Yesterday I posted an old final exam for my course Introduction to the New Testament.  And for your amusement, here is an exam for my course that I taught this semester, called the Birth of Christianity, which covered the developments within Christianity after the New Testament up through the conversion of Constantine.

See how you do!  And again, I wish I could grade your answers, but, alas….



The Birth of Christianity, Reli 208

Final Exam


This is exam is in three sections; you have three hours to complete it.  We suggest you spend no more than an hour on each section.

Section One:  Short Identification.  Write short answers up to 50 words on ten (and no more than ten) of the following.  Make your answers as detailed and informative as you can.

  1. Ebionites
  2. The Gospel of Peter
  3. Arius
  4. Apologists
  5. Theodosius I
  6. Tertullian
  7. The Great Persecution
  8. Thecla
  9. Donatism
  10. Asceticism
  11. Incarnation Christology
  12. Infancy Gospel of Thomas



Section Two:   First Essay.  Write an essay on the following topic.  Make it as detailed and informative as you can.

What can we know about the conversion of the emperor Constantine?  What are our sources of information?  How can we determine if it was a “genuine” conversion?  What difference did it make to the success of the Christian mission?


Section Three:   Second Essay.  Write an essay on the following topic.  Make it as detailed and informative as you can.

Choose one of the following texts and describe it in as much detail as you can:

    1. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
    2. The Proto-Gospel of James
    3. The Gospel of Mary
    4. The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter

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2023-04-24T12:47:50-04:00May 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|

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  1. AngeloB May 2, 2023 at 7:56 am

    I’m an essay writing specialist. I will definitely try it!

  2. GeoffClifton May 2, 2023 at 7:57 am

    Wow. Your students certainly need a very wide knowledge of both early NT Christianity and the Graeco-Roman world in general. I find that, because of the decline in classical studies in schools, many religious friends of mine have a good knowledge of the NT but not of the historical background, e.g. they will have no idea who the Roman Emperor was when Paul was writing his letters.

  3. fishician May 2, 2023 at 9:28 am

    2 questions: Why choose to ask about non-canonical gospels rather than the canonical ones, in re the birth of Xianity? And do you really have to read and grade all those essays?! Pass the No-Doz!

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:00 am

      The class focuses on Christianity in the 2-4th c.s, so we deal with non-canonical texts. Normally I have to do the grading, but this semester, thank the gods, I have a grad student grader! I look at exams that are problematic, that he has trouble handling, and that are “F’s”

  4. rburos May 2, 2023 at 11:30 am

    Well, I would fail it unless I took the class. It does give me an idea of what to study though.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:06 am

      Yup. the idea is to take the class! If this was common knowledge, I’d be out of a job.

  5. jhague May 2, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Is it the norm for final exams to be three hours now? I don’t remember that being the case 40 years ago! : )

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:07 am

      Yup! Ever since I”ve been teaching (but that’s just 39 years) (literally).

  6. Darnit143 May 2, 2023 at 1:43 pm

    I’m just proud that I recognize all the words in the first section. I must be reading the right books and articles, even if I’m not remembering everything in detail of at least 50 words. 🙂 If I can’t be in your class at Chapel Hill, I’m at least thrilled that I have the blog and online courses to occupy my mind!

  7. Serene May 2, 2023 at 1:58 pm

    The Coptic stuff is interesting. I wouldn’t have realized before my Google Journey just how intertwined Egypt was with the NT. The flight to Egypt got filed under miracle. My brain says, “It’s on another continent, right?”

    In Isaiah 19:25 the Lord of Armies has *Egypt* in his sights as his people, and Israel not as “ his people” but his inheritance? That to me sounds a little possibly like a self-deified eastern emperor. Ie the “chosen people” must choose too, maybe in every age — and sometimes they don’t – Jesus is rejected. It’s a precursor to democracy that minimizes revolt.

    Also, TIL that the Nicene Creed has Jesus as “the” judge even though Jesus puts the Queen of the South as the judge? And IL that god was affiliated with judging and not kings before the New Testament. Imho the title king starts out as just a tribal leader, and so where you see the judging is with kings of higher status. In the OT there’s a Nabataean king who judges a Jewish king.

  8. brickleytre May 2, 2023 at 2:04 pm

    Just for the fun of it, I took your final format and asked ChatGPT to give me responses (with some reasonable extra conditions). Would you be interested in seeing the results? I can email it.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:08 am

      I”ve tried it too. The nice thing about ChatGPT is that since the temperature is not 0 you get different answers. Lots of them unreliable. And also, it’s pretty easy to see if the answer is coming speifically from someone who has gotten their information from the class lectures and reading (since Chat is using a huge range of *other* sources)

  9. Epikouros May 2, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    This looks like fun, actually. Think I could answer them pretty well. Though I’d probably be graded down for snark when discussing the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, LOL.

  10. Serene May 2, 2023 at 6:30 pm

    Oh, I do see a throne in the Book of Isaiah, which I’m reading rn mostly for the first time.

    To me, the Book of Isaiah seems just like those monuments in Egypt that subsequent administrations re-write after a conquering. The vanquisher becomes the hero of the narrative, where originally the vanquished ruler was the hero in the story. It’s just not on a monument five stories tall because of poordom.

    It becomes The Babylon Book. So in deutero-Isaiah, the eccentric self-deified superspiritual wooh Nabonidus could be the Sovereign God, “God-King” or Lord of Armies planning to conquer Edom. Idk which names are in there.

    Then, Isaiah is re-written or added to with the normie vanquisher of Nabonidus, Cyrus the Great. Not a food for squirrels case in the eyes of returning exiled, he’s just a messiach (ie a ruler who delivers on their ethnic group’s self-determination). Cyrus’ descendants prolly helped get that written, whereas Nabonidus’ descendants are merchants that settle along major roads like the Via Maris beyond the Jordan

    Isaiah 9:1
    >but in the future He will honor the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations:

    Via Maris = Way of the Sea

  11. RD May 2, 2023 at 11:08 pm

    Wow! I would guess many of the students found that exam rather intimidating when they first saw it. Looks like some serious self-study/homework along the way would have been required to pass it. I would get an F, maybe a D- if the grader was in a generous mood.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:13 am

      YEs, but you didn’t take the class!

  12. manny5 May 2, 2023 at 11:57 pm

    Bart, I sent you my views on “The Birth of Christianity”, April 7. What grade would you give me?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:14 am

      I”m sorry, my grading teaching assistant was taking the day off!

  13. Apocryphile May 3, 2023 at 1:19 am

    Yay! I think I’d do pretty good. The only one I couldn’t immediately identify was Donatism. Not quite sure about the sources of information in section 2, except for the obvious source, Eusebius.

  14. sberry May 3, 2023 at 7:14 am

    Thanks for posting, this is fun. Can you post one or two student efforts that got an “A” grade?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 1:26 pm

      I’m afraid they write their answers by hand in bluebooks!

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