Sorting by


An Agnostic Teaching the Bible

Question about an Agnostic teaching the Bible: I have recently wondered how you can truly enjoy (and endure) your line of work with your loss of faith. It would seem to me that the mental dissonance would lead to great frustration and personal anguish in studying and teaching about something which you know is not historically true and has led you away from your faith. Not to mention all of the flack you must have to dodge from the average person on a daily basis, including your beginning students, knowing that you will never change the minds of your most rigid fundamentalist critics. How do you deal with it…with any enthusiasm? I left church work because of that….what’s your secret? Response: It’s a good question, but there’s an easy answer, I think. It would probably be a real problem for me if I were teaching in a seminary or divinity school, or even a Christian college; in that scenario, I think I would be completely torn and agonizing the whole time, training ministers or teaching [...]

When Will The End Come?

COMMENT: All the Christians I hear from around here say, “But we don’t know the hour and the day!” I don’t know if he is supposed to appear to everybody at once or if they will hear about it in the news. Those who believe in the rapture would be disappointed if they heard about it in the news. When I was a Fundy, I don’t remember being clear on this even though I tried.   RESPONSE: Actually, this comment brings to mind something that I was planning on posting on anyway (this relates to “no one knows the day or the hour” when the end will come as Jesus says in the apocalyptic discourse in the Gospels). I mentioned earlier that in the 1970s, I and my fundamentalist friends were all fairly well convinced that Jesus would be returning from heaven soon – and in particular, before the end of the 1980s. That was in no small measure because we were devotees of the views set forth by Hal Lindsey in his blockbuster hit [...]

2020-04-08T10:48:04-04:00January 7th, 2013|Reader’s Questions, Reflections and Ruminations|

New Reference Tool

I’m pleased to be able to announce (and only a month after the fact) that after years of labor, the thirteen-volume Encyclopedia of Ancient History, ed. by Roger Bagnall, Kai Bodersen, Craige Champion, Andrew Erskine, and Sabine Hueber has now appeared, published by Wiley-Blackwell.   It’s not exactly an affordable reference tool for everyone’s library.    The list price is $1995.00!  But you can save $354 on Amazon, if you’re loaded and looking for the most authoritative and up-to-date reference on all things ancient (Western world, roughly the ancient Mediterranean, including Egypt and the ancient Near East), from the Bronze Age up to the seventh century CE. There were twenty-two of us who were “area editors.”  The areas include such things as “Classical Greece,” ”Jewish History,” “Late Antiquity,” “Religion,” “Roman Military History,” and “Science.”   I was responsible for the area of “Christianity.”    In that capacity, I chose 195 topics that needed articles to be written, ranging from 500 to 2500 words; I solicited scholars to contribute articles; I edited all the articles once they were written; and [...]

2018-01-01T00:32:48-05:00January 6th, 2013|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

Paul’s “Gospel” and Marcion

Question: (Here is a question that has been raised about one of my posts. The question begins with a quotation from what I said, in contrast to something else I said, which seems to contradict it. Far be it from me every to eschew contradictions! :) But in this case, I have been misunderstood, probably because of the poor way I phrased it. A couple of people have asked me about the same thing, so here’s the gist of their questions, in the form of one iteration). “The apostle Paul – well-connected and well-traveled and familiar with lots of churches – shows no knowledge that such a thing as Gospels exist.” I should have asked you about this earlier. I was surprised when, back in a post on Marcion, you said the other “gospel” Paul talked about was “a version of our Gospel of Luke.” Would you explain? RESPONSE: OK, so how can I have it both ways? How can I say that Paul did not know about any Gospels AND say that Marcion used [...]

The Mayan Calendar, Y2K, and the Letter of Barnabas

You may have noticed that the world didn’t end two weeks ago, despite widespread anticipation. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. It’s a strange phenomenon this expectation that the world is soon going to end; and if Christian fundamentalists and Mayan enthusiasts can’t get it right, who can? When I was a fundamentalist back in the mid 70s, I – and all my friends – were sure that the end was going to come, with the reappearance of Jesus, before the end of the 1980s. We had sure-fire biblical proof of it. I’ll give you the logic in some other post, down the line. For now all I want to say is that we were not alone in our views. Every generation of Christians from the beginning of the Christian religion until now has known fervent believers who maintained that there’s was the final generation on earth, that the end would come in their own day. As I have frequently noted, all of these die-hard prognosticators have had two things in common: every one [...]

How to Date Documents, including Barnabas

QUESTION: In a comment on my recent post on the letter of Barnabas, where I indicated that “it is almost certainly to be dated to the 130s CE (for reasons I could explain if anyone really wants to know….)” – one reader asked: I, for one, would be quite interested in the how these various works are dated. Seems like it would be of utmost importance seeing as the date of composition all but decides the question of authorship. Even if it only provides a general sense of why a particular date is hung on a manuscript or composition, I think it would be helpful.   RESPONSE: Yes, as it turns out, it is very difficult to date ancient writings; but scholars who have worked on such matters (for nearly 300 years now, in some instances) have marshaled pretty good evidence in case after case, although in many instances there continue to be substantial debates. There are several ways to establish parameters, which are fairly commonsensical. If a writing is quoted by an author whose [...]

Why Was Barnabas Attributed to Barnabas: Part 2

In my last post but one, in starting to talk about why the anonymous Letter to Barnabas was attributed by early Christians to Barnabas, best known as a one of the closest companions of Paul, I talked mainly about the mid-second century philosopher/theologian-eventually-branded-arch-heretic Marcion. You may have wondered why. In this post I’ll tell you why. VERY brief review. Recall, the letter of Barnabas is stridently anti-Jewish, claiming that the Jews never were the people of God because they had broken the covenant as soon as God had given it to them on Mount Sinai (by worshipping the Golden Calf); they misunderstood the law, taking it literally, when it was meant figuratively. Even though Jews never realized it, the OT was not a Jewish book but a Christian book, that not only anticipated Christ but proclaimed the Christian message. END of review…. The first explicit reference to this anonymous letter is in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, writing around 200 who quotes it and claims it was written by Barnabas, who, he indicates, was [...]

Go to Top