Over the Border

For some centuries, Jews of the Second Temple era lived in a world that was definitely multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. That was true of course in Diaspora communities, but between, say, 200 BC and the 60s AD, Palestine itself was a mosaic of different ethnicities and religions. No Jew there had to travel more than a [Read More…]

Permanent Jihad, Continued

I dearly wish I had not been right. Back in early September, I did a post at this blog about potential terrorism in France and other European countries, under the title of The Age of Permanent Jihad. I wrote that The point is not just that many younger French Muslims are increasingly radicalized, but that [Read More…]

Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing and the Jewish War

Palestine in Jesus’s time was a much more complex and diverse place than we might sometimes think from the standard colonial imagery of Roman soldiers oppressing Jewish subjects. As I have described, there were plenty of other groups in Palestine and neighboring regions, and Jews and Gentiles lived in close proximity. There were also substantial [Read More…]

Peoples Beyond Palestine

I have been posting about the shifting boundaries of the Jewish world during the Second Temple era, and of Jewish political power. By the start of the Common Era, the Herodian family definitely ruled on behalf of the Roman Empire, but the territories in which they operated were far more diverse, ethnically and religiously, than [Read More…]

The Limits of Judea

I posted about the shifting frontiers and definitions of the ancient lands described in the Bible. At various times, they were either much larger and more expansive than what we think of in terms of modern Palestine, while on other occasions they were considerably smaller. I think we tend to lose track of this when [Read More…]

Palestine, Judea, and the Wider World

I have been working on the Second Temple era of Jewish history, of what is sometimes called the Inter-Testamental period (roughly 300 BC – 50 AD). I am increasingly aware of the need to define the geographical scope of any such project, and the quite radical changes that through the centuries affected the limits of [Read More…]

Long Ago, In A Castle Far Far Away

This column has nothing to do with religious or even academic concerns (well, not much). It’s just a nice story. Like most people in this spiral arm of the galaxy, I am looking forward to the latest Star Wars film, and have just seen the new trailer. The star is Daisy Ridley, who is clearly [Read More…]

Other Reformations

We usually refer to “the Reformation” as if the European movement of the sixteenth century was a unique phenomenon. As I have suggested, though, events fitting this model quite well have occurred repeatedly through history, both within Judaism and Christianity. What other examples might we cite? Looking globally, a Western reader might be surprised how [Read More…]

Reformations Then and Now

I described the religious revolution that overcame the Jewish world in the seventh century BC, and which I compared explicitly to a reformation of the sort we know very well from Early Modern Europe. The resemblances between the two eras, as portrayed by a scholar like Baruch Halpern, are often striking. Halpern, indeed, repeatedly and [Read More…]

The Many Faces of Christ

My new book is just published! This is The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels (New York: Basic Books, 2015). I have talked about this topic quite a bit on this blog, but this book addresses the subject in much greater detail. We often [Read More…]