Of Wells, Springs, and Samaritans

This continues some posts I have been doing concerning John’s Gospel. The Bible contains several stories of holy men and patriarchs encountering women at wells. The wonderful example in the New Testament tells how Jesus met the Samaritan woman at “Jacob’s well,” where they engaged in some sharp dialogue and some dazzling theological discussions. Undoubtedly, [Read More…]

L is for Lazarus

John’s Gospel tells the unforgettable story of a family who lived at Bethany: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, while his sister Mary anointed Jesus, and washed his feet with her hair. As I have discussed in earlier columns, John’s story has many similarities to versions in other gospels, but also differs substantially in detail. [Read More…]

The Perfumed Gospel

Whatever its undoubted spiritual power, the Gospel of John is one of the most intriguing and sophisticated literary texts you are likely to encounter in any religious tradition. Although the text as we have it is the product of multiple layers of composition and editing, you can see so many literary devices and strategies that [Read More…]


In this coming Easter season, I will be thinking of coal fires, anthrax, and anthracite. The coal fires, especially, are critical to our understanding of the New Testament accounts of the Resurrection. Like all good fires, they shed light – specifically, on how the Gospel of John was composed and edited. Let me explain those [Read More…]


Here’s a trivia question. Who wrote the first ever commentary on a piece of Christian scripture? The answer is quite surprising, and it says a lot about some of the diverse subcultures that existed within different parts of the Christian world Elaine Pagels earned fame through her 1979 book The Gnostic Gospels. Far less well [Read More…]


Early Egyptian Christianity had a strong non-orthodox strand, if that “Gnostic” current did not actually dominate. I have already discussed the influence of Basilides, but Egypt produced an even more celebrated teacher in Valentinus. What makes him so interesting for a modern Christian audience is that he shows just how close the Gnostics were to [Read More…]