Review: Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?

I’ve decided to write two posts on agnostic Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman’s new book. This is the main review, which discusses Ehrman’s main theses and arguments. The other post will be about issues of interest to people involved in atheist-Christian debates, but which are secondary issues within the book itself.

For those who don’t know already, Ehrman’s answer to the question in the title of the book is that yes, Jesus did exist, but he was not like what most Christians today think he was like. For one thing, he didn’t think he was God, for another, he thought God was going to set up a literal Kingdom of Heaven on Earth very soon in the future. I agreed with Ehrman about those things when I first started reading the book, and his book made me more confident in them.

A few arguments worth mentioning: there are a number of indications in the Gospels that the writers were working with previous traditions and, in fact, written documents. For example, most scholars think Matthew and Luke had access to a written collection of Jesus’ sayings which is now lost. This is known as the two-source hypothesis,  if you want to read up on it, and from what I’ve read this is a case where the arguments of Biblical scholars are quite good.

Ehrman gives other examples, such as stories in Mark that appear to have been translated from Aramaic, and hypothesized sources behind the Gospel of John and the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. He also notes that the beginning of Luke refers to “many” people trying to write accounts of Jesus’ life. Unfortunately, with some of these hypothesized sources, Ehrman makes an annoying jump from mentioning that many scholars have made a conjecture to taking the correctness of the conjecture for granted.

But I still think Ehrman’s right in his main point about the gospels. If you look at them closely, it does look like in the 1st century A.D., there were a fair number of independent strands of tradition about Jesus’ life floating around. (The introduction to Luke actually mentions that “many” people were trying to write accounts of Jesus’ life.) That’s a serious problem for some mythicists (people who deny the existence of a historical Jesus), namely the ones who try to argue the idea of a historical Jesus was made up by Mark, or that Mark was the first one craft an allegory that got misinterpreted as being about a historical Jesus, or something.

Ehrman also discusses apparent references to the life of Jesus in the letters of Paul. In some cases, I think he gives too little consideration to the possibility that when Paul says Jesus said something, he may not even be claiming that it’s what the other apostles told him Jesus said, he may be claiming to have received it in a vision (see I Cor 7:10-11 and 11:22-24, pp. 121 and 125-6 in Ehrman’s book). In other cases, though (such as the references to Jesus’ brothers in I Cor 9:5 and Gal 1:18-19), I think Ehrman is right that the mythicist interpretation of these passages is unlikely.

One really interesting argument Ehrman makes, which I hadn’t thought much about before, comes from the fact that there are good reasons to doubt that the first Christians believed Jesus was God. According to Ehrman:

That the earliest Christians did not consider Jesus God is not a controversial point among scholars. Apart from fundamentalists and very conservative evangelicals, scholars are unified in thinking that the view that Jesus was God was a later development within Christian circles (p. 231).

Scholars think this because the idea of Jesus’ divinity doesn’t appear anywhere in the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke). And some passages in the Bible even seem to suggest that Jesus did not become the son of God until his resurrection (Rom. 1:3-4). That’s a real problem for mythicist theories that Jesus was originally a dying and rising god who only later came to be understood as a historical person who had lived recently.

Ehrman has a couple of other arguments for the historicity of Jesus which he considers important, and argues against mythicists on many specific points. I won’t get into those here, though. And I’ll save comments about what we can know about the historical Jesus, in particular his teachings, for my next post.

  • Alverant

    I personally held the theory that if the resurection of Jesus did happen, it was done by a guy wearing make up. This does work with the book since any minor physical difference could be ignored by claiming it was God’s work.

  • eric

    it does look like in the 1st century A.D., there were a fair number of independent strands of tradition about Jesus’ life floating around. (The introduction to Luke actually mentions that “many” people were trying to write accounts of Jesus’ life.) That’s a serious problem for some mythicists…

    I can’t see this as a serious issue for most mythicists. Only – as you say – for people who are going to claim a single later author made up the story whole cloth.

    For the rest, the existence of many early Jesus-accounts is like the existence of Lord of the Rings or Batman fanfic. Someone hears a story, they like it, they write their own variation or add-on. The Nag Hammadi stuff makes it pretty clear that this was going on in the 2nd century, the only question that remains is, how much of it was going on in the 1st (or zeroeth, if you think the story arose earlier).

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com tommykey

    I think the story of Joseph Smith provides an analogy of how there could have been a real Jesus. We know Joseph Smith was a real person who founded a religion called Mormonism, but no one apart from Mormons actually believes that he was visited by an angel called Moroni who gave him gold plates that he interpreted with magic stones to write the Book of Mormon.

    Likewise, it’s possible that there was a real Jesus who was a charismatic Galilean preacher who either claimed, or who his followers claimed after his death, that he was the son of God and that he performed miracles and so forth. Unfortunately, we don’t have contemporary written Jewish or Roman sources like we have with Joseph Smith.

    I recall that there were one or two movies made, neither particularly well known, about some Roman official who investigates the stories about Jesus. Of course, they are only based on the imaginations of the film makers.

    • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ vinnyjh

      I think that Joseph Smith also provides us with an analogy of how there might not have been a real Jesus:

      A man with a charismatic and dynamic personality claims to be a prophet and to have encountered a heavenly being who reveals previously unknown spiritual truths. The man claims that the heavenly being confirmed the revelation tangibly and physically. The prophet claims that the heavenly being had once been a flesh and blood man who walked the earth and stories are invented about the man’s activities. However, the initial focus of the earliest believers is on the new spiritual truths that have been revealed and the way in which these truths fulfill the holy writings that are already widely accepted in the culture. Some of the early believers also claim to have had physical and tangible experiences that corroborate the prophet’s claims.

      In this case, the analogy is between Joseph Smith and Paul.

      Most people from the ancient world who left a mark in the historical record did so because they were prominent or literate people or like Spartacus, they had an impact on prominent or literate people during their lives. As best we can figure, Jesus lived his life unnoticed by all but a group of illiterate peasants. To the extent he attracted any attention, he was just another troublemaker executed by the Romans. When he makes his first mark in the historical record twenty years after he is thought to have died, it is because a man who never knew him claims to have seen his ghost.

      Jesus might have been an actual person, but I don’t think that he is the kind of person about whose existence we can have much if any certainty. I think we lack good analogies against which to compare the evidence.

  • Steven Carr

    So Ehrman waves invisible documents around, claims they date back to the life of Jesus and expects people to bow down.

    Especially if they might have contained Aramaic, because Jesus spoke Aramaic.

    Yes, and the Hitler Diaries are authentic because Hitler spoke German.

    Waving invisible documents around is simply rewriting history to put the Gospels before Paul.

    ‘Scholars think this because the idea of Jesus’ divinity doesn’t appear anywhere in the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke). ‘

    But does appear in 1 Corinthians 8 and Philippians 2.

    Ehrman simply claims that even if these predate Paul, they do not represent the beliefs of the earliest Christians (!)

    So after rewriting history to put the Gospels before Paul, he then claims that even things which predate Paul don’t go back to early Christianity.

    But if the best historicists can do is wave invisible documents around , then mythicism is very safe from refutation.

    And if all Ehrman can do is claim that 1 Corinthians 8 does not say Jesus is God, (as though any Jew would claim Jesus is God the Father), he is simply engaging in sophistry.

    You might as well say Romans did not believe Mercury was a god, because he was never called Zeus.

  • SAWells

    If the supposed “historical Jesus” didn’t perform any miracles and didn’t rise from the dead, in what sense is this “the historical Jesus”? It’s like pointing at some mid-2oth century secret agent that Ian Fleming knew and saying “this is the historical James Bond”; it doesn’t work because there is no historical James Bond, James Bond is defined by he stuff he does in the stories, and none of that stuff ever happened.

    I would bet heavily, based on statistics, that there was a non-zero number of first-century Judean fringe religious figures called Joshua. That doesn’t make any of them the “historical Jesus”, any more than a randomly selected vigilante is the “historical Batman”.

    Find the historical Hercules, then we can talk.

    • MNb

      Find the historical Zorro.
      Wait, that one is named Joaquin Murrieta.
      But of course people would not do something like that in the first Century. They lacked imagination or were too honest or whatever.

      • SAWells

        According to the Wiki entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaquin_Murrieta), “Murrieta was possibly partly the inspiration for the fictional character of Zorro…”. Okay. If you’re claiming that the fictional Jesuses in the New Testament are possibly partly inspired by one or more real non-miraculous people who may have had a different name, I wouldn’t disagree, but I think that just reinforces my point that those people are not the “historical Jesus” in any meaningful sense.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

          Well, there’s an important difference here, in that the Zorro books were written as fiction. The situation I think we’re probably in with Jesus is more like if, in the year 4000 A.D., some great catastrophe had destroyed most of our records, and it so happened that our best accounts of the life of Sathya Sai Baba ended up being ones written by especially credulous followers who accepted the reality of every miracle attributed to him.

    • wholething

      But there really was a James Bond. He was an ornithologist, or so we are supposed to believe.

    • http://www.netzarim.co.il Eliyahu Konn

      You have hit the bulls-eye. No one will find the “historical J*zeus.
      That is the canard.

      Found:

      First century CE tomb, in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Ossuaries with names representing family of religious Torah/Jewish leader. Probability statistically high that of Ribi Yeshua bar Yoseph. Aramaic and Greek 1st century CE names on ossuaries.

      Whoa? The guy was a Torah observant Jew not a Christian…..who da thunk?

      References in Mashiach section of the History Museum at netzarim.co.il

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468751142 Kevin

    Sigh. There are many different authors of tales about Hercules as well. Are we to assume he was a real person?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    A few arguments worth mentioning: there are a number of indications in the Gospels that the writers were working with previous traditions and, in fact, written documents…

    Whether or not such written documents existed, we do not have them now.
    .
    .
    See specific criticism of Ehrman’s book by Tom Verenna

    • J. J. Ramsey

      I took a look at what Verenna had to say about Ehrman. He first quotes Ehrman saying, “It should be clear in any event that Tacitus is basing his comments on hearsay rather than, say, detailed historical research,” and sees that as contradicting this later remark,

      Tacitus almost certainly had information at his disposal about Jesus, for example, that he was crucified in Judea during the governorship of Pontius Pilate. … What I did not stress earlier but need to point out now is that there is absolutely nothing to suggest that the pagan Tacitus or the Jewish Josephus acquired their information by reading the Gospels. They heard information about him. That means the information they gave predated their writings. Their informants were no doubt Christians, or–even more likely–(non-Christian) people they knew who themselves had heard stories about Jesus from Christians. … Indirectly, then, Tacitus…provide[s] independent attestation to Jesus’s existence from outside the Gospels … [emphasis added]

      So in one quote, we have Ehrman saying that Tacitus’ source is hearsay, and in another quote, we have, um, Ehrman saying that Tacitus’ source is hearsay. Some contradiction. Oh, and Verenna didn’t quote the part that I emphasized.

      Then there is Verenna saying this in response to Ehrman’s claim that there were no pre-Christian Jews who expected the Messiah to suffer and die:

      The absurdity of this claim is only matched by the hubris of the dismissal of Daniel 9:26, where Ehrman completely ignores the reference in the Dead Sea Scrolls to this very verse whereby the author of the commentary on the scroll interprets the passage in the exact way Ehrman suggests doesn’t occur anywhere from the time!

      Well, here is the text where Daniel 9:26 is supposedly so interpreted:

      This is the day of [peace about which God] spoke [of old through the words of Isa]iah the prophet, who said: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, of the mess[enger of good who announces salvation], saying to Zion: ‘your God [reigns'].” Its interpetation: The mountains are the pro[phets ...] And the messenger is [the ano]inted of the spirit about whom Dan[iel] spoke [... a lacuna is here ...]. [... and the messenger of] good who announces salv[ation] is the one about whom it is written that [he will send him "to comfo[rt the afflicted, to watch over the afflicted ones of Zion"]. “To comfo[rt the afflicted," its interpretation:] to instruct them in all the ages of the worl[d...]

      The brackets indicate lacunae in the text, and text within these brackets is not in the extant text. I’ve highlighted the lacuna where a quote from Daniel would go. The extant text of the scroll doesn’t show its author interpreting anything in Daniel as referring to a dying Messiah. I get the impression that Verenna just echoed Carrier without vetting him first.

      • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com Tom Verenna

        Hello J.J. Ramsey,

        First, thanks for reading my brief response. I didn’t see the need to get too technical or detailed since I planned to write up a larger, more detailed discussion at a later time. However my arguments are not simply parroting Carrier; in fact Ehrman’s whole position on messianic expectations in antiquity flies in the face of the last three decades of studies on second temple period Judaism. Starting from John G.M. Barclay’s exceptional work of the socio-cultural landscape of the Diaspora Jews to the more subject-centered work of Neusner, Green, and Frerichs, and Charlesworth and the First Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins. You would think that Ehrman, being on the faculty at Princeton, would have been aware of these studies and at least consulted them to a degree. The fact that he did not even bother to consider researching in more detail the subject matter is disappointing and only makes him seem like less of a historian.

        On the matter of 11Q13, I’m not sure what your point is? Clearly the author is interpreting Isa. via Dan. 9. Are you in trying to suggest this isn’t the case?

        Again, thanks for this. I suspect to have a piece out soon discussing some of these matters in more detail.

        • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com Tom Verenna

          Whoops; sorry meant to say that Ehrman earned his PhD from Princeton (not that he is *currently* faculty there) and knew some faculty there.

        • J. J. Ramsey

          On the matter of 11Q13, I’m not sure what your point is?

          My point is that the extant text of the scroll doesn’t support your contention that its author had a dying Messiah in mind.

          Ehrman’s whole position on messianic expectations in antiquity flies in the face of the last three decades of studies on second temple period Judaism.

          If that is the case, then it is a wonder why Carrier doesn’t appear to use any of this. Why originally cite a Targum of Isaiah 53 where the Messiah emphatically does not suffer to support the idea that the dying Messiah predates the Talmud, and then have to backtrack when commenters point out the Targum’s contents? Why grasp at straws by claiming that Psalm 89 explicitly predicts “the humiliation and death of the messiah,” when the psalm is clearly not purporting to predict anything at all? If mythicists have good evidence that pre-Christian Jews anticipated a dying Messiah, then they should have long since shown it, rather than present the weak or misleading cases they’ve shown so far.

          • http://tomverenna.wordpress.com Tom Verenna

            J.J.

            I’m sorry but you are misinformed or you just didn’t bother doing your research. I would ask you spend more time researching the claim that you make before jumping in and making it. It will save you embarrassment. Every translation includes Dan. 9:26; as fragmentary as it is, everyone–and I mean everyone–who offers a translation of col. 3 of 11Q13 suggests Daniel 9:26. Why, you might ask? Because right before the lacunae is the text “The messenger is the ‘Annointed of the Spirit’ of whom Daniel spoke….”. Now, let me ask you, besides Dan. 9:25-26, where else is this ‘Anointed’ found in Daniel? And where might there be an anointed in regards to the Jubilee (col. 2 of 11Q13) but in Dan. 9? Dozens of Dead Sea Scroll scholars eagerly await your answer, I’m sure.

            Your contention that “The extant text of the scroll doesn’t show its author interpreting anything in Daniel as referring to a dying Messiah.” is simply flawed, since Daniel is not only talking about a messiah (the exact word the author of Daniel uses–Chistos) but that this messiah would be ‘cut off’ (i.e., killed; e.g. Onias III who was murdered, which many scholars believe to be the individual to whom Daniel 9 is refering). This is vital to 11Q13 since the author is interpreting Isa. 52-53, the suffering of the servant–the messenger who brings good news (this is part of the suffering servant song/narrative). The suffering servant, the messenger, Daniel’s ‘anointed of the spirit’–not the anointed priest in 25–is to be cut-off, i.e., killed. None of this is new scholarship, nor is it ‘mythicist’ drivel. It’s what every Dead Sea Scrolls scholar who has translated 11Q13 accepts, due to intertextual evidence (the Jubilee and release of the debt of sin referring to Dan. 9:25, for example) and the use of ‘anointed of the spirit’ whereby Dan. refers to one who will be ‘cut-off’–based upon Onias III (righteous heavenly being murdered–and I say heavenly being here because 11Q13 is talking about a heavenly messiah–again, nothing new here, read any source material on the text. I recommend L.L. Grabbe’s discussion of it in ‘An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism’ (2010) but any discussion is fine).

            Thanks again for your thoughts. But I’m afraid you’re just wrong about this.

          • J. J. Ramsey

            Every translation includes Dan. 9:26

            Actually, I’ve seen one that used Dan. 9:25 rather than 9:26. Both verses refer to someone “anointed,” that is, one who had oil put on his head. Also, I already know the guesswork that leads to the conclusion about which verses from Daniel fill in the lacuna. The problem is that you aren’t just claiming that those verses from Daniel are being used to somehow establish the author’s point in the scroll–whatever that point is–but that the author has interpreted those verses in a certain way that is not in evidence. There is nothing in the extant text itself about the Messiah dying, period. That is you filling in the gaps.

            Daniel is not only talking about a messiah (the exact word the author of Daniel uses–Chistos)

            The book of Daniel was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, not Greek, so it wouldn’t say “Christos.” Daniel refers to someone who is anointed, but any king or high priest is anointed, and even some prophets are as well. Jewish readers knew this and wouldn’t necessarily assume that any reference to someone anointed is a reference to the Anointed One. We can’t even assume that “the Anointed of the Spirit” is the same as Melchizedek, the one in the scroll who actually acts as a proper Messiah.

            but that this messiah would be ‘cut off’ (i.e., killed; e.g. Onias III who was murdered

            Onias III was anointed because he was a high priest, but he wasn’t the Anointed One, was he?

            This is vital to 11Q13 since the author is interpreting Isa. 52-53, the suffering of the servant–the messenger who brings good news

            First, context indicates that the messenger in Isa. 52:7 and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 are not even remotely the same. That’s trivially obvious from reading Isaiah 52-53. Second, the scroll interprets Isaiah 52:7 atomistically, without regard to its context, and gives no hint at all that it is alluding to any content in Isaiah 53. You’ve no justification at all for assuming that the author of the scroll has the Suffering Servant in mind.

          • http://www.yahoo7.com.au John Stuart

            Dear J J Ramsey

            I have the information on the Melchizedek debate.
            The figure of Melchizedek is the eldest son Onias III who is a messanger and the Tradition of Melchizedek unique priest-Kingship?

            Onias III was a High Priest and a Anointed One in the Book of Daniel in 199-171 BCE
            Can I point out that you missed is Daniel Ch 11 Verse 22 where says that the Prince of the Congregation is the same person as I mentioned earlier he was the son of Simon II High Priest

            The passage that you cite was about the messenger is John the Baptist who is the hearld of Jesus Christ because it was in year of favour of Melchizedek and in the Ch 53 the vision of Passion of Jesus Christ.

            from
            John Stuart

  • TheVirginian

    By the definition of “mythicist” given here, I am not a mythicist, even though I think it’s pretty certain there never was such a person as Jesus.
    That’s because I think 1st-century Christians, at least Paul and his followers, did believe Jesus had been a flesh and blood person. But Paul’s “Jesus” is a vague figure who lived some time in the vague past, far enough that no details of his life or sayings survive. Indeed, Phil. 2 says Jesus was a supernatural entity who nonethless came to Earth to live as a slave and implies he left no record of note while on the Earth; it was only after his execution and triumphant return to heaven that he became important; it even can be read as saying “Jesus” was a new name given to this being only after its earthly existence.
    So I read the argument as: 1st-century Christians had no real knowledge of Jesus’ life, only the belief that he had once existed; the details were added over several generations through a complex interaction of scriptural interpretation, invention (mythicising by some writers) and interactions among various groups of Christians and outsiders.
    As for the collections of sayings, such “wisdom” texts go back to the Bronze Age. Putting some in Jesus’ mouth could have occurred by the processes cited above. Jesus did not have to exist; only belief in his once-upon-a-time existence was required long after their mythical origin was forgotten.
    As an analogy, look at the King Arthur stories. We have a rich, complex mix of stories. If there is some original person or people and some historical basis to some of the tales, it’s been lost in centuries of story-telling.

    • SAWells

      But why would anyone use “mythicist” to mean someone who thinks _early Christians_ considered Christ a myth? Your position, as given, is pretty much the same as mine, i.e. there’s no actual historical Jesus Christ, only a figure in stories. A myth.

      • TheVirginian

        I was simply saying that there seem to 2 definitions of “mythicist,” and this article appears to use the one that early Christians knowingly invented a myth.
        I think it was a 2 step process. At some point before Paul (and someo of his contemporaries, at least), people did believe in a figure that they thought was real but that we would call a myth. By the time of Paul, however, at least some Christians (I think Christianity was still a very mixed group then, but at least some) believed Jesus was a real, if distant figure and treated him that way. Then subsequent generations scrounged for material about his life. A few might have deliberately created fictions. Many probably took vague biblical references as relevant to him and inserted them into his story. We would say they were making stuff up. They would see it as filling out the picture.
        I see this as comparable to people who have written “biographies” of famous people that contained real info yet added stories that the writer thought “caught some essence of the man” even if not literally true. So lots of Americans grew up believing George Washington once chopped down a cherry tree, then confessed to Dad because “I cannot tell a lie.” I call it myth-making, but I don’t think that’s the psychology of the people who filled out the vast chasm of actual data about Jesus.
        I’m not trying to split hairs; rather, I’m rejecting the simplistic idea that (this is my impression) opponents of “mythicism” have offered, that we’re just saying it’s all deliberate lying. I think Paul and others like him believed in a real, historical Jesus, but were trying to fill in gaps in info about him by combing the Jewish scriptures for material. There’s an extensive amount of literature on how conjectures about vague passages in the Jewish scriptures were reintrepeted to apply to Jesus. The “virgin birth” is a famous example of reinterpreting an irrelevant and mistranslated passage to apply to Jesus, giving birth to the entire birth narrative. The two contradictory, clumsy attempts to link him both to Bethlehem and Nazareth likely derive from the same thing: The Messiah supposedly had links to both places, so other details were scrounged to create a narrative. Which, oops!, led to 2 very different attempts at reconciliation.

        • TheVirginian

          Grrrr! Typing too fast: “There seems to be 2 …”

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    Good post. I wish Richard Carrier were as logical about it.

  • John Hodges

    I did a study of the ethical teachings of Jesus, as reported in the four gospels, in particular the first three.
    http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-ethics-of-jesus
    His instructions to his followers are apocalyptic; give away all your wealth, abandon your families, follow the Law of Moses down to the last iota, overfulfill the Law inside and out, abstain from all sin even in your thoughts, practice nonviolent nonresistance and peacemaking, spend your remaining time doing good works, purifying your own character, and spreading the news that the world is soon to be destroyed, Judgment Day is at hand.
    From doing that study, if I had to bet, I’d say there probably was a historical Jesus, because I don’t see how anyone would profit by making up a story like that. Since the apocalypse did not come within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries, the story was soon revised; the gospel of John, for example, contains none of these teachings, and the emphasis switches to Jesus as the “lamb without blemish” who does miracles, dies and is resurrected. The legends continue and grow, the historical figure is ignored and fades into obscurity.

    • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      John, much of what you say is right but you are not considering the true nature of Jesus’ teaching and therefore you don’t understand that what He prophesied did actually come to pass. We live in the kingdom He promised, and He is the king of it.

      Church leaders miss this because they are caught up in the busyness of life or else because of their vested interest in keeping people in tow.

      Reconsider Jesus. He’s worth reconsidering.

      • SAWells

        Citation REALLY needed.

        • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt
          • SAWells

            That’s funny.

          • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            It’s a lot of things, but it’s not funny. The world and even the church have lost sight of the majesty of the One who made them.

          • SAWells

            You do know that Santa isn’t real, right? Just checking.

          • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            I’m a Santa Mythicist (along with the rest of the world’s population over five years old).

          • JamesM

            What are your reasons for being a santa mythicist? The evidence for Santa and the evidence for Jesus are of the same quality (except that historical writings for Santa are much more contemporaneous, so the evidence for Santa is a little better). Logically you should believe in Santa with all your heart.

  • Steven Carr

    If the earliest Christians did not think Jesus was a god, but just an important human being, why did they want to symbolically eat his body and drink his blood?

    • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

      They wanted to memorialize how this unique human being had suffered and died for them.

      • Steven Carr

        What was wrong with writing down what he had said?

        Rather than trying to eat his body and drink his blood – almost as though they regarded him as a supernatural being.

      • Steven Carr

        And how was Jesus unique, apart from being like any other apocalyptic prophet who got himself crucified?

        Did people try to eat John the Baptist? Wasn’t he also an apocalyptic prophet with a following, according to Bart?

        • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

          Steven,

          You’re making too much of the figurative language in John 6, just as some of Jesus’ hearers did at that time.

          As for writing things down, they sent on a mission of preaching. What writing they ultimately did was only in support of that mission.

          Both John and Jesus were apocalyptic prophets, but it was Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that distinguished him – not just from John but from everyone else.

          • Steven Carr

            But Bart says Paul preached Christ crucified and wasn’t interested in the life of this ‘unique’ man.

            Why did the early Christians want to eat Jesus, when they regarded him as an ordinary man, and not a god at all?

            Did Bart explain?

          • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Steven,

            As I’ve said, you’re literalizing the metaphor. That’s not going to help you understand Jesus.

          • Steven Carr

            Mike keeps ducking the question.

            Apparently, the passage in 1 Corinthians 11, where Christians tell how they got together to eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus does not register on his consciousness.

            Or perhaps it is OK to eat somebody symbolically, provided you are not eating them literally….

            How did early Christians decide that Jesus was definitely not a god, just a normal man, and that they should get together and symbollicaly eat his body and drink his blood?

            This stinks of mythicism, hence Bart’s (and Mike’s) refusal to discuss why Paul wrote what he wrote.

          • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            I don’t say that “early Christians decided that Jesus was not a god.” The New Testament does show them asking such a question, nor does it show them making such a proclamation.

            Nevertheless, he was to be obeyed in all things by everyone – which is still a requirement. Thus you and I do well to obey Him today.

          • Steven Carr

            Mike continues to duck the question of why early Christians wanted to symbolically eat Jesus.

            MIKE
            I don’t say that “early Christians decided that Jesus was not a god.”

            CARR
            But Bart does. Perhaps his book is just rubbish, if he got such basics wrong.

          • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            I’ve read Bart’s book. It’s not rubbish, but he’s wrong when he characterizes Jesus as nothing more than a failed apocalyptic preacher. He’s the Lord of heaven and earth.

            Bart is correct when he claims that Jesus historically existed and he’s also right when he claims that the earliest Christians did not proclaim Jesus to be God.

            As for your question, I’ve already answered it…and will do so again. You’re caricaturing the figurative speech of John 6. Your question is not a serious one. It’s a “Have you stopped beating your wife?” question.

  • Steven Carr

    On 16 April Bible Geek podcast, Price claims at about the 29 minute mark that Ehrman has responded that it is common procedure to get graduate students to read the books,and not read them himself.

    Amazing!

    Did Ehrman really admit that he did not read the books himself?

    Price calls not reading the books ‘disgraceful’ and ‘disgusting’.

    • Zak

      Steven Carr,

      Ehrman has responded to this accusation on his FB page. He first states:

      “I really don’t mind the rough and tumble of serious academic engagement, as some of you may have noticed. But I take serious offense when people are propagating false information about me or my work. In that connection I have had several persons tell me the following:

      In his April 16th “The Bible Geek” podcast, Robert M Price says it has come out that Bart Ehrman never even read through any of the mythicist books he talks about in “Did Jesus Exist.” Ehrman just had his graduate students read them and report to Bart about what sections he should look at.

      I have not listened to the podcast, but if Robert did say this, then it’s a flat-out lie. And that probably says something about the attacks being made against my book, and the people making them. I have no problems with Robert (at least I didn’t before now) and think that he is a rare scholar among the mythicists (since he is, in fact, a scholar). And I treat him with respect in my book. I expect the same treatment — and a healthy dose of honesty and integrity — in return.

      If Robert did *not* in fact say this, then that would be worth knowing too.”

      Ehrman then later says…

      “I decided to listen to Robert Price’s podcast (as if I have time for this kind of nonsense), and in fact it is even *worse* than I indicate in the post I made 30 minutes ago. He flat out accuses me of not reading the mythicists’ books and attacking what my students told me about them. He excoriates me for several minutes for this kind of irresponsible activity.
      But in fact, it is a flat out lie. I do not do research like that and certainly did not in this case. I read all the mythicist books I talk about (which made, I’ve got to tell you, for a rather unpleasant summer…) including, in detail, both of his major works…”

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Hmmm. Ehrman versus the Mythicists.

        How can we believe what skeptics are saying against Jesus Christ when they can’t even agree among themselves?

        If they had the truth about Jesus Christ, wouldn’t they all be saying the same things about Him?

        We don’t have to listen to any of them because their positions cancel each other out.

        (Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek, and yes I am mimicking unbelieving arguments against Christ.)

        • Zak

          The Mythicists remind me more and more of creationists every day.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            At least the creationists have a defining document (Genesis 1-2) and a succinct argument (“God did it”). The mythicists are a long, long way from that.

          • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

            If “God did it” is a succinct argument, so is “Jesus didn’t exist.” And sticking to a document in the face of evidence to the contrary isn’t a virtue.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Chris, you miss the point. “God did it” has Genesis 1-2 to tell how he did it. The mythicists, so far as I have seen, have no succinct document telling how the mythical Jesus was historicized such that 2,000 years of scholars have been duped.

            Apparently, we cannot understand the mythicist argument unless we read an 800-page book.

          • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

            That computer you’re using to post these comments on my blog? You will never understand how it works without reading a long book or two and/or spending a lot of time in classes. That’s not a strike against the existence of computers, or even a strike against computer science.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            True, but neither did I have to read an 800-page book to find out what you meant by the word “computer.”

      • Steven Carr

        I was astonished by Price’s claim.

        Apparently Price was relying on ‘rich oral tradition’.

        That never fails….

  • http://tlcbooktours.com/ trish

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book! The discussion in the comments has given me a lot to think about!

  • Pingback: Bizarre flap between Bart Ehrman and Robert M. Price | The Uncredible Hallq

  • JamesM

    Again, I believe in engaging in academic back-and-forth with honesty and integrity. If Robert Price does not share the ideals, then I am sorry to hear it. If he wants to talk substance, I’m happy to do it at any time. If he wants to propagate lies and falsehoods, he will have to do it without me.

    This coming from Ehrman is laughable. The moment I lost respect for him was listening to his interview on the Indidel Guy podcast. He acted like a compete ass to Reggie and lied about knowing any mythicists with advanced degrees in any field of Christian scholarship. Not to mention the recent Huffpo article of his entirely gives lie to this statement.

  • Pingback: Carrier and other Mythicists Reacting to Ehrman

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    Great summary of the issue.
    Your tone of criticism and agreement are very balanced.
    I am looking into views about the Hindu god/person/myth of Rama. Reading reviews like this helps me think about the various positions take on that issue also.
    Thank you.

  • John Stuart

    Hi Tom Verenna

    In your article about Onias III was assassinated by Menelaus.

    Regarding to the 11Q13 Melchizedek scroll there was 2 Kohanim Kohen Gadol one of them is mentioned in the Talmud Simon the Righteous and his grandson Onias I on the Day of Atonement Yom Kippur the service was the Avodah which is special on the Day of Atonement.

    I am convinced that Richard Carrier was mentioned about “Jonathan” Targum was Jaddua the High Priest his son was Onias I Ben Jaddua.

    Regarding Daniel the whole Chapter 9 was the 70 years Chronology going back to 1st Temple was destroyed in 587 – 586.

    Regards

    John Stuart

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