Upcoming Lecture at The SoL Center (San Antonio): The Meaning of Christmas

Next week Christmas comes early at The SoL Center where I’ll be giving a lecture titled ‘The Meaning of Christmas: What Divine Birth Meant in the Ancient World’ on Thursday, November 8th, from 7-9 PM. This is the course description:

To some early Christians, Jesus of Nazareth did not have a human father, because he was conceived by a virgin through the power of God (Holy Spirit). Is this claim unique? In fact, no, as there were other important figures from the ancient world who were said to have been born of a god, figures including Caesar Augustus, the philosopher Plato, and the
Buddha. In this course we will ask why it was that Christians found it important to claim that Jesus had a divine birth, and what such a claim meant in antiquity.

To register ($15), click here.

Two New Events at The SoL Center!

Two more events are live for registration at The SoL Center:

- Who is Jesus? What a Difference a Lens Makes w. Prof. Rubén Dupertuis

- At the Crossroads of Adolescence and the World's Religions w. Fr. Nathan Bostian

To learn more and register go here.

Was Luke the Evangelist Jewish or Greek?

Last November at the AAR/SBL Annual Meetings I heard a wonderful paper from Matthew Thiessen ("Indices of Ethnicity in Modern Constructions of 'Luke'") that deconstructed my presuppositions regarding the author of the "third" Gospel. I walked away from the session convinced that I could no longer say with confidence that Luke was not a Jew. I was interested to see that this is a question being asked by others. At the "Jewish Studies Blog" Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg wrote an article titled "Could Luke be Jewish, Possibly?" He concludes, "There are no serious reasons to continue to claim that Luke was definitely a Gentile." If "Luke" was Jewish, not Greek, does this change how we read this Gospel? 

Recycled Book Review #3: Butler Bass, A People's History of Christianity

The first book I reviewed on the subject of "church history" was Diana Butler Bass' A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story. I didn't realize back then how much this book would shift my thinking. I believe it may have been my first encounter with "history from below" (the author follows Howard Zinn's historiography). When I wrote my review on August 27th, 2009, I said this, "If you or someone you know dismisses Christianity because of the crusades, or the inquisition, or bad popes, this may be a book that should be read." That said, I also expressed some concern with her entertainment of ideas deemed "heretical".

Today, though I haven't read this book in almost seven years, I'd say I stand by my recommendation and I'm a whole lot less concerned about the orthodoxy-heresy binary, a lens through which I read the book. When we think about Christianity we must consider the many, many unrepresented voices. They are as much a part of the story as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc. And it's often the silent majority that represents how Christianity actually functions in the world.

Read my full review here: Book Review: Diana Butler Bass, "A People's History of Christianity"

Recycled Book Review #2: Childs, The Church's Guide to Reading Paul

I remember reading this book because when I read it because I worked as an overnight counselor in a facility for adolescents that functioned as an in-between for juvenile hall and group homes. Why do I remember this? Because the book didn't make me sleepy, which was often the trial and tribulation of reading while waiting for the residents to fall asleep. What do I think of Brevard Childs' The Church's Guide to Reading Paul: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus today? Well, I haven't given much thought to the prescriptive dimensions of his argument (i.e., if this is how the canon was outlined, it must mean "the Church" wanted us to formulate Paul's contribution to Christian theology in this order, so that is what must be done), but I have pondered the descriptive aspect (this is what was intended, so it tells us a bit about why Christians ordered the New Testament as they did). 

The real question is this: What did I think of Childs' argument in 2009 when I wrote the review? Here's a sample:

Although I am not sure exactly how I feel about Childs attempt to move from the “historical” Paul to the “canonical” Paul I do agree with Ellen F. Davis who wrote on the back of the book that, “This book will remain part of our conversation for years to come”. If anything it will cause Pauline scholarship to ask itself whether or not the search for the historical Paul is as important as the canonical Paul that has been handed down to us.

Sounds like I was as ambiguous then as I am now! If you want to read what I thought of Childs' final book when I reviewed it on April 18th, 2009, you can read the full review here: Book Review: Brevard S. Childs, The Church's Guide to Reading Paul.

Lennox Lecture Series #ReinventingtheBible

The videos for the first three of four Lennox Lectures are available on YouTube now with Mark Chancey's talk coming soon:

Michael Satlow, "Who in Antiquity Read the Bible?"


Annette Yoshiko Reed, "The Bible Beyond the Bible: From Apocrypha to Anime"


Valarie Ziegler, "Submission, Sex, and Sinraptors: The Evangelical Adam as Alpha Male in American Popular Culture"