Here’s what Easter may look like for many dedicated Christian families. Spring is always a very busy time of year, with spring cleaning, tax returns, school, and a million other things. You’d go to church and serve there in a variety of ways. But more often than not, Easter sneaks up on you. Palm Sunday? Oh, yes, it’s Palm Sunday! Perhaps the pastor preaches a sermon on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where an excited crowd waves palm branches, and everyone in the congregation is upbeat. Problem is, the excitement soon wanes, and Jesus ends up crucified. Good Friday... Read More
With the forthcoming publication of Bart Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God and the response How God Became Jesus by a team of scholars, Jesus will be in the news again. That’s a very good thing. It’s also terrific that scholars are rising to the challenge of responding to the skeptical questions raised by the likes of Ehrman.
But at a deeper level, what is needed is to equip high school students and young college students, as well as their parents and youth leaders, to know what the issues are and to respond intelligently and biblically to questions such as, Why does God allow human... Read More
Today’s New York Times includes an article by Laurie Goodstein, “A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife.” According to the article, Karen L. King of Harvard Divinity School announced at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome yesterday that a 4th-century Coptic papyrus fragment includes the line, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife,’” at which the manuscript tantalizingly breaks off.
The manuscript came into Dr. King’s possession through an anonymous collector who in turn in 1997 bought it from a German collector.... Read More
Engaging and accessible, The Lion and the Lamb is an ideal resource for college students and others interested in knowing the essentials of each New Testament book. A concise summary of The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown – the acclaimed New Testament introduction by the same authors — this volume sets a new standard for high-level, up-to-date research presented in a core knowledge format that is practical, relevant, and easy to follow. Part One features chapters on the nature of Scripture and the religious and political background of the New Testament. Part Two covers the... Read More
In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the question of whether or not Jesus was born on December 25. To continue the conversation, here is what I continue to be the best article on the subject, by Paul Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at the University of Michigan. The piece appeared originally in Chronos, Karis, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies presented to Jack Fingan (ed. J. Vardaman; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989), and appears here with permission of the author. Read More
Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter every year, but few know when Jesus was actually born and when he died. Not that any great doctrine rests on the calculations below, but it sure is nice that we can have reasonable confidence that the dates of Jesus’ birth and death are secure and can be gleaned from a combination of biblical and extrabiblical historical data. I may not be willing to stake my life on the accuracy of the data below, but I am confident enough of these calculations that the license plate of my van reads as follows: 5BC–AD33. Read More
As the angels told the women at the empty tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee?” (Luke 24:5–6). The four New Testament Gospels record at least eleven resurrection appearances to Jesus to hundreds of individuals over a period of several weeks. None of the Gospels have all the appearances, which requires that we reconstruct the probable sequence of these appearances. The following chart appeared in The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B... Read More
As Mike Huckabee said a while back, “Jesus was way too smart to run for political office.” Isn’t that the truth. One certainly sympathizes with the candidates having to reinvent themselves about once every few days to appeal to different constituencies of voters. Indeed, Jesus didn’t run for political office. In fact, he said that his kingdom was not of this world. This doesn’t mean he was so otherworldly that he was of no earthly good. To the contrary, he was well aware of people’s anxieties and preoccupation with existential necessities. He was critical of those who hoarded... Read More
Very likely the best book written in New Testament studies in 2006 is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham. In this magnum opus Bauckham argues persuasively that the Gospels reflect (named) eyewitness testimony. According to Bauckham, the ideal source in ancient Greco-Roman literature was not the dispassionate observer, but the eyewitness. The written Gospels, so Bauckham, contain oral history related to the personal transmission of eyewitness testimony, not merely oral tradition which is the result of the collective and anonymous transmission of material. On page 93 of his book,... Read More
Here are some lessons we can learn from the Jesus tomb saga:
1. First do the research, then make the movie.
2. Don’t just hire consultants who you know already agree with you; what’s the value of that?
3. Don’t rely uncritically on the work of others, even experts in the field, especially when your central thesis depends on it.
4. Avoid getting infatuated with your own theory so that you are no longer able to evaluate the evidence objectively.
5. Don’t be tempted to “follow the money”; follow the evidence instead. Be on a quest for truth, not fame or fortune.
6. Don’t circumvent... Read More
It’s time to wrap up the matter of the “Jesus family tomb.” I conclude that this is a serious case of overreach. The book that in its subtitle claims that it contains “the evidence that could change history” and the sensationalist claim that it propagates are most likely going to be thrown into the trash heap of discarded theories in biblical archeology.
Let’s see if you agree that, soberly assessed, this is what we know of the “Jesus family tomb”:
1. The “Yeshua bar Yehosef” (if this is the correct reading) is almost certainly not the Jesus of the Bible. This man had... Read More
The Discovery Channel aired a special on the Jesus tomb and the discussion moderated by Ted Koppel afterward. Before I give you my score card, allow me to make some comments.
(1) In my view it is very unfortunate that Simcha was not more restrained in jumping to sensationalist conclusions in his film. Since by his own acknowledgment he is neither a scholar nor an archeologist, he should have refrained from pushing his own preferred conclusion as hard as he did. Hiring a few consultants like James Tabor who are sympathetic to his views is not enough. Contrary to Simcha’s claims, he is... Read More
Does Christianity, like the Titanic, have holes so big that it will sink when the television special on the “Jesus tomb” airs on the Discovery channel? Here is my attempt at a Viewer’s Guide for viewers of the Jesus tomb special.
Possible gaps in logic:
On what basis is the assertion made that the dead person named “Mariamene” in one of the ossuaries is to be identified with Mary Magdalene?
On what basis is the further assertion made that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife?
Does the special refer to the possibility that “Mariamene e Mara,” rather than “Mary, known as the... Read More
As you’ve heard, James Cameron, director of the blockbuster movie “Titanic,” is out to sink an even bigger ship—Christianity. He claims that Jesus’ bones and those of his mother, brothers, wife, and child named Jude, were found in ossuaries (bone boxes) in a Jerusalem tomb.
On Larry King Live, Cameron and his collaborator Simcha Jacobovici claimed that they produced a TV documentary (aired on the Discovery Channel) simply in an effort to “report the news” so that people can draw their own conclusion. Yet according to Ben Witherington, Simcha is a practicing, orthodox Jew. Are... Read More
It seems strange why anyone would want to pit Jesus against the Bible, but in recent weeks the question which of these two is primary, Jesus or the Bible, has once again taken center stage in many circles. I am hesitant to weigh in on this issue since I have not published any major monographs on the subject, but the debate is important enough for me to venture a few thoughts to address the current debate.
Just as many argued when this issue was debated in the Southern Baptist Convention in recent years (where some argued that Jesus is properly at the center somehow apart from Scripture), so... Read More