Legends, Fictions, and the Manuscripts that Illustrate Christ’s Story

KRISTEN COLLINS: Good evening. My name is Kristen
Collins, and I’m a curator in the
Department of Manuscripts. And before I begin by
introducing tonight’s lecturer, I just want to draw your
attention to an upcoming lecture titled “And in the End
Was Commentary, How the Gospels and the Mishnah
Happened Side by Side.” This is going to occur
Wednesday, October 19, at 7:00 PM in this auditorium. So on behalf of
the museum, I would like to welcome you to the
Getty and this evening’s lecture by Professor Bart
Ehrman, who is speaking in conjunction with the
exhibition In the Beginning Was the Word, Medieval
Gospel Illumination. Bart Ehrman is a professor
in the Department of Religious Studies at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began his education at
the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and went on to
complete his undergraduate work at Wheaton College in Illinois. He received his
master’s in divinity and a PhD in New
Testament studies from the Princeton
Theological Seminary. His research is in the
fields of New Testament and early Christianity. Has published widely on
the historical Jesus, early Christian apocrypha,
and the manuscript tradition of the New Testament. Professor Ehrman’s
work is well-known beyond the scholarly community. Of the 24 books that he
has written or edited, four have been the New York
Times Best Seller List. Many of you are no doubt
familiar with the books Jesus Interrupted, God’s Problem,
Misquoting Jesus, and Forged. He has also published on the
recently discovered gospel of Judas. His current book
projects include forgery and counter-forgery in
the early Christian tradition, and how Jesus became
God, from Jewish preacher to the Lord of all. Professor Ehrman has received
numerous awards and grants, including the 2009 JW Pope
Spirit of Inquiry Teaching Award, the 1993 UNC
Undergraduate Student Teaching Award, and the 1994
Philip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for artistic and
scholarly achievement. Professor Ehrman’s work on
the contradictions presented by the Bible and the
tendency of the reader to compress the four gospels
into a single cohesive narrative had
particular resonance for the current exhibition on
medieval gospel illumination. We are delighted
that he has agreed to apply his knowledge of
New Testament scholarship to the visual arts in
his talk this evening. Please join me in welcoming
Professor Bart Ehrman, whose lecture tonight is
titled “Legends, Fictions, and the Manuscripts
that Illustrate Christ’s Story.” [APPLAUSE] BART D. EHRMAN:
Well, thank you very much for that
generous introduction, I’d like to stress,
before I start, that even though I’ll be talking
about illuminated manuscripts, it’s obvious from
what Kristen said that I’m not an art historian. I’m a scholar of
the New Testament and early Christianity. The other thing to
say is that I teach in a different part
of the universe from the one we are in now. My world is the heart
of the Bible Belt. My students at the
University of North Carolina tend to be conservative
evangelicals, who as a rule, think that, if you don’t
believe in the Bible, you can’t be a Christian, and
if you’re not a Christian, you will roast in Hell. Which means the Bible is very
important for these people. The thing about my students
is that most of them believe in the Bible more
than they know about it. In fact, they know very
little about the Bible, as it turns out. This comes as a constant
surprise to me every year, but it is nonetheless
true, and becomes clear to me when I teach
my Introduction to the New Testament class every spring. This class is a large class. Sometimes it’s 300 students,
sometimes 360 students. And I begin the class
by giving them– on the first day of
class, before I’ve taught them a single thing,
I give them a pop quiz. I give them this
pop quiz because I’m interested in knowing what
do they know about the New Testament, and I’m
interested in them knowing what do they know
about the New Testament. It’s not a hard quiz. There are 11 questions on
it, and I tell my students that if anyone in the class
gets eight of these right, I’ll buy you dinner at
the Armadillo Grill. Last year, I bought one dinner. They’re not hard questions. So I start off. The first question is, how many
books are in the New Testament? Well, now, you’d think kids
who had grown up in church their entire life,
been to Sunday school, they would know how many books
there are, but they don’t. It’s actually an easy answer,
by the Way the answer is 27. The reason that’s
an easy answer is because, when you think
of the New Testament, you think of God, and you think
of the Christian god, which means you think of the Trinity. And what is 27? 27 is 3 to the third power. 3 times 3 times 3– is a miracle. I then asked them,
in what language were these books written? And this is an
interesting question to ask because, as it turns
out, a lot of my students think that the answer is Hebrew. And I’ve never quite
figured it out, but I think it’s
because, when they watch these shows on the
Discovery Channel or the History
Channel about Jesus, they’re always flashing up
Hebrew manuscripts behind them, so they associate
Hebrew with Jesus. But it turns out Hebrew
is not the right answer. Usually I have maybe
just five or six students who think that the
answer is English. The right answer is Greek is the
language of the New Testament, as is the language of
many of the manuscripts that are in this collection. I do have to admit– I do throw in a few
curve balls because I don’t want to buy any dinners. And so one of my curve balls
is, what was the apostle Paul’s last name? And invariably, I’ll have
some student say of Tarsus, which is true enough. But part of what I
do with this quiz is I try to teach them something
in the midst of giving them this quiz. And one of the things I try to– I want them to know is
that in the ancient world, most people did not
have last names. And so unless you were
one of the upper crust aristocrats in Rome, you
just didn’t have a last name. You just had one name. That’s why in the New
Testament, all these people have the same name and you
have to identify them some way. So you have all these
Marys in the New Testament. So is it Mary of Bethany, is
it Mary, the mother of Jesus, is it Mary Magdalene,
et cetera, et cetera. The reason I have to
teach this to my students is because they naturally
assume that Jesus Christ– Christ is last name. And so I have to tell them
that it’s not Jesus Christ born to Joseph and Mary Christ. Well, one of the things that my
students generally don’t know is that the literal
interpretation of the Bible– which they think
is the only interpretation of the Bible– but in fact,
the literal interpretation of the Bible has not
always been a central part of the Christian religion. In many times and places
over the centuries, it has not been the
literal words of the Bible, but the stories behind
them that mattered. Moreover, throughout
history, many people have not insisted that
historical reality matters for spiritual truth. This can be clearly seen in
the history of Christian art, a very small snippet of which
we’ll be seeing tonight. Since I’m not an
art historian, I will not be commenting
on the details or the artistic features of
the various pieces of art that I’ll be showing. My purpose in this talk
is quite different. What is the relationship
of the artwork found in medieval and early
modern illuminated manuscripts, and the legendary accounts
of the life of Christ? What’s the relationship
between those two things. As we will see, the
character of the stories that lie behind much
of this art is not simply based on the
legendary tendencies of later Christian times– although some of it is. Some of it goes all the way
back to the legendary impulses of the earliest attested
Christian tradition, from the New Testament itself. Artists throughout the
Middle Ages, in any event, were not concerned with
our modern interest in separating what
we might call history from what we might call legend. The stories that they knew– stories about Jesus–
told important truths, and the historicity of these
stories in our modern sense was not an issue
for many people– most people through
the Middle Ages. I’m going to start with some
art that illustrates stories that everyone today
thinks were legendary, and then I’ll move into
artistic representations of New Testament accounts– in part, to see how
these stories about Jesus came into existence,
in an effort to fill in what was not
known about the life of Jesus from the New Testament,
and to illustrate what was believed to be known,
even though this knowledge was legendary. That’ll make sense
by the time I’m done. So I’m going to begin with an
artistic representation of what is known as the
Harrowing of Hell. This is a portrayal
of the Harrowing of Hell in the 12th century,
life of Christ from England– which is in the holdings
of the Getty Museum, but it is the one piece that
I’m showing that is not actually in the exhibit that we
will be seeing tonight– in the exhibit
that’s on display. This is Jesus. As you can tell, Jesus has
been crucified already. He’s got the wounds. He is putting the
devil under his feet. And this here is
representing the mouth of Sheol, or the mouth
of Hades, in which the dead had been residing. The dead had been residing
in the bosom of Hades. And so these are
the dead people who had died before
Jesus, who are now being saved by Jesus
after the death of Jesus. He is able to extend
his salvation not only to people who were
living at the time that he was alive and
not only two people lived afterwards his– salvation reaches even
to those who are already resident in Hell, and he’s
bringing them out of Sheol to give them
salvation in Heaven. So that’s what the
picture is about. Let me say a few words
about the stories, the legends behind it– the Harrowing of Hell. The word harrowing, it
refers to this act of Jesus bringing people out
of Hell and emptying Hell of its inhabitants,
because now salvation has become possible. In the New Testament gospels, we
have, of course, for accounts– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John– that describe the death and
the Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus and the four
counts is executed by crucifixion on a Friday, and
on Sunday, on the third day, he then is raised from the dead. You find this in Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John– his death on Friday,
Resurrection on Sunday. What the gospels
give no indication of is what the spirit of Christ was
doing during those three days. Jesus’s body was in the tomb,
but where was his spirit, and what was he doing? The other thing that the gospels
do not answer directly was a question that many people
had through the ages– especially in the Middle Ages– which had to do with, how far
does Jesus’s salvation reach? What about people who died
before Jesus’s crucifixion? If Jesus’s death is
what brings salvation, what about people who
died before his death? Is salvation available
only to people who believe in
Jesus, which would be people who lived after him? What about the unfortunate
souls who lived before him? Is the salvation
that he brings not efficacious for those people? And so there are two issues
that were in people’s minds– where was he during this time,
and what about the people who died before? The resulting legends had
to do with what Christ did in the interim
period between his death and his Resurrection. And it came to be thought
that what happened was that Jesus, in fact,
descended to Hell in order to preach the Good
News of his salvation there so that his salvation was
efficacious not only for those who would live afterwards, but
also for those who live before. Jesus would bring out the Saints
from the realm of the dead and take them to Heaven. Or in some traditions,
he brought everybody out from the realms of Sheol
into a heavenly existence. The first time that we
have an account of this is in a gospel that was very
popular through the Middle Ages, even though it was
not in the New Testament. It’s a gospel called
the Gospel of Nicodemus, because it was allegedly
written by this rabbi who is named in the Gospel
of John, Nicodemus. It wasn’t really
written by Nicodemus. It was written hundreds of years
after Nicodemus had been dead, but it was a book
that was forged in the name of Nicodemus. In the Gospel of Nicodemus,
we have our first account of Jesus descending to Hades to
save the people who were there. It’s a very interesting account. What happens is Jesus dies. He’s raised from the dead. The leaders in
Jerusalem don’t believe he’s been raised
from the dead, even though people are saying that
Jesus was raised from the dead. Well, they bring in some people
who tell them, yes, Jesus has been raised. They still don’t believe them. And these people
tell them, look, you remember Simeon, the
person who recognized Jesus when he was a baby boy? Simeon had two sons who died. And when Jesus was
raised from the dead, other people were
raised with him, including Simeon’s two sons,
and they’re living up north. Go get them and they’ll
tell you all about it. And so they go and
gets Simeon’s two sons. They bring them to
Jerusalem, bring them in front of the Jewish council. And they ask them, is
it true you were dead? Yes, we were dead. Well, what are you doing here? Well, we were raised
from the dead. Well, tell us about it. And so they tell the story. They were in Hades, and
they heard a loud voice proclaiming that the
King had arrived, that the gates were to open up
because the King of the Jews was now ready to enter
into the realm of Sheol. And the prophets from
the Old Testament got up and proclaimed
that this is the one that they
had anticipated as coming to save them. Adam, as in Adam and Eve, got
up and gives a little speech about how this is the
one that he anticipated. John the Baptist gets up
and gives a little speech. And then Jesus arrives, and he
takes everybody out of Hades and he takes them to
the heavenly realm. This is all found in
the Gospel of Nicodemus, an account that dates from
the fifth Christian century. Medieval artists were quite
taken with this idea of Jesus going to the realm of the damned
and bringing His salvation to them. It didn’t matter to them
that this wasn’t in the New Testament, and it
probably would not have made sense to them
if you had told them that, well, it really didn’t happen. This is a story that conveyed
theological truths to them, and it didn’t much
matter whether made it into the New Testament or not. And so we have a number of
artistic representations that of this Harrowing
of Hell, Jesus bringing salvation to those who
are already in prison in Sheol. My second piece of art has to do
with another legendary account that just about everybody
today agrees is legendary, having to do with the birth
of Jesus’s mother, Mary. This piece of art is found
in an illuminated manuscript that is a collection of
Catholic masses for high feasts. It’s a 15th century
manuscript and, it is in the exhibit
here in the Getty. This is the birth– not the birth of Jesus, it’s
the birth of his mother, Mary. In the scene, this is Anna, who
is the saintly mother of Mary, according to legend. You can see she’s saintly
because she has a halo. This is one of
those scenes where you get several scenes
going on at different times. Down here is Anna
again, this time carrying the baby Mary in her
arms with a halo also here. And this is an angel who’s
preparing the bath for Mary to take. And so this is an
account of Anna giving birth– with
her two attendants here, giving birth to Mary. What can we say about
the birth of Mary, according to early
Christian legend? The New Testament is virtually
silent about the mother of Jesus. The New Testament
tells us almost nothing about Jesus’s parents
or his families. His parents, of course,
are named Mary and Joseph. They’re betrothed to be
married, but they’re not married when Mary becomes pregnant. And she, of course,
is not made pregnant by her betrothed
Joseph, but is made– become pregnant by
the Holy Spirit, and so the child
that is born of Mary is born of a woman
who is a virgin. But we’re not told
anything about Mary, and people wondered about it. Who exactly was
Mary, that she was the one who was given the
right to bear the Son of God? What was so special about her? Well, this was a very
pressing question for people who were interested
in the lineage of Jesus. And in particular, there
were some theological reasons that people were interested
in this question. There were debates about
whether Jesus really was a human like the rest of us. Now, the rest of us, you
may have noted, commit sins. If Jesus was really a human
being, did he commit sins? No, he didn’t commit sin. Well, how can he be human,
if he didn’t commit sins? Well, he didn’t commit sins
because he didn’t really have a sin nature
like the rest of us. Yeah, but the rest of us
are born with a sin nature. Yes, but Jesus was
born of a virgin, and so he didn’t
have the sin nature. Yeah, but didn’t His
mother have a sin nature? So why didn’t she pass on
the sin nature to her son? Well, these are the kinds
of theological questions people were asking, and
unfortunately, the New Testament did not
provide answers for these theological questions. And as a result, a number
of legends sprang up. The earliest account we have
of these legends about Mary is in a book that did not make
it into the New Testament, but was exceedingly popular
through the Middle Ages, at least as popular as many of
the books of the New Testament. It’s a book that scholars call
the Protevangelium Jacobi. Scholars call it this because,
when you’re a scholar, you much prefer a
Latin phrase when you have an English phrase
that works perfectly well. This shows that you
are an educated person. And so you call it the
Protevangelium Jacobi, instead of what it means, which
is the Proto-Gospel of James. This is called a
proto-gospel, this book, because it deals with the
events that transpired, by and large,
before the Gospels. The Gospels begin
with Joseph and Mary– at least Matthew and Luke do
begin with Joseph and Mary. Well, what happened
before these episodes? That’s what the Proto-Gospel
of James talks about. It’s a very interesting book. It probably first came
into existence sometime in the second Christian
century, maybe 100 years after Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John. It is an account of what
happened when Mary was born, and subsequent events up
through the birth of Jesus and a few episodes when
he was a young boy. So what happened
with Mary was this– there was a very
wealthy Jewish man named Joachim, who was
married to a woman named Anna. They were very righteous,
very pious before God. They were also extremely
wealthy and well-connected in high social class. But unfortunately, they were not
able to have to have children. And they were quite
upset about this, and so Joachim decided that
he was going to rebel a bit. He left home, went off into
the mountains by himself, and for 40 days
and 40 nights, he fasted saying he would
not eat or drink anything until God appeared to
him to answer his prayer. Meanwhile, Anna back home is
very upset that she cannot conceive a child, and she
prays a bitter prayer of lament to God. Why can’t she bear a child? God hears her prayer and
sends an angelic messenger to let her know that she has,
in fact, conceived a child, and this child is
miraculously born. Now, it’s not that the
child is born of a virgin. Anna was not a virgin. She and her husband
had been trying to have babies per
very long time. But it was a miracle
like other miracles in the Hebrew Bible,
the Old Testament, where a barren woman is allowed
to conceive by an act of God. Anna vows that, when
this child is born, she will dedicate this child
to God, and so it happens. The child is born,
and it’s a girl. They name her Mary. Mary is not allowed to play
with the other children. Mary is kept in a sanctuary
built in her bedroom, so that she has no evil
influences upon her. When she’s three
years old, she’s taken to the temple
of God in Jerusalem. And she grows up in the
temple of God in Jerusalem, fed every night by an angel who
comes down and gives her food. Mary is a very special person
who’s had no outside influences upon her. When she turns 12 years old,
the priests in the temple are nervous because
she’s about ready to start having her period, and
that would pollute the temple. And so they have to figure out
some way to take care of her without allowing her
to stay in the temple, and they end up
deciding that she’s going to marry this
elderly man, Joseph. And so that is how Joseph
and Mary come together. Joseph, it’s not
quite clear why he’s an elderly man in this story,
except for probably because, since she’s holy, she’s
never going to have sex. And since he’s an old
man, he won’t want to. So anyway, but he’s
an elderly man. That’s why, in all the artistic
representations in the Middle Ages, when you see
the birth of Jesus, Joseph is always an old man. That’s based on this story
that he was an old man. One of the results of
him being an old man is that he had sons from
a previous marriage. And so in the New Testament,
Jesus is said to have brothers. Well, for the Proto-Gospel of
James, these brothers of Jesus are not children of Joseph and
Mary, since they never had sex. No, these are the sons of
Joseph from a previous marriage, and so they’re Jesus’s sort
of adopted stepbrothers. In any event, Joseph and
Mary then come together, and Joseph protects her,
and she gives birth. It’s a terrific story. And actually, one of
the most horrific scenes in the Proto-Gospel
of James is one that’s not found in this
particular piece of art I’m showing you. What happens is
Mary gives birth, and Joseph has gone
off to try and find a midwife to help out
during the birth process, but he gets there too late. He and the midwife arrive
to the cave where Mary is. There’s a bright light
there, and there’s a child, who’s actually what around. And it’s Jesus,
who’s just been born. And Joseph tells the
midwife, it’s not my child. And she doesn’t believe him. She goes off. She finds another
midwife named Salome. She says, Salome, you
won’t believe this. A virgin has just given birth. And Salome says, no,
I don’t believe you. She says, unless I test her
virginity, I won’t believe it. So she goes back to
the cave, and in one of the strangest incidents in
all of the gospels of any kind whatsoever, Salome gives Mary
a postpartum examination. And she finds that her
hymen is still intact, and so she realizes
she really is a virgin. And for her troubles, her
hand starts burning off, because God’s upset with
her putting him to the test. And she has to go to
the baby child Jesus, lifts him up, and
her hand is healed. And that’s the
end of that story. Well, very strange indeed. We don’t seem to have an
artistic representation of that particular incident. This then is the
birth of Mary to Anna, featured in this 15th
century manuscript that you can see
in the collection. I’m going to move on now
to artistic representations of things that are
in the New Testament, and my thesis is that these
two involve legendary accounts. I’m going to begin by looking
at an artistic representation of the seven last words
of the dying Jesus. This is a portrayal obviously
of the crucifixion, in which you’ve got Jesus on the cross. He has been crucified. He is bleeding from
all of the wounds, with saints and later folk
at the foot of the cross. And kind of like
cartoons, where you get balloons with people
saying things, that’s what you’ve got here. You’ve got seven balloons in
which Jesus is saying things. These are the so-called seven
last words of the dying Jesus. And so let me talk
about what that means– seven last words. The historical
reality is that we don’t know what Jesus said
when he was being crucified. There was nobody
there taking notes. The disciples had almost
certainly fled the scene. We have no idea what the
historical Jesus said. But people were obviously
interested in knowing what Jesus said in his
last hours and minutes, and so in the gospels, we
have words put on Jesus’s lips by later storytellers, who were
telling the stories about what Jesus said on the cross. The individual gospels– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John– these seven words come from
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These individual gospels record
different sayings of Jesus on the cross. So you don’t get the seven
last words in any one gospel– you get him saying different
things in different gospels, and in none of them does
he say seven things. The seven sayings are a
combination of everything that he says in all
four of the gospels. It just happens to be seven,
which of course, in the Bible, is the perfect number. And so people latched
on to the idea that there happened to be
seven things that Jesus says on the cross, and
these are the seven things. This is in the sequence
that is commonly thought that he
would have said them, when he’s being
nailed to the cross. In the gospel of Luke, he
says, Father forgive them, for they don’t know
what they’re doing. In Luke’s gospel, he tells the
robber being crucified next to him, today you will
be with me in paradise. In the Gospel of John,
at the foot of the cross is the beloved disciple John
and Jesus’s mother Mary. And Jesus from the cross
says to John, behold– to his mother, behold your son. And he says to John,
behold your mother. In the Gospels of
Mark and Matthew, Jesus cries out on the
cross, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? In John’s gospel, he
indicates, I thirst. After that, in John’s gospel,
he proclaims, it is finished. And in the Gospel of Luke,
right before he dies, he says, Father, into your
hands I commit my spirit. These are the seven
last words of the dying Jesus, when you combine the four
gospels into one long account. I want to I want to explain
why professional interpreters of the Bible have
found it problematic, this combining of
the different things that Jesus says into
the different gospels into one long narrative of
the seven sayings of the dying Jesus. What many– what
most– what probably all serious critical
scholars of the Bible think is that, when you read
one of the gospels, you need to let that gospel
say what it has to say, and not pretend that it’s
saying something that another one of
the gospels is saying. Each of these authors
of the gospels– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John– had their own points that they wanted to emphasize. And if you pretend that Matthew
is saying the same thing that John is saying,
you’re importing John into a gospel that wasn’t John. You’re making now
Matthew sound like John, when Matthew isn’t John. Matthew is Matthew. It’s like today– if I write
a book and somebody else writes a book,
and somebody says, I’m saying the same thing
this other person saying, I might be saying something
completely different. And I don’t want anybody to
interpret my book in light of what somebody else says. So when you read my
book Misquoting Jesus, and then you read Rush Limbaugh,
don’t confuse me with him. Well, it’s the same thing
with any author at any time. You should let each author
say and what they have to say. It’s true of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John. This matters with the
last sayings of Jesus, and let me try and illustrate
why it matters by looking at two of the gospels. It matters at least two
professional interpreters of these books. In Mark’s gospel, which is our
first gospel, Jesus, in fact, says very little when
he is being crucified. Jesus is condemned to
death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. And he’s taken off
to be crucified, and Jesus doesn’t say anything
on the way to be crucified. They nailed him to the
cross in Mark’s gospel, and he doesn’t say anything. He’s silent the whole time. It’s almost as if he’s in shock. he’s hanging on the
cross, and while he’s hanging on the cross,
everybody mocks him. The Roman soldiers mock him,
the people passing by mock him, and both robbers mock him,
and Jesus doesn’t say anything until the very end. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus says–
the only thing that he says in the crucifixion
scene in Mark’s gospel– at the very end, Jesus
cries out in Aramaic, [SPEAKING ARAMAIC]– my God, my God, why
have you forsaken me? And he dies. This is a very
powerful portrayal of Jesus going to his death. His disciples have fled. One of his disciples
has betrayed him. Another one has denied
him three times. Nobody is with him at the end. Everybody who sees him makes
fun of him and mocks him, and at the end, he feels
forsaken of God Himself. My god, my God, why
have you forsaken me? And he dies. I think it’s a genuine
question in Mark. Jesus really wants to know
why even God has forsaken him. You contrast this
portrayal with what happens in the gospel of Luke. Now, in Luke’s
gospel, Jesus is also condemned by Pontius Pilate, and
has taken off to be crucified. But on the way to be
crucified, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is not silent. He sees some women by
the side of the road who are weeping for him,
and he turns to them and he says, daughters of
Jerusalem, don’t weep for me. Weep for yourselves
and for your children, for the fate that’s
to befall you. He’s more concerned
about these women than he is about his own fate. When he’s being nailed to
the cross in Luke’s gospel, he’s not silent. Instead, he prays. Father, forgive them, for they
don’t know what they’re doing. This does not seem
to be somebody who’s in shock, who doesn’t
know what’s happening to him. While he’s hanging on the
cross in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is not silent. Jesus actually has an
intelligent conversation with one of the people
being crucified with him. One of the two people–
not both of them, as in Mark– one of the two
people being crucified with him starts mocking Jesus,
and the other one tells him to be quiet,
because Jesus has done nothing to deserve this. Then he turns his head to Jesus,
and he says, lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus says to
him, truly I tell you, today, you will be
with me in Paradise. Jesus in Luke’s gospel
knows exactly what’s happening to him, he knows
why it’s happening to him, and he knows what’s
going to happen to him after it happens to him. He’s going to wake
up in Paradise, and this guy’s going
to be with him. This is not a Jesus
who feels forsaken of God at the very end. Most telling of all,
instead of crying out, my God, my God, why have
you forsaken me, Jesus says, Father, into your hands
I commit my spirit. And he dies. He knows that he’s on
the side of the Father, and that the Father
is on his side, and he’s doing the
will of the Father, and he’s going to wake up in
Paradise when this is all over. This is a very
different portrayal of Jesus going to his death
from what you get in Mark. What people do, of
course, is they read Mark and they read Luke, and
they smash them together into one big gospel. And then you throw in Matthew
and then you throw in John, and that’s how you get to seven
last words of the dying Jesus. So I’ve got two
points I want to make. One is that today, critical
scholars of the New Testament think that you really should
let each gospel speak for itself and not pretend they’re
all saying the same thing. But my second point is
that, in the Middle Ages, that was not the
scholarly common sense. In the Middle Ages, it was
just the opposite common sense, which is that these are
all important stories and they can
complement one another. They don’t stand at
odds with one another. They complement one another,
so you put them all together and you get the big story. That’s the common sense
in the Middle Ages, and it’s often the
common sense that people have today, of course, when
they read all the gospels as if they’re all saying
the same thing. And so that is what I
would call the medieval and the modern
legendary perspective on the seven last words
of the dying Jesus. And so there we
are again with it. The next account
I want to look at is the genealogy of Jesus,
which involves once more what I would call a set of not just
medieval, but modern legends. This is a very interesting
piece from the exhibit. It’s from the Gladzor
Gospels, which is a Armenian gospel text. So the writing that you
see here is Armenian. It’s from the the 14th century. This is an account of Jesus– of the genealogy of
Jesus– so who begat whom begat whom begat whom. My students think
the genealogies are the most boring
part of the Bible, but when they’re taking
the New Testament class, I have no sympathy
for them at all. I tell them, look, Matthew’s
genealogy is 16 versus long. It’s just 16 versus long. If you want a genealogy,
go to 1 Chronicles– nine chapters of who began whom. And the genealogies in the New
Testament, Matthew and Luke– Matthew and Luke are the two
gospels in the New Testament that give genealogies,
and they’re very interesting genealogies,
because they actually say– you actually can get a lot of
very interesting information. Well, this is the
genealogy where you have not just who the
ancestors of Jesus were, but also you have
artistic representations of these people. And in another page of
the same manuscript that’s on the exhibit, it
goes down– they’re showing the page that
goes down to Mary. And so there’s a presentation
of Jesus’s immediate lineage on one of the other pages. Let me say a few things
about the genealogy of Jesus as another kind of
legend– this time, a legend that is in
the New Testament– the Gospel Accounts. The Gospel of Mark does
not have a genealogy, probably because
it does not have an account of Jesus’s birth. Mark’s gospel begins
with Jesus as an adult. The same is true with
the Gospel of John. It begins with
Jesus as an adult. Matthew and Luke, however,
are the two gospels in the New Testament that tell
stories about Jesus being born. And so in both Matthew
and Luke, in addition to birth narratives, you also
are given genealogies, in which you have the family
line of Jesus traced back to his remote ancestors. Just a second. I don’t want to get to
historical reality yet. The interesting thing
about the genealogies of Matthew and Luke– there
are several interesting things. The most interesting thing
to many modern readers is that the two genealogies
of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are different genealogies. They’re different. They’re different
in a lot of ways. Some of the ways don’t
matter, and some do matter. One way that may not matter
is that Matthew’s genealogy is set up to show that Jesus
descended from King David, and he descended from Abraham. And so the genealogy
begins, this is the genealogy of Jesus the
Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Well, who’s that? OK, so David is the greatest
King in Jewish history, and it was understood
that his descendant would be the future Messiah. And so by saying that
Jesus is the son of David, Matthew is indiciating
that he’s the Messiah. But he’s also called
the son of Abraham. Why Abraham? Because Abraham is the
father of the Jews. The Jews trace their
lineage back to Abraham, and so Jesus’s genealogy
is traced back to Abraham. As many of you know,
Matthew’s gospel’s often thought to be the
most Jewish of the gospels, and so it traces
Jesus’s Jewish lineage. Luke’s genealogy, in some
ways, is even more interesting, because it does trace Jesus back
to David and back to Abraham, but that’s not the emphasis. Jesus’s genealogy
in Luke’s gospel is traced back to Adam,
as in Adam and Eve. That’s a great genealogy. I have an aunt who’s
a genealogist who is very proud about the fact
that she’s traced my family line back to the Mayflower. The Mayflower to Adam and Eve– serious genealogy. The logic of Adam’s genealogy– of Luke’s genealogy
is that, unlike– Matthew wants to
show that Jesus is the Savior to the Jews,
the Jewish Messiah. Luke wants to
emphasize that Jesus is the Savior of all
people, Jews and Gentiles, and so his line is traced
back to the first human, to Adam himself. So that’s a difference,
but it’s not a discrepancy or a contradiction. It’s just a difference. The discrepancy is that
the family line of Jesus is traced back through Joseph
to David in different lines. Now, let me make a couple
of points about that. First, the genealogies are
both genealogies of Joseph. That should strike
you as very strange. Because both Matthew
and Luke insist that Jesus was born of a virgin,
Joseph was not his father. But the genealogy is
the genealogy of Joseph. But Jesus doesn’t belong
to that family line. Well, the gospels don’t give
us an answer to that one. I think you have to assume
that he was adopted by Joseph, and so he was sort of
adopted into the line, but he’s not part of
the bloodline, which is the point of a genealogy. Neither of the gospels
trace the line of Mary. They’re both tracing Joseph. But what is even
more interesting is that they’re different
genealogies of Joseph. If you look carefully– you don’t look too carefully,
just read what it says. Ask yourself, who
is Joseph’s father? It depends whether you’re
reading Matthew or Luke. Who’s his grandfather? Different names. Great grandfather? Different name. Different names all the way
from Joseph back to King David. In Matthew’s genealogy,
Joseph descends from David’s son Solomon. In Luke’s genealogy, he descends
from David’s son Nathan. Well, how can that be? Well he can’t be, literally. What’s going on here is
that both of these authors want to trace the
genealogy of Jesus, and the reality is
they don’t know. How would they know? People have this mistaken notion
that, in the ancient world, everybody kept detailed
records of these things. People did not keep detailed
records of these things, and so Matthew and
Luke have had to do the best they could to come up
with the genealogies of Jesus for purposes of their own. The historical
reality is we don’t know Joseph’s father,
or grandfather, or great grandfather was. It’s something we
simply can’t know. I should add one of
the interesting thing about Matthew’s genealogy is
it is clearly a constructed genealogy. Matthew goes through the
genealogy from Abraham to David, and then
he goes from David to the biggest disaster in
the history of ancient Israel, when they were destroyed
by the Babylonians, for the Babylonian exile that
happened in the 6th century. And then he goes from the
Babylonian exile down to Jesus. He divides it into thirds. And what he tells you– and when you add it
up, he points out that there were 14 generations
between Abraham and David, 14 generations between David
and the Babylonian exile, and 14 generations between
the Babylonian exile and the Messiah, Jesus. 14, 14, 14– it’s almost as
if something miraculous is happening every 14 generations
in the history of Israel, so that this birth of
Jesus, in fact, is almost like it’s fulfilling a
prophecy or something. It’s part of the divine plan. The problem with that
is that– well, there are several problems. One problem is that, when you
actually add up the numbers, the third set of 14
is actually only 13. He counted wrong,
so that’s a problem. The other problem is that
you can compare the genealogy that Matthew gives
you with the genealogy that he got it from,
from the Old Testament, and he left out a few
names in a few places. Why? Because he wanted
the number 14 so it would be 14, 14, 14, so
it would look like a miracle. It’d not only look
like a miracle– there are several theories
about this 14 thing. Ancient peoples
real liked numbers. Well, what is 14? Well, it’s twice seven. Seven is the perfect number. This is a doubly
perfect genealogy. The other interesting thing
is that, when you spell– OK, this is a
little complicated. So in ancient
languages, they didn’t use a different
alphabetic system from their numerical
system the way we do. We use Roman letters, but
we use Arabic numerals. In ancient languages,
they use the letters of the alphabet
for their numbers. And so for example,
in Hebrew, aleph, the first letter is worth
one, beth is worth two, gimel is worth three, and so on. And so every letter
has a numerical value. If you spell the name David
in Hebrew and add it up– remember, the Messiah’s going
to be the son of David– spell David in Hebrew
and add the letters up– 14, as it turns out. And so the 14, 14,
14 thing in Matthew may be a way of saying this
really is the son of David. My point though is that it’s
a constructed genealogy. In other words,
it’s not something that you can go to the bank on
as being historically accurate. It’s not historically accurate. People wanted to say that Jesus
had certain kinds of lineages, certain genealogical
lineage, and they had to make up genealogies
in order to pull it off, including the genealogies that
ended up making it into the New Testament of Matthew and Luke. And so another picture
of Jesus’s relatives, his ancestors. Finally– this will be my last
point about legends involving the New Testament– the authors of the New
Testament gospels themselves. There are several
very nice portrayals of the Gospel writers
in the exhibit. This is Matthew. You can see he is busy
writing his gospel. This comes from a
17th century Bible, so it’s an early modern Bible
with its portrayal of Matthew, who is seated on a
throne-like thing. Since this thing was
done in 17th century, he’s not writing
in a scroll the way ancient people tended to write. He’s writing in a book. This is Mark, who has a
little book desk on which he can write his gospel. And so far, he’s written one
word, the word [INAUDIBLE]—- the beginning. He’s got a ways to go yet. And this is Luke,
who is, again– has kind of a little writing
table that he is using with his stylus in his hand. The Mark was from a 13th
century gospel manuscript. This portrayal of Luke is from a
12th century gospel manuscript. Traditionally, of course,
Matthew, Mark, Luke were thought to be the authors
of the first three gospels, John thought to be the
author of the fourth gospel. These are traditional
descriptions– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Bibles that you read today
have the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the titles– the Gospel according
to Matthew, Gospel according to Mark, et cetera. You will notice, however,
that when you actually read the gospels, the authors
don’t identify themselves. The gospels of the New
Testament, in fact, are all anonymous. The authors don’t
identify themselves. Whoever put the
titles in the gospel– over the gospels
were later editors. They were not in the
original writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They were added by
editors who wanted you to know who it was who
actually wrote these things. The traditional
descriptions indicate that two of the
writers of the gospels were actually
disciples of Jesus– Matthew, the tax collector–
mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 9– and John, the beloved disciple
of the Gospel of John. And so those two were disciples. Mark was thought
to be the secretary for the apostle Peter. So Mark was the
secretary for Peter, who wrote down what Peter
said, and then organized it into gospel. I’m getting I’m not
saying how it really was– I’m telling you what
the tradition says. Luke was thought to
have been the traveling companion of the apostle Paul. Luke wasn’t one
of the disciples– and Paul actually wasn’t one
of the disciples either– but Luke did his
homework and he was an associate of
the apostle Paul, and so he also wrote a gospel. And so that’s how you get
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John– two disciples and to
companions of the apostles. What we actually know
about these authors– so it seems unlikely to many
critical scholars of the Bible today that these
books were actually written by disciples of Jesus–
that the two disciples were the writers and that
Mark was a writer. In fact, it’s unlikely that
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were actually written by
people named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is pretty clear that the
gospels of the New Testament are not eyewitness
reports of what happened in the life of Jesus. These gospels were not written
by the immediate followers of Jesus. One reason for thinking that
is because it is almost certain that the immediate followers
of Jesus could not write. Today, we’re used to everybody–
basically everybody– 99% of this country is,
at some level, literate. Not everybody. Literacy is still–
it’s a big problem– illiteracy is still a big
problem, but just about 99% of people can read something
and can sign their names. In the ancient world,
it wasn’t like that. Massive literacy didn’t come
about until the Industrial Revolution. In ancient cultures,
in fact, most people could not read or write,
and far more people could read than could write. There have been
estimates about literacy in the ancient world,
the most famous of which was made by a scholar at
Columbia University named William Harris, who wrote a
book called Ancient Literacy. Harris estimates that,
in the ancient world, at the best of times,
maybe 10% of the population could read and write. And by write, he means
be able to copy out somebody else’s writing. Far fewer than that 10%
could compose a sentence. Fewer than that could
compose a narrative. Far fewer people could
impose an entire book. Who were the people who
could compose books? The people who were
highly literate were the people who
were very wealthy. They came from very
wealthy families. They were almost always
in urban settings, who had the leisure
and the finances to get a high-level education. That’s who could write
in the ancient world. There have been studies of
literacy in ancient Palestine, where Jesus ministered. These estimates indicate that,
because Palestine was far more rural than many other
places in the Roman Empire, there were lower literacy rates. Contrary to what many
people think, which is– many people think
that every Jewish boy went to synagogue school and
learned how to read and write. That appears to
be a modern myth. In fact, ancient literacy
in Palestine was very low. The best estimates indicate that
probably, at the time of Jesus, maybe 3% of the population
was roughly literate. Far fewer than that could
write, especially write books. The other thing to point out
is that Jesus’s native language and the native language of
his followers was Aramaic. They spoke Aramaic. The reason that matters
is because of what I said at the very beginning. The New Testament gospels
were written in Greek. They not only survive in
Greek, they were originally written in Greek– and not just low-level Greek,
they’re actually pretty good Greek. Whoever wrote Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John were highly-educated
Greek-speaking Christians. These books are normally
dated 30, 40, or 50 years after Jesus’s death,
probably some years after the death of his apostles. I think that Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John were not written by followers of Jesus
or companions of his apostles. They were probably written
by unknown persons who decided to write anonymously. And since they
wrote anonymously, we don’t know their names. But the traditional acriptions
are probably not right. Probably they were not written
by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. That’s a legend. It’s a legend that,
in some sense, is rooted in the Bible
itself because, of course, in our Bibles today, we read
the Gospel according to Matthew, but we don’t know actually
who the author was, other than he was a later Christian
who is highly educated and was not an Aramaic, speaker
but a Greek speaker. Still, the tradition goes
back to the second century. Within 100 years
of the production of these books after they had
been circulating anonymously for about 100 years,
there are church fathers who say that their names were
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and they give some
of the indication– some of the traditional
legends about them already in the second Christian century. By the way, one other
piece of evidence that– for example, that
Matthew did not write Matthew– apart from the fact that Matthew
was in Aramaic speaking lower class person from
Palestine, and probably was illiterate– when you
read the Gospel of Matthew, there is the calling of
Matthew in Matthew 9, where Matthew was
called to be a disciple. And it’s not narrated
in the first person. The author doesn’t
say, one day, Jesus came up to my tax collecting
booth, and he said to me. He narrated in the third person. Why is narrated in
the third person? Because he’s talking
about somebody else. It’s only later people
who said, oh yeah, the person who wrote
this thing is Matthew. Let me wrap this up with
it just a few conclusions, and then I will be happy
to entertain any questions. This artwork is compelling
on its own terms. This exhibit here
in the Getty is– provides superb examples
of medieval illuminated manuscripts that is
interesting, in artistic terms. It is also interesting
because of what it tells us about what people were thinking
through the Middle Ages– at least the artists who
were producing this work, who I think, in many
ways, were thinking about the stories
of Jesus the way other medieval
people were thinking, who were not
artistically gifted. The stories of
Jesus were important because they told
spiritual truths. It did not matter
to these people that this actually happened or
this actually didn’t happen. They didn’t think in those
historiographic terms. There were stories
being told about Jesus that were valuable as stories
because the stories themselves conveyed spiritual truths. It did not matter
to these people whether these stories were
really in the Bible or not. They didn’t have a
clear sense of which books are in and which are out. The educated people
could have told you, but uneducated people–
in other words, the vast majority of people
in the medieval period and the early modern period– probably could not tell
you which books are really in the New Testament. They had heard
stories about Jesus, and the stories they heard were
valuable in and of themselves, whether they were
in the Bible or not. The stories were not necessarily
to be taken literally and to be taken
apart word for word in a careful exegesis
of the passages. The stories conveyed
spiritual truth that you could talk about. You could talk about these
stories and learn from them. The art helped people
think about these stories, they helped them reflect
on these stories, and they helped them see the
spiritual truths that they found in these stories. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] I think there are two
microphones that are available, so if you have a
question, raise your hand, and we will try to get
a microphone to you. AUDIENCE: Hi, Mike McNamara. Is the New Testament
clear on whether or not God and Mary were
the parents of Jesus? Or is sometimes Jesus
thought of as the new Adam, and he’s placed, I
guess, in Mary’s womb, and then Adam comes out,
but Mary didn’t really have anything to do with it,
other than carrying the child? Is the New Testament
clear on that, or is it contradictory on that? BART D. EHRMAN: Are you asking
whether the New Testament intimates that God performed a
kind of sexual act with Mary? AUDIENCE: No, but is Mary– does she furnish some of the
what we call genes of Jesus– BART D. EHRMAN: Yeah, right. AUDIENCE: –or is Jesus
really a new man, a new Adam? BART D. EHRMAN: Yes, right. So the New Testament
is not clear on this. And unfortunately,
again, there’s not the artwork to
help us out on it. There are only two
passages that really talk about Mary giving birth. There’s the passage in Matthew
and the passage in Luke. Matthew says nothing. All that says is the birth
of Jesus was like this, and then Jesus gets born. So there’s nothing. In Luke, however, there’s the
account of the Annunciation– there’s a very nice picture,
a nice artistic representation of the Annunciation
in the exhibit here– where the angel Gabriel comes
to Mary and tells her that she’s going to conceive. And she becomes a
little bit confused because she’s never
had sex, and so how is she going to conceive? And Gabriel tells her how. This is Luke 1:35. The angel Gabriel tells
her, the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, the
power of the most high shall overshadow you, so
that the one born of you shall be called
holy, the Son of God. Now, it looks like
what he’s saying is that the spirit is
going to make her pregnant, and it’s using fairly
graphic physical language. And so it’s a little bit hard
to know if that’s what it means, but that may be what it means. How much of Mary was
conveyed into Jesus? There were later heresies
in the second century that said that Mary gave
nothing to Jesus, that he came through her like
water through a tube– where the water doesn’t pick
up anything from the tube. It’s just the conduit. So Mary was just the conduit. But that view was
later declared heresy because Mary did pass
on a human nature to Jesus, even though
she did not pass along his sinful nature to Jesus. But that’s a later thing. So what I could have done in
answering your question is– you asked, does the New
Testament say anything about it– my answer could have been no. AUDIENCE: Thank you. BART D. EHRMAN: You’re welcome. AUDIENCE: Hi. This may be a little
bit off topic, but I’ve seen
portrayals of Jesus as Sol Invictus
in Roman mosaics. Are you aware of any
portrayal of Jesus in the docetic tradition? BART D. EHRMAN: So you’re not
asking about Sol Invictus, you’re asking about
the docetic tradition? AUDIENCE: Yeah, just how
some of the heretical views survived in art. BART D. EHRMAN: Yeah. No, I don’t know
anything about that. Right, how would you
portray a docetic Jesus? I guess that may be a
blank page because then he wouldn’t be there. So I don’t know. AUDIENCE: What does
that word mean? AUDIENCE: Dali’s Last Supper? BART D. EHRMAN: Yeah,
Salvador Dali’s Last Supper– OK, yes. Sorry, we’re doing inside talk. When he’s referring to
a docetic view of Jesus, in the early church,
there were debates about– there were debates–
who is Jesus? Is he a human? If he’s human, is he also God? If he’s God, how
can he be human? And there were all
sorts of variations about different people
had different opinions. There were some people who said
Jesus is a full flesh and blood human being. His parents were
Mary and Joseph. They had sex. They had a baby. His name was Jesus. He was more righteous
than anyone else, and he was chosen by God to
be the savior of the world. So he was human. But if he’s a
human, he’s not God, because there’s only one god. And if Jesus is God, and God
is God, you’ve got two Gods, So that you don’t have two
Gods, you’ve got one God. And so there were people
who said Jesus is human, but he’s not God. There are other people
who said Jesus is God, but he’s not human. If he’s God, he can’t be human. A human can’t be God any more
than a human can be a grape. They’re different things. And so if you’re God,
you’re not human. If you’re human, you’re not God. Well, then if Jesus is God,
why did he seem to be human? This is where the
word docetic comes in. Docetic comes from a
Greek word, [GREEK],, which means to seem or to appear. There were early Christians
who said that Jesus was God who only seemed to be human. He appeared to have flesh and
blood, but he didn’t really. It was a phantasm, and so
he only seemed to be human. So that’s a docetic Christology. So both the view that he’s
completely human but not God, and the view that he’s
completely God but not human– both of those lost out in the
fights about what to believe. And the view that
ended up winning out was a compromise position, which
said, yes, he’s fully human, and yes, he’s fully
God at the same time. And it’s not that he’s
half human and half God– he’s fully human
and he’s fully God. And this ended up being
declared a mystery. It’s declared a mystery because,
if you can’t understand it, you misunderstand it. So it’s a mystery. And to answer to your
question, I don’t know– until my friend Jeff
[INAUDIBLE] pointed out Salvador Dali’s Last Supper– which is
Salvador Dali’s best painting, by the way– portrays Jesus as something– you can see through him
to the Sea of Galilee. It’s a terrific painting. But I don’t know anything in
the history of Christianity that you could identify
as a docetic portrayal. AUDIENCE: I know you said that
art is not your bailiwick, but in The Birth of Mary,
hanging over the bed, there looks to be a
green punching bag. BART D. EHRMAN: Yes. AUDIENCE: Any idea
what that symbolizes? BART D. EHRMAN: Yes, that’s
the medieval portrayal of a green punching bag. That is the curtain. So she’s in this bed stand
with this bed frame around it. That’s the curtain
that’s pulled up. But I had exactly
that question today. I went through with Kristen,
who’s the art expert, and I was asking
questions because I knew I’d get some questions
I couldn’t answer. I said, what’s that
green punching bag? And she said,
that’s the curtain. AUDIENCE: Hi. In the book of John, you
quoted, “it is finished.” BART D. EHRMAN: Yes. AUDIENCE: What are your
thoughts on the argument that the original Greek is
actually complete, and not finished– and if
so, does it matter? BART D. EHRMAN: The
Greek word, it’s [GREEK].. It’s the Greek word– the Greek verb [GREEK] Let me see. English– we get our
word “teleology” from it. That probably doesn’t
help you much. So the word means both
to finish something and to bring it to completion. I guess the question is–
the theological one– is he simply saying
it’s over with now, or is he saying that
all the prophecies now have been fulfilled? And I think the Greek
is ambiguous and can be interpreted both ways. It might mean both things. AUDIENCE: I understood
that Roman law prescribed crucifixion
only for treason. How did the two
crucified thieves end up attached to Jesus,
when Roman law presumably didn’t permit that? BART D. EHRMAN: In Roman
law, for one thing, there was not any kind of– it’s a very good
question– there was not any kind of national Roman law
about crucifixion or about most things. Roman law was very good, when
it came to civil affairs. So there were laws about
divorce, and about inheritance, and about selling your land,
and about civil affairs. There were very few laws
about criminal affairs. Criminal affairs were
basically given over to whoever was ruling the
province– outside of Rome itself, whoever was
ruling the province. So the governor
of a province was given pretty much free reign. The logic was that the
Romans wanted the– they wanted two things from
the governors in the provinces. They wanted the governor
to keep the peace and they wanted the governor
to raise taxes for Rome. And whatever it took to
bring about those two things, pretty much they had free reign. And so provincial governors
could have anybody crucified they wanted to. Usually, you really couldn’t–
you weren’t supposed to crucify a Roman citizen,
so that was out. But if you wanted to make
a display of somebody– you wanted to
shame them publicly and you wanted to
set an example– you could have them crucified. Normally, you’re right. Normally, it was reserved
for issues of treason, but also, it was reserved
for the real lowlives. And so it was not
uncommon, for example, for slaves to be crucified. We have numerous accounts
of slaves being crucified, because were slaves, and
so you crucified them. These two people being
crucified with Jesus, we don’t know what the
charges were in their case. The charge for Jesus
was that he was called the King of the Jews. That’s a political charge of
sedition against the state. You’re claiming to be a king,
when only the Romans can appoint the King. So it’s a political charge. We don’t know of the
robbers, as they’re called, we’re actually just
lowlife robbers that they decided
to string up, or– the word robber that is
used in the Gospel of John is a word that is used by the
Jewish historian Josephus– the word [NON-ENGLISH] is
used by the Jewish historian Josephus to refer to
Jewish guerrilla fighters– so people who were engaged
in guerrilla warfare. And so John is suggesting
at least that possibly, that these might be
people who were opposed to the government in some way. AUDIENCE: Would you talk
about the idea that probably the first stories told about
Jesus were told in the Aramaic language– so that would be
the first oral tradition– and then perhaps the idea
that, somewhere along the line, somebody who spoke Aramaic
and who could write might have initiated manuscripts
or scrolls that later, somebody came along and
translated into Greek? BART D. EHRMAN: Yes. I think that’s absolutely right. The earliest stories
about Jesus would have been told by his closest
followers, who spoke Aramaic, and eventually, they got
translated into Greek. It creates some
interesting situations in the Greek New Testament. For one thing, I quoted
this passage from Matthew– from Mark’s gospel,
[SPEAKING ARAMAIC] And then Mark says–
which translated, means, my God, my God,
why have you forsaken me? When the Gospel of Mark was
translated into Aramaic later, based on the Greek, it’s
a little bit strange. He cries out [SPEAKING ARAMAIC],,
which translated, means, [SPEAKING ARAMAIC]
See what I mean? Because it’s put into Aramaic. The other interesting situation
is that sometimes– when the translation was made
from Aramaic into Greek, something was lost
in translation. And you can restore it
by translating it back into Aramaic. So there are people
who do this on Saturday night, when they’ve
got nothing else to do. And as an example,
there’s this famous line in the gospel of
Mark where Jesus is being upbraided for
what his disciples have done, breaking the Sabbath. And Jesus tells
his interlocutors that Sabbath was made for
man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the son of man
is lord of the Sabbath. And when you read that
in Greek or English, it doesn’t make any sense. Of course, I tell
my students when, they run across a
therefore, they should ask, what’s the therefore there for? So in this case, Sabbath
was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the son of man
is the Lord of the Sabbath. It doesn’t make sense. Why would Jesus be the
Lord of the Sabbath, just because Sabbath is made
for humans and not the other way around? But if you translate
it back into Aramaic, the Greek word– son of man
in Aramaic is [ARAMAIC].. And the word for son
of man is [ARAMAIC].. And so the original
saying was Sabbath was made for [ARAMAIC],, not
[ARAMAIC] for the Sabbath. Therefore, [ARAMAIC] is
the Lord of the Sabbath. Now, it makes sense. You see, humans have
priority over the Sabbath because the Sabbath
was made for them. Not the other way around. But you’re absolutely right. It’s one of the problems. When you’re reading something
in the English words of Jesus, you’re reading translations
of the Greek, which are translations of the
Aramaic, and something always is getting lost. AUDIENCE: Good evening. Thank you very much
for your presentation. BART D. EHRMAN: I’m
sorry, where are you? AUDIENCE: I’m right up here. BART D. EHRMAN: Yes? AUDIENCE: What about the– in either the letter
of 1 or 2 Peter, it talks about Jesus
preaching to those in prison, and how does that relate
to your gospel Nicodemus and the legends of how do
you deal with what happened between Friday and Sunday? BART D. EHRMAN: Yes, thank you. I actually had my
Bible here with me because I was going to
quote that passage from– it’s 1 Peter 3:19. Is this mic still working? Did the mic just go off? Is it working? Yeah, OK. Maybe I just went off. So it’s a very strange
passage in 1 Peter that biblical interpreters
throw up their hands trying to figure what it means. But what it says is, Jesus
was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits
in prison, who in former times, did not obey, when God waited
patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the Ark. So it sounds like Jesus
went in his spirit, but he went to
preach to the people from the days of Noah, who were
destroyed when the flood came. So biblical scholars have
a field day with this, because if you have
no clue what it means, you can write a book about it. And that is, after
all, you get tenure. So nobody knows what– but you’re absolutely right. This passage is the
beginning of the idea, maybe Jesus went somewhere
during those three days. And so he went to the
spirits in prison, and so that started
the thinking at least. AUDIENCE: I wanted to ask– SPEAKER: Before
the next question, from the back of
the room, I’m just going to give you some bad
news and some good news. The bad news is that the next
question will be the last one. The good news is
Professor Ehrman has agreed to take a few minutes
to sign books that you bought out front afterwards. And we need your
cooperation, which is to say please, after he
answers the next question and we thank him one more
time, let him get out there. And then the other
piece of information is that we did tell him he
gets to eat dinner tonight, so we’re going to have to
let him leave eventually. So last question please. AUDIENCE: Thank you. Actually, this is a
good last question. Given that you are
teaching in the Bible Belt, and what you have just
put on the screen, in terms of legends,
and the historicity, and all those
problems, how does that go down with your students? BART D. EHRMAN: Right. Well, I’m still
living, so that’s good. All right, so I know he wants
us to be the last thing. He wants me to hurry up. OK, I want to tell a story. So here’s the deal. Some of my students get upset. Some get their eyes opened up. Some think that they
are liberated now. They become crazy
atheists or something. I don’t know. Some do that, but mainly,
most students actually just appreciate getting
greater knowledge. For me, actually
the stranger thing is that, in my 23
years at Chapel Hill, teaching 300, 500
students a year, I have never gotten a
complaint from a parent. And in fact, in all my
time in Chapel Hill, I’ve only received one
phone call from a parent. I probably have taught
400 a year for 23 years, and so I’ve taught
10,000 students. I’ve only got one phone call. So this is about 10
years ago, 12 years ago. I’m sitting in my office. I’ve just posted
my final grades, and I get– a mother calls me,
and I think, oh, here it goes. I’m going to get my first phone
call complaining about a grade. Well, it was kind of that. She was complaining
about a grade. Her daughter had taken my
class and had gotten an F, and had flunked out of school. Dr. Ehrman, I just
wish you could change my daughter’s grade. I said, well, I can’t just
change your daughter’s grade because you’d like me to. Dr., I’m just praying
to Jesus that you will change that grade. I said, well, I appreciate
that, but I really– there’s nothing I can do. And I said, well, give me
your daughter’s name again. And she gave it to me. I said, well, let me go look. And I looked it up and
I looked at the scores. And she had gotten a 56, and
the passing grade was a 60. And so I said, I’m really
sorry, but I can’t– I just can’t add points
because you would like me to. Well, Dr. Ehrman,
I’m just praying that Jesus will change
your mind about that. I said, OK, I appreciate
that, but I just can’t. So hang up. So I started thinking. It was one of these
large classes where I had several teaching
assistants who had done the grading,
and the guy who had been the teaching assistant
for this particular woman, who– oh, I didn’t tell you
the important part. Yeah, here’s the important part. Yeah, yeah, yeah. This woman tells me in the
midst of this conversation that she works at a vegetable
stand in Western North Carolina on the side
of a road, and she’s been saving her money her entire
life so her daughter could go to college. And since she’s
flunked my class, she’s been flunked
out of college. And so I’m feeling terrible. I can’t just add four
points, so what can I do? So I’m feeling bad,
so I decide, well, I’m going to just look at this. So the thing was the
teaching assistant that this particular
woman had is one of these guys who’s really
good in ancient history, but was never very good in math. And so I pulled out the
grades, and I said, you know, I’m going to re-crunch
these numbers. I re-added them– he
was off by four points. Absolutely true. This is not a legend. This is absolutely true. It was off by four points. I called her up. I said, I don’t know what
kind of prayer life you got. OK, I need to stop there. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

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