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The Problem: Not Enough Killing! Platinum Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying these Platinum posts -- posts by Platinum members for Platinum members with Platinum Content!    Here is one that will take you aback--Doug Wadeson, grappling deeply with one of the most disturbing aspects of the Bible. ****************************** Recently we had lunch with a delightful Christian couple, very nice people.  They mentioned how their grandchildren were getting such good teaching at their church, especially the Old Testament stories.  I suggested, “That probably includes the story of Jericho?”  (Joshua 6) “Sure.” “Do you think they were taught what the soldiers were to do when the walls fell down?” “You mean, kill the people?” “Yes, every man, woman and child.  So, if I was teaching their Sunday School class, I would pose this question to make it more real for them: Suppose you were one of the Israelite soldiers and you entered a home in Jericho and found a family.  Now, would you kill the children first so they wouldn’t have to watch their parents die, or would you kill [...]

2022-09-20T18:10:00-04:00September 30th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Reflections and Ruminations|

What is it Like to Supervise PhD Dissertations?

Few people among us who are seriously interested in the life of the mind are actually professional teachers; few professional teachers teach at colleges or universities; few college or university teachers are at research universities (a big difference from, say, liberal arts colleges -- not better or worse, just very different); and not all instructors at research universities direct PhD Dissertations.  Those of us who do usually find it to be a sacred obligation (it is the final step for a graduate student to her PhD), an honor, a privilege, and an ungodly amount of work. When I first published this series on what it is research scholars in academic position actually *do*, directing  it was the first thing.  That was because at that precise moment I was deeply entrenched in reading a dissertation.  Here's what I said. ****************************** I have just now been traveling across country (I’m currently in an airline lounge in Chicago) and on the plane I have been reading a (very fine) doctoral dissertation, whose author will be “defending” (that is, [...]

2022-09-18T16:10:09-04:00September 29th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations, Teaching Christianity|

What Do Professional Scholars Actually Do? Part 1: Introduction

I am constantly reminded (from emails and conversations ) that most people would have little way to know what professional scholars at research universities actually do.  That’s not surprising.  I, frankly, don’t really know (or much understand) what a hedge fund manager does, or a state lieutenant governor, or an industrial chemist.  I was thinking about the issue (my position, not the ones I don't know about) last week and suddenly had a vague recollection that I discussed it at some point on the blog; I checked and, lo and behold, I devoted a number of posts to the matter over ten years ago.  I've decided to do it again.  This first post will repeat how I introduced the topic back then. ******************************        In some of the back and forth that I have been involved with over the past few weeks some blog readers have asked about whether “experts” in an academic field have any privileged standing when it comes to making judgments about the acceptability or force of evidence that is [...]

2022-09-19T17:50:58-04:00September 28th, 2022|Public Forum|

Understanding the Gospels: Suggested Readings!

I frequently get asked what I would recommend for people to read if they are interested in the study of the New Testament.   In my recent course on the Gospels ( I'm including as part of the supplement to the lectures an annotated list of suggested readings.   The idea is to provide people with some guidance for important books, some to start with and some for more advanced readers.  Here it is, for your perusing enjoyment!   The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Annotated Suggestions for Further Reading   Aune, David. The New Testament in Its Literary Environment. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987. A superb introduction to the genres of the New Testament writings in relation to other literature of the Greco-Roman world. Brown, Raymond. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Updated ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1999. A massive and exhaustive discussion of the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, suitable for those who want to know simply everything about every detail. Brown, Raymond. The [...]

2022-09-29T10:26:37-04:00September 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels|

Big Questions for Studying the New Testament Gospels

In my previous posts I summarized the eight lectures that can be found on my new eight-lecture online course, “The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”  As I’ve indicated before, this course is not connected directly with the blog: it is a separate endeavor run off my personal website for the Bart Ehrman Professional Services.  You can see it here. Included in the course packet are questions for reflection, meant to help listeners think through the issues I’ve discussed and reflect on them from their own perspective.  I deal with each of these issues in some depth in the course of the lectures.  If you are interested in these issues, and have trouble answering the questions as fully as you like, or would like additional information about them to go on – take a look at the course and see if it’s your cup of tea!   The Unknown Gospels Questions for Reflection Lecture One To what extent do you think we can understand the Gospels without knowing what scholars say about their [...]

2022-09-29T10:23:30-04:00September 25th, 2022|Canonical Gospels|

Final Lectures in My Course “The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John”

 This will be my final post providing summaries of my lectures for my new eight-lecture online course, “The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”  As I’ve indicated before, this course is not connected directly with the blog: it is a separate endeavor run off my personal website for the Bart Ehrman Professional Services.  You can see it here. I am posting about the lectures simply because I know a number of blog members would be interested.  If you are, check it out.  If you’re not, don’t!   Lecture Six:  Embracing the Differences In this lecture I build on the conclusions I have drawn so far in order to show why recognizing the differences among the Gospels is actually the key to understanding them.  This kind of scholarship that finds alterations and discrepancies is not necessarily negative.  It has extremely important positive effects, allowing the reader to see the point each author is trying to make. I illustrate the point by discussing three kinds of differences.  First, some differences significantly heighten an emphasis [...]

2022-09-12T15:33:25-04:00September 24th, 2022|Canonical Gospels|

Why Paul Was Persecuted (Or Claimed He Was). Platinum Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski

I am pleased to publish this new Platinum post by Dan Kohanski, on an intriguing and important topic for understanding both the life (and writings) of Paul and the earliest history of the Christian movement. This post is by a Platinum member for other Platinum members.  You too can make a post like this.  Interested?  Just write something up and send it along.  It doesn't need to be high level scholarship.  Just write up your views about something and get some feedback from others! In the meantime, Dan will be willing to address your feedback on this one. ****************************** (This article is based on research I’ve been doing for my new book, A God of Our Invention: How Religion Shaped the Western World, to be published in early 2023 by Apocryphile  Press.)[1] The claim that opposition is persecution is one that occurs throughout the history of Christianity. The last of Matthew’s beatitudes promises that those “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10) will be rewarded in heaven. The First Letter of Peter reassures its [...]

2022-09-22T10:10:57-04:00September 23rd, 2022|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

More on My New Course: The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

I continue here with more summaries of my lectures for my new eight-lecture online course, “The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”  Again, this course is not connected directly with the blog: it is a separate endeavor run off my personal website for the Bart Ehrman Professional Services: you can see it here. I am posting about the lectures simply because I know a number of blog members would be interested.  If you are, check it out.  If you’re not, don’t!   Lecture Three: What Are the Gospels? This lecture continues the story by explaining how scholarship developed with the earth-shattering book of David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1834), which claimed that both the traditional Christian supernatural understandings of the Gospels and the Enlightenment opposition to “miracle” (found for example in the work of Paulus) completely misunderstood the Gospels.  Strauss’s controversial claim was that these texts were not meant to present history as it happened but “myths.” When Strauss used that term he did not mean that Jesus “did [...]

2022-09-16T17:51:25-04:00September 22nd, 2022|Canonical Gospels|

My New Course: The Unknown Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)

My new online course focusing on what scholars know about the four Gospels will soon be available on my personal website.  Neither the course nor the website is part of the blog, but I am announcing it here because I know a number of blog members would be interested.  The course is based on a set of remote lectures that some of you attended, and includes additional instructional materials. If you did not come but would like to know more about it, you can check it out here:  It consists of eight thirty-minute (or so) lectures, with the title:  “The Unknown Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”  (I call them “unknown” because most people don’t know what scholars say about them.) I’m envisioning the course as part of a long series covering the entire Bible, both Hebrew Bible and New Testament, called “How Scholars Read the Bible.” The series as a whole will be devoted to showing what historical scholars argue, believe, think, and think they know about the Bible, with some attention paid [...]

2022-09-16T17:52:22-04:00September 21st, 2022|Canonical Gospels|

Our Next Platinum Webinar! Tuesday September 27

We have scheduled our next Platinum-Only Webinar for Tuesday  September 27!  I hope you can make it: it's a hot topic.  (If you can't make it, we'll be recording it and sending it out) (In fact, we'll be doing that even if you *can* make it)   Topic:  The Birth of the Trinity Issue:  Most people don't actually know what the doctrine of the Trinity is (it's not just that there is a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...); fewer still have a good sense of where it came from, why it developed, and how.  After this webinar, you will! Time:  7:30 - 9:00 pm Eastern Time.     Link: Meeting ID: 979 3173 6337 Passcode: 691689 Hope to see you there! = Bart

2022-09-20T16:13:56-04:00September 20th, 2022|Public Forum|

September Gold Q&A

Dear Gold Members, Here we go!  Time for our monthly Gold Q&A.   Have a question?  Go for it.  It can be anything related to the blog. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] The DEADLINE for your question is this Saturday, September 24 midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will record the session soon thereafter and we'll get it released by Sept. 29 or so. Questions that are relatively short (a sentence or two) are more likely to be chosen.  And feel free to come up with a stumper!   Bart  

2022-09-20T16:12:54-04:00September 20th, 2022|Public Forum|

Did King David Actually Exist?

I am starting to do research for my next online course, to be given in November, dealing with the Hebrew Bible.  I'll be calling it "Finding Moses" and it will be dealing with four of the books of the Pentateuch (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) and what we can actually know, historically, about the exodus from Egypt (Is there any archaeological evidence? Any reference to it in other texts outside the Bible?  Any reason to think it did, or reasons to think it did not, happen?) and about the law of Moses (Were Jews legalistic?  Did they have to keep the law for salvation?  Why do some of the laws seem so strange today?  Why do some people insist that some of the laws are still binding but others not?  etc.). One book I'll be rereading in thinking through the various historical issues of the Pentateuch is Israel Finkelstein and Neal Asher Silberman’s, The Bible Unearthed. I remembered I had talked about the book on the blog long ago - it's not about Moses, but [...]

2022-09-23T10:23:06-04:00September 20th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Reader’s Questions|

Why I Want to Write a Book on Christian Love

Over the past couple of weeks I have been explaining how I have reimagined my next trade book, written not for scholars but for general readers.  As I've pointed out, my initial idea that I floated before readers of the blog was to have a book devoted to how Christianity revolutionized how people in the Roman world understood wealth and what to do with it.   My argument was that as a Jew Jesus insisted that those with resources help those who were in need – a virtually unheard-of ethical principle in Greek and Roman antiquity.  His followers were Jews as well, for whom this was a familiar message, but as they converted non-Jews to become Jesus’ followers, they convinced them as well.  So this became the standard Christian view, leading to the invention of the public hospital, the orphanage, the use of governmental assistance for those in need, private charities, and so on. My previous posts have explained how I have now expanded the vision of the book, to show that these new views of [...]

Is It Even Possible to Follow Jesus’ Teaching to “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”

In my previous posts I've been talking about Jesus' "love commandment," arguing that it revolutionized ancient thinking about how people are to behave toward one another. ("Love thy neighbor as thyself").  Now I ask whether that revolution actually involved changing people's behavior in radical ways.  Or not. Obviously, on the practical level, Jesus’ insistence on complete self-sacrifice did not come to dominate the world of late antiquity.  People continued to live much as they had before.  Conquerors still conquered.  The first Christian emperor, Constantine, was one of the most bloodthirsty of them all; many of his ardent Christian successors (including his sons) were at least as bad.  Slavery continued and was never questioned.  The rich dominated the poor.  Men dominated women.  The rich kept getting richer.  Most notably, Christian churches themselves began getting very much richer.  Eventually the church was by far the wealthiest institution in the west, and stayed that way for well over a millennium. Christian Ethics in the Roman Empire Even so, the ethical discourse of society did change with the Christianization [...]

2022-09-12T10:45:11-04:00September 17th, 2022|Historical Jesus, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|

Jesus’ Teachings on Love and Salvation

In my previous posts I have been explaining in brief terms how people thought about “ethics” in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, that is, how they decided what kinds of human activities were best for themselves and for their society, how they were to interact with one another, what values and virtues they should hold and what values and vices they should reject. Part of my thesis – which I hope to spell out in my next book – is that Christianity changed how people understood virtuous activity and the good life, how they urged people to behave, and why they did so.  My argument will be the what we think of as the driving force of most ethics today is not at all what people in the world at large in antiquity thought.  At all. So far in these posts I’ve tried to show how pagans were particularly concerned with “well-being” or “happiness” as a guide for how to live.  Jesus, however, rigorously adopted a Jewish view that the main criterion for behavior [...]

2022-09-16T21:11:20-04:00September 15th, 2022|Afterlife, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Historical Jesus|

Who Was The Last Non-Christian Emperor of Rome?

Most people know that Constantine was the first Christian emperor.  Lots of other things they think about him are wrong -- for example, that he decided or helped to decide which books would be in the New Testament or that his conversion was just a political ploy.  I deal with these in my book The Triumph of Christianity (Simon & Schuster, 2019).  But this one's right.  He was the first Christian emperor. It's also right that nearly all the emperors after Constantine were Christian.  I say *nearly* because  of one brief but highly noteworthy exception: his nephew Julian, most frequently referred to as Julian the Apostate.  Julian ruled for nineteen months in 361-63 CE.  His short reign was highly significant: Julian tried to turn the empire back to the ways and worship of paganism.  He is called “the Apostate” because he started out as Christian but then opted to worship the traditional gods of Rome.  And he tried to enforce this view on his Empire.  Here is how I describe how he did that (or [...]

A Funny Story about the Rapture

In my forthcoming book on Revelation (Title:  Armaggedon: What the Bible Really Says About the End; to be published on March 21), I discuss how evangelical Christians in the 19th century came up with the idea of a "rapture" -- that Jesus was soon to return to heaven to take true believers out of it before the horrible seven-year "tribulation" began.  Here is  a funny story about belief in the rapture from my younger days. At the time I was still a churchgoing Christian.  The church I was attending was evangelical, but I was moving away from a conservative theology and its strict, literal interpretation of the Bible.  I was becoming socially quite liberal, and was starting to take a more liberal view of the Bible.  I still thought that in *some* sense it was the Word of God, but I did not think that it was infallible or true in every way.  I had already come to see that parts of it contradicted one another, that there were historical implausibilities, and mistakes of various kinds. [...]

2022-09-16T15:05:29-04:00September 13th, 2022|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

Is There Anything “Religious” about “Ethics”?

It is true that ancient ethics did enjoin beneficent acts on family, friends, and acquaintances of one’s own status when they were in need.  But normally such benefices were expected to produce gratitude and respect (elevating one’s status and social capital) and to bring a return; just as important, they were expected to be reciprocated if misfortune should strike the giver.  That is, they were not acts of pure altruism, or arguably altruistic at all.  Moreover, when social ethics entered into the picture – as they often did – they centered on matters of justice and piety (meaning something like “doing one’s duty” to family, city, and empire) so as to promote the welfare of the collective.  But the collective did not mean “all” the collective. For the elites who wrote and read this ethical discourse, it meant the ruling elite and/or the social class to which they themselves belonged.  That would, of course, make life better for themselves as well.  But there was virtually no concern to help those in lower social classes -- [...]

Love. How I’ve Shifted the Focus of My Book on Charity.

As I've indicated, my plan is, or rather was, to write a book that argued that Christians radically changed the understandings of wealth and the practices of "giving" once they took over the empire.  They, in effect, invented what we think of as "charity." As I have talked it over with my literary agent and the editors at Simon & Schuster,  I have decided that my study needs to be placed in a broader cultural context.  Rather than focusing exclusively on the transformation of ancient understandings of wealth and the concomitant social practices of giving in isolation from their larger ideological contexts, the book will address an even more transformative Christian innovation in ancient ethical discourse, one that provided the impetus for these understandings and use of wealth. It will take several posts to explain the shift in my thinking.  Here's the starting point: Ethics were just as important to inhabitants of the Greek and Roman worlds as they are to people today.  But the criteria for evaluating “proper” behavior were very different, focusing almost [...]

2022-09-16T14:53:28-04:00September 10th, 2022|Book Discussions, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|

Why Even Conservative Christians Should Accept Evolution: Blog Anniversary Guest Post by Michael Shermer (part 2)

For several months now I have been posting Guest Posts that were generoulsly provided by others in honor of the blog's tenth anniversary.  These posts have been wide-ranging in their content and the intriguing , each pbased on the posters' unique backgrounds and expertise.  This now is the final one in the series, the second of two posts by Michael Shermer, to continue what he was saying in his post of Sept. 3. This one is particularly significant.  Why is it in conservative Christians' (and everyone else's) own best interest to accept evolution as a reality of the past?   He makes some compelling points.  Read and see! ************************* To counter the doubts I mentioned in my previous post, I argue that, in fact, Christians and conservatives should accept the theory of evolution for at least eight reasons (again, for brevity, truncated here): Evolution happened. The theory describing how evolution happened is one of the most well-founded in all of science. Christians and conservatives embrace the value of truth-seeking as much as non-Christians and liberals do, [...]

2022-08-28T13:09:45-04:00September 8th, 2022|Public Forum|
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