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 Historians Deny the Miraculous?

In some of my university classes on Christian origins we discuss Jesus and the gospels. A number of my students are nonplussed to find that historians do not automatically add Jesus’s miracles to the historical data bank of all the things that Jesus likely did. “All the gospels,” they correctly claim, “present Jesus as a …

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Elements from the Christmas Nativity Display: What Gospel Does That Come From?

At this time of year throughout Christendom churches and homes (no longer, it appears, governmental institutions, at least in the U.S.) recreate for display the scene of Jesus’s birth. Actually, they depict not the birth itself but a moment in time afterward. How long afterward? That is a question that cannot be satisfactorily answered. The …

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A Case for Enoch

Arguments are sometimes made that one or more ancient Jewish or Christian texts, ultimately omitted from the canons of both faiths, might comfortably belong in the Bible and should be added to it. They point to the fact that many Jewish and Christian texts were considered authoritative prior to the establishment of those canons but …

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A New Look at the Mysterious Intruders in the Letter of Jude

The Letter of Jude, one of the shortest texts of the New Testament and of the entire Christian Bible (25 verses), is often overlooked for devotional reading or relegated to the sidelines when investigating early Christianity. A review of the many commentators on Jude makes the reason for this neglect clear. The letter has been …

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Marriage in the New Testament

Modern marriages, especially in the West, are usually a legal affair requiring a license, sometimes a blood test, occasionally pre-nuptial agreements, and offering tax considerations. In addition, many times marriages also involve the services of a religious official combining church (or other religious organization) and state in the recognition of an official arrangement. Dissolution of …

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The Passion of…Barabbas?

The springtime buds of Easter usually include a temporary bloom of articles and blog posts about the events of Passion Week. Television programs and movies recreate the story in dramatic fashion. And, despite the overwhelming number of retellings and analyses, I would like to add one of my own, from a somewhat different point of …

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What is the New Covenant and Who is it with?

There is a presumption among many Christians today that the “new covenant,” one that supposedly came with the arrival of Jesus, was established between God and Christians. Is that what history tells us? If it does, then what does the new covenant entail? If it does not, then what is the new covenant and how …

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