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Mary Magdalene in Various Guises

QUESTION: Forgive me if this has already been asked several times, but where did the origin of Mary Magdalene as an escort/ sex worker come from? RESPONSE: Ah, great question. It’s kind of a complicated story, so I’ve decided simply to reprint what I have to say about it in my discussion of Mary Magdalene in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene. In that book I devote six chapters to each of these important Christian figures, in each case explaining what we can know about them historically and then what we can know about the later legends that sprang up about them. In my introductory comments to my discussion of Mary Magdalene, I explain why she is widely thought of as a prostitute (in the popular imagination, not by scholars), even though she is not called that in the New Testament. This discussion is too long for a single post, so I will divide it in two, with the second coming tomorrow or the next day. ***************************************************************************** One feature of our sources makes Mary’s [...]

Jesus and Sexuality

A few more thoughts on why it might matter whether Jesus was married. I must admit, for me one of the most useful outcomes of such a discovery (which, alas, I’m afraid will never be made since I doubt he was married) would be that it would show that Jesus was a sexual being, and not some kind of divine automaton walking the dusty paths of Galilee. As Mark Jordan said during our public discussion in Las Vegas – I’m paraphrasing since I can’t remember how he put it exactly, except that it was much wittier than anything I would be able to come up with: Christians need to decide if Jesus had genitals, and if so, whether he used them. Related to this, in theory at least, discovering that Jesus was married could elevate the status and importance of women within the Christian tradition. They are not outsiders, the way they are often imagined to be when people think that all Jesus cared about were the twelve men disciples. They were central to his [...]

2020-04-30T12:43:38-04:00January 30th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Sex and Sexuality in the Bible|

A Married Jesus and Celibate Priests

So, I’ve written a few posts on the question of whether Jesus was married. Short answer: I don’t think so. I’m surprised at how many people on the blog apparently do think so, and I don’t recall that anyone has actually presented any evidence for it. :-) But, well, maybe he was! (I should stress though, that since history is a matter of probabilities, “maybes” don’t as a rule go very far.) Anyway, some readers do think Jesus was married, and fair enough. But does it actually matter? I have jokingly said on a number of occasions: “Not to *me*!” And that’s absolutely true, as I’ll explain later. Some people think that it certainly would matter. For example, if Jesus was married, wouldn’t that more or less single-handedly destroy the idea that priests have to be single and celibate? That would matter! And wouldn’t it elevate the importance of women (especially one of them) in relationship to Jesus, and wouldn’t that be a good thing for women who are oppressed within the Christian tradition? And [...]

2020-04-30T12:44:10-04:00January 29th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Sex and Sexuality in the Bible|

Jesus and Marriage: An Actual Argument!

So far I have pointed out that it is flat-out wrong to say that every Jewish man in the first century was married and was expected to be married. It is not only demographically impossible (there were not enough women to go around) but we know of Jewish men from the time of Jesus who were not married and were proud of it. Strikingly, they, like him, were apocalyptically minded Jews – such as the Essenes and the apostle Paul. I have also argued that whatever Mary Magdalene was to Jesus, she was not his lover and spouse, to the great disappointment of us all….. But is there an actual argument that Jesus was not married other than the silences? I think there is. And this is what it is. A good deal of Jesus’ teaching, of course, was ethical in nature, about how people ought to live and conduct themselves. Many people think of Jesus as one of the great moral teachers of all time, and I have no quarrel with that. But I [...]

2020-04-30T12:45:07-04:00January 27th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Sex and Sexuality in the Bible|

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

I pointed out in my last post that most people simply assume that Jesus was not married because there is no mention of his wife in any of our sources, or any mention that he ever had a wife. And so it is assumed that he did not have one. As Karen King pointed out in our discussion the other night at the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, that is an argument from silence, and as such is not a very strong one – since, among other things, none of these sources indicates, either, that he was not married. And so this is not evidence in one direction or another. It’s a good point, but my own view is that the silence in this case is telling – though not for the reason people sometimes say. It is sometimes wrongly asserted – by no less authority than Dan Brown, in the Da Vinci Code – that if there was not claim that Jesus was not married that must mean that [...]

2020-04-30T12:46:02-04:00January 26th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Women in Early Christianity|

Was Jesus Married?

I am en route just now, back from Las Vegas, where I participated in a discussion with two other scholars at the Black Mountain Institute on the question “Would It Matter If Jesus Were Married?” The Black Mountain Institute is part of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV); it sponsors events having to do with literature and history. Usually these involve two or more scholars, on stage, on chairs, with a moderator, discussing a topic of mutual interest. The moderator last night was Carol Harter, the former president of UNLV. The two other scholars were Karen King and Mark Jordan. Both Karen and Mark are very well known and highly respected scholars. Karen is a professor of early Christianity at Harvard, where she holds the oldest endowed chair, of any kind, in the country; her expertise is especially in early Christian Gnosticism, and she has become best known in the past few years for her role in publicizing the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that I have blogged on before (search and see!). I’ve [...]

Historical Certainty and Jesus

QUESTION(S): Evidently the “Q” source is quite authentic, but why? And, other sources of Jesus’ sayings may be related to oral traditions and even to early church teachings that were fed back into the Gospels and are less authentic…. I find it hard to accept that what we have in the New Testament is the authentic material was actually said and done by Jesus (in the strict historic sense). You said that the statement about Jesus relating to God’s Kingdom on earth and who was to rule and that Jesus thought he was the King of the Jews and that Judas reported that to the religious authorities. How do we know that this is historically accurate? How can we know that one item is authentic and others aren’t? I did read your book dealing with the criteria, but I am not convinced…. ***Question*** How do we know, absolutely and historically, that even those sayings of Jesus that meet the criteria you use are authentic and not simply the teachings of the early church fed back [...]

2020-09-15T18:17:45-04:00January 24th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Ramtha Again: The Question-Answer Session

  Here is the second part of my talk at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.   It is a question-answer session that I had with the attendees, and for my money, it was the best, most interesting part of the evening.   Since we had abundant time -- well over an hour -- I was able to give the questions full, drawn out answers, virtually mini-lectures in themselves, on an enormous range of issues that came up.   The questions dealt with intriguing topics on the whole.  Many of my answers are not what the questioner wanted to hear.   And it is interesting to see what the crowd reaction to my answers was (usually very positive -- effusive at times; but it is clear that I am the odd-person-out in this group as, well, you would surely expect!).   At some points I get very personal and talk not just about my scholarship but about my beliefs and understandings of the world. In any event, I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed participating in [...]

2017-12-25T12:40:09-05:00January 22nd, 2014|Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum, Video Media|

The Jesus Seminar and John the Baptist

QUESTION: Does the Jesus Seminar also reject the claim that the Baptist was an apocalypticist?   RESPONSE: This is a great question, and I’m afraid I don’t know the definitive answer – in part because the Jesus Seminar did not have one and only one view on many topics. The Seminar was made up of a group of scholars who got together twice a year to discuss which aspects of the traditions found in the Gospels (mainly the canonical Gospels along with the Gospel of Thomas) were more likely to be authentic, and which, as a corollary, were likely to have been later creations of the early church as they told their stories about Jesus. The members of the seminar would then vote on each tradition – after extensive, learned discussion, and publish the results of their votes. I should say that on many of the very broad and most important issues about the historical Jesus I was/am in complete agreement with the seminar: we all agree that the Gospels contain numerous discrepancies, contradictions, historical [...]

2020-04-03T17:34:00-04:00January 21st, 2014|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Need for Testimonies!

I’m on the road this week, giving lectures in Richmond Virginia – one at the Women’s Club of Richmond (1500 members!) (they all don’t show up for a talk, of course) on “Misquoting Jesus,” and the other at the University of Richmond, where my former student Stephanie Cobb teaches New Testament, on “What Can Historians Say About the Resurrection of Jesus” (some of you might think that will be a very short lecture J.   But not so!!).   She is also the author of Dying to Be Men and Divine Deliverance. On Wednesday I fly to Las Vegas to do a panel discussion on if it matters whether or not Jesus was married (at the Black Mountain Institute at UNLV). So I’m a bit harried just now and can’t do a full post.  Instead, I have a request! A few weeks ago I indicated that I was going to introduce a couple of new features on the blog.  One is a Testimonies page, where I give some comments by current members about what they most like about [...]

2020-05-27T16:13:25-04:00January 20th, 2014|Reflections and Ruminations|

Trying Again: More on Ramtha

SORRY 'BOUT THIS.  MY ORIGINAL POST FOR MEMBERS ONLY ON "MORE ON RAMTHA" WAS NOT SHOWING UP (FOR SOME WEIRD REASON) AS A POST YOU COULD ACCESS.  SO HERE IT IS A SECOND TIME. I’m a little surprised (OK, really surprised) that when I posted the video of my lecture on the Gospel of Judas Iscariot two days ago it didn’t generate more (a lot more) discussion on the blog.  Not because of the lecture, but because of where I gave it, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.  I expected that to spark a lively response.   It didn’t.  And the most common response that I did receive (on the blog or privately) was some surprise that I would lend my name to such an institution to give them greater credibility. So I should say something about that. To start: a number of people asked me if I would have given the talk if had known that it was not the American School of Gnosticism but was, what it was, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.  I think [...]

More on Ramtha

I’m a little surprised (OK, really surprised) that when I posted the video of my lecture on the Gospel of Judas Iscariot two days ago it didn’t generate more (a lot more) discussion on the blog. Not because of the lecture, but because of where I gave it, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. I expected that to spark a lively response. It didn’t. And the most common response that I did receive (on the blog or privately) was some surprise that I would lend my name to such an institution to give them greater credibility. So I should say something about that. To start: a number of people asked me if I would have given the talk if had known that it was not the American School of Gnosticism but was, what it was, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. I think the answer is probably no. I had never heard of the school before, or or Ramtha, or of JZ Knight. But given what is said about it on the internet, I would have said [...]

2020-04-03T17:34:24-04:00January 18th, 2014|Recent Comments, Reflections and Ruminations|

Jesus Writes A Letter!

QUESTION: I only recently bought Eusebius’ “Ecclesiastical History” and have flipped through it. I was shocked to see in Book 1, Chapter 13, a supposed letter from Jesus to King Agbarus! I knew I had to everything Eusebius wrote with a grain of salt, but after this, it made me realise that a grain won’t be enough. No one actually takes this letter seriously, do they? And if not, how much confidence can we place in his other testimonies of letters and documents that we no longer have access to beyond his book? RESPONSE: Yes indeed, this is the famous correspondence between Jesus and King Abgar of Edessa in Syria (well, famous among scholars of early Christianity at least). I have translated it anew for my book The Other Gospels. Here is what I say there about the letters (the one from Abgar to Jesus, then his response); at the end of the post I give my new translations of the two letters. ****************************************************************************************************** Jesus’ Correspondence with Abgar The apocryphal correspondence between Jesus and Abgar [...]

2020-04-03T17:34:31-04:00January 17th, 2014|Christian Apocrypha, Reader’s Questions|

Video: The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot Part 1

  This past November I flew to Yelm, Washington, outside of Seattle, to deliver a lecture on the Gospel of Judas Iscariot at the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.  When I had been invited to give the talk the year before, I frankly had never heard of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.  In fact, when I was invited, I was told that the school was called The Gnostic School of America -- and so I naturally thought that it was some kind of college made up of west-coast-modern-day-Gnostics who saw themselves standing in line with the ancient Gnostics.  Such people do exist! But that is not what this school is.  The School of Enlightenment was founded by a woman named JZ Knight, and it is named, obviously, after Ramtha.  In case you don't remember who that was, let me tell you.  Ramtha was a philosopher-warrior who lived 35,000 years ago, who, with his 2.5 million soldier army, conquered most of the known world at the time, including the island of Atlantis.   JZ  channels him.  (In one of [...]

2017-12-25T12:40:54-05:00January 16th, 2014|Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum, Video Media|

The New and Improved After the New Testament

Now that I’ve summarized what happens in the second edition of my reader, After the New Testament, I can say a couple of things about what I’ve changed this time around. First, there were several important texts that neither I nor any other thinking person I know can believe that I left out of the first edition. I’ve included them here in the revision. In addition, as I’ve indicated, I have added two new chapters, one dealing with Women in the Early Church and the other with Early Christian Theories and Practices of Biblical Interpretation. Each has a number of selections of primary source texts connected with it. Moreover, I have expanded the coverage of some of the chapters, by adding a few new texts here and there. Altogether I have about 20 additional texts in this new edition. I have also “switched out” some of the translations – changing to more recent translations (a bunch of these are my own translations published since the first edition – for example of the Apostolic Fathers and [...]

2020-04-03T17:34:38-04:00January 15th, 2014|Book Discussions|

Final Bit of The Introduction to After the New Testament

I have been providing the “Introduction” to my book After the New Testament. Here is the end of it. In this version, I include two additional paragraphs on chapters not found in my first edition (chapter 10 and chapter 14). I’ll explain why I added these chapters (and the reading s in them) along with the other changes that I have made in the book, in a subsequent post. In reading through the new edition of the book – I’m virtually finished and ready to send it in to the publisher – I have been struck by just how significant these early texts that I anthologize are. Second and third century Christianity was a highly intriguing phenomenon, and there was a lot “to it.” As soon as I’m done with all my current writing projects (and the gods know when *that* will be) I am planning on writing a college-level textbook on the period, going from after the period right after the New Testament , around 100 CE, up through the Council of Nicea in [...]

2020-04-03T17:34:45-04:00January 14th, 2014|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

More on After the New Testament

The following is the continuation of my Introduction (chapter 1) of my book After the New Testament. In it I start to explain each of the chapters of the book, all of which deal with a variety of aspects of Christianity in the second and third centuries. I will give the remainder of the Introduction in my next post, since I don’t want to make these too long to be manageable. After that I will talk about what I’m doing new in the second edition that I’m producing now. ************************************************************************ It might be useful to say a word about the nature of the rubrics under which the chapters of the book are organized, and the logic of their sequencing. This need not entail a lengthy discussion: each chapter begins with a sketch of the important historical aspects of the topic, and each individual text is introduced with brief comments concerning its historical context and significance. One of the first things to consider about early Christianity is how it spread so far and wide in its [...]

My New Edition of After the New Testament

Several people have asked me what I’m working on these days. Answer: I’m doing a new, second edition of my college-level text-book/reader/anthology of ancient texts, After the New Testament. It is meant to be a topically-arranged collection of primary readings from after the New Testament period up to the time of the Emperor Constantine. Before explaining what I am doing to make the second edition different from the first (I am revising it seriously), I should say something about what the first edition, published in 1999, was all about. To do that I give here the first part of the Introduction to the text. I’ll give the second part anon.   ******************************************************************** Over the past century and a half, archaeological discoveries have played a significant role in our understanding of early Christianity. These include (a) the serendipitous discovery of entire libraries of ancient texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the wilderness of Judea, and the library of Gnostic writings uncovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt; (b) the equally fortuitous unearthing of individual documents, [...]

2020-04-03T17:35:00-04:00January 13th, 2014|Book Discussions|

Followup on the NT Quiz

So, about my quiz on the New Testament. Most of you who sent me answers failed miserably. I think you should buy *me* dinner…. I did this already with my other quiz, but I’ll do it again here – explaining what I try to accomplish by the various questions.   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, JOIN NOW, OR YOU MAY NEVER KNOW!! 27 books in the NT (when you think NT, you should think God; then think trinity; and what is 27?  3x3x3)   (It’s a miracle).   I ask this question not only because it’s basic information, but also because I want them to start thinking about why we have these books and not others – the subject of my first lecture on Monday. Written in Greek.   I want them to know the importance of Alexander the Great’s conquest and the Hellenization of the Mediterranean for early Christianity – and that Jesus’ teachings in Aramaic come to [...]

2020-04-03T17:36:04-04:00January 11th, 2014|Teaching Christianity|

My New Testament Pop Quiz

  Last semester I posted here on the blog the pop quiz I gave on the first day of the semester to my class on Jesus in Scholarship and Film.   As you may have noticed in my post yesterday, I also give a quiz to begin my New Testament class, which I started teaching yesterday.   If you were on the blog five months ago, and have a very good memory, the quiz will look very familiar.  About half the questions are the same. I give a quiz on the first day – before I’ve taught the students anything – both in order to break the ice while having some fun together and in order to teach a few things, as I give the answers after they have taken a stab at them.   I’ll say a few things about what I try to accomplish with that in my next post. I told the students yesterday that if anyone got at least nine of the eleven answers correct, I would buy them dinner at the Armadillo Grill.   [...]

2017-12-25T12:41:47-05:00January 9th, 2014|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|
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