Recent Posts

The Arch-Heretic of Them All? Simon of Samaria — Guest Post From Dr. David Litwa

By |June 25th, 2024|Heresy and Orthodoxy, History of Christianity (100-300CE), Public Forum|0 Comments

This now is the final guest post by David Litwa, one of the most prolific scholars of New Testament and Early Christianity over the past ten years.  David was a graduate student at Duke some years ago and took a couple of my PhD seminars over at UNC.  He is now at Boston College.  (See:  M. David Litwa - School of Theology and Ministry - Boston College (bc.edu) All of these posts are tantalizing introductions to (three different) books he has written for a general audience.  This one is about one of the most infamous figures from the early church.  [...]

NEW COURSE! “The Parables of Jesus” with Amy-Jill Levine

By |June 24th, 2024|Public Forum|0 Comments

I'm really excited about this one.  Next month we will be presenting a new remote course on the Parables of Jesus, consisting of four lectures by Amy-Jill Levine.   Amy-Jill is one of the top scholars on the historical Jesus and the Gospels on the planet, and is an unusually interesting and dynamic lecturer.  If you heard her at the New Insights into the New Testament last year, or taken a Great Courses/Wondrium course with her, you'll know what I mean.  She is unusually sharp, witty, clear, engaged, challenging, and funny.  Really, they don't get any better. The Parables course will [...]

Does Altruism Even Exist? Some Personal Reflections Based on a Crazy Anecdote

By |June 23rd, 2024|Reflections and Ruminations|0 Comments

In my book on altruism (yet to be finished!), I'm thinking about including the following as a way to begin reflecting on the question of whether anything like "pure" altruism exists (where someone acts entirely for the sake of another with no benefit at all for the self).  Let me know your thoughts. ****************************** One might think that “altruism” is a non-problematic term.  It comes from the Latin word “alter” which means “other,"  and so refers broadly to actions that benefit someone other than oneself.  It stands in contrast with “egoism,” based on the Greek word “ego,” meaning “I” or [...]

The New Book I’m Writing About Altruism: Putting It In a Nutshell

By |June 22nd, 2024|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|0 Comments

As I've been writing my new book, tentatively called "The Invention of Altruism: How the Teachings of Jesus Transformed the Conscience of the West," I've been thinking about how I might summarize the basic argument.  Here's what I've got to this point.  I'd be happy to hear your reactions. ****************************** Most people I know are moved by news of tragedy.  A terrible earthquake, a drought, a famine, a flood, displaced people, innocent victims of military aggression, -- we feel pity for those who pointlessly suffer and sense a desire, even an obligation, to help, for example by donating to disaster [...]

Can You Disprove the Existence of God?

By |June 20th, 2024|Public Forum|79 Comments

Is there a way to “disprove” the existence of God?  I’m not asking what the best arguments are; I’m asking whether an argument is possible. Just now I’m on a tour of some of the Greek Islands (Andros, Naxos. Amorgas, Santorini, and Crete) giving lectures for a group of unusually interesting people from a striking range of backgrounds – doctors, psychologists, scientists, financial advisers, business owners of various kinds, and so on, most of them one-time religious, some still committed to a religious tradition, some for whom religion never has made sense. Most of the conversations we’ve been having so [...]

Toe-to-Toe with Evangelical New Testament Scholar Peter Williams: Can We Trust the Gospels?

By |June 19th, 2024|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels|7 Comments

I recently reposted a debate I did with Peter Williams about the signficance of textual variants for the New Testament.   It reminded me of another debate we did some five years ago, on an even more pressing question, whether the Gospels can be seen as completely trustworthy.  This one was televised.  I thought it was particularly interesting because  Peter is not a simply a Christian apologist who uses other peoples' scholarship to promote his religious beliefs; he himself is a bona fide scholar with a PhD from Cambridge, and one of the leading experts on the ancient Syriac version of [...]

An Early Christian Advocate of Licentious Living? Carpocrates — Guest Post by Dr. David Litwa

By |June 18th, 2024|Heresy and Orthodoxy, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|1 Comment

Here now is a second post on a, well, rather unusual and widely unknown Christian group, by guest blogger David Litwa, one of the most prolific scholars of New Testament and Early Christianity over the past ten years.  David was a graduate student at Duke some years ago and took a couple of my PhD seminars over at UNC.  He is now at Boston College.  (See:  M. David Litwa - School of Theology and Ministry - Boston College (bc.edu) Each of these posts is a tantalizing introduction to a (different) book he has written for a general audience. In this [...]

June Gold Q&A: Whaddya Wanna Know?

By |June 17th, 2024|Public Forum|6 Comments

Gold and Platinum members, Time again for our monthly Gold Q&A. Is there something in the New Testament that puzzles you or doesn't make sense (imagine that!)? Put it in a (short, to-the-point) question and send it to Diane at  [email protected]. DEADLINE: Please get your question in by Thursday next week (06/24/2024) at midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone).  

Platinums! Time to Upvote a Platinum Post!

By |June 17th, 2024|Public Forum|0 Comments

It's time again for Platinum members to vote for a Platinum post to be published to the whole blog (exciting!). Here are links to the posts, in case you want to refresh your memory--then vote! Does God Have Chromosomes? by Doug Wadeson, MD Atonement Doctrine by Manuel Fiadeiro Did People Have Time for Jesus? by Doug Wadeson, MD Could Moses be Thutmose, the Overseer of the Borderlands? by Serene

A Debate with Peter Williams on Textual Variants

By |June 16th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum, Video Media|12 Comments

To put an end to this thread on the textual variants of the New Testament, and whether they matter, and thought that it might be good to give an alternative perspective that I first posted, well, ten years ago.  Earlier than that, on January 3rd, 2009,  Peter J. Williams and I appeared as guests on  "Unbelievable," a weekly program on UK Premier Christian Radio, moderated by Justin Brierley.   For this show we discussed my book "Misquoting Jesus" (In the UK the book, for some reason, is titled is "Whose Word Is It?"). Peter Williams is a British evangelical Christian scholar -- [...]

Why Textual Variants Matter Even for Those Who Do NOT Think the Bible is Infallible

By |June 15th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts|17 Comments

In this thread I am discussing why it matters that there are so many variants in our surviving manuscripts of the New Testament.  It does not matter because there are any “fundamental Christian doctrines” at stake, per se, but for other reasons.  As I sketched in my previous post, it should matter for anyone who believes that God gave the very words of the Bible, since the facts that we don’t *have* the original words in some cases and that in many other cases the words themselves are in doubt, should call that belief into question.  (I should point out [...]

Why Bible-Believing Christians Care About Textual Variants

By |June 13th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts|42 Comments

In my previous post I began a discussion of why textual variants (that is, different wordings of the verses of the NT) found in the manuscripts might matter to someone other than a specialist who spends his or her life studying such things.  Most of the hundreds of thousands of variations are of very little importance for anything, as most people – even specialists – would admit.   Only a minority really matter.  And none of these seriously threatens any significant, traditional, Christian doctrine.   But I’ve argued that this should not be the criterion used to establish their importance.  Lots of [...]

If Textual Variants Don’t Change Any Key Doctrines — Then Who Cares?

By |June 12th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts|26 Comments

I've been providing a thread on the issue of why it's so hard to know if we have an "original" text of any of the writings of the New Testament, both because some of the books are cut-and-pasted versions of earlier texts and because we don't have any of the originals of the texts but only later copies with lots of differences among them. I'll end the thread with three posts that asking why it might matter to anyone if we don't know the exact words of the New Testament.   Here's a succinct question I received on the matter a [...]

A Bizarre “Gnostic” Religion: The Naassenes – Guest Post by Dr. David Litwa

By |June 11th, 2024|Heresy and Orthodoxy, History of Christianity (100-300CE), Public Forum|14 Comments

I'm pleased to publish three posts by guest blogger David Litwa, one of the most prolific scholars of New Testament and Early Christianity over the past ten years.  David was a graduate student at Duke some years ago and took a couple of my PhD seminars over at UNC.  He is now at Boston College.  (See:  M. David Litwa - School of Theology and Ministry - Boston College (bc.edu) Each of these posts is a tantalizing introduction to a (different) book he has written for a general audience.  This one starts off with a blast!  Let us know what you think! [...]

Serious Hypothetical (And Realistically Possible) Problems With Copies of Paul’s Letters

By |June 9th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters|16 Comments

In trying to figure out what it even means to talk about the “original” text of Philippians (was it what Paul meant to dictate?  Was it what he did dictate, if it was different from what he intended? Was it what the scribe wrote even if it was different from what Paul dictated?  Was it what Paul corrected after he saw what the scribe incorrectly wrote?  Was it the fresh copy that the scribe made even if it was different from the corrected version Paul gave him?  What happens if in fact Philippians is two letters that have been spliced [...]

Even More Snarly Problems If Paul Dictated His Letters

By |June 8th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters|14 Comments

I have been talking about the problems in knowing what the “original” text of Philippians is.  Even with the following brief review, the comments I will be making in this post will, frankly, probably not make much sense if you do not refresh your memory from my previous two posts.   Here I will be picking up where I left off there. We have seen that knowing what the original of Philippians is complicated by the facts that: 1) The letter appears originally to have been two letters, so that it’s hard to know whether the original of each separate letter [...]

If Paul Dictated His Letters, How Can We Know What He Said?

By |June 6th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters|51 Comments

I have been asked to comment on whether we can get back to the “original” text of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I have begun to discuss the problems not just of getting *back* to the original, but also of knowing even what the original *was*.   In my previous post I pointed out the problems posed by the fact that Philippians appears to be two letters later spliced together into one.  And so the first problem is this: is the “original” copy the spliced together copy that Paul himself did not create?  Or is the “original” the product that [...]

Is There Even Such a Thing as the “Original” Text of Philippians?

By |June 5th, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|8 Comments

  What would it even *mean* to say that we have an "original" letter of Paul to the Philippians? In my previous two posts I began answering a series of questions asked by a reader about how we got Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  In my previous post I explained why some critical scholars maintain that the letter was originally two separate letters that have been spliced together.  That obviously makes the next question the reader asked a bit more complicated than one might otherwise imagine.  And it’s not the only complication.   Here is the reader’s next question: QUESTION:  Do [...]

Is Paul’s Letter to the Philippians Actually Two Letters Cut and Spliced Together?

By |June 4th, 2024|Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|16 Comments

Could Paul's moving and powerful letter to the Philippians actually be *two* letters that were later cut and spliced together? In my previous post I answered, in short order, a series of questions that a reader had about the “original” text of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  I will now take several posts in order to address some of the questions at greater length.  Here was the first one:   QUESTION:  Would you agree that the letter written to the Philippians was an original writing of Paul? The short answer is Yes – it is one of the undisputed Pauline [...]

Did Paul Have a Brain Disorder?  (And did it help him?!)  Platinum post by Douglas Wadeson MD

By |June 3rd, 2024|Paul and His Letters|20 Comments

Have you been waiting for a controversial Platinum post?  Wait no longer.  Here is another intriguing contribution by Doug Wadeson, who applies his medical expertise to a historical question about the Apostle Paul.  What do you think? REMEMBER: If you are a Platinum member you too can send in a guest post on a topic of interest -- whatever you like connected with the Blog?  Wanna put an idea out there?  Go for it!! *********************           The apostle Paul is the most influential figure in Christianity after Jesus, and some would even argue that because Paul was so effective in [...]

Do We Have the Original Text of Philippians?

By |June 2nd, 2024|New Testament Manuscripts, Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|19 Comments

  I have been discussing whether we have the "original" text of Paul's letters, and have argued that 2 Corinthians in fact is probably two and maybe (my view) as many as five letters spliced together.  It's not the only letter of Paul's that we may not have an "original" version of (assuming that the earlier letters that were cut and then spliced together are more original).  We have a similar problem with Philippians, long my favorite Pauline letter -- so much my favorite as a young person that I memorized it at age 18!  But since then I have [...]

John the Baptist: The Most Influential Religious Innovator in History by James McGrath (Part 3)

By |June 1st, 2024|Public Forum|59 Comments

Now we have the final installment of James McGrath's thread of posts on the importance of John the Baptist, which, as he argues, most people have overlooked.  What do you think?  Comment and ask away! ****************************** John the Baptist was probably the most significant religious innovator in the history of religion. We’ve failed to see this because of the extent that he has been overshadowed by his followers. This is perhaps the most important point made in my new books Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist (Eerdmans, June 2024) and John of History, Baptist of Faith: The Quest for [...]

REMINDER: My Webinar — When Does Life Begin? The Status of the Unborn in the Biblical Tradition

By |May 30th, 2024|Public Forum|23 Comments

In case you missed it last time, here's my announcement of the course I'll be doing on this coming Sunday.  It's a difficult, very complicated, and often incredibly important topic.  I hope you can come! ************************ I'm pleased to announce that I will be doing a new two-lecture course on a rather timely topic, When Does Life Begin: The Status of the Unborn in the Biblical Tradition.  The course is not connected with the Blog per se, except insofar as I'm doing it and many of you might be interested.   For more information and registration, go to http://www.bartehrman.com/life Even if you can't come [...]

John the Baptist: The Most Influential Religious Innovator in History by James McGrath (Part 2)

By |May 29th, 2024|Public Forum|41 Comments

Is John the Baptist THE most significant religious innovator in religion, ever?  Here James McGrath (  James F. McGrath - Wikipedia  ) continues with the second of his three controversial posts on John the Baptist: the first few sentence remind you of the basic claim and the books in which he develops it -- the rest expands his views for us.  What do you think? ****************************** John the Baptist was probably the most significant religious innovator in the history of religion. We’ve failed to see this because of the extent that he has been overshadowed by his followers. This is [...]

John the Baptist: The Most Influential Religious Innovator in History by James McGrath (Part 1)

By |May 28th, 2024|Public Forum|58 Comments

I am pleased to publish a short series of posts on John the Baptist by James McGrath,  Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University (see James F. McGrath - Wikipedia) based on his TWO new books (one coming out next month, June 2024; the other in October).    The books, as you will see, make some controversial claims -- see his first sentence below! James will be happy to respond to your comments and queries.  So what do you think? ****************************** John the Baptist was probably the most significant religious innovator in [...]

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