I am having a ten-week long celebration of our ten-year anniversary, from this past April 18, by reposting all the previous April 18 posts, one a week. Many of them I’d forgotten about. This one is about how weird it is to me that people think I’m controversial…. (As usual, I’m a bit tetchy about it!)
In this post I am going to take a bit of time out to do some self-reflection. An issue I’ve been puzzling over for some time is the fact that people keep referring to my work as “controversial.” I hear this all the time. And truth be told, I’ve always found it bit odd and a disconcerting. This past week I’ve had two people tell me that they know that I “like to be controversial.” That’s actually not the case at all. One person told me that she had seen a TV show where someone had said that they didn’t believe that Jesus existed, and she thought that was right up my alley. I didn’t bother to tell her that I had written an entire book arguing that Jesus certainly did exist. She simply assumed that this was the sort of view that I myself would have and delight in making public.
The reason I find that the idea I’m controversial so strange is that my views about the historical Jesus, the authorship of the books of the New Testament, the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament, the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity, the rise of early Christology, and on and on – these are views that are not odd at all in the academy. I *acquired* almost all of these views, most of them in a Protestant Christian seminary training ministers! What I talk about in my writings is what I myself have learned. Very rarely in my popular writings do a I put out a view that is unusual and untested in the academic world (as opposed to my scholarly works, where I try to advance scholarship).
I have put forth unusual views occasionally in a broader context to a general audience, and when I do the response I get from other scholars is very interesting and a bit amusing. If I advance a
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