I was browsing through some old posts from years ago and came across this one, a copy of my final exam for my undergraduate course, Introduction to the New Testament.   Check it out.  How would you do?

The students have some idea of what the exam will entail in advance.  For the identifications, anything they’ve read or heard during the semester is fair game.  I don’t give them a list of terms ahead of time to study.  They have to know every term covered in the reading and that I’ve given in class.  For the essays:  two weeks ahead of time I gave them fourteen possible essay questions for the exam, and told them I would choose two of the fourteen for the final.  I decided to give them some choice, as you’ll see, so they could have some leeway about which essay to write.

I won’t be able to correct your wrong answers or even to tell you the right ones, since each identification could take up to 50 words, and the essays took most students about an hour to write.   But I thought you might like to look it over and test your NT knowledge against… some 19 year olds.  🙂

Here’s the exam:



Reli 104 New Testament

Bart D. Ehrman

                                                                                Final Exam



Define ten of the following terms in fifty words or less (NOT on this sheet, but state each term and define it in your bluebook).   Be concise, but provide as much information in the space allotted as possible.


  1. Alexander the Great


  1. Beatitudes


  1. Canon


  1. Criterion of Dissimilarity


  1. Docetism


  1. Extispicy


  1. Hellenization


  1. Infancy Gospel of Thomas


  1. Literary-Historical Method


  1. Markan Priority


  1. Nag Hammadi Library


  1. Theophilus



Extra Credit I.D.’s


  1. Barnasha


  1. Demiurge


  1. Homoeoteleuton




Write an essay on two of the following questions, one from Section A and one from Section B (you may not write an essay on two from the same section).  Provide as much information as you can in your answer, giving as many details as possible.  Work to make your essays well-conceived and well written.


Section A

  1. Choose one of the Gospels and discuss in detail the evidence that has led scholars to doubt the historical accuracy of some of its traditions.
  1. Resolved: The Historical Jesus was an Apocalyptic Prophet. Take either side of this resolution and argue your case, appealing to the evidence preserved among our early Gospels.


Section B

  1. Compare and contrast the views of Judaism that are presented in any two of the following early Christian writings: the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Luke, the letter to the Galatians, the book of Hebrews, the letter of Barnabas.
  1. Choose one of Paul’s undisputed letters (with the exception of Romans) and discuss the following issues: how was the church to which the letter is addressed founded, what problems have emerged since Paul left the community, and how does Paul deal with the problems? Brownie points for specific details.

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2023-04-24T12:51:47-04:00April 30th, 2023|Public Forum|

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  1. Judith April 24, 2023 at 11:49 am


  2. NachoGoro April 24, 2023 at 11:56 am

    I’m glad to see that I could probably get a decent grade by mostly having followed your lectures and speeches online! (Or so I want to believe).

    I found it particularly funny I saw homoeoteleuton and immediately thought “parablepsis caused by homoeoteleuton”.

  3. NomadDee April 24, 2023 at 12:17 pm

    What text books do you use in your class?

    • BDEhrman April 25, 2023 at 8:04 pm

      Mine. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.

  4. giselebendor April 30, 2023 at 6:06 am

    So they need to write the entire exam in class?

  5. Spartos April 30, 2023 at 9:04 am

    Nice exam! Trying to think how my students in Intro to the Bible, Historical Jesus or Paul and the Founding of Christianity would do. For some it would go quite well. For others it would be absolutely disastrous! Imagine! Having to think during a test! 🙂 Is there a difference between extispicy and haruspicy? The latter is the term I use in my Magic course.

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2023 at 1:05 pm

      I believe that extispicy is a specific form of haruscpicy, applying specifically to divination via the examination of entrails (exta); haurspicy was largely that but also involved the interpretatoin of thunder and portents.

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2023 at 1:05 pm

      I believe that extispicy is a specific form of haruscpicy, applying specifically to divination via the examination of entrails (exta); haurspicy was largely that but also involved the interpretatoin of thunder and portents.

  6. Brien April 30, 2023 at 9:17 am

    Creating an online quiz – multiple choice- would be interesting, and then you could see how participants do. Of course, it is not the same as what you have presented for us here, nor is it asking for the depth you require, but still, it could be interesting to see how people do.

  7. Martin Brody April 30, 2023 at 9:25 am

    Because I am using your textbook as a reference source for an article I’m writing, which essentially is the theme of the Section A.2. essay, I think that I would fare rather well.

    Also, I think that Hellenization would be a great essay topic, but I must give credit to my source for this perspective.


    As a teaser to the article I’m writing, please consider the following:

    How would the story of Odysseus killing the suitors in the Odyssey have influenced the popular belief about Jesus as the Jewish Messiah?

  8. fishician April 30, 2023 at 10:49 am

    I think I would do OK on this test, but better if I had just taken your course. My question is, how many smart-aleck responses did you get for the term “extispicy” with references to Taco Bell?

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2023 at 1:09 pm

      Ha! the best students often come up with *something* witty when they’re stumped….

  9. jdub3125 April 30, 2023 at 2:05 pm

    Generally what proportion of the students are or will be Religious Studies majors, whereas others are taking the course as an elective? And do most of the latter group take the course figuring they have a head start since they have had a church upbringing? Obviously at a large university there are numerous other elective opportunities.

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2023 at 1:16 pm

      Almost all of them take it as an elective. Most are interested becuase they want to hear an alternative view from what they were raised on, or just find it interesting or want to know more about their faith. But the class fulfill certain requirements in the general educatoin curriculum (Philosophy and Moral Reasoning and Beyond the North Atlantic)

  10. RD April 30, 2023 at 2:09 pm

    Tough exam. I’m afraid I would have gotten an F.

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2023 at 1:16 pm

      Well, you’d be in good company.

      • jhague May 1, 2023 at 3:07 pm

        How do the grades generally go? The normal bell curve?

        • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:43 am

          The average grade is normally a low or middle B. Some do much better, others worse — but I don’t impose a curve. It more or less does so on its own.

    • R_Gerl May 1, 2023 at 3:49 pm

      You get an F even if you were taking the class? Instead of just being a hobbyist? I’m not so sure. If you love the subject matter, then you will always do okay. As a math major, I remember how hard those tests and exams were in tensor calculus, modern physics, etc. and my finals grades were A in those classes just because I loved the subject so much. I suspect that if you were in Dr. Ehrman’s class you’d do okay.

      • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:44 am

        Well, if you don’t learn anything or much of anything in the class, yes indeed, you’ll almost certainly get an F. The point isn’t to enroll and sit at a desk but to learn!

        • R_Gerl May 6, 2023 at 5:59 pm

          Yes, of course. But people on this forum, I am assuming, are interested enough that if they were taking classes on this subject, they would learn the subject well because they are interested in it.

          • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 11:26 am

            I think that’s safe to say! Of course I do cover most of this in my online courses wiht Wondrium, The New Testament. And I’m covering it all in my online courses that are coming out from my website, http://www.bartehrman.com/courses.

  11. srrezendes April 30, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    I would’ve done pretty well (though I did have to look up extispicy).

  12. MichaelBurke April 30, 2023 at 8:59 pm

    It would be interesting to see how some of your debaters would answer these questions — not to see if they knew the terms or references but what their observations would be.

    ChatGPT responds:

    Alexander the Great: A Macedonian king who conquered most of the known world in the 4th century BCE, including Persia and Egypt, and spread Greek culture and ideas throughout his empire.

    Beatitudes: The blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Canon: The collection of authoritative writings accepted by a religious community, such as the Bible for Christians or the Quran for Muslims.

    Criterion of Dissimilarity: A method used in historical Jesus research to determine whether a saying or action attributed to Jesus is authentic, by examining whether it is dissimilar to Jewish or early Christian beliefs.

    Docetism: A heretical belief in early Christianity that Jesus only appeared to be human, but was actually divine and had no physical body.

    Extispicy: A form of divination in which the entrails of sacrificed animals are examined to predict future events.

    • BDEhrman May 1, 2023 at 1:21 pm

      Yup, it’s damn good. But it’s also easy in some cases for me to see that it is not written by a student who got information from the lectures and reading of this particular class. (I don’t talk about alexandrer as a Macedonian or stress his connection with Egypt; I don’t speak of the canon in relation to Islam; I don’t apply Dissimiarilty to Jewish beliefs; etc.)

      • MichaelBurke May 1, 2023 at 9:36 pm

        I couldn’t include the essay answers because of the word count limits but they were complete as well. The entire exam took about 15 seconds from “enter” to the last words of the reply printing on my screen. Pretty damned quick. I suspect some cheating😂!

  13. MichaelBurke April 30, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    Literary-Historical Method: A method used in biblical studies to analyze the historical and literary context of a text, and to determine its authorship, audience, and genre.

    Markan Priority: The theory that the Gospel of Mark was the first of the canonical Gospels to be written, and that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source when composing their own Gospels.

    Nag Hammadi Library: A collection of Gnostic texts discovered in Egypt in 1945, including the Gospel of Thomas, that provide insight into the beliefs and practices of early Christian communities.

    Theophilus: The recipient of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, whose identity is uncertain but is thought to have been a high-ranking Roman official or patron of the early Christian community.

    Barnabas: A companion of the apostle Paul who played an important role in the early Christian community; is traditionally credited with writing the Epistle of Barnabas.

    Demiurge: A concept in Gnosticism and Platonism that refers to a lesser divine being who created the material world, but separate from supreme God.

    Homoeoteleuton: A type of scribal error in which two or more lines of text end with similar or identical words, causing the scribe to skip or repeat a section of text.

  14. Fredrick Ackun May 1, 2023 at 10:02 am

    Thanks to you, I could almost attempt all the questions but ‘Extispicy.’ I did look it up on google so I now know what it means. Could you briefly comment on how it relates to either Judaism or Christianity?

    Thank you.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:37 am

      Extispicy was a means of divination, a way to discern the will of God throught examining entrails of a sacrificed animal. Christianity did not believe in sacrifice and believed God communicated to people directly either through prophets or as answers to prayer, etc., so this is a key point of contrast with pagan practices.

  15. Serene May 1, 2023 at 1:29 pm

    I…I think I did good on this! I really just started learning with this blog. Am glad to see Barnabas in there, I love Barnabas so much.

    Today’s research:
    You know how the Gospels and OT are obsessed with lineage?

    TIL that the lineage-Aaron kohanem fled to Egypt and had a Temple built, it lasted ~243 years and it existed during Jesus’ lifetime!! Why don’t scholars talk about Jesus’ -family potentially fleeing to it?

    The Second Temple High Priest position starts to be an office for purchase with Benjamite Menalaus. And Josephus writes that Antipater purchased the kingdom for lineage Edomite Herod The Great.

    Lineage > geography

    “The reputation which the temple of Onias enjoyed is indicated by the fact that the Septuagint, written in the Jewish community of Alexandria, changes the phrase “city of destruction”[20] to “city of righteousness” (πόλις ἀσεδέκ).”


    I’m wondering if the DSS Teacher of Righteousness starts out as Onias first. So, Aretas III “United the Jews and Arabs”, as Josephus writes it, in besieging the Second Temple in attempting to remove Aristobulus’ non-lineage priests. Josephus also writes about the Onias prophet stoning from the Aristobulus camp fleeing there. I think that’s what Jesus references.

  16. wrossi81 May 1, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    This is fascinating; I could definitely define ten of those terms.

    In the essay portion, I would be tempted to push back against the idea that Jesus is primarily an apocalyptic prophet. I think that the synoptic Gospels put significant emphasis on Jesus’s role as a healer and an exorcist, to the point where Matthew could be read as an instruction book on how to be an itinerant healer in the same profession. His work as a healer fills many of the stories, while outside a few passages such as the Olivet discourse his preaching is often cryptic or (as in the Q material) more concerned with ethical teachings than apocalyptic visions. I wouldn’t do this to try and say that there is no apocalypticism in the historical Jesus but that it seems likely to me that his ministry focused on his actions at least as much as on his words. One could argue this is a difference of emphasis rather than fundamentals. I’m also influenced here by Ramsay MacMullen’s work which emphasized the role of itinerant healers in the growth of early Christianity; I know your analysis takes a different approach.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 10:46 am

      The question is whether someone with the reputatoin of being an itinerant healer could be an apocalyptic prophet. Is a healer proclaiming healing, or is the healing proclaiming a message? If so, what is it and how would you know?

  17. Barfo May 1, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    I would find the test fun as long as I had the textbook and a Bible with me.

  18. mannix May 2, 2023 at 8:49 am

    Definitely a course I would AUDIT!

  19. rivercrowman May 2, 2023 at 10:08 am

    Bart, looking back to your answer key to this final exam, what was the correct answer for full credit for students defining Literary-Historical Method? Thank you much! I have many of your books.

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 11:02 am

      Actually, I don’t need to use the answer key. 🙂 In this class, the literary-historical method involves determining the genre of a writing (it’s literary character) and seeing how the genre “works” in its particular historical context (historical). Gospels, e.g., are most like Greco-Roman biographies, so to understand ancient Gospels, you have to understand how anicent biographies “worked”

  20. Erland May 2, 2023 at 2:11 pm

    Very nice. But Bart, will you mark the exams for us who do them? 🙂

  21. Brand3000 May 4, 2023 at 9:21 am

    Dr. Ehrman,

    The terms can become quite sophisticated; I’m glad many of your books are for popular audiences. A while ago (you said you would think about it) I gave as one indication that Paul believed in a future transformed Earth complete with bona fide bodily resurrections would be the fact that it wouldn’t make any sense to have human bones laying around in a restored world. Do you think that is a practical argument?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 2:07 pm

      I guess they’d call them dinosaur bones. 🙂 (Just as discoveries of large mammal bones were once taken to show that there had been giants on the earth…) But it’s an interesgting thought. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing an ancient apocalypticist would have come up with. (Their reasons for believing in resurrected bodies were religiously grounded…)

  22. Pcrtje May 4, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    On avarage, how many of your students get awarded maximum points?

    • BDEhrman May 5, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      Maximum? Like, 100? Maybe one in 500? Perfection is oh so difficult…

  23. Brand3000 May 5, 2023 at 6:25 pm

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Grading all of our papers (as someone suggested) would be a tall order, but is there any chance at the end of the semester you can post an answer key or an “A” exam?

    • BDEhrman May 8, 2023 at 11:22 am

      Only if I write it, and that ain’t gonna happen!

  24. Duke12 May 11, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    I’m with Mannix: definitely auditing! Just seeing the phrase “Blue book” is giving me the shakes! (and it’s been over 35 years since I last had to fill one out!)

    • BDEhrman May 11, 2023 at 9:02 pm

      Gives me the shakes for a very different reason….

  25. Annifirst July 2, 2023 at 5:24 pm

    More than 60 years ago I took a required NT course at Birmingham-Southern College and probably could have passed your exam with a middling grade at that time. The course certainly had a major influence on my adult religious thinking.

    • BDEhrman July 4, 2023 at 12:50 pm

      Ah, but would you have passed the *final*? 🙂

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