The Convincement of Richard Davies

I want to recommend a book that is a major source on Christian history. It really is not well known or cited by non-specialists, and that is sad. The story it tells is critical for Protestantism in general, for Puritanism, British religious history, for attitudes to the authority of scripture, and for American religious origins. [Read More…]

The Reformation, in Verse

In 2017, we are going to be hearing a great deal about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Rather lost in this coverage, though, might be the exceeding slow pace with which Reformation ideas actually permeated many parts of Europe, even those within notionally Protestant states. To illustrate this, I will here tell the story [Read More…]

The Nightmare Before Halloween

I love Halloween, and I love horror fiction. One of the most powerful and evocative contributions to both areas is a lengthy poem that is now regarded as one of the greatest exemplars of modern poetry in the British Isles. As we approach Halloween, it amply repays your attention. The poem is the Ballad of [Read More…]

Of Wells, Springs, and Samaritans

This continues some posts I have been doing concerning John’s Gospel. The Bible contains several stories of holy men and patriarchs encountering women at wells. The wonderful example in the New Testament tells how Jesus met the Samaritan woman at “Jacob’s well,” where they engaged in some sharp dialogue and some dazzling theological discussions. Undoubtedly, [Read More…]

Lazarus and James

I have been posting on the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, as told in Luke’s chapter 16, and puzzling out its possible relationship to the miracle of Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Here, I will pursue that question by citing another curious source, namely the Epistle of James. James was for centuries [Read More…]

L is for Lazarus

John’s Gospel tells the unforgettable story of a family who lived at Bethany: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, while his sister Mary anointed Jesus, and washed his feet with her hair. As I have discussed in earlier columns, John’s story has many similarities to versions in other gospels, but also differs substantially in detail. [Read More…]

Jesus’s Anointings

Last time I posted about the New Testament passages describing the anointing of Jesus. Here, I will explore the implications for approaches to Scripture, literalist and otherwise. Each of the four gospels has a scene in which a woman uses costly oil to anoint Jesus, with the suggestion that this is in preparation for his [Read More…]

The Perfumed Gospel

Whatever its undoubted spiritual power, the Gospel of John is one of the most intriguing and sophisticated literary texts you are likely to encounter in any religious tradition. Although the text as we have it is the product of multiple layers of composition and editing, you can see so many literary devices and strategies that [Read More…]

The Religious Revolution of the 1970s: The Case of Iran

I have been doing a series of posts about the global revival of religious politics during the mid-1970s. As part of this, I have offered a framework for what was happening at this time, suggesting why discontent being expressed in those traditional religious forms. Throughout, we must stress the effects of the 1973-75 economic crisis. [Read More…]

The Religious Revolution of the 1970s: The Case of Israel

I have been posting about the aggressive revival of religious politics during the mid-1970s, and suggested parallels between events in the United States and many other nations around the world in the very same years. Specifically, I offered a model for what was happening at this time, and which had led to discontent being expressed [Read More…]