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Human Suffering and the Christian Faith

I've started a short thread on the issue of how the problem of human suffering affected my Christian faith.  To explain the matter further, here I quote from a section of my book God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important Question:  Why We Suffer.  The book is mainly about the variety of answers you can find in the Bible about why God allows or even causes suffering.  But I begin the book by talking about why it has long been such an important issue to me personally Human Suffering and How It Impacted My Christian Faith Eventually, I felt compelled to leave Christianity.  I did not go easily.  On the contrary, I left kicking and screaming, wanting desperately to hold on to the faith I had known from childhood and had come to know intimately from my teenage years onward.  But I came to a point where I could no longer believe.  It’s a very long story, but the short version is this: I realized that I could no longer reconcile [...]

2022-06-12T21:30:52-04:00December 6th, 2020|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

My Struggle With Why There Is Suffering

As many blog members know, I left the Christian faith because of the problem I had with understanding why there could be so much suffering in the world if there was an all-powerful and truly-loving God in control of it.  I have sometimes received questions about that, and will deal with one of them soon in a separate post.   But before doing so I want to provide a bit of personal background. In this post I want to make it clear that – as I’ve said a number of times on the blog before --  I did not leave the Christian faith because of my scholarship on the Bible or on the history of early Christianity.  On the contrary, virtually everything I know and think based on my scholarship on the Bible is known and thought by many, many biblical scholars, who continue to be committed Christians.  Including friends who serve as pastors of churches.  BUT, they are obviously not fundamentalists or evangelicals.  Far from it.  They moved on from that long ago, and have [...]

2020-11-30T12:12:30-05:00December 5th, 2020|Reflections and Ruminations|

Paul Dictated His Letters: How Does *That* Complicate Finding an Original?

I have been talking about the problems in knowing what the “original” text of Philippians is.  Even with the following brief review, the comments I will be making in this post will, frankly, probably not make much sense if you do not refresh your memory from my previous two posts.  Here I will be picking up where I left off there. We have seen that knowing what the original of Philippians is is complicated by the facts that: 1) The letter appears originally to have been two letters, so that it’s hard to know whether the original of each separate letter is to be the original or if the final edited version which Paul himself did not produce is the original; 2) Paul dictated his letters, and the scribe who wrote down his dictation would typically have made a fresh copy of the letter after Paul had made a few corrections – so which is the original: what the scribe originally wrote or the fresh copy he made after the corrections?  3) And if Paul [...]

2020-11-23T10:08:58-05:00December 3rd, 2020|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters|

Why Finding an “Original” Text is So Unexpectedly Complicated

I have been asked to comment on whether we can get back to the “original” text of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I have begun to discuss the problems not just of getting *back* to the original, but also of knowing even what the original *was*.   In my previous post I pointed out the problems posed by the fact that Philippians appears to be two letters later spliced together into one.  And so the first problem is this: is the “original” copy the spliced together copy that Paul himself did not create?  Or is the “original” the product that Paul himself produced – the two letters that are not transmitted to us in manuscript form any longer, to which, therefore, we have no access (except through the version edited by someone else)? But there are more problems.   Here I’ll detail them, in sequence as they occur to me. In what I am going to be saying now, I will simplify things by assuming that – contrary to what I’ve been arguing – Philippians is [...]

2020-11-23T10:13:20-05:00December 2nd, 2020|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters|

What Does It Even Mean to Have an “Original” of An Ancient Writing?

I have begun to answer a series of questions asked by a reader about the textual history of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  In my previous post I explained why some critical scholars maintain that the letter was originally two separate letters that have been spliced together.  That obviously makes the next question the reader asked a bit more complicated than one might otherwise imagine.  And it’s not the only complication.   Here is the reader’s next question: QUESTION:  Do you agree that the first copy of the letter written by Paul to the Philippians was also an original?  RESPONSE:  First off, my initial reaction that I gave a couple of posts ago still holds.  I’m not exactly sure what the reader is asking.  If he’s asking whether a copy of the original letter to Philippians is itself an original of Philippians, then the answer is no.  It is not the original.  It is a copy of the original.  Big difference.  But what if this copy was exactly like the original in every single respect – [...]

2020-11-23T10:20:35-05:00December 1st, 2020|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters|
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