Latter-day Saints and the Anointing of Jesus

My co-blogger Philip Jenkins is in the midst of a fascinating series of posts (most recently, here) related to the four gospel accounts of a woman anointing Jesus. In Luke’s gospel and also in John’s, a woman (Mary of Bethany, in John’s gospel) anoints Jesus’s feet and then wipes them with her hair. While writing [Read More…]

Perishing While Flourishing

A few years ago, I went through the painful process of winnowing down the stacks of books and journals in my office. I was moving, and it would cost too much to move everything. Most of the academic periodicals I could simply access online as needed, so many went into the recycling box. Books went [Read More…]

God and the 2016 Presidential Debates

Four years ago, I wrote a post on “God and the Presidential Debates” after the first round between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The substance of that post follows here, after a brief update. God, Christianity, and religion were almost entirely absent from this week’s first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I thought [Read More…]

Black Church, White Jesus

Jesus and I were the only white people in the room. When I was twenty years old, I went to Washington for an unpaid summer internship. The nonprofit arranged for me to stay in a small cottage behind a lawyer’s house in one of the area’s affluent suburbs. In the cottage, there was no air [Read More…]

Mormons Will Vote Trump

The 2016 will go down in the annals of American political history as highly unusual. A real estate mogul and reality television star winning the Republican nomination? A Vermont socialist even sniffing the Democratic nod? Voting blocs, however, are far more predictable. Pundits have written great length about Donald Trump’s weakness with Mormon voters. Not [Read More…]

How a Dissertation Becomes a Book

The first book of most academic historians is a strange creature: a dissertation that has become a book. How and when should newly minted Ph.D.’s transform those dissertations into books? It is one of the most important and — often — most perplexing moments in an academic career. This is the first in a series [Read More…]

Pelican of Mercy

Whenever I’m in Salt Lake City, I like to stop at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. While at the cathedral last week, I noticed something that will no doubt be common knowledge to students of medieval Christianity but was new to me. In two paintings — on the central mural behind the altar and in [Read More…]

America’s Public Bible

Many historians have observed that early Americans lived in a culture drenched in scripture. Through the nineteenth century, Americans’ oral and written speech dripped with biblical allusions that we might miss if we are not familiar with the language of the King James Bible. We might also note that whereas Old Testament narratives and texts resonated deeply [Read More…]

Sacred Violence in Early America

In 1637, English forces and their native allies encircled a Pequot village and burned alive some five hundred men, women, and children. John Mason termed it a “fiery oven” and declared: “It was the LORDS DOINGS, and it is marvelous to our Eyes.” William Bradford, then governor of New Plymouth, allowed that “it was a [Read More…]

Forgeries and Schadenfreude

Nearly four years ago, Karen King publicized a Coptic manuscript she had dated to the fourth-century. It contains the words, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife.’” King did not claim the papyrus as evidence that the historical Jesus had married, but she did consider it evidence that early communities of Christians believed that he had. [Read More…]