Writing a Historical-Critical Textbook that Isn’t *Critical*

Now that I’ve finished the draft of my book on the afterlife, and am waiting for readers’ comments, I am turning to a revision of my textbook: The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.  It was first published in 1997 and this will be the seventh edition.

It’s hard writing a decent textbook (and not so hard to write a lousy one).   A constant struggle.  In breezing through blog posts of years gone by, I’ve seen that ...

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Peter: First Bishop (Pope) in Rome?

Today I move on to something else (I’ll get to the after life after more life).  Here’s an interesting question I received about Peter: the first bishop of Rome?



Is there any historical evidence that the apostle Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and that he was martyred upside down on a cross?



Ah, I get asked this one (or these two) on occasion.  I dealt with them both in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (which, by the way, ...

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Would the Disciples Die for A Lie? Proofs for the Resurrection.

Reminiscing about blogs of years gone by, I found this one from almost exactly six years ago.  And it’s still relevant for today.  The disciples all died for their belief that Jesus was raised from the dead, right?  So they must have *known* he was actually raised.  No one would die for a lie.  Right?   Here’s the question a blog member asked, and my response.  I still hold to it!





Another very very popular evidence put forward for the ...

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Did My Loss of Faith Affect my Scholarship?

I ran across this blog post from six years ago that I think is particularly interesting.  It’s a question about my personal religious views and my scholarship, and I’m interested to see that now, all these years later, I would pretty much answer it the same!    That’s heartening…

Here it is:


One question I received recently particularly struck me – as it caused me to think for a bit – was about how my loss ...

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Progress Report on the Afterlife

It is a good time for me to give an update on my progress on my trade book that deals with the early history of heaven and hell.   I have not decided on a title yet – that won’t come until much further down the line, after it is actually finished and ready to head to press.  At that time, my publisher, my agent, and I will all toss about ideas for titles that are both the catchiest we can ...

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Finishing my Dissertation

This is the third and final post I’ll do on my dissertation the Gospel quotations in the writings of Didymus the Blind, advised by great New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger.


Different dissertation advisors have different approaches to supervising a dissertation. Some are extremely hands on, to the point of working over every thought and every sentence. Not too many are like that, because if they were, they would never do anything else with their life. Plus, the idea is for ...

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Bruce Metzger and Me: Finding a Dissertation

Bruce Metzger, my mentor in graduate school, for both my Master’s degree and my PhD, has been invoked a number of times in recent comments on the blog.  I thought it might be interesting to repost a few reminiscences I made about my work with him.  These come from posts that appeared six years ago — when most of you weren’t on the blog.   They will all be on my dissertation.

When I entered my PhD program at Princeton ...

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More on the Historical Problem of Miracles

I continue my reflections on the historical problem of miracles with another “blast from the past”:



Yesterday I started to talk about why historians cannot demonstrate that a miracle such as the resurrection happened because doing so requires a set of presuppositions that are not generally shared by historians doing their work. Over the years I’ve thought a lot about this question, and have tried to explain on several occasions why a “miracle” can never be shown, on historical ...

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History is not the Past! Proving Jesus’ Resurrection and Other Miracles

Last week I finished a thread on the criteria scholars use to establish what happened in the life of the historical Jesus.  That series of posts raises an important question: what do historians do about the fact that throughout the Gospels Jesus does lots of miracles — and at the end the greatest miracle of all happens, he is raised from the dead as an immortal being, never to die again?  Can such miracles be demonstrated to have happened historically?

That’s ...

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My First Taste of Critical Scholarship

In this week’s mailbag I deal with an interesting question about how knowing about a topic is not the same as understanding the scholarship on it.  The question begins by quoting something I said on the blog a while back



Quoting me: “That’s because serious scholarship is itself hard. It’s not an easy read. It’s not like reading your favorite novel.”  Can you recall the first book of serious scholarship that you had to read? Did you think, “Gosh. Maybe this ...

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