Silenced Women–Modern Lessons from an Ancient Murder

In the second century A.D., the pregnant wife of a prosperous Greek politician died from a vicious assault. Appia Annia Regilla Atilia Caudicia Tertulla, or Regilla, was born into an affluent Roman family in 125 A.D.; she married the Greek politician Herodes Atticus, also from an affluent family, around 140 (when she was 15); and [Read More…]

“Ask Jesus into Your Heart”: A History of the Sinner’s Prayer

[This week’s post comes from my Patheos archives.] Many an evangelical pastor has concluded a sermon by asking non-Christians to “ask [or receive, or invite] Jesus into their heart,” or to pray a version of what some call the “sinner’s prayer.” But some evangelicals, including Baptist pastor David Platt (president of the SBC’s International Mission [Read More…]

The Enoch Seminar

One of the most exciting areas today in Biblical scholarship (broadly defined) is the Enoch Seminar. Founded in 2001, it originally focused on the literature associated with the patriarch Enoch, but has since branched out massively, almost to become a field in its own right. The changing limits of that field are fascinating, both for [Read More…]

Why THE WITCH is One of the Greatest Historical Films Ever Made

I am several months late on this topic, but bear with me. Robert Eggers’s film The Witch is now available on DVD, and I finally got the chance to see it. It is one of the truly great horror films, no argument, but it is also an astonishing piece of historical reconstruction. The Witch is [Read More…]

Which Old Testament?

I am presently writing something that draws heavily on the Old Testament sources. I am also struggling mightily with exactly how to refer to that book. Jews call it the Bible, while Christians speak of the Old Testament. Jews, naturally and reasonably, dislike the latter term because it suggests that their scriptures are outmoded or [Read More…]

Earthly Passions and Celestial Parts

“How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul dismissed skeptics of the bodily resurrection as fools, but the topic remained thorny among Christians for centuries. What was the difference between what Paul termed “celestial bodies” and “bodies terrestrial?” Paul made some clear [Read More…]

How Evangelicals Turned from a Born-Again Christian to a Divorced Hollywood Actor

Many evangelicals became deeply disillusioned with Carter’s presidency. The sharp decline in ticket-splitting from 1976 to 1980—that is, voting for Carter at the top of the ticket and then for Republicans elsewhere on their ballots—suggested that support for Carter in 1976 was in fact an anomaly rooted in evangelical identity. What happened between 1976 and [Read More…]

Martin Luther King and the History of Religious Extremism

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” would make it on my list of must-reads for American cultural literacy. Written as he awaited release from a Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963, King explained why the non-violent protests couldn’t “wait” any longer, as some moderate white Christians asked him to do. “When you are harried [Read More…]

New Thought

In my last column, I mentioned the New Thought movement of the early twentieth century, less for its own intrinsic significance, than for the astonishing importance that observers attached to it. Many educated people saw it as the coming world religion, most notably William James. Today, there is a more basic question: what on earth [Read More…]

Banning the Bible: Did It Really Happen in the Medieval World?

Yes, it did. But not the way you were taught in Sunday School. Let me explain. Last week I stood under the Tudor arch of St. Bartholomew the Great in London (unfortunately still marred by scaffolding). If it had been the 16th century, I would have looked out over an open grassy field just outside the [Read More…]