My Original Passion for the Bible

I have been talking about the areas of New Testament studies that were emphasized in my Masters and PhD programs at Princeton Theological Seminary, back in the late 70s and early to mid 80s.  It was a long program, even though I sped through it a couple of years faster than most of my colleagues.  The Masters program was three years (that is typical for a masters of divinity degree); my PhD was four years (most of my friends took ...

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Two Versions of Constantine’s Vision

In this thread I am discussing the conversion of the emperor Constantine to Chrsitianity.  I have already given the political and military background to his conversion, and said something about his religious affiliations prior to converting.  Now I can begin to address what we know about the conversion itself.

We have three principal sources of information for the vision(s) of Constantine that led to the conversion.  The first comes to us in a flattering speech – known as a panegyric – ...

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Constantine Before His Conversion

We have comparatively excellent sources for Constantine’s adult life, including his own writings, laws he enacted, a biography written about him by the fourth-century Christian bishop of Caesarea and “father of church history” Eusebius, and other contemporary reports.  But we are handicapped when it comes to his life prior to his accession to the throne, including his religious life.  For this we have very slim records.  We do know he was born in the northern Balkans, and so it can ...

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Constantine and the Battle at the Milvian Bridge

As I indicated in my previous post, when Constantine had been acclaimed emperor by his troops in Britain (at the city of York) in 306 CE (upon the death of his father Constantius), it was taken as a license for Maxentius to assume power in Rome.   The reason is this.  Diocletian, as we have seen, had tried to move the empire to a new system of governance, the Tetrarchy, in which four leaders, all chosen for their experience and skills, ...

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More on Numbers of Converts

In case you didn’t read the post of yesterday, I include the final two paragraphs here.  Skip them if you remember what I said.  The issue I’m dealing with is how much and how fast did the Christian church grow over the first four centuries.   I would very much like your feedback, and if you’re a numbers person, I would love it if you would check my calculations to see if I’m making any egregious errors.   All of this is ...

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Back to the Question of How Many People Converted

I want to return to the question of how quickly the Christian church grew in the first four centuries.  This will be part of chapter 6 of my book on the Triumph of Christianity.   If you want a fuller background to what I say in this post and the one to follow, see my earlier musings on May 16 of this year, at https://ehrmanblog.org/how-many-christians-were-there/

In two posts I’m going to lay out what I think we can say both about ...

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Paul’s Converted Vision of Himself

To make sense of how Paul’s conversion affected his actual life, not just his theology, it is important to recall what I said about how it did affect his theology.  I repeat the key paragraph from yesterday’s post before drawing the further even more far-reaching conclusion.

To be members of God’s covenantal people, it is not necessary for gentiles to become Jews.  They do not need to be circumcised, observe the Sabbath, keep kosher, or any of the rest.  They need ...

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What Paul’s Conversion Meant

In my previous posts I talked about Paul’s life up to his conversion and the conversion experience itself.  Now, for two posts, I want to talk about what the conversion actually *meant* to Paul, particularly in terms of how it affected both his thinking and his life (which, for Paul, were very closely related to one another).  His thinking involved his theology and his subsequent life involved missionary work as the newly minted apostle of Jesus with a distinctive message.

It ...

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The Conversion of Paul

My book on the “Triumph of Christianity” will deal with how and why people converted to the Christian faith.   (As I think I’ve said, unlike some scholars I have no problem calling the earliest followers of Jesus who came to believe in his resurrection “Christian.”)   The best known and most important conversion was Paul.   Seeing how/why he converted is a key for understanding his own subsequent mission to convert gentiles to the faith.  Here is my current thinking on the ...

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