The Writings of Papias: Guest Post by Stephen Carlson

I occasionally get questions about one of the most interesting but least known Christian authors of the early 2nd century, a man named Papias (writing in 120 CE? 140 CE).  Many readers consider him particularly important because he claims to have known and interviewed the companions of disciples of Jesus’ own apostles (it’s a bit confusing: but Jesus had his apostles; after his death they themselves had disciples; Papias knew people who knew these disciples of the apostles); moreover, Papias ...

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The Protestant Obsession with Origins

It was especially in the nineteenth century that scholars of religion, theology, and biblical studies became deeply obsessed with the question of “origins.”   In many ways, the roots for this interest – in these fields in particular – lay in the Protestant Reformation, and it is no accident that the major research on the question was done in predominantly Protestant countries (especially Germany; somewhat in England and, even less, in America) and by Protestant professors in these fields, scholars who ...

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A Return to the Historical Jesus

One of the most interesting developments within New Testament studies happened in the 1950s.  To set the development in context, I need to remind you that the long “quest” of the historical Jesus – trying to determined what Jesus said and did historically – was evidently put to rest by the work of Wrede and Schweitzer fifty years earlier, and not a whole lot was being done in that field, as scholars *either* thought that our sources were basically reliable ...

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The Gospel Writers as Editors Rather than Authors

Three weeks ago I started to give a response to a question about the Messianic Secret.  At first I thought I could handle the question in a post or two.  As seems to happen a lot on the blog, once I explained all the background that led up to the development of the idea, and then explained it, and then talked about its aftermath – Voila!  We had an entire thread.   All to the good, I suppose.

I have now gotten ...

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A New Way of Looking at the Gospels

In this long and complicated answer to the “messianic secret” in Mark I have explained how 19th century scholars were interested in “source criticism” — the attempt to figure out what the sources of the Gospels were, and in particular, how to explain the “synoptic problem,” that is, the problem of explaining how Matthew, Mark, and Luke have so many similarities, in terms of the stories they tell, often in the same sequence, and even at numerous points in precisely ...

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If the Quest for the Historical Jesus Failed… What Then?

In response to a question about the Messianic Secret in Mark, I have now shown how scholars (most signficiantly William Wrede) came to realize that not even the Gospel of Mark was a straightforward historical account of what actually happened in the life of Jesus. Some five years ago on the blog I talked about what happened next, in the scholarship on the New Testament.  It’s a crucial element of the history of biblical scholarship.  Here is what I said.

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Mark: The First Gospel in 19th Century Research

My custom/self-imposed policy is to re-post blog posts only when they are a few years old, in the expectation that most blog members will not have seen them and that some of those who have — if they are at all like me — won’t actually remember them.  In this case I need to post one from 2017.  In a later post I am going to argue that when William Wrede published his book on the Messianic Secret, it disabused ...

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The Beginning of the Quest of the Historical Jesus

In 1901 William Wrede, a German Protestant biblical scholar, published his earth-shattering work, Das Messiasgeheimnis, “The Messianic Secret.”  It overturned in a rather devastating way the entire scholarly consensus about the Gospel of Mark and, more important and relatedly, undercut the whole enterprise scholars had undertaken to use the Gospels to reconstruct the life of the historical Jesus.

When five years later, Albert Schweitzer (later famous as a great humanitarian, medical doctor to Africa, who had abandoned his career as a ...

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The Digital Bible (by Jeff Siker)

I just finished the seventh edition of my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.   I started working on it, for the first edition, in 1993 – so I’ve been at it for 25 years.   Ouch.   For this new revision, among other things, I’ve added an Excursus of particular relevance, on the “Digital Bible,” written, luckily for all involved, not by me, but by my scholar-friend Jeff Siker, who has published, just this past year, ...

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Redaction Criticism of the Gospels

 

In a previous post I explained why scholars have long held to “Markan Priority,” the view that Mark was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke both used it for constructing their own narratives.   One great pay-off for this conclusion (it really is significant) is that it is possible, given this result, to see how Matthew and Luke have each *modified* Mark in the stories they received from him.  This approach is called “redaction criticism.”  A “redactor” is ...

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