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Problems with the Hebrew Bible Manuscripts

QUESTION: Bart, these issues you've found in the New Testament, have you studied and found similar issues in the Old Testament?" RESPONSE: Yes indeed!   Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) was my secondary field in my PhD program, and I taught Introduction to Hebrew Bible at both Rutgers and UNC.   A few years ago when I decided to write my Introduction to the Bible I decided that to do it right I had to re-tool in Hebrew Bible.  I’m by no means an expert, but I have caught up on a good deal of scholarship and re-learned Hebrew (I hadn’t read it in years).  I try to read some Hebrew Bible every morning; I’m not great at it, but I can slog through with a dictionary….. So, I think it’s fair to say that the problems that I have talked about in my publications about the New Testament are even more pronounced for the Hebrew Bible.   I think I will take three of the big issues (I’m happy to address others if there are any [...]

Jesus’ Inflammatory Words

QUESTION: Were the claims Jesus made about himself, or the comments he made about other sects or leaders within Judaism, likely to have produced an angry or violent response from devout Jews in Jerusalem during Passover? Were his comments any more "out of the ordinary" than others would have been making about, say, the Temple authorities or whomever? RESPONSE: A full answer to this very good question would take a full book.  In fact, scholars *have* written entire books on it!  So here let me just lay out my views on the matter – none of which is particularly controversial among critical scholars.  (i.e., this is fairly standard stuff). First: I don’t think Jesus made any comments about his identity that would have aroused opposition among Jewish leaders or regular Jews when he arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, a week before his death (or any time during that week).  In no small measure that’s because I do not think Jesus’ proclamation – either during that week or at any time during his ministry [...]

Mark and the Resurrection

QUESTION: I heard a scholar (I think it was JD Crossan) saying that the absence of a resurrected Jesus in Mark's original gospel reflects the confusion and anxiety that forlorn Jews would have felt after the destruction of the Temple? Do you think this is the case? If so, how does it fit in with the belief (widespread among scholars, I believe)  that the accounts of a visibly resurrected Jesus were in circulation long before 70 AD and probably came from Peter, Paul , and Mary M? RESPONSE: I don’t recall ever hearing this view before – so I’m not sure where you may have read it.   I would have to read a fuller exposition of the view to make better sense of it, but off hand, I don’t think it’s plausible, for several reasons. First, a lot hinges on what is meant by “the absence of the resurrected Jesus” in Mark.   People often get Mark’s account wrong by saying that there is no resurrection in Mark.  That’s absolutely not true.  In Mark, Jesus is [...]

2020-04-03T18:28:48-04:00June 4th, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Reader’s Questions|

More on Mark and Peter

In answering the question about why it appears that Mark did not serve as the scribe/secretary for Peter, writing down Peter’s (Aramaic) recollections of his time with Jesus and putting them in narrative form in Greek, I already discussed the slender record of that being the origin of Mark’s Gospel, based on the discussion in Papias. Now in this post I want to discuss the direct evidence that suggests that this is not how Mark’s Gospel came into being. Here I will make three points. First – this will not seem overly convincing to some readers, but then again it’s not really my main point – there is in fact nothing in Mark’s Gospel to make anyone think that it is Peter’s version, any more, than, say the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of John. There is no first-person narrative, no recollection about what “Jesus said to me” and so on. Peter is one of the main figures – yes indeed. But the Gospel is not told from his perspective.   FOR THE REST [...]

2021-01-20T01:01:21-05:00June 3rd, 2013|Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

Mark as Peter’s Scribe

QUESTION: Why are scholars almost certain that Peter did not give the general details of Jesus' life and ministry to his companion Mark, who faithfully recorded the details in Greek, in the style found in his gospel? I know you've said that someone such as Peter, aside from not knowing Greek, almost certainly wouldn't have had the ability to build the relatively sophisticated structure of Mark's gospel, but why couldn't Mark have "put form" on Peter's prosaic verbal account ? RESPONSE:                 This is a very good question, and as it turns out it is a bit complicated.   The first thing to say is that one has to look for *evidence* if one wants to think, for example, that Mark is recording the traditions given to the author by Peter.  The idea that he does so ultimately goes back to Papias. To begin answering the question, in this post I thought I’d talk about Papias and the tradition of the Gospels.  And rather than write it all out from scratch, I’ve decided simply to reproduce [...]

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