Teaching the Genesis Creation Stories

There is an interesting entry on the Higgaion blog on the subject of teaching the creation stories in a non-literal fashion. What I generally ask my students is what conclusion the presence of a talking animal in a story in any other book or collection would lead them to conclude about its genre. I then [Read More...]

The Brick Testament

Looking for something to liven up your powerpoints in a course on Biblical literature? Don’t forget to incorporate scenes from The Brick Testament, that well-known retelling of (usually some of the more graphic and thus neglected parts of) the Bible in LEGO. Tomorrow’s class is on holy war, and the site has plenty to offer [Read More...]

Negative Images of God in the Teaching of Jesus

This post ties in closely to my earlier one on the counter-cultural teachings of Jesus (as well as my more recent one on Jesus’ sense of humor). I am struck by how many images are used for God or God’s kingdom in the Gospels that would have had negative connotations in the original Galilean/Jewish historical [Read More...]

Stories of Miraculous Births

As I read the Buddha-karita (attributed to Asvaghosha) again in connection with my class on South Asian Civilizations, I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like if our only accounts of the birth of Jesus had been stories from centuries later, such as are found in the apocryphal infancy gospels (e.g. the [Read More...]

Jesus’ Sense Of Humor

There are extensive studies of subjects such as irony in the Gospels, and scholars regularly make comparisons between the parables and jokes. But are any of them actually funny? That is a question that is harder to answer, since jokes often lose all semblance of funniness when translated into another language or another cultural setting. [Read More...]

Trying On Other Religions For Size

A student of ours at Butler University, Diane Hardin, undertook a very interesting religion project as part of her studies. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to figure out how to include the clip directly in this post in any other way, so here is a link to the clip that appeared on the local news: [Read More...]

Facts and Opinions

I came across a great quote on the Evolving Thoughts blog that sums up in a single sentence what I’ve been trying to get across to students for a long time in a less pithy and far wordier fashion. Here’s the quote: “you are entitled to your opinions, but you are not entitled to your [Read More...]

Atheist Meditation & the Problem of Defining “Religion”

Those who are not scholars of religion are often unaware of just how hard it is to define religion as a word/concept. While many people would immediately begin by talking about “God” in some sense, such a definition would leave Buddhism excluded, since although many forms of Buddhism do acknowledge the existence of deities, they [Read More...]

Let Us Make Human Beings In Our Image

The plural used at a decisive moment in the creation account in Genesis 1 has puzzled commentators for millenia. I learned today of a striking suggestion made in Thomas Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah. Who were the most recently mentioned characters in the story immediately before the plural? The animals! It is thus possible to [Read More...]

Biblical Inerrancy and Theological Dishonesty

Biblical inerrancy is a concept that is at best meaningless and at worst dishonest. The full version of statements on this subject normally affirm the inerrancy of the original autographs – i.e. the versions that the authors of the Biblical writings penned or dictated. To accept this, one must take a leap of faith, since [Read More...]

Our Daily Bread

I often wonder how many people who say the Lord’s Prayer around the world, or simply use the phrase “our daily bread”, are aware of the fact that the word rendered ‘daily’ is of uncertain meaning. The Greek word epiousion may well mean ‘daily’, but ‘for tomorrow’ and ‘necessary for existence’ are also possibilities. This [Read More...]