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Fun with the Jewish Christian Gospels: A Blast from the Past

I was looking through the blog archives today, and ran across this interesting one from four years ago.  In additional to being rather informative about Gospels outside the New Testament, it shows how even in antiquity Christians had to figure out how to reconcile minor discrepancies among the canonical Gospels.  Enjoy! ********************************************************************* Yesterday in my graduate seminar we spent three hours analyzing the three so-called “Jewish-Christian Gospels.” These are very tricky texts to deal with. We don’t have any manuscripts of them – even small fragments. They come to us, instead, in the quotations of church fathers such as Origen, Didymus the Blind, Jerome, and Epiphanius. These (orthodox) church fathers sometimes quoted or referred to one or the other of the Gospels in order to relate what it said; and sometimes it was in order to attack what it said. There are all sorts of questions raised about these no-longer surviving Gospels in these quotations. A good part of the problem is that some of these fathers – especially Jerome, on whom we depend for [...]

My Work as a Historian and Paul in Conflict with the Jerusalem Church: Readers’ Mailbag August 20, 2016

Some people (conservative Christians who don’t like my scholarship) maintain that I’m not a historian, a view I find very odd since virtually all of my scholarship (for well over twenty-five years) is historical.  I address the question in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, along with a question that many readers will find more interesting (since it’s more germane to anything), of whether Paul and the Jerusalem church were on the same page theologically or if there were tensions between them. If you have any questions you would like me to address in a future Mailbag, let me know!   QUESTION:  In a debate online a Fundamentalist friend said you were a textual critic and not an historian. I said you wore both hats. Do you also consider yourself a historian?   RESPONSE: Anyone who thinks I’m not a historian simply has never read any of my books – including my books on textual criticism!   The vast majority of my books are not even about textual criticism, but about the history of early Christianity (first to [...]

Other Christians Who Denied that Christ was Divine by Nature

In my previous post I discussed on group of early Christian “adoptionists” – that is, followers of Christ who maintained that he was not really a divine being (by nature) but was a human who had been “adopted” by God (at his baptism) to be his Son.  To be sure, from that point on he was in some sense divine; but he was not born of a virgin and he did not pre-exist his appearance in the world.  The group I mentioned yesterday was the Jewish-Christian Ebionites. There was another group known (or thought) to have a similar Christological view that was not in the least Jewish, but was from start to finish gentile.  This is a gropu that emerged in second century Rome called the Theodotians, named this because the founder of their sect was named Theodotus.  He was a cobbler by trade.  But he obviously didn’t work making shoes 24/7; he must have had time for some serious theological reflection as well. Here is what I say about Theodotus and his followers in [...]

Was Christ God? The View of Jewish-Christian Ebionites

We know of several groups and individuals from the first three centuries of Christianity who were known, or at least thought, to support an “adoptionistic” Christology, one that said that Christ was not by nature a divine being but was, instead, a fully and completely human being, one who had been “adopted” by God to be his son (and therefore divine for *that* reason).  He was the Son of God, then, by adoption or election, not by nature.  He did not pre-exist his birth, and his birth was normal – his parents had sexual relations and he was the offspring.  But later God made him his own son. When I say that some persons were known or thought to hold some such view, I mean that in many instances it is difficult (impossible, actually) to show that they really did hold such views.  All we have, in virtually every case (not quite) are what their proto-orthodox opponents said about them.  In other words, we have to take their enemies’ word for it.   That is not [...]

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