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How Do We Know What “Most Scholars” Think?

I have received a particularly interesting question that has led to a bit of back and forth between me and a person on the blog.  This person pointed out that in my writings I often indicate that a view that I have (e.g., that the Gospel of John was not written by John the son of Zebedee; that the book of Ephesians was not really written by Paul even though the author claims to be Paul; or that the Gospels ...

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My Problem(s) With Fundamentalism: A Blast from the Past

What are fundamentalists, and why don’t I like them?  Here is a post I published almost exactly four years ago now.  My views have not changed!

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QUESTION:

You note that fundamentalism is dangerous and harmful. How do you define fundamentalism and why do you think it’s dangerous?

RESPONSE:

There are of course actual definitions of “fundamentalism” that you can find in scholarship on religion, but I sense that you’re asking more for a rough-and-ready description. Years ago I started defining fundamentalism as ...

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Can Biblical Scholars Be Historians?

Two interesting questions on this week’s Readers Mailbag.  If you have a question, just ask away!

 

QUESTION:

I just had a debate with a Mythicist who had no idea that any biblical scholar could be a historian.  I have to admit, I was just as ignorant of this fact until a little less than two years ago. How mainstream is it that biblical scholars are also known as historians? Maybe people think of biblical scholar–historian as two entirely separate entities.

 

RESPONSE

It’s a good ...

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What Do Translators Translate?

What do translators of the Bible actually translate?  This has been the question in the back of my mind for the thread that has been going on over the past couple of weeks.  The question has two components.  (1) Which books do they translate and call “the Bible”?  And (2) when they decide on those books, where do they find what they need in order to translate it?  Do they translate certain manuscripts?  Which ones?  How do they decide?  And ...

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Looking Back on the Blog 2016

The end is near!   Or at least the end of 2016.   For some of us this has been a nightmare year that we are glad to see behind us.  For others it has been a year of unusual success, prosperity, and happiness, a utopian cornucopia.  Whichever camp you are in (most of us are somewhere in between), I hope you can look forward with some hope to what lies ahead.

This will be an end-of-the-year post, summarizing what we have accomplished ...

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The Copying of the Hebrew Bible

Here I continue on with my comments on the manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, and the question of whether they were changed over the years.  Again, this is taken from my discussion in The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.

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The Masoretic Text

The text of the Hebrew Bible that is read today and that is at the basis of all modern translations is called the Masoretic Text.  It is called this because the Jewish scholars who devised ...

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Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible

Just now I started to write a post dealing with what it is exactly that translators (such as those of the New Revised Standard Version) translated when they translated their texts.  I realized that to explain that I have to say something about the surviving Hebrew manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible – something I have not talked a *great* deal about on the blog in the past, and about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament – about which ...
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Some Arduous Tasks for the New Revised Standard Version

I had several duties as the research assistant to the translation committee of the New Revised Standard Version in 1987-88,.  Probably the most difficult involved trying to make sure that there was a consistency in the translation, from one biblical book, passage, and verse to another.   How does one determine if a translation is internally consistent?  It’s not easy.  I had to work through the entire translation, and whenever I came across a key term in the Hebrew ...
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Finishing the Work of a Translation

I have mentioned that as a graduate student I was asked to be one of the “secretaries” for the New Revised Standard Version translation committee when they were meeting twice a year to make decisions for the new translation, recording the decisions they made for changing the older Revised Standard Version translation.  I did that for several years until they had finished their translation.  I graduated from my PhD program in 1985, and I was already, at that point, ...
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A Reflection on Christmas: Blast from the Past

Four years ago I made a very personal post about my feelings about Christmas, the day after.  It was one of my personal favorite posts of all time.  I repeat it again here, this time the day before.

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In the opening chapter of my book God’s Problem, I talked about going to church on Christmas Eve in 2006 with my wife Sarah and brother-in-law Simon, in Saffron-Walden, a market town in England where Simon lives, not ...

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