Does the Bible Prohibit Revolution?

My graduate students and I recently read James Byrd’s terrific Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution. This book is a treasure trove of information about how the Patriots and Loyalists actually used the Bible during the Revolution. The most surprising fact I learned from the book is that Romans 13 – in [Read More…]

Of Scriptures and Superheroes

I have a long-standing interest in apocryphal and non-canonical Christian writings. Many of these texts present themselves in the words of Old Testament figures like Adam or Moses (the pseudepigrapha), and Old and New Testament characters and stories merged together freely over the centuries. Eve, for instance, is in one story an early visitor to [Read More…]

Restoring the Kingdom

When the Risen Jesus appears to the apostles, they have a vital question for him: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Given the thrust of the gospels as we have them, that seems a bizarre emphasis: could his followers really have got Jesus’s message so totally wrong? But [Read More…]

The Elders of Israel

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds semiannual general conferences, with twenty thousand of the faithful gathering in the church’s conference center across the street from Temple Square and others watching in local meeting houses, stake centers, and over the internet. General Conference always receives some coverage in the media. This year, the [Read More…]

Good Advice for those who are ABD

“It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take.” -Alanis Morissette, “Ironic,” Jagged Little Pill (1995). Anxious Bench blogmeister, Thomas Kidd recently posted a great piece on “How to Survive Graduate School.”  He dealt with big picture items such as tailoring reading strategies, taking care of your health, and attending to your spiritual life.  In [Read More…]

Those Suspicious Medical Missionaries

“It’s great that these people are doing God’s work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?” So muses Brian Palmer at Slate about the work of medical missionaries like Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted Ebola in Liberia. I’m almost embarrassed to write about this piece, because it is such an easy target. [Read More…]

Gods on Earth

I posted recently on the Greek empires that arose in the centuries following Alexander the Great, like the Ptolemaic regime in Egypt, and the Syrian-based Seleucid Empire. Specifically, I suggested that these realms shaped the worlds of Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity. This was nowhere more true than in their ideologies of kingship and government. [Read More…]

Naming Palestine

I post frequently on matters of Biblical history, and on occasion I naturally have to give a geographical location, to suggest for instance that a given king ruled over the territory. I use the term “Palestine,” and that requires a word of explanation – not, you understand, apology. In my usage, Palestine refers to the [Read More…]

In Many Tongues

Over the past year, I have been making heavy use of a magnificent scholarly resource called Outside the Bible, which presents new translations of apocryphal and non-canonical works related to the Hebrew Bible, with extensive commentaries. The full reference is Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel and Lawrence H. Schiffman, eds., Outside the Bible: Ancient [Read More…]

Inventing Eden

Zachary Hutchins’s Inventing Eden is a remarkable book. As its subtitle explains, Hutchins examines “primitivism, millennialism, and the making of New England.” Many of us probably know that various colonial and early American boosters promoted the environs of the New World as paradisiacal, Edenic destinations in which beleaguered Europeans could quickly reap a bounty from [Read More…]


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