Recent Posts

So: Did Anyone Think of Jesus as a Miracle-Worker Before His Crucifixion?

By |December 6th, 2023|Historical Jesus|1 Comment

This is the final, and most important, of my posts on the miracles of Jesus.  In it I raise the question – without being able to come to an absolutely definitive answer – of whether Jesus was thought to be a miracle worker already in his life time or if, instead, miracles came to be ascribed to him only later by followers who believed he had been raised from the dead.  I incline toward the latter view. To set the stage for and make sense of what I have to say, I include the final comments from the previous post: [...]

Platinum Webinar for December: “O Little Town of Nazareth? Where Was Jesus Actually Born?”

By |December 5th, 2023|Public Forum|0 Comments

Dear Platinum Members, It's time for our Quarterly Platinum Webinar.  We have scheduled it for Thursday, December 14, 2023, at 7:30 pm. I've decided to go with a seasonal topic on an aspect of the Gospel birth narratives that most people have not much thought about:  could "Jesus of Nazareth" have actually been born in Nazareth, instead of Bethlehem?  Scholars have long argued so.  But on what grounds? I'll explain in my talk, we'll have questions and discussion, and then you can decide for yourself.  Hey, it's a free world!  Here's the link: I hope to see you there. [...]

What’s the *Point* of Jesus’ Miracles?

By |December 5th, 2023|Historical Jesus|4 Comments

I have been talking about the stories of Jesus' miracles, and am raising the question of whether they necessarily go all the way back to Jesus' lifetime, as tales told while he was still living.  I pick up where I left off last time, after showing that Jesus' miracle-working abilities increased with the passing of time. ****************************** Not only does Jesus become increasingly miraculous with the passing of time, these miracles are all told in order to make a point.  The stories about Jesus as the miraculous Wunderkind reveal that he really was the Son of God endowed with supernatural [...]

Volunteer Needed!! Interested in Recording Audio Versions of the Blog Posts?

By |December 4th, 2023|Public Forum|0 Comments

As you probably know, we have audio versions of all the blog posts that are available for all Gold and Platinum level members.  The audio versions go out on the same day as the written posts themselves.  It's a great benefit (if you're not Gold level yet: consider it!).  But it takes a lot of work by volunteers who are very generous with their time.  The volunteers record each post, and they are then produced and published by our audio volunteer Anthony (hail, Anthony!). We have two volunteers currently alternating in their reading of the posts, and we need to [...]

Was Jesus Considered a Miracle Worker During His *Lifetime*?

By |December 3rd, 2023|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|38 Comments

In my discussion of whether the historian can deal with the category of miracle, I’m now at the point where I can deal directly with the miracles ascribed to Jesus.  This is an issue that I have dealt with in several books, including, most recently, Jesus Before the Gospels.   It will take three posts for me to cover the waterfront here.  This is how I began dealing with the issue in the book. ****************************** The Miracles of Jesus When one discusses the activities and deeds of Jesus, it is very hard indeed to avoid talking about his [...]

Gold Q&A!! Ask Your Questions!

By |December 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|4 Comments

Hey Goldies and Plats, Now's your chance!  I'll be recording the December Gold Q&A on December 11, schedule gods willing, to be published later that week.  God a burning, a smoldering, or a cool ?  Ask away!  Anything related to the blog.   I'll do my best to answer.  , Send your questions to [email protected], and Diane will compile and send me the list. DEADLINE: Get your question in by Saturday (12/09/2023) midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone). Every question I get is interesting, but remember that shorter and to-the-pointer questions are more likely to be chosen.  Zingers are [...]

Were Jesus’ Miracles in the Original Texts of the Gospels?

By |December 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|18 Comments

Here's an interesting question I received from a reader many years ago that I had forgotten all about, but I bet it's one some others have had (If you know the "Jefferson Bible" you'll see it has a long history of sorts): QUESTION: I have looked up the content of all the papyri of the New Testament I'm aware of (i.e. the most ancient manuscripts) . It is my understanding that although p52, p90, and p104 are dated around 125-150 AD, they contain fragments of John 18 and Matt 21 only, and that it's not until 200 AD that manuscripts [...]

I’m Lecturing on a Cruise this Summer. Interested in coming?

By |December 1st, 2023|Public Forum|6 Comments

Everyone is traveling these days.  I’m traveling these days.  Hey, wanna travel with me? This summer I’m doing a tour (and giving lectures) on a cruise to historic coastal cities and religious sites of Western Europe, from Amsterdam to Lisbon, July 30 - August 10.  This is gonna be an unusually good trip, with awe-inspiring scenery, gorgeous medieval towns/cities, important religious sites (including Santiago de Compostela), and some of the most amazing museums in the known universe. Included on the tour are some of my all-time favorite cities:  Amsterdam, Bruges, and Lisbon.  And it includes a bunch of places I’ve [...]

The Miracles of the Emperor Vespasian. A Platinum Post by Ryan Fleming

By |November 30th, 2023|Public Forum|23 Comments

Here is a provocative and intriguing post on a topic not widely known outside the realm of Roman historians: the miracles attributed to the Emperor Vespasian (which sure sound a lot like the miracles attribued to Jesus, written in Gospels produced just at the time of or after his reign.) The post is by Platinum member Ryan Fleming.  Platinum members are allowed to write posts for other Platinum members.  It's a great perk of the highest level of blog membership!  And when we have a few in the bag, Platinum members vote for which of them can appear on the [...]

Is There Any Sarcasm in the New Testament?

By |November 29th, 2023|Paul and His Letters, Reflections and Ruminations|25 Comments

Every now and then someone asks me if there is any sarcasm used in the New Testament.  You would think the answer would be fairly obviously, No.  But, well, I've dealt with the issue before, and my response was Yes. Let me start by giving a definition of sarcasm.  You can find various definitions just on the Internet, but the basic idea is that sarcasm is a form of humor that used irony in order to mock another. It is difficult to identify sarcasm in ancient writings.  In fact, as you’ve probably noticed, sometimes it’s hard to know if someone [...]

Was Joseph the Actual Father of Jesus? Announcing a Special Online Christmas Course

By |November 27th, 2023|Public Forum|28 Comments

I'm pleased to announce that I will be doing a special event this Christmas season, a two-lecture online course called Jesus:  The Actual Son of Joseph: Evidence From the New Testament Itself.   This is a topic I have long thought about casually but never really dug into until recently.  And when I dug, I started realizing that in fact there's a lot buried, more than I expect.  There are very good reasons for thinking that a number of the earliest sources of the New Testament (Paul, Mark, the sources of Matthew and Luke), as well as the latest (John), not [...]

Do You Want to Take the Final Exam for My Course: “Birth of Christianity”?

By |November 26th, 2023|Public Forum|26 Comments

I'm teaching  The Birth of Christianity this semester, a course that deals with the history of Christianity from right after the New Testament up to about the conversion of Constantine.  Want to take my Final Exam?   Well, I ain't gonna grade it if you do.  But here are the instructions I gave to the class so they could know what to expect -- including the ten POSSIBLE essay questions, from which I will choose two for them to answer, in essays they could take one hour (each) to write.  What do you think?  Could you nail it?   The Birth [...]

An Intriguing and Unusual Demonstration of Early Christian Differences…

By |November 25th, 2023|Book Discussions, Heresy and Orthodoxy|51 Comments

Nine years ago when I was discussing on the blog the topic of the current thread -- the wide diversity of early Christianity -- I took the occasion to mention a book that I had just read and found to be unusually interesting and enlightening.   It is by two Italian scholars, married to each other, who teach at the Università di Bologna: Adriana Destro, an anthropologist, and Mauro Pesce, a New Testament specialist whose teaching position is in the History of Christianity. Their book is called Il racconto e la scrittura: Introduzione alla lettura dei vangeli.  It is about all [...]

How Paul’s Own Writings Show the Earliest Church Was Split Over “Orthodoxy” and “Heresy”

By |November 24th, 2023|Early Christian Doctrine, Heresy and Orthodoxy, Paul and His Letters|34 Comments

Are Christian "heresy" (that is, "false belief") and "orthodoxy" ("right belief") products of developments within Christianity after the New Testament? Or can they be detected in the New Testament itself? I'm not asking if the New Testament literally has false teachings. As per my definitions, I'm asking whether it contains views that disagree with one another, only some of which later came to be seen as acceptable. In getting to that answer I have been discussing the views of Walter Bauer, in his classic work, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, who maintained that from the earliest of times, [...]

How the Canon Itself Tames the Diversity of the New Testament

By |November 22nd, 2023|History of Biblical Scholarship|28 Comments

The writings of the New Testament do not provide good evidence that Christianity started out as an original unity, only to come to be fragmented with the passage of time into the second and third Christian centuries -- so I argued in the previous post.  Quite the contrary.  And yet having them all in the same book (between covers) does seem to readers to suggest an overarching unity.  That's what I want to talk about here. For the most part, the books of the NT are the earliest Christian writings we have, and most of the books can probably be [...]

But Your Own Teacher Bruce Metzger Didn’t Think That!

By |November 21st, 2023|Bart's Critics|27 Comments

In my previous post, and a number of times elsewhere, I mentioned my mentor at Princeton Theological Seminary, Bruce Metzger.  Over the years I've been asked a number of times why, if he was my teacher, I don't agree with him on so many things.  Usually this comes as an accusation more than as a genuine query.  Here's a reworking of a response I gave to the issue about ten years ago. ****************************** Prof. Metzger was not just a brilliant scholar but also a deeply committed Christian, an ordained Presbyterian minister, who believed in the inspiration of the Bible and in [...]

Wasn’t Early Christianity Basically Unified? Why Fret About Occasional Diversity?

By |November 19th, 2023|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE), Heresy and Orthodoxy, History of Biblical Scholarship|40 Comments

I have spent three posts talking about the terms “orthodoxy” and “heresy” and why they are problematic; in doing so I have been explaining both the traditional view of the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy (as found, for example, in the writings of Eusebius) and the view set forth, in opposition, by Walter Bauer.   So, where do we now stand on the issue, some 90 years after Bauer’s intervention? As I indicated in my last post, there are some problems with Bauer’s analysis, but also much positive to say about it.   Conservative scholars continue to hold to a more traditional [...]

The Revolutionary Understanding of Orthodoxy and Heresy: An Evaluation of Bauer’s Views

By |November 18th, 2023|Public Forum|12 Comments

In my last two posts I talked about the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity.   The standard view, held for many many centuries, goes back to the Church History  of the fourth-century church father Eusebius, who argued that orthodoxy represented the original views of Jesus and his disciples, and heresies were corruptions of that truth by willful, mean-spirited, wicked, and demon inspired teachers who wanted to lead others astray. In 1934 Walter Bauer challenged that view in his book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.   Bauer argued that in many regions of the church, the earliest known form [...]

Does God Have Chromosomes? Platinum Post by Douglas Wadeson, MD

By |November 17th, 2023|Public Forum|19 Comments

What happens when a modern physician starts asking difficult questions of familiar biblical stories?  Here is one answer:  an intriguing post covering a topic that will not have occurred to most of us.  Let's think about how a Virgin Birth works when (now, unlike antiquity) we have a pretty good idea of how Births work in general.  If God made Mary pregnant through the spirit, what does that have to say about the nature of Jesus' at the biological level and, well, the chromosomes of God? This Platinum guest post is delivered to us courtesy of Platinum member Doug Wadeson.  [...]

The Most Significant Study of Christian “Heresy” in Modern Times

By |November 16th, 2023|Heresy and Orthodoxy, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|34 Comments

In my last post I started discussing the terms “orthodoxy” and “heresy,” pointing out that their traditional/etymological meanings are not very helpful for historians.   “Orthodoxy” literally means the “right belief” about God, Christ, the world and so on.  That means it is a theological term about religious truth.  But historians are not theologians who can tell you what is theologically true; they are scholars who try to establish what happened in the past.  And so how can a historian, acting as a historian, say that one group of believers is right and that another is wrong? The problem with the [...]

A Fundamental Issue: Heresy and Orthodoxy in Early Christianity

By |November 15th, 2023|Heresy and Orthodoxy|17 Comments

I have been talking about various forms of Gnosticism and that now has led me to move into a broader discussion about early Christian "heresy" in general.  I've talked a lot about non-canonical books, and various forms of Christian belief and practice, and so on over the years, but to my surprise it's been a very long time since I addressed one of the most fundamental questions of early Christian history, the relationship of "orthodoxy" and "heresy" in early Christianity. The understanding of this relationship has long been much debated, and the debate begins with the terms themselves, which, as [...]

What’s the Best Way to Read a Non-Fiction Book?

By |November 14th, 2023|Reflections and Ruminations|26 Comments

I sometimes get asked what the best way is to read a work of non-fiction.  Well, who knows? All I can say is what I do. I've dealt with the question here on the blog a number of times. But since I'm nearing the tail end of research on my next book dealing with the ethics of Jesus in relation to the broader world at the time, and how his ethics revolutionized the ways people in the west thought about how we ought to behave, I'm reading a lot right now, and I thought I should address the question [...]

How Exactly Could the Virgin-Born Jesus Have a Twin Brother?

By |November 12th, 2023|Christian Apocrypha, Historical Jesus|21 Comments

I have mentioned in passing that there were some early Christians who thought that one of Jesus’ brothers, Jude (or Judas: both are translations of the same Greek word), was actually a twin. Not just of anyone, but of Jesus himself. Some readers have expressed surprise in the most succinct way possible, by asking: “Huh??” I talk about the matter in a couple of my previous publications, especially when speaking about early Christian apocryphal texts that deal with the missionary exploits of the apostles after Jesus’ death. We have several of these, including an Acts of Thomas. Like the [...]

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