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Other “Unknown” Sayings of Jesus

Here are now some more “agrapha” (sayings of Jesus not found in any of the surviving Gospels; I say more about "agrapha" in the previous post).  These ones are found in writings of church fathers, who appear to have had access to Gospels unavailable to us, or at least to have heard non-canonical sayings of Jesus in some other way.  (You will be able to find info on each church father/writing mentioned pretty easily online) *****************************  Papias (according to Irenaeus Against Heresies 5. 33. 3-4) Thus the elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, remembered hearing him say how the Lord used to teach about those times, saying: “The days are coming when vines will come forth, each with ten thousand boughs; and on a single bough will be ten thousand branches.  And indeed, on a single branch will be ten thousand shoots and on every shoot ten thousand clusters; and in every cluster will be ten thousand grapes, and every grape, when pressed, will yield twenty-five measures of wine. [...]

2024-04-04T10:07:39-04:00April 13th, 2024|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

April Gold Q&A: Ask Away!

Hey Gold and Platinum members, Time to jump in on the April Gold Q&A; my plan is to record it some time next weekend. If you have a question -- and I bet you do -- send it along!  To do so, do NOT reply on a comment here, but zap an email to Diane at  [email protected]. DEADLINE: Please get your question in by next Friday (04/19/2024) at midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone). Shorter and to-the-pointer questions are more likely to be picked.  Ask accordingly.

2024-04-09T14:27:39-04:00April 12th, 2024|Public Forum|

Did People Have Time for Jesus? – a Platinum Post from Doug Wadeson, MD.

There is nothing better than a guest blog post that flat-out disagrees with me!  And here we have one.  Is it plausible that Jesus could have had large crowds gathering together to hear his preaching in rural Galilee?  I say: Not really.   Platinum blog member Doug Wadeson says: Oh yes! Here's his post.  What do you think?   ****************************** On those few occasions when I have challenged something Dr. Ehrman has said he can usually shoot me down pretty quickly based on his range and depth of knowledge.  But I am going to try again. Dr. Ehrman has suggested that one reason the stories of Jesus attracting and preaching to large crowds are unrealistic is because most people were too busy during the day eking out a living to be able to spend time listening to his sermons.  I have also heard him suggest that Jesus would have been too busy working as a laborer in Nazareth to have the time to travel to the city of Sepphoris, about 4 miles from Nazareth.  The significance [...]

2024-04-08T16:13:16-04:00April 12th, 2024|Public Forum|

Ever Hear of an Agraphon? An “Unwritten” Saying of Jesus?

To my surprise, I've never talked about the "agrapha" of Jesus before on the blog.   It's about time I did!  This is an intriguing topic connected with the teachings of Jesus known to almost precisely No One!!  (I'd bet a case of fine French wine that your pastor -- if you've ever had one, in any kind of church whatsoever  -- wouldn't be able to tell you what it's all about! Welcome to the world of the insiders. Here is what I say about the agrapha (plural of agraphon) in the book I published with my colleague Zlatko Pleše, The Other Gospels (Oxford, 2014). ****************************** The term “agrapha” has traditionally been applied to a group of “unrecorded” sayings allegedly delivered by the historical Jesus.  The term is not altogether apt, since technically speaking these sayings have indeed been recorded--otherwise we would have no access to them.  And so the term is more normally taken to mean sayings of Jesus that are not found in the canonical Gospels.  Even this definition is problematic however, since it privileges [...]

2024-04-04T10:35:46-04:00April 11th, 2024|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|

Is the Paul of Acts at Odds with the Paul of His Own Letters?

Here I continue my few remarks on the differences between Paul’s proclamation as recorded in the speeches he gives in the book of Acts and the views he sets forth in his own letters.  Again, this is taken from my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (Oxford, 2006).   ****************************** Further contrasts between what Paul says about his proclamation and what Acts says about it can be seen in the first major speech Paul delivers in Acts, on the first of his three missionary journeys in the book, in the town of Antioch, Pisidia (central Asia Minor).  Paul and his companion Barnabas arrive in town, and on the Sabbath they go to the synagogue for worship with their fellow Jews.  As outside guests, they are asked if they have anything to say to the congregation.  Paul stands up and delivers a long sermon (Acts 13:16-42).  He addresses his hearers as “Israelites,” and gives them a brief summary of the history of the Jewish people, down to the time of King David.  He then [...]

2024-04-04T10:39:39-04:00April 10th, 2024|Acts of the Apostles, Paul and His Letters|

Is the Message of Paul in Acts the Same as the Message of Paul According to Paul?

In September I'm going to be hosting an online conference of Bible scholars discussing their work for laypeople at a level that most anyone will be able to follow easily.  This will be the second of our conferences, "New Insights into the New Testament" (if you don't know about the first one from this past year, focused on the Gospels, you can learn about it here: New Insights into the New Testament Conference).  The topic will be The Life, Letters, and Legends of Paul, and we'll have 8 or 10 scholars making presentations with Q&A for each. We'll be announcing the course later (date, etc.), but just now as I've started thinking about it, I've been reflecting on some of the issues involved with trying to figure out what Paul actually preached.  In addition to his hints and statements in his surviving letters, we have actual speeches allegedly delivered by him in the book of Acts in the NT.  But do these accurately reflect what he really said? I've addressed the question on and off [...]

2024-04-04T10:54:51-04:00April 9th, 2024|Acts of the Apostles, Paul and His Letters|

My Favorite Fragment of a Lost Gospel. Is It the Gospel of Peter??

One of the most captivating tiny fragments of a lost Gospel discovered in modern times came from a trash heap excavated from the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, one of many thousands of manuscript fragments found there, some of them Christian but most of them non-Christian (most of which were non-literary texts, that is, personal letters, land deeds, divorce certificates, bills of sale, etc.). Did this fragment come from Gospel of Peter? I've taken two posts to explain what the Gospel of Peter is, in order to set up this particular post.  If you haven't read the earlier posts, that's fine.  You'll still get this one.  If you have read them, even finer! As I pointed out in the earlier , the "Gospel of Peter" that we have today, which was discovered in 1886, is, unfortunately, only a portion – the only surviving portion – of what was once a complete Gospel.  But was it a complete Gospel? Or was it a passion Gospel (like the later Gospel of Nicodemus) that gave an account only [...]

2024-04-02T11:58:15-04:00April 7th, 2024|Public Forum|

What We Knew about the Gospel of Peter Before We Had the Gospel of Peter

This is the second of my two posts on the Gospel of Peter.  When the fragment that we now have was discovered by archaeologists in a cemetery in Egypt in 1886, it was almost immediately recognized as the Gospel of Peter, not because it had a title on it, but because it fit so well a description of the Gospel in the writings of Eusebius, the early church historian. In two places in his ten-volume history of Christianity (from Jesus to his own day around 300 CE) Eusebius mnentions the book twice as one of the writings not accepted by the church as Scripture (Church History, 3. 3. 2; 3. 25. 6).  And on one other occasion, Eusebius discusses the book at some length, in order to show why it had been excluded from consideration from the canon. The story involves Serapion, a bishop of Antioch at the end of the second century.  Based on an account he had read from Serapion’s own hand, Eusebius indicates that Serapion had first-hand knowledge of the [...]

An Unusually Large “Fragment” of a Lost Gospel: The Gospel of Peter

I've been doing a thread on Lost Gospels as these are represented by fragments of manuscripts that have been discovered and by quotations in the writings of church fathers. I was getting ready to post my favorite one today and then I wondered: Have I talked about that one before on the blog? Turns out, yes! Some years ago. It is a fragment that MAY be a lost portion of the also otherwise also lost Gospel of Peter.  The Gospel of Peter is not *completely* lost: we have a chunk of it.  But how large a chunk, we can't really say.  I've talked about it on the blog several times, but have decided that I need to say something about it again, to make sense of the fragment that will be coming in a later post. And to talk about the Gospel of Peter itself will require a couple of posts.  So here's the first. For my money, this is one of our most interesting ancient non-canonical Gospels.  As I indicated, we [...]

2024-04-02T11:48:49-04:00April 4th, 2024|Public Forum|

Is That a Portion of a Famous Lost Gospel?

Here is an intriguing and mysterious fragment of an ancient Gospel (that is to say: the manuscript of this book was entirely lost, EXCEPT for this little bit that just happened to turn up).  I’ll bet my bottom dollar (but none of my other dollars) that you will think it is a fragment of one of the Gospels of the New Testament.  WRONG!   It is a clever combination of various Gospel accounts into one narrative, a “Gospel Harmony.” Scholars have long debated: is it a portion of the most famous ancient Gospel Harmony of them all, the massive work known as the Diatessaron (I’ll explain below), which we are desperate to get our hands on but probably never will?  (It has been completely lost; no manuscripts survive). Here's the tiny fragment of the something we have, with a discussion to follow:  Both the translation (it’s mine) and the introduction (slightly edited) are taken from my book, done with Zlatko Pleše, The Other Gospels (Oxford University Press, 2014).  There you can also find translations [...]

Was Jesus Opposed to Women and Childbirth? The Lost Gospel of the Egyptians

Now here are some conversations between Jesus and one of his women followers I bet you’ve never seen before! When Salome asked, “How long will death prevail?” the Lord replied “For as long as you women bear children.”  But he did not say this because life is evil or the creation wicked; instead he was teaching the natural succession of things; for everything degenerates after coming into being.  (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 3, 45, 3) Why do those who adhere more to everything other than the true gospel rule not cite the following words spoken to Salome?  For when she said, “Then I have done well not to bear children” (supposing that it was not necessary to give birth), the Lord responded, “Eat every herb, but not the one that is bitter.”  (Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 3, 66, 1-2) And when the Savior said to Salome, “Death will last as long as women give birth,” he was not denigrating birth -- since it is, after all, necessary for the salvation of those who believe.  (Clement [...]

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