Taking the Temperature of the Blog October 2017

It is useful on occasion to step back and take the temperature of the blog, to see how things are going and to consider how they might improve.  Do you have suggestions for how to make the blog better and more attractive?   What I’m especially interested in are ways to attract more people to join.   If you have bright ideas, let me know.

I’d say the blog is going extremely well on the whole.  What do you think?   There seems to ...

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The Academic Study of the New Testament

Students who are thinking about signing up for my undergraduate Introduction to the New Testament sometimes ask me whether they will have an insurmountable disadvantage if they haven’t ever read, let alone studied, the New Testament.   It’s a completely understandable question.

Other students almost certainly take the course precisely because they think it will be easy-shmeasy for them: they grew up in church, and went to Sunday School their entire life, and so how hard can a course on the New ...

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Was My Weird Background a Help or a Hindrance: Mailbag October 22, 2017

In this week’s readers’ mailbag I deal with a personal question about my background and whether it gave me and advantages or disadvantages in my rather unusual line of work as a secular scholar of the Bible.

 

QUESTION: 

Just as a matter of empirical fact, do you think that your religious background gave you any (intellectual) advantages, or disadvantages, in your work over someone who lacked that background?

 

RESPONSE:

Every now and then I look back on my life and think:  Wow, now ...

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60

How Old Was Jesus?

Almost everyone who thinks about the matter thinks that Jesus was 33 years old when he died.  But the New Testament never says so and I bet most people don’t know how that age is calculated.  Moreover, I bet even more people don’t know that there was an early Christian tradition (attested in the second century) that he was much older than that!

Yesterday I was reading one of the most important proto-orthodox authors of the second century, Irenaeus, whose five-volume ...

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102

How Changing My Views Affected My Relationships

I’ve decided to answer a personal question in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, about how my relationships with others changed as I went from being a very conservative evangelical Christian to becoming an agnostic/atheist.

 

QUESTION

Would you be willing to elaborate on how your changing views affected your relationships with friends and family and how people reacted to your changing perspective? Thanks so much!

 

RESPONSE

As it turns out, in my case, the biggest “problem” for my relationships with family and friends was not so ...

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52

Controversy Sells!

A couple of days ago I asked members of the blog for some feedback about the current thread focusing on the development of the views of the afterlife in antiquity – the topic of my next book.  And I’m really glad I asked, because it helped clarify my thinking considerably about the direction I am going to be taking in the book.  For what it’s worth, it is *not* the direction I’ve been taking this thread.  At least it is ...

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90

My Major Anxiety for my Book. Are People Interested in the Afterlife?

As an author (such as me, for example) thinks ahead to the next book, he has a number of worries, concerns, and anxieties that crop up.  This is all part of the process – deep and cutting anxiety is what ends up inspiring quality.  Otherwise, we would just dash off books without a care in the world, and they would be completely mediocre, not-well thought out, uninteresting, not grappling with the really complex issues in ways that are clear and ...

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Fun with the Jewish Christian Gospels: A Blast from the Past

I was looking through the blog archives today, and ran across this interesting one from four years ago.  In additional to being rather informative about Gospels outside the New Testament, it shows how even in antiquity Christians had to figure out how to reconcile minor discrepancies among the canonical Gospels.  Enjoy!

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Yesterday in my graduate seminar we spent three hours analyzing the three so-called “Jewish-Christian Gospels.” These are very tricky texts to deal with. We don’t have ...

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32

My New Scholarly Project

I have a lot more to say about the development of the views of the afterlife in ancient Jewish and Christian thinking – specifically, about how we got from an understanding that there would be a resurrection of the body (the view I’ve been discussing) to the idea that when a person dies, their soul (not their body) goes to heaven or hell —  the view most (not the *vast* majority, of course) people have today.   It’s a good thing ...

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Physical Persecution and the Physical Resurrection of the Dead

In this post I’m thinking out loud rather than making a definitive statement.   A question occurred to me a week or so ago that, since I am on the road and rather unsettled just now, I have not had a chance to look into.  Maybe someone on the blog knows the answer.  Prior to the persecution of Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE, do we have a record of *any* group of people in the entire Mediterranean world being ...

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