The Invention of Heaven and Hell

QUESTION:

If I were to ask the average mainstream Sunday morning Christian why they are a Christian I would probably get an answer (other than to meet friends in church) such as this, “To be saved and go to heaven when I die.” When I look at the obituaries in the newspaper, I so often see a statement assuring me that “Mable is with Jesus now,” and was advised by a bumper sticker yesterday, “Heaven or Hell: It’s Your ...

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More Responses to My Newsweek Article

When the editor at Newsweek ask me if I would be willing to write an article on the birth of Jesus, I was hesitant and wrote him back asking if he was sure he really wanted me to do it. I told him that I seem to be incapable of writing anything that doesn’t stir up controversy. It must be in my blood. Still, he said that they knew about my work and were not afraid of controversy, ...

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The Christmas Story: Some Basic Background

Now that I have posted a couple of my earlier published reflections on Christmas, I can make some comments in a series of posts, going into a bit more detail. This first post more or less states some of the basic information that most readers know, but that it’s worth while stressing as a kind of ground clearing exercise.

To begin with, we are extremely limited in our sources when it comes to knowing anything at all about the ...

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The Myth of the First Christmas

Yesterday I started a little series of posts on the Christmas story, both in the NT and in later Gospels, by reproducing a little meditation from seven years ago. Here’s one that I wrote last year. Again, it was for some national media (a magazine, I think), but I don’t remember and I didn’t write it down. It deals with some of the things that I’ll be talking about at greater length in some of my forthcoming posts, but in ...

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Rene Salm at the SBL (2)

In my post yesterday I began to explain why René Salm’s claim that Nazareth did not exist in the days of Jesus is dead wrong and is rejected by every recognized authority – whether archaeologist, textual scholar, or historian; whether Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other . Here is my second and final post on the subject, again, with apologies to those who have read it already, lifted from my treatment in Did Jesus Exist?

 

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Salm also claims that the pottery found ...

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Rene Salm at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting

Several people have sent me private emails asking why René Salm was put on the program at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting, given the fact that he is not a scholar and has no credentials in the field. For those of you who don’t know, Salm has written a book claiming that Nazareth did not exist in the first century, so that Jesus couldn’t be there. He argues this in part because he doesn’t think Jesus existed and so ...

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The Pope’s New Book

So, I read the Pope’s new book last night, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives.  It wasn’t what I expected.  I don’t know why it wasn’t what I expected:  about thirty seconds solemn reflection should have told me what it would be.  But I believed the media reports and was led astray.  The press coverage stressed the things I pointed out in my post yesterday:  we don’t know what year exactly Jesus was born, since the ...

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The Other Gospels and the Birth of Jesus

Right now I have the “other” Gospels on my mind.   It’s true, I often have them on my mind, since they have been a focus for a good deal of my research over the past few years, and will continue to be for some years to come.  But just now, they are particularly on my mind even though the book I’m currently writing (How Jesus Became God) is about something else.

They’re on my mind for three ...

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Secret Followers of Jesus?

QUESTION:

Tangential to the discussion here but what do you think of the idea symbolized by the Joseph of Arimathea character that there may have been closeted sympathizers or even fellow travelers of the Jesus movement among members of the Sanhedrin?

RESPONSE:

It’s a good question.  My sense is that it is virtually inconceivable that there were followers of Jesus, closeted or otherwise, in the Sanhedrin.  For a lot of reasons.  The main one is that according to our earliest accounts, Jesus’ ...

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Pilate and Barabbas

I have received a number of interesting responses to my comments about Pontius Pilate, the Romans’ use of crucifixion, and the likelihood that, as a rule, Romans did not allow decent burials for the victims but left them to scavenging birds and animals — helpless, defenseless, and in agony. A couple of people have suggested that since Pilate had the custom of releasing a prisoner to the crowds during the Passover, this would show a basic interest in placating the ...

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