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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Translating the Apostolic Fathers: A Blast from the Past

In my last post I answered a question about whether I would ever publish a translation of the New Testament. (Short answer: almost certainly not!). But I want to take a couple of posts to talk about the work of translation.

There is a very big difference between being able to read an ancient text in its ancient language (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, whatever) and producing a translation of it for publication. You might think that it’s all basically the ...

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Problems with Some Bible Translations, including the King James: A Blast from the Past

    In my Introduction to the New Testament undergraduate class this semester, I have told the students that they can use most any Bible translation they want, but I prefer the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and I do *not* want them using either a paraphrase or the King James.  Some of them want to know why, and so I explain to them.  Here is a post on the topic from almost exactly five years ago.  (Note: I’m ...

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Lecture at Washington & Jefferson College

On March 9, 2017, I gave a lecture at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington PA, called “Who Wrote the Bible? The Surprising Claims of Modern Scholars.”  This was part of a kind of lecture tour that I did for the nation’s oldest honor society, Phi Beta Kappa.  The society’ has a “Visiting Scholar Program”: a dozen or so scholars are chosen each year to visit college and university campuses to meet with Phi Beta Kappa members, teaching some classes, ...

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What Really Happened to Me: Demythologizing the New Testament

As I suggested in yesterday’s post, the reason I’ve been trying to show that biblical scholars who still revere the Bible but recognize that it is, even so, filled with mistakes, discrepancies, and contradictions is to explain what happened to my faith once I realized that the Bible was not the inerrant revelation from God that I had always assumed it was.

It is amazing how often people tell me – usually with a touch of personal complacency – that the ...

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True Stories that Didn’t Happen

In my previous post I explained how the term “myth” came to be applied to the miracle stories of the New Testament in the work of David Friedrich Strauss in 1835-36.   This is all background to what happened to me personally – 150 years later!  Before talking about how my views of the Bible changed once I realized many of its stories could not be literally, historically true, I should expand a bit on the very notion that, as Strauss ...

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The Gospels as Myths

In providing background to how I began to understand the Bible once I realized that it was not an inerrant revelation from God, I have been giving a kind of history of scholarship on the Gospels, explaining how it was that, before the Enlightenment, virtually everyone understood the Gospels to be Supernatural Histories, and that during the Enlightenment there were scholars who maintained they were Natural Histories.  Now I can complete this short survey by talking about a significant development, ...

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