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On a couple of personal notes…

These aren't related to the blog per se, but, well, to me.  In case you're interested.... 1. As many of you know, I'm starting a podcast, Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman.  In fact, it's starting tomorrow.  We will be debuting with two episodes, the first that explain the title and a bit of why we chose it, how it relates to my life personally (my views of the Bible as they developed), and what it all means.  The second will be more specific about Christian scribes copying their texts.  My host is Megan Lewis, who is *terrific*; it includes Q&A (questions previously submitted on the topic) and a couple of other features..  You will be able to find it wherever you do your podcasts AND, if you prefer video, on my Youtube page. 2. Unrelated to that or much anything:  my editor from Yale University Press emailed me today to tell me that my recent book Journeys to Heaven and Hell has been chosen for the New Yorker's "Best Books of 2022."  An academic book??  Go figure.  [...]

2022-10-31T18:39:27-04:00October 31st, 2022|Public Forum|

Is it Possible Jesus Didn’t Teach the Golden Rule?

Did Jesus actually teach the Golden Rule?  Or was it foisted on his lips after his death by later followers? I have already written a couple of posts on the Golden Rule in the two places it occurs in the New Testament, Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 (see: Little-Known Aspects of The Golden Rule as Found in the Sermon on the Mount and  Did Jesus Give the Sermon on the Mount? ).  Normally the rule is phrased like this:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  I noted, though, in the Greek clauses are reversed.  A literal translation of Matthew’s version would be “Everything you want other people to do for you, you likewise do for them,” to which Matthew, importantly, adds “for this is the Law and the Prophets” (meaning that if you follow this rule, you will be following the entire will of God as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures; Matthew 7:12); Luke is quite similar “Just as you wish people to do for you, do likewise for them” (Luke [...]

2022-11-03T21:34:14-04:00October 30th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

The Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament

I have begun to explain the field of “textual criticism,” the academic discipline that tries to establish what an author actually wrote if you don’t have his original but only copies made from later times. In this post I begin to summarize some of the most important information about the textual “witnesses” to the text of the New Testament.  I won’t be going into this information at any serious length.  We could have many, many, many posts on virtually every single detail that I mention.  You don’t want that.  Trust me. There are three kinds of witnesses to the text of the New Testament, that is to say, three kinds of documents that can help us establish what the authors actually wrote. First, obviously, are the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.   These are copies of the New Testament in the language in which the books were originally written, produced by later scribes, who were copying earlier copies that had been made by scribes who were copying earlier copies that were made by scribes….  [...]

2022-10-18T14:11:31-04:00October 29th, 2022|Book Discussions, New Testament Manuscripts|

The Strange World of Textual Criticism

I've been asked a good bit lately by readers of the blog and random emailers how we can know, or if we can know, what the authors of the New Testament actually wrote -- if we don't have their original copies.  By far my best selling book (Misquoting Jesus) is about that, as is my best known scholarly book (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture).  It's the issue I first got most interested in (as an 18 year old!) when it came to serious scholarship, and its the field of study I devoted nearly twenty years to it as a scholar.  So, well, I'm interested! It's been over seven years since I gave anything like a full explanation of the entire field of New Testament "textual criticism" (which does not mean what a lot of people think!), and I've decided it's high time I go over it again.  This will take a number of posts! ****************************** The first thing to emphasize is that the term “textual criticism” is a technical term with a very specific meaning.  [...]

2022-10-18T14:11:11-04:00October 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, New Testament Manuscripts|

Did Jesus Give the Sermon on the Mount?

Did Jesus actually say the Golden Rule as found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7; the saying is in Matt. 7:12).  I have talked about the Sermon and why it is so important for Matthew’s Gospel (in a previous post: Little-Known Aspects of the Golden Rule as Found in the Sermon on the Mount) and now it is time to say something controversial about it.  I don’t think Jesus ever gave the Sermon on the Mount. That’s not just a crazy idea I came up with one day.  It’s a widespread view among historical scholars, for reasons that would not be hard to figure out.  Just think about the logistics of the issue for a second.   The Sermon goes on for three entire chapters.  These are not concise chapters; in our Bibles today, they are 111 verses in total (48 + 34 + 29) – saying after saying after saying, one after the other, some one-liners, some extended instructions, some parabolic-like illustrations. It is an amazing collection of Jesus’ teachings, by far his [...]

2022-10-28T13:34:32-04:00October 26th, 2022|Public Forum|

Can’t We Just Get Rid of Some of the Books of the Bible?

Here's an interesting question I received from a blog reader long ago! QUESTION: Given the criteria used to determine what would go on to constitute the New Testament canon, how is it that Hebrews and the book of Revelation remain part of the canon? I understand that Christians came to believe that they were authored by the apostles which is why they made it into the canon, but we now know that they weren't authored by Paul or why are they still in the NT?   RESPONSE: Interesting idea!   I sometimes get asked what I would exclude from the canon if given the choice, and I almost always say 1 Timothy, because of what it says about women in 2:11-15, and how the passage has been used for such horrible purposes over the years.  But, well, it ain’t gonna happen.  I don’t get a vote. And that’s the problem with Hebrews and Revelation – and all the other books that were admitted when Church Fathers (wrongly) thought they were written by apostles of Jesus [...]

Armageddon in Biden and the Bible

On Thursday October 6, President Biden made an unusually scary statement, in response to Putin’s threat of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine:  "We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis."  He then added: “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.” Armageddon has long been on my mind.  As many of you know, my next book, coming out on March 12, is called Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End.  The book is obviously not about our current political-military crisis but about where the notion of Armageddon came from, how the view that it is very near has almost never done much good, but often created serious mayhem and harm, and why the conservative Christian understanding of it based on the book of Revelation is a complete misinterpretation. Biden wasn’t talking about that.  But he was talking about how current events could indeed lead to cataclysmic disaster for the human race.  [...]

2022-10-10T22:47:18-04:00October 23rd, 2022|Religion in the News, Revelation of John|

Little Known Aspects of The Golden Rule as Found in the Sermon on the Mount

Possibly the best-known teaching of Jesus is the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Many people would consider this the very core of Jesus’ teaching, the one line that sums up his entire message about how people ought to behave and live their lives.  And so it probably seems strange that there are scholars who doubt that he actually said it. Do they have good grounds for thinking so? In a later post I’ll consider a couple of the best arguments against thinking Jesus said it and then (spoiler alert!).  I’ll explain why, in the end, I don’t find the arguments convincing.  I think Jesus probably did say it, and even if he didn’t actually say it, I think it brilliantly encapsulates his message. In this post I’ll set up the discussion by explaining the first appearance of the words in any of our sources, i.e., the Gospel of Matthew. Before getting to the Gospel of Matthew, I should acknowledge that some of you might be thinking: of [...]

2022-10-28T14:33:53-04:00October 22nd, 2022|Public Forum|

What Does It Mean to Be an Active Research Scholar? Editing Scholarly Journals (And Why Is Peer-Review Important?)

Being a research scholar means a lot more than sticking your head in books and articles and churning out publications.  Here I explain an area of pure volunteer work with little glory but lots of grind. ****************************** A Research Scholar's Editorial Work One aspect of the life of a professional scholar that may not be well known to the general public involves editorial work.  For some scholars, this kind of work takes an enormous expenditure of time and effort, although much of the work, and many of the hours, are not transparent or evident to outsiders.  I have done a lot of editorial work over the years, but I do not think that my case is at all exceptional.  A lot of my colleagues have done less, but some have done a good deal more.  Many scholars see editorial work as a major component of “service” to the discipline.  Which means that, for the most part, it is really important but normally thankless! As is my wont I will use my own experience as a [...]

2022-10-21T12:44:07-04:00October 20th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|

Why Do Historians Treat Jesus Differently from Every Other Historical Figure?

I’m starting to think there must be a better way to explain to laypeople – and even to scholars – the best way we can show what the historical Jesus himself said and did.  Since I was a graduate student I have done what every other budding New Testament scholar was doing: name the “criteria” that are used to show which elements of the Gospels are legendary and which are historical, explain their logic, justify them, and then use them.  Now I’m starting to think that just ain’t the way to go. In case you don’t know, scholars use a set of criteria to decide what is authentic to the life of Jesus.  The reason we need to do that is that we don’t have any audio or video recordings of his life, or stenographic accounts of his teachings, or highly reliable, fully documented, authoritative records of his activities.  What we have are accounts written decades later (30-65 years later, at best), by people who did not know him, living in different parts of the [...]

2022-10-21T12:51:47-04:00October 19th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

More Interesting Topics in New Testament Studies. Other Writing Assignments for my Undergrads

Here are more intriguing topics in New Testament studies!  This is part two of the writing assignments that I give to my undergraduate course, “Introduction to the New Testament.”  Every week students write a two-page paper based on the instructions, and then in their small group discussions (recitations) they discuss their views, as guided by the graduate student Teaching Assistant. So hey, go at it yourself!  But, once again, I won’t be grading yours…. Note: every student is required to participate in one of the three debates, on a two-four person teacm arguing either the affirmative of negative side of the resolution.  They are expected to prepare together individually and as a group, and everyone on the team is required to give a formal statement (opening statement of their teams position and arguments for it, rebuttal of the other team's argument, or summary at the end) (NTHI =  my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings)                                [...]

2022-10-21T12:55:54-04:00October 18th, 2022|Christianity in the Classroom, Teaching Christianity|

October Gold Q&A

Dear Gold Members, How tempus fugits when you're havin' fun!  Time for our October Gold Q&A.   Have a question?  Give it a shot.  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 Friday, October 21 midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will record the session soon thereafter and we'll get it released by  October 27  or so. Questions that are short and to the point (a sentence or two) are more likely to be chosen.  And feel free to ask a tough one.  Outsmart Bart! Bart  

2022-11-01T10:45:29-04:00October 17th, 2022|Public Forum|

Suffering, Evil, and the Range Effect  Platinum Guest Post by Dennis J. Folds, Ph.D.

In this Platinum Guest Post for all you Platinums, Dennis Folds addresses one of the most consequential and intractable problems of human existence, with his own views of the matter.  This is certainly to be controversial?  Do you want to controverse?  Feel free to make comments! *********************** The problem of suffering has plagued theologians for centuries, and continues to haunt thinkers today, including the prodigious progenitor of this blog. Its cousin, the problem of evil, similarly challenges religious scholars to explain how a just and loving God (JLG) could create a world in which people experience extreme suffering, especially when caused by the intentional (evil) actions of other people. Many conclude that JLG doesn’t exist, and if there is a God, it doesn’t have the attributes we wish it had. In this post I’ll argue that the experience of suffering and the perception of evil are inevitable consequences of biological consciousness, because of a psychological phenomenon called the range effect. As such, suffering and evil are insufficient reasons to reject all notions of a God.  [...]

2022-10-06T17:35:16-04:00October 17th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|

Vote on your favorite Platinum Post: The Next Round!

Dear Platinum members, We have had some provocative platinum guest posts over the past month and a half , and now it's time  to vote to see which of the following will be posted on the blog at large.  Take a look.  To vote, just send a quick note to Diane at [email protected]  Your deadline:  this coming Thursday, 10/20/2022 midnight your time. And remember — you’re always welcome to submit a post yourself.  Is there anything connected to the blog that strikes your fancy that you’d like others to read about?  Any ideas/thoughts you’d like to have disseminated and discussed?  Here’s your chance.  It doesn't have to be highly learned and informed -- just something you'd like some feed back on .  If you're interesetd, just zap me a note -- or send me a post!   August 26, 2022 Did Jesus Collaborate with the Romans to Produce His Movement? Ryan Fleming August 29, 2022 Did the Romans Stage Jesus’ Crucifixion? Ryan Fleming September 23, 2022 Why Paul Was Persecuted (Or Claimed He Was) Daniel [...]

2022-10-16T17:32:24-04:00October 16th, 2022|Public Forum|

Interesting Topics in New Testament. My Weekly Writing Assignments for Undergrads

Below is Part 1 of the handout I give them, the opening instructions and then the specific directions for each week’s paper.  (Part 2 will do the same for the rest of the semester’s weekly sessions) So hey, go at it yourself!  But, well, I won’t be grading yours…. (NTHI =  my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings)    INSTRUCTIONS FOR POSITION PAPERS Reli 104   For basic instructions on Position Papers (purpose, grading, etc.) see the syllabus. Please double-space your paper, in size 11 font, and submit it on “Assignments” before the recitation begins. NOTE: On occasion you will want to make a reference to a passage of the New Testament.  There is a standard format for doing so.  When referring to a biblical passages, first give the name of the book (or an abbreviation of it), then the chapter number, followed by a colon, and then the verse number.  A semi-colon is used to separate one chapter and verse reference from another; a comma is used to separate [...]

2022-10-21T12:40:28-04:00October 16th, 2022|Christianity in the Classroom, Teaching Christianity|

Publishing in Academic Journals

The most obvious activity that professional scholars engage in is research, and the most obvious way research becomes known to a wider public is through publication. In some fields of inquiry (most of the sciences), the academic journal is the principal area of significant publication. In other fields (most of the humanities), academic books matter even more. But even in the humanities scholar typically publish in both venues. Books take a lot longer to write, but articles play an extremely important role both in disseminating knowledge – the results of research – and in providing grounds for a scholar’s academic tenure and promotion. The articles that scholars write – when they are writing as research scholars – are not the sort of thing that you would find in Time Magazine or Newsweek. Every field has its own set of academic, peer-reviewed journals (there are a large number in biblical studies in the U.S. and Europe); and every scholar who is active in his or her field or research publishes in them. These are not journals [...]

2022-10-05T09:57:35-04:00October 15th, 2022|Bart’s Biography, Teaching Christianity|

My New Podcast. Help! I Need Questions.

I am pleased to announce that I have indeed decided to start a Podcast (NOTE: this will not be replacing the Bart Ehrman Blog Podcast; it is a completely different beast, in which I am interviewed, as opposed to the already important [!] podcast, on which volunteers read my posts to encourage listeners to join the blog).  And here, before starting, I need some assistance (see below). But first, let me give you a few of the details.  It will be a weekly podcast, called Misquoting Jesus, with Bart Ehrman.  It will cover many of the same sorts of things we do on the blog -- NT, historical Jesus, writings and life of Paul, the rest of the NT, all aspects of early Christianity such as non-canonical Gospels, the role of women, heresy and orthodoxy, Christianization of the empire, persecution and martyrdom, Jewish-Christian relations, and on and on. We will initially release several episodes (i.e. on the first day), and after that it will be one a week.  It will always appear on a Tuesday, time [...]

2022-10-17T18:20:15-04:00October 14th, 2022|Public Forum|

I’ll Be In Denver November 17. Interested in a Blog Dinner?

I will be in Denver for the annual Society of Biblical Literature Meeting, starting a week before Thanksgiving.   Anyone out that way interested in a blog dinner, Thursday November 17?    Possibly a drink t in advance.  Somewhere near the Convention Center. Are you in the vicinity?  Interested?    If we can get 3-4 (and no more than 7) people together, I'd be happy to do it. No obligations other than: Being a blog member Showing up Talking Paying for whatever you ingest.  Whatever you exgest is free. If you're interested, do NOT reply here as a comment.  Send me an email at [email protected] Hope it happens!    

2022-10-13T15:34:54-04:00October 13th, 2022|Public Forum|

Blog Dinner in London on November 8? Interested?

Our last two tries at a blog dinner in London have been thwarted by unforeseen circumstances.  But hey, (maybe) third time's a charm.  I'm heading over the pond in early November and would like to do a blog dinner if anyone's interested, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.   Possibly a pint in advance.  Somewhere in central London. Are you in the vicinity?  Interested?    If we can get 3-4 (and no more than 7) people together, I'd be happy to do it. No obligations other than: Being a blog member Showing up Talking Paying for whatever you ingest.  Whatever you exgest is free. If you're interested, do NOT reply here as a comment.  Send me an email at [email protected] Hope it happens!    

2022-10-13T15:30:38-04:00October 13th, 2022|Public Forum|

Getting the PhD in New Testament Studies

I continue here my series from long ago about what it's like to be a research scholar at a research university.  In this post I described what it takes to get the qualifications in the first place.  (The only thing I would probably change today, ten years after writing this post, is that university positions in the humanities are so difficult to find these days that you REALLY REALLY need to love doing the graduate work, because in many cases it will not lead to a career option.  Still... it *does* happen!), Here's how MY PhD in New Testament Studies happened. ****************************** I sometimes get asked what it takes to become a professional scholar in the field of New Testament/Early Christian studies. The answer, in short, is the same as for any academic discipline. It takes years of intense training. My own training in the field of New Testament studies was nothing at all unusual, but rather was fairly typical for someone in the field. What is unusual is that I knew that I wanted [...]

2022-10-21T12:43:27-04:00October 13th, 2022|Bart’s Biography, Teaching Christianity|
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