Why Christians Needed an Old Testament: Pagan Attacks on the Faith

In my discussion why Christians claimed the Jewish Bible for themselves (and argued it no longer belonged to Jews), I’ve been focusing strictly on the relationship of Jews and Christians, for obvious reasons.  But as it turns out, there is more to it than that.   Here is an issue that is hardly ever talked about in the scholarship on the rise of anti-Judaism in early Christianity, let alone among lay people wondering about why mainstream Christianity became opposed to Jews ...

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Death and the Meaning of Life

Different understandings about what happens to us at death embody and promote different views about what we consider to be the ultimate reality of life, what it is that we think — at the deepest level of our being — provides meaning for our existence and makes sense of the world we encounter while still breathing.

I have given four examples from the ancient world.  Each of them portrays a different sense of ultimate reality, of one thing, in each case, ...

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Jesus “Only” Adopted to be the Son of God?

Here’s a post from six years ago involving an important matter that I completely changed my mind about.   I know some scholars (not to name names) will never change their views about something, come hell or high water.  They probably don’t think they should be seen to waffle.  I don’t mind waffles.  Especially on a nice Sunday morning like this.

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I used to think – for years and years I thought this – that being adopted was a lower ...

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A Roman Vision of Heaven and Hell

In our world, most people who think about the afterlife suppose that when we die we either cease to exist or receive our due rewards (rewards/punishments).  I have pointed out that the latter view did not originate in Jewish or Christian circles, but in pagan, going back some time before the Greek philosopher Plato in the fourth century BCE.   The Greeks influenced their later conquerors the Romans in many, many ways, one of which involves their views of the afterlife.  ...

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Did Ancient Greeks Invent Heaven and Hell?

Back, for a post, to the scholarly project I’m now doing on the “katabasis” traditions in early Christianity – the stories of people being given tours of / visions of both heaven and hell.   Some readers of the blog may be confused about why, on a blog devoted to the study of the New Testament and Early Christianity, I would want to discuss the Odyssey of Homer or the Aeneid of Virgil, etc.   It’s because I very much want to ...

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A Forger Fooled By Forgery

In my previous post I talked about my scholarly book on forgery (Forgery and Counterforgery) and gave some of the opening paragraphs of the Introduction.  Here I’ll give the very first part of the first chapter.  I wanted to start out on a light and humorous note, even though I was writing at a scholarly level.   And so I began with an amusing anecdote from the annals of ancient forgery, a case where a forger was intentionally deceived by ...

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The Surprising Understanding of Gender in the Ancient World

Back in January I made three posts on the role of women in the churches of Paul (see the posts of January 16, 17, and 18).  These raised various questions from readers about how and why women went from having a fairly *prominent* role in Paul’s own churches to having thoroughly *diminished* roles in the churches that arose after his day, as embodied for example in the Pastoral epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (books that claim to ...

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Did Romans Allow Jews to Bury Crucified Victims? Readers’ Mailbag January 1, 2018

Here on the first day of the new year, I was digging around on the blog and I found a post that I *meant* to make a couple of months ago that I never did.  Don’t remember why!  But here it is.  It is from the Readers’ Mailbag, and about a very interesting and controversial issue: would the Romans have allowed anyone to bury Jesus the afternoon on which he was crucified?  I think not, even though I’m in the ...

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Decent Burials for Crucified Victims: A Blast From the Past

My post a couple of weeks ago about the burial of Jesus (understandably) struck a nerve for some readers; I was just now digging around in the archives, and see that I addressed most of the important issues, head on, in this rather controversial post I made back in 2012.  All these years later, I’m still open to being convinced otherwise!!!

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In my previous post I quoted a number of ancient sources that indicated that part of the torture ...

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Too Much Money and the Afterlife

In a previous post I talked about the very funny satirical dialogue of the second-century pagan Lucian of Samosata, “Voyage to the Underworld” in which an unbelievably wealthy tyrant became incredibly miserable after death, because he realized that all his power, influence, and massive wealth had been stripped from him, and would be, for all eternity, whereas a poor cobbler who had lived a miserably impoverished existence was rather pleased that he no longer would starve and freeze nearly to ...

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