Update on my Publication Plans

A couple of people have asked me about the status of my two books – the one that is finished and coming out, The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World, and the one I am now doing my research on The Invention of the Afterlife: A History of Heaven and Hell.

First, Triumph.  There is indeed news about this one, and I can’t decide if it’s good news or bad news.  It feels (emotionally) like it’s bad ...

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What I Came To Believe About the Bible

It is a little difficult for me to describe what I believed after I gave up on my view that the Bible was the inerrant revelation from God with no mistakes in it whatsoever.  In part that is because there was a long transition period, and over time my beliefs evolved as I studied more, talked with friends and colleagues more, encountered more ideas, thought more.

I was in the perfect situation for this kind of study and reflection.  I was ...

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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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Why Have I Stopped Explaining How I Lost My Faith? Readers’ Mailbag June 4, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weeks’ Readers’ Mailbag.  The first is about what happened to that thread I was supposed to be doing on why I lost my faith (!) and the other about whether Mark’s account of Jesus’ death contains an inner discrepancy (one verse flat out contradicting another).

 

QUESTION:

I’m a bit confused. A few weeks ago you said you were going to write about what you tell your students on the last day of school ...

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Why It Didn’t Happen that Way. The Stories of Jesus’ Birth

In the previous post I began to discuss (as a review for many readers of the blog) the historical problems with the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.  The point of the discussion is that the stories cannot be accepted as historically accurate.  This is a huge issue mainly for fundamentalist Christians and conservative evangelicals – and those they have managed to persuade that if a story does not describe what actually happened, then it is worthless and should simply ...

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Another “True” Story that Didn’t Happen? Jesus’ Birth in Luke

I have been trying to illustrate the point that critical scholars who remain Christian have long made, that there can be stories in the Bible that are not historically accurate but that are trying to convey larger theological truths.  My first illustration had to do with the death of Jesus; in this post and the next, I will deal with the birth of Jesus.   This is a topic I’ve dealt with several times over the years on the blog; but ...

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Is Theological “Truth” More Important than Historical Accuracy?

In the previous post I began to explain how there could be an account in the Gospels that is not historically accurate because an author is more interested in conveying what, to him, is a theological “truth” than in giving a history lesson about what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  In my view, the early Christian story tellers and Gospel writers (often?) changed historical data in order to make theological points.  What mattered more than historical accuracy was ...

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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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Would I Be Personally Devastated if the Mythicists Were Right? A Blast From the Past

For my mailbag this week I dug into one from the past — almost exactly five years ago.  I would probably answer it the same today.  My thoughts here on how we go about knowing what actually happened in the past strike me as having very broad application (not just to the question I was asked), and (especially toward the end of my answer) to have even greater relevance now than they did then, given our current historical moment.

 

QUESTION:

Was also wondering – ...

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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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