Palestine, Judea, and the Wider World

I have been working on the Second Temple era of Jewish history, of what is sometimes called the Inter-Testamental period (roughly 300 BC – 50 AD). I am increasingly aware of the need to define the geographical scope of any such project, and the quite radical changes that through the centuries affected the limits of [Read More…]

Trump, Presbyterians, and Adventists

A few days ago, Donald Trump thought it wise to remind Republican primary voters that he’s Presbyterian and Ben Carson belongs to some weird religion: I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian . . . Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all [Read More…]

Upsetting Gender Roles in Turn-of-the-Century China

Moving to China often upset the sharply separated gender spheres of Victorian America. Given the strangeness of the Chinese context, the husbands of female missionaries often became more domestic. As historian Jane Hunter notes her book The Gospel of Gentility, “Both husband and wife relied on homelife as a refuge in a strange land.” This [Read More…]

Choosing a Book or Dissertation Topic

John Turner recently had a fabulous post on “Publishing without Perishing” which is full of excellent suggestions on how to survive writing your first book or your dissertation. There’s much fodder there for discussion, but today I want to consider the issue of selecting a dissertation topic. Of course, my perspective is shaped by my [Read More…]

Long Ago, In A Castle Far Far Away

This column has nothing to do with religious or even academic concerns (well, not much). It’s just a nice story. Like most people in this spiral arm of the galaxy, I am looking forward to the latest Star Wars film, and have just seen the new trailer. The star is Daisy Ridley, who is clearly [Read More…]

Other Reformations

We usually refer to “the Reformation” as if the European movement of the sixteenth century was a unique phenomenon. As I have suggested, though, events fitting this model quite well have occurred repeatedly through history, both within Judaism and Christianity. What other examples might we cite? Looking globally, a Western reader might be surprised how [Read More…]

For Evangelicals, Party Trumps Personalities

My co-blogger Thomas Kidd suggests that church-going evangelicals and a group he calls “paleo-evangelicals” (already disaffected with the Republican Party) should desert the Republicans should Donald Trump capture the GOP nomination. I am in the camp of those who consider that outcome an improbability in two respects. First, despite widespread dissatisfaction with “establishment” politicians, Republicans [Read More…]

How to Start a Writing Group

My writing group just celebrated our 5th anniversary. Although our idea for the group was born during a faculty retreat, it took us a year before we hashed out a plan. We were all tenure-track and anxious about the promotion process. What we wanted was a support structure for both writing accountability and boosting publications. What [Read More…]

Donald Trump and the Coming Christian Political Realignment

As Donald Trump has maintained strong leads in primary states like South Carolina, some observers like Matt Lewis have begun to speculate about what it would be like if this guy actually became president. I still believe (and fervently hope, for the sake of the republic) that Trump has no chance of becoming president, but [Read More…]

Reformations Then and Now

I described the religious revolution that overcame the Jewish world in the seventh century BC, and which I compared explicitly to a reformation of the sort we know very well from Early Modern Europe. The resemblances between the two eras, as portrayed by a scholar like Baruch Halpern, are often striking. Halpern, indeed, repeatedly and [Read More…]


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