Then and Now
Christianity

Selling the Ten Commandments

I recently read Jenna Weissman Joselitt’s book Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments and discussed it with my class.  The book tells a story about how and why Americans made the Ten Commandments a focal point for larger issues – such as American identity, “Judaeo-Christian” values, and even our superiority to the...

And Moses Said Unto the GOP…

The other day Nicholas Kristoff published a satirical take-down of Paul Ryan and his budget priorities in the New York Times.  He imagines a conversation between Ryan and Jesus, in which Ryan pushes back on Jesus’ call to have mercy on those who are poor .  Such mercy, Ryan essentially argues, amounts to a policy...

Pope Francis on the Sadducees

I recently published a short piece on the Sadducees in Bible Odyssey.  It was fun to do, if for no other reason than it gave me an opportunity to stake out my (controversial) position on the origin of the Sadducees and Pharisees. One thing about that piece that gave me trouble, though, was the framing. ...

Canonizing Scripture: Historical Simulation

We are just wrapping up my undergraduate course at Brown University entitled “How the Bible Became Holy.”  I have earlier posted a syllabus for this course, which can be found here.  This was the third time I taught the course and was far larger than in previous years.  As in past years, the course will...

The Wisdom of Ben Sira: How Jewish?

I have written a short piece on how the book of Ben Sira (also known as Ecclesiasticus, which today is found in the Apocrypha) was pushed to the Jewish margins and on some recent attempts to bring it back into at least the fringes of Jewish consciousness.  The essay can be found here.

Interview: TLV1

When in Jerusalem recently I was interviewed for TLV1, an English-language internet radio station, about How the Bible Became Holy.  The interview can be heard here, starting around minute 25.

Was Paul a Palestinian Jew?

In her review of How the Bible Became Holy in the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Ruden wrote: He tries to undercut, for instance, the well-founded consensus that Paul was a Diaspora Jew, from a family established in Tarsus (in modern-day Turkey), who first lived in Jerusalem during his youth or young adulthood for study and...

Paul, Homosexuality, and Midrash

Most scholars today believe that there is no concept of “homosexuality,” as we usually understand the term, in the Bible.  That is, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, although clearly familiar with homoerotic sexual acts, do not know of the “homosexual,” a person who has an identity based on the gender of their...

From Israelite to Jew: 2: Religion of Israel

This is the second episode of the podcast, “From Israelite to Jew.” It focuses on the religion of ancient Israel, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and archaeological finds. The podcast can be heard here, or click on the player below. It can also be accessed via iTunes.