Catacomb of Priscilla, ca. 3rd Century

Free Food!

"My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able," said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker shortly after his most recent electoral victory, "...Caring for the poor isn’t the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people into Medicaid."Yes, job skills, especially if they lead to jobs, are certainly better than handouts, and one can always criticize our dysfunctional system of health insur … [Read More...]

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Eating Eel: Your Guide to an Authentic Thanksgiving

Turkey might be traditional fare at Thanksgiving, but it’s probably not historical. If the Pilgrims ate any birds at all, historian Tracy McKenzie writes in his fascinating book The First Thanksgiving, they were probably waterfowl. William Bradford remembered that there were “swarms and multitudes” of ducks, swans, herons, and cranes. There were, said a Dutch West India Company agent, lots of turkeys too, but they had “very long legs” and could run “extraordinarily fast.” The Pilgrims probably di … [Read More...]

The Biographers and Jonathan Edwards

Today's post is an excerpt from my essay on George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, and the Art of Religious Biography, from the recently-released book American Evangelicalism: George Marsden and the State of American Religious History (Univ. of Notre Dame Press), which I co-edited with Darren Dochuk and … [Read More...]

An Infallible, Liberal Pope?

Pope Francis has been back in the news. Most recently, because the Vatican confirmed that he will visit the United States next year, but earlier because of the much-discussed extraordinary synod on the family. At this gathering, some prelates drafted a document evincing an unprecedented welcome to … [Read More...]

Egypt’s Diaspora

Although the third century BC is a shadowy time in Jewish history, both faith and people were being transformed in multiple ways. I recently lamented how little we know of the Jewish world in Palestine at this time, but of course revolutionary developments were occurring elsewhere, in the emerging … [Read More...]

Interpreting “America’s Pastor”

Today's guest post is by Nathan A. Finn, who serves as associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also directs the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality. You can follow him on Twitter​.By most ac … [Read More...]

Evangelicalism and Ecclesiology: ETS 2014

Today through Friday, I am in San Diego, CA, attending the 66th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS).  The theme this year is "ecclesiology" and there are several good sessions on historical themes, including one I organized on the negative interplay between ecumenical … [Read More...]

Ben Franklin’s Calvinist Sister

In my Baylor graduate seminar on the American Revolution, we recently read Jill Lepore's marvelous Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. She details Ben and Jane Franklin's lengthy correspondence, pondering the ways in which the circumstances of history allowed the bright boy Ben to … [Read More...]

The Missing Century

I am in search of a missing century.As I recently described, the second century BC was an incredibly fertile time for Jewish culture and religion, with emerging ideas about Judgment and the afterlife, angels and demons, and a major outpouring of writings. From a Christian perspective, we are … [Read More...]

Visualizing History

Access to the Internet has transformed my perception of the value of visual images to understanding history, and also to teaching the subject.Through a resource like Google Images, it is now easy to find depictions of any era, topic or theme, with a wealth and variety that would have been quite … [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 2

In a very short period in the second century BC - mainly between 170 and 140 - Jewish thought and religion changed swiftly and fundamentally, creating a world that is familiar to later historians from Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. I have already described some of the scriptures that … [Read More...]

Candles, Prayers, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Last weekend, Germany celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the East German government's blockade of its own citizens. In November 1989, amid considerable political confusion, East German security forces did not prevent crowds from crossing the border and scaling the Berlin … [Read More...]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Rand Paul Edition

This post on politician Rand Paul, the latest in a series that has included Pentecostals, holiness groups, and Charles Spurgeon, will probably perturb everyone. Conservatives will object because they won’t want to be linked to the “liberal” position of pacifism. Libertarians will object because their … [Read More...]

Why a Conference Paper is Usually Just a Conference Paper

[Today's guest post is from my Baylor history colleague Dr. Beth Allison Barr. You can follow Dr. Barr @bethallisonnbarr]We academic types have all been there.Piecing together funding grants and last month's grocery leftover cash to present "the" conference paper. The one that will grab the … [Read More...]

Why does it hurt so much to live?

The answer is carbon.        Pain is unavoidably part of the package of carbon-based life, explained Denis Alexander this week in his Herrmann Lectures at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Alexander, biochemist and emeritus director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cam … [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 1

In the third and second centuries BC, the Jewish world changed very rapidly, and we see the development of many themes and debates that would shape both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism – the Last Judgment and eschatology, angels and demons, afterlife and apocalypse. In that process, one very short … [Read More...]

Rescue the Perishing

Gerard Russell's Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms is a remarkable book, both for its breadth and vision. Russell, a former British diplomat (who claims on the book's jacket to speak fluent Arabic and Dari but within the book's pages speaks a little bit of nearly every Middle Eastern language) surveys … [Read More...]

Race, Religion, and Teaching in Prison

The St. Louis County grand jury tasked with determining whether enough evidence exists to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown will announce its decision later this month.  Regardless of the outcome of that inquiry, large groups of people will be … [Read More...]

David Skeel’s _True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World_

I recently read Penn law professor David Skeel's remarkable apologetics book True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. I have to admit to ambivalent feelings about a lot of Christian apologetics, which often seems likely only to confirm Christians' faith rather than engaging … [Read More...]

Thrones and Dominions

I have been exploring how Judaism acquired its ideas of angels as named individuals like Gabriel and Michael, and whether that practice reflect Persian influence. As I suggested, our knowledge of Persian religion is actually less detailed than we often think, and that is especially true in matters … [Read More...]


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