History in the Bible

By Garry Stevens

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 Feb 26, 2020
Lovely work. More episodes please

 Sep 13, 2019


A layman's guide to a 150 years of research into the history presented in the Bible. 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 discuss every single book in every Bible (there are more than you think!). Lightly garnished with a dash of drollery, a soupcon of scrutiny, and not one ounce of objectivity. Not one ounce!

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

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

Apr 11, 2021
3.1 The Heirs of Abraham

An overview of the whole season. I introduce the ancient literary sources we have, and the modern archaeological discoveries that transformed our understanding of the period.

Sorry for the clipped words in this ep. I was trying out new processing settings. I've reverted back to the old.

Theme music "Inspiring Teaser" by Rafael Krux, https://filmmusic.io/song/5672-inspiring-teaser, license https://filmmusic.io/standard-license.

Mar 28, 2021
Bonus 31: Retelling the Bible: A conversation with the Rev. W. Scott McAndless

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 from a book he wrote, and venture into various Biblical topics.

Mar 21, 2021
Bonus 30. The Twelve Minor Prophets I: Introducing the Twelve

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, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Jan 03, 2021
2.61 Ten-Minute Update About Season Three

A brief update about season three, launching in the second quarter of 2021.

Dec 09, 2020
Bonus 29: Deuteronomy Fun Time With Bernie from the Fan of History podcast

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.

Nov 01, 2020
Bonus 28: The Book of Joshua

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

Sep 20, 2020
Bonus 27: With Bernie from the Fan of History podcast

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 Israel.

Aug 30, 2020
2.60 An Epilogue and a Prologue: Season Two Finale

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 children of Second Temple Judaism: the rabbinic movement, and Christianity. Both were sent spinning into the void after the cataclysm of the destruction of the Temple and the annihilation of the age-old religious and political structures of the Jewish state.

Aug 09, 2020
2.59 The Fates of the Apostles

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, and Jude.

Jul 19, 2020
2.58 Paul's Fate and Final Letters

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 Rome, insulting the local Jews to their faces. So abruptly ends the Book of Acts. In his letter to the Phillipians, Paul changes his mind about the afterlife. According to the 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul spends his last days embittered and abandoned. The Acts of Paul fabricates an account of Paul's life after Italy.

Jun 28, 2020
2.57 Paul's Arrest and Trial

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 demanding Paul demonstrate his adherence to the Jewish law. The story is unlikely. James suddenly vanishes from the narrative when the Romans save Paul from a Jewish lynching. They place Paul into protective custody. Paul surprises the Romans when he declares his Roman citizenship. In a confusing series of trials, Paul is dragged before the Jewish council, defends himself against charges that no one has laid against him, is rescued by his nephew, and is tried twice by Judean procurators. He is dispatched to Rome for trial on vague charges.

Jun 07, 2020
2.56 Paul's Third Mission: To the Corinthians and Romans

In 1st Corinthians, Paul struggles to impose his authority on his foundation. He denounces other preachers. He attacks the Corinthians for tolerating sexual immorality, and for favouring the rich members.He has to explain the resurrection. 2nd Corinthians is believed to be a composite of at least two other letters. In the first part of the letter, Paul buries the hatchet, and makes nice with the previously rebellious Corinthians. In the second part, Paul turns into Mr Hyde, and lashes into the Corinthians for listening to others, others who say that Paul is no apostle. In his letter to the Romans, Paul introduces himself, sets out some theology, and ass for help for his Spanish mission.

May 17, 2020
2.55 Paul's Third Mission: To the Galatians

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 foundations in Turkey and Greece. He re-unites with Priscilla and Aquila. He spends a few years in the great city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. We meet Apollos, who is spreading the word of John the Baptist. As usual, Paul is violently ejected from Ephesus. This time, the pagans are to blame. Paul tells all and sundry that he has the monopoly on religious trinkets. That really upsets all those making a fortune selling relics of the great goddess Artemis. Paul barely makes it out town with his skin intact. He travels through Macedonia and Greece, then back to Asia Minor. He delivers a melancholy speech at Miletus, and reluctantly turns toward Jerusalem. I finish the episode with a letter Paul wrote during the mission, his angry letter to the Galatians, where he denounces the circumcision party of James and Peter.

Apr 26, 2020
Bonus 25: The Mysterious Q Source

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 material in common. Most scholars think they have a common source, the mysterious "Q". Others think one evangelist copied the other. Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I tackle the issue.

Apr 19, 2020
After-dinner Mint for 2.54: A Pagan visits Paul's Club in Thessalonica

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 reaction to hearing Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians.

Apr 05, 2020
2.54 Paul's Second Mission: To The Greeks

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 in Antioch, and Paul’s first backer and friend Barnabas. Paul acquires Timothy as a companion. He then gallivants across the province of Asia. Paul takes ship to Thrace in Europe, where he establishes a church at Philippi. After an unfortunate misunderstanding with the local authorities, he treks down through Macedonia, where he establishes a church at the capital of the province, Thessalonica.
Paul travels south into Achaia, modern Greece. A grand speech fails to impress the Athenian philosophers. He has better luck at Corinth, settling there for eighteen months. Again he falls afoul of the Jews, who bring him before the Roman governor. Thankfully, the governor has no interest in petty squabbles and dismisses the case. Paul arrives back at his base in Antioch, after a whirlwind three years.

Apr 05, 2020
2.53 Paul's Lost and First Missions

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 disciples precisely once, and then only Peter and James the brother of Jesus. I call this Paul's lost mission. The Book Acts ignores it. The chronology of Acts is impossible to reconcile with Paul's letters.

Mar 15, 2020
2.52 The Many Puzzles of Paul's Epistles

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 we have letters from Paul's contemporary missionaries? How do we reconcile the vast differences between the three Pauls shown in his letters?

Feb 23, 2020
2.51 We Need To Talk About Paul

Paul is the major protagonist in the Book of Acts. His letters comprise almost half the books in the New Testament. After Jesus, Paul dominates the New Testament. His letters are the earliest Christian documents we possess. But that is only thanks to the accidents of history. The overwhelming personality of Paul tramples that of the disciples into the dust. Not even Peter and James, brother of Jesus, can withstand the force of nature that is Paul. Paul is the first to launch a systematic campaign to bring Jesus to the pagans, in the face of opposition from the Jerusalem Jesus club. Paul accidentally constructs a theology of sin and death, and invents the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. Yet Paul seems to know almost nothing about the life of Jesus. What gives?

Feb 02, 2020
2.50 The First Jesus Club II: Tribulations

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 club is beset by tribulations. The disciples decide to appoint a set of deacons, middle-managers. That turns out not so well for the deacon Stephen. Stephen is accused of blasphemy, and delivers the longest speech in the book. He is the first to die for his faith after Jesus. Wemeet Simon Magus. Peter converts Cornelius, a pagan Roman. In his last major appearance in Acts, Peter is arrested, released by an angel, and disappears for parts unknown. And the disciple James the son of Zebedee, brother of the Beloved Disciple, is killed by King Herod Agrippa I.

Jan 12, 2020
2.49 The First Jesus Club I: Perfect Community

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 letters say that Acts is telling porkies. The first third of the book is centred on the Jerusalem Jesus club. The book of Acts describes the disciples' earliest Jesus club as a golden age, a hippie commune, but a commune with a dark side. The disciples are arrested, but keep escaping from prison. The authorities eventually give up, letting them go after a light flogging. The Saducees appear in a rare cameo.

Dec 22, 2019
2.48 Do You Think You’re What They Say You Are?

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 thought he was like an Old Testament prophet. He believed that God's kingly rule was about to intervene. Jesus believed that his mission was to prepare the Jews for God’s imminent intervention in the world. Did Jesus intend to found a new religion? I doubt it.

Dec 01, 2019
2.47 The Resurrection

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 Gospel of Peter is the only document that describes the actual moment of resurrection.

The gospels present differing accounts of Jesus' appearances after his death. Did he appear in spirit, like an angel, or as real fleshly human?
How many people did he appear to, and when, and where?

Nov 10, 2019
Bonus 24 The Whacky Book of Daniel

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 two parts, one of which claims to be a reliable history of Babylonian times. Spoiler: It's not. The second half is the only apocalypse in the Old Testament.

Nov 03, 2019
2.46 The Death of Jesus

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 evidence? The gospels give us two surprise cameo appearances: Simon of Cyrene, and Joseph of Arimathea.

Oct 20, 2019
2.45 Jesus on Trial

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. Jesus had delivered an apocaplytic sermon at the mount the day before. According to the gospel of John, Jesus serenely accepts his fate, and refuses to ask his Father to save him. The synoptic gospels challenge that. In those gospels, Jesus lashes out at his disciples. As the company return from the Mount through the Garden of Gethsamene, Jesus asks his Father to save him from death. Jesus is arrested at the Garden and sent for trial. The gospels can't get their story straight about the trials. Was Jesus tried by the Jewish Council? Was he just interrogated, but not tried, by the high priest? Was he sent to Herod Antipas? Was he taken before Pilate once or twice? The gospels disagree. One thing that the gospels furiously agree upon is in exonerating the Roman prefect, and dumping all the blame on the Jews.

Sep 29, 2019
2.44 The Last Supper

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 Jerusalem to participate in the annual Passover. In Jerusalem, he and his disciples partake in a final meal. Judas betrays Jesus. The gospel of John disagrees with the synoptics as to the dating of the Last Supper: the day of Passover, or the day before? John uses the supper to introduce a bunch of theology. He also introduces the mysterious Beloved Disciple, and a new divine entity, the Paraclete.

Sep 08, 2019
2.43 Palm Sunday

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 his entry into the capital. That goes swimmingly. Ebullient from his grand reception, Jesus marches into the Temple, determined to destroy its commercial activities. Jesus then delivers a little apocalypse at the Mount of Olives.

Aug 18, 2019
Bonus 23 The Trinity: Part 2

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 Jewish and Christian thought to try to make sense of it. Part two of two.

Aug 04, 2019
2.42 The Road To Jerusalem

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 his death, and is attacked by the authorities because he raised Lazarus from the dead. John has Jesus deliver a series of confusing speeches about his relationship with God. Against John, the synoptic gospels assert that Jesus spent a few weeks traveling to Judea, and only a week in the city.

Jul 27, 2019
Bonus 22: All things Biblical at the IntelligentSpeech conference in NYC

This is a bonus episode for season two. My long-time collaborator, Steve Guerra, attended the IntelligentSpeech podcasting conference in New York in June 2019. I appeared with Steve thanks to the magic that is Skype. We talk all things Biblical. I hope you enjoy this bonus show. The conference was organised by Roifield Brown, producer of numerous podcasts: How Jamaica Conquered the World, and The Things That Made England, amongst others. Roifield was the man who introduced me to history podcasting.

Jul 07, 2019
2.41 Jesus' Disciples II: The Other Guys

After the Big Three disciples come the forgettable bit-players, the Nondescript Nine: Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel), Matthew, Thomas Didymus, James son of Alphaeus, Judas (also known as Thaddaeus), Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot.

Jun 23, 2019
Bonus 21 The Trinity: Part 1

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 Jewish and Christian thought to try to make sense of it. Part one of two.

Jun 09, 2019
2.40 Jesus' Disciples I: The Cabinet of Three

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 the Transfiguration. The rest of the disciples are ciphers. Peter is by far the pre-eminent disciple, named more often in the New Testament all the other disciples put together. He is Jesus’ devoted wombat, an impulsive, exuberant, and eminently likeable individual. But he fails when put to the test. A work attributed to him, the Apocalypse of Peter, provided all our modern images of hell. Western church fathers held that the disciple John wrote the gospel of that name, Revelation, and three letters. The Eastern church and modern scholars are dubious. James was the first disciple to be martyred, by Herod Agrippa. He is memorialised at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Jun 02, 2019
2.39 Conflict and Transfiguration

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 for their petty legalism. Modern interpretations of these accounts hold them to reflect the situation when the gospels were written, projected back into the time of Jesus. Jesus' Galilean ministry concludes with his Transfiguration, where he stands between Moses and Elijah, and the voice of God again declares that Jesus is his son.

May 12, 2019
2.38 Miracles and Healings in Galilee

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, and calms the storm. He teaches parables about old wine into new skins, mustard seeds, pearls, and weeds amongst the wheat. He meets Mary Magdalene. Jesus predicts his own death. Peter professes him the Messiah and Son of God.

Apr 21, 2019
2.37 Jesus All Over the Place

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, then finds the disciples Philip and Nathaniel. He cleanses the temple and debates Nicodemus. He is first recognised as Messiah by a Samaritan, a people derided by the Jews. Jesus gives us his first theology lesson. None of this is in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Mar 31, 2019
2.36 Jesus in Galilee

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 wilderness near the Dead Sea. He passes with flying colours. You know that quote "Get the behind me Satan"? It's not here. When Jesus learns that the Baptist has been arrested, he flies back to Galilee. According to Mark and Matthew, Jesus summons two sets of two brothers as his first followers. Mark and Luke describes Jesus first act as a sermon in a synagogue. Matthew has a much more spectacular debut: the Sermon on the Mount. Luke provides a very different version of that sermon. We also hear the Lord's Prayer. Catholics and Protestants have different ideas of what that is.

Mar 10, 2019
2.35 Prologue to Jesus' Ministry

An introduction to the geo-political world of Jesus. I also discuss the many problems we have when attempting to reconcile the chronologies of the gospels. The synoptic gospels differ in the details. The big problem is with the gospel of John. We simply cannot reconcile the chronology of John with the synoptics.

Feb 17, 2019
2.34 The Problem of John the Baptist

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 at this event or not? The gospels differ. They regard the Baptist as a problematic figure, and treat him enigmatically. The synoptic gospels downplay him. The gospel of John (the apostle, not the Baptist) takes him over.

Jan 27, 2019
2.33 We Three Kings. 2019 Epiphany Special

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 Mary's. Matthew has wise men, the infamous massacre of the innocents, and the flight to Egypt. No angels and no shepherds. He does not mention Mary's relative Elizabeth, and her son John the Baptist. If you read Matthew carefully, he says nothing of the day of Christmas, but he has a lot to say about the day of Epiphany, 6th January, the day the magi paid homage. I also introduce the Gospel of James, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Jan 06, 2019
Bonus 20 The Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity

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 that ended with the destruction of the temple. From this forest, two new religions emerged: Rabbinic Judaism, and Christianity.

Dec 30, 2018
2.32 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. 2018 Christmas Special

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.

Dec 16, 2018
2.31 The Many Names of Jesus

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.

Dec 02, 2018
2.30 John's Gospel of Knowledge

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 the other gospels talk about. John has a quite different biography of Jesus. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus travels to Jerusalem once in his life, to meet his destiny. The gospel of John has Jesus travelling to Jerusalem several times, and places the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus' career, not at the end. John's gospel is clearly the product of a community, rather than a single author. This community also produced the letters attributed to John. We have no idea how this community related to the Jesus-clubs founded by Paul, nor to the communities who read the synoptic gospels. I throw in an introduction to some of the ideas that the gospel used: from Platonism, from Philo Judeaus, and from Gnosticism. I finish with the Gospel of Thomas, another Gnostic-influenced gospel.

Nov 18, 2018
2.29 The Gospels of Matthew and Luke

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 blood cry. Matthew's community might have been Jews who went to synagogue, and believed that what we call Christianity was the right way to be a Jew. Or they might have been outside the synagogues. Matthew today is understood as a factional writer, one who contended against the emerging rabbinical community. The gospel of Luke is part of a package, with the book of Acts. Luke is the most polished of the gospels, yet ranks with Mark in the bottom of the popularity stakes, even though it contains some of our most beloved stories: the parables of the good Samaritan and the tax collector, the annunciation of Jesus and John the Baptist, the shepherds and their flocks, and Jesus ascension to heaven.

Oct 28, 2018
2.28 The Gospels of Mark and Matthew

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 that be. He has an especial dislike of the Pharisees. His Greek is rough, but punchy. Mark expects the return of Jesus any day now. Mark's Jesus was a man adopted by God at Jesus' baptism. His Jesus is forever telling people shut up about Jesus' true identity. In Mark, Jesus is Clark Kent, not Superman. In Mark, the reader always knows more than the characters in the story. Mark thinks the disciples are nitwits. The gospel of Matthew has long been regarded as the premier gospel. Matthew uses a lot of Mark, but he treats Mark critically. Matthew improves Mark's Greek, reveals Clark Kent as Superman, and is much kinder to the disciples. Matthew really differs from Mark by including five long speeches, including the famous Sermon on the Mount

Oct 07, 2018
2.27 What We Know About the Life of Jesus

Our earliest pagan sources for the life of Jesus - the historians Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius - tell us almost nothing about Jesus. The letters of St Paul are uninformative, as are rabbinic sources. We have to rely on the four gospels. These have their own agendas. In this episode I explore the relationships between the synoptic gospels: Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Today, we believe that Mark was the first gospel, and that both Matthew and Luke drew upon Mark. But Matthew and Luke have material in common, material not found in Mark. Where did that come from? Most scholars say it was the mysterious source called "Q". Others disagree.

Sep 16, 2018
2.26 Christianity's Earliest Witness: Paul Writes to the Thessalonians

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 a pagan newcomer would have reacted to the club and the letter. The newcomer is befuddled by the strange words used by club members, and confused about Paul. I also dissect the letter, and discover that Paul knew almost nothing about the life of Jesus.

Aug 26, 2018
2.25 Quest for the Historical Jesus

Since the Enlightenment, three great academic attempts have been made to make sense of the life of Jesus: the first, second, and third quests for the historical Jesus. I follow the Third Questers.

Aug 05, 2018
2.24 Battle for the New Testament IV: Modern Times

The discovery of the ancient Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in the 19th century revealed that the New Testament circulated in three different textual traditions: the Byzantine, the Alexandrian, and the Western. It became clear that the Textus Receptus was based entirely on Byzantine manuscripts, all written in the high Middle Ages. Modern Protestant and Catholic bibles rely on the much older Alexandrian manuscripts, represented by Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and on modern papyrus discoveries.

Jul 15, 2018
2.23 Battle for the New Testament III: the Reformation

Unlike the Jews, Christians preserved many versions of their scriptures. The invention of printing spurred European scholars to revisit ancient Greek manuscripts in an attempt to create one single version of the sacred books. Over a century, Erasmus, Beza, Stephanus and the Elzevirs produced Greek editions. Their collective efforts are known as the Textus Receptus, the text behind the King James bible.

Jun 24, 2018
2.22 Battle for the New Testament II: Against Marcion

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 first attempts to list a sacred canon. The Christians struggled against Marcionites, Montanists, and Gnostics to define what they believed. I introduce the Shepherd of Hermas.

Jun 03, 2018
2.21 Battle for the New Testament I: Earliest Times

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 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Papias were reading. Marcion spurred the Jesus-clubs into action.

May 13, 2018
Bonus 19: Samson on Trial

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 Philistine temple. In this bonus episode, three award-worthy history podcast writers and producers bring Samson to trial for mass murder.

May 06, 2018
2.20 Herod's Heirs

Herod’s kingdom was divided. The Romans took their own chunk. His sons Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip received portions. Their success was mixed. Judea was never easy to rule, often breaking out into brigandage, even when run by Jews. Race riots between Greeks and Jews were common. Philip does not play a role in the New Testament story. Archelaus has a cameo part. Herod Antipas figures in the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist. Herod’s grandson Herod Agrippa I appears in the story of the arrest of St Peter. In the end, the Romans decided on direct rule. That did not work out so well. The Jews erupted in revolt in 66 AD, a revolt that finished with the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

Apr 22, 2018
2.19 What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Rome created an efficient economic system that enabled even middle-strata Judeans to buy goods from far-distant places. Rome introduced new social structures, the patron-client system, and the household headed by the pater familias. The Jews created their own system of governance under the Roman rulers. They also created the synagogue. Jewish religion transformed itself. God became more numinous, while Satan turned into a person. Jews came up with a definite concept of a life after death.

Apr 01, 2018
2.18 Modern Debates: Scandal of the Dead Sea Scrolls

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 the wider scholarly community examine the documents, and forced their own interpretations on the world. The cabal bamboozled first the Jordanian authorities, then the Israelis. The cabal's stranglehold was only broken by a bunch of academic freedom-fighters in the 1990s.

Mar 18, 2018
Bonus 18: Yochi Brandes' novel 'The Orchard'- Judaism and Christianity after the fall of the Temple

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 Akiva, the man who forged rabbinic Judaism after teh fall of the Temple. Along the way we encounter a host of other rabbis and Paul of Tarsus. We also ponder the difficulties of translation and working out what actually happened in history.

Mar 11, 2018
2.17 Recovering the Bible: A Century of Revelations

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 Geniza, finds revealed another thousand years of manuscripts. The Didache was recovered, and another bunch of books discovered in an obscure tomb in Egypt, revealing a Christianity hitherto unknown. The Dead Sea Scrolls then showed that Judaism was not the dessicated religion that the New Testament described.

Mar 04, 2018
2.16 Meet the Neighbours: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes

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 division in Judaism was between those who followed God’s laws, and those who strayed. From the time of the Seleucids on, the people fragmented into factions and religious renewal movements. Prime amongst these were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes: maybe.

Feb 18, 2018
2.15 The Rise and Ruin of the Maccabeans

The Maccabeans reach their apogee under John Hyrcanus I, and his sons Aristobulus and Alexander Jannaeus. Alexander's widow, Alexandra Salome, became known as a ruler of wisdom and moderation. Her incompetent children and successors John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II blew it all in a fratricidal civil war. The Romans stepped in, ditched the Maccabean ditzes, and installed more reliable bureaucrats: Antipater, and his son Herod.

Feb 04, 2018
2.14 Grappling with the Greeks V: Jubilees Reconstructs Judaism

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 thought. Now we know the book was immensely popular with Jews and Christians until the early Middle Ages. The book re-writes Genesis and Exodus. Jubilees claims a higher authority than those books. It creates a new sacred calendar, and invents the figure we call Satan. I also have something to say about that odious book written at the same time, the Wisdom of Ben Sira.

Jan 21, 2018
2.13 Grappling with the Greeks IV: Daniel and the Book of Parables

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 testament because it was the only book to talk of the resurection of the dead. It gets every historical detail wrong. Nonetheless, it can claim to be the founding document of the USA. Daniel's use of a common Hebrew idiom, "son of man", has created huge theological problems. That part of 1 Enoch called the Book of Parables re-creates the idiom for Christians.

Jan 07, 2018
2.12 Grappling with the Greeks III: The Maccabeans Revolt

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 Maccabeans stage a nationalistic rebellion. Judas Maccabeus reclaims the temple and creates Hanukkah. After Judas' death, his brother Jonathon transforms from insurgent to high-priest.

Dec 24, 2017
2.11 Grappling With the Greeks II: Jerusalem Against Athens

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 Seleucids, who faced severe geopolitical challenges. The social and economic tidal wave of international Hellenism challenged every aspect of Judean life and thought. A country Jewish priest called Mattathias revolted against this globalisation: Make Judea Holy Again!

Dec 10, 2017
2.10 Grappling with the Greeks I: Josephus and the Books of Maccabees

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 present our sources for that history, Josephus and Maccabees. I conclude with a few notes about the oddities of the Ethiopian orthodox biblical canon.

Nov 26, 2017
2.9 The Apocalypse to End Them All: 1 Enoch

Apocalypses were popular reading amongst Jews in the centuries they spent under Roman rule. Rabbinical Judaism blotted the apocalypses from its collective memory. Christianity incorporated them into its very soul. I cover the greatest apocalypse of them all, 1st Enoch. The book of Tobit is my special guest star.

Nov 12, 2017
2.8 Lost Books of the New Testaments

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. Their significance was not appreciated until the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Oct 29, 2017
2.7 Under Persia: Farewell to the Tanakh

The Jews have a placid existence under Persian rule, and create Judaism. They reconstruct their religion, one now without kings and prophets. From on, the Law is all. I discuss the last of the books of the Tanakh: the romances of Esther and Judith, the hateful but mercifully brief prophet Obadiah, and the funniest book in the canon, Jonah.

Oct 15, 2017
2.6 Leaving Babylon IV: Nehemiah and Ezra Stand Against Ruth

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 do I. The two institute a tax-payer-funded theocracy. Ezra rejects the old Hebrew religion and founds modern Judaism. Intermarriage is forbidden. Against that stance is the Book of Ruth.

Oct 01, 2017
2.5 Leaving Babylon III: The Enigma of Zerubbabel and Joshua

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 the only real Jews are those who were exiled. Zerubbabel inexplicably disappears from the narrative at the moment of his triumph. The book of Esdras Alpha rehabilitates him.

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah are sources for the period. Zechariah writes the first apocalypse. I finish with the puny prophet Joel, who turns plowshares into swords, and pruning hooks into spears.

Sep 17, 2017
2.4 Leaving Babylon II: Cyrus and the Mystery of Sheshbazzar

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 Great of Persia, has no trouble mounting a friendly takeover of the empire. Cyrus urges the Jews to return home under the mysterious Sheshbazzar. Cyrus is applauded by Second Isaiah, who introduces the Age of Aquarius, and some new theology.

Sep 03, 2017
2.3 Leaving Babylon I: The Ezra Muddle

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, called Ezra. There a whole bunch of other books of Ezra, many to be found in Russian and Greek bibles. 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Latin Esdras, Esdras Alpha, the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, the Latin Vision of Ezra, the Questions of Ezra, the Revelation of Ezra. What a muddle! Colombus used 4 Esdras to discover America.

Aug 20, 2017
2.2 In Babylon II: Ezekiel and Job

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 reluctantly tackle the book of Job, that most difficult of books.

Aug 06, 2017
2.1 In Babylon I: The Exile

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 centuries. But not only Christians. Ezekiel is the father of Jewish mysticism, a movement which the rabbis only quashed in the early Middle Ages.

Jul 23, 2017
Bonus 17: A Conversation with Dan Libenson of Judaism Unbound

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 translation, how Jews and Christians think about God, and many other matters. All good fun!

Jun 13, 2017
1.57 Modern Debates: End of an Era

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 of Judean religion as it was at the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. I reflect on what I have learnt making this series, and what is coming in series two.

May 21, 2017
1.56 Modern Debates: Into Exile.

Scholars are divided about the Babylonian destruction wrought on Judah. The Biblical sources tell different stories. How many were deported to Babylon, and how many stayed behind? Was Judah left utterly desolate, as the Book of Chronicles says, or just reduced, as the Book of Kings says? We find out what happened to the prophet Jeremiah, and encounter the book of Lamentations; and the book of Baruch, one found in Catholic and Orthodox bibles, but not Protestant.

May 07, 2017
1.55 Four Prophets of the Babylonian Crisis

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. Jeremiah is a foreign policy advisor, and spreader of doom. We are all going to die! Surrender to your new overlords: Babylon! In a short and nasty work, Nahum gloats at the fall of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, a victory he did nothing to accomplish. Habakkuk is a contemplative philosopher, with an important question for God.

Apr 23, 2017
1.54 The Babylonian Conquest of Judah

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, the Babylonians capture Jehoiakim and the city of Jerusalem, placing on the throne Jeconiah. King Nebuchadnezzar soon tosses him aside, settling on Zedekiah as the Babylonian puppet king. In a bad move, Zedekiah rebels. Nebuchadnezzar destroys Judah. The Jewish exile has begun.

Apr 09, 2017
1.53 Evil King Manasseh and the Reformation of Josiah

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, Josiah, was slaughtered in his prime. Josiah conducts a religious revolution and discovers the book of Deuteronomy.

Mar 26, 2017
Bonus 16: After Life - Surviving the Apocalypse

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 Temple period.

Mar 19, 2017
1.52 Isaiah and Micah, Prophets of the Assyrian Crisis

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 Bible. Christians read into his book prophecies of the Christ. Micah is his counterpoint.

Mar 12, 2017
1.51 King Hezekiah, Father of Biblical Religion

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 to create a nationalistic religion: Biblical religion. His second crisis was the invasion of Sennacherib of Assyria. The king saved his city, but lost the countryside.

Feb 26, 2017
1.50 The Fall of Israel

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 his oar in, to no effect. Pekah is followed by his son Hoshea, who makes a bad diplomatic move and is annihilated by Assyria. So begins the Jewish diaspora.

Feb 12, 2017
Bonus 15: Revelation- Apocalypse by Numbers

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 Revelation. We find lots of magical numbers.

Feb 12, 2017
1.49 The Assyrian Storm

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 followed by Zechariah, then in quick succession by Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah. Israel is falling apart. King Retzin of Aram-Damascus hammers the Hebrews, but is squashed by the Assyrians.

Jan 29, 2017
1.48 Amos and Hosea, Hammers of the House of Jehu

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 socialist critique on the Israelite upper-classes, and calls on the people to be righteous, and not just rule-followers. Hosea uses uncomfortable crazy sexual imagery to denounce the Israelites' worship of Baal. Hosea is nuts.

Jan 15, 2017
Bonus 14: What a Revelation! The Apocalypse of St John the Divine

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 Revelation. It barely made it into the New Testament.

Jan 08, 2017
1.47 Calamities of the Two Kingdoms

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 dynasty for 90 years, through the reigns of Jehoahaz and Joash to Jeroboam II. The famous Tel Dan stele has a lot to say about that. The kings of Judah get a big helping hand from the Assyrians in their squabbles against Israel. Meanwhile, in Israel, Athaliah, only queen regnant of a Hebrew kingdom, gets killed by the patriarchy. The priests destroy their own puppet King Jehoash when he stops the gravy train. But his son Amaziah gets his revenge.

Jan 01, 2017
1.46 Conundrums of the Kings Jehoram

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 the coup of Jehu, agent of God against the evil house of Omri. One of the few strong women in the Bible, Ahab's widow Jezebel, also meets her end. Athaliah becomes the only woman to rule Judah. Elisha works miracles.

Dec 18, 2016
Bonus 13: Satan and the Origin of Evil

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 he is God's faithful prosecuting attorney. Only in the apocalyptic literature does he transform into the source of all evil. That is the Satan we find in the New Testament.

Dec 11, 2016
1.45 Last of the Omrides

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 follows Ahab on the throne. We start the second book of Kings. Elijah dies and passes his legacy to Elisha. I discuss Elijah's importance to Jews and Christians.

Dec 04, 2016
1.44 The House of Omri: Pinnacle of Power

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. During this period, the first great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, created the religion of Yahwism. We also meet Ahab's wife Jezebel, the painted lady. Assyria makes an unwelcome appearance.

Nov 20, 2016
Bonus 12: A Very Merkabah Jubilee

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 mysticism, and the influential and popular Book of Jubilees.

Nov 13, 2016
1.43 Forty Years of Trouble

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 kings: Rehoboam, Abijam (or Abijah), and Asa. In the northern kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam's dynasty came to an end with his son Nadab, overthrown by general Baasha. This was not a happy time.

Nov 06, 2016
Bonus 11: Apocalypses of Daniel and 1st Enoch - Hiding in Plain Sight

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 Daniel. The Book of 1 Enoch, older than Daniel, hid in plain sight in the Ethiopian Orthodox canon for centuries. Europeans only re-discovered it in the early 19th century.

Oct 30, 2016
1.42 The Kingdom Sundered

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 Biblical sources we have for this period, Kings and Chronicles and a few prophets; and the Assyrian and Babylonian records. I also introduce the archaeological evidence we have (such as the Moabite stone, the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III, and the Tel Dan stele), and the very difficult chronological problems. What would we know about the Hebrew kingdoms without the Bible? Not much.

Oct 23, 2016
Bonus 10: Gnosticism: Gnowing me, Gnowing You

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, and dualism.

Oct 16, 2016
1.41 Modern Debates: David and Solomon

In this ripper episode I tackle the great raging debate in contemporary biblical archaeology. Traditionalist scholars believe that modern archaeological discoveries confirm the Bible's account of David and Solomon. Modernist archaeologists believe the exact opposite. Who has the evidence on their side?

Oct 09, 2016
Bonus 9: Portents of the Apocalypse

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 the Old Testament, and the opening of the New Testament; and how it crucially influenced Judaism and Christianity.

Oct 02, 2016
1.40 Puzzles of the United Kingdom of the Hebrews

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 to say about the united kingdom. I start with Saul, and wonder why he is treated so differently in the books of Samuel and Chronicles.


Sep 25, 2016
1.39 Solomon's Legacy

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 slave-master, Jeroboam. I also discuss the two most important books attributed to Solomon: Proverbs, and the Song of Songs.

Sep 11, 2016
1.38 Solomon's Magnificence

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 stage; the richest, wisest, and most awesome king in the entire Middle East. He marries an Egyptian princess. I go through the legends of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and investigate the role of Solomon's benefactor, King Hiram of the Phoenician city of Tyre.

Aug 28, 2016
Bonus 8: Yochi Brandes' The Secret Book of Kings

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 the period of Saul, David, Solomon, and then the divided monarchy. It has been recently translated into English from the Hebrew. The novel was a smash hit in Israel. We discuss the novel and its impact in israel, and how it bears on Dan's quest to forge the next Jewish future.

Aug 26, 2016
1.37 David and the Psalms

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: Rehab, Leviathan, and Behemoth. Boney M. sings psalm 137.

Aug 14, 2016
1.36 The Last Days of David

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, and rewrote the story to introduce Satan. Modern archaeologists disgree with the numbers. Bathsheba, mother to Solomon, conducts a palace coup to put her son on the throne, allied with the prophet Nathan, the priest Zadok, and David's mercenary praetorian guard. David charges Solomon to dispatch David's most loyal servants, Joab and Abiathar. I also introduce the Book of Psalms.

Jul 31, 2016
1.35 Treachery in the House of David

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, David's woes start with his murder of Uriah, followed by familial violence, rape, and the terrible deaths of two of his sons, Amnon and Absalom. The Book of Chronicles mentions none of that.

Jul 17, 2016
1.34 David Triumphant

David and his field marshal Joab defeats Saul's son Ishbosheth and his general Abner. David retrieves the ark from the Philistines, to the displeasure of his wife Michal. God forges his fourth and final contract with humanity, promising David and David's city of Jerusalem eternal divine protection. Scholars call this the Royal Zion theology. I also discuss David's special protection squad, and the sudden appearance of a new high priest, Zadok.

Jul 03, 2016
1.33 From Bandit to King

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 battle at Mt Gilboa, David is made king of the southern tribes, but not the northern.

Jun 19, 2016
1.32 The Complicated Rise of David

Samuel manufactures reasons to condemn King Saul, and supplant him with David. Our two great sources, the Septuagint and the Masoretic text, have very different versions of David's complicated rise.

Jun 05, 2016
1.31 Samuel and the Tragedy of King Saul

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 to introduce the Hebrew prophets, showing they were not fortune-tellers and sooth-sayers. They responded to political crises, and spoke about the here and now.


May 22, 2016
1.30 Eli and Samuel, Last of the Judges

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 misgivings, God instructs Samuel to give the people a king: Saul. I alo discuss the many textual problems in the books of Samuel, comparing the Septuagint to the Massoretic text.

May 08, 2016
1.29 The United Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon

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 sources we have: the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

Apr 24, 2016
1.28 Modern Debates: Judging Joshua and the Judges

In the 1970s, scholars demolished the credibility of the Biblical stories of the patriarchs. In the decades following, archaeologists threw out the Biblical history of Joshua and Judges. I present the current theories on the origins of the Israelites.

Apr 10, 2016
1.27 Judges II: Victory into Defeat

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.

Mar 27, 2016
Bonus 7: Steve and Garry Talk Heresy

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 explanation.

Mar 20, 2016
1.26 Judges I: The Book of Rescuers

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 of the Rescuers, the heroic epic of the northern kingdom of Israel.

Mar 13, 2016
1.25 Joshua Conquers Canaan

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.

Feb 28, 2016
1.24 Modern Debates: Disappearing the Patriarchs

In 1970 most scholars thought that Genesis and Exodus were reliable guides to the history of the Israelites. Today, even the most traditionalist of archaeologists agree that the narratives of the Israelites' history told in Genesis and Exodus are just stories. In this episode I explore how the consensus of 1970 was overthrown.


Feb 14, 2016
1.23 God's Historian: The Deuteronomist

Modern scholars have identified a single school behind all the books from Deuteronomy to Kings. This school wrote the histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, putting its own theological slant on that history.

Jan 31, 2016
Bonus 6: Priest-King Melchizedek, International Man of Mystery

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 Steve at the Agora Podcast Network.

Jan 24, 2016
Bonus 5: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period (Part 3)

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 network.

Jan 23, 2016
1.22 Deuteronomy II: The Death of Moses

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 curses on those would disobey, modeled on Assyrian curses. Polytheism sneaks through a few times.

Jan 17, 2016
1.21 Deuteronomy I: Moses Farewells His people

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 stops. I discuss how Deuteronomy was modeled on Assyrian vassal treaties.

Jan 03, 2016
1.20 Numbers II: Out of the Wilderness

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 vicious plot-twist God tells Moses that he will never cross the Jordan

Dec 20, 2015
1.19 Numbers I: Into the Wilderness

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 spend 40 years in the wilderness.

Dec 06, 2015
1.18 Leviticus II: The Holiness Code

The first half of Leviticus is preoccupied with the priests and the Tabernacle. The second half of Leviticus radically extends the idea of holiness to the whole people of the Israelites. It lays down a mass of laws, from what an Israelite can eat, to laws on menstruation.

Nov 22, 2015
Bonus 4: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period (Part 2)

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.

Nov 16, 2015
1.17 Leviticus I: God's Barbecue

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 describes how the Israelites must maintain the sanctity of God's holy abode, the Tabernacle.

Nov 08, 2015
Bonus 3: James the Just in the Late Second Temple period (Part 1)

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 to Jesus, how the Catholics and Orthodox think about him, and Jesus' family life and economic situation. You can visit Steve at the History of the Papacy podcast

Oct 18, 2015
1.16 Exodus IV: Origins of the Old Israelite Religion

The major festivals of Judaism are created, the Tent of Meeting is designed, and the priesthood under Aaron established. God is outraged when the feckless Aaron makes two idols, but in an astonishing display of nepotism, Moses lets Aaron off the hook and instead consigns 3,000 Israelites to death. We also find the real Ten Commandments: they are not what you think.

Oct 11, 2015
1.15 Exodus III: The Contract with God at Sinai

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 divinity. I discuss how this contract follows the suzerainity treaties of the Hittites and Assyrians. I also throw in a discussion on the Ten Commandments, and how the Jews and various Christian denominations slice and dice them.

Sep 27, 2015
1.14 Exodus II: Egypt, No!

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.

Sep 13, 2015
1.13 Exodus I: Egypt, Ho!

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 passes in the blink of an eye. That concludes our survey of Genesis. We move on to the book of Exodus, amd introduce the great hero of the Hebrews, Moses.

Aug 30, 2015
1.12 Genesis V: Jacob and Joseph

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 and names Bethel twice. There is the unsavoury incident of the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah, met with a brutal and horrendous over-reaction from her brothers. We also have another unpleasant story about Jacob's son Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. We conclude with an introduction to Joseph.

Aug 16, 2015
1.11 Genesis IV: Trouble in the Family

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 minute, God says it's all been a test. Was this a remnant of ancient Israelite child sacrifice? After a perfunctory chapter or two on Isaac, Genesis forgets about him to talk about the Bible's greatest and least repentant con-man: Jacob, later known as Israel. We meet yet another scheming wife, Rebekah.

Aug 02, 2015
Bonus 2: The Second Temple period, with Stephen Guerra

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 History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about the Second Temple period.  This was the time between the return of the Jews from the exile in Babylon in 538 BC to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

You can visit Steve and the History of the Papacy podcast at http://atozhistorypage.com, or you can listen to him on iTunes. Again, thanks to Steve for doing all the editing and recording work.

Jul 26, 2015
1.10 Genesis III: Abraham is Called

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 return for eternal fidelity. Abraham has many adventures, meeting and swindling the Pharoah of Egypt; and encountering the mysterious Melkizedek, priest and king of Jerusalem. We also meet his scheming wife Sarai, his slave-wive Hagar, and his first-born son Ishmael.

Jul 19, 2015
Bonus 1: Talking with Stephen Guerra of the History of the Papacy Podcast

This is the first of an irregular series of bonus episodes, in addition to my fortnightly
installments. In this bonus, I talk about history podcasting with Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast. Steve and the others at the history podcasters network have been a great help to me in getting this podcast going. You can visit Steve at http://atozhistorypage.com, and the history podcaster network at http://historypodcasters.com/. Thanks to Steve for doing all the heavy lifting in recording and editing this episode.

Jul 12, 2015
1.9 Genesis II: Tales of the Flood

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 tabouleh is rejected; the dating system is a complete mess; Noah was alive in Abraham's time; Enoch goes to heaven; the mysterious Nephilim make an appearance; Canaan is cursed for no reason and the slavery of blacks is justified.

Jul 05, 2015
1.8 Genesis I: Stories of Creation

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 source. I compare these to the creation stories from ancient Mesopotamian sources. Genesis has always been more important to Christians than to Jews, who regared Exodus as telling the central story of Judaism.  Naturally, that leads to a discussion of Jewish attitudes to IVF.

Jun 21, 2015
1.7 Writing the Pentateuch

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, and D. These theories were a mainstay of biblical studies until recently. Although questioned in the past 20 years, the theory known as the Documentary Hypothesis is still accounted a firm starting place for any sort of examination of the text of the Pentateuch. I also find out why the Bible is divided into chapters and verses.

Jun 07, 2015
1.6 Canaan of the Patriarchs

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 uncovered, and then reinterperted, by archaeologists from the 1930s to the present day. I introduce William Foxwell Albright, the most influential Middle Eastern scholar of the 20th century. I also cover the greatest catastrophe of antiquity, the Bronze Age Collapse, and how scholars construct chronologies.

May 24, 2015
1.5 The Names of God

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 Bohemoth found their way into the ancient religion of Israel and into the Bible. I also discuss the most common names of god found in the Bible (Yahweh, El, Elohim, Adonai), and what they mean.

May 10, 2015
1.4 Recovering Ancient Israel

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

Apr 26, 2015
1.3 Canons and Criticism

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, I begin to explore the history of the history of the bible. I start with Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra and end up with Johann Semler. Along the way, I meet Archbishop Ussher, he who decided the world was created in 4004 BC,  and decide he is not only over-rated, but a complete ditz.

Apr 12, 2015
1.2 What is the Bible?

The Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Church of the East all have different versions of the Bible, with dissimilar books, based on different ancient texts. I explain why. For a handy summary chart, check out my chart Canons of the Old Testament at www.historyinthebible.com.

Mar 25, 2015
1.1 All the History, in all the Books, in all the Bibles

Introducing the History in the Bible Podcast, from www.historyinthebible.com. I will present the latest research in the archaeology of the Holy Land, discuss every single book in all the various canons of all the Bibles, presenting the history in each book, and how each book is located in history. I will also explore the current state of Biblical criticism, and investigate what we know about the ancient Israelite religion.

Mar 24, 2015