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Why I (Actually) Discuss Hallucinations

In this post I continue with my response to Larry Hurtado’s critique of How Jesus Became God.  In the previous posts I dealt with factual errors – where he assigned views to me that I do not state and do not have.  As I have pointed out, Larry was generous to retract these critiques in a subsequent post on his blog.   In this post I want to deal not with a factual mistake but with an assertion he makes about my motive for part of my discussion – an assertion that I take issue with. One of my major premises in How Jesus Became God is that Jesus was not considered divine during his lifetime, but that it was belief in his resurrection that made his followers begin calling him God.   But since my study is a historical account of how Jesus came to be considered God, rather than a theological or religiously motivated account, I have to deal with a very big problem, which is that historians cannot declare a God-produced miracle as a [...]

My Other Next Book

In my previous post I indicated that I am debating over my next trade book (for general audiences. The one I described there has to do with how Christians appropriated the Jewish Scriptures for themselves, leading to (and being implicated in) the rise of Christian anti-Judaism. It’s a fascinating topic, and I’m definitely planning on writing the book. But something else has come up that is driving my research right now instead, and I suspect this will be the next book. But I’m happy to hear your opinions about the value of doing one or the other first. First I need to provide a bit of background. As I have mentioned a number of times on the blog, I am trying to alternate the kinds of books I write – hard-hitting scholarly work, textbooks for university students, and trade books for normal human beings. My next scholarly book was supposed to be a commentary on the early Greek Gospel fragments of the second century (the Gospel of Peter; Papyrus Egerton 2; and a bunch of [...]

2020-04-03T16:57:41-04:00May 20th, 2014|Book Discussions, Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|

Is History Possible?

One other section that I attended at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Baltimore was devoted to the field of social memory and the historical Jesus. This was a very interesting panel, of four papers, devoted to what we can say about the recollections of Jesus found in the Gospels, based on what psychologists now tell us about memory, and what historians familiar with this psychological work are saying about how the past can be remembered. I found one paper in particular to be especially interesting, because the author, a very smart scholar named Zeba Crook, used developments in the psychology of memory to argue that we can NOT know anything about the historical Jesus. Crook’s paper (I’m reconstructing this from my mind, based on what I heard two days ago; I may get some of this wrong. But if Crook’s point is correct, then I can’t reconstruct the event at all, as you’ll see!) was based on the phenomenon of memory distortion. Psychologists have determined several things about memory and how it gets [...]

2020-04-03T17:41:13-04:00November 27th, 2013|Historical Jesus, Memory Studies|

Lincoln’s Watch and Eyewitnesses

A fascinating news item has appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine. At first it may not be obvious how it connects to Christianity in Antiquity. But I think it does. It is about a watch owned by Abraham Lincoln. Here is the link to the full story, with a photo: So the deal is this, as described in the article On April 13, 1861, Irish immigrant and watchmaker Jonathan Dillon, working for the M.W. Galt and Co. jewelers in Washington, D.C., was repairing President Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch, when he heard of the attack [on Fort Sumter). Forty-five years later, Dillon told the New York Times what he did that day. "I was in the act of screwing on the dial when Mr. Galt announced the news. I unscrewed the dial, and with a sharp instrument wrote on the metal beneath: ‘The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try.'" Note that the watch maker himself revealed what he had inscribed on the interior of [...]

2020-04-03T19:16:50-04:00October 25th, 2012|Canonical Gospels, Memory Studies|
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