Pursuing My Passion for Textual Criticism

Yesterday I started answering the question of how I moved on from doing research principally on New Testament textual criticism to do other things, mainly involving different aspects of the literature and history of Christianity in the first three centuries CE.   I pointed out there that my training/education was actually not in textual criticism, but mainly in the exegesis (and theology) of the New Testament, and on various aspects of the history of earliest Christianity (from the historical Jesus to ...

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On Being Just a Textual Critic

I’ve decided to address a question about my own academic life in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag.  It involves an issue that comes up a lot, but not in this form.

 

QUESTION:

Is there a story (post) about your move from textual criticism to other things?

 

RESPONSE:

I can’t remember if there is (though I’m sure someone will tell me!).  But I would like to say something about it, since it is an issue that seems to come up a good deal, not usually from ...

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Mark’s Central Focus on Jesus’ Death

I began answer the question of “What Is the Messianic Secret?” – a term used to describe that distinctive feature of Mark’s Gospel, that Jesus repeatedly tries to hush up anyone who starts to know or realize he is – first by explaining what the traditional views of the messiah were in ancient Judaism (anything *but* a person who would be publically humiliated and tortured to death by his enemies – just the opposite: he was to be a figure ...

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How No One Understands Jesus in Mark’s Gospel

In yesterday’s post I began to address the question: What is the Messianic Secret?  This is a term that scholars have applied for over a century to the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus repeatedly tells anyone who suspects his identity not to reveal it.  Why?   To make sense of this “Secret” of Jesus, it is important for us to have a fuller understanding of Mark’s portrayal of Jesus.

One of Mark’s major themes, quite apart from how one explains the apparent ...

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How Do We Explain the Messianic Secret?

For this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, I address a question of central importance for understanding the Gospel of Mark, our earliest Gospel and often thought to be the one that best represents what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  I’ll have to *explain* the question before answering it (!).   Then most of this post will be setting up the answer with the crucial background information, which, as it turns out, the vast majority of casual Bible readers have never even ...

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If Jesus Wasn’t God, Was He Necessarily Either a Calloused Liar or a Raving Lunatic?

This is my my last of three blasts-from-the-pasts dealing with fundamentalist, or conservative evangelical, forms of Christianity, this time addressing the claims often made (first by C.S. Lewis, who was decidedly *NOT* a fundamentalist) that since Jesus called himself God, he either was a bald-faced liar, a raving lunatic, or the Lord of the universe.  No other option.  Or … is there?

 

QUESTION:

Do you think Jesus was a great moral teacher?  If you think this is the case would you mind blogging ...

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Readers’ Mailbag 1/20/2019: The Only Story of Jesus as a Boy in the New Testament

Based on the feedback I’ve received on the blog this past week, I’ve decided to reinstate the weekly Readers’ Mailbag.   I have actually continued responding to questions since abandoning the feature of the blog, but in a less formal way.  Formalizing it seems like a popular option, and so I’ll try to do this once a week.   I start this week with an interesting question about Jesus as a boy.

 

QUESTION

Outside the birth narratives, the only canonical story about the young ...

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The Dangers of Fundamentalism

I’m out of town for a long weekend and so away from my books, and have decided to re-post some particularly intriguing (IMHO) posts from many years ago.  Here’s a hot one.

 

QUESTION:

You note that fundamentalism is dangerous and harmful. How do you define fundamentalism and why do you think it’s dangerous?

 

RESPONSE:

There are of course actual definitions of “fundamentalism” that you can find in scholarship on religion, but I sense that you’re asking more for a rough-and-ready description. Years ago I ...

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What *Greek* Version of the New Testament Do I Use?

 

I often indicate that when citing the New Testament in English, I’m giving my own translation, and that understandably has led some people to think I’ve actually citing a completed translation that I’ve made but not published.  A reader of the blog recently asked me how he could get access to the translation.  But I’ve never written a translation of the NT; when I say that a quotation is in “my” translation I simply mean that I’m reading the Greek ...

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Fundamentalist Arguments Ad Absurdum about the “Original” Text of the NT

I’ve been looking for a scrappy question to tangle with, and today I received one!

 

QUESTION:

You make the case that we do not have the original New Testament manuscripts.  In fact, we do not have any complete manuscripts of books that eventually became part of the New Testament until the 3rd century, correct?  The response often given by fundamentalist Christians is this:  So, you don’t believe that Socrates died by drinking hemlock?  You don’t believe ...

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