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A Blog Event! Want to Join a three-week Blog Book Club??

Are you interested in joining a Blog Book Club (the BBC)?  We’re going to give one a try!  This will function as a fund-raiser for the blog.  This first BBC will involve three meetings over the course of three weeks, discussing one of my books and a published (unfavorable!) response to it. I will be joining participants in the third meeting for a Q&A about it all. The first week all participants will read and discuss my book Misquoting Jesus.  This is my best-selling book and probably my most controversial (which has always struck me as odd, since to my knowledge there isn’t any factual misinformation in it!)  There were five books written to counter  it! The second week participants will read and discuss one of the counter-books, Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, by Timothy Paul Jones. The third week everyone will join a Q & A, as we discuss the matter among ourselves, with questions from you and attempts to answer them from me. How’s it sound?  [...]

2021-08-16T13:45:32-04:00August 14th, 2021|Public Forum|

Why God Had to Destroy the Outsiders…

As I pointed out in my previous post, the “purity” of Israel was seen as massively important to most of the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures, including the various sources that eventually came to make up the Pentateuch and the other books (Joshua – 2 Kings) that describe the history of ancient Israel.  Nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in narratives about the children of Israel as they journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, after God delivered them from their slavery at the Exodus under their leader Moses. Once Israel escapes (Exodus 1-15), Moses leads them to Mount Sinai, where he is given the Law -- starting with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 all the way through Leviticus).  Much of this law is about how Israel is to worship and live, now that they have been chosen by God to be his people.  Once they receive the law, the Israelites journey to the promised land, but they sin en route, and God judges them by forcing them to remain in the wilderness [...]

2021-08-02T07:06:47-04:00August 12th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Platinum Webinar for August!

It's time for another Platinum webinar; as you know, this is a four-time year event, and our last was in the spring,  so time to go again.  It is on an intriguing topic that I've never give a public talk on before (see below). The date:  August 28; 4-5:15 (Eastern Time).   No need to register; just show up. The topic:  The History of Biblical Scholarship: A Bird’s Eye View. What it's about: This webinar will give a brief overview of how scholars came to approach the Bible critically as an object of historical study rather than confessionally as an object of religious devotion.  The process began with the Reformation and Luther’s insistence that the Bible was to be the only source of authority (sola Scriptura) and that it had to be interpreted *literally* rather than figuratively, to see what it actually said instead of using it simply to support church tradition. But that was just the beginning.  Later, in the Enlightenment, scholars began to realize that it was important to place the books of the [...]

2021-08-11T11:02:21-04:00August 11th, 2021|Public Forum|

God is Holy and You Better Worship Him!

There are, of course, good reasons for people thinking that the God of the Old Testament was a “God of Wrath.”  God does indeed engage in wrathful acts of punitive justice throughout the Hebrew Bible, and he requires his chosen people to execute his wrath as well. As one would expect, often this wrath is directed against people who break his commandments.  But less expected, probably, for many modern readers, is that these commandments do not involve merely what we would call “ethical” rules involving personal and communal behavior per se – e.g. murder, adultery, robbery, etc..  At least as, or even more often they involve situations in which the “Chosen People” have begun to act like “outsiders” who are not among the people of Israel, and against those outsiders who try to “seduce” Israelites into worshiping and behaving like everyone else. In these cases God’ vengeful wrath is about “purity.”  The terms “purity,” “holiness,” and “sanctity” all have the same root idea.  They involve an object, activity, or person that is “set apart” from [...]

2021-08-02T10:30:51-04:00August 11th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Public Forum|

Jesus the Healer, Repossessed?  Platinum guest post by Douglas Wadeson MD

I am pleased now to publish the third of Doug Wadeson's four posts on Jesus as a healer, based on Doug's own extensive experience as a practicing physician and a deep understanding of the biblical texts.  The first two have been terrific and this one is especially intriguing, dealing with a question most people have never even thought to ask:  If Jesus healed someone, did they stay healed?   The biblical evidence is tantalizing, and almost never considered. Remember: you too can offer up a Platinum post.  Just come up with an idea, write it up in around 800-1200 words, and zap it to me to look at in a personal email at [email protected].    All platinum posts have a chance to appear not just to Platinum members but to the whole blog.  So why not share your thoughts? Here now is Doug's provocative post on the possibility of "repossession."  Feel free to share your comments and views! **************************** In the previous post I examined some possibilities that might explain how Jesus achieved some spectacular successes in [...]

2021-08-11T14:27:14-04:00August 10th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Finally: Cephas and Peter. What Do I Really Think?

I have recently finished republishing a series of posts from years ago that explored the tradition that Peter and Cephas were in fact two different people.  Anyone who is not interested in the Bible would care, of course, but then again, no one like that would be on the blog!  For those who are both interested and familiar with the New Testament, the idea is unusual and odd – a bit of a bombshell, actually, since it is normally assumed that these are two names for the same disciple of Jesus, Simon son of Jonah, nicknamed “Cephas” (an Aramaic term that means “rock”) by Jesus.  When the term “Rock” was translated into Greek by later story tellers, they simply used the Greek term “Petros,” which gets transliterated into English as “Peter.” No problem, right? Well for 99.99% of the readers of the NT over the centuries, right.  No problem.  But for roughly .01% of us there is a problem, as I have outlined in the previous posts. I showed that there was in fact an [...]

Gold Q&A for August!

Dear Gold Members, It is that time again!   As you know, one of the perks of your elevated status as a gold member of the blog is that you are provided an audio Q&A once a month for gold members only.   You provide written questions, I answer as many as I can, and I release the audio recording to gold members only.  Have a question to ask?  The sky's the limit.  Go for it. I will be recording the next Q&A on Saturday August 14 to be released  Tuesday August 17.  Send your question(s) to our blog COO, Diane Pittman, at [email protected].   The deadline is midnight (in whatever time zone you're in) Friday August 13 . The best questions are only a sentence of two long at most.  I hope to hear from you! Bart

2021-08-08T11:25:31-04:00August 8th, 2021|Public Forum|

The God of Wrath According to the Prophet Amos

  In my previous post I began to explain the book of the prophet Amos, the earliest named author of the Bible, in particular his portrayal of the coming “wrath of God.”  My ultimate reason for dealing with Amos is to set up a later discussion of the book of Revelation, where the portrayal of God’s wrath is even more stunning.  But Amos’s message was certainly stunning enough for his original readers, the Israelites living in the northern kingdom of Israel.  Amos was telling them in rather direct and uncomfortable terms that God was soon going to wipe them out in an act of judgment. Prophets were rarely the bearers of good news.  But their condemnations were always brought against people precisely because they had sinned and God was soon to do something about it.  Here is more of how I describe Amos in my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2017). ****************************** Amos stresses that the coming suffering for the nation will derive not from the accidents [...]

2021-08-02T05:37:58-04:00August 8th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

The God of Wrath in Both Old and New Testament

It is a very big mistake to think that the "God of the Old Testament" is a different God from the "God of the New Testament" -- even though that is a common view among Christians who want to insist that unlike the OT God of wrath, their God is a God of love.  Not only does that smack of rather unsubtle anti-Judaism (that "harsh religion of a vengeful God" as opposed to "our God who loves each and every one of us and is merciful instead of judgmental"), it simply is not at all the view of the authors of the New Testament, let alone Jesus himself. Jesus understood himself as a teacher of the Jewish Scriptures.  He didn't have another God.  Moreover throughout the entire NT the OT is quoted, up and down the line, all over the place, in complete affirmation of its message.  Jesus and his followers may have had their own interpretations of the OT (they had different interpretations even among themselves), but they would have been shocked and offended [...]

2021-08-02T05:37:21-04:00August 7th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Revelation of John|

For Blog Members in the U.K.! Special Zoom Event.

Are you on the blog?  Do you live in the U.K.?   Well lucky you!   A group of blog members who came to a London Blog Dinner last month have decided to host a UK Zoom meeting among themselves, to discuss topics of mutual interest.  For and by Brit Bloggers!  It is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug 10, 2021, 8:00 pm (London time). The organizer is Angus Nisbet.  If you need additional information, you can reach him here:  [email protected] Below are the topics and the Zoom link to join.   English members only please.   Enjoy! Topics for discussion Should we throw the Bible out with the bathwater? Revelation Heaven & Hell Jesus - a failed apocalypticist? Zoom Details: Meeting ID: 868 5921 9342 Passcode: 605295   ******************************************************************************************************************** This message may contain confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient please inform the sender that you have received the message in error before deleting it. Please do not disclose, copy or distribute information in this e-mail or take any action in relation to its contents. To do [...]

2021-08-06T20:36:32-04:00August 6th, 2021|Public Forum|

My New View of the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation. The Apocalypse of John is a book many people revere, many dread, and few actually read.  Most who do read it approach it like every other book of the Bible – they’ll read a few verses here or there when someone says something about them but do not read the whole thing from beginning to end.  I do find this a bit irritating as a rule, at least among people who insist that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and our guide for all belief and practice, who virtually worship the Bible but have no clue what is actually in it.  What’s *that* all about??? The Book of Revelation - Have You Read It? Having just typed that reminds me of the spiritual leader I had as a teenager, the man who “led me to Christ” (away from the Episcopal church where I faithfully attended every week, saying the prayers, confessing my sins, taking communion – where I was the head altar boy!).  He repeatedly said with complete conviction [...]

2022-05-28T21:54:41-04:00August 5th, 2021|Book Discussions, Revelation of John|

The Naivety of the Nativity: Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

This week's Platinum Guest Post comes to us from Joel Scheller.  As you know, only Platinum members can read these posts and only Platinums can write them.  This is a platinum thing.  BUT, once a month we vote on one to appear on the entire blog.  Are you interested in reaching the Platinums with your ideas?   And possibly the entire blog?   Submit a post to me, on any topic related to the blog that you're interested in, simply at my email [email protected]. Joel's post is about an interesting and important topic: the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, with much broader implications for our understanding of the entire Bible.  Feel free to comment! *************************************** I am a Christian. I have a respect for the bible as containing the sacred scriptures of my faith. However, that does not mean I accept all that is written in the bible as fact or truth. It is undeniable that the writings are those of human beings, and, as such, must be weighed with reason, taking into consideration all the [...]

2021-08-04T15:18:57-04:00August 4th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Cephas and Peter: Final Arguments, Summary, and Implications

Here I give my last supporting arguments that Cephas may have been someone other than Peter, despite widespread assumptions and views that go back at least to the time of the New Testament, e.g., John 1:42, where they are explicitly identified as one and the same!  But were they? It's an intriguing question rarely asked.  Below is the final bit of my article on the topic, written for a scholarly audience but obviously with a view toward what non-scholars would be interested in.  At the end I provide a summary and draw out the implications. In the next post I will discuss whether now -- all these years later, when I'm older and wiser (or at least older) -- I still buy the argument.  (!) ****************************** What now of Paul's other references to Cephas?  Here the one thing that cannot be overlooked is that, taken at least on face value, they appear to stand somewhat at odds with what we "know" about Peter's role in the early Christian church, at least as Paul describes it [...]

More Hints that Cephas Was Not Peter

I have received a number of emails asking me about the Cephas and Peter article I started giving a couple of posts ago, and most of the questions, as it turns out, are answered in the *second* half of the article, which I had originally planned not to provide here on the blog.  So now I’ve decided, well—why not? And over the next two posts I'll provide the rest of the argument for anyone who is interested.  As with the rest of the article, I have not included any of the footnotes, where I give some of the logic and evidence for my sundry points.   But here are is some of the argument itself.  If you don't buy  it, fair enough.  If you do, fairer still! ****************************** The evidence of Paul has not been exhausted by this consideration of Gal 2:7-9.  There remain the other references to Cephas in Paul's letters, references that provide other points of interest.  Indeed what is striking is that in virtually every instance, Paul's references to Cephas contain something that [...]

2021-07-20T11:03:34-04:00August 3rd, 2021|Paul and His Letters, Reflections and Ruminations|

More On Bruce Metzger and Me: How I Got Interested in my Dissertation Topic

THIS POST RESUMES MY RECOLLECTIONS OF MY INTERACTIONS WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR.  Remember: when I say "textual criticism" in this post, I am NOT referring simply to the "study of texts."  Textual criticism is the technical term used by scholars (in all fields) to refer to how we establish what an author wrote if we don't have his/her original writing itself.  For the New Testament that involves studying ancient Greek manuscripts and other sources; since all the surviving sources word the NT in different ways -- usually completely insignificant ways, but sometimes important -- we need to figure out what the "originals" said and how scribes changed them.  That's "textual criticism." ****************************** When I entered my PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary, I knew already that I wanted to specialize in the study of the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament. As I indicated in my earlier posts, that’s why I went there, because Metzger was the country’s leading expert in this field, and one could argue the leading expert in the world [...]

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