“More a Doctrine than a Person”: Evangelicals and the Holy Spirit

I suspect many a Christian, including many evangelicals, can identify with frustrations J.D. Greear expressed in his recent Christianity Today interview about the Christian life and the Holy Spirit:  it “seemed like people in the Bible had a fundamentally different relationship with God than my own. There was a hollowness in my spiritual life. God was more a [Read More...]

By the Rivers of Babylon


In 1973, Geza Vermes reminded us, indelibly, that Jesus was a Jew, and subsequent generations of scholars have thoroughly absorbed that lesson. Less effective, though, have been statements that early Christianity also operated in a thoroughly Jewish matrix, and that the separation between the two movements was slow, uneven and patchy. Long after the first [Read More...]

The Enoch Code


This is puzzling. On multiple occasions, I have written about the ancient text known as 1 Enoch, which the early church regarded as almost canonical. From the early Middle Ages, though, the book was mostly lost to the West, and was only rediscovered in the eighteenth century in Ethiopian translations. Although this lengthy book deals [Read More...]

Revolution in the Making

Something strange happened to the Jewish world in the third century BC. Although the land was usually part of the Ptolemaic Empire, local authorities carried on ruling much as before, largely undisturbed in their power. If we read our main source for the period – the twelfth book of Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, roughly covering the [Read More...]

Free Food!

Catacomb of Priscilla, ca. 3rd Century

“My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker shortly after his most recent electoral victory, “…Caring for the poor isn’t the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people [Read More...]

The Biographers and Jonathan Edwards

Today’s post is an excerpt from my essay on George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, and the Art of Religious Biography, from the recently-released book American Evangelicalism: George Marsden and the State of American Religious History (Univ. of Notre Dame Press), which I co-edited with Darren Dochuk and Kurt Peterson. Biographers have put Jonathan Edwards’s thought and life [Read More...]

Egypt’s Diaspora


Although the third century BC is a shadowy time in Jewish history, both faith and people were being transformed in multiple ways. I recently lamented how little we know of the Jewish world in Palestine at this time, but of course revolutionary developments were occurring elsewhere, in the emerging Diaspora. Two developments in this era [Read More...]

Evangelicalism and Ecclesiology: ETS 2014

Today through Friday, I am in San Diego, CA, attending the 66th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS).  The theme this year is “ecclesiology” and there are several good sessions on historical themes, including one I organized on the negative interplay between ecumenical evangelicalism and denominationalism.  (More on that below.)  Further, there are [Read More...]

Ben Franklin’s Calvinist Sister

In my Baylor graduate seminar on the American Revolution, we recently read Jill Lepore’s marvelous Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. She details Ben and Jane Franklin’s lengthy correspondence, pondering the ways in which the circumstances of history allowed the bright boy Ben to pursue fame and scientific knowledge, while Jane married [Read More...]

The Missing Century

I am in search of a missing century. As I recently described, the second century BC was an incredibly fertile time for Jewish culture and religion, with emerging ideas about Judgment and the afterlife, angels and demons, and a major outpouring of writings. From a Christian perspective, we are looking at the essential prehistory of [Read More...]