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New Testament Programs and Ancient Med.

Teaching graduate students in the field of Ancient Mediterranean Religions – even if one’s subfield is the New Testament and early Christianity – can be very different from teaching the same field in a divinity school, as I began to indicate last time.  At least it is very different from the field as it was taught at Princeton Theological Seminary, where I went.   New Testament faculty there principally taught courses on exegesis – that is the interpretation of Scripture.  These courses did have a strong historical component to them.   But the only real concerns were the books of the New Testament, their interpretation, and the history that they both presuppose and illuminate.

At UNC, I have never taught an exegesis course.  Now it’s true, my students in New Testament (most of them actually are working outside the New Testament, as I’ll explain in a moment) do need to learn the science and art of exegesis.   But there’s only one of me, and I can teach only one seminar a semester, and I don’t have time to do exegetical courses.  When my students need to study that approach to the New Testament, they take seminars at Duke Divinity School, which (run jointly with the Department of Religious Studies in the college at Duke), has one of the best graduate programs (along with ours!) in the country.   Their professors – some of them good friends of mine – do teach semester-long courses on, say, the letter to the Romans or the Passion narratives in the Gospels or the Gospel of Matthew, etc.   So my students can learn exegesis there, as part of their training.

But as I was saying, most of my students…

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Whom Do We Admit into our Graduate Program?
Ancient Mediterranean Religions?!?

12

Comments

  1. Avatar
    nichael  January 16, 2015

    This is off the topic of the current thread, but…

    Concerning Paul’s reference in 1 Cor to other epistles that we don’t have:

    1] Aside from the from the seven presumed canonical Pauline epistles that we do have, how many other epistles can we be “fairly certain” that Paul probably wrote?

    2] if you had to pull a number out of you hat –and I understand that the “error bars” are pretty big on this– how many epistles would you guess that Paul probably wrote over his career? Ten? Dozens? Hundreds?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2015

      1) None 2) Dozens I should think, maybe many dozens.

      • Avatar
        nichael  January 19, 2015

        Concerning the answer “none” to question #1 I’m a bit confused.

        Doesn’t the reference to the “previous epistle” in 1 Corinthians 5:9 suggest that there is at least one such epistle?

        (Or am I missing something here?)

        • Bart
          Bart  January 20, 2015

          I thought you were asking about Pauline letters that still *survive*. There must have been many dozens that he wrote and we no longer have.

  2. Avatar
    silvertime  January 16, 2015

    This edition of the blog is the best clarification I have seen of the theological basis of the existing biblical canon. You have simply explained the orthodox “why” of the canon. Would you say that the persistance of Athanasius
    explanaines much of the selection

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2015

      Athanasius had *something* to do with it, but his views were not normative. Maybe I’ll devote a series of posts to the canon issue.

  3. Avatar
    cmdenton47  January 17, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this. It may seem rather ordinary to you, but it is a revelation to those of us without formal training in the field.

  4. Avatar
    Scott  January 18, 2015

    I almost skipped this series of posts on the ins and outs of Religious studies programs. I so glad I didn’t. Religion Departments, Divinity Schools, Seminaries and Bible Colleges have always been muddled up in one glob in my mind.

    When I read that you had attended both Moody and Wheaton I got really confused. Through the years your observations on these matters have helped clarify the distinctions for me and raise a number of interesting questions about the value of each.

  5. Avatar
    nmk  January 18, 2015

    Dear Dr. Ehrman, this is not related to the current thread, but could you please write a post about the early Christian views about the Holy Spirit? In particular, I would like to know about things like:

    1) When did early Christians start believing in the Holy Spirit?

    2) Did only the proto-orthodox Christians believe in the Holy Spirit? What were the beliefs of the other early Christians (Gnostics, Ebionites, etc.) about this?

    3) Did early Christians initially consider the Holy Spirit to be God, or just another divine being like the angels, etc.?

    4) One thing that puzzles me a lot is this – why did early Christians believe in the Holy Spirit. They had great difficulty in reconciling their belief in the divinity of Jesus with their monotheism, and had to give various explanations for it. Wouldn’t their belief in the Holy Spirit add to this difficulty?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 19, 2015

      Wow, that’s a big task. More like a book than a blog post!! I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of things to talk about. In the meantime, you might look at the books by Gordon Fee and Gerald Hawthorne on the Spirit in the NT/among the early Xns.

  6. Avatar
    sam  January 19, 2015

    Hi Bart

    Just a quick question, a little off topic but I came across it over the weekend and also last week via online debating links through my university. It seems all conservative evangelical Christians ascertain that 1 Corinthians 15 comes from an earlier Chistian creed, one which is being spoken around 1 or 2 years after Jesus’ death. Is there any truth in this and if so how can this be proven or what evidence is there for it? I have always thought that its from Paul and subjective to Paul’s own teachings and experiences.

    thanks

    Sam

    • Bart
      Bart  January 19, 2015

      They’re basing that on the fact that Paul says he “received” it from others, and they are assuming that that means he received it when he converted. If the latter is not hte case, then there are no grounds for saying that it comes from so early in the tradition. But maybe it’s right!

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