New Online Course: Intro to Biblical Scholarship on NT

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by Neil Godfrey

Richard Carrier is offering a month-long course online this February. From his blog description of the course:

Official Course Description:

Richard Carrier (Ph.D.), who has years of training from Columbia University in paleography, papyrology, and ancient Greek, will teach students the basics of how to investigate, criticize, and study the New Testament from the perspective of how its text is constructed from manuscripts, as well as how to work from the original Greek without learning anything more than the Greek alphabet and the international terminology of grammar, and how to investigate and make the best use of academic and peer reviewed biblical scholarship.

Students will learn how to: locate words in the Greek text of the Bible, and find their definitions using online resources, and to use that skill to critically examine English translations; check if the manuscripts disagree on what the text says at that point, and what to make of that if they do; talk and reason about disagreements in the manuscripts, as well as the differing valences of words between modern translations and ancient originals; discern what kinds of errors and deliberate alterations are common in the biblical manuscripts; and how to use scholarship on the New Testament critically and informedly.

This course will also be a basic introduction to the contents of the New Testament and its composition, textual history, and assembly. After a month you will have a much better understanding and skill-set for studying, discussing, and arguing over, the content and history of the Christian Bible, as well as learn fascinating and interesting things about ancient history and how we know what we know about it from the perspective of how all ancient writing has been preserved yet distorted in transmission.

As usual, these courses are one month long, and you learn at your own pace and on your own time, and participate as much or as little as you want (many just lurk and read the assigned readings and resulting discussion threads).

Registration details.

Looks interesting.



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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “New Online Course: Intro to Biblical Scholarship on NT”

  1. I really admire how RC is making a living as a scholar without going down the historical tenure track. The more we have free-lance scholars, the better the search for truth, no matter what the field.

    1. He’s actually addressing the public, and of course we already see the all-too-predictable attacks on him for opting for this course rather than bedding down in an institution.

  2. It is likely that the passion and resurrection of Jesus are just made up historical fictions. In “On The Historicity of Jesus,” Carrier demonstrates the passion narrative may be constructed by a haggadic midrash rewrite of Isaiah 52-3, the Wisdom of Solomon, Psalm 22, Daniel 9 and 12, and Zechariah 3 and 6.

    But more than this, Jesus’ resurrection seems to be a haggadic midrash of Psalm 16. Peter stressed the significance of the resurrection and cited the prophecy predicting it in Psalm 16:

    “God raised him up, losing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it … Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:24, 29-32).

    Of course, Psalm 16 was not making a prophesy about Jesus, but rather Psalm 16 was used in a haggadic midrash to invent the story of Christ’s resurrection.

    1. Yes, indeed. It is good to keep this sort of thing in the forefront of any discussion on the origins of the stories. We start with the literature we have and seek to explain it as it is — as literary narratives. There are some scholars who do do this, but they do not extend their results to the broader implications they have for historicity behind the narratives.

      Those scholars who see themselves as “historians” work from the assumption that everything in the narratives had some real-world historical existence (in fact or belief) and that such literary evidence as you point to here actually adds to the complexity of their historical explanation. Or they simply ignore it.

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