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Why Would Jesus Get Angry at this Poor Leper?

So far in this thread I have argued that Mark 1:41 originally said that Jesus got angry when the leper asked him to heal him; and I have shown that elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel Jesus gets angry in context involving healing. And so: if Jesus got angry when the leper asked for healing in Mark 1:41 – what exactly was he angry about? Over the years numerous interpretations have been proposed, and some of these explanations are highly creative. Some interpreters have argued that Jesus became angry because he knew that the man would disobey orders, spreading the news of his healing and making it difficult for Jesus to enter into the towns of Galilee because of the crowds. The problem with this view is that it seems unlikely that Jesus would be angry about what the man would do later -- before he actually did it! Others have suggested that he was angry because the man was intruding on his preaching ministry, keeping him from his primary task. Unfortunately, nothing in the text says [...]

2023-09-18T10:18:09-04:00September 30th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Did Jesus Think He Was Going to Atone for the Sins of the World? A Platinum Post by Manuel Fiadeiro

I'm pleased to publish this interesting Platinum Guest Post by Manuel Fiadeiro; it's dealing with an unusually important question:  who was the first to come up with idea that Jesus' death was an atonement for sins?   Was it ...? Remember that you too can submit a Platinum post for other Platinum members.  Why not give it a shot? ****************************** Did Jesus think he was going to atone for the sins of the world? We don’t know what Jesus thought. We don’t have texts before Paul. The best we can do to figure out what Jesus preached is to try to understand the beliefs of the Jesus Community in Jerusalem under James and the apostles. One of the scholars that studied thoroughly the Jewish Christian community is Hans-Joachim Schoeps. In “Jewish Christianity” (English translation copyright 1969 by Fortress Press) he wrote: "Jewish Christianity clearly knows as little of a supernatural birth as of a soteriological interpretation of Jesus' death on the cross, such as the view which regarded Jesus as a vicarious atoning sacrifice. Since [...]

2023-09-28T18:05:22-04:00September 29th, 2023|Public Forum|

Why Is Jesus So Angry?

Jesus never laughs in the New Testament Gospels.  But he does get angry. In my previous post I tried to show that it happens in the "original" text of Mark 1:41:  when a leper asks him to heal him, he (Jesus) gets angry.  Later scribes, understandably, changed the verse to say Jesus felt "compassion."  But if Mark actually said he got angry, uh ....  what was he angry about? To answer the question we need to consider a feature of Mark that very few readers have ever noticed.  Unlike in Matthew, Luke, or John, Jesus gets angry on several occasions in Mark’s Gospel. How do we explain that? Scholars have sometimes noticed that it happens in Mark.  But rarely has anyone pointed out that in every instance it appears to involve Jesus’ ability to perform miraculous deeds of healing. In Mark 9 we find the account of a man pleading with Jesus to cast an evil demon from his son, since the disciples have proved unable to do so: “Often,” he tells Jesus, “it casts [...]

2023-09-18T10:26:35-04:00September 28th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Jesus and Another Leper: Getting Angry at the Poor Fellow?

In my previous post I mentioned the interesting story found in the Unknown Gospel (as it is called – even though part of it is now known...) contained in the second-century manuscript Papyrus Egerton 2.  There’s an intriguing aspect of that story that I wanted to post on today, but I realized that first I need to discuss a bit of important background. So here’s the deal.  There is an interesting textual variant in Mark’s story of the man cured of leprosy by Jesus – that is, some of our textual witnesses have one way of reading one of the verses, and other textual witnesses have a different way.  And it really matters.  Here is the passage (Mark 1:39-45) in a literal translation.  The textual variant I am interested in is in v. 41 (there are lots of other textual variants among our manuscripts in this passage; this particular one is the only one I’m interested in here): 39 And he [Jesus] came preaching in their synagogues in all of Galilee and casting [...]

2023-09-18T10:44:24-04:00September 27th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Was Jesus Conceived out of Wedlock by Mary and a Jewish Relative, Pantera? Part III Guest Post by James Tabor

We come now to the third part of James Tabor's guest post thread on the biological father of Jesus, where he proposes a controversial solution that will surely spark some reactions!  Are you convinced?  Inclined to be convinced?  Not at all convinced?  Let us know what you think! Again, these posts are tied to James's forthcoming book The Lost Mary: How the Jewish Mother of Jesus Became the Virgin Mother of God (Knopf). ****************************** Part III These earliest references to Pantera stand in the sharpest contrast to several dozen much later references in rabbinic literature that slanderously charged that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a man named Pantera, with whom his mother had committed adultery.[1] And it was this story that then got passed on beyond Jewish circles—including to the philosopher Celsus, who identifies it as a tale passed on by Jews. Several early Christian writers, responding to these charges that Jesus was the adulterous “son of Pantera,” a Roman soldier, counter with the explanation that the name Pantera was an ancestral name in Jesus’ [...]

2023-09-26T13:06:32-04:00September 26th, 2023|Public Forum|

(Part 2) A Discussion on the Issue of Suffering and the Moral in Job’s Story. A Platinum Post From Omar Robb

The book of Job is one of the trickiest texts of the Bible to understand, even though most people I know seem to think they understand it pretty well.  I guess I do too, but of the five Hebrew Bible scholars I've talked with about it with over the past several years, six of them understand it's ultimate point (about why there is suffering) differently from me. Here Platinum post member Omar Robb takes on the task.  What do you think? ****************************** I did discuss these two subjects in a series of comments in the post: Is the God of Job Worthy of Worship. And this article elaborates more into these comments.   It should be noted that these two subjects in the original article were about 3500 words and I condensed it to be suitable for the blog, but I will provide the link for the original article at the end.   5# The issue of suffering: This subject has been associated with the existence of God, and the basic question here: If God [...]

2023-09-26T13:07:51-04:00September 25th, 2023|Public Forum|

Was the Father of Jesus … Pantera? Part II Guest Post by James Tabor

Here James Tabor continues with his discussion of Jesus' actual,  biological father.  There are ancient indications that it was a man named Pantera.  How do evaluate these statements.  Could they possibly be true? ****************************** Part II The Jewish term for such a child born of any sexual relationship forbidden in the Torah is a mamzer, often mistakenly translated as “bastard,” but it is a legal term, not a term of profanity in Hebrew.[1] It refers to the child born of any sexual union forbidden in the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:13-30; Leviticus 18). This could include incest, adultery, or any forbidden union (Deuteronomy 22:13-30; Leviticus 18). Along with the term mamzer, there was a related term the rabbis use that might be translated a “hushling” or a “silenced one.” This is one who knows his mother but not his father. There is also the term “foundling,” used for one who knows neither father nor mother.[2] The child of a single woman and a man she could lawfully have married is not a mamzer. Also, any child born to [...]

2023-09-30T10:16:46-04:00September 24th, 2023|Historical Jesus|

Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father? Part I. Guest Post by James Tabor

I have received a number of queries over the past  year about what we can actually know about Jesus' father.  Can we know if it was actually Joseph?  What about the rumors that Jesus was born out of wedlock?  That his father was actually a Roman soldier?  Whose name was Pantera?  Is this latter simply a slander against Jesus and Christianity?  Could it be historical? My friend, New Testament scholar, and occasional guest poster James Tabor (about whom you can read here: TaborBlog – Religion Matters from the Bible to the Modern World ( is just now finishing a new book of some relevance to the question, called:  The Lost Mary: How the Jewish Mother of Jesus Became the Virgin Mother of God (Knopf).  James has agreed to write a three-part thread on the question of Jesus' biological father. I'll run the three posts back-to-back-to-back.  Here's #1.  You may find these views convincing or controversial, but you should certainly find them informative and interesting! ****************************** Was Jesus’ Biological Father a Roman Soldier? James D. Tabor   Part [...]

2023-09-19T21:47:13-04:00September 23rd, 2023|Historical Jesus|

Did Luke Read Galatians? Platinum Post by Guillermo Mondon

Here is a very interesting guest post by Platinum member Guillermo Mondon, staking out a position that I disagree with and making his case!  I love this kinda thing.  (I date Galatians about 20 years before Acts; but maybe it's the other way around?) What do you think?  Is it likely that the author of Acts had read Paul's letter to the Galatians? ****************************** Introduction  The series of three articles on Paul and his relation with the Jerusalem church; Was Paul Authorized to Persecute Christians? - After Paul Converted… Does the Book of Acts Contradict Paul Himself? - Did Paul Get Along with the Other Apostles?; sparked many interesting posts about Acts and Paul’s epistles. One of those posts by quadell considers the possibility of Acts being “a 2nd-century work written by someone who had access to Paul’s letters”. I personally agree with both statements about Acts but I know it is by no means something firmly established (Bart, for instance, does not agree with either statement). In particular, the idea that the author of Acts “had [...]

2023-09-29T16:27:01-04:00September 22nd, 2023|Public Forum|

The Gospel according to Mel (Gibson)

As I've indicated, this semester I'm teaching my course on Jesus in Scholarship and Film; in it we read and analyze a number of Gospels (the canonical four and six others); we discuss how scholars have reconstructed the life of Jesus; and we seen how Jesus has been portrayed on film.  One of the ultimate goals of the class is to show that every Gospel, every scholar, and every film presents Jesus in a *different* way.  There's not One Jesus out there, but a large number of Jesuses. Most of the students have not seen any of the films we're discussing in class (from Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings up to Jesus of Montreal).  And they will have an assignment to write a film critique of other films we don't deal with directly.  I give them the choice of Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ or Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ.”  If experience is any guide, most of them will choose Gibson.  And most of them will find it deeply moving.  It certainly [...]

2023-09-22T10:47:08-04:00September 21st, 2023|Jesus and Film|

Is It Better to Follow Christ or to Live a Contented Life? Paul vs. Epicurus

What would other deep thinkers in the ancient world have thought of Paul’s teachings?  Short answer: not much. Earlier this year I posted on one of my favorite Greek philosophers, Epicurus (341 – 270 BCE).  Epicurus acquired a bad reputation already in antiquity, and still has one among many people today, mainly because his views are widely misunderstood and often simply misrepresented.   As it turns out, he advocated views that have widely become dominant in our world, and for good reasons.  For that reason I’ve always read him as remarkably prescient, entertaining ideas that would not become popular for two thousand years. And they stand precisely at odds with the views of the apostle Paul.  I’ve recently begun to think about this more deeply -- especially since they talk about the same *topics* but take completely different stands on them.. Unfortunately, we do not have very many of Epicurus’s writings.  In fact, the most important sources we have are simply three long letters, quoted in toto by a significant but little-read author named Diogenes Laertius, [...]

One of our Earliest Gospels from Outside the New Testament: The Egerton Papyrus.

In my previous post I mentioned the peculiar story of Jesus and a leper found in the non-canonical (very!) fragmentary text known as Papyrus Egerton 2.  I've decided to give you a fuller scoop on this intriguing and mysterious little Gospel fragment -- and a full translation of its four (brief) stories.  I have taken this directly from my book The Other Gospels, co-authored and edited with my colleague Zlatko Plese.  Both the Intro and the Translation in this instance were done by me. ****************************** P.Egerton 2 (and PKöln 255) One of the most significant publications of early Christian texts in the first part of the twentieth century was H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat, Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and Other Christian Papyri.  The “Unknown Gospel” is preserved in Papyrus Egerton 2, which consists of four fragmentary papyrus leafs, two of which are too fragmentary to be reconstructed (one of them has simply one letter on one side).  The other two (9.2 x 11.5 cm and 9.7 x 11.8 cm) contain four narratives [...]

2023-09-18T11:29:44-04:00September 19th, 2023|Christian Apocrypha|

Time to Vote!

Hey Platinum Members, We've had a spate of interesting Platinum guest posts, and now it's time to vote for one of them to go on the entire blog.   Here are your four options.  Wanna help decide?  Vote! To do so, just send a quick note to Diane at  [email protected]  Your deadline:  this Saturday, September 23, midnight your time. And remember — you’re always welcome to submit a post yourself.  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. Just zap me a note. July 10, 2023 Vespasian Miracles Ryan Fleming July 17, 2023 An Important Difference in John Ryan Fleming July 28, 2023 A Proposition That the First Greek Converts to Jesus Were a Few Ascetic Pythagorean Philosophers Omar Robb July 31, 2023 Jesus the Half-Nabataean Prince Serene

2023-09-18T13:58:24-04:00September 18th, 2023|Public Forum|

(Part I) A Discussion on Spirit, Death, Afterlife, Consciousness, and Free Will. A Platinum Post From Omar Robb

Here Platinum Guest Poster Omar Robb takes on many of the BIG QUESTIONS that many of us who wrestle with meaning struggle with, in very modern terms.  What do you think? ****************************** 1# Spirit and Death: The ancient conclusion about the existence of the spirit is sound and valid. However, I think the ancient couldn’t escape the Metaphoric Syndrome, and with this syndrome, they derived false properties for this spirit: The ancient knew about death, because they experienced it constantly. Therefore, it is expected that they will try and understand this phenomenon. The first obvious logical conclusion is that death is not life. This is actually a direct linguistic deduction: we see living people, then we see dead people, and the difference is that the dead are not alive. I assume that form this direct linguistic deduction, they concluded that “Living” requires two things: Body and Life. From this conclusion they derived that life could be regarded as an entity, and they called it Spirit, which means breath; as breathing is one of the major [...]

2023-09-18T11:25:48-04:00September 18th, 2023|Public Forum|

That’s in the New Testament, Right? An Interesting Non-Canonical Story.

Here's a Gospel story about Jesus and a leper.  Does it sound familiar? And behold, a leper approached him and said, “Teacher Jesus, while I was traveling with some lepers and eating with them at the inn, I myself contracted leprosy. If, then, you are willing, I will be made clean.”  Then the Lord said to him, “I am willing: be clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. Jesus said to him, “Go, show yourself to the priests and make an offering for your cleansing as Moses commanded; and sin no more....” This may sound like the Bible, but it’s not. This is one of the stories found in a document known to scholars as Papyrus Egerton 2. This papyrus consists of four small pieces of papyrus manuscript, written on front and back (so it comes from a codex, not a scroll). It contains four different stories: (1) an exhortation by Jesus for his Jewish opponents to “search the Scriptures” (in terms similar to John 5:39-47 and 10:31-39); (2) a foiled attempt to stone and then [...]

2023-09-05T17:57:30-04:00September 17th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Christian Apocrypha|

About Those Ebionites and Their Peculiar Gospel

There are other interesting features of the Gospel of the Ebionites, known from the quotations of Epiphanius, the fourth-century heresiologist (= heresy-hunter). We wish we had the whole Gospel. We have only these eight fragments that Epiphanius quotes. We wish we knew who actually used the Gospel. We wish we knew how long it was, what it contained, and what its theological slant was. It is almost impossible to say from what remains. One big question is whether, since it was used by the Ebionites according to Epiphanius, it had a particular bias in its reporting of the words and deeds of Jesus. The term “Ebionite” was widely used in proto-orthodox and orthodox sources to refer to “Jewish-Christian” groups, or at least one group (it is likely that there were lots of these groups, and it may be that the church fathers assumed they were all the same group when in fact they had different views, different theologies, different practices, and so on). Some of the church fathers indicate that the name came from [...]

2023-09-05T17:49:55-04:00September 16th, 2023|Christian Apocrypha, Heresy and Orthodoxy|

Paul, the Apostate: a Platinum Post by Manuel Fiadeiro

I'm pleased to present this Platinum Members guestpost by your fellow platinum member Manuel Fiadeiro, a retelling of the conversion and mission of the apostle Paul, with intriguing possibilities.  What do you make of it?  Let Manuel and the rest of us know! And remember that you too can publish a Platinum post to your fellow Plats.  Just send something along to me! ******************************** Circa 35 CE, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, a young man, no more than 20 years old called Saul, with scribes and Pharisees, was stoning a man belonging to a sect of a Galilean called Jesus. Saul was in Jerusalem to study with the Pharisee master Gamaliel. Few students could match Saul in intelligence, brilliance and knowledge. He was a devout Jew who knew the scriptures by heart, fluent in Greek and Hebrew, able to read and write, he could beat anyone in theological discourse. Saul was also an ambitious fellow. He "knew" God set him apart from his mother's womb. He wondered what God had in mind for him. [...]

2023-09-10T12:21:13-04:00September 15th, 2023|Public Forum|

Locusts or Pancakes? The Dietary Preferences of John the Baptist.

Among the eight quotations of the Gospel of the Ebionites in the writings of Epiphanius, none is more interesting that the one in which he describes John the Baptist. Its humorous side may not be evident at first glance. Here is what he says could be found in the Gospel: And so John was baptizing, and Pharisees came out to him and were baptized, as was all of Jerusalem. John wore a garment of camel hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was wild honey that tasted like manna, like a cake cooked in olive oil. (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30, 13, 4-5) What has long struck investigators is that John here is not said to be eating locusts and honey, but honey that tasted like manna , like a cake cooked in oil. That is, a pancake. That is interesting, and somewhat amusing, for two reasons. The first is that to *make* this alteration in the account found in the Gospels of the NT, the author (whoever he was) of the [...]

2023-09-05T17:41:25-04:00September 14th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Christian Apocrypha|

Contradictions? What Contradictions? Harmonizing the Gospels.

In my previous post I indicated that one of the quotations of the Gospel of the Ebionites, as preserved in the writings of Epiphanius, appears to represent some kind of harmonization of the Gospels, an attempt to explain how the three different versions of what the voice from heaven says at Jesus’ baptism can *all* be right (since the voice says different things in each of the three Gospels).  Solution: the voice spoke *three* times, saying something different each time (!). This way of solving discrepancies in the Gospels has persisted through the ages.  Most people don’t realize that it goes way back to the early church.  I’ll say more about that eventually.  For now I want to say something about it in modern times. When I was in college – as a good hard-core fundamentalist who did not think there could be any real discrepancies in the Gospels (since they were inspired by God, which means there could be no mistakes, which means there could be no contradictions) – I was an expert at [...]

2023-09-05T17:34:44-04:00September 13th, 2023|Canonical Gospels, Christian Apocrypha|
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