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Two Ancient Jesuses and the Current Crises

One of the most important discoveries of critical Biblical scholarship over the past two hundred years – arguably the single most important discovery – is that the Bible does not have a single message about virtually anything.  The Bible is an extremely diverse, multi-faceted book, written over many centuries by many different authors with many different views.  The fact that these sixty-six books were all gathered together and called “Scripture” does not change the fact that the author of one of the books may well have a very different view of a particular matter, even an extremely important matter than another. Let’s take the question of how we are to treat those who are not like us.  People who aren’t from our same nation; who don’t look like us; who are of different ancestry; who are not from our own cultural background; who do not share our political views or religious beliefs; who are of a different gender or sexual orientation or race.  How do we treat such people?  Depends whom you ask within the [...]

2020-06-07T11:31:33-04:00June 7th, 2020|Reflections and Ruminations|

Are Bible Translators Consistent? Readers’ Mailbag

In today’s Reader’s Mailbag I deal with a question that involves both the differences in the manuscripts of the New Testament AND the issue of English Bible translations.  As many of you know, almost all scholars agree that passages such as the “Woman Taken in Adultery,” in John 7:53-8:11 and the last twelve verses of Mark (Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after the resurrection) were not original to the New Testament.  (If you’re not familiar with this issue, see my book Misquoting Jesus and/or do word searches to find discussions on the blog).   And yet most modern Bibles continue to include them, even if they put them in brackets with a footnote saying that they are missing from the best manuscripts we have. But why aren’t translators consistent in applying this rule: keeping verses they know are not original with footnotes?  Why  in other, analogous cases, do they more often remove the passages completely and put them in the notes? It’s a great question:  here is how the reader phrased it, with very helpful examples. [...]

Views of Suffering Among Those Who Suffer

There is always a lot of suffering going on around us, if not in our neighborhood then certainly in our country, not to mention our world.  Now more then ever.  And more obviously than ever.  But the "ever" itself is really very bad, when you think of the millions being slaughtered in civil war and unrest, driven from their homes, starving, dying of curable disease for want of medicine or from lack of clean water, etc. etc. etc. But it's on our minds right now more than ever, between a worldwide pandemic and a national recognition of deeply rooted and massive racial violence and injustice.  Suffering is always there, but now it is all we are talking about. I was browsing through old posts on the blog and came across this one I wrote eight years ago.  As some of you know, one of my books, God's Problem, deals with the problem of why there is suffering.  In it I examine what different biblical authors have to say about it to show that they represent many [...]

2020-06-03T10:30:08-04:00June 3rd, 2020|Bart's Debates, Reflections and Ruminations|

But WHY Did Judas Betray Jesus?

This will be my last post in this thread on Judas Iscariot, and it deals with a question that has long been asked, often answered, and never satisfactorily: what motivated Judas to betray Jesus?  No answer has ever satisfied because there is simply no way to know.  When I say the answers are never satisfactory, and that they do not satisfy, I don't mean that no one is satisfied.  Lots of people -- including possibly you! -- have an answer that you think works perfectly.  OK then! But there's no consensus on the matter and even though I have my preference of an answer, I don't think it's possible to enter into some person's mind -- especially a person living 2000 years ago that we know virtually nothing about -- to come up with a psychological explanation for why he did what he did. Here's the reality: you can't come up with a convincing and conclusive psychological explanation for MOST things that MOST people do.  You actually have no idea what is motivating me to [...]

2020-06-02T09:45:53-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

What Did Judas Betray?

In an indirect but very important way, recognizing what Judas actually betrayed is central to understanding the life and death of Jesus.  It goes to the heart of his messages and explains why he was crucified.  Even so, it is a complicated matter and has not been fully thought out even by many New Testament scholars. It is commonly supposed, of course, among lay-folk and scholars alike, that Judas indicated to the authorities where Jesus could be found apart from the crowds.   Maybe that’s right, even though I do have some doubts about it.  Even if it is right, there may be more to it than that.  I think the following data are worth bearing in mind, leading to the resolution of the question that I prefer.  (At first these data may not seem relevant: but hang in there for a minute!) Jesus almost certainly did not publicly claim that he was the messiah during his lifetime; more specifically, he never publicly announced that he was the King of the Jews.  In our earliest accounts [...]

2020-06-01T10:01:35-04:00June 1st, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|
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