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Bart Ehrman On Biblical Texts

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THANK YOU! I'll look at these. I just got a batch of his books and I wanted to see some videos on him to get a better sense of who he really is. I had trouble finding something.

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Saved all those videos to my favorites.

 

I just finished reading "Lost Christianities" a couple days ago. I want to get some of his newer books.

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I'm currently listening to his lectures on the New Testament. Interesting stuff. But I know very little of the guy. Is he a liberal Christian, or even Christian at all? He seems to support a literal Jesus, but what about his resurrection?

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Ehrman is agnostic. He does not believe that the resurrection actually happened. He grew up a fundy Biblical literalist, went to Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and then Princeton University. Along the way, he lost his faith. He is one of the leading NT scholars, and he teaches at UNC Chapel Hill, I believe.

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Ya I watched his videos about a yr ago on U-tube, basically the more Ehrman studied the bible the more he realized its mostly brainless mythological nonsense, deeply flawed and lacking any real evidence.

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I'm currently listening to his lectures on the New Testament. Interesting stuff. But I know very little of the guy. Is he a liberal Christian, or even Christian at all? He seems to support a literal Jesus, but what about his resurrection?

 

 

Most historians as far as I am aware support that Jesus is a historical figure (I very well could be wrong) but of course discredit his resurrection. I believe Ehrman is of this same mindset. I think someone already mentioned it but he is an agnostic and former fundamentalist. From reading Misquoting Jesus (which is an absolutely awesome book on textual criticism) I think the pivotal point in his deconversion was some passage in Mark that he was spending a lengthy time to try and explain away some perceived error and when he handed in his paper on the passage his teacher basically replied with "What if Mark just made a mistake?"

 

 

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I really should get his books. I heard Jesus Interrupted is good, too. I copied the New Testament lectures onto a disc and gave them to my father in law. He's a hard core fundie! Let's see what he chooses to hear and what he chooses to ignore from those lectures!

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If he has any fundamentalist notion of preservation of scripture; his boxors are about to be roxors.

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Guest Thor

I like Dr. Ehrman's work. However, he like so many other scholars completely drop the ball when it comes to the mythicist position.

 

The Mythicist Position:

 

“Mythicism represents the perspective that many gods, goddesses and other heroes and legendary figures said to possess extraordinary and/or supernatural attributes are not “real people” but are in fact mythological characters. Along with this view comes the recognition that many of these figures personify or symbolize natural phenomena, such as the sun, moon, stars, planets, constellations, etc., constituting what is called “astrotheology.” As a major example of the mythicist position, various biblical characters such as Adam and Eve, Satan, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, King David, Solomon & Jesus Christ, among other figures, in reality represent mythological characters along the same lines as the Egyptian, Sumerian, Phoenician, Indian, Greek, Roman and other godmen, who are all presently accepted as myths, rather than historical figures.”

 

- Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection, page 12

http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/christinegypt.html

 

What is a Mythicist?

http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/mythicist.html

 

For further explanation, Evemerist vs. Mythicist Position

http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2160

 

Origins of Christianity

http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/originsofchristianity.pdf

 

New source book guide for Zeitgeist part 1

http://www.stellarhousepublishing.com/zeitgeistsourcebook.pdf

 

The Mythicist Position video

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKW9sbJ3v2w

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Thanks very much for the links to these videos. I started watching them this morning and just couldn't stop, they were so fascinating. Had to pause at the end of #7 and will finish them tonight.

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In general, I really love Bart Ehrman; but, his position on the historical Jesus is really weak. A Christian used an interview with Ehrman by an atheist, the Infidel Guy, to bash atheists. I did a youtube video in response to the Christian video, taking down Ehrman's historical Jesus. I really hated to argue with Ehrman because I really do like him otherwise. I had very positive response on the video. Take a look:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TlJiuvWLjY

 

The Christian's video is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBFQA-dyU2o

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I find it interesting Ehrman's bold claim that of all the (apparently thousands) scholars he knows in the field, none doubt that there was a historical Jesus.

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I find it interesting Ehrman's bold claim that of all the (apparently thousands) scholars he knows in the field, none doubt that there was a historical Jesus.

 

 

Alen - I heard Ehrman say in an interview:: “I don’t think there are any serious historians who doubt that Jesus existed, there are a lot of people who want to write sensational books and make a lot of money.”

 

For him to dismiss any historians who doubt the existence of Jesus as not serious is like the no True Christian fallacy (Christians often claim that people who do things that they deem contrary to their faith are not really Christians.)

 

He is correct that few "serious" historians doubt the existence of Jesus. But, that is a reflection on the state of scholarship amongst those who specialize in Early Christianity. Amongst the broader field of "serious" historians" there is a great deal of criticism of Christian scholarship because the field is dominated by believers. Also, historians in general can be a remarkably uncritical bunch. Few “serious” historians also doubt the existence of Zoroaster, Buddha, the Old Testament prophets, etc. Questioning the existence of these characters is a new trend in historical research because the modern history writing fashion began in the 19th century with “serious” historians who did not question the existence of Moses, Abraham, or God. The reason so few “serious” historians question the existence of ancient religious figures is because the modern history writing of the late 19th century and early 20th century was dominated by some very obtuse people. The more critical thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment were replaced in the 19th century by those inspired by the beginnings of archaeological research. The early forays of Europeans in West Asia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean turned up artifacts that were interpreted as evidence that Bible stories were true or at least symbolically true. Later 20th century historians were faced with a mountainous task of disproving the earlier history. “Facts” in history are established by consensus; so, eradicating a false “fact” means persuading the consensus to change its mind. But, just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true, even if those people are “serious” historians.

 

Ehrman’s second point begs the question: Do sensational books about the non-existence of Jesus make a lot of money? No. Bart Ehrman is making much more money with his book about the historical Jesus than authors who claim Jesus was a mythical character. Ehrman will probably sell more copies of his book than all mythicist books put together. Which movie made more money: “The God Who Wasn’t There” or “The Passion of Christ” flick? From a marketing perspective, Bart Ehrman made a smart choice to write about the historical Jesus rather than the mythical Jesus, because most people believe Jesus existed. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true; but, it is easier to sell them a book that appeals to their beliefs.

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What I find amusing about his argumentation (even though I would currently lean to there being a historical Jesus) is that he will dismiss the pastoral epistles as pseudonymous and that claims for credibility (Like where the author says don't forget to bring my parchments et cetera) in them are the writer's trying to fool someone into believing they are the real deal. Yet, when Paul mentions talking to James, the Lord's brother, all of a sudden this is a proof rather than an attempt to fool people? It seems to be a case of special pleading. Robert Price rejects there being a historical Jesus and according to him quite a lot of European scholarship is behind him with that regards. It's the Americans who are falling behind here. It's also interesting that Price believes that all the Pauline epistles are pseudonymous, not just the pastorals.

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I really should get his books. I heard Jesus Interrupted is good, too. I copied the New Testament lectures onto a disc and gave them to my father in law. He's a hard core fundie! Let's see what he chooses to hear and what he chooses to ignore from those lectures!

 

I got those a few weeks ago, are they the ones that deal with the rise of Proto-orthodox Christianity? If not you should check them out!

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What I find amusing about his argumentation (even though I would currently lean to there being a historical Jesus) is that he will dismiss the pastoral epistles as pseudonymous and that claims for credibility (Like where the author says don't forget to bring my parchments et cetera) in them are the writer's trying to fool someone into believing they are the real deal. Yet, when Paul mentions talking to James, the Lord's brother, all of a sudden this is a proof rather than an attempt to fool people? It seems to be a case of special pleading. Robert Price rejects there being a historical Jesus and according to him quite a lot of European scholarship is behind him with that regards. It's the Americans who are falling behind here. It's also interesting that Price believes that all the Pauline epistles are pseudonymous, not just the pastorals.

 

 

I think the problem with American scholarship begins with the American consensus about the dating of the Old Testament books being way behind European scholars. Particularly a group called the "Copenhagen School" places the authorship of the Torah in the Hellenistic period. The American consensus claims a compilation of the books during the Persian period and that those books were based on older works. The big problem with the American claim is that it is based on absolutely zero evidence. It is a theologically driven theory that gives far too much weight to religious tradition and ignores contrary evidence.

There is very good evidence for the Old Testament books dating to the Hellenistic period because all of the Dead Sea Scrolls date to the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods. And, the scrolls show that the books were different from the books that were canonized by about 200 CE. The Old Testament books were evolving during that period of approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE. It doesn’t matter what books existed during the Persian period, the books were changed during the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods. The theology represented by the Bible stories was different during the Persian period and earlier. All of the archaeological evidence of Yahweh worship from the Persian period shows that it was still very "pagan" and none of the hallmarks of Judaism are evident. There is absolutely no evidence that the theological perspective of the Old Testament was held by anyone in Palestine prior to the Hellenistic period; and, lots of evidence that Yahwistic paganism was still alive and well. The majority of people called Jews during the Greco-Roman period were also still quite pagan. The archaeological evidence for Herod the Great shows that he was pagan. It was only a small class of reformers, mostly Pharisees, who were changing the old Yahwistic paganism into something like what later became Rabbinic Judaism. Judaism was a new religion, beginning in the Hellenistic period and it changed a lot following the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.

 

Regardless of a real Jesus or real Paul, we know that the first Christians were not Pharisees and that their beliefs were not derived from the new Judaism; but, from the beliefs of the more common people. Judaism and Christianity should be seen as two branches off of the central trunk of Palestinian paganism, not as Christianity as a branch off of Judaism. Yet, most scholars specializing in Early Christianity run to Judaism to interpret the New Testament. When Christians started being persecuted, they did start to adopt a more Jewish interpretation of their religion. They claimed Jewish heritage for their religion to combat the accusation of Christianity being a new religion. But, modern American scholars continue to examine Early Christianity with a theological perspective that fails to recognize the pagan origins of Christianity. With that perspective, they interpret things like Paul's meeting with James as a literal meeting between two humans. But, Paul most likely claimed to meet a supernatural James.

 

Paul says in Galatians 1:19-20: "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not."

 

Why would people think Paul was a liar? Maybe because he was claiming to have met a supernatural James, just like he claimed to have met the supernatural Jesus. The first Christians were not monotheists. Jesus and his apostles were supernatural, based on pagan polytheism.

 

My gut feeling is that Paul was a real person and that Jesus was not. But, trying to prove or disprove their existence or interpret Early Christianity based on the understanding of the Old and New Testaments promoted by American scholarship is wrongheaded. Both the Old and New Testaments, as we know them, date to 200 CE and later. It is anachronistic to apply the beliefs of post 200 CE Christians to those of Christians of nearly 200 years earlier. A more fruitful method of understanding 1st century CE Christianity is found by looking at the archaeological evidence of Palestinian culture and the broader culture of the Roman Empire of that time. The picture that emerges is of a very pagan culture, permeated with savior boy mythology, with Christians on the bottom rung of the social status ladder.

 

The first Christians were a mafia type organization, involved in the same sorts of business as modern mafia. They were involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and magic shows. Christianity succeeded for exactly the same reason as every other organization succeeds: the first Christians made money. Their evolution from a small group of people on the unsavory side of society to a position of power, as the political leadership of the Roman Empire, was exactly the same as mafia families gaining political power over time. A good analogy for their success is the success of the Kennedy family. Old man Kennedy made his fortune from bootlegging during Prohibition. A generation later, the Kennedys were America's first family. Also, remember that the mafia model of business was created in the Roman Empire, contemporary with Early Christianity, and has consistently worked hand in hand with the Catholic Church.

Theology is secondary in religious organizations. Follow the money and political interests of religious leaders and you will find the motivation behind their theology and changes in theology. It does not matter if Jesus was a real person. If he really was crucified, he was a failure as a religious leader. There is no evidence of a successful religious movement began by Jesus. The success story starts with people like Paul, who turned the myth of Jesus into a successful business model. And, the gospel stories of Jesus are 100% mythology, derived from Palestinian paganism.

 

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A more fruitful method of understanding 1st century CE Christianity is found by looking at the archaeological evidence of Palestinian culture and the broader culture of the Roman Empire of that time. The picture that emerges is of a very pagan culture, permeated with savior boy mythology, with Christians on the bottom rung of the social status ladder.

 

The first Christians were a mafia type organization, involved in the same sorts of business as modern mafia. They were involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and magic shows. Christianity succeeded for exactly the same reason as every other organization succeeds: the first Christians made money. Their evolution from a small group of people on the unsavory side of society to a position of power, as the political leadership of the Roman Empire, was exactly the same as mafia families gaining political power over time. A good analogy for their success is the success of the Kennedy family. Old man Kennedy made his fortune from bootlegging during Prohibition. A generation later, the Kennedys were America's first family. Also, remember that the mafia model of business was created in the Roman Empire, contemporary with Early Christianity, and has consistently worked hand in hand with the Catholic Church.

 

 

Wow, Diana! That is a large post and a lot to digest. This perspective of the first century church as an organization "involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and magic shows" is something that I never heard before.

 

Is this covered in your book? Are there any other books you can recommend that would cite the historical and archaeological basis for this approach?

 

This is fascinating stuff and I would love to look into it more.

 

Thanks!

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A more fruitful method of understanding 1st century CE Christianity is found by looking at the archaeological evidence of Palestinian culture and the broader culture of the Roman Empire of that time. The picture that emerges is of a very pagan culture, permeated with savior boy mythology, with Christians on the bottom rung of the social status ladder.

 

The first Christians were a mafia type organization, involved in the same sorts of business as modern mafia. They were involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and magic shows. Christianity succeeded for exactly the same reason as every other organization succeeds: the first Christians made money. Their evolution from a small group of people on the unsavory side of society to a position of power, as the political leadership of the Roman Empire, was exactly the same as mafia families gaining political power over time. A good analogy for their success is the success of the Kennedy family. Old man Kennedy made his fortune from bootlegging during Prohibition. A generation later, the Kennedys were America's first family. Also, remember that the mafia model of business was created in the Roman Empire, contemporary with Early Christianity, and has consistently worked hand in hand with the Catholic Church.

 

 

Wow, Diana! That is a large post and a lot to digest. This perspective of the first century church as an organization "involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and magic shows" is something that I never heard before.

 

Is this covered in your book? Are there any other books you can recommend that would cite the historical and archaeological basis for this approach?

 

This is fascinating stuff and I would love to look into it more.

 

Thanks!

 

Yeah, I'd be really interested in seeing the evidence for that. So much of what I've heard about early Christianity has likely been filtered by history - It's likely negative things happened, it's just I haven't heard about them before. I'm interested in learning more.

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A more fruitful method of understanding 1st century CE Christianity is found by looking at the archaeological evidence of Palestinian culture and the broader culture of the Roman Empire of that time. The picture that emerges is of a very pagan culture, permeated with savior boy mythology, with Christians on the bottom rung of the social status ladder.

 

The first Christians were a mafia type organization, involved in the same sorts of business as modern mafia. They were involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and magic shows. Christianity succeeded for exactly the same reason as every other organization succeeds: the first Christians made money. Their evolution from a small group of people on the unsavory side of society to a position of power, as the political leadership of the Roman Empire, was exactly the same as mafia families gaining political power over time. A good analogy for their success is the success of the Kennedy family. Old man Kennedy made his fortune from bootlegging during Prohibition. A generation later, the Kennedys were America's first family. Also, remember that the mafia model of business was created in the Roman Empire, contemporary with Early Christianity, and has consistently worked hand in hand with the Catholic Church.

 

I agree with the first quoted paragraph above. I've lived in Israel and studied a decent bit about life there in the ancient past. The second quoted paragraph is interesting. It is a lot to just put out there without referencing any sources to help support the claim. I would certainly like to believe this is true (it would tickle my funny bone something fierce) but I would need to see some research from a creditable source that shows early Christians as being similar to the mafia. On top of that, the research would have to demonstrate that this mafia-like group of Christians was not just some splinter group somewhere, but the norm. After all, the early Christians were split in so many ways over so many issues, I find it hard to believe they were unified in anything, let alone prostitution and drug dealing.

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I have seen both the positive and negative criticisms against Dr. Ehrman's work. Both ends of the extremists do much more huffing and puffing than neccessary and I mean no disrespect to them.

 

Most of the books that people are citing as having read are his popular books. I would propose that many go and buy a copy of his academic work The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Some would say that this book is the academic form of the popular book Misquoting Jesus. But like many things, that is interpretive.

 

Dr. Ehrman's most recent book is Forged. It deals specifically with the NT forgeries: 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. I have the book but I haven't read it yet. It may also address 2 Peter and Jude.

 

I like his book Lost Scriptures because it deals a lot with Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi findings.

 

Lost Christianities is a good book to learn about the Gnostics, Marcionites, Ebionites, etc.

 

God's Problem could very well appeal to the general audience of this forum because it deals with the subject of the Bible being unable to explain why humans suffer.

 

How Jesus Came to be God: From Jewish Preacher to Lord of All is said to be out in January.

 

I prefer his academic works. I have on my list to read:

 

The Text of the Fourth Gospel in the Writings of Origen

Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Four Gospels

The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. I & II)

Currently, I'm reading some of Dr. Bruce M. Metzger's work:

The New Testament: Its Background Growth and Content

The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance

I also plan to read An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism and The Case Against God. I'm not an atheist or agnostic but I don't view either as 'inferior' to theists. That is simply arrogant. I appreciate both not just for what they are but how people appropriately contribute to them.

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The second quoted paragraph is interesting. It is a lot to just put out there without referencing any sources to help support the claim. I would certainly like to believe this is true (it would tickle my funny bone something fierce) but I would need to see some research from a creditable source that shows early Christians as being similar to the mafia. On top of that, the research would have to demonstrate that this mafia-like group of Christians was not just some splinter group somewhere, but the norm. After all, the early Christians were split in so many ways over so many issues, I find it hard to believe they were unified in anything, let alone prostitution and drug dealing.

I agree.

 

Diana, I'd really like to see more info on that, if you have it.

 

 

Dwayne, thanks a lot for the book suggestions! happy.png

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