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A Podcast of Interest to You! Guest post by Ian Mills and Laura Robinson

If you are interested in learning more about scholarship on the New Testament, but at a lay person’s level, this is the post for you!  It is about a podcast that might be (probably is) right up your alley, set up and run by two graduate students from Duke University who have worked with me over the past few years.

One of the real pleasures of teaching graduate students in New Testament/early Christianity at UNC is that Duke is just ten miles away, with its own graduate program.  The New Testament program at Duke program in New Testament has a different focus from ours here at at UNC.  To put it in the most simple terms, at UNC we have a more historically-focused approach and at Duke they have a more interpretation-focused approach.   Of course, you can’t do one without the other.  But I tend to teach historical topics to our students, with interpretation of texts as part of what we do; many of their classes are more focused on interpretation with history as the backdrop and corollary.

Neither approach is better than the other.  They are simply different.  But it is fantastic that the two programs are so close to one another.   Graduate students in one program can take seminars at the other, faculty member serve on committees in both places, there are reading groups with faculty and students from both places.  It’s an unusual and quite remarkable combination.

Two of the superb graduate students from Duke that I’ve had in my courses in recent years are Ian Mills and Laura Robinson.   Together they do a podcast devoted to New Testament studies that should appeal to virtually everyone on the blog, just the kind of thing that many (most!) of you would find incredibly helpful.

Laura and Ian have agreed to submit two posts to explain the New Testament Review podcast.  Here is the first one.  They will be happy to address your comments and answer your questions.



Blog Post #1

The New Testament Review

Ian Mills and Laura Robinson


What is the “Messianic Secret”? The “New Perspective on Paul”? Why is ‘gnosticism’ sometimes written in scare quotes? New Testament studies, like any discipline, relies on a shared vocabulary that can be obscure to outsiders and initiates. The interested reader may open an academic commentary or download a journal article to discover that the author is answering questions or critiquing positions they did not bother to articulate. The academic study of the New Testament has a long history that provides contemporary scholars with a set of working categories and conventions.

The New Testament Review podcast surveys influential works of scholarship in the field of New Testament studies in order to demystify scholarly language and trace the genealogy of on-going debates. In each episode, we review a single work of New Testament scholarship that has exerted some significant influence on the field. We discuss, first, the state of the field when the piece was written. Then, for the bulk of the episode, we summarize the work’s argument. Finally, we treat the reception of the piece in subsequent scholarship.

So, to take up one of our opening questions: What is the Messianic Secret? Our Episode #2 explains that William Wrede identified a motif of secrecy in the Gospel according to Mark which he termed Das Messiasgeheimnis or “the Messianic Secret.” Wrede argued that this motif could not be rooted in the activity of the historical Jesus and was, instead, imposed across the Jesus tradition to explain why Jesus himself never claimed to be the Messiah. Although Wrede’s explanation of this motif convinced few scholars, his identification of the motif itself and diagnosis of the need for an ideological (rather than historical) explanation is now widely accepted.

Secondly, what is the “New Perspective on Paul”? Our Episode #8 outlines EP Sanders’ groundbreaking study of grace, covenant, and law observance in Second Temple Judaism. Sanders demonstrates that ancient Jewish literature does not reflect the system of merit and guilt that interpreters had read into Paul’s polemic against “works of the law.” This, along with Krister Stendahl’s observation that Paul did not suffer from a troubled conscience (covered in Episode #1), constitute the fundamental insights of this “new perspective.”

Third, scholars often place ‘gnosticism’ in scare quotes because, as covered in Episode #29, Michael Williams and Karen King argue that the use of this term as a category for a variety of religious movements in antiquity implies a degree of similarity or kind of historical genealogy that is not supported by the evidence. In response to Williams and King, some scholars have nuanced their use of ‘gnostic’ to refer to a more specific group of Christians, while others have abandoned the term altogether.

There is a tension at the heart of the podcast: We (Laura Robinson and Ian Mills) started recording episodes while preparing together for comprehensive examinations. These exams require doctoral students to respond to a series of essay prompts at a fairly high level, incorporating relevant scholarship from the history of the field. We wanted the podcast to be a useful review of important scholarship for future doctoral students studying for their own comprehensive exams. The episodes are not, therefore, thematic surveys or introductions to key concepts – but reviews of a specific work of scholarship. At the same time, we wanted to make the field accessible to outsiders and initiates. The result is a narrow and detailed discussion of New Testament scholarship alongside an explanation of technical terms and methodological assumptions in everyday language.

We do not have a Bart Ehrman episode published yet – although a review of his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture is coming down the pipeline. In the meanwhile, readers of this blog will find discussions of Ehrman’s scholarship in our reviews of Walter Bauer’s Orthodoxy and Heresy (Episode # 26) and Hindy Najman’s Seconding Sinai (Episode #34). Alternatively, the podcast website (https://newtestamentreview.blogspot.com/) allows listeners to search through our back catalog of episodes by topic, text, or name.


Jesus in Scholarship and Film
Apology to the Blog



  1. Avatar
    Hngerhman  August 14, 2020

    Hi Laura & Ian –

    Big fan of the podcast! The way you guys distill, dissect and discuss the material is excellent, especially for interested lay persons like me who lack the time and the chops.

    Looking forward to the Orthodox Corruption episode. Perhaps you might even convince Dr Ehrman to join a podcast live sometime…

    Keep up the great work!

    • Avatar
      IanMills  August 14, 2020

      Thanks! I, for one, think that’s a great idea.

  2. Avatar
    Stephen  August 14, 2020

    Laura and Ian

    I discovered your YouTube channel after I saw your interviews with Shannon Q. I have enjoyed it very much not least for enabling me to find out what the classics of the field actually are! (The occasional critiques of Christian apologetics have not gone unappreciated either.)

    So here’s my question – Who has done or is doing the research on the figure of the Holy Spirit, especially how the HS became the third member of the Trinity? (If the definitive book hasn’t been written you will no doubt both wish to drop everything and get right on it.)

    Good luck to you in all your journeys!

  3. Avatar
    scissors  August 14, 2020

    Hey Ian and Laura

    Just read about the Podcast here although I recall your names from looking through a list of videos this morning re: Burridge’s argument that the Gospels are ancient biography. Talk about timing!
    If you don’t mind a question, I’ve heard that Wrede didn’t think the Messianic Secret worked very well if Mark was the first Gospel. Why is that?

    • Avatar
      IanMills  August 14, 2020

      I believe that Wrede thought Mark was the first gospel (at least of those extant). If you have information indicating otherwise, please point me in the right direction. …or maybe I’m misunderstanding the question?

      • LauraBRobinson
        LauraBRobinson  August 15, 2020

        Do you mean that the Messianic Secret wasn’t *kept* very well? If so – yes, part of the motif of the Messianic Secret is that no one actually keeps it. Jesus tells people not to talk about his miracles, but then they do it anyway. Wrede did not believe that asking people to keep secrets was a habit of the historical Jesus, though – it’s a theological and literary device in Mark’s Gospel.

  4. Robert
    Robert  August 14, 2020

    Listened to a few episodes; it’s a great podcast! But Ian (especially) is not always completely fair to the better two-source theorists. Is that because you’re at Duke and need to genuflect before Mark Goodacre? jk

    How does one listen to the podcasts live? I’ve only come across videos on YouTube.

    • Avatar
      IanMills  August 14, 2020

      Thank you for your kind words! I hope you find the podcast helpful. I do try very hard to be fair to Two Source Theorists. I think very highly of Kloppenberg, Downing, Derrenbacker, and others! I try to make it very clear that I believe the 2ST (unlike Griesbach) is a well regarded theory that is giving reasonable answers to real questions. I would welcome specific criticisms. Lastly, I chose Duke because I was already a Two Source Theorist — so my own thoughts on the matter are not attempts to appease Mark.

      The podcast isn’t broadcast live. That said, we host live discussion and Q/A on YouTube the night of each release. I hope you’ll join!

  5. Avatar
    Rthompsonmdog  August 15, 2020

    Terrific reviews of New Testament scholarship that an interested novice can appreciate, and Laura and Ian reviewed The Case For Christ. I believe I learned about the NT Review from Mark Goodacre’s NT Pod podcast.

    • Avatar
      IanMills  August 16, 2020

      Thanks! Mark Goodacre is the Podfather NT digital media.

  6. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  August 15, 2020

    Thank you Laura and Ian (and thank you Dr Ehrman for alerting us blog members who didn’t already know about it to the podcast). It sounds invaluable and I look forward to exploring the episode on the New perspective on Paul, (a topic I have always found difficult to get my head round).

  7. John4
    John4  August 15, 2020

    Thank you so much, Bart, for hosting Ian Mills and Laura Robinson’s guest post. As a rule, I prefer text to audio or video. But I will certainly make an exception for *this* sprightly young pair, lol! My kinda podcast/YouTube!

    I’ve enjoyed *many* of your guest posts, Bart. Many, many thanks for *all* that you do for us! <3

  8. Avatar
    vox_clamantis  August 16, 2020

    Excellent podcast! I’ve been enjoying this now for several weeks. What can you tell us about your special interests / expertise as you close in on your PhD? And Laura why do you skip out on the synoptic problem episodes so quickly? 😀

    • LauraBRobinson
      LauraBRobinson  August 16, 2020

      I actually don’t try to beg out! We recorded several of those early on when it was hard to have more than 2 people in our recording booth, but we’ve since graduated to recording individual audio tracks at our own houses. So at the time, it was more to make space for guests who would really crush the material but now there’s plenty of room for everyone.

  9. Avatar
    rwhershey  August 16, 2020

    Your YouTube channel’s first post, “The Synoptic Problem,” was concerned in part about whether the Q hypothesis is necessary, basically saying that Luke copied Matthew therefore Q doesn’t exist. It’s fine with me if Luke did copy Matthew, but eliminating Q leaves a polite yet persistent “yeah but so what?” in my mind.

    Ian basically says that posited Q material is actually “Matthean composition,” thus implicitly eliminating 2SH, but then acknowledges that “composition doesn’t mean he’s inventing this,” that Matthew was indeed drawing from some kind of source, though Ian’s proof is only a list of hypotheticals. But reason dictates, either there’s a second source or Matthew invented his material.

    So I ask, why eliminate Q and 2SH? I understand their legacy in academic discourse, but since a second source is there anyway, why not simply redefine them? Q is a sayings-source. That doesn’t have to change. Why can’t Matthew copy Mark and Q, and Luke copy Matthew? It seems tautological to say there is no Q and 2SH, but there still is a second source.

    Is this done simply to eliminate the academic legacy of Q and 2SH while having them both anyway, just under different labels?

    • Avatar
      IanMills  August 16, 2020

      There are a few different issues here.
      First, I need to clarify the distinction I was making with the terms “Matthean composition” and “invention.” By “composition” (in this context) I mean writing without a written source. I then clarified that identifying something as Matthean composition doesn’t mean that Matthew was “inventing” that story/saying. People write about lots of things that really happened without using literary sources. Thucydides (the Athenian general), for instance, probably didn’t have written sources for his history of the Peloponnesian War. His entire history is, therefore, Thucydidean composition. That doesn’t mean he invented all these events — he is just composing his account.

      • Avatar
        IanMills  August 16, 2020

        Second, I should clarify that “Q” is the name for a single, identifiable, reconstructable literary source lying behind the Mt/Lk double tradition. It’s not a catch-all for any number of possible literary sources lying behind any given tradition in the gospels. For example, certain scholars think that Luke copied the Lukan nativity from a separate source. These scholars may or may not believe in “Q.” This hypothetical nativity source is a separate issue from Q.

        For any passage under consideration, the historian needs some justification to posit a hypothetical literary source. Ancient authors (like the evangelists) are perfectly capable of writing stories without literary sources. We don’t posit a hypothetical literary source for every story in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or Thucydides’ history. We assume, for the most part, that new material in these books are compositions of the author.

        The fundamental question of the 2SH is what “justifies positing a single, identifiable, reconstructable literary source for Mt/Lk double tradition”? And advocates of the 2SH have a very good answer to this question! The same two-part answer is found in all the premiere 2SH advocates (e.g. Streeter, Klopenberg, Tuckett): 1) High verbatim agreement in double tradition requires a literary relationship and 2) Luke and Matthew are mutually ignorant. If both of these things are true, Luke and Matthew must have used some source that doesn’t survive in the text tradition.

        Farrer theorists completely agree with Point #1 (in fact, Goodacre’s “Too Good to be Q” observes that the verbatim agreement in double tradition is demonstrably TOO high for two sources to be independently reproducing a third source). The objection Farrer theorists raise to the 2SH is to point #2. We object that there is good reason to believe that Luke read Matthew (e.g. Luke copies over Matthew’s changes to Mark, editorial fatigue, etc…). If it is true that Luke used Matthew, there is no justification for positing a hypothetical literary source behind all the Mt/Lk double tradition because the verbatim agreement can be explained by Luke’s copying of Matthew.

        This doesn’t mean that Matthew didn’t ever use any literary sources for special Matthew or double tradition. It’s possible that he did (then Luke copied that). A historian would just need to provide some new justification for positing a literary source at any given point (as opposed to Matthew merely composing that passage).

        • Robert
          Robert  August 16, 2020

          IanMills: “Second, I should clarify that “Q” is the name for a single, identifiable, reconstructable literary source lying behind the Mt/Lk double tradition. It’s not a catch-all for any number of possible literary sources lying behind any given tradition in the gospels.”

          No. Maurice Casey, with his chaotic Aramaic substratum of Q, would have disagreed with your characterization of Q, right? And with many others who do not try to overly define Q.

          More importantly, while the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre-Mills hypothesis may do away with the logical necessity of Q, the raison-être for the hypothesis, what we do not know about the pre-gospel tradition/textual history greatly exceeds our ability to define parsimoniously anything and everything that existed prior to the synoptic gospels.

          Thus, when I speculate about the diachronic prehistory of the gospel text, I must consider two-source (Neirynck et al), four-source (Streeter et al), and Farrer et al theories as possible alternatives. To attempt to restrict options below at least those three is stupid, in my humble opinion. No offense, of course!

          • Avatar
            IanMills  August 16, 2020

            I don’t think anyone on either side of the debate would disagree that there were probably other written sources we can’t precisely reconstruct or confidently identify. Goodacre, for one, says as much explicitly. We’re not trying to “restrict options.” The 2SH v.s. Farrer argument is about whether or not we need to posit an identifiable hypothetical source to explain the Double Tradition.

            No one on any side of the debate is saying that other documents didn’t exist. Farrer theorists are saying that double tradition doesn’t justify positing a single, identifiable, reconstructable source (namely, Q) because Luke used Matthew.

            I’d note in parting that it’s not especially interesting to say merely that other sources probably existed. It’s certainly true — just as it’s probably true of lots of literature from antiquity — but we need some justification for positing a hypothetical source for any given passage since authors are also perfectly capable of freely composing. It is a virtue of the 2SH that it provided such an argument. It’s a good theory because certain patterns of data follow from it. Farrer theorists applaud all this. We just note that the data does not comport to their descriptions.

            Other proposed multi-source models theories the methodological virtues of the 2SH. You can propose a new hypothetical source if you like (I believe in a few myself) but historians don’t want to read other people’s speculations — we want arguments.

        • Robert
          Robert  August 17, 2020

          IanMills: “We’re not trying to ‘restrict options’.”

          Aren’t you? Aren’t you saying that something like Q, another written source (or group of sources) known to both Matthew and Luke and not used as closely by Mark probably did not exist in your opinion? If you are not saying that, then you’re accepting the possibility of such (a) hypothetical source(s). It is merely an hypothesis. While some Q theorists go way beyond this possible hypothesis and construct elaborate castles in the air, other two-source theorists are much more open to a range of hypothetical options and do not fall into that mote of improbably hypothetical sea monsters.

          Any and every attempt to reconstruct the diachronic prehistory of the text is hypothetical. When making such hypotheses, isn’t it best to consider all of the relatively probable options?

        • Avatar
          rwhershey  August 17, 2020

          Hi Ian, thanks for your very generous answer! I’ve got just a few quick follow-up questions:

          Do you want to eliminate Q because it is incompatible with the evidence in the text, or because you have a better explanation as to what constitutes the (non-literary) source?

          If you have better evidence of a non-literary source, what is that evidence? In other words, why is “not Q” better than Q? Regarding Matthew’s “composition,” in your lecture you say, “He may have invented stuff, he may have borrowed stuff, he may have had wells of oral tradition….” Is there a definite “this is what it is” rather than a “he may have”?

          If there’s not a convincing alternative to Q, and the objection to it is simply a matter of “it doesn’t seem to fit the evidence,” this is why I was advocating that Q be redefined. Quelle only means source, and the word source is not defined as being only literary, though of course its academic lineage is much as you describe.

          So in summary, “Matthew used Mark and ____.” If not Q, then what goes in that blank space?

          • Avatar
            IanMills  August 17, 2020

            I would say that “Matthew used Mark.” That doesn’t preclude other sources, but it doesn’t commit to any either.

            I don’t want to “eliminate Q.” I’m saying we don’t have any justification to posit a hypothetical source to explain the high verbatim agreement in double tradition. Is it possible that Matthew had a written source for some of that material — absolutely. But that wouldn’t be “Q” as scholars use the term. Also — and more importantly — historians don’t debate what is or isn’t possible. Is it possible that Trump won the popular vote and the DNC covered it up? Yes, it’s possible. But there is absolutely no reason to believe that it is true. Historians make arguments for what is most plausible. We know that authors write new material without written sources so if you want to argue that an evangelist used a written source for any given passage in a gospel, you need to give some justification.

  10. Robert
    Robert  August 16, 2020

    I hope you know that I was just kidding about the genuflecting before Mark Goodacre remark.

    How does one find out when a new episode is airing with the following live discussion and Q/A?

    • Avatar
      IanMills  August 16, 2020

      We plan to release a new podcast on the first Tuesday of every month and then host the AfterParty on YouTube that evening at 8pm Eastern. But the place to keep up-to-date and learn of any scheduling updates is the podcast’s official Twitter handle @NTReviewPod.

  11. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  August 17, 2020

    Your podcast is in my bookmarks now. It’ll be yet another resource during the cold and gloom of coming winter. A hot cuppa tea, podcast, lots of stuff to think about. Throw in books and music, and youtube videos on many subjects– what’s not to like?

  12. Avatar
    gbsinkers  August 17, 2020

    Thanks Bart for pointing us to this fantastic podcast. Laura and Ian, you are fabulous! I’ve listened to a half dozen episodes so far and love it. I’ve found I have to give it my full attention though. As a lay person it stretches my knowledge and vocabulary quite a bit and I like that.

  13. Robert
    Robert  August 17, 2020

    Comments and responses by Ian have been deleted.

  14. Robert
    Robert  August 19, 2020

    Bart: “Not sure what you mean!”

    There were some questions to Ian by a couple of members and his responses that were here the other day but have since been deleted. Ian emailed me about it–he thought maybe you or Steven might have deleted them?

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