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In What SENSE is Jesus “God” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke? My Change of Mind

In yesterday’s post I pointed out that if one asks about an early Christian text: “Does it portray Jesus as God,” then almost always if the answer is Yes (which it usually is), it has to be qualified: “Yes, in *some sense*. “ And the question is always, in *what* sense? The reason I stress this point is that for many years – until I dug deep into research for my book How Jesus Became God – I was quite vehement, in person and in print, that the Synoptic Gospels did not portray Jesus as divine, but only the Gospel of John did. It’s true – I still think and, I suspect, always will think – that in the Gospel of John there is little doubt about the divinity of Jesus. As we have seen, the Gospel opens with the amazing poem: “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him nothing came into being [...]

2021-02-16T11:35:33-05:00February 28th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Early Christian Doctrine, Public Forum|

What Did Ancient People Think It Meant To Call Someone God?

In the current threat I am building up to the question of where the Trinity came from.  It was not the original Christian teaching.  How then did it emerge as the "orthodox" view? I have started with the key issue, which is complicated enough on its own terms.  How, why, and when did the followers begin to call Jesus God?  That has been the posts up till now.  The reason it matters for the thread is that calling Jesus God made Christians try to figure out how he could be God and God could be God yet there be only one God.  The Spirit later got thrown into the mix as well, as we will see. But first I want to continue talking about the development of the view of Christ as God -- a very important development (THE most important development, one could argue) in early "Christology" (= the understanding of Christ).  That is the entire topic of my fuller treatment in my book How Jesus Became God (on which also I made a Great [...]

Wanna Go to Croatia with Me?

I recently announced a tour I will be doing – Covid permitting – to Rome and Southern Italy this coming June.  (See it here, with a brochure:  On the tour I’ll be giving lectures and hanging out for the ten days with everyone else; it should be great fun.  For the sites we see we will have local tour guides who are flat-out experts on everything.. In this post I’m announcing a tour that will be coming directly on the heels of that one – again, Covid permitting.  It is possible to come to either one, or both.  Those who choose to do both will get a discount.   Consider it buying in bulk.  This second one will be to the Southwest coast of Croatia and nearby islands.   This is one of the most gorgeous places in the known universe, and I’m particularly excited about it, because I’ve never been there.   I’m drawn by the beauty but also by the medieval towns and, even more ancient, its  connection with some very important [...]

2021-02-24T09:57:27-05:00February 25th, 2021|Public Forum|

More Live Lectures this Sunday: The Gospel of John and Early Christian Gnosticism!

This Sunday I will be giving two more live Zoom lectures on the Gospels to anyone who wants to come. They will be recorded for my undergraduate course on the New Testament.  There will be a 30-minute Q & A to follow the second one. There is no charge per se, but I would like to ask for a donation to the blog in exchange, if you can see your way clear to do it.  If not, that’s fine – we all have our circumstances!  But one of the main reasons I’m doing these lectures is to raise money for the Food Bank of North Carolina; as with all food banks right now, it is in desperate need.  Your donation is completely tax deductible. Here is the info you need: Time: Sunday, Feb. 28.  1:00 pm first lecture; 2:15 second (EST) Lectures will each last about 50 minutes. First Lecture:  Jesus as a Divine Man in the Gospel of John This lecture goes to the heart of the Gospel John and its distinctive portrayal of [...]

2021-02-24T09:13:07-05:00February 24th, 2021|Public Forum|

An Intriguing but Most Peculiar Book! Guest Post by Kristin Swenson

A new book has just come out that many of you will be very interested in.  It is called A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible (Oxford University Press), by Kristin Swenson.  I did not know Kristin until I learned of the book, some months before it was published.  The publisher asked if I would write an endorsement for the cover.  I usually have to say no to this kind of request, but I read the book and thought it was terrific.  Here is what I said in my blurb: Do you think you know the Bible?  Wait till you read Kristin Swenson’s new book.  What if you don’t know the Bible at all?  Even better.  A Most Peculiar Book is a deeply informed, completely accessible, and endlessly fascinating explanation of what scholars know about the Bible and lay people, as a rule, do not.  Read this book and prepare to learn! I received my copy a couple of weeks ago and contacted Kristin to ask if she’d be interested in writing a [...]

2021-03-01T23:58:14-05:00February 24th, 2021|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

The Buddhist Scriptures and the Gospel of Luke: Platinum Post by Steve Sutter

Here is a second interesting post on the relationship of the Gospel of Luke to certain passages of the Buddhist Scriptures -- for you Platinum members only! Remember, if you would like to submit a post yourself, just write it up and send it to me via email: [email protected]    We are almost at the end of the queue!  So bring 'em on! But for now, Steven's intriguing comparisons (on two rather important Gospel passages!) *************************** In the November 18, 2020 issue of the Fort Fairfield Journal, I presented a plausible case (in my opinion) that there are similarities (parallels) between selected sayings and stories in ancient Buddhist scriptures and parts of the Gospel of Luke.  Wrapping up my study project, let’s consider: (1) an additional story (The Temptation) and (2) an additional saying (The Golden Rule).   The Temptation … Paul F. Knitter, a former Roman Catholic priest, in his recent book Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian, notes (p. 106) an encounter “uncannily similar” to what Jesus experienced right before beginning [...]

2021-02-23T10:15:39-05:00February 23rd, 2021|Public Forum|

My Interview About Jesus for “The Dagger Squad”

Now HERE is an interesting interview (at least I thought it was).  Pretty unusual, in any case.  Garfield A. Reid of Dagger Squad is a lively and interesting interviewer, and the call-ins had intriguing questions. The interview was entitled  Jesus, New Testament, False Prophecies, and False Doctrines; it happened on Monday, February 8, 2021. See what you think!   Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition: 

2021-02-11T18:33:32-05:00February 23rd, 2021|Public Forum, Video Media|

Is the “Word” (Logos) of God in John the Wisdom (Sophia) of God in Judaism?

In yesterday’s post I began to discuss the Prologue of the Gospel of John, which contains a poem that celebrates Christ as the Word of God that became human. This Word of God was with God in the beginning of all things, and was himself God; through him the universe was created and in him is life. This word took on flesh to dwell with humans, and that human – the divine word made flesh – was Jesus. Some readers over the years have wondered if this celebration of the Logos of God that becomes flesh owes more to Greek philosophy than to biblical Judaism. It’s a good question, and hard to answer. One thing that can be said is that this Logos idea does find very close parallels with other biblical texts – in particular with texts that speak of the Wisdom (Greek: Sophia) of God. Sophia and Logos are related ideas; both have to do in some respect with “reason.” Sophia is reason that is internal to a person; Logos is that reason [...]

A Christian Is Not Necessarily a Disciple (Monthly Platinum Post: Douglas Wadeson)

As many of you know, one of the perqs of being a Platinum member of the blog is that at this level everyone is given the opportunity to make a post of their own, distributed only to Platinum members.  For these posts, members can talk about nearly anything they want, so long as it is related to the blog and not grievously snarky.  So far, we haven't had a snark at all. I post one of these a week, and then once a month, I choose one to post on the blog itself for all readers.   Or rather, I have the Platinum members themselves vote on which one they think should go public  This is our first one.  It comes to us from Douglas Wadeson, a long time member of the blog and recently retired (lucky fellow) physician.  The post came in two parts: here I will be giving only the first (I won't be posting the second: the Platinums will be voting on a different set of posts next time.) Feel free to comment [...]

2021-02-09T14:57:16-05:00February 20th, 2021|Reflections and Ruminations|

Interested in Going to Rome with Me?

As we are all so painfully aware, almost all travel holidays this past year were canceled.  But now many tour companies are optimistic that by late spring or early summer, with widespread vaccination internationally, travel will resume.  We will know eventually! I have been asked to do a special tour to Rome and Southern Italy, June 4-14, 2021, (THIS June!) to give lectures on the relationship of Christianity and traditional Roman religions and cultures in the early centuries CE:  “Christians and Pagans.”   I’ve agreed to do it, and will go ahead with it, of course, only if it is completely safe. The tour company, Thalassa, is terrific; it will be a small and intimate group and we will have tons of time to talk, discuss, and hang out together.   They are now accepting registrations for the trip.  Below is a poster for it, with a link for more information.  Here is part of what I say about my lectures. When Christianity arrived on the world stage in the first century AD, Rome and the [...]

2021-02-19T11:08:40-05:00February 19th, 2021|Public Forum|

Does Luke Present Different (Inconsistent!) Views of Christ?

In a recent post I tried to show that the author of Luke-Acts (same person; let's call him Luke) presented an "exaltation" Christology -- that is, that he thought Christ was not originally a divine being but had been exalted to divinity at some point of his existence; but unlike most of our other sources, he affirms *different* moments when this happened: at Jesus' birth, his baptism, and his resurrection.  (See the post if this is not ringing a bell: ). I ended the post by saying I would explain how Luke could have it all three ways.  And as a reader pointed out to me, I never posted the post!  So here it is.  I dealt with this specific issue on the blog some years ago, and I may be older now, but I'm no wiser, at least as far as this question goes.  Here's what I said then and would continue to say now: ******************************** Does Luke present a (strictly speaking) consistent view of Jesus throughout his two-volume work of Luke-Acts? I raise [...]

Live Lectures this Sunday! Distinctive Messages of Luke and John

This Sunday I will again be giving two live Zoom lectures on the Gospels to anyone who wants to come. They will be recorded for my undergraduate course on the New Testament.  There will be a 30-minute Q & A to follow the second one. There is no charge per se, but I would like to ask for a donation to the blog in exchange, if you can see your way clear to do it.  If not, that’s fine – we all have our circumstances!  But one of the main reasons I’m doing these lectures is to raise money for the Food Bank of North Carolina; as with all food banks right now, it is in desperate need.  Your donation is completely tax deductible. Here is the info you need: Time: Sunday, Feb. 21.  1:00 pm first lecture; 2:15 second (EST) Lectures will each last about 50 minutes. First Lecture:  The Alternative Perspectives of the Gospel of Luke. This lecture will show how Luke differs in significant ways from both Mark and Matthew, and will [...]

2021-02-18T21:54:53-05:00February 17th, 2021|Public Forum|

How Old Was Jesus ???

I received a very interesting question from a blog reader, and it has led to an unexpected answer.   QUESTION Is there any significance to the age of Jesus and its relation to the start of his ministry?   RESPONSE: I don’t know what the questioner actually means about the “significance” of Jesus’ age, and so I’ve decided to answer a related question.  What, in fact, was his age?  Well, the matter is … like so much else in our universe … unexpectedly complicated. It turns out I dealt with this years ago on the blog.   I know because I just checked.  I had forgotten about that post, and even more interesting, I had forgotten my answer, which contains some information that I ALSO FORGOT.  In fact, some really interesting information.  I bet you didn’t know (as I apparently used to know) that there is a discussion of Jesus’ age in the writings of one of the most important early church fathers, which  indicates that Jesus grew to be a relatively old man before he [...]

2022-07-06T00:08:49-04:00February 17th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

But Maybe Paul Doesn’t Believe in the Incarnation….

There is a whole lot more that could be said about the Christ-poem in Philippians 2.   You could literally write an entire book on just this passage.  In fact, people *have* written books on just this passage.   The most important one, a classic in the field, is by Ralph Martin, A Hymn of Christ (which in earlier editions was called Carmen Christi) (which is a Latin phrase that, unsurprisingly, means A Hymn of Christ  :-) ).  This passage has had more ink spilled over it by scholars over the last century than almost any other in the entire Bible (with the exception of John 1:1-18).   In any event, to make sense of what I want to say here, it would help, if you haven’t done so, to read the other posts I’ve made on it. Here I just want to mention briefly an interpretation that is sometimes floated for the passage which takes it in a very different way indeed, as not being about incarnation at all.  In this alternative interpretation, the passage is not [...]

2021-02-16T08:56:33-05:00February 16th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Paul and His Letters|

Was Christ actually God in the Flesh?

We now move from Paul's Christology that *combined* an incarnational view with an exaltation view, to a Christology that is incarnational through and through -- still in the New Testament, in the final Gospel to be written (possibly 30 years or so after Paul's death?) In it we find what is arguably the best known and most influential passage dealing with Christology in the New Testament: the Prologue of the Gospel of John, 1:1-18. It is also probably the most studied and discussed passage – even more than the Christ poem in Philippians 2:6-11. The first eighteen verses of John are typically called the “Prologue” because they are clearly set apart from the rest of the Gospel as a kind of celebration of the main character of the book; these verses are written in a different writing style from the rest of the Gospel (lofty poetry), they contain key concepts not found in the rest of the Gospel (Christ as “the Word” made flesh), and yet they introduce well some of the most important views [...]

2022-07-03T16:54:17-04:00February 16th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Early Christian Doctrine|

Reminder! A Live Chance to “Ask Bart Anything” (ABA) this Wednesday 2/17/2021

This Wednesday (2/17/21) 7:00-8:15 pm I will be holding a live ABA (“Ask Bart Anything”).  It will be over Zoom and will be open to anyone on the planet who wants to come. The format: I will take live questions both orally and through chats.  The questions can be on ANY topic that anyone is interested in.  If it is something I don’t know anything about (quantum physics or the Ming Dynasty) or that I would rather not talk about (that little incident when I was 16….) I’ll just say so.  I will get through as many questions as I can, answering easy ones briefly and taking as long as I need to deal with more complicated ones.  My only request will be that questions are direct questions, not lectures, sermons, admonitions, condemnations, expositions of one’s favorite views, or statements of one’s opinions so the rest of the world can hear and convert. Interested?   There is no need to register, no obligation of any kind.   And not cost.  Free to all.  BUT: If you you [...]

2021-02-17T15:45:58-05:00February 13th, 2021|Public Forum|

One of the Weird Events in My Life that Led Me To Be A Research Scholar

Everyone has significant events that shape their lives and lots of people have rather strange ones.  This morning I was thinking of three weird events that contributed to my becoming a research scholar.  They all happened over a four-year period, from ages 14-17.  There were: getting bored with 9th grade Latin; getting hepatitis; and going to a fundamentalist Bible college. First, the Latin.  In grade school we all took Spanish.  I wasn’t any good at it and I didn’t much like it.  I had no particular interest in languages, at all.  Then in 9th grade we had to take a language and the choices, as I recall, were Spanish, German, French, and Latin.  I was the kind of kid who liked to do things differently from everyone else; most kids were heading to Spanish, but I knew I didn’t do well there.  German and French – kind of the same thing, modern languages I wasn’t interested in.  I thought, well, Latin’s a bit unusual: maybe I’ll do that. I rather enjoyed it, but as it [...]

2021-02-03T14:47:19-05:00February 13th, 2021|Bart’s Biography, Public Forum|

The Essence of Religious Literacy: A Christian Perspective. Platinum Guest Post by Fredrick Ackun

I am pleased to present now a very thoughtful guest post by Platinum member Fredrick Ackun!    To respond, simply make a comment, and he will be able to reply. I am looking for more contributions!  Feel free to send one along, on any topic! *************************** In this post, I wish to share and elaborate a bit on some personal realizations I have made in my faith journey. They are some of the main reasons why I am of the view that studying and acquiring knowledge about what we believe in is imperative. A faith system solely premised on theological presuppositions with no recourse to historical information can rub away context that would have otherwise provided a deeper appreciation of its narratives. The two keywords here are History and Theology; hence, it may be important to spell out a fundamental difference between these two terms in relation to the faith journey. History is an attempt to reconstruct events in the past based on evidence and plausibilities. Theology, on the other hand, is interpreting history through [...]

2021-02-11T18:42:07-05:00February 11th, 2021|Reflections and Ruminations|

Interview about My Writing with the North Carolina Writers’ Network

I recently did an interview for spring issue of the North Carolina Writers' Network’s newsletter The Writers' Network News (Spring, 2021).  If  you are interested in learning more about their organization, this is their website: Some of the questions in the interview were about my most recent book Heaven and Hell, others were on my approach to writing.  Eight questions overall, with brief answers.  The issue was published just yesterday, so I have permission now to post it here as well on the blog. Many thanks to Charles Fiore from the NCWN, who set up and conducted the interview.   Q&A for NCWN Writers Literary portrayals of the afterlife are full of spectacle. For example, who can forget the circles in Dante's "Inferno"? ("Purgatorio" was unnerving enough...) Are we somehow drawn to terrible spectacle, even though we also fear it? The first chapter of my book Heaven and Hell deals with early Christian tours of the afterlife.  These are the earliest forerunners of Dante, and he was familiar with one of them.  Unlike the [...]

2021-02-03T14:47:49-05:00February 11th, 2021|Book Discussions, Reflections and Ruminations|
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