How Did Judas Iscariot Die? Readers’ Mailbag June 18, 2017

Two questions in this week’s Readers’ mailbag.  The first concerns the very strange tradition about how Judas Iscariot actually died, as found in the writings of the early church father Papias; the second is about modern evangelical Christian biblical scholars: how do they deal with the fact that our manuscripts contain so many textual variants?  If you have a question, feel free to ask, and I’ll add it to the ever growing mailbag.

 

QUESTION:

Papias didn’t think very highly of Judas. I ...

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Constantine’s Vision according to Eusebius

In my previous posts I began to talk about the vision(s) that Constantine had that led him to convert.  So far I have talked about two accounts, one in the panegyric of 310 CE and the other in the writing, not long after the conversion itself (in 312 CE), of the Christian author Lactantius.  The most famous account is found in the only biography of Constantine from the ancient world, the Life of Constantine by Eusebius, the fourth century “Father ...

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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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A Radically Different View of Orthodoxy and Heresy

In my last post I started discussing the terms “orthodoxy” and “heresy,” pointing out that their traditional/etymological meanings are not very helpful for historians.   “Orthodoxy” literally means the “right belief” about God, Christ, the world and so.   That means it is a theological term about religious truth.   But historians are not theologians who can tell you what is theologically true; they are scholars who try to establish what happened in the past.  And so how can a historian, acting as ...

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What Are Orthodoxy and Heresy?

In my previous post I began to explain what I meant by the title of my 1993 book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.   One of the terms of the title is non-problematic:  by “Scripture” I meant specifically the writings of the New Testament.  Another term, “corruption,” is a bit trickier, and as  I indicated I was using it both in a technical sense to refer to any kind of alteration of a text by a scribe who was ...

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Early Christianity in Egypt

About two months ago, in May, I was feeling pretty burned out; I had just finished my manuscript on How Jesus Became God and my brain was reasonably fried. At that point, I had trouble imagining being able to come up with posts for the blog for a while, and so I asked if anyone had any questions they would like to have answered. And so once again I have learned my lesson: Be careful what you ask for!

Since then ...

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Why Did “Orthodox” Christianity Win?

QUESTION:

What I have been wondering lately is “why” did Christianity win out. There seemed to be much competition in the ancient world between the pagan polytheisms and monotheistic religions. Competition not only between the Jewish religion and Christian religion but within Christianity.

I would be interested in why you think the current version of Christianity won out. Was it purely a matter of cultural evolution and this form of Christianity seemed to benefit people the most, easiest to adhere to, most ...

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