Catholic scholars drive a new wave on the New Testament


…Happily, a new generation of scholars—many of them Catholic—are at last coming at the subject of New Testament scholarship with some humility and common sense.

The turning point in the scholarship has been the increased understanding of the relevance of the first century Jewish context of the New Testament. As scholars and archeologists have uncovered an increasing amount of information about first century Jewish culture, beliefs and writings, they have come to understand more deeply the meaning and historicity of the gospels.

Put simply, a deeper understanding of first century Judaism has illuminated the New Testament, not only revealing new depths of meaning, but also affirming its early date and historical authenticity.

…the skepticism of Bultmann, Borg, Crossan and Ehrman is out of date. New discoveries have pushed scholarship beyond their fanciful theories and dubious conclusions. The new wave of New Testament scholars readily accept the positive findings of a century’s worth of research, but in the spirit of true scholarship, they have also learned how to be critical of the critics.


Great article, thanks for sharing!

Scott Hahn’s notes for the Ignatius Study Bible are an excellent example of what modern Catholic Biblical scholarship should look like.

Now can we have a new NAB with better notes? :slight_smile:


The priest who wrote this blog may think Borg, Crossan and Ehrman write in a “patronizing style” style but many do not feel that way.
I think Ehrman’s style is very factual and friendly.

The bloggist writes that these new books “understand more deeply the meaning and historicity of the gospels,” but he doesn’t give one example or explain what he means.
What new understandings do they have and present?
What corrections do they make?

I’m surprised he brings up new archeological information when the biggest finds we’ve had recently–which Jewish scholars including commentator and author Rabbi David Wolpe have written about–is that there is no archeological evidence found yet after decades of searching in the Sinai Desert of the 40-day exodus or evidence that the Jews were slaves in Egypt.

So what new first century Jewish context did these authors uncover or do they have?
Does anyone know?
This article promises it, but does not deliver even a hint.



I think he means patronizing to the subject matter, not patronizing to the audience.


From my own experience the Catholic library I go to has quite a large section on rediscovering the Jewish man Jesus. Is there anyone who hasn’t written a book on this subject? The ones I have read usually present ideas and then follow it with a “well obviously this, obviously that and obviously another thing”, but I don’t necessarily agree that the “obviouslies” provide the only means of explanation for the circumstance and traditional understanding can be easily explained in a more rational approach.

So I tend not to go to that section of the library much these days.


If there were deceptions planted in the eventually-canonized writings, the early church fathers seem to have swallowed them, hook, line, and sinker. But,** why?**

When I read Leviticus, I cannot help but think that it was a set of rules designed to favor the priestly tribe of Israel. I have to pinch myself to move on, and get past the idea that somehow the rest of the tribes of Israel bought into all those “spotless sacrifices” which became the property of the priestly class. You have to make a decision whether you think those sacrifices really meant something and that those Torah books are very sacred, or that the system was simply rigged in favor of the ruling class, the priests.

2,000 or 4,000 or 10,000 years from now, will there be Church and what will it believe? The Jews have Torah (and the rest of their canon) and Talmud (“study” of the torah). We will have our gospels (and the rest of our canon) and* our* “study” which is to say the tradition of the Church.

Jesus, the Pontifical Biblical commission, and Card. Joseph Ratzinger all said we should pay close attention to the old scrolls; the NT doesn’t make sense w/o the OT. We need to adhere to traditions of faith. Jesus never told his disciples to write gospels, letters, or books.


Initially there was no priesthood. Every Hebrew head of household was his own priest and could offer sacrifice to God on his own, completely apart from any priesthood.

*Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

Prior to breaking faith, every male head of household killed his own Passover lamb. Afterwards they had to go to a priest for sacrifice. God said nothing about a priesthood until after the people broke the covenant.

Israel was no longer a “Kingdom of Priests” when they made and worshiped the golden calf.

They entered into the covenant willingly and knew the consequences for unfaithfulness.



Here are a few examples from one current scholar on the Jewish context of the early Christian church:

The Jewishness of Luke’s Gospel

Negotiating Identity: The Jewishness of the Way in Acts

Who are the Gentiles in Scripture?


Happily, a new generation of scholars—many of them Catholic—are at last coming at the subject of New Testament scholarship with some humility and common sense.

It’s about time. How many people in Western countries have been brainwashed against Christianity by a Religious studies industry that has been nothing short of an academic embarrassment?




To be frank, it’s not particularly fair to expect a scholarly treatment of a particular subject from what is obviously intended to be a popular-level blog post. Fr. Longenecker took some 1100 words to write this piece, a word limit quite possibly imposed on him by the website he was writing for. What sort of argumentation can one expect from a thousand words?

Moreover, the obvious way to find the answers to your questions is to read the books of the scholars Fr. Longenecker mentions. I’m sure that the likes of Dr. Pitre spend a great deal of effort supporting their argumentation in their published works. :wink:


If you have a good RSV-CE study Bible, why would you want a ‘new NAB’? :wink:


No, I think the implication is that it’s patronizing to an audience who believes in the historicity of the New Testament: “aww… that’s cute that you think it’s historical, but they’re really just fairy tales”. :shrug:


Since it’s the “official” Bible for the Church in the U.S., it’d be nice to have one that’s a step up from the current NAB-RE. (Unless they approve the RSV-CE or -2CE for liturgical use, as we do; our official readings are from the RSV-CE, but I’ve had a parish priest who had a deep love for the NRSV-CE and would even hand out copies of it to newlyweds. :o)


The g


Well, technically it’s only mythicists (i.e. folks who believe that Jesus never existed at all) nowadays who believe that the gospels are ‘just fairy tales’. Even the most ‘liberal’ scholar will not deny that the gospels have at the very least an historical core. They might deny elements here and there (usually when it comes to supernatural / miraculous stuff), but they will not question the most basic facts about Jesus: that He existed, that He was acclaimed to be a preacher and miracle worker, that He was crucified, that His followers believed that He did not stay dead but was raised again.

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