Bart Ehrman offering free two-month subscriptions to his blog

I’m informed by reader Barry that, as a coronavirus special, Bart Ehrman is offering free two-month subscriptions to his “Membership Blog”. As you probably know, Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a prolific scholar and writer about early Christianity, with thirty books under his belt, including six New York Times “bestsellers.” His work has been controversial, especially to Christians, because he’s argued that Jesus wasn’t divine (though he existed as a person), that most of the stories about him in the New Testament were confected, and that there are numerous errors in Scripture as well as contradictions between the Gospels, and other stuff not exactly comforting to hardcore Christians (see here, for example).

Ehrman was brought up as a fundamentalist Christian but (as happens to many textual scholars of the Bible) lost his faith and became an “agnostic atheist”, whatever that is. Curiously, Ehrman lost his faith over the problem of suffering and evil, which I’ve always said is the Achilles heel of Abrahamic religion.

At any rate, I’ve read a few of his books and like them, though I disagree with his very strong claim that the Biblical Jesus is based on a real person—an apocalyptic Jewish preacher. I don’t think there’s any extra-Biblical evidence for that.

But never mind. I’ve subscribed to his website (subtitled “The History & Literature of Early Christianity“) for the two-month trial period, and after that you can join for a year for $25, with every penny going to charities helping the hungry and homeless. (Now there’s an atheist acting like Christians are supposed to!)

To try it out, click on the screenshot below and register for free.

 

After that, you can access topics like the ones below. I haven’t yet perused his site, but now that I’m a temporary member, I’ll see what it’s about.

46 Comments

  1. mallardbrad
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Did this. Watched a couple of videos with Dr. Erhman speaking earlier today. Very good. Sometimes sounds like a Southern Baptist preacher. Guess it can not be helped living in the “bible belt” for so long!

  2. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    He writes some interest books, but Ehrman just can’t give up the idea that Jesus was a real person, even though the evidence for existence is pitiful. It’s analogous to believing in Mickey Mouse, publishing and talking about him and hold a university position involving Mickey. Then some SOBs argue even though all those movies and statues exist, there is no evidence that he’s real.

    • Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Although I don’t care whether Jesus really existed, I have to call you on this one. We really do know that Mickey Mouse was made up. All the evidence points to this. That he talks is enough for me. 😉

      According to Wikipedia, the consensus is that Jesus was an actual person, though they discount the miracles of course.

    • Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      It’s analogous to believing in Mickey Mouse

      No it isn’t.

      For a start, Micky Mouse is a cartoon mouse.

    • aljones909
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Most non-Christian biblical scholars are convinced Jesus was a real person

    • grasshopper
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Call me goofy if you like, but Mickey is real, and I have a personal relationship with him.

  3. Laurance
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for getting me off my dead a$$. I’ve read a number of Bart’s books and I’ve listened to many of his Youtube talks. I do like him, and I’ve been meaning to subscribe for a long time (I really really like the fact that he gives all the money to worthy causes), but somehow I never got around to it. It was easy enough to listen to his vids while I wash dishes and to read his books while I shovel food in the pie hole.

    But now I’m subscribed, and I expect in a couple of months I’ll get a reminder that the freebie is up. And I’ll subscribe for the year.

    As for the fact that he thinks Jebus did exist, that doesn’t bother me. Hitch thought so, too, y’know. As for me, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some fanatical preacher running around making noise and coming on like’s kind of nuts (his family and neighbors in his hometown thought he was crazy, so the bible tells us). For that matter I wouldn’t be surprised if there were two or more preachers running around and their doings got conflated into a single composite figure.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that if I don’t declare that there never was a human being behind the legends and myths, well, I’m not a real atheist – I’m soft on christianity or something…

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      I’ve only read one of his books, but I liked it despite the insistence that Jesus was real. There are other books that appeal too, but I haven’t got around to reading them yet.

      Personally, I think it’s more likely Jesus is based on multiple people. There’s no evidence for Jesus that an historian can accept imo, and my training is in history.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 4, 2020 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Richard Carrier, who is also an eminent scholar of Christianity is for a fake Jesus. I find his arguments persuasive.

        • Posted April 5, 2020 at 1:37 am | Permalink

          He’s not really “eminent”, though he may well be right on this.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 5, 2020 at 8:56 am | Permalink

            Well, imminently eminent? World renowned philosopher and historian?

            • Posted April 5, 2020 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

              He has some status in the online atheist community but very little in academic circles. He also does not help himself by his antagonistic approach to just about everybody else, and by way over-rating himself. (None of that implies that he’s necessarily wrong.)

              • rickflick
                Posted April 5, 2020 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                Anyway, I found his arguments persuasive.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 4, 2020 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        Richard Carrier, vs. Bart Ehrman:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzjYmpwbHEA

  4. Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with his very strong claim that the Biblical Jesus is based on a real person—an apocalyptic Jewish preacher. I don’t think there’s any extra-Biblical evidence for that.

    Surely the existence of Christianity itself is evidence for the existence of Jesus. You may not consider it good evidence, but it is evidence.

    All religions, being human manufactured ideas, have founders. Every religion whose origin is not lost in the “mists of time” definitely has a founder (or founders). On that assumption, it comes down to a question of whether the character of Jesus in the New Testament is based on the founder of Christianity or not. I think it is a reasonable assumption to say that he is.

    We can then ask how much of what is written about Jesus is true. Unfortunately (and I say this from the perspective of an atheist who is interested in history) the answer to that is probably very little. Obviously the resurrection is false and if Jesus did miracles and faith healing then he was a conjuror/con artist. Quite a lot of what’s left seems to be material from the Jewish Bible repurposed to make Jesus look like the Messiah.

    So was the founder of Christianity a Jewish apocalyptic preacher in the first century? I’d say more probable than not (Josephus seems to think you couldn’t go to the shops without tripping over a couple). Was he executed by the Romans? That seems pretty plausible. As for the rest of it: the miracles are obviously bollocks but much of what’s left is probably made up.

    • Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      “Every religion whose origin is not lost in the “mists of time” definitely has a founder (or founders).”

      And usually the founder is someone who wrote the founding texts. Jesus is not even claimed to have done that.

      “On that assumption, it comes down to a question of whether the character of Jesus in the New Testament is based on the founder of Christianity or not.”

      The founder is more likely to be Paul, or a similar member of a Jewish sect that turned into Christianity. Founders more often claim to be messengers of a divine, then to be the divine themselves.

      • Laurance
        Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        I often refer to christianity as Paulianity.

      • Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Nope. Paul did not found Christianity. His own letters state that the church already existed when he converted to it.

        a similar member of a Jewish sect that turned into Christianity

        Who founded the Jewish sect that became Christianity? Somebody did.

        Whoever founded Christianity did not leave any writings that survive to this day. I don’t think that is at all surprising since most people at the time couldn’t write. Josephus talks about approximately 200 Jewish apocalyptic preachers in the first century, all of whom probably had at least some followers and none of whom left writing that has survived.

        • Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          “Paul did not found Christianity. His own letters state that the church already existed when he converted to it.”

          He could have founded it in the sense of turning a minor Jewish sect into a new religion.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 4, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

            Or he could have started things off, then stayed in the background until he decided to come out. He might have hoped by doing so nobody would pin the fabrication on him. They’d have to believe Jesus was real.

      • Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        On the subject of writing, there is a documented case of Jesus writing. There is a story in the gospel of John 7 in which a woman accused of adultery is brought to Jesus and he is asked if she should be stoned. Jesus starts writing on the ground and then he says “let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”.

        It’s a famous story about Jesus and I mention it because it was by reading Bart Ehrman’s book [i]Misquoting Jesus[/i] that I found out it is an interpolation. It wasn’t added to John’s gospel until several hundred years after it was written.

    • Roger Lambert
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      “Surely the existence of Christianity itself is evidence for the existence of Jesus. ”

      So, Hinduism itself is evidence that that Ganesha, the multi-armed elephant god exists?

      Hellenism itself is evidence that Poseidon exists?

      There are multiple examples of modern cargo cults, arising in a matter of less than a decade, who worship completely non existent people, like John Frum, Ned Ludd, Tom Navy.

      Thousands of religions have sprung up, lived, and died out. Nobody believes their gods truly existed. But Jesus Christ, whose name translates to “Anointed Savior” – he IS likely to be based on a real person?

      I don’t think that line of argument holds much water. And the Jews of the Levant 2020 years ago would have the same opinion. They never would have believed in a mortal man who was The Messiah. He would have had to have produced real miracles.

      And there were many Jewish ‘cargo cults’, if you will, 2020 years ago. We know this is true at the same time most information about them has been lost. In other words, a completely fictional Jesus is not only possible, it is probable, and explains far more of what we do know about Christian origins without contradiction than a Jesus based upon an actual, historical founder.

      • Posted April 5, 2020 at 1:18 am | Permalink

        Nobody is claiming that Fanesh founded Hinduism. Or they Poseidon founded any religion.

        The gods of a religion are not the same as the founder, who is always a human being.

        • Roger Lambert
          Posted April 5, 2020 at 10:15 am | Permalink

          I just gave three examples of religions, the cargo cults, whose founders were fictional.

          Jesus Christ was the supposed founder of Christianity, as well as one of its deities. He is almost certainly fictional.

          And most religions have no founders at all.

          Moses was supposedly the founder of Judaism. He is 100% fictional.

          Your assertion appears to be wrong.

          • Posted April 7, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            No religion has a fictional founder. They were all founded by real people. You don’t think they just spontaneously spring out of nothing fully formed do you?

            The only question is whether the Jesus character is based on the real founder or not.

            Your argument leads to an absurdity:

            “Moses is the founder of Judaism, Moses is fictional. Joseph Smith is the founder of Mormonism. Joseph Smith is fictional”.

            Also, L Ron Hubbard, Bobby Henderson and George Lucas.

  5. uommibatto
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Not totally on point, and maybe I missed a mention of this, but the Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta was on Jeopardy! last week. He was a one-day champion. He did pretty darned well in the Books of the Bible category!

    • Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      I saw those shows. I wish I had known who he was. If I recall, he never mentioned what kind of blog he ran.

      • Laurance
        Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Here’s Hemant’s blog:

        https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/

        I had the pleasure of hearing him speak when he came to Penn State a number of years ago.

        Of course he didn’t know me. But I’d been reading his blog and seeing pictures of him so for me it was as if I were hanging out with an old friend. The room was small and I was right up front, there he was, right there, and he interacted and answered questions and discussed things with us. A thoroughly pleasurable evening!

  6. norm walsh
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t know either, but I’m happy to be living in a time when we can question it. Poor Thomas Aikenhead was not so lucky.

  7. robertamstutz@msn.com
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I actually pay the $25 and subscribe to it. As a long time life-long Christian, I found Ehrman’s works to be very helpful as I was questioning my own faith and coming out of Christianity. My journey started with finally being unable to reject evolution by natural selection. I started with Darwin himself, then read some things by Dawkins. Then I watched your lecture on why evolution is true. At that point I was still trying to hold on to faith while also accepting evolution. Eventually I discovered Hitchens, Andrews, and Ehrman and then the entire house of cards fell down. Ehrman isn’t going to mean much to people who didn’t grow up in Christianity other than to help confirm what they already didn’t believe, but for a struggling or doubting Christian, his work was extremely helpful to me.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      I find it remarkable that it took so much time and effort to work your way out. That means many who lack your determination are never going to make it.

      • Marta
        Posted April 5, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        I think coming out of Christianity or other religions is very difficult. If you grow up inculcated in a set of beliefs, they tend to stubbornly persist, even after you’ve overtly thrown them off. (This is also one of the reasons racism persists.)

        People who successfully (and permanently) emerge from religion are the exceptions, not the rule. It was never as simple as intelligence prevailing against misinformation and superstition.

  8. Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone else have the experience of signing up for the free trial, only to then be denied full access to “members only” items?

  9. Dawn Flood
    Posted April 4, 2020 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Professor Coyne,

    A definition of an agnostic atheist can be found here:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic_atheism

    Dawn

    P.S. I appreciate the fact that your so very wonderful blog is free!!

    • BJ
      Posted April 4, 2020 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t know it had an agreed upon definition, but I was just about to post that I call myself an “agnostic atheist” for the same reason and, by definition, Richard Dawkins would count as one too. I’m an atheist, but I’m willing to admit (I must be willing to admit, for the sake of truth) that I cannot disprove the existence god, and so I must allow for the .00000000001% chance that god does exist.

      • Roger Lambert
        Posted April 5, 2020 at 1:17 am | Permalink

        Do you feel obligated to feel the same way about Zeus? Or Ganesha? Or Thor? L.Ron Hubbard’s Xenu?

        I’m a hard = nonagnostic atheist. It’s just one teensy step farther than your position. C’mon in – the water’s warm! ;>D

        • BJ
          Posted April 5, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          No to Zeus because he’s not part of a commonly held belief system. Same with Thor. I’ll never get into a debate over them. Though, if I were to, I would concede that I cannot disprove their existence, and so their existence is possible, even if that possibility is infinitesimally small.

          For Ganesha, yes, for the reasons described above.

          I’m in the water with Dawkins, so I feel pretty comfy 🙂

  10. Posted April 4, 2020 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I did read Ehrman’s book “How Jesus Became God”, which was interesting to me, as a Jewish agnostic who’s still interested in how the major religions came to be. I just finished “When Christians Were Jews”, by Paula Frederickson, which covers similar territory. Although I very much agree with the comments above about the extreme unlikeliness of a “God”, I think religions are important because so many people still believe in them, or say they do.

    • Greg Geisler
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I think we see how “important” (dangerous) religions are at the moment—people gathering in churches during a pandemic.

      This is a perfect example (climate change denial is another) of why when asked by people on the Woke Left “what’s wrong with people believing if it makes them feel better?” that I have to respond:

      Because it plants an epistemological seed in their heads that is is perfectly fine to believe in ANYTHING without evidence. I can’t say that all Christians are climate-deniers, but I feel pretty certain that the vast majority of climate-deniers are Christian. Same goes for the coronavirus. When you allow people to believe while ignoring evidence it is not simply a danger to them, it’s a danger to the rest of us.

      So, let them gather in their churches. But only if they agree to remain inside until this is all over.

  11. Greg Geisler
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’ve read one of Ehrmann’s books and listened to several of his video talks. I think he is pretty honest except for the “Jesus really existed” defense.

    Richard Carrier is my go-to for the most rigorous and unbiased scholarship on mythicism. (Also R.M. Price) From what I have read, there isn’t a single first-hand scrap of documentation for a flesh-and-blood Jesus. Zero. Paul spoke of a celestial, revealed Jesus and Mark was written anonymously some 50+ years after the fact and it is considered myth. More damning is the fact that there were no secular accounts of Jesus during his supposed existence. (Josephus and Tacitus were not first-hand accounts).

    I recently read another interesting book by R.G. Price: “Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed” in which he posits that Mark was a fictional allegory and since all accounts of Jesus were derived from Mark that we simply cannot rely on the source to prove Jesus existed.

    Lastly, go to youtube and watch some of Carrier’s presentations on the Dying-and-Rising-Savior-God mytheme. Presented to any honest and objective individual, this would be case closed.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 5, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think you can say, “case closed”. Leave the door open for new data and analysis. But, yes, I agree the likelihood that Jesus is a Myth is high.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 5, 2020 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Personally I wouldn’t be that interested in the specific religion’s magic and/or apologetic claims. It’s snake oil, and it’s mostly infantile. History may be more interesting, but it’s a subject looking for hard methods (c.f. archaeology).

    But for each according to their taste.

  13. AndrewtheCanadian
    Posted April 6, 2020 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    I joined! I had the honour of meeting Dr. Ehrman in person once, back in 2015 in Toronto. Even got a picture of me standing next to him! 😀 I feel like I owe Dr. Ehrman a lot, because his books and YouTube videos contributed heavily to my own deconversion from Christianity years ago. Dr. Coyne’s work also contributed, so I feel grateful to both of them!


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