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...]

Visualizing History

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Access to the Internet has transformed my perception of the value of visual images to understanding history, and also to teaching the subject. Through a resource like Google Images, it is now easy to find depictions of any era, topic or theme, with a wealth and variety that would have been quite unobtainable even through [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 2

In a very short period in the second century BC – mainly between 170 and 140 – Jewish thought and religion changed swiftly and fundamentally, creating a world that is familiar to later historians from Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. I have already described some of the scriptures that emerge from this world, but let [Read More...]

Candles, Prayers, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Nicolaikirche_Leipzig

Last weekend, Germany celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the East German government’s blockade of its own citizens. In November 1989, amid considerable political confusion, East German security forces did not prevent crowds from crossing the border and scaling the Berlin Wall. It was not the first moment in which East German soldiers [Read More...]

Unexpected Sites of Christian Pacifism: Rand Paul Edition

This post on politician Rand Paul, the latest in a series that has included Pentecostals, holiness groups, and Charles Spurgeon, will probably perturb everyone. Conservatives will object because they won’t want to be linked to the “liberal” position of pacifism. Libertarians will object because theirs is not a principled pacifism, but a fiscal one. Pacifists [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 1

In the third and second centuries BC, the Jewish world changed very rapidly, and we see the development of many themes and debates that would shape both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism – the Last Judgment and eschatology, angels and demons, afterlife and apocalypse. In that process, one very short period of thirty or so years [Read More...]

Rescue the Perishing

Russell Cover

Gerard Russell’s Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms is a remarkable book, both for its breadth and vision. Russell, a former British diplomat (who claims on the book’s jacket to speak fluent Arabic and Dari but within the book’s pages speaks a little bit of nearly every Middle Eastern language) surveys seven religions that are not only [Read More...]

Race, Religion, and Teaching in Prison

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The St. Louis County grand jury tasked with determining whether enough evidence exists to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown will announce its decision later this month.  Regardless of the outcome of that inquiry, large groups of people will be disatisfied, even angry.  Unfortunately, their reaction will not be [Read More...]

David Skeel’s _True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World_

I recently read Penn law professor David Skeel’s remarkable apologetics book True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. I have to admit to ambivalent feelings about a lot of Christian apologetics, which often seems likely only to confirm Christians’ faith rather than engaging seriously with the work of Christianity’s critics. I found Skeel [Read More...]


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