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More Member Publications!

A while back I asked blog members to forward to me information about publications they have ... published.  Twice I've given a half dozen, and here are some more: a couple of articles and a couple of books.  They all look fascinating to me, and two of them are by research scholars / professors of the New Testament that I know.  Maybe one of the others is as well, that I don't know!  In any case, read through their self-descriptions, and if you're so moved, check out the publications themselves! ************************************************************************* Steve  Very Short Article Another side of New Testament Jesus wintertao Twitter.com/wintertao New Testament Jesus did and said many wonderful things. We are taught them as kids and everyone knows them. But on close objective reading the NT also contains another side of Jesus. I’ve worked on this off and on for over 10 years and have posted it many different places including a much earlier revision here on the blog in the members message board where I received valuable feedback. It’s been critiqued [...]

2020-11-22T14:01:52-05:00August 31st, 2020|Public Forum|

Does Basic Information about the NT *Matter*? My Pop Quiz

Last week I posted the pop quiz that I gave my first-year seminar, “Jesus in Scholarship and Film,” on the opening day of the term.  There are several reasons I give a quiz, even before the students have read, heard lectures, or discussed anything about the New Testament.  For one thing, it’s a fun activity and we can have some laughs – it’s not graded and we go over the answers after they take it.  For another thing, it’s important for me to know how much they know about the New Testament and early Christianity before we start the course.  It’s also important for them to know how much they know – especially the students who were raised in church and assume they already know a lot.  Some of them do; but not most.  And sometimes they are chagrined when they find out.  (If I had a nickel for every time a student has said to me, “Why haven’t I heard this before?" I could buy a condo on the Champs-Élysées.) Even more important, in [...]

Paul’s Ascent to Paradise. Guest Post by James Tabor

A couple of weeks ago I learned that James Tabor had republished his book Paul’s Ascent to Heaven, his first scholarly monograph, which, alas, had gone out of print.  But it’s back in!  I wrote him to ask if he’d be willing to write a couple of guest posts about it, and here is the first.  This one explains how and where the book originated (published 1986); his next post will discuss how his mind has changed on some issues in the intervening years. Many of you know James from his other writings.  He publishes for both scholarly and popular audiences.  James has long been a professor of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte.  Here is his story of how his book first came to be.  He will be happy to respond to comments and questions. James Tabor’s most popular books are Paul and Jesus and The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find that Reveals the Birth of Christianity, among others.    ************************************************************ James D. Tabor, Dept. of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte Paul’s Ascent to Paradise [...]

What Is the Unforgivable Sin? Readers’ Mailbag.

Important question this week! QUESTION: I wondered if you have written a blog which talks specifically about the 'unpardonable sin'. RESPONSE: Well, it’s been a while.  But I get asked this question a good bit, and almost always it is a fearful request – by someone who is afraid they’ve committed it.  So it’s worth addressing the issue again.   I think the NT is pretty clear on the matter, even though few people actually look carefully at what it says about it. In a famous passage in Matthew, Jesus talks about the “unforgiveable sin”:  “Therefore I tell you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven; and whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit it will not be forgiven, either in this age or the ages to come.” (Matthew 12: 31-32). As you might imagine, over the Christian centuries there have been numerous interpretations of what that *one* sin was, especially [...]

2020-08-27T17:53:02-04:00August 27th, 2020|Afterlife, Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

My Faux Pop Quiz this Semester

Here’s a question from one of my recent posts on teaching this term, and what I did on the first day of class. QUESTIONS Now that Aug 11 is safely past, is there any chance that we here on the blog might be able to see the “Faux Pop Quiz”? RESPONSES               The question is about the pop quiz I gave on my first day of class in my First Year Seminar (i.e, the small seminar for first year students – their first semester in college!) on “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.”  Different instructors do different things on the first day of class.  We are required to give out a syllabus that describes the course objectives, requirements, textbooks, grading policies, and sundry other things (I posted mine last week on the blog).  Some instructors do that and then that’s all for the first class.  I do more.  I don’t believe in throwing away any class time for the entire semester, so I always take up the whole period.  Hey, they’re payin’ for this class.  (Well, [...]

2020-08-26T22:21:53-04:00August 26th, 2020|Historical Jesus, Teaching Christianity|

My Early Christian Apocrypha Seminar

I am teaching a PhD seminar this semester on the early Christian apocrypha; it's a little hard to define what those are, though hundreds of people have tried!.  The way I define them are as non-canonical books that are similar in genre and contents to those that did make it into the canon.  Or something like that.  They comprise Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses, they can be "orthodox" or "non-orthodox" (= " heretical"); most of them claim to be written by apostles (but not all); the ones I'm most interested in date from the second to the fifth centuries. It's a fairly but not crazily heavy-hitting class.   It meets once a week for three hours.  Here, for your amusement and reading pleasure (especially if you do the assignments!) is the syllabus: To see what follows, you will need to belong to the blog.  Not a member yet?  Now's the best time ever to join.  Why?  Because you can't join in the past.     Reli 801: Early Christian Apocrypha Instructor: Bart D. Ehrman Fall 2020 [...]

At Last. Jesus and the Son of Man.

Two weeks ago I started addressing a question I got asked on the blog.  At first I was just going to reply to the question as a comment; as my response started getting a bit long I decided I better devote an entire post to it.  When I started working on a post on in, I decided it needed to be a thread.  As I pointed out, that was two weeks ago.  And I still haven’t answered the question. I’ll answer it here rather briefly, based on the information I’ve given.  The answer should make sense on its own terms, but if you want to see the reasoning behind it, read the posts over the past couple of weeks that have been about “the Son of Man.”     QUESTION: In Mark 8:27-28 Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” and they reply that different people think he is “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets”  Jesus then follows up with the key question: “But who do you say that [...]

2020-08-23T08:46:14-04:00August 23rd, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Smith-Pettit Lecture – The History of Heaven and Hell

Here is a webinar that I did on July 29th, 2020, as the Smith-Pettit lecture for the Sunstone Digital Symposium sponsored by Sunstone Education Foundation.  It was on the "History of Heaven and Hell."  It was an unusual event for me: Sunstone is an independent organization located in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Sunstone does not have any official ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but it does serve mainly them, bringing together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that seeks to value faith, intellectual, and experiential integrity. Moderating the event was Karin Franklin Peter, president of the Fifth Quorum of Seventy, who serves on the Council of Presidents of Seventy with the Community of Christ.  This is a branch of "Mormons" that split from the LDS over polygamy in the 19th century.  She received a bachelor of science in psychology and a master of arts in Christian ministry from Community of Christ Seminary at Graceland University, Independence, Missouri. I was introduced by Lindsay Hansen Park, an American Mormon feminist [...]

2020-08-21T18:56:40-04:00August 21st, 2020|Afterlife, Book Discussions, Public Forum, Video Media|

The Flukes of Life and My Teaching Career

I've been concerned for the past months (among many other things, of course) about PhD's trying to get teaching positions in colleges and universities. Even when there is not an economy-busting pandemic, it's hard. Very hard. Many years ago when I was on the market, I had an awful time trying to find a job . Oddly enough, I see now, I posted on this very topic, on this very date during the first year of the blog (2012). Here's what I said then. *********************************************************************** My students are alternatively comforted and chagrined to learn how hard it was for me to get a teaching position. It makes them feel good that they are not alone, but bad that they too might have a hard time – even harder. I was on the job market while I was writing my dissertation.. And even though there were job openings, I couldn’t get an interview to save my soul. Part of the problem was that my PhD was from a theological seminary, and a lot of the jobs [...]

2020-08-21T18:06:17-04:00August 20th, 2020|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

“The Case for Christ”? The New Testament Review Podcast

Here now is the second guest post by Duke PhD students Ian Mills and Laura Robinson, dealing with their podcast  New Testament Review.   In this one they describe one of their more unusual podcasts.  As you'll see, they deal with extremely interesting material for to anyone interested real scholarship on early Christianity-- as opposed to the (often very popular) books by people who don't know  or understand scholarship but try to denigrate it in order to "prove" their own sectarian views.   Blog Post #2 New Testament Review on Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ   As outlined in our last post, the New Testament Review podcast is dedicated to summarizing influential pieces of New Testament scholarship and their reception in the field. Every work we cover has transformed how later scholarship treats a specific topic or text. Every work, that is, except one. On April 1st 2019, we released an episode with the title, “Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ.” Lee Strobel is a former journalist turned evangelical Christian apologist. His bestselling book The [...]

2020-08-19T09:10:47-04:00August 19th, 2020|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

How Jesus’ Apocalyptic Teachings Were Changed (even in the NT)

I have been arguing that Jesus talked about a figure he called the Son of Man, a cosmic judge of the earth who was soon to arrive from heaven to judge all people, to destroy the opponents of God (both human and non-human) and to reward his (human) followers with a utopian kingdom here on earth.  This was not a weird, unusual, or psychotic message: in basic terms it was a rather common view among Jews in Jesus day, a view that scholars have called "apocalyptic." The word comes from the Greek term "apocalypsis," which means a "revealing" or an "unveiling."  Jewish apocalypticism was widespread in Jesus' day: it was a view held by the Pharisees, the Essenes (including the authors and users of the Dead Sea Scrolls), authors of books such as 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch, various "prophets" we know about (named and unnamed), John the Baptist, and many, many others.  These Jews believed the world was controlled for now by forces of evil, but God was soon to re-assert his [...]

2020-08-17T18:07:00-04:00August 17th, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Jesus in Scholarship and Film

University classes started this past week, and as so many have said, this will be a school year like no other.  I will be teaching both of my classes remotely, a PhD seminar on Early Christian Apocrypha, which I will be discussing in a later post, and my undergraduate course, Jesus in Scholarship and Film.  I've taught this latter course on and off for years now, and it is absolutely one of my favorites. The basic idea behind it is to see how Jesus is portrayed in different ways in different venues: ancient Gospels (the four canonical Gospels and seven from outside the New Testament), modern scholarship on the historical Jesus (i.e., attempts to see what he really said and did), and film, from the earliest silents up to recently. One of the goals is to learn how each book/film portrays Jesus differently.  There is not "one" Jesus out there that everyone agrees on. Teaching remotely is a huge challenge.  But I have a terrific group of students.  It is a First Year Seminar; these [...]

2020-11-30T23:30:29-05:00August 16th, 2020|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

A Podcast of Interest to You! Guest post by Ian Mills and Laura Robinson

If you are interested in learning more about scholarship on the New Testament, but at a lay person's level, this is the post for you!  It is about a podcast that might be (probably is) right up your alley, set up and run by two graduate students from Duke University who have worked with me over the past few years. One of the real pleasures of teaching graduate students in New Testament/early Christianity at UNC is that Duke is just ten miles away, with its own graduate program.  The New Testament program at Duke program in New Testament has a different focus from ours here at at UNC.  To put it in the most simple terms, at UNC we have a more historically-focused approach and at Duke they have a more interpretation-focused approach.   Of course, you can't do one without the other.  But I tend to teach historical topics to our students, with interpretation of texts as part of what we do; many of their classes are more focused on interpretation with history as the [...]

2020-08-14T15:25:05-04:00August 14th, 2020|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

Did Jesus Think He Would Be the Judge of the Earth?

In order to answer a very specific question about how Matthew uses the phrase “son of man” for Jesus, I have had to discuss what the phrase generally means in the Gospel and whether it is a phrase that Jesus actually used.  I am arguing that he did use it.  That one of the ways he used it was to refer to the judge of the earth who was coming from heaven to destroy God’s enemies and set up a kingdom here (down here, on earth).  And here is the big surprise.  My argument is that when he talked about the future cosmic judge, he was *not* talking about himself. In my last post I talked about the criterion of dissimilarity.  Now I want to show how it relates to this specific problem/issue.  Among the various sayings about the Son of Man on the lips of Jesus are some that would not have been put *on* his lips by his followers.  (The ones where he is talking about himself obviously *could* have been put on [...]

2020-08-14T15:38:31-04:00August 13th, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

How Do You Know If Jesus Said That?

In this thread I'm discussing whether Jesus ever used the term "Son of Man"' and if so, if he used it to refer to a future cosmic judge of the earth; and if so, whether he talked about *himself* as that one.  My answers are  yes, yes, and no.  I answered the first two questions in previous posts.  I will now begin to answer the third, i.e., to show why I don't think Jesus called or thought of himself as the coming Son of Man who was to arrive from heaven on the day of judgment To do this I need to reintroduce into the blog a historical criterion that scholars use to determine what Jesus actually said, given the fact that we certainly have records of him saying things that he certainly didn't say.  Even if you think Jesus said everything recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, how would you know if he said the things found in *other* Gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas?  You would need to have some way [...]

2021-01-10T00:38:40-05:00August 12th, 2020|Historical Jesus|

A Bit of a Shocker: Jesus and the Son of Man

In my previous post I began to talk about the phrase “the Son of Man” in the New Testament, in response to a question about Matthew 16:13-16. (See that post!)  I will get around to answering the question itself eventually, but for now I’m discussing the use of the phrase “Son of man” generally in the Gospels.  Yesterday I pointed out that Jesus uses it a lot, in a variety of ways. Some scholars have claimed that since prior to Jesus, within Judaism, it was not a “title” for a person (that is, like “Son of God” or “Messiah” or “Lord” or “King” etc.), then it could not be a title when Jesus uses it.  I responded by saying that doesn’t make any sense, since the phrase *is* used as a title in the Gospels, so *someone* had to be the first to use it that way, and in principle there is no reason to say it could not have been Jesus. Now I want to argue that Jesus did use it as a title, [...]

2020-08-10T17:00:18-04:00August 10th, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Who Is the Son of Man? From the Blog Readers’ Mailbag

I have received a rather difficult question from a blog member, involving how the Gospels understand and portray Christ in relationship to one another. Here is the question – or series of tightly interrelated questions – followed by the beginnings of an answer.  This one's gonna take several posts.   QUESTION: In Mark 8:27-28 Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” and they reply that different people think he is  “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets”  Jesus then follows up with the key question: “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter replies:  “You are the Christ.” When Luke tells the story Luke keeps the verbal back and forth almost the same, although when Peter replies he is a bit more specific:  “The Christ of God.” (Was there another kind of Christ?!) Matthew’s version is a bit different though.  Jesus ask, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  The disciples reply in much the same way (although in addition to John the Baptist and [...]

2020-08-09T08:44:47-04:00August 9th, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

The Opening Section of the Gospel of Judas

Here is the first bit of the Gospel of Judas from the translation of my colleague Zlatko Pleše in our book The Other Gospels.  After this bit here, the Gospel gets very strange, at least to most modern readers.   But as you can see, it is really interesting. The first paragraph is the explanation of where we got the text from; then the translation of the opening scends, and after that I give the bibliography for further reading that we cite in our book.   ************************************** Our translation is based on the Coptic text of Rodolphe Kasser, and Gregor Wurst, eds. The Gospel of Judas: Critical Edition.  Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.   New portions of the Gospel appeared in 2006, when the one-time owner of the manuscript declared bankruptcy and his remaining antiquities collection was turned over to a bank in Ohio; included in this collection were numerous small fragments of the Gopsel of Judas.   These have been photographed and they have begun to be studied; for our translation of the account here we have [...]

What is the Gospel of Judas About?

I have said some things about the Gospel of Judas in my previous posts, but not much, really, about what is actually in it.   You can find a translation, done by my colleague Zlatko Pleŝe, in the volume we co-edited and translated: The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament.  We also give the following Introduction to the text; I will give the rest of the Introduction and a bibliography, and a bit of the translation itself, in the next post.   ***********************************************************   The Gospel of Judas is the most recently discovered Gospel to be published, and is arguably the most important and intriguing Christian text to appear since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library in 1945.  Details of the discovery and the mishandling of the manuscript by antiquities dealers are provided in the exhaustive account of Herb Krosney.  The manuscript containing the Gospel preserves three other gnostic works as well: the “Letter of Peter to Philip,” known in a slightly different version from the findings at Nag Hammadi; the [...]

2020-08-05T15:20:17-04:00August 5th, 2020|Christian Apocrypha, Heresy and Orthodoxy|

Sethian Gnostics and the Gospel of Judas

Soon after scholars had a chance to examine the Gospel of Judas it became clear that it embodied a form of early Christian Gnosticism known as "Sethian."   Most descriptions that you find of Gnosticism are simplistic and do not actually reflect the mind-boggling complexities of the texts that embody it, to the extent that even if you master the basic descriptions you find, it is very hard to make sense of any of the texts. That is certainly true of the Sethian writings! To say they are gloriously confusing is a serious understatement.  They involve myths filled with wierd names and intricacies of relationships and events that are hard to explain in the abstract. But hey, you gotta try!  And if you don't have much space to do so, well, you do the best you can.  Here is how I explain Sethian Gnosticism in my book After the New Testament , 2nd edition.  (The book is actually an anthology of early Christian texts writings all kinds, and I include selections from three key Sethian texts.) [...]

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