1680: Crops, Catastrophes, and Religious Crises

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This is about how we write religious history, and also about a dimension of that history that we need to think through. When we study the history of religions, we usually focus on significant moments of change – great revivals, conflicts, persecutions, awakenings, and reformations. In my next few columns, I am going to suggest [Read More...]

Why Gorgias Matters

This post concerns a wonderful and too-little known resource for Christian history. If you are a specialist in these specific areas, you will be baffled that anyone could make such an obvious point As such specialists are quite rare, I hope that others might find the information of use. In the first millennium (and more) [Read More...]

Christians in the Arab Gulf

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I have been posting about Islamic apocalyptic mythologies that borrowed heavily from Christian precedents. That religious overlap is a lengthy and complex story. When Islam emerged in the seventh century, it did so in an Arabian world with a strong presence of both Christianity and Judaism. The politics of the region have made it difficult [Read More...]

The Hadith and the Jews

I have been discussing the Islamic Hadith, and the apocalyptic traditions found in the section on “Turmoil and Portents” in the collection Sahih Muslim, “Pertaining To Turmoil And Portents Of The Last Hour” (Kitab Al-Fitan Wa Ashrat As-Sa’Ah). Specifically, I have suggested that many of these ideas stem from Christian sources, from the late seventh [Read More...]

Turmoil and Portents

Although the Islamic Hadith are sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, many of them probably come from some decades after his time, and they are a goldmine of information on religious debate and interchange in these years. I have been posting about one apocalyptic section of a collection that is known as the Turmoil and [Read More...]

Dueling Apocalypses

I have been posting about some apocalyptic sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, which are found in the collections known as the Hadith. Such sayings are numerous, and at so many points, they echo the lore found among contemporary Christians. Taken with those Christian documents, in fact, they suggest the depth of the apocalyptic fascination [Read More...]

Jesus at Dabiq

The Hadith are sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, and some address apocalyptic themes. One in particular has attracted a lot of attention recently because it refers to the North Syrian city of Dabiq, and that name and the associated story have inspired the murderous sect known as ISIS/Daesh. Despite that connection, though, the passage [Read More...]

Apocalypse at Dabiq

Over the past year, the word Dabiq has come to be associated with some horrendous deeds. That is the name of the emetic publication of the group ISIS/Daesh, in which it presents its propaganda and advocates acts of terror worldwide. Here, though, in a series of posts, I want to describe where the name comes [Read More...]

The Ghosts of Stonehenge

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‘Tis the year’s midnight, and ’tis the day’s, and a good time to think of lost worlds and ghosts – in this case, the phantoms of bygone faiths. I offer a strange story, which raises some intriguing questions about the possible limits of popular memory in a non-literate society. And although this concerns ancient Britain, [Read More...]

In Our Time

Here is my Christmas present to Anxious Bench readers. Do you ever listen to podcasts? Arguably the very best source of first class podcasts, all free, is http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts They offer perhaps hundreds of programs on a near-infinite variety of themes, with multiple updates daily. Specifically religious series include Heart and Soul, and Beyond Belief. Here, [Read More...]


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