Historians Spar Over Contentious “Jeopardy!” Question

Biblical authorship gets complicated

Who knew game shows could pose existential questions?

Decades ago, two American television institutions crossed over when a Cheers plotline found supporting character Cliff Clavin racking up an array of wins on Jeopardy! — right up until he answered Final Jeopardy with the question “Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?” Technically accurate, to be sure — but also in no way, shape or form the answer that was intended.

Take a similar sort of existential question and throw in some Biblical history and you might have a sense of the controversy surrounding the latest Tournament of Champions — specifically, the game that took place on November 16, 2022. Competing were three returning champions — Amy Schneider, Andrew He and Sam Buttrey.

As CNN reports, the final clue was, “Paul’s letter to them is the New Testament epistle with the most Old Testament quotations.” Each of the three contestants answered differently. Schneider responded with, “Who are the Hebrews,” while Buttrey said, “Who are the Romans.” He’s response was “Philippiaes,” which seems to be a misspelled “Philippians.”

For purposes of the episode, Schneider’s answer was selected as the correct one. As CNN’s article notes, the question opened a larger debate among historians whose area of expertise is the early days of Christianity. Evidently, there are some lingering questions over which of Paul’s letters Paul actually wrote. All of this led to some viewers taking to social media to argue that Buttrey’s answer was, in fact, the correct one.

Historians, theologians and past Jeopardy! contestants made impassioned arguments for their case — and offered non-experts in the field a sense of some of the debates over authorship that rage within these circles. As it turns out, though, He walked away from the episode as the winner. Contentious questions of ancient history can spark plenty of debate — but they’re not the only way to triumph in a contest of knowledge.

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