Early Christianity was weird (end of Bible tweets)

Previously in the series: Genesis and ExodusLeviticus through DeuteronomyJoshua through PsalmsProverbs through Song of SongsIsaiah through EzekielDaniel through MalachiMatthewMarkLuke and John, Acts through Titus.

My tweet-through of the non-Pauline epistles and Revelation ended up being pretty sparse. For one thing, Revelation is so weird that I hardly knew what to pick out to highlight. In lieu of reading me tweeting though Revelation in its entirety, I recommend you read the (sadly incomplete) manga version of Revelation, Apocamon.

Other than that… early Christianity in general was weird. The fact that large numbers of early Christians thought the world was ending in their lifetimes is just the beginning (see many verses from previous posts, as well as Hebrews 1:2, James 2:8, 1 John 2:18, and Revelation 1:1 below). Like, did you know that some early Christians believed not in a single “the Antichrist,” but applied the “antichrist” label to anyone they perceived as heretical?

This thing about antichrists points to probably the biggest source of weirdness among early Christianity, namely that early Christians had tons of often quite bitter disagreements with each other. I think Bart Ehrman, in his excellent book Lost Christianitiesmade a comment to the effect that for all the division you see among Christians today, there was actually more in Christianity’s early years. (Note I say I think, I’m being lazy and not checking which has gotten me in trouble in the past.)

This is significant for a few of the books I’ve tweeted below. James is perhaps the most obvious case, since part of James appears to have been written as a rebuttal to Paul’s letter to the Romans.  But many of the books below–particularly Revelation–were of disputed status in the early centuries of Christianity.

Oh, and apparently some early Christians thought the Archangel Michael and Satan got into a tussle over the body of Moses. Now for the last of the tweets:

  • Hebrews 1:2 “In these last days he [God] has spoken to us by a Son…”
  • Heb 6:4-6: “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened… and then have fallen away.”
  • Hebrews 13:2 “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
  • 1 James 27: Pure religion is “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
  • James 2:17 “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
  • James 2:19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.”
  • James 2:21: “Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?”
  • James 2:8 “… the coming of the Lord is near.”
  • 1 John 2:18: “As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.”
  • 1 Jn 2:22 “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father & the Son”
  • 1 John 3:8 “Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”
  • 1 John 3:9 “Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, b/c they have been born of God.”
  • 1 John 3:8-9 seems to create a huge theological problem for Christians. Christianity teaches everyone is sinful, and experience teaches /1
  • that becoming a Christian does not magically change people’s behavior. So pretty much all Christians are “children of the devil.” /2
  • 2 John 1:7: Many people “do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!
  • The epistles are weird. Mostly boring, and then you learn something fascinating like how “antichrist” originally meant “gnostic,” basically.
  • Jude 1:9: “when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses…”
  • Okay, tomorrow I tackle the Book of Revelation.
  • The opening words of Revelation: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place…”
  • Revelation not only has scrolls, seals, bowls, and trumpets, but also candlesticks (v. 1:12). How did I forget that?
  • Revelation 20:12: “And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.”
  • Okay, most of Revelation is just too weird to tweet, but I do recommend reading it yourself.
  • And with that thought, I end my Bible tweets project.
  • JHendrix

    I’ve honestly learned a lot from reading your blog over the last year, but Apocamon may very well be the most awesome thing I’ve gotten from you.

  • eric

    early Christianity in general was weird. The fact that large numbers of early Christians thought the world was ending in their lifetimes…

    What’s wierd about that? Large numbers of Christians still think that. And I bet it was also true of every generation between now and then. IMO this has little to do with religion per se and more to do with human nature. I thnk there’s a general, natural bias towards self-centeredness. Also a fairly common desire for easy/sweeping solutions to hard problems. When those natural (non-religous) traits combine with religion, they can sometimes manifest as a very strong belief that one’s own generation is special and that those alive today will see some new, better order established.

    • Chris Hallquist

      Point. I guess it’s really just surprising to see how many books of the (allegedly inerrant) Bible this belief made it into.

  • larry

    the term “anti christ” is applied to any who deny the christ. hence the term anti christ. the understanding you have is of THE anti christ spoken of in revelation. this individual is an anti christ b/c he denies the christ and naturally he has gained most of the attention because his actions are explained in detail. but ur main problem with this anti christ idea is that u mis understand what the biblical application of the word is. it does not mean that everyone who denies christ is going to be a world leader who kills hundreds of thousands of people. its simply a term that applies to anyone who denies the christ. its a fitting term, not an insult.

    i find most atheistic objections of the bible and christianity come from a mis understanding of what its really saying. i used to think many of the same things myself. once one understands the truth, then things make more sense. sadly, most christians dont know what they believe or how to express it. i get irritated when i ask pastors tough questions and the response is “have faith” or something lame like that. but i digress. bart ehrman used to be a christian, he had a problem with all the evil in the world and he didnt get any good answers and he turned away. now he spends his time trying to disprove the bible but even he knows that Jesus existed, was crucified and his tomb was empty, and the best argument for the empty tomb is that Jesus was raised by God. his main point is that it cannot be PROVEN HISTORICALLY. well, if thats the case, nothing that does not have video or photographic evidence can be proven either. u should watch him debating william lane craig. very interesting debate.

    • Havok

      once one understands the truth, then things make more sense.
      How can you know what the truth is in the bible? Given the many and varied intepretations of so much of it (even diregarding the dubious nature of many of the historical claims).

      his main point is that it cannot be PROVEN HISTORICALLY. well, if thats the case, nothing that does not have video or photographic evidence can be proven either.
      Historical claims are probabalistic by their very nature, and we can have more or less confidence in different claims dependant upon the evidence we have.
      The evidence we have regarding Jesus is very poor when compared with the evidence we have for other historical figures, and so any conclusions we can come to regarding Jesus (up to an including even this characters very existence) must therefore be far less certain.

      • larry

        we have 24000 greek manuscripts which are all in agreement. the “varied interpretations” are english translations of those greek manuscripts. u have a mis understanding of the sources of the biblical text. could u please elaborate on the “dubious” historical claims?

        actually, the evidence for Jesus is greater. 24,000 pieces of literature which are all within 10-30 years of his life, 23 different letters by about 10 different authors in the new testament documents alone, not to mention the accounts of josephus, tacitus, and pliny. a hand full of documents by one person or one single piece of pottery which would serve as definitive proof for anyone else but overwhelming evidence for Jesus is considered “dubious” or “lacking”. these are not scientific statements, they are emotional.

        • cory

          24000 Greek manuscripts helps establish the text of the new testament, but not the reliability of it as a historical source. There are also many manuscripts of Suetonius, do you believe the story he tells about a pagan god leading Caesar across the Rubicon? And of course, you are wrong about when the Gospels were written as well, they come from decades after Jesus. What’s more, you mix up confuse evidence that Jesus existed with evidence that he was divine. While one cannot be divine without existing, many people have existed without being divine.

          In ancient history there is a sharp difference between sources written at the time of an event (like Demosthenes’ speeches), things written by a participant but after the fact (like Augustus’ Res Gestae), and things written by a person who wasn’t alive at the time (like Plutarch’s lives). There is also the difference between things that have been preserved by being copied from one manuscript to another, with the original lost (like all the examples I mentioned) and things preserved because the original survived (like the Amarna letters). Nobody cares about manuscripts for the Amarna letters because we have the original, manuscripts don’t even enter the picture until the original is gone. So yes, a few original sources that survived in the original are very important, which is why the fake Jesus ossuary would have been such a big deal had it been genuine. Let me emphasize this again: The only reason anyone cares about the thousands of later manuscripts is because the best manuscripts are long gone. Any ancient historian would gladly trade those thousands of copies made centuries later for the one copy made at the time, by the author.

          Now as to the quality of the gospels as historical sources. All we have are manuscripts from centuries later, so we have to look at the text itself to find out when it was written. And serious scholars have unanimously concluded that they come from many decades after Jesus, and that they weren’t written by anyone who knew him firsthand. So we don’t have thousands of sources within 30 years of his life, we have 4 sources from 50-100 years after he died. And these sources contradict each other, as well as contradicting known historical facts. When you compare them with (relatively) good ancient history sources, like Arrian’s life of Alexander, their defects become even more striking. Arrian mentions time and tiem again where he got this or that factual detail. At one point Arrian tells a story, then says it probably isn’t true because his best sources don’t mention it and it is out of character for the participants. The gospels never use their sources that critically, in fact, they never even tell us what sources they used at all. They are very poor historical evidence.

          So the sources for Jesus are very, very bad by the standards of ancient history. That doesn’t mean he didn’t exist, but is does mean that we have to be careful in reconstructing his life. And even if the evidence shows that he lived, that doesn’t mean that we should take the gospel accounts of miracles seriously. We have many accounts of miracles from many world religions that are sourced as well or better that the gospels. Are you going to convert to all of them at once? If not, why should your religion’s poorly sourced miracle accounts cause me to convert?

          • larry

            that was exactly my point i made. Havok said how can we know whats in the bible with all the diff translations etc. i explained to him that we can know for certain what was written. knowing what was written however does not prove what was written is true. but the idea that we dont know what was written originally is a false statement. so, ur attempt to use Seutonious’ many manuscripts is invalid. it takes more than many manuscripts to prove something to be true. this goes for the bible as well.

            as for the gospels,they were all written before 70AD except for John. the liberal dates place them later,but thats just the liberal dates,the conservative dates are sooner.liberals are not the bosses or the final authority.for just one example of why, none of the synoptic gospels speak of the destruction of Jerusalem,which Jesus predicted.they had no qualms with pointing out fulfilled prophesies,yet none of them say anything along the lines tht it was fulfilled.the liberals say that they MUST have been written after because Jesus cant predict the future,n since Jesus “predicted” it then they must have been written after. this is not science,its presupposition.
            the “Q” gospel gives more evidence of the earliness of the gospels.the letters of paul and acts were written in the 50′s n 60′s mark was written as early as 40. so,no im not mistaken.

            the thousands of manuscripts are not something to be scoffed at and dismissed. the fact of the matter is that ancient documents dont last forever. there MUST be copies of copies etc. what historians and archeologists want to know is how many manuscripts are there, how close are they to the originals, and what are the variants. the new testament documents are the best collection of ancient documents. the more manuscripts you have,the better chance you have of getting the original words or pointing out fallacies. if there is only 1 copy, it could be all garbage or all truth, we cant know. if there are 10 we have a better shot. with cesars galic wars, we have 8. the stuff learned from his documents is taught in colleges as historical fact. not only are there only 8 manuscripts,but they are all over a 1000 years separated from the originals. in 1000 years, a lot can be changed. with the new testament, not only do we have 24000,5000 complete codecies, but they are all within 300 years the earliest piece dating back to 110. while this sounds like alot,compared to other ancient documents,this is very good.archeologists are able to trace back a good estimate of the date of the original writings, which even liberals place between 50 and 120. conservative dates are from 40 to 96. so with the new testament we have early multiple independent attestations of the life of Jesus. these are several different letters and biographies,not one big book.they have been compiled together. not only do we have thousands of early, independent, multiple attestations, the variants are less than 1% all listed in the foot notes of the pages. none of the variants matter for any doctrine.
            so,the new testament documents are very good and reliable when just using scientific methods.there is no reason outside of a disbelief in God to deny them.

            the gospels dont contradict each other,there are differences in details,but no contradictions.things like “how many women went to the tomb” show a miss-understanding of the gospels,not a contradiction.if every single gospel had every single detail exactly the same,the claim would be plagiarism.so,because of bias, those who dont want to accept the bible will make any claim.it cant win in their eyes. Matthew was a follower, mark was a follower, john was a follower. Peter, James as well. the only non followers were Paul and luke, and they were contemporaries. they were alive when Jesus was alive. they put their thoughts on paper later.

            so,they biblical accounts are not bad by historical standards. they are bad when extra proof is required of them but when equal standards are applied, they are great sources.

          • Ray

            “the liberals say that they MUST have been written after because Jesus cant predict the future,n since Jesus ‘predicted’ it then they must have been written after. this is not science,its presupposition.”

            Funny. Jesus could have cleared this thing up if he had chosen instead to prophesy regarding the Visigoth sack of Rome (preferably with names and dates), or pretty much any other event that happened after the Gospels had decent manuscript evidence and/or external attestation.

    • Ray

      “now he spends his time trying to disprove the bible but even he knows that Jesus existed, was crucified and his tomb was empty, and the best argument for the empty tomb is that Jesus was raised by God. his main point is that it cannot be PROVEN HISTORICALLY. well, if thats the case, nothing that does not have video or photographic evidence can be proven either. u should watch him debating william lane craig. very interesting debate.”

      I think you’d better watch that debate again. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhT4IENSwac )

      At 1:02:23 Ehrman clearly says that a historian can establish that Jesus died on the cross, despite the lack of video or photographic evidence. However, at 1:02:57 , he explicitly denies that we know that Jesus’s tomb was empty. Both of these directly contradict the views you attribute to Ehrman, and your reference to the debate removes any and all excuses you might have made for not knowing better.

      • larry

        i apologize for the off the cuff remark. its been months since ive seen the debate. what i was recalling when i made my statement were barts words at 31:53 where he said tht even if the biblical documents were the best sources they would still not be able to prove it historically and at 34:18 where he said that hes not saying jesus didnt raise from the dead just that if it did happen it would be a miracle and miracles are improbable and cant be proven historically.
        at 36:05 he establishes the tomb was empty but doesnt accept that jesus rose and at 1:16:05 he states that he does not deny miracles, just that they cant be historically proven.

        u make a valid point that my exact words were incorrect, and i will be more careful when i recall debates that i watched months ago.

        now, with that being said, bart ehrman still rejected the christian faith because of the problem of evil not because of any evidence. he now attempts to find any thing he can to disprove the bible. he does not refute or offer a viable alternative, just insufficient hypothetical scenarios.

        most atheistic objections to the bible and God are based on mis understandings of the bible and God. this remains true.

        • Ray

          The comment at 36:05 comment can only be taken as implying Ehrman believes in the empty tomb if you ignore everything else he says. In particular starting at 1:31:00 he explicitly says what he really thinks (not even qualifying his belief with “as a historian”): Notice, nothing about any tomb actually being empty. The point he’s making at 36:05, in context, sounds much more like he’s temporarily granting Craig’s premise that the empty tomb can be historically established, and then pointing out that this premise is STILL insufficient to make Jesus’s resurrection the most likely explanation.

          You also say:
          “now, with that being said, bart ehrman still rejected the christian faith because of the problem of evil not because of any evidence. he now attempts to find any thing he can to disprove the bible. he does not refute or offer a viable alternative, just insufficient hypothetical scenarios.”

          While the first sentence is technically true, aside from the last five words, the rest is just slander. First of all, when Ehrman left Christianity he had already rejected a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, on purely historical grounds — so he most likely rejected the empty tomb story as fiction, even when he was still a Christian. Second of all, the problem of evil is an evidential argument, it’s just not a historical argument. Finally, as I already said above, from 1:31:00 onward in the debate you referenced, Ehrman says precisely where he thinks the Gospel narratives came from.

          • larry

            i know. thats why i apologized for my misuse of Ehrmans position. i was recalling those statements from months ago and in my memory i recalled him incorrectly.i know its rare,but ppl do admit when they were wrong.im one of em. i recalled barts position incorrectly and im admitting it. the point of putting his words and the times was to show WHY i recalled them wrong.

            “when ehrman left christianity he has already rejected a fundamentalist reading of the bible……”

            this is where we get into who is and who isnt a christian. let me be clear, i dont believe Bart was ever a real christian,he was a cultural christian like many today.one of the evidences for that is not believing the bible. everything we know about Jesus and christianity comes from the bible. if u dont believe it, u cant be a christian. second, christianity is not simply a philosophy u just chose to adhere to, its a relationship with Jesus. an actual relationship. a person does not go from having relationship with someone and then do denying they existed. a person can chose to disobey God n still believe in him,but if a person ever knew God in a relationship,he could never again say he didnt exist. for bart to deny that Jesus rose from the dead, he either never had relationship with him or hes lying. if Bart DID have a relationship with Jesus and is now saying that Jesus never rose,he would be lying. so,it is possible that bart was a real christian and is just lying.but i typically find thats not the case.most atheists n agnostics i have run into who were former “christians” never knew God to begin with. Jesus makes this point in Mat 7:21-22.
            i apologize for not putting “” around the word christian when i said bart was a christian.that would have eliminated this miss-conception.

            that being said, if he rejected the empty tomb,he could never have had a relationship with Jesus. the problem of evil is an emotional argument not evidential. tho many believe that their argument is evidence of no God,u would first have to show where God ever promised a world of no evil before u can use it against God. the bible explains evil as such:people sin,violate Gods commands and ways,they rebel against his rule. this sin causes problems,it brings curses onto people,families,cities and nations. the reason there is evil is because ppl do evil. God does not strike down every person who does evil b/c he desires for everyone to repent and be forgiven but they must chose that on their own. if God was to get rid of all evil,he would have to kill u the moment u even THOUGHT a sinful thought. no,God gives time for ppl to repent. as for natural disasters, they are just that, natural disasters.this earth operates by basic natural laws. earthquakes,tornadoes,hurricanes,blizzards etc are all natural acts that we just happen to get caught in.disese is also natural. God never promises that this life will be worry free,infact he tells us that it will full of problems because of mans sins.

          • Ray

            If you’re going to define Christianity as a belief in the inerrancy of the New Testament as we now understand it, then

            1) Saint Paul wasn’t a Christian — the New Testament did not exist when he wrote his letters. He probably didn’t believe in the empty tomb either. Otherwise he would have mentioned it in I Cor. 15 (at the very least by listing the women present at the tomb as having seen the risen Jesus before Peter.)

            2) Bart Ehrman WAS a Christian, and it was historical evidence that convinced him otherwise (since you would claim that becoming a Liberal Christian as he did was tantamount to deconversion.) You certainly have no warrant for claiming Ehrman never believed in Biblical inerrancy. He claims as much, and I’m generally inclined to believe him; those with a liberal view on scripture don’t generally choose a place like Moody Bible College for their higher education. The only way out of this for you is to take the blatantly self-serving position that anyone who ceases to be Christian was never Christian in the first place.

            As far as whether Ehrman or Paul had a relationship with Jesus. I have no greater reason to doubt that Ehrman believed this in his youth, than I do to doubt that Paul believed the same during his life. But, of course, if Ehrman’s current position on the resurrection is correct, then he did not actually have a relationship with the risen Christ, and neither do you.

          • Ray

            Also:

            “everything we know about Jesus and christianity comes from the bible. ”

            That doesn’t sound like something someone who had an actual relationship with Jesus would say.

        • eric

          “he now attempts to find any thing he can to disprove the bible.”

          I did not get that impression from his books at all. IMO they fall pretty solidly within the field of higher criticism, a field with many many Christian theologists accept and contribute to without thinking what they are doing is “disproof.” I believe only some of the more fundamentalist sects consider performing higher criticism on the bible as an attack/disproof of it.
          Moreover, Erhman is very careful* to point out that higher criticism is not what lead him away from religion and that it doesn’t lead most theologians away from religion, so “disproof” is really hyperbole. Disproving or undermining Christianity is not what the field seeks to do nor what it actually, in practice, does.

          *Frankly I think he’s too careful. Its boring to hear him repeat this mantra in just about every chapter of every book. Say it in the introduction and then let it go, FFS.

          • eric

            theologists? Ack what was I thinking. Theologians.

          • larry

            if you dont believe the bible,then u dont have any historical source for the basis of your belief.
            st paul had the old testament,he believed in its inerrancy.

            no,the only reason you can make that assumption is to ignore what i actually said. a person who had a relationship with Jesus can disobey and turn away,but he would be a liar to say “there is no God”. he can be an apostate and not be an atheist. so, as i said,if bart did know and experience God,he can reject the christian way but he cant call himself an atheist b/c he experienced God. the bible is very clear that many turn from the faith. being a christian is hard, its not what u see on TV. people give up trying to live obediently to God. its easier to just go with the flow.

            this is a true statement. if Jesus did not rise from the dead,then im a delusional fool. Paul made this point very clear.

            “12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 cor 15:12-19
            this statement of paul also refutes your false assumption that paul did not believe in the empty tomb.

            no doubt ehrman believe what his parents told him, weather or not he had an actual relationship with Jesus, i cant know neither can you. but, if he DID personally know Jesus,then he is a liar if he calls himself an agnostic. if he DIDNT personally know Jesus then he was never a real christian. its one or the other. there is no third option. well, i guess there is a third option, he was delusional and heard voices in his head.

            “That doesn’t sound like something someone who had an actual relationship with Jesus would say.”

            this is a fallacious statement. Jesus is not sitting in ppl living rooms giving new doctrine and teaching people about history and his life. the relationship with Jesus is not a college lecture where he tells you about his child hood lol its a prayer life, its hearing his speak at times, its a sense of his presence. so, ur statement is founded on a false assumption. in order to know about the life and sayings of Jesus, you need to read the bible.

          • Ray

            “this statement of Paul also refutes your false assumption that paul did not believe in the empty tomb.”

            resurrection does not necessarily imply an empty tomb. I Corinthians 15:4 says Paul believes that Jesus was buried, not that he was buried in a tomb. Further I Corinthians 15:35-44 says that what is raised is a spiritual body; it says nothing about what happens to the natural body. So Paul may certainly have believed that Jesus’s natural body was entirely or partially left behind when his spiritual body was raised, just as the seed that germinates leaves behind the body of the dead plant from which it came.

            That said, the more significant point is that NOTHING in Paul’s letters says anything about a tomb that was actually observed to be empty — and this is what Craig is claiming: the empty tomb as a historically attested fact.

            ” Jesus is not sitting in ppl living rooms giving new doctrine and teaching people about history and his life. the relationship with Jesus is not a college lecture where he tells you about his child hood lol its a prayer life, its hearing his speak at times, its a sense of his presence.”

            In other words, the Jesus with whom you have a relationship knows nothing that you do not know. Do other people with whom you have “an actual relationship” tell you nothing about their lives?

            “there is a third option, he was delusional and heard voices in his head.”
            This seems the most likely. It’s pretty easy to mistake ordinary internal dialogue for the voice of Jesus if you have been socialized to do so. We all have strong emotional experiences and personal insights that seem to come out of nowhere. But without specific knowledge not accessible to the person having the experience, such experiences can just as easily be dismissed as delusion if one has other reasons, historical or philosophical, to doubt the experience was genuine.

  • hf

    did you know that some early Christians believed not in a single “the Antichrist,” but applied the “antichrist” label to anyone they perceived as heretical?

    This thing about antichrists points to probably the biggest source of weirdness among early Christianity, namely that early Christians had tons of often quite bitter disagreements with each other.

    Proving once again that all Christians are damned, since the sin against the Holy Spirit appears to be exactly this. From Mark 3:

    22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

    23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

    30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

    The author of 1 John must be exceptionally damned, as is anyone who accepts that book or even endorses “the Bible” without qualification!

  • MNb

    “bitter disagreements”
    Why is this weird? It’s exactly what I would expect from people who think they hold the absolute truth. Perhaps you should read a bit about Dutch protestantism and all its schisms. My favourite example is Klaas Schilder, a resistance hero. Read the Wikipedia article and note the date that he started his own church; talking about priorities.
    In another Dutch schism the big question was if the snake in Eden actually spoke to Eve, ie using words, or not.
    So if Ehrmann did make that comment I tend to disagree – there are too many christian denominations in my home country.

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  • Chris S

    “the Lord’s coming is near” is from James 5:8, not 2:8, FYI.

  • larry

    reply to ray: it wont let me reply so im doing a new comment.

    the empty tomb is a necessary component to christianity. the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a staple of christian doctrine. when paul mentions the resurrection he is speaking in context with what the jews believe about the resurrection. they used to save the bones of their ancestors because they believed that they needed the bones to be resurrected. the Sadducees did not believe in a physical resurrection, the Pharisees did. Paul was a Pharisee. he is correcting the incorrect view that there was no bodily resurrection.
    he explains tht there is a natural body and a spiritual body. he goes on to explain that at the resurrection, the natural body will be changed into a spiritual body. in v51-54 he explains the “process”. there is no question that paul believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus. its in line with the apostles teachings. the gnostics believed in a spiritual resurrection not a physical resurrection n they were considered heretical by the apostles.

    with out the physical resurrection of Jesus, christianity likely would not have succeeded. Jesus needed to be physically raised because this was Gods vindication of Jesus’ claims. Jesus was condemned for blasphemy,calling himself God. to be crucified was considered a curse by God himself. which is exactly what Jesus was. he became a curse,carrying all the weight of the sins of humanity (Galatians 3:13). but when God raised Jesus from the dead, he vindicated Jesus, proving that he really was who he claimed to be and not a blasphemous false prophet.
    if the tomb was not empty,the jews and the romans would have been able to say simply “heres his body” and christanity today would be saying it was a spiritual resurrection if it managed to survive this long. the body of Jesus must be accounted for. either the apostles hid it or the jews or romans stole it. but the fact remains that the body is missing, hence the tomb was empty.

    listen, i understand that this is a hard concept for you to grasp being that u hold to the axiomatic position that there is no God, but just b/c u dont understand something does not mean its not true. as for the relationship with Jesus, ive tried to explain it to u the best i can. Jesus is not sitting in living rooms giving new doctrine. nor is he giving college lectures. the relationship with christ is hearing him in response to prayer and sensing his presence at times, the comfort in hard times, the answer in a difficult time etc. its not a 1:1 correlation with a human to human relationship. this is not something that can be proven, so im not attempting to say “God is real because i experienced him”, what i am saying is that if a person is a real christian, thy have experienced God. if they have never experienced God, they were never a real christian. Mat 7:21-22 Jesus makes this point very very clear. if a person has experienced God, knows him to be real b/c of his experience, and then goes to apostatize, he cannot say he is an atheist or an agnostic.he would be lying since he has experienced God first hand. he would have to say “i believe in a god, but i chose not to follow him”. this would be an intellectually honest statement that i could “respect” if u will, of a former christian.

    you can believe a person is delusional,but its merely that, ur belief. yes, it is true that u can mistake ur own thoughts to be Gods words. i cannot speak to what things God has said to others, but i can say for instance in my own experience, the things that God has spoken to me were NOT things that i would have thought of. infact, in 2 instances i did not want to do what God had told me to do at all! when i eventually did obey, it ended up being a good thing but it was not merely an idea i came up with.
    i can speak of another example a friend of mine just recently had. he was driving home when God told him to go get a pedicure. hes not the kind of guy who gets pedicures so he thought that was very weird. but he pulled into the shop that God said to go into and it was empty, no customers that is. the lady started doing his pedicure n she started to talk to him about how her husband died and that her friends were treating her badly n she was just hurting inside. he was able to speak to her and help her in her situation and tell her about God. she was thankful for his visit, she cried n they prayed. was that just mere coincidence? was he just delusional? a man who has never in his 35 years of life gotten a pedicure, gets told to get one out of the blue, just happens to get the lady in there who is hurting and needed to hear of God? u can call it that if u want, but thats just ur choice to do so. when u add up all the similar stories around the world, it gives weight to the fact that its not just mere coincidence in every single one of them. but, u can chose to say what u want, just remember, its only ur opinion, its not a scientifically or philosophically superior position.

    • Ray

      Here is what Josephus (the closest source I could find to Paul’s time on Pharisaic theology) says:

      They also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; (Antiquities 18:14)

      These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God, and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does co-operate in every action. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, – but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment. (Jewish War 2:163)

      Both passages refer to souls being resurrected, and the second passage makes it clear that the souls of good men are resurrected, not in their original bodies, but “other bodies”. If you have a more authoritative source than Josephus on first century Pharisaic Theology, I’m all ears.

      Even if Paul expected the seed of the resurrected spiritual body of Jesus to be consumed entirely rather than leaving behind some manner of husk, your “Romans and Jews could have produced the body” argument relies on a number of unsupported assumptions:

      1) The Jewish and Roman authorities both knew and cared what the Early Christians were claiming about Jesus. I don’t know about you, but if my cult leader had just been crucified, I’d be keeping somewhat of a low profile and only mentioning his resurrection to close friends I knew I could trust. (There’s little evidence the Jews knew or cared about this before the death of James in 62 AD, and little evidence the Romans knew or cared before the fire in Rome in 64 AD.)

      2)Whatever Jewish or Roman authorities came to know or care about Christian teachings of Jesus’s resurrection knew where he was buried. (The Romans had pretty good records, but it’s not like they recorded the final resting place of every twobit criminal who was executed in the outer provinces.)

      3)By the time someone interested in disproving the resurrection found the body, said body was still recognizable.

      4)Even if 1-3 happened, someone bothered to write it down. (So suppose the Jews or Romans convinced some of the early Christians that Jesus really was dead, do you think they’re going to tell the other Christians and be believed? Did the Romans drag the body off to the churches in Corinth and Galatia? Really?

      In any event — the real issue is you’re accusing Ehrman of holding views on the historicity of the empty tomb which are incompatible with the belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore you think he must have been convinced of these views not by responsible historical scholarship, but by way of the problem of evil. But Ehrman clearly says at 1:32:10 that no one could go to the tomb to check, by the time the resurrection tradition had become established. So his version, does not require an empty tomb, even if the Christians were right about the resurrection. FWIW, Ehrman also denies at 59:15 that Paul’s belief in post resurrection appearances of Jesus even would imply an empty tomb to Pagans, Jews, or Christians (And the quotes from Josephus seem to back him up.)

      The long and short of it is, you have no basis for accusing Ehrman of dishonesty. Ehrman’s views on the origin of the Christian tradition are entirely compatible with a belief in the resurrection of Jesus, as Ehrman believes Paul understood such a claim. I think you should heed Matthew 7:1 and take Ehrman’s word that he formed his views on the historical reliability of the Gospel Tradition independently of his views on God.

      You also are too quick to judge how I come to the conclusion that there is no God. I do not take such a belief as an axiom — indeed it is rather a poor axiom, as it invokes the highly variable and often incoherent concept of “God,” and it is rather difficult to apply axioms couched in terms of poorly formed concepts. Rather I take the nonexistence of the gods of the major religions as a consequence of careful observation, and other principles of reasoning, such as Occam’s razor.

      • larry

        there were many different views back then, i in no way think that the ONLY position was the bodily resurrection. infact, i clearly stated that the Sadducees did not believe in one at all.
        the fact of the matter is that the christians believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.this implies an empty tomb. Paul did not believe in a spiritual resurrection,none of the apostles preached an empty resurrection.they were very explicit in the empty tomb.its made clear in the gospels.there is no reason to believe that Paul, who believed what the apostles believed, didnt believe in a bodily resurrection.

        1.the jews were wanting to put this cult down. what better way than to say “heres the body”?
        the romans were not happy with the commotion caused either. the assumption u are making is that there was no empty tomb.the apostles claimed a bodily resurrection.they went to their deaths proclaiming this to be a fact that they witnessed. so,either they lied or a roman or jew stole the body n tricked them.

        2. this contradicts ur first point. the romans had no concern with a simple jewish cult leader so its not surprising that we dont have Jesus’ crucifixion record. especially since crucifixion was only recently discovered to be historically true.

        3. nothing to refute or defend here

        4. this assumes again that the initial start of christianity did not already have the evidence of the empty tomb. without it,there would be nothing to refute in the first place.it was only his resurrection that got it started.so, without the bodily resurrection, there would be no need to go to galatia or corinth to prove it wrong.

        im only accusing Ehrman of dishonesty if he had an actual relationship with Jesus. if he DID know God thru experience and is claiming now that God doesnt exist, hes lying. period. if you see me and then deny my existence, ur lying. if Ehrman did not know Jesus through experience, then he was never a real christian. its one or the other.

        ur lack of a belief in God is axiomatic in that it requires u to believe things that cannot be or have not been scientifically proven or observed. u may have look at many avenues of investigation, but it does not remove the axiomatic position that is inherent in atheism. mainly the axiomatic position that everything has a naturalistic cause. this has not been n probably cannot be established. u must hold to it by faith.

        • Ray

          Larry. Your response is a presumptuous as usual. You presume that Paul, the authors of the Canonical Gospels, and the apostles all have the same views, despite the fact that Paul never quotes from the Canonical gospels or anything resembling them (Nor does any other Christian writer from before 96 AD). You presume that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses and their immediate companions, despite the fact that eyewitnesses don’t compose their accounts by copying large swaths of text verbatim from other accounts and then editing them in mutually contradictory ways (yet this is what we find in the synoptic Gospels.) You presume that no one could honestly deny an experience you yourself describe in such vague terms that you feel you need scripture to identify the experience with the historical person Jesus. And you presume that you can narrow the definition of “real Christian” to exclude the younger Ehrman without excluding yourself.

          And then you accuse me of presumption. I have only this to say, your definition of an “axiomatic assumption” is so expansive that I could not straightforwardly claim that the president of the united states existed without making an “axiomatic assumption” denying the possibility that the president is nonexistent, but some combination of natural and supernatural forces had conspired to leave evidence identical to what would be observed if the president did indeed exist. If science is forbidden from making such “axiomatic assumptions” then it is truly powerless — and yet we have computers, satellites, vaccines, and nuclear power. Or do we? Perhaps this is just another “axiomatic assumption.”

          Regardless, this exchange has become tiresome. Feel free to hold on to all your presumptions, but as you do so, please refrain from publicly presuming to know how I or Ehrman think. Slander is rather unbecoming for one who claims to be a Christian.

          • larry

            friend, what u dont realize is that ur response is presumptuous too. the difference is that my presumptions are based on the entire context of christian thought n urs is based on a desire to find any way to say ‘its not true’. Paul would not need to quote from the gospels to believe what they believed. 1.if u believe that the gospels were written late,then he couldnt have quoted from them, if u believe as i do that they were written early he still doesnt need to quote from them. Paul had direct contact with Peter and James n after 14 years went back to the original leaders to discuss more issues n get agreement.
            “18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. ” Galatians 1

            Matthew was with Jesus and was the one who replaced Judas
            Mark was a disciple of Peter, he penned what Peter was an eye witness to.
            Luke was with Paul
            John was with Paul

            you presume that the gospels were NOT written by these men. u presume its all made up. using notes taken from speeches is not evidence of not being an eye witness. when news reporters watch a speech and turn to a transcript when they make their report, this is not evidence they were not there.
            “mutually contradictory ways”? if they r mutual, wouldnt that mean they agree? if they are contradictory wouldnt that mean they disagree? so, they disagree the same? im going to need an example of this.

            i dont exclude myself, i said that the third option is that im just deluded and its all been coincidences.
            the ability to describe an experience does not make the experience itself vague. i cannot deny the existence of God now. if i were to rebel and decide to reject God,at this point, i would be lying if i told u that God didnt exist or if i were to say “im not sure”. this doesnt mean i cant rebel, it just means that after my experiences, if i were to try to say that God didnt exist id be lying.
            this position is very simple n true.a christian is not a person who goes to church and hates gay people.a christian is a person who has recognized their sin, turned to Jesus and has a relationship with him. if a person does not have a relationship with Jesus,they are not a christian.
            “21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never KNEW you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Mat 7.
            it doesnt matter what u act like, if u dont know God, ur not a christian.
            so, if a person never knew God, he was never a christian, if a person DID know God, hes a liar if he says that there is no God.

            those are axiomatic assumptions. we take them on good faith, but they are axiomatic assumptions none the less. science must hold those axioms in order to operate. you cannot scientifically prove that science is true. i am not opposed to axioms, i hold axioms myself. we all do. u are the one who claimed u didnt have the axiom.
            when it comes to the existence of God however, when one says “there is no God” he is asserting that all things have a naturalistic cause. this is the axiom. this has not been proven. science knows that time space and matter were created about 13.7 billion years ago. the only question is who or what created time space and matter. whatever created it must be by necessity timeless spaceless n immaterial since things cannot create themselves. so, u may believe that there is no God,but until u can prove that everything had a naturalistic cause, its an axiom. and please, dont pull the old “u have the burden of proof” argument. we are both on equal grounds here. i claim that an intelligent timeless spaceless immaterial being created time space and matter, u claim that either “nothing” created time space n matter, or something COMPOSED of time space and matter created time space and matter (this is illogical n non scientific). we are both making a claim here so we both have a level of burden of proof.

            im sorry u feel tired of this peaceful exchange of ideas.
            feel free to hold on to your presumptions, but as u do, please refrain from publically presuming to know what is and isnt a christian, how i or other christians think. and please understand what slander is and isnt. stating a truth is not slander. its been a pleasure to have a discussion with out vile and vitriol. usually atheists are so nasty and foul, its been a breath of fresh air to meet an atheist who can speak like an educated respectful human. thank u. and thank u for ur points, u have opened more doors for me to look into and avenues to research.

            ill leave u with this. there is a God. this God has a moral standard that we have all violated.this God is just and holy and will judge those who violate him and the innocent. he is also a God of love and created you to have relationship with him,not to kill you.but you have violated his moral standard just like everyone else including me. you owe a debt to God n its going to cost u your life. not ur physical life, ur spiritual life. ur debt to God must be paid. God paid ur debt by becoming a human and paying the debt himself. he offers you mercy and forgiveness if ur willing to accept it. if not, u will have to pay ur debt on ur own. if u were to believe what God did for you one day, u will be grateful and will want to live in obedience to him and know him more. u will experience God in a way that u will not be able to deny him. u will know him.

            i hope that one day u will come to know God and that i will b able to meet u face to face in heaven. only u can decide ur fate. God says “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” isaiah 1:18

            God bless u friend.

  • Erin

    I don’t quite understand what you are doing reading the Bible so much? If you are an atheist, why are you spending so much time attacking belief in a God you don’t think exists? Does other people’s faith bother you so much? Can you not have your own beliefs and leave other people alone to have their own beliefs too? Grow up. If you don’t believe in God, leave it alone. Find something else to blog about. Geesh

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Yes, it bothers me that a book that says gays and Hindus should be put to death is widely regarded as a moral authority.


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