Quoting Ehrman: 20 Bart Ehrman quotes every NON-CHRISTIAN should know

Street Theologian
10 min readJul 9, 2023
Internet Archive

It’s time to quote the author of Misquoting Jesus

I remember when I was a teenager, sceptical of Christianity, coming across the work of Ehrman for the first time. I couldn’t put down Misquoting Jesus. I was fascinated by Ehrman’s claims. I didn’t leave my seat for several hours the first time I got my hands on his book, eagerly processing everything Ehrman had to say.

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Ehrman is one of the most prominent voices against Christianity in the world today. A gifted intellect. A scholar of the ancient world, who has written countless books about early Christianity and debated more leading Christian apologists than just about anyone I can think of!

Ehrman’s influence is so widespread that there is even a Christian Apologetics site, the Ehrman Project, dedicated to addressing his claims about Christianity through the work of more than 10 leading Christian academics. Few sceptics get that sort of attention!

Ehrman Wikimedias Commons

Muslims and atheists around the globe admire Bart Ehrman. He’s a hero of many sceptics. Yet, many of his claims surprisingly go against what many Muslims and atheists hold to! It’s time to start quoting Ehrman..

  • All four Gospels present Jesus as divine
  • Like it or not, Jesus existed
  • It’s foolish to say Jesus did not exist
  • No doubt about Paul writing Galatians
  • Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the most certain facts of history
  • You wouldn’t make up a Messiah like Jesus (2 quotes)
  • Jesus’ teachings should dominate our lives
  • Essential Christian teachings have not changed- the NT manuscripts preserve these teachings (3 quotes)
  • Jesus was well known as a miracle worker
  • Gospel of John uses 3–4 earlier sources
  • No doubt Jesus’ disciples claimed to see a risen Jesus (4 quotes)
  • Everybody in the ancient world used scribes
  • Paul knew James, brother of Jesus, plus Jesus’ disciples
  • William Lane Craig might have “mopped up” Ehrman in debate

Apostle Paul Wikimedia Commons

All four Gospels present Jesus as divine

Ehrman initially doubted the Synoptic Gospels taught Jesus is divine. Yet, he notes, as he was writing How Jesus Became God, his view changed.

These Gospels do indeed think of Jesus as divine. Being made the very Son of God who can heal, cast out demons, raise the dead, pronounce divine forgiveness, receive worship together suggests that even for these Gospels Jesus was a divine being, not merely a human… so yes, now I agree that Jesus is portrayed as a divine being, a God-man, in all the Gospels. But in very different ways, depending on which Gospel you read.”

Like it or not, Jesus existed

“Jesus did exist, whether we like it or not.”

It’s foolish to say Jesus did not exist

“I unfortunately get quoted as someone who thinks Jesus didn’t exist.. I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus.. What hardcore evidence is there that Julius Caesar existed? One has to look at historical evidence.. Why not just deny the Holocaust or deny that Abraham Lincoln lived? ..We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.”

No doubt about Paul writing Galatians

Paul makes an off-the-cuff comment (about James brother of the Lord).. There’s no doubt about Paul writing Galatians.. I know thousands of historians of the ancient world and I don’t know any one of these scholars who doubts that Paul wrote Galatians.

Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the most certain facts of history

In The Historical Jesus: Lecture Transcript and Course Guidebook, 2000, Ehrman says, “one of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate (p.162).”

We also covered this quote in our resurrection guide. Ironically, this contradicts Islam! Surah 4:157 claims “they neither killed him nor crucified him.”

You wouldn’t make up a Messiah like Jesus

In an interview with NPR, Ehrman contends, “The Messiah was supposed to overthrow the enemies — and so if you’re going to make up a messiah, you’d make up a powerful messiah.. You wouldn’t make up somebody who was humiliated, tortured and then killed by the enemies.”

He adds in Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, p. 93, “Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened.”

Jesus’ teachings should dominate our lives

“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.”

Essential Christian teachings have not changed- the NT manuscripts preserve these teachings

Bart Ehrman claims in an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p. 252), “Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions — he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not — we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement — maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands. The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”

There’s more:

To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us. (Misquoting Jesus, p. 207).

Most of the changes found in our early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology. Far and away the most changes are the results of mistakes, pure and simple — slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another. (Misquoting Jesus, p. 55)

Jesus was well known as a miracle worker

Whatever you think about the philosophical possibility of miracles of healing, it’s clear that Jesus was widely reputed to have done them.” (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings)

Gospel of John likely uses 3–4 earlier sources

Many sceptics think of the Gospel of John as a late embellishment, completely disconnected from earlier sources. Ehrman disagrees in Did Jesus Exist? p.65. Note the below:

When dealing only with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic Gospels, then, we are talking not just about three books written late in the first century. We are talking about at least four sources: Mark, Q, M, and L, the latter two of which could easily have represented several, or even many, other written sources. Many leading scholars of the Gospel of Mark think that it too was compiled not just of oral traditions that had been circulating down to the author’s day but of various written sourcesScholars have long suspected that John had at his disposal an earlier written account of Jesus’ miracles (the so-called Signs Source), at least two accounts of Jesus’ long speeches (the Discourse Sources), and possibly another passion source as well…All of these written sources I have mentioned are earlier than the surviving Gospels; they all corroborate many of the key things said of Jesus in the Gospels; and most important they are all independent of one another.

No doubt Jesus’ disciples claimed to see a risen Jesus

It is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death. (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings., 276.)

We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead. (Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, 230)

Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. (Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, 231)

Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18–19). (The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 282.)

Of course we disagree with Ehrman on one point here- we do have written records based on testimony from the disciples. Read more at the links on eyewitnesses (long), eyewitnesses (short) and if the Gospels were given fake names.

Everybody used scribes

Every person who wrote epistles in the ancient world dictated them to scribes.

It seems Ehrman has a different view depending whether he’s talking to a Christ myther (as in this case) or Christians. This is funny coming from someone who loves to talk about how the disciples could not produce the Gospels given they were uneducated and unable to write. Maybe they had scribes like everyone else Bart?

Paul knew James, brother of Jesus, plus Jesus’ disciples

We have one author who knew Jesus’ relatives and knew Jesus’ disciples.. Paul.. we have Paul’s letters.. Why would he lie about it? Paul says off-the-cuff comments where he’s not making a point.. That’s very important to historians. A historian wants to find disinterested comments and Paul says things for example about, James brother of the Lord, which is just an off-the-cuff comment because everyone that he’s writing to knows who he’s talking about.

William Lane Craig might have “mopped up” Ehrman in debate

Many sceptics might be confident that Ehrman’s arguments would destroy William Lane Craig. Ehrman himself is not so confident! He reflected in a blog post:

I never met Craig before the debate, and in places, the debate gets a little … lively. Even testy. Craig and I have had zero contact with each other ever since. Craig provided a full transcript of the debate on his site Reasonable Faith here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-there-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-craig-ehrman I would assume that since he posted the transcript he thinks he pretty much mopped me up. Maybe he did!

William Lane Craig

RECAP

  • All four Gospels present Jesus as divine
  • Like it or not, Jesus existed
  • It’s foolish to say Jesus did not exist
  • No doubt about Paul writing Galatians
  • Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the most certain facts of history
  • You wouldn’t make up a Messiah like Jesus
  • Jesus’ teachings should dominate our lives
  • Essential Christian teachings have not changed- the NT manuscripts preserve these teachings
  • Jesus was well known as a miracle worker
  • Gospel of John uses 3–4 earlier sources
  • No doubt Jesus’ disciples claimed to see a risen Jesus
  • Everybody in the ancient world used scribes
  • Paul knew James, brother of Jesus, plus Jesus’ disciples
  • William Lane Craig might have “mopped up” Ehrman in debate

Lazarus and the Rich Man

As a non-Christian, which of these points do you agree with? Which do you disagree with? Why? If you agree with all of Ehrman’s points, yet aren’t a Christian, how do you explain all these points together as a whole? Does your explanation sufficiently explain the relevant facts?

Don’t edge another hour closer to death without taking a step back and asking yourself these questions about the most influential person who ever lived and his lowly followers who lost their lives for their belief in his resurrection. Followers who taught a counter-cultural message of reversal, grace and forgiveness- a message, not of their own goodness or superiority, but of their own wretchedness and utter dependance on intervention from Jesus in their lives. Don’t leave this high-stakes game to chance. All the best with the journey!

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Street Theologian

Theology and apologetics for those who want to get their hands dirty