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Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman

Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman

"Misquoting Jesus? is the only show where a six-time New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned Bible scholar uncovers the many fascinating, little known facts about the New Testament, the historical Jesus, and the rise of Christianity.  The show features Dr. Bart Ehrman and host, Megan Lewis.


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Is the "Good Book" Really So Good?

We are all familiar with the disturbing parts of the Bible, with it's divinely sanctioned violence from the destruction of Jericho in the Old Testament to the destruction of the world in the New, from the passages that justify slavery to the patriarchal views of ancient Israel and the writings in the name of Paul. How have evangelicals tried to salvage these disturbing passages in order to make them not just tame but "good" for readers today?

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Was Jesus Buried on the Day of His Crucifixion

All the Gospels agree that on the day Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body and took it from the cross to bury in a tomb.

What almost no one realizes is that this would have been unprecedented, so far as we know, in the Roman world, where part of the humiliation of crucifixion was for the corpse to be left on the cross to decompose and be ravaged by scavenging birds for days before being disposed of. 

Did the Romans make an exception for Jesus? Is that plausible? Or is the story of his burial by Joseph a later legend? This is obviously an issue of enormous significance. If Jesus was not buried that afternoon, how could he have emerged from the tomb "on the third day"? 

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What Did Judas Betray?

The Gospels agree that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, even if they don't agree on why he did it. But is their view about *what* he did plausible? That he told the authorities where they could find Jesus without any crowds around?

There are, in fact, reasons for thinking that Judas did something far more sinister, that he revealed a key teaching of Jesus gave to his closest followers but he did not proclaim in public.

Did Judas reveal a secret teaching that led to Jesus' crucifixion?

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The Disturbing Views of God and Suffering in the Book of Job

Most readers don't realize, however, that the vast majority of the book comes from a different author who has a completely different view of why people suffer.

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Do We Have a Soul?

Most people think that everyone has a soul that is resident in the body. The vast majority of Christians believe the soul lives on after the body dies. But ironically the vast majority of people -- even devoted readers of the Bible -- have never noticed what the biblical writers actually say about it.

In this episode we look at views of the soul found in the Hebrew Bible, the teachings of Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament. Is it the standard Christian view? Do the biblical writers think the soul can live on without the body? If not, what would salvation and eternal life be? Tune in to find out!

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Did Slaves Give Us the New Testament?

This week Bart will be interviewing New Testament scholar and public intellectual Candida Moss, on her new book, God's Ghostwriters: Enslaved Christians and the Making of the Bible.

In the book, Dr. Moss (Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham) maintains that parts of the Bible may have been written by slaves (Mark, possibly); or co-authored by them (enslaved secretaries of Paul?); or copied by them (in our surviving manuscripts).

No one has broached the topic of "How We Got the Bible" from this perspective before, and the episode provides a lively discussion of numerous issues of real significance.

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Newly Discovered PROOF: Jesus Was an Illusionist

In an absolutely shocking turn of events, Bart has learned of a first-century Gospel that will overturn everything scholars think they know about Jesus, showing that he was a charlatan exposed by the Roman government for duping the Jewish crowds by sophisticated works of magic.

The Gospel, set to be published this week by the NY Times, details how Jesus deliberately faked his famous miracles in an effort to seek fame and fortune. How did he go from magician-for-hire to Son of God, and was the crucifixion a tragic illusion gone wrong?

Join us this week on Misquoting Jesus to find out more.

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Was Peter a Rock or Shifting Sand? Jesus' Closest Disciple in History and Legend.

Jesus' closest disciple was Simon, whom henicknamed "Peter" -- that is "The Rock." But in the Gospels and the writings of Paul, Peter is fickle, clumsy, and unreliable, less like a rock than shifting sand.

After the New Testament we have numerous writings both about and allegedly by him. In looking over all these records, what can we say about the one on whom Jesus allegedly "built his church"? Is it possible to separate out the history from the legend? The fact from the fiction? And why didn't the Gospel writers do a bit more to improve his reputation?

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Did Jesus Think He Was the Messiah?

Jesus' followers have always called him the "messiah," from the earliest days of the religion -- so much so that "Christ" (the Greek word for Messiah) became his second name. But most Jews, both then and now, rejected the claim, pointing out that Jesus in fact was nothing like the messiah.

Do they have a point? If so, why did Jesus' early followers call him that? Did they begin thinking so during his lifetime? Is it what Jesus himself claimed? How would we know?

Tune in to the episode and find out!

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Do Fundamentalists (actually) Follow Jesus?

Why do so many seem to overlook or ignore many of Jesus' key teachings? Surely they know what he said about loving the enemy and the foreigner? Why do they claim that Jesus said things he never, actually, talked about (many of the most pressing social questions fundamentalists are keen on)?

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Finding Jesus in Genesis

Some evangelical preachers claim that Jesus is walking all over the pages of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament, of course, doesn't say so. But believing Christians all the way in antiquity claimed that the Jewish Scriptures not only predict Jesus but also portray him, as a person involved with the creation of the world and the history of Israel.

Where would they get such an idea? And how do they find Jesus as an active figure in the very first book of the Old Testament, from Adam and Eve to the flood of Noah to the story of Joseph, and lots of places in between? Are they just makin' stuff up, or is there a logic behind it all?

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Archaeology in the Time of Jesus.

In this special episode Bart interviews one of the world's leading archaeologists of ancient Israel, Jodi Magness, whose discoveries are regularly covered in National Geographic.

The interview is a prelude to an interesting four-lecture remote course Jodi is giving on March 2-3, called "Archaeology in the Time of Jesus" (available at

In the interview Bart and Jodi talk about what archaeologists really do (as opposed to what's in the popular imagination) and how the findings of archaeology can provide fresh information about Jesus' life and death, including issues connected with the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus' upbringing in Galilee, and his crucifixion and burial in Jerusalem. 

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Was Luke Written by Luke? And Why Should We Care?

The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were both allegedly written by a companion of Paul, Luke "the gentile physician." But the books never name their author.

So why Luke? Are are there any good grounds for naming him in particular? Or any grounds at all? Were the books probably written by a doctor? Was he probably a gentile? *Was* there a Luke? If picking his name was just guess-work -- would it affect how we interpret the books or understand their reliability?

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Why Did Paul Convert? Did He Convert?

The New Testament describes Paul's experience on several occasions: but can the accounts be trusted? Are they even consistent with each other? If we want to understand such a world-shattering experience, do we need to invoke the supernatural? Are there other plausible explanations? And is it right to call the event a "conversion" in the sense that Paul turned from one religion (Judaism) to another (Christianity)? These are all key issues for understanding a pivotal point in early Christian history, one that eventually would have enormous ramifications for the history of the west.

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Why Did Paul Hate Jesus and His Followers?

Next to Jesus, Paul is the most important figure in the history of Christianity, but as is well known, before he was a zealous apostle he was an equally zealous antagonist. What was that all about?

Why would a Jew in the Roman world outside Israel even care if a small group of Jews were claiming that Jesus was the messiah who brought salvation? Wouldn't he just write them off as another bunch of crazies? What about their claims did he find so offensive that he had to take them on? And when he took them on, what did he actually do? Was he murdering them? Sending them off to prison? On what authority? Can the NT be right that he was authorized by Jewish authorities? Was he just beating up people he didn't like?

These are important questions because the answers can help explain the transformation of Christianity into a world religion. In this episode, we try to figure it all out!

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Gospel Thrillers! When Jesus Meets Robert Ludlum

The backstory is fascinating and illuminating: these books started to appear during the Cold War, in the context of the increasingly serious questioning of authority, imperialism, and colonialism, and just when biblical scholars were themselves publicizing new finds that called into question the traditional truths of Christianity.

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Why Fundamentalism is Not (Always) Such a Bad Thing. Take Bart for example...

In this episode he spills the beans on how being a fundamentalist proved, in some ways, to be a good thing. (Even if he doesn't advise going there!)

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Is the New Testament Actually Filled with Forgeries?

In our previous episodes on "literary forgery" in early Christianity, we have never yet talked about the elephant in the room. Why are there so many in the New Testament?

In this episode we will not be going over the old ground of what forgery is (an author falsely claiming to be a famous person) or how it was justified in the ancient world, even among writers who urge high ethical standards (!). We are instead interested in the startling scholarly claim that of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only eight of them were probably written by the person to whom they are attributed.

In some cases the attributions are made by later readers (the author of Mark does not claim to be Mark); but in many cases the authors themselves make the false claim (2 Peter claims to be written by Peter). We might understand how one or two books like this managed to get into the Christian New Testament. But nineteen?

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If There Is a God, Why Do We Suffer?

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Who Really Wrote the Gospel of John?

Almost everyone assumes that Jesus' disciple, John the Son of Zebedee, wrote the Gospel of John. But is there any compelling reason to think so? In this episode we look into many of the issues that most people have never thought about. Most, for example, do not realize that the author of this book never mentions John, let alone calls himself John. There is a person called "The Disciple Jesus loved" (mentioned in none of the other Gospels). But who is he? Why would anyone think he is John? Is it possible he's not a real person at all? Is, as often claimed, the author claiming that it is he himself? (Bart will explain: No.) Apart from that, is it even possible that the historical John -- an Aramaic-speaking peasant called "illiterate" in the NT itself (Acts 4;13) -- could have written such a magnificent book? Could he possibly have used a secretary. If not ... who did write the book? Tune in and see!

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Joseph, the "father" of Jesus.

Mary is definitely the more famous of Jesus' mortal parents?but what about Joseph?

Few people have asked about him but he is obviously a significant part of the Christmas story. But what can we know about him? Why are the writers of the New Testament virtually silent about him? What we can infer about his life and the role he played in Jesus' life?

In this episode we discuss what we can know historically about the "father" of Jesus and we explore some of the legends that sprung up about him as found in non-canonical Gospels of the early centuries. 

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Why Mary? What Made the Mother of Jesus so Special? The Proto-Gospel of James

The Proto-Gospel of James, a kind of "Gospel Before the Gospels," was one of the most influential non-canonical writings throughout the Middle Ages. The narrative does not focus on the life of Jesus but on the supernatural birth, young life, betrothal, and pregnancy of his mother Mary.

From this Gospel come many traditions that remain important in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions (Joseph was an old many; Mary was a perpetual virgin; Jesus' "brothers" were sons of Joseph from a previous marriage); and the accounts it presents -- the miraculous birth of Mary, her upbringing in the temple, the details of her giving birth, and, well, a postpartum inspection to make sure she was a virgin -- are fascinating to readers of any religious or non-religious persuasion.

But what's it really all about? In this special episode, Bart interviews an expert on the Proto-Gospel, Christopher Frilingos, Professor at Michigan State University, in order to find out.

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Can There Be Meaning In A World Without God?

Many people of faith think, and strongly believe, that without an almighty, sovereign being over this world life would (and can!) have no meaning: it's just a matter of chance and circumstance with no ultimate end, no goal, nor purpose, no meaning.

Bart had that view for years, and feared that leaving the faith would lead to a purposeless, meaningless, chaotic, anarchic existence. As it turns out, that didn't happen. But why?

In this episode we explore the possibilities of meaning in a world without God.

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Who Says Mary Was a Virgin?

This miraculous event is found in only two passages of the entire New Testament (in Matthew and Luke). Did the other New Testament authors know about it? If so, why didn't they mention it? If not, how could they not? And where did the idea of a virgin birth even come from?

In this episode we deal with these and other intriguing issues highly relevant to the Christmas season.

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Telling God What He Can Do

For a religion that claims to view their god as the most powerful, supreme being in the universe, some Christians have an interesting habit of placing restrictions on what he can and can?t do.

God can?t make a world without suffering, he has to inspire a collection of written texts (that have no mistakes in them), and he certainly can?t be sympathetic to anyone who practices other religion. But where do these limitations come from, and what purpose do they serve? In short: who says?

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Does the Book of James Attack the Teachings of Paul?

For over five centuries (going back to Martin Luther!) many readers of the New Testament have maintained that the letter of James flat-out contradicts the teachings of Paul, that a person is made right with God only by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

James insists that a person is not justified by faith alone, but by doing good works; but Paul argues with equal passion that a person is justified by faith in Christ and not by doing works of the law. So... aren't these views at direct odds? Bart's views may seem surprising....

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He's a Very Naughty Boy: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is one of the most intriguing and peculiar non-canonical accounts of Jesus' life from outside the New Testament. The New Testament itself provides only one story about Jesus as a boy (as a twelve-year old, in Luke 2); this later account contains intriguing stories of the mischievous Son of God from ages 5-12.

Is he an uncontrollable supernatural being who hasn't yet learned to control his power? Or a Savior already confronting the evils of the world? Or a prime example of a resident family problem? 

In this special episode Bart interviews Christopher Frilingos, professor of Early Christianity at Michigan State, an expert in the non-canonical Gospels with an unusual theory about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

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Could Jesus Read and Write?

Nearly everyone today assumes that Jesus could read and write. But is that historically plausible? There is only one story in the New Testament where Jesus is shown to be able to read (Luke 4) and he is never said to be able to write (except in the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery that was added by scribes only later John 7-8).

In this episode we consider the literacy rates of antiquity (very low!), and discuss who could learn to read and then write, how they were educated, and whether it is likely that an impoverished dayworker from a poor family in a remote backwater of the empire was one of them.

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The Omnipresent Fear of Death

As far back as we have literary reports -- beginning with the Epic of Gilgamesh, our earliest surviving narrative, written centuries before the oldest accounts of the Bible -- humans have feared death more than almost anything.

Many people fear the process of dying; others fear facing eternal torment; yet others fear the void, the idea of non-existence.

In this episode we talk about ancient reflections on death and about why some stalwart souls insisted that in fact there was nothing to fear. 

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Christianity One Year After Jesus

What was actually happening in those years? Were thousands of people converting? Was the religion taking over the world? Was it declared illegal by the state? Or... ?

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Our One-Year Anniversary! A Live Q&A with Bart

For our 52nd episode -- our one-year anniversary! -- we will be having a live Q&A with Bart. Questioners have submitted questions, some out of the many have been chosen, Megan will host the event, and questioners will ask their questions live, to hear Bart's responses! A special time of celebration as we (also) reflect on our Year One!

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Why Isn't Christianity a Doomsday Cult?

If Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, then why isn't mainstream, modern Christianity an apocalyptic religion? Was the move away from apocalypticism deliberate, and are modern doomsday preachers actually closer to preaching Jesus' message than other churches?

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What Does It Mean to Write a Popular Book?

Most scholars write books and articles for other scholars, using jargon and presupposing knowledge available only to experts trained in their discipline. But some scholars write books designed for popular audiences about their fields of expertise.

Can non-scholars write books like that? Should they try? Why do most scholars choose not to do so? Are there pitfalls in trying to communicate complex knowledge in simple terms? Is it possible to do so without "dumbing it down"? And why do so many academics look down on fellow-scholars who try to do so?

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Stories about Jesus Before the Gospels: Oral Traditions in the Early Church.

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A Giant Jesus and a Walking-Talking Cross: The Fascinating Gospel of Peter

One of the most intriguing non-canonical Gospels to be discovered in modern times is the Gospel of Peter. Unlike the New Testament Gospels, which were written anonymously (only later to be given the titles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), this Gospel actually claims to be written by an apostle, Jesus' own right-hand man, Peter.

The account we have is only fragmentary, an alternative version of Jesus' trial, death, and resurrection. And what an account it is, involving an actual record of Jesus emerging from his tomb at his resurrection, as tall as a mountain, followed, from the tomb by a walking-talking cross.

What is this fascinating account really all about, and why did someone write it, falsely claiming to be the disciple Peter?

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Can Christians Study the New Testament Honestly?

In this episode we consider the issue from several angles, not by assuming that outsiders are necessarily "objective" (is *anyone* objective?) but by thinking through the complications of the matter.

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The Genius of the Gospel of Luke

The genius of Luke?s Gospel is frequently overlooked by those who simply breeze through it or assume it is saying the same thing as Matthew and Mark. In fact, it is strikingly different. What especially matters are not so much the contradictions one finds, but the larger picture. Luke has radically edited Mark?s account in places to create a new portrait of Jesus.

In this episode we see how he did it and what the end result is. Among other things, when you look carefully at the details of Luke?s account, you find that, unlike the other Gospels, here Jesus does not suffer during his passion and his death does not bring an atonement for sins. These are not minor differences. Why would Luke change the story so significantly? 

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Did Jesus Predict his Own Death?

The Christian faith is rooted in the belief that Jesus died for the sins of the world and was then raised from the dead. But is this what Jesus himself preached during his public ministry? In the Gospels Jesus certainly predicts his coming death, on numerous occasions. But are those saying historical? How would scholars know? What is the evidence both ways? And if Jesus did not anticipate, let alone predict, his death, does that completely undermine the Christian faith?

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New Testament Scholarship for Non-Scholars

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How did Christianity take over the Roman World?

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Where Did the Trinity Come From?

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Did Constantine Really Convert?

The conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity is often pointed to as a turning point in the history of the religion - but would Christianity have continued on its upward trajectory without this conversion? Was Constantine?s conversion one of genuine religious conviction, or was it motivated by something else? Has his conversion been co-opted and over-emphasized by later Christian authors?

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Is the New Testament Actually Greek Literature?

The New Testament is often studied in isolation, separated from other ancient writings.

How did this division come about, and what do we lose by looking at it as something different?

Dr. Robyn Walsh talks about what can be gained from placing the New Testament back into the canon of Classical Literature.

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Interview With Dr. Josh Bowen

In this episode I interview one of the premier experts on the question, Dr. Josh Bowen, who has written two books on the matter; in our discussion he explains what the Bible really says about slavery and how we can put it's statements, assumptions, and laws in its own context instead of thinking that it fits comfortably in ours.

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Creation Myths in the Ancient World

In this special edition of the podcast Bart interviews Joseph Lam, an expert on the languages, religions, and cultures of the Ancient Near East (and Bart's colleague at UNC), who has just produced a Wondrium Course on the Creation Stories in the Ancient World. Among other things they talk about the reasons for thinking Genesis contains two very different creation stories (side by side) and how other older stories from Mesopotamia appear to have influenced the author(s) of Genesis.

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Does Biblical Scholarship Destroy Faith?

Biblical scholars who approach the Bible from a historical perspective are often accused of working hard to deconvert the faithful. Is that true?

Do undergraduates widely abandon their faith once they learn the historical realities behind it? Are professors and authors generally interested in urging their students and readers to abandon their religion? And is there any positive result for faith that can come from understanding historical scholarship? Is it crucial to faith to understand the Bible, or just an unnecessary add-on?

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What is Gnosticism?

How could these religions be considered Christian if they didn't think Jesus' death mattered? How could they consider the God of the Old Testament to be a lower level and inferior divinity, and this material universe to be a cosmic disaster? Did Gnostics have their own Scriptures? Did they use the books that later became the New Testament? If so, why didn't they just admit their views were wrong? We will address these and other issues in this exploration of the highly unusual world of Christian Gnosticism.

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Did Scribes Change Luke's Theology?

Lots of informed readers know that scribes changed their texts of the New Testament -- but do the changes really matter for anything?

In this episode we take the unusual approach of looking at textual changes in just one book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke, to see how slight (and not so slight) variations in the text can have an enormous impact on understanding the author's message -- involving such things as the virgin birth, the understanding of whether Jesus' death brought an atonement, whether he was fully human. 

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What is Academic Freedom and Tenure, and Why Do They Matter (e.g., for teaching about religion!)?

What about the argument that university professors are brainwashing their students to follow their liberal agenda, while hiding behind ?academic freedom?? Does the U.S. system of tenure allow professors to say whatever they want, safe in the knowledge that they can never be fired?

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Did Jesus? Disciples Think He Was God?

One of the central tenets of many denominations of modern Christianity is that Jesus is God. The Nicene Creed describes him as ?of one being with the Father?...but just how old is this idea?

If you asked Jesus? disciples if he was a human or God, would they have affirmed his divinity, or accused you of blasphemy? And if Jesus was divine, then was he considered to be God made flesh, a human who was turned into a divinity, a "super-human" with some divine features?or what?

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