Answers to Ehrman’s Bible quiz, part 1:

I posted bible scholar Bart Ehrman’s pop-quiz to undergraduates at UNC in this post, and he’s just come out with half the answers. Don’t look until you’ve taken it!


  1. How many books are in the NT? 27.  I tell them that this is an easy one.  Here’s why: if you think of the NT, you think about God, and specifically about the Christian God, and therefore specifically about the Trinity.  And what is 27?  3 to the 3rd power (3 x 3 x 3).   It’s a miracle!   (Also there are 3 letters in New and 9 in Testament so 3×9 = 27)
  1. In what language were they written? Yes, Greek.  But some of my students don’t know that.  A good number think the answer is Hebrew; some think it’s Aramaic; and only a very few think it’s English.  I’ve never understood the Hebrew thing, but I think it’s because whenever there’s a Jesus documentary on the History Channel or Discovery or whatever, they flash up Hebrew manuscripts as backdrop, and so people associate Hebrew with Jesus.  (Plus, he was a Jew; Hebrew is language of ancient Jews; and so on).  In any event,  I use this question to talk to them about Greek as the lingua franca of the Roman Empire even though the language of Rome was Latin, and this lets me say a few things about Alexander the Great and the significance of Hellenization in the Mediterranean.
  1. In what century were they written? Yes, some of you pointed out this is problematic.  For the answer I accept first century CE.  And I also accept first and (some) second century CE.  I use this answer to explain to them that we will not be using AD and BC  (and I tell them that if they *do* use them, AD needs to  precede the date – it’s AD 1984, not 1984 AD – and BC follows the date) (moreover AD does not mean “After Death” the way I learned in grade school!! If it *did*, we’d be missing 30 years somewhere….) but CE and BCE, and I explain why historians prefer these dates.  I also have a chance to explain why we have the calendar we have, who devised it (Diogenes Exiguus – a Latin name meaning “Dennis the Short” – in the 8th century CE), how it is that there was no year Zero, and sundry related things.
  1. Name the Gospels of the NT. This is the one every student gets right.  Good for them!  If I have time I explain that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not actually written by people who called themselves Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but that they are all anonymous, only later to be attributed to these people.  If I have a lot of time I tell them that the first one to make these attributions was Ireneus in 180 CE, and I say a few things about anonymity, pseudonymity, and so on.   But I do make the point that even though these (decades later) came to be attributed to apostles, they originally circulated without names attached to them.   Students haven’t heard that before!  (Although, as should be painfully obvious, they haven’t hear a lot of things before…  Or if they have, it passed right through them)
  1. Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament. Given the Zeitgeist, most students do know that there are other Gospels not found in the New Testament, though most of them are hardpressed to name any of them.  In this case some students were able to name the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Judas.  Occasionally someone will know the Gospel of Mary.  Someone this time suggested the Gospel of James, and I had to count it, since we have the Protevangelium Jacobi, the “Proto-Gospel of James.”
  1. What does the word “Gospel” mean? Some of the students knew this one:  “Good news.”   We get it from Old English gōd-spell (good tidings) itself a translation of the Greek (not sure through what avenues) “euanggelion” (eu = good; aggellion = news), the word from which we get “evangelist.”  And that’s why the four Gospel writers are sometimes known as the four Evangelist.  My students get all sorts of tidbits from this little quiz/discussion…..


How’d you do? I got 5/6 right in this section (I always forget what “gospel” means, even though that’s quite easy), but I have to say, I only know most of these because Ehrman’s books got me interested in historical Christianity.



Watch: William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss Brisbane debate. Now up!

It’s here!

See previous post for background. Slight caveat – if you’re not familiar with WLC, you might think the other guy, Lawrence Krauss, is coming across a little rudely. He is, but that’s only because he considers WLC dishonest (see post here ) and agreed to the discussions (this is the first of three) mostly to make that point.


Life, the Universe and Nothing: Has science buried God? from City Bible Forum on Vimeo.

William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss debate videos to be up tomorrow?

UPDATE 8-28-2013, 7:45am CST: Still nothing posted on the web, but should be sometime today. As far as I’m aware, it will only be the Brisbane video released for now (recall there were 3 events with both WLC and Krauss, and one with just Krauss in Perth). In the meantime, Krauss did tweet an update on his film, The Unbelievers, hinting it may come to NY and LA later this fall:

  1. hope to have update on Unbelievers distribution within a week. Spoiler alert: if you live in NYC or LA think late fall. Elsewhere stay tuned

After weeks of waiting, representatives from Life, the Universe and Nothing have stated that we should expect debate videos from this series featuring cosmologist Lawrence Krauss and apologist William Lane Craig to appear…tomorrow! Now, I’m not sure if that’s tomorrow in Australia, or tomorrow here, but I will post as soon as they are released.

Christians lie for their faith, and I get a personal email from Lawrence Krauss…

A few months ago, I attended a talk hosted by the local chapter of William Lane Craig’s apologist organization, Reasonable Faith. The discussion was centered on whether or not science has disproven God (admittedly no…but it doesn’t seem to point to one either) and was given by a local engineer and nice enough guy with an undergraduate degree in physics. I’m fairly informed of the stock arguments for and against God, particularly as they regard science, and was perhaps naively expecting to learn something. Instead, I was forced to squirm in my seat through an hour and a half of what could at best be called misrepresentations and at worst be called lies.

The presenter took countless quotes from scientists (most of them confirmed atheists) out of context in support of his particular Christian theology, attributing connotations not present in the original formation. He also inserted helping after helping of meta-physics, which is not science, and shouldn’t in my opinion have been part of the discussion since it quickly delved into attacking atheistic arguments that had nothing to do with science – again, not what the promised discussion was supposed to have been focused on. I’m not sure why, but nobody in the audience asked the speaker why 93% of NAS members remained atheists despite all this purported evidence for God…one would have to assume that the best scientists in the world are simply too dim to see the theological implications of their own work, but that you, lucky you, are special enough to see them.

I’m having trouble finding a link to the original physics slides online (you can download the biology version here), but I’ve posted the introductory slide below. You may note that of the three photos he chose to put up, only Dawkins has ever actually been a practicing scientist (and this was from the physics lecture, not biology). Daniel Dennett is a renowned philosopher, and Sam Harris has a neuroscience degree but is essentially an essayist. And really, a 75% youth exodus? Might that be helping to justify the lying?

Does Science Disprove God?

But my point is that the kind of dishonesty I witnessed should be troubling for any genuine Christian who is also committed to scientific and intellectual integrity. There are people out there who are so defensive about their faith that they are literally lying for it, and it reflects poorly on a large segment of believers.

Anyway, knowing physicist Lawrence Krauss had just finished debating William Lane Craig in Australia, I thought I would share with him the dishonesty that WLC’s organization is committed to spreading, so I tracked down the PowerPoint I had downloaded from the meeting and sent it to him via email. He responded almost immediately, and I now have what I consider almost better than an autograph – a personal email from Larry Krauss. Thanks, WLC.

Class is in session: Bart Ehrman’s biblical pop quiz to undergraduates…

Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman (Univ. North Carolina) is famous for giving a short introductory quiz to his undergraduates on their first day of class to test their knowledge of the New Testament. He’s always surprised by how few get more than half correct as they are fairly easy, particularly if you’ve gone to church with any frequency during your life  (he even sometimes offers to buy students a steak dinner if they get more than 8 right, but admits he doesn’t have to buy very often) .

Earlier today he actually posted his questions (you can visit his blog here), so now you can try yourself. I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to see if Erhman would be buying me a steak dinner. I’ll post the answers in the next few days. No cheating.

  1. How many books are in the NT?
  2. In what language were they written?
  3. In what century were they written?
  4. Name the Gospels of the NT
  5. Name three Gospels from outside the New Testament
  6. What does the word “Gospel” mean?
  7. According to the Gospels, who baptized Jesus?  Who carried his cross?  Who buried him?
  8. In about what year did Jesus die? What year was he born?
  9. The author of the Gospel of Luke wrote two books.  Name two of them.
  10. What is normally thought to have been the occupations of (a) Matthew and (b) Luke?
  11. Which of the following were Jews?  John the Baptist, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Simon Peter, Tacitus, the Apostle Paul.
  12. What is the shortest verse in the New Testament?

Bart Ehrman comments on Zealot and Reza Aslan

After getting several email inquiries about Reza Aslan’s new book Zealot, biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has commented on the subject via his blog. You can’t read the full post unless you are a subscriber, but I with a few bullet points below. Finally, if you have any interest in biblical studies at all, consider becoming a member of Ehrman’s site, as his commentary is always interesting, the subscriber rate is minimal, and all the proceeds go to charity.

About Zealot, Ehrman notes that:

  • He hasn’t read it yet. The publisher sent him a copy before it was anywhere near a hit book, but Ehrman notes he’s generally swamped with reading scholarship and doesn’t have much time for books written for non-experts.
  • Because it has become such a hit, he has added it to the syllabus for his upcoming class at UNC, “Jesus in Scholarship and Film”.
  • His answer, in short, to the question of “is Reza Aslan a recognized scholar of early Christianity?”, is no.
  • Two other books he often has students read for the “Jesus in Scholarship and Film class” are Elain Pagel’s The Gnostic Gospels (which I’ve read, and it’s terrific) and John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (which I have not read but am planning to).

You can dig into these answers quite a bit more by visiting the actual site, so if you’re at all interested I would go here now. I would also suggest, as I have before, checking out some of Ehrman’s own trade books like Jesus Interrupted and Misquoting Jesus.

Does God Exist? William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss, First Post-Debate Analysis

If you read my post here, you know WLC and Lawrence Krauss just finished a three-night debate series at various locations throughout Australia. The host organization is currently working on editing the videos, and they should be released soon. In the meantime, I’ve been following Life, the Universe and Nothing’s facebook page to read reactions from those in attendance, trying to piece together how each performed.

As you might expect, comments are mixed, with theists generally siding with WLC and skeptics with Krauss. Surprisingly, however, there is a little buzz suggesting that Krauss actually trounced WLC in the final debate (recall that WLC is almost never beaten in debates by atheists, not because he makes good arguments, but because he’s such a practiced and formidable debater). Here’s a brief review from Christadelphian Unbelievers:

I never thought that I would live to see William Lane Craig beaten in a debate with an Unbeliever; but tonight (16 August 2013) I saw him outgunned by Lawrence Krauss.
The moderated discussion in the Melbourne Town Hall was packed to the back and it was a thrilling night. Bill spoke first with his usual style and closely reasoned arguments. It was WLC at his best and I cringed at the thought of Lawrence having to handle such a strong presentation.But when it was LMK’s turn to speak we were treated to a devastating barrage of blockbuster points one after another that never seemed to end.

The moderated discussion afterwards was poorly moderated by someone who hardly spoke a word and at times looked as if he was reading a newspaper. The two protagonists tore into each other unrelentingly; but WLC sensed that he was fighting a losing battle and before long Krauss had taken over the evening.

In one sense there was nothing new in the points made. It was the dazzling new style of Krauss that amazed me. He’d done his homework, learned from his losses to WLC in the past and lifted his game substantially.

Nevertheless, Bill did well and acquitted himself with his usual dignity. He was firm, but respectful to Lawrence; his keen intelligence added considerable depth to the scintillating discussion. I only wish that the discussion had lasted into the early hours of the morning. It was superb.

I’m excited for the videos, and have been checking for them every day since last week (I will post as soon as they go up). Krauss apparently used a “bullshit” buzzer in the first debate to combat inaccuracies and lies, in addition to creating this post-debate video: