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New Testament Questions Galore From a Wide Range of Christian and Non-Christian Biblical Scholars

New Testament Questions

Christians are tireless debunkers of each othersʼ interpretations of the Bible (perhaps because many of them still believe the stakes are infinitely high, and they fear one unorthodox interpretation can lead to another down a slippery slope toward damnation. But see this rival interpretation of the so-called “slippery slope” argument according to more moderate Christian scholars.

Without enumerating each controversy between Christians let me point out a series of books by different Christian publishers that feature points and counterpoints, usually by conservative Christian theologians, who canʼt agree on how to understand points and practices related to Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and even disagree on what type of “authority” the Bible constitutes (click here for a sampling of such books).

Thanks to the internet, questions of biblical interpretation flow without ceasing. Aged scholars, eager young seminarians, and born again newbies are commenting on blogs, engaging in online forums and Facebook discussions, commenting on books at amazon.com, tweeting, contributing to carnivals like the “Biblical Studies Carnival” (google it by name, since it appears at different blogs run by biblical scholars each month), and older but prestigious newsgroups like XTalk: Historical Jesus & Christian Origins.

There are biblical scholars of all stripes who run their own “biblioblogs” (Biblical Studies Blogs), along with a list of the top 50 such blogs.

Books and articles on biblical studies have never been easier to seek and obtain (at the very least one can read abstracts and portions of books online and request the item at your local library via document delivery).

Summaries of the latest articles in biblical studies journals, summaries of the latest theses in biblical studies, summaries of the latest biblical studies books published by scholarly presses can be perused in the latest editions of New Testament Abstracts, a tri-annual publication that sums up the contents of current articles and books. (There is also a sister publication called Old Testament Abstracts.) Plenty of interesting and challenging pieces are listed among those abstracts.

For those who enjoy listening to free NT scholarship in mp3 format there are some podcasts I suggest. The questions raised by the following scholars are well worth pondering. (Iʼve heard them all, great stuff)

  1. Mark Goodacre at Duke, NTPod
    also available for download at iTunesU
    (iTunesU features lectures from scholars at Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, etc.)

  2. Dale Allison, The Historical Jesus and the Theological Christ

    Dale also wrote The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, one of his shortest most accessible works that sums up many questions raised by historical Jesus scholars.

  3. David Sanchez, The Apocalyptic Worldview of Mark

  4. Philip A.Harland, Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

  5. Audio/Video Courses Packed With NT Questions

    (if you canʼt afford such courses try obtaining them via interlibrary loan at your local library—they are worth a listen!)

  6. Bart Ehrmanʼs Courses

  7. Luke Timothy Johnson;s Courses

    See especially his course on Jesus and the Gospels.

  8. Dale Martin at Yale, Introduction to the New Testament: History and Literature
    also available for download at iTunesU

    Dale Martin debated conservative Evangelical scholar/apologist, Michael Licona, and Dale raised some obvious knotty questions. (www.apologetics315.com serves as a clearing house for conservative Evangelical apologetics on the web, plenty to listen to there, as I have done, though you soon discover that apologists like Habermas, Keener, McGrew, Blomberg, and many others, were either raised Christian or converted in their teens, and they seem less interested in asking questions than supplying answers to fellow Christians with doubts, including themselves. But why not continue to ask questions, especially since the questions are obvious as pointed out by scholars at the sites I am sharing? And I donʼt think Martin, Goodacre, Allison or Sanchez are atheists, but they raise some interesting questions for their conservative brethren and recognize that “proving Gospel history” or even proving the physical resurrection of Jesus is far from being a slam dunk. And the theological questions are even more varied and slippery than the historical ones.)

    I had heard Dale Martin via his free NT lectures at itunesU, so it was refreshing to see him debate Licona. After you listen to Daleʼs questions regarding the NTʼs resurrection stories you might want to read my post, A Carnival of Questions for Resurrection Apologists, which was posted before I had listened to the debate, though my questions mirror many of Daleʼs points.

  9. Historical Commentary On The Gospel Of Mark is free and online, and is a passage by passage commentary of the entire Gospel of Mark, incorporating many questions and observations from an array of more secular-minded biblical scholars.

  10. Robert M. Price, The Human Bible, a podcast (an introduction to basic scholarly distinctions and observations concerning the Bible, 35 programs thus far) or, The Human Bible Archive.

    Beyond Born Again, a semi-autobiographical account of how and why Price came to question Evangelical apologetic arguments.

    The Bible Geek, a podcast (over 300 episodes) or Bible Geek.

    You can search for particular topics discussed in past shows by using the Firefox search engine and visiting which summarizes topics covered per show. Other search engines might not be able to call up that particular page.

    10 Things Everyone Should Know About the Bible (with guest Robert M. Price), The Humanist Hour #111.

    Price is also the author of these intriguing works.


Gospel Trajectories

Later Gospel stories appear to depend on earlier ones, starting with Mark (with new urban myths/tall tales arising about Jesus and added to each freshly written Gospel after such tales reached those authors in the Greek speaking world). Some of the most obvious Gospel trajectories (developments in the story from Mark, Matthew, Luke and finally John) are noted in this brief article: https://web.archive.org/web/20151011180542/https://www.umass.edu/wsp/journal/v1/wsp1-32%20trajectories.pdf The point is that many Evangelicals, including Evangelical apologists now accept Markan priority, but that priority can be extended by trajectory arguments, which establish a sequence of story development in the completed versions of each Gospel. There is even a Judas Trajectory, https://web.archive.org/web/20160828084716/https://www.umass.edu/wsp/journal/v1/wsp1-33%20judas.pdf


Which Jesus: Examining Differences in the Gospel Narratives

  • VIDEO
  • SLIDES
  • AUDIO, free on itunes Episode 78 (see also Episodes 131 & 132, “Cross-Examining the Four Witnesses Part 1 and Part 2”)

Irreligiosophy

(The least respectful to Christianity of all the above podcasts, no verbal holds barred—but the podcasters take into account some of the same mainstream scholarly material covered by the scholars above. Not your average atheist criticism of the Gospels, but neither as detailed as the scholarship and sources mentioned above)


D. F. Strauss, author of The Life of Jesus Critically Examined

Introduced the 19th century public to a host of questions that biblical scholars were pondering. He included in his work responses to various apologetic arguments made at that time (which mirror to some degree replies made by some apologists today).

I made use of some of Straussʼ points when I composed this piece on the question, Did the Historical Jesus Speak About the Necessity of Being “Born Again?”. Questions raised by Bart Ehrman and David Friedrich Strauss.

The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, 4th edition, by D.F. Strauss


Examples of Later Additions to Scripture, Including Pauline Interpolations

There are some things even an Evangelical apologist canʼt help but notice and hence needs to try and explain away, like the endings that later Christians added to Mark (of which there are more than one, and even those appear in variant forms in different early texts).

Speaking of adding to Scripture, there is also evidence that Paulʼs letters feature interpolated material (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). See this fascinating discussion and link to a slide show. These are basic questions raised by Pauline scholars, and arranged well by Richard Carrier. Worth pondering, along with William O. Walkerʼs arguments concerning additional interpolations in Paulʼs letters.

Furthermore, the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, Differ Most From Each Other in exactly those places where the ostensibly earliest Gospel, Mark, was silent, i.e., in their tales of Jesusʼ infancy and post-resurrection appearances (where Mark was silent, so neither Matthew nor Luke could maintain their closeness to one another by following Mark in those areas, hence they diverge the most from each other in exactly in those places).


Gospel Improbabilities

Richard Carrier, VIDEO, Why the Gospels Are Myth: The Evidence of Genre and Content

Interesting stuff.

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