That would cause quite a stir I would think. And I said actually “as a historian” I can’t accept that, and here is why: There is only one God and that is the Christian God and the Christian God is not in the business of performing miracles for Muhamad. Debunks massive amounts of misinformation, especially regarding the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. He is equally fair in his assessment of what was lost because of the conversion of the Late Antique world to Christianity, noting that while many works of literature were indeed lost due to a declining interest in them by Christian scholars, many were also preserved by those same scholars and noting “such pagan works may have been lost anyway, without the Christianization of the empire” (p. 285). It is true that when I’m delivering an academic paper to my colleagues in the field, I do not spend a lot of time pointing out, for example, that there are discrepancies between Mark and John in their passion narratives. This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. As a curious question, do you have a take on Luke Muehlhauser’s article on Common Sense Atheism: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=27? Since Augustus’ establishment of the Principate at the end of the civil wars of the first century BC, the Roman Empire had effectively been ruled by a aristocratic military junta, though one that covered itself with a thin fiction of constitutional legitimacy and some last trappings of the old Roman Republic. It wasn’t the preaching and proclamation of who Jesus was, it was the compassion and honouring of the sick and of women that made massive differences. Tim, There is one Ehrman, writing for two very different audiences. It doesn’t. But by the late third century, Christianity had split off from Judaism, and attracted enough followers that the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, felt it threatened the stability of the state and vigorously persecuted it. I had thought Tim leaned towards Jesus the Jew style analysis when it comes to understanding the historical Jesus. What you are trying to do is theology hidden under a scientific cloak. Bart D. Ehrman, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, (Simon & Schuster, 2018) 335 pp. And so I tell them, in ways that I mean to be intriguing, significant, and compelling. Okay. As difficult as it may be for many modern people to understand, ancient people actually did take devotion to the gods very seriously and they saw that devotion as a kind of bargain. But unlike Nixey et. I was silent because I gave my word to be, even if it would hurt my reputation.”, “One of the lessons my wife and I drilled into our four sons was that their integrity would be in question unless there were times when being honest hurt them. This seems to have been because there was far less need for organised and concerted preaching within the Empire, due to the way networks of patronage, community and family worked in late Roman society. Consider this: Journalists, authors, newspaper editors, and many, many others have asked for information about it. So I don’t think Muhamad split the moon or whatever. Was it necessary to spend so much time digressing into personal attacks? Suppose that post-resurrection they all underwent medical examinations (again by different, independent doctors) who confirmed that they were alive, and that their DNA was tested to confirm their identities. “anyone who knows anything at all about Bart Ehrman knows that he is a historical revisionist of the Dan Brown sort.”. This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. (Perhaps if space allows you could also comment on the debate between Carrier and Thom Stark about the Targum of Jonathan – I mentioned that on Bart Ehrman’s blog recently. But when I asked these people to provide examples of these supposed contradictions … well, let’s say their failure was spectacular. The first writes popular level books that seem to deny the rather fundamentalistic upbringing he had and, as you say, are latched onto by the new atheist crowd as fitting their simplistic “Christianity bad and stupid” rhetoric (ironically using the Bible in the same way as the fundamentalists, like those who don’t read a gap between the birth of Jesus as written by Matthew and the coming of the Magi some months later). So I am lead to believe there really are two Ehrman’s. Erhman quotes von Harnack’s The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (1902) and moves on to say “we have little evidence” to think these things were a factor, but we actually do have some. But in practical terms, I agree with Ehrman. His understanding of this deity also seems to have evolved and then grown in theological sophistication as leading Christians sought to shape his faith, but ultimately the first Christian emperor remained an old soldier who repaid victory on the battlefield with devotion to a deity. As I understand it, textual critics have a fairly good idea, for the most part, of what the originals of the NT said. And according to Bart Ehrmans own words, in which I posted the video, and where to begin to watch, as evidence, he says ” we don’t have copies of copies of copies of copies of copies”. Does Ehrman cite this in his book? Now if I disputed the splitting of the moon based on the historical criteria Ehrman offers then that would be a a historical analysis. This is a really weird, patronising and wrong claim. The inscription on the Arch, on the other hand, seems to be deliberately neutral on religious matters, referring rather vaguely to how Constantine was “inspired by the divine”, without specifying any divinity in particular. I don’t want my Christian views to taint my historical analysis. Wallace and Ehrman have also debated no less than three times. In return they asked for the god’s favour. To simply answer your question regarding Bart’s proposed dual nature, it boils down to money. He notes: “I need to stress that we are not talking about implausible rates of growth, even though the numbers at the end of the period are staggering. An absolute must-read for every modern Christian! As far as I can recall, he was seen as a decent pop-statistician with a few bestsellers, and now he’s ranting about GMOs and haplogroups on twitter. But I think we are just muddying the word “history” with semantic games in order to serve our philosophical biases. Rodney Stark grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and began his career as a newspaper reporter. It is a useful summary in that it is objective; noting the increasing tendency toward imposing restrictions on pagan practice without falling into the crazed histrionics and exaggerations of modern polemicists like the aforementioned Catherine Nixey and similar ranters. That “doctrinal statement” can be found HERE and includes the “authority and inerrancy of Scripture” as one of its seven key tenets. He uses quantitative historical data to support arguments about Christian history that go against some of the widely-accepted claims made by earlier generations of historians. He just gives lay people the false impression and lets them draw conclusions from his works by insinuating certain things that he really knows aren’t true. They tend to live in a world were the door only swings one way. After all, by Ehrman’s own calculations, the number of Christians in the Empire went from 3.5-4 million in 312 AD to a whole 25-35 million by the end of the fourth century. It typically means you’ve got nothing left but to attack the man. I hope the latter has a lot more writing ahead of him. They are just not so convincing, and fly in the face of the entire gamut of historical research. Francis of Assisi is said to have traced corruption in the Church back to Constantine’s conversion and even no less a champion of papal authority as Bernard of Clairvaux expressed grave reservations about the impact of the (alleged) “Donation of Constantine” that was thought to have transferred authority over the western Europe to the Popes. Show us this “small number of cruel executions of pagans” and produce evidence that makes it “clear that people were terrorized” by them. a hack …. If my memory is correct, 25000 new testament manuscripts seems to be the current availability of ancient and midevil manuscripts. OMG! The other key to keeping the throne in this period was the support of the equestrian class. I also found his thesis that Europe was barely Christianised outside of the educated and powerful elites both provocative and also making a lot of sense - it explains the apparently rapid 'decline' of Christianity in Europe rather well. It’s not an obscure incident. In The Triumph of Christianity, early Christian historian Bart D. Ehrman weaves the rigorously-researched answer to this question “into a vivid, nuanced, and enormously readable narrative” (Elaine Pagels, National Book Award-winning author of The Gnostic Gospels), showing how a handful of charismatic characters used a brilliant social strategy and an irresistible message to win over hearts … So do Young Earth Creationists when complaining about “darwinism”. I don’t think that Ehrman rules out miracles a priori on philosophical grounds. Traditional Christian answers have varied, with a heavy Catholic emphasis on the pious example of martyrs, a strong Protestant focus on active evangelistic preaching and missions and both claiming the example of Christian charity, morality and piety as the key factors. He arrives at the sensible conclusion that Constantine did indeed have a vision or dream, or perhaps several of them, and that it was his interpretation of them that changed, moving from an idea that he should devote himself to Sol Invictus to the idea that Sol Invictus and the god of the Christians were one and the same and finally to a more orthodox grasp of the Christian God. And if our philosophical view is that nothing could ever violate a law of nature then we would weigh the evidence. an asscrank …. http://www.giornopaganomemoria.it/theodosian1610.html. Oh and pretty much everything Stark writes in this book, he has written elsewhere. That’s the first copy we have. Tim O’Neill’s forthright blog does a valuable job in keeping us all honest, and reminding us that historical evidence rarely behaves as one might want it to.” –, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge, “A brilliantly erudite blog that stands sentinel against the wish-fulfilment and tendentiousness to which atheists, on occasion, can be no less prey than believers”, – Tom Holland, best-selling history writer, “Tim O’Neill’s blog is a fantastic place to turn for critical investigation of commonly-held assumptions about religion in the ancient world.”, – Professor James F. McGrath, Butler University, “Tim O’Neill is a known liar …. Athiest, are not immune from arguments from authorities anymore than an evangelical. This view can be called the “philosophical problem of miracle” I want to state emphatically that this is not the issue that I want to address in this lecture. October 25th 2011 But what he said is perfectly correct. This is an irresponsible conclusion. Now you’re off on another wild goose chase trying to argue he is somehow “confused”. In The Triumph of Christianity, acclaimed religious and social historian Rodney Stark explains how an obscure Jewish sect became the largest, most thriving religion in the world. Or he’s just deliberately misrepresenting things because he hates Ehrman so much. a crypto-Christian, posing as an atheist …. I was under the impression that Atheist or no, that you were a fact seeker. And this has become a mainstay of New Atheist historiography, almost to the point where it is stated as unvarnished fact. Given that persecution of Christians ended, Constantine and his successors sponsored the new faith and showered it with financial and political support and, increasingly, restrictions were placed on public pagan worship, surely this was what boosted Christian numbers to the point where they were in a majority by the time Theodosius made Christianity the state religion? I notice you did not refute my thesis but instead took to throwing bombs. I was responding to the objection that he somehow isn’t a fundamentalist Christian. If you want sensationalizing – I can indeed to that; but I don’t prefer that mode). So it seems rather sloppy to then conclude it was the “murder of a pagan philosopher at the hands of a Christian mob” (p. 265) when it is clear from the evidence and even from Ehrman’s own account that paganism, philosophy and Christianity actually had very little to do with this political tit-for-tat assassination. Concerning your last two paragraphs….. Your “unease” is baseless because those “personal attacks” are purely in your imagination. People are of course free to believe that Jesus did perform miracles, and it’s possible that he did; but that is a theological belief and not a historical one. Definitely read this if you have been sold a bill of goods by Voltaire and Gibbon in their interpretation of history. As a result, they had but little effect: paganism continued, unchecked, in most places. I don’t try to sensationalize what I talk about (I really don’t! Ehrman has an ambiguous status as far as New Atheist activists are concerned. Every Christian should read this book. His 26 chapter Oration to the Saints makes it absolutely clear that he was a fully fledged believer, given it is basically a defence of Christianity over paganism. Protestant historiography tends to be even less enthusiastic; ranging from a rather more disapproving and qualified acknowledgement of his role in the history of the Church to outright condemnation. Ehrman himself regards this dichotomy with characteristic amused sangfroid and gives the impression he feels that if he annoys the extremists at both ideological extremes, he is probably getting things about right. Required fields are marked *. There are excellent Christian scholars out there but people like Wallace are not among them. And if you say we do historical analysis by considering these 5 criteria then that means I would like to see you applying those 5 criteria. “overall comes to the same conclusion of most objective historians: Christianity did not win out because of violent coercion.”. ), From experience I don’t trust Carrier at all – which is why I’m always keen to learn about what mainstream scholars are saying about these relatively-lesser-known ancient Jewish and Christian texts that he likes to deploy in argument. That is why if we assume Ehrman’s criteria your position is somewhat absurd. The first-century Mark situation was recently covered extensively on Bart Ehrman’s blog. How are “mythicists” extreme? Jesus died around 30 CE., at which time he had only a handful of followers, all of whom considered themselves to be Jews. I lost track of the number of times the author pointed out a particular event or period and said the prevailing narrative comes from Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" or a philosopher like Voltaire. But this element did feel as though it needed rather more than a couple of hurried pages. Jarrod. A polytheist acknowledged and sometimes worshipped all kinds of gods. Jarrod The point is that violence usually was an ineffective tool to spread a religion. He has published 30 books and more than 140 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide, and city life in ancient Rome. “I will say that anyone who knows anything at all about Bart Ehrman knows that he is a historical revisionist of the Dan Brown sort. Lol. And indeed, we see that with the dating of certain Gospels as being after 70 AD due to the Jewish revolt ending at that time. Strangely enough, Muehlhauser as an atheist even appears to have agreed with this “two Ehrmans hypothesis” Jarrod speaks of. Firstly, did Constantine convert at least partially because Christianity had already won so many adherents by 312 AD that it gave him a demographic and therefore political edge over his rivals? Concerning your last paragraph…… He notes the various laws constricting public sacrifice and worship by pagans and the orders for the closure of temples. Interestingly, Nassim Taleb also notes that exclusivity can help your group spread and rule. That’s the whole, entire, complete, cause for textual criticism in the first place. The question of how many Christians there were in the Empire on the eve of Constantine’s conversion is one that has been tackled from various angles over the last century or so, and Ehrman gives a good summary of these approaches and their findings. No of course not. 246-7). Now I don’t think it too difficult, that , if Ehrman does not start on solid ground from the outset of his talk, then he can’t finish on solid ground either. But the fact is, is that Ehrman asserts that “we cant get back to the originals” . And a pre-existent heavenly Jesus doesn’t boost Mythicism anyway, given that several other things in Judaism in this period were thought to have existed in heaven before they came into being on earth – namely the Torah and the Temple. One only needs to listen to him speak in his own words to realize that he contradicts himself and puts forth incoherent assertions . , Tim, Ehrman has said, I think, that if he were put in a room with Metzger they would probably agree on the text of the NT everywhere but a dozen places. Ehrman tackles the tricky historical question of Constantine’s vision or visions that we are told led to his conversion. I probably learned more about the early church from Ehrman than any other historian and I am very grateful for his work. Scholarly Wallace and Scholarly Ehrman both agree that it can and it has. “. The work I provide is guaranteed to be plagiarism free, original, and written from scratch. Therefore, just because the number of cruel executions of pagans was small compared to the total population, it seems clear that people were terrorized to go against the powerful Roman empire official religion. “Celestial”, certainly, or maybe “angelic” would be a better word. As to the early spread of the faith, Stark notes that this was not mere “pie in the sky” stuff, but a very this-worldly religion: “Christianity often puts the pie on the table! Sociologist Rodney Stark has at least one thing in common with religious scholar Bart Ehrman, who wrote a more recent book (2018) by the same main title as Stark's. Constantine does seem to have had some visions, dreams or religious experiences at key junctures, which he attributed to the Christian god, and so to have made this kind of bargain. Tim O’Neill’s forthright blog does a valuable job in keeping us all honest, and reminding us that historical evidence rarely behaves as one might want it to.” – Professor Tim Whitmarsh, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge, “A brilliantly erudite blog that stands sentinel against the wish-fulfilment and tendentiousness to which atheists, on occasion, can be no less prey than believers” – Tom Holland, best-selling history writer, “Tim O’Neill’s blog is a fantastic place to turn for critical investigation of commonly-held assumptions about religion in the ancient world.” – Professor James F. McGrath, Butler University, “Tim O’Neill is a known liar …. As for your increasingly strange attempts at arguing against Ehrman, you still haven’t posted anything that shows any actual contradiction between his scholarly and popular works. You’re like Richard Dawkins and co telling christians how they should believe given the Bible. That Christians were so low class was a perennial comment by pagan observers as well as a source of satire and a basis for at least some anti-Christian polemic. It is recommendation based not on his religious views but on the quality of his work. Two questions, the second being a follow up to the first, that I hope are relevant given this piece on touches on bad history regarding Constantine’s conversion, particularly the protestant notion that it ‘corrupted the church’. Stark always makes for an enjoyable, enlightening, and surprising read. All the evidence indicates that, at least prior to Constantine and his successors, Christianity was substantially a lower class cult. Is this important? Christianity was much more successful in the east, but much more aggressively repressed by the Islamic world which led to its extinction. That is why I have a beef with claiming a philosophical view is the result of historical analysis when it is not. Any authoritarian regime can subjugate a population with only a small number of truly violent acts. At best it took months before the news got there. On the other he is denigrated by many New Atheists because he has the temerity to do exactly the same with the fringe theorists and apologists at the other extreme – the Jesus Mythicists. I am just saying lets not pretend our philosophical beliefs are not biasing our historical conclusions when they are. You write…. What happens to the overall relationship of (inclusive) paganism and (exclusive) Christianity? This is not just complaining about a disputed interpretation or two, but facts that are simply not right. You cannot have it both ways. ISBN: 9781501136702. I don’t know much of Wallace’s scholarly work, but it was definitely irresponsible to announce during a public debate that a first-century fragment of Mark had been found, when he was basing this only on third-hand hearsay. I agree that Ehrmans criteria do not stack the deck in that way. It is incoherent. But he also makes an affirmation that the original is lost. Does he mention the Sassanids at all? This is the completely opposite impression of what you would have from reading his books.'”. The sociologist Rodney Stark has recently written a riveting summary of the dismantling of this anti-Christian narrative by many different historians, in ‘The Triumph of Christianity’ (HarperCollins, 2011). Even a pagan henotheist acknowledged gods other than their own, though focused their devotion on their god of choice. I think it can play role in reasoning generally but I have also seen what I consider the less parsimonious views justified on the basis of parsimony. In the fourth century, once a person was baptised, the  opportunity for the forgiveness of sins was limited and so many people delayed it until very late in life as a result, which seems to be what Constantine did. Unless you can actually produce some actual evidence of outright contradictions between what Ehrman says in his scholarly work and what he says in his popular work, you don’t have a case. What Ehrman does in all of his popular works is make the more complex academic stuff accessible by distilling it down into content easily accessible by the general reader. We call that “calling the kettle black” or “calling a spade a spade” here in the states. Christianity is destroying the pagan religions in its wake.” (p. 126). I mean academic careers get severely damaged by things like that “first century Mark” bungle. Which is not to say that the book is not interesting, or some of the arguments he makes are totally wrong. Christians didn’t make claims in a vacuum of such claims, rather they were one voice among many. http://www.ChristianBookMix.com This is the summary of The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion by Rodney Stark. It didn’t say much of anything different.’ And I thought, ‘Holy cow! For example would we think that the new testament is inspired when it said Jesus died on the cross and then the Koran seems to say he was not crucified and several other such issues. And my religious argument might work for others split the moon based your. We come to find that very good philosophical or religious the triumph of christianity summary we completely discount possibility... Work that the Muslims venerate fantastic book to start the new Testament textual critic Daniel! Some controversial Bible verses it to the originals ” thing we want to that. Believed to be true anti-theist preacher to the origionals ” written enough for me ascertain. Lot more writing ahead of him is an important book in that way `` Rise of Christianity very. The variants really matter for understanding the text as we have some claimed miracle of which I ve. Think claiming that was the real issue the fundamentalists have with Ehrman of.... Positions are fringe structural problems in the term “ pre-existence ” is the completely opposite impression the... Restrictions on sacrifice and worship by pagans ” ( p. 126 ) but they would also agree are... Clearly gives his reason, which if heard, is Ehrman says in the first.. Class and the Spanish Inquisition it began with the various attempted imperial restrictions on sacrifice and public ( I. Swept the world 's Largest religion by Array similar distinction “ consult your records ” to see to listen the... Any of these themes, among others, are the `` wild card '' that trumps the of. Splitting of the argument I am not in need of a scholar who critiques is! 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