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History in the Bible

205 EpisodesProduced by Garry StevensWebsite

A guide to the history presented in the Bible, for people of all faiths and backgrounds, presented by an independent podcaster, and biblical studies buff. I explore the religion of ancient Israel, the beginnings of Christianity, then finally the evolution of the heirs of Abraham to the year 200. I d… read more

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3.30 Speculations I

November 19th, 2023


This is the first episode in a series of speculations and alternate histories. This time: what if John the Baptist was bigger than Jesus? What if …

Bonus: Announcement About a Brief Course on Isaiah, with Gil Kidron

November 12th, 2023


Gil Kidron and I announce a brief course about the prophet Isaiah. This will be conducted in two sessions in January 2024. Emnail me for more information.

Bonus 57: Growing Christianity, with Bernie Maopolski

November 5th, 2023


In this bonus, Bernie Maopolski of Fan of History ( invites me onto his "Whats New In History" segment. We discuss my …

Bonus 56: Abraham's Three Mysterious Visitors

October 1st, 2023


In this bonus, I continue my collaboration with Steve Guerra of the "History of the Papacy" show (, and Scott …

3.29 The Last Heirs of Abraham III: Survivors of the Jungle

August 5th, 2023


The revolt of Bar Kosiva against Rome failed, as had the Great Revolt. The Roman punishment destroyed almost all the many blooms living in the mighty …

3.28 The Last Heirs of Abraham II: Fall of the Temple

July 16th, 2023


The Temple's destruction also destroyed all the many varieties of Second Temple Judaism, save for the emerging rabbinic movement, and the nascent Christian movement.

Bonus 55: Peter, Paul, and Clement with Popeular History

July 9th, 2023


In this bonus, Gregg Gassman of the Popeular History Podcast ( and and I discuss Peter, Paul, and Clement. Gregg is a …

3.27 The Last Heirs of Abraham I: Setting the Stage

June 18th, 2023


Only two of Abraham's heirs survived to the year 200 CE/AD: rabbinic Judaism, and the imperial church incorporate. My final epiodes explore how that happened.

Bonus 54: Manoah, father of Samson

June 4th, 2023


In this collaboration with Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy show (, and Scott McAndless of the Retelling …

Bonus 53: Joshua and the Day the Sun Stood Still

May 14th, 2023


In this bonus, I launch a new mini-series. My co-hosts are Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy show (, and Scott Mcandless of the Retelling the Bible podcast (

Bonus 52: Behind the Scenes with John Brooks of Pod Only knows

April 30th, 2023


In this bonus, John Brooks of the “Pod Only Knows” podcast interviews me about the genesis and making of my show. I think it turned out pretty well. 

This episode formed the last show of John’s former podcast, “Hard to …

3.26 Christianity in the Year 200

April 10th, 2023


Irenaeus died around the year 200. In his final decades, pagan intellectuals first turned their sights on the Christians. The first was Celsus. …

Bonus 51: Maccabees, Sadducees, and Pharisees With Gil Kidron

March 19th, 2023


Gil Kidron and I discuss how a small rural priest called Mattathias started an insurgency against Judea’s overlords, the mighty Seleucid kingdom, …

3.25 Remaking Paul II: Luther and Beyond

February 26th, 2023


After Irenaeus rescued Paul from the Marcionites and Gnostics, Paul’s letters were honoured and uncontroversial documents, testaments to a great …

Bonus 50: With the Conspirinormal Podcast

February 12th, 2023


The Conspirinormal podcast people kindly invited me onto their show. The  hosts Adam Sayne and Serfiel Stevenson have generously allowed me to publish our conversation here.

Bonus 49: Top Moments in the Old Testament/Tanakh II

January 29th, 2023


In this bonus episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I continue our look at some of our favourite moments in the Old Testament or Tanakh. First, Steve investigates the unfortunate incident of …

3.24 Remaking Paul I: Irenaeus

January 15th, 2023


During the middle of the 2nd century, Paul was rescued from the Marcionites and Gnostics. He was elevated from honoured missionary to master …

3.23 The Imperial Church Incorporate III: The Heresy Hunter

December 24th, 2022


The imperial church of the late 2nd century was bedevilled by external competitors -- Gnostics, Marcionites, Montanists – and vexed by internal division over the nature of Christ. Was he man, god, or both? The church …

Bonus 48: Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ

December 4th, 2022


Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I turn a quizzical eye on Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ.

Bonus 47 The Twelve Minor Prophets IX: Real Finale

November 20th, 2022


Steve Guerra from the History in the Papacy podcast and I concluded our series on the Twelve minor prophets of the OT some time ago. That was a fake-out. We managed to rope in a real expert to conclude our mini-series. …

3.22 The Imperial Church Incorporate II: The Martyr

November 6th, 2022


Justin Martyr is the second of the great Christian figures of the second century. He is one of the earliest for whom we have a substantial biography from the man himself. He wrote at length and often, creating the …

3.21 The Imperial Church Incorporate I: The Heretic

October 16th, 2022


The rest of the show covers the second half of the second century. In this period, the little Jesus clubs evolved into the imperial church …

Bonus 46: The Twelve Minor Prophets VIII: Finale

October 2nd, 2022


Steve Guerra from the History in the Papacy podcast and I conclude our mini-series on the Twelve minor prophets of the OT.
In this episode we have a …

Bonus 45: Biblical Chronology with Gil Kidron II

September 18th, 2022


In this bonus episode, Gil Kidron of a Podcast of Biblical Proportions and I finish our discussion of biblical chronology.

3.20 Gnowing Me, Gnowing You II: The Crusade of Valentinus

September 4th, 2022


Unlike the Sethian Gnostics, the Valentinian Gnostics are clearly rooted in Christianity. They were founded by Valentinus, an Egyptian who may have …

3.19 Gnowing Me, Gnowing You I: The Children of Seth

August 14th, 2022


Until the late 19th century, the Gnostic works were known only from their opponents, who regarded them as aberrant and vile Christians.  Discoveries since then have uncovered a wealth of Gnostic literature. The Gnostics …

Bonus 44: Biblical Chronology with Gil Kidron I

July 31st, 2022


In this bonus episode, Gil Kidron of a Podcast of Biblical Proportions and I wade into biblical chronology.

3.18 Christians Under the Roman Gaze

July 17th, 2022


In the second century, there were three groups of Jewish-leaning Jesus clubs: the Johhanines, the Nazoreans, and the Ebionities. These had either vanished or been absorbed into gentile Christanity by the year 200.
While …

Bonus 43: Top Moments in the Old Testament/Tanakh I

June 26th, 2022


In this bonus episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I take a look at some of our favourite moments in the Old Testament or Tanakh. First, Steve wonders what the deal is with Melchizedek. Then …

Bonus 42: The Twelve Minor Prophets VII: Malachi and Joel

June 12th, 2022


Malachi writes in Persian times. The rebuilt Temple has not ushered in an ideal age, the governors of Yehuda are not Davidic, and the priests and …

3.17 Quest for the Rabbis II: The Mishnah

May 29th, 2022


The Mishnah is the first great product of the rabbis. Traditionally it was codified around 200 CE by Rabbi Yehuda haNasi. It appears from nowhere. The Mishnah bears no resemblance to anything in the Tanakh/Old …

3.16 Quest for the Rabbis I: Origins

May 8th, 2022


The origins of the rabbis, dated to the second century CE, are shrouded in fog, for reasons we do not understand. Why did the Jews cease writing histories after the year 100? Why do we have no histories from the …

Bonus 41: Baruch and Jeremiah, with Gil Kidron

April 17th, 2022


In this bonus episode, Gil Kidron and I discuss Gil's theory that the scribe Baruch was instrumental in writing (or editing or redacting) the book of Genesis, using the life of his master the prophet Jermiah as a model.

3.15 Tumultus Iudaeorum

March 27th, 2022


On the death of Herod the Great in 4 BCE, the Judean state was a prosperous, self-governed, and stable kingdom. It was Rome’s best buddy in the Levant, with territories extending beyond the Jordan and into Syria. …

3.14 After the Apostles II: Holy Books and Blessed Bishops

March 6th, 2022


My second ep about the apostolic fathers, those who followed the disciples. Here I discuss the anonymous authors of the epistle of Barnabas, the …

3.13 After the Apostles I: Out of the Mist

February 13th, 2022


By the year 70, all of the disciples save perhaps John, were dead. Their inheritors are traditionally known as the Apostolic fathers, although many …

Bonus 40 Noah: The Movie, with Pod Academy

January 23rd, 2022


In this bonus episode, Gil Kidron and Rutger Vos graciously invite me on to their long-running show Pod Academy. This show is dedicated to applying a …

Bonus 39 The Twelve Minor Prophets VI: Haggai and Zechariah

January 9th, 2022


Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are the three post-exilic prophets. In Jewish tradition, they are the last of the prophets. After them, prophecy ceased. Haggai is a pragmatic man relaying God’s words to the Jewish …

Bonus 38 The Twelve Minor Prophets V: Zephaniah and Habakkuk

December 27th, 2021


I'm joined by Steve Guerra as we continue our series on the twelve minor Old Testament prophets. Here we tackle Zephaniah and Habakkuk. Both are short. Zephaniah ranted during the last decades of the kingdom of Judea. …

3.12 Earliest Christians IV: Conflicts in John’s Community

December 5th, 2021


I finish my discussion of Revelation, cheekily asking if the book implies that only gays will go to heaven. The Greek East only grudgingly accepted …

3.11 Earliest Christians III: John’s Community and Revelation

November 14th, 2021


Alongside the Jerusalem Jesus clubs, the clubs founded by Paul and others, and the Thomasines, scholars believe there was a fourth primitive …

3.10 Earliest Christians II: Paul Against Peter Against Thomas

October 24th, 2021


We believe there were four distinct early Christian communities: the gentile clubs of Paul, the Jewish clubs of Peter and James, the clubs who …

3.9 Earliest Christians I: Deciphering Jesus

October 3rd, 2021


The earliest Christians had three theological problems to tackle. First, what exactly happened at the resurrection of Jesus? Was his physical body …

3.8 After the Temple II: The Christians

September 12th, 2021


Keynote ep: I look at the two earliest Christian communities we know about: the Judean clubs run from Jerusalem by James and Peter, and the pagan …

Bonus 37 The Patriarchs with A Podcast of Biblical Proportions

August 22nd, 2021


In this bonus episode I am joined by Omri and Gil of the rambunctious podcast “A Podcast of Biblical Proportions” for a discussion about the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and a little bit about Joseph.

Theme music …

3.7 After the Temple I: The Judeans

August 15th, 2021


Keynote ep: The rabbis now make their appearance: the heroes ben Zakkai and more Gamaliels than you can shake a stick at. Scholars grudgingly hold …

Bonus 36 The Twelve Minor Prophets IV: Micah and Nahum

August 1st, 2021


I'm joined by Steve Guerra as we continue our series on the twelve minor Old Testament prophets. Here we tackle Micah and Nahum. Micah is the chirpiest of the prophets, a favorite amongst both Christians and Jews. No …

3.6 The Great Revolt II: A Civil War within a Rebellion

July 11th, 2021


The Great Revolt of 66 AD/CE began as a protest against Rome's failure to protect the Judeans from their ancient foes. The Judeans proved to be …

Bonus 35 In conversation with A Podcast of Biblical Proportions

July 4th, 2021


In this bonus episode I am joined by Omri Harel and Gil Kidron of the rambunctious podcast “A Podcast of Biblical Proportions” for a rambling discussion about things biblical.

3.5 The Great Revolt I: Lighting the Fuse

June 20th, 2021


Keynote ep: The backstory and background of the first of the three Judean revolts, the Great Revolt of 66 AD/CE. This revolt destroyed the Temple, …

3.4 Before the Great Revolt II: The Apocalyptic Christians

May 30th, 2021


In this show I discuss the state of the Christians on the verge of the Great Revolt in 66 CE/AD. The Seleucid empire created a new way of …

Bonus 34 The Twelve Minor Prophets III: Jonah and Obadiah

May 23rd, 2021


In this bonus episode, Steve Guerra and I continue our series on the twelve minor Old Testament prophets. Here we tackle Obadiah and Jonah. Obadiah is the least read book in the Bible, for very good reason. Everyone …

3.3 Before the Great Revolt I: The Judeans

May 9th, 2021


Keynote ep: The Jews living in the Roman empire had many privileges that allowed them to practice their religion in peace and security. They were even allowed to avoid their patriotic duties of service to the state. The …

Bonus 33 The Twelve Minor Prophets II: Amos and Hosea

May 2nd, 2021


In this bonus episode, Steve Guerra and I continue our series on the twelve minor Old Testament prophets. Here we tackle Amos and Hosea. Amos is the perfect pocket prophet. Amos gives you everything you want in a …

3.2 The Rococo World of the Second Temple

April 18th, 2021


Keynote ep: On the cusp of the Great Revolt in 66, the little province of Judea had spent centuries under Hellenistic influence. Under this …

Bonus 32: Into Exile With Bernie from the Fan of History podcast

April 11th, 2021


Bernie Maopolski from the Fan of History podcast and I have fun discussing how the Judeans ended up in exile in the Babylonian empire.

3.1 The Heirs of Abraham

March 28th, 2021


Keynote ep: An overview of the whole season. I introduce the ancient literary sources we have, and the modern archaeological discoveries that …

Bonus 31: Retelling the Bible: A conversation with the Rev. W. Scott McAndless

March 21st, 2021


In this bonus, I have a jaunty conversation with the Rev. W. Scott McAndless, author of the Retelling the Bible podcast. Scott has a ripping show for you, which I heartily recommend. We talk about how his show sprang …

Bonus 30. The Twelve Minor Prophets I: Introducing the Twelve

January 3rd, 2021


In this bonus episode I am joined by Steve Guerra of the podcast History of the Papacy. We introduce our latest mini-series, the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament. We will cover Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, …

Bonus 29: Deuteronomy Fun Time With Bernie from the Fan of History podcast

November 1st, 2020


This is a bonus episode for season two. Bernie Maopolski from the Fan of History podcast and I have fun with the book of Deuteronomy. And jellyfish.

Bonus 28: The Book of Joshua

September 20th, 2020


In this co-production with Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast, we tackle the morally difficult book of Joshua

Bonus 27: With Bernie from the Fan of History podcast

August 30th, 2020


This is a bonus episode for season two. Bernie Maopolski from the Fan of History podcast and I talk history podcasting and the archaeology of ancient …

2.60 An Epilogue and a Prologue: Season Two Finale

August 9th, 2020


I finish season two and invite you to season three, which will launch early in 2021. The third season will explore the tumultuous history of the two …

2.59 The Fates of the Apostles

July 19th, 2020


Of all the apostles, the New Testament only describes the fate of James the Just. For all the others, we have only stories written decades or even centuries after the deaths. I also discuss the letters 1st Peter, James, …

2.58 Paul's Fate and Final Letters

June 28th, 2020


The final chapters of Acts are a rollicking adventure where Paul endures storms and shipwreck on his way to trial in Rome. Paul spends two years in …

2.57 Paul's Arrest and Trial

June 7th, 2020


After decades preaching to the gentiles in Asia Minor and Greece, Paul returns to Jerusalem for a final time. James the Just humiliates Paul by …

2.56 Paul's Third Mission: To the Corinthians and Romans

May 17th, 2020


In 1st Corinthians, Paul struggles to impose his authority on his foundation. He denounces other preachers. He attacks the Corinthians for tolerating …

2.55 Paul's Third Mission: To the Galatians

April 26th, 2020


Paul has been on the road for 20 years. In his third and final mission, Paul travels from his base in Antioch in Syria through his earlier …

Bonus 25: The Mysterious Q Source

April 19th, 2020


The three synoptic gospels are markedly different from John. It is clear that both Matthew and Luke used Mark. But Matthew and Luke have much …

After-dinner Mint for 2.54: A Pagan visits Paul's Club in Thessalonica

April 5th, 2020


This is an addendum to episode 2.54, Paul's Second Mission: To The Greeks. It is a repeat of part of an earlier episode. I imagine a curious pagan's …

2.54 Paul's Second Mission: To The Greeks

April 5th, 2020


Paul’s 2nd mission is much more extensive than his first. He starts from his base in Antioch. Before he even begins, Paul has a face-off with Peter …

2.53 Paul's Lost and First Missions

March 15th, 2020


Paul's letters say that he spent 17 years in Arabia Nabatea, in Damascus, and in what is now southern Turkey. In all those long years, he met the …

2.52 The Many Puzzles of Paul's Epistles

February 23rd, 2020


Paul's letters are puzzles. Why do we have so few? Paul loved to write. We should have 90 or more letters, not the scant dozen we have. And why don't …

2.51 We Need To Talk About Paul

February 2nd, 2020


Keynote ep: Paul is the major protagonist in the Book of Acts. His letters comprise almost half the books in the New Testament. After Jesus, Paul …

2.50 The First Jesus Club II: Tribulations

January 12th, 2020


The first chapters of Acts describe the perfect community of the Jerusalem Jesus club. Events take a dark turn after the first five chapters. The …

2.49 The First Jesus Club I: Perfect Community

December 22nd, 2019


I introduce the book of Acts. The book tries to harmonise the deeds of the two great apostles: the pro-Jewish Peter and the pro-gentile Paul. Paul's …

2.48 Do You Think You’re What They Say You Are?

December 1st, 2019


What solid statements can we make about the life of Jesus? Who did Jesus think he was? We can never know, but we can make some guesses. Certainly, he …

2.47 The Resurrection

November 10th, 2019


None of the gospels recount the resurrection. They tell of the discovery of the empty by Mary Magdalene and some other women, and then move to Jesus post-resurrection appearances. The resurrection happens off stage. The …

Bonus 24 The Whacky Book of Daniel

November 3rd, 2019


This is a bonus episode for season two. Steve Guerra and I tackle the the book of Daniel. We all know the book's stories of Daniel: the lion's den, the fiery furnace, and the writing on the wall. We discover a book of …

2.46 The Death of Jesus

October 20th, 2019


Jesus' death is the supreme sacrifice. The Son of God takes upon himself the sins of the world to redeem all of mankind. From the disparate gospel accounts of Jesus' death, what can we actually say is dependable …

2.45 Jesus on Trial

September 29th, 2019


After the Last Supper, Jesus and his mates take a post-prandial stroll in the dark to the Mount of Olives, a 30 minute walk due east of the Temple. …

2.44 The Last Supper

September 8th, 2019


After Jesus has resurrected Lazarus, he briefly flies to Ephraim, outside of Judea, for fear of the Jews. He quickly regains his confidence, and returns to Bethany, and the home of Lazarus. From there he moves to …

2.43 Palm Sunday

August 18th, 2019


The Passion story story begins with Jesus in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem. Jesus is staying with his best buddies Martha, Mary, and the risen Lazarus. Jesus arranges with his students to organise a grand parade for …

Bonus 23 The Trinity: Part 2

August 4th, 2019


The notion of the Trinity is one of -- if not the -- most difficult concepts in Christian theology. Steve Guerra and I plough through centuries of …

2.42 The Road To Jerusalem

July 27th, 2019


As so often, the synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke tell a different story of the third and final act of Jesus' life compared to the gospel of John. In the gospel of John, Jesus spends six months in Judea before …

Bonus 22: All things Biblical at the IntelligentSpeech conference in NYC

July 7th, 2019


This is a bonus episode for season two. My long-time collaborator, Steve Guerra, attended the IntelligentSpeech podcasting conference in New York in …

2.41 Jesus' Disciples II: The Other Guys

June 23rd, 2019


After the Big Three disciples come the forgettable bit-players, the Nondescript Nine: Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel), Matthew, …

Bonus 21 The Trinity: Part 1

June 9th, 2019


The notion of the Trinity is one of -- if not the -- most difficult concepts in Christian theology. Steve Guerra and I plough through centuries of …

2.40 Jesus' Disciples I: The Cabinet of Three

June 2nd, 2019


Keynote ep: Jesus had an inner cabinet of three disciples: Simon Peter; and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Only they have significant speaking parts. The often appear together at many significant moments, such as …

2.39 Conflict and Transfiguration

May 12th, 2019


Jesus' mission to Galilee does not go as well as hoped. The Pharisees and scribes attack him for teaching and working wonders on the sabbath. Jesus spars with the Jewish factions many times. Jesus attacks the Pharisees …

2.38 Miracles and Healings in Galilee

April 21st, 2019


Most of Jesus ministry was conducted in Galilee. This time is stuffed to the brim with miracles and parables. Jesus exorcizes demons, raises people from the dead, and cures the sick. He feeds thousands, walks on water, …

2.37 Jesus All Over the Place

March 31st, 2019


In John's account of the early ministry, Jesus flies all over the place. He steals the disciples Simon Peter and Andrew from the Baptist while in the Perea. In his first great sign, he turns water into wine at Cana, …

2.36 Jesus in Galilee

March 10th, 2019


This episode presents Jesus' earliest ministry as the synoptic gospels tell it. Straight after his baptism by John, Jesus is tempted by Satan in the …

2.35 Prologue to Jesus' Ministry

February 17th, 2019


Keynote ep: An introduction to the geo-political world of Jesus. I also discuss the many problems we have when attempting to reconcile the …

2.34 The Problem of John the Baptist

January 27th, 2019


Jesus' identity as Son of God is revealed at his baptism by John, an old-style prophet who promotes Jewish ritual washing. Did John recognise Jesus …

2.33 We Three Kings. 2019 Epiphany Special

January 6th, 2019


My Epiphany special relates the story of Christmas as told by the gospel of Matthew. In Matthew, the story is told from Joseph's point of view, not …

Bonus 20 The Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

December 30th, 2018


Second Temple Judaism (530 BC-70 AD) was a lush forest of beliefs, factions, and sects: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Sicarri, Zealots, the Fourth Philosophy and more. All were swept away in the First Roman-Jewish war …

2.32 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. 2018 Christmas Special

December 16th, 2018


My Christmas special tells the story of Christmas as related by the gospel of Luke. With lots of canticles and shepherds. My forthcoming Epiphany special relates the gospel of Matthew's version of the nativity.

2.31 The Many Names of Jesus

December 2nd, 2018


King of the Jews, Saviour, Son of Man, God, Son of God, Messiah and Christos, and Lord. The New Testament has many titles for Jesus. Let's investigate them.

2.30 John's Gospel of Knowledge

November 18th, 2018


The gospel of John reads nothing like the other gospels. John defines Jesus as a cosmological figure, not the man adopted by God at his baptism that …

2.29 The Gospels of Matthew and Luke

October 28th, 2018


The gospel of Matthew is the most Jewish of the gospels. He insists that his readers must follow Jewish law. Yet his gospel contains the infamous …

2.28 The Gospels of Mark and Matthew

October 7th, 2018


Mark is the earliest, shortest, and least popular gospel. We don't know if Mark was a Jew or a gentile. Mark's audience is assailed by the powers …

2.27 What We Know About the Life of Jesus

September 16th, 2018


Our earliest pagan sources for the life of Jesus - the historians Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius - tell us almost nothing about Jesus. The letters …

2.26 Christianity's Earliest Witness: Paul Writes to the Thessalonians

August 26th, 2018


Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest surviving document of Christianity. I drop in on the Thessalonian Jesus-club to discover how …

2.25 Quest for the Historical Jesus

August 5th, 2018


Keynote ep: Since the Enlightenment, three great academic attempts have been made to make sense of the life of Jesus: the first, second, and third …

2.24 Battle for the New Testament IV: Modern Times

July 15th, 2018


The discovery of the ancient Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in the 19th century revealed that the New Testament circulated in three different …

2.23 Battle for the New Testament III: the Reformation

June 24th, 2018


Unlike the Jews, Christians preserved many versions of their scriptures. The invention of printing spurred European scholars to revisit ancient Greek …

2.22 Battle for the New Testament II: Against Marcion

June 3rd, 2018


The Jesus-clubs reacted against Marcion's tiny list of sacred works. The invention of the codex, the book, brought the issue of the canon to the forefront. Melito, Tatian, Irenaeus, Eusebius, and Athanasius made the …

2.21 Battle for the New Testament I: Earliest Times

May 13th, 2018


Christians in the first two centuries did not have a sacred canon of books. In this first of four parts, I discuss what the earliest church fathers …

Bonus 19: Samson on Trial

May 6th, 2018


We all know of the biblical hero Samson, known to his friends as Shimshon ben Manoah, and to his enemies as “that bastard”. Samson of the long hair, Samson who was seduced by Delilah, Samson who brought down the …

2.20 Herod's Heirs

April 22nd, 2018


Herod’s kingdom was divided. The Romans took their own chunk. His sons Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip received portions. Their success was …

2.19 What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

April 1st, 2018


Rome created an efficient economic system that enabled even middle-strata Judeans to buy goods from far-distant places. Rome introduced new social …

2.18 Modern Debates: Scandal of the Dead Sea Scrolls

March 18th, 2018


The Biblical find of the century, the Dead Sea Scrolls, were turned over to an international committee for study. Bad idea. The cabal refused to let …

Bonus 18: Yochi Brandes' novel 'The Orchard'- Judaism and Christianity after the fall of the Temple

March 11th, 2018


Dan Libenson of the Judaism Unbound podcast returns to the show. This time we discuss best-selling Israeli author Yochi Brandes' novel 'The Orchard'. Dan translated the book into English. The novel centres on Rabbi …

2.17 Recovering the Bible: A Century of Revelations

March 4th, 2018


So much to cover: the discovery of the oldest Jewish bible, the Leningrad Codex; and the oldest Christian bible, the Codex Sinaticus. At the Cairo …

2.16 Meet the Neighbours: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes

February 18th, 2018


As the Tanakh tells it, the Jewish nation comprised a united body-politic from the fall of the kingdom of Israel right through the return. The only …

2.15 The Rise and Ruin of the Maccabeans

February 4th, 2018


The Maccabeans reach their apogee under John Hyrcanus I, and his sons Aristobulus and Alexander Jannaeus. Alexander's widow, Alexandra Salome, became …

2.14 Grappling with the Greeks V: Jubilees Reconstructs Judaism

January 21st, 2018


The Book of Jubilees was preserved by the Ethiopian Orthodox. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was held to be a parody of Jewish …

2.13 Grappling with the Greeks IV: Daniel and the Book of Parables

January 7th, 2018


The book of Daniel is one-half comfy folktales, and one-half crazy. It was the only one of the many Jewish apocalyptic books to make it into the Old …

2.12 Grappling with the Greeks III: The Maccabeans Revolt

December 24th, 2017


Rival high priests Jason and Menelaus plunge Judah into turmoil. Many Jews thought that both Jason and Menelaus were too Greek for their own good. Antiochus IV over-reacts and attempts to quash the civil strife. The …

2.11 Grappling With the Greeks II: Jerusalem Against Athens

December 10th, 2017


The Judeans spent 120 happy years under the Hellenistic rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies. They chafed under the rule of the Hellenistic kingdom of the …

2.10 Grappling with the Greeks I: Josephus and the Books of Maccabees

November 26th, 2017


First in a mini-series on the history of the Jews and the province of Judea under the Hellenistic empires, and under the Maccabees. I start with a summary of the history I will expand on in the next few episodes. Then I …

2.9 The Apocalypse to End Them All: 1 Enoch

November 12th, 2017


Apocalypses were popular reading amongst Jews in the centuries they spent under Roman rule. Rabbinical Judaism blotted the apocalypses from its …

2.8 Lost Books of the New Testaments

October 29th, 2017


Jews produced a vast number of religious books in the centuries before the birth of Jesus. They had no influence on later Judaism, but profoundly influenced Christianity. We call them parabiblical or pseudipigraphical. …

2.7 Under Persia: Farewell to the Tanakh

October 15th, 2017


The Jews have a placid existence under Persian rule, and create Judaism. They reconstruct their religion, one now without kings and prophets. From …

2.6 Leaving Babylon IV: Nehemiah and Ezra Stand Against Ruth

October 1st, 2017


Governor Nehemiah and priest-scribe Ezra finally bring the Jews back home from Babylon. Modern scholars reverse the Biblical order of the two, and so …

2.5 Leaving Babylon III: The Enigma of Zerubbabel and Joshua

September 17th, 2017


After Sheshbazzar's failure, the second wave of returnees are led by the enigmatic figures of the supposed Davidic king Zerubbabel and the high-priest Joshua. Those returning spurn those who stayed behind, implying that …

2.4 Leaving Babylon II: Cyrus and the Mystery of Sheshbazzar

September 3rd, 2017


The Babylonian empire is rendered helpless when its king Nabonidus goes on a ten year holiday to Arabia. The best-ever benevolent autocrat, Cyrus the …

2.3 Leaving Babylon I: The Ezra Muddle

August 20th, 2017


Our most important sources for the Return are the books known as Ezra and Nehemiah in Catholic and Protestant bibles. The Jews have a single book, …

2.2 In Babylon II: Ezekiel and Job

August 6th, 2017


In the book of Ezekiel God transforms from furious father to jealous husband. The prophet is commanded to protest against the Judeans with performance art. He has a few passages no-one can make head nor tail of. I also …

2.1 In Babylon I: The Exile

July 23rd, 2017


In the first episode of series two, I begin with the Judeans in exile in Babylon. We move from the prophet Jeremiah to the prophet Ezekiel, and his crazy imagery, imagery that has inflamed Christian iconography for …

Bonus 17: A Conversation with Dan Libenson of Judaism Unbound

June 13th, 2017


My special guest is Dan Libenson of the Judaism Unbound podcast. We talk about the Bible, the history of the Jewish religion, the difficulties of …

1.57 Modern Debates: End of an Era

May 21st, 2017


In the final episode of series one, I explain why I am leaving the remaining books of the Old Testament to my second series. I introduce the lush literature of the Second temple period, and describe in detail the nature …

1.56 Modern Debates: Into Exile.

May 7th, 2017


Scholars are divided about the Babylonian destruction wrought on Judah. The Biblical sources tell different stories. How many were deported to …

1.55 Four Prophets of the Babylonian Crisis

April 23rd, 2017


Four prophets lived in the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. In his short and miserable book, Zephaniah rails about the destruction to come. …

1.54 The Babylonian Conquest of Judah

April 9th, 2017


The Egyptians kill Josiah, who is acting on behalf of Babylon against Egypt. They remove his pro-Babylonian son Jehoahaz from the throne, replacing him with the pro-Egyptian Jehoiakim. After the Egyptians are defeated, …

1.53 Evil King Manasseh and the Reformation of Josiah

March 26th, 2017


The Bible tries to explain why the evil King Manasseh reigned for more than 50 years in peace and solitude, while his sublimely virtuous grandson, …

Bonus 16: After Life - Surviving the Apocalypse

March 19th, 2017


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I finish (for now) our series on the apocalyptic literature, with a discussion of how views on the afterlife changed in the Second …

1.52 Isaiah and Micah, Prophets of the Assyrian Crisis

March 12th, 2017


Isaiah's ambiguity has made him a crowd-pleaser for over 2,500 years. He introduces a bunch of shiny-new theological ideas previously unknown in the …

1.51 King Hezekiah, Father of Biblical Religion

February 26th, 2017


In 722 BC, Hezekiah of Judah faced his first great crisis: a mass of Israelite refugees fleeing from the Assyrians. He turned adversity into opportunity, strengthening his authority and using the Israelite intellectuals …

1.50 The Fall of Israel

February 12th, 2017


King Ahaz of Judah calls on Assyria to save him from King Pekah of Israel and the kingdom of Aram-Damascus. That works out a treat: Aram-Damascus is left in ruins, and Israel left a rump state. The prophet Isaiah puts …

Bonus 15: Revelation- Apocalypse by Numbers

February 12th, 2017


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I continue our series on the apocalyptic literature, with the second of two episodes on the earliest Christian apocalypse, the Book of …

1.49 The Assyrian Storm

January 29th, 2017


In Judah, we meet a bunch of kings: Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz. Uzziah gets leprosy when he offends the priests. Jotham's reign is confused, just like I am. Ahaz is threatened on all sides. Back in Israel, Jeroboam II is …

1.48 Amos and Hosea, Hammers of the House of Jehu

January 15th, 2017


Amos and Hosea are the first two prophets who get their own books. They are also the last of the four northern Israelite prophets. Amos is the perfect prophet, the template for all later prophets. He launches a …

Bonus 14: What a Revelation! The Apocalypse of St John the Divine

January 8th, 2017


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I continue our series on the apocalyptic literature, with the first of two episodes on the earliest Christian apocalypse, the Book of …

1.47 Calamities of the Two Kingdoms

January 1st, 2017


Under the house of Jehu, the northern kingdom of Israel is assailed by the big bully Assyria and the little bully Aram-Damascus. I follow Jehu's …

1.46 Conundrums of the Kings Jehoram

December 18th, 2016


Two kings called Jehoram ruled in Israel and Judah at the same time. Many scholars think they were the same person. Their reigns were extinguished by …

Bonus 13: Satan and the Origin of Evil

December 11th, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about Satan (ha'Satan, the adversary). In the Old Testament …

1.45 Last of the Omrides

December 4th, 2016


The Israelite King Ahab and the Judean King Jehoshaphat join in an ill-fated war against the kingdom of Aram-Damascus. One battle not mentioned is the Battle of Qarqar, which we know from Assyrian records. Ahaziah …

1.44 The House of Omri: Pinnacle of Power

November 20th, 2016


The House of Omri reigned for 140 years with four kings: Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah and Jehoram. They created the first sophisticated Hebrew state, and brought the kingdom of Israel to the height of its power and prosperity. …

Bonus 12: A Very Merkabah Jubilee

November 13th, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about the obscure Jewish movement known as Merkabah …

1.43 Forty Years of Trouble

November 6th, 2016


In the first decades after Solomon's united kingdom split, the two kingdoms spent their time in brush wars. The kingdom of Judah went through three …

Bonus 11: Apocalypses of Daniel and 1st Enoch - Hiding in Plain Sight

October 30th, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I launch into the earliest apocalypses: 1 Enoch and the Book of …

1.42 The Kingdom Sundered

October 23rd, 2016


The policies of King Solomon's idiot son Rehoboam split the united kingdom in two: Israel and Judah. The fracture was permanent. I introduce the …

Bonus 10: Gnosticism: Gnowing me, Gnowing You

October 16th, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I introduce the rich apocalyptic literature that flourished after the canon of the Old testament closed. We get into Gnosticism, evil, …

1.41 Modern Debates: David and Solomon

October 9th, 2016


In this ripper episode I tackle the great raging debate in contemporary biblical archaeology. Traditionalist scholars believe that modern …

Bonus 9: Portents of the Apocalypse

October 2nd, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I introduce our new series on the apocalypse. We talk about the little-known but rich literature that flourished between the closing of …

1.40 Puzzles of the United Kingdom of the Hebrews

September 25th, 2016


Solomon, it is said, wrote books of Wisdom, Psalms, Odes, and a Testament. I discuss these, and then begin my survey of what modern scholarship has …

1.39 Solomon's Legacy

September 11th, 2016


Solomon spends big time on his Temple and Palace. Hiram of Tyre bankrolls him. Solomon dies on the verge of a major rebellion led by his own …

1.38 Solomon's Magnificence

August 28th, 2016


David's son Solomon is the first Hebrew king we can assign reliable dates to. Or maybe not. Solomon is a dazzling glitter-ball on the international …

Bonus 8: Yochi Brandes' The Secret Book of Kings

August 26th, 2016


My special guest is Dan Libenson of the Judaism Unbound podcast. We talk about Israeli author Yochi Brandes' novel The Secret Book of Kings, set in …

1.37 David and the Psalms

August 14th, 2016


I finish my survey of the Book of Psalms. The psalms are replete with references to God as but one member of the pantheon of the ancient Canaanite religion, a god fighting the ancient sea monsters of the Canaanites: …

1.36 The Last Days of David

July 31st, 2016


God commands David to conduct a census. God then punishes David for conducting a census. Like the rest of us, the Chronicler was mystified by this, …

1.35 Treachery in the House of David

July 17th, 2016


The final portion of David's story is told in the court narrative or succession history. Who will follow David as king? In this story of intrigue, …

1.34 David Triumphant

July 3rd, 2016


David and his field marshal Joab defeats Saul's son Ishbosheth and his general Abner. David retrieves the ark from the Philistines, to the …

1.33 From Bandit to King

June 19th, 2016


With the support of the Philistines, David turns his bandit gang into a disciplined mercenary force. After Saul's death fighting David's patrons in …

1.32 The Complicated Rise of David

June 5th, 2016


Samuel manufactures reasons to condemn King Saul, and supplant him with David. Our two great sources, the Septuagint and the Masoretic text, have …

1.31 Samuel and the Tragedy of King Saul

May 22nd, 2016


King Saul becomes king of the Israelites, in four different ways. Samuel moves from being the last judge to the first prophet. I take the opportunity …

1.30 Eli and Samuel, Last of the Judges

May 8th, 2016


The priest Eli, guardian of the sacred Ark, sees his sacred charge captured by the Philistines. The Israelites are at their lowest point. Now arises Samuel to lift them from their moral depravity. In spite of his …

1.29 The United Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon

April 24th, 2016


I set the stage upon which the Hebrew united kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon was created. I explain the geopolitical situation, and the Biblical …

1.28 Modern Debates: Judging Joshua and the Judges

April 10th, 2016


In the 1970s, scholars demolished the credibility of the Biblical stories of the patriarchs. In the decades following, archaeologists threw out the …

1.27 Judges II: Victory into Defeat

March 27th, 2016


The Book of the Rescuers was the heroic story of the northern Israelites. The later editors of Judges were all southern Judeans. They inverted the northern stories, turning triumph into disaster.

Bonus 7: Steve and Garry Talk Heresy

March 20th, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about Gnosticism and its origins in the Jewish apocalyptic literature. We have a few rants. I also have an announcement and …

1.26 Judges I: The Book of Rescuers

March 13th, 2016


I wrap-up the Book of Joshua, and rush right into the dark times of the Book of Judges. I start with the central and oldest chapters, called the Book …

1.25 Joshua Conquers Canaan

February 28th, 2016


The book of Joshua recounts the conquest of Canaan, the land promised to Abraham. For a few short years, the Israelites achieve a perfect relationship with their god.

1.24 Modern Debates: Disappearing the Patriarchs

February 14th, 2016


In 1970 most scholars thought that Genesis and Exodus were reliable guides to the history of the Israelites. Today, even the most traditionalist of …

1.23 God's Historian: The Deuteronomist

January 31st, 2016


Modern scholars have identified a single school behind all the books from Deuteronomy to Kings. This school wrote the histories of the kingdoms of …

Bonus 6: Priest-King Melchizedek, International Man of Mystery

January 24th, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I discuss the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, and try to work out how he figures in the Jewish and Christian priesthoods. Check out …

Bonus 5: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period (Part 3)

January 23rd, 2016


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I conclude our three-part discussion of James the Just. Steve is launching a bunch of new podcasts. Check him out at the Agora Podcast …

1.22 Deuteronomy II: The Death of Moses

January 17th, 2016


In the last half of Deuteronomy, Moses lays out laws on family matters. I compare these to the Mesopotamian law codes. He sets out a splendid set of …

1.21 Deuteronomy I: Moses Farewells His people

January 3rd, 2016


Deuteronomy is the last book of the Torah, the Pentateuch, the books holiest to Jews. To many Jewish scholars, the Torah is where study of the bible …

1.20 Numbers II: Out of the Wilderness

December 20th, 2015


While the Israelites are stuck in the wilderness they meet Balam and his talking donkey. They defeat King Og and the Midianites, and will never stop talking about it. Moses' siblings Aaron and Miriam die, and in a …

1.19 Numbers I: Into the Wilderness

December 6th, 2015


It should have been but a few days march from Mt Sinai to the promised land. But the Israelite's kvetching annoys God so much he condemns them to …

1.18 Leviticus II: The Holiness Code

November 22nd, 2015


The first half of Leviticus is preoccupied with the priests and the Tabernacle. The second half of Leviticus radically extends the idea of holiness …

Bonus 4: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period (Part 2)

November 16th, 2015


In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I conclude our discussion of James the Just, and talk about blood pudding.

1.17 Leviticus I: God's Barbecue

November 8th, 2015


The first part of Leviticus, which comes from the P source, sets out the complex system of sacrifices that God demands of the Israelites, and …

Bonus 3: James the Just in the Late Second Temple period (Part 1)

October 18th, 2015


Steve Guerra and I discuss James the Just, how he got to be called James rather than Jacob in English, why he was James the Awesome, his relationship …

1.16 Exodus IV: Origins of the Old Israelite Religion

October 11th, 2015


The major festivals of Judaism are created, the Tent of Meeting is designed, and the priesthood under Aaron established. God is outraged when the …

1.15 Exodus III: The Contract with God at Sinai

September 27th, 2015


This is the defining moment in the history of the Israelites, where they swear allegiance to God in return for a special relationship with the …

1.14 Exodus II: Egypt, No!

September 13th, 2015


After ten rounds of unpleasantness, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt towards Mt Sinai. They don't yet know it, but they have begun 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

1.13 Exodus I: Egypt, Ho!

August 30th, 2015


We conclude the story of the patriarchs with a happy reunion between Jacob and his son Joseph, now an important minister in the Egyptian government. His family move to Egypt for a few centuries, a passage of time that …

1.12 Genesis V: Jacob and Joseph

August 16th, 2015


Jacob is the great trickster in the Bible, outwitting his father Isaac, his brother Esau, and even his own children. The P, E, and J sources have several different versions of Jacob's stories. For example, Jacob visits …

1.11 Genesis IV: Trouble in the Family

August 2nd, 2015


Abraham swindles the Philistine king Abimelech just as he did Pharoah, and almost kills his son Isaac, following God's commands. At the very last …

Bonus 2: The Second Temple period, with Stephen Guerra

July 26th, 2015


This is the second of an irregular series of bonus episodes, in addition to my fortnightly installments. In this bonus episode, Stephen Guerra of the …

1.10 Genesis III: Abraham is Called

July 19th, 2015


After the primeval stories, Genesis introduces the man who dominates and forms the very heart of of book, Abraham. He is the first of the patriarchs. God makes a real-estate deal with Abraham, giving him Canaan in …

Bonus 1: Talking with Stephen Guerra of the History of the Papacy Podcast

July 12th, 2015


This is the first of an irregular series of bonus episodes, in addition to my fortnightly
installments. In this bonus, I talk about history …

1.9 Genesis II: Tales of the Flood

July 5th, 2015


Flood epics were a dime a dozen in ancient Mesopotamia. Genesis has its own version. This section of Genesis is full of puzzles: Cain's gift of …

1.8 Genesis I: Stories of Creation

June 21st, 2015


The opening chapters of Genesis recount two stories of creation, neither of which involves Satan. One is from the J source, the other from the P …

1.7 Writing the Pentateuch

June 7th, 2015


Work by scholars from the late 19th century had established that five sources lay behind the Pentateuch. They came to be known by letters: J, E, P, …

1.6 Canaan of the Patriarchs

May 24th, 2015


This potted history of the Middle East in the Bronze Age sets the background for the episodes that follow. It traces the story of Canaan as it was …

1.5 The Names of God

May 10th, 2015


The finds at the ancient city of Ugarit in Syria provided us with our knowledge of the religion of Canaan, the land conquered by the Israelites. Some of this religion, such as the god El and the monsters Leviathon and …

1.4 Recovering Ancient Israel

April 26th, 2015


I trace the beginnings of biblical archaeology, from Carsten Niebuhr to John Garstang, the man who thought he found Joshua's city of Jericho.

1.3 Canons and Criticism

April 12th, 2015


I conclude my tour of the canons, finishing with the zaniest of them all. I also get into  the lesser known textual traditions: those of the Samaritans, and the Aramaic and Syriac translations. With that under my belt, …

1.2 What is the Bible?

March 25th, 2015


The Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Church of the East all have different versions of the Bible, with dissimilar books, based on …

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