What Jesus Really Said About Heaven and Hell: According To Bart Ehrman

Hortus Deliciarum, 1180 AD

This is the title line from a magazine article, written in May of 2020, in which atheist New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, asserted that Jesus never taught that heaven or hell are real places.

The article states that “There are over two billion Christians in the world, the vast majority of whom believe in heaven and hell….The vast majority of these people naturally assume this is what Jesus himself taught. But that is not true. Neither Jesus, nor the Hebrew Bible he interpreted, endorsed the view that departed souls go to paradise or everlasting pain.”

This statement is in direct contradiction of the actual statements that Jesus made in the New Testament:

Jesus Said: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” ~Matthew 10:28

Jesus Said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.” ~Mark 9:47-48

In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 16, Jesus describes two men who died, one who trusted in God, who was taken to heaven; a second man who rejected God and was taken to Hell. In this place, Jesus said he was “tormented in the flame,” and begged that someone from Hell be sent to warn his family on earth. Jesus said that they have the scriptures which describe Hell, salvation, and redemption in heaven, “let them hear these…”

Jesus said: “…And being in torments in Hell, he lifted up his eyes…Then he cried and said, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame…Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ ~Luke 16:29

I think Bart Ehrman must have his own version of the Bible, because I have conducted scholarly study and publication of commentary on the entire Bible for over 45 years. I know the Bible is filled with clear citations for both heaven and hell. Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven. How Bart Ehrman can be accurately classified as a “scholar,” yet he doesn’t know that Jesus said so much about heaven and hell, is a mystery.

What we discover about atheist scholars is that their views of the Bible is skewed by their idea that God doesn’t exist. You might be surprised to learn that atheist New Testament scholars don’t study the actual texts of the New Testament to learn what it says; they study each other and the secular literary methods that are currently being used to try and impeach the New Testament.

Everything that results from the false and inaccurate premise of the modern atheist scholar, permits the thousands of errors that these atheist scholars publish each year, deceiving unknowing readers. Errors that a majority of people are not aware of.

Only in our modern age when people rarely read and study the Bible, has it been possible for an atheist scholar to successfully convince a large population of the world that God doesn’t exist, that Jesus never claimed to be God, and there is no heaven or hell.

In former generations this deception would never be possible because people in times past, who do read and study the Bible, understood that its entire purpose is to reveal God, in the person of Jesus the Messiah, and the certainty of heaven for those who trust Christ, and hell for those who rebel against God and refuse Christ’s pardon for their sins.

I have written several books that include impeachments of Ehrman’s assertion of “no God; Jesus didn’t say He was God; the disciples of Jesus made Him God, and eighty-five percent of the New Testament was embellished.” These are blatant lies that have absolutely no evidence to prove these assertions. Ehrman’s newest deception is that the Bible doesn’t teach heaven or hell. In this essay I will demonstrate why this is not true, and how inept the atheist scholar is today in their conclusions of the New Testament.

We might ask why a man would seek to obtain a Phd and become a New Testament scholar, if he doesn’t believe God exists in the first place? The answer is quite obvious. There is tremendous academic and financial recognition for anyone who claims to be a former evangelical Christian, and is now an atheist. Bart Ehrman achieved international acclaim and became a very wealthy man by assuming this role for himself.

Unfortunately we live during a time when the opinions of atheist scholars carries more weight than the historical narratives of eyewitnesses who accurately described what they saw and heard concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We don’t need the opinions of atheist scholars to inform us whether the New Testament is a reliable account. All we must do is read and study the text for ourselves. Anyone who does this, understands that the scriptures are not written as ancient novels, nor are they comparable to any ancient texts written before.

The New Testament is clearly an assembly of personal letters exchanged between men who saw and heard Jesus. None of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament bear any marks of fraud, forgery, embellishment, or contrivance. Claims to the contrary are without evidence, and based completely upon conjecture and speculation. Would we expect anything less from an atheist?

The idea that the New Testament was written late in the first century by men who never saw or heard Jesus, is impeached by the actual text of the New Testament itself. We have 24,593 extant manuscript copies of the New Testament, dated from 175-225 A.D. All of these surviving manuscripts contain 135 precise statements by the writers of the New Testament in which they specifically say that they “saw, have seen, heard, and are eyewitnesses of all that Jesus said and did.” Should we believe a twenty-first century atheist scholar, or the men who actually penned the historical narratives?

Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?

I have written extensively to impeach these ideas and have proven by evidence, the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses who saw and heard Jesus. It is quite easy to prove by evidence that the Synoptic Gospels were completed by 44 A.D. If we have surviving manuscript copies of these texts from 175-225 A.D., it is certain that the original autographs were written early in the first century. Modern forensics and archeology have proven that ancient autographs originally written on papyrus, could not have survived under the harsh conditions of the first century for more that 200 years. See: “You Are My Witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus,” and “Yeshu: The Historical Jesus,”

I have read a majority of the books published by Bart Ehrman and rarely does he present actual evidence to prove his opinions. People accept Ehrman’s opinions on the Bible because he is known as a New Testament scholar, yet he does not prove his statements by actual evidence. I have been told hundreds of times by unsuspecting atheists that Ehrman has proven that the New Testament is not reliable. When I ask these atheists to provide me with the evidence this is true, evidence they state that Ehrman has presented in his books, they come back to me repeatedly and admit, there is no evidence provided by Ehrman.

Bart Ehrman Is Wrong That Acts 4:13 Proves Peter Was Illiterate

In the world of scholarship, there are academic scholars who are given these titles because they have achieved the education necessary to be recognized as scholars. There are also scholars who are known for their diligent work, strictly based on a lifetime of study in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures.

The problem with the process of academic recognition concerning the Bible, is that it does not consider the importance of actually believing the Bible is the word of God, before seeking to evaluate its texts. Atheist scholars treat the Bible as nothing more that ancient literature, to be criticized and evaluated by any means necessary.

The problem with these modern techniques used by atheist scholars today, is that they give no study to the actual words of the New Testament to see what can be learned from the texts. As the reader of the books and essays by atheist scholars, you should understand at the start that the men and women who write these books, don’t believe the Bible is the word of God, and it holds absolutely no power as Christians claim.

When you read the comments of atheist scholars like Ehrman, you are seeing their opinions, not the conclusions that result from careful study of the New Testament. Atheist scholars like Ehrman, begin with the supposition that God doesn’t exist, and therefore, everything else they say is skewed by this view.

In my opinion no sincere reader of commentary by an atheist scholar like Bart Ehrman, will ever receive a truly unbiased and balanced view of the text. What you receive is the opinion of someone who doesn’t believe the Bible is true in the first place.

Modern scholars often use methods known as “textual, source, form,” and “literary criticism,” in evaluating the New Testament. Unfortunately, these modern methods do not add to our knowledge of the scriptures, they detract and often confuse the texts. These modern methods of interpreting the New Testament were allegedly created to help us understand the New Testament narratives, but they do not accomplish this goal. The methods used by these modern processes, compare the New Testament texts with other ancient works of literature in order to determine whether or not they should be considered reliable.

The premise of this process is flawed in that the New Testament was not written in the same manner as all other ancient texts. There has never been a person during the entire history of the world who performed the miracles of healing every sickness and disease, dying by Roman crucifixion, and rising from the dead, never to die again, other than the Jesus of the Bible.

There has never been another person who said what Jesus said, or fulfilled 400 Hebrew prophecies that were written for the Messiah in the previous 39 books of the Old Testament. No other person during the history of the world, was so precisely documented in such a large body of texts that were written over a period of 1,450 years, by 40 authors.

The New Testament is not merely a narrative that took form in Jerusalem early in the first century; His entire life, death, and resurrection, were described and predicted by the previous texts of the 39 books of the Old Testament that came before. Atheist New Testament scholars do not consider the texts of the Old Testament as relevant to an understanding of the New Testament. This is a fatal error that does not permit any unbiased scholar to learn the true nature and content of the New Testament. The entire purpose of the Old Testament was to prepare the world for the arrival of Jesus, who completed all that the Old Testament prophets said He would do.

Atheist Scholars Use Secular Methods To Evaluate The New Testament

Attempts have been made to draw a parallel between the New Testament and other ancient literature, but they have all failed to prove the New Testament bears any actual resemblance to any other literary works of antiquity. Richard Pervo and Dennis MacDonald claim that the New Testament is nothing more than a fictional Greco-Roman novel.

The following are just two of these alleged assertions that are used today to try and impeach the New Testament as untrue and unreliable. These ideas are widely believed by many modern atheists.

First, the idea of Richard Pervo that the four Gospels are a romance-novel.[5] A second hypothesis by Dennis MacDonald that the text of the four Gospels are nothing more than an epic-novel.[6]

Richard Ivan Pervo was an American Biblical scholar, former Episcopalian priest, and Fellow of the Westar Institute with a Th.D. In 2001, Pervo was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and sentenced to prison where he continued to write and publish.

Dennis Ronald MacDonald is the John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology in California with a Phd from Harvard. MacDonald’s primary method for determining that the four Gospels are fictional novels is called, Mimesis. This method of literary criticism looks for similarities in texts as the sole basis for determining whether two texts are fictional.

MacDonald ignores the actual New Testament text itself which states that it is written for the purpose of giving the reader a historical narrative of true events. These statements are supported by the entire Old Testament, written 1,450 years before, which also states that a Messiah will come to earth who will do precisely what Jesus said and did. If MacDonald was truly searching for similar texts to confirm the purpose of the New Testament, why didn’t he use the Old Testament instead of known fictional ancient texts from completely non related sources? The answer is obvious; his agenda was to impugn Jesus and cause the reader to not believe that He is God or Messiah.

The Gospels As Romance Novels

Pervo builds his entire idea upon conjecture and speculation since there is absolutely no evidence within the text of the New Testament, nor from any other religious or secular source to support this hypothesis. It is important to know that, like Ehrman, both Pervo and MacDonald expect us to believe them because they are “scholars,” not because they have presented any evidence which validates their claims.

Pervo and MacDonald are two sources that many atheists will present to you as examples that the New Testament is not reliable. Upon examination of this alleged evidence, we find that the opinions of these two men, do not prove their accusations that the New Testament is nothing more than a fictional Greco-Roman novel, or a romance-novel. The actual evidence of the surviving New Testament manuscripts, prove that these narratives are representative of actual eyewitnesses who are writing about genuine events that took place, and are preserved for us in the historical record.

Pervo believes that the four Gospels were written as ancient romance novels primarily because of his personal analysis of the book of Acts and its connection with Luke’s Gospel. Luke tells us the reason he wrote Acts; as a follow up to present evidence to his friend Theophilus, to whom he presented a scholarly exegesis of all that Jesus said and did, in Luke’s Gospel testimony.

Pervo’s primary assertion is centered on his belief that the historical references in the Book of Acts are filled with inaccuracies. Second, that the references to the miraculous events in these texts makes them certainly fictional.

The problems with Pervo’s acute analysis is obvious. One, these errors of assumption that the Book of Acts contains historical errors in the the details it describes, is impeached by archeological evidence from other scholars. The idea that Acts is inaccurate is quite easily to impeached by a simple examination of the findings of those who have actually traveled to Asia Minor and tested whether the words of Luke are true.

Pervo Impeached By Ramsay

One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians is Sir William Ramsay.

Notice how Dr. Ramsay describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references, as being without a single error.

“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually born upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”⁠[7]

Dr. Ramsay believed, at the onset, that the accounts described in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago he undertook an expedition to Asia, to try and refute the New Testament, only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”[8]⁠

Since Jesus existed from eternity, and we can validate Him as being present throughout the Old Testament, there is no possibility that the New Testament narratives were contrived. This also invalidates the theory that the four Gospels are a fictional romance-type novel, as Pervo and MacDonald assert. Jesus is present in the Old Testament, predicted for a later arrival on earth by 400 prophecies, and then appears on earth as recorded by the New Testament. There is perfect congruity between the Old and New Testaments in proving the existence of Jesus.

Conservative Scholars Do Believe The New Testament Is The Word Of God

The minority group of modern New Testament scholars are predominantly atheists. They are less than twenty percent of all Biblical scholars. The majority of conservative New Testament scholars stipulate that the Bible is the word of God; the New Testament is a historical narrative of true events, and the writers have told us the truth concerning all that Jesus said and did. The reason these men and women hold these conservative views, is because this is what the extant evidence from antiquity proves.

Conservative scholars believe the New Testament scriptures are perfect the way they are, and we do not need, nor are we helped, by forcing modern New Testament criticism methods upon the texts.

The most proficient way to learn what the New Testament says, and whether or not the writers have told the truth, is to study the text sufficiently. Begin with the idea that the texts are true, and then proceed from this unbiased foundation. If we begin a search for truth with the idea that the premise is not true, we can never arrive at a conclusion that the premise is true. If, however, we start in the manner that all proficient scholars should begin; with the idea that the writers are telling the truth, we can find out if the texts are truthful or contrived by known forensic methods.

How Forensic Evidence Proves The New Testament Is Historical And Reliable

Did The Ancient Jews Believe In Heaven And Hell?

Ehrman asserts that the ancient Jews did not believe in life after death, yet the entirety of the Hebrew texts clearly describe that those who were faithful to God, did believe in a resurrection for the righteous in paradise, and the evil would be assigned to the prison of hell.

In the oldest book of the Bible, Job makes it clear that ancient Hebrew men believed in life after death, and they would see their redeemer again in the land of the living, after they were raised to life again:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. ~Job 19:25-27 (NKJV)

The Resurrection Was Believed By Jews In The First Century

When  Lazarus had died and Jesus came to Bethany to see his sisters, Mary and Martha, Martha tells Jesus that she believes that had Jesus been there when her brother was sick, He could have saved his life. Jesus tells Martha, that as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, He has to power to resurrect the dead.

Martha confirms that she knows this, that Lazarus will be raised again on the last day. Jesus clarifies this issue and informs Martha that He has the power to raise Lazarus at that very moment. Jesus demonstrated the Old Testament prediction that the Messiah would raise the righteous from death to life, by simply speaking to the tomb of Lazarus, and he came back to life again.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”~John 11:21-27 (NLT)

The Promise Of Resurrection: Ten Prophecies Of Messiah Rising From The Dead

When Hebrew scholar, Paul, was before the Pharisees and Sadducees, they were questioning him about why he was preaching that the believers in Jesus would be raised from the dead. Paul understood that the Sadducees didn’t believe in a physical resurrection, but the Pharisees did believe in a resurrection to eternal life,

Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees—for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. ~Acts 23:6-8 (NLT)

The Pharisees were the Doctors of the Law, the Phd’s of that day. They were experts in the Hebrew scriptures and these men expressed in this text above, that those who knew the Hebrew Texts the best, believed in heaven and hell, a resurrection of the righteous, and condemnation of the unrighteous to hell.

“In traditional English versions, he does occasionally seem to speak of “Hell” – for example, in his warnings in the Sermon on the Mount: anyone who calls another a fool, or who allows their right eye or hand to sin, will be cast into “hell” (Matthew 5:22, 29-30). But these passages are not actually referring to “hell.” The word Jesus uses is “Gehenna.”

If Ehrman had actually studied the Bible, he would have learned that Ghenna, is the Lake of Fire, referred to by the book of Revelation. This is an eternal place of torment where the unsaved are ultimately placed.

Jesus said that when an unbeliever dies, they immediately are taken to hell, a prison where they await their final judgment that will take place at the end of the one thousand year reign of Jesus on earth, after the seven year Tribulation.[1]

The unsaved are resurrected at the end of the one thousand years, and taken before the Great White Throne of God, described by Revelation chapter 20.[2] All of these persons who rejected the salvation that God offered to the world through Jesus’ death and resurrection, are found guilty, and dispatched to Gehenna, the Lake of fire.

Jesus used the term hell, translated from the Greek word, Gehenna, because the Jews of that day were familiar with the term, as it was what the Jews called their garbage dump just outside Jerusalem, where Jesus said, “the fires never go out.”[3]

Jesus is telling the reader that Hell, Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, is like the garbage dump where the fires never go out, and the torment of the flames are never extinguished.[4] It is clear from Jesus’ own words that hell is a place of torment for the rebellious who refuse God’s offer of pardon for their sins, and their is no reprieve or end to this sentence.

Just as the reward for obedience to God’s command to believe and receive the offer of eternal life for all sins, lasts for eternity; the punishment and its duration for those who will not repent from their sins and accept Jesus offer of pardon, also has an eternal duration. Both the reward in heaven, and the penalty in hell, are equal in their duration, eternity.

This Is What Happens The Moment You Die

A person can believe the words of an atheist who doesn’t believe the Bible is true, yet seeks to inaccurately assert, at the same time, that the Bible doesn’t teach an eternal hell; or we can believe the words of Jesus, who spoke more about the torments of hell, than He did about the blessings of heaven.

Jesus died and took the punishment we deserve, so that no human being would ever end up in Hell. Jesus said that heaven and hell are both real places where the obedient to God’s command will spend eternity; and the disobedient and rebellious will spend eternity in the torment and regret of hell.


NOTES:

[1] Luke 16, Jesus describes an unrighteous man who dies and goes to hell, a righteous man who dies and goes to paradise: Luke 16:19-31 (NKJV) 19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hell, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”
[2] The Great White Throne Judgment, described by Jesus to John, in the Book of Revelation, chapter 20: Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV) Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
[3] ἅ́δης hadēs; from 1 (as negative particle) and 1492; properly, unseen, i.e. “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls: — grave, hell.
[4] Gehenna, (originally Gebene Hinnom; i.e., “the valley of the sons of Hinnom”), a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where the idolatrous Jews offered their children in sacrifice to Molech (2 Chr 28:3 33:6 Jer 7:31; 19:26). This valley afterwards became the common receptacle for all the refuse of the city. Here the dead bodies of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast and consumed by fire kept always burning. It thus in process of time became the image of the place of everlasting destruction. In this sense it is used by our Lord in Matt 5:22, 29, 30; Matt 5:22; 18:9; Matt 5:22, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5 In these passages, and also in James 3:6 the word is uniformly rendered “hell
[5] Richard Pervo: Profit with Delight: The Literary Genre of the Acts of the Apostles (1987) ISBN 978-0800607821, Luke’s Story of Paul (1990) ISBN 978-0800624057, Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts (with Mikael C. Parsons) (1993) ISBN 978-0800627508, Acts: A Commentary (2008) ISBN 978-0800660451
The Mystery of Acts: Unravelling its Story (2008) ISBN 978-1598150124
[6] MacDonald, Dennis R. (1983). The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664244644. OCLC 8975344.,The Acts of Andrew and the Acts of Andrew and Matthias in the city of the cannibals. Texts and translations. 33. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. ISBN 9781555404925. OCLC 21950803., Christianizing Homer: “The Odyssey,” Plato, and “The Acts of Andrew”. Oxford, UK & New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-508722-2. OCLC 473473966.
[7] William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8
[8] William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222



Categories: Abhorrent teaching about Jesus, Agnostics and Skeptics, Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics, Bart Ehrman, Common errors of Atheists, One Way to Heaven, Richard Baukham, Richard Pervo, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation is a free gift, Salvation through Jesus, Sin and death, The Atheists inability to understand the Gospel, The Four Gospels

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