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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How Do We Explain the Messianic Secret?

For this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, I address a question of central importance for understanding the Gospel of Mark, our earliest Gospel and often thought to be the one that best represents what actually happened in the life of Jesus.  I’ll have to *explain* the question before answering it (!).   Then most of this post will be setting up the answer with the crucial background information, which, as it turns out, the vast majority of casual Bible readers have never even ...

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Guest Post! Joel Marcus on His New Book on the John the Baptist

Many readers of the blog will already be familiar with my long-time friend and colleague from Duke, Joel Marcus, one of the top New Testament scholars in America (or anywhere else, for that matter).   Joel and I have known each other for over thirty years — since he started teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary, soon after I finished my PhD there.   He is especially well known for his massive and learned two-volume commentary on the Gospel of Mark for the ...

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If Jesus Wasn’t God, Was He Necessarily Either a Calloused Liar or a Raving Lunatic?

This is my my last of three blasts-from-the-pasts dealing with fundamentalist, or conservative evangelical, forms of Christianity, this time addressing the claims often made (first by C.S. Lewis, who was decidedly *NOT* a fundamentalist) that since Jesus called himself God, he either was a bald-faced liar, a raving lunatic, or the Lord of the universe.  No other option.  Or … is there?

 

QUESTION:

Do you think Jesus was a great moral teacher?  If you think this is the case would you mind blogging ...

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Was Jesus A Great Moral Teacher? A Blast From the Past

A few days ago, in response to a question, I reposted on the problem of fundamentalism; looking back on the blog some six years, I see that at about the same time another related question appeared.  This involves fundamentalists who object to calling Jesus a “great moral teacher” since, for them, he is actually God himself.   It will take two posts to reply to that view, first, in this one: was Jesus in fact a great moral teacher?  The answer ...

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Readers’ Mailbag 1/20/2019: The Only Story of Jesus as a Boy in the New Testament

Based on the feedback I’ve received on the blog this past week, I’ve decided to reinstate the weekly Readers’ Mailbag.   I have actually continued responding to questions since abandoning the feature of the blog, but in a less formal way.  Formalizing it seems like a popular option, and so I’ll try to do this once a week.   I start this week with an interesting question about Jesus as a boy.

 

QUESTION

Outside the birth narratives, the only canonical story about the young ...

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Were There *Other* Virgin Births in Antiquity?

As happened four years ago when I made a series of posts on the virgin birth stories in the NT, this time too I’ve received queries about whether the idea of a virgin birth was a common motif in antiquity; some “popular” books out there claim that other alleged sons of God were born of virgins.  Is that true?  Well, I don’t think so.  Here is how I responded before.

 

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I have devoted several posts to the issue of ...

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The Birth of Jesus in Matthew

Here I continue my seasonal reflections about the Christmas accounts in the New Testament.

Yesterday’s blog was about the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke; today I talk about Matthew. Even a casual reading shows that these are two very different accounts. Matthew has nothing about the birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation, the census, the trip to Bethlehem, the shepherds, the presentation in the Temple. Matthew’s version, as a result, is much shorter. Most of his stories are found ...

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The Birth of Jesus in Luke

As I indicated yesterday, I’m doing a series of posts leading up to Christmas, dealing with the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the New Testament.   Here’s a discussion of the one most familiar to people, found in the Gospel of Luke.

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As I’ve indicated, it is only Matthew and Luke that tell the tales of the infancy narrative, and the annual “Christmas Pageant” that so many of us grew up seeing is in fact a conflation of the two ...

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What Can We Know about Jesus’ Birth?

Browsing through holiday-season blogs from previous eras, I came across my first small thread on Christmas from exactly six years ago.  I had forgotten about this.  Some of the material has shown up occasionally in the intervening years, but maybe it’s a good time to repost a bit of it.  Here is the first: an account of what we can, and cannot, know about Jesus’ birth.  Bethlehem?  Virgin?  Date?   Or even… year?

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I have decided to ...

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