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The Reconstruction of Q: Platinum Guest Post by Steve Sutter

Here is an interesting and informative post on the Q source, provided for us by Steve Sutter. I have been spacing out these Platinum posts, in part because the supply is limited (and the queue almost gone!).   If you have one to submit: go for it!  You can get your ideas out there, people can respond, you can respond back, and it's all good. *************************** The Earliest Gospel “Q” was Lost -- But Reconstructed By: Steve Sutter, M.S. Presque Isle, Maine   The idea of a collection of sayings of Jesus lying behind the Gospels of Matthew and Luke is not a new idea. In 1908, Dr. Adolf von Harnack, a Lutheran theologian and Professor of Church History at the University of Berlin, authored a book entitled The Sayings of Jesus -- The Second Source of St. Matthew and St. Luke. It’s intriguing that in Harnack’s day, at least some historical investigators hypothesized that Jesus was “a genuine Buddhist, who had, however, come under the influence of ideas originating in ancient Babylon, Persia, Egypt, and [...]

2021-06-19T08:01:43-04:00June 19th, 2021|Canonical Gospels, History of Biblical Scholarship|

How Then Do Most Ancient Manuscripts Get Discovered?

I have been discussing documents from early Christianity that I would very much like to have see with my own eyes.  In my last post I mentioned the fact that documents that *do* tend to be discovered are either copies of books we already have (the Gospel of John, the book of Revelation, etc.) or of books that we did not previously know existed (the Letter of Diognetus, or most of the writings in the Nag Hammadi library). Here is a related question from a reader of the blog. QUESTION: Are there researchers who systematically attempt to find these ancient documents or when documents come to light is it pretty much by chance? ANSWER: Well, not so much, not these days. For a simple reason: how does one go about trying to discover a manuscript? Do you fly to Egypt, hire a taxi to take you out to the desert, and start digging? There were basically two ways that past researchers tried to discover manuscripts. Sometimes they were spectacularly successful. But one of these ways [...]

How Do We Know What Christians Thought about Jesus BEFORE the New Testament?

Yesterday I posted the first in what will be a series of reflections on the earliest Christian Christologies (understandings of Christ).  I began to outline what I take to be the earliest Christology of all. Jesus and his followers, I maintained, saw him(self) as a man and nothing more than a man (who was a great teacher, a prophet, and the future messiah of the coming kingdom – but human through and through, nothing else). But once these followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead, they altered their view to begin to think that God had exalted him to heaven and made him his specially anointed one, his Son, who would indeed be the future messiah and who would bring in that Kingdom himself when he returned from heaven as the Son of Man. And so, why do I think that this Christological view – that God made Jesus his Son at the resurrection, the one who reigns *now* (and so is already the “ruler” or the “anointed one” or [...]

2021-01-18T09:54:44-05:00January 28th, 2021|Bart’s Biography, History of Biblical Scholarship|

Was Jesus Born in Bethlehem? Matthew’s Version….

It is virtually certain that Jesus’ was raised in the small hamlet of Nazareth in Galilee, the northern part of Israel.   All of our sources agree that he was from there, and it is very hard to imagine why a Christian story teller would have made that up (since there was no prestige about the place: no one had ever even heard of it!).    But now the question is whether that was also his place of birth. The only two accounts we have of Jesus’ birth, Matthew and Luke, independently claim that even though he was raised in Nazareth, he was actually born in Bethlehem.   So isn’t that the more likely scenario?  Born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth?   You might think so, given the fact that this is what is stated in our only two sources of information, and that they independently agree about the matter (based on their own sources, the no longer existing M – Matthew’s source or sources – and the no longer existing L – Luke’s source or sources). But [...]

2020-12-13T21:35:28-05:00December 23rd, 2020|Canonical Gospels, History of Biblical Scholarship|

Inclusive Language in Bible Translation?

One more issue connected with Bible translations: what does one do with shifts in usage in the English language toward inclusive language.  It's a hot topic, and somehow I suspect one that a lot of people on the blog have strong views of.  I certainly have them.  I talked about it once on the blog, in connection with my work with the NRSV Translation Committee. ******************************************** One of the most difficult issues that the New Revised Standard Version translation committee had to address involved the use of inclusive language.  Part of the problem was that this issue was not a generally recognized issue (by the wider reading public) when the translators began their work, but was very much an issue when they were already finished with a large chunk of it.  The translators were mainly senior scholars who had acquired their linguistic skills before virtually anyone in the academy knew (or at least said) that there even was a problem with inclusivity, and so they themselves were learning how to communicate in the new idiom.  [...]

“The Case for Christ”? The New Testament Review Podcast

Here now is the second guest post by Duke PhD students Ian Mills and Laura Robinson, dealing with their podcast  New Testament Review.   In this one they describe one of their more unusual podcasts.  As you'll see, they deal with extremely interesting material for to anyone interested real scholarship on early Christianity-- as opposed to the (often very popular) books by people who don't know  or understand scholarship but try to denigrate it in order to "prove" their own sectarian views.   Blog Post #2 New Testament Review on Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ   As outlined in our last post, the New Testament Review podcast is dedicated to summarizing influential pieces of New Testament scholarship and their reception in the field. Every work we cover has transformed how later scholarship treats a specific topic or text. Every work, that is, except one. On April 1st 2019, we released an episode with the title, “Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ.” Lee Strobel is a former journalist turned evangelical Christian apologist. His bestselling book The [...]

2020-08-19T09:10:47-04:00August 19th, 2020|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

A Podcast of Interest to You! Guest post by Ian Mills and Laura Robinson

If you are interested in learning more about scholarship on the New Testament, but at a lay person's level, this is the post for you!  It is about a podcast that might be (probably is) right up your alley, set up and run by two graduate students from Duke University who have worked with me over the past few years. One of the real pleasures of teaching graduate students in New Testament/early Christianity at UNC is that Duke is just ten miles away, with its own graduate program.  The New Testament program at Duke program in New Testament has a different focus from ours here at at UNC.  To put it in the most simple terms, at UNC we have a more historically-focused approach and at Duke they have a more interpretation-focused approach.   Of course, you can't do one without the other.  But I tend to teach historical topics to our students, with interpretation of texts as part of what we do; many of their classes are more focused on interpretation with history as the [...]

2020-08-14T15:25:05-04:00August 14th, 2020|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

Proving the Bible Is True: The Museum of the Bible. Guest Post by Cavan Concannon

Here now is the second of three posts on the Museum of the Bible, this one by Cavan Concannon, one of the editors of the newly released volume, The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction.  One of the most amazing lines in this post is the claim made by a representative of the museum that: "The Bible has been carefully transmitted through time."   Wow!  OK then....   You gotta wonder what this fellow (whom Cavan quotes) is thinking....    What I myself am thinking is that he has a different definition of "carefully" from me.... Again, Cavan will be happy to respond to your comments. - Cavan Concannon is the editor of The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction, and the author of Assembling Early Christianity and Profaning Paul, among other works. **********************************************************   Proving the Bible: Archaeology, Objects, and Evangelical Theology at the Museum of the Bible By Cavan Concannon   The Museum of the Bible (MOTB) is no stranger to scandal. In our previous post, we described how, in their quest for [...]

2021-04-19T23:39:31-04:00July 17th, 2020|Book Discussions, History of Biblical Scholarship|

Are Bible Translators Consistent? Readers’ Mailbag

In today’s Reader’s Mailbag I deal with a question that involves both the differences in the manuscripts of the New Testament AND the issue of English Bible translations.  As many of you know, almost all scholars agree that passages such as the “Woman Taken in Adultery,” in John 7:53-8:11 and the last twelve verses of Mark (Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after the resurrection) were not original to the New Testament.  (If you’re not familiar with this issue, see my book Misquoting Jesus and/or do word searches to find discussions on the blog).   And yet most modern Bibles continue to include them, even if they put them in brackets with a footnote saying that they are missing from the best manuscripts we have. But why aren’t translators consistent in applying this rule: keeping verses they know are not original with footnotes?  Why  in other, analogous cases, do they more often remove the passages completely and put them in the notes? It’s a great question:  here is how the reader phrased it, with very helpful examples. [...]

Was There One Author Behind the Four Johannine Writings? A Community? Guest Post by Hugo Mendez

We continue now with the third of Hugo Mendez's guest posts on the "community" allegedly behind the Gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John.   Here he shows why most critical scholars do NOT think (as most other interested human beings on the planet do!) that all four were written by the same person (let alone Jesus' disciple, John the Son of Zebedee), and why they have argued that instead they all come from like-minded authors from the same community. But when he gets to the end he indicates why there is a flaw in this reasoning.  This post is an excellent example of solid scholarship with an unexpected ZINGER at the end! Hugo will be happy to respond to your comments, and he has certainly set up the next post.  (If you have time, go ahead and read the three letters; they are very short and it's a fast read.  But they have an importance far beyond what you might expect from their size) Why Scholars Haven’t Given Up on the Johannine Community (Yet) [...]

Were the Gospels Generally Written for “Communities” of Christians: Guest Post by Hugo Mendez

Here now is Hugo Mendez’s second post in his thread (started yesterday, if you haven’t seen it yet), challenging whether the writings of John all emerge from a specific “community,” as I argued in my previous thread.  In this post he points out how scholars have called into question whether the idea of "communities” is helpful at all for understanding the early Gospels. Hugo will be happy to address your questions!  Just post yours as a comment to the post. ***************************************************************  Challenges to the Idea of “Gospel Communities” As I noted last time, my most recent article questions the existence of the Johannine Community. There’s an early tendency when some hear of my project to confuse it with some other recent attempts to challenge the idea of “gospel communities.” Before discussing the terms of my own proposal, then, I’d like to catch you all up to speed with the current state of that debate over “communities” and where I “fit” into this discussion Today, New Testament scholars seem to fall into one of roughly three [...]

WAS there a Community behind the Gospel and Letters of John? Guest Post by Hugo Mendez

Here we begin a series of posts written by my colleague at UNC, Hugo Mendez.   Hugo has had an intriguing and impressive career.  He did an MA in Religion at University of Georgia, but then his PhD was in Linguistics, also at Georgia.  He went from there onto a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Yale and “retooled” to become a New Testament scholar through some, well, incredibly intense study.  He came to UNC as a postdoctoral fellow in 2016 for two years, after which we were fortunate to hire him as an assistant professor on tenure track. Hugo’s skills are remarkably wide-ranging.  He knows far more ancient languages than I do (on his CV he lists:  Indo-European: Ancient Greek, Latin, Classical Armenian, Gothic, Old Church Slavic, Sanskrit (Classical, Vedic). Aramaic (Biblical Aramaic, Classical Syriac), Classical Hebrew, and Akkadian.   Really.  OK then. If you’re interested in checking out his C.V. (hey, is this guy qualified?  J ), it is here: Hugo has just started his publishing career, and is doing so with a bang.  One of [...]

The More Scholarly Argument that Paul did Not Write Colossians

Every now and then I think it's useful on the blog to shift gears away from explaining at a more popular level what scholars have come to think to showing how scholars make their arguments to one *another*.  I don't want to do this a lot, but it seems that it can be helpful at times, just so blog readers can get a bit of a sense. Right now I'm in them middle of a thread on whether the author of Luke was really "Luke the gentile physician," one of Paul's traveling companions.  The only reason for thinking such a person even existed (a gentile doctor named Luke) is that he is mentioned by Paul in Colossians.  In my previous post I explained why the majority of critical scholars don't think Paul actually wrote Colossians (so that the historical Paul does *not* mention this person). The post was written for a general audience, and a number of people raised questions about it.  So here is how I provide the evidence for fellow scholars in my [...]

Final Tribute To Larry Hurtado

I am sorry to report that my colleague Larry Hurtado, a well-known scholar of the New Testament, author of several influential books, and prominent blogger, has died.    Back in July I indicated on the blog that he had become very ill.  At the time we thought he had only a few weeks to live.  But he soldiered on, and passed away last Monday, November 25. There is a very nice tribute to him by one of his former students at: I decided to repost here what I said in July, both as a tribute to him and to suggest several of his books that you might be interested in reading.  Larry was about ten years ahead of me in the field, and had very similar interests to mine, from textual criticism (studying ancient Greek manuscripts) to Christology (understanding how Jesus came to be worshiped as God).    A couple of his books are highly technical (as I indicate below); others are completely accessible to the non-academic.  You may want to check them out. [...]

Is the Bible Inerrant? Guest Post by Mike Licona

This now is the second of three posts by Mike Licona, Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University.  Mike has a PhD in New Testament studies and is a committed evangelical apologist, who has written a recent book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels (Oxford University Press, 2016). He does indeed admit there are differences in the Gospels, which some people would claim are actually contradictions; but he continues to believe the Bible is "inerrant."  What does he mean then?  In this clear and lucid post, he explains his views. NOTE: Mike's first post generated lots of comments, and it was a bit overwhelming.   He will be willing to answer questions/comments over the next four days, but not afterward.  That in itself is amazingly generous.  Please don't ask tons of questions in one comment -- that (I can say from experience) is hard to deal with!   Moreover, he and I both know that many people on the blog have a different perspective from his.  But please be respectful and courteous, even in your [...]

2021-02-13T01:05:29-05:00December 2nd, 2019|Canonical Gospels, History of Biblical Scholarship|

How Many Books in the New Testament Were Forged?

In response to the lecture on ancient practices of pseudepigraphy (writing in the name of a famous person when, alas, you are actually someone else), I received this important question, getting to the very basics – the heart and soul of the issue for students of early Christianity.   QUESTION: Dr Ehrman I know you have published and spoken on the topic, but would you mind sharing which NT books are pseudepigraphal?   RESPONSE Yes indeed, one of the reasons I’m so interested in this topic is that the use of pseudepigraphy, what today we would call “forgery,” was so much more widespread in antiquity than today, probably because there were far fewer people who were literate in the first place and so far fewer experts who could uncover a forgery; and those who could, of course, didn’t have our modern methods of analysis and technologies of data retrieval. It was very common in the Christian world as well.  Before answering the question directly at the end of this post, let me just say something [...]

My Lecture in Quebec: Did Ancient Authors Try To Deceive Their Readers?

I have decided to go ahead and post the address I gave last week to an academic conference in Quebec on "Pseudepigraphy" in the ancient world.  If you're not familiar with the term (why would you be??) it refers to a book written by an author who falsely claims to be someone else (like if I wrote a book and claimed to be Stephen King) (which maybe I should do....).   Most scholars seem to think this was an acceptable practice in the ancient world.  I don't.  My lecture was meant to show why. This will take about four posts.  Here's the beginning of the lecture (it came as the keynote at the end of two days of meetings/papers).  In the post itself I have translated the foreign language terms I use. *************************************************************************************** Over the past three days we have enjoyed a wide range of papers on numerous important texts, specific instantiations of ancient pseudepigraphy.  In this final address I will not be discussing a specific text but rather the broader phenomenon of pseudepigraphy itself, with [...]

Sad News From Larry Hurtado

Many readers on the blog will know of Larry Hurtado, a prominent New Testament scholar who has been influential as one of the most regular and reliable bloggers on issues of relevance to the study of early Christianity.   Larry has announced that he is very ill and will no longer be able to participate in either scholarship or the promotion of early Christians studies to a broader reading audience.  This is very sad, especially for us who know him.  (I will give his announcement about his illness and the prospects at the end of this post.) I have known Larry for over thirty years.  He started out as a New Testament textual critic, with his first book a published version of his dissertation: Hurtado, Larry W. (1981). Text-Critical Methodology and the Pre-Caesarean Text: Codex W in the Gospel of Mark. Studies and Documents. 43. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.  It's not something you will want to try to reading, unless you're an expert on Greek and the Greek manuscript tradition of the NT.  Trust me.  But I used [...]

2019-07-10T05:01:47-04:00July 10th, 2019|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|

The Legality, Morality, and Scandal of Acquiring Ancient Manuscripts: Guest Post by Jennifer Knust

Here is the final part of Jennifer’s Knust’s quest to trace the history of an intriguing Christian manuscript she came across, suspecting it had come to Duke ultimately as a result of Nazi looting decades earlier.  Now she details how she tried to track it down. The entire episode leads her, then to reflect on the Green Family Collection, a group of manuscripts and antiquities purchased by the owners of the Hobby Lobby and the basis of the “Museum of the Bible” in Washington D.C.   Any visitor to the museum might assume that acquiring such treasures would be relatively simple and involve no issues of legality, morality, and scandal.  On the contrary…. Jennifer Knust’s most popular books are To Cast the First Stone and Abandoned to Lust: Sexual Slander and Ancient Christianity. ************************************************* Part III: Manuscripts are Commodities The Antiquariat was (and is) a bookstore. Günther Koch was a bookseller. Indeed, in a counter-claim filed against the Rosenthals in the 1950s, he described himself as uniquely qualified for the position he undertook during and after the [...]

Christian Manuscripts and Nazi Loot: Guest Post by Jennifer Knust

This now is the second of Jennifer Knust’s three posts on her current project, tracing the history of a Christian manuscript she came upon from the rare book collection at Duke University.  Her research led her to booksellers in London, Munich, and Amsterdamn, and implicates the Aryanization policies of the Nazis.   Who knew New Testament scholarship could be so interesting?   Find below what she has to say. Jennifer Knust’s most popular books are To Cast the First Stone and Abandoned to Lust: Sexual Slander and Ancient Christianity. *************************************   Part II: Nazi Loot? My own project began when Aaron Ebert, a doctoral student at Duke University, noticed that the manuscript he was studying was one of three purchased by Duke from the London bookseller Raphael King in the 1950s. Very little information about Mr. King is available, so Aaron reached out to the Ludwig Rosenthal Antiquariaat, a venerable antiquarian bookstore now located in the Netherlands that once owned another of Duke’s manuscripts also sold by King, Greek MS 018. According to an important volume on Byzantine [...]

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