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Bart Ehrman: Revelations about Revelation... and more

Jul 13, 2023
Hello and welcome to the Origins podcast. I'm your host Lawrence Krauss. In this episode we will all have some


s about the Revelations. By that I mean that my guests on this episode are biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, who has written several best-selling books. books over the years that have changed my and many others' understanding of what the Scriptures are is a remarkable historian and scholar and I have wanted to have him on the podcast for a long time and was lucky enough to find some time in his agenda after the release of his most recent book Armageddon, one of his other favorite books that I enjoy and that we talk about is How Jesus Became God and it literally describes how the biblical Jesus went from being human to being Divine in the eyes of the early Christians. and later contains some surprises, but perhaps nothing compared to the surprises of his most recent book Armageddon, where we learn that it is a story about the Book of Revelations and we learned that one of the most common features of Revelations today in the popular literature and movies The Rapture is not even part of the Book of Revelations, that is just one of the many surprises and insights we gained in our discussion and I talked not only about those two books but also about his own Journey of Discovery since he was a young fundamentalist until finally deciding to become a scholar and historian and follow the evidence and interpret the Scriptures in terms of the evidence and the historical evidence.
bart ehrman revelations about revelation and more
It is a very informative discussion. I really enjoy arguing with Bart whenever I've had the chance and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. You can now watch this episode ad-free on our critical mass substack site if you are a paid subscriber and those subscriptions support the Origins Project Foundation or you can watch it on our YouTube Channel or of course you can listen to it anywhere you can listen to podcasts no matter how you watch or listen to it. I hope you are as entertained and informed as I am by this episode with Bart Ehrman, well, Bart Ehrman.
bart ehrman revelations about revelation and more

More Interesting Facts About,

bart ehrman revelations about revelation and more...

Thank you so much for being on the podcast, you're someone I've wanted to talk to for years and years and I've admired you for many reasons from afar, so thank you for being here, well, it's a pleasure, thank you, it's great to be. on your show, well, you know, what I've admired is your scholarship and your knowledge of religious history and the textual context of Scripture, but the most important thing is your bravery and your willingness to say what you deduce and and I think for me that's the highest level one can be is saying what you know, leaving your conclusions, not having them beforehand, but deriving them and then, and then, you know, explaining where they come from and um.
bart ehrman revelations about revelation and more
At the same time, I have to admit that I've spent a lot of time reading your stuff again


recently in preparation for this thing I wanted during this podcast. I'm also personally fascinated by you for a variety of reasons I'm trying to understand. their attitudes now I know that we all have history and I find it interesting a certain dichotomy between the historical examination, I won't say cold but precise, of the Scriptures and its clarity, well, it seemed clear to me in your heart love for Jesus so we will get there we will get there wow okay then okay um but first I I um uh and as I say I want to talk about you, you've written a new book that's fascinating to I, uh, Armageddon on Revelations is the least understood book in the Bible, at least as far as I know. references and, um, for many reasons that we'll get to and then I want to talk about a much earlier book, which was, I think.
bart ehrman revelations about revelation and more
The first book of yours, I want you to read, is How Jesus Became God, which is a fascinating historical examination of something that people don't realize and I love the story of the fact that people assume that perceptions were always the ones that are now and uh and in fact, the books that were written two thousand years ago, you would expect them to have a slightly different set of perceptions, but um um and your examinations are historical, not theological, but before we get into the scripture story I want to uh I want to get into your story because this is an Origins podcast and it's me and I and I want to go back so you were born we're actually almost the same age you were born a year after me in Lawrence .
Kansas, which I've been to, I toured Kansas one time trying to defend Evolution against uh well I think actually I think we won that um I think we won that uh uh that particular issue now is when you know this is when they were trying to introduce into high schools um Evolution in the sign, I mean, creationism or identification into the science curriculum and uh and and I think I think we won that um but uh but it was fascinating to tour it various campuses and they talk and uh but you were Lawrence says Kansas is a um I guess it's a religious community.
I guess I mean your religiosity started early but I was wondering if it started at home. It started at home. My parents were. um my parents were Christians and we went to church when I was a kid um it was an Episcopal Church I think when I was a kid my parents were maybe


outgoing socially minded Christians rather than particularly theological or something like that um but anyway we I went to church and um, yeah, and your Lawrence Kansas Lawrence is kind of like Chapel Hill is where I teach now in North Carolina, it tends to be one of those liberal places uh in Kansas at least because of the University because the universities You know , it's a great university and there are a lot of them and so the kids, you know, the kids I ran with, a lot of them were college kids, you know, professors, that kind of thing where your parents tell me about your parents. .
They didn't work at the university, did they work at the University or were they there for another reason, so they met at the University after World War II, my dad was there on the GI Bill and my mom just? I got a scholarship there, so they're both from small towns in Kansas. Neither of them was particularly academic. My father was in business and ended up being a salesman for a paper box company and making a living. In doing that, my mom was a secretary, um, and the interesting thing is that both my brother and I, my brother is three years older than me and he teaches classics at Kent State, so we both do Greek and Latin, oh, totally Oh my goodness, from a salesman. and a secretary, yes well I often wonder about this so the question is in the house obviously you are linked behind you and I am also a fan of books but I mean I have read voraciously and always I have, but did they encourage your love of scholarship reading, for example?
I mean, they both became, like I say, interesting academics, my brother and I, neither my parents went to college or finished high school, um, but uh it was. From the beginning I read a lot in your house, so what they emphasized was getting a good education and, um, because they recognized that that was the key to success. They both came from a very young age and, you know, not very well. The lower middle class families and um knew that based on them having gone to college, they were really head and shoulders above most of their high school friends and they realized that that would happen, so my brother and I simply, independently, huh.
We were very different from each other, but we went our separate ways and we both ended up loving education, so they didn't, they didn't put a lot of pressure on us in that way, they just wanted us to get grades, they just wanted to be educated, but have gone to university. maybe that was the difference, my parents didn't want us to have an education, they wanted us to be professionals. I mean, if you think about a living being, whether it's a religious scholar or a classicist, that's not exactly what it is. what you tell your kids, hey, go out and become a class that says it's a good way to make a living, no, my parents weren't happy about my brother going into Classics because they didn't think there would be any way to that he would EVER get a job and in my case it was because they thought they considered the ministry to be a noble profession and they just assumed that I was going to be in the Ministry and so they accepted that.
In my case, it's okay in terms of reading from the beginning, I mean, you, I guess you say your family was kind of a traditional Christian family and maybe you went to church, but there wasn't a lot of theology involved at home, I guess. yes. now you read the Bible when you were younger uh no, not really until uh, when I was in high school, I had a born again experience and that's when I really got into it, but yeah, in the palace I think they revered the Bible, but no one. You know, we don't bother eating it like most Christians, we'll get to it like most people, yeah, yeah, you like the Bible and you think it's absolutely true, but I've never read it and I think that's true.
I think that, in my opinion, is an essential part of the reason why Christianity has been successful. People actually read the Bible, in my opinion, much less really religious people, but in any case, um uh uh, and the same thing I'm Jewish, I was raised Jewish and I was you know. I went to the big parties and everything else, but I don't think they ever taught me about the atrocities. uh okay, I only learned about them much, much later, yeah, it was always defending or being or being oppressed instead of oppressing, yeah, well, ignorance. It cuts both ways because I mean, you know, in your field there are people who oppose, you know, Evolution or we were thinking that you were created six thousand years ago, they don't know anything about it because they haven't read anything. about it, but they believe in Christianity even though they know nothing and haven't read about it, yeah, it goes both ways, yeah, it's fascinating that that's that way, uh, yeah, well, actually, I wanna get there to the literalist people that in some ways I have debated with many people, including and and among the various people I have debated with, one of the people.
I wouldn't say respect, but I would call him notably, Ken Ham, who, at least it seems to me, said. You know, we have debated several times once on TV and we told more or less the truth, which is good, if any part of this is not true, then everything is suspicious and therefore you know it and I agree with he completely yes, except so, yes, in any case, so, um, you're reading, you read, no, but if you didn't read the Bible, you read, I never thought you were never interested in science, for example. Or were you always more interested in history and, um, and fiction or nonfiction, mostly fictions, fiction, science fiction, so I had terrible science teachers, um, from all levels, uh, I just had things completely horrible, so I never developed an interest in science and I wish I had because now I'm really interested and, you know, I read, I read things for later levels, a lot of scientific things, but once you get past the basic level, my brain just doesn't He goes there being interested.
I mean, and that's why I write books for that, yeah, well, that's true, I mean, that's the kind of thing you know, I mean, I like reading cosmology and physics and, you know, I've been reading, you know , evolutionary psychology, it's just that you know several types. of things that are not related to mine, but yes, while I was growing up everything was fiction. I loved science fiction. I liked fiction. That's basically it. So you know when you say you like science fiction because that shows how bad the schools are, because if you like science. fiction, it should have been a perfect starting point for liking science because you know you know what science fiction is and it inspires you like science does and in fact I think that's pretty much what Stephen Hawking said in my book The Physical.
Star Trek and it's a shame because you know those same questions are what's exciting and all the kids are excited about those things you know they are but you have to have someone show you why it's exciting instead of what I mean . and if teaching is absolutely boring and I don't want to say, oh my God, you know, get me out of here, yeah, my mother wanted me to be a doctor and my brother a lawyer, because that's what Jewish kids are supposed to be okay. educated. especially for parents who haven't gone to college and my brother became a lawyer which is just one of the reasons I didn't become a doctor, that same reason when I went to school around the same time .
You worked or you were separated, biology was like memorizing the parts of a frog, there couldn't be anything more boring and tedious and I felt sad now that I missed it, I mean, obviously I've educated myself since then, but, you know? That was back in the day when you were learning all sorts of interesting things, including genetics and the structure of DNA, but no, it was all ridiculous, you know, in schools we unfortunately teach science as if it were a bunch of facts instead of a process. Interestingly, you know, uh, whereas, as far as I can tell, a lot is taught in Bible studies, I mean, people memorize a lot.
I mean, you always know whenever I've been on stage with people, including theologians as well as apologists, um, you. I know you always remember all the passages and, uh, and it seems like a central part of Bible training, anotherresult of being in um in uh Wheaton now already in Moody. I realized that I could probably go on and do graduate work and at Moody my idea developed in my last year at Moody and I knew you know. I knew there were a lot of really smart people who had PhDs and taught in Christian contexts, but I thought I would get a PhD and it would be Christian teaching in a secular context and I thought this would be kind of a mission field for me, so I had, there was planned that you know, I wasn't sure what it was going to be and I wasn't sure if it was going to be in English or in Bible studies, uh. but I took Greek at Wheaton and it turned out that it was something I was pretty good at, so I decided, um, maybe that was the way to go.
I was studying the Greek New Testament, okay, and then, and then, you chose. go to Princeton Theological Seminary um what you want um and again you know I taught at Yale for a while and I know there's a theology school that I visited from time to time um uh, but does the Theological Seminary have any connection to the university or it's completely separate, it's separate and the way you distinguish them is if it's a Divinity School, that means it's a professional school within the university, yes, and a seminary is a separate institution. Yale Divinity School is actually a very good school, I mean. they're not like that, you know oh no no, I spent it we, yeah, no, I'll buy that and in a lot of places, most of the Divinity schools, you know, they're academic places, they're training ministers, but they're academics instead of a many seminaries that are not academic, you know they are actually minister factories and yes, Princeton is both, so Prince Prince University started as a ministerial training place that everyone did and then it was divided into the university and the seven, so you are right across the street and can take classes at both locations.
I was wondering if there would be that crowding when I was in Boston again at MIT. I could take classes at Harvard and in fact one of my good friends at the He somehow did a Master's in Divinity and he was an atheist, but it was like the equivalent of getting a liberal arts degree that you just wanted to continue and he can do it. at the Divinity School, which is a good place to be able to do that kind of thing so they're right across the street. Did you take classes at Princeton and the Seminary or not?
Not much. There is a group of secularists. What do they know? Well, you're still right, that was still your feeling good, well, no, it wasn't exactly my feeling, my feeling was that I was really interested in um at that time in my life I was really interested in biblical interpretation and in the analysis of ancient Greek manuscripts and those are two things that happened in At the University Seminary they definitely had a religious studies program and they had people who worked on the New Testament and early Christianity, but they had more of a sort of social historical approach than a interpretative.
Well, and no one there worked in the specialized field of Greek manuscript analysis and so basically once again and I made bad decisions and decided to just take classes at the Seminary well, it didn't happen like that, you turned out okay, um but, however, actually It was a bad decision. As far as you as a fundamentalist Christian is concerned because that's where it started, I think I see the contradiction, correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, because you are interested in interpretation and I am. Think about it actually and this is, I think, even this is from your Wikipedia page that you realized that there were five thousand manuscripts in the New Testament and they weren't the same and starting to see discrepancies is what maybe started to convince you of that they were.
It is not Divine, do you want to give more details? Yeah, that's kind of a yes and no, so the deal with the manuscripts is that, actually, I knew all about this before, even when I was a fundamentalist in mood, I wrote articles about it that you have. Today there are around 5,600 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and we do not have the originals. Yes, so we have to find out what the authors wrote, since we don't have their writings, but we have these later copies. One of the reasons I got into analyzing Greek manuscripts was because when I was a fundamentalist I thought that God had inspired every word and I realized that there were places where we didn't know what the words were and that's why I wanted to find the words. words I don't see anymore um and that in itself didn't take me away from the faith what took me away from the faith was playing from being a fundamentalist Christian what took me away from that were places where we were pretty sure we knew what the words were and when You compare this passage to that passage in its origin, what seemed to be its original words, they just contradicted each other and I finally got to a point where I had to admit that these two passages really contradict each other. others and might also give up trying to prove that you can reconcile them.
I've been trying to reconcile everything and at some point, if you're just being intellectually honest, say you know. I don't believe it. This is a contradiction, that's what made me think, yes, yes, that's what I admire, it's the intellectual honesty that I have. In fact, years later I was invited to an event at Yale for the centennial of a professorship on religion and there were five of us and me. Theologians, I was a symbolic atheist, but I was surprised how they could make epic circles with an epic circle. They were very intellectually easy or not easy, is not the word intellectually capable of taking things that seem to be contradictions. and find some ways to make it not and I and I I guess I find your electric honesty refreshing, but this is probably at Yale, yeah, I mean, these weren't all theologians ago, these were people who came back to give lectures on God, one was in two, one was from Notre Dame, a very famous theologian from Notre Dame, for example, and well, you probably know this because most of the famous theologians and serious biblical scholars there is no one at Yale who thinks that the New Testament It has no contradictions, yes, they were people who came to talk. about uh basically well um about God and and um uh and and but I was surprised when I was faced with the inevitable, I think whatever is the apparent not only internal contradictions between the Scriptures as different writers uh write as you do I talk about it at length in both books and in general, but the contradictions with science um oh yeah, but that's what I found surprising is that you could take these contradictions and turn them around and make this immense set of logical steps from one to the other. until they came back and it was all you know and apparently made it seem consistent when it wasn't at all.
I was impressed by your fluidity in that sense, but I'm more impressed by people who look at contradictions and say their contradictions, I think it's a trick, one of the reasons it's a complicated issue is because I think a lot of sophisticated people who are Theologians think that theological reasoning is in a different sphere from scientific reasoning and they see it as different from mathematical reasoning and they see it as different from sociological reasoning and they think that these different spheres have different ways of justifying knowledge and grounding knowledge and therefore that they don't think that some not all there isn't there isn't a view on this there There are millions of opinions about it, but one opinion is that it means you can't really use science to debunk claims that aren't amenable to science and so that, when someone like um, you know, when someone like Sam Harris or someone says that You know that's just a contradiction of science.
You know that to be religious you have to not believe in science. They just roll their eyes and say no. It doesn't really work that way because they know that scientific knowledge is not that. They really believe that there is Adam and Eve or something like that, yes, no, no, but although some think that that word of God is somehow not limited to you know, the ways of science, you know, that's interesting. I wasn't you. It just reminded me of something that I wasn't going to mention, but it's that, as I say, I've had opportunities over the years, even in the Vatican, but to talk to a lot of theologians because they used to invite me to a lot of different places. places and um and I always ask the theologian a question because in my opinion theology is not um theology itself is not an area of ​​scholarship of what I would call academic scholarship in the sense and I and I confront them by asking the telephone question. .
I would say give me an example in the last 500 years of a contribution to knowledge that theology has provided. Now I'm not talking about history or philosophy, but I know and I always got the same answer, which I assume from the way you talk. make it clear each time that the answer was what do you mean by knowledge? Uh-huh and I thought it was fascinating. I didn't know it at all. It really surprised me at the time, but in the context of what you're saying. make it clear what and and and I would always say well, you know, if I asked a chemist or a biologist or a historian, they would tell me right away, they wouldn't ask that question, what do you mean by knowledge and?
I think in a sense they have to be right because you have to assume in some way that to account for all this you have to assume that there is some distinction between knowledge and the rest of the world and knowledge of God, well, you know. Theologians believe they have made progress on certain topics, but since nothing is verifiable, it is not knowledge in the same sense. I mean, you can't, how do you show that you know a particular theological view is right or wrong and it doesn't work? in the same way you can where you can do something you know something you have an experiment or something good your philosophy you can but I guess that's what I'm saying I mean it seems to me what I used to argue I don't want to be too against too controversial here or contradictory here but I used to say well, you could take Theology and you could take the parts for what is useful there is history there is literary criticism there is philosophy there is logic put them in their relative departments and then there is nothing left, yeah no, look, I'm on your side on this, but I will, but they would say it's different because it has a different theme and it has a different basis, um, and I know people who aren't in that world, they just think. man, that's just I don't know, they stuck their heads in the sand, but as you know, as you've experienced, there are some very smart people who do this remarkably intelligent and remarkably literate and well, you know it's really fascinating to me and I want yeah, well, we'll get to that in the context of your writing later because I'm fine, we'll get to that anyway.
I want, I want to go in a circle, I want to start with you and I want to finish. with you, but if in six or eight hours not, I hope not, it's all about me, yes, yes, that's right, well, I am and you know you're the interesting person that I wanted to talk to and and I and I and I I've learned a lot from listening to you and reading you and I appreciate it, but um uh, just when you talked about the path to belief that, while it was pretty quick, it was a born again moment that you want to talk about.
On the path to unbelief, I mean, you start to become liberal, but when did you do that? And the contradictions were just the fact that there were contradictions that were inherently there that led you to disbelief or it was or it was more uh actually it wasn't that. not at all, as it turns out, um, the contradictions, uh, opened my eyes to the Bible as a very human book, um, and this was probably my third year in my master's program. I began to realize that I simply couldn't hold on to a strong evangelical understanding of the Bible, but I remained a Christian for a long time.
I did my Ph.D. I was a Christian the entire time I was in the doctorate. In fact, during my PhD I was a minister in a Baptist church and preached on the radio every day. Sunday morning and I did funerals and weddings and things like that, yeah, Baptist Church, so I stayed Christian and then I became more and more liberal. I would say that I got to a point where I was a very, very liberal Christian where I believed, you know, I thought that there was some kind of divine being in the universe and that Jesus was the way that this Divine being could be best understood. .
The stories about Jesus I didn't think were, we literally knew everything Jesus said or did or something, but I thought the biblical story guy embraced in some sense the kind of ultimate meaning of the universe that is backed by some kind of of being divine, it's a very liberal view, but at some point, probably about 30 years ago, I just gave it all away and it wasn't because of my erudition or my erudition per se. My biblical scholarship was really about trying to wrestle with the problem of suffering and, you know, whatever you think about as a Christian, I mean the basics.
The line is that there is a Divine being in the world that intervenes and helps people when they need it and saves them and, um, I thought about it for a long time, I read about it for a long time, in various fields, philosophy, theology, study biblical. I know I got to a point where I just didn't believe there was an active God in the world. world you just look at yourof the world, sure, but in a very very simplistic way. Very simplistic terms and the Bible is like that, but you know, I think understanding the Gospel of John is probably more important for culture and society than understanding Hamlet.
If you just try to measure what is enough for me as a university. Professor, I think most people in universities teach things that they don't believe in, yes, in humanities, especially yes. I mean, you teach among me, you teach in Germany, you know 20th century German history, it's not because you want to be a Nazi, you know? they think it's important for people to have that context, okay, yeah, and ultimately, I guess I don't want to hit you with this because, look, the reason most scientists don't do science is not because they're trying to save the world. world as I tell people because they enjoy it, so ultimately you couldn't spend as many years and as much time and effort as you've put into figuring this out if you weren't fundamentally fascinated by it.
I mean, I guess it's a personal satisfaction that you get from this, well, it is, but the thing about something like this is that it takes you into other areas that are actually tangential to the main thing, so I never, ever dedicate no time. I don't sit around studying the Bible. You know, lately I've been reading all kinds of Greek and Roman moral philosophy, Aristotle and Marcus, and you know this leads me into other areas. I'm just interested in that relationship, but the So, but the bar of writing has to be about these things that people you really know consider important and the fact that you've reached such a wide audience means that you're obviously hitting a nerve. and I think that's right, I mean, again, it's not that.
I want to bring, yes, people say I always bring things, but that's why, you know, I try to connect science and culture because I think this idea is important, but I try to reach people in the area in a way who are intrinsically interested. because they may not be, they may not perceive that they are intrinsically interested in science, but they are, so if I can communicate with them through Star Trek or something else, uh no, well, no, thank you to God for people like you, because I mean people like me wouldn't do it. I have no interest in science if it's taught the way I mean you know you have to have someone who can really show why it's really interesting and what's interesting about it and as you know most academics don't. they can do that, but yeah, well, that's true why most callers can't, but I think I was going to say thank God.
I would use those words too, but thank God for people like you because and I should say, but notably Christopher Hitchens, um, because he would know a lot less about the Scriptures. if I hadn't read them both um and and and why wouldn't I, I mean, I read the Bible when I was younger, I actually read it and I read the big two, but not with the kind of critical eye and and um and so I've learned a ton. and and from my point of view, I wrote these notes to myself because of the way I learned something wonderful which was that religion is what comes sometimes can be derived from the of I suppose it is the Latin word Cultus Latin phrase cultist decorum that I love the idea does it and and and you and it doesn't translate into what you think is not a cult but rather a dormitory of cultists it's just the way you worship, you worship the god than taking care of the gods, yes, taking care of the gods, but I think and that's shooting, but what came to me first I thought maybe it's not the first thought, but when I try to put it into perspective of both how Jesus became God and Armageddon is that, as you point out, the serious religious scholars know the discrepancies, as far as I can tell, no, as far as I can tell from reading, then they know that the key stories that are so central to the religion that people go to church for every days uh, every week and we celebrate Christians for that, those stories like those of the three wise men in the virgin birth are not, they are not even central to the Scriptures, so they explain to me that that is not a scam in some sense if the people who are doing it, know that it is simply because they think that the ends are evangelical at heart and the ends justify the means and if these stories will bring because they believe that Jesus is God and, therefore, anything that awakens people's interest is good. even if it's just even if it's not true even if it's not true even in the biblical context why why all the centerpieces of the Rapture but even going back to the three wise men all the things that I've watched TV shows since I was a little boy.
Why do serious people who know that's not true allow that to continue to be the focus of most people? You know they go to High only for midnight mass and that's their religious experience, yeah. um, it's a complicated question, uh, because they are within scholarship, of course, people who teach in universities and colleges that teach biblical studies are not going to agree with everything I say. Obviously there were disagreements like there are in The Sciences about this, then the other thing, but the basic framework under which I operated is the standard operating framework within higher education institutions, colleges, universities, but also high-ranking Divinity schools. level and seminars, the problem is that most of the people who are thought to be religious experts are not those people those people who are scholars in general, they teach their undergraduate or even graduate classes, but they are not out there, you know , in a mega church talking, um, and you, while you have pastors. uh and uh evangelists and so on who really are the ones who have the audience's attention and most of those people really believe in these things, they believe in the Rapture, they're not, they're not deceiving people, they really believe they really believe .
Well, they are wrong, but they know it and no, they are not interested in reading scholarship to find out that they are, because they know the truth, not in particular, they know the answers before they ask. question then, but yeah, that's it, but there are a lot of Catholics, let's say, and you know, I was never a fan of the Pope in general, any of the Popes and I know that Francis is like a kind or gentler version of Benedict. I don't see any real difference, but anyway, Benedict, you know, I was in the Vatican and I was in a meeting that they sponsored that was about the far future of the universe and that was an experience for me, but, um, but Benedict wasn't fool, he was a scholar of theology, but he ran and therefore knew the contradictions, but he led what I assume is the largest Christian church in the world, right, I mean most Christians are Catholic.
I guess I don't know the numbers, but I bet I do, so I think in cases like that, the analogy that works best, not the analogy, but the example that works best for me is that of my classmates when I attended the Seminar at Princeton Theological Seminary. most of them were training for the Ministry and most of them most of them agree that you know the gospels of contradictions, it's things that you don't know what Jesus really said and what he did, there will be no Rapture for come, most of them will not be preaching about a Rapture. because they are in pretty liberal Presbyterian churches, but they just don't tell their people that they don't really believe there was a virgin birth or that they know Matthew, contradicting each other everywhere and I guess the reason the Pope doesn't come out with that kind of thing and why these friends of mine don't come out when they're in churches they go out that kind of thing is because ultimately they think that religion is not about that anyway that religion is not about the absolute accuracy of the Bible religion is about a relationship with God God through Christ that is not necessarily mediated by the Bible the idea that it has to be mediated by the Bible that if the Bible has errors religion cannot be true, that is a modern mix, that's not how Christianity is more fundamental than that, no, I'm not saying yes, I sure understand that they don't take it literally and see it as an allegory of at least you know why they believe in Christ as God, but if they recognize even that even the details of Christ is God are questionable, then you know what came to mind when I was thinking about this?
Well, as I say, I guess I guess it's from a fundamental belief that they're doing a good job that the best thing to do is to get people to accept Christ in their hearts and even if they have to do it gently and lie or seducing them is still for their own good and therefore it's okay to do it and you know, what came to mind was remembering Some Good Men in the Movie. Did you ever see that with him just reminding me of Jack Nicholson they reminded me of kind of a gentle verse from Jack Nicholson saying you can't stand the truth you can't stand the truth you need me here right yeah, I got it, yeah, great movie, but I thought so, but that came to mind if you think that's what they're thinking that people, if most people saw the contradictions, they would renounce their faith, yes, no, that's right, they give up their faith and the person and the pastor lose their job, it's also a job security issue, yeah, uh, and then it's a It's a very big problem, yeah, no, I agree with that and it's frustrating for me. because, you know, when I used to do it, sometimes I still speak in churches and luckily there will be a church there and Go and give a talk and there will be people listening to my lectures.
Someone will come closer. This old woman will approach me. She's been in the church for about 70 years of her life and she came up to me and told me why. She's never heard this before and I'll look. I'll see the bastard. You know, that guy was actually in the same class as me. Yes, the reason you haven't heard him is because he's afraid to tell you. That's why. Yeah, no, that part is not good and the thing is, you know it's very difficult because the clergy project, as you know, I'm sure it is, and I met a lot of people that are, that's their livelihood and not just yours. livelihood, that's their place in the community and their wife and their husband and children um uh you know, they would be ostracized if there was all kinds of pressure to not even talk about one's own doubts well, I think before someone arrives at that point they probably are At the point where you were talking about that they, you know, they think that they can do a lot of good for these people and so you know that in some way. um, you know, I've wondered.
I don't know enough about your your world, but I mean, I imagine there are probably people who don't subscribe to Scientific Orthodox, it's like a big bang or something, but they still teach it in their classes, I hope not really, um, uh, yeah, I mean, you don't know. are the only thing I know are people who and again it's just because of religious beliefs there are people because I firmly believe that people can have two completely contradictory ideas in their head at the same time not only do I think that I know, I can see it, you know, Richard Dawkins talks about geologists, friends, people he knows who literally believe the Earth is six thousand years old and then they go to the lab and work on these, you know, 100 million year old rocks, yeah, and I didn't mean that to the At the same time, yes, no, I didn't mean that, I didn't mean that someone like that is a fundamentalist who believes that God created the world but teaches the big bang.
I mean they subscribe to Some More Complicated Theory, yeah, yeah, well, I mean, I like to think they would talk about it. I think so, you know, it's not, I guess it's the difference and to some extent I noticed this in the type of scholarship that you're not signing up for. theories and I think I've seen it in theologians and philosophers, they don't end in historians, to a certain extent, often referring to saying this person thinks this and this person thinks that and you know, taking you know in their academic work referring to individuals and and what they say, but, of course, in science, it's just not like that, so I don't think about subscribing to a theory.
I think it's that people are not important and, furthermore, you know that you can if there are areas of science, in fact, my new book is about what is the edge of knowledge, there are areas of science where we are on the limits of what we can say, we know and we know things, we know what we know. I don't know, the book in England is called The Known Unknowns, um, and that's where there can be a vigorous debate, but no one, I think you know, will. Actually, there are debates about things like whether quantum mechanics is even fundamental, but I guess I guess the point is that people who see it as something that's not fundamental or aren't open about it, there's no need to teach it in class. .
I mean, you know, I just had a conversation with a wonderful physicist, Tim Palmer, who is a meteorologist. and a climate scientist, but he actually thinks that quantum mechanics is not fundamental, but I would teach quantum mechanics in a class, but what I would say is and this makes it seem like a classical world is impossible and then I think it would explain why it does something. , that's the case, but anyway he's a slightlydifferent from yes, no, it's not, yes, I don't think you subscribed. schools of thought, I mean, there are fads in science, and science is a science, scientists are human, although most people don't realize it, and you know, people get carried away by fads, preferences, group pressure and all kinds of threats of the same type.
Of things, the analogy I had in mind is that sometimes when you teach something, you teach something that actually isn't literally correct, but the person has to know this so you can build on it and not tell them. this is not literally right, oh yeah, you just teach the thing and then at a later stage they learn and I think a lot of pastors are like that, you know, they say, you know in their heads. I'm saying this isn't, it really isn't, but you need to know this before you can go any further. I'm not sure about much about Patrick, but I think there are pastors like that who are well trained, smart, and and I just don't want to surprise someone before I prepare them for it.
I sound like an apologist here, yes, well, no, I mean, you're more generous than me, I think, but it's nice. I think it's good to assume the best in people and um until proven otherwise and I guess I have to say I can't when I read you, I can't help but think that you're from a Christian background, you know? affects the way you're willing to see others and in a good way in a good way and um and and and I think that that you know religion can do good things for people. I just think that in my opinion it does more harm and that's my problem but but uh but no I don't agree with that but it's yes but it's not because I don't believe it because I don't believe it I don't think I think that the harm that religion I think I think religion does horrible horrible things I think it does a lot of damage I think the same damage would be done if people didn't have religion as an excuse they would use something else as an excuse okay that's interesting because yeah the Weinberg quote, which I've always resonated with and never exactly understand correctly, says that it's good people and bad people, and I know you talk about that, actually at the end of one of your books Talking about you really believe in Good and Evil and that is fundamental and it is an interesting idea because I am not even there.
I'm not 100% sure I agree, but hey, I don't believe in metaphysical good and evil, I mean. Not that I think it's a metaphysical category, but I think that you know, um, I think that someone raping and torturing someone is evil, yes, absolutely, but I think what Weinberg said is that they are good people and they are bad people, good people to good things bad people to bad things when good people do bad things it's religion that's what he's okay, that's a good line, it's good, you know, I mean, when you know religion right now, I want I mean, white nationalists are using religion like crazy and um, but you know, my view is that what it does is it gives them influence, but they would have found influence somewhere else if they didn't have religion, yeah, yeah, you know, I think.
Which for a lot of people, I think that's true now. In fact, get to the heart a little bit more of the essence of each of those books that we've been John, sir, no, but I think this is. I hope you agree. I think this type of discussion is also useful for people to listen to, but I do it. I want to give you I want to get to the heart of this because um um I think there are, you know, I think some of the general themes that we've been talking about will come up, um, you know, and I want to start with how Jesus became a god um, I want to go over each one maybe you know my hope is that just for you we'll go, you know, about two hours, if that's okay with you, yeah, and then, and then, you know, half an hour of the next half hour of that or 40 minutes of that and then I want to come back to you again at the end if that's okay, um um, so the central premise of that book is that the Jesus that most people consider the Jesus that has always been like the God and the Trinity that come from of the complex existence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all together and that has always existed is not the Jesus, the historical Jesus or the Jesus from which he emerged. the Bible and and and at the same time what I loved about um the beginning of how Jesus became God not quite the beginning but in chapter one um and um uh that's what you talk about you talk about uh you come on, you you say you talk about a a a a a a a story and you and you give this story that I just had here and of course I've lost it and but I'll have it again here and right at the beginning of chapter one um and uh Okay, here We go and you say, well, you know there was a boy, leave me here, let's go before he was born.
His mother had a visit from heaven who told her that her son would not be a mere mortal, eh, but in fact his birth would be divine. He was accompanied by unusual divine signs in the heavens. When he was an adult he left home to devote himself to an itinerant preaching ministry. He went from town to town telling everyone who would listen that they should not worry about his earthly lies and his material possessions. He lived for what was spiritual and eternal. He gathered several followers around him and became convinced that he was not an ordinary human being, but that he was the son of God and performed miracles to confirm them in his beliefs. . he could heal the sick, cast out demons and resurrect. he announced the dead at the end of his life, he aroused opposition among the ruling authorities in Rome and was tried but they could not kill a soul, he ascended to heaven and continues to live there to this day to prove that he lived after.
Upon leaving this terrestrial orb, he appeared again before at least one of his doubting followers and began to be convinced that he, in fact, remains with us even now. Later, some of his followers wrote books about him and we can still read about him today, but very few of you will ever have done so. I've seen these books and I want what and of course you're talking about Polonius right um and Tiana abalones yeah yeah and so the fact that you know I've talked to people who say they're not just the Jesus by Kim. It's God, but the story, His story is so unique that that's one of the reasons they believe that and in the historical concept text it wasn't that unique of a story at all, I mean, and and, so, let me, let me. tell you Well, it's true, I mean people today, if you know that if you're talking about a miracle-working Son of God, there's only one option in mind, but yeah, that's part of the point of the book is that in the Greek worlds and Roman there were a number of People talked like that about those who had miraculous births, who had unusual powers, were brilliant teachers and, you know, who ascended to live with the gods when they died and, so, we have stories of others like that, some no one exactly like Jesus, of course.
I mean, but no one is like the others. I mean, they're all different stories, but they have these, they have these things in common, so the idea that Jesus was the son of God to ancient Christians didn't mean that he was, you know. that no one had heard of such a thing meant that he was a superior Son of God, there were actually people who wrote books trying to argue which of these was better Jesus or Apollonius and on both sides when do you think it was? just an accident of history that Jesus won or is there something more fundamental, well there are a number of things so in fact I have a book about this called The Triumph of Christianity which tries to explain why Jesus and not something else and the deal with Jesus is that there are two things one is that um the followers of Jesus said that if you accepted him and believed in him as the Son of God you couldn't follow any of the other religions uh and everyone else you know 95 in the world He was a Pagan who worshiped many gods and in those cases, if you decided to start worshiping Apollonius, you didn't stop worshiping Zeus or Apollo or anyone else, you just accepted someone else, but if you started worshiping Jesus, you had to get rid of from everyone else and so on.
The Christians argued that you had to do that and if you didn't you would be damned forever, so what happens is that Christians become missionaries, while these other religions have no reason to go out and convert anyone because you know everything is well and they did it. exclusivist, uh, they believed there was only one way and since the combination of those two ended up leading to every time Christianity converted people, those people would be lost to paganism and you do that for a few hundred years and very soon Christianity just takes What you just said reminded me of a book I read about a biblical scholar, I guess, written by a woman who basically talks about how, more than any other religion, Christianity effectively eliminated methyl in a very short time and methodically eliminated all other religion, you know, he set out to tear down the temples.
I don't remember his name is Maxwell. You probably know her work. Catherine, yes, when you get to the 4th century, when Constantine converted, he did not make Christianity the official religion. of Rome, yes, but he made it an acceptable religion and by the end of the 4th century Christians are approximately half of the Empire and since they think that God has rejected the other gods, they go after the temples, the idols and the priests, yes , very quickly, I want to say more. Well, maybe not faster, but what's amazing is that they go very quickly from being the oppressed to the oppressors, um, and when they do, they renounce their when they were being oppressed, they argued for a separation from the church. and the state.
I know the state shouldn't have anything to do when once they became the majority they abandoned that idea and you don't have it again until the enlightenment of separation of church and state, well you know you should jump again in your in. Armageddon to a certain extent one makes the case and although you don't say you subscribe completely, part of all of this was jealousy or desire for wealth and power, that was Revelations and the and the Judgment. I was basically saying you know and Rome is Babylon's war and um I was basically saying we don't have a piece of the pie but just you wait we'll get it we'll get it all eventually yeah I know. uh I think that's pretty clear in Revelation, it's driven by the desire to have what Rome has, they're incredibly rich, they're incredibly powerful, they're oppressing everyone else and you know we're the good guys, we're the ones that should have all that and then in Revelation, the Christians end up with a city of gold that's half the size of the United States, yeah and uh, and they rule the rest of the world with a rod of iron and now they have that and then the goal of the book is that you know you are, which is horrible for you now, but man, you're going to be on top real soon, yeah, well, and that's kind of interesting because that's you point out and I and I was a little intrigued because it It got me to a certain point and then it made me think.
I am surprised that the Book of Revelations is in the Scriptures because it certainly seems to depart from Jesus that you Listen to who exactly spoke, at least who is supposed to have spoken exactly the opposite, that he wants to give up all initial possessions and even in heaven It wouldn't be a question of Cities of Gold, it would be like this. It would be a kind of eternal service to each other and they would be rich because they would have the love of uh you know, I don't put it as well as you, but you would have the love of an infinite number. of members of your new family, yes, no, I think the people you meet, Jesus says things like, you sell everything you have to have treasures in heaven, and people think well, that means yes, well, you know , I have this house for 200,000.
Here man, I saw that thing. I'm going to have a 200 million dollar mansion there, okay, but they're completely misunderstanding Jesus. Jesus' point is that material things are not what you are supposed to strive for, but in the Book. of Revelation, oh man, it's about getting those material things, so why? But that's the rest of it, it's not complete for the rest of the Scriptures and I think we'll want to get there because I'm still amazed that you find Jesus. be a good guy um but uh uh um uh anyway he's a good Jewish guy I'm a Jewish guy but I mean anyway we'll get there but I think he, you know, he talked about what you know from the trial and we'll do it anyway get there, but um uh um but but Apocalypse is so seemingly different from the rest.
I don't understand why, how, why, the story of why it was finally included in the New Testament, yeah, well, the first thing to say is. I had a hard time getting in for two reasons: one was the church fathers who were making decisions about these things. We are not sure if it was written by the same author as the Gospel of John. They assumed it had been written by John the disciple of Jesus. John the son of Zebedee, but they had reason to think that the Apocalypse was not written by that same guy. One thing is that some of these people were very good linguists and they looked at it and said this is not written by the same author.
Not very good by Mark Twain James Joyce yes, it was very terrible writing and then dramatic. Sorry last time. I taught, well, I taught a Class A Classics class for college students and I had my Greek students read Revelation just chapter one and list all thegrammatical errors, so you know, just like you know, these Greek students could do it and so it's not very good. Where is Juan? The Gospel of John. Know? It is not like this. It's not. It's not. It's super high-level Greek, but it's good, it's good and such, but Revelation, then, they thought well, doesn't seem like it was written. by an apostle, but the biggest problem they had in the ancient world, the ancient Christians, the biggest problem they had was not that it contradicted the gospels in terms of um like theories of domination and stuff, and the reason why They didn't like it because when I talked about what Christians would get after Judgment Day: they're going to have this huge city made entirely of gold and it looks like they're going to have banquets every night and just revel in all the wealth.
They had it and in the fourth Christian century most Christian leaders urged an ascetic life in which you deprived yourself of pleasure, whether it was a good drink or sex, or you deprived yourself because those are not the things that matter and they thought The Revelations They teach the complete opposite and that's why they didn't do it, they almost didn't include it, but you ask why it came in for a strange reason that you would never expect and that's one of the reasons. came in is because in the 4th century they were having these debates about whether Jesus is really God or not and if he is God, almost everyone thought he was God, but is he really equal to God the Father, I mean, or should he be? to be a subordinate of the Divinity, I mean, he has to be second rate, he cannot be as great as God, but some Christians said that yes, he is as great as God and they could use the Apocalypse to prove it because in the Book of the Revelation on several occasions God says I am the Alpha and the Omega the first and the last then as if he were before and after all things and at one point Jesus says the same thing yes I am the Alpha and the Omega the beginning and the end and so the theologians said the claim in it they are claiming equality, so in reality they are equal and, curiously, the book Revelation was useful in the theological controversies of the 4th century, so they put it, you know, for that reason, by the way, it was an accident that I read both books together, but I found the juxtap position interesting because one book is exactly about that contest to try to decide what level of God Jesus was all the books about it and and and and and um and the other one is in a certain sense Revelations is in one of what you say, one of its purposes is, ultimately, one of its utilities.
I'm not sure what the purpose was of why it was written, yes, but one of its uses is to reinforce that notion. that Jesus is God, he's not just a son, you know a subordinate or something else, um, yeah, the way you hit, you hit something there when you talked about the Greek too, which ties back to how Jesus became in God, the Greek of John who wrote Revelation is a poor Greek, the other Greek is a good Greek, but as you point out, that shows that it may have been written by the people involved, who were largely illiterate at the time. , so the people writing are obviously, a completely different level of education and disconnected from the actual events of the time, yeah, so historical scholars typically date the gospels to um, well, Mark is generally thought to have been the first gothic or was written around the year 70 CE. uh Matt and Luke around 80 or 85 and John towards the end of the first century 1995. but Jesus died in the year 30.
So there is a gap from 40 to 60 65 years between the stories and the events they narrate. and they are written by people who speak Greek very fluently. The followers of Jesus were lower-class peasants from Galilee who spoke Aramaic and almost certainly had no education of any kind, much less the ability to compose writings, much less being able to compose. Written in a foreign language like this and this were clearly not written by followers of Jesus but by people who decades later had heard stories about Jesus and this is the great task of historical Jesus scholars given what type of source, how do you know What is there in these sources that is historical and what is there in them regarding things invented or exaggerated by the narrators in the intervening years?
Well, this is my question, although I wouldn't automatically ask it when you hear that, especially when you know the sources. The sources are uneducated oral people who firmly believe in what they believe, that wouldn't automatically do it, shouldn't it be a radar that automatically appears and says a suspect? I mean, if you were to look at almost any oral history beyond 30 years later, five years later, much less 30 years later or a century later, if it's not written down and the original stories are true believers, everything should be suspect and I don't understand very well why that's not the predominant assumption is among scholars, so I mean historical scholars, this is, um, this has been a problem since the 1770s.
I mean, when the Enlightenment came, not only hit science, but also history, and uh, in the 1770s. there are people who start writing about what to do with these sources because they are clearly documents of faith and, as time goes by, people It tells more about oral traditions and stuff, so historical scholars have to use pretty rigorous criteria in working through the gospels to decide what we can say with some certainty relates to the historical Jesus and you can do, I mean, because it's no different than what you have for most ancient figures, you have sources written decades later by people who don't know them, but have heard of them and they are actually criteria that you can use that make quite a bit of sense, yeah , qml, searching, searching for independent stories, um um, independent textual statements, writing styles, etc., that might suggest that the story comes independently is difficult, yes, yes, but it is hard work and it is not the same , but even if I go, I guess I'll come back so I can see the detective work and I admire the detective work. of people who are willing to look at the text, analyze it carefully and decide which sources are pre-biblical and and and and but even when you've done it, the question I have is: wouldn't you?
I mean, so you can say Yes, these are as close to the things that the apostles could have been saying as anything that the apostles at home, but because of their oral statements from people who actually believed, even you know, even If you can concentrate and say that they are the closest. at the possible moment, they themselves are automatically suspect. I mean, in a sense, why I guess the question is, is it okay, it's really the question of why do we have religion, why are people so willing to believe stories that are passed down from generation to generation, you know.
I think about the most recent Mormon history, which is obviously ridiculous, but you know, it's growing by leaps and bounds, and why do you think people pick up on and are willing to believe these baseless stories? Well, I mean, how many people? Have you actually reviewed the equations of general relativity? There is a difference, although I agree with you, you have to believe that yes, no, no, but the difference is that it works, no, what I am saying is that people believe it because my cell phone is a GPS and GPS is not would work if it didn't incorporate general relativity, no, but they don't know, no, but they don't know, if you say it's equal to MC squared, people say yes, it's true, you know, then you explain what it is. means and they say oh, okay, yeah, that's what C means oh, okay, you know, I agree, I agree with you on that, but they know that, so you ask why do people believe this, it's because people believe what they are told and so I'm not saying that historians believe it because someone told them that historians have to go deeper just like scientists have to go deeper into the equation, like mathematicians or I mean, people have to go deeper into things and the difference is that you do.
I have an iPhone and as you pointed out earlier, theology has not generated new knowledge, it does not generate new knowledge, so that's a big difference, but historians, um historians, what historians do is different from what scientists do. they have to establish. what probably happened, yes, yes, and there are some things that are more likely than others, so historians set probability levels that way, it's more like a court case than a scientific experience, well, no, I. Actually, I would say it's almost exactly the same, it's just different qualitative levels, but I mean, or the quantitative levels move that way.
When we do a scientific experiment, we reach certain levels of probability and now our probabilities are much higher because I can prove it, but you still have to put in the probability of this being true. This is extremely likely because it may be true, but you can also base it on predictions you make, and history doesn't make those predictions. I don't want to say, you better wait, but you do. I have argued with people because I admire history a lot. I think this Gospel thing is quite biblical and I can predict that, if that's the case, I'll see something similar in, you know, the same kind of linguistic uh or the same poetry in another gospel, so it's likely that that that poetry preceded both Goss of those things written, so you're making predictions about the things you're going to say.
I think this particular phrase or this particular stanza is significant and probably more real and it's original. look I don't think it's the same I don't think it's the same because I'm looking I don't make a prediction that it's going to be there I realize it's there and I draw the conclusion that I don't make a prediction about what something will be discovered later and it turns out that It is confirmed if it never, if that never happened to you. I'm just wondering oh no, I mean, yes, no, of course, I mean, but there it is, what's more, it's not. a prediction, yes, but it's different because all we have are past events, that's all we have, we can't expect what will happen in the future, if that past event happened, yes, yes, no. and in fact you can't be a prediction.
I mean, the reason I'm harping on this is partly because I want you by my side here because, you know, when I've debated evolution, we say well, that's historical science. Historical science is different than chemistry, you know, which you talk about, you know, the early history of the earth, that's historical science, but my point is that they are exactly the same every time I do experiments. I'm talking generally about past results. scientists, you are the scientist who would know, but I don't think it's the same. I don't think using something like Bayer's theorem for evolution or something is the same as doing a chemical experiment, well I guess what.
I'm saying that even when I make in historical science I make predictions that I make in historical science you do yes, that's right, yes, yes, you know, I make predictions that you know there will be a fossil that is a missing link and you find one. I know and that is, but that sometimes happens in history, of course, I mean, it happens, yes, yes, of course that, but it doesn't happen a lot with the kind of things we're talking about, it happens in other things, I mean, it happened, I mean. Happens and what was my field of expertise Creek Manuscripts.
You can predict that there's probably a manuscript that has those words, things like this, we just don't have them yet and then, hold down on it, it'll change, it doesn't make that sense. Reading your book, when you talk about looking at it in detailed Greek, I probably hope this is in there and probably and and and I found it fascinating, like I say, I was surprised at the amount of energy it took to do it. but but um but uh however, but just take, you know, maybe spend three, four, five minutes talking about how Jesus became God in the sense that there were these that in the beginning there's a difference between John the and the John of the gospels and not the John of the


s um and the previous gospels and tell us how you think it evolved so the deal is that we have, you know, we have these four gospels and some of them you know are written. at different times and the earlier gospels seem to be based to some extent on earlier written sources and so you can somehow line these things up chronologically and when you do that, and you look at the oldest materials that we have in the New Testament , um, when you do that and you see how they talk about Christ, they don't talk about him as someone who pre-existed, someone who called himself God, someone who was born of a virgin, the first materials if you line them up. chronologically and you do not base your chronology on this in these views, you have other bases for establishing the chronology once you establish the chronology, you will notice that the oldest forms of the Christian tradition indicate that Jesus became a Divine being in his resurrection uh and the idea is that he is a human and God God was very pleased with him and that's why he took him to dwell with him in heaven.
That's a view you get in these Greek and Roman myths about other people, yes, when aperson is taken to heaven, they are facts, they are facts immortal in Greek and Roman, uh, a synonym for God is immortal and therefore is someone who can no longer die, so the early Christians thought that that is what It had happened to Jesus. Get it in the Jewish traditions too, by the way, you probably wouldn't have learned this in the synagogue or anywhere else, but in the ancient world you also have Jews who are brought to God to become interesting divine beings, yes, but also these Christians . that is the original idea Jesus was exalted for his service to God his righteousness was assumed and made a Divine being which over time people began to try to decipher well, you know surely not only was he made Divine after his death, he must have .
I've been like Divine down here at some point and you and then you know, you did all those miracles, what's that all about? And people began to think, well, he was made a Divine being at his baptism when he began his ministry when a voice came from heaven and said, 'You are my son today, I have begotten you and then you find that in the gospel of Mark and then you go further and you get people saying well, he must have been Divine, he must have been Divine all his life, right, and then you get virgin birth stories where he is Divine because God has gotten Mary pregnant and then he really is divine , it's like you know God, he is immortal by him by his blood or something, but then people think he must have been Divine before he was born, he must have existed before that and then you get the Gospel of John where Jesus exists from eternity past and creates the universe and then becomes a human, so it is not that a human is exalted to be divine, but that a Divine being has come down to be human um and so those are two types of basic ways of understanding who Christ is, one is that he is a human being who is exalted and the other is that he is a Divine being who becomes human and all that is happening. within the first 70 or 80 years of Christianity and in my book I try to talk about how it goes even beyond that, so yes, yes, and to God in Christ being equal to God and always existing and yes, and the other thing that You point out that I think the important thing is that all these different views of divinity existed in the pre-Christ world, everything exists in the ancient world, in different ways, there were, as you say, humans who had been adopted and had become Divine , there were Gods. especially the Greek gods that they liked to have sex with and the Roman gods that you just like to have sex with mortals and there were some that would be, you know, so there were all of those and some people were born and prevailed in the other myths at that time and then there are different Christians saying these things about Jesus that they were saying about various other people at that time and uh, but it's a development over time because as time goes on, Christ becomes more and more.
It is more Divine, but it is not a completely linear development because there are people who say that they have older views at later times and views that became prominent later, that they were creating before and, as you know, you cannot say that If someone believes in 6000 years. old world they must have lived two thousand years ago, you have people like that now, so you have more advanced views at the beginning and less advanced views later, okay, there are three other three things that I would be remiss if I didn't cover, but one related with Jesus and then two others related to the revelations.
One is a central part of all these aspects of Christ being Divine, regardless of whether it was all time or birth or baptism the only thing that seems to do and I and theology, several theologians have argued this for me that the only thing that makes Different Christ is the resurrection, the resurrection is the real proof that he is Divine at whatever level Divinity wants to call him and you make the important point that the resurrection itself is, from a historical perspective, quite dubious, It's not doubtful, you can't prove that there is a not only previous resume, but you argue that there are cons and inconsistencies that, if you look at it, it is again on this scale of probability.
It is not likely that someone who is crucified will be buried in general and much less likely that that Pontius pilot, who if you look at him as a historical figure, let the Jewish priests keep his body for that and I mean you . I know you go through that, yeah, what's reasonable at the time to say you know, other than what people have visions of you, they never can. I mean, it was Jonathan Sacks, I guess or not. Oliver Sacks once said that not Jonathan Sacks is the rabbi, but Oliver Sacks the psychopath. The neurologist once said that you know that when people have hallucinations they are real, so don't you know that they are as real as reality?
So when people have visions, yes, I'm willing to do that, I don't want to debate that, but The other historical aspects of the Tomb, all of those are historically debatable, they are the first, the starting point, of course, you start with your sources and you see what the sources say about an event and when it comes to the resurrection stories, all you have. What you have to do is read what Matthew says, what Mark says, what Luke says and we read in detail that they contradict each other all over the map in ways that cannot be reconciled, so all the sources are in agreement.
I agree that Jesus was buried on a Friday and resurrected. on a Saturday, but when you start looking for historical evidence of those things, it really gets complicated because the Romans did not allow the crucified victims to be buried, this is part of the punishment they left them to rot. on the cross and being eaten by scavengers as part of the punishment for people to see, you know if you want, you wanted to fly to Rome, well, this is what you can expect then, and hence the very idea of ​​him being buried. late and then um it's problematic the stories of her appearances are problematic so everything is enormously problematic and the interesting thing is that when you actually investigate the materials again, if you line them up chronologically and calculate what comes first, you do see The first things that the People said it wasn't news that there was an empty tomb, the first thing they said is that we saw Jesus and that's where you get your visions and I think people did have visions, I mean, I think you know.
Oliver Sachs is right, he wrote a really interesting book about this, yes, the whole book, hallucinations, yes, yes, but people have these things and they always think they are true, but the thing is, this is the key point that even theologians do not believe. I don't fully understand it, which is that if a follower of Jesus who was a Jew who believed that the end would come soon and that the end would involve a day of judgment in which everyone who ever lived would be raised from the dead for the judgment. this is what Jesus taught is what his disciples firmly believed that the end of times would come soon with a resurrection they did not believe that when you died your soul would go to heaven or hell they did not think that your body and soul could exist separately if Those people thought that Jesus came back to life, their category was that his soul had returned to his body and had risen from the dead, they could not interpret it that he had gone to heaven and his Spirit had come. and that's why they naturally interpreted it as a resurrection, so it all comes back to these divisions and you're right, you can't debate them, people see what they see, but there is nothing historical that can speak with visions, yes, so they will accept that the people I had visions, but people have visions nowadays, so you can be suspicious, but what I found interesting was the story was quite interesting and clever in looking at the context while pointing out its context, context, context, um, and the context of the time is. that the tomb is empty and the fact that it's even a tomb is suspicious and the other thing that you point out that I found myself mentioning because I keep thinking about how these people who are evangelicals try to convince people or, I would say, scam people So believing these things and it intrigued me, okay?
Why do women discover it? And since there are not many women in the Bible, you point out many points of view well. It is a very good psychological tool to say that the government of women. you want to mention that well evangelicals often say look, those stories must be historically correct because no one would make up a story about women discovering a tomb and because if you want, if you want, it really shows that you would have the men. do it and man, that's always wrong. I mean, for starters, you know, a lot of Christians are attacked right off the bat for being largely a group of women, they're more women than men, and he asked who would make up a women's story. discover a tomb, well, maybe women, for example, I mean, and the other thing is that our first version of the story is about our first version of the stories in the gospel of Mark and the gospel of Mark, the whole gospel is trying to show that men.
Jesus' disciples could never understand him, they just couldn't understand who he was, so it would make perfect sense that the men didn't discover the tomb, they are the ones who can't understand him, that's the point of the story. So who would do it right? Mark would make it up, so there are a lot of people who would make it and I give a lot more of that. I can't do it justice, so I don't think it's a good argument. I don't think these people are conical. I think they might be fooling themselves, but I think really a scammer is someone who knows they're wrong.
Yes, I know these people don't scam others because they believe. In fact, he once said that the easiest person to fool is yourself, so once you really believe it, it's very easy to find ways to try to convince others, which is fine and they didn't believe it at the beginning of the program. I think so. people who know what these convictions are just say well, that's okay because the story is actually true on some level and I don't want to dwell on the contradictions. I want you to believe it and then we can talk about it, yeah. yeah, yeah, no, I don't know, anyway, no, I do write my books because I think you know people need to realize that you know they're just me.
I have no objection to people being Christians at all, but I think you know that you should really know the historical facts and it is better to be informed about the issues than to bury your head in the sand. I mean, you know if you're not an informed Christian, you're an ignorant Christian who wants to be ignorant. Well, I think most people want to be here because I think we'll get there. I think most people find it. Well, you know, the Dawkins Foundation did a study of people at one point. in the census in England about a decade ago they asked about people's religion, you know, and they asked and then people listed that they were Church of England, they somehow got through to people and said okay, so , why do you believe in transubstantiation? believe in the virgin birth to believe they go no no no no no no well, why do you call yourself a Christian and I like to think of myself as a good person?
So ultimately, I think it's something like you say that people read and take. what they want from it and they pick and choose and they don't take the things they don't believe in and that's most Christians, uh, you know, except the absolutely literalists who say, "I'm willing to do it." a good person and and that's why I call myself Christian let's be the other the other the other thing that you point out that is so important in the new book in the in the newest book Armageddon is that and and at the end also in at the end of at the beginning and end of how Jesus God came, you point out that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher, his main role was to predict that the end was near, he's like the guys you see on the street now with the signs.
Even the only difference is that they don't have as many followers, maybe who knows in a thousand years, but, uh, so he was a guy who went around saying the end is near, he doesn't regret it that much, but he basically regrets it, you know. , falls off. be good because the end is near and he really apparently at least believed it in what he said and the people around him believed it and the Revelations that are now through the Rapture and in every age it seems to be seen as now there are signs that there are a revelation that the end is near was actually written by someone who believed the end was near and this was then and it was about to happen and probably and well, why don't you delve into that?
Yeah, so um. So my book, my book on Armageddon, tries to explain what the Apocalypse really says and one thing it doesn't say is that a Rapture is coming, yes, that's incredible, it's made up, yes, and you can actually date when it came about. that idea, since it came out in 1833, yes. It's surprising when I read that it's you because again it seems like a central part of what so many people are saying. There are evangelicals who believe it, but it's not rooted in the Bible at all and I try to read the passages where people say oh. that's talking about the Rapture and it should, yes, actually it's not, and you make it very clear and again in a historical context that yes, it's not, it's not and I mean that RevelationIt is written by someone who thinks it will come soon and the problem is that people still know that many evangelicals and fundamentalists think it will still come soon and if you point out that you know John well, you will know that John said he would come. soon but he was living two thousand years ago, yeah, so they come up with things like, well, they quote the book of Second Peter with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, I say, okay, well, if that's At that point you know that if Jesus comes in three days, you can start looking for him in 5023.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, but you know, yes, part of my argument in the book is that both Jesus and John of Patmos, the guy, wrote the Apocalypse. We agreed that the end would come soon and that it would bring destruction and it would bring salvation, but I think that, apart from the general apocalyptic framework that they shared with many other Jews in their day, apart from that, they are radically different from how they understood it and that John he is not actually embracing the teachings of Jesus at all. I think he's actually arguing a contrary position to Jesus on God and love and how to live in this world and how to be, uh, yeah.
Yes, in fact, you point out that there are two things there, one is that you pass two, a bunch of chapters that I expected to see and they were there. You know he used to have them. I had an argument with my friend Noam. Chomsky on beliefs, you know, and I've expressed my opinion on beliefs, but he points out that he doesn't care what people think, what matters is what they do and I can't help it. Of course, how could I disagree? The problem is that what people think affects what they do and as you point out in a wide variety of ways, misunderstanding the Revelations has resulted in bad actions, those actions are um uh uh everything from uh to not buying uh uh um. uh climate change uh or you know to say that it doesn't matter you know that humans are not going to affect the Earth because it will end soon in other areas where you are really hurting people in a real way uh it's already done This idea that the end of sin has caused enormous psychological damage.
I mean, I know a lot of ex-evangelical evangelicals who were psychologically damaged by the idea that Jesus was coming back soon and thought they knew when it was going to happen. This doesn't happen and it just confuses their heads, sometimes leading to great violence. People don't realize that we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Waco disaster and that was driven in large part by David Koresh's interpretation of the Apocalypse. It is being fulfilled uh in its day, yes, you talk about that in great detail. I was captivated by that and I also mean, I knew I heard it, you know, I know you can't help but know if you follow the news about how evangelicals view Israel and it is and and Christian Zionism as the fulfillment of a prediction of the Apocalypse and but of what What I guess I hadn't realized as much was in a sense how the Middle East is a source of constant conflict in the world and and if you have to think of a place where the flame, you know, the spark could arise that would cause a much bigger problem. , it's the Middle East, but in a sense, the Middle East was designed through the Balfour Declaration in a sense by evangelicals to say we want before. you can have the return, the second coming, we need Israel to be the return of the Jews to Israel and the temple to be rebuilt, so the first step is to create and Israel, in a sense, that whole political problem arose because of one of one of a belief in the Apocalypse and predictions of the second coming, yes, so, you know, in the book I don't take a position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue because yes, it's too complicated, but what I do do is explain the historical support. of evangelicals for Israel and even many evangelicals do not understand what the true roots are and there was Christian Zionism before what we consider Zionism existed in the 19th century because Christians were convinced that the prophets had predicted that Israel had to return to the land and so, um, they predicted that Israel had to return to the land, so the Balfour Declaration is completely rooted in that, yeah, um, but then there's another part of this that you alluded to in the The New Testament indicates that the figure of the Antichrist who will rise at the end of time will go to the Temple of Jerusalem and declare himself god, well, there is no Temple in Jerusalem, it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70. and where the temple was is where the temple is now.
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, so fundamentalist Christians are convinced that Israel has to take over the Temple Mount and destroy the Dome of the Rock, this is a very important Islamic holy site. place and build the temple again before Jesus can return, well how exactly is that going to happen, yeah, without, without actually leading to World War III, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, it's incredibly dangerous. Well, I want to move on at the end here, to something interesting because you point out the other aspect of Revelation, which is almost funny if it weren't tragic, and Waco is an example of that, throughout history you have people who say: I have evidence that the end is near.
I know what day. and you tell great stories about people who saved October on September 21st, no, October 21st and no, no, no, no, the 22nd and then, and when that doesn't happen, you point out that it doesn't matter, people get more . more convinced and you explain it in terms of a psychological study on cognitive dissonance and I want to read this quote because it resonated with me in a slightly different way than perhaps you intended you said if more people recognize that you are right it alleviates the psychological trauma of knowing that you are probably wrong, so you set out to win me over other devotees.
I can't help but think that's part of the reason church is necessary in general, my Hue. You and I know this because we are old enough. Hugh Downs was a good friend of mine at the end of his life and he told me I think that's why you need to go to church every day, because these stories are so ridiculous. that you suspect in your heart on some level that they are not true and you need to overcome that psychological trauma, you know, be part of others who believe that and then set out to win over other devotees to convince us of that.
I think all of evangelicalism in a sense is a reflection of the inherent insecurity that people have that this is probably nonsense, what do you think about that? Well, that might be right. I think they're probably ways to solve it, but. I don't know, historians have shown that that's one of the reasons they've argued that at least that's one of the reasons Christianity took off in the first place, because the followers of Jesus expected Jesus to be the Messiah who destroyed the world. Romans and then he was arrested and tortured to death publicly and to deal with the dissonance between what they expected to happen and what happened, then they changed the definition of what the Messiah was and became missionaries about it and then when the second coming didn't happen like they expected it to within their generation, so they became more missionary to convince people, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's still part of what's happening today, yeah, I mean, you don't .
I need, you don't need to, we don't need to go every Sunday to read quantum mechanics, you only have to create a book once, but you have to go every Sunday to hear the same stories over and over again. I think reinforcement is specifically required. due to some level, the cognitive dissonance that is religion, anyway, that's my yes, read the book Quantum of cash once you know, yes, I'm never going to understand this, yes, yes, well, yes, you know, you know what you're going to understand. You don't have to, but you don't have to reread, you don't have to go every Sunday and take CL and let's do it again, right?
And you know, yeah, anyway, I really think when I read that I thought. That sums up not only the problem with people predicting the end of the world but with religion in general: you need that constant reinforcement because I suspect most people realize that these stories are too crazy. I'm not sure you know. You may be right but I think most people don't have a scientific way of looking at the world and don't understand the need for evidence and as you know don't believe in evidence and think that people just make things up and it's just because they're ignorant, you know, they're just, um, they're ignorant and I don't think it's necessarily that they think it's wrong, it's just that they don't know, you know they don't want to think about it a lot, yeah, most people, well, That's the point, come back again.
I think people, as you point out, most people believe in the Bible because they've read it because it's easy, I think it's a way of feeling, that's why they told the census people that. that I don't need to know how to believe in those details, it makes me feel like a good person and something about it resonates with me I'm sorry, it has huge implications. I mean, you know, right now with the abortion debate all over the country, everyone thinks that you know that abortion is condemned in the Bible, so you have these people that you know, parents, that you know, protesting against Planned Parenthood and therefore even not taking a stance on abortion, the Bible doesn't say anything about it, it's not there at all, but people wouldn't.
You know, people don't read the Bible to find out that they just hear someone quote some random verse out of context and say oh yeah, look, it condemns abortion, it has nothing to do with abortion and therefore has implications really big for us, but you. I know you asked before why I'm passionate about these things. Well, this is one of the reasons why I think it ends up mattering. Oh, it is, and that's why I've enjoyed it. I enjoy your work so much and they respect me so much. I've enjoyed the opportunity to talk to you because I think you're doing it right, like I said, you're doing God's work.
Steve Weinberg would say um because, uh, because it's important for people to understand the context of something that affects. so many lives of so many people, but that's why I want to end with the last question, which is personal in a sense, and I hope you take it the right way, but you're right, well, of course. You are right because you know that these things abortion is mentioned in the Bible, but what is often mentioned in the Bible in the Old Testament and the New Testament, especially in Revelation, is that you know that God tolerates atrocities and that God at least in The meaning of Revelation is supposed to be Jesus and Jesus talks about judgment and and you know for sure and you know that in the Old Testament there is explicit violence, as you point out, there is tons of explicit violence in Revelation, so yes, Jesus speaks. about loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek, but he basically he also said that you're going to be judged and if you don't believe in me, you are, you're not, it's fundamentally a statement. scary from you know, believe in me because I'll scare you if you're not um and I'll know I'll kill your kids or whatever if if if you don't like I said in there explicitly, but basically you'll say that you personally like Jesus and the message and I wonder and wonder if it is because it is just a remnant of a long experience of finding that Jesus helped you become a good person when you were younger or still, as an intellectual exercise, you find that Jesus is ultimately , a positive figure, so, my answer is a little complicated because it is a little difficult for people who sort of understand it, but the Jesus that you described as Seeking Blood and if you don't believe me, they will roast you.
I don't admire him at all. I don't admire that Jesus. I don't think that's what Jesus himself was like when I talk about appreciating Jesus and his message, I say this as a historian who appreciates the conclusion of my historical research, so I don't think the god Jesus of Revelation is anything like the Historical Jesus. I don't think the Jesus of the Gospel of John was at all like the historical Jesus we talked about earlier. You know, you have these different sources and different gospels and you have to figure out what is historically correct when I do it.
That's regardless of what I personally believe, which is that you don't really know anything about Jesus today, I just think he's a man, but other than that, when I do that analysis, what it seems to me is that Jesus did think that the end would come. soon, you know it was. and you know, we can absolutely blame him for that, he was wrong, the ending wasn't coming in his generation, that's completely wrong, um, I give him a little break on that for the same reason I cut people off on the break. Nowadays, if they happen to be capitalists, it's not like they have anything else that they can see as a viable alternative.
I mean, it's not like they know they've heard of socialism. They think it is the same as Marxism. I mean, you know. It's like you know that they don't, they grow up a certain way, yeah, well, Jesus grew up in an apocalyptic environment, so I'm going to give him that part, okay, and I don't. No, I don't share his apocalyptic vision, but I think the way the apocalyptic V worked for him was distinctive and not like these other people we know, not very like them. I don't think Jesus said anything about anyone. believe him, I don't think that was part of the speech at all.
Jesus did think that people needed to mend their ways.ways and especially thought that the types of oppression and cruelty and injustice that were happening in the world, uh was not good and that people needed to get away from that and I think that Jesus really taught that you needed to treat other people well and that the way you that you would be approved by God and enter the kingdom, which is what you know if you get rid of all that mythology, if you really want to be the kind of human being that you should be, it is by giving yourself for others and not just living a selfish life, self-centered and self-aggrandizing, and um, I don't do it very well.
I get really big on that, but I like that message and I like the idea that I should try to help people who need it and just not try to ruin everyone so I can get ahead and I really think about Jesus. he represented that um and I think he thought that those who helped those in need, whatever they believed, um, were the people who were right and that's what I believe, well, all I can say is that I'm on it, um Uh, literally. um no, I think and I think that and I think it's wonderful.
First of all, I greatly appreciate the time you've taken and the scholarship and the good you've done for all of us in helping us understand things, but I guess. uh and the wonderful thing is that we can both agree with that philosophy, I maintain that it arises from reason and not from faith, yes, but uh, yes, the end result is uh, it's the same and I am and uh no and I um Emmanuel. Kant Emmanuel Kant or, you know, with the deontological ethics of Dion or John Stuart Mill with you, you will tell him that these are not based on Christian premises, but they could lead to a very similar view, so I'm fine with that. and it's probably a Remnant, this is what I know, Jesus, you know, it's my Remnant, no not the Kantian philosophy, yes, exactly, I've given your background, but it's good to see that we've arrived at the same place and um, and I already know.
Thank you, it's been a great pleasure and a privilege to talk to you and I hope I've done some justice to your work and I really think the discussion we had I hope it makes people think, which is the point of this and I hope you've done that. enjoyed too. I really enjoyed it and thank you because it's very nice to talk to someone who is just a brilliant scholar in a completely different field, but with you know and actually uh. interact with what caught my attention are the really important questions for the type of things I do, it's an honor, thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed the conversation today.
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