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Why Luke is Thought To Have Written Luke

I made an off the cuff comment in a previous post that there was a certain logic that has led readers over the years to identify “Luke” as the author of the Third Gospel.   Let me stress again that the book itself is written anonymously; the author never identifies himself in any way. Moreover, we do not have the identification of the author as Luke until some 100 years after he wrote, in a statement by Irenaeus in his book Against Heresies, where he names the four Gospels as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So why Luke?  Irenaeus doesn’t tell us, but there appears to be a kind of “exegetical logic” that led to this decision.   The way it works is a bit complicated, but it goes like this: I mentioned in the previous post that the author of this Gospel also wrote the book of Acts.  It too is anonymous.   But in four passages in the book of Acts, when the author is describing some of the journeys and activities of the apostle Paul, [...]

The Final Part of My First-Day Quiz

Here is the second half of my pop quiz (see yesterday’s post); some of the questions are just … factual questions.   Some of them give me a chance actually to teach something. ….   According to the Gospels, who baptized Jesus?  Who carried his cross?  Who buried him? Answers:  John the Baptist, Simon of Cyrene and/or Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea.  So this question allows for a teachable moment.  Mark’s Gospel indicates that Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus.  It does NOT say that Jesus started to carry it, stumbled, and so they had Simon carry it.  That’s how it’s portrayed in a lot of the movies.   But the reason is because of the Gospel of John.  In John we’re told that *Jesus* carried his cross.   How can both be right?  Well, if he stumbles and then Simon (unwillingly) comes on board, the problem is solved.  Part of my course is designed to show how directors have to make decisions when the Gospels are at odds, and this is a place where that has [...]

2017-12-25T22:39:05-05:00August 30th, 2013|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

More on My Quiz

OK, back to my quiz, which most of you failed miserably.   (OK, OK, many of you missed just one question).   So the deal is that I use the quiz as a way to break the ice with the class, have some fun with them, get them to see that even if they’ve been through Sunday School their entire lives they probably don’t know even the most basic things about the NT, and then use the quiz as an opportunity to teach some rather important things. The following are the answers.  Most of you got them.   I do have to say that when I challenged you to pick the question that everyone was missing, there were some *very* interesting suggestions based on nuanced readings.   But, as many of you correctly perceived, I had in mind #12.   As you’ll see below.  here are both the answers and the things that I try to teach the students based on the answers, here on the first day of class. How many books are in the NT? 27.  I tell [...]

2020-04-03T18:14:58-04:00August 28th, 2013|Reflections and Ruminations, Teaching Christianity|

Reza Aslan’s View of Jesus

I am saddened and grieved to report that everyone on the blog who has responded to me about yesterday’s pop quiz has gotten one of the questions wrong.  :-)   More on that tomorrow.  (But in the meantime: I’m giving brownie points for anyone who can indicate which question everyone is missing and why they’re getting it wrong!) But on rather more serious matters: back to Reza Aslan’s book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.   Let me state emphatically that I have not yet and am not now writing a review of the book.   I’m not attacking its views or its scholarship, I’m not praising its brilliant insights and clear vision, and I’m not recommending that you read it or, instead, use it as a very handy doorstop.  I HAVEN’T READ IT!   And unlike some people I know (oh so well), I don’t believe in passing judgment on a book I haven’t read. My first post on the book was in response to a question of whether I consider to Aslan to [...]

My Pop Quiz For First-Year Students

It’s been a very long day of teaching (six hours of talking!), so something substantive for the blog will need to wait for another day.   Instead, I’ll say something about what happened today. As some of you have seen by examining my syllabus, I begin my class on Jesus by giving a pop quiz.  I did that this morning.   The class has 24 students in it, all first-year students, most of them 18 and 19.   (One swallows hard to think of it, but that means the incoming class was born in 1995.   Ai yai yai….) I begin most of my undergraduate classes with a pop quiz, both to see how much knowledge the students already have about very basic issues related to the NT and to have an opportunity to teach them some very basic issues (such as dates of important events in antiquity, the use of the abbreviations CE and BCE, the diversity of early Christianity, some basic Gospel facts,), to stress some others (Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian), and to have [...]

2017-12-31T19:27:04-05:00August 26th, 2013|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

Reza Aslan on Jesus

QUESTION: Do you consider Reza Aslan to be a recognised scholar of early Christianity? Larry Hurtado described the thesis circulating in lay circles, that Jesus was a military revolutionary, as a "zombie" idea (from what I gather, a key conclusion of Aslan's 2013 book) which had been debunked over and over again by scholarship in the past century. RESPONSE: OK, I need to begin with a very serious disclaimer.   I haven’t read Aslan’s book (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth) yet.   So what I say will not be based on careful observation of his views or the evidence that he cites to support them.  My comments will not require any of that, as you’ll see. His publisher sent me a copy gratis, for which I’m very grateful.  He sent it to me before he knew that it was going to be the #1 Bestseller in nonfiction on the New York Times Bestseller list – which it is still this week, I see in this morning’s paper – and when he was interested [...]

Back To School! My Jesus Syllabus

Back to School. I am the only one I know who actually liked the (Rodney Dangerfield) movie.... Anyway, school starts for me on Monday. I'm teaching two seminars (they meet for three hours each, once a week). My undergraduate course is for first-year students only, and deals with how Jesus is portrayed in ancient Gospels, in modern scholarship, and in film. Here, for your reading pleasure, is the syllabus. ********************************************************************************************************************** Jesus in Scholarship and Film First Year Seminar, Reli 070 Fall 2013 Prof. Bart D. Ehrman COURSE DESCRIPTION Jesus of Nazareth left an indelible mark on Western Civilization. The religion that was founded in his name ‑‑ beginning as the faith of a mere handful of his Jewish followers ‑‑ within three centuries had become a major religion in the Mediterranean. By the end of the fourth century, it was the official religion of the Roman Empire. Ever since, the Christian church has been a major political, socio‑economic, and cultural force. Ultimately, it is a church rooted in a belief in Jesus. How did Jesus' [...]

2020-11-30T23:30:13-05:00August 24th, 2013|Reflections and Ruminations, Teaching Christianity|

Who Cares?

Several people – on the blog and off of it – have asked me about the broader significance of my research on the Patristic citations of the NT, specifically the quotations of the Gospels in the writings of Didymus.   Did this research contribute to my loss of faith?  Did it lead me away from evangelical Christianity?  Did it affect my understanding of any Christian doctrine – my view of God, my view of Christ, my view of salvation?  Did it affect my understanding of Scripture as the inspired Word of God?  Did it change anything that I thought about anything apart from the Patristic evidence for the text of the New Testament? The answers are clear and straightforward:  no, no, no, no, and no! The follow-up question (when asked; you possibly have the same question) has always been: why did you do it then? My answer to *that* is also straightforward.  I did it because I’m a scholar who is committed to scholarship and who thinks scholarly research is important.  And this kind of textual [...]

Conclusions Drawn from My Study of Didymus

Once I had solved the textual problems presented by the quotations of the New Testament in the writings of Didymus I could get to work on my project. It was painstaking. Very painstaking. One needs to be able to handle massive doses of boredom in order to do a project like this, many, many long hours looking at and dealing with mounds of textual minutia, day and week and month after day week and month. I don’t recommend it generally, unless you’re passionate for this kind of thing, as I was. The many volumes of Didymus’s newly discovered writings had been very carefully produced and indexed. I could look up every quotation or paraphrase of the Gospels in all his writings. For each one I made an index card (this was before any of us had computers). Hundreds of these cards, obviously. And once I had made up a card for every quotation or paraphrase, then the real fun began.   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a member. If you don't [...]

Problems with the Textual Evidence from Didymus

I indicated in my previous posts that there are serious methodological problems with using patristic evidence in NT textual criticism.   That was no less true for the church father I chose for my dissertation, Didymus the Blind, than for any other.   But there are always ways to deal with problems, and that proved to be the case here as well. For one thing, I noted in my earlier post that scribes of the Middle Ages often changed the texts of the church fathers that they were copying in order to make their quotations of scripture coincide with the form of text known in their own (the scribes’) day.   With the OT commentaries of Didymus that was not so much a problem, because the manuscripts discovered in Egypt of his writings dated from the sixth century, not much later, and they may well have been copies of the originals, or of early copies of the originals.  And there is evidence that the quotations were not much changed: these quotations agree quite strikingly with the readings found [...]

Didymus the Blind and Patristic Evidence

As I have indicated, my PhD dissertation was written in the field of textual criticism, with a focus on the patristic evidence; my topic was the quotations of the Gospels found in the writings of Didymus the Blind, a famous teacher/theologian who was active in Alexandria Egypt in the middle and at the end of the fourth century. Possibly by explaining what the dissertation was I can help show why patristic evidence can be so valuable for understanding the history of the transmission of the text of the NT. I have already shown how Patristic citations can help us determine if a variant reading (that is, a way of wording the text that differs from the way it is worded in other witnesses) may well be original (thus my posts on Luke 3:22). That is obviously one of the most important goals – many would argue that it is THE important goal, or even the ONLY important goal, though I think this is too extreme – of textual criticism, namely, to know what the author [...]

Problems with Patristic Evidence

Sorry not to have posted for a couple of days. I am out of the country and did not have the wifi connection that I was told I’d have. I confess, it was nice being incommunicado! But I’m back, for the duration I should think. And to return to the topic of original conversation on this thread – before getting sidelined with all that discussion of Luke 3:22 -- the importance, but problems, with patristic evidence (that is, citations of the New Testament in the writings of the church fathers) for the tasks of textual criticism. Of the three kinds of evidence available for establishing the text of the NT and for determining how it was altered over the years, the Patristic evidence has received the least attention. Most attention has been paid, as you would expect, to the Greek manuscripts; after them, to the versions – although some versions have been notoriously neglected, in no small measure because they involve languages few people know (Armenian, Goergian, Gothic, Old Church Slavonic, etc.) and because their [...]

Did Luke Originally Have Chapters 1-2?

Now that I have finished my unusually deep (for this blog) set of harder-hitting posts on the text of Luke 3:22 I want to move on to other things – very soon to get back to the question of the problems of using Patristic evidence.  But I want to pause first and given the scholarship a rest, and ask a question for those of you who are paying your hard-earned money to belong to and support this blog (but let me stress yet again:  the money all goes to charity – so you should feel good about how it is being spent!). So here’s the deal.  As a result of this set of posts, I have had a number of people ask me – either in the comment section or via email – if I thought that Luke 1-2 was in fact NOT part of the original version of the Gospel of Luke, but was added on after a version of Luke had originally been published, a version that *began* with what is now chapter [...]

2017-12-31T19:45:59-05:00August 15th, 2013|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

A Final Post (!) on Luke 3:22

I would like to thank all the readers who have indulged me on this rather heavy thread of posts on the text of Luke 3:22.   I certainly do not mean to provide a steady diet of hard-hitting scholarship on the blog, and I know that for some of you, this thread has been rather boring and uninteresting.   But I do think that every now and then, maybe a couple of times a year, it is good to peel back the layers and go at it at a deeper level of scholarship, if nothing else to show the world at large how this kind of thing gets done at a more serious level. My book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, from which these posts have come, is all at this level.   If you’ve enjoyed the posts (I know a couple of people have!) you may want to check out the book.  If you’ve found them rather tedious, then you should be pleased to know that I will go back to less in-depth posts starting with my [...]

Luke 3:22 — More on What Luke Would Have Written

In yesterday’s post I started to discuss the “intrinsic probabilities” that can help us establish the text of Luke 3:22.  This kind of probability looks to determine what an author himself (as opposed to a scribe copying his text) would have been likely to write.  That is determined by considering his writing style, vocabulary, theological views, narrative interests and so on, and determining which of the available readings fits with these established patterns of usage better than the other(s).   What I’’ll be arguing in this post, again, taken from The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, is that the reading found only in Codex Bezae coincides more closely with the view of Jesus’ baptism that can be found elsewhere in the two-volume work of Luke-Acts.  The first paragraph below is the one that ended yesterday’s post, to provide some context for the following observations. ***************************************************************************************************************** More fruitful is an assessment of the other references to Jesus’ baptism throughout Luke’s work, “backward glances,” as it were, that provide clues concerning what happened at that point of the narrative. [...]

Luke 3:22 — What Luke Himself Would Have Written

In my previous post I began to look at the “internal” evidence that the voice at Jesus’ baptism in Luke’s Gospel said the words that are found among Greek manuscripts *only* in Codex Bezae of the early fifth century: “You are my son, today I have begotten you,” as opposed to the words found in all the other Greek manuscripts (the voice as recorded also in Mark): “You are my son, in you I am well-pleased.” If you’ll recall, there are two kinds of internal evidence that scholars consider: “transcriptional probabilities” (which reading would a scribe more likely have preferred and therefore created by changing the text) and “intrinsic probabilities (which reading would the author have been more likely to have written originally). The last post was on transcriptional probabilities showing that the reading in Codex Bezae is probably the older form of the text. Now in this blog and the next one (or two) I will discuss the “intrinsic probabilities,” which point in the same direction. All of these arguments are meant to work [...]

More Arguments over Luke 3:22

Yesterday I posted some comments that were designed to show why knowing the Patristic evidence is so valuable in establishing what the oldest form of the text of the NT was. My illustration was from Luke 3:22, where the voice from heaven says different things, depending on which witnesses you read. The fifth century manuscript Codex Bezae is the *only* Greek manuscript that has the reading “You are my son, Today I have begotten you.” The Greek manuscripts that were produced before Bezae, and all those produced afterwards, have a different reading, the one you will find in most Bible translations, “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.” The point of my post was not to give conclusive evidence that the reading found in virtually all the manuscripts is the *wrong* one; it was to show that Patristic evidence is valuable because it shows that in the second and third Christian centuries, it was the *other* reading (the one that eventually came to be found in Codex Bezae) that was most [...]

Church Fathers and the Voice at Jesus’ Baptism

In my previous post I argued that the quotations of the New Testament in the writings of the later church fathers can help both to establish the earliest form of the text and to determine when and where the text came to be changed in the process of its transmission. I indicated that I might give an example of how that works, and that’s what this post is all about. I have taken a couple of paragraphs from my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture to illustrate the point. The passage I am discussing here is a very important one. It has to do with what the voice said from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In virtually all the Greek manuscripts of Luke – hundreds of them – the voice says “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.”  But in one – count them, one – manuscript of the early fifth century the voice instead says “You are my beloved Son, Today I have begotten [...]

Patristic Evidence: Why Time and Place Matter

In my previous post I indicated that there are three major kinds of evidence for reconstructing the text of the New Testament: the surviving Greek manuscripts (obviously our best source of evidence), the early versions (ancient translations into such languages as Latin, Coptic, and Syriac), and the quotations of the church fathers. Moreover, I indicated that one advantage of the citations of the church fathers is that this kind of evidence can be dated and located far more easily than can the Greek manuscript evidence. But now in looking back over the post, I realize that I never indicated why that might matter. As with all things dealing with textual criticism (which I use strictly in the technical sense: textual criticism is NOT simply the scholarly study of texts – e.g. as literary critics engage in – it is the *reconstruction* of texts, that is, the attempt to get back to the text as written by an author given manuscripts that have differences in them; textual criticism is used for every literary text of the [...]

Doing a TV Interview

On a side note, or no relevance to any of the recent threads or to much of anything, I just now got back from a rather grueling interview for a two-hour National Geographic Channel documentary dealing with -- ready for this? -- Jesus. It’s amazing how many of these things get made. People love them, they sell well, the film company and its employees, the TV channel, everyone concerned (well, except the persons being interviewed!) make money, they spread knowledge (sometimes), so they’re all to the good. This is the second one I’ve done in three weeks. (I’ve been in London for a month; this particular crew is based in the U.K.; the other flew over for the interview.) Anyway, I enjoy doing these things, and they’re always a challenge. Off camera, the interviewer asks a question, and you have to come up with about a 20-second answer, in which you give a complete answer with beginning, middle, and end. You can’t just say something like, “Yes, that’s right, because….” since the audience watching the [...]

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