2012-04-28

How could Ehrman possibly have read the books he cites?

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by Neil Godfrey

This is an extract from my previous post. Since that post is very long there is a significant section there that I fear could easily be overlooked. Bart Ehrman has indignantly declared he read all of the books he discusses in his book Did Jesus Exist?

How, then, could he possibly have confused the mythicist argument of Wells with that of Doherty. The two are opposed to each other. But Ehrman appears to have picked up a garbled account and attributed half of Doherty’s argument to Wells!

Here is the relevant section from my previous post. There are many more shoddy and false statements by Ehrman about what Wells writes that I address in that post, but I have singled out here just this one point.

Bart Ehrman wants us to believe he read the mythicist books he reviews but I cannot believe him. Otherwise how could he possibly write what he has about G. A. Wells’ argument here?

Ehrman accuses mythicists, in particular G. A. Wells, of fabricating the idea that Paul thought of Jesus as a supernatural being who was crucified by demons some time in the distant past.

Instead, Wells contends, Paul understood Jesus to have been a supernatural being who lived in utter obscurity some 150 years or so earlier, who was crucified not by the Romans but by the demonic forces in the world. (p. 247 of Did Jesus Exist? my emphasis)

Ehrman cites as the source of this assertion page 97 of Wells’ first book on this topic, Did Jesus Exist?, the same title as Ehrman’s own book.

No, Bart Ehrman. G. A. Wells says in the same book you cite, and in every other book he was written on the Christ myth, that Jesus came to earth as a physical human being and was crucified as a physical flesh and blood human by humans at the instigation of (not by) evil spirits.

In fact, G. A. Wells has argued against Doherty’s argument that Jesus was crucified as a spiritual being and by demons.

How can you expect us to believe you when you demand that we believe you read all the books yourself?

Here is what Wells wrote on the page of the book you cite:

Paul believed in a supernatural Jesus who assumed human flesh and was crucified on earth at the instigation of supernatural powers. Paul was utterly unconcerned with when or where this happened — he does not give it a historical setting — because he was convinced that Jesus lived an obscure life on earth. . . . Paul insists . . . Jesus was ‘born of a woman, born under the law’ (Gal. 4:4). Paul does not know who Jesus’ enemies were and how they had him crucified. Even in the synoptics, only the later layers of the tradition . . . identify Jesus’ opponents as scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, or Herodians. In the earlier layers the opponents figure merely as ‘they’ or ‘the Jews’ (see Bultmann’s evidence. . .)

Ehrman cannot possibly have read the page he cites.

The next page Ehrman cites in the same book by Wells’ is 18. Here is what Wells writes on page 18:

Paul supposes that he existed as a supernatural personage before God ‘sent’ him into the world to redeem it. (Such pre-existence on the part of the agents of God’s activities on earth — such as Wisdom and the Logos — was part of the Judaic background.) He assumed human flesh sometime after the reign of David, from whom, Paul says, Jesus (as man) was descended (Rom. 1:3) — a Jew ‘according to the flesh’ (9:5), the scion of Jesse to govern the gentiles (15:12) predicted by Isaiah.

Ehrman is writing outright disinformation about Wells’ argument.

Ehrman cannot possibly have read the pages in Wells’ book that he cites.

And just one more:

Ehrman repeatedly claims that Wells argued Jesus began “appearing” to people in the “recent past” — in Paul’s own time. Much of Ehrman’s argument against Wells is over this particular point. But Ehrman never cites where Wells makes this claim and it’s not one I recall Wells ever making — though it is some years since I read his books. If I was more dedicated I would re-read them now to check, but I feel I have spent enough time and space on this section already.

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57 Comments

  • 2012-04-28 22:09:26 UTC - 22:09 | Permalink

    ‘Ehrman repeatedly claims that Wells argued Jesus began “appearing” to people in the “recent past” — in Paul’s own time.’

    Well, Ehrman is right surely? Wells claimed the resurrected Jesus ‘appeared’ to Paul.

  • Fortigurn
    2012-04-28 22:12:58 UTC - 22:12 | Permalink

    Ehrman: ‘Wells contends Paul understood Jesus to have been a supernatural being’
    Wells: ‘Paul believed in a supernatural Jesus’

    Ehrman: ‘who lived in utter obscurity ‘
    Wells: ‘he was convinced that Jesus lived an obscure life on earth’

    Ehrman: ‘who was crucified not by the Romans but by the demonic forces in the world.’
    Wells: ‘who assumed human flesh and was crucified on earth at the instigation of supernatural powers’

    • 2012-04-28 22:57:00 UTC - 22:57 | Permalink

      Astonishing. Wells says Paul believed in a Jesus who was supernatural in his pre-existence but became flesh and blood on earth and was crucified as a human being. And Jonathan Burke aka Fortigurn only reads the first few words of Ehrman’s and Wells’s words to manufacture a false agreement.

      Ehrman says Wells argues demons crucified the spiritual (not human) Jesus but Wells says exactly what just about every New Testament scholar says, that demons only instigated the crucifixion of Jesus which was done through human agencies.

      And still we have manglers of words and meanings trying to defend Ehrman by saying his falsehoods are in fact truths.

      • 2012-04-29 00:05:32 UTC - 00:05 | Permalink

        I think Fortigurn’s point (which actually seems correct to me, but I may also be misreading) is that the only inaccuracy in Ehrman’s statement is over who it is that caused the crucifixion. It seems that the first two parts actually do agree. I read Ehrman’s “lived in utter obscurity” as “lived [on Earth, as flesh] in utter obscurity”. It wouldn’t make sense for him to be in “utter obscurity” in the supernatural realm.

        • 2012-04-29 03:03:42 UTC - 03:03 | Permalink

          Wells does not say Jesus was a supernatural figure except in his existence before he was sent to earth. Ehrman has not read Wells if he really thinks – as he writes – that Wells claims Jesus was a supernatural being crucified by demons.

  • GakuseiDon
    2012-04-29 04:06:00 UTC - 04:06 | Permalink

    On Jesus appearing in recent times, Wells writes on p. 57, “The Jesus Myth”:

    “This wisdom is Christ (Coloss. 2:2-3), hidden as a “mystery” for long ages with God in heaven, but now manifest to believers (Rom. 16:25-27; Coloss. 1:26). He tricked the evil spirits who rule the world by appearing on Earth divested of all his heavenly splendour (see above, p. 50), so that, failing to recognize him, they caused him to be crucified… See also Earl Doherty’s assessment (1997, p. 71) in an article which brings out quite remorselessly the incompatibility of the Jesus of the gospels with the Jesus of the epistles…

    [Paul] is so imprecise about [the Passion] that he may well have thought that it occurred one or two centuries before his time of writing.”

    Also, p. 127:

    “We can explain why Paul mentions ‘the twelve’ in a creed he only once quotes if we suppose–as I did in DJE, following Schmithals (1971 pp. 70, 82)–that the community which formulated this creed knew the twelve as a group of enthusiasts who, having heard of an appearance of the risen Jesus to Cephas, though it presaged a general resurrection of the dead.”

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  • Bob Carlson
    2012-04-29 07:06:54 UTC - 07:06 | Permalink

    Perhaps you are barking up the wrong tree. You have indicated that Ehrman hated to write DJE? but felt compelled to do so in defense of the historicity of Jesus. If he hated that, how much would he hate reading books that argued against the historicity of Jesus? If I am reading a book that doesn’t really grab my attention, I can find my eyes just going over the words as I am thinking about something else. If I didn’t catch myself and go back over the words that didn’t register, it would be like having not read the book at all. It is hard to know if the texts of mythicist books just didn’t register with Ehrman, but it seems possible. Thus, he may believe he read the books but instead merely saw what he wanted to see in them. He has, after all, been teaching and writing about the historical Jesus for years. Eric MacDonald translated from Detering’s German review of Ehrman’s book:

    “And yet not an apologist! Ehrman wants to be understood as a pure historian, who is interested exclusively in historical evidence.” Yet in an interview (not linked or identified), says Detering, Ehrman said the following:

    Jesus’ teachings of love, and mercy and forgiveness, I think, really should dominate our lives, on the personal level, I agree with many of the ethical teachings of Jesus and I try to model my life on them, even though I don’t agree with the apocalyptic framework in which they were put. [italics in original article]

    Ehrman acknowledges that his wife’s Christianity has been unaffected by any of his books, and most of the students in his classes and most of the staff in his department are Christian. When he talks to religious groups he refers to himself as agnostic and denigrates the nasty atheists. As Eric MacDonald says, “…Ehrman’s arguments are basically religionist.” It is easy to see why he would feel compelled to defend the historicity of Jesus. One can only wonder how this bias affected his books about textual analyses of the New Testament.

    • mP
      2012-04-30 00:16:26 UTC - 00:16 | Permalink

      But if Bart believes in the fuzzy warm loving Jesus image why does that mandate that Jesus must also be historical ? The idea does not require the man.

      I personally feel that Bart perhaps feels guilty as a former xian, and does not want to rob Jesus of all his glory after recognising the divine is but a myth. For him divinity is unimportant from a practical perspective, Jesus and his apocalypse failed but the idea has value and is something we should continue, sorry if im unclear tthey are my opinions of what I feel stimulate Bart. I suppose spending 30 odd years in this field, he wants to take something real and tangible from his learning and dedication, even if these require a change in attitude and acknowledgement.

      • Bob Carlson
        2012-04-30 04:06:27 UTC - 04:06 | Permalink

        Sure, mP, but if he feels guilty as a former xian might not he also feel disinclined to ascribe wise sayings to a mythical Jesus? Mythical people don’t really say things; what they are reported as having said is merely someone else’s idea. I also remember Ehrman’s objection to the idea that a heavenly Jesus could have been crucified, as if it isn’t logical to talk about crucifixion in anything other than the earthly realm.

        • mP
          2012-04-30 12:39:05 UTC - 12:39 | Permalink

          I have no problem with Bart having good intentions, i sincerely believe he is genuine in the way he believes the kind good Jesus parables and teachers are worthy of our time. However the truth is on further examination Jesus was anything but a nice guy. HIs attitudes to non jews and women as in the story of the sick Samaritan woman or the Good Samaritan story are filled with very nasty stereotypes. Nobody wants to concentrate on these, why is it necessary to say even a Samaritan was good, after all any other story with a similar criticism of the actions of one person who mentioned race would be considered vulgar and racist if told by anybody else today.

          Bart needs to wake up and write a truthful book that Jesus was anything but a good man. Perhaps when he examines the stories where and his actions with others he will see he is not special. The story is perhaps inspiring but against todays standards he is not much or an example for anyone to follow.

  • 2012-04-29 23:04:18 UTC - 23:04 | Permalink

    I found Ehrman at his most credible when he described reading the mythicist literature as “unpleasant” (or something synonymous). Only if someone has actually tried to read these materials can he have an appreciation of just how turgid is the prose.

    • Joseph
      2012-04-29 23:18:08 UTC - 23:18 | Permalink

      I don’t disagree. As an admirer of Bob Price’s work, I have to admit that one or two chapters in Deconstructing Jesus felt as though they’d never end. (His line-by-line commentary on the “Sufi Q” comes to mind as utterly tedious.)

      • 2012-04-30 18:15:37 UTC - 18:15 | Permalink

        Which just goes to show we enjoy reading what we know something about and have an interest in already. I suspect curious Muslims would not be so bored in Price’s discussion of the Sufi Q.

        • 2012-04-30 18:30:15 UTC - 18:30 | Permalink

          Neil, you are talking past Joseph. He told you that he’s not an antagonist of Price. He’s an admirer.

          Yes, we all enjoy reading what we know something about and have an interest in already, but that is not the only dynamic at work in reading and writing. Prolixity is prolixity, regardless of one’s interest level.

          • 2012-04-30 18:56:01 UTC - 18:56 | Permalink

            Not at all. I’m completely in accord with Joseph. I’m also an admirer of Bob Price’s work. But now you’re introducing “prolixity” in the abstract. Joseph, and I, were finding anything longer than 200 words on Sufi-Q hard going. My point is that I suspect an interested Muslim would find Price all to brief here!

            • 2012-04-30 19:14:17 UTC - 19:14 | Permalink

              Neil, if you think this is merely an issue of interest level of the reader being correlated with word count from the author, then I don’t think there’s a basis for our coming to an agreement.

              • 2012-04-30 19:17:39 UTC - 19:17 | Permalink

                My question about the word count was prompted solely by your introduction of the issue of ‘prolixity’. Do you mean you would rather discuss something more substantive? I’d welcome that.

              • 2012-04-30 19:37:10 UTC - 19:37 | Permalink

                If there were a mythicist who could write the sort of digestible prose produced by, say, C. S. Lewis, it would be a lot easier for those of us who aren’t mythicists to understand the argument for mythicism. Moreover, a lucid argument doesn’t merely give you a better way to communicate it, it’s also a way of confirming the argument’s logical coherence.

              • 2012-04-30 19:40:44 UTC - 19:40 | Permalink

                You are confusing me. Do you want substance or style?

              • mP
                2012-04-30 20:28:07 UTC - 20:28 | Permalink

                Speaking of Islam, are there any good books that deconstruct just how and why Mohammad and other early leaders created their story of the prophet and his koran ? Are there any that say Mohammad himself is pure myth, and that the hadiths are filled with myth just like Jesus ?

              • 2012-04-30 21:28:15 UTC - 21:28 | Permalink

                When Jesus was asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he gave a concise answer. On this, both critics and supporters can agree. He did not say, “My answer is an 800-page book and unless you read the book you have no right to reject or even criticize my position.” Whether this is a matter of style or substance, I’ll let you decide.

              • KevinC
                2012-04-30 21:38:28 UTC - 21:38 | Permalink

                Well Jesus did get the “you have no right to reject or even criticize my position” part. If Jesus had written an 800 page book (or even a much smaller one), we wouldn’t be having this debate.

              • 2012-04-30 21:56:16 UTC - 21:56 | Permalink

                How can you be unaware that Jesus gives people the right to reject his position? There wouldn’t be evil in the world otherwise.

                As for your second point, Jesus’ book was written long before he was born. That’s one more thing that distinguishes him from Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Ron Hubbard and every other would-be messiah.

              • KevinC
                2012-04-30 20:54:53 UTC - 20:54 | Permalink

                Every serious scholar accepts the existence of an historical Alsan. After all, the Narnia sources do make reference to historical time periods on Earth, such as England in World War II. Which brings to mind the commonalities between Aslan mythers and Holocaust deniers. Harrumph! Also, if we take into account the differences between the film versions and the earliest texts of the books, we can see that there is unique material in the moves that does not appear in the books. Scholars refer to this material as the “m” sources, so mChronicles, mCaspian, and mDawnTreader provide us with three additional attesting sources for Aslan. In addition, through careful textual analysis of the Narnia books, we can reconstruct the original outline, which goes all the way back to the time of the Pevensie children. Furthermore, Edmund’s act of betrayal–turning against his own brother and sisters to the White Witch for a mess of Turkish Delight of all things, is an embarrassing detail the Pevensies would not have made up out of whole cloth; it was only passed on in the oral tradition that ultimately reached C.S. Lewis because it was a historical fact that could not be denied. Anyone who disagrees would have to be a disease-carrying mosquito or something. Harrumph, I say! HA-RRRUMPH! Oh, and I do wish these plague-spreading insect cranks (who are, might I remind you, just like Holocaust deniers, Creationists, and fans of the Kardashian sisters) would stop being so vulgar and insulting! Why, it is an absolute shock to the dignity of the scholarly enterprise!

              • 2012-04-30 21:33:42 UTC - 21:33 | Permalink

                Kevin, you demonstrate how easy it is for people reading Lewis to discern his fiction from his non-fiction. With mythicists, it’s not so clear.

              • KevinC
                2012-04-30 21:54:00 UTC - 21:54 | Permalink

                Mike, it’s not just mythicists who have a hard time, otherwise historicists would have been able to tell us whether “the” Historical Jesus was a Jewish fundamentalist or a Cynic sage a long time ago. The difficulty in telling fact from fiction is endemic to the data itself. Even believing Christians like yourself can’t agree on the major doctrines. For example, your particular version of Real, True Christianity rejects the Trinity and says that Jesus’ second coming already took place. Even if you’ve finally got it right after all this time, the fact of the matter is, the Christian world still had to wait 2,000 years for you to come along at last, getting it wrong for the whole of Christian history prior to your advent.

              • KevinC
                2012-04-30 21:55:40 UTC - 21:55 | Permalink

                For some reason, the link in my previous post did not work. Click on Mike’s name to visit his blog, where he explains his version of Christianity in detail. I wish there was a Preview button.

              • 2012-04-30 22:00:11 UTC - 22:00 | Permalink

                Kevin, I am not promoting Christianity nor am I promoting Christians. Rather I am promoting Jesus Christ.

                If we followed your rule that only when we all have the same understanding of what a great thinker has said can we follow that leader would require us to reject the teachings of every great thinker who ever lived.

              • KevinC
                2012-04-30 23:17:00 UTC - 23:17 | Permalink

                Mike, I never claimed to establish such a “rule.” I was simply pointing out that when it comes to the New Testamant, everybody–mythicists, historicists, and Christians alike–has difficulty “discerning fiction from non-fiction.”

                Also, I don’t know why you’d try to say you’re not promoting Christianity when the essay on your site that I tried to link to is titled True Christianity (hope the link works this time). Presumably there would not actually be a dichotomy between promoting “True Christianity” as you see it, and “promoting Jesus Christ,” as the former would mean worshiping/following the latter in the proper way.

              • 2012-04-30 23:45:19 UTC - 23:45 | Permalink

                Kevin, true Christianity is Christ. Conventional Christianity includes a lot of baggage, most notably church. When most people hear “Christianity” they think of the latter, and that’s the sense I was using the word in that comment. When the world comes to understand “Christianity” as “Jesus Christ” without the baggage I’ll adjust my use of terminology.

                There’s no denying that Jesus said some things hard to understand. Neither can there be denying that people disagree about the miracles and other aspects of what’s recorded in the New Testament. None of that, however, means that Jesus was not a historical figure or that he was not who he said he was. Neither does it mean in and of itself that anything in the New Testament, or Old Testament for that matter, is false. Jesus Christ is true.

              • KevinC
                2012-05-01 00:56:07 UTC - 00:56 | Permalink

                Mike wrote:

                None of that, however, means that Jesus was not a historical figure or that he was not who he said he was. Neither does it mean in and of itself that anything in the New Testament, or Old Testament for that matter, is false.

                I never intended to suggest otherwise. You said that mythicists were having a hard time discerning fact from fiction. I was simply pointing out that, due to the problematic nature of the data (texts), it’s difficult for everybody, mythicists, historicists, and believers alike. Of course it does not follow from this that Jesus was never a historical figure, or even that every jot and tittle of the Bible is not a flawless communication from Yahweh. Even if the mainstream historicists are right, they still can’t tell us whether Jesus was an Jewish fundamentalist predicting Doomsday, a Cynic sage and proto-hippie social reformer, a would-be king trying to establish himself as the heir of the Davidic throne (see Jame’s Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty), an Essene (Eisenmann) or something else.

                Even if non-mainstream historicists (Bible-believers like yourself) are right, they still can’t come to agreement on whether Jesus was part of a Trinity, whether he taught a doctrine of everlasting torture in Hell, whether he allows human free will (Arminians) or predestines everyone to salvation or damnation according to his own will (Calvinists), whether he is truly present in the Eucharist (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox) or Communion is just a symbol (Protestants). And so on.

                The point is not that all of these views are false, it’s that the data is unclear and widely subject to interpretation. Mythicists are not the only ones in this predicament.

              • 2012-05-01 01:34:47 UTC - 01:34 | Permalink

                Kevin,

                You misunderstood my original point, which was actually that readers of mythicist literature, like me, have a hard time discerning its genre. Even readers who disagree with C.S. Lewis have no problem understanding his point. Nor have I ever heard anyone accusing him of beating around the bush or failing to take a stand. Mythicist writers, by contrast, go on and on and on without getting to the point. They don’t offer a clear-cut alternative to the history we have; rather, they just offer possibility after possibility after possibility, the litany of which is supposed to undermine the historical view. I have yet to engage the mythicist who will offer a succinct and plausible hypothesis for how the mythical Jesus became regarded as historical. They don’t know which scenario is true; they just know the one that isn’t. That’s not a historical point of view. Thus the verbosity of mythicist writings seems to be driven less by the desire to demonstrate that Jesus is mythical and more by the desire to overwhelm you with so many possible alternatives that you will finally concede that a historical view is not tenable. Again, this is not history. It’s anti-history.

                As for the point you were trying to make, I myself used to refer to the varied interpretations of Jesus as if they cancelled each other out and made him moot. Then one day i realized that I had to make a decision about him for myself and that I would not be able to avoid making that decision just because other’s opinions of him were not uniform.

              • mP
                2012-04-30 23:05:38 UTC - 23:05 | Permalink

                Jesus was hardly a great thinker or moralist. Somehow i think your judgment is impaired by the warm fuzzy stories they tell in church, rather than the harsh realities of what the text says. For example Jesus was often harsh and rude to women for no reason other than they dared to ask or question him, the sick Samaritan woman. He also had several encounters with slaves or their owners and yet never rebukes or encourages the owner to give freedom but rather tells the poor slave to be content and faithful to his tasks. Lets also not forget he only ever spoke to Jews and instructed his disciples to do the same. Yes i know there other parts that counter this argument, but the mixed message and example somehow seems to show this ideas of being open to gentiles might have been an after thought.

                So where exactly is the moral Jesus ? What exactly are we to be impressed about ? After we delete the miracles we are left with just a simple man. Im sure you might and will find some rebuttals but again i fail to see the advances in goodness he brought to us. His legacy and not his actions are what impress xians. Truth be told we know almost nothing of him or the character if we are honest in the examination of the facts, after deleting the contradictions from the gospels.

              • 2012-04-30 23:25:06 UTC - 23:25 | Permalink

                Your litany of charges consists of half-truths, mis-characterizations, and misunderstandings. You are quite right that there are rebuttals to all that you charge and I won’t take the time to repeat them here.

                As far as a positive case for his morality, the most obvious way that the depth of his morality shows through to us is in the way he handled the undeserved rejection and abuse that was heaped upon him and that led to his murder. The second most obvious way were in the many acts of kindness he showed to other through his sacrificial life; these included miracles but were not limited to them. A slightly less obvious way we see his morality is in how he refused to accept the trappings and prerogatives of power that usually are acquired by a leader with such popularity. At every step of his life you see self-limitation and self-sacrifice. Amazingly, we see humility in the one who would rule the universe. His moral light is great even if you deny his divinity. If you accept it, his moral light knows no equal.

              • Jason Goertzen
                2012-05-01 07:01:18 UTC - 07:01 | Permalink

                “Moreover, a lucid argument doesn’t merely give you a better way to communicate it, it’s also a way of confirming the argument’s logical coherence.”

                All of the many, many fallacious arguments out there which nonetheless are convincing and sound good to those who read or hear them stand as evidence to the contrary.

                Yes, if your argument makes no sense whatsoever, it will be difficult to put it into good prose; but being able to put it into good prose does in no way vouch for the validity of the argument.

              • 2012-05-01 07:26:08 UTC - 07:26 | Permalink

                Jason, I don’t see much different between your position and mine, if any at all. I agree with you that inability to coherently encapsulate an argument is a strike against it, but ability to do so does not guarantee that it is true. Thus I say “a way” – not “the way,” and certainly not “the only way.”

              • mP
                2012-05-01 15:52:03 UTC - 15:52 | Permalink

                Mike:
                Your litany of charges consists of half-truths, mis-characterizations, and misunderstandings. You are quite right that there are rebuttals to all that you charge and I won’t take the time to repeat them here.

                As far as a positive case for his morality, the most obvious way that the depth of his morality shows through to us is in the way he handled the undeserved rejection and abuse that was heaped upon him and that led to his murder. The second most obvious way were in the many acts of kindness he showed to other through his sacrificial life; these included miracles but were not limited to them. A slightly less obvious way we see his morality is in how he refused to accept the trappings and prerogatives of power that usually are acquired by a leader with such popularity. At every step of his life you see self-limitation and self-sacrifice. Amazingly, we see humility in the one who would rule the universe. His moral light is great even if you deny his divinity. If you accept it, his moral light knows no equal.

                mP:
                Firstly, i will attempt to address each of your questions or statements. I will ignore the first paragraph is simply generalisations and considering you are not an authority have no meaning. If anything such a weak initial commentary shows that you cant actually honestly show me to be wrong in anyway.

                To call Jesus moral, lets ask the simple question why he completely ignored two social classes that included somehwere between 50- 75% of the population of his homeland, women and slaves. At no stage, does Jesus take a harsh stance against slavery but instead validates the institution by telling the poor barstards to shutup and be good slaves. What is wrong with Jesus here ? He also often speaks harshly to women as I have previously mentioned. The way he speaks to them is clearly evident because his character is a product of the jewish system where men are above women and thats it. We see the same situtation in places like Afghanistan and Iran and im not impressed by those peoples morality why would i think there was something special with Jesus if he could not see the error or cruelty in the treatment of women.

                If Nelson Mandela another mere mortal caught in an oppressive regime in our modern times can speak against apartheid simply because it is disgusting and wrong, there is no reason why Jesus fail. Either he did or his gospel writers were blind.

                The story of Satan offering the kingdoms of the world for an act of worship or similar of Jesus is a nonsense. If Satan exists, then God and Jesus also exist and there is no way God or Jesus would worship a lesser being. If Pilate or another important Roman made an official offer then this reply would real and the response would have real meaning. The story is obviously made up or ridiculous in both cases it demonstrates nothing.

                Regarding your comment about “trappings and prerogatives of power” that simply is not true, he accepted the costly oil even after his apostles questions whether it would be better to sell the oil and give to the poor. The is perhaps the only real temptation of luxury and unfortunately the story tells us he selfishly took advantage of it. Hardly impressive.

                Im not going to argue there are nice stories in the gospels, but then again how many are true or constructions from an imaginative mind who is attempting to write the ultimate story to impress. Its hard to believe any Gospel writer when the other accounts tell contradicting accounts. Someone is lying or maybe they all are, if the impressive event really happened, why go to all the trouble of adding more to the grand story ?

                Lastly regarding his self sacrifice, he died because he offended the authorities with his violence in the temple amongst other things. The facts are he got caught out and paid the price like a lot of other would be rebel leaders who offended some ruling power. The story of his sacrifice, is stupid, the story basically says that Jesus died to pay himself back, there is no logic or answer that explains why he couldnt just forgive without hte blood. Sin is not material its just an idea someone ancient made up, like demons cause disease, its not real. If Jesus was genuine he would not continue the stupidity and absurdness that is blaming sickness on demons that are plaguing some unfortunate person or family because they did wrong.

                Jesus was not divine, he couldnt even set the record straight and write down his own definitive gospel but had to rely on questionable authors, he make a lot of mistakes in their attempts to decieve us. You can add superlatives like humility but they have no weight because generalisations are just that and they are unbelievable.

                If you wish to be constructive instead of making generalisations and praising Jesus answer real questions with real answers.

              • 2012-05-01 18:45:16 UTC - 18:45 | Permalink

                mP,

                Jesus did not come to restructure social classes – He came to restructure human hearts. If you want a social reformer, Nelson Mandela is a good choice. If you want a Savior from your sins, no one but Jesus will do.

                I see Jesus speaking directly at times but I never see Him speaking harshly. He showed kindness and respect to woman that was atypical for that time and place.

                It’s interesting that you say there is no Satan, and then proceed to imitate him by accusing Jesus of evil.

                The anointing oil you mention was notable precisely because accepting it was an exception to His normal practice – an exception warranted because 1) He was about to die and the act would carry symbolic significance 2) the guy that kept the money box was pilfering by this time and the money wouldn’t have gone to the poor anyway. Jesus died penniless and alone. Are you suggesting that the anointing oil applied to Him puts Him in the class of a political dictator or religious leader who amasses wealth and power?

                You read the gospels quite selectively. If they tell a story favorable to Jesus’ character you call it a fabrication, but if you deem the story to be unflattering to Him then you accept it without question. No wonder you think poorly of Him.

                You lack appreciation for His death because you lack appreciation for the reality of sin. All that is wrong with this world can be attributed to sin. Take away the sin and it’s a wonderful and beautiful place. Jesus came to constructively do something about sin. That He would do so knowing that many of us would disregard Him and even denigrate Him for doing so (as you are doing) speaks powerfully to the depth of His love for us.

              • mP
                2012-05-01 19:25:31 UTC - 19:25 | Permalink

                MIKE
                mP, Jesus did not come to restructure social classes – He came to restructure human hearts. If you want a social reformer, Nelson Mandela is a good choice.

                mP:
                How exactly can Jesus improve humanity and cure it of the disease of slavery, if instead of condemning the rich masters of the cruelty and cursing them to give up and stop, he instead of tells slaves to be faithful ? These statements show that Jesus is very much pro slavery. Im not asking him to use magic powers, im simply stating for him to be a moral person he has to speak up against this. He said many things, i dont understand how a son of god or even god himself can fail to speak out, after all why would he be intimidated or worried about the dangers. Even in his own gospels they themselves fail to mention this. Jesus fails, he was not moral, he was simply a product of his times. Your diatribe is invention its not in the scriptures.

                MIKE
                If you want a Savior from your sins, no one but Jesus will do. I see Jesus speaking directly at times but I never see Him speaking harshly. He showed kindness and respect to woman that was atypical for that time and place.

                MIKE
                It’s interesting that you say there is no Satan, and then proceed to imitate him by accusing Jesus of evil.

                mP
                I can be both good or evil by myself, i dont have a puppet masters. We all have free will, its as simple as that. To blame Satan is nonsense and shows a lack of personal responsibility.

                MIKE

                The anointing oil you mention was notable precisely because accepting it was an exception to His normal practice – an exception warranted because 1) He was about to die and the act would carry symbolic significance 2) the guy that kept the money box was pilfering by this time and the money wouldn’t have gone to the poor anyway. Jesus died penniless and alone. Are you suggesting that the anointing oil applied to Him puts Him in the class of a political dictator or religious leader who amasses wealth and power? You read the gospels quite selectively.

                MP
                I dont read them selectively, i try to read them accurately, if i have misquoted then correct me. However each story is there to make a point and we all have the right and facilities to critique and judge what they say. You cant very well make a sweeping statement that Jesus never abused or enjoyed luxuries, and then jump and say wasting costly oil doesnt count. He could have given the money to the poor, God would still love him and so on. Judas was right, its as simple as that.

                MIKE
                If they tell a story favorable to Jesus’ character you call it a fabrication, but if you deem the story to be unflattering to Him then you accept it without question. No wonder you think poorly of Him.

                MP
                Please be fair in paraphrasing my comments. I dont believe the miracles, because every gospel author tells us a different story, not in small details but in significant ways. Do we simply remove the errors and then pretend the rest is right ? By conveniently editing or ignoring these mistakes, you are writing your own gospel. Bart has said this many times in his books and speeches on YT.

                I dont think poorly of him, i try my best to judge him for what is written, i dont simply make stuff up as you have done. I have given a few examples which you continue to ignore or reply with poor excuses.

                MIKE
                You lack appreciation for His death because you lack appreciation for the reality of sin. All that is wrong with this world can be attributed to sin. Take away the sin and it’s a wonderful and beautiful place. Jesus came to constructively do something about sin. That He would do so knowing that many of us would disregard Him and even denigrate Him for doing so (as you are doing) speaks powerfully to the depth of His love for us.

                MP
                Im sorry Jesus died as an unfortunate person labelled a criminal. Yo u have no proof about what sin is or is not. Considering sin only exists in the pages of the Bible and your mind, then theres nothing to worry because its not physical. Accoding to xians God forgives sin. The whole unfortunate cruficication could have been avoided if God simply forgave, without the human sacrifice. The entire process was a stupid way to forgive, nobody repeats the same process today. If you owe me money , i dont burn the equivalent amount to forgive your debt. Thats completely stupid, there is no logic or sense to this claim.

                I m not denigrating Jesus, im just being honest. It would help if you stop with the superlatives, it doesnt help actually counter the questions or matter that i raise. If Jesus really exists and is up there, somehow i fail to see how your words are going to help him. Do you really think your words are going to help Jesus conquer Satan ? If we all chant jesus a zillion times are the hungry in Africa going to be fed ? Chanting and magic spells dont exist and such words dont help anyone. That too is an anicent superstition that has proven to be nonsense.

              • 2012-05-01 21:09:26 UTC - 21:09 | Permalink

                mP, your questions are rhetorical, not inquisitive. Your antipathy toward Jesus and His message is thoroughgoing. Your attitude toward Him is one to which I cannot relate. Even when I was an agnostic, I never bore such bitterness in my heart toward Jesus of Nazareth and the message He preached. Sometime you might consider asking yourself why you care so much about Him, His message, and those who believe in Him.

              • mP
                2012-05-01 21:28:45 UTC - 21:28 | Permalink

                I asked a simple question to response to your reply jesus was moral, why he condoned slavery ? Instead of being honest and even attempting to reply you give me some diatribe about love and Jesus, again all fuzzy and without logical facts. I am not bitter im simply using my abilities to question, instead of blinding believing. Again you label me without any possible facts, attacking the messenger because the message is not palatable or convenient. Im not sure if thats an example of childishness or pathetic unsupported belief.

                Talking about the story does not prove anything, just because the story and how it evolved does not make Jesus good or bad. People interested in history read many accounts, again they dont make all those characters good.

              • 2012-05-02 00:03:32 UTC - 00:03 | Permalink

                mP,

                All history has a context. To best understand that history, you need to consider its context. For understanding Jesus and the New Testament this means understanding Second Temple Judaism and the Greco-Roman environment. To state the obvious, but often looked, Jesus was a Jew and His apostles were Jews. Their words and actions need to be understand in that light. When you view the gospels in their proper context, you’ll gain a much better appreciation of Jesus, including His morality. However, you don’t have to know too much about the context to appreciate that He died by crucifixion and was raised from the dead. And He reigns in our midst – where you are and where I am – right now…and forevermore.

              • mP
                2012-05-02 07:30:39 UTC - 07:30 | Permalink

                If Jesus did not consider slavery evil because it was accepted, then what exactly are we to admire about his message ? If we have advanced passed that, does that not say we are more moral than Jesus himself because we accept and hate slavery ? If Jesus could not see or understand how wrong slavery is it does not say much for his insight or ability to think ahead. By your own words you admit that Jesus was a product of his time and social environment, times have changed we dont need advice for direction from backwards people with outdated backward morals.

              • 2012-05-02 08:31:33 UTC - 08:31 | Permalink

                mP, you act as if our generation is more moral than the generations of antiquity that practiced slavery. I don’t know you personally, but I’m guessing you grew up free – neither owning slaves nor being owned as a slave. Therefore, you and I deserve no moral credit for the absence of slavery in our generation. It’s something we inherited.

                Beyond that, I think you’re overlooking the Industrial Revolution and the mechanization of labor. The presence of machines probably has more to do with the absence of slavery than the morality of the human race does.

                In any case, if you’re going to declare yourself more moral than Jesus at least make your argument based on some moral courage you’ve personally exercised.

              • mP
                2012-05-01 21:33:13 UTC - 21:33 | Permalink

                Im sorry the story of Jesus and xianity has not been a blessing, just ask the dead from the crusades, or the sorry slave trade legalised by the church or the other countless millions if not hundreds of millions who died. I dont wish to make anything personal, im just asking simple questions, unfortunately it triggered an irrational diatribe which concentrates more time on analyzing me instead of addressing the simple tough question.

              • 2012-05-02 00:11:16 UTC - 00:11 | Permalink

                mP,

                If your question is, “Why didn’t Jesus condemn slavery?” I already answered it. To answer it again, paraphrased, Jesus came to teach us a way of life that transcended the ages and social structures. To live the Jesus way of life can be practiced in any society – not just democratic ones. Every age and every society has its peculiarities. Obviously, Jesus thought that the problems of the human condition ran much deeper than social equality. I have to agree. I can read about righteous men who lived in monarchies and evil men who lived in democracies. Thus it’s clear that political structures don’t guarantee the morality of the citizens governed by it.

                If I were one of only the only two people in the world I would rather the other guy be righteous with me as his slave than have the other guy be a lying murderer with me as his political equal.

              • mP
                2012-05-02 07:38:42 UTC - 07:38 | Permalink

                About your last paragraph that is completely unrelated to Jesus inability to speak up against slavery. If Jesus ministry was about teaching us to be good then his message needs to address evils, major evils in his society and the future. He failed with slavery, your excuses are just that. If he completely missed big ones like he did, then what exactly does that say about his judgement or lack thereof or perhaps we should just accept that time has progressed further than his morals and ideas.

                There will always be murderers, that fact has nothing to do with Jesus or his message, nor is it his fault. The fact is Jesus could have said a few words against it but did not, thats the sad part. Just think how many millions died or were worse existed as pathetic slaves simply because the Bible made it too easy to justify slavery. If you were one of those, i dont think you would be impressed if you ever heard that your plight was justified by the good Jesus. I m pretty sure the slave traders and others involved in the business would have done it anyway, but the stain is there on Jesus message because he failed here. At the very least if he said something against slavery, then his good name would be cleared and he would not be part of the cabal previously mentioned.

                Everybody has failings, come to the realization that Jesus was not some super good or moral person, its a bit like an alcoholic admitting they have a problem.

              • 2012-05-02 08:36:39 UTC - 08:36 | Permalink

                I get that you think Jesus was not a great moral teacher because He didn’t denounce slavery. I’m just not impressed by your argument.

              • 2012-05-02 08:39:18 UTC - 08:39 | Permalink

                These posts are getting out of order. WordPress’s nesting system is buggy. Best continue new posts at the bottom of the page.

  • 2012-05-01 07:06:03 UTC - 07:06 | Permalink

    Bart Ehrman has been vindicated!

    Contrary to Neil’s wild allegation, a mythicist did quote Schweitzer to lend intellectual cachet to the case for a mythical Jesus.

    Who was that person?

    It was, of course, drum roll… R Joseph Hoffman, in his foreword to GA Wells book ‘The Jesus Legend.’

    • 2012-05-01 08:47:28 UTC - 08:47 | Permalink

      Oh my gawd, Steven. You’re in big twubble now. You know how some scholars hate having their words quoted back to them. There can be no more devious or malicious misrepresentation in their eyes!

      Here is Bart Ehrman’s passage:

      To lend some scholarly cachet to their view, mythicists sometimes quote a passage from one of the greatest works devoted to the study of the historical Jesus in modern times, the justly famous Quest of the Historical Jesus, written by New Testament scholar, theologian, philosopher, concert organist, physician, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize-winning Albert Schweitzer:

      There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of heaven upon earth, and died to give his work its final consecration, never had any existence.

      Curious innocent bystanders may now direct their gaze at first page of the Foreword of G. A. Wells’ book by none other than R. Joseph Hoffmann, Westminster College Oxford, Feast of St Mary Magdalen:

      http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oxkNm5b3MQ4C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

  • 2012-05-01 16:54:56 UTC - 16:54 | Permalink

    Ehrman continues to trash his reputation…

    http://ehrmanblog.org/the-text-of-the-new-testament-are-the-textual-traditions-of-other-ancient-works-relevant/

    A fascinating article in which Bart Ehrman claims that we simply don’t have the manuscripts to have ‘some assurance’ as to what Galatians 1:19 said .

    ‘‘As I will explain in my next post, the kinds of manuscripts we would really need to be able to say with some assurance that we know what the “originals” said – very early and very extensive manuscripts – simply don’t exist.’

    And in response to a question whether Paul wrote ‘brother of the Lord’, Ehrman claims that we would need evidence to suggest it has been changed.

    Amazing.

    Bart looks at the manuscripts and says these manuscripts are missing, we can’t say what was the original.

    But when it comes to his texts that he relies on, he says the manuscripts are missing, so we can’t say it has been changed….

    EHRMAN
    Apologists who say things like “There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than for any other book from antiquity, and thererore we can trust it,” have committed a rather serious error (a non sequitur)

    CARR
    And Ehrman claims we can know ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that Paul wrote ‘brother of the Lord’.

    Go figure….

    EHRMAN
    ‘ and since we know from other sources that the James who headed the church in Jerusalem was in fact known to be the brother of Jesus).’

    CARR
    Out of curiosity, which sources would they be? Luke/Acts, the Epistle of James, Jude? Does Josephus ever claim James was the head of the church?

    Is Ehrman waving invisible documents around again?

    • 2012-05-01 17:22:41 UTC - 17:22 | Permalink

      Unfortunately that “brother of the Lord” phrase appears to have been missing from Marcion’s and Tertullian’s manuscripts, too. Does this offer Ehrman supporting witness from the Church Fathers that the missing manuscripts were even known to be missing back then?

      • mP
        2012-05-01 19:53:08 UTC - 19:53 | Permalink

        Just how historical is James the brother of the Lord, outside the Bible ?

        • Fortigurn
          2012-05-01 19:56:41 UTC - 19:56 | Permalink

          Josephus refers explicitly to ‘James, the brother of Jesus’ in ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ (20.9.1).

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