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Jesus as the Messiah in Mark’s Gospel

Jesus as the Messiah in Mark's Gospel.  In this thread within a thread within a thread, I’m discussing the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark as the Son of God whom no one knows.  For background, see my preceding post on the topic.  One of my overarching points is that Mark goes out of his way to portray Jesus as the Son of God. Even though the title does not occur very often in the Gospel. Only at really crucial points of the narrative, in the first episode of Jesus’ life (his baptism), in the final episode of Jesus’ life (his crucifixion), and at the very middle of the Gospel (the transfiguration). My other point is that even though both Mark and God himself, in the narrative, declare straightforwardly that Jesus is the Son of God, no one understands it. When they do start to understand it, they misunderstand it. No One Around Jesus Got Him That no one “gets” it is obvious if you read the first eight chapters carefully.  Everyone around [...]

2022-12-31T16:33:45-05:00November 2nd, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

Jesus as the Son of God in Mark

I am set now to return to my thread on the changes in our surviving manuscripts of the New Testament that were made in order to make the text more amenable to the theological agenda of orthodox scribes and to help prevent their use by Christians who had alternative understandings of who Christ was. I have been arguing, in that vein, that the voice at Jesus’ baptism in Luke’s Gospel originally said “You are my son, today I have begotten you” (as in some manuscripts) but that it was changed because scribes were afraid that the text could be too easily read to mean that it was at this point that God had adopted Jesus to be his son.  These scribes believed that Christ had *always* been the son of God, and so God could not say that he “made” him the son on the day of his baptism.  Their change was remarkably successful: the vast majority of manuscripts have their altered text, in which the voice says (as it says also in Mark’s version): [...]

2020-04-03T13:10:36-04:00October 30th, 2015|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Adoptionistic Christologies

For some posts now I have been talking about “docetic” Christologies in the early church – views of Christ that said he was so much divine that he was not really a human – and about how these influenced proto-orthodox scribes who changed their texts of scripture in order to show that, by contrast, Christ really was a flesh and blood human being.   I would now like to shift to the other end of the theological spectrum to discuss Christological views that insisted on the contrary that Christ was fully human, so much so that he was not actually, by nature, divine. Sometimes these Christologies are called “adoptionistic,” because in them Christ is portrayed not as a divine being who pre-existed before being born of a virgin, but as fully and completely and utterly human, a very righteous man who was born like everyone else and who was by nature like everyone else, but because of his special devotion to God was “adopted” by God to be his son and, as the one who had [...]

Ehrman Licona Debate – Prove Jesus Rose from Dead

On February 28, 2008 I flew back to (near) my home turf, Kansas City, Missouri where I debated Christian apologist Mike R. Licona on the topic, "Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead?" The event took place on at 7 p.m. held at the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  You can guess whose side the crowd was on! Mike is one person I've debated over the years with whom I have a very good relationship.  When we're not going at it verbally, we get along well and have a chummy relationship.  Even if each of us thinks the other is completely dead wrong about things -- including the important topic of this debate. Mike Licona is author of Why Are There Differences in the Gospels and Evidence for God: 50 Arguments For Faith From The Bible, History, Philosophy, And Science, among others. The debate is discussed in the book "Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics" edited by Paul Copan, William Lane Craig. Chapter 9 is written by Michael Licona, which reviews this debate [...]

2020-05-05T13:01:53-04:00October 3rd, 2015|Bart's Debates, Video Media|

Wine in the Kingdom

Writing my last post on Papias made me think of something that is rather humorous even if it is only very tangentially related.   If you recall, Papias claimed that Jesus taught the following about the future utopian kingdom on earth:  The days are coming when vines will come forth, each with ten thousand boughs; and on a single bough will be ten thousand branches.  And indeed, on a single branch will be ten thousand shoots and on every shoot ten thousand clusters; and in every cluster will be ten thousand grapes, and every grape, when pressed, will yield twenty-five measures of wine.  When I was writing up that post, I was reminded of the story in the Gospel of John in which Jesus turns the water into wine.   Jesus appears to have enjoyed wine in great abundance. The story in John is particularly interesting, and what is humorous to me is how I’ve heard it interpreted by well-meaning conservative Christians who were certain that Jesus would not ever encourage people to partake of alcoholic beverages. [...]

2017-11-29T21:42:39-05:00June 6th, 2015|Canonical Gospels|

New Boxes on Problematic Social Values in the New Testament

I have been posting some of the new “boxes” that will appear in the sixth edition of my textbook.  These boxes are meant either to raise interesting historical issues that are somewhat tangential to the main discussion or to broach complex issues without easy solution that are meant to force students to think for themselves.     I include two such boxes here in this post – the first is a new one for the sixth edition, but I thought it would be interesting to pair it with a somewhat related topic drawn from a post already in the fifth edtiion.  Both boxes have to do with the New Testament and social realities of its day – the early Christian approbation of the institution of slavery and Jesus’ teachings that run precisely contrary to what today we might think of as solid family values. ****************************************************************  Box 22.12  What Do You Think? The New Testament and Slavery  Many people who read the book of Philemon simply assume that Paul writes the letter in order to urge Philemon to [...]

2020-04-03T16:28:30-04:00October 30th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

New Boxes on Jesus as God in the NT

Here are two more “boxes” that will now appear in the sixth edition of my New Testament textbook.   If you’ve read my recent book, How Jesus Became God, you’ll see that both of these boxes are based on views that I develop at length there.   One of the tricks in writing a textbook is figuring out how to say something in a way that is succinct and interesting, when there is not much space to cover a topic fully  (so, my first box here covers in 326 words what I take an entire chapter to develop in my book!)   The problem is that sometimes the coverage is so succinct that it is no longer accurate and / or interesting.  It’s always a balancing act. In any event, here are the two boxes. *******************************************************  Box 19.2  What Do You Think? Humans Exalted to Heaven at the End of Their Lives  What do you imagine the early Christians would think had happened to Jesus once they came to believe that he had not only been raised from [...]

2020-04-03T16:28:46-04:00October 28th, 2014|Book Discussions, Paul and His Letters|

Trade Books and Scholarly Books

I indicated in my previous post that I would say a few things about each of the books that I am planning – today at least – to try to write over the next ten years or so.   The very next book will be trade book on Jesus Before the Gospels, a study of what happened to the stories about Jesus as they were altered, and invented, by Christians circulating them word of mouth before the writing of the Gospels.   The next book after that will be a scholarly treatment of the same thing.  Or that’s the plan. The reason I’m hedging my bet is because I never know whether there will be a scholarly book in my current research until my current research is my past research and I see whether there really is something there that I have to say to scholars, or not.   At this point, even though I have a rough idea of how I want to organize a trade book, and know where I need to go in order to [...]

2020-04-03T16:38:36-04:00August 17th, 2014|Book Discussions, Memory Studies|

Josephus and the Burial of Jesus

I have devoted a large number of posts to going carefully through the main arguments that Craig Evans makes in his critique of the position I take in How Jesus Became God with respect to the burial tradition, in his essay, “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right.”   To this point I have been trying to argue that the accumulation of arguments in and of itself does not constitute a “cumulative argument.”  Each of the accumulated arguments has to carry *some* weight if the overall argument is to carry *much* (or a lot of) weight.  And in my judgment, none of the arguments that I have adduced and responded to so far carries much, if any, weight. Some of you will probably disagree with me, and that’s fine.   But I do hope that I’ve shown that I’m not the uninformed skeptic that Craig portrays in his essay.  At times, reading it, I felt like I was being lectured to.  On the other hand, maybe Craig feels the same way in reading my responses (he’s not [...]

2020-04-03T16:43:25-04:00July 24th, 2014|Bart's Critics, Early Judaism, Historical Jesus|

Other Options for Paul and Jesus

In my last post I started giving the principal options, as I see them, for why Paul did not mention more about the historical Jesus. Below are two other leading options. As I’ve indicated, there are probably others, and if some occur to you, feel free to comment! ************************************************* Option Two: Paul knew more of the traditions of Jesus, but considered them irrelevant to his mission. This option relates closely to the one preceding, with a major difference. In this case, Paul did not himself teach his congregations many of the traditions about Jesus that he knew, nor did he refer to them extensively either in person or in writing -- not because he had no occasion to (since he clearly did) but because he chose not to. Why would he choose not to? Perhaps because he considered the traditions about Jesus' words and deeds to be irrelevant to his message of Jesus' death and resurrection. Support for this view can come from a passage like 1 Cor 2:2, where Paul insists that the only [...]

More on Jesus’ Teachings in Paul

I have been talking about Paul’s knowledge of the historical Jesus, and yesterday began a discussion of what Paul clearly knew about Jesus’ teachings.   That’s where I will pick up here.   Again, I have taken the discussion from my book Did Jesus Exist?, so the orientation of what I have to say is toward showing that Paul provides solid (and for my mind, virtually incontrovertible) evidence that Jesus was not simply “made up” but was an actual historical figure – an issue that, for most people in the universe of intelligent humans, is not much of an issue, but which is disputed by that tiny but oh-so-vocal group of “mythicists” about which I have said some things before.   In any event, there are a few more interesting aspects of the question of Paul’s use of Jesus’ teachings, as follows: ********************************************************* There are no other obvious places where Paul quotes Jesus, although scholars have often found traces of Jesus’ teachings in Paul.  The big question is why Paul does not quote Jesus more often.  That [...]

Paul’s References to Jesus’ Teachings

So far I have been discussing what Paul says about the historical Jesus in his surviving seven letters. For the next couple of posts I’ll indicate what he says about the teaching of Jesus. Once again there are two observations to make. The first is that he obviously knew that Jesus taught some things. The other is that it is a bit surprising that he doesn’t tell us more. I will be dealing with that second issue soon, when I discuss why Paul doesn’t give us more information about the historical Jesus (there are several options). The following discussion is taken from my book Did Jesus Exist, which was meant to deal more with the first issue: the fact that Paul quotes Jesus on occasion shows at the least that Paul knew Jesus existed (as do the other data that he mentions about Jesus’ life). ***********************************************************8 The Teachings of Jesus in Paul In addition to these data about Jesus’ life and death, Paul mentions on several occasions the teachings he delivered. We have seen two [...]

2020-04-03T16:59:18-04:00May 12th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

More on Paul’s Knowledge of Jesus’ Life

In my last post I began to enumerate the things that Paul said about Jesus. *Most* of what he says about Jesus has to do with the significance of his death and resurrection. But what if we wanted to know about the *life* of Jesus – the things that Jesus said, did, and experienced between his birth and his death? Paul doesn’t tell us a ton, as has frequently been noted. But he does tell us some. In addition to what I laid out in the previous post, there are the following bits of information, again taken from my fuller analysis in Did Jesus Exist?   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, ARE YOU WAITING FOR CHRISTMAS???? ********************************************************* Paul knows that Jesus was a teacher, because he quotes several of his sayings.  I will deal with these later [in my next post].  For now it is worth noting that two of the sayings of Jesus that Paul quotes were [...]

2020-04-03T16:59:29-04:00May 9th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

Paul and Jesus

I spent several posts explicating Paul’s understanding of his gospel, that by Christ’s death and resurrection a person is put into a restored relationship with God. He had several ways of explaining how it worked (the “judicial” model; the “participationist” model; and the other models I described). But in all of these ways, it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that mattered. It was not keeping the Jewish law. It was not knowing or following Jesus’ teaching. It was not Jesus’ miracles. It was not … anything else. It was Jesus’ death and resurrection. I then summarized in my previous post, the teaching of Jesus himself, about the coming Son of Man and the need to prepare by keeping the Law of God, as revealed in the Torah, as summarized in the commandments to love God above all else and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Do these represent the same religion? I see this as one of the most fundamental and important questions in all of early Christianity. I’m not asking if Paul invented Christianity, [...]

2020-04-03T16:59:53-04:00May 6th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Paul and His Letters|

The Message of Jesus

To this point in the thread I have been talking about Paul’s “religion” – specifically, what he thought was important in a person’s relationship with God. He expressed his views in a variety of ways – I have talked about his judicial and his participationist understandings of salvation, and have made brief comments on yet other “models” that he used to express his view about the act of salvation that God had achieved through Christ. In all of these models, it was the death and resurrection of Jesus that was of paramount importance. It was that, nothing else, that brought about salvation. And what did Jesus himself think? This is arguably the most important point to consider about early Christianity. Did the best known apostle of Christ proclaim the same, or very similar message, to Jesus himself? Or not? In my New Testament class every semester I have my students debate, in class, a resolution dealing with the issue: “Resolved: Paul and Jesus represented fundamentally different religions.” Students are surprised by the topic. Until they [...]

2020-04-03T17:00:03-04:00May 5th, 2014|Historical Jesus|

Did Disciples Have Visions of Jesus?

I am ready and willing to begin answering questions readers have about my book How Jesus Became God. So feel free to ask away. Here is a good one I received today.   QUESTION: I have enjoyed reading your interesting and thought provoking books, Jesus Interrupted and Forged. At the moment I am reading How Jesus Became God and would like to comment on some of the content of Chapter 5. To that point in the book, it seems to me you have been very careful to avoid speculation, but it seems to me that the application of your usual standards may have lapsed somewhat in regard to the visions of Jesus after the crucifixion. Specifically, what evidence do we have, apart from the Gospels, that any of Jesus' disciples actually had visions of Jesus after his death? Certainly, at some point in early Christianity, the story of the visions became part of the lore, but as you have pointed out in previous parts of the book, the oral recounting of the stories was subject [...]

2020-04-03T17:03:05-04:00April 14th, 2014|Book Discussions, Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

Why I’m Obsessed with Jesus

There is a relatively new online journal, “On Faith,” that is top-of-the line and very interesting. A couple of days ago they published a short article that I wrote, in connection with How Jesus Became God; I called the article “Why I Am Obsessed with Jesus.” It contains some views you will have seen from me before, and some others. Here is the article as I sent it to them. (The full link to the online version in the journal comes at the end). ********************************************************** I finally figured out why I’m so obsessed with Jesus. It makes sense that Jesus mattered to me when I was young. I was raised in a Christian household, we went to church, we revered the Bible, and Jesus was God. It makes sense that Jesus mattered to me as a late teenager, when I had a born-again experience and became a conservative evangelical. (What I converted from to “become a Christian” continues to puzzle me.) At that point Jesus became not only my Lord and Savior, but also my [...]

Was Jesus Inserted Into Paul’s Letters?

QUESTION: I find the historical evidence for existence of Jesus pretty compelling as far as ancient history of antiquity goes.  Just to play devil’s advocate, how confident can we be that Paul’s letters have not been significantly doctored over a period of decades, inserting references to a historical Jesus when no such references exist in the originals? What are the oldest fragments and whole letters of the Pauline epistles?   RESPONSE: Interesting question.   I think I need to answer it more fully than just by giving a comment because some of my work (Misquoting Jesus) has been used by some people to claim that I don’t think we can know *anything* about an early form of the texts of the New Testament.  And that ain’t true.  My view is that we cannot know for *certain* about the original texts at any point, since we lack manuscript witnesses from near the time.  That is a very BIG problem for fundamentalists and hard-core evangelical Christians – a number of whom see me as the devil incarnate, even [...]

Abraham and Jesus?

QUESTION: THIS QUESTION FROM A MEMBER OF THE BLOG QUOTES SOMETHING I SAID IN MY PREVIOUS POST AND THEN ASKS A QUESTION ABOUT IT: “As I’ve intimated, my own view is that these patriarchal narratives are not historical accounts of people who actually lived and did the things ascribed to them. I see them as highly legendary, narratives told by the people of Israel – after they became the people of Israel (say in the 11th or 10th centuries) — about their “early days.” Stories circulated for years and years in different parts of the land, among different tribes of people who were later said to have all been part of Israel. These stories were then combined and put into the sources, which later were composed into one big narrative (say in the 6th c BCE). I do not see them as historical records, but more as something like “founding legends” that help explain to the people who they are in light of their (imagined) past.” If that’s the case then why can’t the same [...]

Jesus and Marriage: An Actual Argument!

So far I have pointed out that it is flat-out wrong to say that every Jewish man in the first century was married and was expected to be married. It is not only demographically impossible (there were not enough women to go around) but we know of Jewish men from the time of Jesus who were not married and were proud of it. Strikingly, they, like him, were apocalyptically minded Jews – such as the Essenes and the apostle Paul. I have also argued that whatever Mary Magdalene was to Jesus, she was not his lover and spouse, to the great disappointment of us all….. But is there an actual argument that Jesus was not married other than the silences? I think there is. And this is what it is. A good deal of Jesus’ teaching, of course, was ethical in nature, about how people ought to live and conduct themselves. Many people think of Jesus as one of the great moral teachers of all time, and I have no quarrel with that. But I [...]

2020-04-30T12:45:07-04:00January 27th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Sex and Sexuality in the Bible|
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