Scripture and Sedition

The Hasmonean rulers of the independent Jewish kingdom (165 BC – 63 BC) were the subject of many writings, usually in the form of veiled pseudo-prophecies. Taken together, they provide us with a strictly contemporary commentary on a critical period. The ruling Hasmonean dynasty had many enemies, and from various perspectives. Originally aligned with the [Read More...]

Pseudo-Prophets and Real Kings

The independent Jewish kingdom of the second and first centuries BC – the Hasmonean state – had a turbulent and bloody history. That story is extensively commemorated in various pseudo-scriptures, although we can’t be exactly sure about the correspondence between historical events and literary representation. But some of these texts exercised enormous power over later [Read More...]

Enter Adam

Michelangelo,_Creation_of_Adam_03

In the mid-first century AD, St. Paul wrote some hugely influential words about Adam, the Fall, and original sin. As I have argued, these ideas seem  at variance with earlier Biblical traditions and Jewish thought, in which Adam’s story made little impact. Around Paul’s time, though, that saga was attracting increasing interest. Paul, oddly, was [Read More...]

Sons of Light and Sons of Seth

I discussed Dylan M. Burns’s book Apocalypse of the Alien God, an account of the influential early Gnostic sect called Sethians. Burns’s arguments resonated because of work I have been doing recently on the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and the influence of the sectarian Judaism we know from Qumran and the Dead Sea [Read More...]

In Many Tongues

Over the past year, I have been making heavy use of a magnificent scholarly resource called Outside the Bible, which presents new translations of apocryphal and non-canonical works related to the Hebrew Bible, with extensive commentaries. The full reference is Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel and Lawrence H. Schiffman, eds., Outside the Bible: Ancient [Read More...]

FORGETTING EZRA

Latimer_Ridley_Foxe_burning

In October, 1555, the regime of Mary Tudor burned two former English bishops for their stubborn Protestant convictions. As they went to the flames, one of the martyrs, Hugh Latimer, addressed his comrade, Nicholas Ridley, in stirring terms that have inspired successive Protestant generations. He urged him, “Be of good cheer, master Ridley, and play [Read More...]

ENOCH ABIDES

negus

Although the Book of Enoch was highly regarded in the early Christian church, it fell out of favor by the fourth century. From the ninth century, it virtually disappeared from European churches at least, and the text would be lost for a millennium. But the work proved surprisingly durable. Centuries after it was denounced by [Read More...]

THE MYSTERY OF ENOCH

Idris_the_prophet

And Enoch walked with God and then he was gone, for God took him. I am investigating a mysterious disappearance. As I am a mere academic, there’s no actual blood involved, but it’s still a puzzling case. Briefly, I am trying to explain why the Book of Enoch vanished as thoroughly as it did, and [Read More...]

PAPIAS AND THE MIRACULOUS VINES

Jesus the true vine

Based on my study of Christian history, I offer a couple of strictly non-scientific impressions. The first is that the religion is more consistently weird in its expressions than we usually assume. Also, we can find a remarkable number of long-term continuities and connections, if we remain open to noticing them. And finally, any long-term [Read More...]

THE SLAVONIC SCRIPTURES

Over at realclearreligion, I have a new column on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and particularly the very important Slavonic texts that have turned up over the past 150 years. These Slavonic materials are extraordinarily important. They represent a collection of truly ancient documents, mainly from Second Temple Judaism. Through the Byzantine Empire, they found their [Read More...]


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