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Jesus’ Death; Good Scholars; and Writing the First Book: Readers’ Mailbag May 28, 2016

I have three rather wide ranging questions to deal with in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag: one on the understanding of Christ’s death as a sacrifice (or not); one on whom I like to read among NT scholars; and one on how to publish a scholarly book. This should be fun!  If you have a question you’d like me to address, simply ask it in any comment on any post (whether it’s relevant to the post or not).   QUESTION: Would you agree with the statement of scholars like Marcus Borg that Jesus died BECAUSE of the sins of the world and not FOR the sins of the world? Scholars like Borg are quite emphatic that the death of Jesus is not a sacrifice in the way that most (i.e. fundamentalist) Christians understand it: Jesus died for our sins and by believing in Jesus we gain eternal life. Rather, Jesus’ death is understood as a WAY to God: That by following the life of Jesus and offering up our suffering to God we walk in the [...]

My Graduate Training (Textual Criticism??)

I saw my master’s thesis as the perfect assignment to get me grounded in the entire, complicated field of New Testament textual criticism.   Ever since then I’ve been in favor of students writing master's theses, even if it is not required for a master’s program.   For one thing, doing so gets you into the frame of mind that you need to be in when you get to the point of writing a dissertation at the PhD level – which for most students is the first time they write a book.   The masters thesis is usually much shorter – say 100-120 pages.  But the layout tends to be similar.  Most theses I’ve been involved with, including my own, have entailed an introduction, three chapters, and a conclusion.   So the student learns to think in terms of writing chapters, each of which has its own thesis and point; but all of them work together in order systematically to set forth the overarching thesis of the work.   This is a hard transition for some students, who for their [...]

Autobiographical. Metzger and Me: Beginning the PhD Program

HIS IS A CONTINUATION OF MY POSTS ON MY RELATIONSHIP WITH BRUCE METZGER, MY MENTOR. When I entered the PhD program at Princeton Theological Seminary, my relationship with Bruce Metzger deepened significantly. At the time, the New Testament program at PTS was one of the best in the country. The faculty teaching the PhD students were all brilliant scholars; all of them except Metzger were principally known for their work in exegesis (the interpretation of the New Testament) and biblical theology (trying to explain the meaning and significance of the text for the individual Christian and the life of the church). None of them, apart from Metzger, was widely published and known outside of scholarly circles; but within scholarly circles they had a very high profile indeed. My main professors in the program were, in addition to Metzger, Chris Beker (a somewhat wild but truly genius interpreter of the writings of Paul), Paul Meyer (one of the deepest readers of texts I’ve ever known), and David Adams (a junior faculty person who had a brilliantly [...]

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