Jesus of Nazareth is perennially in the news. Over the course of the past year, two books about his life and death became No. 1 New York Times bestsellers: Zealot by Reza Aslan and Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly. Neither author claims professional expertise on the New Testament or early Christianity, but their books clearly resonated with the American reading public. At the same time, historians continue to produce scholarship that tries to establish what we know about Jesus’s words and deeds, and the reasons for his death.
In this absorbing seminar, Bart Ehrman, a leading authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the life of Jesus, explores four of the pressing issues historians confront when researching the real story behind the Gospel accounts of the founder of Christianity.
9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Did Jesus Think that the World Would End in His Lifetime?
For more than a century, scholars have been convinced that Jesus is principally to be understood as an apocalyptic prophet who anticipated the imminent end of history as he and his contemporaries knew it. What is so convincing about this understanding, and can it stand up to modern historical scrutiny?
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Did Jesus Favor Violent Revolution?
From the first account of the historical Jesus by Hermann Samuel Reimarus in the 1770s to the 2013 Aslan book, authors have made the provocative claim that Jesus was no pacifist and favored military action to overthrow the Romans in control of Israel’s promised land. Is it plausible that Jesus advocated military violence rather than peace?
12:15 to 1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30 to 2:45 p.m. What Were Jesus’s Final Hours Like?
Some of the most familiar stories about Jesus come from the Gospel accounts of his last days and hours: his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; his cleansing of the Temple; his Last Supper; his trial before Pilate. Are these accounts historical or mostly early Christian legends?
3 to 4:15 p.m. Did the Jews Kill Jesus?
Throughout history—as far back as the writing of the New Testament itself—Christians have accused Jews for the death of Jesus. These accusations led to charges that Jews were Christ-killers, which contributed to centuries of broad persecutions of the Jews and, arguably, the Holocaust itself. How viable are these charges made against the Jews?
Ehrman is the James A. Gray distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.