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A Great Short Story in Scripture: The Book of Ruth

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted much of anything on the Old Testament, and it’s high time I did so!  As I have announced recently, in February I’ll be publishing a six-lecture course on the Pentateuch (the first five books) – one of the most influential collection of books in the history of civilization.  There are lots of other amazing books in the Old Testament as well, and it’s a real pity people don’t read them more. With this post I am starting a thread on the “short stories”  of Scripture.  I begin with one of the truly greats, Ruth.  This one will take a couple of posts. I have taken the discussion from my book, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2018) ****************************** RUTH One of the real gems among the books of the Hebrew Bible is the four-chapter book of Ruth, the tale of a Moabite woman married to and then widowed by an Israelite man, who then uses her wits, determination, and sexuality to [...]

2021-12-04T22:09:58-05:00December 12th, 2021|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Why Doesn’t Paul Say More about the Historical Jesus? Other Options.

In my last post I started giving the principal options, as I see them, for why Paul did not mention more about the historical Jesus.  Below are two other leading options.  As I’ve indicated, there are probably others, and if some occur to you, feel free to comment! ****************************** Option Two: Paul knew more of the traditions of Jesus, but considered them irrelevant to his mission. This option relates closely to the one preceding, with a major difference. In this case, Paul did not himself teach his congregations many of the traditions about Jesus that he knew, nor did he refer to them extensively either in person or in writing -- not because he had no occasion to (since he clearly did) but because he chose not to. Why would he choose not to? Perhaps because he considered the traditions about Jesus' words and deeds to be irrelevant to his message of Jesus' death and resurrection. Support for this view can come from a passage like 1 Cor 2:2, where Paul insists that the only [...]

2021-11-29T13:06:22-05:00December 11th, 2021|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

But Why Doesn’t Paul Say More About the Historical Jesus?

To this point I have enumerated everything that Paul explicitly says about what Jesus said, did, and experienced during his earthly life.  The driving question is the one that I turn to now and in the next post.  Why didn’t Paul tell us *more*?  I’ve long been fascinated by this question, and even though I’ve thought about it for well over thirty years, I’ve never decided on what I really think. There are just too many counter-arguments for every perspective that I’ve heard or thought of!  In these two posts I want to lay out three of the main options. If you think of others that need to be aired, feel free to make a comment. I have taken the following from my textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. ****************************** Paul of course has a lot to say about the importance of Jesus, especially the importance of his death and resurrection and his imminent return from heaven. But in terms of historical information, what I've listed above [i.e., in [...]

2021-11-29T13:06:56-05:00December 9th, 2021|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

An Evangelical Apologist Who *Supports* My Book Misquoting Jesus!

In  October 2019 I was invited to a Christian apologetics conference in Chicago to give a talk. (click the link to see my post about it).  As you may know, "apologetics" is big in evangelical Christian circles; it is the attempt to demonstrate the intellectual reasonableness of the faith, to "defend" the truth of Christian claims (for example, mounting evidence for the actual resurrection of Jesus, for the infallibility of the Bible, and so on).  It is highly unusual for a non-evangelical to be invited to talk at one of these things, but they wanted me to come to speak alongside three very conservative Christian apologists so that the audience could hear "the other side."  We all talked about contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible.  I said they were numerous and signficant and, short story, the others said they were not. You would think I'd be entering the Lion's Den, but in fact it was great fun and everyone was well behaved and good natured. The scholar who organized the conference was Kurt Jaros, a [...]

2021-12-08T14:21:37-05:00December 8th, 2021|Book Discussions, New Testament Manuscripts|

My New Great Courses Offering, Just Out!

I was pleased a couple of weeks ago to see that my new course for the Great Courses (formerly called the Teaching Company; now called Wondrium [??]) “The Triumph of Christianity” has now seen the light of published day.  This is my ninth course for them and is obviously based on my book of the same name. Do you know about the Great Courses?  If not, you should.  They are *terrific*.  I don’t mean mine – I mean in general.  I’ve watched a ton of them, on Classical music, astronomy, psychology, neurology, Roman history, and and and.  They get really fine lecturers (except for the ones they hired a long time ago, not to name names). All but one course I’ve seen has been superb. Bart Ehrman Great Courses I did my first course for the Company in 1999, published, I think in 2000.  In fact, I did two courses at virtually the same time, an Introduction to the New Testament and a Life of the Historical Jesus.  I was absolutely convinced, and told them [...]

2022-07-10T18:04:36-04:00December 7th, 2021|Public Forum|

What We KNOW about Jesus. Platinum guest post by Dan Kohanski

I am pleased to post this offering from Dan Kohanski, who was inspired by my posts on Bill O'Reilly's book, Killing Jesus, to come up with a discussion of what historians can "actually* know about Jesus. What do you think?  Things to add to his list?  Not convinced by some?  Would change some others?  Feedback welcome. With this post the QUEUE IS EMPTY!  Want to post something for fellow Platinums!  Don't hold back -- go for it!  Just write something up, say 600-1400 words, and zap it to me. But for now, Enjoy! ********************************* It often surprises people to learn that Jesus, who has long been one of the most recognizable names in history, was an obscure figure in his own lifetime. We have no contemporaneous record of him, and very little for decades afterwards other than writings from his followers. The oldest known sources about Jesus are the letters of Paul, written starting about two decades after Jesus’s death. Paul was not concerned with how Jesus lived, but with why he died. The first [...]

2021-12-07T17:28:57-05:00December 6th, 2021|Historical Jesus|

Blog Platinum Webinar! For You Platinums Only!

It's time for another Platinum webinar; as you know, this is a four-time a year event, for Platinum Members only.  Given the season, I've decided to do a "Christmas topic" that I've never done before. The date:  Saturday December 18; noon (Eastern Time).   No need to register; just show up. The topic:  Six Views of How Jesus Came Into the World:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, and Marcion. Here's what it's about: Every Christmas Christians celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, and even non-Christians hear a good deal about it.  What almost no one realizes is that Jesus' appearance in the world is understood differently by our various early accounts.  In this talk I'll discuss the various ways of understanding Jesus' appearance in the world. I will be trying to show that all four Gospels appear to have different understandings (either significantly or somewhat different); and I will then look at two non-canonical accounts, a view allegedly written by Jesus' brother James, which had a big impact on how Christians have seen Jesus' [...]

2021-12-06T21:21:43-05:00December 6th, 2021|Canonical Gospels|

Did Paul Know What Jesus Taught? More Reflections

I have been talking about Paul’s knowledge of the historical Jesus, and yesterday began a discussion of what Paul clearly knew about Jesus’ teachings.   That’s where I will pick up here.  Again, I have taken the discussion from my book Did Jesus Exist?, so the orientation of what I have to say is toward showing that Paul provides solid (and for my mind, virtually incontrovertible) evidence that Jesus was not simply “made up” but was an actual historical figure – an issue that, for most people in the universe of intelligent humans, is not much of an issue, but which is disputed by that tiny yet oh-so-vocal group of “mythicists” about which I have said some things before.  In any event, there are a few more interesting aspects of the question of Paul’s use of Jesus’ teachings, as follows: ****************************** There are no other obvious places where Paul quotes Jesus, although scholars have often found traces of Jesus’ teachings in Paul.  The big question is why Paul does not quote Jesus more often.  That is [...]

2021-11-23T11:06:53-05:00December 5th, 2021|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

Are You Willing To Donate Blog Memberships to Those Who Can’t Afford It?

For some years now we have taken Christmas donations to provide a membership to those who would very much want one but cannot afford it.  Blog members who want to make it possible donate the fee and we put memberships on offer.  It's a nice holiday tradition. I will post on my social media (Facebook and Twitter) as well as on a public post here, the availability of memberships starting in a couple of days.  I will give out as many as we have.  Would you like to provide one or more people the opportunity?  I get requests *ALL* the time -- not just in response to this annual announcement (dozens then) but also throughout  the year, often a couple of times a week. Your donation can make it possible. As you know, annual memberships start at $29.95.  So let's think in terms of $30 increments.   If you'd like to donate a membership, that would be $30.  Three?  $90.   827?  $24,810.  You get the idea. This is a win-win situation.  Your donation is completely tax [...]

2022-12-21T05:16:40-05:00December 4th, 2021|Public Forum|

An Article about Religious Studies by One of My Undergraduate Students

      I have a number of unusually interesting students this semester.  My undergraduate course is called "The Birth of Christianity," and deals with an entire range of historical issues about how Christianity emerged in the world, from Jesus to just past Constantine (with a focus on the second and third centuries).  This is eye-opening stuff for a lot of undergrads (and, well everyone else who learns about it).  One of my students taking the course has changed her second major to Religious Studies as a result, and wrote an OpEd in the university newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, to explain.         Charlsie is a Peace, War, and Defense major with, now, a Religious Studies second major.  This is a fantastic combination, given the role of religion in world affairs in general, not to mention many of the wars and other conflicts around the world.          Charlsie was happy for me to share the piece with you.  Here it is! Serving the students and the University community since 1893 Opinion Column: [...]

2021-11-21T16:02:02-05:00December 2nd, 2021|Public Forum|

What Paul Says about Jesus’ Teachings

So far I have been discussing what Paul says about the historical Jesus in his surviving seven letters.  For the next couple of posts I’ll indicate what he says about the teaching of Jesus.  Once again there are two observations to make.  The first is that he obviously knew that Jesus taught some things.  The other is that it is a bit surprising that he doesn’t tell us more.  I will be dealing with that second issue soon, when I discuss why Paul doesn’t give us more information about the historical Jesus (there are several options).  The following discussion is taken from my book Did Jesus Exist, which was meant to deal more with the first issue: the fact that Paul quotes Jesus on occasion shows at the least that Paul knew Jesus existed (as do the other data that he mentions about Jesus’ life). ****************************** The Teachings of Jesus in Paul In addition to these data about Jesus’ life and death, Paul mentions on several occasions the teachings he delivered.  We have seen two [...]

2021-11-19T12:28:21-05:00December 1st, 2021|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|
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