Zechariah’s Angels

The Old Testament book of Zechariah challenges a lot of conventional assumptions about the development of Second Temple Judaism, and its chronology. Conventionally, historians of Jewish thought trace a series of very significant trends that emerged from the fifth century BC onwards, and which reached fruition only in the second century BC. Most strikingly, these [Read More...]

Zechariah and Revelation

I have been writing about the Old Testament book of Zechariah and where it stands in relation to the apocalyptic tradition, no less than to prophecy. Zechariah – and especially the final chapters, Deutero-Zechariah – were a huge influence on apocalyptic, and that is nowhere more clear than in the New Testament Book of Revelation. [Read More...]

Zechariah’s Apocalypse

I have posted a few times on the Old Testament Book of Zechariah, and especially its final chapters, which are known as Second or Deutero-Zechariah. The text is a huge influence on the gospels, and arguably on Jesus’s own circle. But Zechariah as a whole also stands in a very unusual and significant relationship to [Read More...]

Wisdom and Apocalyptic

I posted about the rise of apocalyptic literature, and the theory that it evolved from the prophecy that we know from the Old Testament. For over a century, though, there has been a rival theory to explain apocalyptic, which suggests that its real origins lie in Wisdom literature rather than prophecy. Understanding this debate helps [Read More...]

The End of Prophecy

If you open the Old Testament at random, the chances are that you will find yourself reading in one or other of the prophets. Those prophets, who worked chiefly between the eighth century BC and the sixth, were clearly a major feature of Israelite religion, and they have been exhaustively studied. In recent years, a [Read More...]

Placing Zechariah

I was posting about some of the weird and wonderful ideas offered by Robert Graves in his 1946 novel King Jesus, one of which concerned the puzzling text we call Deutero-Zechariah, chapters 9-14 of that prophetic work. As I described, the section tells of a devout prophetic figure who is appalled by the sins of [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 2

In a very short period in the second century BC – mainly between 170 and 140 – Jewish thought and religion changed swiftly and fundamentally, creating a world that is familiar to later historians from Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. I have already described some of the scriptures that emerge from this world, but let [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 1

In the third and second centuries BC, the Jewish world changed very rapidly, and we see the development of many themes and debates that would shape both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism – the Last Judgment and eschatology, angels and demons, afterlife and apocalypse. In that process, one very short period of thirty or so years [Read More...]



I posted recently about how wars shape religious change. Depending on the particular circumstances, wartime conditions can have an enormous impact on religious movements and revivals. Let’s look particularly at the Early Modern period. Wars can have good or bad results for states, but for ordinary people, they are drastic and usually horrible transitions in [Read More...]



I originally wrote the following piece for my church’s newsletter. Bear with me if my remarks are obvious. I hope it might be of interest. On May 19, the church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost, with all its rich imagery of fire from heaven, tongues of flame, and speaking in tongues. In the Western [Read More...]