Bart Ehrman | Talks at Google

Bart Ehrman | Talks at Google


>>Female Presenter: So, Bart Ehrman is the
author of more than 20 books, including the New York Times Bestselling “Misquoting Jesus,”
“God’s Problem,” and “Jesus Interrupted.” He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor
of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is a leading
authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He has been featured in Time and has appeared
on NBC Dateline, The Daily Show with John Stewart, The Colbert Report, CNN, History
Channel, and other top media outlets. And I found it very amusing that The Daily Show
and The Colbert Report was then followed by other top media outlets. And he lives in Durham,
North Carolina. So, please join me in welcoming Bart Ehrman. [applause]>>Bart Ehrman: Thanks. Thanks for coming out.
So, this talk is based on the book that I just did that I’m doing a little book tour
on. The book is called “Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are
Not Who We Think They Are.” And so, the talk will be involving that. Right.
It might help if I turned on the mic. OK. Yes. That’s working better. Good. Thanks.
So, I’m on this book tour in the midst of teaching full-time. I’m teaching at the University
of North Carolina. And at the University of North Carolina, most
of my students come from very conservative, evangelical churches because it’s the Bible
Belt. And so, when I start teaching my class, as I did this semester, I have a pretty large
class, 180 students in it, and I begin my class, after handing out the syllabus, in
explaining that this class is not like a church. This is not a Sunday school. I’m not a preacher
or evangelist. I’m a historian. And this class will be taught from a historical perspective.
So, the New Testament, not as a book of faith, which it is of course, but the New Testament
as a document situated in history. “And so, this will be a different approach,” I tell them from what they’re used to, if
they’ve been to church, which most of them have. So, once I turn out the syllabus on
the very first day of class, the first thing I do is I give them a pop quiz, which they
think is a little bit odd because I haven’t taught them anything yet. But I give them a pop quiz. And part of the
reason for the pop quiz is I want to know how much they know about the New Testament
before I start teaching. And I also want them to know how much they know about the New Testament.
And so, that’s the point of the quiz. So, this quiz has eleven questions on it.
And I begin by telling them that if anyone in the room can get eight out of the eleven
right, I’ll buy them dinner at the Armadillo Grill. So, this year, out of 180 students,
I bought one dinner because my students are more committed to the Bible than knowledgeable
about the Bible. And so, and it’s actually not that hard of
a quiz. So, the first question on the quiz is, “How many books are in the New Testament?”
It’s basic information if you think of somebody to study the New Testament for 19 years or
so. But no, in fact, my students don’t know. The answer it turns out is pretty easy. The
answer is 27. And the reason that’s easy is because when you think about the New Testament,
you think about God. You think about the Christian God. You think Trinity. And what is 27? Three
to the third power. So, it’s a miracle. [laughter] So then the next question is, “In what language
were these books written?” Now, this one really stumped a lot of my students. About half of
my students think that the answer is Hebrew. And I’ve never quite figured that out. But
I think it’s because when you watch all these Jesus documentaries on History Channel, Discovery
Channel, they’re always flashing up Hebrew texts back behind. And so, people naturally
think Hebrew, Jesus, and–. But that’s wrong. Normally, only four or five of my students
think that the answer is English. [laughter] I’m kidding. The right answer is Greek, as
it turns out, because Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire. It’s what everybody
spoke. Just like today, you go to Europe and you need to get around Germany or France or
Italy, if you speak English pretty much you can get around. In the Roman Empire, if you
spoke Greek you could pretty well get around. And so, people who wanted to communicate broadly
would write in Greek. And so, these books are all written in Greek. So, these are the
kinds of questions I ask–basic, factual information. I do throw in a few curveballs because I don’t
wanna buy any dinners. And so, one of my curveballs is, I ask, “What
was the Apostle Paul’s last name?” Well, right. Somebody will always say “of Tarsis,” Paul
of Tarsis, but the point is people in the ancient world didn’t have last names unless
they were upper crust, elite, Roman aristocracy. Then, they had lots of names. But if they
were just a normal person, they just had one name, which is why in the New Testament, we
have all these people with the same name. And when people have the same name, then they
give some kind of identifying feature to let you know which one they’re talking about. So, you have all these Mary’s in the New Testament.
So, they’re always identified: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary of Bethany; Mary Magdalene.
See, these are identifiers because they didn’t have other ways of identifying because they
didn’t have last names. And I have to teach my students that because
they naturally assumed that Jesus Christ, Christ is his last name. So, I have to tell
them, “It’s not Jesus Christ born to Joseph and Mary Christ.” It’s an identifying–. Christ
means “Messiah.” It’s as saying Jesus is the Messiah. So anyway, so my students don’t know basic
information about the Bible, even though they believe it, let alone scholarship about the
Bible. And so, the class is really about scholarship on the Bible, which they know absolutely nothing
about because they’ve never heard any of this stuff in church. Even though, in many cases, their pastors
will have known it because the pastors got trained places that teach this kind of thing.
One of the things that my students don’t know about is, what I’m talking with you about
for the next 20 minutes or so, which is that there are books in the New Testament that
claim to be written by people who did not write them. Now, in a modern world, if somebody writes
a book claiming to be someone famous when they’re not that person, we call that a forgery.
And what I argue in my book, “Forged,” is that ancient people also thought negatively
of this kind of literary activity. They also thought it was a form of lying and
deceit. And they didn’t accept it. And I try and show why it is that scholars, nonetheless,
think that there are books in the New Testament that were not written by the people who are
named as their author’s. So, I wanna talk about that. That’s the main topic I wanna talk about,
but to get there, I wanna talk about, just to set the stage, by talking about a couple
books that did not make it into the New Testament. A couple books that didn’t make it in, which
are absolutely forgeries. So the first example I wanna talk about is a gospel that allegedly
is written by Jesus’s disciple, Simon Peter, the gospel of Peter.
This book was lost for centuries. It was not discovered until 1886. There was a French
archeological team that was working out of Cairo, Egypt, that was digging in a different
part of Egypt. It’s a place called Akhmim. It’s about halfway down the Nile in Egypt.
And in Akhmim, they were digging up a cemetery. And in this cemetery, these archeologists
uncovered a tomb of somebody they thought was a monk. They thought he was monk because
he was buried with a sacred book, and it’s this book that I’m interested in. This book
is a 66-page book that contains four documents. So, it’s a kind of anthology, ancient anthology
of text. Four texts in it. The first one is this one that I’m calling the Gospel of Peter.
The first ten pages give this gospel of Peter, but they don’t give the entire thing. We don’t
have the whole Gospel of Peter. The book actually begins in the middle of a sentence. So, this is a fragment of the Gospel of Peter.
And what I mean by that is I don’t mean that this book that we have is itself a fragment.
It’s an entire book. The first page is blank. The second page has a cross drawn on it. The
third page, at the top of the page in the upper left-hand side it begins, but it begins
in the middle of a sentence. So, the scribe who was copying this book,
probably in the 6th Century–. The 6th Century scribe who was copying this book was copying
what was a fragment. OK? So, the book isn’t a fragment. He was copying a fragment. The
book begins with these words, “and none of the Jews wanted to wash their hands, so Pilate
stood up.” Now, that calls to mind a passage found in
the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus is put on trial before Pontius
Pilate and Pilate declares Jesus innocent. And to show that he thinks he’s innocent,
he washes his hands in front of the crowd and says, “I’m innocent of this man’s blood.” And the crowd, the Jewish crowd, cries out,
“His blood be upon us and our children.” So, the Jewish crowd is taking responsibility
for the death of Jesus. This is the verse that we used for all of the papal, anti-Semitic
purposes over the centuries. The Gospel of Peter doesn’t have that verse, but it does
have a verse not found in Matthew, which is “none of the Jews wanted to wash their hands.” Well, what happens in this account of Jesus’s
death is that the Jews are far more guilty for Jesus’s death, even than they are in Matthew,
Mark, and Luke. The Jews are more culpable in the death of Jesus. And so that’s one of
the themes in this Gospel of Peter. It’s a very anti-Jewish form of the gospel.
It is an account of Jesus going on trial, being condemned, being crucified, and then
being raised from the dead. Which, of course, is an account that you get in Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John in the New Testament as well. But in this account, there are many differences
from the others. The most stark difference comes at the very end. The Gospel of Peter,
unlike the other gospels that we have, do not–. The Gospel of Peter narrates an account
of Jesus being raised from the dead. And in a way, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
narrate Jesus being raised from the dead, right? No, they don’t. In Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John, Jesus is crucified. He’s dead. And then he’s buried. On the third day, the women
go to the tomb and they find the tomb empty. In other words, Jesus has been raised from
the dead, but you’re not given a story of it happening. There’s no story of Jesus coming out of the
tomb. But there is a story like that in the Gospel of Peter. And it’s a terrific story.
What happens is, according to this Gospel of Peter, the authorities sent a guard at
the tomb of Jesus to make sure nobody comes to steal the body. And as the guard is guarding the tomb, they
look up and they see the heavens rip open. And two angelic beings descend from Heaven.
And as they descend from Heaven, the stone in front of the tomb rolls away by itself.
They come down. They enter into the tomb. And then, as the guard is watching, three
people come out of the tomb. Two of them are so tall that their head reaches up to the
sky. The third is so tall that they’re supporting him. His head reaches up above the sky. And
after they come out of the tomb, behind them from the tomb emerges the cross. And a voice comes from Heaven and says, “Have
you preached to those who are asleep?” And the cross replies, “Yes.” So, here we have
a giant Jesus and a walking, talking cross. [laughter] How this thing got lost for centuries, I don’t
know. You’d think this would be one you’d wanna keep, but it eventually got lost. Well
so, the whole thing is metaphorical, of course. I mean, the reason these two angels are as
tall as skyscrapers is because they’re angels. They’re superhuman. And so, superhumans are
really big. And Jesus is taller than them because he’s even more superhuman. He’s the
son of God. So he’s really tall. And the cross walking out, that’s a metaphor
for–. The question is, did the message of the cross of Jesus go to those who were already
dead? Have you preached to those who are asleep? The answer being yes. The message of Jesus’s
salvation on the cross has gone even to those who died before Jesus came on Earth. And so, that’s a theological statement read
through a metaphor. All right. Well, one of the other interesting features of this Gospel
of Peter is what happens at the very end. Because at the end, the author identifies
himself. The last verse of the Gospel of Peter says
this: I Simon Peter and my brother, Andrew, decided to go fishing. And with us went Levi,
the son of Alpheus whom the Lord–. And that’s where it stops. So, it stops right in the
middle of the sentence. And so, you’re not sure exactly what’s gonna
happen next, but it looks like what’s gonna happen next is they’re gonna go fishing. They’re
gonna see Jesus raise from the dead and have a conversation with him, we get. But it stops
there. But for my purposes, the interesting thing is, the author identifies himself. I, Simon Peter. That’s striking because Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament are written by authors who do not identify
themselves. The Gospels in the New Testament are anonymous. Only later, people said, “Oh yeah, this one’s
written by Matthew. This one’s written by Mark. This one by Luke.” And then later, scribes
put in titles of the Gospel “according to Matthew.” But there’s nothing in Matthew to
think that Matthew wrote it. There’s no first person narrative. The author never says, “You know, one day
Jesus came up to me and we went to Jerusalem and we did this, that, or the other.” It’s
all the third person narrative. Not the Gospel of Peter, though. The Gospel of Peter is written
by somebody claiming to be Peter. But this gospel was certainly written sometime
in this early Second Century, at least 60 years after Peter was dead. This is somebody
claiming to be Peter, knowing full well he wasn’t Peter. In other words, this is somebody
lying about his identity. In the ancient world, they would call that kind of writing a lie,
a pseudos. In modern terms, we would call it a forgery,
somebody claiming to be someone other than he was. New Testament scholars have long claimed
that this kind of literary activity of claiming to be someone other than who you were was
both widespread and acceptable in the ancient world. One of the things I try to show in my book
is that in fact, it was widespread, but it was not acceptable. Ancient people said very
nasty things about this kind of literary activity. They didn’t approve of it. They thought it
was deceitful and they weren’t in support of it. So, OK. So, that’s the Gospel of Peter. I’ll give
you a second example from outside the New Testament of a book allegedly written by Peter.
This time it’s called “The Apocalypse of Peter.” [pause] “The Apocalypse of Peter” as it turns out
is also in the 66-page book that these archeologists discovered in Egypt. In some ways, “The Apocalypse
of Peter” is more interesting even than the Gospel of Peter. “The Apocalypse of Peter”
is the first instance we have of somebody being given a guided tour of Heaven and Hell. So, you probably know about this idea of the
guided tour into Heaven and Hell from Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Well, Dante didn’t make up
the idea of the guided tour of Heaven and Hell. It’s an old motif that goes way back
in Christianity. And the earliest instance we have of it is here in this “Apocalypse
of Peter.” In “The Apocalypse of Peter,” it’s Peter himself
who is given a first-hand account of this guided tour of Heaven and Hell. Peter is given
a tour by Jesus himself to show him the realms of the blessed and the realms of the damned. Now, the interesting thing about the Gospel
of Peter is that like a lot of other guided tours of Heaven and Hell, the description
of the realms of the blessed, of Heaven, are really not all that interesting. And the reason
is because there’s only so many ways you can describe eternal bliss. [chuckle] I mean, people in Heaven are happy. You know,
blessed are the saints in the Heavenly reign of–. Yea, blessed are they, oh happy. Blessed
are the saints. Yea. Joyful. Blessed. Happy are they.” I mean, they’re happy. It’s great.
They’re in Heaven. How good can it get? This is as good as it gets. This is great.
So, the description is not all that interesting. But if you have any creative imagination at
all and wanted to describe the torments of the damned, you can come up with some really
interesting accounts. And that’s what happens here. So, the descriptions of the realms of the
damned are much more interesting. And what happens in the realms of the damned is that
many people are punished according to their characteristic sin. So whatever was their
characteristic sin while alive, that’s how they’re punished after death. And so, Peter sees a place where the blasphemers
are being punished. And they’re being punished by being hanged by their tongues over eternal
flames because they lied against God. And so, they used their tongues against God, so
they’re hanged by their tongues over eternal flame. He goes to another place and the women who
braided their hair to make themselves attractive to seduce men are hanged by their hair over
eternal flames. The men they seduced are hanged by a different body part over eternal flames. [laughter] And in this case, the men cry out, “We didn’t
know it would come to this.” As you can well imagine. [laughter] So, you get this description of the realms
the blessed, the realms of the damned, and it claims to be written by Peter himself.
The point of the account is pretty obvious. If you want to enjoy the blessings of Heaven
and avoid the torments of Hell, then don’t sin. You know, that’s just a simple lesson. But
here again, we have an incidence of a book that claims to be written by Simon Peter,
Jesus’s right-hand man, his head disciple. But it certainly was not written by Peter.
It wasn’t written until the 2nd Century, 60, 70, 80 years after Peter was dead. Somebody claiming to be Peter who wasn’t.
These are not the only two books that we have from early Christianity that claimed to be
written by Peter. We have letters allegedly written by Peter. We have three other Apocalypses
claimed to be written by Peter. Writing books in the name of Peter was something
of a cottage industry in early Christianity. Is it possible that books written in the name
of Peter made it into the New Testament? Well as it turns out, there are two books that
claim to be written in the New Testament by Peter: First and Second Peter. I’m gonna argue in a minute that Peter didn’t
write those either. And I’m gonna argue that there are other forgeries in the New Testament,
books that claim to be written by somebody who did not, in fact, write them. First, let
me say something about the prominence of forgery in antiquity broadly. As it turns out, it was a wide phenomenon.
It did happen a lot in the ancient world, more than happens today. It still happens
today. People still write forgeries today. But it’s easier to detect forgeries today
because we have all sorts of technologies and handwriting analysis and stylistic analysis. We have better ways of being able to detect
forgery now than they had back then. And so, people practiced it a lot more then. But people
did practice it back then. We know this because ancient people actually talk about it. And in almost every case that they say something
about forgery, they condemn it because people didn’t like it back then any more than you
would like it today if somebody published a letter or a book in your name claiming to
be you when they weren’t you. Well, they didn’t like it in the ancient world
either. Let me give a couple of anecdotes to explain how ancient people thought about
forgery. The first involves a non-Christian, just to show you that this phenomenon happened
in the Roman world. It happened in the Greek world. It happened among the Jews. It happened among
the Christians. Forgery was a widespread phenomenon. To give you the non-Christian example, a Roman
example. A guy named Galen. Galen was a very famous author in the 2nd Christian century.
He was a doctor, a medical man, who wrote a lot of books. In one of his books, Galen gives an autobiographical account in
which he indicates that one day he was walking through a street in Rome and he was passing
by a bookseller shop. And in the bookseller shop there were two men arguing over a book.
This book, allegedly, was written by Galen. So, Galen is overhearing this conversation
about a book that he allegedly wrote. One guy is arguing that “this is a book I just
bought from Galen.” And the other guy is arguing “this book isn’t written by Galen.” He read
the first two lines. He said, “This book, the writing style is all wrong.” Well, that warmed the cockles of Galen’s heart
because he, in fact, had not written the book. So, he went home that afternoon and he did
write a book. And we have that book still today. It’s sometimes called “How to Recognize
Books Written by Galen.” [laughter] So, they didn’t like the idea of people doing
this. So, give you a second example to show you how forgery was talked about in the ancient
times. This time a Christian book. There’s a book called the “Apostolic Constitutions.” It’s a book that scholars can date pretty
precisely because of things inside of it to around the year 380. So, just to set you on
the timeline. So if Jesus died around year 30, most of the New Testament books were written
between 50 and 100. This book is written around the year 380. So, that’s 300 years after most of the Apostles
were dead. It claims though, to be written by the Apostles. It’s called the “Apostolic
Constitutions” because it describes how the church is to be constituted. Who should your
leaders be? What should their qualifications be? What should they do? How do you perform the
baptism ceremony? How do you perform the Eucharist? How do you do things? And it’s written in
the name of the twelve Apostles after Jesus’s death. So, whoever wrote it is claiming to
be the Apostles. And sometimes, he speaks in the first person. I, Peter, say to you this. I, Andrews, say
to you this. I, John, say to you this. As if these people are actually talking even
though these people have been dead for 300 years. At the end of the book, near the end
of the book, is a really interesting exhortation. Near the end of the book, the author tells
his readers that they should not read books that claim to be written by Apostles, but
aren’t. Wait a second. Why would he say that? That’s
what he’s doing. He’s writing a book that’s claiming to be by–, but it’s not. Well, he’s
doing it because its reader won’t suspect him of doing what he condemns. In other words,
he’s trying to throw his reader off the scent of his own deceit. So the question is, how widely was forgery
condemned in the ancient world? Forgery was condemned in books that are forged. That’s
how widely it was condemned. Just about everybody condemned the practice. So, are there forgeries
in the New Testament? Scholars have widely thought that there are
books that are not written by the alleged authors in the New Testament. Scholars had
been reluctant to call these things forgeries. Scholars tend to call these things pseudepigrapha.
Pseudepigrapha is spelled with a P in the front. Pseudepigrapha. P-S-E-U. Pseudepigrapha. They call them this
because they don’t wanna call them forgeries. And if you call them pseudepigrapha, it’s
a much more antiseptic term. They don’t tell you what the word pseudepigrapha means. What
it means is writings that are inscribed with a lie. So, it’s really not much better than forgery.
But it doesn’t sound as bad. And so, they call them the pseudepigrapha. Scholars have
long known, for example, that whoever wrote 2 Peter, it was not Peter. There are debates
about 1 Peter. A lot of scholars think Peter wrote 1 Peter and I’m not one of them. Doing my research for this book, I decided
there’s no way Peter wrote 1 Peter or 2 Peter for a very simple reason. Peter could not
write. [laughter] So, there have been interesting studies of
literacy in the ancient world that have shown that most people were completely illiterate
in the ancient world. At the best of times in the ancient world, maybe 10% of the population
could read. In Roman Palestine, where Peter grew up, the literacy rate by the best studies
has put it somewhere around 3%. That’s of the people who could read. Fewer
people could write than could read. Because reading and writing are actually separate
exercises, even though we learn them together. In the ancient world, they taught them separately.
So, to be able to write, you had to be really highly educated. And so, who are these 3%? They’re the upper
crust, very wealthy elite, who are living in cities where they have schools. And who
was Peter? Peter, according to the New Testament was a lower class fisherman from rural Galilee
who spoke Aramaic. Well, 1 Peter is written in highly rhetorical Greek. Was Peter somebody who would’ve gotten an
education? No way. He probably was a fisherman, probably fished from the time he was a young
boy, didn’t have enough time for school, had no money, wasn’t in a place where they had
schools. So, Peter did not write 1 Peter. I mean, unless–. I mean, the only option
is that after the Resurrection, maybe Peter decided to go back to school. And so he took
classes at the Capernaum High School and for his foreign language class, he decided to
take Greek. And so, he got pretty good at Greek and then at the end of his life, he
learned Greek composition. Took some composition courses so that he could
write 1 Peter. I mean, it’s possible, but people like Peter had other things on their
mind besides learning Greek composition. I don’t think Peter wrote 1 Peter because I
don’t think he was literate. By the way, the New Testament says that Peter was illiterate. Acts, Chapter Four, Verse 13 literally says
that he could not read. So, well, I think he didn’t. And I don’t think that he told
somebody else to write the letter for him, which is the solution a lot of scholars have
come up with, that Peter told some scribe, “Write a book for me and say this.” And the guy wrote it down. We have no examples
of that happening in the ancient world that can plausibly be applied to Peter. Whereas
we have lots of examples of what I think is going on here, which is someone later who
wants you to think he’s Peter and so he claims to be Peter so you’ll read his book. It’s probably somebody who had no reputation,
nobody knew who he was. And he couldn’t very well write a book in his own name because
nobody would read it. So, he wrote his book and he claimed to be Peter so people would
read it and he was highly successful. The thing ended up in the New Testament. I
mean, that’s as successful as you can get. [laughter] So 1st and 2nd Peter probably were not written
by Peter. There are 13 letters that claim to be written by Paul in the New Testament.
Thirteen letters that claim to be written by Paul. Scholars are pretty sure that Paul
did not write six of them. Six of them are not really written by Paul, but by people
later claiming to be written by Paul. What I argue in my book–. Oh, by the way,
with Paul we’re in a better situation than with Peter. Paul could write. We’ve got seven
letters from him. But if you have seven letters from somebody and you’ve got some other letter
you’re not sure about, all you have to do is compare it with the seven. And you look at the writing style, the vocabulary,
the theology that’s in it, with the historical situation that’s presupposed. When you do
that, these other six don’t match up to the seven very well. And so, it’s probable that
the same author did not produce them. So, you get six letters that are not really
by Paul. We call those forgeries. Two letters by Peter I would call forgeries. The book
of James is almost certainly not written by the brother of Jesus, James. Jude was certainly not written by Jesus’s
brother, Jude. So, there are probably ten, eleven, or twelve books in the New Testament
that are forgeries. That’s out of 27, over a third of the books. So, it’s a significant problem. Let me just
conclude by just saying a word about what might have been motivating these people to
write forgeries because it’s a special problem within early Christianity. It’s a problem
because Christians insisted that God was truth, that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the
life, that you had to believe the truth if you’re gonna be right with God, that as a
Christian, you should speak the truth to one another. And so, why would an author who believed that
the truth was important, why would he lie about who he was? So, the reality is we’ll
never know what was motivating these people. But I do have a guess that I think is a pretty
good guess, which is this: There are people in the ancient world, just as there are people
today, who thought that there are some situations in which it was the right thing to do to tell
a lie. That sometimes, it’s right to lie. You, yourself,
can imagine situations where a lie is the appropriate thing to do. In the ancient world,
people like Plato said if a doctor has to lie to his patient in order to get her to
take his medicine, to take her medicine, that’s a good thing. That’s a good lie. Or, if a general is in
battle and his troops are getting beaten and he needs to rally them, it’s OK to lie to
them to say that reinforcements are coming so that they’ll fight more valiantly. That’s
a good lie. There are places where it’s appropriate and
good to lie. It may be that there were ancient authors who thought that their views of this
Christian religion were so spot on and so important and really needed to be widely accepted,
that it was so important to get this message out that they were willing to claim to be
someone that they weren’t. They were willing to write a book and claim
to be Peter or Paul or John or Matthew or Judas or Mary and so forth. It’s possible
that they thought that this lie was justified because of the importance of their message.
If so, then we have this very interesting irony that some early Christian authors thought
that in order to convey the truth, it was appropriate to tell a lie. Thank you very
much. [applause] I can take questions if anybody has any. Yes.>>MALE #1: Do you have any theories about
the mechanism that was happening. I was just trying to–. I want a lot of people to read
a letter that I claim comes from Peter. Do I send it by mail and say, “Hey, I dug this
up from somewhere. It’s interesting. Maybe, it claims to be from Peter. Maybe it is, but
I don’t know where it came from.” What do you think?>>Bart Ehrman: Yeah.>>MALE #1: Or, what would–?>>Bart Ehrman: Yeah. Right. Right. So, there
are various mechanisms that we know about. There might be some that we don’t know about.
But we do know about some. One involves what you alluded to, the idea
of a discovery, that you discover something. And so, the most interesting incidence of
this is in an Apocalypse, a revelation from God that comes directly to a person, an Apocalypse.
In Apocalypse of Paul, where Paul describes–. Paul is taken up into Heaven and he sees the
heavenly world and he describes it for his readers. This book claims to be written by
Paul. But again, it’s from the 4th Century. It was written near the end of the 4th Century,
so probably 320 years after Paul is dead. But it claims to be written by Paul. So, the
author, though, had this problem that he wrote this thing at the end of the 4th Century.
Nobody had ever heard of it before. And he wanted to put it in circulation, but people
would ask, “Where’s it been?” So he actually begins the narrative with a
discovery narrative, in which he says that there’s a man who is living in the city of
Tarsis, Paul’s town, in the end of the 4th Century who actually lived in Paul’s old house.
And one night he had a dream. An angel came to him in a dream and told him to dig up the
foundations of the house. And he ignored the angel. Second night. The
angel comes back, tells him to dig up the foundations of the house. He ignores him.
Third night. Angel comes back, beats him to a bloody pulp and tells him to dig up the
foundation of the house. And so he does. He goes down. He digs up the foundations of the house and
he finds a box, a marble box that is sealed with lead. And so, he doesn’t know what to
do with it. He takes it to the local governor, explains what happened. The governor doesn’t
want to touch it. Takes it to the Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor opens it up and there’s
a book inside of it. And here’s the book. And so this explains where the thing has been
for the last 300 years. It’s been buried in the foundations of this house. So, sometimes
you get a discovery narrative. You don’t get that very often, but sometimes. And they’re great when you get them. The more
common thing, I think, was–. A couple things to bear in mind. First, there is no postal
service. So, you can’t just send it in the mail some place. And second of all, there’s
no mass production of books. So, somebody writes a book and the only way
to get a copy is for somebody else to copy it out by hand, one letter at a time. And
so, it takes a long time for things to get copied out. And it takes a long time for things
to circulate. And so, if you don’t know of something that
was written ten years ago, that doesn’t seem odd any longer. It’s not like if Dan Brown,
all of a sudden a book shows up that Dan Brown published 20 years ago and nobody ever heard
of it, Dan Brown did not really publish that book. But back then, if a letter from Paul shows
up 20 years later, that’s not that unusual ’cause there’s not mass–. There aren’t huge
Barnes and Noble selling these things and stuff. So, what you would do. Suppose you
wanted to claim to be Paul and you’re writing a letter in which you’re embracing your
views. You address it to a church. So, you address
it to the church of Thessalonica. And you make a few copies of it. And you give them
to travelers and you say, “We have this letter that we’ve gotten from–in circulation here.
Take this.” They take it to Rome. Somebody else takes it to Jerusalem. Somebody else takes it to Alexandria, Egypt.
But what you don’t do is you don’t write it and then send it to the church in Thessalonica
because they know they never got this letter. So, you send it and it starts circulating.
And years later, when everybody’s dead and wouldn’t know better, there it is. So, that’s
the mechanism probably. Yeah.>>MALE #2: The other forgery as you described,
they are not of contradiction to the New Testament, including the main evangelists. So, is there
anything good in it?>>Bart Ehrman: Is there anything good in the
New Testament? [laughter] There’s a lot of good stuff in the New Testament.
The New Testament’s terrific. The New Testament is filled with really interesting stories.
For people who are religious, it’s been the basis of the Christian religion for two thousand
years. And so, it has terrific stuff in it. It has terrific moral teachings in it.>>MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER #2: No, I’m just–the
theology of the book. Some stuff is forged. Some stuff is self-inconsistent.>>Bart Ehrman: Yes, there are inconsistencies.
There are writings that are written by people who claim to be writing them. I mean, the
seven letters of Paul, for example. Paul’s seven letters are really written by him. And
they’re important historically because they can tell us what was going on at a certain
point of time within Christianity. So, the New Testament is extremely valuable
historically. For many people, it’s valuable religiously. And I think it contains a lot
of important ethical teachings. But you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of contradictions
as well because different authors had different points of view. I think the problem with the New Testament
is that people have taken it as a divine book and that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny because
of the contradictions, because of the forgeries. I don’t think you can take it as the inherent
revelation from God because it’s not that. It’s a very human book. But as human books
go, it’s really fantastic. My opinion. Yeah.>>MALE #3: You’re saying a lot of the stuff
you’ve been talking about. You quote various dates the various books were written. How
do you actually arrive at those dates? How do know the four gospels were written between
50 and 100?>>Bart Ehrman: Yeah. Right. Yeah. Right. It’s
complicated, but there are scholars who spend years trying to figure this kind of stuff
out. So I mean, there’s actually scholarship involved. Give you the short story with the
gospels. When you have an anonymous text that’s a historical narrative, there are two big
things that you’re looking for. One thing you’re looking for is a reference
to some historical event that you can otherwise date, a reference in the text to something
that you know when it happened. OK? So, if you find some letter today that shows up that
mentions Obama’s inauguration, then you know that it had to be written after a certain
date, right? So, that’s one thing you look for. The other
thing you look for is some author whom you can absolutely date with precision, who quotes
a book. So, if you get those two things, you get the time after which it had to be written
and the time before which it had to be written. So, you get a range. With the gospels there
are certain things that you can say with absolute certainty. For example, the gospels all talk
about Pontius Pilate. We know that Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea between 26
and 36 of the Common Era from other historical records. So, the gospels are written after 36, or sometime
after the 30s. There is a reference in the Gospel of Luke to the city of Jerusalem being
surrounded by gentile troops and being trampled down by the gentiles and the temple being
destroyed. Well, we know when that happened. It happened in the year 70. So, Luke was probably
written sometime after the year 70. Luke gets quoted in the early 2nd Century by church
fathers we can date. So, it’s sometime before the early 2nd Century. So, you narrow it down
like that. So, that’s basically how you do it. Yeah.>>FEMALE #1: Any guesses about who was doing
this? Because like you said, that literacy rate was so rare. So was it clergy members
or the elite? Was it officials?>>Bart Ehrman: Yeah. Who’s doing it? Right.
And how much of it is a conspiracy? [laughter] So, we don’t know. When we have something
like–. Well, the six letters of Paul that weren’t really written by Paul, three of them
are written by the same guy. That can be shown on literary, linguistic grounds that the same
person wrote 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. But we don’t know who he is. What we do know
about him is that he’s a Greek-speaking Christian who is a follower of Paul, who’s living outside
of Palestine. And usually he’s dated to about 20 or 30 years later, but this is a case where
it’s hard to know. It might be 40 or 50 years later. It’s hard to get the date. He is very concerned
with the correct organization of the church, which might suggest that, in fact, he’s a
leader of a church himself because he lays out all the qualifications what the leader
ought to be, what the duties of leaders ought to be. And so, it seems that that’s one of his vested
interests, so maybe he’s a church leader. So, that’s about all you can say. Greek speaking.
Highly educated. Greek speaking. Christian who is an admirer of Paul, living outside
of Palestine who is particularly interested in church–probably a bishop with a church
someplace. So, you can do that kind of thing with most
of these books. But you can’t ever say, “Yeah, it was Jehoshaphat, this guy who lived in
Syria.” We don’t have any names. Yeah.>>MALE #4: You were saying your search about
some that aren’t written, or I guess forged, and then you keep saying these seven books
about Paul that you know are certain. What makes you so certain about these seven?>>Bart Ehrman: Why be certain about the seven?
So, the seven are called the undisputed Pauline epistles because there aren’t scholars who
dispute these seven. I mean, every now and then someone will come along and dispute them
because he has to get tenure and he’s– [laughter] So, he’ll write something. The reason is that
you have these 13 letters. Seven of them cohere together extremely well. Writing style is
similar. Theological views are similar. Vocabulary used is similar. They’re addressing different
situations. And so, there are a lot of differences among
them, but they cohere together as a group of letters that appear to be written by the
same person. So, since all 13 of them claim they were written by Paul and you have seven
that are from one person–the other six, three are written by somebody who’s not the same
as the seven. The other three are all written by different
persons. So you’ve got one, two, three, four, five authors. One of the authors has the most
things. And the things that are talked about in these seven appear most likely to be things
that were happening early in Christianity, rather than in later decades. And so, since they all come to be by Paul,
everybody just assumes it’s Paul who was writing these. We might be wrong. It might have been
someone else. But it seems plausible that it’s Paul. Yeah.>>FEMALE #2: So, you were talking about how
you think that 1 Peter wasn’t actually written by him. You said that, well, the New Testament
says that Peter was illiterate, but how do you know that that’s true?>>Bart Ehrman: Oh, yeah. I don’t base my view
that Peter was illiterate on a verse in Acts Chapter 4, verse 13. I’m just pointing out
that it’s not just some crazy liberal wide-eyed professor in Chapel Hill who’s claiming that
Peter was illiterate. In fact, it was known in the ancient world
that he was illiterate. So, I don’t use that as proof that he was illiterate. It’s just
it is interesting that the scholarly view that he’s illiterate is actually something
that the Bible itself says. That’s all I mean by that. Yeah.>>MALE #6: In all of your research on various
writings that have been forged, have you come across anything that peers through the looking-glass
the other way? Like, things that are genuine that never made it into the Bible, or kinda
have been lost to iniquity.>>Bart Ehrman: Yeah, yeah. That’s a good question.
So, there’s nothing by the Apostles that’s outside of the New Testament that should’ve
been put in. Because, again, most of these Apostles couldn’t write anyway. We have other letters that claim they were
written by Paul outside the New Testament that were certainly not written by Paul. We
do have orthonymous writing. Orthonymous is the word for a writing that actually is written
by the guy who’s claiming to write it. So, we do have orthonymous writings from outside
the New Testament that are very valuable, some of which were almost included in the
New Testament. We have seven letters by a bishop of Antioch in Syria, a guy named Ignatius.
Seven letters written soon after the books of the New Testament. One book that almost made it in is a very
long book. It’s longer than any books of the New Testament that is a kind of a revelation
that’s given to a guy named Hermas, the Shepherd of Hermas, that even in the 1st Century, some
church fathers thought should be in the New Testament. But eventually, it was excluded. It’s was
probably excluded because it’s just so long. [laughter] And it’s really frankly a bit boring that
I think people just decided not to mess with this thing anymore. But there’s nothing by
Apostles that we have outside the New Testament. Yeah. Any other questions? OK. Well, thank
you very much. I’ve enjoyed being with you. [applause]

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