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…]

Which Old Testament?

I am presently writing something that draws heavily on the Old Testament sources. I am also struggling mightily with exactly how to refer to that book. Jews call it the Bible, while Christians speak of the Old Testament. Jews, naturally and reasonably, dislike the latter term because it suggests that their scriptures are outmoded or [Read More…]

Messiahs by the Sackful

Some timely thoughts for Holy Week! In Jesus Christ Superstar, a mocking Pilate complains that “You Jews produce messiahs by the sackful!” Most popular histories take it for granted that Jewish thought was dominated by the eager expectation of a messiah, who would be an individual man, and the main debate concerned the nature of [Read More…]

The Beginning of Wisdom

I have been posting on the subject of Gnosticism and its origins. By the early second century AD, Gnosticism was clearly in evidence as part the early Christian movement, but its history before that date is obscure. Undoubtedly it drew from multiple sources and influences, including Greek philosophical ideas and terminology, but we do not [Read More…]

In Search of the Fall

The two centuries or so before Jesus’s time were a wildly productive era in terms of Jewish thought. It is in this time for instance that we find the full development of such ideas as Satan and angels, the afterlife and the apocalypse. I have been pursuing one concept in particular that would have enormous [Read More…]

Egypt’s Diaspora

Although the third century BC is a shadowy time in Jewish history, both faith and people were being transformed in multiple ways. I recently lamented how little we know of the Jewish world in Palestine at this time, but of course revolutionary developments were occurring elsewhere, in the emerging Diaspora. Two developments in this era [Read More…]


I recently suggested that we should pay much more attention to the Deuterocanonical books that are no longer found in most Protestant Bibles. Partly this is because of their artistic and cultural influence, but their religious significance is immense. Two substantial “Second Canon” books in particular demand our attention, namely Wisdom (“the Wisdom of Solomon” [Read More…]