Constantine gained nothing politically from appealing to the politically-insignificant plebeians and with only 6-7% of the total population Christian, such an appeal would have been minimal even if the plebs did wield some kind of power. How did a frightened rabble of Jews in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire produce a religion that endured Imperial persecution while slowly transforming the Empire from within before going on to produce the world’s largest – and still fastest growing – religion? Since Ehrman has always been aware of the references in the Pauline texts to Jesus existing in heaven before humbling himself to become a man, he has always considered Paul to have believed in Jesus as a pre-existent, heavenly being – that was a fairly common Jewish belief after all. Suppose that post-resurrection they all underwent medical examinations (again by different, independent doctors) who confirmed that they were alive, and that their DNA was tested to confirm their identities. While being a 7 on the scale of Dawkins I’d call those reasons philosophical. After all, as I’ve detailed elsewhere, loss is actually the norm for most pre-modern texts. I was also told that a high-ranking papyrologist had confirmed that FCM was definitely a first-century manuscript. The beautiful churches in Europe in the middle ages were basically empty and that few people attended church, which leads him to the conclusion that Europe has never been particularly religious. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. You say: doesn’t make any sense to me Historical analysis can’t go any further than “people believed that a miracle happened”. Why would that be? That’s the first copy we have. “Wallace clearly gives his reason, which if heard, is not easily dismissed regarding the two Bart Ehrman’s”. It might be that there wasn't as much new information in it as I thought there would be. I have religious views that govern when such laws might be violated. Ultimately, Christianity was always going to win the demographic war eventually. The thing is Ehrman emphatically denies that is what he is doing. The “Ascension of Isaiah” article is on the way. This “two Ehrmans” stuff is at best wrongheaded and at worst a weak slur. This is an irresponsible conclusion. The person she was seen as siding with had been accused of being a pagan as a part of the debate, and it may not be a coincidence that it was one of his prominent pagan associates who was killed shortly thereafter. Jesus died around 30 CE., at which time he had only a handful of followers, all of whom considered themselves to be Jews. As I understand it, textual critics have a fairly good idea, for the most part, of what the originals of the NT said. Scholarly Wallace and Scholarly Ehrman both agree that it can and it has. - Reza Aslan, New York Times bestselling author of Zealot ‘Bart Ehrman is the leading expert on early Christian texts and here he takes the story on into the fourth century in a vivid and readable narrative that explores why Christianity "triumphed” as a world religion. Only goes off the rails a bit when Stark pontificates briefly on some controversial Bible v. An outstanding historical overview of the rise of Christianity written in the kind of popular style that would be familiar to readers of Malcolm Gladwell and others in that vein. I tend to think it is very important to not confuse historical, religious, scientific or philosophical views with each other. “Getting history right is crucial, and noone – neither the religious nor the irreligious – should get a free ride when it comes to instrumentalising the past. As his military and political success continued, he continued to attribute it to the favour of this god. “The reason he doesnt say the same thing in his academic writings is because he knows other scholars would laugh at him”. But in his popular work and talks, we mostly see an Ehrman flaunting hundreds of thousands of differences in the NT manuscripts. But it seems you mistake all mainstream critical analysis of the NT in its context for “the Jesus Seminar approach”. This expansion of Stark's classic "Rise of Christianity" adds plenty of new sections and brings his argument to the 21st century. But I have listened to his lectures and understand the rules he uses for historical analysis. It is this accidental but ultimately highly effective combination of exclusivity and evangelical outreach that proved the key combination for Christianity and which drove the demographic exponential curve that saw it conquer the Roman Empire. Get this book free when you sign up for a 30-day Trial. Even a pagan henotheist acknowledged gods other than their own, though focused their devotion on their god of choice. Could you please offer your take on RationalityRules’ video which tries to counter the claim that Western civilisation is founded on Judaeo-Christian values*? And although Judaism would have the same exclusivity it is not a religion that evangelizes so that might explain the difference. What I do is cater my message to the audience, whatever the audience is. What do you think the original text really said?’ And Ehrman said, ‘Well, it said pretty much exactly what we think it says today. And that’s why I said, “what the hell has he been doing for 30 years?”, If you still seem confused, please, be kind, reference what it is specifically and succinctly, and I will do my best to clarify what it is that is causing you confusion. For example, look at most modern dictatorships: the number of people murdered for the cause of the dictatorship is actually quite small, since most people will avoid trouble due to their own nature and circumstances. Similarly, I think people should respect Ehrman as a top scholar working in his field. They believe their God is the same one worshipped by Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It is a subject which can stir up both triumphant apologism and vehement condemnation. “I disagree with your assessment of this one, and that’s okay”, “but I’m leaving your blog with a greater sense of unease about the state of modern discourse. And they are not the rules he uses to rule out miracles from being possible. Unsurprisingly, Hurtado agrees with Holland on this point, though is careful to note that his book is not really an analysis of what made Christianity attractive, per se, but rather what he feels made it distinctive. We don’t have the first copy” We don’t have copies of the copy. Lol. Surely, they argue, this is all evidence that Constantine was “really” a pagan and his “converson” was all a cynical political ploy. This is not just complaining about a disputed interpretation or two, but facts that are simply not right. I've noticed that whenever people discuss the merits and demerits of Christianity, the discussion almost inevitably returns back to some of the same themes: what about the Crusades? I was under the impression that Atheist or no, that you were a fact seeker. As a historian, I do not think the Christianization of the Roman Empire was inevitable and I do not celebrate it either as a victory for the human race and a sign of cultural progress on one hand, or a major sociopolitical set-back and cultural disaster on the other. I don’t know if you hold the same view he does. Given your mention papal reservations about caesaropapism and Bernard of Clairvaux and St Francis expressing some reservations about Constantine’s impact on the faith, while Eastern/Oriental Orthodox revere him as a Saint, did the schism of 1054 lay the groundwork for these myths about Augustine to become mainstream? I find it rather deceitful on his part. Ehrman also tackles the idea that his conversion was not sincere at all and was a cynical political ploy. I think it is important to keep this seperate. I’ve observed in the past there seems to be two Bart Ehrmans. So when Tim says he hears evangelicals making comments regarding the Two Bart’s and presses them for specifics, he is correct in demanding evidence for their claim. Can we keep the comments on topic please. “It would seem that the same historical analysis can be used to analyze the third claim.” Which he is. 1) Jesus lived on a certain date before he was crucified. And all he does in that interview you linked to is repeat the allegation with some vague reference to something Ehrman is supposed to have said in “scholarly literature” about the original texts of the NT. by HarperCollins Publishers (NYC). A crowd of a hundred pagan polytheists gathers to hear each devotee extol the glories of his god. You are the one who is irresponsible, because you fail to consider all the relevant evidence, especially when it falsifies your prejudices. Consider this: So it seems rather sloppy to then conclude it was the “murder of a pagan philosopher at the hands of a Christian mob” (p. 265) when it is clear from the evidence and even from Ehrman’s own account that paganism, philosophy and Christianity actually had very little to do with this political tit-for-tat assassination. Firstly, did Constantine convert at least partially because Christianity had already won so many adherents by 312 AD that it gave him a demographic and therefore political edge over his rivals? I mean can you even imagine historical evidence for you to believe a law of nature was violated? For the fourth century, if the rate really was around 25 percent per decade, that would only mean that every hundred Christians would need to convert just two or occasionally three people per year.” (p. 172). So lets say we have some claimed miracle in some ancient text. Nothing counts as evidence because there is no God”. This preeminent authority was not an evangelical Christian, either. 120-1). With his signature knack for making the boldest and most original scholarship accessible to all readers, Stark presents the real story behind the tragedies and triumphs that have shaped the trajectory of the Christian faith and, indeed, … And although a few loony emperors do lurk about and the (very) occasional persecution … By the time Constantine came to power the thing the equestrians desired more than anything was stability and no return to the previous century’s chaos, and Constantine maintained a rigid policy of uniformity and conformity as a result. Wallace is also something of a laughing stock in the field, given his involvement in the now notorious “first century Mark fragment” fiasco. Following a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. But, refreshingly, he also avoids the opposite mistake of misty-eyed romanticisation of the Classical past and corresponding demonisation of the Christians, found in Nixey and the ranters. However, the information I received and was assured to have been vetted was incorrect. You state in a previous post that you “strongly suggest you don’t keep perpetuating the “two Bart Ehrman argument-it doesn’t really hold up to hard scrutiny” However, hard scrutiny is hardly hard, by copy and pasting ” A common Criticism of Me” from Bart from 2002 as a hard scrutiny. It is also interesting that I think the main issue I have with Ehrman is on miracles. Green Library. I had thought any 100 level public speaking course taught half competently would make it clear why adjusting your presentation to fit the level of knowledge your your audience possesses is just common sense. While I share your disdain for Carrier, I had to look up Aaron Ra and found out that he’s the former President of the Atheist Alliance of America as well as a Myther. It was my fault for being naïve enough to trust that the data I got was unquestionable, as it was presented to me. Now you’re off on another wild goose chase trying to argue he is somehow “confused”. Or if we find that 1 and 3 pass historical muster suddenly we can’t apply historical analysis to 2. Many argue that Suetonius never recounts Nero blaming Christians for the fire but only mentins them once in regard to Nero, that he only mentions that punishments were inflicted on them by Nero without any reason given (lumping them in with other groups he was persecuting at the danr time), and that Nero would be the exception – even if he did blame the great fire on a tiny rabble group that was barely existent at the time – not the rule. The confusion, I think, is do in part to your misreading what I wrote, and not listening to Ehrmans own words. But what he said is perfectly correct. I’m an evangelical flock and disagreed on Ehrman in many occassion, but i actually agree with almost all of his thesis on this one. Ehrman is also probably quite correct in his notes on the iconography of Constantine’s early coinage, but it should also be noted that coins are notoriously conservative in their imagery and inscriptions. This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. And I would think a New Testament Scholar would hold more weight in his assessment of another scholar than simply a fundi or apologist. Title: The triumph of Christianity : how a forbidden religion swept the world. Using another tack again, sociologist Rodney Stark has used the growth of modern religious movements as a model to estimate how quickly a sect like Christianity could grow over four centuries. This view can be called the “philosophical problem of miracle” I want to state emphatically that this is not the issue that I want to address in this lecture. His account of the murder of Hypatia is less clear though. It is true that when I’m delivering an academic paper to my colleagues in the field, I do not spend a lot of time pointing out, for example, that there are discrepancies between Mark and John in their passion narratives. Strangely enough, Muehlhauser as an atheist even appears to have agreed with this “two Ehrmans hypothesis” Jarrod speaks of. Starting at minute 12:40… I’m very much looking forward to the Ascension of Isaiah post. Summary. But I was told none of this. What I do not like is trying to pack philosophical biases into analysis that claims to be neutral. The idea that he made the whole episode up is pretty fanciful. (In short, everything you know is wrong.) And it was this unique exclusivity that was the real driver of Christianity’s steady and eventually overwhelming exponential growth. For if one affirms that one does not have the original, then no one can not logically deduce what number copy a copy happens to be… Ehrman affirms that the copy of Mark is from about 200 AD, and about 130 years from the original. In the fourth century, once a person was baptised, the  opportunity for the forgiveness of sins was limited and so many people delayed it until very late in life as a result, which seems to be what Constantine did. As Ehrman says: “Few people could claim to have observed any of these spectacular miracles of faith. I am glad that this fragment has finally been published, so that I can get past the accusations and condemnations. a tinfoil hatter …. We either can or can’t get back to the origional, but in my opinion, there is plenty of evidence that we can. Furthermore, am I correct in saying that he seems to be cherry-picking the evidence? Ehrman devotes a substantial portion of his book (and a detailed appendix) to the crucial question of how Christianity went from a tiny Jewish sect of perhaps a few dozen adherents to a major religion of millions that dominated the Roman Empire in just four centuries. But how well the argument works is clearly a religious dispute that would analyze religious beliefs. That support came from the western legions’ devotion to his father and then from his own proven skill as a general and he was careful to never lose the army’s support. I actually thought you were a bit more sophisticated than,…… Bart Ehrman, good, Dan Wallace, bad. Some have accused me of being silent to protect my reputation; just the opposite is the case. Debunks massive amounts of misinformation, especially regarding the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. People are of course free to believe that Jesus did perform miracles, and it’s possible that he did; but that is a theological belief and not a historical one. It is the exact same deity with the same basic mythology and alleged nature and even has the same name. Well what the hell has he been doing for the last 30 years of his life???? Erhman quotes von Harnack’s The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (1902) and moves on to say “we have little evidence” to think these things were a factor, but we actually do have some. I will start watching his videos. However, that being said there were many parts of this book that I did very much like. So we can look at the historical criteria and that may help decide whether the historical evidence for a miracle claim is weak or strong based on this criteria. How are “mythicists” extreme? Christians didn’t make claims in a vacuum of such claims, rather they were one voice among many. Yes, that does seem to be why it’s in the book, but that reasoning isn’t really sustained by the information he gives. Yes, and that would be correct. Instead you complain about the tone, have nothing to contribute but “I disagree and that’s OK” and hence behave like a tone troll. Scholarly books don’t sell, but popular books written by the “authority” of a scholar do sell. Such as the combination of 1-3 above being true. In a generally very positive review in The Spectator, history writer Tom Holland wonders whether Erhman’s emphasis on his status as a non-Christian scholar necessarily makes him neutral and draws attention to a similar book to Ehrmans’ by the Christian scholar Larry Hurtado – Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World. I haven’t read this book, but I had read Hurtado’s and Holland’s reviews before I read yours. I'll also note that Stark has a tendency to use scholarship from the previous generation. PS. All of his arguments are philosophical and have nothing to do with the criteria he uses for analyzing historical claims. I am inclined to agree with pretty much everything you wrote here. Celebrated religious and social historian Rodney Stark traces the extraordinary rise of Christianity through its most pivotal and controversial moments to offer fresh perspective on the history of the world's largest religion. In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, shows how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so illiterate day laborers in a remote part of the empire became the official religion of Rome, converting some thirty million people in just four centuries. Are the Jewish scholars like Geza Vermes who place Jesus’s ministry within the context of Apocalyptic Judaism in first century Palestine considered part of the Jesus seminar? He did this largely because he had the support of the Roman army’s officer class, or initially at least enough of it to give him an edge over his competitors. So if we take Ehrman’s approach then what you say makes little sense. Again, I don’t think “divine” is a useful word to describe this, as it is too close to the orthodox Christian Trinitarian conception of Jesus as co-equal “second person of the Trinity”, which is not what Ehrman is depicting in his interpretation of Paul. Reservations about the consequences of Contantine’s sponsorship of Christianity actually have a long pedigree and date back to well before the Protestant Reformation. Craig is a miserable sophist of the worst kind. The appeal of Christianity for Constantine himself is one thing, but why had it appealed to millions of Romans in the centuries before his conversion; to the extent that most of them abandoned their previous religious beliefs completely? Ehrman summarises the argument of Ramsay MacMullen on this point: “Suppose two persons were each promoting a new cult, one the worship of Asclepius and the other the worship of Jesus. There is no reason to assume that christian emperors were more successfull. And I said actually “as a historian” I can’t accept that, and here is why: There is only one God and that is the Christian God and the Christian God is not in the business of performing miracles for Muhamad. This scepticism about the sincerity and even the authenticity of Constantine’s conversion and the questioning of his motives is at least in part due to a modern difficulty in grasping ancient approaches to belief, though it is also further evidence of how atheism in the English-speaking world is firmly rooted in stolidly Protestant views of history. His notes on the brief reign of Julian and his abortive attempt at reversing the tide of Christian conversion is fairly standard stuff, though he makes a few interesting points. But if you are going to claim you a rejecting a miracle *for historical reasons* then use the same historical criteria you would use for any other claim. Probably about 130 years after the original. This I think should lead us to say that different miracle claims from a historical perspective have varying degrees of weight. In The Triumph of Christianity, acclaimed religious and social historian Rodney Stark explains how an obscure Jewish sect became the largest, most thriving religion in the world. “The Triumph of Christianity,” – This Assignment Help Do you need help with your “The Triumph of Christianity,” – This Assignment Help? Therefore, just because the number of cruel executions of pagans was small compared to the total population, it seems clear that people were terrorized to go against the powerful Roman empire official religion. I liked this book, but not as much as I thought I was going to. Preferably Independent sources, 4) Close in time to the events, 5) No contradictions/internally consistent. For example, he argues that the appeal of Christianity was such that it would have become the dominant religion of Europe even if Emperor Constantine had not adopted it. But the next article in my Jesus Mythicism series is on the “No Contemporary References to Jesus” argument, because that is far more common among online Mythers. Since he does so on a part of his blog that is only open to members (he donates fees to charity), I’ll reproduce the relevant section below: “To my knowledge I do *not* say different (that is, contradictory) things to different audiences, depending on the situation. The key element in the term “pre-existence” is the “pre-” prefix. Which is not to say that the book is not interesting, or some of the arguments he makes are totally wrong. There’s no contradiction involved in making both of these points. No more please gentlemen. I would put little to no faith, pun intended, in anything he writes. It's accessible and direct and gives a succinct account of world history in the Western world through a sociological lens. The so-called dark ages in Europe were actually a time of technological and cultural progress, and for the majority daily life was not nearly so dominated by religion as it is usually portrayed. Here are the historical criteria Ehrman offers in the class I watched on a dvd (yep it was a while ago): It becomes completely absurd if we look at who these Christian were. But I should have been more careful about trusting any sources without my personal verification, a lesson I have since learned.”, “Just prior to the debate, this representative discussed with me the discovery of FCM. But Christianity was different, thanks to the critical distinction between “adhesion” and “conversion”. While it had a few aristocratic and learned adherents – who have more prominence largely because the writings of some of them are our main sources of information – the majority of Christians were slaves, “foreign” non-citizens and, substantially, urban plebeians. “just because the number of cruel executions of pagans was small compared to the total population, it seems clear that people were terrorized to go against the powerful Roman empire official religion. While I am sorry for publicly announcing inaccurate facts, at no time in the public statements (either in the debate or on my blogsite) did I knowingly do this. That and the fact that 2nd temple Jews would ‘never’ have seen Baal worship and Babylonian paganism in a positive light. But if you ask a nonbeliever what would make them believe, perhaps the most common answer is… a miracle. The number of people who have theistic religious beliefs is much greater than the number who are members of a church or attend church services. 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