Bart Ehrman


I like Bart Ehrman a lot.

He assumes Jesus was a historical person. He admits that Paul doesn't say anything to confirm this. And he admits that before Paul, some thought of Jesus as an archangel or some kind of divine supernatural entity.

I like Bart's observation that the early Christian view of the divinity of Jesus changed over time. The first thought was: that Jesus became divine at his resurrection. With Mark, Jesus became divine when baptized. With Matthew and Luke, Jesus became divine at conception and/or birth. With John, Jesus became divine before the creation of the world.

Bart assumes you can analyze the text of the New Testament gospels and discover which passages are true and which are untrue. I find this procedure to be unsatisfying; seems to me, if some of it is fiction, it's better to assume it's all fiction. (I thought this even before I heard Richard Carrier say it.)

Bart makes a strong distinction between his method of historical analysis, and determining what really happened. It's a weird dichotomy.

For example, Bart will say that Jesus didn't say such and such a statement (even though the Bible says he did say it), but he won't say that such and such a miracle didn't occur. Miracles are off limits for discussion, about whether or not they happened.

Weirdly, the historical method doesn't reject miracles out of hand; rather, it ignores them (because they are less likely than any other explanation). Bart won't join the two ideas and say, "miracles don't happen"; he doesn't want to say those words.

I find this to be disingenuous. I think Bart wants to minimize the ruffling of feathers of Christians by pretending that it's OK if they believe things that are historically untrue. I think a better approach is to just say it: the Bible is fiction and not to be trusted (but then my career isn't all tangled up in these ideas).

Bart seems to think there is independent corroboration of the gospels by external sources. I think Richard Carrier is correct in claiming there is none, that they are all based on Mark. And Bart seems to think there are multiple independent sources: each of the four gospel writers, Q, L, M, and the various earlier source documents contained within the gospels — hymns or creeds.

I predict that this whole edifice of Biblical scholarship will one day collapse, and that Richard Carrier's views will be shown as being correct.