Alternative Scriptures: Finding Sirach

I have been posting about the astonishing wave of scriptural and Bible-related discoveries at the turn of the twentieth century, and their cultural impact. Although not quite as sensational as the find of a new alternative gospel, one moment in particular demands our attention for what it suggest about the nature of the Bible 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…]

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…]


I have been writing about changing concepts of the Biblical canon, my point being that this has developed and altered substantially over time. Some core facts have been constant for a very long time, above all the church’s selection of four gospels – the four we know, and no other. Western Christians, though, might be [Read More…]


As I recently noted, the book of Judith is not part of the Hebrew Tanakh or of Protestant Bibles, but it is recognized as canonical in other churches, especially the Catholic and Orthodox. I do understand the reasons why Protestants made the decision they did to relegate the book to the Apocrypha, although its subsequent [Read More…]


I’ve noted recently how thin the lines between canonical and non-canonical scriptures were in many churches through history, and especially the millennium or so of the Middle Ages. But beyond raising an interesting point about different attitudes prevailing in the past, what does that tell us about Christian history more generally? Why does it matter?  [Read More…]


Not long ago, John Turner ignited controversy when he challenged the idea that Mormonism was a “cult,” a concept I have myself  written on at some length. (By the way, some scholars define “cult” as “a small unpopular religion,” without specifying whether the unpopularity is merited). For present purposes though, I am interested in another [Read More…]