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Bart’s Going Viral–And You Can Help!

From Diane: Hi, Bart fans--Bart is too modest to blow his own horn about this, but Academic YouTuber Dan McClellan (@maklelan) has posted a short video debunking an apologist's video trashing Bart. Dan is a master at this--watch below, and make sure to Like the video (instructions at bottom).   The original creator tried to slap back--it didn't go well for him:   You can help this video go viral by clicking on "YouTube" at the bottom of the video, then give it a like by clicking the little thumbs-up icon under the video (see below). It's got 1,000 likes as of this morning, and 10,000 views...let's join in:  

2023-12-07T22:36:28-05:00December 7th, 2023|Public Forum|

Are You Willing To Donate Blog Memberships to Those Who Can’t Afford It?

For some years now we have taken Christmas donations to provide a membership to those who would very much want one but cannot afford it.  Blog members who want to make it possible donate the fee and we put memberships on offer.  It's a nice holiday tradition. I will post on my various social media as well as on a public post here, the availability of memberships starting in a couple of days.  I will give out as many as we have.  Would you like to provide one or more people the opportunity?  I get requests *ALL* the time -- not just in response to this annual announcement (dozens then) but also throughout  the year, often a couple of times a week. Your donation can make it possible. As you know, annual memberships start at $29.95.  So let's think in terms of $30 increments.   If you'd like to donate a membership, that would be $30.  Three?  $90.   827?  $24,810.  You get the idea. This is a win-win situation.  Your donation is completely tax deductible, and [...]

2023-12-07T10:18:45-05:00December 7th, 2023|Public Forum|

Jesus in Illuminated Manuscripts and Legends: Video Post

Here's something I've dug out of the archives! I was asked to speak at the Getty Museum, in the Harold M. Williams Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on Thursday, September 22, 2011 during the exhibition "In the Beginning Was the Word: Medieval Gospel Illumination." Illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages are significant for the literary texts they preserve. But they are also important, historically and culturally, for their illustrations of the life of Jesus and other figures associated with him.   These artistic representations tell tales of their own, and the visual stories are not always found in the corresponding texts. A careful examination of these images shows clearly and convincingly that medieval artists were familiar not only with the stories of the canonical Gospels but also with many noncanonical apocryphal tales of Jesus. The apocryphal stories, in some instances, were understood to be "Gospel truth" on par with accounts found in Scripture. In any event, here is the lecture that I gave: Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition: Details on the "In [...]

2023-11-27T14:58:34-05:00December 7th, 2023|Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum, Video Media|

Platinum Webinar for December: “O Little Town of Nazareth? Where Was Jesus Actually Born?”

Dear Platinum Members, It's time for our Quarterly Platinum Webinar.  We have scheduled it for Thursday, December 14, 2023, at 7:30 pm. I've decided to go with a seasonal topic on an aspect of the Gospel birth narratives that most people have not much thought about:  could "Jesus of Nazareth" have actually been born in Nazareth, instead of Bethlehem?  Scholars have long argued so.  But on what grounds? I'll explain in my talk, we'll have questions and discussion, and then you can decide for yourself.  Hey, it's a free world!  Here's the link: I hope to see you there. Bart

2023-12-06T10:21:58-05:00December 5th, 2023|Public Forum|

Volunteer Needed!! Interested in Recording Audio Versions of the Blog Posts?

As you probably know, we have audio versions of all the blog posts that are available for all Gold and Platinum level members.  The audio versions go out on the same day as the written posts themselves.  It's a great benefit (if you're not Gold level yet: consider it!).  But it takes a lot of work by volunteers who are very generous with their time.  The volunteers record each post, and they are then produced and published by our audio volunteer Anthony (hail, Anthony!). We have two volunteers currently alternating in their reading of the posts, and we need to add another in order to keep the operation running smoothly.   Would you be interested?   To be considered, you would need to fill out a form and then submit an audition recording (all explained in the link below). We are looking for someone with a very good reading voice.  The position would take time and commitment, but the position does NOT require a lot of technical expertise.  You will need a computer on which to record [...]

2023-12-04T11:46:58-05:00December 4th, 2023|Public Forum|

Was Jesus Considered a Miracle Worker During His *Lifetime*?

In my discussion of whether the historian can deal with the category of miracle, I’m now at the point where I can deal directly with the miracles ascribed to Jesus.  This is an issue that I have dealt with in several books, including, most recently, Jesus Before the Gospels.   It will take three posts for me to cover the waterfront here.  This is how I began dealing with the issue in the book. ****************************** The Miracles of Jesus When one discusses the activities and deeds of Jesus, it is very hard indeed to avoid talking about his miracles.  Miracles are everywhere in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life.  He is miraculously born to a woman who has never had sexual relations.  From the beginning of his public ministry to the end he does one miracle after the other, conquering nature, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead.  So abundantly attested are Jesus’ miracle-working abilities that even scholars who are otherwise skeptical of the supernatural biases of our sources sometimes [...]

2023-11-27T14:32:08-05:00December 3rd, 2023|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

Gold Q&A!! Ask Your Questions!

Hey Goldies and Plats, Now's your chance!  I'll be recording the December Gold Q&A on December 11, schedule gods willing, to be published later that week.  God a burning, a smoldering, or a cool ?  Ask away!  Anything related to the blog.   I'll do my best to answer.  , Send your questions to [email protected], and Diane will compile and send me the list. DEADLINE: Get your question in by Saturday (12/09/2023) midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone). Every question I get is interesting, but remember that shorter and to-the-pointer questions are more likely to be chosen.  Zingers are welcome!

2023-12-02T17:08:17-05:00December 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|

Were Jesus’ Miracles in the Original Texts of the Gospels?

Here's an interesting question I received from a reader many years ago that I had forgotten all about, but I bet it's one some others have had (If you know the "Jefferson Bible" you'll see it has a long history of sorts): QUESTION: I have looked up the content of all the papyri of the New Testament I'm aware of (i.e. the most ancient manuscripts) . It is my understanding that although p52, p90, and p104 are dated around 125-150 AD, they contain fragments of John 18 and Matt 21 only, and that it's not until 200 AD that manuscripts emerge which actually contain accounts of supernatural actions by Jesus. So, it's possible that accounts of miracles existed in copies that got destroyed, but is it fair to say that the earliest available copies of accounts of Jesus's supernatural actions date from around 200 AD? In other words, assuming people on average had kids by age 20 back then, and thus 20 years counts as a generation, is it fair to say that the earliest available accounts [...]

2023-11-27T14:14:16-05:00December 2nd, 2023|Public Forum|

I’m Lecturing on a Cruise this Summer. Interested in coming?

Everyone is traveling these days.  I’m traveling these days.  Hey, wanna travel with me? This summer I’m doing a tour (and giving lectures) on a cruise to historic coastal cities and religious sites of Western Europe, from Amsterdam to Lisbon, July 30 - August 10.  This is gonna be an unusually good trip, with awe-inspiring scenery, gorgeous medieval towns/cities, important religious sites (including Santiago de Compostela), and some of the most amazing museums in the known universe. Included on the tour are some of my all-time favorite cities:  Amsterdam, Bruges, and Lisbon.  And it includes a bunch of places I’ve never seen but always wanted to, Honfleur (Normandy Beaches), St. Malo (Mont St-Michel), Tresco (Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall; I’ve been to Cornwall a ton, but never the Isles), Concarneus, France (Brittany!), Santiago de Compostela (whoa…), Oporto Portugal.  How good can it get? The cruise is being organized / run by Thalassa Journeys, best known for their small-group educational tours for university groups.  In this case the small group is not college [...]

2023-12-01T15:09:13-05:00December 1st, 2023|Public Forum|

The Miracles of the Emperor Vespasian. A Platinum Post by Ryan Fleming

Here is a provocative and intriguing post on a topic not widely known outside the realm of Roman historians: the miracles attributed to the Emperor Vespasian (which sure sound a lot like the miracles attribued to Jesus, written in Gospels produced just at the time of or after his reign.) The post is by Platinum member Ryan Fleming.  Platinum members are allowed to write posts for other Platinum members.  It's a great perk of the highest level of blog membership!  And when we have a few in the bag, Platinum members vote for which of them can appear on the main blog. This is the current winner.  It raises a number of intriguing possibilities about this little-known set of narratives of obvious importance to understanding Jesus and the Gospels.  What do you think?   **************************** Roman historian Tacitus (56 CE to 120 CE) in The Histories, Book IV, Section 81, and Suetonius (69 CE to 122 CE) in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars wrote of miracles Vespasian performed in the temple of Serapis in [...]

2023-11-30T12:52:57-05:00November 30th, 2023|Public Forum|

Was Joseph the Actual Father of Jesus? Announcing a Special Online Christmas Course

I'm pleased to announce that I will be doing a special event this Christmas season, a two-lecture online course called Jesus:  The Actual Son of Joseph: Evidence From the New Testament Itself.   This is a topic I have long thought about casually but never really dug into until recently.  And when I dug, I started realizing that in fact there's a lot buried, more than I expect.  There are very good reasons for thinking that a number of the earliest sources of the New Testament (Paul, Mark, the sources of Matthew and Luke), as well as the latest (John), not only did not KNOW the tradition about Jesus being born of a virgin, but actually maintain (in some places) and suggest (in others) that he was not.  Whoa. In two lectures delivered remotely on Sunday December 10, I'll be laying the case out in full.  Obviously what someone (say the authors of the Gospels) *thought* about the circumstances of Jesus' birth (whether those who indicate his mother was a virgin and those who indicate she [...]

2023-11-26T16:15:12-05:00November 27th, 2023|Public Forum|

Do You Want to Take the Final Exam for My Course: “Birth of Christianity”?

I'm teaching  The Birth of Christianity this semester, a course that deals with the history of Christianity from right after the New Testament up to about the conversion of Constantine.  Want to take my Final Exam?   Well, I ain't gonna grade it if you do.  But here are the instructions I gave to the class so they could know what to expect -- including the ten POSSIBLE essay questions, from which I will choose two for them to answer, in essays they could take one hour (each) to write.  What do you think?  Could you nail it?   The Birth of Christianity, Reli 208 Final Exam Questions Our final exam is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12 at (gulp) 8:00 – 11:00 am in our regular classroom.  The exam will consist of ten short answer identification questions and two essays. The exam will be closed book, closed notes, and open mind. You will need to write out your answers in a blue book (bring several) with pen and ink!   Identifications The first section of [...]

2023-11-23T11:40:51-05:00November 26th, 2023|Public Forum|

The Revolutionary Understanding of Orthodoxy and Heresy: An Evaluation of Bauer’s Views

In my last two posts I talked about the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity.   The standard view, held for many many centuries, goes back to the Church History  of the fourth-century church father Eusebius, who argued that orthodoxy represented the original views of Jesus and his disciples, and heresies were corruptions of that truth by willful, mean-spirited, wicked, and demon inspired teachers who wanted to lead others astray. In 1934 Walter Bauer challenged that view in his book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.   Bauer argued that in many regions of the church, the earliest known form of Christianity was one that later came to be declared a heresy.   Heresies were not, therefore, necessarily later corruptions of an original truth.  In many instances they were the oldest known kind of Christianity, in one place or another.   The form of Christianity that became dominant by the end of the third century or so was the one known particularly in Rome.   Once this Roman form of Christianity had more or less swept aside its [...]

2023-11-06T14:04:05-05:00November 18th, 2023|Public Forum|

Does God Have Chromosomes? Platinum Post by Douglas Wadeson, MD

What happens when a modern physician starts asking difficult questions of familiar biblical stories?  Here is one answer:  an intriguing post covering a topic that will not have occurred to most of us.  Let's think about how a Virgin Birth works when (now, unlike antiquity) we have a pretty good idea of how Births work in general.  If God made Mary pregnant through the spirit, what does that have to say about the nature of Jesus' at the biological level and, well, the chromosomes of God? This Platinum guest post is delivered to us courtesy of Platinum member Doug Wadeson.  You too can make a platinum post, on anything connected with the blog.  Interested?  Contact me about your idea, or just write a post and sent it on to us at [email protected] ****************************** Does God Have Chromosomes? The Christmas decorations are already in the stores, so it seems appropriate to start thinking about the Christmas story in the Bible. Dr. Ehrman has many posts discussing the technical difficulties of the two birth stories of Jesus [...]

2023-11-13T15:55:30-05:00November 17th, 2023|Public Forum|

Could the Gospel of Thomas Be Q? Could it Be Older Than the NT Gospels?

A number of blog members over the years have asked about Thomas’s relation to the Synoptic Gospels and the famous Q source --  that is, the lost source that both Matthew and Luke used for many of their sayings of Jesus not found in Mark (called Q from the German word Quelle, which means “source”).  Here is what I say about those issues in my textbook:  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Oxford University Press). ****************************** Thomas and the Q Source.  The Gospel of Thomas, with its list of the sayings of Jesus (but no narratives) reminds many scholars of the Q source. Some have maintained that Q was also composed entirely of the sayings of Jesus and that the community for whom it was written was not concerned about Jesus’ activities and experiences, including his death on the cross. If they are right, then something like Thomas’s community was already in existence prior to the writing of the New Testament Gospels. Many other scholars, on the other hand, have their [...]

2023-10-31T13:37:08-04:00November 11th, 2023|Public Forum|

Send in your Questions! November Gold Q&A

Dear Goldies and Plats, It's time for the November Gold Q&A, where I answer your questions--or at least as try to. Send your questions to [email protected], and Diane will compile and send me the list. Get your question in by Saturday (11/11/) midnight (whenever midnight is in your time zone).  (Sorry 'bout the late notice) The questions are always interesting, but remember that shorter, more general-interest questions are more likely to be answered.   Lookin' forward to it!

2023-11-09T11:30:33-05:00November 9th, 2023|Public Forum|

The Most Famous Non-Canonical Gospel: The Gospel of Thomas

We've talked about Gnosticism and in the previous post I mentioned Gnostic groups connected with "Thomas," allegedly the (twin!) brother of Jesus.  There are a number of writings written in the name of Thomas, the most famous of which is the Gospel of Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi.  I haven't talked at length about it on the blog for several years now, so it seems like a good time to return to it here. This will take three posts.  The one today is a broad introduction to what the Gospel is and what it contains.   I have taken this from my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. ****************************** The Gospel of Thomas is without question the most significant book discovered in the Nag Hammadi library. Unlike the Gospel of Peter, discovered sixty years earlier, this book is completely preserved. It has no narrative at all, no stories about anything that Jesus did, no references to his death and resurrection. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings [...]

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