I love the Internet. It allows me to be a student of Yale University.
Well, that is to say that I’ve been making my way through a series of lectures by Dale Martin, of Yale University, on early New Testament history, available for free on iTunesU. Yep, I may as well be sitting in the lecture theater with all the rich kids.
I’ve been fascinated by Bart Ehrman’s (of ‘Misquoting Jesus’ fame) work for a while. It is fascinating to learn what scholars have been thinking about the NT for centuries. (Spoiler: we don’t really have a fucking clue exactly what the original gospels and epistles would have said. We can track all the changes and alterations back and back and back until we hit this cloud – a few decades right at the beginning – the texts of which we don’t have, and variations coming out of the cloud on different paths, but no idea which variation was earliest or closest to the intended meaning of the author). Anyway, I’ll have my more-than-a-year-in-the-making video about it up hopefully this month. To that end, I’ve been reading a little beyond Ehrman only, as one does, and spoiler alert: it turns out he’s not making it up. Several other scholars (that is to say, all of them) have known this for centuries.
In the meantime, Dale Martin is lots of fun, as well as being, obviously, a serious scholar who knows more than I could ever hope to learn in one lifetime (and I do hope to learn a fair bit of it). He started his semester at Yale by giving his students a pop-quiz. Ten questions, yes or no, to test their knowledge of the bible.
Give it a shot! I confess to only scoring 8 correct of the ten. Scribble somewhere your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the following ten questions, and the answers are beneath the ‘fold’.
Does the bible contain the following teachings, stories, or sayings…?:
1) The immaculate conception.
2) This quote: “Loves bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
3) The story of three wise men, or kings, who visited the baby Jesus.
4) This quote: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
5) The doctrine of the trinity
6) Jesus saying of Peter “Upon this rock I will build my church.”
7) Peter founded the church in Rome.
8) After his death, Jesus appeared to his disciples in Jerusalem.
9) After his death, Jesus appeared to his disciples in Galilee.
10) Peter was martyred by being crucified upside down.
1) Immaculate conception: No. That’s refers to Mary’s conception, and is a Catholic tradition only. Not scriptural.
2) Love bears…Yes, 1 Cor 13.
3) Three wise men: No. This is only a tradition, with no scriptural basis. It arose because the bible mentions three gifts, and it was assumed that there were three people, each bringing one.
4) From each…, to each…: No. That was Marx.
5) Trinity: No. Some would say it is hinted at in scripture, but historically, not. The creeds are as specific as they are about that because of scriptures vagueness on the topic. Also, the scriptural references to it are regarded as very late additions (ie appearing first in copies made decades or centuries after the originals), inserted in response to those who were accusing Christianity of being polytheistic.
6) Upon this rock: Yes.
7) Peter founded church in Rome: No. That’s tradition only.
8) Jesus appeared in Jerusalem: Yes. In Luke and Acts
9) Jesus appeared in Galilee: Yes . In Matthew. Interestingly, it says he appeared only in Galilee.
10) Peter crucified upside down: No. Only a tradition, attested to by many paintings but no scripture.
So, boast! How did you go? Anyone who scores a ten will be given an honorary doctorate from Yale.
The iTunesU series of which I speak is called: Introduction to New Testament History and Literature – Video
EDIT: Or, as a few readers kindly pointed out, you can see them here on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL279CFA55C51E75E0&feature=plcp