Recent Posts

Concerns for the Poor in the Jewish Tradition

By |May 28th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Historical Jesus|2 Comments

I have begun to contrast the Christian views of wealth and the need for the rich to help the poor with typical pagan views that placed almost no emphasis on helping those in need.  It is impossible to understand the Christian emphasis on almsgiving without situating it in its originating context – the Jewish tradition, going all the way back in the oldest Scriptures of Israel. Unlike the pagan tradition, the Hebrew Bible consistently pronounces God’s concern for the poor and repeatedly instructs those who have means to assist them.  Thus in the Torah itself: “Give liberally and be ungrudging [...]

What the Earliest *Christians* Thought About Wealth

By |May 26th, 2022|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE), Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|19 Comments

So far I have been discussing why “wealth” was sometimes seen as a problem by moral philosophers in the Greek and Roman worlds.  People who either have or want to have huge amounts of money are neglecting what they really need for ultimate happiness.  And money can corrupt morals, making one greedy, rapacious, and inclined to general nastiness.  These pagan ethical discourses are written by elites, for elites, concerned for the personal welfare of the elites. Christians had different views, at least so far as we can tell from their writings.  Whereas the “problem of wealth” was occasionally discussed among [...]

Shouldn’t the Upper Classes Help the … Upper Classes?

By |May 25th, 2022|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|13 Comments

In my previous post I talked about the widespread sense in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds that the affluent should give away some of their money.   But to whom/what did they give it and for what reasons? The basic answer involves an entire system of giving that is now widely known as “euergetism.”  The term was coined by an early twentieth-century French scholar of antiquity, André Boulanger; it literally means (financial) “good work.”  It is probably best translated into English as “benefaction.” Euergetism widely involved two kinds of giving by those with wealth: This post describes aspects of giving [...]

Does Wealth Make You More … Virtuous?

By |May 24th, 2022|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|22 Comments

I have been explaining that among those few people who thought having substantial wealth was a “problem” in the Greek and Romans worlds – that is, the few philosophers who thought about the issue (since for most people getting lots of money was precisely not a problem!) – the issue was never that it just wasn’t fair for some people to be barely able to get by, or worse to be starving to death, when others were blissfully rolling in the dough.  The issue was that having lots of money almost always corrupted someone’s character, and having a bad personal [...]

The Critique of the “Very Reverend Robert Barron”

By |May 22nd, 2022|Bart's Critics, Book Discussions|37 Comments

I am celebrating the ten year anniversary of the blog (April 18, 2022) by reposting the ten previous posts made on April 18 of each year.  I am now up to 2014.  On that day I posted a response to someone's critique of my then just published How Jesus Became God.  I was a bit testy.  Who, me?  Here's what I said. ****************************** The responses to How Jesus Became God are starting to appear, and I must say, I find the harshest ones bordering on the incredible.   Do people think that it is acceptable to attack a book that they [...]

The Problem with “Time Management”

By |May 21st, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|38 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about time management lately, but decidedly not in the way most people do.   Most people (at least the ones I know) want to figure out how to become more efficient with their time, how to get more done, how to get more focused.  That’s the very LAST thing I need. Since I was about 18 I’ve worked on that sort of time management and now have no trouble being time-wise, focused, and efficient.  My problem is just the opposite.  It’s about enjoying the present rather than using the present as a way to get to [...]

Early Christianity and War. Platinum Guest Post by Daniel Kohanski

By |May 20th, 2022|Public Forum|11 Comments

I am pleased to publish a new guest post by Platinum member Dan Kohanski, for all you Platinums.  Here Dan treats a perennially important topic: how ancient people (including biblical authors) understood the legitimacy of war, particularly in light of their specific historical and cultural contexts.   Dan will be happy to address questions and comments. Remember: you, too, can submit a Platinum post.  It can be anything of any relevance to the blog.  Have an idea?  Send it along! ******************************             The history of how religions approach war is evidence that theology is a product of reaction to events rather [...]

Fabulously Rich But Not Attached to the Lucre (?)

By |May 19th, 2022|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|17 Comments

In the previous post I talked about how and why ancient Cynics condemned wealth – as in fact they condemned anything that a person had and considered important to their happiness and wellbeing.  If wellbeing resides in things you possess, they can be taken away from you, leading to misery.  And so, the key to happiness is not to be attached to anything.  And the only way to assure that you’re *not* attached to something is not to have it at all.  So Cynics maintained you should give it all away – for the sake of your happiness. This was [...]

The Ancient Argument for Getting Rid of All Your Wealth

By |May 18th, 2022|Book Discussions, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|8 Comments

I now begin a series of posts on the “problem of wealth” in the ancient world -- that is, the problems posed by wealth, as identified by a number of elite authors, both pagan (Greek and Roman) and Christian.  The particular *problem* was understood differently between these two camps, but both camps had extremists, who said the rich should give it all away, every penny, and the moderates, who said that the problem was not wealth itself but a rich person’s “attitude” toward wealth.  The latter group, which, as you might expect, was far more numerous, claimed it was fine [...]

Did Christians Invent Charity?

By |May 17th, 2022|Book Discussions, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|95 Comments

I have now decided (I think) that my next book will be about how Christianity revolutionized the world in a way that most of us would agree is particularly good, even though most do not realize it was a specifically Christian accomplishment.  It has to do with wealth and giving to charity. Jesus himself said “the poor you will always have with you,” and in fact, for the entire history of the human race the vast majority have been poor, often (usually?) to the point of destitution.  That’s still true today, even though in our world today we could easily [...]

Reflections on Teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill

By |May 15th, 2022|Public Forum|19 Comments

In celebration of our tenth year anniversary on April 18, I'm publishing all the posts from previous years on April 18.  It's a random collection.  Here's the second in the series, from 2013; it's a self-congratulatory one (!)  that I was using to explain the different kinds of colleges/universities around the country (in later posts on that thread). ****************************** It is always interesting for me to travel around the country giving lectures at different colleges and universities. This past week I have been struck with just now different institutions of higher education can be from one another. Let me preface [...]

My Next Three Books!

By |May 14th, 2022|Book Discussions|135 Comments

I have three books I’d like to write and need to decide which to do first.  I also have have a larger book project as well, an academic book, but that will be a different story for a different day.  For now, I’ve settled on these three for a general audience.  (One of them I’ve mentioned before; the other two are new ideas.)  So I’m happy to hear your opinion: what do you think? Blog members get five posts a week, all for a very low membership fee.  And every bit of the money that comes in goes out to [...]

May Q&A

By |May 12th, 2022|Public Forum|6 Comments

Dear Gold Members, These monthly Gold Q&A's have been a lot of fun to do.  Time for another one!  Have a question?  Ask it!  Anything related to the blog! To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] DEADLINE for your question. Monday May 16, midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will try to get it recorded a soon after that, with a goal of releasing it that following weekend. Questions that are relatively short (a sentence or two) are more likely to be chosen; and feel free to ask a zinger! I'm [...]

Demons and Christians in Antiquity: Guest Post by Travis Proctor

By |May 12th, 2022|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE), History of Christianity (100-300CE)|37 Comments

I am very pleased that my erstwhile PhD student, Travis Proctor, has published a revised version of his dissertation with Oxford University Press.  See:  Demonic Bodies and the Dark Ecologies of Early Christian Culture: Proctor, Travis W.: 9780197581162: Books Travis was one of the best students I ever had, and this is an unusually learned book.  In celebration of the event -- and to let you know of the development -- I have decided to repost his discussion of his work from two years ago, with a brief introduction to bring us up to date. Here is what he [...]

I’m Puzzled about Time. Is there a “Present”?

By |May 11th, 2022|Reflections and Ruminations|158 Comments

If you read these posts, you’ll know that I’m not a physicist or a philosopher, and really, to address the issue that is on my mind just now, I need to be either, or, preferably both.  I am puzzled about time.  About a specific feature or aspect of time.  I’ve been thinking about it for some time and will probably be ruminating on it for some time to come; and I’m considering it now.  But my puzzle is: What is “now”?   Is there a “present”?  If so, what is it? OK, it’s a weird question but I’d like to know [...]

My Debate With Roman Catholic Apologist Jimmy Akin

By |May 10th, 2022|Bart's Debates, Canonical Gospels|76 Comments

I had never debated a Roman Catholic apologist before.  In fact, I didn't know there *were* Roman Catholic Apologists!  I did know there used to be lots of them who were intent on defending the Catholic tradition against Protestants.  And as it it turns out, there are still some of them around.  There is an interesting organization in San Diego that sponsors their work, called "Catholic Answers." I was invited to go out there to debate one of their speakers, Jimmy Akin -- not about the superiority of Catholicism over Protestantism (about which I don't have much of an opinion, [...]

Do My Research Assistants Do My Work for Me?

By |May 8th, 2022|Public Forum|26 Comments

In celebration of our blog 10 year anniversary on April 18, I've decided to post the past ten years posts that were posted on April 18 of each year!   Here is the first, from April 18, 2012.  You will notice (if you pay attention to how I write these posts), that I was even more thin-skinned, defensive, and argumentative than I am now!  Ha.  I thought about editing these then thought, ah, why?  In this first from ten years ago, I was responding to an accusation that I don't do my own work. (!) ****************************** I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, [...]

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality? Recording of The Blog Webinar

By |May 7th, 2022|Sex and Sexuality in the Bible|27 Comments

As you may know, I did a free blog webinar on April 23, on the question "Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?"  The answer is not as obvious as most people think.  For one thing, it is deeply embedded in biblical and other ancient understandings of sex and gender, which ain't the understandings of most people today.  Does that matter?   Watch it and see. Here is the webinar, including the Q&A at the end.  Enjoy!   Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

 The Plausibility of the Fourth Gospel: The Sayings of Jesus. Guest Post by Dennis Folds

By |May 6th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Historical Jesus|12 Comments

Here is the second of a two-part Platinum-guest-post by Dennis Folds, who makes the controversial argument that *John* is the more accurate Gospel and that it is *Mark* who has changed the historical facts.  This time he focuses on the teachings of Jesus and, relatedly, the reasons for his condemnation to execution.  Interesting stuff.  Let us know what you think! And feel free to write a post or two in response!  Or write a post on anything else related to what we do on the blog.  Your input is welcome! ****************************** In Part 1 of this two-part post, I described [...]

What’s Eternal Life Like? Ask Paul…

By |May 5th, 2022|Paul and His Letters|47 Comments

I’ve been trying to show that Paul thought eternal life would be lived not in some kind of bodiless spiritual existence, but in the physical body.  How is *that* supposed to work?  And didn’t he say that “flesh and blood” would NOT inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50)?  Here I explain how Paul understood it was all to happen.  I pick up with the last bit of my last post, taken from Heaven and Hell (Simon & Schuster, 2020). ******************************   The future resurrected body Paul imagines will be utterly and completely transformed.  It will be a different kind of [...]

Eternal Life is in the BODY? Really?

By |May 4th, 2022|Paul and His Letters|27 Comments

What did Paul actually teach would happen after death?  It was not that after you died your soul would go to heaven or hell.  Paul taught a future physical resurrection of your *body*, to have eternal life here on earth.  I started explaining that in my previous post.  I continue here: Paul’s argument for a coming resurrection of the dead.  Again, this is taken from my discussion in Heaven and Hell (Simon & Schuster, 2020).   ***************************** Paul’s Teaching of the Resurrection To make his case (for a physical resurrection of all people at the end of time), Paul begins [...]

Understanding the Future Resurrection of the Dead…

By |May 3rd, 2022|Paul and His Letters|80 Comments

One of the most important issues for the apostle Paul is the future resurrection of the dead.  It is also one of the must misunderstood topics among readers of Paul today, who often claim that Paul had just the *opposite* view to the one he had.  And that’s because they completely misconstrue his understanding of Jesus’ own resurrection.  If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it 834,000 times: “Paul thought Jesus was raised spiritually, not bodily.”   Wrong, wrong, wrong. It will take a while to explain.  I deal with the matter in my book Heaven and Hell (Simon & Schuster, [...]

Why Romans Crucified People and Who Was Crucifixion Reserved For?

By |May 1st, 2022|Bart's Critics, Historical Jesus|72 Comments

Why Romans crucified people.....and who was crucifixion reserved for? Most people acquire their knowledge about ancient Roman crucifixion from the accounts of Jesus' crucifixion in the Gospels. They learn the stories about the cross, the nails, the "King of the Jews" sign nailed above Jesus' head, and the agony he endured. But there's another side to the story. By studying the facts of Roman crucifixion, including their methods and process, you'll find that crucifixion was about a lot more than pain and punishment.  Their goal was absolute humiliation. This is part 5 in a thread of my responses to Craig [...]

What Is the Didache & When Was the Didache Written

By |May 1st, 2022|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE), History of Christianity (100-300CE), Proto-Orthodox Writers, Public Forum|74 Comments

What is the Didache (pronounced DID-ah-kay)? In the recent exchange that I posted on the blog (dealing with the existence of Q) the document known as the Didache was mentioned. Especially by guest contributor Alan Garrow, who thinks that the Didache was a source used by the authors of Matthew and Luke.  I think even Alan will agree that this is a highly anomalous view; I don’t know of any other scholar who accepts it (though if Alan knows of any who do, I’m sure he can tell us in a comment).  The Didache is almost always assumed to have [...]

Was The Messiah Supposed to Be Born of a Virgin?

By |May 1st, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Historical Jesus|50 Comments

Here in the lead-up to December 25, I am discussing some issues related to Jesus' birth.  As I mentioned in my previous post, in the entire New Testament, the story of the virgin birth is found only in Matthew and Luke.  Luke has a pretty straightforward explanation of why Jesus had to be born of a virgin: it's because he was (literally) the "Son of God."  That is, God is the one who got Mary pregnant, as the angel tells her at the Annunciation:  read Luke 1:31-35, and notice the angels' explanation: the Spirit of God will "come upon her [...]

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