(Part 4) The Philosophy of History: Professor Bart Ehrman’s New Course Comparing and Contrasting The Apostle Paul With The Historical Jesus


(Part 1) The Philosophy of History: Professor Bart Ehrman’s New Course Comparing and Contrasting The Apostle Paul With The Historical Jesus

(Part 2) The Philosophy of History: Professor Bart Ehrman’s New Course Comparing and Contrasting The Apostle Paul With The Historical Jesus

(Part 3) The Philosophy of History: Professor Bart Ehrman’s New Course Comparing and Contrasting The Apostle Paul With The Historical Jesus



The Big Ideas Takeaways I found in Lecture 2: The Gospel of Jesus

Intriguingly for historical reasoning, while all later Christians like Paul want to do is talk about Jesus (“I wanted to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified”) what Bart gleans from Mark, Matthew and Luke is that the historical Jesus is primarily teaching about the coming Kingdom, not himself.  Jesus belongs to and needs to be interpreted from his Jewish world context and apocalyptic context, which most Jews in Jesus’ time would have agreed on.  Jews lived as God’s specially chosen people by obeying the law, which meant how to worship God and behave toward one another.  Jesus was brought up in and became a teacher of the Jewish law in this context.  God was thought to soon enter the world and pass judgment on the forces of evil and those siding with them.  Those from now and the past who were righteous would be raised from the dead and given eternal reward, while the evil people would be resurrected, judged, and destroyed.  This was imminent (Mark 9:1; 13:30). 

Jesus began as a follower of the apocalyptic John the Baptist, and was followed by an apocalyptic Paul, so there isn’t good reason to think there was a big change in the middle.  Jesus was apocalyptic. John the Baptist taught a baptism of repentance for a forgiveness of sins because judgment was coming soon.  John talks of the people being cut down who are not bearing fruit and with Bart’s thoughts here I’m reminded of Jesus withering the fig tree for the same reason, because the temple cult and Yom Kippur were not bearing fruit and producing a righteous people: consider the Yom Kippur lampoon satire of the unjust release of the evil Barabbas.  Freed Barabbas was still evil, like the many Jews after the Yom Kippur atonement/scapegoat ceremony.  A contrite heart is what is needed, not goat blood! 

Historically, Jesus seems to be a student of John the Baptist because John was baptizing for remission of sins, and why would a later Christian think Jesus needed remission of sins?  At the time the baptizer was thought spiritually superior to the one being baptized.  Historically, this pushes against the bias to elevate Jesus over John and so probably happened. 

In all the early sources there is talk of a figure of judgment coming down from heaven and judging with fire.  These apocalyptic pronouncements began to start waning with the later literature, such as with Luke, which makes sense because the apocalyptic end didn’t come.

The first saying of Jesus, Mark 1:15, says: ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  This is the crux of Jesus’ message for Ehrman: repent – turn your life around in preparation for the coming kingdom.  Historically, look at what is missing here:  There is no mention of the cross or resurrection as central for the faith! 

Jesus taught about an angelic Son of Man from Daniel 7 who was going to come and judge the earth.  After Jesus died and was thought resurrected, the disciples thought he had been made divine and into the Son of Man Jesus was always talking about.  Jesus’s followers misinterpreted Jesus’s sayings about the Son of Man to be about Jesus himself.  We can, for instance, see the difference between Jesus and the Son of Man in Mark 8:38: “38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  Historically, Christians thought Jesus was the Son of Man, so this is not the kind of saying that would be invented about Jesus.  There will be a reversal at the judgement where the downtrodden will be exalted and the evil rich, powerful, and famous will be last.  God’s people try to make peace now and care for the downtrodden, because this is how it will be in the Kingdom magnified a hundred fold.  This teaching is not about Jesus, but about what God is going to do shortly so people need to get right with God before judgment.


Everyone knows what abject poverty is, and if I asked you about it you could probably spend considerable time outlining it.  But what if I asked you to explain it to a 6 year old?  Suddenly the concept is more concealed.  How might I un-cover it?  Perhaps it might help to show the child this:

Suddenly, with this picture of the peasant’s shoes, a world of abject poverty is dis-closed, for this is the very definition of abject poverty besides being an example of it.  And so, we always need to mind not only our concepts, but how to un-cover them.

I talked about the Greeks last time and how we can begin to think about Being as movement/presencing/appearing, and how presencing is truly what it is when thought out of non-movement/presencing.  When I first come upon the mansion, out of nothing (ex nihilo) it appears as houseness incarnate: “Now that’s what I mean when I say house!” Analogously, what is impressive with the women is not just her radiance, but how the radiance overcomes you the first time you meet – out of a prior stagnation.  So, to use the poet  Holderlin’s example, the blueing of the sky is hard to see, but it is made explicit in the beautiful blueing of the sky after a storm.  Or, the yellowing of the house may be hidden from us, but when we drive down an unknown street for the first time looking for the yellow house, the yellowness jumps out at us when we see it. 

And, as I said, this needs to be connected to the jointure of all beings, like how beings in a schizophrenic’s world express a whole, perhaps a conspiracy laden manner to them.  Or, a stomach ache may cast a pall over all beings so they appear/presence in an irritating manner to us.

And so in history, we can see the historical Jesus un-hide, such as in examples of going against the bias with John The Baptist.

For My Scriptures Study Index SEE