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Illuminating Exercises: The Position Paper Assignments for My NT Greek Class

Classes started last week, and for the first time in roughly forever I’m teaching a new course.  I posted the syllabus for my course on the Greek New Testament last week.  Here are the instructions I give the students for writing their weekly position papers.

These are exercises you too might be interested in – they are easily done, but highly illuminating.  Or at least they are meant to be.  Some of them (such as the first) make best sense in the context off a class discussion, where I can point out things that some readers wouldn’t pick up on; others (such as the second and third) are pretty self-explanatory.

The final two involve “collations” of manuscripts.  That involves taking a portion of a Greek manuscript (ancient hand-written copy) and comparing it word for word, letter for letter, with a modern printed Greek edition of the same passage, in order to note each and every difference, in order to see how alike they are.  That’s the first step to establishing the differences among our surviving manuscripts.  It requires not only the ability to read Greek, but also the ability to read Greek *handwriting* (in various forms), which is one of the things I’ll be teaching the students.


 Greek/Religious Studies 409

Instructions for Papers


Position Paper 1: The Varying Christologies of John

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What It Takes to be a Graduate Student
My Greek New Testament Course



  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 20, 2018

    Is this a course for graduate students?

  2. Robert
    Robert  January 20, 2018

    Seems more like a smash-up of courses on NT theologies & text criticism. If I were to take an advanced Greek course, I would rather focus on the individual Greek style of the various NT authors. I always found that more interesting and better prepararation for reading NT Greek fluently.

  3. Avatar
    Steefen  January 20, 2018

    I’ve been looking closely at the relationship of the gospel narratives to Julius Caesar and Son of the Divine, Augustus Caesar, as well as the Flavian Caesars.

    Francesco Carotta mentions a theologian Ethelbert Tauffer. When I looked for him in amazon dot com, I found he wrote a book “Christ and the Caesars.”

    Then what I found was a reader shocked by the claims: “Stauffer is making some pretty big claims, and I was never quite sure where he was getting his data. I actually emailed Dr. Paul Maier, (an expert on Ancient Greco-Roman history) and asked him if Stauffer was a reliable source. Dr. Maier gave him a thumbs up.”

    Have you met Dr. Paul Maier? Do scholars find merit in his works?

    Maier is the son of Walter A. Maier (1893–1950), founder and long time speaker of The Lutheran Hour. He is a graduate of Harvard University (M.A., 1954) and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (M. Div., 1955). On a Fulbright Scholarship, Maier studied at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and Basel, Switzerland. At Basel, Maier studied under scholars Karl Barth and Oscar Cullmann. He received his Ph.D., summa cum laude, in 1957.

    Are you familiar with Ethelbert Stauffer? Are you familiar with his book, Christ and the Caesars?

    Stauffer was born and raised in Worms, Germany. He studied Protestant theology at the universities of Halle, Berlin and Tübingen from 1921-1925. The New Testament scholar Ernst von Dobschütz appointed him the faculty assistant in Halle, where he graduated in 1929. He became a lecturer there in 1930.

    In the 1930s Stauffer was appointed professor of New Testament Studies and director of Ancient History Studies at the University of Bonn.

    I paraphrase: he was a little to close to Nazi Germany writing “Our Faith and Our History: Towards a Meeting of the Cross and the Swastika.” In 1957 he admitted the anti-semitic ideas of the “German Christian” by stating: “The primary role of Jesus research is clear: De-Judaizing the Jesus tradition.

    Ouch! ! ! ! Even so, did scholars find any merit in his works?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 21, 2018

      I’ve never read Stauffer’s book and don’t know Maier.

      • Avatar
        garytheman  March 25, 2018

        You say you don’t know who Paul Maier. I am shocked as he is highly respected world-wide as a biblical scholar, professor emeritus and Western Michigan University and author of many books which most theologians highly respect.

  4. Avatar
    nbraith1975  January 20, 2018

    Bart – An unrelated question about your *current* views of the Testimonium Flavianum and also the reference to James’ brother as “the Christ” by Josephus:

    In a debate with Craig Evans several years ago you seemed to imply that you accept the Testimonium Flavianum as being authored by Josephus.

    I have been doing some research into non-christian historic documentation of the life of Jesus and came across this link by Richard Carrier and found it quite interesting and very compelling.


    How do you view the historical validity of the Testimonium Flavianum?


    • Bart
      Bart  January 21, 2018

      I think the bulk of it is Josephan, but that there have been a few phrases added by a later Christian scribe. My sense is that this is the dominant view among scholars.

  5. Avatar
    ddorner  January 20, 2018

    I’m curious how Matthew 1:25 reads in Greek. Would this verse imply that Joseph did have relations with Mary *after* the virgin birth? Meaning Mary was not an “ever virgin” as held by catholic doctrine?

  6. Avatar
    Stephen  January 21, 2018

    How do you (or your students) write Koine script in a text? Do you have some sort of software available for this kind of thing?


    • Bart
      Bart  January 21, 2018

      It’s a simple keyboard function. I set up mine so that if I press Alt-Shift the key board goes into Greek.

  7. Avatar
    seahawk41  January 21, 2018

    Well, this looks like a very interesting set of exercises! I’m going to try some of them. I just finished taking notes on the first. Fascinating!! I presume your students will do these based on the Greek text. I have a Greek testament, but it is painfully slow for me to work my way through even a few verses, and of course I don’t have any depth of understanding of the meaning–idioms, verb tenses and the like. So my question is “Do you have an English translation that you would recommend for people like me, who want to look into the details of the text, but cannot do it in Greek?”

  8. Avatar
    Tempo1936  January 22, 2018

    Students planning to attend a conservative theological seminary and go into ministry should be required to take this course. Many would reconsider their plans .

  9. Avatar
    AnotherBart  January 24, 2018

    Position Paper 2: Different Views of Jesus and His Miracles

    Carefully list all the similarities between the miracle described in Mark 5:21-24, 35-43 on the one hand and in John 11:1-44 on the other. What strike you as fundamental differences? What do you think each author is trying to emphasize in his account? How do you account for the differences? In your judgment, do Mark and John have the same view of the significance of Jesus’ miracles, or different?

    What’s missing from this assignment is context. Context. Context. Context.

    The raising of the dead girl was early in Jesus’ ministry.

    The Raising of Lazarus was THE miracle of his career. It is THE reason for his triumphal entry. If you think about it, Mat/Mark/Luke’s accounts of the triumphal entry don’t really make sense. It doesn’t fit into the context well. Why were the crowds suddenly enamored with him?

    Mat/Mark/Luke won’t tell us, but John does. Why? Because Lazarus is DEAD now. Peter is DEAD. Mary Magdalene is DEAD. Nicodemus is DEAD.

    John is the posthumous “tell all” that doesn’t risk the lives of these critical people.

    The Lazarus story was not included in the Synoptics for the same reason Peter was not identified as Malchus’ assailant in the Gospels (Matt 26:51, Mark 14:43, Luke 22:40).

    Lazarus, Peter, Mary Magdalene were ALIVE, at least when Matthew and Mark were written. Peter for sure during Luke’s authorship. Peter would not have been able to go to the Temple for 12 years after Jesus’ resurrection if word had gotten out that he was the dude with the sword.

    Peter was a fugitive of the Roman Government for his prison escape in 42 AD (Acts 12). In Matt/Mark/Luke it says ‘one of them’ struck the high priest’s servant with his sword. “One of them”?

    “One of them” Really? There were twelve. It wasn’t Judas. That leaves 11. Who did it?

    Did they not know who it was?

    Of course they did! They were there! Why wouldn’t it name him?

    For a very, very good reason.

    It was Peter. And Peter was still around. Matt/Mark/Luke are NOT post 70 AD documents.

  10. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  January 25, 2018

    I don’t read Greek, but I’ve copied and pasted the pasages for comparison into a google doc with parallel columns. Reading in English even will no doubt be instructive. On 1 & 2 Thessalonians – do you think the author of 2 Thessalonians was familiar with Revelation, or were antichrist type characters common enough in Christian apocalypticism that he would have picked up the “man of lawlessness” independently of John?

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