Have yourself a biblical critical Christmas

Nativity-logosSorry, this post isn’t about the pessimism and critical irony that can sometimes mark how we engage in this time of year. When I use the phrase “biblical criticism”, I’m referring to (as Wikipedia says) the  “[scholarly] study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings”.

Last year, I wrote about how the story of the Wise Men can inform our doctrine of the Bible. This Advent, I want to do a brief series where we use the tools of scholarly observation to look at each of the two Nativity compositions (yeah, only two out of four gospels have them) and see each of them on their own terms.

For millennia, the birth narratives of Jesus Christ in the Gospels have captivated readers both within and without the Christian faith. Their reading and meditation form the beginning of the Christian Church calendar, and their theological implications of Incarnation form the foundation of nearly all of the distinctives of the Christian faith.
Continue reading


I wrote a paper on the ending of the Gospel of Mark. And here it is.

Lindisfarne Gospels -- MarkI usually never post items like this on the blog. But hey, it’s Friday. Below you’ll find a brief academic paper I wrote exploring different scholarly views on the ending to the Gospel of Mark. I’ve written devotionally on that ending before, but this gave me a chance to explore more of the scholarship behind it.

As a general rule, I don’t think people should put up blog posts that have a Works Cited page attached (haha). Such posts usually go against everything the blog medium stands for: brevity, clarity, and accessibility.

But as I researched this topic, I found it difficult to find similar, short, web-accessible writings and bibliographies like this so, in the interest of academic exploration, I’m putting the paper up here for all the future Googlers that might be able to use this, and for those of you that might care about some of the scholarly opinion concerning Marks’ incredibly odd ending. Enjoy. (You can also find this document on Scribd.)


BL537 Paper #1: The Ending of Mark

For centuries, the Gospel of Mark more or less sat dormant, gathering the dust of Church interest. It was a broken Gospel, after all. It was a crude, geographically confused, narratively-challenged, more-or-less bastardized version of The Gospel of Matthew. And what of that ending?
Continue reading

Ross Douthat on Reza Aslan & the “Historical Jesus” [QUOTE]

jesus-suffering-pmaHappy Lord’s Day!

Speaking of the Lord, I wanted to point you all to Ross Douthat’s new column in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. I really like Douthat, and this piece is a good example of why. He is responding to Reza Aslan’s new #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

As Douthat points out, Aslan’s books is just the newest shot in the two-century long war for the “Historical Jesus“, a series of “quests” in which the assumption is that the Jesus of history is entirely different than the Jesus represented of the Bible. (I’ve recently defended some of my own thoughts on this here and here).

Now some have effectively critiqued much of Aslan’s scholarship, and even his academic credentials to write such a book (it doesn’t seem he’s ever written a peer-reviewed piece on anything in the New Testament!). But Douthat, in usual style, zooms out to the 50,000-foot level and speaks to the bigger context in which these sorts of books seem to always be written. It’s fantastic, and you should read it. Here are the money quotes: Continue reading

Simplistic Atheism {3}: The Bible, Miracles, & History


(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

We continue our response to Daniel Bastian’s blistering critique of religious belief. Part 1 tried to respond to what seems to be Daniel’s basic understanding of the world, reason, and spirituality. Part 2 focused entirely on his use of scientific claims and findings to discredit (at least the need for) religiosity. Yesterday, Daniel responded to Part 2 (here was my response). Today, we narrow in on his views of the Bible, miracles, and history.

A Simplistic Bible

(Disclosure: a lot of this is cut-and-paste from various comments here and on Facebook. Also, I’ve taught a few classes that have a more detailed discussion of a theology of Scripture. Those can be found here, here, and here.)

The points about the Bible in Daniel’s post were especially difficult to read. In fact, they were my inspiration for my post last week talking about how Christianity can shape the types of Atheistic beliefs people come to. My frustration came from the fact that, since Daniel originally wrote this (a while ago), I’ve watched him engage with and express respect for others that offer substantive critiques to what he ended up re-posting last week.

In his points, he expresses a view of the Bible that is mechanical, wooden, systematic, simplistic, and puts expectations on the text that it doesn’t even place on itself. It seems like he is only responding to the modernist, fundamentalist view of the Bible (what I called a “Straw Bible”), and I know his thinking is far more nuanced than that–I couldn’t understand why he still perpetuated this. But nevertheless, he did, so I’ll address it as it’s posted.
Continue reading

Jesus’ Wife fragment judged a fake [casual fri]

hmm… so did you hear about that fragment found recently that talked about Jesus’ wife? (By the way, here’s a great segment Jon Stewart did on this.)

Daniel B. Wallace

“News flash: Harvard Theological Review has decided not to publish Karen King¹s paper on the Coptic papyrus fragment on the grounds that the fragment is probably a fake.” This from an email Dr. Craig Evans, the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia University and Divinity College, sent to me earlier today. He said that Helmut Koester (Harvard University), Bentley Layton (Yale University), Stephen Emmel (University of Münster), and Gesine Robinson (Claremont Graduate School)–all first-rate scholars in Coptic studies–have weighed in and have found the fragment wanting. No doubt Francis Watson’s comprehensive work showing the fragment’s dependence on the Gospel of Thomas was a contributing factor for this judgment, as well as the rather odd look of the Coptic that already raised several questions as to its authenticity.

View original post

Uh-oh (a Post-Script to my previous post on Moses)


I just reached this part in the book I referenced in my post earlier on Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. This book was somewhat challenging the Documentary Hypothesis in my mind. I thought this book, in its recounting of Documentarians, was pretty fair and not too blindly fundamentalistic. But, now that he has turned from documenting the development of the field to laying out his own thoughts, I see I was wrong. Crap.

Posted from WordPress for Android on my Droid X

The Pentateuch: Moses vs. the Documentary Hypothesis [OPEN MIC]

imageUpdate: I realized I was wrong.

Okay, for many of you, this will seem silly and inconsequential; others will find it blasphemous. But bear with me for this quick post.

Starting in a few weeks, I’ll be teaching a survey of the Bible class through the summer at my church (I’m going to try and record it and post it here each week). To prep for this, I’ve been delving back into seminary-land, reading about 12 different OT Surveys, OT intros, and Pentateuchal commentaries to get ready for just the Intro to the Old Testament and Pentateuch parts.

And of course, this brings up the issue of the authorship of the Old Testament. Honestly, I don’t plan on going more than 2 minutes on the topic in this class, but I want that two minutes to be fair, informed, helpful, and above all, edifying to the people in the room. I want people walking away understanding that godly people disagree on this stuff and why they do. I don’t want to caricature and criticize unnecessarily.

The main issue I’m working through is what part Moses (or any other pre-10,000 B.C. ancient authors/editors/redactors) had in writing the Pentateuch.

Continue reading