Canonical Gospels

The Death Knell for the Study of the Historical Jesus – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

Once Wrede convincingly showed that the Gospel of Mark was not a literal, factual description of what Jesus said and did, in his 1901 book The Messianic Secret (but that it, like the other Gospels, had incorporated its own literary and theological concerns into its account), the cottage industry of Historical Jesus books pretty much collapsed.  Its entire foundation had for decades been built on the assumption that even if the other Gospels were not completely historical, but theologically biased,…

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Wrede’s Revolutionary Claim about the “Messianic Secret” – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

Yesterday I pointed out all the passages in the Gospel of Mark that repeat, time and again, the idea that Jesus tried to keep his messiahship a secret.  He doesn’t allow the demons to identify him when he casts them out; when he heals people he strictly instructs them not to tell anyone; he teaches his disciples the “secret of the Kingdom” privately when no one else is around; he teaches the crowds only using parables precisely (Mark indicates) so…

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Is It Plausible that Jesus Kept the Whole Thing a Secret?? – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

Back to the Messianic Secret in Mark.  As we have seen, 19th century scholars by and large determined that Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written, and from that they concluded that it was a straightforward factual description of what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  In their view, unlike the other Gospels, Mark had not invested his story with any (or many) literary touches – i.e. fictionalized any of it – and he hadn’t imposed his own…

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Who CARES if Mark was the First Gospel Written? – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

When I teach students in my Introduction to the New Testament class about the Synoptic Problem, it becomes a bit like pulling teeth.  To be sure, at the very outset, students are intrigued.  When I set it up, it’s kind of like a detective story – who copied whom, and how would we know?  I make it as interesting and intriguing as I can: how can we figure this out? But then I have to get into the weeds to…

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More from Blog Guest Mark Goodacre – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

Yesterday I published the first of two guest posts by Mark Goodacre fellow blog member and long time  colleague and New Testament scholar (at rival Duke) (Yes, we still are talking to each other here at the nearing climax of the basketball season) (Go Heels!). Mark has devoted a good chunk of his life to exploring the Synoptic Problem, and is completely committed to the idea that Mark was the first of the three Gospels to be written, used later…

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Guest Post by Mark Goodacre! – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

In response to my post on why scholars have long thought that Mark was the first Gospel and that Matthew and Luke copied it for many of their stories (a view called Markan Priority), a blog reader asked how Mark Goodacre’s view of “Editorial Fatigue” contributed to the argument.  This is a new argument that Goodacre came up in his extensive work on the Synoptic Problem (the Problem of how/why Matthew, Mark, and Luke have so many agreements, often verbatim,…

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The First Gospel in 19th Century Research – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

My custom/self-imposed policy is to re-post blog posts only when they are a few years old, in the expectation that most blog members will not have seen them and that some of those who have — if they are at all like me — won’t actually remember them.  In this case I need to post one from 2017.  In a later post I am going to argue that when William Wrede published his book on the Messianic Secret, it disabused…

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The Beginning of the Quest of the Historical Jesus – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

In 1901 William Wrede, a German Protestant biblical scholar, published his earth-shattering work, Das Messiasgeheimnis, “The Messianic Secret.”  It overturned in a rather devastating way the entire scholarly consensus about the Gospel of Mark and, more important and relatedly, undercut the whole enterprise scholars had undertaken to use the Gospels to reconstruct the life of the historical Jesus. When five years later, Albert Schweitzer (later famous as a great humanitarian, medical doctor to Africa, who had abandoned his career as…

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Mark’s Central Focus on Jesus’ Death – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

I began answer the question of “What Is the Messianic Secret?” – a term used to describe that distinctive feature of Mark’s Gospel, that Jesus repeatedly tries to hush up anyone who starts to know or realize he is – first by explaining what the traditional views of the messiah were in ancient Judaism (anything *but* a person who would be publically humiliated and tortured to death by his enemies – just the opposite: he was to be a figure…

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How No One Understands Jesus in Mark’s Gospel – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

In yesterday’s post I began to address the question: What is the Messianic Secret?  This is a term that scholars have applied for over a century to the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus repeatedly tells anyone who suspects his identity not to reveal it.  Why?   To make sense of this “Secret” of Jesus, it is important for us to have a fuller understanding of Mark’s portrayal of Jesus. One of Mark’s major themes, quite apart from how one explains the…

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How Do We Explain the Messianic Secret? – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

For this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, I address a question of central importance for understanding the Gospel of Mark, our earliest Gospel and often thought to be the one that best represents what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  I’ll have to *explain* the question before answering it (!).   Then most of this post will be setting up the answer with the crucial background information, which, as it turns out, the vast majority of casual Bible readers have never even…

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Was the Gospel of Mark Written by a Jew? Readers’ Mailbag January 27, 2019 – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

For this week’s mailbag I’ll address and interesting question asked by a member of the blog.  The question is simple on the surface but actually rather complicated, and I don’t remember ever discussing on the blog before.   QUESTION: How is it known that Mark was not written by a Jewish person?   RESPONSE: I don’t recall what prompted this question.   Possibly an off-hand comment that I made that Mark was probably not a Jew?  (I don’t mean the “John…

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The Only Story of Jesus as a Boy in the New Testament – The Bart Ehrman Blog – Christian Article

Based on the feedback I’ve received on the blog this past week, I’ve decided to reinstate the weekly Readers’ Mailbag.   I have actually continued responding to questions since abandoning the feature of the blog, but in a less formal way.  Formalizing it seems like a popular option, and so I’ll try to do this once a week.   I start this week with an interesting question about Jesus as a boy.   QUESTION Outside the birth narratives, the only canonical story…

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