1 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 5 (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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More on My Quiz

OK, back to my quiz, which most of you failed miserably.   (OK, OK, many of you missed just one question).   So the deal is that I use the quiz as a way to break the ice with the class, have some fun with them, get them to see that even if they’ve been through Sunday School their entire lives they probably don’t know even the most basic things about the NT, and then use the quiz as an opportunity to teach some rather important things.

The following are the answers.  Most of you got them.   I do have to say that when I challenged you to pick the question that everyone was missing, there were some *very* interesting suggestions based on nuanced readings.   But, as many of you correctly perceived, I had in mind #12.   As you’ll see below.  here are both the answers and the things that I try to teach the students based on the answers, here on the first day of class.

  1. How many books are in the NT?

27.  I tell them that this is an easy one.  Here’s why: if you think of the NT, you think about God, and specifically about the Christian God, and therefore specifically about the Trinity.  And what is 27?  3 to the 3rd power (3 x 3 x 3).   It’s a miracle!   (Also there are 3 letters in New and 9 in Testament so 3×9 = 27)

  1. In what language were they written?

Yes, Greek.  But some of my students don’t know that.  A good number think the answer is Hebrew; some think it’s Aramaic; and only a very few think it’s English.  J   I’ve never understood the Hebrew thing, but I think it’s because whenever there’s a Jesus documentary on the History Channel or Discovery or whatever, they flash up Hebrew manuscripts as backdrop, and so people associate Hebrew with Jesus.  (Plus, he was a Jew; Hebrew is language of ancient Jews; and so on).  In any event,  I use this question to talk to them about Greek as the lingua franca of the Roman Empire even though the language of Rome was Latin, and this lets me say a few things about Alexander the Great and the significance of Hellenization in the Mediterranean.


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The Final Part of My First-Day Quiz
My Pop Quiz For First-Year Students



  1. Avatar
    toddfrederick  August 28, 2013

    Rats…you keep us hanging in anticipation. 😀

  2. Avatar
    James Chalmers  August 28, 2013

    Wikipedia, article Historia Ecclesiastica…: Anno Domini[edit source | editbeta]

    Bede’s use of something similar to the anno Domini era, created by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in 525, throughout Historia Ecclesiastica was very influential in causing that era to be adopted thereafter in Western Europe.[41] Specifically, he used anno ab incarnatione Domini (in the year from the incarnation of the Lord) or anno incarnationis dominicae (in the year of the incarnation of the Lord). He never abbreviated the term like the modern AD. Bede, like Dionysius, counted anno Domini from Christ’s birth, not from Christ’s conception.[42]:778 Within this work, he was also the first writer to use a term similar to the English before Christ. In book I chapter 2 he used ante incarnationis dominicae tempus (before the time of the incarnation of the Lord). However, the latter was not very influential—only this isolated use was repeated by other writers during the rest of the Middle Ages. The first extensive use of “BC” (hundreds of times) occurred in Fasciculus Temporum by Werner Rolevinck in 1474, alongside years of the world (anno mundi).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 31, 2013

      I don’t get it: how could he use the term “Before Christ” in 1474?

      • Avatar
        kidlat  September 1, 2013

        My guess is BC became more common (much later than AD) when English was gaining popularity and Latin was on its way out. Although the Latin “anno igitur ante incarnationem Dominicam” (before the Incarnation of the Lord) and “Anno an xpi nativitate” (before the birth of Christ) were used before BC, they were such a mouthful that the English equivalent, which can be abbreviated in 2 letters, became more preferable.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  September 1, 2013

          I guess they could have used A.A.I. and A.D. I’d love to know more of the history of it!

  3. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 28, 2013

    I think I got it with your hint about #12. “And the second” Luke 20:30 (only 12 Greek letters). Fun assignment. A good way to teach.

  4. Avatar
    James Dowden  August 28, 2013

    My suspicion with BC is that mediaeval Christian authors wrote about Anno Domini dates all the time, but referring to dates before that — at least in terms other than reigns or AUC — is a modern hobby, after normal people had stopped writing in Latin. ACN (Ante Christum Natum) exists, but is rather neo-Latin.

    And personally, I wish HE (i.e. CE+10000) would displace BCE in Ancient History, as it would do away with the need for counting backwards and remembering to adjust for the lack of a year zero.

  5. Avatar
    Billy Geddes  August 28, 2013


    I only pop in at the weekends… so missed your ‘pop quiz ‘ – I doubt I would have got it 100% anyways…

    I might go back and give it a go anyway – aiming for 80%!!!


  6. Avatar
    Billy Geddes  August 28, 2013

    opps without reading your answers .. damn too late….

    Mark me down as a fail…..


  7. Avatar
    Billy Geddes  August 28, 2013

    The thing that disturbs me is..

    I thought the answers above were all common knowledge…. even to the “layman”!!!

  8. Avatar
    ktn3654  August 29, 2013

    Several online sources agree that the monk in question was Dionysius (not Diogenes) Exiguus, and that he lived in the sixth rather than the eighth century. I’m no expert on the subject, and this is a real nitpick, but it just might be worth a few seconds to double-check….

    More importantly, I was wondering if you could share your thoughts about “AD” versus “CE.” I know that “CE” is supposed to be more inclusive and more respectful towards non-Christians. Personally, I can’t help but feel the opposite is really the case. The fact is that this calendrical system was created by Christians for Christians, with the express intent of commemorating the central event of Christianity. So if you really wanted to be “neutral,” you’d have to use another calendrical system altogether. Using an essentially Christian system and slapping a name on it that makes it sound like something else only winds up compounding the problem, as far as I’m concerned.

    Let’s face it: There really is no “common era”–certainly not if “common” means “shared by all.” Christians regard a new era as having begun with the birth of Jesus. Most other people don’t regard that as a new era at all.

    If “AD” meant “in the year of our Lord,” then I could understand the objections to it. But there is no “our” in the Latin phrase–literally, it just means “in the year of lord.” Non-Christians could easily interpret that as meaning “in the year of [the Christian] lord,” without taking that lord as their own. (By analogy, I can refer to Elizabeth II as a queen without acknowledging her as MY queen.)

    I would actually like for a new calendar to be adopted–another reason is that BC/BCE dates are just pretty annoying. But until that’s done, it strikes me as more respectful to frankly acknowledge that we ARE working with a Christian calendar.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 31, 2013

      Yup, Dionysius in the 6th century. Sorry — I was typing at breakneck speed and not being attentive!

      I’m a big supporter of CE and BCE. I just don’t think Christian holidays should be imposed on non-Christians or Christian terms be standard usage. The calendar you and I use is used by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, you name it, and so it is “common” to us all, even if it was invented by a sixth century Christian. Just my opinion. (“the Lord” assumes that Jesus is in fact “the Lord”!)

  9. Avatar
    hibrekke  August 29, 2013

    A suggestion on the AD/BC-issue:

    I guess AD was commonly used for centuries to describe contemporary happenings (people still use it on house walls, eg. Anno Domini 1994, at least here in Europe). The Latin expression would have been well established and therefore easily included in English, while a term for BCE, on the other hand, would not have been commonly used, simply because is reflects historian interest and not every day life.

  10. Avatar
    JoshuaGordon  August 29, 2013

    I have been absent, did not read the past two blogs, and humbly submit my quiz:
    1. How many books are in the NT?
    2. In what language were they written?
    3. In what century were they written?
    1st to 2nd Century CE
    4. Name the Gospels of the NT
    (So called) Mathew. Mark, Luke. John
    5. Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament
    Thomas, Philip. Peter
    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; Simon of Cyrene; The three Marys.
    8. In about what year did Jesus die? What year was he born?
    Best guess scholarly consensus, died 28 CE; born 4 BCE. No definitive proof however.
    9. The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote two books. Name two of them.
    Gospel of Luke (so-called) and Acts of the Apostles (so called)
    10. What is normally thought to have been the occupations of (a) Matthew and (b) Luke?
    Matthew – tax collector; Luke- physician.
    11. Which of the following were Jews? John the Baptist, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, Tacitus, the Apostle Paul.
    **Jews-John the Baptist, Jesus, Simon Peter, he Apostle Paul.
    12. What is the shortest verse in the New Testament?
    Jesus wept.

  11. SBrudney091941
    SBrudney091941  August 30, 2013

    You say that Iraneus was the first to attribute what became the traditional names to the four Gospels. Didn’t Marcion (in the 140’s CE) list ten of Paul’s epistles and a version of Luke as the books he considered authoritative? So, was this “version” of Luke not yet named “Luke”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 31, 2013

      Yes, oddly Marcion never calls it Luke, but only “the Gospel.” There are debates about why he used Luke (or a form of Luke) in particular.

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