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So far Diane has created 26 blog entries.

Why Even Conservative Christians Should Accept Evolution: Blog Anniversary Guest Post by Michael Shermer (part 2)

For several months now I have been posting Guest Posts that were generoulsly provided by others in honor of the blog's tenth anniversary.  These posts have been wide-ranging in their content and the intriguing , each pbased on the posters' unique backgrounds and expertise.  This now is the final one in the series, the second of two posts by Michael Shermer, to continue what he was saying in his post of Sept. 3. This one is particularly significant.  Why is it in conservative Christians' (and everyone else's) own best interest to accept evolution as a reality of the past?   He makes some compelling points.  Read and see! ************************* To counter the doubts I mentioned in my previous post, I argue that, in fact, Christians and conservatives should accept the theory of evolution for at least eight reasons (again, for brevity, truncated here): Evolution happened. The theory describing how evolution happened is one of the most well-founded in all of science. Christians and conservatives embrace the value of truth-seeking as much as non-Christians and liberals do, [...]

2022-08-28T13:09:45-04:00September 8th, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Christians and Conservatives Should Accept Evolution: Blog Anniversary Guest Post by Michael Shermer (part 1)

I have been publishing guest posts in celebration of the blog's tenth anniversary, and am pleased to conclude the series now with two posts by Michael Shermer, whom many of you will know from his writings and media appearances discussing (especially) religion and science.  Michael was a one-time committed fundamentalist turned outspoken skeptic.   Here is the first of his two-parter, on an issue of particular cultural and religious importance. US public acceptance of evolution is growing but is still low compared to other countries. Why? Religion and politics. Here's why that need not be. As a career-long student of the century-long evolution-creationism debate I was encouraged to read the results of a new study on “Public Acceptance and Rejection of Evolution in the United States, 1985-2020” by Jon Miller, Eugenie Scott, Mark Ackerman, and Belén Laspra, published in the journal Public Understanding of Science. “Using data from a series of national surveys collected over the last 35 years, we find that the level of public acceptance of evolution has increased in the last decade after [...]

2022-09-08T10:39:43-04:00September 3rd, 2022|Public Forum|

How Evangelical Apologists Are Changing Their Arguments: Anniversary Guest Post: Kurt Jaros

I continue here with my string of guest posts written by scholars in honor of the blog's tenth anniversary.  Here is a post from Kurt Jaros, an evangelical Christian theologian and apologist, in which he explains how apologetics -- the intellectual defense of the claims of the Christian faith -- has grown and changed over the years, to represent something different today from, well, when I was involved with it in my younger days. I imagine the post will elicit a response!  Kurt will be happy to address your comments. ****************************** The Growing Landscape of Christian Apologetics   When did Jesus cleanse the Temple? In the Synoptics, this event occurs toward the end of his ministry (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19: 45-46), and serves as a catalyst for his enemies to have him arrested (Matthew 21:15, 23, & 45, Mark 11:18, Luke 19:47-48). In the Gospel of John, the event occurs early on in Jesus’s ministry (John 2:14). One common approach to answering the question is to harmonize the two descriptions into a fuller, [...]

2022-08-18T11:49:55-04:00August 25th, 2022|Public Forum|

The Birth of (the Messiah?) John the Baptist? Anniversary Guest Post by James F. McGrath

I continue now with a post that was produced for us by a fellow scholar in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the blog.  James McGrath has made several intriguing posts for us, and this one is particularly interesting.  Is it possible that stories about Jesus -- especially in the birth narratives were *originally* told about the future messiah, John the Baptist??   That the followers of Jesus took accounts originally told of John and edited them so that they now refer to Jesus?  Very intriguing!  Here's James's post. ******************* The Birth of John the Baptist: Detecting a Source from John’s Followers Behind Three Early Christian Gospels James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University, Indianapolis   Anyone who has read my previous guest posts here, or who has read academic publications by Bart and myself, will know we share a great many interests in common: the historical Jesus, the development of Christology, extracanonical texts, and many more. As I have begun to turn my attention to my next major [...]

2022-08-15T08:23:03-04:00August 18th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|

Critical Scholarship from a Sophisticated Faith Perspective. Blog Anniversary Guest Post by Judy Yates Siker

This incredibly thoughtful guest contribution by Judy Yates Siker is part of an ongoing series I'm posting in honor of the tenth anniversary of the blog.   All the guest posts in the series are by serious scholars who have provided us with us with guest posts before, over the years; one of the striking features of these posts, as a group, is just now different they are in perspective and insight. I've known Judy well for thirty-three yeas, since she entered the UNC PhD program in New Testament Studies (in the field of Ancient Mediterranean Religions) 1989.  While doing her degree and then afterwards Judy taught at an intriguing range of schools to very different groups of students: Meredith College; American Baptist Seminary of the West, Loyola Marymount University, and San Francisco Theological Seminary -- where she eventually became Vice President. All these years Judy has long been one of my closest and dearest friends.  She is an ordained Presbyterian minister, active in church ministry now that she's retired from teaching, and living in Raleigh [...]

2022-08-01T09:54:37-04:00August 13th, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Reading Genesis—Are You Lost in Translation? Anniversary Guest Post by James Tabor

Several scholar-friends and colleagues graciously have written guest posts for the blog to celebrate our tenth anniversary.  I am posting one a week and we will gather all of them together down the line to make them available as a group.  This week's contribution comes from James Tabor, retired Professor of Christian Origins and Bible from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (a scholar many of you will know) who has written a large number of popular books, along with serious scholarship, and most recently his own fresh translation of the book of Genesis. This post is especially interesting: James deals with problems of translating the Hebrew Bible that I bet you don't even realize are problems. ****************************** What is the best-known verse in the Bible—one that millions could quote immediately by heart? Christians might say John 3:16—after all, one even sees placards and signs reading “John 3:16” at sporting stadiums! But I think the very first verse of the Bible—Genesis 1:1—most likely would win the universal familiarity content: In the beginning God created the [...]

2022-08-08T10:06:43-04:00August 6th, 2022|Public Forum|

Does God Create People to Roast in Hell? Anniversary Guest Post by Jason Staples

I am publishing a series of guest posts that have been generously contributed to the blog in honor of our ten-year anniversary.  Each post is written by a recognized expert in our field who has previously made guest posts for us.  This one comes from Jason Staples, my erstwhile PhD student who now teaches at North Carolina State and whose (long!) dissertation has turned into TWO separate monographs, the first already published by Cambridge University Press (The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism), and the other now forthcoming from Cambridge (focusing on Paul). Here, after some much-appreciated kind words, Jason deals with an unusually important and little-understood topic, of ultimate relevance to us all! ****************************** Thanks to multiple best-selling books, Bart is one of the few widely recognized names in the field of biblical studies, and when people learn I did my training under his guidance, I invariably get asked, “so, what was that like?”  Many of the more conservative-leaning Christians are surprised when I tell them the truth: it would be difficult to [...]

2022-07-18T15:05:00-04:00July 30th, 2022|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Rescheduled (and RE-scheduled!) Platinum Webinar July 19

It's past time for another Platinum webinar; as you know, this is a four-time a year event, for Platinum Members only.  Apologies for having had to reschedule this one twice--I'll have a few words to say about that during the Zoom. Our topic is TBA. The date:  Tuesday July 19; 7:30-9:00 (EST)  No need to register; just show up. I will talk on the subject for 40-45 minutes, and then take questions for 30-35 minutes.  Interested?  It's for Platinum members only.  Here's the link:   Meeting ID: 834 5746 3872 Passcode: 334283 One tap mobile +13017158592,,83457463872#,,,,*334283# US (Washington DC) +13126266799,,83457463872#,,,,*334283# US (Chicago) Dial by your location +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 646 931 3860 US +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 444 9171 US +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) Meeting ID: 834 5746 3872 Passcode: 334283 Find your local number: I hope you can come!! I [...]

2022-07-13T10:29:29-04:00July 13th, 2022|Canonical Gospels|

July Gold Q&A

Dear Gold Members, These monthly Gold Q&A's have been a lot of fun to do.  Time for another one!  Have a question?  Ask it!  Anything related to the blog! To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Saturday July 16, midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will try to get it recorded soon after that, with a goal of releasing it on or around the 20th. Sorry for the short notice.  July has been a killer--more on that another time! Questions that are relatively short (a sentence or two) are more likely to be chosen; and feel free to ask a zinger!   Bart  

2022-07-13T10:01:11-04:00July 13th, 2022|Public Forum|

Gold members Q&A for June

Dear Gold Members, It's that time again.  Time for the Gold Q&A for June -- a perk of your membership!  Do you have any questions you'd like to ask, on anything related to the blog?  Ask away, and I'll do my best to answer. To get your question on the list: zap a note to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Midnight (your time) on Saturday, June 25. I will record the Q&A that weekend, and it will be available, if all goes to plan, by Thursday, June 30. Fire away!   Bart

2022-06-22T14:19:29-04:00June 22nd, 2022|Public Forum|

An Interesting Interview on Journeys to Heaven and Hell

I don't recall ever doing any podcast interviews before on any of my academic books since, well, they are written for scholars rather than the general public and few podcasts target scholars (at least early Christian scholars!) per se.  But I've had a couple on my recent book Journeys to Heaven and Hell, and I think it's because the topic really is interesting to more than scholars. Here's one that helped bring out some of the intriguing material I cover, with an interviewer -- Mike Delgado -- who both knows his stuff and knows what is interesting.   Enjoy!

2022-06-05T12:18:14-04:00June 19th, 2022|Afterlife, Public Forum|

You Mean Everyone (Except the Truly Destitute) Needs to Give? But How Much?

The Christians who began to say that (unlike in the Roman world) the rich ought to give to the poor did not come up with the idea themselves.  As we have seen, they were replicating (in a new form) what was found in the Hebrew Bible as taken up, as one would expect, by the historical Jesus.  But the Christians ran with the idea, and that ended up having a lasting effect on all of society and Western culture. The records of earliest Christianity are pretty clear:  everyone (not just the rich) needed to give in order to help those who were less fortunate.  According to the book of Acts, the members of the first community in Jerusalem sold everything and shared all things in common, so that no one was in need (Acts 2:43-45; 4:32-37).  This sounds like Jesus’ own vision, though whether Acts can be trusted to describe social reality soon after Jesus’ death is another question.  It is clear, however, that years later the churches of Paul, populated predominantly by those without [...]

A Christian NDE and the Problem with Being Filthy Rich

I have begun to describe the Acts of Thomas, the account of the apostle Thomas’s missionary journey to take Christianity to India.  After the author describes the apostle’s adventures en route to his destination, he gets to the heart of his story – which involves, among other things, an emphasis about what rich folk are supposed to do with their money if they want to be pleasing to God and have eternal life.  Again, this description is taken from my book Journeys to Heaven and Hell (Yale University Press, 2022). ****************************** When Thomas arrives in India he is introduced to King Gundaphorus, his new master, who has acquired him for his carpentry skills, which obviously run in the holy family.  Gundaphorus wants a new palace in a remote site and Thomas is perfect for the job: he works in wood and stone and has experience constructing regal dwellings. This Act is all about the distinctive kind of building he can make. The apostle draws a design for the structure, the king approves, bestows a hefty [...]

Thomas’s Trip to India and the Problem of Wealth

Some Christian writers thought having lots of money was a very serious problem – both because it made rich folk focus on something other than spiritual realities and because it was not just or godly for some people to be loaded when others were starving. And so we have ancient Christian authors urging the wealthy to give away all their material possessions for a greater good and practice rigorous asceticism.  The “good” in this case was very different indeed from what was promoted in the broader Roman world -- where what mattered was helping with the city’s finances and assisting those of one’s own family or socio-economic class, in exchange for acquiring a higher personal status -- since for Christians involves helping the indigent.  But the personal motivation is roughly the same: it is a matter of “working out your salvation.”  That is, it is largely about one’s own well-being. Other writers, however, argued that wealth was not itself evil or necessarily a trap, an obstacle to the good and holy life.  Righteous people could [...]

Does Isaiah 53 Predict Jesus’ Death and Resurrection? Most-Commented Blog Posts: #1

Here now is THE post that has received the very most comments in the past ten years - 233 - more than any of the 2,965 OTHER posts.  And as it turns out, it's on an unusually important topic, for both Christians and those who want to understand Christians:  is Jesus' death and resurrection predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures?  Read on:   ****************************** Readers Mailbag: Does Isaiah 53 Predict the Death and Resurrection of Jesus? May 8, 2020 I would like to get back into the practice of devoting one post a week to answering questions raised by blog members.  I have a fairly long list of good questions I haven’t been able to get to, so why not just go through them week by week?  If you have any pressing questions that are particularly intriguing or perplexing for you about the NT or early Christianity or any related topic, let me know as a comment on a post (any post will do, whether relevant or not).  If it’s not something I can address or [...]

2022-04-17T20:29:11-04:00May 1st, 2022|Public Forum|

A Reflection on Easter. My Most-Commented Blog Post: #2

This post appeared on Easter day, four years ago, and received the second-most comments of any that I have done (218 of them).  It is, in fact, a reflection on the significance of that holiday and how Christianity itself actually began.   ****************************** An Easter Reflection 2018 April 1, 2018 It is highly ironic, but relatively easy, for a historian to argue that Jesus himself did not start Christianity.  Christianity, at its heart, is the belief that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about salvation, and that believing in his death and resurrection will make a person right with God, both now and in the afterlife.  Historical scholarship since the nineteenth century has marshaled massive evidence that this is not at all what Jesus himself preached. Yes, it is true that in the Gospels themselves Jesus talks about his coming death and resurrection.  And in the last of the Gospels written, John, his message is all about how faith in him can bring eternal life (a message oddly missing in the three earlier Gospels of Matthew, [...]

2022-04-17T20:27:23-04:00April 30th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Revelatory Moment about God: Most-Commented Blog Post: #3

Here now is my #3 all time most commented-on post, coming in at 210 comments.  It's about my religious views as an agnostic.  Or an atheist?   Or, actually, how should we think about whether we even *could* imagine a God.  Read on.   ****************************** A Revelatory Moment about “God” January 12, 2020 I had a “revelatory moment” last week that I think may have changed my view about “God” for a very long time – or at least about the existence of superior beings far beyond what we can imagine. As most of you know, I have long been an agnostic-atheist, and as some of you may recall, I define “atheist” differently from most people, at least in relationship to “agnostic.”   The word “agnostic” means “don’t know.”   Is there a God?  I don’t’ know.  How could I possibly know?  How could you?  I know a lot of you do “know” – or think you know.  But my view is that if you’re in that boat you “think” there is a God – really, really think [...]

2022-04-17T20:05:42-04:00April 28th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Full Reply to Mythicist Richard Carrier. Most-Commented Blog Post: #4

Here now is my most-commented-from-the-last-ten-years-post #4.  It is also by far the longest post I have done in all this time.  It addresses an attack on my stupidity and ignorance. I should say at the outset that the one issue/topic I do NOT enjoy going into on the blog these days (for the past three or four years) is the "mythicist" view of Jesus (the idea that Jesus never existed; there never was a Jesus of Nazareth; it's all made up).  The people who hold this view tend to have completely boundless energy and no matter what you say, they keep coming back at you like a terrier.  It's exhausting.  And so these days I stay away from it all.  Let them get on with it. But it is the topic of one of my books (what was I thinking?), and oh boy did it provoke a response.  I thought *Christian fundamentalists* were a hard audience.  HA!  Welcome to the mythicists. All that is explained in this post, which in the end elicited 207 comments. [...]

2022-04-17T20:25:53-04:00April 27th, 2022|Public Forum|

The Religion of a Sixteen-Year Old. Most-Commented Blog Post: #5

We are counting down the TOP TEN commented posts in our TEN year venture on the blog.  We've had a range of topics so far, and here now is Post #5, with 207 comments.   ******************************   The Religion of a Sixteen-Year-Old June 1, 2014 I just got home from spending a week in Lawrence Kansas, my home town.   As I’ve done now for years, I took my mom fishing in the Ozarks for a few days.  She’s 87, and on a walker, but still able to reel them in! I go back to Lawrence probably three or four times a year, and each time it is like going down memory lane.  I left there to go to Moody Bible Institute in 1973, when I was all of 17 years old; I still called it home for years, but never lived there full time, not even in the summers usually.  I was married and very much on my own only four years later.  So my memories of the place are entirely of childhood through high [...]

2022-04-17T20:09:50-04:00April 26th, 2022|Public Forum|
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