In an important study, Raymond Starr comments on the process by which manuscripts eventually became public property (if they ever did).  He stresses that an author tended to write only for his own circle of friends, and they would be the ones whom he would test out preliminary drafts of the work on,  through readings in his home over dinner.  The author would not hand out copies to the listeners, but he might indeed, before an in home reading, send… Read more

The word of the Bible was in many many ways a very different world than our world, and one of the major differences was the way ancient texts worked and how exactly they were read.   A few basic facts first: 1) the literacy rate in the Greco-Roman world of the NT was anywhere from 10%-20% depending on where one was and what sub-culture we are talking about.  When I say literacy, I am not referring to the ability to read… Read more

In the recent brouhaha on this blog about Christians and weapons and violence, more than once Luke 22.38 came up as a supposed justification for disciples using swords.  This is in fact a bad misreading of this text, based in part on a bad mistranslation of it.   In the forthcoming commentary on Luke A.J. Levine and I are doing for Cambridge U. Press, here is what is said about this verse—— Vs. 38 is heavy laden with bitter irony in… Read more

One of the more interesting aspects of the story of Jesus and his debate with the Sadducees as found in Luke 20 is the whole question of God as a living God.  What the Bible means by such an assertion is not merely that God is real or alive, but that God, as the beginning of Genesis makes clear, is the very source of life.  God not merely has life and is alive, God is so alive that it can be… Read more

Several Evangelical scholars, including yours truly,  have been asked to contribute to a critique of the various claims of Bart Ehrman in his more popular level books  (e.g. Jesus Interrupted).  There is now a website up and running which brings together all these resources.   You will find it here— http://ehrmanproject.com/ Read more

   For reasons not clear to me, Protestant Christians, whom I spend the most time with, seem to have some very funky notions about prayer, that are not well grounded in the Bible, or for that matter the early Jewish practice of prayer.  And some of them are based in a very bad exegesis of what Luke 18 says and implies about prayer.   Luke Johnson in his fine commentary on Luke (p. 274) has this to say about the matter:… Read more

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I was reflecting on Luke 14 and intense way Jesus makes demands in this chapter, if one wants to be a disciple.    All too often, Christians confuse ordinary suffering with cross-bearing.   Your physical pain or suffering may well be your thorn in the flesh, but it’s not ‘your cross to bear’.  Cross-bearing as a metaphor for discipleship to Jesus has to do with a deliberately chosen course of life, not something that simply happens to you.   The second thing to… Read more

A long time ago one of my senior pastors at Myers Park UMC, Gil Adams,  preached a memorable sermon on what some have called Christo-paganism, but Gil Adams called it, rabbit’s foot religion.  It stuck with me, and the longer I have lived, and the less Biblically literate the church has become, the more rabbit’s foot religion I have seen. You know about the old rabbit’s foot.  You keep one in your pocket, and maybe you rub it, and it… Read more

LB’S (A Good ole Southern Country Song by BW3–think Johnny Cash with help from the Beatles– to the tunes of ‘I hear that train a comin’ and ‘Carry that Weight’) It’s sweepin’ cross America The plague of pulchritude It’s gripped the country’s midrift The bare facts are quite rude, We’ve put on pounds around our waist That we cannot divest And when we were not lookin’ We got a sunkin’ chest. CHORUS (ala Beatles) Boy, you gotta carry that weight,… Read more

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