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Is the Martyrdom of Polycarp an Authentic Account?

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 lengthy analysis of all the early Christian writings involved with polemical engagement (that is, Christian arguments with and verbal attacks on pagans, Jews, and especially other/"heretical" Christians) that could be argued were actually forgeries -- not written by the persons claimed to be their authors (starting with the New Testament and going through the first four centuries). During my research I became convinced that a number of the texts were not written by their alleged [...]

2023-01-22T15:30:27-05:00January 28th, 2023|Public Forum|

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

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 the Moses story and that his first encounter with God (Yahweh) was while living as a shepherd among the Midianites.  While tending his sheep on Mt. Sinai (aka Horeb[2]) he sees a burning bush and God speaks to him from the bush and gives him his mission to free the Hebrew people from Egypt.  To the faithful this is a literal description of a historical event.  However, it is possible this story is legendary and [...]

2023-01-23T15:29:52-05:00January 27th, 2023|Public Forum|

More about the First Christian Martyr Text

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 give here had been the consensus for many decades at the time, and is still widely held today. ****************************** Date and Integrity Two of the most disputed issues in the modern study of the Martyrdom of Polycarp involve the integrity of its text (i.e., whether we have the original or a highly interpolated form) and the date of its composition. Some scholars have held that the surviving text went through several stages of composition.  H. [...]

2023-01-17T10:51:45-05:00January 26th, 2023|Public Forum|

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

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 to whom these things are promised! SO, as an attempt at atonement (which does not involve either animal or human sacrifice), I'd like to offer you a blog gift -- for gold members only:  a free webinar. DATE:  Saturday January 28 TIME:  3:00 - 4:30 pm EST TITLE:  "A History of the Devil" DESCRIPTION:   Christians have always believed in the "Devil" (aka Satan, Beelzebub, the Prince of the Power of the Air, or ... name [...]

2023-01-25T14:09:34-05:00January 25th, 2023|Public Forum|

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 email, privately, at [email protected]  .In your email, please provide me with the following information: Your first and last name. Why you would like to take advantage of this offer -- that is, why you can't afford it. I don't need or want all the details, just an idea of why you aren't able to purchase a membership just now. Country of citizenship (we're required, as a non-profit, to ask). Your preferred personal email. Your preferred username [...]

2023-01-25T11:40:26-05:00January 25th, 2023|Public Forum|

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 be highly learned and informed -- just something you'd like some feed back on .  If you're interested, just zap me a note -- or send me a post!   October 17, 2022 Suffering, Evil, and the Range Effect Dennis J. Folds December 9, 2022 Is It A Sin To Be Transgender? Doug Wadeson December 12. 2022 What Would the Apostle Paul Think of The Trinity Joel Scheller January 9, 2023 What Is a Viable [...]

2023-01-23T15:06:03-05:00January 23rd, 2023|Public Forum|

Are the Gospels Anti-Jewish?

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 idea that there was a Semitic “race” has been used for all sorts of hateful purposes in the modern period.  As just one example, throughout the Middle Ages – before the modern period -- and on into the nineteenth century, “Jews” were understood to be people who subscribed to and followed the Jewish religion – but not that they had racial characteristics.  There were indeed persecutions of Jews, since the conversion of the Roman Empire [...]

2023-01-10T10:34:09-05:00January 21st, 2023|Public Forum|

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

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:  Register here And this is the link to my post describing the event more fully:  My All-Time Favorite Jesus Movie. Wanna Discuss It With Me? - The Bart Ehrman Blog   Watching Notes for “Jesus of Montreal” Blog Movie Club, 2023   I’m glad you’ll be joining me on Jan 22 for a discussion of Jesus of Montreal --- my all-time favorite Jesus movie.   Some of you have seen it already, other not.  No matter, [...]

2023-01-18T12:22:41-05:00January 18th, 2023|Public Forum|

What About Translations of Other Ancient Christian Writings?

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 nuances of a text -- especially a fairly sophisticated one dealing with, say, philosophy or religion -- in translation.  And translators have to make decisions about how to translate a text.  It's not a mechanical process.  Whether you like it or not  -- most people when they learn of this don't much like it, and even more people have never learned of it -- translation is also an act of interpretation.  You have to know [...]

Do Public Debates Do Anyone Any Good? What Do You Think?

Do public debates on controversial topics do anything other than entertain, stir up the blood, and make people more entrenched in their views?  It there any sense of speaking of a “winner” in a debate in which virtually all listeners already have opinions?  Is there any substantive reason to have these events, other than to provide a bit of public spectacle? I’m in London for the holidays, spending most of the time visiting family on Sarah’s side.  But we did have a chance to get to a play on the West End, called “The Best of Enemies.”  I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s made a big splash, probably because of its obvious ongoing political and social relevance, even though it is about a series of events from 55 years ago. The play is a dramatization of the debates held on ABC between William F. Buckley, famous and outspoken conservative intellectual, and Gore Vidal, famous and outspoken liberal intellectual, during the 1968 Presidential National Conventions.  Some of you will remember these characters well, others [...]

2023-01-02T11:49:03-05:00January 14th, 2023|Public Forum|

Paul and the Gospels: Platinum Guest Post by Ryan Fleming

One of the very big issues of New Testament studies is the relationship between the teaching of Paul and the preaching of Jesus.  Are these basically the same?  Irreconcileably different?  Weirdly unalike?  Understandably similar?  Something else? Here in this Platinum Guest Post, Ryan Fleming provides an intriguing approach to the question, which raises lots of questions and should arouse a range of different opinions.  What do you think? And what do you think of sending in a Platinum post of your own?  It doesn't have to be massively learned or informed: just whatever you want to address to a group of otherwise well-meaning, generous, and similarly-interested human beings.  If you have something, send it along!  Or feel free to ask me about it. In the meantime here's Ryan on Jesus and Paul. ****************************** The seven New Testament letters attributed to the Apostle Paul (Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon) are generally believed to have been written between 48 CE and 59 CE, roughly 15 to 29 years after the time [...]

2023-01-16T11:33:50-05:00January 13th, 2023|Public Forum|

Can We Trust the Bible? The First Published (as opposed to Printed) Greek New Testament

In this thread on Bible translation, I have been talking about what it is translators of the New Testament actually translate.  In order to answer the question, I have had to explain how we started to get printed editions of the Greek New Testament, including the first to come off the printing press, the Complutensian Polyglot (discussed in yesterday’s post).  Today I take the discussion a step further, to talk about the first published (not the first printed!) Greek New Testament.  Again, the discussion is taken from my book Misquoting Jesus. ****************************** The First Published Edition of the Greek New Testament Even though the Complutensian Polyglot was the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament, it was not the first published version.  As I pointed out, even though the work was printed by 1514, it did not actually see the light of published day until 1522.  Between those two dates a famous and enterprising Dutch scholar, the humanist intellectual Desiderius Erasmus, both produced and published an edition of the Greek New Testament, receiving the [...]

My All-Time Favorite Jesus Movie. Wanna Discuss It With Me?

Here's a reminder about a first-time-ever blog event, coming soon.  Interested?  Here's the original announcement. ************************* People often ask me what my favorite “Jesus Movie” is, and they  almost never expect my answer.  For me it’s hands down.  A clear forerunner.  A movie most people have never heard of, but in my opinion, the best of all time: “Jesus of Montreal.”   This is not just my favorite Jesus movie of all time but one of my very favorite movies of any kind of all time. Want to watch it and then have a discussion about it with me? This will be our first ever Blog Movie Club event (BMC)! The main event, the discussion with me, will be on Sunday, January 22, 4:00-5:30 pm EST. The Movie Club viewing will not be that day, but before; and you have two (well three!) massively convenient options.  You can: Watch it on your own at your leisure. Join other blog members in watching it simultaneously in silence, with a brief introduction and discussion afterward (without me) led [...]

2023-01-18T12:39:32-05:00January 9th, 2023|Public Forum|

What Is a Viable Christian Theology? Platinum Guest Post by Joel Scheller

Here is a thoughtful and interesting guest post by fellow Platinum member Joel Scheller.  It deals with something we don't get a lot of on the blog -- reflections on what actually would be an adequate approach to theology by modern, sophisticated believers.  Even if you're not a believer, there is a lot of food for thought here. The title Joel gives to it will make sense when you start reading.  It's an interesting conundrum: in what is Christian theology to be rooted?  John Wesley had ideas about it -- and that is certainly interesting historically.  The system has come to be known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  OK, what's it all about and is it time to rethink it within the Methodist tradition?  As an outsider I find it a fascinating question.  Here are Joel's reflections. ****************************** Is it Time to Revisit the Wesleyan Quadrilateral? The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, a termed coined by American Methodist Albert Outler, is a reflection of what John Wesley viewed as the structural elements that inform theology.  Those elements, as listed in [...]

2023-01-06T11:51:42-05:00January 9th, 2023|Public Forum|

A FREEBIE for Gold and Platinum Members Only

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 to whom these things are promised! SO, as an attempt at atonement (which does not involve either animal or human sacrifice), I'd like to offer you a blog gift -- for gold members only:  a free webinar. DATE:  Saturday January 28 TIME:  3:00 - 4:30 pm EST TITLE:  "A History of the Devil" DESCRIPTION:   Christians have always believed in the "Devil" (aka Satan, Beelzebub, the Prince of the Power of the Air, or ... name your politician).  But you won't find him in the Old Testament (even though you might think you *have* seen him there.  Hey, ain't he in the Garden of Eden?  Or in the book of Job?).   Where did the idea [...]

2023-01-05T12:13:24-05:00January 5th, 2023|Public Forum|

January Gold Q&A: Ask your questions!

Dear Gold and Platinum members, It is time to schedule the Gold Q&A for January.  The plan is to publish it (for real!) by Jan 18 or 19.  For that to happen, I need your QUESTIONS. So do you have something to ask?  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 the world will be a happy place. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] The DEADLINE for your question is Thursday January 12 midnight (whenever midnight is where you live). As has become our wont, we will release the recording in both video and audio --  for Gold and Platinum members only.  I'm looking forward to it! Bart  

2023-01-06T11:52:48-05:00January 5th, 2023|Public Forum|

Infamous Typos in the King James Bible

In some rather minor ways, the King James Version is not simply one thing but is many things.  By that I mean that over the years there have been minor revisions made to it – most of them very minor indeed, picayune alterations of such things as spelling and punctuation – but revisions nonetheless.  Two years after it was originally published, a new edition came out in 1613 that embodied 413 such changes.  In 1769 the translation was modernized a bit; that happened again in 1873. The “New King James Version” that is popular today (the third best-selling Bible on the market behind the NIV and the KJV itself) (these are all popular among conservative evangelicals who, to no one’s surprise, buy the most Bibles) is a somewhat different kettle of fish.  It was commissioned in 1975 and was produced by 130 people that its publisher (Thomas Nelson) indicates included scholars, church leaders, and laypeople. Whether these church leaders and laypeople actually knew any Hebrew or Greek they don’t say.  My guess is....   Well, never [...]

2023-01-02T10:52:30-05:00January 5th, 2023|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

The King James Bible: Some Intriguing Word Choices

On the first day of my undergraduate classes on the Bible each semester, I tell my students which Bible translations are acceptable for the class.  The basic answer: most any modern translation is fine (though I myself prefer the New Revised Standard Version), but I do not allow paraphrases (such as the ol' favorite, The Living Bible, or the more recent The Message -- which are not actually translations from the original Hebrew and Greek, but are simplifications of previously existing English translations and as a result can be highly interpretive and misleading) or the King James Version. When I tell them I do not allow the King James, I let them know that I think the King James is one of the great classics of English literature.  As a piece of writing, it is arguably the most significant work ever produced in English.  But it is decidedly not a good study Bible.  That is for several reasons.  As I've suggested and will say more about in a future post, one is that the manuscripts [...]

2023-01-02T10:37:15-05:00January 4th, 2023|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|
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