Sorting by


A Raffle!! Would You Like a Pre-publication Copy of My Book on Heaven and Hell?

Would you like to read my forthcoming book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife prior to publication (it will be released two months from now!)?  I have three galley proofs that I would like to give away – not to the highest bidder (as in the last fund-raising venture) but to three randomly-chosen winners based on tickets sold at a very affordable price. These are complete, pre-publication copies of the book, in paperback, less expensively produced, but exactly as it will appear in print, except for a few typos here and there that came to be corrected later.  This is the form of the book as it was sent off to review journals, book sellers, and book stores – all of whom want, naturally, to know if the book is any good before they purchase stocks or recommend others to do so. My publisher has given me permission to release these three to the public as a fund-raiser for the blog.   I will personally sign it to each of the winners and then [...]

2020-01-31T17:00:55-05:00January 31st, 2020|Book Discussions, Public Forum|

Want A Korean Version of My Last Book?

OK, this will not be a high demand item.   But I have five copies of my book Triumph of Christianity in Korean translation.  I don't read Korean.  Does any of you? Want one?  I'm happy to mail one to you, but only if you're willing to help cover the cost of mailing by making a donation to the blog.  Make the donation as large as you'd like!  Hey, what are we worth?   But for domestic mailing, let's say a minimum of $10; international, $25. If you're interested, don't reply here, but zap me a message at [email protected].  If you don't read Korean, there's no time like the present!

2020-01-30T20:59:55-05:00January 30th, 2020|Public Forum|

Rapid Fire Questions and Answers on Biblical Manuscripts

I recently responded to a request from a European journalist writing an article about how we got the Bible and what we can say about the collection and illicit sale of manuscripts.  When I get these requests, I'm usually tempted to send back a list of books and tell them to do some homework.  But, well, they have deadlines and it ain't gonna happen.  So I went ahead and gave some brief answers to some rather important questions.  I thought blog readers might enjoy this kind of very condensed (but very simple) exchange.   Here are it is, questions in black, responses in red.   ******************************************************************************** -Why do you think that some apocryphal books were not included in the Bible? What was the selection criteria? Do you know when the Bible like we know today were completed?      Church father debated for centuries which books to include.  The side that “won” the debate applied several criteria:  The rest of this post is available to all blog members.  You too could be among the chosen few, and growing.  [...]

2020-04-02T14:28:31-04:00January 29th, 2020|New Testament Manuscripts, Reader’s Questions|

Other Interesting Features of the Graphic Introduction to the New Testament

Here is the final portion of my proposal for the Graphic Textbook of the New Testament.   The earlier part described the sections on the Gospels.  Here I map out the basic coverage of the historical Jesus.  The book will be extremely brief in comparison with my full-blown NT textbook, which comes in at 572 pages.  This one is projected to be 150 pages, and most of it art work.  Yikes!  The challenge is kinda obvious….   But hey, if you can summarize the NT in one sentence (and you can) (in fact a very very short sentence: It’s about the life and teachings of Jesus and his followers….), you can surely do it in 150 pages! At the end of the prospectus I include a couple of things that always go into this kind of proposal:  marketing ideas; what other books it will be competing with; and when I plan (well, hope) to have it finished. ******************************************************** The Historical Jesus (8 pages) I will shift gears in the final chapter, away from explaining how Jesus is [...]

2020-04-02T14:28:38-04:00January 28th, 2020|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

How I Will Write My “Graphic Textbook of the New Testament”

Yesterday I began to describe my Graphic Textbook of the New Testament, as I have proposed it to my publisher, Oxford University Press.   In this post I continue, by explaining how I will actually set up the first fascicle (installment), on the Gospels and Jesus. ******************************************** Fascicle One: The Gospels and Jesus The four Gospels are by far the largest section of the New Testament, and any reconstruction of the historical Jesus depends on a critical understanding not only of how each of the Gospels portrays his life, death, and resurrection, but also of how they can be used as sources of historical knowledge.  After providing necessary background about the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, with a special coverage of first-century Judaism, this fascicle will examine the overarching message of each Gospel, and conclude with a consideration of how scholars can utilize such literary and theological writings in order to establish a historical reconstruction of Jesus’ life and death.   Introduction (2 pages) The book will begin by ... If you're a blog [...]

2020-04-02T14:28:44-04:00January 27th, 2020|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Teaching Christianity|

A Graphic Novel (Textbook) on the New Testament!

I have recently decided to undertake a brand new venture.   Well, more truthfully, I’ve been persuaded to do it.   I have a new editor at Oxford University Press.  My old editor and good friend (he lives in Chapel Hill, as it turns out.  But when I first met him he lived in Manhattan), Robert Miller, who has edited all of my textbooks and all their revisions, my various readers, and most of my Oxford trade books, has retired after a long and successful career.  Taking his place at OUP as editor of both Religion and Philosophy (there are a lot more courses and books in the latter) is Andrew Blitzer.   Andy is a young and energetic editor with vision and ideas – and he’s on the blog! Andy from our first meeting urged me to think about a new kind of textbook on the New Testament.  A graphic novel kind of textbook.  Hmm… OK then.  Really? I knew nothing about graphic novels.  When I first saw a section of them at Barnes & Noble I [...]

2020-01-26T09:32:03-05:00January 26th, 2020|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

Volunteers Needed! Readers for Audio Versions of the Posts. You Interested?

I don’t think I’ve made any kind of official announcement that we are doing a massive rehaul of the blog, a complete rebuild.   But I am now. Official announcement:  WE ARE DOING A MASSIVE REHAUL OF THE BLOG, A COMPLETE REBUILD. Well, technically “we” are not.  Steven Ray, my assistant from the beginning and mastermind of all-things-blog-related is.  He’s been working on it for many months.  It’s a major undertaking.  For some years now he’s been keeping the current version running on duct tape and bailing wire, having started it over eight years ago when technology and life as we know it was different.  Things have changed.  Now we’ll change better with them. We are using the new blog structure to implement lots of other changes that we think will make the blog much better for blog users and to attain the goals of the blog itself better.  There have always been two goals:  To disseminate scholarly knowledge about the New Testament and the Beginnings of Christianity as broadly as we can, in simple terms [...]

2020-01-24T10:08:32-05:00January 24th, 2020|Public Forum|

Want To Know About the Apostolic Fathers?

Last year we admitted a student into our PhD program last year to work with me, but since I've been on academic leave to write my next book, I haven't  had the chance to teach her.  That's obviously a problem, since I"m one of the reasons she's here!  So we agreed that I would go ahead and do a one-on-one independent study with her this semester on an important topic, the Apostolic Fathers. We meet once a week for three hours to translate Greek texts, discuss the books in question (see below), and talk about scholarly monographs that she is assigned to read each week.  It's a lot.  But, well, welcome to the PhD!  For many students college is a big leap form high school; a master's program is a big leap from undergraduate; and a PhD program is a QUANTUM leap. The "Apostolic Fathers" is a technical term for a group of 10 (or 11, depending on what you include) authors traditionally thought to  have been writing immediately after the books of the NT [...]

Jesus, the Supernatural, and the Historian: Guest Post 2 by James Tabor

Here is the second half of James Tabor’s guest post; for the first, see yesterday!   I think you will agree, the two parts are very stimulating.  If you want to hear more of James’s thoughts on all sorts of topics connected to the New Testament and Early Christianity, he too has a very helpful blog where he discusses all sorts of relevant topics.  Give it a look!  It’s at James will be happy to address questions you have in your comments.  Please keep them short and to the point, if possible!   Happy reading. James Tabor's most popular books are The Jesus Dynasty and Paul and Jesus, among others. ******************************************************* The public has been geared to think of the suppression of evidence, usually with the Roman Catholic church being the culprit, but such grand “conspiratorial” theories have little basis in fact. What is most characteristic of early Christianity, or more properly, “Christianites,” is a competing diversity of “parties and politics,” each propagating its own vision of the significance of the life and teachings of Jesus [...]

2020-10-29T17:24:34-04:00January 21st, 2020|Historical Jesus, Reflections and Ruminations|

Guest Post by James Tabor: The Historian and the Supernatural

I am honored to have a guest post provided for us by James D. Tabor, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at my sibling-school UNC-Charlotte, and longtime friend.  Many of you will know James and his work, as he publishes not only for the scholarly crowd but also for broader audiences.   If you want to stir up controversy – that’s the way to go! And James is no stranger to it, as becomes clear in this post – or rather these two posts.  I’ve decided to split them in half to fit in with the more common length on the blog.  So, one today and one tomorrow. James is dealing with a topic we have queried before on the blog before, about the role of miracles/the supernatural in scholarship.  But this will be very different from the most recent posts by our firm atheist friends last month.  James is not dealing with the difficult question of whether miracles are plausible at all, but with the equally difficult question of whether historians, by the nature [...]

2020-10-29T17:25:03-04:00January 20th, 2020|Historical Jesus, Reflections and Ruminations|

So: Was Luke Luke?

I started this thread over a week ago on the authorship of the Third Gospe and its accompanying volume, the book of Acts, and would like now simply to bring some closure to it before moving on to other things. To sum up: there is a kind of interpretive logic that can lead one to think that the books were written by Luke, a Gentile physician who was a traveling companion of Paul. This is what I myself thought for years, and it was based on this logic, that: The author of Acts also wrote the Gospel of Luke That the author of Acts, and therefore of Luke, must have been a traveling companion of Paul (since he speaks of himself in the first person on four occasions) That this author was probably a Gentile because he was so concerned with the spread of the Christian movement among Gentiles (the whole point of the book of Acts) Paul himself speaks of a Gentile among his traveling companions in Colossians 4, naming him as Luke the [...]

2020-04-17T13:01:01-04:00January 19th, 2020|Acts of the Apostles, Paul and His Letters|

Does the Book of Acts Accurately Record Paul’s Teachings?

We could deal forever with the question of the historical accuracy of Acts. There are entire books devoted to the problem and even to *aspects* of the problem, and different scholars come to different conclusions. My own view is that since Acts is at odds with Paul just about every time they talk about the same thing, that it is probably not to be taken as very accurate, especially in its detail. In yesterday’s post I dealt with a couple of places where it’s portrayal of Paul’s *actions* seem to be at odds with what Paul himself says; in today’s, my last post on the topic, I speak about Paul’s *teachings/views* and come to the same conclusion. I’ll pick just one example, and again, draw my remarks from comments I’ve made elsewhere in print. *************************************************************** Almost all of Paul's evangelistic sermons mentioned in Acts are addressed to Jewish audiences. This itself should strike us as odd, given Paul's own repeated claim that his mission was to the Gentiles. In any event, the most famous exception [...]

2020-04-17T13:02:08-04:00January 17th, 2020|Acts of the Apostles, Paul and His Letters|

Did *Any* Companion of Paul Write Luke and Acts?

I am circling around the ultimate question of this thread, whether Luke, the companion of Paul, wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.   A big reason this matters: if Paul's companion, "the gentile physician," wrote Acts, he had first-hand knowledge of Paul's life and teachings.  That would certainly increase the likelihood that he was giving an authoritative account! The first step to answering the question -- was it written by Luke? -- was to show that Paul never *mentions* Luke as a gentile physician in any of his undisputed letters. The second step involves asking the question of whether *any* companion of Paul – whether Luke or anyone else – wrote these books. The argument that a companion of Paul did write the books is based on the “we-passages” that I mentioned in the previous post. Now I want to advance the argument by saying that I don’t think the we-passages indicate that a companion of Paul wrote Acts (or, by inference, Luke) because I think there is good counter-evidence to indicate [...]

2020-04-17T13:07:35-04:00January 16th, 2020|Acts of the Apostles, Paul and His Letters|

How Were People Crucified?

I have always said that people were crucified by being nailed through their *wrists* instead of their hands.  I had heard that in college when I was maybe 18, and I’ve been saying it ever since.  And I still say it because it’s apparently true.  But I never knew how we knew.  Was it simply common sense that a nail/stake through the hand would rip out, and needed to go between two strong bones?  Or did we have some evidence?  And if it’s true that the nail/stake went through the wrist, why do virtually *all* the artistic representations show the holes in the hands? There are entire books on crucifixion in antiquity – I don't mean books about the significant of Jesus’ death, but on what crucifixion actually involved.   When I was in grad school I read Martin Hengel’s brief study; in more recent days John Granger Cook has written a massive tome, which I’ve looked at but haven’t read cover-to-cover (it’s amazing what I haven’t read….).   I’m sure it is the drop -dead authoritative [...]

2020-01-15T08:51:32-05:00January 15th, 2020|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Historical Jesus|

Bidding to See My New Book

I have written emails to everyone who has participated in the auction and put in a bid to have a look at my new book before it appears.   I *believe* I have managed to contact everyone.  If you did put in a bid but did *not* received (today) an email about it, and about what happens in the auction now, please send me an email at [email protected]    Many thanks! I will announce the amount raised at the end of the week.

2020-01-13T13:17:02-05:00January 13th, 2020|Public Forum|

Two Brief Comments on intriguing topics: the unknowability of God and scholarly subterfuge!

First: Several commentors on my post about the imperceptibility of a superior divine being have pointed out that Christians commonly talk about God as beyond our comprehension.  Yes indeed!!  When I was a fundamentalist we too used to say, all the time, that "God is far beyond anything we can imagine."  And then we would go on and list his characteristics and attributes!  :-)   Second: Several people have pointed out to me an article in the Guardian that deals at length with the fiasco of first-century Mark that I've talked about on the blog (again recently)  It really is a fine piece worth your reading:  

2020-01-13T09:53:09-05:00January 13th, 2020|Reflections and Ruminations|

Does the Author of Acts Identify Himself?

In this thread I have been discussing whether Luke, the gentile physician, the traveling companion of Paul, wrote the Third Gospel and the book of Acts. The first point I’ve made, over a couple of posts, is that the idea that Paul *had* a gentile physician as a traveling companion is dubious. That notion is derived from the mention of Luke in the book of Colossians, but Paul almost certainly did not *write* Colossians. Paul does mention a companion named Luke in the book of Philemon, but he does not say anything at all about him (not, for example, that he was a gentile or that he was a physician). Still, one could argue – and many have! – that whatever his name, it was a companion of Paul who wrote the books of Luke and Acts. The main argument in favor of that thesis – with which I heartily disagree – is the presence of the “we-passages” in Acts, that I mentioned previously. My view is that these passages do NOT demonstrate that the [...]

2020-04-17T13:07:17-04:00January 13th, 2020|Acts of the Apostles, Canonical Gospels|

A Revelatory Moment about “God”

I had a “revelatory moment” last week that I think may have changed my view about “God” for a very long time – or at least about the existence of superior beings far beyond what we can imagine. As most of you know, I have long been an agnostic-atheist, and as some of you may recall, I define “atheist” differently from most people, at least in relationship to “agnostic.”   The word “agnostic” means “don’t know.”   Is there a God?  I don’t’ know.  How could I possibly know?  How could you?  I know a lot of you do “know” – or think you know.  But my view is that if you’re in that boat you “think” there is a God – really, really think it, deep in your heart, and maybe even deeply “believe” in God – but really, at the end of the day, there’s no way to *know*, at least in the same way you “know” that you have two knees, live in Pennsylvania, or like lasagna. Anyway, I’m not asking you to agree [...]

2022-03-31T17:51:03-04:00January 12th, 2020|Reflections and Ruminations|

Did Paul Write Colossians? According to Most Scholars No – Paul did Not Write Colossians

Did Paul write Colossians? Asking and answering questions like this every now and then is useful on the blog to shift gears away from explaining at a more popular level what scholars have come to think -  to showing how scholars make their arguments to one *another*.  I don't want to do this a lot, but it seems that it can be helpful at times, just so blog readers can get a bit of a sense. Right now I'm in them middle of a thread on whether the author of Luke was really "Luke the gentile physician," one of Paul's traveling companions.  The only reason for thinking such a person even existed (a gentile doctor named Luke) is that he is mentioned by Paul in Colossians. In my previous post I explained why the majority of critical scholars don't think Paul actually wrote Colossians (so that the historical Paul does *not* mention this person). The post was written for a general audience, and a number of people raised questions about it.  So here is how [...]

Would You Like to Read My New Book NOW Instead of When It Gets Published???

As you may know, my next book Heaven and hell: A History of the Afterlife will be published on March 31.  That’s nearly three months off.  Would you like to read it *now*?     I have three copies of the galley proofs that I am willing to auction off -- as a fund-raiser for the blog -- to be sent directly to the highest bidders. A “galley proof” is the book as it is sent out to reviewers and journals and editors and book stores well in advance – some months ago now – so they can decide whether to advertise and / or stock the book and at what quantities.  They are never for sale.  They are in paperback with the same kind of cover that will be on the book itself, but at a cheaper production level since they are not for display in bookstores.   The book itself – the content -- is as it will be published, *except* for minor stylistic things (typos here and there etc.) that had not yet been cleared [...]

2020-01-09T07:28:04-05:00January 9th, 2020|Public Forum|
Go to Top