FAITH AT WAR

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I have been thinking how warfare drives religious change. This arises partly from preparing the graduate course I am teaching at Baylor University in the coming Spring semester on Global Christianity, where of course I am tracing the fates of different churches and missions over lengthy periods of time. Also, the new book I have [Read More...]

ON FEEDING THE TROLLS

Today’s blog is about blogging. If you blog on religious topics, you know that there are a couple of issues that are guaranteed to set at least some commenters off into paroxysms of rage. On a site like this, Islam and Mormonism are two prime detonators. I’m open to very wide ranging discussions on anything [Read More...]

THE VERY PLACE WHERE IT HAPPENED

I recently described the powerful medieval theme of rooting the events of the New Testament in the places and objects of the Old. I cited for instance the Syriac writer Solomon of Basra around 1220, and what we can only call a complex mythological system: As to the tree upon which our Redeemer was crucified, [Read More...]

THE BIBLE’S DEEP HISTORY

I have been spending a lot of time recently with the apocryphal texts of the Old Testament, the pseudepigrapha. This material can become obsessive! Through much of Christian history, the relationship between Old and New Testaments was very different from how most would imagine it today. Modern believers certainly see foretastes or prophecies of Christ [Read More...]

ARTEMISIA COMES TO CHICAGO

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Some months back I described how the Bible’s Deuterocanonical books had inspired so many artists through the centuries. I particularly mentioned the wonderful Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), who among other things was celebrated for her gory portrayals of Judith beheading the enemy general Holofernes. The Wall Street Journal recently did a piece on a [Read More...]

WHAT IS A GOSPEL?

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I have been working on the fate of alternative scriptures in the millennium or so following the early Christian era – say, between 500 and 1600. My argument is that, in that long period, many or most of the old alternative texts that were so popular in the early church continued to thrive and to [Read More...]

THE GREEN MAN AND THE KING OF SALEM

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Christians who delve into the Qur’an will be surprised how many old friends they find there, including Jesus and Mary, of course, and a lengthy roster of prophets and patriarchs. Exploring the Qur’an can be an excellent way of understanding the Christian and Jewish worlds of Late Antiquity, roughly the sixth and seventh centuries BC. [Read More...]

THE CAVE OF TREASURES

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Throughout history, both Jews and Christians have been extraordinarily prolific in producing alternative scriptures, which we conventionally divide into Old and New Testament apocrypha (or pseudepigrapha). Some texts, though resist such neat divisions. While apparently expanding on Old Testament events and personalities, they actually present Christian doctrines so strongly that they certainly belong alongside New [Read More...]

THE SECRET RESURRECTION OF SALVATOR ROSA

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I think I’ve discovered a long-lost secret society that transmitted its religious message through coded paintings. No, I have not lost my mind, nor have I changed my last name to Brown. The main problem in studying the history of secret societies and underground ideas is that they are all so, well, secret. On the [Read More...]

FORGETTING EZRA

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In October, 1555, the regime of Mary Tudor burned two former English bishops for their stubborn Protestant convictions. As they went to the flames, one of the martyrs, Hugh Latimer, addressed his comrade, Nicholas Ridley, in stirring terms that have inspired successive Protestant generations. He urged him, “Be of good cheer, master Ridley, and play [Read More...]


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