Recent Posts

My New Online Course on the Gospel of Mark!

By |February 5th, 2023|Public Forum|Comments Off on My New Online Course on the Gospel of Mark!

In case you haven't heard, I will be doing a live, eight-lecture online course on the Gospel of Mark on Feb. 18-19.  The course is not connected with the blog -- it is part of my separate venture for a series I'm publishing called How Scholars Read the Bible.  But I mention here because some of you may be interested.  Even if you can't make the live sessions and Q&A, you can purchase the course to watch at your leisure.  You can learn about it here: The course will consist of  four lectures and Q&A each day.  The lectures [...]

New Testament Manuscripts as Windows into Early Christian History

By |February 5th, 2023|New Testament Manuscripts|Comments Off on New Testament Manuscripts as Windows into Early Christian History

My recent post asking whether the Gospels can be seen as anti-Jewish generated a number of comments and questions, one of which was whether scribes who copied the texts of the New Testament ever made them *more* anti-Jewish than they originally were.  The answer to that is Yes.  I have a student just now who is writing a dissertation that deals with that topic. It's a question I've been intrigued with for years;  one of the first times I wrote about it was in an essay called “The Text as Window: New Testament Manuscripts and the Social History of Early [...]

February Gold Q&A: Go for the Gold!

By |February 4th, 2023|Public Forum|18 Comments

It is time to schedule the Gold Q&A for February.   For me to provide the A's you need to provide the Q's.  What are you interested in?  It can be about most anything related to the blog in one way or another. I'm more likely to answer questions that are relatively short and to the point than those that go on for a long paragraph.  So be concise. I'll try to be informative.  And happiness will reign. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] The DEADLINE for your question is Friday February 10 [...]

Am I About To Become Muslim?

By |February 4th, 2023|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions|1 Comment

I often get asked about the Qur'an (on which I have zero expertise) and my views of Islam (which I admire as one of the great religions of the world with lots of problems involving how it sometimes gets interpreted and used, just like every other great religion of the world).  I was just thinking about that this morning and remembered a post I did a long time ago answering a question a reader had raised with me.  Is it true I am about to convert to Islam?  Well, it hasn't happened yet, but I thought I would be worthwhile [...]

Was the Roman Soldier Pantera Jesus’ Father? His Cousin? Platinum Guest Post by Omar Abur-Robb

By |February 3rd, 2023|Public Forum|Comments Off on Was the Roman Soldier Pantera Jesus’ Father? His Cousin? Platinum Guest Post by Omar Abur-Robb

I am pleased to publish this unusually controversial and interesting Platinum guest post of Omar Abdur-Robb.   Lots to think about here!  What do you think? ******************************   A Summary of an article: Discussing the conclusion of James Tabor related to the relationship between Jesus Pantera and Abdes Pantera, and presenting a new model for this relationship (Jan 2023). Omar Abur-Robb Library:   James Tabor has a conclusion in his informative book “The Jesus Dynasty”. He noticed a reference for a tombstone in Germany that was dedicated to a Roman soldier from Sidon with the name “Abdes Pantera”. This immediately [...]

Finally: The Martyrdom of Polycarp as a Clever Christian Forgery

By |February 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|10 Comments

Here now I bring this thread on the Martyrdom of Polycarp to an end, arguing yet further reasons for thinking the account was forged, and explaining the “truths” the author was trying to advance by not telling the truth about his real identity.   (From my book Forgery and Counterforgery, Oxford University Press, 2013). ****************************** Problematic for entirely other reasons is the account of what happens in the aftermath of Polycarp’s death.  The Jews, moved by the devil, are intent not to allow the Christians to collect Polycarp’s body “even though many were desiring to do so and to have a share [...]

January 2023 Gold & Platinum History of the Devil Bonus Lecture

By |February 1st, 2023|Public Forum|Comments Off on January 2023 Gold & Platinum History of the Devil Bonus Lecture

Hey Gold and Platinum members, Here is the video of our recent webinar on the History of the Devil.  We're sending it out to everyone at the gold and platinum levels, those who were able to come and those not. It was a blast doing -- and apologies for the occasions that occasioned it (being late on the Gold Q&A's for a couple of months). Again, I hope you're enjoying the blog, and if there's anything I / we can do to make your experience better, let me/us know.  'til, then, here's the Devil: Z

Evidence of Forgery. More Reasons the Martyrdom of Polycarp Was Not Written by Someone There

By |February 1st, 2023|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity, History of Christianity (100-300CE)|10 Comments

In my previous post I began to lay out my case that the Martyrdom of Polycarp, our (allegedly) first full narrative account of a Christian martyr, who died 155 CE, written (allegedly) by an eyewitness, in fact was written decades later, by someone who wanted his readers to think he was an eyewitness and to that end (falsely) claimed to be one. Here I move from the intriguing fact (from the last post) that the author asserts his eyewitness authority precisely at the points that are, well, rather difficult to believe to other historical problems in the text that suggest [...]

Do Eyewitnesses Prove Miracles? Can They Be Faked? The Martyrdom of Polycarp

By |January 31st, 2023|Book Discussions, Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE), Forgery in Antiquity|12 Comments

For over two hundred years scholars of antiquity have worked diligently to determine which ancient writings by pagans, Jews, and Christians were actually produced by their alleged authors and which are by authors merely claiming to be some other famous person, as well as which originally anonymous writings were wrongly ascribed to one famous author or another.  If a book is wrongly ascribed, it’s not the author’s fault.  If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not write Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that would not make these books “forgeries.”  A “forgery” is when an author intentionally takes the identity of [...]

Recreational Drugs in the New Testament? Platinum Guest Post by Douglas Wadeson

By |January 30th, 2023|Public Forum|13 Comments

Here now is promised part II of Doug Wadeson's discussion of drugs in the Bible....  It's way out there, man. What do you think? ***************************** In the previous post I discussed evidence of psychoactive drug use in the Old Testament.  What about the New Testament?  Jesus’ mentor was John the Baptist who seemed to follow along the lines of Ezekiel, although not as extreme: John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and [...]

Can We Take the Martyrdom of Polycarp at Face Value?

By |January 29th, 2023|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|6 Comments

I continue here my discussion of the Martyrdom of Polycarp as found in my book Forgery and Counterforgery.  This will get in the weeds a bit, but hey, it can be good for your soul!  I've always thought that it's useful for layfolk to see how scholars in one field or another argue among themselves, and this is an example of it.  And we ain't talkin' quantum physics here.  This should be pretty accessible if you're interested in some of the complexities. Here I explain why in the past scholars doubted whether the account was authentic or not; in posts to [...]

Is the Martyrdom of Polycarp an Authentic Account?

By |January 28th, 2023|Public Forum|3 Comments

In my previous posts I have talked about the Martyrdom of Polcarp, our first full account of a Christian martyrdom (outside the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 8).  But is it an authentic account?  It claims to be written by an eyewitness.  Was it? I did not begin to investigate that question seriously and deeply until after I had published by Loeb Apostolic Fathers translation of the text in 2003.  Some years later I started my research on my book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (published in 2013 by Oxford University Press).  This was a [...]

Was Moses High on Mt. Sinai?  Part 1   Platinum Post by Douglas Wadeson MD

By |January 27th, 2023|Public Forum|42 Comments

I'm pleased to publish this Platinum Guest Post by Doug Wadeson, long time platinum members, retired physician, and, ergo, expert on, well,  drugs.  Now *here's* a topic we haven't addressed on the blog before!  What do you think? **************************   Moses is clearly one of the most significant figures in the Bible.  Most people know that he is the one who received the Ten Commandments directly from God while up on Mount Sinai, even if they only know it from watching Cecil B. DeMille’s movie, The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston as Moses.[1]  I am going to assume you know [...]

More about the First Christian Martyr Text

By |January 26th, 2023|Public Forum|16 Comments

Here I continue the "Introduction" to my translation of the Martyrdom of Polycarp in my two-volume work, The Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1 (Harvard University Press, 2003).  It is giving a bit of harder hitting scholarship (though completely accessible) and  includes, at the end, some bibliography. As it turns out, years after I published this edition, I changed my mind about when the first part of this discussion -- specifically, about when the martyrdom was written and about whether it was based on eyewitness reports.  That will be the subject of my next posts.  The view I [...]

Don’t Forget Gold and Platinum Members! A FREE Webinar this Saturday.

By |January 25th, 2023|Public Forum|15 Comments

In case you missed it the first time, or caught it and forgot: there is a FREE webinar for all Gold and Platinum Blog members this Saturday.   Here's the original annoucment.  I hope you can make it!   ***************************** Dear Gold and Platinum Members, As you may have noticed (and, well, as several of you have pointed out!) we have had technical difficulties in posting the Gold Q&A's the past several months.  We think we've worked out the kinks now and hope it won't happen again.  But it's been a flippin' nuisance for all involved -- especially YOU, the ones [...]

Do You Want (and Need) a Free Membership to the Blog? Gift Offer 2023

By |January 25th, 2023|Public Forum|Comments Off on Do You Want (and Need) a Free Membership to the Blog? Gift Offer 2023

Thanks to the incredible ongoing generosity of members of the blog, I am happy to announce that there are a limited number of free one-year memberships available.   These have been donated for a single purpose: to allow those who cannot afford the annual membership fee to participate on the blog for a year.  I will assign these memberships strictly on the honor system: if you truly cannot afford the membership fee, but very much want to have full access to the blog, then please contact me. Do NOT reply here, on the blog, as a comment.   Send us a separate [...]

The First Christian Martyr Text?

By |January 24th, 2023|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|26 Comments

In my previous post I talked about a textual problem in the early Christian writing, "The Martyrdom of Polycarp."  To my surprise, I've never talked about this intriguing text on the blog before.  It's time I did! This is one of the books of the corpus I've been calling "The Apostolic Fathers," a collection of ten or eleven "proto-orthodox" authors (meaning that they attest forerunners of the views that eventually became "orthodox" -- that is, widely approved as "true").  It is our first Christian narrative fully devoted to describing a martyrdom (the martyrdom of Stephen is described in the NT [...]

Vote on Your Favorite Platinum Post!

By |January 23rd, 2023|Public Forum|Comments Off on Vote on Your Favorite Platinum Post!

Dear Platinum members, We have had some provocative platinum guest posts , and now it's time  to vote to see which of the following will be posted on the blog at large.  Take a look.  To vote, just send a quick note to Diane at [email protected]  Your deadline:  this coming Saturday, 01/28/2022 midnight your time. And remember — you’re always welcome to submit a post yourself.  Is there 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.  It doesn't have to [...]

A Spectacular Martyrdom and an Intriguing Textual Change

By |January 23rd, 2023|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|34 Comments

Outside the New Testament there are some truly terrific early Christian writings, including accounts of early martyrs.  And sometimes we know know what the authors of these texts actually wrote, because our surviving manuscripts have differences.  Sometimes rather bizarre differences. There are lots and lots of textual variants in the various writings of the apostolic fathers.  As with the New Testament (where there are thousands more manuscripts and hundreds of thousands more variants), most of the variant readings do not matter for much.  But some of them are of real importance.  Yesterday I mentioned one in Ignatius.  Today I discuss [...]

The New Testament Ain’t the Only Text with Important Scribal Changes!

By |January 22nd, 2023|Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|26 Comments

Readers of the blog will know that I've talked a lot about scribal changes in the writings of the New Testament,  making it difficult to know what the author originally wrote.  Which in turn makes it difficult to know what a translator should translate.  Which words??  The ones in this manuscript, or in that manuscript, or some other manuscript?? Sometimes people say to me "Well, if you say that about the New Testament you'd have to say that about all ancient texts!"  They say this as a rhetorical statement (even scholars have said this to me! Even New Testament scholars!!) -- as [...]

Are the Gospels Anti-Jewish?

By |January 21st, 2023|Public Forum|67 Comments

I was recently asked if I'd be willing to do a lecture on whether the Gospels are anti-Semitic.  I've dealt with the issue on the blog before, but thought it might be useful to return to a particularly interesting feature of the Gospels that can contribute to an answer. I should say at the outset that I do not think that the Gospel writers, or anyone else in their time, was “anti-Semitic.”   The idea and reality of anti-Semitism are modern, and are based on modern sense of “race” as these were developed by the anthropologists of the 19th century.  The [...]

What’s So Hard about Translating Ancient Texts?

By |January 19th, 2023|Book Discussions, Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE)|37 Comments

Publishing a translation of an ancient text ain't at all like writing a book about the text. When the editor at Harvard Press asked me if I would be interested in doing a new edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loebs, she wasn’t offering me the opportunity then and there.  She was suggesting that I write up a prospectus that she could take to the board of the Loebs, in which I described the need for a new edition and explained how I would go about making one.  After I thought about it for a while, and got advice [...]

Watching Notes for Jesus of Montreal! (My Favorite Jesus Movie!)

By |January 18th, 2023|Public Forum|10 Comments

A number of you have signed up to come to our Blog Movie Club discussion this Sunday, January 22, 4:00-5:30 EST, to discuss my favorite Jesus Movie of all time, "Jesus of Montreal."   Some of you who have not yet signed up may be interested in coming once your learn what the movie is about. Below is a note we sent to all those who have already signed up, where I describe the movie and suggest how to watch it. If you decide you want to come to the event after all, there is still time!  Here is the link: [...]

What About Translations of Other Ancient Christian Writings?

By |January 18th, 2023|Book Discussions, Early Christian Writings (100-400 CE), Public Forum|32 Comments

I've been talking about translations of the Bible -- especially the King James Version -- and I'd like now to move to a broader issue.  EVERY text from the ancient world needs to be translated in order to be made accessible to a modern audience.  Hey, we're not back in the 19th century when going to university meant learning Greek and Latin!  And texts even then also came from even other languages (Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, etc.). If you're a graduate student in antiquity, you have to learn to read these texts in their original languages; you simply can't get the [...]

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