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Wanna Take My Final Exam In New Testament?

I was browsing through some old posts from years ago and came across this one, a copy of my final exam for my undergraduate course, Introduction to the New Testament.   Check it out.  How would you do? The students have some idea of what the exam will entail in advance.  For the identifications, anything they've read or heard during the semester is fair game.  I don't give them a list of terms ahead of time to study.  They have to know every term covered in the reading and that I've given in class.  For the essays:  two weeks ahead of time I gave them fourteen possible essay questions for the exam, and told them I would choose two of the fourteen for the final.  I decided to give them some choice, as you'll see, so they could have some leeway about which essay to write. I won't be able to correct your wrong answers or even to tell you the right ones, since each identification could take up to 50 words, and the essays took [...]

2023-04-24T12:51:47-04:00April 30th, 2023|Public Forum|

Good Friday or Easter? CNN OpEd

On Easter Sunday CNN published an OpEd that I wrote to discuss how so many Christians (most I've ever known) are not overly compelled by Good Friday but are passionate about Easter.  Just, well, check out the church attendance on both days.  In the OpEd I argued that it's because as a rule most Christians prefer the glory to the pain, and in some ways that preference is written into the canon of the New Testament, where the teachings of Jesus of the need to serve others even if it means suffering comes first and then Revelation where the saints are given domination of the earth and a city of gold from which they rule the earth with a rod of iron comes last.  The reality is that most Christians prefer the conquering Christ of Revelation to the suffering Jesus of the Gospels -- at least when it comes to what they want to see in their own lives. CNN has a policy that does not allow me to reproduce the entire OpEd, just the [...]

2023-04-21T18:39:11-04:00April 29th, 2023|Public Forum|

Is 2 Thessalonians a Forgery? From 132 CE? Platinum Guest Post by Omar Robb

The proposition that the 2 Thessalonians was forged in 132AD by a Thessalonian priest. Omar Abur-Robb   There have been lot of arguments discussing the authenticity of the 2 Thessalonians. Many Scholars concluded (due to many observations) that it is a forgery. I am going here to add one more observation into the list by highlighting an angle that was probably missed. I need to give credit to Joseph Turmel (1859 - 1943) who probably was the first to link this letter to Bar-Kokhba revolt, and the model that I am presenting here is not very far from his model. [Reference: Introduction by Neil Godfrey,] The Second Thessalonians is a letter that is attributed to Paul for the Thessalonian Christians. The main objective of this letter is a discussion about the return of Jesus in 2.1: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him”, and the narratives related to the antichrist: the “man of sin”. So, the explicit objective of the letter is: Jesus will not return [...]

2023-04-25T19:07:14-04:00April 28th, 2023|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

“Death is nothing to us.” What Do YOU Think?

I quote: “You need to realize that death is nothing to us.   Everything that is good and bad in our lives comes from the experiences of our senses.  But death brings an end to our senses/experiences.  And so having the right understanding – that death is nothing to us – makes our mortality enjoyable, not because we will live forever but because we don’t pointlessly long to live forever.  For there are no terrors in life for the one who fully understands that there are no terrors in not living. It is absurd for people who fear death -- not because it is afflicting them now but because they expect it will be horrible when it comes.  For this allegedly most awful thing – death  -- is actually nothing to us:   when we exist, we are not dead, but when we are dead, we no longer exist.  And so death is completely irrelevant – both to those who are living and to those who are dead.  Those who are living are not experiencing it and [...]

2023-04-17T13:25:11-04:00April 27th, 2023|Afterlife, Reflections and Ruminations|

My Best Best-Selling Fluke

A couple of weeks ago I published a post about how an author writes a bestseller (she doesn't!  It becomes one or not for reasons other than the author's intent or writing...) I remembered I had posted something on the topic years ago, based on a blog member's question about my personal best-selling book, Misquoting Jesus, and why it did so well. In some ways it's a real puzzle.  The book is about Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  HUH???  A bestselling book?  What???  (That, at least, is what all my friends said!)   But the answer relates to my previous post.  Here is the Q and then the A. QUESTION: In your previous answer to me you indicated that what makes a bestseller, in the end of the day, is massive media attention.  My question now is what sparks this attention. In other words, why, out of all your books, did Misquoting Jesus receive a great attention from the media?   RESPONSE: Ha!  It’s a great question.  I’ll start by saying that if there were [...]

2023-04-28T16:01:53-04:00April 26th, 2023|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions|

Vote for your favorite Platinum Guest Post!

      We've had a string of interesting Platinum guest posts since our last vote.  Which of these is your favorite? Send in your vote to Diane at [email protected]   -- and I'll post the winner on the full blog. Remember: you too can write a guest post for Platinums.  Is there anything you want to discuss?  Wanna an idea out there, let the world know what's what?  It could be anything connected to the blog.  Give it a shot!  And in the meantime, vote for one of these.   February 13, 2023 Jesus’ Resurrection: A Challenging Hypothetical. Ryan Fleming February 17, 2023 Analyzing the Prophecies in Daniel 7, 2 and 9 Omar Robb March 31, 2023 What Does God Think of Surrogacy? Imran M. Usmani April 7, 2023 Yahweh and Moses Omar Abur-Robb

2023-04-25T22:18:42-04:00April 25th, 2023|Public Forum|

A Scandalous Discovery of a Scandalous Gospel?

Later scholars have sometimes claimed Morton Smith forged the Secret Gospel of Mark; he claimed he *discovered* it.  Which is it?  Here I continue with my account of how he said it all happened.  In my previous post I indicated that in 1958 Smith was catagaloguing the books of the library of the monastery of Mar Saba near Jerusalem, when he found a book that had a text written into its final (blank) pages.  It was allegedly a letter of Clement of Alexandria, a famous theologian and ethicist who lived and wrote around 200 CE. Smith immediately recognized that it was a letter we did not have before.  And here is how I discuss what he did next, in my book Lost Christianities (Oxford University Press, 2003). ****************************** On the spot, Smith decided to photograph the three pages that contained the handwritten copy of Clement’s letter, but chose to hold off translating the entire text until later, reasoning that if some such treasure had turned up, there might be more where that came from; given [...]

Could the Mysterious “Secret Gospel of Mark” Be Authentic?

In my previous posts I discussed how Morton Smith claimed he discovered a copy of an ancient letter of Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200 CE), written in the back of a 17th century book, by a scribe of the 18th century, in which Clement described a mysterious “Secret Gospel” – an intriguing and possibly scandalous longer version of the Gospel of Mark. In yesterday’s post I indicated how Smith went about trying to authenticate the discovery.  Here I pick up at that point, again, as recounted in my book Lost Christianities. ****************************** A key question was whether the copyist who put the alleged letter of Clement of Alexandria that Smith mound into the bak of a book was copying an actualy letter of Clement of Alexandria.  There is no difficulty believing that a scribe of the eighteenth century might have had a fragmentary copy of an ancient letter at his disposal – possibly a loose sheet in the ancient library, known for its famous ancient texts – and that rather than simply discard it, he [...]

How Do You Prove an Ancient Manuscript is Ancient? The Secret Gospel of Mark

In my previous posts I explained how American scholar of early Christianity, Morton Smith, claimed to have discovered the Secret Gospel of Mark in 1958.   Now I’ll discuss how, once he discovered it (assuming he did – some scholars think he actually forged it…), how he went about trying to find out if it was actually an ancient Gospel. Again, from my book Lost Christianities:  Authenticating and Interpreting the Letter Morton Smith devoted much of his research for the next fifteen years studying this find.  Roughly speaking, the work involved establishing the authenticity of the letter and determining the meaning of the passages quoted from the Secret Gospel.  In 1973, Smith published the results of his labors in two books, one a popular account for general audiences, full of interesting anecdotes and still worth reading, The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the the Secret Gospel According to Mark, the other an erudite report on his investigations for scholars in the field, an amazing book of scholarship but inaccessible for the most part to [...]

The Naked Man of Mark 14:51-52, the Secret Gospel, and a Pressing Question: Did Jesus Engage in Homoerotic Behavior?

I am providing here a thread of posts on Morton Smith’s discovery, in 1958, of the “Secret Gospel of Mark,” a longer version of Mark’s Gospel in a letter allegedly written by Clement of Alexandria who attacks a group of nefarious Gnostics.  Smith argued this really was an authentic letter, that the Secret Gospel really did exist in antiquity, and, yet more intriguing, that IT was the older form of the Gospel of Mark.  Our Gospel of Mark *today* is an abbreviated version, edited to rid the Gospel of a couple of potentially scandalous passages.  Whoa.  Could that be right?  Here’s a summary of Smith’s argument: ****************************** There are some interesting features of the shorter version – the one found in the New Testament – that can be explained if the longer version were the original, and this is some of the evidence that Smith and others have adduced for their view.  To take the second quotation first.  Clement indicates that it appeared after the first part of Mark 10:46:  “And they came to Jericho; [...]

2023-04-21T13:16:45-04:00April 20th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Interview with Michael Shermer

Many of you will know Michael Shermer, from his publications and podcast.  He writes about the history of science from the perspective of religious skepticism, and is the editor-in-chief of Skeptic Magazine.  Like me, he converted to evangelical Christianity as a teenager, went to a conservative Christian college, and ended up leaving the faith. Michael and I had an unusually interesting discussion about my book Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End for his podcast, and he has agreed to allow me to share it with y'all here.  Enjoy!    

2023-04-21T13:29:23-04:00April 19th, 2023|Public Forum|

James Tabor on the 1993 Waco Disaster, Part III

The 1993 Waco Disaster—How Not to Negotiate with Apocalyptic Believers James D. Tabor, retired professor of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte   In this three-part series James Tabor surveys what happened 30 years ago outside Waco, TX as Federal authorities violently confronted a group of apocalyptic believers who believed that David Koresh, their prophetic leader was a final messianic messenger of the book of Revelation.   Part III: A Peaceful Surrender Plan Rejected! Dr. Phillip Arnold and I offered our services to the FBI on March 7. As biblical scholars we had specialized in the history of biblical apocalyptic interpretation and were generally familiar with Adventist groups although neither of us had ever heard of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians before February 28. We studied carefully the fifty-eight-minute tape that Koresh had released on March 2 and began many hours of theological conversation over the telephone with Livingstone Fagan. Fagan had been sent out of Mount Carmel by Koresh on March 23 to act as a theological spokesperson for the Davidians; he was now being [...]

2023-04-19T08:57:20-04:00April 18th, 2023|Public Forum|

James Tabor on the 1993 Waco Disaster, Part II

The 1993 Waco Disaster—How Not to Negotiate with Apocalyptic Believers James D. Tabor, retired professor of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte   In this three-part series James Tabor surveys what happened 30 years ago outside Waco, TX as Federal authorities violently confronted a group of apocalyptic believers who believed that David Koresh, their prophetic leader was a final messianic messenger of the book of Revelation.   Part II: Opening the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation It should be noted that at this point Koresh and his followers had been labeled a “cult” and thoroughly “demonized” in a series of articles called “The Sinful Messiah” printed in the Waco Tribune-Herald beginning on February 27, just one day before the BATF raid. This series, based largely on charges by disaffected former Branch Davidians, painted a grim and bizarre picture of Koresh and his followers, echoing all the stereotypes the public had come to associate with unfamiliar groups or new religious movements that are pejoratively labeled “cults.” Hungry for any “information” about this heretofore unknown religious group, [...]

2023-04-11T17:24:06-04:00April 16th, 2023|Public Forum|

James Tabor on the 1993 Waco Disaster, Part I

The 1993 Waco Disaster—How Not to Negotiate with Apocalyptic Believers James D. Tabor, retired professor of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte   In this three-part series James Tabor surveys what happened 30 years ago outside Waco, TX as Federal authorities violently confronted a group of apocalyptic believers who believed that David Koresh, their prophetic leader was a final messianic messenger of the book of Revelation.   Part I: Setting the Scene for a Fifty-One Day Standoff The FBI agents called to Mount Carmel center outside Waco, Texas, on February 28, 1993, can hardly be expected to have packed their Bibles. In retrospect, it would not have been such a bad idea. The news of the bloody shoot-out between agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) and an obscure religious group known as the Branch Davidians, on the peaceful Sunday morning had been flashed around the world. For months the BATF had planned a “search and arrest” assault on the group based on allegations that they possessed illegal firearms materials and were possibly [...]

2023-04-21T13:50:34-04:00April 15th, 2023|Public Forum|

Baptism and the Macbeth Effect. Platinum post by Douglas Wadeson MD

Here is very thoughtful post by Platinum blog member Doug Wadeson, an intriguing psychological assessment of the rite of Baptism.   In relation to MacBeth.  The Bible and Shakespeare in one post?  Whoa.   What do you think?? Remember, you too can write blog posts for fellow Platinum members.  It can be on anything you want that is related to the blog.  One out of four of these guest posts get voted to go onto the whole blog. So don't hold back.  Let me know if you want to give it a shot. For now, check this one out. ****************************** There is a movie in theaters now called “Jesus Revolution,” based on the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s.  It depicts people being baptized in the ocean, and upon arising from the water you can see their joy as they feel spiritually refreshed, their old sins and past life washed away and a new life begun.  Does this reflect a spiritual reality, or perhaps a psychological one? Baptism is a Christian rite which goes back to [...]

2023-04-10T10:06:05-04:00April 14th, 2023|Public Forum|

The Discovery of a Lifetime: A Secret Gospel of Mark?

In this thread I am discussing the discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark in 1958.  Or was it the forgery of the Secret Gospel of Mark?  Entire books have been written on the topic.  My first foray into the fields was in my book Lost Christianities (Oxford Press, 2003).  Here is how I begin to talk about the matter there: *******************************  The Discovery We need to begin with the tale of the discovery, as recounted by Morton Smith himself in his sundry publications on the “Secret Gospel of Mark,” especially the two books published fifteen years after the discovery – one for a general audience, a beautifully written piece that reads like a detective novel, and one for scholars, a detailed linguistic and philological analysis of the text and its significance.[1] In 1941, as a twenty-six year old graduate student, Smith had gone to the Holy Land on a traveling fellowship from Harvard Divinity School.  Unfortunately, the Mediterranean was closed by the war, and he was stuck in Jerusalem.  While there he became acquainted [...]

Do Scholars Ever Forge Gospels?

Do modern scholars ever produce “ancient” forgeries?  In particular, have experts in the New Testament and early Christianity ever gone out on a limb and forged a Gospel, claiming to have discovered it, and tried then to convince others that it is ancient and authentic?  Yup. I’ve discussed some examples in earlier posts on the blog – e.g., just last year:   But I don’t believe I have ever devoted any attention to the most famous instance, a “discovery” of an ancient text by a renowned scholar, a text that some other scholars claim he himself forged.  Others very much think it really is authentic.  The debate focuses on a brilliant academic named Morton Smith, and his alleged (or real) discovery of “The Secret Gospel of Mark.” I devoted an entire discussion to Smith and the Secret Gospel twenty years ago in my book Lost Christianities; the book is about different kinds of early Christianity (Gnostics, Marcionites, Jewish Christians, etc.), and is particularly interested in the kinds of books they claimed provided “apostolic” support for [...]

Why Purgatory Makes Sense

Christians have always had a wide variety of beliefs about the afterlife, and just about everyone (who chooses) is able to find biblical support for their views.  The Bible itself has an enormous range of views. Among other things, there have always been Christians who have thought that there must be varying levels of punishment for sinners in the afterlife.  The guy on the street who does his best but is not always a very good father surely doesn’t get punished to the same degree as Hitler. Among believers who are convinced that there are different levels of punishment I would certainly class those who believe in purgatory.  Even though it is a view almost universally rejected by Protestants, purgatory can make a lot of sense even to some of them.  The afterlife is not just black and white, one thing or the other, either/or – it is not either eternal bliss for all the saints and eternal torment for all the sinners.  There must be gradations, right? And purgatory is a way of implementing [...]

2023-04-10T11:51:01-04:00April 11th, 2023|Afterlife, Historical Jesus|

Gold Q&A LIVE! (And Recorded) Tuesday April 11

Dear Gold Members, I will be recording  my Gold Q&A tomorrow afternoon,  April 11, 2:00 pm.  If you're free and want to watch it, come along!  I've got a full set of questions to deal with and am looking forward to it. No charge for admission, just show up.  We'll meet and greet, I'll do my thing, and then we can chat for a few minutes after. Here's the link:   Meeting ID: 922 0749 0998 Passcode: 339508 One tap mobile +16469313860,,92207490998# US +19294362866,,92207490998# US (New York) Dial by your location +1 646 931 3860 US +1 929 436 2866 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 305 224 1968 US +1 309 205 3325 US +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 386 347 5053 US +1 507 473 4847 US +1 564 217 2000 US +1 669 444 9171 US +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 689 278 1000 US +1 719 359 4580 US +1 253 205 0468 US +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 [...]

2023-04-10T14:54:05-04:00April 10th, 2023|Reader’s Questions, Reflections and Ruminations|
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