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…]

Prophecy Without End?

When drawing the canonical limits of the Bible, Jewish sages strictly declared that the prophetic age had ended in the fifth century BC, and that the last prophets were figures like Zechariah and Malachi, whom Christians know from their own Old Testament. Henceforward, said the rabbis, Jews should seek instruction only from their learned sages. [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…]

Benjamin Franklin, Skepticism, and The Enlightenment

As I have written previously at the Anxious Bench, I am skeptical about “The Enlightenment.” This ideologically-freighted term implies the inexorable progress of scientific humanist thought. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the theory goes, such enlightened thinking triumphed over “dark” religious views. Among the Enlightenment’s many problems today is that classic secularization theory lies in [Read More…]

Gods on Earth

I posted recently on the Greek empires that arose in the centuries following Alexander the Great, like the Ptolemaic regime in Egypt, and the Syrian-based Seleucid Empire. Specifically, I suggested that these realms shaped the worlds of Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity. This was nowhere more true than in their ideologies of kingship and government. [Read More…]

Becoming Mary

In a recent post, I looked at the mysterious figure of the “Woman clothed with the Sun,” depicted in the Book of Revelation. I suggested that she was likely to symbolize New Israel or the Church, although later generations have usually connected her with the Virgin Mary, and the Revelation passage has largely shaped later [Read More…]

The Woman Clothed With The Sun

I recently posted on changing ideas about the Virgin Mary’s role in the New Testament, suggesting that we see an upsurge of respectful interest in her towards the 90s of the first century. I am still grappling with the reasons for this change. I’d like here to explore one particular Bible passage that really gives [Read More…]

The Brightness of the Sun

Sometime around the year 1820, the young Joseph Smith was troubled. According to the earliest account, written in 1832, Smith was anxious over the state of his sinful soul. He “felt to mourn,” for his own sinfulness and that of the world. He was convinced of God’s existence, simply by looking at the wonders of [Read More…]