About Graduate Studies: A Blast from the Past

Two days ago someone asked me about doing graduate studies.  He had a master’s degree and was wondering about whether to do a PhD.  I told him that if he could imagine doing something else with his life, he probably should do so.  Doing a PhD is just too painful.  It’s long (in my field it typically takes about 6-8 years *after* doing a Masters; lots of students take longer), it’s really hard, it’s really painful, and there’s no guarantee ...

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Did David Exist? And When Did I Know I Lost My Faith? Mailbag April 15, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  The first has to do with the historical evidence, if any, for the Israelite kings Saul, David, and Solomon – did they exist, or are the stories about them entirely legendary?   The second, coming to us from a different universe, is about me personally, and my faith, whether there was a proverbial straw that broke my faith-camel’s back.

 

QUESTION:

According to Finkelstein and Silberman’s book, The Bible Unearthed, which I ...

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Our Fifth Year Anniversary!

Today is a huge day for us: the fifth anniversary of the blog!  Hard to believe.  But we’ve come through five years.  And it’s been one busy lustrum.

I just added up some numbers.   Here they are.

  • Since April 3, 2012: I have made 1462 posts. That comes to 5.6 per week.  I have not missed a week so far in the entire stretch.  To my *knowledge* (I may be wrong about this, and given the sharp readers we have, I’m sure ...
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Questions on the Resurrection and My Personal Spiritual Experiences: Readers’ Mailbag

I’ll address two questions on this week’s readers’ mailbag, one about what we can say about the resurrection of Jesus (a specific question about it) and one about whether my (one-time) faith was based on the Bible or on spiritual experiences I had.  (The answer is apparently not what the questioner expected.)

 

QUESTION:

How do you separate the fact from fiction on the risen Jesus?  You accept, as historical, that the disciples believed they had visions of the risen Jesus – so ...

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A Final Word (I Think!) on Group Visions

I am getting some push-back on my discussions of visions.  One of the most informed and hard-hitting critiques was this.

I certainly agree that it is within your scope of expertise as a New Testament scholar to use the term “vision” to describe the beliefs of people in Antiquity who used this term to describe certain religious experiences.  It is within your scope of expertise to define this term as defined by those ancients.  However, with all due respect, ...

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What Really Happens With Group Visions

Several people on the blog have pushed back on my claim that group hallucinations (what I’ve called non-veridical visions) can occur.  Psychologically, is that really possible?  How is it actually possible that a group of, say, twelve people could have the same mental breakdown leading them to see exactly the same thing at the same time?

First, some people have objected to my term “vision” since psychologists don’t use that term.  They talk instead about “hallucinations.”   OK, I’ll concede the point.  ...

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Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I: A Blast From the Past

 

A former colleague of mine contacted me last week — not a colleague from any of my teaching positions, but a colleague in ministry from forty years ago when I was the Youth Pastor at Trinity Covenant Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois.  I’ve been reminiscing about those days, and I remembered an event connected with that church that I talked about in my book How Jesus Became God, involving a moment when my doubts about the Christian faith ...

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Are Group Visions Possible?

I have received a number of interesting responses to my claim in yesterday’s post that it is possible for groups of people to have the same non-veridical vision (that is, hallucinations).  I used the phenomenon of the Blessed Virgin Mary: she seems to appear a good deal, to groups of people – sometimes large groups.  In this post I thought I would respond to two of the highly intelligent demurrals.

 

DEMURRAL:

As a former evangelical Protestant we believed that Roman Catholics who ...

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Group Visions and Agnostic Jesus Scholars: Mailbag March 12, 2017

I will be dealing with two interesting questions on this week’s Readers’ Mailbag.  The first has to do with whether hallucinations can explain why Jesus’ followers thought he had been raised from the dead; the second involves with me personally: if I no longer believe in Jesus, why do I keep studying, writing, and teaching about him?

To make sense of the first question I need to provide some background.  In my book How Jesus Became God I argue that the ...

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What I’m Thinking about the Afterlife

I became interested in writing this book about the afterlife a couple of years ago, when I realized with unexpected clarity – out of the blue (I don’t know what sparked my thinking) – that the views most people have are not from the Bible.  Many people, of course, do not believe in the afterlife at all.  But at least in my parts of the world (both where I grew up, and where I have lived my life, first Chicago, ...

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