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What Did Jesus Say at the Last Supper?

By |July 2nd, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Early Christian Doctrine, New Testament Manuscripts|Comments Off on What Did Jesus Say at the Last Supper?

Here is a seemingly simple but inordinately complicated question I received from a read on the blog:   QUESTION: Although the gospel of Luke doesn’t have an atonement message, what are your thoughts about Acts 20:28: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”? This sure sounds like it has atonement implications.   RESPONSE: When I got the question my idea was to give a direct and simple response. But I realized that would be neither [...]

Which James in Galatians? Platinum Guest Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller

By |July 2nd, 2022|Paul and His Letters|2 Comments

I'm pleased to publish this guest post by Platinum member Gregory Hartzler-Miller. It is dealing with a tricky issue with broad implications. Is there more than one James active in the early Jerusalem church? Which one is Paul concerned about? Check it out and see! ***************************** Which Mary? Which James? 8 theses for distinguishing two Jameses in Galatians based on clues from Mark By Gregory Hartzler-Miller, MATS "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (Μαρία ἡ Ἰωσῆτος) saw where his body was placed. When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the James (Μαρία ἡ τοῦ [...]

What’s the Point? Hey, *IS* There a Point? The Book of Ecclesiastes

By |June 30th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|5 Comments

In a previous post I began talking about the distinctive views of the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the real gems of the Hebrew Bible, a book that refuses to accept easy answers or blithe truisms about life, but faces reality head on.   No matter what we do or how we try to explain it away, life is short.  Very very short.  The author of course had no conception of what we know now about time in relation to lifespan.  What would he say if he knew that the world (what we would call the universe — something about which [...]

Digging Deep into Afterlife Journeys

By |June 29th, 2022|Afterlife, Public Forum|5 Comments

I don't recall *ever* having a podcast interview in which I was asked to go down seriously into the weeds of my scholarship as found in one of my scholarly books.  But that happened in this interview, done on June 14, for the Christian Humanist Podcast.  It's a serious podcast, where the perspective is Christian and the topics are intellectually meaty.  The interviewer is a PhD in English literature and professor at Emmanuel College.  He's a bright guy, who knows a lot, who read my book Journeys to Heaven and Hell carefully, realized clearly what both the scholarly issues and [...]

Blog Dinner. London. Tuesday, July 12. Interested?

By |June 28th, 2022|Public Forum|2 Comments

We had to cancel the last proposed London blog dinner because of the rail strike, but now I'd like to make a second go of it, if anyone's interested.   Possibly a pint in advance.  Are you in the vicinity?  Interested?    If we can get 3-4 (and no more than 7) people together, I'd be happy to do it. It would be Tuesday, July 12, somewhere in central London. No obligations other than: Being a blog member Showing up Talking Paying for what you consume. If you're interested, do NOT reply here as a comment.  Send me an email at [...]

A Skeptical View of Life … From the Bible!

By |June 28th, 2022|Afterlife, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|19 Comments

To celebrate the tenth-year anniversary of the blog on this past April 18, I've been posting all the previous April 18 posts.  This one is from 2020; in it I discuss one of my favorite books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes.  The post was originally part of a series of posts on "Wisdom Literature" in the OT, as I indicate at the outset. ****************************** In my previous post I pointed to the “Wisdom” literature of the Old Testament (usually said to comprise Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes), suggesting that this is a good time for all of us to ingest some wisdom [...]

Yeah, Those Are Contradictions. My Response to Firth.

By |June 26th, 2022|Book Discussions, Public Forum|37 Comments

Matthew Firth came up with interesting responses to my examples of contradictions in the Gospels (in the previous post); here now I try to show how his explanations simply don't work. ****************************** Thanks, Matt, for your thoughtful comments on the four contradictions I discussed in my opening post.  I agree – this form of debate is much better than the oral back-and-forths I’m used to on a stage in front of an audience, where it’s so easy to say something unwittingly that is completely stupid or wrong.  With this format I’m able to think about it a bit before saying [...]

There Are No Contradictions in the Gospels! The Response by Matthew Firth

By |June 25th, 2022|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels|30 Comments

As promised, this is Matthew Firth's (2019) response to my post (the previous one) in which I try to show several places in the Gospels that contain contradictions.  Firth does not see a contradiction in any of the five examples I cited, and explains why, contrary to first appearance, the accounts are completely in line with each other.  Read him carefully and see what you think  (To make sense of his reply you may want to see what he is responding to in the previous post, but ... hey, follow your heart.) ****************************** Thank-you very much, Bart, for your opening [...]

Onan the Barbarian: How an obscure Bible character affected reproductive rights. Platinum Guest post by Douglas Wadeson MD

By |June 24th, 2022|Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Sex and Sexuality in the Bible|18 Comments

I'm pleased to post this intriguing contribution by your fellow Platinum member and Medical-Doctor- Not-Afraid-to-Talk-About-Onanism-In-a-Public-Forum Doug Wadeson.  Hey, it saves *me* the inconvenience of having to post on it! Seriously, it's a very interesting discussion.  Doug will be happy to address your questions and comments. I hope you too will consider submitting a post!  If you're interested, let me know. ****************************** As background, there was an ancient custom that if a man died without children then his brother was expected to marry the widow and have children with her so that the brother’s family line would not die out.  This [...]

Gospel Contradictions: My Debate with Rev. Matthew Firth

By |June 23rd, 2022|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels|35 Comments

To celebrate our 10th year anniversary from April 18, I'm reposting all my previous (ten) April 18 blog posts.  Now I'm up to 2019.  In that year I agreed to do a blog debate with a fellow named Matthew Firth, an Anglican rector who studied theology at Oxford University.  Firth had challenged me to a debate on whether the Gospels contain contradictions, and offered to donate $1000 to the blog if I managed to convince him.  That, of course, was a bit of a joke, since there's no way on God's green earth that someone with his mind made up [...]

Gold members Q&A for June

By |June 22nd, 2022|Public Forum|14 Comments

Dear Gold Members, It's that time again.  Time for the Gold Q&A for June -- a perk of your membership!  Do you have any questions you'd like to ask, on anything related to the blog?  Ask away, and I'll do my best to answer. To get your question on the list: zap a note to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Midnight (your time) on Saturday, June 25. I will record the Q&A that weekend, and it will be available, if all goes to plan, by Thursday, June 30. Fire away!   Bart

Check Out this Play in NYC!!

By |June 22nd, 2022|Public Forum|12 Comments

Are you in NYC or at least planning to be in October or November?   There is a new play called “The Unbelieving” that you should check out!  It is a dramatization of a real-life phenomenon that most people don’t know about: pastors who have left the faith but are still active in ministry. There’s more of these religious professionals than you might imagine.  Here is the brief description of the play on the show’s website (here: http://Shows |   Show Info By Marin Gazzaniga Directed by Steve Cosson In the classic tale of religious conversion, finding God holds the promise of a [...]

The Invention of Charity: My Prospectus for the Book

By |June 21st, 2022|Book Discussions, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|21 Comments

I have started drafting a prospectus for my next book on Christian charity, as I have discussed recently on the blog.  At this early stage, I am giving it (at least in my head) the tentative title: The Invention of Charity: How Christianity Transformed the Western World.  In this post I’ll show how I’m *thinking* about starting the prospectus (which will have no bearing on how I, later, start the book). Before I do so, I should explain how the process works.  My last three trade books have been with Simon & Schuster, and as a (standard) part of my [...]

An Interesting Interview on Journeys to Heaven and Hell

By |June 19th, 2022|Afterlife, Public Forum|12 Comments

I don't recall ever doing any podcast interviews before on any of my academic books since, well, they are written for scholars rather than the general public and few podcasts target scholars (at least early Christian scholars!) per se.  But I've had a couple on my recent book Journeys to Heaven and Hell, and I think it's because the topic really is interesting to more than scholars. Here's one that helped bring out some of the intriguing material I cover, with an interviewer -- Mike Delgado -- who both knows his stuff and knows what is interesting.   Enjoy!

My book: Literary Forgery and Counterforgery in Early Christianity!

By |June 18th, 2022|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|19 Comments

I have been posting all ten of my April 18 posts from previous years in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the blog on April 18 of *this*  year.  Here now is a post from 2018 that focused on a book I had written years before that!  The book I've always thought was my best piece of scholarship. Enjoy! ****************************** I am in Houston for a few days, giving talks at Rice University on the use of literary forgery in early Christianity.  To prepare for the talks I decided to read through my 2013 book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use [...]

Are Christian Apologists Just Being Dishonest? What Do YOU Think?

By |June 16th, 2022|Bart's Debates, Reflections and Ruminations|156 Comments

A number of people have recently asked me virtually the same question about about my debates with conservative Christian apologists: In my opinion, when these people say things that don’t seem to make any sense, are they being dishonest, or do they genuinely believe what they say?   (I'll give my opinion and then ask yours.) I’ll give an example from an event that some people have asked about.  It was an “apologetics conference” hosted by an evangelical group; the attendees were almost entirely committed evangelical Christians.  Normally at this kind of event, the organizers only have representatives of their own [...]

Blog Dinner in London? Interested?

By |June 15th, 2022|Public Forum|9 Comments

I'm heading over the pond today and would like to do a blog dinner if anyone's interested.   Possibly a pint in advance.  Are you over there?  Interested?    If we can get 3-4 (and no more than 7) people together, I'd be happy to do it. It would be next Thursday, June 23 (2022!), somewhere in central London. No obligations other than: Being a blog member Showing up Talking Paying for your meal. If you're interested, do NOT reply here as a comment.  Send me an email at [email protected] Hope it happens!  I may be able to do another one [...]

Why Not Just Believe in a *Different* Kind of God?

By |June 15th, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|96 Comments

Several people have asked me recently about why, when I left the faith, I didn't simply start to believe in a different kind of God.  I had come to think there was not an all-powerful, loving, and active God in the world simply because, after lots of reading, arguing, and thinking, I could no longer explain all the pain and misery in the world.  But why would God have to be all-loving, all-powerful, and active?  Why not believe in a different kind of God? I dealt with this question on the blog some years ago, and would like to revisit [...]

Time Again: Vote on your favorite Platinum Post

By |June 14th, 2022|Public Forum|Comments Off on Time Again: Vote on your favorite Platinum Post

Dear Platinum members, That time again — an opportunity for you to vote on one of our Platinum guest posts, to see which one will be posted on the blog at large.  Take a look — they’re all terrific.   To vote, just send a quick note to Diane at [email protected]  Your deadline:  this Saturday, June 18, midnight your time. And remember — you’re always welcome to submit a post yourself.  Anything connected to the blog that strikes your fancy that you’d like others to read about?  Any ideas/thoughts you’d like to have disseminated and discussed?  Here’s your chance.  Just zap [...]

Another Historical Scholar’s Understanding of the Resurrection

By |June 14th, 2022|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus|63 Comments

I am reposting the ten blog posts made on April 18 (or thereabouts) in celebration of our tenth anniversary of the blog.  Here now is a particularly important one from 2017; at the time I was working on my book How Jesus Became God and thinking hard about how to understand the early Christian claims that Jesus had been raised from the dead. ****************************** One of the first books that I have re-read in thinking about how it is the man Jesus came to be thought of as God is Gerd Lüdemann’s, The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (2004). [...]

Interested in Joining Me on a Tour To Tuscany?

By |June 12th, 2022|Public Forum|21 Comments

Now HERE is a happy announcement. I will be giving lectures on a tour to my favorite place in the known universe, Tuscany, on October 21-29, 2022.  That is, in  less than five months.  WHOA!  Wanna come? It will be a small group (no more than 18 folk, I should think), we will be spending time in Florence (which has more culture per square foot than anywhere in the cosmos); Siena (which I like even better); and surrounding towns/villages (that take your breath away). In addition to the lectures, I'll be hanging out with the people who come, day and [...]

And Did Paul Write 2 Thessalonians?

By |June 11th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|29 Comments

In my last post I discussed whether Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians, whose author claims to be Paul, and explained why scholars widely think that in fact it was someone else.  I discuss all the Pauline "forgeries" of early Christianity (including the six in the New Testament) in my book Forged.  Here I thought it might be useful to consider a second example that involves a different set of problems: the "Second letter to the Thessalonians."  Again, this is taken from my book Forged (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2012). ****************************** As a conservative evangelical Christian in my late teens and early [...]

Controversial Me….

By |June 9th, 2022|Bart’s Biography|59 Comments

I am having a ten-week long celebration of our ten-year anniversary, from this past April 18, by reposting all the previous April 18 posts, one a week.  Many of them I'd forgotten about.  This one is about how weird it is to me that people think I'm controversial....  (As usual, I'm a bit tetchy about it!) ****************************** In this post I am going to take a bit of time out to do some self-reflection.  An issue I’ve been puzzling over for some time is the fact that people keep referring to my work as “controversial.”  I hear this all the [...]

Did Paul Write “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians”?

By |June 8th, 2022|Bart's Critics, Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|52 Comments

Here's an important question I received recently from a blog member: Someone told me that “I should never listen to you” because you say Paul did not write six letters of the New Testament, even though the letters start with the claim he did:  "Paul, an Apostle of Christ to the Church at ….."  This person's main issue was: what is the evidence Paul did not write Ephesians? Your thoughts. Response This is an issue I dealt with directly in my book Forged: Why The Biblical Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2012).  Here's what I [...]

An Even More Unusual Story of What Happens to the Rich…

By |June 7th, 2022|Afterlife, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|30 Comments

In my last post I began to discuss Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus from Luke 16) and I mentioned there is a very similar tale in ancient Egyptian lore, about a man named Setne and his adult son Si-Osire. In the story the two of them are looking out the window of their house and see the coffin of a rich man being carried out to the cemetery with great honors.  They then see the corpse of a poor beggar carried out on a mat, with no one attending his funeral.   Setne says to his son: “By [...]

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