The Virginal Conception of Jesus: A Historian’s Assessment

You may already be thinking that if this is to be a “historical” assessment, then it is likely that the entire concept of virginal conception (not “virgin birth”; that is something entirely different) will be dismissed as a mythical fable. But not so fast. History may mean one thing to us today and another thing …

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The Twelve Apostles Part 6: Thaddaeus, Simon, Judas & the Rest

With this post, we complete our historical survey of the lives of the twelve apostles. Here, we discuss the apostles Thaddaeus, Simon, Judas, “and the rest.” Thaddaeus/Lebbaeus/Judas son of James             It is possible, though unlikely, that these three names all refer to the same person.  Some suggest that the names Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus ultimately …

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The Twelve Apostles, Part 5 – Matthew, Thomas, James

We continue our historical survey of the lives of the twelve apostles. In this post, we discuss the apostles Matthew, Thomas, and James. Matthew             The Greek word, Matthaios, from which we derive Matthew, comes from the Semitic Mattiyah meaning “gift of Yahweh.”  Beyond that, and the appearance of his name in the lists of …

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The Twelve Apostles, Part 4 – The Hellenists: Andrew, Philip, and Bartholomew

We continue our series of historical investigations into the twelve specially-chosen followers of Jesus with this look at three who bore Hellenist names: Andrew, Philip, and Bartholomew. Andrew             Andrew is a Greek name (Andreas = “manly”). All four New Testament gospels (Matt 4:18, 10:2; Mark 1:16; Luke 6:14; John 1:40, 6:8) identity him as …

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The Twelve Apostles, Part 3: The Thunder Brothers, Sons of Zebedee

We continue with our series of historical investigations into the twelve specially-chosen followers of Jesus with this combined look at James and John, the sons of Zebedee. James, son of Zebedee             The New Testament features a number of men named James (Greek Iakōbos from the Hebrew Ya’akov or Jacob).  Most of what we know …

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The Twelve Apostles Part 2: Simon Peter

We carry on with part 2 of our historical investigation of the Twelve special persons chosen by Jesus to supplement his work. This blog will focus on Simon Peter. “Simon” is the Greek form of the Semitic name Šim`ôn, one of the most common Jewish names known to us from antiquity.  It means “Yah(weh) has …

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The Twelve Apostles: Who Were They?

In this series of posts, we will explore the history of Jesus’s closest followers as recorded across numerous ancient Christian traditions. Along the way, we will find that these traditions are often confused, contradictory, or seriously lacking in details. Nevertheless, we will attempt to distill all the historical data possible and, at times, risk delving …

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Which Gospel Came First?

Getting as close to the historical Jesus as possible has been a preoccupation with biblical scholars since at least the 18th century. Many questions must be asked. For example, which of the Jesus-traditions (sayings and stories) now appearing in the New Testament and elsewhere are the oldest? Which are most likely historical? Which gospel was …

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The Human Jesus: How Much Do We Really Know About Him?

Our sources of information about Jesus are almost entirely limited to the four New Testament gospels. There are also certain non-Christian reports that help to confirm a few of the events in Jesus’s life including especially his crucifixion. Biblical historians, however, maintain that the gospels were written decades after Jesus’s death. That being the case, …

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Do You Have to be a Christian to Believe in Jesus’s Resurrection?

The resurrection is the bedrock event that launched a movement based on the belief that Jesus was and continued to be the Messiah of Israel despite his death and that he would soon return. Some suggest that, absent the resurrection event, Christianity would not have begun. The followers of Jesus would have gone their separate …

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