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Life After Death in Rome, and other Questions. Readers’ Mailbag May 6, 2016

In this week’s Readers Mailbag I address three rather divergent questions, one on ancient tombstone inscriptions that indicate that many people in the ancient world did not believe in an afterlife, one on the Temptation narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and one on the process of having a book edited in preparation for publication.  If you have a question you would like me to address, just ask – and I’ll add it to the list!   QUESTION: I’m curious…what sort of “inscriptional evidence” on ancient tombstones would seem to rule out belief in an afterlife? RESPONSE This question was asked in response to something I said, that even though in ancient Greek and Roman mythology there are discussions of the afterlife (e.g., in the Odyssey, book 11; Plato’s Myth of Er in book 10 of the Republic; and so on), there are reasons for thinking that most (or at least many?) people in antiquity believed that life was the end of the story.  And I indicated that this is because of inscriptions [...]

The Conversion of Constantine and Beyond

I am now nearly finished discussing the Prospectus that I floated before several publishers this past summer for my new book The Triumph of Christianity.   My original idea, as you will see below, was to start with the earliest disciples of Jesus, right after his death, who came to think he had been raised from the dead – I’m happy to call them the “first Christians,” even though a lot of scholars object to calling anyone “Christian” until much later; I just don’t have those qualms – and to discuss the spread of Christianity up to the key moment in history, the conversion of the emperor Constantine nearly three hundred years later in the year 312 CE.  Constantine’s conversion, in this way of looking at things, was the turning point.  After that, the Empire was on the path to becoming Christian. I have since changed my mind and decided to go past Constantine up to the end of the fourth century.  But before explaining that, here is how I end my original Prospectus. ***************************************************************** The [...]

Final Exam for New Testament Class (2016)

Let’s see how you do on my Final Exam!   Yesterday I gave the final for my Introduction to the New Testament class.   Here it is.   My sense is that as for every course, unless you actually take it, even if you know a good bit about the subject matter, it would be very hard to do well on the final, since, well, the final is geared specifically to the course.   But some of this is more or less “common knowledge” for those well versed in the field. The exam had three sections that were equally weighted: the first is a string of identifications, the second and third were essays.   I allowed some choice in what to answer to provide some flexibility.   Students had three hours to complete the exam.  Some students finished in an hour and a half, a few stayed till the very end. So … how would you do?   ****************************************************************************** Reli 104 New Testament  Bart D. Ehrman Spring 2016   Final Exam   IDENTIFICATIONS Define ten of the following terms in fifty [...]

2017-11-13T21:00:38-05:00May 3rd, 2016|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

Why Christianity Succeeded

I have been laying out the Prospectus for my proposed book The Triumph of Christianity that I circulated to several publishers last summer, and I am now at the very heart of the matter, the explanation (as I saw it then) for why Christianity succeeded so massively in the Empire during its first three centuries. Here is what I said: ****************************************************************** There were two key factors specific to Christianity that facilitated the growth of the Christian church. These two factors could not be found in other religions of the empire. And in tandem – this is a very important point: they worked in tandem – they led to the spread of Christianity and the demise of all the other religions of the empire. The factors: Christianity was evangelistic and it was exclusivistic. Religions in antiquity were not evangelistic, in part precisely because they were not exclusivistic. A broad survey of ancient writings makes it completely clear: most people did not much care whether you adopted their religious practices or not. No one insisted that you [...]

My Debate with Richard Bauckham – Round 2

Here is round two (two out of two) of my debate with Richard J. Bauckham join on the radio show "Unbelievable," a weekly program aired on UK Premier Christian Radio and hosted by Justin Brierley.  Richard was in the station's London studio, I was on the phone.   Here we pursue other issues related to whether the Gospels of the NT represent distorted memories or if, for the most part, they can be trusted to be reliable because they are based on eyewitness testimony.  Richard and I disagree about the matter, as about oh so many other things! Richard J. Bauckham is a prominent New Testament scholar and professor emeritus of New Testament studies at St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He retired from teaching in 2007 to pursue his research and writing. Please adjust gear icon for 1080p High-Definition:

2017-11-13T21:00:57-05:00May 1st, 2016|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Video Media|
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