Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium


Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium is a great introductory book to the historical Jesus by scholar Bart Ehrman. It’s clearly written, as most of his books, and looks at the historical figure of Jesus through the lens of a historian without any theological presuppositions. A must read for anyone interested in the historical Jesus. Rating: 4/5


Below is a collection of interesting quotes from the book:

– About the Historical Method:

“With respect to the historical Jesus, or indeed, with respect to any other historical person, the historical can do no more than establish historical probabilities. In no case can we reconstruct the past with absolute certitude. All that we can do is take the evidence that happens to survive and determine to the best of our abilities what probably happened. The past can never be empirically proved, it can only be reconstructed.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 96)

– About Jesus’ unimportance during his life:

“If we look at the historical record itself, I should emphasise, for historians there is nothing else to look at, it appears that whatever his influence on subsequent generations, Jesus’ impact on society in the first century was practically nil. This becomes especially clear when we consider what his own contemporaries had to say about him. Strangely enough, they said almost nothing.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 56)

– About the lack of pre-Christian Jewish evidence for a suffering Messiah:

“The earliest Christians put a good deal of effort into convincing cocn-Christian Jews that the Messiah had to suffer and die, that in fact Jesus’ crucifixion was according to the divine plan. Why was it so difficult for them to persuade others? Because prior to the Christian proclamation of Jesus, there were no Jews, at least so far as we know, who believed that the Messiah was going to be crucified. On the contrary, the Messiah was to be the great and powerful leader who delivered israel from its oppressive overlords. Christians who wanted to proclaim jesus as the Messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified, because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Corinthians 1:12).” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 93)

– About Jesus ethical teachings and the coming apocalypse:

“Many people – Christian and non-Christian alike- think of Jesus as a great moral teacher whose ethical views can help produce a better society for those of us who are determined to make our lives together as just, peaceful, and enjoyable as possible. On one level, I think that’s probably right. But it’s also important to realise that Jesus himself did not see it that way. He did not propound his ethical views to show us how to create a just society and make the world a happier place for the long haul. For him, there wasn’t going to be a long haul. The judgement of God was coming soon with the arrival of the Son of Man-and people needed to prepare for its coming by changing the way they lived. Preparation for the Kingdom-that’s what ultimately lies at the heart of Jesus’ ethics.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 162)

– About Jesus view on divorce in the Gospels:

“In Mark and in the earliest form of Q (as preserved in Luke) Jesus forbids divorce altogether (Mark 10:4/12; Luke 16:18). In facts anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery-since the Law itself indicates that when a man and woman join together, they are one in flesh, not two. And that which God has united should not be separated. Divorce leads to serious hardship still today, of course. But throughout history thing have been, as a rule, even worse. In Jesus’ time, when women were not able to go out to find a second job, but were for the most part reliant, by necessity. on the men in their lives (fathers, husbands and sons), divorce could lead to abject poverty and misery. Jesus’ understanding of the Law (with love as the guiding principle) forbade the practice altogether-even though the Law itself allowed it.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 173)

– About the restrictions of the Historical Method and miracles:

“The historian has no access to “supernatural forces” but only to the public record, that is, to events that can be observed and interpreted by any reasonable person, of whatever religious persuasion. If a “miracle” requires a belief in the supernatural realm, and historians by the very nature of their craft can speak only about events of the natural world, events that are accessible to observers of every kind, how can they ever certify that an event outside the natural order-that is, a miracle- occurred? – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 193)

“The historical disciplines are not like the natural sciences, in part because they are concerned with establishing what has happened in the past, as opposed to predicting what will happen in the future, and in part because they cannot operate through repeated experimentation. An occurrence is a one-time proposition; once it has happened, it is over and done with. Since historians cannot repeat the past in order to establish what probably happened, there will always be less certainty. And the farther back you go in history, the harder it is to mount a convincing case. For events in the ancient world, even events of earth shattering importance, there is sometimes scant evidence to go on. All the historians can do is establish what probably happened on the basis of whatever supporting evidence happens to survive.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 195)

“Since historians can only establish what probably did happen in the past, and the chances of a miracle happening, by definition, are infinitesimally remote, they can never demonstrate that a miracle probably happened. This is not a problem for only one kind of historians, it is a problem for all historians of every stripe. Even if there are otherwise good sources for a miraculous event, the very nature of the historical discipline prevents the historian from arguing for its probability.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 196)

– About Jesus attacking the institution of the Temple:

“It’s clear that Jesus was not alone in attacking the institution of the Temple. For we know of other Jews both during Jesus’ day and before who thought that the Temple would soon be destroyed because it had grown corrupt. The prophet Jeremiah thought so (Jeremiah 7), as did the members of the Qumran community that left us the Dead Sea Scrolls (see the Commentary on Habakkuk). Similar views are found in other Jewish traditions, for example, an apocryphal book entitled The Assumption of Moses and, possibly, the proclamation of Jesus; namesake, Jesus, son of Anannias, near the end of the first century. Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 213)

– About the historical method and the resurrection:

“The chances of a miracle happening are infinitesimally remote, as opposed to other weird things that happen in our world that are not in and of themselves so highly improbable that we’d call them “impossible”. Thus, even if Jesus was raised from the dead – and many Christian historians personally believe he was, just as most other historians think he wasn’t – there is no way we can demonstrate it using historical methods.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 228)

– About Jesus and the empty tomb:

“It is very difficult to establish that Jesus was actually buried in a private tomb that people could visit if they want. It would have been more common for the body of a crucified criminal to be tossed into a common grave, where within days it would have deteriorated beyond the point of recognition” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 229)

– About Jews and the suffering Messiah:

“The earliest Christians had an obvious problem when the tried to convince their fellow Jews that Jesus was the one upon who God had shown his special favour, his Son, the Messiah. For non-Christian Jews who were anticipating a Messiah figure were not looking for anyone remotely like Jesus. We have seen that the messianic expectations reflected in our serving sources are quite disparate. But they all had one thing in common: they all expected the Messiah to be a powerful figure who wold command the respect of friend and foe alike, one who would lead the jewish people into a new world that overcame the injustices of the old. Who, though, was Jesus? A relatively obscure teacher who was crucified for sedition against the empire. A convicted criminal was God’s Messiah? Jesus never overthrew the state; he was mocked, beaten, and executed by the state. For most Jews, to call Jesus the Messiah – let alone Lord of the universe – was preposterous, even blasphemous. To our knowledge, prior to the advent of Christianity, there were no Jews who believed that the Messiah to come would suffer and die for the sins of the wold and then return again in glory.” – Bart Ehrman – Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (p. 234)


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