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My Faux Pop Quiz this Semester

Here’s a question from one of my recent posts on teaching this term, and what I did on the first day of class.


Now that Aug 11 is safely past, is there any chance that we here on the blog might be able to see the “Faux Pop Quiz”?


              The question is about the pop quiz I gave on my first day of class in my First Year Seminar (i.e, the small seminar for first year students – their first semester in college!) on “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.”  Different instructors do different things on the first day of class.  We are required to give out a syllabus that describes the course objectives, requirements, textbooks, grading policies, and sundry other things (I posted mine last week on the blog).  Some instructors do that and then that’s all for the first class.  I do more.  I don’t believe in throwing away any class time for the entire semester, so I always take up the whole period.  Hey, they’re payin’ for this class.  (Well, their parents are.)

In a small class like this, I always start by having everyone introduce themselves.  To do that I use an ice-breaker.  This year I asked every student to talk about their “closest brush with fame,” that is, when they got close to someone who was famous.  Three of my students this year, for example, saw Michael Jordan in the flesh, others had seen a singer (often someone I had never heard of!), a couple of them told about how their parent had met someone who was famous, and so on.  Everyone gets a good laugh.

Then I go over the syllabus very carefully to make sure they understand exactly what the class will entail.  For a course in biblical studies, that usually involves (among many other things) my explaining that the approach we take in the course is very different from what they might expect in a faith-community, for example a church, synagogue, or Sunday school.  I emphasize that the kind of historical and literary approach we take in class is not necessarily *better* than other ways of studying the Bible, but it is definitely *different*, and I try to explain that their personal beliefs are not only not the point but they will not affect what we do in class.  A course in a secular institution of higher learning is open to all people of every point of view.  There is no advantage to being a believer, no disadvantage to not being one.  The class is not about belief but about history and literature – of value to everyone, whether they believe or not.

All that takes about 1/2 or 2/3 of the class.  Then I tell them I’m going to be giving them a pop quiz.  They think that’s a bit odd, since I haven’t taught them anything yet.  But I assure them it’s just for fun, to help me see how much they already know about the New Testament.  I don’t grade them (which is why I call it a “faux” quiz).

I also use the quiz in order to teach them something by way of background information.  After they take the quiz, we go over the answers.  Some of them are significant for the course, others, well, less so.  No one gets the final question right — even the students (half of them?) who think they know the answer.  I bet most of you don’t either!

Those of you who have been on the blog for a long time will recognize that this quiz is *like* the one I normally give to my NT Introduction class, but there are some key differences as well.  I’ll give and explain the answers (and why they matter) in a later post.  But for now: how well do you do?


Pop Quiz

Jesus in Scholarship and Film

To see this quiz, and all the other blog posts going back over eight years, all you need do is join the blog!  There’s a small membership fee, but you get an unbelievable amount for it.  And every penny goes to charity.  No downside!  So JOIN.

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  1. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  August 26, 2020

    I’ll take a stab at the final question. Is it ‘Jesus wept’?(John 11:35)?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 27, 2020

      It’s what everyone things. But, nope. It’s the third shortest. 🙂 I’ll explain in a later post.

      • Avatar
        GeoffClifton  August 28, 2020

        As the original Greek NT wasn’t divided into chapters and verses (I believe that is a relatively modern convention), could I argue that ‘Jesus Wept’ is *technically* the shortest verse (at least in the English translations; ‘Jesus wept’ is certainly shorter than the French, German, Spanish and Latin equivalents)? But, I know you’ll say ‘No’.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 30, 2020

          If there are no verses then no verse can be shorter than another!

    • Avatar
      chefar2112  August 30, 2020

      As I have heard to often being born and raised in NC, “ The KJV Bible is the only bible. “ Saying it wasn’t wrote in English is like saying you hate sweet tea.

      As for shortest verse, are we basing this off of the OG language or English translations/paraphrasing?

  2. Avatar
    robgrayson  August 26, 2020

    I’m guessing the answer to the final question is 1 Thess 5:16?

    Pretty sure I got all the others right.

  3. Avatar
    mannix  August 26, 2020

    Re: #12: Anyone who comes up with the correct answer without looking it up needs to get out more often. My “research” ended up with Lk 20:30…apparently in Greek “and the second” contains the fewest letters.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 27, 2020

      That would indeed make it the shortest!

      • Avatar
        Leovigild  August 28, 2020

        I think that’s an unfair question. The Greek New Testament was written without any verses, they were added I believe in the 16th century. No Greek or Byzantine user of the New Testament would have recognized the existence of any verses, whereas the King James Bible at least was originally written with subdivision into verses.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 30, 2020

          Would you think it’s unfair for me to say “Look at Mark chapter 7 verse 4”?

          • Avatar
            Leovigild  September 2, 2020

            That’s not what that question does, though. I apologize if it comes off as critical, but I think it unfair to ask undergraduates a question about the Greek New Testament that neither Basil the Great, nor John Chrysostom, nor Gregory Nazianzus could get correct (even in a ‘faux quiz’). In addition, by arbitrarily selecting one modern edition (Nestlé-Aland) over other editions (NRSV) as providing the ‘correct’ answer, you are suggesting to the students that doing well in the course will depend not on their understanding of the NT itself, but on memorizing minutiae about the text(s) the professor find authoritative. It’s like asking which page of the New Testament has the most letters.

          • Bart
            Bart  September 3, 2020

            Look — it’s a *joke question*!!!! BTW, which page *does* have the most letters?

      • Avatar
        XanderKastan  August 30, 2020

        Except , are there variants of this verse that are longer? I’m confused. Out of curiosity, I looked up Luke 20 in the

        Abarim Publications’ free online interlinear (Greek/English) New Testament, translated word by word and with Greek grammar parsing codes

        It shows a lot more Greek letters for verse 30 — English translation is given as:

        “And the second took her to wife and he died childless.”

        • Bart
          Bart  August 31, 2020

          Ah, you’re looking at an old translation. The oldest manuscripts read “and the second”

    • Avatar
      bamurray  August 27, 2020

      Hey, I found that out on Wikipedia!

  4. Avatar
    tskorick  August 26, 2020

    Okay this was fun. I’m confident in my knowledge of most of the answers. You got me with the last question though, I grew up reading the obvious answer in the NIV and I’m just GUESSING you’re referring to the Greek? Sneaky …

    • Avatar
      tskorick  August 27, 2020

      Just in case you were actually reading our answers:

      1. 27 (3^3 as you often put it)
      2. Koine Greek
      3. First through possibly early Second CE, depending on which scholar you read
      4. Mark, Matthew, Luke, John
      5. My favorites are the gospels of Judas and Peter, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas
      6. It comes from the Old English meaning “good tale” from the Latinization of εὐαγγέλιον which meant “good tidings.” In Homer the Greek could also mean “a reward for good tidings.”
      7. John the Baptist, Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea
      8. Around 35 CE. Before 4 BCE (when Herod died).
      9. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles
      10. Early Church fathers thought Matthew was the tax collector mentioned in Mark and Luke, Luke was thought by the same crowd to be a physician. Both were probably wrong (although the Greek of the second half of Luke gets annpoyingly complex).
      11. John the Baptist, Jesus, Simon Peter, and the Apostle Paul. Interestingly enough, Pilate was depicted as a Jew in some medieval artwork starting in the 11th century.
      12. Luke 20:30 in the Greek (καὶ ὁ δεύτερος), and John 11:35 in many English translations which I imagine is what most will guess 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  August 27, 2020

      Yes, well, the NT wasn’t written in English. 🙂

  5. Avatar
    fishician  August 26, 2020

    I aced it! But, is the shortest verse question meant to be a trick question, since John 11:35 is shortest in English translations but Luke 20:30 is shorter in Greek?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 27, 2020

      Yup! And there’s one shorter than one and longer than the other.

  6. Avatar
    veritas  August 26, 2020

    This was a fun quiz for me and did well, I might add, and ready for your class, Prof.Ehrman. I like how you break the students in with this * faux* quiz. It must give you an idea of where they belong and how well they are prepared. Now the juicy final question, which, I admit had no idea, and had to research. My final verdict; Depending on whether you mean in English or Greek. In English, John 11;35, ” Jesus wept”, seems to be the shortest at 9 letters, but in the original Greek it is 16 letters. Next, we have 1 Thess. 5;16, “Rejoice Always” which is 13 letters in English but shorter in Greek than the above at 14 letters.. Lastly, we have Luke 20; 30, ” And the second” which in English is 12 letters and, ironically, also in Greek. Answer, ‘Jesus wept’ shortest in English. ” And the second” shortest in Greek. I hope I got this right, or there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!!!!!!. 😊

  7. Avatar
    bengrubb  August 27, 2020

    How many books are in the NT?
    In what language were they written?
    in what century were they written?
    Name the Gospels of the NT
    mat mark luke john
    Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament
    What does the word “Gospel” mean?
    good news
    According to the Gospels, who baptized Jesus? Who carried his cross? Who buried him?
    john the B, Joseph of A , Joseph of A,
    In about what year did Jesus die? What year was he born?
    30, 0
    The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote two books. Name two of them.
    Luke, Hebrews??
    What is normally thought to have been the occupations of (a) Matthew and (b) Luke?
    tax collector, physician
    Which of the following were Jews? John the Baptist, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter,
    Tacitus, the Apostle Paul.
    J the B, Jesus, SP, T, AP
    What is the shortest verse in the New Testament?
    Prov 31:1 “wives submit”

  8. geomir
    geomir  August 27, 2020

    I know all the answers.
    You owe me dinner at the Armadillo grill !! :-))))

  9. Avatar
    AstaKask  August 27, 2020

    1. 27
    2. Greek.
    3. 1st and 2nd century AD.
    4. Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.
    5. Thomas, Thomas Infancy Gospel, Peter.
    6. Good news.
    7. John baptized him. Simon carried his cross. Joseph or Arimathea buried him.
    8. He died about 30 AD and was born 4 to 8 years BC. It’s difficult to say, because the Gospels give contrary information.
    9. Gospel of Luke, Acts.
    10. Matthew was a tax collector and Luke was a doctor.
    11. John, Jesus, Simon Peter, the Apostle Paul.
    12. “Jesus wept.”

    • Bart
      Bart  August 28, 2020

      Well done. But no one’s perfect. 🙂

      • Avatar
        AstaKask  August 30, 2020

        I saw something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; neither is the bread to the wise, nor the wealth to the intelligent, nor the favor to the skillful. For time and chance happen to all.

  10. Avatar
    Judith  August 27, 2020

    All of these subsequent posts since your August 20 The Flukes of Life post have been really really good but don’t forget you told us “things turned around in a big way in my fourth year of teaching at Rutgers…more on that in a future post”. We are waiting so don’t forget!

  11. Avatar
    gwayersdds  August 27, 2020

    I’m pretty sure I passed but I had a head start since I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. LoL

  12. Avatar
    janmaru  August 27, 2020

    What is the shortest verse in the New Testament?
    I always hoped for: I quit. But then there were no tears left.

  13. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  August 27, 2020

    I gave myself 1 minute. I had problem with half of point 7 and had problem with 12

  14. Avatar
    DirkCampbell  August 27, 2020

    Think I got all of them except probably the last one. ‘And he did so and made them all sit down’ ?

  15. Avatar
    Eskil  August 27, 2020

    1. 27
    2. Greek
    3. late 1st, early 2nd
    4. Mark, Matthew, Luke, John
    5. Thomas, Mary, Philip
    6. god-spell i.e. good story
    7. John the Baptizer, Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea
    8. Jesus died on year 33 and no one really knows when he was born
    9. The Gospel According to Luke and The Acts of The Apostles
    10 . a) scribe b) doctor
    11. None if Ioudaiou would be translated as Judaean
    12. Edákrusen ho Iēsous

  16. Robert
    Robert  August 27, 2020

    Bart: “Yes, well, the NT wasn’t written in English. 🙂”

    And there weren’t any verses at all when the NT was written in Greek. Thus I think you should accept this as a third correct answer to this question.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 28, 2020

      Ha! Even more, when these books were written, and for a long time after, there wasn’t even a New Testament!

      • Robert
        Robert  August 31, 2020

        Bart: “Ha! Even more, when these books were written, and for a long time after, there wasn’t even a New Testament!”

        Precisely. Thus all the more reason why you need to accept a third answer to this last question. I have not argued for a better grade in over 40 years, but now I remember how dogmatic and small-minded college professors can be!

  17. Avatar
    Regis  August 28, 2020

    Aced the rest but for 12. I answered Acts 8:37 – I mean, can a verse in the NT be any shorter? Armadillo Grill, here I come! 😂

  18. Avatar
    chrisjpaxton@gmail.com  August 28, 2020

    I’ve already checked my answers and I think I got 9 right but I wasn’t sure about my non-canonical gospels, I said Judas, Thomas and Mary.

  19. Avatar
    clerrance2005  August 28, 2020

    Prof Ehrman,

    On Q.8.

    The period of the birth of Jesus can be placed within a historical timeline due to the information in the gospels (Luke – Quirinius, Governor of Syria – post AD 6) and (Matthew – Death of Herod – pre BC 4).

    Do scholars employ a similar trend in determining when Jesus died or its purely adding the supposed age of 33 years to the period of birth? Or there are highlights within the Gospels that can be paralleled to historical accounts to determine the time period of Jesus’s death?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 30, 2020

      Yeah, the birth details obviously create a contradiction. But with respect to his death: yup! Pontius Pilate ruled Judea etween 26-36 CE, so it had to be somewhere in there….

  20. Barfo
    Barfo  August 28, 2020

    If I would have taken this quiz back when I was in the Christian faith I would have gotten about 4 out of 12 correct. But now as an atheist it’s around 10 out of 12 correct. I guess having read most of Bart’s books may have helped. But #12 was one I thought I had nailed.

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