Mark Goodacre is the Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, North Carolina, USA. He earned his MA, M.Phil and D.Phil at the University of Oxford. His research interests include the Gospels, the Apocryphal New Testament, and the Historical Jesus. Goodacre is the author of four books including The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002) and Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas's Familiarity with the Synoptics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012). He is well known for creating web resources on New Testament and Christian origins, including his podcast, the NT Pod. Goodacre has acted as consultant for several TV and radio programs including The Passion (BBC / HBO, 2008) and Finding Jesus (CNN, 2015-17). Goodacre is currently working on a book on John's knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
Did the Evangelists Dictate their Gospels to Scribes?
Everyone agrees that the evangelists probably composed their gospels on papyrus scrolls, but the logistics of working with unwieldy book rolls make the process difficult for us to imagine, all the more as there is scant evidence for the use of desks in antiquity. In this talk, Mark Goodacre looks at the widespread ancient evidence for dictation to scribes, and explains how this context helps to explain how the evangelists worked with sources, and how they composed their gospels.
BAS Scholars Series, March 10, 2022
Jesus’s Resurrection in the New Testament: Who Witnessed What and Why?
Discussions of Jesus’s resurrection not surprisingly tend to focus on the accounts of the first Easter morning, with the accounts of a tomb vacated on the third day. It is a story told in all four canonical Gospels, and its impact on Christian doctrine of Jesus’s resurrection has been immense.
But the oldest account of the resurrection focuses not on the tomb, or on a resurrected body, but on resurrection “appearances,” sightings of Jesus that apparently persuaded many in the first generation that something dramatic had happened.
This talk looks at these first apparent “witnesses” to the resurrection, asking who they were, what they thought they had seen, what it meant to them, and how this functioned in the earliest preaching of the Gospel. Could it be that these earliest “witnesses to the resurrection” hold the key to the understanding of the beginnings of Christianity?
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIV, October 16 – 17, 2021
John’s Dramatic Transformation of the Synoptics
John’s Gospel is so different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke that many scholars think that it must have been entirely independent of them. But a careful reading of the Fourth Gospel shows that its author actually presupposes his predecessors’ accounts at many points, and he creatively reimagines the story that they tell by casting their narratives into a dramatic mode, naming anonymous characters, adding dialogue, and moving narration into direct speech. This Gospel is, in other words, a dramatic transformation of the Synoptics.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIII, October 24 – 25, 2020
Who wrote the Fourth Gospel
John’s Gospel has for centuries been attributed to John, son of Zebedee, the beloved disciple at Jesus’ right hand. But the Gospel does not identify the mysterious beloved disciple, and John is never mentioned by name, and many scholars have asked how an illiterate Galilean fisherman from the 30s could possibly have authored this theologically sophisticated gem of the late first century. Theories about the authorship of the Gospel are therefore wide and varied, and one of the most popular options is that it was written by a different John, “The Elder”. Could this solve the mystery of the Fourth Gospel’s authorship? Is there enough evidence in antiquity to provide an answer? Or is there more to the traditional story than is usually realized?
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXII, November 22 – 24, 2019 Plenary Speaker
How Empty was the Tomb? Re-imagining the Burial and Resurrection Stories of Jesus
Believers and skeptics alike are agreed in using the term “empty tomb” when they discuss the resurrection accounts in the Gospels. Yet the term “empty tomb” is completely absent from the earliest Christian literature. Why is this? Could it be that the early Christians knew something about early Judean tombs that we are forgetting? The popular Christian imagination has Jesus buried in a small one-person tomb, which he leaves “empty” when he is raised. But this is not historical. The tomb presupposed in the Gospel accounts is a typical first century family tomb with multiple loculi. When the Gospel narratives are considered alongside the multiple excavations of first century Jerusalem tombs, many features fall neatly into place including the rolling of the stone, the witness of the women, the stress on precisely where Jesus’ body was laid, the notion that this was a tomb in which no one had been laid, and Mark’s young man who was “sitting on the right.” The question that should be asked is not, “Was the tomb empty?” but “How empty was the tomb?”
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXI, November 16 – 18, 2018
Exploring Joseph of Arimathea’s Tomb: Jerusalem Burials and Gospel Texts
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial and resurrection are familiar to many, but they feature details that have puzzled commentators: Why does Joseph of Arimathea place Jesus’ body in a tomb in which no one had ever been laid? Why is Mark’s young man “sitting on the right”? Why are John’s angels sitting at “the head” and “the foot” of where Jesus’ body had been? And why do John’s characters appear to be constantly “entering” the same tomb? When the Gospel narratives are considered alongside the multiple excavations of first-century Jerusalem tombs, these features all begin to make sense, and a picture can be drawn of how the Gospel writers were imagining Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices
In 1945, while digging for fertilizer, an Egyptian peasant happened upon a jar that had been buried for hundreds of years, a jar that contained twelve ancient Christian codices including texts like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip. These Nag Hammadi codices have transformed our understanding of early Christianity, but how much do we really know about the circumstances of their discovery? Is it true that their discoverer feared to break open the jar lest he release a genie? Did his mother really burn several of the texts in the bread oven? And did the discovery really take place at the same time as a brutal blood feud? In this talk, Mark Goodacre asks: just how reliable is the story of the discovery of these famous codices?
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIX, November 18 – 20, 2016
John’s Knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels
John is so different from Matthew, Mark and Luke that many scholars think it impossible that he could have written with knowledge of them. Surely this is a different gospel from a different author with different traditions and a different Jesus? But has the case for John’s independence been over-estimated? Could John have written to interpret, correct and supersede his predecessors? This lecture will explore the perennial problems of John’s relation to the Synoptic Gospels.
St. Olaf College, July 24 – July 30, 2016
Who Was Jesus?
Messiah, Lord, Son of God – Christians have worshipped the Christ of Faith for centuries. But who was the Jesus of history and is this figure different from the Christ of Christian devotion? In this series of lectures, Dr Mark Goodacre of Duke University explores the historical Jesus and his world, asking questions about his birth, Passion and death, his miracles, his teaching and the stories of his resurrection.
Lecture 1: The Scandal of Jesus’ birth
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke narrate Jesus’ birth to a young virgin named Mary. Are these stories history or are they legend?
Lecture 2: Jesus’ Family, Career and Upbringing
The Gospels are frustratingly silent about Jesus’ childhood and early adult years. But could a careful reading of early Christian sources shed some light on his family and his formative years?
Lecture 3: Jesus the Galilean Missionary
Sometime around 30 C.E., Jesus began missionary activity in Galilee. Did it all begin with John’s baptism? Who were “the Twelve” and how important were women disciples in his work?
Lecture 4: “He casts out demons and heals the sick!”
The Gospels depict Jesus as a remarkably successful healer and exorcist. How did Jesus get this reputation? What is the history behind these stories?
Lecture 5: “The end of the world is nigh!”
“The eschaton” or “the end” seems to have been a major motivator in Jesus’ mission. What did Jesus mean when he said, “The kingdom of God is at hand!”?
Lecture 6: “He did not speak to them except in parables”
The Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Sower – Jesus is well known as a master storyteller. Why are the parables so important in Jesus’ mission, and what do they mean?
Lecture 7: Jesus’ Conflict with the Authorities
The Gospels repeatedly depict Jesus in conflict with the authorities. Who were the leaders, and why did Jesus clash with them? Did this conflict lead to Jesus’ death?
Lecture 8: Jesus’ Trial and Death
The best attested fact about Jesus is his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. But why was Jesus crucified? What was involved in this appalling manner of death?
Lecture 9: The Stories of Jesus’ Resurrection
Early Christians were convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead, and the Gospels report an empty tomb and several appearances. What are the origins of these stories?
Lecture 10: Who Was Jesus?
Jesus was acclaimed as “Messiah” by his followers from early on. Did Jesus himself think he was messiah? What can the historian say with confidence about the identity of Jesus?
Bible & Archaeology Fest XVIII, November 20 – 22, 2015
Who was the Beloved Disciple?
The Gospel of John features a mysterious “disciple whom Jesus loved.” He appears explicitly only in the second half of the Gospel, where he witnesses Jesus’ last supper, his crucifixion and his resurrection. Traditionally, he has been identified with John, son of Zebedee, and identified as the author of the Gospel, but the character is in fact as anonymous as he is enigmatic. Could he be Nathanael? Or Lazarus? Or Thomas? Or is he connected in some way with a different John known as “the Elder”? This talk will explore the story of the beloved disciple and how he functions in John’s Gospel, asking how he is related to the author of the Gospel and wondering whether there could indeed be a solution to this perplexing mystery.
Montreat Conference Center, May 25 – May 31, 2015
The Apocryphal Gospels
For centuries, people around the world have been familiar with the Gospels of the New Testament. The stories of the life and teachings of Jesus in the books of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are perhaps some of the best-known accounts in the Biblical cannon. But what about the myriad of writings and accounts that did not make it into the “final cut” of the Bible that we know today? New Testament scholar Dr. Mark Goodacre of Duke University takes us on an exploration of the Gospel accounts that did not make it into the New Testament, and examines their implications for our understanding of the life of Jesus, his contemporaries and the world they lived in.
Lecture 1: The Proto-Gospel of James
A compelling prequel to the Gospels, the account known as the “Proto-Gospel of James” centers on the life of Mary and Joseph as well as narrates Jesus’ miraculous birth in a cave in Bethlehem.
Lecture 2: Infancy Gospel of Thomas
This account introduces the bizarre adventures of the miracle-working, precocious, irascible
Lecture 3: Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas gospel is full of Jesus’ sayings and yet contains no passion narrative, no miracle stories and no story narrative. However, this valuable text may nevertheless shed light on the historical Jesus and the development of earliest Christianity.
Lecture 4: Gospel of Philip
The Gospel of Philip is the most notorious among the lost gospels, and features the lines that gave rise to the fictional account of Jesus’ life that featured so prominently in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
Lecture 5: Gospel of Mary
A gospel written in the name of a woman, depicting Mary Magdalene not as the repentant prostitute of western Christian tradition, but as an important visionary and leader in the early church.
Lecture 6: Gospel of Peter
Written in the name of Jesus’ right-hand man, the Gospel of Peter tells an alternative version of the Passion story in which a walking, talking cross emerges from the tomb on Easter morning.
Lecture 7: Secret Gospel of Mark
Discovered in 1958, the Secret Gospel of Mark depicts Jesus in a night-time encounter with a young man, but could this unusual text in fact be a modern hoax?
Lecture 8: Gospel of Jesus’ Wife
First published by Harvard Divinity School in 2012, this tiny fragment features Jesus’ mention of “my wife.” But is it actually no more thana 21st-century forgery?
Lecture 9: Fragmentary Gospels
Many gospels only survived in fragmentary form. One of them, the Egerton Gospel, is a curious hybrid with similarities to both the Synoptic Gospels and John. Another, the Dura-Europos Gospel Harmony, is our earliest evidence of an attempt to blend the four gospels into
Lecture 10: Gospel of Judas
First published in 2006, the Gospel of Judas instantly attained notoriety – could this really be an alternative take on the gospel story, in which Judas Iscariot is now a hero?
Bible & Archaeology Fest XVII, November 21 – 23, 2014
Did “Q” exist? Does it matter?
For well over a century, New Testament scholars have been suggesting that a mysterious lost source called “Q” lies behind Matthew and Luke. One of the earliest sources of Jesus tradition, Q features teaching about the law, mission and the end times. It has famous parables like the Lost Sheep and the Great Supper, as well as iconic passages like the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. But how certain can we be about Q? Why are so many scholars persuaded of its importance? Does Q have anything to tell us about the historical Jesus and the earliest Christian movement? In this presentation, we will examine the case for Q, exploring its importance in studies of early Christianity, and will suggest that reports of its existence may turn out to have been greatly exaggerated.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XVI, November 22 – 24, 2013
Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene?
From Jesus Christ, Superstar to the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, from the Last Temptation of Christ to the Da Vinci Code, there has been a radical shift in our perspectives on key characters in early Christianity. Mary Magdalene has been transformed from a repentant prostitute to the first apostle – now she is even Jesus’ wife. But is Mary’s rehabilitation rooted in reassessments of the primary texts or is it a product of our own immersion in popular culture? What do we know about her Gospel, her tomb and her family? The real story of Mary’s rejuvenation is so mysterious that it leads us to question the identity of the woman we thought we knew. This presentation explores the latest research on Mary Magdalene and the role she plays in the early Christian texts.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XV, November 16 – 18, 2012
The Secret Gospel of Mark: Primitive Gospel or Modern Hoax?
Professor Morton Smith announced his discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark in 1958 and scholars have been in debate about this extraordinary text ever since. Does Jesus’ nocturnal initiation of the young man hint at homosexuality? Was it originally part of the Gospel of Mark? Could it shed light on the evolution of the Gospel tradition or is it in fact an ingenious modern hoax, created by Morton Smith himself? This presentation will take a look at the text of the Secret Gospel and the history of the scholarly debate and ask whether Morton Smith had the genius to pull off what would have been a remarkable literary forgery.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIV, November 18 – 20, 2011
A Giant Jesus and a Walking, Talking Cross: Exploring the Gospel of Peter
The Gospel of Peter is a non-canonical Gospel that was lost to the world until the late 19th-century, when a portion of it was found buried with a monk. This portion, which consists only of the Passion Narrative, is an enigma. It resembles the Passion narratives in the canonical Gospels and overlaps with them at several points, but its differences are often peculiar, most notably in its narration of what actually happened at the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus emerges from the tomb, grows until his head reaches beyond the heavens, and is followed by his cross, which even appears to speak. The Gospel of Peter is one of the strangest artifacts of early Christianity, its text is full of anomalies and its orthodoxy is not entirely clear. This presentation explores this Gospel’s text and origins, its relationship to the canonical Gospels, and its picture of Jesus.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIII, November 19 – 21, 2010
Paul’s Letters: Women, Men and the End
Paul’s attitudes to men, women, sex and gender are famously perplexing. Is he an egalitarian or is he a misogynist? Why does he appear to endorse women in leadership roles at some points, and prevent them from speaking in church at other points? Several key passages warrant careful examination: Romans 16, where he mentions several prominent women; 1 Corinthians 11, where he appears to insist on head-coverings for women; and Galatians 3.28, in which he says that there is no “male or female” and that all are one in Christ. In our context it is easy to miss the fact that Paul’s attitudes to men and women are driven by one over-riding concern: The imminent end.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XII, November 20 – 22, 2009
Was the Gospel of Thomas familiar with the Synoptic Gospels?
The Gospel of Thomas is perhaps the most controversial early Christian text. Some think that it emerged as an early, autonomous sayings gospel that provides important evidence for research on the Historical Jesus and Christian origins. Others think that it is a later text, useful primarily for shedding light on the development of Christianity in the second century. The key that unlocks the problem is substantial evidence that Thomas knew and used the Synoptic Gospels. This lecture will attempt to explain how, when and why this happened.