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Do I Hold a Grudge against Bruce Metzger?

I'll end this set of reflections on my relationship with Bruce Metzger with a surprising question about my relationship with him, and my response.  (My sense is that those who have been reading this thread will not be surprised by what I say) ****************************** QUESTION: A more personal question:  did you have a grudge against Dr. Bruce Metzger? I have always seen conservative textual critics and scholars pit you against Dr. Metzger's views.   RESPONSE: When I first read this question I was very surprised indeed.  A grudge against Bruce Metzger??? Metzger, as many readers of this blog know, was my teacher and mentor, and I never had anything but the most profound and utmost respect for him, from the moment I first had the privilege of meeting him until the time of his death – and still today. I don’t think there’s anyone in the known universe who would disagree that Bruce Metzger was the greatest NT textual scholar ever to come out of North America.  I first heard about him when I was [...]

2021-10-20T11:16:24-04:00October 31st, 2021|Bart’s Biography, New Testament Manuscripts|

What Do YOU Think? Does Biblical Scholarship Change, Damage, or Destroy the Claims of Faith?

I have talked a lot on the blog about my understanding of how biblical scholarship relates to Christian faith claims.   Since the early 19th century critical scholars have dug deeply into the Bible and discovered discrepancies, contradictions, historical errors, geographical mistakes, anachronisms, and claims that make no sense in light of what we know about the world today from biology, geology, astronomy, physics, anthropology, and … and well the list goes on. Different people draw different faith conclusions from this kind of scholarship.  Some think it’s irrelevant to their faith;  others think it requires them to change what they believe, possibly radically; yet others think that it negates the possibility of faith altogether  -- either confirming the atheism they already hold or driving them to abandon their faith and become non-believers. Is any of these a sensible option?  Is any of them the obvious and necessary option?  What about the obstacles that stand in the way of change, unrelated to biblical scholarship, such as not being able to leave a conservative evangelical community because of [...]

2021-10-20T13:20:27-04:00October 30th, 2021|Public Forum|

Announcement: Did Jesus Call Himself God? LIVE Webinar on Nov. 7th, 2021 (VIDEO)

Soon after Jesus’ death, his disciples claimed that he was God. What did they mean by that?  Did they think he was God *before* he died, during his public ministry?   Did they think he had always been God?  Did they think he Was he the One and Only God, Yahweh? More important still:  Did Jesus himself think he was God?   To find an answer, we have to explore two issues:  does Jesus actually ever call himself God in the Gospels, or give any other indication that he thought he was God?  If so, given the problems with the Gospels -- can we know if they are accurate on this point?  Can we show what the historical figure of Jesus actually said about himself? These are terrifically important questions.   Traditional Christianity, as it has come down over all the centuries, has always claimed Jesus himself is a divine being.  Did that teaching start with Jesus himself? Announcing a Webinar on the Topic! I will be doing a webinar on the topic on Sunday, November 7.  I [...]

2021-10-28T06:44:34-04:00October 28th, 2021|Public Forum|

Change the Context, Change the Meaning: The Apocalypse!

I've been writing my book on the Revelation of John.  Among other things, I'll be insisting that if you refuse to understand how its genre ("apocalypse") works, you will misunderstand the book.  Here is how I begin that particular discussion (this is just a first draft, not rethought or polished) ******************************    While in office President Ronald Reagan made weekly radio addresses to the nation.  One of the most memorable occurred on August 11, 1984.  Before the official text of the address began, Reagan announced:  "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes."  You might think that Armageddon was about to begin, but no, Reagan was simply joking with the recording engineers, think the mic was dead.  Bad mistake.  The comment was not broadcast, but it was recorded by rebroadcasters around the  world.  Word soon got out and the Soviets took it to show that the Reagan administration’s was completely insincere over efforts to improve relations. Still, it was [...]

2021-10-20T11:19:42-04:00October 28th, 2021|Book Discussions, Revelation of John|

A Solution to a Major Anomaly in the Study of Paul: Guest Post by Richard Fellows

Here is our final guest post from Richard Fellows, based on his article in an international journal of biblical studies: “Paul, Timothy, Jerusalem and the Confusion in Galatia” Biblica 99.4 (2018) 544-566. He has some bold and controversial claims.  Check them out!  He'll be happy to respond to your comments. ****************************** The identity of Titus and the historicity of Acts This is the last of three guest posts on the background of Galatians. In the earlier two posts I (Richard Fellows) argued that some activists had convinced Galatian Christians 1) that Paul himself believed in the need for circumcision, and 2) that it was only to please the Jerusalem apostles that Paul continued to speak against circumcision. In this post we will explore the identity of Titus and the events that created this confusion that Galatians was written to correct. Titus has been described as the most enigmatic character in the New Testament. In the undisputed letters the name “Titus” appears at Gal 2:1,3 and 2 Cor 2:13; 7:6,13,14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18,18, yet it is strangely absent [...]

2021-10-16T13:08:51-04:00October 27th, 2021|Paul and His Letters|

How Yahweh of the Israelites Became God of All: Guest Post by Dan Kohanski

As you may know, members who join the blog at the Platinum level are allowed to write posts for Platinum members, and the members periodically vote on one of the submissions to go on the blog at large -- and on all my social media.  It's a great way to get your views widely disseminated.   Are you interested?  Check out the perks of the Platinum level (click on Join and see the various tiers and what each entails). Our most recent winner in this endeavor was Platinum member Dan Kohanski, who has written on an intriguing and, well, rather world-shattering/history-changing topic!  Please feel free to make comments! **************************** The early Israelites were polytheists — worshipers of many gods — just as all the nations of the Ancient Near East were, though their pantheon may have been smaller than some. We know of El, Yahweh, Astarte (Asherah), and Baal for certain. Possibly the oldest god in the Israelite pantheon was El — the very name "Israel" can be translated as "he who strives with (the god) [...]

2021-10-15T11:47:20-04:00October 26th, 2021|Early Judaism, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Why Would Later Scribes Be Interested In Having Jesus “Sweat Blood”?

I have explained why it is almost certain that Luke did not himself write the passage describing Jesus “sweating blood” in Luke 22:43-44; the passage is not found in some of our oldest and best manuscripts, it intrudes in a context that otherwise is structured as a clear chiasmus, and it presents a view of Jesus going to his death precisely at odds with what Luke has produced otherwise. Whereas Luke goes out of his way to portray Jesus as calm and in control in the face of death – evidently to provide a model to his readers about how they too suffer when they experience persecution – these verses show him in deep anguish to the point of needing heavenly support by an angel, as he sweats great drops as of blood. But if the verses were not originally in Luke, why were they added by scribes? The key to answering the question comes from considering two data points.  First, when were the verses added to the text?  And second, how were they first [...]

2021-10-29T19:36:42-04:00October 24th, 2021|New Testament Manuscripts|

How I Opened My Book on Jesus

I mentioned in my previous post that I had recently looked back over my first trade book, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.  I don't think I had read the preface in 20 years, and I wasn't frankly, expecting to like it much when I decided to read it again.  But as it turns out, I rather like it. I've known other people like this, who rather appreciate the things they've written. (!)  But in any event, there are a few points here that I don't recall making ever again, especially about how "evidence" should play a role when discussing the historical Jesus (or the historical *anything*, from antiquity to most recent times; name your topic, and feel free to bring in both politics and religion!). Here is what I say there: ****************************** Scholars have written hundreds of books about Jesus (not to mention the thousands of books written by non-scholars).  A good number of these, mainly the lesser known ones, are written by scholars for scholars to promote scholarship; others are written by [...]

2021-10-11T16:41:41-04:00October 23rd, 2021|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|

A New Three-Week Book Club!

Last month we had our first Blog Book Club (the BBC) and it was a smashing success.  The feedback has been tremendous.   There were three sessions, the first two to discuss two different books (one by me, one by someone who did not like the one by me!) and then the third a Q&A with me to address the issue. So we're gonna do it again!   The format will be slightly different.  This time for the first meeting, participants will read the first book about Jesus EVER to become the #1 Bestseller on the New York Times Bestseller list, Reza Aslan's Zealot:  The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  The second meeting (two weeks later to give you time to read) participants will read my book about Jesus, which advances a very different, contrary understanding, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Neither book is responding to the other.  I wrote mine before Reza wrote his.  They simply have different understandings of who the historical Jesus was, in rather striking and important ways.  The [...]

2021-10-23T11:37:41-04:00October 21st, 2021|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Must Jesus Divide Families? Platinum Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson

Platinum members!  As you know, one of the perks of your esteemed status is that you are allowed to write blog posts for other platinum members to read and interact with.  Do you have anything you'd like to talk about, any views you'd like to put out there for feedback?? Send me a post!  It can be any size up to 1400 words or so.  On any topic we deal with on the blog.  And if you choose (but only if you choose) it can become a candidate (chosen by Platinum members) to be posted to the entire Blog.  So why not?  Get your views out there.  Send me a post! The following is the first of two posts by Douglas Wadeson on  a controversial topic that most people don't know is controversial.  Did Jesus actually believe in "family values" the way they are defined today -- and the way that many Christians simply assume?  A close look at the Gospels can be very revealing.  Here Doug begins to provide it. Your views/comments?  Send them [...]

2021-10-22T11:07:43-04:00October 21st, 2021|Historical Jesus, Platinums, Reflections and Ruminations|

Starting My New Trade Book on Revelation

I started writing my book on the Apocalypse of John a couple of weeks ago and have been using the occasion to reflect on my how my approach to writing has changed over the past few years.  My first trade book – that is, a book for a general audience -- was Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.   That came out in 1999 so I suppose I started working on it in 1997. Up to that point I had published three scholarly books – (Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels; The Text of the Fourth Gospel in the Writings of Origen; and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture) and most recently my New Testament textbook (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings).    The first two of these written for were for a very small group of ancient New Testament manuscript nerds (like me) in the world; the third for a wider range of scholars; and fourth for 18- to 20-year-olds who knew nothing about the New Testament. The [...]

Was Jesus in Agony Before His Arrest? The Unexpected Answer in Luke.

This mini-thread within a thread started out with my indicating that among the difficulties I have with the NRSV translation is that it includes as part of the text the account in Luke 22:43-44 of Jesus in agony -- the passage commonly referred to as the account of Jesus' "Bloody Sweat" (from which we get the phrase "sweating blood," even though he doesn't sweat blood but sweats sweat like blood drops -- presumably meaning "big" drops?) I've already explaine why I don't think Luke wrote the account.  There's more than can be said, but maybe I've said about enough.  If you want the fuller scoop, you can find a fuller discussion in my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. For the purposes of the blog, two main questions remain: why would Luke change Mark’s portrayal of Jesus going to his death so that now he is so clearly calm and collected? And why did later scribes change Luke’s portrayal by adding the two verses in question? In this post I'll deal with the first question [...]

2021-10-05T14:14:23-04:00October 20th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

Knowing What Jesus Said and Did

I was just now looking through some old posts on the blog -- there over 2000 of them, since 2012 -- and ran across one that struck me as particularly relevant, to me at least.  It's the topic I'll be discussing with my PhD students on Tuesday, and it turns out this is what I first said about it in a post I made nine years ago.  I'll say pretty much the same thing on Tuesday! It's in response to a question from a reader, about how scholars try to determine what Jesus said and did.  ****************************** QUESTION: I've seen, somewhere on the internet (I know, great source!) some discussion that modern scholarship is moving away from the idea of criteria (such as multiple attestation, dissimilarity, etc.) and that the use of criteria is becoming seen as outmoded. Is there any truth to this, or were these sources just blowing smoke? RESPONSE: This question is about the criteria that scholars use to establish historically reliable material about the historical Jesus.  For background: there are several [...]

2021-10-18T17:37:48-04:00October 19th, 2021|Historical Jesus, Reader’s Questions|

Bruce Metzger and My Loss of Faith

In my reflections on my relationship with Bruce Metzger, my mentor through both my Masters and PhD degrees, I come now to a question I sometimes get asked.  Metzger himself was a devout and pious Christian, an ordained Presbyterian minister, and unusually committed to his faith.  When I first met him I was an evangelical; I changed over the years; I eventually left the faith.  How did Metzger respond? After all that I’ve written in these posts, I’m afraid the direct answer will be a bit of a disappointment.  The answer is: I don’t know. Metzger and I never talked about either my faith or his.  He was my teacher and I was his student, and we talked almost exclusively about scholarship:  New Testament studies, the history of earliest Christianity, the textual tradition of the New Testament.  We did not have a pastoral relationship but an academic one.  I don’t know if Metzger ever had a pastoral relationship with any of his students, but I somewhat doubt it.  He was their teacher, not their pastor [...]

2021-10-05T14:00:38-04:00October 17th, 2021|Bart’s Biography|

Second October Gold Q & A

Dear Members Dear As Gold, As you know, I am doing TWO Gold Q&A's this month, to make up for the one I missed in September.  The first was published this past week; I am scheduling the second for October 27.  I will be doing the recording on Sunday October 24. This is a nice perk for Gold members.  You get to ask 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. 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, October 22. Please remember, the best questions are only a sentence of two long at most.  I hope to hear from you! Bart

2021-10-16T12:55:12-04:00October 16th, 2021|Public Forum|

An Unexpected Argument Against Jesus’ “Sweating Blood”

In the previous post I mentioned that I first got interested in the textual problem of Luke 22:43-44 (“the bloody sweat”) when I was taking a graduate seminar at Princeton Theological Seminary, my first year in the doctoral program.  The seminar was devoted (the entire semester) to the Greek exegesis (interpretation) of Luke.  My fellow student, Mark Plunkett, presented a seminar paper in which he dealt with the passage.  He was not at all interested in the textual question of whether vv. 43-44 were original.  He was assuming that they were not, but it had nothing to do with his presentation. In his presentation he argued that there was a clear structure to the passage of Jesus’ prayer before being arrested (in Luke’s source this takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Luke doesn’t say so) and he made a convincing argument (to my mind).  And then I realized that the structural argument was relevant to the textual problem of whether the verses were original or not.  While we moved on to other things [...]

2021-10-09T11:19:07-04:00October 16th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

Jesus in the Face of Death?

In my last post I pointed out that the famous passage of the so-called “bloody sweat” in Luke 22:43-44 is thought by some scholars not to have been original to the Gospel of Luke.  I count myself in that number.  One of my very first scholarly articles was devoted to the question; I wrote it when I was a first-year graduate student – or rather, I co-wrote it, with a friend of mine who was in the PhD program at Princeton Seminary with me, a fellow named Mark Plunkett. Mark had done a study of the passage of Jesus’ prayer before his arrest and had realized something about the structure of the passage, which made me, in turn, realize, that if he was right, then the two verses about the bloody sweat could not have been original to the passage.  I’ll say more about that in my next post.  At the time, one of the reasons I thought that was so significant is that it confirmed what was already clear to me otherwise: these verses [...]

2021-10-04T16:17:16-04:00October 14th, 2021|Public Forum|

Vote for a Platinum Guest Post to Go to the World at Large!

Dearly Beloved Platinum Members, Here is another round of Platinum posts to vote for, to see which is to appear on the blog itself.  Take a look if you want.  Vote if you want.  Hey, it's all voluntary.  But one lucky winner will have her or his views available broadly, including on my other social network channels. So which do you think you'd like to see out there?  These are all very good.  Make a choice, and send your vote to Diane Pittman at [email protected] .  Diane will tabulate them and then I'll make the announcement and put the winner in the queue.   What We Know Today About Religions and the Afterlife (in the US): Platinum Guest Post by Sharon Friedman   The Reconstruction of Q: Platinum Guest Post by Steve Sutter   Prophecies and Saints in the Book of Daniel. Platinum Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski   Jesus the Healer: Those Darn Demons. Platinum guest post by Douglas Wadeson MD

2021-10-13T18:05:52-04:00October 13th, 2021|Platinums|

Did Jesus Sweat Blood? Another Problem with the NRSV

I will give just one other textual disagreement that I have with the translators of the NRSV: by “textual” disagreement I mean a disagreement over what the original Greek text of a passage was that should have been translated. For this second example I’ll stick with Luke, and again with the Passion narrative.  The full passage of Jesus’ prayer in the garden in Luke 22:39-46 reads as follows in the NRSV:  39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.  40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”  Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”  [[ 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling [...]

2021-11-13T17:38:42-05:00October 13th, 2021|Public Forum|

Can We Reconstruct the New Testament from the Writings of the Early Church Fathers?

Can We Reconstruct the New Testament from the Writings of the Early Church Fathers? Christian apologists sometimes say that the historical record for the New Testament is so robust that the New Testament could be recreated from the writings of the early church fathers alone. Does this popular claim hold up? For example, here are Norm Geisler and Frank Turek in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, p. 228: The early church fathers—men of the second and third centuries such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and others—quoted the New Testament so much (36,289 times, to be exact) that all but eleven verses of the New Testament can be reconstructed just from their quotations. There are 7957 verses in the New Testament, so “all but 11 verses” means that 99.9 percent could be reconstructed. And note the word “reconstructed.” They imagine recreating the original words or at least an identical meaning. These are bold claims. Let’s track down the evidence that supports this claim. As we do so, note the [...]

2021-10-20T10:45:41-04:00October 12th, 2021|New Testament Manuscripts|
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