I don't know much about archeology, except what I read in National Geographic and watch on The Naked Archeologist. I know who Flavius Jospehus was, but I haven't read his writings. NG had a great article about Herod and the numerous building projects he was responsible for in his lifetime, a few issues back.
I took a religion class in college called The Christian Tradition. It was taught by a liberal, retired PBUSA minister who had his PHD. Before I took that class, I made a lot of basic assumptions about the Bible, in particular the gospels. I assumed that the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in their lifetimes-most christians do. According to the type of scholars you read in a religion class in a secular state university, they were written much later, but that most of Paul's epistles were written by Paul. I wish I had saved my term paper from the class, and the textbook-it was so long ago, I unfortunately can't even remember the title or author.
Dr. Bischoff did take particular pleasure in starting arguments between catholics and baptists. There are definite theological differences, but young people in college are far more argumentative about such things than neighbors who have some religious differences. I had a coworker who is a fundamentalist who once made the mistake of implying to a devout catholic that catholics weren't real christians. That was a fun event for me to witness, and Dr. Bischoff would have loved it, although it was far more civil than he would have preferred.
I don't take personally the fundamentalist criticism of "picking and choosing" scripture, because I plainly admit to doing so. I don't consider the law of Moses, for example, to contain as many spiritual truths and principles as the Psalms. I consider The Sermon On The Mountain to be some of the best spiritual teaching I've ever read, and the only thing that when I practice the principles of forgiveness of others as expressed by Jesus in Matthew 5-7, I have peace of mind and do not feel guilty about treating others poorly. I take seriously the part about loving your enemies and praying for those who mistreat you, and I love the wording in the KJV-"He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust".
My question for fundamentalists is: Do you really consider the letters of Paul to be the "Word of God"? If so, why?
I'm not asking this sarcastically, I'm genuinely curious, because I don't think Paul thought his letters were the Word of God. He readily admits to his human condition in the epistles.