Peopling the Biblical World

The Biblical world at various eras is probably the most intensely studied society in human history. Just how many books, for instance, have been written about Palestine in the time of Jesus? Despite all that work, though, we still have major areas of ignorance about such a basic issue as population. If we look at [Read More...]

Good advice for those who are ABD

From The Anxious Bench Archive.  Originally posted October 8, 2014. “It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take.” -Alanis Morissette, “Ironic,” Jagged Little Pill (1995). As my graduate school days appear further and further in my rear view mirror, there are certain events, discussions, and conversations that remain crisp and clear in my memory–just as if they [Read More...]

Graduate Course Readings in Early American Religion

I’m gearing up for the start of classes, so here’s another edition of my readings for the semester. This fall at Baylor I am teaching an introductory American history survey, and a history graduate course (doctoral and master’s students) on early American religion. What am I trying to do with the list of readings for the [Read More...]

Sporadic Charismatic

Quite by accident, I have stumbled across an excellent tool for scholarly analysis. My source is the comic strip ZITS, by Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott, which focuses on the teenager Jeremy and his permanently exasperated parents. It is so agonizingly realistic that it must be based on a writer’s personal experience of parenthood. In [Read More...]

Multiple Messiahs

“Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7.20). Fictional treatments of Jesus commonly show faithful Jews wondering whether he is in fact the Messiah, the One who is to come. The problem, though, is that any conscientious messianic candidate would probably have had to ask for the question [Read More...]

Publishing without Perishing

Several of my co-bloggers have commented on aspects of dissertation writing and academic publishing. Perhaps for some gifted individuals, books come forth with ease. For most of us, however, they are laborious endeavors, filled with stretches of angst and exhaustion. What follows are a few thoughts on how to minimize publishing stress and how to [Read More...]

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as Secular Hymnody

Abbey 1

In 1345, on a cold Tuesday night just before Easter, a miracle happened in Amsterdam. A dying man, given the Eucharist, vomited it right back out. His caregivers were amazed to see that it had reemerged from his mouth whole. They threw the host on a fire, perhaps thinking that this was the least sacrilegious [Read More...]

The “Evangelicals” Who Support Donald Trump

There has been much hand-wringing in recent weeks about the persistent support of Donald Trump among “evangelicals.” Why in the world would so many Christians support a rude and crude candidate like Trump, whose pro-life credentials seem obligatory at best, and who specializes in vilifying Hispanics? If we are to believe the polls, the American [Read More...]

The Other Tyre

I say this with some nervousness, but I think I have a minor discovery to report, involving one of the most puzzling passages of the Bible. I’ll wait for experts to look at the idea and tell me if I actually have anything worthwhile. Let me first state the problem, about which I have posted [Read More...]

Seer Stones and Prophetic Authority

Last week, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made national and international news by releasing photographs of a seer stone used by Joseph Smith during the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. For some contemporary Latter-day Saints and for some outside critics of the church, the fact that Joseph Smith used a [Read More...]


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