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Live Lecture This Sunday! Do Christians Need to Be Jews? Understanding the Gospel of Matthew.

I am now getting in the habit of doing Zoom lectures on the New Testament on Sunday afternoons; these are being recorded for my undergraduate course on the New Testament.  But all of you are invited to come this week, but because of UNC’s schedule, it will be one lecture instead of two, with Q & A to follow. 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. 14.  1:00 pm EST. Lecture will last about 50 minutes, followed by the 30 minutes of Q&A. Topic: Jesus the Jewish Messiah: Understanding the Gospel of Matthew. This [...]

2021-02-10T15:19:42-05:00February 10th, 2021|Public Forum|

More Comments on Paul’s Rather Astounding Christ Poem

My last couple of posts have been on the "Christ Poem" found in Philippians 2:6-10.  Many years ago when I talked about the poem and argued that it was in fact a poem, a reader (who apparently knew Greek!) objected that the poetic lines I suggested don't actually work.  I answered that question before moving on to showing just how amazing the poem is: it ends by giving the resurrected Jesus the authority of God Almighty himself. That may not seem surprising to Christians who already think it's true.  But just imagine how it would resonate with someone living in the first century who knew that Jesus was publicly executed for crimes against the state.  It might help if you imagine how you would feel if someone made a claim like this for someone who was condemned as an enemy of the of the state for insurrection against the United States who suffered the death penalty -- and someone claimed he had become God, the Lord of the universe.  Uh, really?  Yup, that's what Paul's [...]

2021-02-04T19:10:58-05:00February 10th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Paul and His Letters|

An Alternative Christology: God Became Human

In my posts on Christology so far I have argued that different Christians in the early decades of the Christian movement maintained that Jesus had been exalted to a divine status at some point of his existence – at his resurrection, at his baptism, at his birth. I have called this a christology from below, or an “exaltation” christology; it is sometimes called a low christology because it understands Jesus to have started out as a human (down here with us) and to have been raised to a divine status. In this view he was not God from eternity past or a pre-existent being. He was a human being who was taken up to the level of divinity at some point (or, in the case of the Virgin Birth, that he came into existence at a point in time as a person who was partially human partially divine). But there was another kind of Christology which was also very early – earlier, in fact, than our earliest surviving Christian writer, Paul. This is the view [...]

2021-02-04T19:11:56-05:00February 7th, 2021|Early Christian Doctrine, Paul and His Letters|

Personal Post: My Work Habits

Blog members sometimes ask me about my work habits:  I seem to get a lot of writing done in addition to the day job as a university professor and doing the blog and what not.  How’s that happen exactly?  I should say that it’s not happenin’ too well right now: start of classes – teaching 240 students remotely! – and lots of other things--I ain’t getting twit done on my research…. But normally I do try to pack it in.  And how?  My usual answer is that I don’t watch a lot of TV.  And that’s certainly true.  I do watch the news sometimes – I did a lot more, e.g., in election season; but I find televised news both problematic and inefficient, if what you really want is *news*.  It’s problematic because most news shows these days do not demarcate between information and opinion (it’s impossible to do that completely, of course; but sometimes you really do just want to know facts); it’s inefficient because the amount of news you can get in an [...]

2021-02-04T19:12:24-05:00February 6th, 2021|Bart’s Biography|

Platinum Members! Vote for your Favorite Platinum Post

This post is accessible by Platinum Members only. If you feel left out, please consider clicking the "Upgrade!" button above to migrate to this membership level. Platinum members increasingly enjoy special benefits while every penny collected aids families and children in desperate need.


2021-02-04T15:00:53-05:00February 4th, 2021|Recent Comments|

The Oldest View of Christ: Found in Only One Greek Manuscript of Luke!

The oldest view of Christ is found in one Greek Manuscript of Luke. I’d like to address the issue of early Christology from a slightly different angle in this post. So far I have talked about how an “exaltation” Christology, in which Jesus, the man, is made the Son of God. At some point of his existence he can be found in various parts of the New Testament (Rom 1:3-4; speeches in Acts), and how different early Christians located that exaltation to different moments in Jesus’ existence (resurrection, baptism, birth, pre-existence). As it turns out, this view of Christology relates to an important textual variant in the Gospel of Luke. Only One Greek Manuscript of Luke So, by way of background for anyone new to this kind of discussion. We don’t have the original copy of Luke’s Gospel (or of any other NT book or, actually, of any book at all from the ancient world!). What we have are copies made from copies made from copies that were made from copies. We have thousands of copies [...]

Ask Bart Anything! Live Zoom Chance for you to Pick My Brain and/or Stump Me

A number of people have suggested that it might be interesting for me to hold a live “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session.  I’ve been told that the term “AMA” is copyrighted (?!) and not open for public use.   So we are going to call this an 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 [...]

2021-02-17T15:52:29-05:00February 3rd, 2021|Public Forum|

When Did Jesus Become Divine?

In this thread on the Trinity I am developing at some length the first major issue: how did someone besides God come to be considered God among people who thought God and this other God were different yet continued to claim they were monotheists?  (Later I'll talk about the Spirit, as many have asked; but there frankly is not nearly as much to say there, as we'll see). What I've spelled out so far is not hugely controversial among critical scholars of the New Testament and early Christianity. When the disciples came to believe in the resurrection, they thought that God had exalted Jesus to a unique, divine status. This is the oldest Christology there was. It is attested in such places as the pre-Pauline fragment in Rom. 1:3-4 and in several places, pre-Lukan, incorporated in the speeches of Acts. And then what happened? The Rest of this post tries to show how Christ came to be exalted more and more until his followers claimed he had been God from the beginning.  Want to see [...]

Even Giants Have a Cross to Bear: Platinum Post by Marie Wiley

I am pleased to be able to provide a new post by Marie Wiley, the second she has submitted!  Are you interested in submitting one?  It can be on any topic related to the blog.  And it's Platinums-only.  So go for it. And many thanks Marie! ******************************** The vision I have of Jesus from The Gospel of Peter is one of my favorites. A gigantic Jesus with an equally gigantic cross illustrates so well my own personal idea of who this holy man is. He is bigger than the human beings I know or know of. When I hear the saying, “Never meet your heroes because you will be sorely disappointed,” I imagine our Jesus to be the exception. When his giant holy cross asks me if I have heard its message, I think, “Heaven, yes.” I know (in a gnostic sense) that its message to me is not one of salvation through Jesus’s death in atonement for my sins. I don’t believe in that. It’s nothing personal, but in all the arguments for this [...]

2021-02-02T18:20:35-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Reflections and Ruminations|

Another Two Lectures on the Gospels, Live on Sunday. Join Us!

On each of the past couple of Sunday afternoons I have given two Zoom lectures, recorded for my undergraduate course on the New Testament, and invited all of you to come.  After the second lecture we had about 30 minutes of Q&A, all very lively.  Both times went well and a good time was reportedly had by all.  But what do reporters know? I'm going to do it again this Sunday, and you are welcome to come.  There would be no charge per se, but I would like to ask for a (completely voluntary) donation to the blog. This will be Sunday, Feb. 7.  I will again give two lectures), one at 1:00 and the other at 2:15.  Each lecture will take about 40-45 minutes.  The topics this time:  "The Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Jesus the Unknown Savior"  This lecture introduces students to the problem that we do not have the original copy of Mark’s Gospel.  It appears that the final twelve verses were not originally in the account, so that it [...]

2021-02-02T17:06:14-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Very Early Understandings of Christ in A Later Book of the NT

I have been trying to show that one of the oldest understandings of Christ in the early Christian movement -- in fact, *the* earliest in my view (and many other scholars), even though later it came to be declared a "heresy" --  is that Jesus started out as a human, nothing more, but came to be exalted by God to become his Son, the Lord. I have long called this particular understanding of Christ an "exaltation" Christology: God exalted Christ to become a divine being.  It stands in contrast with a view that I have not dealt with yet, the one that became the dominant one eventually (but which arose later), and "incarnation" Christology, which stated that Christ was a divine being who became human (not a human who became divine), a view best known, in the NT, from the Gospel of John.  (Exaltation Christologies are often understood to be "low" because they locate Christ originally here on earth among us mortals; incarnation christologies are correspondingly "high" because in them Christ originally came from heaven [...]

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