February 17, 2024

I saw an ad on Facebook for You.com which from its URL sounds like it could be any number of things other than what it is, an adaptation of ChatGPT that supposedly can be better at providing sources so that you can have AI write an actual research paper. Of course I had to try it out. The verdict? It is terrible, but not in the ways that I feared it would be. How is it terrible? Read my brief... Read more

February 12, 2024

I am humbled and honored by the endorsements of Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist. “Essential reading for all interested in Jesus’s spiritual formation as well as the later ‘parting of the ways’ between John’s teachings and Jesus’s, this highly accessible work walks us through a little-known story of a relationship that no one previously has brought to light with such clarity and insight.” —Nicola Denzey Lewis, Claremont Graduate University  “Thanks to a fresh approach and many hypotheses for ancient... Read more

January 25, 2024

I am delighted to have the opportunity to offer a brief review of Mireille Hadas-Lebel’s book Les Pharisiens: Dans les Evangiles et dans l’Histoire. It accomplishes a great many important things in a manner that will be of interest to scholars and yet is presented in a way that should reach a much wider audience. Having a scholar who has previously published on other aspects of Jewish history in the same period tackle this topic is a definite gain. In... Read more

January 23, 2024

…ࡁࡔࡅࡌࡀࡉࡄࡅࡍ ࡖࡄࡉࡉࡀ ࡓࡁࡉࡀ I struggled for a long time with Mandaic fonts not working on my PC. Mandaic characters have been added to Unicode and there are free fonts available, but at some point they stopped working. I realized that this was not an issue for everyone when someone Tweeted at me in Mandaic, and when I looked at the tweet on my phone it displayed correctly. Yet when I went to reply on my PC I did not see... Read more

January 15, 2024

This semester I’m teaching my Religion and Science Fiction class with a focus on climate change and dystopian fiction. We’ll start off with Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Rereading it with a view to teaching it has me excited to introduce students to it and explore its themes. It is so rich simply as literature but especially in terms of theology and social commentary. I will try to emphasize that the point of reading novels is not to remember plot... Read more

December 28, 2023

I received an email encouraging me to try out Bard’s GeminiAI and thought it would be fun to ask it how to detect when students have used AI. Here’s what it wrote: Determining whether your student’s work is AI-generated can be tricky, but several methods can help you make an informed judgment: Content-Based Clues: Lack of originality or specific detail: AI writing often struggles with personal experiences, emotions, and unique insights. Look for generic statements, clichés, and a lack of depth in the content. Repetitiveness and formulaic... Read more

December 27, 2023

The business of Christmas hopefully provides an excuse for taking a couple of days before posting my thoughts on “The Church on Ruby Road.” What follows assumes you have seen the episode. I very much like the latest regeneration of the Doctor, and I was glad that despite the wibbly wobbly timey wimey therapy provided by the bigeneration and the other Doctor settling down with family, there was still clearly a rich well of emotion at being the last time... Read more

December 21, 2023

A year ago I was just returning from spending Michelmas term at Magdalen College in Oxford, at the halfway point in a yearlong sabbatical. I was happy to be back with my family after extended separation. I was wondering what it would be like, after spending time in the Bodleian Libraries’ David Reading Room looking at manuscripts and in the Duke Humphries library just because it is such a cool historic space, to relocate soon after the beginning of the... Read more

December 19, 2023

There is a brand new Society of Biblical Literature program unit focused on John the Baptist, and it will be on the annual meeting program for the first time in 2024 in San Diego. The call for papers is now on the SBL website and so I thought I’d draw it to everyone’s attention now so you can start thinking about a paper you’d like to submit. Program unit description: While there is always a steady trickle of interest in John... Read more

December 13, 2023

It was an honor to have the chance to speak at the Mandaean Convention in San Antonio. It was a small gathering, and they were incredibly hospitable to me and the other academics whom they invited. They served some of their characteristic treats, including ashure (Noah’s pudding) with date syrup, date balls rolled in sesame seeds, and a few other things. I spoke about John the Baptist as someone who would seem destined to be a cause for division between... Read more

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