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Teaching the Bible as a Historical Book

Ever since I first put foot in a university classroom as a professor of religious studies, I have been firmly committed to the constitutional separation of church and state.  I have never seen it to be my mission either to convert someone to a new religious point of view or to deconvert them from their old one.  My goals have been to teach about the history and literature of the New Testament from a non-confessional point of view and to ...

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Teaching Religion in a Secular Environment

This little diversion of a thread was going to be a simply one-post on the talk I’ll be giving today to my undergraduate Introduction to the New Testament class, where I spill the beans about what I personally believe and why.  But it’s turned into a four-post mini-thread on my views of the separation of church and state. So far it’s been all background – how my twelve years of higher education were all done in Christian confessional contexts, not ...

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How We Got Our 27-Book New Testament: The Case of Didymus

As I pointed out in my previous post, when I was a graduate student I wanted to show that I was not interested only in New Testament textual criticism (using the surviving witnesses to establish what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote) but in a range of important historical and interpretive issues in early Christianity.   I wanted to be broad ranging.  And I wanted this already at the very beginning of my graduate work.

My first semester in the ...

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My “Preparation” to Teach in a Secular Research Institution

Wednesday is my last lecture of the semester in my undergraduate Introduction to the New Testament class.  It will be something different.  I have made it an optional class, for anyone who wants to hear me talk about what I really believe, personally, about the material we’ve been covering in the class.  I’ve done this in years past, and usually it is the best attended class of the semester.  I’m not sure what that says about my teaching otherwise….

In a ...

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About Graduate Studies: A Blast from the Past

Two days ago someone asked me about doing graduate studies.  He had a master’s degree and was wondering about whether to do a PhD.  I told him that if he could imagine doing something else with his life, he probably should do so.  Doing a PhD is just too painful.  It’s long (in my field it typically takes about 6-8 years *after* doing a Masters; lots of students take longer), it’s really hard, it’s really painful, and there’s no guarantee ...

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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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Dinner With Me? A Blog Idea.

A member of the blog has sent me an email (and given me permission to cite it here) with an idea that may be attractive to some of you.  Or you might think it’s a bit crazy.  It involves giving people a chance to have dinner with me in exchange for a sizeable donation (which would go not to me but to the blog; every penny of it, then, would go to the charities the blog supports).    It could be ...

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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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Did David Exist? And When Did I Know I Lost My Faith? Mailbag April 15, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  The first has to do with the historical evidence, if any, for the Israelite kings Saul, David, and Solomon – did they exist, or are the stories about them entirely legendary?   The second, coming to us from a different universe, is about me personally, and my faith, whether there was a proverbial straw that broke my faith-camel’s back.

 

QUESTION:

According to Finkelstein and Silberman’s book, The Bible Unearthed, which I ...

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