Numbering the Old Testament: 22, 24 , 39, or more?

Over the past couple of years my work has often brought me back to the writings of Josephus, and I just wanted to describe one Biblical-related problem that arises there. I claim little originality in what I am writing here, but am rather stating and summarizing a long-running debate. (Jewish readers, please avert your eyes: [Read More…]

The King’s Son Enters Jerusalem

I have been working on European history in the later nineteenth century, and specifically the role of religious and apocalyptic ideas in shaping real-world politics in in that supposedly modern and technological age. I’ll be doing several posts on that topic in coming weeks, but let me just introduce the theme here. What I have [Read More…]

The End of American Evangelicalism

One of the big surprises of 2016 is the extent of evangelical support for Donald Trump. As I mentioned several weeks ago, judging by historical precedents, evangelicals might well have divided their support among a number of candidates who spoke persuasively about their Christian faith, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and the now-defunct Ben Carson, [Read More…]

The Eating Exercise

In Desiring the Kingdom James K.A. Smith contends that humans are imaginative, desiring, loving, affective creatures more than automatons driven by cognitive, intellectual perceptions. He writes, “We feel our way around our world more than we think our way through it.” As such, our imaginations need to be converted and enacted through “intentional practices that [Read More…]

Should You Apply to Graduate School?

Late spring is a good time for potential applicants to start thinking about applying to graduate school. Most application deadlines come between about November 15 and January 15, for admission the following fall. Here’s my post from the Anxious Bench archives about choosing the best programs for you – and whether you should apply to [Read More…]

Volcanic Faith

I have been discussing the effects of global changes in weather and climate on the history of religions. Sometimes, those developments can be related to long-term climatic developments, such as the Little Ice Age, but in other instances, we see the impact of transient catastrophes. A growing number of books have traced the impact of [Read More…]

American Protestantism and Madness

Nearly twenty years ago, I visited a psychiatric unit near the city of Cebu in the Philippines. It consisted of two small sex-segregated wings, each holding perhaps two dozen patients. For my young adult eyes, it was a house of horrors. I had seen slums. I had seen young children scavenging at a filthy dump. [Read More…]

The Christian History of “Pagan” Easter

I bought Easter candy for my students. It was a mistake. Although the students made a valiant effort to eat as much as possible, they left a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (a particular weakness of mine) in the candy basket. Needless to say, they didn’t last long. Reese’s eggs are just one of many [Read More…]

American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths

My new Yale University Press book American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths is ‘in stock’ this week at Amazon, and officially releases on April 12. My aim in this book is to tell a readable story of early America, including the meetings and conflicts of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans. It is based on extensive [Read More…]

1320: Climate Change and the Demons Within

Climate change, weather, and agricultural cycles all played their part in religious history. On occasion, disasters drove paranoia and persecution – see my columns on the years around 1680. My discussion of the c.1740 era suggested how a deep crisis might create an audience open to revivalism. No less fundamentally, catastrophe could decide something as [Read More…]


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