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My Pop Quiz For First-Year Students

It’s been a very long day of teaching (six hours of talking!), so something substantive for the blog will need to wait for another day.   Instead, I’ll say something about what happened today.

As some of you have seen by examining my syllabus, I begin my class on Jesus by giving a pop quiz.  I did that this morning.   The class has 24 students in it, all first-year students, most of them 18 and 19.   (One swallows hard to think of it, but that means the incoming class was born in 1995.   Ai yai yai….)

I begin most of my undergraduate classes with a pop quiz, both to see how much knowledge the students already have about very basic issues related to the NT and to have an opportunity to teach them some very basic issues (such as dates of important events in antiquity, the use of the abbreviations CE and BCE, the diversity of early Christianity, some basic Gospel facts,), to stress some others (Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian), and to have a bit of fun with them.  I obviously don’t grade the quiz.  I give it, they moan, we go over correct answers, and we all have a good laugh.

Last year for my class of 300 students I told them that if any of them would get 8 of 11 questions right, I’d buy them dinner at the Armadillo Grill.  I bought maybe a couple of dinners.

I didn’t make that offer for this quiz, of                 12 questions, but it would have been in vain in any event.  Only two students got more than 6 of the 12 correct.  (!)    I don’t know … they don’t seem that hard to me, for students – most of them, I think – who have gone to church and Sunday school a good bit of their lives.   But real education in churches (Christian education!) doesn’t seem to happen much.

Anyway, here are the questions for your amusement.   There’s at least one surprise (for most people).

 

  1. How many books are in the NT?
  2. In what language were they written?
  3. In what century were they written?
  4. Name the Gospels of the NT
  5. Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament
  6. What does the word “Gospel” mean?
  7. According to the Gospels, who baptized Jesus?  Who carried his cross?  Who buried him?
  8. In about what year did Jesus die? What year was he born?
  9. The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote two books.  Name two of them.
  10. What is normally thought to have been the occupations of (a) Matthew and (b) Luke?
  11. Which of the following were Jews?  John the Baptist, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, Tacitus, the Apostle Paul.
  12. What is the shortest verse in the New Testament?

More on My Quiz
Back To School! My Jesus Syllabus

58

Comments

  1. Avatar
    mister.friendly  August 26, 2013

    13) Where are the answers??!?

  2. Avatar
    laz  August 26, 2013

    hey i actually know them all. Well I have read most of your books and heard your lectures etc…. How bout some more quizzes in the future.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 27, 2013

      You *think* you do!

      2
      • Avatar
        Alane  January 7, 2015

        I ‘think’ I got them all – the only question I am struggling with is ‘what is the shortest verse in the bible’, since I understand the ancient Greek language was grammatically structured very differently from our English. If I remember correctly (no cheating here!) there were no periods, paragraphs, capital or lower case letters etc., so it was the translator’s decision to construct the two-word sentence ‘Jesus wept’, which would be the obvious answer if you’re going by an English version. Will you ever publish the correct answers?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 7, 2015

          Yeah, it’s not Jesus wept. It’s 1 Thess. 5:16: Pray without ceasing. In Greek that is two words and fourteen letters; Jesus wept, in Greek, is three words and sixteen letters. (!)

          1
  3. Avatar
    Adam0685  August 26, 2013

    FYI – people will gladly subscribe to your blog even if you’re not able to post everyday with all the other things you do! 2-3 postings a week while you’re teaching isn’t going to impact membership now that you have several hundreds of posts already. We can read those if we want to read more! But again, thanks for all the hard work and time you put in to raise money for poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

  4. Avatar
    nautis  August 26, 2013

    Awesome quiz! I’m not sure about #8 because the timeline seems to be debated.

  5. Avatar
    GentlemanX  August 27, 2013

    Ah, finally – I was always curious what your quiz usually contained. You’d be buying me a steak dinner if I took your class today…but that’s only because I’ve read your books.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 27, 2013

      MY NT quiz has some different questions from this one….

      • Avatar
        GentlemanX  August 27, 2013

        #7 is the surprise, right? I didn’t look this up, but I’m guessing the gospels give different answers for these questions, so the point is to show they don’t all say the same thing? I might be way off…

  6. Avatar
    James Dowden  August 27, 2013

    Okay, let’s see if I walk into your surprise:
    1) 27
    2) Greek
    3) mostly 1st CE, some possibly 2nd
    4) Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
    5) Thomas, Peter, Truth
    6) “good news” (usually that someone has won a battle or become king)
    7a) John the Baptist; (b) Simon of Cyrene (according to the Synoptics), Jesus himself (according to John); (c) Joseph of Arimathea (plus NIcodemus in John)
    8) about 30CE; about 5BCE
    9) Luke, Acts
    10a) tax collector; (b) physician
    11) John, Jesus, Peter, Paul
    12) You clearly expect the answer John 11.35 (“Jesus wept”). But maybe you’re going to insist that Luke 20.30 is shorter in Greek or something like that.

    • Robertus
      Robertus  August 29, 2013

      Clever about Lk 20,30 being shorter in Greek! But I’d also consider several verses that are not present in the original text, eg, Lk 22,43-44.

  7. Avatar
    TomTerrific  August 27, 2013

    Having lived in Louisiana for close to sixty years, I am afraid to ask what is served in the Armadillo. I’m told they taste like pork.

    Plenty of them in the state. They sleep on the road a lot, kinda like possums.

  8. Avatar
    edpowell  August 27, 2013

    From memory, no cheating:

    1. How many books are in the NT?

    27

    2. In what language were they written?

    Greek

    3. In what century were they written?

    First, mostly, pastoral in maybe second

    4. Name the Gospels of the NT

    Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

    5. Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament

    Peter, Thomas, Judas

    6. What does the word “Gospel” mean?

    Good News

    7. According to the Gospels, who baptized Jesus? Who carried his cross? Who buried him?

    John the Baptist, Nicodemus, Mary

    8. In about what year did Jesus die? What year was he born?

    About 30AD, About 1 AD, hard to tell

    9. The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote two books. Name two of them.

    Luke and Acts

    10. What is normally thought to have been the occupations of (a) Matthew and (b) Luke?

    Fisherman, doctor

    11. Which of the following were Jews? John the Baptist, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, Tacitus, the Apostle Paul.

    John the B, Jesus, Simon Peter, Paul

    12. What is the shortest verse in the New Testament?

    Jesus wept

  9. Avatar
    ktn3654  August 27, 2013

    I’m sort of surprised at question #3. My understanding is that some of the NT writings (e.g., 2 Peter) probably date from the second century. I think you were the person I originally learned that from!

    I’m also surprised your class went from having 300 undergraduates to just 24. What happened? Is this semester’s version just so specialized that there’s less interest in it?

  10. Avatar
    lifeiznuts  August 27, 2013

    At the risk of sounding like a blithering idiot, do we get the answers? LOL?

  11. Avatar
    Elisabeth Strout  August 27, 2013

    How many books are in the NT? – 27
    In what language were they written? – Greek
    In what century were they written? – 1st century
    Name the Gospels of the NT – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
    Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament – Gospel of Thomas, Judas & Mary
    What does the word “Gospel” mean? – Good news
    According to the Gospels, who baptized Jesus? Who carried his cross? Who buried him? – John the Baptist, Jesus/Simon of Cyrene (depends which gospel you read), and Joseph of Arimathea
    In about what year did Jesus die? What year was he born? – About 30 AD, born about 4 BC
    The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote two books. Name two of them. – Luke and Acts
    What is normally thought to have been the occupations of (a) Matthew and (b) Luke? – tax collector and doctor
    Which of the following were Jews? John the Baptist, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, Tacitus, the Apostle Paul. – John the Baptist, Jesus, Simon Peter, and Paul
    What is the shortest verse in the New Testament? – John 11:35, “Jesus wept”

    Were I a student (assuming you trust I didn’t use Google), would I be enjoying dinner at the Armadillo Grill? 🙂

  12. Avatar
    dennis  August 27, 2013

    I graded my own quiz ( generously ) and therefore passed with flying colors . I think that somehow gives me the right to ask a totally unrelated question . How do you rate the modern translations of the New Testament ? I am thinking especially of J.B. Phillips’ The New Testament In Modern English which was the only translation that appeared to make Paul’s Letters lucid to me . While I suspect my previous difficulties might be stem more from my limited brainpower than Paul’s lack of fluency , I would be interested in your comments and also those of other members if so inclined .

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 27, 2013

      Phillips reads extremely well, but is far too paraphrastic to make it a study Bible. I usually recommend the New Revised Standard Version , which I especially like in a study edition, such as the HarperCollins Study Bible

  13. Avatar
    FrancisDunn  August 27, 2013

    No 10…..Since we don’t know who the original authors were we couldn’t possibly know they’re occupations; am I correct?

  14. Avatar
    Pat Ferguson  August 27, 2013

    I missed 1, and was uncertain about 1. Resolved. This was fun 🙂

  15. Avatar
    EricBrown  August 27, 2013

    Jesus wept, Bart! I would assume any regular evangelical sunday-school goer would get 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 (depending on how precise you require it), and 9. Add the vaguest familiarity with classical history and you get 11.

    Kids these days! Now if you asked them questions about Kim Kardashian…(even here I am probably betraying how out of touch I am with a now-passe’ reference).

    Although number 2 does remind me of the old joke about the young man who writes home from college to say he is studying a foreign language, only to get the reply from his father, “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for you!”

    Which in turns reminds me of the absurdity that the book of Mormon was written in (of course, I mean actually translated from golden tablets into) King James English (c. 1611) during the much later 1830s.

  16. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 27, 2013

    Tee hee – I hope you’re going to give us the answers! I’m not sure of #1 – making a ballpark guess at 26 or 27. And I’m guessing #12 is a famous single sentence such as “In the beginning was the Word.”

    Is the year of Jesus’s birth thought to have been definitely established as 4 BCE, or is that an “educated guess”?

  17. Avatar
    Scott F  August 27, 2013

    If we get eight right, when do we show up for the free meal? 😉

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 27, 2013

      Feel free to show up for one. you won’t get it, but that can’t stop your showing up!

  18. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 27, 2013

    Another thought: If every Epistle counts as a “book,” do all denominations agree on the ones to be included?

  19. Avatar
    ColeenSchofield  August 27, 2013

    So, what are the answers?

  20. Avatar
    dewdds  August 27, 2013

    It seemed easy to me now, but if I were to have my 18 yr old self (even as religious as he was) take that exam, I probably wouldn’t have gotten more than four or five Qs correct.

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