Want To Know About the Apostolic Fathers?

Last year we admitted a student into our PhD program last year to work with me, but since I’ve been on academic leave to write my next book, I haven’t  had the chance to teach her.  That’s obviously a problem, since I”m one of the reasons she’s here!  So we agreed that I would go ahead and do a one-on-one independent study with her this semester on an important topic, the Apostolic Fathers.

We meet once a week for three hours ...

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Was Christianity a Missionary Religion with No Missionaries?

Early Christians were bound and determined to convert others to their faith, as I indicated in my previous post.  Or at least that’s what their literature suggests; I very much doubt if *everyone* was!  But they certainly did convert people – within four hundred years a tiny handful of the disciples of Jesus’ uneducated and unimpressive disciples had become the official religion of the entire western world.

The interest in making converts made this religion unlike anything else in the Roman ...

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Why Do Christians Try to Convert People?

I begin this New Year by addressing a really interesting question I received recently from a reader.  It’s a question that has rarely occurred to most people.  Today, we tend to think that religions are by their very nature interested in converting others to their views, that they just inherently evangelistic, missionary, proselytizing.  If you religion is “the right one,” wouldn’t you want everyone to agree with you, so they too could be right, instead of wrong?   Wouldn’t their salvation ...

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How Did We Get The 27 Books of the New Testament?

This now is a continuation of my projected longer blog post that will serve as an Introduction to the New Testament (possibly around 5000 – 6000 words or so).  In the first section I discussed the layout and structure of the New Testament; in the second I gave brief descriptions of each of the twenty-seven books.  In this one (spread out over two posts) I deal with the question of how we actually got it: how was it collected together ...

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The Gospel of Thomas and the Other Gospels

Here’s a post from seven years ago that is still very important and intriguing to anyone interested in the NT and early Christianity.   It’s mainly about the most influential and historically important Gospel from outside the New Testament.  I’ve inserted a couple of explanations [in brackets] to update the post.

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One of the benefits of teaching at a research university with a graduate program is that – at least where I am – there are periodic reading groups with ...

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How Did We Get *These* 27 Books in the New Testament?

I often receive questions about how we got the canon of the New Testament.   We have twenty-seven books in it.  Who decided?  On what grounds?  And when?  Here is a recent question on the matter.

 

QUESTION

I have always wondered about the men (only men!) who decided “this one’s in . . . that one’s out!” back in 325 (was it 325?) at Trullan, Rome, Trent and where else? Nicea?

 

RESPONSE:

The first thing to emphasize is that the most common answer one hears ...

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Is It Ever Right to Lie? Or Was It? Even in Early Christianity? The Relevance for Forgery.

Is it ever morally acceptable – even desirable – to tell a bald-faced lie?  That was probably a topic covered in your Philosophy 101 course.  At a historian, I’m interested in the question from an ancient perspective.  What did people in antiquity think about it?  In particular Christians.  Did they think – based on the Ten Commandments, say, or the teachings of Jesus, that a person should never lie?  Or were they quite lax on the matter?  Or something in ...

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Were Ancient Readers Interested in Detecting Forgeries?

I continue now with my lecture this past week on whether ancient readers and writers considered pseudepigraphic writing – in which an author claimed to be someone else (always someone famous) – was seen as deceitful, a kind of literary lie, and is therefore appropriately, in an ancient context, appropriately considered by thos of us today, “forgery.”  This is Part 2 of 4.

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I do not need to give an extensive account of all the instances of ancient Echtheitskritik ...

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Did Superior Health Care Lead to the Dominance of Christianity?

Interesting question from a recent member of the blog:

 

QUESTION:

In the August 5/12 New Yorker, a review of a new book, “The mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator.” In this review, this sentence: “In the third century, malaria epidemics helped drive people to a small, much persecuted faith that emphasized healing and care of the sick, propelling Christianity into a world-altering religion.” I realize that medical history is not your thing. If nonetheless you’d care ...

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But WHY Doesn’t Torture Hurt?? Guest Post by Stephanie Cobb

This now is the final of Stephanie Cobb’s posts on the painlessness of martyrdom, as explained more fully in her recent book.  And now we get to the heart of the matter: if it doesn’t hurt, uh, why is that???

Again, Stephanie has graciously agreed to answer your questions — so ask away.


Stephanie Cobb has written Dying to Be Men and Divine Deliverance.

If you were a member of the blog, ...

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