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Do Church Fathers Show What the Authors of the NT Actually Wrote?

What other resources do we have to figure out what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote, if we don't have their actual writings themselves? In this post I move into a very brief discussion of one other area of evidence for the text of the New Testament, the Patristic sources.  The term “patristic” stands for “fathers” (Latin: patres) of the church – that is, the early church authors who quoted the books of the New Testament in the course of their writings.  This too is an exceedingly thorny area of scholarly investigation, and one that I have long been deeply interested in.  It is the area that I did my PhD research and dissertation in. So here’s the deal.   As I have pointed out before, we don’t have complete manuscripts of the New Testament until the middle of the fourth century – some 300 years after the books were written.  We do have earlier fragmentary papyri manuscripts of this, that, or the other part of the NT, and for that we are all [...]

The “Arch-Heretic” Marcion, Jesus, and the Jewish Law

In this thread, I’ve started to talk about the relationship of Jesus to the Law of Moses.  I’m going to get to the issue by means of a circuitous route, by talking about how that relationship was understood by followers of Jesus living a hundred years after his day.  The reason for starting there is that we have a clearer idea what these followers thought than we do, say, of Jesus’ followers a decade after his death.  Those earlier followers left us no writings and they are not directly discussed (in terms of their theological views) by extensive other sources (except the book of Acts).  We do know about later Christians and their views, however, even if our sources of information for these are also partial and imperfect. There were strikingly distinct positions taken by Christians in the middle of the second century with respect to Jesus and the law.  One extreme position was taken by the teacher-philosopher Marcion, who was eventually declared the arch-heretic of the church but who in his day pronounced a [...]

Reading Suggestions for the New Testament: A Blast from the Past

Four years ago (June 17, 2012) I was asked about what I would suggest for serious lay folk interested in doing more in-depth reading/study of the New Testament.  Here is what I responded.  It's a response I would stick to still today!! ****************************************************************************** QUESTION: I've enjoyed reading "Jesus Interrupted" and "Misquoting Jesus". I am also listening to two of The Teaching Company courses you recorded - "The New Testament" and "Lost Christianities". Here is my question: Can you suggest additional books by other authors that provide balanced information on the New Testament? Such a bibliography would be a nice addition to your web site. RESPONSE: Ah yes!  It’s important to hear various (balanced) views.  I tell my students this and they sometimes are surprised, since they think that I imagine that my view is the only one worth hearing!  But in my textbook on the New Testament (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings) I provide suggestions for further reading at the end of each of the thirty chapters, for each [...]

2021-02-23T01:20:00-05:00June 18th, 2016|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

Final Exam for New Testament Class (2016)

Let’s see how you do on my Final Exam!   Yesterday I gave the final for my Introduction to the New Testament class.   Here it is.   My sense is that as for every course, unless you actually take it, even if you know a good bit about the subject matter, it would be very hard to do well on the final, since, well, the final is geared specifically to the course.   But some of this is more or less “common knowledge” for those well versed in the field. The exam had three sections that were equally weighted: the first is a string of identifications, the second and third were essays.   I allowed some choice in what to answer to provide some flexibility.   Students had three hours to complete the exam.  Some students finished in an hour and a half, a few stayed till the very end. So … how would you do?   ****************************************************************************** Reli 104 New Testament  Bart D. Ehrman Spring 2016   Final Exam   IDENTIFICATIONS Define ten of the following terms in fifty [...]

2017-11-13T21:00:38-05:00May 3rd, 2016|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

Patristic Evidence for the New Testament

Yesterday I discussed very briefly the benefits and difficulties of versional evidence for establishing the text of the New Testament.   As it turns out, it is a very big and complex issue, or rather sets of issues.   There are large and difficult books written on very small aspects of the versions.   One, still authoritative, treatment of the whole shooting match, with extensive bibliography (which is now, of course, out of date), is one of the magna opera of my mentor, Bruce Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (1977).   It’s a great book, arguably his most impressive. In this post I would like, to move into a very brief discussion of one other area of evidence for the text of the New Testament, the Patristic sources.   The term “patristic” stands for “fathers” (Latin: patres) of the church – that is, the early church authors who quoted the books of the New Testament in the course of their writings.  This too is an exceedingly thorny area of scholarly investigation, and [...]

Introduction to My Introduction (to the NT)

I have decided to add an "Introduction" to my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.  I is very similar (indeed!) to the introduction that I have now in my Introduction to the entire Bible.  The whole idea is to get students to see why taking an academic course on the NT is very important.   Here is the new Introduction, in full: ****************************************************************************************************************** Introduction Why Study the New Testament? The New Testament is the most commonly purchased, widely read, and deeply cherished book in the history of Western Civilization.  It is also the most widely misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused.  These facts alone should make it worth our time to study it.   But there are other reasons as well – religious reasons, historical reasons, and literary reasons. Religious Reasons Most people who study the new Testament do so, of course, for religious reasons.  Many people revere the Bible as the word of God, and want to know what it can teach them about what to believe and how to live.   In [...]

2021-02-23T01:24:49-05:00October 20th, 2014|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

A Historical Approach to the New Testament

In my previous posts I talked about how I came to be convinced to write my textbook on the New Testament, back in the early to mid 1990s.   Once I agreed to do it, the first step was to decide exactly what *kind* of Introduction to the New Testament I wanted it to be.  This was a problem, because I was pretty sure that the kind of introduction that I would like to write would not be the kind of introduction that college professors would like to use. There were already lots of textbooks on the New Testament available at the time.   I myself had used two different ones over the years, one that was filled with all sorts of jargon and assumptions that made it way over my students heads (that one didn’t last!  but for years it was one of the most widely used on the market); the other one was very sensitive to the theological interests of the authors and, presumably, of the students, and that was very heavy on using each [...]

2020-04-03T16:32:45-04:00September 24th, 2014|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

Agreeing to Do the Textbook

In my previous post I indicated that I was not at all inclined to write a textbook on the New Testament.   In fact, before the editor at Oxford University Press asked me to do it, I had never given it a moment’s thought – except for that moment when I thought (some years before), that whatever I did with my publishing career, I did *not* want to write such a thing.  Looking back on it, I’m not sure why I was so dead set against it.  I suppose it was because my plan was to write scholarship for scholars and nothing but scholarship for scholars. About a week after I turned down the offer to do the textbook, she called me again to see if I had changed my mind.  No, I hadn’t.  But I had started thinking about it.   When she called me the third time I had begun to think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. There were several reasons I had begun to change my mind.   For [...]

2020-04-03T16:33:09-04:00September 23rd, 2014|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

My New Testament Textbook

I thought I would take a few posts to talk about what I’m working on these days – for the past month or so, with another month or so to go.  As many of you know, I spent almost the entire summer doing nothing but reading books and articles about “memory” and related topics (such as the telling of stories in oral cultures) from a variety of perspectives: cognitive psychology, neurology (very low level!), anthropology (oral cultures and how they pass along their traditions), sociology (communal memory), folklore (urban legends, rumors, gossip), and so on.   All of this was in preparation for my next trade book dealing with what we can say about the oral traditions of Jesus as they were passed along in the years before the Gospels were written.   I am still leaving open the possibility of writing a scholarly monograph on a similar topic. But I have had to take a break from all that.  And with huge reluctance.  There are dozens and dozens of books and articles that I’m still desperate [...]

2020-04-03T16:33:16-04:00September 22nd, 2014|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|

Followup on the NT Quiz

So, about my quiz on the New Testament. Most of you who sent me answers failed miserably. I think you should buy *me* dinner…. I did this already with my other quiz, but I’ll do it again here – explaining what I try to accomplish by the various questions.   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, JOIN NOW, OR YOU MAY NEVER KNOW!! 27 books in the NT (when you think NT, you should think God; then think trinity; and what is 27?  3x3x3)   (It’s a miracle).   I ask this question not only because it’s basic information, but also because I want them to start thinking about why we have these books and not others – the subject of my first lecture on Monday. Written in Greek.   I want them to know the importance of Alexander the Great’s conquest and the Hellenization of the Mediterranean for early Christianity – and that Jesus’ teachings in Aramaic come to [...]

2020-04-03T17:36:04-04:00January 11th, 2014|Teaching Christianity|

My New Testament Pop Quiz

  Last semester I posted here on the blog the pop quiz I gave on the first day of the semester to my class on Jesus in Scholarship and Film.   As you may have noticed in my post yesterday, I also give a quiz to begin my New Testament class, which I started teaching yesterday.   If you were on the blog five months ago, and have a very good memory, the quiz will look very familiar.  About half the questions are the same. I give a quiz on the first day – before I’ve taught the students anything – both in order to break the ice while having some fun together and in order to teach a few things, as I give the answers after they have taken a stab at them.   I’ll say a few things about what I try to accomplish with that in my next post. I told the students yesterday that if anyone got at least nine of the eleven answers correct, I would buy them dinner at the Armadillo Grill.   [...]

2017-12-25T12:41:47-05:00January 9th, 2014|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|
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