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Friday, March 5, 2010

Bart Ehrman's Explanation of the Origin of the Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus

Bart Ehrman, a fellow apostate, explains how he thinks the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus originated. This makes much more sense to me than the theological statement that God raised Jesus from the dead.


  1. I agree with you and Bart Erhman and I would add this article from Robert M. Price
    as a plausible explanation of where the material for Jesus Bio came from. A process of esoteric reading of the OT to manufacture the stories about Jesus.

    David McBride

  2. Here's the argument of N.T. Wright: These appearances could not have been visions because a mere vision would have proved that the person was dead (and appearing from the next world), not alive.

    What's your response?

  3. I enjoyed hearing this entire debate back when it took place. To this day I think that Ehrman was underappreciated for his performance. I think his argument and style were solid.

    On Price's explanation (referenced above), I think Price sees this as an either/or, where the presence of any midrashic elements are indicative of a complete midrash. That premise seems to be a prevalent perspective among mythicists and even borderline (postmodernist) mythicists such as Price. We also see it in the view that any layered on Greco-Roman mythological features must be interpreted as a completely mythical story.

    I can't agree with the all-or-nothing view. To me it doesn't follow that some mythicizing means all myth or that some midrash means all midrash. I perceive a likelihood of a historical core with a progressively mythical layering (seen as the stories are compared chronologically as written), and where midrashic writing was made to supplement the more mundane story.

  4. Steve,

    Excellent question. Here is my scenario. Some of the disciples had hallucinations (I prefer that term over visions even though as Bart says it can be derogatory, i.e., implying that the person having it is mentally ill or on drugs)in which they believed they saw Jesus alive after his death. They probably were similar in nature to whatever Paul experienced as Paul in 1 Cor. 15 puts himself in the same list and in parallel grammatical form to the disciples who "saw" Jesus alive.

    As time went on, and these appearance stories were repeated, the tales were embellished to include an empty tomb and a physical body.

    I higly recommend the book The Empty Tomb, eds. Robert Price and Jeff Lowder, especially the 100 page plus chapter by Richard Carrier in the book.

  5. Wright's error, I think, is to assume that the belief in a bodily resurrection was immediate. I tend to think that it slowly developed and won out over competing interpretations as the story developed.

  6. Chris,

    I think Bart "spanked" Craig. In my opinion, he did the best job that any atheist/agnostic has done in debating Craig. I think he conclusively showed that history cannot be used to "prove" the resurrection. Belief that God raised Jesus from the dead is a theological statement of belief not a historical statement of fact.

  7. Ken, that's a good answer. Wright, Craig and others do seem to assume up front that everything in the NT is true. That always bothered me as an evangelical. I always wanted to argue my case without expecting the nonbeliever to buy into the accuracy of Scripture. But that's not the case with popular apologists. "No one could have taken the body because we know guards were posted at the tomb." Huh? How do we really know that? These people assume far too much.

  8. I viewed the clip. He states emphatically - twice - that before Christianity no Jew thought the Messiah would be crucified. He then says the disillusioned followers turned to the Scriptures and found passages like Is 53, Ps 22, and Ps 69 which spoke of a suffering Messiah whom God would vindicate and from this idea they created the resurrection legend which was spread and later written in the gospels. My question is: What enabled these disilluioned followers to think of something that had never before been thought of?

  9. In the clip, Ehrman says, "The one thing we know about the Christians after the death of Jesus is that they turned to their Scriptures to try and make sense of it." I have three questions:

    1) Why is this the one thing we know and not other things?
    2) How is it that we know this?
    3) Why did they do this?
    4) In doing this, were they unique among disappointed messianic groups?