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The New Edition of My New Testament Textbook

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have finished editing my textbook on the New Testament for its seventh edition (title still:  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings).   The book was first published in 1997 and has always been designed for college/university students taking a one-semester course on the New Testament.  In it I do not presuppose any knowledge of the topic, but begin at ground zero.

When I started doing research on the first edition of this textbook back in the mid-90s, I had very clear ideas about what I wanted it to be.   First and foremost, I wanted to approach the New Testament from a rigorously historical perspective.   It is not that I had any difficulties at the time, either professionally or personally, with introductions that were more geared toward theology, or exegesis, or literary criticism.   But I wanted my book to be different.   I wanted to situate the writings of the New Testament more thoroughly than was typically done in the historical, cultural, social, political, literary, and ideological worlds from which it emerged; I wanted it to plow beneath the surface to find clues not only about such traditional issues as authorship, sources, and dates, but also about what was then still a vibrant field of study, social history; I wanted it to ask historical questions of the texts and of the events that they either narrated or presupposed.   I was interested in the history of the text and the formation of the canon of the New Testament.  In the historical Jesus.  In the historical Paul.  In the history of the Johannine community.  In the historical realities lying behind Matthew, and 2 Corinthians, and Revelation.

Relatedly,  I wanted the book to be highly comparative:  how does John compare with the Synoptics?  How do they compare with each other?  How does the preaching of Jesus compare with the accounts of the Gospels?  Or the theology of Paul?  How does Paul’s theology stack up against the letter of James?  Or the book of Hebrews?  How does the book of Revelation compare with everything else?   And on and on.  In my view these questions are central to the historical study of the New Testament, and are inherently interesting.

I also wanted the book to be critical, engaged in rigorous scholarship so that students reading it could see what the critical questions were and what evidence was typically adduced in order to answer them.   I absolutely did not want to emulate some of my predecessors in trying to introduce students to the prominent scholars of the past who took one position or another, and pretend that this is the same thing as introducing them to actual evidence.   In my experience, 19-20 year olds are simply not all that interested, and do not need to be, in the different positions taken on the nature of Justification in Paul by Bultmann, Käsemann, J. Louis Martyn, E. P. Sanders, N. T. wright, and Douglass Campbell.   They’ve never heard the names of these scholars (fine ones, all of them), and, so far as I’m concerned, in an introductory class, they have no need to hear of them.   Far more interesting than a list of names of modern scholars is a grappling with the texts themselves, to try to make sense of Romans or Galatians.

Finally, I thought this kind of approach could be achieved at a level that a 19-or 20-year old might appreciate.  The really difficult task was satisfying that audience and the other audience of a textbook: the university professors who decide whether to use it.  My goal was to make the book interesting, even intriguing, for beginners and yet fully competent in its scholarship.   As far as making it interesting, I realized that the choice of content was fundamental:  the study of the New Testament is absolutely fascinating if you know where to look, but dreadfully dull if you look elsewhere.  At least as important was the style of writing and the layout of the page.

So now it’s in the seventh edition.  I have made a number of changes here and there, including adding a number of “boxes” throughout.   The boxes in the book are like inserted discussions (such as you might find in a news magazine like Time or Newsweek) on a related topic that is particularly interesting but not *directly* germane to the narrative of the chapter itself.  The two most common boxes that I have are titled “Another Glimpse Into the Past,” where I give some additional factual information about the topic and “Something to Think About,” where I discuss a controversial topic that can generate different opinions.

For this new edition there are a dozen new boxes scattered throughout (I’ve eliminated others – especially the ones I thought were the … least interesting!).   I’ve thought it might be a useful exercise to post these new ones on the blog.  They are like short snippets on interesting topics, each of which could be discussed in 30 pages or more, but which I devote usually 300-400 words on only.

Since these are shorter than my normal 1000-word blog posts, my idea is to have *two* postings a day (so you can get your money’s worth on the blog!).  (I had thought about combining them to give two in each post, but since they are all on topics vastly different from each other, I decided that might be confusing).  And so these will be my upcoming mini-posts, two a day for a week or so, starting tomorrow, unless something more pressing comes up that I need to post about instead!

 

 

 


My Pod Cast Interview with Sam Harris
The Digital Bible (by Jeff Siker)

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    rich-ilm  November 9, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman – I posted something along these lines awhile back but forgot which post I put it under, so couldn’t find if there was a response. I just ordered New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. If I were choosing another between A Brief Introduction to the New Testament or The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, which would you recommend? (to minimize overlap…I’m sure choosing a book you wrote is like choosing which kid is your favorite!)

    • Bart
      Bart  November 11, 2018

      It depends on whether you want something on the entire Bible (Genesis to Revelation) or simply the New Testament.

  2. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 18, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I understand, you agree with conservatives that Paul believes in a real, physical, tomb-emptying kind of resurrection. Are all of these verses which are from the undisputed letters good evidence for this?
    1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians 15:53, Romans 8:11, Romans 8:23, and Philippians 3:21

    Thank you

    • Bart
      Bart  December 19, 2018

      I don’t think so. Unless it mentions and “empty tomb” then the verse doesn’t necessarily state there was an empty tomb.

  3. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 23, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    There seems to be a group in Corinth that followed Peter. In Paul’s 1 Cor. 15:11 statement, does Paul give a guarantee that when it comes to the key message of Jesus’ death on the cross, bodily resurrection, and resurrection appearances to witnesses, they (Paul and Peter) are on the same page?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 24, 2018

      No, there’s not a “guarantee.” There’s a sense that this is what Paul himself believed (that he and the apostles were on the same page) — or at least what he *said* he believed.

  4. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 25, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you think it is a mistake given comments like “some doubted” to write the disciples off as merely credulous, since it does seem that they themselves wanted evidence before they believed in Jesus’ resurrection?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 27, 2018

      I’m not sure what “merely credulous” means. They certainly didn’t have a 21st century understanding of miracle and proof.

  5. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 25, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Do you agree with this quote?:

    “Paul never says from where he got the information referred to in 1 Cor. 15.3-7, but he clearly regarded it as the authoritative list of fundamental beliefs passed on to him by prime witnesses, and we have no reason to believe that Paul was deliberately deceptive.”

    • Bart
      Bart  December 27, 2018

      Yes. But the options are still quite numerous. (And it’s not clear what “prime witnesses” means)

  6. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 27, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you think it is likely that Paul got 1 Cor. 15:3-5 from Peter and James, or do you think the origin of that part like the rest of 1 Cor. 15:3-7 is very much a mystery?

  7. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 27, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you think that “some doubted” Matt. 28:17 indicates the historical truth that not all of the apostles readily believed in Jesus’ resurrection?

  8. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 28, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Is this correct?

    “Apocalypticists such as Jesus, his disciples, and Paul have at the heart of their view of resurrection God re-doing creation. i.e. Ezekiel, 2 Maccabees 7”

    • Bart
      Bart  December 30, 2018

      I’m not quite sure what it means. Ezekiel doesn’t have this view, e.g.

  9. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 29, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman:

    The core of Jesus’ message, succinctly: The Kingdom of God has come near. Is this right? Anything you would adjunct?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 30, 2018

      Yes, but it completely depends on what you mean (or he meant) by “Kingdom of God” and “has come near” (which I would instead translate: “is near”)

  10. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 29, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you agree?

    “No one today doubts that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians; with the exception of a couple verses about women in the church in 1 Corinthians Chapter 14. The copy of 1 Corinthians in our New Testament is virtually identical to the original Paul sent to the church at Corinth.”

    • Bart
      Bart  December 30, 2018

      No. Saying that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians is not at all the same as saying we know his precise words in every place in the letter.

  11. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 6, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Do you agree?

    “The chain of witnesses leads to the conclusion in 1 Cor. 15:11: “Whether it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” In other words, Peter, the Twelve, James, Paul, and the other apostles are unified on the basic doctrine of Christ’s death and resurrection and that it is substantial for atonement. There are not several conflicting versions. Had there been, the movement would’ve collapsed in on itself.”

    • Bart
      Bart  January 7, 2019

      No, I heartily disagree. But I do think Paul is *claiming* something like this. There were lots of views early in in Christianity though, about most topics, as Paul himself shows (by the fact that he has “enemies” in all his own churches — let alone in the ones he didn’t found)

  12. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 7, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you agree:

    “The verb “ōphthē” refers more naturally to an objective reality that the disciples saw. It suggests that Jesus himself took the initiative to appear. A subjective vision would have been more conducive to “horama.”

    • Bart
      Bart  January 8, 2019

      No, it has nothing to do with teh distinction between “objective” and “subjective” (which are modern categories, not ancient ones)

  13. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 7, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    What do you think the chances are that the Clement from 1 Clem. is who Paul mentions in Phil.? 1 Clem. seemed to be a popular document in the church, why was it ultimately rejected from the New Testament? Would you say it is just as legitament from the historian’s point of view as say John, which was written about the same year?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 8, 2019

      I don’t think the dates work. 1 Clement would be 40 years after Phil, and in Phil. Clement was already a mature man.

  14. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 10, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Is this a good summary of the convictions of the earliest Christians post-Resurrection? I tried to adapt them from “The Triumph of Christianity”

    1) Although it was unexpected, Jesus was the messiah.

    2) Via his resurrection, God showed that Jesus came to save people for eternal life, which was actually greater than the expected messiah who would be a powerful political figure.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 11, 2019

      Yes, I think almost all of the early Christians would say something like this (although there wasn’t just *one*, political, understanding of what the expected messiah would be)

  15. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 12, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Some take a broad view of what those in the 1st century were expecting as far as the messiah, so would it be accurate to say that the biggest disappointment with Jesus’s situation was not his death on a cross, but that after it took place the Kingdom did not arrive?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 13, 2019

      I’d say those are two huge disappointments, that came at different times to different people.

  16. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 17, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Why do you think 1 Clem. was excluded from the New Testament?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2019

      I suppose it was because it was not said to be written by an apostle or at the time the apostles were still living.

  17. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 20, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    There is a scholar who says that in vv.3-7 of 1 Cor. 15, all we have are 2 group appearances that comprise the following: 1 that was to Peter, James, the 12, and some others at once, and the other to the large group of ‘brothers’ However, I simply don’t know how one comes up with this theory because the text seems very straightfoward about the people, the groups, and the order of the appearances. Did you ever hear of such an alternative view?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 21, 2019

      No, I don’t recall hearing that one. Then again, it’s amazing how many things I don’t recall hearing….

  18. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 22, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    I heard an interview with you where you told of how a student refused to do an assignment where you had them argue for the other side of the debate. I actually think those exercises are very helpful, so I’d like to know in all good faith and honesty, what do you think the best argument(s) is/are that Christian scholars have offered that the resurrection actually did happen? I am NOT saying that you were convinced (obviously not) but what do you think is the best they have? Also, I’m NOT asking about a philosophy that says there’s really no arguments because prima facie it 100% just can’t happen. Thanks, and I look foward to your constructive reply

    • Bart
      Bart  January 23, 2019

      When I did believe in it, I thought the strongest arguments were eyewitness testimony and multiple atttestation.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  January 23, 2019

        Dr. Ehrman,

        Did you ever consider the group appearances, or did you always regaurd them i.e. as no better than apparitions of Mary? Do you think the group appearance argument is the best one against hallucination theory?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 25, 2019

          Yes, that’s what I used to argue, until I realized we have similar phenomena elsewhere (Mary).

          • Avatar
            Brand3000  January 25, 2019

            Dr. Ehrman:

            Up until what point did you think the group appearances was a good argument? Were you already well into your career as a professor/scholar when you rejected it?

          • Bart
            Bart  January 27, 2019

            Yup. Only when I started looking seriously into it did I realize it was a problem.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  January 23, 2019

        Dr. Ehrman:

        When you say eyewitness testimony do you mean primarily Paul and his list in 1 Cor. 15? and multiple atttestation, meaning the resurrection appearances in 2 of the synoptics + John?

        Thanks.

        • Bart
          Bart  January 25, 2019

          And the sources of the Gospel narratives. Multiple attestation: independent traditions in each of the Gospels and in Paul, and apparently James (the person, not the book)

  19. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 27, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    “…[they believed] he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.”
    – “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium” p. 231

    From what I understand it may not have been the literal 3rd day, but it couldn’t have been several years either because then Paul’s experience would factor in the timeline…do you have any estimation of how long after it probably was?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2019

      No, I don’t know. I assume it wasn’t right away, but also wasn’t many months.

  20. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 27, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Does the original Greek indicate in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 that Jesus appeared visibly to the eye and that Jesus took the initiative to appear? Because there are some on the very far left who try to say that they merely just felt a presence.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2019

      It suggests it was visible but it gives no hint about Jesus taking initiative.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  January 28, 2019

        Dr. Ehrman:

        Is this correct?

        “[The N.T.] speaks of Jesus appearing to his disciples, the text also uses the passive voice: Jesus WAS SEEN by the disciples, and not that the disciples SAW Jesus. In other words, the one doing the action is JESUS and the disciples are just passive recipients of the act. That means the disciples DID NOT DO anything to see Jesus (a dream, a collective hallucination or subjective visions of Jesus). The disciples were not the ones MAKING it happen.”

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