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Why Do Muslims Deny that Jesus Was Crucified? Platinum Guest Post by Imran M. Usmani

I am very pleased to publish this learned and intriguing discussion of the one verse in the Qur'an that appears to deny that Jesus was crucified.  That is the standard Muslim view today -- but is it right?  Is that what the verse really says? Our guest poster is Imran M. Usmani and as you will see, he provides significant historical and literary evidence for an alternative interpretation.   Please feel free to comment or ask questions! ****************************** Most Muslim scholars today deny the crucifixion of Jesus based on literal interpretation of a Quranic verse.1 This incurs the wrath of Christians and secular historians, who see it as an attempt to re-write history. It is one thing to hold an opinion or theological belief, but it is quite something else to meddle with the fabric of history. In this article, I shed light on the religious dispute about the crucifixion of Jesus by tracing the origins of crucifixion denial in the Muslim tradition.   The religion of Islam is founded upon three fundamental sources, namely the [...]

2023-02-01T12:04:42-05:00February 10th, 2023|Public Forum|

An Intriguing Anti-Jewish Variant: Did Jesus Pray “Father forgive them”?

In my previous post I pointed out that scribes appear to have changed their texts of the New Testament in ways that reflected the rising anti-Jewish sentiment of the early Christian centuries.  For me, by a wide margin, the most intriguing example of this is the prayer Jesus makes from the cross in Luke's Gospel (and nowhere else in the New Testament) "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." I wrote about this passage in an article many years ago that I called  “The Text of the Gospels at the End of the Second Century,” which was reprinted in a collection of my more scholarly essays on textual criticism called Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Brill, 2006; the paper was originally written for a conference in 1993) (not that I'm dating myself...) The paper was written for fellow scholars, but I’ve decided to go ahead and include it here verbatim.  BUT, I have added several explanatory comments in [brackets] for technical terms and ideas that are not the [...]

Anti-Jewish Alterations of the New Testament Writings?

In my previous post I pointed out that scribes sometimes changed the manuscripts of the New Testament in order to make them more theologically "orthodox," that is, more in line with theological views of (most of) the scribes who were copying the texts in the second and third centuries.  Five points I would like to emphasize about that phenomenon (if you want a fuller analysis, this is the topic of my study, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effects of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament). It would be a very big mistake to think that this was the main reason scribes changed their texts (as I've said my entire life, even if many people haven't noticed!) These changes were never done consistently or throughly, at least in any of our surviving manuscripts, and that suggests it was an ad hoc affair, happening now and then as a scribe decided to modify a passage.  So far as we can tell it was never done on orders from on high.  That is, [...]

New Testament Manuscripts That Reveal Later Theological Controversies

In my previous post I started to explain how the manuscripts of the New Testament can help us reconstruct not only the “original” texts that the author wrote but also, when looked at in a different way, what was happening in the worlds of the scribes who changed them.  In this post I deal with the one part of that context that is best known today, scribes changing the text for theological reasons.  In my next post I’ll get to the issue that started this small thread, changes of the text made in opposition to Jews and Judaism.  This again is from my essay “The Text as Window,” in the collection of essays Mike Holmes and I edited, The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. (This post is a bit longer than usual; if you want to cut it in half, you have my permission, indeed, my suggestion, not to read the footnotes.  It was written for scholars, who like nothing better than footnotes....) ****************************** The Internecine Struggles of Early Christianity Arguably the [...]

2023-01-31T15:26:45-05:00February 7th, 2023|New Testament Manuscripts|

My New Online Course on the Gospel of Mark!

In case you haven't heard, I will be doing a live, eight-lecture online course on the Gospel of Mark on Feb. 18-19.  The course is not connected with the blog -- it is part of my separate venture for a series I'm publishing called How Scholars Read the Bible.  But I mention here because some of you may be interested.  Even if you can't make the live sessions and Q&A, you can purchase the course to watch at your leisure.  You can learn about it here: The course will consist of  four lectures and Q&A each day.  The lectures will be 45 minutes each, so a bit longer with more substance than the other courses I've done. I'm completely pumped about this course.  Mark is my favorite Gospel and, in fact, probably my favorite book of the Bible.  It is a book that is widely misunderstood, in part because casual readers often think of it as a Readers Digest version of Matthew and Luke, a kind of no-frills, nuts-and-bolts account of Jesus' life without [...]

2023-02-05T11:54:57-05:00February 5th, 2023|Public Forum|

New Testament Manuscripts as Windows into Early Christian History

My recent post asking whether the Gospels can be seen as anti-Jewish generated a number of comments and questions, one of which was whether scribes who copied the texts of the New Testament ever made them *more* anti-Jewish than they originally were.  The answer to that is Yes.  I have a student just now who is writing a dissertation that deals with that topic. It's a question I've been intrigued with for years;  one of the first times I wrote about it was in an essay called “The Text as Window: New Testament Manuscripts and the Social History of Early Christianity," in The New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, ed. Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes. Studies and Documents; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, pp. 361-79. The essay was about the wide range of ways that copies of the New Testament from long after the originals were circulated can help us do something other than figure out the original text of each book; when used in a different way, they can [...]

2023-01-31T15:15:34-05:00February 5th, 2023|New Testament Manuscripts|

February Gold Q&A: Go for the Gold!

It is time to schedule the Gold Q&A for February.   For me to provide the A's you need to provide the Q's.  What are you interested in?  It can be about most anything related to the blog in one way or another. I'm more likely to answer questions that are relatively short and to the point than those that go on for a long paragraph.  So be concise. I'll try to be informative.  And happiness will reign. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] The DEADLINE for your question is Friday February 10 , at midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will record my answers that weekend (but not, uh, during the Superbowl) (go Chiefs!), and we will release the recording in both video and audio form --  for Gold and Platinum members only -- the following week. Ask some tough ones!  Or, even better, ask ones you're most interested in, even if you think they're softballs.  I'm looking forward to it! Bart  

2023-02-04T14:47:56-05:00February 4th, 2023|Public Forum|

Am I About To Become Muslim?

I often get asked about the Qur'an (on which I have zero expertise) and my views of Islam (which I admire as one of the great religions of the world with lots of problems involving how it sometimes gets interpreted and used, just like every other great religion of the world).  I was just thinking about that this morning and remembered a post I did a long time ago answering a question a reader had raised with me.  Is it true I am about to convert to Islam?  Well, it hasn't happened yet, but I thought I would be worthwhile repeating the post:   READER COMMENT: I received a message on Facebook a couple of weeks ago from a person who has been proselytizing to me about the Muslim faith. This has happened a few times with others on your FB page. I guess that's what they do. Anyway, the other day I asked him if he was on your blog. He responded with a yes. Then he said that we (the members) were going [...]

2023-02-10T11:16:23-05:00February 4th, 2023|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions|

Was the Roman Soldier Pantera Jesus’ Father? His Cousin? Platinum Guest Post by Omar Abur-Robb

I am pleased to publish this unusually controversial and interesting Platinum guest post of Omar Abdur-Robb.   Lots to think about here!  What do you think? ******************************   A Summary of an article: Discussing the conclusion of James Tabor related to the relationship between Jesus Pantera and Abdes Pantera, and presenting a new model for this relationship (Jan 2023). Omar Abur-Robb Library:   James Tabor has a conclusion in his informative book “The Jesus Dynasty”. He noticed a reference for a tombstone in Germany that was dedicated to a Roman soldier from Sidon with the name “Abdes Pantera”. This immediately grabbed the attention of Tabor and he started studying it. One of his conclusions in the book was that this soldier might be the true biological father of Jesus. Although I totally don’t agree with this conclusion (metaphysically or historically), but still, all of his conclusions represented about 30% of the book, while the other 70% were high quality of information, which made the book valuable. However, I am going to draw the attention to [...]

2023-01-31T14:08:24-05:00February 3rd, 2023|Public Forum|

Finally: The Martyrdom of Polycarp as a Clever Christian Forgery

Here now I bring this thread on the Martyrdom of Polycarp to an end, arguing yet further reasons for thinking the account was forged, and explaining the “truths” the author was trying to advance by not telling the truth about his real identity.   (From my book Forgery and Counterforgery, Oxford University Press, 2013). ****************************** Problematic for entirely other reasons is the account of what happens in the aftermath of Polycarp’s death.  The Jews, moved by the devil, are intent not to allow the Christians to collect Polycarp’s body “even though many were desiring to do so and to have a share in his holy flesh” (ch. 17). And so, the centurion ordered the body to be burned.  That did not hinder the Christians’ enthusiasm for Polycarp’s material remains, however: “And so, afterwards, we removed his bones, which were more valuable than expensive gems and more precious than gold, and put them in a suitable place.”  It is there that the author anticipates celebrating, with his fellow believers, the “birthday of his martyrdom.” One might be able [...]

2023-01-23T11:38:42-05:00February 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|

January 2023 Gold & Platinum History of the Devil Bonus Lecture

Hey Gold and Platinum members, Here is the video of our recent webinar on the History of the Devil.  We're sending it out to everyone at the gold and platinum levels, those who were able to come and those not. It was a blast doing -- and apologies for the occasions that occasioned it (being late on the Gold Q&A's for a couple of months). Again, I hope you're enjoying the blog, and if there's anything I / we can do to make your experience better, let me/us know.  'til, then, here's the Devil: Z

2023-02-03T17:45:10-05:00February 1st, 2023|Public Forum|

Evidence of Forgery. More Reasons the Martyrdom of Polycarp Was Not Written by Someone There

In my previous post I began to lay out my case that the Martyrdom of Polycarp, our (allegedly) first full narrative account of a Christian martyr, who died 155 CE, written (allegedly) by an eyewitness, in fact was written decades later, by someone who wanted his readers to think he was an eyewitness and to that end (falsely) claimed to be one. Here I move from the intriguing fact (from the last post) that the author asserts his eyewitness authority precisely at the points that are, well, rather difficult to believe to other historical problems in the text that suggest the author was not living at the time or privy to what actually happened. Again, this is from my book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (Oxford University Press, 2013).   *****************************   Apart from the miraculous elements of the text – which include the martyr’s blood gushing forth in such profusion as to douse the flames of his pyre, and a dove emerging from his side and flying [...]

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