Saturday, 7 November 2015

"The City of the Saints" by Sir R.F. Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was a renowned explorer and writer.  This book contains, amongst other things, an account of a journey which he made to the early Mormon colony at Great Salt Lake City.  This review should be read together with my earlier review of The Rocky Mountain Saints by T.B.H. Stenhouse (whom Burton met on his trip).

Friday, 16 October 2015

Apollonius and the Pythagoreans - Part II

First published on my classics blog, Memento, on 15 March 2015.

From around the first century BC, the Pythagorean movement underwent a reinaissance.  Pythagoras came to be seem as a kind of semi-divine figure - a master of teaching and doctrine who had given the other great Greek philosophers their ideas.  Writers forged entire treatises in the name of Pythagoras and his early followers in order to tell the world what they really ought to have said.  In the hands of the New Pythagoreans, Pythagoras and his legacy came to take on the appearance of a storehouse of wisdom on subjects ranging across metaphysics, magic, music, mathematics and morality.

Apollonius and the Pythagoreans - Part I

First published on my classics blog, Memento, on 26 February 2015.

In the next couple of posts, I want to look at the mysterious figure of Apollonius of Tyana, a Pythagorean holy man who flourished in the 1st century AD.

Pagans and Christians - First contact

First posted on my classics blog, Memento, on 20 September 2014.

"First contact" in the Star Trek sense, that is....  In this post, I want to look at the encounters between early Christianity and the ancient pagan world.  I take as my basis the experiences of the Christian apostle St Paul, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

"Inferior Office?" by Francis Young

The Church of England has no theology of the diaconate. It has never been agreed exactly what liturgical functions a deacon is entitled to perform, and it is even more unclear what he - or she - is supposed to get up to outside church. This book is an attempt to fill in this theological and pastoral gap. It was written by Francis Young, an historian and writer with an established interest in anomalous and marginal religious phenomena.

"Forged" and "Forgery and Counterforgery" by Bart Ehrman

This is another couple of books by the leading American Bible scholar Bart Ehrman.  One of them (Forged) is a popular book for a general readership; the other (Forgery and Counterforgery) is a detailed academic monograph.  They deal with the delicate issue of pseudonymous and pseudepigraphical writings in early Christian literature - or, as Ehrman puts it less euphemistically, forgeries.  The only previous large study of this phenomenon was Wolfgang Speyer's 1971 masterpiece Die literarische Faelschung im heidnischen und christlichen Altertum, and it is good that Ehrman has turned his time and talents to dealing with this underresearched topic.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Three books by Bart Ehrman

  • Did Jesus Exist? (2012)
  • Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (1999)
  • How Jesus Became God (2014)
If I was going to recommend three books to newcomers to the field of historical Jesus studies, it would be these three.  Ehrman is an interesting guy.  He rejected the Christian fundamentalism of his youth to become a secular Bible scholar writing in the academic mainstream.  An engaging writer and teacher, he has perhaps done more than any other writer of our time to bring the insights of modern Bible research to a wider audience.