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Bruce Metzger and My Strange Dissertation Defense

  Here I continue with another reminiscence of my interactions and relationship with my mentor, the great textual scholar Bruce Metzger.  This one has always struck me as a bit humorous. *************************** In almost (but not absolutely) all PhD programs in this country, the doctoral candidate has do an “oral defense” of the dissertation.  If s/he successfully defends, the PhD is then granted.  Here at UNC, the defense is conducted in front of the five-person dissertation committee, all of them experts on one or another aspect of the work.  Everyone on the committee has carefully read the dissertation, and the defense is designed to see if, well, the thesis is defensible. In other words, faculty members do not hold back but probe deeply into the work to see if there are any flaws in it.  If a student fails the defense, s/he has to revise the dissertation and try again.  Even if it is considered passable, revisions of some sort are often considered necessary. If you're interested in the blog, why not join?  It costs [...]

2021-09-08T10:32:59-04:00September 8th, 2021|Public Forum|

Weird (But Common) Ways To Read the Bible

It constantly amazes me that so many people who believe the Bible never read it.  My undergraduate students (to this day) have read the Harry Potter books.  But when I ask if they have read the entire Bible, the answer is almost always no.  And yet most of them will say the Bible comes from God.  So I ask them: “I can understand why you’d want to read a book by J. K. Rowling, but if GOD wrote a book wouldn’t you want to see what he had to say?” My puzzlement is old news to long-term blog members – I've talked about it before.  But here’s something else that I find puzzling:  Why do people who do read the Bible read it in such an unusual way? If I want to read a short story by Mark Twain, O. Henry, or (to pick one of my modern favorites) William Trevor, I do so after having some idea of where he was from and when he was writing, and then I start with the first [...]

2021-09-05T04:54:09-04:00September 7th, 2021|Reflections and Ruminations|

MORE Assignments on the Birth of Christianity

Here now are the other position paper assignments for "The Birth of Christianity."  See which of them you'd like to take on in your spare time!   Recitation Six:  Perpetua and Felicitas Read carefully the account of the Martyrdom of Perpectua and Felicitas (ANT 47-55), several times, until you can remember the significant incidents in good detail. For the recitation, you should think about ALL of the following issues.  For your position paper you are to discuss just ONE of them, whichever one you find most intriguing. From an outsider’s perspective it may seem very strange, unsettling, and perplexing that such a brilliant, insightful, apparently wealthy, young mother would be so eager to leave this world through a violent death. How can you explain it, from Perpetua’s own perspective? Is this world really such a terrible place (for her)? Discuss Perpetua’s treatment of her father. Do you see him as a sympathetic figure?  Does she seem rude and uncaring to him?  How do you explain that? Choose either the vision of Perpetua in ch. 4 [...]

2021-09-03T13:10:03-04:00September 5th, 2021|Teaching Christianity|

Student Papers for “The Birth of Christianity”

If you checked out my syllabus for my undergraduate course this semester, you will have noticed that every week each student is to write a two-page "position paper" on an assigned topic, something of intrigue that, for this class, will involve texts and issues they have probably never addressed or even heard of, even though if they were raised as church-going Christians.  I certainly hadn't when I was their age.... Here are the instructions I give for the papers; you obviously couldn't do the papers without reading the assignments, but you can get an idea here what they would be studying. (The abbreviation ANT is for their textbook, the reader I edited called After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity 100-300 CE).                                                 INSTRUCTIONS FOR POSITION PAPERS   Welcome to instructions for your weekly bit of recitation fun: the position papers!  For basic instructions, otherwise known as absolute sine qua non (purpose, length, grading, etc.), see the syllabus.   But do remember: these are to be two-pages, double-spaced, and turned in before the recitation itself. [...]

2021-09-04T03:54:15-04:00September 4th, 2021|Teaching Christianity|

Was Paul Really at Odds with Peter and James? Guest Post by Richard Fellows

Those of you who read the comments on my posts know that my thread on Cephas and Peter elicited some very interesting responses.  One person in particular who who took me on leveled some very learned and detailed critiques.  It made my day(s)! Richard Fellows is an unusual person, not to mention blog member.  He is trained in a different field (Physics at Cambridge university) and works as an engineer, but he has published a number of articles in academic journals on the New Testament.  Now THAT doesn't happen very often.  In fact, I don't think I know of anyone else who has pulled it off (though I know a lot who have tried and a lot more who have wanted to).   Academic journals are very demanding, whatever field you're in, and without training, well.... But Richard has done it and is still doing it (he has another article coming out).  His special interests are the apostle Paul and those associated with him, including Peter (whom he, like most other sentient beings, except me on [...]

2021-09-03T17:01:03-04:00September 2nd, 2021|Paul and His Letters|

Pop Quiz on Early Christianity

For just about all of my undergraduate classes, I begin the semester, on the first day, after explaining the course, by giving students a pop quiz.  In my New Testament classes, students are often surprised at how little they know.  "Hey, I went to Sunday School my entire life!  Why don't I know this stuff?"   Yeah, good question. But this semester, as I indicated in my previous post, I'm teaching a course on "The Birth of Christianity," which focuses on the period just after the New Testament up through Constantine.  For *this* class students come in *knowing* that they don't know much of anything.  No matter:  I give them a quiz anyway!  (It's not graded.) Since I haven't taught the class in 25 years, I had to come up with a new quiz (having no idea if I even did one before) . Here it is.  How well can you do?  I'll be discussing answers in subsequent posts (I give the quiz, in part, to discuss the answers with students as a way of introducing [...]

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