I’m getting very excited about the upcoming remote conference I’ll be hosting next week, Sept. 23-24. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, and here I thought I could give you a better taste of what it will involve.
It is called “New Insights into the New Testament” and will entail ten 50-minute lectures by ten top-level scholars on various aspects of the Gospels — all directed toward *non-scholars*. Each lecture will be followed by a live Q&A with attendees.
Below I give a brief summary of the lectures to whet your appetite. The event is not connected with the blog per se, except to the extent that I’m doing both things and many of you will be interested in it. For fuller information, about what it will be about and how to register go here: https://www.bartehrman.com/new-insights-conference/
The event will begin with a thirty-minute lecture (by me) that summarizes the history of modern biblical scholarship (600 years in 30 minutes!). And then this is the two-day line up.
Candida Moss (University Of Birmingham)
BAD REPUTATION: WHO WAS JESUS’S ACTUAL FAMILY?
Christian tradition makes lofty claims about the origins of Jesus, but the historical evidence is very different. While some people claimed that he was the Son of God, others thought he was the offspring of a construction worker named Joseph or even a Roman soldier. Some ancient critics implied that his mother was a sex worker. This lecture will look at the diverse traditions about Jesus’ family, assess their historical veracity, and ask: what do we actually know about Jesus’ background?
Dr. Hugo Méndez (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
UNLOCKING THE SYMBOLISM OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL
The Gospel of John contains many narratives and images not contained in other early accounts of the life of Jesus. These materials were deliberately crafted—invented—by the text’s author to symbolize the principal points of his ideology.
To help readers recognize this symbolism, this lecture will explore the practice of “reading John backwards”—that is, reading the gospel’s images in light of the teachings Jesus articulates in later sections of the book, especially the Farewell Discourse (chs. 13–17). Experimenting with this mode of reading John, we will come to appreciate the intricate design of the text and, above all, the remarkable creativity of its author.
Dr. James Tabor (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
MOVING THE GOALPOST: MARK’S “SIGN” OF THE END AS A FAILED PROPHECY
In our earliest version of the “Synoptic Apocalypse,” found in Mark 13, Jesus is asked “Tell us when will these things be and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished” (Mk 13:4). Accordingly, with a rare but cryptic admonition to the reader, the author of Mark reveals “the sign” in v. 14—“When you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be . . .” and follows it up with a final apocalyptic warming: “When you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, even at the very gates” (v.23).
Most interpreters find in these verses a clear reference to the summer of 70 CE, when general Titus completed the siege and partial destruction of Herodian Jerusalem. However, rather than the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds with great power and glory, fulfilling Daniel 7:14, Rome—whom many were understanding as the “Fourth beast,” was hardly destroyed but flourished as never before. This is one of our most explicit examples of “prophecy failing” in the period. Matthew and Luke, using Mark as a narrative base, boldly take up the task of rewriting and recasting this failure as success.
Dr. Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS: EXPLORING JERUSALEM’S SACRED SITES
Archaeology enables us to reconstruct with a great degree of accuracy the city of Jerusalem as it appeared in the first century CE, where Jesus spent his final days on earth.
This slide-illustrated lecture provides an overview of key sites associated with Jesus in Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount; the Lithostratos pavement and Arch of Ecce Homo; and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We also consider the evidence for the historicity of the traditions associating Jesus with some of these sites.
Dr. Dale Allison (Princeton Theological Seminary)
ECHOES OF ANTIQUITY: OLD TESTAMENT THREADS WOVEN INTO THE GOSPELS
This is a talk about the profound intertextuality of the gospels. In it Dr. Dale Allison explores the transfiguration as a replay of Mount Sinai, the Moses typology in Matthew 1-7, the feeding of the 5000 drawing from 2 Kings 4 and Psalm 23, the enigma of John 1:51 with Jacob’s ladder, and the echoes of David and the Absalom revolt in Gethsemane.
He will include in his analysis contemporary examples of allusions in MLK’s speeches, advertising, movies, and music.
Dr. Robyn Walsh (University of Miami)
READING BETWEEN THE LINES: LITERACY, AUTHORSHIP, AND THE GOSPELS
Tradition holds that the canonical gospels were written anonymously on behalf of various communities of early Christians. Thought to be tasked with recording shared oral traditions, these authors are treated as little more than spokespersons for their assumed churches, despite the fact their writings show keen engagement with the popular genres, subject matters, and literature of the age.
This lecture will discuss what we know about how writers produced and shared their work with each other in antiquity, with a focus on what we can tell about the relative education, training, and techniques of the gospel authors. We will also discuss how certain assumptions in the field of biblical studies have led us astray in how we approach this literature and think together about how we might forge new ways of reading these texts in the future.
Dr. Mark Goodacre (Duke University)
HOW EMPTY WAS THE TOMB? EXAMINING THE BURIAL & RESURRECTION STORIES IN THE CONTEXT OF ANCIENT TOMBS
The term “empty tomb” is absent from the earliest Christian literature. Why is this? Could it be that the early Christians knew something about early Judean tombs that we are forgetting?
When the gospel narratives are considered alongside the multiple excavations of first century Jerusalem tombs, many features fall neatly into place, including the rolling of the stone, the witness of the women, the stress on where Jesus’ body was laid, and the notion that this was a tomb in which no one had been laid. The question that should be asked is not, “Was the tomb empty?” but “How empty was the tomb?”
Dr. Jennifer Knust (Duke University)
THE WOMAN TAKEN INTO ADULTERY: HOW READERS RESHAPED THE GOSPELS
For two millennia Christians all over the world have loved the story of the woman taken in adultery, however they first heard it. Though invariably present in practice, the movement of the story in and out of Gospel books reveals the active involvement of readers in deciding what a Gospel should be.
Tracing the history of this story in manuscripts, art, and printed books, this lecture explores both what this story has meant and also the implications of its enduring textual instability for Christian conceptions of biblical authority.
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine (Vanderbilt Divinity School)
JESUS AND WOMEN: DISTINGUISHING HISTORY FROM APOLOGETIC
That Jesus was a first-century feminist amid a Jewish world that made the Taliban look progressive, a belief still proclaimed in churches both liberal and conservative, is not only historically inaccurate, it is one of several antisemitic tropes that remain in popular preaching and teaching.
This presentation, using the Gospels and other literary and archaeological sources, recovers the diverse roles of first-century CE Jewish women and resituates Jesus in terms of an historically grounded understanding of gender and sexuality. The result is good news for both Jews and Christians.
Dr. Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
WHEN GOD RIDICULED JESUS: THE ORIGINAL TEXT OF MARK 15:34
This lecture will deal with a question almost no one has ever asked: Was God laughing at Jesus while he was being crucified? In most ancient manuscripts of Mark 15:34, Jesus’ final words are his familiar cry of desolation: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But some manuscripts present the verse very differently. In them, Jesus cries out: “My God, my God, why have you ridiculed me?” What a difference a word makes! Could that be what Mark originally wrote?
Some scholars have argued that it is, and that scribes who could not imagine God ridiculing his son changed the text. Other scholars argue just the opposite, that scribes changed the word “forsake” to “ridicule.” But why would scribes want to say God was mocking Jesus? In either case, somebody altered the text! But who? And why? We can never be absolutely certain what the original text was, but scholars do have criteria for deciding, and it is important to understand what the evidence is – both here and in the thousands of other places where our New Testament manuscripts differ from one another. How do we know what a New Testament author wrote and why scribes changed the original wording?
Interested? Again, here’s where you can go to find more: https://www.bartehrman.com/new-insights-conference/