Ehrman in the Blogosphere: Round-Up of Recent Posts on Christology and Monotheism

I haven’t even managed to start reading Bart Ehrman’s most recent book, How Jesus Became God. But others have been doing so, and blogging about it. And so to tide you over until I get to it, here are some posts I am aware of elsewhere:

Greg Monette got me excited by pointing out that Ehrman discusses a subject that is of great interest to me, the burial of Jesus. See Bart Ehrman’s own blog post about the women at the tomb, and his article explaining why he remains obsessed with Jesus. There is also an NPR interview with Ehrman. See too Doug Chaplin’s post on the empty tomb.

Dustin Martyr has a multi-part review: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

There are excerpts from the response book online, and Mike Bird gathered some of the responses to both Ehrman’s book and the one he put together.

Jeremy Bouma blogged about Charles Hill’s contribution to the response book.

Dale Tuggy also offered a podcast of an interview with Bart Ehrman, as well as several other posts about the book and/or New Testament Christology:

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Ehrman also did an interview with Interfaith Voices:

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Jesse Luke Richards shared this Mike Bird video:

Simon Gathercole debated with Bart Ehrman on the radio. Part two is here.

Dan McClellan blogged about Paula Fredriksen’s take on early Jewish monotheism, with some guest blogging at Near Emmaus. Dale Tuggy blogged about Kimmel, Bauckham, and monotheism. See also Larry Hurtado’s post about his neglected book on that neglected topic in New Testament studies, namely God. There is also an article by Iain Provan about another aspect of monotheism. James Charlesworth’s ASOR piece about Jesus and Passover will also be of interest, as will Eric Myers’ asking whether Jesus celebrated Passover in Sepphoris.

 

  • Gary

    Wait a minute. Mike Bird video, 6:50, “What difference does it make, fried chicken will still taste good”. Ha! Why I like Ehrman. I remember vaguely “Jesus Interrupted”, Ebionites, changing one letter in Hebrew “locust”, to make it “pancakes”, to make John the Baptist an eater of pancakes and honey. Since they thought animal sacrifice was finished, and they became vegetarians. My point. Ehrman actually talks about other beliefs outside of orthodox views, which we all know existed at the time. I will buy Ehrman’s book, since I don’t want to wait till it gets to the library (which it will). I think I will scan Bird (et al) book, and see if there are ANY references at all to people, sects, or ideas outside orthodoxy. If they do, I might consider buying it too. If not, then same old thing. I might as well read Irenaeus, since his books are available free.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “I might as well read Irenaeus, since his books are available free”.

      Ha!

    • Gary

      Just as a follow-up, score keeping.
      My library,
      “How Jesus became God”, 5 copies, 26 holds.
      “How God became Jesus”, no copies.

      • Matt Brown

        So now it’s a competition about whose book sells the most copies, instead of whose book is ultimately true?

        • Gary

          No. A measure of interest versus non-interest. To make you happy, the bible is the most sold book. So it must be the most popular. But it is also the most “multiple-interpreted” book, that must not be true, except in the eye of the beholder. Because everyone has a different interpretation. Evidence, the multiple denominations that all interprete it differently. If it were “true”, there would not be Catholics, Lutherans, baptists, Presbyterians, Mormons, you name it. If it were true, you please need to tell God to make it a little more clear and specific. And not have multiple versions/translations, and differing ancient texts. You need to read Ehrman’s Jesus Intereupted. Just for fun, read Jer 7:22, in KJV and NIV. They say the exact opposite.

          • Matt Brown

            That’s your argument? Because there are people who interpret the bible in different ways? That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a right interpretation. That’s a question of exegesis and biblical hermenuetics, not personal belief.

            • Gary

              Since you were talking about truth, I suppose your interpretation is true, and others are false?

  • Andrew Dowling

    I’ve also been re-thinking the story of the women at the tomb, and find it definitely plausible that the story would be created WITH the women in line with what could have conceivably happened and also that the story may have originated from female followers. Bernard Scott in his book on the Resurrection also shows, and Erhman is basically making the same points, that it also makes sense as a pure Marcan literally creation.

    • Matt Brown

      Hmm, I think I would have to respectfully disagree with you on that. I don’t see why Mark(As well as Matthew, Luke, and John), would make women discovering the tomb instead of men. If they were making the story up, why not use men?

      The purpose of lying is to get people to believe you. Saying that women found the tomb empty and not men would have made their story weaker and more embarrasing for them unless it were true.

      • Andrew Dowling

        A good “lie” (and I consider calling it that being a little too modernistic) includes that which is probable. Per tradition, it would have been women going to anoint the body. There’s simply no rational for the male followers of an executed leader going to the tomb unless they intended to steal the body . . the very accusation made by the adversaries of early Christian communities proclaiming the Resurrection.

        Literally, the women going to anoint the body, just like the apostles “don’t understand” and are in the wrong place . . the angel says he’s in Galilee. And Jesus’s body had already been anointed pre-burial. This fits with the larger Markan motif of Jesus’s followers missing major points of His purpose and mission.

        Also, apologists like WLC make too much of the fact that female testimony wasn’t permissible in court . . equating that to “that means no-one ever took anything females said seriously whatsoever” which is an overstatement. Actually looking at female roles in 1st century Jewish society shows that while it was patriarchal, it wasn’t something akin to Taliban controlled Afghanistan.

        • Matt Brown

          But it wouldn’t be more probable for someone to believe your story if it makes your case weaker. Using women from the 1st century as your primary source was a flat out embarrassment. It would be logical and reasonable to use men. The Jewish polemic that Matthew cites( The accusation that Jesus’ disciples stole his body from the tomb) actually strengthens the plausibility of the burial tradition/empty tomb accounts.

          How can early Jews argue that Jesus’ disciples stole his body from the tomb, unless there was an actual tomb that they went to where Jesus was buried? It makes much more sense to say that Matthew felt compelled to write against the Jewish authorities who knew of Jesus’ burial and his tomb being found empty.

          WLC isn’t necessarily wrong in his argument about women. His argument is not that women couldn’t serve in the Jewish court of Law(they could), but rather, their testimony was unreliable and faulty. In fact, a woman was really only allowed to serve in two cases: 1) To testify about her virginity or 2) Testify that she’s a widow. Josephus relied on the testimony of women during the slaughter of Masada

          • Andrew Dowling

            That Matthew cites the polemic says nothing about its historicity. Given that practically no-one would’ve ever known exactly what happened to Jesus’s body, and that Matthew was likely written sometime around the mid 80s, from the time period from when Mark would’ve written (around late 60s) that’s more than enough time for anti-Christian Jews to hear of the tomb story and then accuse the disciples of grave robbing. They wouldn’t have known any different what was true about Jesus or not.

            Again, the Gospels were theological story, not court testimony. If you are construing a plausible, it’s not plausible that Jesus’s male disciples would’ve gone hanging around his tomb (and how would’ve they known the location, given that they cut tail and ran before the Crucifixion even occurred?) 3 days after burial. Putting them there doesn’t strengthen the story at all, especially that the appearance stories encompass the male disciples later anyway. You would have a stronger argument if in the appearance stories Jesus ONLY appeared to the females and then ascended. But in the accounts you have male testimony anyway of Jesus being resurrected. The message preached was “Jesus risen” not “look, there was an empty tomb!” Even the late Acts never mentions any tomb . . it wasn’t even a major part of the story until conservative apologists tried to turn it into their historical trump card. When arguing for the truth of Christianity, how often do the ORIGINAL apologists (Patristic Fathers) cite the empty tomb? Practically never.

            • Matt Brown

              “That Matthew cites the polemic says nothing about its historicity.”

              The Jewish polemic is historicity. Your argument seems to be complete conjecture. What makes you think that no one would have known what happened to Jesus’ body, when Jesus was crucified and considered a publich criminal?

              . “Given that practically no-one would’ve ever known exactly what happened to Jesus’s body, and that Matthew was likely written sometime around the mid 80s, from the time period from when Mark would’ve written (around late 60s) that’s more than enough time for anti-Christian Jews to hear of the tomb story and then accuse the disciples of grave robbing. They wouldn’t have known any different what was true about Jesus or not.”

              So, where did anti-Christian Jews get the idea of Jesus’ disciples stealing his body from the tomb, if in fact he wasn’t buried or placed in a tomb? Are you saying that people couldn’t tell what was true or false back then?

              “Again, the Gospels were theological story, not court testimony. If you are construing a plausible, it’s not plausible that Jesus’s male disciples would’ve gone hanging around his tomb (and how would’ve they known the location, given that they cut tail and ran before the Crucifixion even occurred?) 3 days after burial. Putting them there doesn’t strengthen the story at all, especially that the appearance stories encompass the male disciples later anyway. You would have a stronger argument if in the appearance stories Jesus ONLY appeared to the females and then ascended. But in the accounts you have male testimony anyway of Jesus being resurrected. The message preached was “Jesus risen” not “look, there was an empty tomb!” Even the late Acts never mentions any tomb . . it wasn’t even a major part of the story until conservative apologists tried to turn it into their historical trump card. When arguing for the truth of Christianity, how often do the ORIGINAL apologists (Patristic Fathers) cite the empty tomb? Practically never.”

              That’s not quite accurate. The Gospel accounts are not pure theological constructions. They do contain historical information. One major piece of information is the fact about Jesus’ burial by JoA and the empty tomb. Mark’s narrative doesn’t contain any theological or apologetic writings. His narrative is plain and simple. As, Robert Gundry, A NT scholar argues “The Gospel of Mark contains no ciphers, no hidden meanings, no sleight of hand”.

              Also, Acts does allude in some-way to Jesus’ burial/empty tomb, but even if it didn’t that’s not proof that Jesus wasn’t buried, nor his tomb was discovered empty.(Acts 2 24-32) Your argument is a non-sequitir. All 4 gospels allude to Jesus’ burial and empty tomb, which makes it more plausible than not. I mean, what’s so implausible about Jesus being placed in a tomb. In fact, there are instances where criminals were placed in a tomb. In a case like Jesus, it would make much more sense considering the passover was near. Also remember Paul’s epistles mention that Jesus was buried and was raised. He is citing information that he recieved from the first hand eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life.

              • Andrew Dowling

                FIrst off, saying they are theological story doesn’t mean they don’t contain historical information. But to say Mark’s narrative “contains no theological writings” is utter nonsense.

                “So, where did anti-Christian Jews get the idea of Jesus’ disciples stealing his body from the tomb, if in fact he wasn’t buried or placed in a tomb? Are you saying that people couldn’t tell what was true or false back then?”

                Jesus was likely buried in some fashion, but if some Christian Jews were going around claiming the body’s rise from the dead and the empty tomb story, the accusation that “oh, they only stole the body . . bunch of liars and crazies” would’ve been an expected and common retort regardless of what anyone knew about what actually happened. By your argument the widespread Roman and Jewish polemic that Jesus was the conception of the rape of Mary by a Roman soldier must have kernels of truth to them . . .why did those stories arise? Because of the virgin birth narratives, not because any of those opponents knew anything at all about the circumstances of Jesus’s birth.
                Why wouldn’t people know where the body was? Because people didn’t follow Roman soldiers around to see where they dumped the bodies of public execution victims.

                And Matt, please, haven’t you been on this forum enough to stop giving weak lines like “all 4 Gospels attest” . . given that Matthew and Luke copy Mark, that statement says next to nothing.

                Your quote of Acts actually goes against your own point. Peter addressing the crowd in Jerusalem says Jesus “was not abandoned to the grave . .God has raised this Jesus to life AND WE ARE ALL WITNESSES TO THE FACT.” The Holy Spirit at Pentecost is Israel’s assurance that God has made Jesus “both Lord and Christ.” What is the proof of Jesus’s Resurrection? Not an empty tomb, or stories of a risen corpse walking around Judea for 40 days, but the spirit of his followers at Pentecost. That’s the early story of the Resurrection right there in that passage.

  • Jeremiah J. Preisser

    I found the debate between Ehrman and Gathercole quite engaging, but too short. I was especially left wondering who had the upper hand in the talk about
    1 Corinthians 8:6. Gathercole doesn`t think there is a sharp distinction between “from whom all things came” and “through whom all things came” and says that the language in the passage is very similar to what is found in John 1, Hebrews 1, and I believe Colossians 1.

  • Herro

    James, why aren’t you as scornful to “evangelical scholars” as you are towards mythicists?

    Even assuming that mythicism is a crackpot theory, surely it’s much more reasonable than ideas like inerrancy, the resurrection of Jesus, and so on. So why don’t you compare guys like Gathercole and Bird to holocause deniers and so on?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      You won’t find those folks arguing for inerrancy in mainstream peer-reviewed scholarly publications. And Evangelical scholars do write the latter. And so many of them hold views that they could not defend as scholarship, but they are doing scholarship as well as writing in-house things that reflect a particular faith stance. There are scarcely any mythicists who fit that category, but those who do, I appreciate. Robert Price has written some things that I find thoroughly unpersuasive, and which have not persuaded his peers. But at least he takes the time to try, and to engage in the process.

      When Evangelical scholars say things, even if it is in their own church-affiliated publications, that are not merely not results of their scholarship but deserve criticism and scorn, I and others have offered such criticisms.

      • Herro

        >You won’t find those folks arguing for inerrancy in mainstream peer-reviewed scholarly publications.

        Sure. So they avoid peer-review for those ideas and just go straight to the public? I’ve heard you criticize (rightly so IMO) mythicists for doing exactly that.

        They have their own journals for stuff like that. Could you imagine a “Journal of Mythicist Studies” published by some sort of “Society of Mythicists” (you would have to be a mythicist to join), full of scholars in “seminaries” with mythicism as a statement of faith? Would that really make mythicism less “cranky” and pseudo-scholarly?

        >And so many of them hold views that they could not defend as scholarship, but they are doing scholarship as well as writing in-house things that reflect a particular faith stance.

        Sure. But I’m not sure why that is relevant when it comes to their crazy views. If Doherty were to publish a lot of stuff on textual criticism, would that make mythicism less of a pseudo-scholarship?

        >When Evangelical scholars say things, even if it is in their own church-affiliated publications, that are not merely not results of their scholarship but deserve criticism and scorn, I and others have offered such criticisms.

        I’m not a “devout” reader of your blog, but I’ve followed it for a long time and I don’t recall seeing you e.g. comparing guys like Michael Bird to holocaust deniers.

        I think you are more scornful to mythicists than fundies when it comes to NT-studies. And even if mythicism is as crazy as fundie views (it isn’t), one is a fringe view that has almost no influence, while the other is very influential.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You are talking about two different things. When Evangelical scholars publish, they do so about other things, using the methods of historical study. A mythicist can do the same. Both have the same status if they try to give non-academic views they hold a higher status by appealing to their academic work that has no relevance to those other claims.

          But for the most part, hardly any mythicists do that. There are far more Evangelicals who are willing to at least participate in mainstream academic processes than there are mythicists. On the other hand, there are plenty of Evangelicals who are involved in the production of in-house religiously-affiliated periodicals that try to mimic but ultimately are not to be considered the same as mainstream scholarly peer review, and you’ll have heard me being critical of that around here over the years, I’m sure. A journal run by mythicists for mythicists would make the two more similar, but wouldn’t really help the mythicists. When Evangelicals publish things only in those sorts of religiously-affiliated venues, they are not really engaging mainstream scholarship, and may or may not be noticed by mainstream scholars.

          But inasmuch as some Evangelical scholars submit work to peer review and participate in mainstream academia, they are doing what only a couple of mythicists have shown themselves willing to do. It is the preference to not pursue scholarly careers and not even submit their views to peer review, and then having the audacity to complain that it isn’t taken seriously or is criticized in its online forms by scholars, that really places those mythicists in the domain of cranks and crackpots.

          TL;DR If mythicists at least tried to do scholarship more often, they might still be wrong or have views unsubstantiated by evidence, but even trying is better than not caring enough to try.

          • Herro

            >You are talking about two different things. When Evangelical scholars publish, they do so about other things, using the methods of historical study. A mythicist can do the same. Both have the same status if they try to give non-academic views they hold a higher status by appealing to their academic work that has no relevance to those other claims.

            Well, you brought up the fact that the fundies also do normal scholarly stuff (i.e. as far as they can). I’m aware of that, and the difference.

            >…and you’ll have heard me being critical of that around here over the years, I’m sure.

            Well, you might have “been critical”, but I’m thinking of calling them cranks and comparing them to holocaust deniers, and so on, i.e. being scornful.

            >There are far more Evangelicals who are willing to at least participate in mainstream academic processes than there are mythicists.

            Well, that’s not surprising when you consider the numbers in question.

            >It is the preference to not pursue scholarly careers and not even submit their views to peer review, and then having the audacity to complain that it isn’t taken seriously or is criticized in its online forms by scholars, that really places those mythicists in the domain of cranks and crackpots.

            I don’t know that mythicists have some preference for not pursuing scholarly career. And you’ve already said that the fundies don’t submit their crazy views to peer review.

            Maybe the fundies don’t complain as much that their views aren’t taken seriously by scholars, but I doubt that it’s hard to find fundies talk about “secular mainstream scholars” and “anti-supernatural bias” and so on.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              You seem not to grasp the distinction between crank and scholar. A scholar can be wrong, but is participating in the scholarly process and using scholarly methods. If we call anyone who does that but also holds views not justified by their research in their field, then not only would that render Richard Dawkins a crank, but probably every one of us.

              Anyone who does not do scholarship and complains that their views are pure genius but not embraced by scholars because of a conspiracy, then you are dealing with a crank. There are certainly Evangelicals who do the latter. But Evangelical scholars in general do not.

              • Herro

                >You seem not to grasp the distinction between crank and scholar. A scholar can be wrong, but is participating in the scholarly process and using scholarly methods.

                Well, the fundie scholars don’t “participate in the scholarly process” don’t “use scholarly methods” when it comes to their crazy beliefs, do they?

                Would your view of mythicism change if we had loads of mythicists who wrote real scholarly stuff on subjects like textual criticism or the meaning of justification in the Pauline epistles? In my opinion it shouldn’t.

                >Anyone who does not do scholarship and complains that their views are pure genius but not embraced by scholars because of a conspiracy, then you are dealing with a crank. There are certainly Evangelicals who do the latter. But Evangelical scholars in general do not.

                I’m not sure that ideas of a conspiracy in the “mainstream” are more common among mythicists than they are among fundies. And shouldn’t we include “supernatural” versions of conspiracy thinking (e.g. “noetic effect of sin”)?

                • Matt Brown

                  Herro, If you think Evangelical scholars don’t participate in scholarly methods, then your mistaken. Scholars of the NT may differ on certain things. Dr.McGrath might disagree with another scholar like NT Wright for example when it comes to answering the question of who Jesus of Nazareth was, but that’s not to say that there isn’t common ground between Dr.McGrath and Dr.Wright. Both are exceptional scholars in their fields. The difference is that Dr.McGrath holds a more critical view than Dr.Wright. However, just because NT Wright is an evangelical, that doesn’t automatically disqualify him as a serious scholar.

                  What would disqualify someone as being genuine is if they conformed to crank methods of history(like Richard Carrier for example). Richard Carrier is an actual historian of Classics with a Phd. However, what disqualifies him as a genuine scholar is his method of research, and his intellectual dishonesty of the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s existence.

                  • Herro

                    >Herro, If you think Evangelical scholars don’t participate in scholarly methods, then your mistaken.

                    Matt, like I told James, when it comes to their crazy beliefs, they don’t.

                    >What would disqualify someone as being genuine is if they conformed to crank methods of history(like Richard Carrier for example).

                    What are these “crank methods of history”?

                    >…his method of research…

                    Again, it would be nice to have some specifics.

                    >…his intellectual dishonesty of the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s existence.

                    Since mythicism is by far more reasonable than the fundie views, e.g. inerrancy, virgin birth, resurrection, it would be more apporpriate to say the same of your “exceptional scholar” NT Wright: NT Wright is “intellectually dishonest when it comes to the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection”.

                    • Matt Brown

                      And how is mythicism more reasonable when it’s psuedohistory?

                      Mythicism is not held by virtually any historian or scholar: athiest, Jewish, Christian, etc….The only ones you will find that hold this view are crank historians like Richard Carrier.

                      I don’t think 1% is an accurate representation of mythicism because it’s an extremest position like Young-Earth Creationism.

                      Mythicism has more holes than Gruyere cheese

                    • Herro

                      Matt, however unreasonable mythicism is, it doesn’t take a miracle to make it true ;)

                    • Matt Brown

                      Herro, I didn’t say it takes a miracle in order for it to be true. In order for mythicism to be true it must have evidence to support it. No evidence exists for mythicism. In fact, there’s tons of evidence against it. All the evidence is in favor of Jesus of Nazareth being a real historical figure, and the founder of Christianity and the early church;)

                    • Matt Brown

                      And how is NT Wright “Intellectually Dishonest” when it comes to the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?


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