Healing Prayer

We hear a lot these days about the growth of the “Nones,” people who refuse to declare an affiliation with any particular religious tradition. Never, though, confuse that caution about affiliation with a rejection of a religious or spiritual world-view. That point is underlined by a recent study by Jeff Levin on “Prevalence and Religious [Read More…]

The Christ-Myth and the Napoleon-Myth

I recently blogged about The Myth of the Mythical Jesus. Among other things, I argued against those who saw Jesus as a repurposed myth – that is, he was borrowed from some earlier Middle Eastern archetype, perhaps a “dying and rising god” figure. And oh my, do these ideas go back a long way. As early [Read More…]

Slings, Arrows and Shakespeare

As you will assuredly have noticed by now, this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616 (April 23, in fact, which was also his birthday). I have nothing to add to all the high scholarship provoked by the commemoration, but it does give me an opportunity to share my enthusiasm for one [Read More…]

The Myth of the Mythical Jesus

In debates about Christian origins, one tiresome canard is going to come up sporadically, and usually, it’s not worth wasting time on. As I have seen it surface a few times of late, let’s deal with the point here. Briefly, if you are discussing Jesus of Nazareth, you can make any argument you choose to [Read More…]

The Martyresses

I have often blogged about paintings or illustrations, which are excellent ways of illuminating historical attitudes, particularly in matters of religion. Today, I want to do that again but in an unusual way, without actually reproducing the painting directly, and for once, that’s not just about copyright concerns. Aside from its value as a historical [Read More…]

1916 and Jewish History

The centennial of the First World War means that we have plenty of grim events to commemorate, and none more so than in this present year. 1916 was the point at which the war moved into the full-scale industrial mass production of death. We are already reading the accounts of the horrors of Verdun and [Read More…]

War, Faith and Superstition

This year, we are of course commemorating the centennial of the First World War, and specifically the titanic battles of Verdun and the Somme. My 2014 book The Great and Holy War discusses the religious aspects of the war, but one thing that really struck me about that theme was the very large range of [Read More…]

The Messiah, the Prince

I recently blogged on the many and various ways in which translators subtly (and usually unconsciously) change the meaning of a text by capitalization and punctuation. Here is an illustration that seems quite powerful to me. Around 170 BC, the former high priest Onias III was murdered as a result of intrigues within the Jerusalem [Read More…]

The Curse of Capitals and the Theology of Punctuation

I have invented a new discipline, the Theology of Punctuation. I am presently writing a book about the couple of centuries preceding Jesus’s time, and over the past year or two I have written quite a few blogs about issues relating to that topic. One of the persistent problems I have relates to capitals and [Read More…]

Numbering the Old Testament: 22, 24 , 39, or more?

Over the past couple of years my work has often brought me back to the writings of Josephus, and I just wanted to describe one Biblical-related problem that arises there. I claim little originality in what I am writing here, but am rather stating and summarizing a long-running debate. (Jewish readers, please avert your eyes: [Read More…]