The Historian’s Wish List

While writing the posts in my thread on the contradictions in the New Testament, I had the impression that some readers thought I considered it virtually impossible to use the New Testament for historical purposes.   That’s actually not the case at all.   I’m going to discuss this issue over a number of posts, focusing on the Gospels.  Oddly enough, it appears I’ve never devoted a sustained thread to this precise end, of explaining how historians go about their business of ...

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A Key Contradiction in the Birth Narratives

Several readers have asked about my comment that Matthew and Luke appear to contradict each other in their birth narratives, especially when Matthew indicates that Jesus’ family fled to Egypt after his birth but Luke claims they went straight back to Nazareth, a month later.   I’ve posted on this issue several times over the years on the blog, but maybe a refresher would be helpful for those with questions.  Here is how I explain the matter in my book Jesus: ...

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Are Matthew and Paul at Odds on the Most Important Issue?

I have been talking about contradictions and their value for knowing about history — about what actually happened in the past.  There are lots of other kinds of ways that passages of the New Testament are at odds with one another.  Sometimes, and more important for many people, they can have very different theological views, sometimes on absolutely key and important issues.  That is a matter I addressed many years ago on the blog, in this post:

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One of ...

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Are the Gospels Principally Concerned to Show What Actually Happened?

I will not be going through the entirety of the four Gospels to point out how contradictions between one account and another make these texts difficult to use for historical purposes.  My previous post briefly summarized the situation with respect to the birth narratives, and similar statements could be made for numerous events of Jesus’ life as narrated in the Gospels.  In this post I’ll instead make an overall point about the kinds of problems one finds throughout these books.

Recall: ...

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Why Contradictions Matter for Understanding the Life of Jesus

Realizing that there are contradictions in our surviving New Testament texts matters a good deal when it comes to trying to reconstruct the history behind them.  I’ll devote several posts to this question, a couple of dealing with the life of Jesus and at least one other involving the life of Paul.

The basic issue, of course, is that if you have two contradictory witnesses to an event, then they both can’t be right: they contradict one another!   At the point ...

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Internal Discrepancies in the Gospel of John

Yesterday I answered a question about whether some of the discrepancies in Luke-Acts are due to the author having used a variety of sources that had different views.  The blog member who asked the question also wanted to know if this happened in other books from antiquity.  Just sticking with the Bible, the answer is: Yes indeed!    Here is what I say about the same issue with respect to the Gospel of John, in my textbook on the New Testament.

 

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Does Luke Flat Out Contradict Himself?

Sometimes readers ask questions that have answers they probably would not suspect in a million years.  My guess is that this is true of the following interesting query about a contradiction between the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts (written by the same author) about the ascension of Jesus.

 

QUESTION:

Talking of authors who contradict themselves any idea why Luke has Jesus ascending on the day of his resurrection but Acts places it 40 days later!? This seems like quite ...

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Can We Know Anything Historically About How Judas Iscariot Died?

In this post I continue with the New Testament accounts of the death of Judas Iscariot.  In my previous post I talked about the first account, found in Matthew. Now I look at the second (and only other) one, found in the early part of the book of Acts, written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke.   This post comes in two parts, both taken from my book The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot.   In the first part ...

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The Death of Judas in Matthew

My recent post on Judas Iscariot has raised a number of questions among readers of the blog.  Here is one of them, about Judas’s death.

 

QUESTION:

Do you have any sense of how Judas met his end after the betrayal? Matthew’s version seems at least somewhat plausible, but Act’s doesn’t.  Or maybe he just took the money and moved elsewhere.

 

RESPONSE

              This is an interesting question for a number of reasons.  For one thing, the only writers who thought that Judas’s demise was ...

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Did the Gospels Originally Have Titles?

I have received a number of questions from readers about my blog post that tried to explain why the Gospel writers wrote their books anonymously; some of the questions have concerned the titles of the Gospels: if they books were not *written* by named authors (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) why do the titles *indicate* they were, and could the titles be original to the books?

My view is that the books did not originally have titles, but – for reasons ...

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