The Origins of Apocalypticism

In my previous post I began to explain how, in 1985, while teaching a class at Rutgers on the Problem of Suffering, I came to realize that I simply didn’t accept any longer most of the views of the Bible on why there was suffering in the world.  But one view did continue to appeal to me, the apocalyptic view that emerged toward the end of the New Testament period, and became the view of Jesus, John the Baptist before ...

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The Variety of Views of Suffering in the Bible

Some thirty years ago now, when I taught my class at Rutgers on “The Problem of Suffering in the Biblical Traditions,” I came to realize – or at least came to realize more clearly – that a number of the views set forth in the Bible simply did not resonate with me.  Which, I suppose, is a more tactful way of saying that I simply didn’t agree with them.

By far the most prominent explanation for suffering in the Bible is ...

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Was Jesus Made Up? A Blast from the Past.

In browsing through some old posts, I came across this one from five years ago, in which I deal with two questions I still today get asked about the “evidence” that Jesus did, or did not, exist.  The post deals with pointed issues raised by my colleague in the field, Ben Witherington.  The answers still seem germane to me today, as the question of Jesus’ existence has simply ratcheted up, all these years later.

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Ben Witherington, a conservative evangelical ...

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An Example of a True Story that Didn’t Happen: Part 1

I have been trying to explain (without complete success) that the Bible, in the view of some scholars starting in the early 19th century, could contain “true” stories that “didn’t happen” – or at least didn’t happen as they are narrated.  One important point I want to make about this claim: I am *not* saying that I personally hold this view.  I’m not saying I think these stories are necessarily “true” as far as I’m concerned.  I’m saying that the ...

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Appreciating the Myths of the Bible

When I came to see that there are mistakes in the Bible, I did not jettison it all as a waste of time.  Not at all.  On the contrary, I continued to value and cherish it, as a book that could reveal truths about God.  Yes it had discrepancies, contradictions, historical errors, glaring scientific mistakes, and so on.  Of course it did.  But that for me was not the ultimate point.  The Bible It was a product of its own ...

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Finding More Problems in the Old Testament

Yesterday I started detailing some of the contradictions and historical or scientific problems with the Old Testament that I started to find when I was a graduate at Princeton Seminary, starting to examine the Bible not as the inerrant revelation from God Almighty but as a more human book that could indeed have mistakes in it.  The account I gave of these problems was lifted straight from my textbook: The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.  There’s a reason for ...

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Finding Problems in the Old Testament

I have been explaining that while at Princeton Theological Seminary, I started finding that there could be mistakes in the Bible.  My first realization of this involved my study of the Gospels, but I was studying the Hebrew Bible as well, and I finally got to the point where I had to admit there appeared to be mistakes there as well.  Lots of mistakes.  Contradictions, discrepancies, historical errors.  And these show up right off the bat, in the book of ...

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Background to a Different View of the Afterlife: The Maccabean Revolt

The views about the afterlife found in the Hebrew Bible are not, by and large, replicated in the New Testament.  A new view had developed in Judaism by that time, rooted in the ideology known as “apocalypticism,” which I have talked about before on the blog.  Ideologies do not arise in a vacuum of course, but are responses to concrete historical, social, and cultural forces, events, and situations.   To make sense of the Jewish notion of “resurrection” (the dominant ...

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Job and the God Who Refuses To Answer

This will be my last post in this thread within a thread on Job.  I ended my last post by pointing out that near the end of the poetic dialogues (chs. 3-42a), Job pleads to have a chance to defend himself before God himself.  Before he is granted – or made to suffer – such a chance, another so-called friend, Elihu appears and states forcefully the view of all the “friends,” that Job is suffering because he has committed sins ...

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Was Job Really Innocent?

In this thread within a thread I have been talking about the book of Job and its two authors and their two different views of suffering.  In the narrative that begins and ends the book (chs. 1-2, 42), by one of the authors, suffering is a test from God to see whether Job will remain faithful even if he suffers dearly.  Does he really worship God because God deserves it, or because of what he can get from it?

In the ...

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