Archive for the ‘Bible and theology’ Category

What’s a cult?

August 14, 2017

Some people throw around the term “cult” in a way that defines its meaning down to “a religious group I don’t like.” Writing for the International Cultic Studies Association, an attorney and a counselor have produced a scholarly and balanced treatment of the subject.


Risen, the movie

July 15, 2016

The wife and I just watched Risen (2016) with Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, a Roman tribune charged by Pontius Pilate with finding the body of Jesus. The movie is well done: fairly faithful to the text of the Gospels, and very faithful to the gospel story in general. Clavius serves as the viewpoint character, a sort of “fly on the wall” to Jesus’ post-resurrection time and his ascension.

Mother Teresa’s prayer

January 12, 2016

I can’t guarantee the provenance of this writing, but I got it from National Review Online.

“Sacred Space: Then and Now”

October 28, 2014

Yesterday evening the wife and I attended a lecture at the Arnstein Jewish Community Center in Knoxville. Part of the “Sacred Space: Then and Now” series sponsored by the Partnership for the Academic Study of Early Judaism, the event featured Dr. J.P. Dessel, a (former?) University of Tennessee-Knoxville professor, speaking on the topic “A Look into Ancient Synagogues: Comparing Knoxville’s own with those of the Middle East.”

The speaker emphasized the continuity of synagogues in form and function over the past 2000 years. One fun fact: In some synagogues it’s easier for visitors to get permission to open the Ark and view the Torah scrolls than to go into the kitchen. The synagogues work hard to keep a kosher kitchen, even when not all the congregants eat kosher at home.

Members of the audience pressed the speaker for information on when the custom of separate seating for men and women began. He left the impression that the archaeological evidence doesn’t support separate seating in ancient times as strongly as some think.

“Second Journey of the Magus” by Ian R MacLeod

September 11, 2014

This fantasy story from Subterranean Press Magazine shows Balthazar the Wise Man returning to Jerusalem thirty years after his first visit to the baby Jesus. In this alternate world Jesus jumped from the Temple as the Devil prompted him to do. The result? A strange and dark Kingdom indeed:

The story which he heard from all of them was essentially the same. Of how two figures had appeared atop the main tower of what had then been the largest temple in this city on the morning of the Sabbath four years earlier. Of how one of the figures had been dressed in glowing raiments, and the other in flames of dark. And how the glowing figure had cast himself as if to certain death before the gathering crowds, only for the sky to rent from horizon to horizon as many varieties of angels flew down to bear him up. Even the most conservative of the local priests could not deny the supernatural authority what they had witnessed. When the same figure had arrived the following day at the closed and guarded city on a white horse in blazing raiments and demanded entry, Pilate the Roman prefect, who was subsequently crucified for his treachery, ordered that the gates be flung open before they were broken down.

Everything had changed in the four years since. Jerusalem was now easily the most powerful city in the eastern Mediterranean, and Jesus the Christ or Christos was the most powerful man. If, that was, he could conceivably be regarded as a man at all.

Recovering the Full Mission of God

July 28, 2014

I just reviewed a book by Dean Flemming, Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling (InterVarsity, 2013). If interested, you can check out the review when it comes out in the fall number of the Stone-Campbell Journal.

Evangelism versus coercion

July 22, 2014

Winning hearts and minds.

A book review

July 15, 2014

I wrote this review for a course I’ll teach this fall. The body of the review appears below the fold.

González, Justo L. 1996. Santa Biblia: The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes. Abingdon: Nashville. 123 pages.


Snake handling in the Bible

December 19, 2013


A local news station interviewed me about the longer ending of the Gospel of Mark–not the kind of thing you expect to see on TV news, except that we have a court case going on locally about snake handling in church. The interviewer and cameraman were very professional; the only quibble I have is that the edit made me say the longer ending of Mark appears in various positions in the manuscripts when I said that about the woman caught in adultery passage instead.

UPDATE (1/8/2014): A Campbell County, Tennessee, grand jury has returned a no true bill, refusing to indict the pastor.

Greek & Hebrew Bibles for Kindle

October 1, 2013

If you study the Bible in its original languages and also use a Kindle, you might enjoy these tools. Plenty of good tools exist, but I like these because they cost little or nothing and they work on a Kindle 3 ( = Kindle Keyboard). They are not modern critical texts for the most part, but useful tools for general reading and reference.

Koine Bible by John Barach: $2.99 at Amazon. Contains GNT and LXX including Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals. Great index, no critical notes. Hard to tell how it relates to other known texts. Readable online for free at, where you can also find books about cars! Very Kindle-friendly.

SBLGNT: Free at the Society of Biblical Literature web site. Available in two forms that work on Kindle: a) full-page PDFs with critical notes at the bottom of each page. Switch the Kindle to landscape mode and view each page in three chunks. b) Plain text files (.TXT). Simply put all the files in the Documents folder of your Kindle and there you are. Disadvantages: Plain text version varies irregularly between two fonts (both readable) on a Kindle 3, and textual notes appear in separate files. But free!

Hebrew-English parallel: Free at Masoretic text in parallel column with Jewish Publication Society translation. Read it online or download one PDF per biblical book; looks great on Kindle. No index; you have to scroll within a book to find what you want. Mechon Mamre also has Hebrew Bibles in several other electronic formats.

Bible Gateway: The mobile version looks good when you access it through the Kindle’s “experimental” browser, where you can choose from a couple of Hebrew OT texts and several GNTs as well.

I don’t recommend the Kindle version of Westcott & Hort’s Greek NT from Amazon. At the moment it’s under review and unavailable anyway. When I bought it it had no critical notes and, worse, no diacritical marks within the text.

If you have similar recommendations, please comment.

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