“The stories of the ancestors of the Israelites do not come from any one period but developed over time. It is best to see the ancestors as composite characters.” – John McDermott
- Bart Ehrman asks and answers the question “Why does it matter if Mark’s Gospel was written first?” What it boils down to is that once we realize Mark’s Gospel was in all likelihood the first of the Synoptics to have been written we then have a framework with which to interpret Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels. They must have edited Mark’s Gospel for some reason. If we can deduce what those reasons were then we “have some purchase on the question of what [their] ultimate concerns and objectives were.”
- Related to Ehrman’s piece, a post over at Broken Oracles discusses the redaction of Mark 14:47 in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both try to resolve Markan ambiguity about the moral nature of the violent action undertaken by the anonymous disciple with particular additions. It is an interesting example of Markan priority at work.
- Over a decade and a half ago John McDermott’s Reading the Pentateuch was published and its first chapter laid out the case for why it cannot be read as “strict history.” Some of that first chapter is available online. McDermott discusses the historical Abraham, the Exodus, and more.
- Bradley Bowen at Secular Outpost wrote an introduction to a series making the case for atheism. In that post he briefly discusses strong vs. weak theism as well as type 1 atheism vs. type 2. As he defines it, atheism is at its core a rejection of theism and there may be a variety of reasons for which a person rejects theism.
- Scholars have long observed that the Gospel of John appears to have gone through different stages of redaction. Back in 2015, Paul D. on his blog Is That in the Bible? published a post examining the reasons why scholars think this. His discussion centers on two kinds of aporia or contradictory texts: geographical and chronological. This piece provides an excellent summary for the evidence of Johannine redaction.
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“I propose the final edition of Genesis is the result of a similar process by an editor of the Holiness school of pre-exilic Israel, who combined and organized these various materials into a continuous and meaningful whole.” – Bill T. Arnold
- Over on her blog @thclosetatheist has posted her review of Lee Strobel’s book The Case for a Creator. It is a rather scathing indictment of Strobel’s tendency to parade as a skeptic despite going all-in for theism. She refers to Strobel’s creating “the illusion of skepticism” and how often his toughest objections to those he interviews are nothing more than things like “Amazing, tell me more,” etc. She also points out that Strobel doesn’t interview top scholars or scientists in their respective fields but those who have some degree of popularity in the world of evangelicalism. This is Strobel’s habit and one seen clearly even in his latest book The Case for Miracles. (I mean, he interviews J. Warner Wallace, for crying out loud!)
- @StudyofChrist, whose ability to produce excellent content on YouTube sickens me, discusses some more ways in which many have sought to reconcile the Matthean and Lukan genealogies of Jesus, including the notion that Joseph was adopted by Heli, the possibility of Leviarite marriage being a factor, and the problems with Julius Africanus’ take. Finally, @StudyofChrist concludes that the best approach is to “embrace the differences” between the two genealogies and recognize that there are theological motives in play. I second that motion!
- Rachel Martin at NPR recently conducted an interview with Robert Alter on his magnum opus, his translation of the entire Tanakh. I’ve read Alter’s The Five Books of Moses and it was insightful, readable, and beautiful. I’ve also read significant portions of his translation of Job and loved what I read there as well. So as soon as I move I plan on getting his translation of the Hebrew Bible.
- Phil Long, whose work I highlighted last week on Acts, has a short post on “The Times of Refreshing” found in Acts 3:20. He notes that the phrase is a “Second Temple Period way of describing the eschatological kingdom” and brings up a variety of texts – biblical and extrabiblical – that point to the age of the eschatological reign of God in the world.
- Over a decade ago biblical scholar Bill Arnold wrote about his view of the composition of the book of Genesis in his 2009 commentary on it. A shortened summary of his take entitled “Reflections on the Composition of Genesis” demonstrates that Arnold is in general agreement with the findings of the Documentary Hypothesis that the text of Genesis is made up of three sources: J (Yahwist), E (Elohist), and P (Priestly). He compares the creation of Genesis to the creation of the Synoptic Gospels wherein both written and oral sources were brought together to form a coherent whole.
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- Over on his blog Charles Payet has a post entitled “It’s the End of the World as We Knew It.“ Overall, it is a rather pessimistic piece and one with which I cannot help but sympathize. The very real threat of climate change, for example, almost guarantees that the world my children will inherit will be far more difficult than the one I have. Payet notes this and writes, “Now, I have no desire to ever have grandchildren, because humanity is destroying the planet, and Christians and Muslims are leading the way with their denial of science and reality.” He is right because while there are many Christians and Muslims who aren’t science deniers, the overwhelming majority of deniers come from the religious Right. Their views on science are colored by their theological assumptions. This will invariably result in a world that is far more dangerous than the one we see today. (On a side note, if you don’t follow Payet on Twitter you should. He is an accomplished dentist and from what I’ve seen appears to be something of a polymath despite having ADD. Plus, he’s just a really nice guy. There aren’t enough of those around anymore.)
- Chris Hansen continues his series examining pop-apologist J Warner Wallace’s book Cold-Case Christianity. Wallace claims that the Gospel “accounts puzzled together just the way one would expect from independent eyewitnesses” when he first read them “forensically” (343, 344, electronic edition). But as Hansen points out, the Synoptics all show literary dependence and so they cannot be independent eyewitnesses: “So, apparently there was a level of harmonization going on, just what Wallace doesn’t want.” In other words, Wallace’s argument breaks down based upon Wallace’s own criteria. And this guy was a homicide detective?!?!
- Last August astrophysicist Hugh Ross and retired chemist Peter Atkins engaged in a dialogue on the Unbelievable podcast with host Justin Brierly. The topic for discussion was the origin of the laws of nature which Ross attributes to a divine mind. Atkins, an atheist, does not see that as an adequate explanation and considers it to be “intellectual laziness.” Ross tries to make the Bible a prognosticator of future scientific discoveries and Atkins rightly calls him out on it. Atkins makes some appeal to a multiverse and Ross rightly calls him out on that. As a debate it was a wash but I did find some of what was discussed fascinating.
- @ElishaBenAbuya has a new blog where he is moving over posts from his old one. He recently published a post on Zechariah 12:10, a text that apologists think is a prediction of the crucifixion of Jesus. That view is not without precedent as the Johannine author quotes it in John 19:37. A lot could be said about that reference as well as how the translator of Zechariah 12:10 in the Septuagint interpreted the passage. I may write a blog post on it in the future.
- Phil Long, who blogs over at Reading Acts, wrote a series of posts last week on the book of Acts as history, story, and theology. Though Long’s conclusions about Luke’s historical writing are a bit too conservative for my taste, he raises some interesting questions and makes some helpful analogies.
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Today over on the Mira Scriptura podcast is a conversation I had with @MiraScriptura covering a wide range of topics including my journey from Christianity to atheism, views on the Documentary and Supplementary Hypotheses, love for the Gospel of Mark, thoughts on Bernard Lamborelle’s The Covenant, and much more. I also got the chance to play inquisitor to @MiraScriptura’s work with mirror reading. If you don’t follow @MiraScriptura on Twitter or have not subscribed to his podcast, I recommend you do so. His series on the Northern book of Judges was my favorite, particularly the episode on Samson.
“What is at stake in that sad progression from Paul to anti-Paul? Why is it of importance that — at least with regard to slavery — radical Christian liberty is being changed back into normal Roman slavery. It means this: Jewish Christianity is becoming Roman Christianity.”
– John Dominic Crossan
- One of my favorite bloggers, @bibhistctxt, has written another piece in his series on Israelite origins entitled “Israelite Origins: Egyptian Domination of Canaan.” As he shows, Canaan was under Egyptian domination during the periods wherein the Israelites purportedly fled Egypt for the Promised Land. Yet there is no mention of this and related issues in the narratives we find in the book of Joshua. This is problematic for those who believe in an Exodus as described in some narrative texts of the Hebrew Bible.
- Tavis Bohlinger wrote a piece over on the Logos website on why Paul mentions his “large” hand writing in the epistle to the Galatians. Bohlinger interviewed Steve Reece, a professor Classical Languages at Saint Olaf College, on the background of this comment from Paul. Reece’s proposal is that the ending of the epistle is Paul taking over for his secretary, creating a noticeable difference in handwriting, i.e. Paul’s wrote with larger letters than his secretary did. This also may have served to show that Paul really was associated with the letter and his handwriting was proof. Reece also goes over other manuscripts from antiquity where we see this kind of phenomena.
- @StudyofChrist recently uploaded a video comparing the Matthean and Lukan genealogies, stressing that these are theological and not historical in nature and therefore do not need to be harmonized. He even quotes from Richard Dawkins!
- Last week over at The Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta posted a video of exorcist Bob Larson casting out a demon from an atheist. What Larson didn’t know is that the atheist was a plant, someone acting like they were demon-possessed to show just how ridiculous Larson’s work truly is. Larson posted the video to his YouTube channel as proof his ministry works. You can’t make this stuff up!
- Almost a decade ago New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on “The Search for the Historical Paul: Which Letters Did He Really Write?” There are seven letters which are widely regarded as authentic but others which aren’t. But why? Crossan argues that they exhibit “counter-Pauline and anti-Pauline” tendencies. In effect, “Paul is being deradicalized, sanitized, and Romanized” in those letters. Crossan is frequently the center of controversy and this piece was no exception. But it is a very good read on one scholar’s take on the Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral epistles.
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“The death of the messiah [in Mark’s Gospel], at the hour of the cross, is the advent of the υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, who has come with great power and glory (13:26).”
– Danny Yencich
- On 11.25.18 Twitter users @Shann_Q0 and @paulogia0 had a discussion with pop-apologist SJ Thomason covering a wide-range of topics including Gospel authorship, the historicity of the Resurrection, the growth of Christianity, and more. I think both Shannon and Paul did a pretty good job of sticking to the facts and resting their laurels on a lot of New Testament scholarship. Thomason, on the other hand, offers the same pat answers that the pop-apologists she reads give. Also, Thomason seems to be easily distracted and I’ve noticed this in other YouTube conversations, her Twitter posts, and even in her blog posts. In any event, I really appreciate the work that Shannon and Paul put into the conversation with Thomason. They both come across as very genuine, humble, and knowledgeable people. Not bad for a couple of heathens!
- Twitter user and blogger @apetivist wrote a blog post entitled “The Problem of Evil or Suffering by Apetivist.” It isn’t intended to be a thorough discussion of the problem of evil but it does raise some interesting points. For example, often Christians employ a free will defense in a bid to rescue God’s omnibenevolence. But as Apetevist points out, many of those same Christians believe that in the future eschaton all sin and evil will be purged from the world. If that’s the case, why couldn’t God keep and maintain such a world now? Therefore, God’s omnibenevolence is questionable.
- Over on his YouTube channel @StudyofChrist is working through the genealogy of Luke’s Gospel, addressing specific errors within the text. I was able to work through three: “All the alleged Errors in Luke’s Genealogy,” “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 1,” and “Why is there an extra Cainan in Luke’s Genealogy? part 2.“ As he is wont to do, @StudyofChrist goes deep into both biblical texts, ancient manuscripts, and extrabiblical sources. His is fascinating work. Like and subscribe to his work if you haven’t already!
- Self-professed Bible “nerd” Daniel Kirk did an interview with Pete Enns and Jared Byas on their The Bible For Normal People podcast discussing my favorite book of the Bible: the Gospel of Mark. There’s plenty of neat tidbits about the social circumstances in which the Gospel was written and how the narrative structure works within it.
- Danny Yencich, a PhD student in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Denver, wrote a piece last year in the Stone-Cambell Journal entitled “Sowing the Passion at Olivet: Mark 13-15 in a Narrative Frame.” The gist of the piece is that Mark 13, traditionally seen as an entirely apocalyptic passage, may in fact be foreshadowing the events that take place in the Passion narrative. This view isn’t unique to Yencich but he does succinctly put together the evidence for such a view and it is one that I find intriguing. While undoubtedly the Olive Discourse is apocalyptic in nature, a fact that Yencich essentially concedes, there are particular words and phrases that evoke the Passion narrative that follows. These include the use of the verb paradidōmi (13:9), the idea of “eschatological darkness” (13:24), and more.
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“Jesus’ followers are to abandon any and all means of procuring a socio-economic livelihood, or more accurately conceiving of a livelihood in socio-economic terms.”
– Steven DiMattei
- Over at his blog contradictionsinthebible.com, biblical scholar Steven DiMattei has begun a series exploring what he believes Jesus meant when he told his followers to follow him. It is entitled “In Defense of Jesus: A Challenge to Those Claiming to ‘Follow Jesus.‘” He examines some of the more difficult sayings of Jesus found throughout the Gospels and notes that these are indicative of Jesus’ call to abandon everything to pursue him in his role as the messianic king.
- The Atlantic featured a piece by Andrew Henry on the recently discovered Dead Sea Scroll forgeries at the evangelical Museum of the Bible. As you may know, the Museum of the Bible has had its fair share of problems with illegally acquired artifacts, forgeries, and more. Henry’s piece is an excellent overview.
- Ben Watkins of Real Atheology wrote a guest post back in October for the website capturingchristianity.com on why he is an atheist. He covers a wide range of subjects including ethics, the problem of evil, and divine hiddenness. For Christians who want to see how an atheist of Watkins caliber thinks about theism and atheism, this is a great example.
- Hans Moscicke, a PhD candidate at Marquette University, recently wrote an article for Currents in Biblical Research entitled “Jesus as Goat of the Day of Atonement in Synoptic Gospels Research.” Moscicke surveys the various proposals of how Jesus is portrayed in the Passion narrative and how that portrayal relates to other religious literature that may have influenced it. The best part is that his bibliography is about five pages long! I love big bibliographies and I cannot lie!
- Not too long ago Twitter user @AuthorConfusion wrote a blog post entitled “The Gospel of Atheism: The Moment You Realize You Won the Cosmic Lottery.” It is an ode to our insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things as well as a celebration of the great gift existence is for those of us who have “won the cosmic lottery” as it were. @AuthorConfusion is a superb writer (no doubt due to her skills as a literary editor) and this post is one of my favorites.
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