Surprise! Much-Deserved Festschrift for Dr. Michael W. Holmes

Years in the making, with a stellar lineup of contributors, a 700-page Festschrift was recently presented to Dr. Michael Holmes at SBL in Atlanta.

A little background: SBL—or Society of Biblical Literature—is the largest society of biblical scholars in the world. Nearly 10,000 people converge on a North American city every November, to meet for scholarly debate, lectures, and to see new books that scores of publishers bring to the conference. (Many of these folks are also or only members of the AAR—the American Academy of Religion, which is much broader in its compass.) The conference takes place every year over an extended weekend (Saturday through Tuesday) just before Thanksgiving. Last year the annual meeting occurred in San Diego, spread out over several hotels (as always). This year it was in Atlanta, next year in San Antonio, in 2017 in Boston. Hundreds of papers are read to small groups of scholars in parallel sessions on a variety of topics. These range from covering virtually every book of the Bible, to Jewish backgrounds, Greco-Roman backgrounds, hermeneutical methods, linguistics, grammar, textual criticism, historical-critical studies, and just about every imaginable approach to the Bible (and many unimaginable approaches!). The program is hundreds of pages long, and finding two or three sessions that one is interested in attending that take place at the same time (a common occurrence) makes the conference both tantalizing and frustrating.

Scores of publishers display thousands of books in an area that seems to be about half the size of a football field. One simply can’t go through the book area in the four days of the conference with any depth of examination. The publishers sell the books at a steep discount (as much as 50% off), which means that the annual SBL conference is the time and place for many professors, students, and pastors to add significantly to their libraries. Christmas comes early for Christian bibliophiles! For my interests, I focus on the publishing houses that regularly offer high-quality works, including New Testament commentaries, textual criticism, canon criticism, Greek grammar, linguistics, hermeneutics, backgrounds, biblical theology, historical studies, Coptic, patristics, and church history. Some of the more academic publishers, which unfortunately do not typically offer big discounts, include E. J. Brill (Holland), Peter Lang (Switzerland), Walter de Gruyter (Germany), and Gorgias (New Jersey).

Monday afternoon, November 23, had a session that was not in the program. It was by invitation only, just for the contributors to a Festschrift for Michael Holmes of Bethel University and Seminary. (A Festschrift is a book written by many contributors to honor a scholar, usually on the occasion of his or her 65th birthday, retirement, or some other notable point in the scholar’s life.) Mike was also escorted to the meeting by his long-time friend, Bart Ehrman, although Mike was completely unaware of what was behind the closed doors of Hilton Room 407. A representative from Brill (which published the Festschrift) barely made it to the room with a copy of the volume before Ehrman and Holmes showed up. She literally ran to the room, having been held up at her booth by Mike who was drooling over the recent tomes. Unbeknownst to him, one of those volumes was his own Festschrift!

We all yelled ‘Surprise!’ as he walked in. He admitted total surprise and that he was ‘almost speechless.’ Below is a photo of three of the people present. See if you can tell who is who.

Hernandez, Holmes, and Ehrman

Holmes Reception SBL 2015

The book—Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honour of Michael W. Holmes—was edited by Daniel M. Gurtner (Bethel), Juan Hernández Jr. (Bethel), and Paul Foster (Edinburgh). The twofold theme of textual criticism and patristic studies reflects Dr. Holmes’s twin interests. There are 26 chapters (16 on textual criticism, 10 on patristic studies) by 30 authors. The authors include Amy Anderson, J. K. Elliott, Eldon Epp, Paul Foster, Dan Gurtner, Paul Hartog, Peter Head, Juan Hernández, Charles Hill, Hugh Houghton, Larry Hurtado, Clayton Jefford, Dirk Jongkind, Christina Kreinecker, Harry Maier, Bruce Morrill, Rod Mullen, Tobias Nicklas, J. C. Paget, David Parker, Wilhelm Pratscher, Jean-François Racine, James Royse, Ulrich Schmid, Holger Strutwolf, Christopher Tucket, Joseph Verheyden, Klaus Wachtel, Dan Wallace, and Tommy Wasserman.

I do not yet know the price of the volume, but I am certain it will be in the triple digits (virtually all of Brill’s books are!). I’ll update this blog when the book appears on Amazon.

New Manuscripts Available at CSNTM

Another fantastic new press release from CSNTM:

New manuscripts digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) have just been added to our searchable collection. These include 10 new manuscripts from the National Library of Greece in Athens, the site of our ongoing digitization project for 2015–16.

  • GA 777: From the 12th century, this manuscript (MS) contains the complete Tetraevangelion. The manuscript features 22 beautiful icons, many of which are from the life of Jesus.
  • GA 792: From the 13th century, this is a rare MS in that its New Testament contents include only the Gospels and Revelation. Also included are selected passages from the Old Greek.
  • GA 798: From the 11th century, this MS of the Gospels contains Matthew and Mark. CSNTM had previously digitized the other portion (containing Luke and John) housed at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF), so digital images are now available for the entire MS.
  • GA 800: From the 12th or 13th century, this MS of the Gospels has extensive commentary wrapping around the text on three sides, and some unique textual features.
  • GA 1411: From the 10th or 11th century, this MS of the Gospels contains extensive commentary on John and Luke by Chrysostom and Titus of Bostra.
  • GA 1412: From the 10th or 11th century, this MS of the Gospels interweaves the biblical text with commentary by Chrysostom and Titus of Bostra, using a variety of different methods to distinguish the text from the commentary.
  • GA 1973: From the 13th century, this MS of Paul’s letters contains commentary from Theophylact of Bulgaria.
  • GA Lect 440: Paper lectionary dated to 1504, which was damaged and then repaired with other paper texts with script at some later point in its history.
  • GA Lect 1524: Paper lectionary dated to 1522, a well-used manuscript.
  • GA Lect 2007: Paper lectionary from the 15th century.

We have also added images for 12 manuscripts that are now in our digital library. Many of these are older images from microfilm.

  • GA 08
  • GA 010
  • GA 014
  • GA 015
  • GA 017
  • GA 018
  • GA 019
  • GA 020
  • GA 034
  • GA 035
  • GA 038
  • GA 044

These images have now been added to our growing searchable collection, which gives everyone free access to the best available digital images of Greek New Testament manuscripts.

All images are available at the new

The New

Press release from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) today announcing some very exciting things:

Since we began our work in 2002, a core part of our mission has been to make it possible to view and study New Testament manuscripts from anywhere in the world. We have worked toward this by traveling around the globe and capturing beautiful digital images of some of the most important extant manuscripts. Today, we are taking another step forward by making it easier than ever for you to access manuscripts. We’re launching the new


Here are some of the features that you can expect to find now and in the coming weeks:

  • New Manuscripts – We will be adding 10-20 new manuscripts to our website weekly for the next few months. These will be from the National Library of Greece in Athens (our ongoing project for 2015–16), as well as previously unposted images from hundreds of manuscripts and rare books in our collection.
  • New Look – We have revamped our entire website to make it both simpler and richer in content. We have new content, which narrates how we go about digitizing and archiving manuscripts. We also explain what goes into our extensive training program that enables our teams to work quickly while capturing high-quality images.
  • New Viewing Environment – The website is equipped with a new viewer, which makes it easier than ever to navigate manuscripts and view our stunning new images.
  • New Usability – Our new site is also designed to work perfectly with mobile devices and tablets, enabling you to view manuscripts or to access other resources quickly, whenever you need them.
  • New Search Features – The website is now outfitted with an extensive search functionality. Searches can be performed at the manuscript level, allowing you to find manuscripts that meet certain criteria (e.g., date, contents, material, location). They can also be performed at the image level, which allows you to find specific features within a manuscript. For instance, we now have a Jump to Book option that allows you to find the beginning of each book that a manuscript contains. Also, one can search tagged manuscripts for verse references. Every place, for example, in which John 1.1 is tagged will automatically populate when the verse is searched.
  • New Search Database – The search database holds tags for each manuscript and individual image. As our team continues tagging our growing collection, the search function will become more comprehensive each week. But the task is daunting. We want your help for the tagging! If interested, you can reach us via our contact page.

Please share our new site with colleagues and friends, so more and more people can continue to utilize CSNTM’s library, which is free for all and free for all time. We sincerely hope that you enjoy using the site. It represents a giant leap forward in accomplishing our mission to bring ancient New Testament manuscripts to a modern world.

Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015

This is a guest post by Dr. Justin W. Bass regarding his recent debate with well-known atheist, Dan Barker. The debate topic was “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?”

“I discovered that there is no evidence for Christianity” –Dan Barker (Losing Faith in Faith, 69).

Dan Barker wrote these words in 1992 in his first book Losing Faith in Faith recounting his de-conversion from a fundamentalist Christian pastor to a promoter of atheism and free-thought.

Dan first came out publicly as an atheist on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1984. Since that time he has been a preacher of atheism and free-thought as a kind of “reverse penance” (Losing Faith, 10), he says, for all the years he proclaimed the gospel.

At 15, he accepted a calling from God to live and preach for Jesus Christ. He was a self-admitted fundamentalist from the beginning believing “every word in the Bible is God-inspired and inerrant” (Losing Faith, 28). He was also taught that liberal and atheist writers were “evil servants of Satan attempting to distract believers from the literal truth of the Bible” (Losing Faith, 29-30). He describes a fundamentalist (himself at the time) this way: “A true fundamentalist should consider the English version of the Bible to be just as inerrant as the original because if we admit that human error was possible in the translation, then it was equally possible in the original writing.” (Losing Faith, 176-77).

Dan ended up attending Azusa Pacific College majoring in Religion. He describes Azusa Bible College as a “glorified Sunday school” (Losing Faith, 22). In the one apologetics class he took, he admits, “I don’t remember that we delved very deeply into the evidences or arguments for or against Christianity” (Losing Faith, 22).

Although Dan states it was the lack of evidence that convinced him Christianity isn’t true, it seems, from his own admission, that he was not exposed to Christianity’s hard “evidences or arguments” before he turned to atheism.

Dan and I debated the topic: “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?” on June 6th of 2015 sponsored by The Bible and Beer Consortium. After that 3+ hour debate, reading all of Dan’s books, and watching at least 40 of his other debates, I have come to the conclusion that Dan is still rejecting the same “glorified Sunday school” version of Christianity that he rejected over 30 years ago.

I am grateful to know Dan; I’ve found him to be kind, brilliant, and an experienced articulate speaker. I appreciate his willingness to come to Dallas to debate. We had a great time at dinner together the night before the debate. We asked our waitress who she guessed was the atheist and who was the Christian. She thought Dan was the Christian and I was the atheist!

While I like Dan as a person, for over 30 years he has been fighting against a fundamentalist caricature of Christianity and misrepresenting many of the facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and one of the primary purposes of this article is to correct many of those misrepresentations.

Dan’s “glorified Sunday school” version of Christianity is highlighted throughout his arguments in Losing Faith in Faith (1992), Godless (2008) and his most recent book Life Driven Purpose (2015). Just for a moment, let’s consider the sources he cites in these books.

In his discussions of Jesus and Christianity, Dan cites only two scholars who are credentialed and professionally teaching in the field of early Christianity: R. J. Hoffman and Bart Ehrman. In contrast to these two sources, Dan questions Jesus’ existence. He parts ways again with Bart Ehrman, arguing that the Jesus story was cut from the same cloth of pagan religions. Continue reading “Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015”