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How Old Was Jesus at His Baptism, Start of His Ministry & Death?

You've probably seen the popular inspirational quote that goes something like this, "Jesus didn't start his ministry until he was 30 years old, and yet he changed the world." I guess this is supposed to encourage people in their teens and twenties that haven't accomplished much in their life.  (As if comparing their potential future to the accomplishments of the supposed "son of God" is supposed to make them feel better!  Ha!) It also illustrates a common assumption (or perhaps misconception), that Jesus was 30 years old when he began his ministry. Is that a fact?  If so, where does the Bible say so? Do we also know how old was Jesus was when he was baptized or when he died? How Old Was Jesus When He Died? This is not a slam dunk answer. In fact, I ask all my students at Chapel Hill this question (many of whom answer incorrectly) on their first-day quiz. Almost everyone who thinks about the matter thinks that Jesus was 33 years old when he died.  But the [...]

2020-04-03T01:56:53-04:00October 11th, 2017|Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

How a Non-Historical Account Can Be Meaningful: The Death of Jesus in Mark

I am now at a point where I can explain how I read the Bible when I was a committed Christian who was not, however, a conservative evangelical convinced that the Bible was a completely inerrant revelation from God without any discrepancies or differences in it.  As I have already indicated, my new way of reading of the Bible did not denigrate the Bible at all, as often happens when people realize there are mistakes in it and come away saying something like:  “It’s worthless, just a pile of contradictions!”  That wasn’t my view at all. On the contrary, the differences revealed the true richness of the Christian tradition.  The Gospels, rather than simply being completely accurate accounts of what really happened were theological reflections on the significance of Jesus.  Different reflections, by different authors, all of whom had something to teach me as someone who was himself wrestling with the significance of Jesus.  One way to see the true depth of these different reflections is to compare them carefully with one another.  I explain [...]

2020-04-03T02:14:06-04:00June 15th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Jesus and the Messianic Prophecies – Did the Old Testament Point to Jesus?

In my previous post I started to explain why, based on the testimony of Paul, it appears that most Jews (the vast majority) rejected the Christian claim that Jesus was the messiah. I have to say, that among my Christian students today (most of them from the South, most of them from conservative Christian backgrounds), this continues to be a real puzzle. "But there were prophecies of Jesus being the messiah," they argue. "Hundreds of Old Testament passages, such as Isaiah 53, describe him to a tee." They genuinely can’t figure it out. What About Old Testament Messianic Prophecies? In their view, the Old Testament makes a number of predictions about the messiah: he would be born in Bethlehem his mother would be a virgin he would be a miracle worker he would be killed for the sins of others he would be raised from the dead These are all things that happened to Jesus!  How much more obvious could it be?  Why in the world don’t those Jews see it?   Are they simply hard-headed [...]

2019-10-30T15:05:21-04:00November 8th, 2015|Canonical Gospels, Early Judaism, Public Forum|

Luke’s Understanding of Jesus’ Death

I have been dealing with the question of Jesus’ death in the Gospel of Luke and have been arguing that Luke does not appear to have understood Jesus’ death to be an atonement for sins.   He has eliminated the several indications from his source, the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus’ death was an atonement, and he never indicates in either his Gospel or the book of Acts that Jesus died “for” you or “for” others or “for” anyone.   Then why did Jesus die? It is clear that Luke thought that Jesus had to die.  For Luke it was all part of God’s plan.  But why?  What is the theological meaning of Jesus’ death for Luke, if it was not a sacrifice that brought about a right standing before God (which is what the term “atonement” means)? You get the clearest view of Luke’s understanding of Jesus’ death from... The Rest of this Post is for Members ONLY!  If you don't belong yet, JOIN!! It costs less than a dime per post, and every one of [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:19-04:00October 9th, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

Jesus’ Death as a Prophet in Luke

In my previous post I argued that the author of the Gospel of Luke had changed the view that he found in his source, the Gospel of Mark, so that Jesus death, in Luke, is no longer an atoning sacrifice for sins.  I’ve always found this to be extraordinarily interesting.  Both the source for Luke’s Gospel, and the hero of his book of Acts – the apostle Paul – portrayed Jesus’ death as an atonement.  But Luke does not. I’ve had several readers ask me: if Jesus’ death was not an atonement for Luke, then why did he die? It’s a good question, but a complicated one.  There are several approaches to take in answering it.  Let me present two, which happen to coincide with one another at the end of the day.  The first has to do with the narrative plot of Luke’s Gospel, and the second has to do with his theology (as found in both his Gospel and Acts). First, the plot.  It is beyond any doubt that Luke understands that Jesus *had* [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:36-04:00October 7th, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

Luke’s View of Jesus’ Death

In my previous post I tried to argue that the longer version of the account of Jesus’ Last Supper in Luke could have been created by a scribe who wanted to make the passage sound more like what is familiar from Matthew, Mark, and John, and to stress the point made in those other accounts as well, that Jesus’ broken body and shed blood are what bring redemption.   The passage as you recall reads like this: 17 And he took a cup and gave thanks, and he said: “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you that from now on I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” 19 And taking bread he gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body that is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  20  Likewise after supper (he took) the cup, saying, “This cup is the new coverant in my blood that is shed for you.  [...]

2020-04-03T13:16:46-04:00October 1st, 2015|Canonical Gospels, New Testament Manuscripts|

My Memory Book, Chapter 4 Again: The Death of Jesus

I am in the midst of a thread summarizing my current book project, Jesus Before the Gospels, which I am writing now, even as we speak.   The book will have six major chapters and a short conclusion.   Yesterday I finished drafting chapter 5, and hope to polish off the final two chapters next week, before revising it and sending it out to readers for comments. In my previous posts I said some things about chapter 4, “False Memories and the Death of Jesus.”   This chapter begins with a short summary of what psychologists have discovered about personal memories, and how we remember, since the first experiments were published in 1885 down to the present day.    My interest is both in how we as humans tend to remember the “gist” of what happened in the past and how also we “misremember” things.   Our memories are faulty, frail, and sometimes even false. The eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life had faulty memories as well – they must have had, if they were human beings.   I will be arguing in [...]

2020-04-03T13:49:30-04:00April 15th, 2015|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|
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