Did Jesus Mean that Literally? Rewards and Punishments in the Afterlife

I return now to my thread dealing with the teachings about the afterlife in the New Testament.  One question that can naturally be asked is whether what is said about the afterlife in this, that, or the other passage is meant to be taken literally.    For example, I have discussed the famous passage of the “Sheep and the Goats” in Matthew 25, where the Son of Man at the end of history sits on his throne and divides the nations ...

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The Sheep and the Goats

Jesus’ teaching about the “separation of the sheep and the goats” is found in only one place in the New Testament, Matthew 25:31-46.  It is easily one of my favorite passages of the entire Bible, and as I have pointed out, in my view, it is a teaching of Jesus himself (not something put on his lips by Matthew or by Matthew’s source, M, or by an early Christian story-teller).  I think in fact, it well encapsulates Jesus’ entire proclamation.  ...

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The Son of Man, Pericopes, and the Complexities of Biblical Scholarship

I realized anew this morning why it is so difficult for scholars of the NT (or the Hebrew Bible) to explain the results of their results of their research to non-scholars.  Well, one of the reasons.  As is true, I suppose, for most fields of serious intellectual inquiry, the *results* of scholarship are built on other results that are built on other results that are built on… and so it goes.   If the scholar explains his findings without explaining the ...

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Decent Burials for Crucified Victims: A Blast From the Past

My post a couple of weeks ago about the burial of Jesus (understandably) struck a nerve for some readers; I was just now digging around in the archives, and see that I addressed most of the important issues, head on, in this rather controversial post I made back in 2012.  All these years later, I’m still open to being convinced otherwise!!!

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In my previous post I quoted a number of ancient sources that indicated that part of the torture ...

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Jesus, the Sheep, and the Goats

I have been talking about the criterion of dissimilarity for one ultimate reason: wanted to show why, in my opinion, a particular passage in Matthew’s Gospel goes back to the historical Jesus, the man himself.  I.e., it does not involve words put on his lips by later followers, but is something he himself actually said.  If you’re a little fuzzy on how the criterion of dissimilarity works, please read the preceding two posts.

The following has been taken from my undergraduate ...

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How Do We Know What Jesus Said or Did? The Criterion of Dissimilarity in Practice

The reason I’m explaining the criterion of dissimilarity is because I want to *use* it to talk about a passage in Matthew of relevance to the broader themes of this thread.  But before I use it I need to make sure everyone understands it.  In this post I show how it can be applied usefully; I being by restating the caveat about the criterion that I ended with yesterday (if you haven’t read that post, I’d suggest doing so before ...

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The Criterion of Dissimilarity

Over the past couple of class periods I have been introducing my undergraduate students to the problems that confront critical scholars who try to reconstruct what Jesus really said and did.  These problems are created by the nature of our materials – especially the New Testament Gospels – which is why I begin my course — which focuses on the historical approach to the New Testament — in something other than the chronological order of events or writings.  Irony!

But an ...

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Were the Disciples Martyred for Believing the Resurrection? A Blast From the Past

Here is an interesting question that I addressed on the blog exactly five years ago today, one that continues to be relevant and significant;

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QUESTION:

Another very very popular evidence put forward for the resurrection is “the disciples would not have died for what they knew was a lie, therefore it must have happened.” I hear this all the time. You note that they really believed they saw Jesus after he died so they were not lying. However, is there ...

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How Old Was Jesus at His Baptism, Start of His Ministry & Death?

You’ve probably seen the popular inspirational quote that goes something like this, “Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was 30 years old, and yet he changed the world.”

I guess this is supposed to encourage people in their teens and twenties that haven’t accomplished much in their life.  (As if comparing their potential future to the accomplishments of the supposed “son of God” is supposed to make them feel better!  Ha!)

It also illustrates a common assumption (or perhaps misconception), that ...

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Explaining Jesus’ Apocalyptic Assumptions

One other aspect of Jesus’ teaching is important to emphasize before continuing on to consider his understanding of the afterlife.  That is the thoroughly apocalyptic character of his views.

I have discussed Jewish apocalypticism a number of times on the blog—including some months ago on the current thread.  I don’t want to repeat all that here in the same form, but I do want to summarize what the view is and discuss its underlying assumptions.

In a small nutshell, apocalypticists believed that ...

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