Jesus the Jew 

The Astonishment of Creeds Jesus' Bible
Acculturation People Nowadays
Majority Rule Politically Correct
From Victory Unto Victory First Century
Constantine Sunshine
The God of the Jews Were the Gnostics Monotheists?
Tell it Like it Is Socrates

  • “In my opinion, the most important thing to know about the historical Jesus is that he was a first century Jew who lived in Palestine.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' p. 153).

  • "One of the ironies of early Christianity is that Jesus himself was a Jew who worshiped the Jewish God, kept Jewish customs, interpreted the Jewish law, and acquired Jewish disciples, who accepted him as the Jewish messiah...the one thing that nearly all scholars agree upon, however, is that no matter how one one understands the major thrust of Jesus's mission, he must be situated in his own context as a first-century Palestinian Jew. Whatever else he was, Jesus was thoroughly Jewish, in every way -- as were his disciples."
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus,' p. 187).

  • "Jesus himself, of course, was Jewish, as were his disciples. Jesus was born a Jew...he was brought up a Jew, he worshiped the Jewish God, kept the Jewish Law, followed Jewish customs, became a Jewish teacher, gathered Jewish followers, and taught them what he considered to be the appropriate interpretation of the Jewish Law."
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'God's Problem,' p. 141).

Bart Ehrman

The luminaries of the modern academic 'Jesus' industry stress that Jesus was a Palestinian Jew. As such, of course, He taught monotheism and worship of the God of Israel: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To these authors' minds, why, it would almost be anti-semitic or something to suggest otherwise.

With this, the Bible concurs; a happy and unusual coincidence: "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord..." (Mark 12:29). But wait: not only was Jesus a teacher of monotheism and worship of the God of Israel, He was also a teacher of pagan polytheism, lately arrived from the realms of Barbelo, who taught His followers to mock the God of Israel. Because, you see, the gnostics claimed Him also, and their claim was every bit as credible and legitimate as the claim laid by Christian monotheists. The gnostics were of course polytheists: "But unlike Marcion, Gnostics did not believe there were just two Gods. They maintained that there were many divine beings in the divine realm that had all come into existence at some point in eternity past, and that this world was created when one of the divine beings fell from the divine realm and came to be entrapped in this miserable world of matter." (Bart D. Ehrman, Forged, pp. 95-96). "Many" is not "one." As a matter of fact, the matter was not decided until the fourth century, when the Nicene Creed settled the matter. Monotheism it was. No doubt Christian folk were delighted to wake up and discover, at long last, that they were finally monotheists, when the matter had been up in the air for such a very long time.

Have you difficulty, dear reader, in understanding how Jesus can simultaneously be both an admitted teacher of monotheism and reverence, and also a teacher of polytheism and blasphemy against the God of Israel? Isn't there perhaps a slight inconsistency here? Or do you think the two pictures of Jesus harmonize wonderfully? If so, you're in luck; fame and fortune await you in the 'Jesus' publishing industry.

The Astonishment of Creeds

To his credit, Bart Ehrman is not as giddy a cheerleader for gnosticism as, say, Elaine Pagels. Readers of 'The Da Vinci Code' will recall that Dan Brown, with no apparent familiarity with gnosticism beyond its modern propagandists, came away with the impression that the gnostics were progressive humanitarians who emphasized Jesus' humanity. This inversion of the truth came from a determined effort to change the subject, to emphasize minor matters of church order and governance over basic theology. Do you love or hate the God of Israel? The gnostics hated their Creator, even understanding Him to be such. Do you love or hate your fellow man? The gnostics hated 'em all, men and women equally, excepting only their small elite. They considered the bulk of humanity mere cattle devoid of an immortal soul. Do you love or hate the world, with all its beauty and sorrow? The gnostics hated it. One wonders how a human being can thrive on such a chalky diet of hate and disdain. And they're back, thanks to the determined effort by 'modern scholarship' to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative in all discussion of this ancient religion, which now reappears as a modern religion. Even if they took to robbing banks, under the theory that money is mere material junk, the gnostics could never have paid for the positive publicity they got, for free, from the religious publishing industry.

Though, to his credit, Dr. Ehrman does admit frankly that the gnostics were polytheists who despised the God of Israel, he nevertheless stresses the paradigm laid down by the other pro-gnostics. We are to believe that the early Christians pursued a religion as malleable as Play-Doh, and even died in the Colosseum for this great uncertainty. They worshipped and revered the God of Israel, or maybe they despised Him. They counted only one God in their God-census, or maybe dozens, hundreds, thousands, a full fullness of 'em. You see, they hadn't quite made up their minds. When people asked the very basic questions inquirers ask about a religion: How many gods do you know of? Whom do you worship and serve?-- the embarrassed Christian had to reply, 'This has not yet been ascertained.'

Was there ever such a puzzled, confused and inchoate religion? Are not human beings reasoning creatures? Is not 'a is not not-a' a principle accepted by pagan and monotheist alike? Does not the first principle of classification require like to be classed with like, not with what is wildly unlike? So what is going on here?

It's a simple equivocation on the word 'Christian.' Both groups, the polytheist gnostics and the monotheist apostolics, called themselves 'Christians.' These two religions were in basic theology as far apart as any two religions could be, yet because they are called by the same name, the reader is supposed to imagine that here is a compact, unified group of people, who just haven't quite made up their minds yet what it is they believe.

And this compact, unified group of people are sitting around, don't you know, deciding what to 'include' and what to 'exclude' from their canon. The debates about this canon must have been remarkable. If one author, Moses, criminalizes polytheism and recommends stoning, mightn't those polytheist authors who find themselves buried beneath a barrage of stones under this regime become skittish and uneasy, or even sluggish and ultimately lifeless? Or will they find a way to brush it off, patch up their differences and make one, big happy family?

"If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Deuteronomy 13:6-10).

So if someone says, 'Let us go and serve the goddess Barbelo, whom neither we nor our fathers knew,' and the others pick up stones to stone him, might this not lead to dissension, with one party chasing the other faction down the street? Or was it all one big love fest, up until "heresy hunters" like Irenaeus disturbed the peace, as Dr. Ehrman suggests?

A 'canon' is a measuring stick; when the pagan philosopher Epicurus named his magnum opus 'The Canon,' he meant that his students should measure themselves by the principles laid forth therein. If they fell short they should exert themselves and stretch to measure up. There is no 'canon' or measuring stick which has some of its divisions running along the negative axis, others extending into positive territory. There never was a 'canon' which combines a law code classing polytheism as a death-penalty crime with treatises laying out a well populated pantheon for the goddess Barbelo and her buddies to inhabit; this would be a thicket of contradictions, not a yardstick. The polytheists rejected the Old Testament, the monotheists rejected the gnostics' literary efforts. Neither of these two groups was tentative or uncertain in their allegiance; the early Christian martyrs were martyrs as much to the cause of monotheism as to the cause of Christ. Nor were the gnostics uncertain that when Jehovah thundered that He was the only God, the other gods laughed.

Yet these modern authors repeatedly present it as a live option that polytheistic gnostic texts like 'The Gospel of Judas' were ever going to be bound into one volume with the Old Testament, that it was only "eventually" that they were "excluded" from scripture:

"What is the distinctive portrayal of Judas in this gospel? How does its overall religious perspective differ from the 'orthodox' views that came to be embraced by the majority of Christians? And why was it, and other books like it, eventually excluded from the canon of Christian scripture?" (Bart Ehrman, Christianity Turned on Its Head, p. 91, 'The Gospel of Judas').

Notice how Dr. Ehrman projects monotheism into futurity: "the 'orthodox' views that came to be embraced." Did monotheism really still lay in the future for the Christians of the second century? Dr. Ehrman is sure that it did, and that monotheism was a novelty when it was incorporated into the Nicene Creed:

  • “We have long known about these debates, and the Gospel of Judas allows us to see one side of them even more clearly -- one of the sides that ended up losing. Every side laid claim to sacred books supporting its point of view; all insisted that these views came straight from Jesus, and through him from God. But only one side won. This was the side that decided which books should be considered Scripture, and that wrote the Christian creeds that have come down to us today. Embodied in these creeds are theological statements that trumpet the success of the 'orthodox' party. Consider the opening of one of the most famous of these creeds:
  • “We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all things visible and invisible.
  • “This affirmation stands in stark contrast with the views set forth in the Gospel of Judas, where there is not just one God but many gods and where the creator of this world is not the true God but an inferior deity, who is not the Father of all and is certainly not almighty.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'The Gospel of Judas,' p. 103).

Is this perspective accurate? Was monotheism a novelty when it was affirmed in the Nicene creed of the fourth Christian century? Was the number of gods really left up in the air until that point? Or had the god-census long before been concluded by God Himself, speaking through the prophets?

Only One God

 Only One God

"I am the LORD, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me." (Isaiah 43:5).

There is not, in fact, a tremendous amount of ambiguity left on this point in the Old Testament.

Even by those Christian churches which consider them important, creeds are not understood to reveal new doctrine, but only to summarize what is already laid out in scripture:

"Whether it is suitable for the Articles of Faith to be embodied in a Creed?...The truth of faith is spread throughout Holy Writ, under various modes of expression, and sometimes obscurely, so that, in order to gather the truth of faith from Holy Writ, one needs long study and practice, which are unattainable by all those who require to know the truth of faith, many of whom have no time for study, being busy with other affairs. And so it was necessary to gather together a clear summary from the sayings of Holy Writ, to be proposed to the belief of all. This indeed was no addition to Holy Writ, but something taken from it." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II of Second Part, Question 1, Article 9).
"So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed, and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments." (Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 5.12).

If creeds revealed new truths, as Dr. Ehrman alleges, why would people be likely to agree with them? How could consensus be achieved for new and unheard-of things? One cannot reconcile the two incompatible theses with which Dr. Ehrman presents us: 1.) Jesus and His followers taught monotheism, without doubt; 2.) His followers were left in doubt whether to follow monotheism or polytheism.


Thriceholy Radio

Jesus' Bible

Dr. Ehrman freely concedes that the Old Testament was quoted as scripture by Jesus, as the canonical gospels attest:

  • “When Christianity started out -- with the historical Jesus himself -- it already has a set of sacred written authorities. Jesus was a Jew living in Palestine, and like all Palestinian Jews, he accepted the authority of the Jewish Scriptures, especially the first five books of what Christians have called the Old Testament...sometimes known as the Law of Moses.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'The Gospel of Judas,' p. 116).

It's funny how these modern-day boosters of gnosticism do not even know when they are giving away the store. If Jesus understood the law of Moses to be holy, as Dr. Ehrman admits, and the law of Moses criminalizes polytheism, as it does, then the question of the God-count did not remain open into the fourth Christian century, nor into the third, nor in the second, nor in the first. Those who followed Jesus counted one, and only one, true and living God. Some people did not want to follow Jesus where He wished to lead, but wanted to wander back into pagan polytheism instead.

In spite of his own admission that Jesus taught monotheism, Dr. Ehrman still also alleges that the teaching of monotheism was 'back-dated' into Jesus' mouth by the orthodox party who triumphed later:

"In brief, one of the competing groups in Christianity succeeded in overwhelming all the others...This group became 'orthodox,' and once it had sealed its victory over all of its opponents, it rewrote the history of the engagement -- claiming that it had always been the majority opinion of Christianity, that its views had always been the views of the apostolic churches and of the apostles, that its creeds were rooted directly in the teachings of Jesus." (Bart Ehrman, p. 118, The Gospel of Judas).

Dr. Ehrman is aware that the gnostics were polytheists:

"Traditional Christianity has taught, of course, that our world is the good creation of the one true God. But this was not the view of the gnostics. According to a wide range of gnostic groups, the god who created the world is not the only god and in fact is not even the most powerful or all-knowing god." (Bart Ehrman, pp. 84-85, The Gospel of Judas).

So which is it? Did Jesus teach monotheism, as is taught in the Old Testament and in the four gospels?:

"Jesus answered him, 'The first of all the commandments is: "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one."...So the scribe said to Him, 'Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.'...Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.'" (Mark 12:29-34).

Dr. Ehrman wants it both ways. He must admit Jesus taught monotheism: is it really possible to claim otherwise? The Gospel of Judas, for its part, admits it was, not gnosticism, but orthodoxy, that the apostles taught. Nor would the gnostic author tolerate this admitted apostolic faith, because the gnostics "looked down with hatred and scorn on the orthodox, who for them were the false believers." (Walter Bauer, quoted p. xxxi., Elaine Pagels, 'The Gnostic Gospels). But when apostolic Christians followed obediently behind their Lord and confessed one God, Dr. Ehrman alleges they 'back-dated' that claim into the mouth of Jesus and the apostles. He both makes the accusation, and himself disproves it.

This man, when he was still an evangelical Christian, got tired of losing all the arguments, and so he changed sides. But now that he is at the peak of his profession, he still loses all the arguments, nor can he fathom why changing sides failed to remedy the problem. Perhaps the reader may suspect. Are we to imagine that the early Christians did not know that Jesus was a Jew, nor that He taught monotheism? But everyone in the ancient world knew that the Jews admitted only one God; the pagans, including the gnostics, bitterly resented this insult to their revered and populous pantheon.



In India today, people sometimes gladly hear the good news about Jesus, and make a little niche in their household shrine in which to place His statuette, alongside the statues of Krishna, Shiva and the rest of the gang. It is left to the missionaries to try to explain that following Jesus means tossing out the pantheon onto the curb-side, not clearing a space for Jesus within it.

This process of acculturation has been going on from the beginning of the Christian mission. One of the authors whose works are represented in the Nag Hammadi library is an Isis-worshipper:

"[I] am the one whose image is great in Egypt
and the one who has no image among the barbarians." (The Thunder: Perfect Mind 16:9, p. 299, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson)

What are treatises in praise of the pagan goddess Isis doing in the same library with treatises in praise of Christ? Have the two any affinity for each other? “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:20). It does seem that the mother goddess Barbelo, from whose realm Jesus comes as emissary in 'The Gospel of Judas,' has far more in common with the pagan goddess Isis than with any Judaeo-Christian exemplar. Like Isis, she is the mother of all that is; Dr. Ehrman hymns her as "the mother of all creation" (p. 87), "the one who is the mother of all there is." (p. 90, Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot').

Polytheism was the majority view at the time. Most people then alive counted "many gods," and wondered, when they heard the living God proclaim Himself God alone in the Old Testament, what the other gods would make of that. They would laugh, of course; they could almost hear them. This tableau is a favorite set-piece of gnostic literature. It is not strange that these people tried to fit Jesus into their world view; everyone does, including Ernest Renan and the Jesus Seminar. Jesus is truly, as the Bible says, "the desire of all nations" (Haggai 2:7). What is strange is that anyone in this day would try to claim that Jesus fits neatly into a pagan pantheon, given His own teaching on this topic.

Was there ever a religion which answered the most basic questions posed to it by potential converts: 'How many gods do you know of? What god do you worship?' -- with 'We don't know yet'? Yet these authors tell us there was a religion which hadn't yet made up its mind on its own first principles: "It [The Gospel of Judas] would open up new vistas of understanding about early Christianity and show us just how wildly diverse this religion was in its early centuries." (Bart Ehrman, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, pp. 67-68). "[T]his religion:" which religion? Gnosticism or apostolic Christianity? Is it not apparent these are two wildly diverse religions, not one? What advantage is there is a system of classification which insists "wildly diverse" things belong in the same bin? There is no 'discovery' here, though one is endlessly trumpeted. There is only equivocation on a term, 'Christian,' used by both of these "wildly diverse" religions. 'Equivocation' is that logical fallacy in which it is assumed that, because one word is used, the same thing is meant. It is to be avoided, not embraced:

"Equivocation...Most words have more than one literal meaning, as the word 'pen' may denote either an instrument for writing or an enclosure for animals. When we keep these different meanings apart, no difficulty arises. But when we confuse the different meanings a single word or phrase may have, using it in different senses in the same context, we are using it equivocally. If the context happens to be an argument, we commit the fallacy of equivocation." (Irving M. Copi, 'Introduction to Logic,' p. 92)

Eliminate equivocation on the term 'Christian,' and you eliminate all of Bart Ehrman's 'discoveries' in the field of church history.

People Nowadays

Bart Ehrman describes a historical process going on whereby the early Christians, a confused lot who hadn't yet made up their minds whether to bow down before the God of Israel or to blaspheme Him, suddenly developed clarity on this point round about the fourth century A.D. They then, and not before, decided that the people who had wanted to blaspheme the God of Israel were not really Christians.

Can the reader conceive of a religion, one religion, which had not yet ascertained its object of worship? To the extent that both adoration and blasphemy of the same deity were still live options. Was there ever such a religion? Or is it only equivocation on the term 'Christian?' From the time teachers such as Marcion arose, monotheists understood them to be preaching an alien god and an alien religion. Notice how Dr. Ehrman notes that "most Christians today" would expel the gnostics from the fold:

  • “These two centuries were particularly rich in theological diversity among the early Christians. In fact, the theological diversity was so extensive that groups calling themselves Christian adhered to beliefs and practices that most Christians today would insist were not Christian at all. In the second and third centuries there were, of course, Christians who believed that there was only one God, the Creator of all there is. Other people who called themselves Christian, however, insisted that there were two different gods...Others said thirty. Others still said 365...Why didn't these other groups simply read their New Testaments to see that their views were wrong? It is because there was no New Testament...The New Testament itself emerged out of these conflicts over God (or the gods), as one group of believers acquired more converts than all the others and decided which books should be included in the canon of scripture.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus,' pp. 152-153).

Never mind for the moment why they didn't read the New Testament; why didn't the gnostics read the Old Testament, and discover in the pages therein that there is only one God? Because they didn't accept the Old Testament as the truth! No gnostic does. Yet can there be any doubt that Jesus and His twelve apostles quoted the Old Testament as the word of God? Dr. Ehrman himself concedes that they did, without realizing that the law of Moses criminalizes both polytheism and also blasphemy:

"And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death." (Leviticus 24:16)

Was there ever going to be room in the world for a Bible whose Old Testament criminalized blasphemy, and whose New Testament gave a good case in point, describing the God of Israel as a blind fool and a bungler? Will the congregation read the Old Testament in the morning, and then reading their gnostic treatises in the afternoon, rise up to stone...themselves? The godly bishops gathered at the Council of Nicaea must have rent their garments when they read the familiar gnostic burlesque: "...he became arrogant, saying, 'It is I who am God, and there is none other apart from me.' When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, "You are mistaken Samael" -- which is, 'god of the blind.'" (The Hypostasis of the Archons, p.167, 'The Nag Hammadi Library,' James M. Robinson, editor). Except they didn't, because it never happened!

While people like Elaine Pagels and Dan Brown believe, with child-like certainty, that there actually was an occasion when the pope or an emperor or a church council decided on the New Testament canon, Bart Ehrman is sufficiently aware of history to realize that...there was not:

"Even the twenty-seven-book canon with which all of us are familiar did not ever get ratified by a church council of any kind -- until the anti-Reformation Catholic Council of Trent in the sixteenth century...In a strange way, the canon, far from being definitively decided upon at some point of time, emerged without anyone taking a vote." (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 190).

The fact that he realizes there was no such event does not prevent this protean author from using the same conspiratorial language as the others. In reality, the church reached a consensus, the Holy Spirit in the church recognizing the Holy Spirit in the authors of scripture. This 'event which never happened' is the lynch-pin in a conspiracy theory of history. The fact that it never happened does not inhibit these 'historians' from referencing it. Readers mistake the kind of 'history' being done by these authors if they anticipate non-facticity to be any barrier to their researches.

Not only "most Christians today," but the older sort as well, understood perfectly well, from the time Marcion rose to begin preaching, that these were two different religions, "with nothing in common" except the bare name 'Christian:'

"For some in one way, others in another, teach to blaspheme the Maker of all things, and Christ, who was foretold by Him as coming, and the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, with whom we have nothing in common, since we know them to be atheists, impious, unrighteous, and sinful, and confessors of Jesus in name only, instead of worshippers of Him. Yet they style themselves Christians, just as certain among the Gentiles inscribe the name of God upon the works of their own hands, and partake in nefarious and impious rites." (Justin Martyr, 'Dialogue with Trypho,' Chapter 35).

Neither did the gnostics think they had anything in common with the apostles' followers; see 'The Gospel of Judas.' There was never a time when practitioners of this or any other religion, asked by a curious public what it was they worshipped, explained that they had not yet ascertained this, but would some day in the future make up their minds whether they intended to blaspheme, or to worship, the God of Israel. Justin worshipped:

"There will be no other God, O Trypho, nor was there from eternity any other existing' (I thus addressed him), 'but He who made and disposed all this universe. Nor do we think that there is one God for us, another for you, but that He alone is God who led your fathers out from Egypt with a strong hand and a high arm. Nor have we trusted in any other (for there is no other), but in Him in whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.'" (Justin Martyr, 'Dialogue with Trypho,' Chapter 11).

This was written not very long after Marcion appeared in the world to explain that the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was evil and that Christ had been sent by an other, alien God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has had His followers in all ages. And so have the "many gods" of the nations. These modern-day gnostic boosters have succeeded in reviving this ancient religion, which now boasts whole congregations in place of the occasional lonesome adept like William Blake. After the genocidal rampages of the Mohammedans in the east against the Manichees, and the genocidal papal crusade against the Cathari in the west, this once-mighty faith was forced into obscure, underground channels like the Kabbalah. But now, thanks to the tireless publicity efforts of the HarperCollins publishing house, it has been revived as an openly functioning public religion. And what are we to conclude from that? That 'Christians' have still, at this late date, not yet determined whether they believe in one, or many, gods, and that they still haven't made up their minds whether they will worship or blaspheme the living God? Or that there is no historical process going on here which explains anything worth explaining?

Jesus Interrupted

Majority Rule

Bart Ehrman's own religious journey began, and ended, as a quest for popularity. He sees the world of the early church as if its struggles were his, writ large. In so doing, he jumbles together unrelated things. Majority acceptance and theological self-definition are to him the same thing. Christianity, beginning as a persecuted, illicit sect, became, after Constantine, the faith of most people in the Roman empire. But the faith of this unpopular minority sect was by no means undefined as touching the issue of monotheism. The martyrs who faced down a howling mob in the arena understood the polytheists outnumbered them. How could they fail to understand that?

Polytheists greatly outnumbered monotheists in the early church centuries. The Jews enjoyed legal protection, as their monotheistic faith was ancient, but the Christians did not. Though the demands made by their persecutors varied from time to time and place to place, at times they were martyrs to monotheism as much as to the cause of Christ:

"And this is the sole accusation you bring against us, that we do not reverence the same gods as you do, nor offer to the dead libations and the savor of fat, and crowns for their statues, and sacrifices." (Justin Martyr, 'First Apology,' 24).

Is it not evident they were not looking for popularity or majority approval? The vindication these people sought does not come from the crowd. Nor would it have ever occurred to the gnostics, who despised the mass of humanity as cattle without a soul, to put matters to a vote. Neither group is on the same track as Dr. Ehrman; he does not understand what motivates religious people.

Recall, Dr. Ehrman has conceded that Jesus and the apostles accepted the Old Testament as the word of God: "Jesus was a Jew living in Palestine, and like all Palestinian Jews, he accepted the authority of the Jewish Scriptures..." Given this concession, the reader might expect him consequently to concede the gnostic polytheists were farther removed from the monotheism taught by their founder than were the apostolic Christians. One group bowed down and worshipped the God of Israel, the other derided Him. Not at all!--both groups are on the same place, occupying an equal distance from Jesus and the apostles, according to Dr. Ehrman, even though one group shares the same faith, the other mocks it. Dr. Ehrman does understand that the gnostics rejected the Old Testament as the revelation of any god who was not a.) a blind fool and b.) one of a crowd:

"Some of these groups insisted that the Jewish scriptures were given by the one true God; others claimed that the Jewish scriptures belong to the inferior God of the Jews, who was not the one true God...Only one group eventually 'won out' in these debates...What should we call the 'orthodox' views before they became the majority opinion of all Christians? Possibly it is best to call them proto-orthodox." (Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus,' pp. 153-154).

Better yet, let's call them 'apostolics,' because as Dr. Ehrman and the Gospel of Judas admit, the apostles did not teach that the God of Israel was an "inferior God." Or let's call them 'Christians,' after the author and finisher of their faith, whom Dr. Ehrman admits "accepted the authority of the Jewish Scriptures." If some accept Jesus' views in this area, while others reject His views, who is following and who wandering away?

Some of the early Christian apologists make what seems to be an appeal to majority rule in their disputations with the gnostics. But closer examination shows these writers were not arguing that apostolic Christianity is right because it has more adherents, but only that apostolic Christianity is older. This is a sound probabilistic argument. Because one can pick out spots on the map where the followers of Marcion or Valentinus are clustered, while the faith of the apostles was spread over the globe, the apostolic faith must be older than that of Marcion or Valentinus. Dr. Ehrman does not understand this argument even as applied to manuscripts. For him, pointing out the bare possibility an error could have been made in the first copy from the original negates the likelihood that the common version is accurate to the original:

"In thinking about the manuscripts supporting one textual variant over another, one might be tempted simply to count noses, so to speak. Most scholars today, however, are not at all convinced that the majority of manuscripts necessarily provide the best available text...Suppose that after the original manuscript of a text was produced, two copies were made of it, which we may call A and B...Now suppose that A was copied of one other scribe, but B was copied by fifty scribes." (Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus,' p. 128).

Now, of course, any given error is far more likely to have originated long after the first generation of copies. But to Dr. Ehrman, the mere possibility that an error might have appeared in the first generation does away with the probability that it did not. For what use the early writers made of it, 'more widespread=older' is a statistically sound probabilistic argument. Dr. Ehrman concedes that the four canonical gospels are the oldest, without seeming to realize it is a damaging concession: "The four [gospels] in the New Testament are the oldest ones to survive." (Bart Ehrman, 'The Gospel of Judas,' p. 81). 'Oldest' means 'closest to the apostles'--those Old Testament believing monotheists who are somehow nevertheless just as adequately represented by pagan polytheists hymning the mother goddess Barbelo.

Politically Correct

One way of being politically correct in the modern world is to stress Jesus' Jewishness, as does author Geza Vermes. Against someone who is imagined to say, 'Jesus started a new religion,' practitioners of this tendency reply,

"One of the ironies of early Christianity is that Jesus himself was a Jew who worshiped the Jewish God, kept Jewish customs, interpreted the Jewish law, and acquired Jewish disciples, who accepted him as the Jewish messiah...the one thing that nearly all scholars agree upon, however, is that no matter how one one understands the major thrust of Jesus's mission, he must be situated in his own context as a first-century Palestinian Jew. Whatever else he was, Jesus was thoroughly Jewish, in every way -- as were his disciples." (Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus,' p. 187)


Certainly Christians do not like to say 'Jesus started a new religion,' but rather that He is the fulfillment of the old promises. Christians understand Jesus to be God incarnate, and to pontificate about God's religion -- 'God is a theist' -- is a little bit funny. However, there does seem a touch of the soft racism of low expectations in this modern view. Why would Jews alone of all the nations not be clever enough to start a new religion, when Americans Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Wallace D. Fard achieved this goal? Not even to mention foreigners like Gautama Buddha and Mani. Are the Jews underachievers?

Another politically correct thing people say in the modern world is that gnosticism and orthodoxy contested on an even playing field in the early church. According to the modern boosters of gnosticism, it is bigoted and ignorant to suggest that orthodoxy was in fact, all along, closer to the views of Jesus and His disciples. Bart Ehrman embraces this form of political correctness, too; as quoted above, he is even capable of implying that it was not until the Nicene Creed of the fourth Christian century that the contest was decided.

This is not a field that attracts the best and the brightest. Has anyone noticed that these two forms of political correctness are two freight trains on the same track, heading towards one another? If Jesus did indeed teach the Jewish scriptures and the monotheism they endorse, as the "Jesus was thoroughly Jewish" school of thought insists, then the gnostic polytheists never had any right to lay claim to Him. They were in the wrong from day one.

Dr. Ehrman so far forgets himself as to admit "that Christians laid claim to the Jewish Bible as their own." (Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus,' p. 189). What kind of 'Christians' did that? Not the gnostics, who despised the God of Israel, and rejected His self-revelation in the Hebrew scriptures as the babblings of a blind fool. Evidently Bart Ehrman himself is aware the gnostics were no Christians.

From Victory Unto Victory

According to Bart Ehrman, something remarkable happened in the fourth century. It was a famous victory:

  • “[The Gospel of Judas] presents a form of Gnostic religion that came to be suppressed by the victorious party in Christianity in the third or fourth century.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' p. 170).

But who, other than Bart Ehrman, noticed this victory? Was there a ticker-tape parade? Was it anything the defeated gnostics would have had reason to notice? Dr. Ehrman implies it was the Nicene Creed which struck the decisive blow. And how did it do that? Did the gnostics roll the creed up into a tight cylinder and strike the gnostics upside the head with it? Did they make it into a paper airplane and fling it in their faces? Did they crumple it up into a little ball and then: whap! What can he possibly be thinking of? The gnostics, who did not even worship the same God as the framers of the Nicene Creed, had no reason to concern themselves in the matter; I'm sure they couldn't have cared less. The church, which had only with the accession of Constantine become a legal religion, was still very much of a minority community and was in no position to harm other groups.

What "victory" can Bart Ehrman possibly have in mind? Can he imagine the gnostics silently faded away in the fourth century, their feelings hurt by the fact that the Nicene Creed takes no notice of them? They did no such thing! Gnosticism saved the best for last,-- and it did not die a natural death. The third century reformer Mani breathed new life into gnosticism when he married it to the Eastern and Pythagorean idea of reincarnation. The gnosticism of Nag Hammadi is at best the secret cherished by a small self-congratulatory elite, it has little potential as a mass religion. What did those misanthropic early gnostics have to say to the great bulk of humanity but 'Drop dead'? Come to think of it that's all they had to say to God, too. They perceived most folks as beasts without an immortal soul. This was a faith that appeals to people like the arrogant Dr. Ehrman, who are looking for a religious vocabulary with which to say, 'I'm better than you.' Later gnosticism, like the faith of the Cathari wiped out by a genocidal papal crusade, was more inclusive and welcoming, if not more plausible.

Grafting on the myth of transmigration allowed a two-tier system, with the 'perfect' on top and the less perfect on bottom, paying the bills for the upkeep of the 'perfect.' 'Better luck next time' keeps people playing the lottery, and the lower tier stayed in the game in the hope they'd get to be 'perfect' next life. Though some of the earlier gnostics, like the Carpocratians, believed in transmigration, it had not functioned as a promotion mechanism. In this improved form, the three castes of into which humanity was divided by the earlier gnostics: spiritual (themselves), psychical (the church), and physical (no hope), do not remain separated as they pass from life to life because they are just different sorts of things like cows and cabbages, but are given the hope of promotion.

It's this system which has kept the lower social orders in their place in India for millennia. Conquered races sometimes absorb their conquerors. But the darker-skinned native inhabitants never absorbed their lighter-skinned conquerors, whose descendants, the Brahmins, still look noticeably different from the original inhabitants. Conquered peoples sometimes rebel and throw off their conquerors; but the Indian lower orders have gratefully served the descendants of their conquerors for millennia, without hope of upward mobility. An apartheid system ruled every aspect of their lives; yet the conquered people were grateful, because they were told, next life, if they were good, they might get to be reborn on the top rung of the ladder. Although perhaps compounded of the same mix of hope, fear, greed, and self-abasement as 'Spanish Lotto,' it has worked for millennia to keep the natives in their place; no one even remembers when the original conquest took place. The gnostics added this element to their system, and it emerged stronger, at last providing a fulfilling role for the masses (paying the 'perfect's' living expenses). As a result of Mani's reforms, gnosticism at last became a religion for the people, not just for the elite.

While in an earlier age Christian authors had argued against the gnostics, in twelfth century France, church leadership positions went to those who had paid for them, in hopes of realizing the revenue. This corrupt church could not persuade the gnostics. So in 1208 A.D., Pope Innocent III resorted to an argumentum ad baculum. This happened in the thirteenth century, not the fourth century. The Hutu and the Tutsi lived cheek by jowl, and while not overly enamored of one another, might have continued living that way for years. But they didn't. Had the Christians of France behaved like Christians, the gnostics and the church would have traveled down through the ages together, exchanging dirty looks and harsh pamphlets, no one agreeing, and no one achieving 'victory' over anyone else. But this did not happen. It took one of the most blood-thirsty atrocities of human history to wipe out the western gnostics, while the successors to Mohammed were achieving similar feats against the Manichees of the east. Gnosticism did not die a natural death, and the Nicene Creed had nothing to do with it.

Readers perplexed as to the relevance of the Nicene Creed who can't quite recall the wording will remain just as perplexed after reading:

To sum up the insights of our peerless scholar: the orthodox achieved a great triumph over the gnostics in the fourth century A.D., trumpeting their success in the Nicene Creed, which somehow or other forgot to say anything about gnosticism. But the gnostics did not get the memo, and would not get it for another nine centuries (postal service was slow in those days). Eventually, finding that balling up the creed and tossing it as the gnostics did not achieve very much, the Pope wiped them all out, in one of the most horrific massacres this bleeding globe has ever seen. The bishops who penned the Nicene Creed bore on their bodies the scars of persecution; the church of that era was persecuted, not persecutor. Maybe that is part of the reason why they forgot to say anything about the gnostics in that poetic summary of Bible truth.

The classic gnostic teachings were better suited to an invitation-only secret society like 'Skull and Bones' than they were to a mass religion. There were not at first whole cities or regions given over to gnosticism; how could there be, when the gnostics of that period did not think most people had souls worth saving? After Mani's reform, it became possible for gnosticism to become a mass religion. Manichaeans were 'Christians' only in the same sense as are liberal Christians today: they revered Jesus, but did not want to be too exclusive about it. The Bogomils and the Cathari pursued this two-tiered plan of gnosticism to great popular success. Gnosticism presented the faithful with extreme lifestyle choices, either asceticism or libertinism (one wonders which is preferred in the present-day HarperCollins gnostic revival?), not even to mention the food fetishes which so perplexed Augustine when he was a Manichee. (Perhaps like children sitting in a closet eating Wintergreen Life-savers, the upper echelon Manichees were thought to liberate particles of light through mastication). The two-tier system resolved this difficulty.

During the years of late antiquity, the church, then taking on the characteristics of what would become the 'Roman Catholic' church, was locked in a contest of 'keeping up with the Joneses' versus gnosticism. The gnostics attracted admiration by their celibate clergy (the top tier); the nascent Roman Catholics responded with a celibate clergy, though the church of the early years had not had any such institution. The gnostics attracted admiration with their feats of asceticism; the nascent Roman Catholics responded with the monastic movement. Some elements of this, like voluntary poverty and celibacy, are commended in the gospel, but the misanthropic framework: that people who did these things were not to be the salt and light of their communities, but were to identify their own churches as 'the world' and flee from them,-- is more a gnostic than a gospel counsel. You do not have to keep up with the Joneses if the Joneses have moved away or gone out of business. You do not have to massacre the Joneses if the Joneses have been defeated and gone home, though you should not do that in any case.

Hypatia's Bookshelf

First Century

Perhaps some readers wonder if there might be some historical plausibility to the gnostic portrait of Jesus and the apostles as teachers of pagan polytheism. After all, Israel has at times wandered far from God in her national pilgrimage. Manasseh went so far as to set up an idol in the temple of God: "And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever..." (2 Chronicles 33:7). Was the first century a time, like the days of Manasseh, when pagan polytheism held sway in Israel?

All witnesses, pagan, Jewish and Christian, say no, this was a time of great zeal for the law. The Old Testament canon, in case some might think it ill-defined, was closed and had been closed for centuries:

"For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death....during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them, to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them; but it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in number, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws and the records that contain them..." (Josephus, 'Against Apion,' Book 1, 8).

There is no historical plausibility to the claim that Jesus and his apostles taught pagan polytheism. Prior to Pompey's conquest in 63 B.C., Judaism had been expanding not contracting; in the first century A.D., the non-Gentile inhabitants of Palestine were as committed to monotheism as they had ever been.

Bart Ehrman helpfully explains that the earliest Christians believed in one big God (capital G) plus one little god (small g).

"Jesus now had been exalted to heaven and is the heavenly messiah to come to earth. In an even more real sense, he was God. Not God Almighty, of course, but he was a heavenly being, a superhuman, a divine king who would rule the nations."
(Ehrman, Bart D. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (pp. 208-209). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

No, not one, the other one. Well, what's the problem with that? What could be simpler or more satisfactory? How many gods are there supposed to be? Two? One-and-a-half. A whole pantheon? Well, not exactly. . .

How Many Gods


Readers of Dan Brown will recall how that author magnifies Constantine's role. People have been doing that for a very long time, like the ambitious and unscrupulous forger of 'The Donation of Constantine.' These people constantly revert to this theme, though it is not so:

"By the time of the Emperor Constantine's conversion, when Christianity became an officially approved religion in the fourth century, Christian bishops, previously victimized by the police, now commanded them. Possession of books denounced as heretical was made a criminal offense." (Elaine Pagels, 'The Gnostic Gospels, Introduction p. xviii-xix).

Before the legend gets started that Constantine invented monotheism, some explanation might be in order.

When Constantine became emperor, Christianity, which had been persecuted, became a legal faith. But the Christians remained a minority; they were in no position to disestablish paganism. That did not happen for a long while. The Vestal Virgins were sent packing in 394 A.D., their sacred fire extinguished. Within sixteen years, in 410 A.D., Alaric the Goth sacked Rome, just a coincidence, no doubt.

Under Constantine, the government first began to fund the construction of Christian churches, while not ceasing to pay for pagan temples. Unfortunately the separation of church and state had not yet been thought of. Paganism had always been supported by public funds. The 'demiurge,' a figure familiar from gnostic and pagan philosophical writings, was, in this lower realm, the title of a public office, 'the people's builder,' a contractor maintained at public expense to construct temples and other public buildings. From 'demos,' the people, and 'ergon,' work, comes 'demiourgos,' "one who works for the people..." (Liddell and Scott). The idea that the building of temples ought to be funded by private monies collected through building drives was a great discovery not yet made.

It should be apparent that government funding of religion is a formula for setting religious sects at one another's' throats, not for promoting civil peace. Though this lesson should have been learned in Constantine's day, it has not even been learned yet. For example, the long-suffering tax-payers of North Carolina pay Dr. Ehrman's salary. But there is nothing voluntary about contributing to the tax revenues; if you do not pay what the tax-man demands, you go to jail. It is tyranny to coerce the Christian citizens of North Carolina to subsidize anti-Christian propaganda. Surely what private persons do with their money is no concern of the public, but Dr. Ehrman's activity should not be sponsored by public monies. Neither should the state of North Carolina hire a Christian publicist to rebut Dr. Ehrman; how could it be fair to tax the atheists and agnostics of that state to spread the news that the Bible is inspired? No more fair than it is to tax the Christians to spread the news it is not. Rather, the state of North Carolina should stay out of the religious arena, an arena where it has no competence and no special calling.

The religious controversy which Constantine did volunteer to referee was the dispute between the orthodox and the Arians, who are represented in the present day by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Neither party to the dispute questioned whether monotheism was superior to polytheism; they both freely conceded that it was. Both, in fact, accused each other of polytheism, confident that making this charge stick would end the debate. The Arians accused the orthodox of introducing diversity into the nature of God by their teaching of the trinity, an offense, as they saw it, against monotheism. The orthodox accused the Arians of polytheism because in explaining the many clear scriptures teaching the deity of Jesus Christ they were obliged to revert to the idea, "and the Word was a god" (John 1:1, New World Translation). Perhaps this is why Arians do not like clear statements of the deity of Jesus Christ. The gnostics did not have a dog in that fight.


They say sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the early church needed buckets of it. The gnostics did not spread their teachings through open, public preaching. They never would have allowed a volume to be sold to the public like James Robinson prepared of the Nag Hammadi Library. It was the teachers of orthodoxy like Irenaeus who wanted this literature open to public scrutiny, not the gnostics.

Secrecy can be a two-edged sword. A secret society whose teachings are maligned may find it difficult to respond, since, after all, their documents are not open to public examination. For example, Jack Chick Comix says that the Freemasons worship a goat-headed idol named Baphomet. The Masons indignantly deny this, explaining that their order is a harmless fraternal organization, not a religion. To this the critics respond that they think so only because they are on the lower rungs of a society whose rituals and ceremonies are, after all, secret.

There is no Christian who thinks it is a good thing to worship a goat-headed idol named Baphomet, or doubt that those who would do such a thing ought to receive the left foot of fellowship, but people do not believe the Masons do this. Just imagine that the very worst accusations are all true, and you have the situation between Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian and the gnostics. The surfacing of the Nag Hammadi Library has only proved that these men did not lie, they did not exaggerate.

The God of the Jews

When Bart Ehrman does not remember he is supposed to be pretending polytheistic gnosticism stood on an equal footing with apostolic Christianity, why, he simply forgets:

  • “How did Christian convert people away from their (mainly) pagan religions to believe in only one God, the God of the Jews, and in Jesus, his son, who died to take away the sins of the world? The only way to convert people was to tell them stories about Jesus..."”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 146).

Maybe he should write it down.

Were the Gnostics Monotheists?

Readers who recall Elaine Pagels' fatuous claim that the gnostics were modified monotheists may wonder whether Bart Ehrman is defending the same turf. Not that it is defensible; Ms. Pagels, after all, also claims that the Egyptian Holy Family, Isis, Osiris, and Horus, constitute "another version of the Trinity" (Elaine Pagels, 'The Gnostic Gospels, p. 52). But if words like 'monotheism' and 'polytheism' are to have any meaning, then the gnostics belong in the latter category not the former. Dr. Ehrman is aware that believing in only one God is not the same things as believing in thirty or 365 gods. He does not white-wash the gnostics as does Ms. Pagels, nor redefine monotheism into a blanket term covering every possible form of polytheism:

"In the early centuries, of course, there were Christians who believed in only one God. But others claimed that there were two gods (the Marcionites) yet others said there were thirty gods, or 365 gods (various groups of Gnostics)." (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' p. 174).

Dr. Ehrman is also well aware the gnostics do not worship and adore the God of the Jews:

"This misshapen and imperfect being is called by different names -- most commonly Yaldabaoth, which may be related to the name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh, Lord of Sabbaths. This divine miscarriage is, in fact, the creator god of the Jews, who ignorantly proclaimed, 'I am God and there is no other.' He simply didn't know that there were other gods, far superior to him in power and knowledge." (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' p. 59).

Imagine that: the "creator god of the Jews" didn't know there were other gods! So we're back to our syllogism:

  1. Jesus was an undoubted teacher of monotheism who taught His followers to worship and adore the God of Israel;
  2. The gnostics were polytheists who despised the God of Israel;
  3. We really have no basis for judging which of the two successor movements, apostolic Christianity with its reverent monotheism, or gnosticism with its pagan polytheism, was closer to Jesus' teaching. One group won out, that's all.

That is to say, "...this dominant group is labeled 'orthodox' not because it was necessarily right but because it was the one that decided what would be right." (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' p. 175). Those readers who are predisposed to the charitable excuse that this author only wishes to plead the modest nescience of the historian on matters of theology should open their eyes and notice that he uses the pretended historical fact that the early Christians had not made up their minds whether to be monotheists or polytheists as part of a polemic against Christianity.

Tell it Like it Is

The gnostic boosters of the present day cannot stop themselves from promoting the claims of the gnostic authors to the next level. The author of the Gospel of Judas freely concedes that the 12 apostles, minus Judas the thirteenth, taught the Christian community to love and revere the God of Israel. This is, of course, just like the orthodox say about themselves. Of this Dr. Ehrman is aware:

"But Jesus' explanation is not all what they expected. He acknowledges that the priests of the vision are the ones who invoke his name. But who does that mean they are? They are none other than the disciples themselves, Jesus' own followers...Those being sacrificed, in other words, are the followers of the disciples -- that is, the Christians of later generations who think that the twelve disciples represent the truth (as opposed to Judas, who later in this text will be described as the 'thirteenth'). This interpretation of the vision, in other words, is a disparagement of the tradition Christian church that came to be declared 'orthodox' when Gnostics, in the time this book was written, were declared 'heretics.'" (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' pp. 91-92).

After admitting this concession contrary to interest, Dr. Ehrman will of course later revert to the boiler-plate propaganda that the gnostics claimed the authority of the 'apostles' (plural):

"How could all these groups call themselves Christian? In fact, all of them insisted not only that they were Christian but that they were the true Christians, and that all the other groups had misunderstood the teachings of both Jesus and his apostles. And each group had books to prove its point, books allegedly written by apostles that supported its various theological views...Each of these various formulations of Christianity had its distinctive set of beliefs and practices; each had its sacred books, allegedly written by apostles, that supported these beliefs and practices..." (Bart Ehrman, 'The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot,' pp. 174-177).

Why is this kind of dishonesty so deeply ingrained into these people?


The pagan philosopher Socrates noticed that people are prone to believe contradictory ideas. As he realized, this is bad. Our author is a particular sufferer from this malady. He complains that Christians depart from the pattern set by Jesus and the twelve; they do not keep kosher for example. (He is not interested in the explanation offered in the Book of Acts.) Yet he freely admits that Jesus and the twelve were monotheists. He does not complain that the gnostics depart from the pattern set by Jesus and the twelve in this regard, and he freely acknowledges that the gnostics were flaming polytheists. When the topic of gnosticism comes up, he forgets ever having said things like this:

  • “In a sense, the Christian church, in all its varieties, started out with a body of Scripture. Jesus was a Jewish teacher who taught his Jewish disciples a particular understanding of the Jewish Scriptures. The Jewish Bible was the original Christian canon.”
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 218).

  • "We have already seen that there was nothing about Jesus' message or his mission that stood outside Judaism. He was a Jew, born to Jewish parents, raised in a Jewish culture; he became a teacher of the Jewish law, gathered around himself a group of Jewish followers, and instructed them in the essence of what he saw to be the true worship of the Jewish God."
  • (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 257).

Perhaps, the charitable reader speculates, this man does not know that the gnostics do not worship "the Jewish God." No, he does know this:

"The various groups of Gnostics had no difficulty in declaring that Christ was a divine being. For them there were lots of divine beings, and Christ was one of them. The God who declared that he alone was God and 'there is not other' (Isaiah 45:18) was not the true God. He was the lower, inferior divinity who created the world." (Bart Ehrman, 'Jesus, Interrupted,' p. 255).

Perhaps it is time to call in Socrates to see what he can do. Or maybe the Wizard of Oz.

As far as the east is from the west, from Bart Ehrman's 'Jesus' who is too Jewish to have said the things He is recorded as saying, is Burton Mack's Hellenistic Cynic Sage 'Jesus,' who is not Jewish at all, or barely, though by some incomprehensible process He was subsequently captured in a hostile take-over, and made into the King of the Jews. This shows that in modern secular 'Jesus' scholarship, Jesus is whatever you want Him to be:

Bart Ehrman used to make money promoting the idea that Christianity did not make up its mind to become an exclusive and monotheistic religion until the fourth century. But nowadays he is making money explaining that Christianity entered into the fourth century with millions of adherents because it is exclusivist and monotheistic:

"When Christians spoke of this ultimate god, on the other hand, they insisted on two supremely important provisos. Unlike pagan henotheists, they maintained that this god was none other than the god of the Christians. And they insisted that anyone who chose to worship him was to do so to the complete exclusion of all other gods. One might think this exclusionary insistence would be off-putting and offensive in a world filled with gods, dooming the Christian mission to failure. On the contrary, it had just the opposite effect. It was this claim that led to the triumph of Christianity." (Bart D. Ehrman, The Triumph of Christianity, p. 115).

Talk about pulling yourself up by your boot-straps! How can you succeed in winning adherents, in large numbers, on account of a doctrine you have not yet adopted? The one piece of essential mental equipment this man does not have is the law of contradiction, a is not not-a.

Seneca the Younger
Trojan War
Suffering Servant
Fair Play for Cuba
Real and Ideal
The First Missionary