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Two More Answers from My Pop Quiz

I continue here with some comments about my pop quiz (see: https://ehrmanblog.org/my-faux-pop-quiz-this-semester/ and https://ehrmanblog.org/does-basic-information-about-the-nt-matter-my-pop-quiz/ ), and some of the reasons I ask the questions – that is, what I try to teach from the answers (so that the quiz is not designed to see how much the students know already).  Here are two more of the questions:   In what century were they (the books of the NT) written? Answer:  First century CE.  I use this question to explain the modern usage, among historians (and others!) of BCE and CE.  Of course all of us (well, all of us my age) grew up with the dating system BC and AD.  Most people don’t actually know what those abbreviations mean.  Nearly everyone gets “BC”: Before Christ.  But I remember – or maybe I misremember – being taught when I was young that A.D. stood for “After Death.”  Well that ain’t right.  And a second’s reflection shows why.  It would mean there would be no dates for the years between Jesus’ birth and his death!  A.D. therefore [...]

By |2020-09-03T16:21:07-04:00September 2nd, 2020|Canonical Gospels, Teaching Christianity|43 Comments

Does Basic Information about the NT *Matter*? My Pop Quiz

Last week I posted the pop quiz that I gave my first-year seminar, “Jesus in Scholarship and Film,” on the opening day of the term.  There are several reasons I give a quiz, even before the students have read, heard lectures, or discussed anything about the New Testament.  For one thing, it’s a fun activity and we can have some laughs – it’s not graded and we go over the answers after they take it.  For another thing, it’s important for me to know how much they know about the New Testament and early Christianity before we start the course.  It’s also important for them to know how much they know – especially the students who were raised in church and assume they already know a lot.  Some of them do; but not most.  And sometimes they are chagrined when they find out.  (If I had a nickel for every time a student has said to me, “Why haven’t I heard this before?" I could buy a condo on the Champs-Élysées.) Even more important, in [...]

My Faux Pop Quiz this Semester

Here’s a question from one of my recent posts on teaching this term, and what I did on the first day of class. QUESTIONS Now that Aug 11 is safely past, is there any chance that we here on the blog might be able to see the “Faux Pop Quiz”? RESPONSES               The question is about the pop quiz I gave on my first day of class in my First Year Seminar (i.e, the small seminar for first year students – their first semester in college!) on “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.”  Different instructors do different things on the first day of class.  We are required to give out a syllabus that describes the course objectives, requirements, textbooks, grading policies, and sundry other things (I posted mine last week on the blog).  Some instructors do that and then that’s all for the first class.  I do more.  I don’t believe in throwing away any class time for the entire semester, so I always take up the whole period.  Hey, they’re payin’ for this class.  (Well, [...]

By |2020-08-26T22:21:53-04:00August 26th, 2020|Historical Jesus, Teaching Christianity|62 Comments

My Early Christian Apocrypha Seminar

I am teaching a PhD seminar this semester on the early Christian apocrypha; it's a little hard to define what those are, though hundreds of people have tried!.  The way I define them are as non-canonical books that are similar in genre and contents to those that did make it into the canon.  Or something like that.  They comprise Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses, they can be "orthodox" or "non-orthodox" (= " heretical"); most of them claim to be written by apostles (but not all); the ones I'm most interested in date from the second to the fifth centuries. It's a fairly but not crazily heavy-hitting class.   It meets once a week for three hours.  Here, for your amusement and reading pleasure (especially if you do the assignments!) is the syllabus: To see what follows, you will need to belong to the blog.  Not a member yet?  Now's the best time ever to join.  Why?  Because you can't join in the past.     Reli 801: Early Christian Apocrypha Instructor: Bart D. Ehrman Fall 2020 [...]

Jesus in Scholarship and Film

University classes started this past week, and as so many have said, this will be a school year like no other.  I will be teaching both of my classes remotely, a PhD seminar on Early Christian Apocrypha, which I will be discussing in a later post, and my undergraduate course, Jesus in Scholarship and Film.  I've taught this latter course on and off for years now, and it is absolutely one of my favorites. The basic idea behind it is to see how Jesus is portrayed in different ways in different venues: ancient Gospels (the four canonical Gospels and seven from outside the New Testament), modern scholarship on the historical Jesus (i.e., attempts to see what he really said and did), and film, from the earliest silents up to recently. One of the goals is to learn how each book/film portrays Jesus differently.  There is not "one" Jesus out there that everyone agrees on. Teaching remotely is a huge challenge.  But I have a terrific group of students.  It is a First Year Seminar; these [...]

By |2020-08-16T07:40:13-04:00August 16th, 2020|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|53 Comments

Why Would An Atheist Teach the Bible? Readers’ Mailbag

I often get asked why I would be interested in teaching biblical studies if I’m an atheist; sometimes the question is a bit hostile, along the lines of “What would *you* know?  You don’t even believe in it”!  Or “Why should anyone listen to you if you’re just trying to disprove the Bible?”  At other times the questions seem fairly genuine.  Recently, for example, I’ve gotten these two:   QUESTIONS: Why do you bother continuing to teach any aspects of Biblical studies since you have decided that you are an atheist-agnostic? In short, what is the point? Can you explain something to me?  Why should I send my son to study in your department when you don't believe the book which your program is built on?   RESPONSES: At first I thought these were hostile, but I corresponded with both of the people and I don’t think they were.  Let me answer them separately. The first one is easier, though I get it a lot.  It seems a puzzle to so many people that anyone [...]

Take A Final Exam on the New Testament!

The semester is over at my university, but since I'm on leave, it hasn't affected me much.  But I was thinking about it this morning -- final exams, grading, wrapping up the term -- and I remembered that some years ago on the blog I posted the final exam I gave to my Introduction to the New Testament course, to see how you'd do! I thought it would be fun and interesting to repost it.  Check it out.  Can you nail it? So, classes are officially over here at UNC, and we are in the Final Exam period. Today I gave my final for the Introduction to the New Testament class.   As some of you may recall, back in January 2014 I posted on the blog the pop quiz I give the first day of class for this course.  It is here, in case you're interested:  https://ehrmanblog.org/new-testament-pop-quiz/   When I give this quiz on the first day, I tell the students that even if they bomb it (which most of them do), it's nothing [...]

By |2020-05-04T09:09:57-04:00May 4th, 2020|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|38 Comments

How Do I Get To Know What Is In the Bible?

There are a lot of people, billions, actually, who are interested in the Bible -- either because of their personal beliefs or because they they realize its historical and cultural importance -- but don’t actually know what it’s about.  The broader interest makes a good deal of sense, and not just for committed Jews and Christians.   After all, a good deal of the history of the West is tied closely to the Christian tradition rooted in the Bible.  And how can one understand Western culture without it?  Think about the history of art, music, and literature, for example.  Still, most people really don’t know the Bible.  By that I don’t mean they don’t know what scholars have come to learn about the Bible (that virtually goes without saying!); I just mean they don’t know what’s actually in the Bible. One reason, of course, is that most people don’t read the Bible.  But an even more important one is that those who do read the Bible do not do so in order to learn what it’s [...]

By |2020-02-14T10:06:18-05:00February 14th, 2020|Reflections and Ruminations, Teaching Christianity|31 Comments

Other Interesting Features of the Graphic Introduction to the New Testament

Here is the final portion of my proposal for the Graphic Textbook of the New Testament.   The earlier part described the sections on the Gospels.  Here I map out the basic coverage of the historical Jesus.  The book will be extremely brief in comparison with my full-blown NT textbook, which comes in at 572 pages.  This one is projected to be 150 pages, and most of it art work.  Yikes!  The challenge is kinda obvious….   But hey, if you can summarize the NT in one sentence (and you can) (in fact a very very short sentence: It’s about the life and teachings of Jesus and his followers….), you can surely do it in 150 pages! At the end of the prospectus I include a couple of things that always go into this kind of proposal:  marketing ideas; what other books it will be competing with; and when I plan (well, hope) to have it finished. ******************************************************** The Historical Jesus (8 pages) I will shift gears in the final chapter, away from explaining how Jesus is [...]

By |2020-04-02T14:28:38-04:00January 28th, 2020|Book Discussions, Teaching Christianity|29 Comments

How I Will Write My “Graphic Textbook of the New Testament”

Yesterday I began to describe my Graphic Textbook of the New Testament, as I have proposed it to my publisher, Oxford University Press.   In this post I continue, by explaining how I will actually set up the first fascicle (installment), on the Gospels and Jesus. ******************************************** Fascicle One: The Gospels and Jesus The four Gospels are by far the largest section of the New Testament, and any reconstruction of the historical Jesus depends on a critical understanding not only of how each of the Gospels portrays his life, death, and resurrection, but also of how they can be used as sources of historical knowledge.  After providing necessary background about the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, with a special coverage of first-century Judaism, this fascicle will examine the overarching message of each Gospel, and conclude with a consideration of how scholars can utilize such literary and theological writings in order to establish a historical reconstruction of Jesus’ life and death.   Introduction (2 pages) The book will begin by ... If you're a blog [...]

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