “selling and buying in the temple”, that he “drove out” all those selling and buying, and that he overturned the “seats of those who sold doves” as well as the tables of the money changers. It appears that Jesus objected to the PRESENCE on the Temple grounds of any form of commerce, on any terms, fair or not. This is peculiar, in that this commerce was necessary in order for the Temple to function. Moreover, in spite of some very rough and nasty language in traditional church interpretation of this story, there’s simply no evidence that the buyers and sellers at the Temple engaged in unfair business practices.

      Contrast this with the Roman tax collectors — folks included in Jesus’ “table fellowship” — who were known even in Roman sources to exact unfair rates of exchange. If Jesus’ program included the promotion of “fair trade” — something I think was relatively low on his list of concerns — presumably he would have given these tax collectors a piece of his mind.

      Amy-Jill Levine notes in her book “The Misunderstood Jew” that Jesus accused the buyers and sellers at the Temple of making the Temple into a “den of robbers”. A robbers’ den is the place robbers go AFTER they’ve finished their robbery. Robbers don’t go to their “den” to rob from each other!

  10. Avatar
    aigbusted  May 22, 2012

    “[Schonfield] thought that Jesus came to understand himself as the messiah and purposefully arranged to have himself killed in order to fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah.”

    How could that be if no Jews had any understanding of a dying messiah?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 24, 2012

      Schonfield did not understand that.

  11. Avatar
    glemroy  May 28, 2012

    Regarding Jesus believing that the coming of the kingdom was due in his own generation , how come the writers of the gospels write this down as they did? Were there still a few living left so the gospel writes still thought the end could come any day while writing? Or did they have a different understandig, maybe misunderstanding themselves what the text meant.

    Stein Tore

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 29, 2012

      I wish we had a definitive answer. I very much want to know as well. My guess is that sometimes they preserved actual historical sayings of Jesus, and did so by reinterpreting them in ways amenable to their own situation. But how we’d love to get into Matthew’s or Mark’s head for a bit to find out for sure!

  12. Avatar
    alanpaul71  May 20, 2019

    Hi Bart – do you subscribe to the 3 year public ministry of Jesus? If so, why wait until year 3 to go to Jerusalem rather than right away or is it possibly he went before but stayed out of trouble?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 21, 2019

      I doubt it, actually; it’s only in John. Mark seems to presuppose a ministry of a few months.

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