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The Academic Study of the New Testament

Students who are thinking about signing up for my undergraduate Introduction to the New Testament sometimes ask me whether they will have an insurmountable disadvantage if they haven’t ever read, let alone studied, the New Testament.   It’s a completely understandable question. Other students almost certainly take the course precisely because they think it will be easy-shmeasy for them: they grew up in church, and went to Sunday School their entire life, and so how hard can a course on the New Testament be?  They already know all about it! Obviously in some ways if a student already knows things about the New Testament they have an advantage.  But actually, as it turns out, there is a HUGE advantage to not knowing anything at all about the New Testament, and often my best students are precisely the ones who come in without any background in the field at all.  (As I’ll explain below.)  And so when students ask me if they’ll be at a disadvantage, I tell them not at all. But why is that? It’s [...]

Who Cares?

Several people – on the blog and off of it – have asked me about the broader significance of my research on the Patristic citations of the NT, specifically the quotations of the Gospels in the writings of Didymus.   Did this research contribute to my loss of faith?  Did it lead me away from evangelical Christianity?  Did it affect my understanding of any Christian doctrine – my view of God, my view of Christ, my view of salvation?  Did it affect my understanding of Scripture as the inspired Word of God?  Did it change anything that I thought about anything apart from the Patristic evidence for the text of the New Testament? The answers are clear and straightforward:  no, no, no, no, and no! The follow-up question (when asked; you possibly have the same question) has always been: why did you do it then? My answer to *that* is also straightforward.  I did it because I’m a scholar who is committed to scholarship and who thinks scholarly research is important.  And this kind of textual [...]

Jeff Siker Part 2: Why I am a Christian (and yet a New Testament scholar)

This is a part 2-continuation of Jeff Siker’s reflections on why he is a Christian still, even though he knows and believes what I do about the New Testament from a historical perspective. To make fullest sense of this post, you should read it in conjunction with the one from yesterday. He and I will welcome comments and interactions. Jeff Siker is the author of Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity, Liquid Scripture: The Bible in the Digital World and Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia. ****************************************************************************************************************** Like Bart I became interested in pursuing an academic career, but with some grounding in the life of the church.  And so after my BA and MA (Religious Studies) at Indiana University, I went off to Yale Divinity School.  And so my trajectory from Young Life in high school to Indiana to Yale was rather different from Bart’s trajectory from Moody to Wheaton to Princeton.  Whereas much of Bart’s education involved the study and practice of Christian apologetics (being able to defend one’s faith and challenge others – [...]

2020-04-25T12:25:42-04:00January 25th, 2013|Reflections and Ruminations|

Guest Post: Jeff Siker — Why I Am Still a Christian (and a NT Scholar)

I mentioned yesterday that I would have a guest post to the blog; this is Jeffrey Siker, an ordained Presbyterian minister and New Testament scholar. Jeff is senior professor of New Testament at Loyola Marymount University. He and I have been friends for over thirty years; he was two years behind me in my PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary.  I have asked him to explain why he is still a Christian, even though he knows and agrees with most of what I think, from a historical perspective, about the New Testament. I have cut his answer into two parts to make them fit the format of the blog. Part 2, where he gets most directly to the question, will be in tomorrow’s post. He, and I, welcome any feedback (which, of course, can be more informed after tomorrow’s post). The following are his words. - Jeffrey Siker is the author of Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity and Homosexuality in the Church.   ****************************** When I first went to Princeton Theological Seminary to [...]

2022-04-04T13:48:15-04:00January 24th, 2013|Reflections and Ruminations|

Responses to my Newsweek Article

My Newsweek article this week has generated a lot of response.  I have no idea what kind of comments they typically get for their stories, but so far, as of now, there have been 559 on mine; and most of them are negative – to no one’s surprise – written by people (conservative evangelicals and fundamenalists for the most part, from what I can tell) who think that the Gospels are perfectly accurate in what they have to say about Jesus – not just at his birth but for his entire life.  A lot of these respondents think that anyone who thinks that the New Testament contains discrepancies is too smart for his or her own good and blind at the same time (not sure how it can go both ways, but there it is). I’ve also been getting a lot of email from incensed readers, including a sixteen-year old girl who tells me that she is a Pentecostal Christian who has read the Bible 160 times and is now starting her 161st; she was [...]

Possibly of Some Interest

  Some of you may get the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.  It often has interesting stuff in it, forthe non-specialists.  Here's the announcment of a recent article of possible interest.   Biblical Views: The Value of Methodological Doubt Ron Hendel Defends Critical Biblical Scholarship   What's the use of critical Biblical scholarship? If you asked evangelical Calvinist philosopher Alvin Plantinga, he'd probably say "not much." He compares the endeavor to mowing the lawn with nail clippers. Instead he believes only in the inerrancy of scripture, trusting that the Holy Spirit will reveal everything one needs to understand the Bible. Ron Hendel, on the other hand, the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that critical Biblical scholarship and the methodological doubt that accompanies it are valuable tools for understanding and appreciating the Biblical text. Unlike the certainty that accompanies Plantinga's belief in the inerrancy of scripture, the questioning of authority and tradition that comprises methodological doubt can ultimately lead to greater clarity and more solid faith, [...]

2017-12-20T12:26:11-05:00July 13th, 2012|History of Biblical Scholarship, Public Forum|
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