Some Academic Good News

I’d like to take time out to do a post on what is happening in my personal academic life just now, which involves some good news.  First, some background.

As you probably know, the life of the professional academic is highly unusual – bizarre when you think about it.  Here I am, a 62-year old, who organizes his entire life around semesters.  Really?  Shouldn’t that have stopped, like, 40 years ago?  Yeah, well, for most of us.  But not us professorial ...

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Is There a Time and Place for Heaven and Hell?

A recent Pew research poll produced interesting results on Americans’ beliefs about the afterlife.  72% of Americans say they believe in heaven — defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded,” and  58% of U.S. adults also believe in hell — a place “where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”  (See

So that’s a lot.   Nearly three quarters of all Americans believe in a literal ...

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An Easter Reflection 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 marshalled massive evidence that this is not at all what Jesus himself preached.

Yes, it is true that in ...

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The Miracle of New Life

As most readers of the blog know, I do not believe in miracles.   At least in literal miracles as normally understood.  I suppose most people think of an actual or literal miracle as an event that cannot be explained through natural causes but requires some kind of supernatural intervention, an act of a divine being who is outside of this nexus of cause and effect, an act of God.

I should stress that this does not necessarily mean that we *do* ...

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Jesus and My First Girlfriend: A Blast From The Past

Breezing through some old posts today from nearly six years ago, and came across this interesting little anecdote.  I’d forgotten I had written about it.  A funny personal story about something that actually became important for me.



My first serious girlfriend was Lynn, whom I met when we were starting our sophomore year in high school.  She was funny, personable, attractive, intelligent, and Jewish.   I’m not sure I had ever known a Jewish person before her.

I don’t ...

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A Privileged View of Suffering

I haven’t posted on this topic for a while, and looking through old posts from five years ago, I came across this one.  I’ve edited it a bit from the first time, but my sentiments are pretty much the same now that I’m older and not much wiser…..



Sometimes people get upset because I deal with the problem of suffering even though I don’t seem to be experiencing any severe pain and misery myself. Here is an example of ...

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On Being Controversial

I woke up this morning thinking I’d like to start finishing out this little mini-thread on Misquoting Jesus by talking about how I never thought of anything in the book being particularly controversial, even though it struck a lot of people that way.  I was going to call the post “On Being Controversial.”  And then I thought Wait a minute: That sounds familiar!  And I checked it out, and I wrote almost exactly that post some three years ago.   So, ...

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Misquoting Jesus and My Fundamentalist Faith

As I was saying in my previous post, when I decided to write Misquoting Jesus my friends thought I was nuts.  Even specialists in the New Testament are not, as a rule, interested in textual criticism, the scholarly endeavor to reconstruct the original Greek text of the New Testament given the fact that we have thousands of manuscripts with hundreds of thousands of minor differences among them, and even some rather major differences.  New Testament scholars know *that* much about ...

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Can Historians Be Neutral?

I received a number of responses to my post this past week on whether Jesus would have received a decent burial on the day of his crucifixion.   One of the most interesting responses was not so much about what I said or thought, but about a much broader question: how can one evaluate arguments over such controversial subjects without being entirely biased and subjective at the outset?   It’s worth talking about.  Here’s the question:



Re: the burial of Jesus or not:  ...

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Year in Review 2017!

2017 has now come and, as of tonight, gone.   For some of us it has been a very good year, for others a very bad one.  Probably for most of us it has been mixed.  For the blog, it has been very good indeed.

So here are some of the important results!

First, some background.  As many of you know (some of you were actually here back then), we started this blog endeavor in April 2012.   So we’ve been going at this ...

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