The Bounty of Keston

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For anyone interested in Christian history, Baylor University’s archives have rich holdings on all sorts of important topics. In this post, though, I want to focus on one astonishingly rich archive that clamors to be better known. This is the Keston Collection, a stunning collection of sources on European history, on religious persecution and religious [Read More...]

Creating Satan

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In the last centuries before the Christian Era, the Devil enjoyed an impressive rise both in his professional status and his assigned areas of responsibility. From being a minor official at the Heavenly Court, he rose to become a fully-fledged adversary of God, almost an anti-God, and like the deity he acquired his own institutional [Read More...]

Why Mormons Love Margaret Barker

James Tissot, Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, ca. 1886-1894

Several years ago, a Latter-day Saint friend encouraged me to read British Methodist theologian Margaret Barker’s books. Now I understand why. A cautionary note. Barker has a large corpus of books to her credit, including The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God and The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. [Read More...]

Religious History at the AHA

I wasn’t able to attend the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City this year. But blogs and twitter have allowed me to track some of the conversation in the area of religious history, my area of research specialty. There were dozens and dozens of panels, but here are several that [Read More...]

The Church and the Dissolving American Family

A new Pew report has confirmed what we’ve known was coming for the American family: a majority of American children now live in homes without married parents in their first marriage. The reasons behind this “new normal” of the broken American family are complex but are certainly related to factors including the “sexual revolution” that began in [Read More...]

New Year, Old You

Many of us already have bound ourselves to resolutions this year.  After fitness the most popular ones include resolutions to learn something. Pick up a new language, Rosetta Stone ads implore.  The Teaching Company touts Latin 101 as its top-rated course. Resolutions to better the body may have obvious appeal (or not: this husk is [Read More...]

The Devil’s Progress

I remarked that Satan is difficult to trace in the canonical Old Testament, but that he becomes prominent in later centuries, in the so-called Inter-Testamental period (a phrase I hate, but let that pass). Moving the diabolical story forward to 200BC, we are clearly entering a different world, and the volume of material is impressive. [Read More...]

The Rise of Satan

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The story of Satan is one of remarkable upward mobility. Let me tell that story in barebones form here, and then discuss it in more detail in subsequent posts. Most people have a sense of the Devil’s biography, which owes a great deal to John Milton. In this popular vision, Satan was once a bright [Read More...]

The Best of 2014: My Favorite Posts of the Year

Happy New Year’s Eve! Yesterday, blogmeister Tommy Kidd graciously posted the top posts from each of the individual contributors who blog under his guidance here at the Anxious Bench.  In keeping with the spirit of the season, I have compiled my own list. First, although my Great Aunt Iris might have shared “The Religion of [Read More...]

The Curse of Memory

The recent furor over shootings of civilians by police has inspired a lot of discussion about eyewitness testimony and the nature of memory, and the question of just how reliable memory can be. If you read the grand jury testimony in the Ferguson, Missouri, case, a number of witnesses reported things that simply did not [Read More...]


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