Did Jesus Exist? (Ehrman)
|Author||Bart D. Ehrman|
|Subject||Christian history, Roman history|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth is a 2012 book by the academic and author Bart Ehrman, a leading scholar of the New Testament and writer of over twenty-five books (including three college textbooks) in that field of study. In the book, written to counter the idea that there was never such a person as Jesus Christ at all, Ehrman sets out to demonstrate the historical evidence for Jesus' existence, and he aims to state why all experts in the area agree that "whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist."
Ehrman examines the historicity of Jesus and includes some criticism of Christ mythicists. As he does in other works such as Forged and Jesus, Interrupted, he disregards an apologetics-based or otherwise religiously-charged approach to aim at looking at the New Testament using historical-critical methodology. He argues that a specific historical Jesus is likely to have really existed in the 1st century AD. Even as accounts about that figure later on brought in additional misinformation and legendary stories, Ehrman states, multiple reasons still remain to see things as framed around a flesh-and-blood actual person, at least at first.
Arguments for existence
Ehrman surveys the arguments "mythicists" have made against the existence of Jesus since the idea was first mooted at the end of the 18th century. To the objection that there are no contemporary Roman records of Jesus' existence, Ehrman points out that such records exist for almost no one and there are mentions of Christ in several Roman works of history from only decades after the death of Jesus. The author states that the authentic letters of the apostle Paul in the New Testament were likely written within a few years of Jesus' death and that Paul likely personally knew James, the brother of Jesus. Although the gospel accounts of Jesus' life may be biased and unreliable in many respects, Ehrman writes, they and the sources behind them which scholars have discerned still contain some accurate historical information. So many independent attestations of Jesus' existence, Ehrman says, are actually "astounding for an ancient figure of any kind". Ehrman dismisses the idea that the story of Jesus is an invention based on pagan myths of dying-and-rising gods, maintaining that the early Christians were primarily influenced by Jewish ideas, not Greek or Roman ones, and repeatedly insisting that the idea that there was never such a person as Jesus is not seriously considered by historians or experts in the field at all.
Many specific points by Ehrman concentrate on what may be regarded as the 'embarrassments' and 'failures' of the various depictions of Jesus Christ found in the gospels and the works of Paul which point to an account based on a real person that got embellished rather than a completely made up figure. He notes that Jews in the first century AD expected their Messiah to come from Bethlehem while Jesus is described as growing up in Nazareth, a dilemma that is simply not addressed in the Gospel of Mark (which has no nativity account) even though it is regarded as the earliest gospel. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas is another example, as critics of early Christianity found it strange that the Messiah would display the lack of personal awareness and foresight even to keep his close followers in line. Ehrman states that such things would make sense for a historical Jesus whom multiple people believed grew up, lived, and died in a certain time and place versus a purely mythological figure with malleable personal details.
Criticism of mythicists
Erhman, a former fundamentalist Christian turned agnostic, has written numerous books challenging traditional views of the Bible himself. Did Jesus Exist?, however, contains scathing criticism of the "writers, bloggers and Internet junkies who call themselves mythicists". Ehrman says that they do not define what they mean by "myth" and maintains they are really motivated by a desire to denounce religion rather than examine historical evidence. He discusses leading contemporary mythicists by name and dismisses their arguments as "amateurish", "wrong-headed", and "outlandish".
Some evangelical Christians who have severely disagreed with Ehrman's previous books welcomed Did Jesus Exist?, even though the author had not changed his positions in any way compared to his previous books. One of the mythicists who is criticised in Did Jesus Exist?, Richard Carrier, challenged many of the book's points on his blog, to which Ehrman responded on his own blog.
- History of early Christianity
- The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold
- The Jesus Mysteries
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2012). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0062206442.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2013-03-20). "Did Jesus Exist?". huffingtonpost.com. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
- Shimron, Yonat (3 April 2012). "In 'Did Jesus Exist?' Bart Ehrman's Portrayal Of Jesus Is Surprisingly Sympathetic". Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Carrier, Richard. "Ehrman on Historicity Recap". Archive.Org. Archived from the original on 3 December 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- Ehrman, Bart D. "Fuller Reply to Richard Carrier". Retrieved 26 May 2014.