The Myth of the Mythical Jesus

In debates about Christian origins, one tiresome canard is going to come up sporadically, and usually, it’s not worth wasting time on. As I have seen it surface a few times of late, let’s deal with the point here. Briefly, if you are discussing Jesus of Nazareth, you can make any argument you choose to [Read More…]

The Martyresses

I have often blogged about paintings or illustrations, which are excellent ways of illuminating historical attitudes, particularly in matters of religion. Today, I want to do that again but in an unusual way, without actually reproducing the painting directly, and for once, that’s not just about copyright concerns. Aside from its value as a historical [Read More…]

When the Mormon Jesus Was Married

It is a staple of anti-Mormon literature (and evangelical countercult literature more generally) that the Mormon Jesus is not the Christian Jesus. One subject that repeatedly surfaces in such arguments is that nineteenth-century Mormon leaders believed that Jesus married, married more than once, and had children. As the film The God Makers explains, “Mormon apostle Orson Pratt [Read More…]

The Evangelical Onion

If you haven’t run across the Babylon Bee yet, check it out. It’s the evangelical version of the satirical online news source The Onion, and it’s made a big splash. In its first three weeks, the Bee has scored more than one million page views. Even the Washington Post has noticed, last week running a [Read More…]

Culture-Changing Christians

Back in 2012, when Mitt Romney lost the presidential election, many disappointed supporters – including a number of evangelicals – suggested that his defeat spoke to an American culture in decline. For politics to change, they say, culture must change. Glenn Beck, for example, tweeted that “the time for politics is over. I’m doubling down [Read More…]

1916 and Jewish History

The centennial of the First World War means that we have plenty of grim events to commemorate, and none more so than in this present year. 1916 was the point at which the war moved into the full-scale industrial mass production of death. We are already reading the accounts of the horrors of Verdun and [Read More…]

Was Nebuchadnezzar a Werewolf?

“Nebuchadnezzar’s malady was not unlike a lycanthropy,” wrote Cotton Mather in his Biblia Americana. The Book of Daniel informs that the king of Babylon and conqueror of Jerusalem lived as a beast. He grew claws and feather-like hair. How? God smote him. Was this a disease of the mind? Mather noted passages in the gospels [Read More…]

Did Medieval Christians Accommodate Paganism?

The Roman Pantheon is awesome. And I mean “awesome” in the sense that my good-English-professor-friend would approve: it evokes feelings of awe and wonder. I caught my first glimpse of this 2000 year-old building after stepping from a stone-paved street into the Piazza della Rotonda. We were on our way back from the Roman Forum and, [Read More…]

The New United States: A “Christian Nation”?

Politicians and pop history writers squabble endlessly about whether America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Skeptics routinely point to the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, in which American officials declared that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion” and “has in itself no character [Read More…]

War, Faith and Superstition

This year, we are of course commemorating the centennial of the First World War, and specifically the titanic battles of Verdun and the Somme. My 2014 book The Great and Holy War discusses the religious aspects of the war, but one thing that really struck me about that theme was the very large range of [Read More…]