Inventing Jesus: An Interview with Bart Ehrman

Historians in the News

It’s usually clear to Bart Ehrman who loves him and who hates him. Evangelical Christians have been raking Ehrman over the coals for years for his rejection of biblical inerrancy—and atheists and humanists have embraced his writing as ammunition in the fight against the evils of organized religion.

With his new book, Did Jesus Exist?, Ehrman is making friends of his enemies and enemies of his friends as he debunks the work of so-called “mythicists”—writers who have argued that a man named Jesus who taught about the coming Kingdom of God never really existed, and that the religions created around him are nothing but fantasy.

Ehrman, who teaches religion at UNC Chapel Hill, brings his expertise as a historian to the question and concludes that all the evidence available—both from pagan and Christian sources—reveal that Jesus did exist. But while the historical Jesus may not have been invented, it doesn’t mean that invention is not part of the story....

RD: What inspired you to write this book? You write that you had another book in mind instead of this one.

BE: For a long time now, I’ve gotten a couple of emails a week from people asking me whether I think Jesus existed. When I first started getting these I didn’t pay them much attention, but then I realized there were a LOT of people asking the same question. And the reason was that there are these groups of people out there who have been writing books and establishing a presence on the internet arguing that Jesus never did exist, that he was not a historical figure but was completely made up.

So, I thought it would be worthwhile for somebody who is trained as a historian to take on the question, to try to show why Jesus almost certainly did exist....

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