Dr. Who and the Vatican

Last night’s Dr. Who episode, “Extremis,” presented some vicious media stereotypes of Catholicism… well, no, not really. In one scene, the Dr.’s companion Bill (female) is attempting to seduce Penny, a girl she has just met. She tries to explain that there is no reason for her friend to feel guilty about such sexual matters, [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Which Old Testament?

In 1915, the Kansas City Star published a short religion column on the theme of “How the Idea of Immortality Developed” (January 17, 1915). The story was clearly aimed at a general audience, and made no pretensions to academic depth, yet ithe author’s main point was that “The whole doctrine of the future life as [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: From Qumran to Christ

Ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s, many writers have tried to draw connections to Christian origins. [Read more…]

Alternative Scriptures: The First Discovery of Qumran

As I remarked, the early twentieth century was a thrilling time for anyone interested in the Bible or early Christianity, and especially for “lost” alternative versions of the faith. New textual discoveries were appearing, and were having an enormous popular impact. much less well known is the strictly parallel developments that were occurring in the [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures and Necessary Amnesia

It is difficult to think of a modern “radical” theory about Christian origins that was not pretty standard and mainstream in the decades before the First World War. [Read more…]

Spreading the Faith: Other Paths

Recently, I was writing about issues of mission, migration and religious change. It occurs to me that some polymath should write a global, cross-religious history of mission and evangelism. Yes, I know that last word is Christian, but let’s take it in the general sense of “spreading the good news,” however defined. Historically, I can [Read More…]

Languages of Command

I posted recently about how people in many (most) societies mix and match different languages, usually in a situation where one language is much more esteemed and respectable than another. Often, the way such languages are used tells you a lot about that society, in terms of social status and prestige, power relations and ethnic [Read More…]

People Like Us

Earlier this year, President Trump complained about the media’s failure to pay due attention to Islamist terrorist attacks, and the administration offered a specific list of such events. In some cases, his complaint was unfair, but the list did include many overseas attacks known only to experts, and largely ignored by media. In turn, critics [Read More…]

Of Slavs, Slaves, Vikings, and Genetics

I recently had a DNA test to help trace my ancestry, and the result surprised me. The larger story might shed light on one of the grimmest and most forgotten horrors of European history, an era of brutal slave trading. By way of background, my known genealogy is very straightforward indeed. It shows close to [Read More…]

And Battles Long Ago

I have often posted on themes of history, memory, and forgetting, and some recent news stories brought that home to me powerfully – especially on all we have forgotten beyond hope of recovery. This issue of lost worldly glories seems appropriate for the Easter season. Earlier this year, Egyptian archaeologists made a spectacular find, a [Read More…]