Bart began as a Fundamentalist like ourselves but in time his studious nature led him to critical Bible scholarship. His books are viewed as authoritative. In an interesting interview he recounts this transformation and hints that he has finally left the conviction that there ever was a historical Jesus, or that personage/s whose lives are reflected in certain episodes in the legend served merely as sources for the Jesus character. Here's the article, it is a couple pages long.
Bart Erhman, transformation complete?
Something about him sounds familiar. Thanks for the article.
I didn't gather, from the article at least, that Erhman's belief is that there "was no historical Jesus" as you state in your post, but rather that there is no (accurate or untampered) history regarding Jesus. Erhman rejects the divinity of Jesus but I don't think he or any other serious scholar reject the fact of a historical Jesus.
Regarding the article also, I found the quotation of Erhman stating that "there is no hint of Jesus divinity" to be found in Mathew, Mark or Luke to be disagreeable. I mean to say that I would disagree with it as any basic reading of those Gospels indicate a belief in the divinity of Jesus. Even the recordation of miracles indicates this so I don't know where Erhman would be coming from with a statement like that.
Also, the first passage noted as being suspect, the one regarding the Adultress and the casting of stones, is known to be a suspect passage (which is why in the NWT and other translations it is noted and set apart as only being in some of the Manuscripts). While the idea that this passage may be apocryphal or a later addition may be surprising or shocking to many Protestants and Catholics or even non-religious folk who remember such a powerful scene from most of the TV/Film portrayals of the life of Jesus, it is not a real surprise for others better informed.
Anyway, Erhman's previous books are must-reads for anyone interested in the Bible and I have found them to be interesting and enlightening. While he is agnostic true, I would be be surprised to learn that he doesn't believe in even a historical Jesus and again, that is not what I understood from the Washington Post article.
His experience is very much like Joseph Wheless, an ex-minister, who lost his faith in the bible after indepth study of it. He wrote his book 'Is It God's Word?' early last century and it was banned for quite a few decades. If you've got an ebook reader you can get it here http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ataru/ebooks.htm
Most of the authors like Ehrman have trod ground already furrowed by Wheless. Writings by Robert Ingersoll are also excellent, especially considering the time they were written.
Oroborus21, actually the arguments for the Christ/Jesus character having been a literary creation are very sound and persuasive. There are a growing number of conservative (small c) scholars who are reconsidering the necessity of a man who history forgot and every action attributed to him are manifestly myth and midrash. And this was the line that caught my eye:
Sometimes Christian apologists say there are only three options to who Jesus was: a liar, a lunatic or the Lord," he tells a packed auditorium here at the University of North Carolina, where he chairs the department of religious studies. "But there could be a fourth option -- legend."
Bart would not likely have mentioned the 4th option a few years ago before the work of Wells,Price,Doherty and others.
>Sometimes Christian apologists say there are only three options to who Jesus was: a liar, a lunatic or the Lord," he tells a packed auditorium here at the University of North Carolina, where he chairs the department of religious studies. "But there could be a fourth option -- legend."
Nope, legend does not work at all. There was not nearly enough time passage, it takes centuries for a legend to develop. The histrical data is insurmountable, both secular, Biblical and unispired letters from private individuals. You could not make up a figure like Christ and there are none like Him. The teachings of Jesus line up with the revelation of all scripture. One can plainly discern Christ in the Old Testament teachings and see the end result of the prophecy fullfilment in His ministry. Your buddy Bart is just another 'johnny come lately' to the fringe left of scholarship. He IS NOT authoritative any more than Ding Dong Spong.
Nope, legend does not work at all. There was not nearly enough time passage, it takes centuries for a legend to develop.
i am going to help you do some counting in numberz this evening:
century 1, century 2, century 3, century 4, century 5, century 6, ..., century 19, century 20, century 21. 21 centuries!!! BWA HA HA!!
you've heard that old saying: a tale grows taller in the telling? ya. 21 centuries, even the first 8, where much more than "it takes centuries".
(i include 21 in there because i imagine you xians will still be saying the same garbage)
There was not nearly enough time passage, it takes centuries for a legend to develop.
I beg to differ. People have actually become legends in their own lifetimes.
A link for everyone:
Factor #1 -- Who Would Buy One Crucified?
1 Cor. 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Cor. 15:12-19 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
With the exception of the Christ-mythers and conspiracy theorists (and I put Muslims in this rank, where this issue is concerned!), few would deny the historical reality of the crucifixion. But once that door is opened, it brings about the first of our problems: Who on earth would believe a religion centered on a crucified man?
As Martin Hengel has amply shown us in his monograph, Crucifixion, the shame of the cross was the result of a fundamental norm of the Greco-Roman Empire. Hengel observes that "crucifixion was an utterly offensive affair, 'obscene' in the original sense of the word." (22) As Malina and Rohrbaugh note in their Social-Science Commentary on John [263-4], crucifixion was a "status degradation ritual" designed to humiliate in every way, including the symbolic pinioning of hands and legs signigfying a loss of power, and loss of ability to control the body in various ways, including befouling one's self with excrement. The process was so offensive that the Gospels turn out to be our most detailed description of a crucifixion from ancient times - the pagan authors were too revolted by the subject to give equally comprehensive descriptions - in spite of the fact that thousands of crucifixions were done at a time on some occasions. "(T)he cultured literary world wanted to have nothing to do with [crucifixion], and as a rule kept silent about it." (38) It was recognized as early as Paul (1 Cor. 1:18; see also Heb. 12:2) that preaching a savior who underwent this disgraceful treatment was folly. This was so for Jews (Gal. 3;13; cf. Deut. 21:23) as well as Gentiles. Justin Martyr later writes in his first Apology 13:4 --
They say that our madness consists in the fact that we put a crucified man in second place after the unchangeable and eternal God...
Celsus describes Jesus as one who was "bound in the most ignominious fashion" and "executed in a shameful way." Josephus describes crucifixion as "the most wretched of deaths." An oracle of Apollo preserved by Augustine described Jesus as "a god who died in delusions...executed in the prime of life by the worst of deaths, a death bound with iron." (4) And so the opinions go: Seneca, Lucian, Pseudo-Manetho, Plautus. Even the lower classes joined the charade, as demonstrated by a bit of graffiti depicting a man supplicating before a crucified figure with an asses' head - sub-titled, "Alexamenos worships god." (The asses' head being a recognition of Christianity's Jewish roots: A convention of anti-Jewish polemic was that the Jews worshipped an ass in their temple. - 19) Though confused in other matters, Walter Bauer rightly said (ibid.):
The enemies of Christianity always referred to the disgracefulness of the death of Jesus with great emphasis and malicious pleasure. A god or son of god dying on a cross! That was enough to put paid to the new religion.
And DeSilva adds :
No member of the Jewish community or the Greco-Roman society would have come to faith or joined the Christian movement without first accepting that God's perspective on what kind of behavior merits honor differs exceedingly from the perspective of human beings, since the message about Jesus is that both the Jewish and Gentile leaders of Jerusalem evaluated Jesus, his convictions and his deeds as meriting a shameful death, but God overturned their evaluation of Jesus by raising him from the dead and seating him at God's own right hand as Lord.
N. T. Wright makes these points in Resurrection of the Son of God [543, 559, 563]:
The argument at this point procceds in three stages. (i) Early Christianity was thoroughly messianic, shaping itself around the belief that Jesus was God's Messiah, Israel's Messiah. (ii) But Messiahship in Judaism, such as it was, never envisaged someone doing the sort of things Jesus had done, let alone suffering the fate he suffered. (iii) The historian must therefore ask why the early Christians made this claim about Jesus, and why they reordered their lives accordingly.
Jewish beliefs about a coming Messiah, and about the deeds such a figure would be expected to accomplish, came in various shapes and sizes, but they did not include a shameful death which left the Roman empire celebrating its usual victory.
Something has happened to belief in a coming Messiah...It has neither been abandoned or simply reaffirmed wholesale. It has been redefined around Jesus. Why? To this question, of course, the early Christians reply with one voice: we believe that Jesus was and is the Messiah because he was raised bodily from the dead. Nothing else will do.
The message of the cross was an abhorrence, a vulgarity in its social context. Discussing crucifixion was the worst sort of social faux pas; it was akin, in only the thinnest sense, to discussing sewage reclamation techniques over a fine meal - but even worse when associated with an alleged god come to earth. Hengel adds: "A crucified messiah...must have seemed a contradiction in terms to anyone, Jew, Greek, Roman or barbarian, asked to believe such a claim, and it will certainly have been thought offensive and foolish." That a god would descend to the realm of matter and suffer in this ignominious fashion "ran counter not only to Roman political thinking, but to the whole ethos of religion in ancient times and in particular to the ideas of God held by educated people." (10, 4) Announcing a crucified god would be akin to the Southern Baptist Convention announcing that they endorsed pedophilia! If Jesus had truly been a god, then by Roman thinking, the Crucifixion should never have happened. Celsus, an ancient pagan critic of Christianity, writes:
But if (Jesus) was really so great, he ought, in order to display his divinity, to have disappeared suddenly from the cross. This comment represents not just some skeptical challenge, but is a reflection of an ingrained socio-theological consciousness. The Romans could not envision a god dying like Jesus - period. Just as well to argue that the sky is green, or that pigs fly, only those arguments, at least, would not offend sensibilities to the maximum. We need to emphasize this (for the first but not the last time) from a social perspective because our own society is not as attuned as ancient society to the process of honor. We found it strange to watch Shogun and conceive of men committing suicide for the sake of honor. The Jews, Greeks and Romans would not have found this strange at all. As David DeSilva shows in Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity, that which was honorable was, to the ancients, of primary importance. Honor was placed above one's personal safety and was the key element in deciding courses of action. Isocrates gives behavioral advice based not on what was "right or wrong", but on what was "noble or disgraceful". "The promise of honor and threat of disgrace [were] prominent goads to pursue a certain kind of life and to avoid many alternatives."  Christianity, of course, argued in reply that Jesus' death was an honorable act of sacrifice for the good of others -- but that sort of logic only works if you are already convinced by other means!
Sorry to trash your buddy Bart's newly found dis-beliefs!
>I beg to differ. People have actually become legends in their own lifetimes.
Well, maybe legends in their own minds...kinda like Tetrasap.