In my previous post I announced the new course I’ll be doing on May 4 and 5, with scholar of Islam, Javad Hashmi, in which we both apply rigorous historical methods to analyzing the NT (me) and the Quran (Javad).  To register for the course, go to For a $5 blog member discount, simply enter the code Blog5.

Here now are the topics and specific lectures we’ll be doing.  We shot for the really important and interesting issues; I’m really looking forward to what Javad has to say about them with respect to the Quran.  I’m sure it won’t be what I’ve normally heard!

After each of us lectures on a topic, we’ll discuss the issues between ourselves.

And at the end of each day (two topics/day) we’ll open it up for audience Q&A.

Topic A –
Getting Back to the Originals: Knowing What the Authors Actually Wrote


Lecture 1:- The New Testament: Do We Have the Original Text?

          The New Testament is often called “the best preserved writing of the ancient world.”  It is true that there are more surviving manuscripts of the New Testament than of any other ancient book.  But how accurately do these manuscripts record the original words of the New Testament authors?  Nearly all the surviving copies were produced centuries after the originals, and they all differ from one another.  Recent estimates claim the thousands of surviving copies contain some 500,000 differences.  Most of these have little or no effect on the meaning of the text – but many do matter, and some of them matter a lot.  Is there any way to know the words the authors actually wrote.  And in what ways would it matter?


Lecture 2:- The Quran: Do We Have the Original Text?

A commonly held Muslim view is that, unlike the Bible, the Quran has been “perfectly preserved” from the time of the Prophet Muhammad all the way to the present, with no two Qurans differing in a single letter or dot. Meanwhile, some critics of Islam claim that the Quran was not produced in the time of Muhammad at all, but rather, emerged outside of the Arabian (Hijazi) context a century or more later. In this lecture, we will cut through apologetic and polemical perspectives and instead see what the leading academic experts in Quranic Studies are saying about the text’s compilation, canonization, and transmission history. Does the Quran actually go back to Muhammad, and has it really been “perfectly preserved”?


Topic B
The Reliability of the Accounts: The Problem of Contradictions and Errors

            Lecture 3:- The New Testament: How Much History and How Much Story?

Five of the books of the New Testament (the Gospels and Acts) are narratives about Jesus and his followers.  Even if we could know for certain what the authors of these books originally wrote (despite the many differences in our manuscripts) that would not necessarily tell us whether what they wrote was true.  When reading the stories of Jesus and his followers, how can we gauge their historical accuracy?  The Gospels were written forty to sixty years after Jesus’ death, by people who didn’t know him, living in different parts of the world, speaking a different language, and basing their stories on tales that had been circulating by word of mouth for all those decades .  How do historians separate fact from fiction in these narratives?

            Lecture 4:- The Quran: How Much History and How Much Story?

The Quran contains within it many stories of biblical prophets and past nations, as well as descriptions of creation and the universe. Many Muslims take these accounts to be historically accurate and scientifically true, even proof of the Quran’s divine origins. Meanwhile, many critics of Islam point to what they consider to be obvious historical and scientific blunders in the Quranic text. In this lecture, we will see what academic experts say about the Quranic stories and descriptions, including what sources may have influenced and inspired them. Overall, the question before us will be: Are Quranic stories historical and scientific or do they, like their biblical counterparts, contain elements of myth and legend?


Topic C

The Quests for the Historical Jesus and the Historical Muhammad


Lecture 5:- Misquoting Jesus: Separating the Jesus of History from the Christ of Faith

The few non-Christian ancient sources that mention Jesus are of little use for knowing what he said and did, and the non-canonical Gospels are late and highly legendary.  Our best sources for knowing about the historical Jesus are therefore the Gospels of the New Testament.  But as we began to see in the previous lecture, these Gospels too pose problems: they appeared decades after his death, they are often at odds with each other, and their authors have clear theological agendas that affect how they tell their stories.  The Gospels nonetheless contain historical material that reveals what Jesus really said and did.  In this lecture we see how scholars have used the Gospels as sources to reconstruct the life of the historical Jesus.


Lecture 6:- Misquoting Muhammad: Separating the Muhammad of History from the Prophet of Faith

The traditional Islamic sources depict a highly detailed portrait of the Prophet Muhammad. However, recent scholarship has called into question everything that we thought we knew about the historical Muhammad. Some people even question his very existence! Others think that Muhammad may have existed but there is really no way to know anything much about him. Finally, there are those who completely reimagine the emergence of Islam. In this lecture, we review the latest historical scholarship in order to pierce through the veil of mystery that shrouds the origins of Islam.


Topic D

Scripture and Violence


            Lecture 7:- A History of Hatred, Intolerance, and Violence: Is the Bible to Blame?

Many Christians understand their religion as a force of good in the world, promoting love, peace, and understanding.  But the darkside of the faith is also easy to see:  not just historically, in Crusades, Inquisitions, and Pogroms, but even today, in myriad acts of hatred, violence, and oppression in the name of Christ, directed against the “other” (even other Christians) because of nationality, skin color, beliefs, political views, sexual and gender identity, or … or most anything else that makes another the “Other.”  To what extent are these acts of intolerance, hatred, and violence rooted in the Bible, whether the Old Testament or the New?  Is the Bible itself to be blamed, in whole or in part?

            Lecture 8:- A History of Hatred, Intolerance, and Violence: Is the Quran to Blame?

From the earliest of times, Christian apologists have argued that Muhammad was a false prophet since he came bearing the Quran in one hand and the sword in the other. Today, a majority of Americans consider Islam to be the most intolerant and violent religion, with the examples of Al-Qaeda and ISIS before us. In this lecture, we will ask the question: Is there something unique or inherent to Islam – its scripture, its founding moment, and its historical experience – that predisposes it to hatred, intolerance, and violence?


Closing Issue:-  The Historian and the Believer:  Can Christians and Muslims Study their Scriptures Honestly?

Again, to register, go to For a blog discount, simply enter the code Blog5.

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2024-04-21T16:30:17-04:00April 21st, 2024|Public Forum|

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  1. AngeloB April 21, 2024 at 11:59 pm

    I’m currently reading Shoemaker’s latest book on the Qur’an. I’m looking forward to hearing Javad’s thoughts on the book!

  2. babaks April 22, 2024 at 4:38 am


  3. Redhash April 22, 2024 at 2:22 pm

    As someone who’s read the Koran I’m the past I’m extremely excited for this course.

  4. daniel.calita April 24, 2024 at 6:40 am

    Hi, Bart,

    1) I’ve heard pastors say that some of the letters of Paul were written not by him but by his disciples/associates and that Paul signed them at the end. They say they know this, but what are the arguments for and against this statement?

    2) What made God like David so much in the OT?

    3) When God’s love for people is talked of in big parts of the NT, it is about the saving from sin brought by Jesus’ death & resurrection. But when OT writers talk of the love coming from God, to what events in their life/history do they attribute this to? For example, like the love talked of in Psalms.

    Forgive me for the 3 questions put and thanks in advance

    • BDEhrman April 26, 2024 at 8:31 pm

      1. I’ve never heard of that and can say with some assurance there is no evidence of it!
      2. God chooses whom he will. Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated….
      3. God’s choosing of the peole of Israel and his persona help in individual lives.

      • Zena April 28, 2024 at 6:46 pm

        I believe it has been speculated that Paul dictated his letters to a scribe, perhaps because his handwriting or his eyesight wasn’t so good. The reason is that, at the end of 1 Corinthians & 2 Thessalonians, he seems to make it a point to call attention to having written the closing “with my own hand”. Presumably as opposed to the bulk of the letter have been by the scribe’s hand. And, in Romans 16:22 a certain Tertius identifies himself as having been the writer (scribe) of the letter.

        • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:17 pm

          The main passage is Galatians 6:11, and I’d say it’s virtually certain Paul dictated some of his letters, if not all of them.

  5. MohammedFawzi April 27, 2024 at 1:17 pm

    Prof Bart :
    1/ Are you aware of different denominations and different theological schools of Muslims from Sola Scriptura to Mutazilates to Sunnism to Shi’ism … ect ?

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2024 at 5:47 am

      Of course. But I’m not an expert. That’s why I won’t be lecturing on Islam in the course.

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