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Blog Dinner, Waynesville NC, Feb 7. Anyone Interested?

I'm going to be off to Waynesville next week  for some time away from the hustle and bustle of my normal routine (actually, now that I think about it, what *is* bustle?), to work on the next book.  And I've decided, HEY, time for a Blog Dinner!  Anyone want to come?   It's a chance to shoot the breeze with others about whatever strikes your fancy. Wednesday, February 7, 6:30 pm, place TBD (in Waynesville). The table will be limited to 8 (so we can actually all talk), so that means me and 7 others. The only requirements for attendance to the dinner would be that (a) you are a blog member; (b) you pay your own way – both getting to the event and your meal itself.  Otherwise:  no expense, no requirement, and no expectations, apart from having a scintillating evening together. If you want to come and know for sure you can, zap me a note ([email protected]). Do so right away: if past experience is any guide, the table will fill rather quickly.   I [...]

2024-01-31T21:14:32-05:00January 31st, 2024|Public Forum|

In Support of Religious Studies at a Major University

How dispensible is Religious Studies to the mission of a modern university? To the mutual chagrin of the faculty colleagues in my department, we recently learned that the chancellor of one our affiliate schools, UNC Greensboro, was considering closing down their own very fine Department of Religious Studies ( the UNC "system" has 16 public universities, over which there is a President; each university has its own Chancellor as its chief executive officer). We have signed petitions in support of the department, and several of us have written letters to explain our support. I thought it might be interesting for blog readers to see mine, since it explains why I consier Religious Studies (as a discipline) significant for university education.  There's a lot more that I could say, of course, but that would take a book, not a letter. In any event, we are hopeful that the message gets through, since all of us understand how imporant the academic study of religion is, especially in our times. ******************************   January 23, 2024   Dear Chancellor [...]

2024-01-26T10:34:17-05:00January 31st, 2024|Public Forum|

How to Sugarcoat Scripture but Seem Sophisticated. Final Guest Post by Jill Hicks-Keeton

It's amazing how committed New Testament scholars often try to tame the Bible, making it upbeat and relevant for today when, on the surface, it affirms views that most of us, when we're honest about it, simply can't abide.  And not just the Old Testament celebration of slaughter (those damn Canaanites) and execution (for, say, disobeying parents) but also the New Testament (and not just the grotesque torture and annihilations of Revelation).  Jill Hicks-Keeton, professor of Religious Studies at Oklahoma, deals with how evangelical Christians (one could pick other groups!) try to whitewash the Bible in her book Good Book: How White Evangelicals Save the Bible to Save Themselves.   This now is Jill's third and final guest post for us on the topic. Once again, she names names. Any comments?  Bring 'em on! ****************************** The ancient people who wrote the texts that would become “the Bible” lived in patriarchal societies. Modern Bible readers who see these texts as scriptural and who also deem patriarchy an undesirable way to order society have a problem to solve: [...]

We Need a Blog Volunteer! Do You Have Experience With Non-profit Taxes?

A major part of the success of the blog is the corps of faithful volunteers who do a variety of tasks, some to make the blog much better and some to make it even possible.   The only perk that volunteers get, in addition to knowing they've helped advance the spread of biblical knowledge to a wider audience and raised significant funds for charity in doing so, is a monthly webinar with me on a topic of their choice.  Those are a blast.   But for the most part, volunteers volunteer because they believe in the cause and are unusually generous human beings. We need another volunteer, someone who is qualified to file our state and federal taxes. We are, as you know, a non-profit, and our long-devoted and highly-capable books-person has recently had to bow out from the position.  We need someone with experience in this kind of thing.  Anyone with experience will not find ours a tough-case.   You interested? If so, please email us at [email protected] to let us know, and tell us a bit about [...]

2024-01-28T12:26:59-05:00January 28th, 2024|Public Forum|

How To Make the New Testament Non-Patriarchal. Good Luck with *That* One. Guest post by Jill Hicks-Keeton

I'm very pleased to post this second contribution by Jill Hicks-Keeton, professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, and an author who does not appreciate "experts" who try to explain away the problems of the Bible (e.g., with respect to women) and sees no need to pull her punches!  This is an unusually effective and interesting instance; here she reveals the the flaws of a recent attempt by a  New Testament scholar to make Paul patriarchally palatable.  She names names. The post is an adaptation from her recently published Good Book: How White Evangelicals Save the Bible to Save Themselves.  ****************************** In my last post, I introduced the concept of Bible benevolence, which is the rhetorical and intellectual work that people do to make ancient texts in the Bible square with modern moral sensibilities. The Bible is not good by itself. People have to make it so. My recent book, Good Book: How White Evangelicals Save the Bible to Save Themselves, uses white evangelical Protestants in the U.S. as a case study to illustrate [...]

Making the Bible Benevolent: Guest Post by Jill Hicks-Keeton

Is the Bible "Good News" for everyone, or, does it just seem good to those who want it to be? And how do readers make it good in places that on any honest reading are not (think violence and the treatment of women and slaves).  Jill Hicks-Keeton, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sourthern California, has recently published an intriguing book that is highly controversial in some circles (those who do what she describes) and a breath of fresh air in another, an analysis of how evangelical Christians work to make the Bible not just acceptable but good through and through.  Her study is called The Good Book: How White Evangelicals Save the Bible To Save Themselves.  (Available here:  Good Book: How White Evangelicals Save the Bible to Save Themselves: Hicks-Keeton, Jill: 9781506485850: Books) I've asked Jill to talk about the book in a couple of posts on the blog.  Here's the first, with a teaser for the second! ****************************** Millions of Americans report understanding the Bible as the Word of [...]

Atonement Doctrine – A Platinum Post by Manuel Fiadeiro

Here is an interesting reflection on the doctrine of the atonement by Platinum member Manuel Fiadeiro, for you other platinum members.  What do you think?  Do you agree with him?  Disagree?  Have an answer to his final pondering? Remember, as a Platinum member you too are allowed to make a post for other Platinums.  Do you have anything you'd like to reflect on?  Go for it! ****************************** Is it still acceptable the doctrine of atonement? The doctrine of atonement is explicitly mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3 “Christ died for our sins”. Bart, in his lectures on Paul, gives Paul’s two Models of salvation, or two views of the atonement doctrine: The Participation Model represents the belief of the Catholic Church. The Judicial Model represents the belief of the Protestant Churches. Those are distinct interpretations of “our sins”. The Participation Model was defined by Augustine. Adam and Eve brought Sin and Death into the world by disobeying God, eating the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. So, every human [...]

2024-01-19T11:57:53-05:00January 26th, 2024|Public Forum|

Paul, the Apostate: a Platinum Post by Manuel Fiadeiro

Was Paul responsible for the split between gentile Christians and Jews?  Did he have regular visits with Jesus after he converted?  Did he consult the Alexandrian philosopher Philo about the issue? These are some of the controversial issues raised in this this guest post by Platinum Member Manuel Fiadeiro.  Check it out.  What do you think? Blog members at the platinum level are allowed to submit posts for other Platinum members only; after several come in, we take a vote and the winner gets posted to the entire blog for all to see.  Manuel's is our current winner.  If you'd like the same opportunity, check out the Platinum membership tier and its various perks, and give it a thought! For now here's Manuel on Paul: ******************************** 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 [...]

How’s the Christian World Doin’ These Days with the Ethics of Jesus?

Jesus had a distinctive ethical view, significantly different from the ethics propounded and followed by most people in his world.  And, well, by most people in ours.  Even some (many? most?) who claim to be Jesus' followers.  Or so it appears to me when I look at what Jesus actually teaches and observe what some (many?) modern Christians both do and say.    I've spent the past five posts summarizing what I plan to cover in my book The Origins of Altruism: How the Teachings of Jesus Transformed the Conscience of the West.  If history holds the publisher will be giving it a different title, and at this point for me the title's not the main thing.  Writing it is! The foci are Jesus' teachings on love, charitable giving, and forgiveness, how these teachings contrasted with those commonly followed in the Roman world at the time, how they were modified and softened by his own followers after his death, and how they nonetheless came to play an oversized role in the understanding of "how should we [...]

2024-01-22T11:43:32-05:00January 24th, 2024|Book Discussions, Reflections and Ruminations|

When Is Forgiveness not Forgiveness?

Does love really "mean never having to say I'm sorry"?  Is "unconditional forgiveness" possible?  Is it even Christian?  Is forgiveness itself always possible, conceivable, feasible, expected, required, helpful?  Actually, what is forgiveness? These are questions people often ask.  When they ask what Jesus thought about the matter they usually get it wrong.  And as it turns out, so did his own disciples.  So I'll be arguing in my book, tentatively titled The Origins of Altruism. Here's another extract from my sketch of the book as it looks at this point in the pre-writing stage.... ****************************** Part Four:  Interpersonal Forgiveness (ch. 6 on Greek and Roman World; ch. 7 on Jesus and his followers) Whereas “charity” is the manifestation of agapē principally to outsiders in need, “forgiveness” is its manifestation principally to those with whom one is in close contact. The importance of “forgoing anger” (a very broad and – as I’ll argue – somewhat problematic definition of forgiveness) was widely acknowledged in the Greek and Roman worlds.  But the conditions under which it was possible [...]

Thoughts on Cosmology, a Platinum Post From Charles Hawkins

Like many of you, I'm fascinated by how ancient people understood the world / universe -- the "cosmos" -- and by what modern cosmologist who actually do the science say about it.  Only rarely can someone speak confidently about both topics, wildly different as they are.  So I'm pleased to publish this Platinum guest post by Charles Hawkins, which discusses cosmology in antiquity and modernity and the transition betwixt them, all in relation to the NT.  In ONE post!  I hope you enjoy it!  Charles will be happy to hear your reactions. ****************************** Understanding cosmology, that is, our view of the structure of the Earth and its place in the universe, is an essential part of understanding the writings of both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian documents of the New Testament.  More importantly, this understanding is a key (there are others) to working out how if at all these writings can be relevant to our era.  Members of this blog may well be aware of much of what follows, but I’ve thought for some [...]

2024-02-03T09:54:46-05:00January 22nd, 2024|Public Forum|

Love in Action: Christian Views of Charitable Giving

As I indicated in my previous post, the ethics of Christian love (and the very term used for it) differed from what could be found broadly in the Greek and Roman worlds.  This different understanding of love had concrete practical implications, especially in how early Christians understood charitable giving. That will be the next part of my book, The Origins of Altruism, as I explain here as I continue to extract from the initial sketch of the book I've written for myself. ****************************** Part Three: Charitable Giving (chs. 6, on the Greco-Roman world, and 7, on Jesus and his later followers) Since love in the teachings of Jesus and then agapē in the early Christian movement was not an emotion, connected with personal feelings or passion but a kind of disinterested activity in relation to others, including strangers, its most concrete manifestation involved providing resources for those in need. In the broader Greek and Roman worlds, virtually all the discussion of personal resources (money and goods) focused on the very wealthy.  Moral philosophy was written by elites [...]

Is Christian Love Different from Love?

One of the most talked about and least understood teachings within Christianity is the idea of love.  Do you want some evidence of the misunderstanding?  Read 1 Corinthians 13, the "love chapter," in its original context (coming between, well, 1 Corinthians 12 and 14!  A little consideration almost no one has thought about!), and then consider it in relation to the 498 times you've heard it in weddings.  I'm all for it's being read at weddings! But, uh, is Paul talking about marital bliss?  Uh, nope, not at *all*..... I am in the middle of a thread excerpting a sketch of my book (which I'm still researching; won't start writing for a while).  So far I've talked about what it's about.  Now I'm getting into some detail, by describing the book chapter by chapter -- including the opening bit about Christian ethics and the opening section that deals with love in the Christian tradition. ******************************  The book will comprise an Introduction and four main parts containing two chapters each. Introduction (ch. 1) I’ll [...]

Reminder: My Course on the Gospel of Matthew. This Weekend!

      I'm getting pumped about/for my new online course on the Gospel of Matthew, this coming weekend (Feb 3-4), and want to make sure you know about it before ... well, the End is Near.   I have the lectures all drawn up, the Powerpoints made, and now it's just a bit of fine tuning before we go live.  If you haven't signed up, but think you might be interested, check it out here: The course will be eight lectures, four on Saturday and four on Sunday.  I'll be covering tons of stuff I've never discussed on the blog or, as it turns out, in any public lecture.  Go figure.  Those who sign up for the course will have life-time access to it (we'll publish it with Suggestions for Further Reading, Questions for Reflection, and so on, and participants will receive it automatically). Please remember, you can get a discount on the course by using the code BLOG5.   A portion of the proceeds of the course will be donated to the blog.   Here are [...]

2024-01-31T21:26:59-05:00January 19th, 2024|Public Forum|

The Fate of Jesus’ Ethics after His Death

Did Jesus' followers actually follow his teachings?  In my previous post I pointed out that Jesus had a radical ethic, a view based on the teachings of Hebrew Scripture but radicalized because of his understanding of the apocalyptic event very soon to occur with the end of history as he knew it.  As we know from history, those who expect the End soon can behave in extreme ways (sell the farm!).   Jesus' teachings, as I indicated, are, in shorthand, "prophetic ethics on apocalyptic steroids." How did his followers carry on his teachings?  That's what I deal with here, as I continue to excerpt a sketch of my book that I myself wrote for me myself (I won't start writing the book itself for some months probably.  Still have work to do).  Here I explain the book's basic plotline, theses, and organization. ****************************** The ultimate argument of my book is that after Jesus’ death, as Christianity expanded throughout the Roman world, eventually to conquer it, converts to the new faith naturally accepted and adopted [...]

The Origins of Altruism: My Next Book as It Stands Now

My book I'm working on now has gone through significant transformations since I first conceived of it a few years ago.  I am at the stage now (finally!) where I really think I know what it's going to be.  It started out as a book dealing with the history of charitable giving, morphed into a book on the broader subject of ethics as taught by Jesus, moved onto the specific question of how the Christian concept of "love" differed in significant ways from what could be found generally in the Greek and Roman worlds, shifted to add a discussion of how the Christian idea of "forgiveness" also differed fron what was found elsewhere and ... and ended up where it is now.  It is really a book about altruism in the Christian tradition and its effect on the ethical views and practices of western culture. My tentative title is:  The Origins of Altruism: How the Teachings of Jesus Transformed the Conscience of the West.  As always, I have no idea if my publisher will go with it or [...]

I’m Going to the Greek Islands. Interested in Joining Me?

Another travel opportunity has come up for me this summer, a tour of some of the Greek Islands on June 10-20.  These are some of my favorite places on planet earth.  I'll be giving lectures, enjoying the sites, and hanging out with the folk who come. Needless to say, this will be really good.  If it's in the range of your possibilites, check it out. Below you'll see a brochure with all the details.  Here's what I say about it there: ************** We will be island-hopping to some of the most scenic sites in the world – stunningly gorgeous landscapes and seascapes, incredibly beautiful villages and towns, museums, monasteries, churches, and archaeological sites: some of the oldest remnants of western civilization. Some of the places we’ll be going will be new for me.  For many years I’ve wanted to visit Andros, unusually dramatic and filled with interesting villages, monasteries, and churches.  And Naxos (where Dionysus, the Greek god of wine was born.  Take note!), boasting significant ancient remains, old Christian churches, and impressive Venetian architecture: [...]

2024-01-15T13:49:51-05:00January 16th, 2024|Public Forum|

Our Commitment to Charity

My next book will be dealing with how the teachings of Jesus transformed the understanding of what it meant to live a good life and to be a good person in the Western world.  One of the most important areas I'll be focusing on is Jesus' emphasis on going out of one's way to help those in need -- not just family and friends, but even complete strangers.  What we think of as privately funded charities, governmental support of the needy, and individual assistance for those we hear about virtually didn't exist in the pagan/polytheistic world of the Roman empire before then.   It exists big time now, and it almost certainly would not have happened apart from the influence of Jesus' followers, as Christianity became the dominant religion of the West and transformed culture, society, and government.  And now this commitment to help others in need seems rooted in our DNA (well, obviously not in all of us!), whether we identify as Christian or not.    The original motivation for the Bart Ehrman Blog was [...]

2024-01-08T10:47:06-05:00January 13th, 2024|Public Forum|

How Jesus “Fills” Scripture “Full” in Matthew

In the last post I indicated one way that Matthew understood Jesus to have fulfilled Scripture – a prophet predicted something about the messiah (to be born of a virgin; to be born in Bethlehem, etc.) and Jesus did or experienced what was predicted.   There’s a second way as well, one with considerable implications for understanding Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus.  Here’s how I talk about it in my textbook on the New Testament.  ******************************  The second way in which Jesus "fulfills" Scripture is a little more complicated.  Matthew portrays certain key events in the Jewish Bible as foreshadowings of what would happen when the messiah came.  The meaning of these ancient events was not complete until that which was foreshadowed came into existence.  When it did, the event was "fullfilled," that is, "filled full of meaning." As an example from the birth narrative, Matthew indicates that Jesus' family flees to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod "in order to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, `Out of [...]

2024-01-04T13:51:50-05:00January 11th, 2024|Canonical Gospels|

What Does It Actually Mean to “Fulfill” Scripture?

I’ve begun a short thread dealing with how Matthew understood and interpreted and used Scripture.   Here is a fuller exposition, the first part of which comes straight from my textbook on the NT and the second part straight from my noggin to the keyboard.  ******************************  What is perhaps most striking about Matthew's account is that it all happens according to divine plan.  The Holy Spirit is responsible for Mary's pregnancy and an angel from heaven allays Joseph's fears.  All this happens to fulfill a prophecy of the Hebrew Scriptures (1:23).  Indeed, so does everything else in the narrative: Jesus' birth in Bethlehem (5:2), the family's flight to Egypt (2:14) Herod's slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem (2:18) and the family's decision to relocate in Nazareth (2:23).  These are stories that occur only in Matthew, and they are all said to be fulfillments of prophecy. Matthew's emphasis that Jesus fulfills the Scripture does not occur only in his birth narrative.  It pervades the entire book.  On eleven separate occasions (including those I have [...]

2024-01-11T21:30:06-05:00January 10th, 2024|Canonical Gospels|
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