Author Archives: fepeters

Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, History and Religion, New York University

Magic Man

The damp room inside the Jerusalem Temple was lit only by a small window high up on the stone wall and by an oil lamp on the desk at which sat a small man in full priestly raiment. “I am Meleager,” he began, “priest interrogator of the Third Course…” “Congratulations! And I am Simon Magus, […]

Mini Movies: That Hamilton Woman

Enter left Lord Olivier as Lord Nelson into his sumptuous cabin on the poop deck of his flagship, HMS Crown Victoria. Lord Nelson looks shit-awful: he has what is obviously a transparent eyepatch on his right eye and has apparently – it’s called acting – lost an arm. And he has also acquired a curious […]

What we must think about before we think about Jesus

When we try to glimpse figures from the past, even the most recent past, we are constrained to view them through one or more filters. These filters, our informants, whether eye-witnesses or the subject him or herself, are all tinted with reflection, forgetfulness, a disheartening range of ideologies and either an overdose of good will […]

Jesus, The Life

After a critical inspection of the Gospels and the other available evidence, historians have attempted to marshal what appear to be the verifiable events of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. No one seriously doubts that he existed, that he was an itinerant Jewish preacher in Galilee during the formal Roman occupation of Judea after […]

What Do I Think Happened? A Jesus and After Scenario

Barring some extraordinary find, all the evidence on Jesus of Nazareth is now in. It is almost uniquely literary –archeology does little more than corroborate— and consists in letters written about him a mere twenty years after his death and a number of full scale biographies that begin to be composed a decade or so […]

The Messengers

Far above the visible heavens with their cold wandering planets and fixed stars lies a great void, or so it seems to human eyes that can detect neither life nor movement there. This is what many call the Seventh Heaven and others, somewhat less colorfully, Eternity. It is, however, the domicile of the most vibrant […]

The Soprano Who Caught Fire

Glockhaus bei Gniesenhöhl is an Alpine village so tiny that it has to be identified by its proximity (12 km when the roads are clear) to Gniesenhöhl, a village of 168 souls and a baptismal font. Glockhaus is not in fact a village at all, except by Swiss courtesy: it is nothing more or less […]

“Sold to the gentleman farmer”

Marcus Tinctius Glaber lived in a modest vineyard homestead 35 miles southeast of Rome and 3 miles off the Via Appia, far enough in any event to be freed of the clanking, screeching and baying rising from that chief of all roads that led to Rome. He enjoyed there a frugal but comfortable life, its […]

Sodom and Gomorrah: A Midrash

Editorial Note The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the famous “Cities of the Plain,” occurs early on in the Book of Genesis. The priestly redactors of the Bible rewrote the story to make their own moral points and pushed the events back into the primordial past of Israel, when God’s presence was pervasive, as it […]

The Mother in Law

The New Testament Gospels are themselves surprises writ large, but they also contain within their pages traces of other surprising stories. These were anecdotes that were obviously known to the evangelists but were either familiar enough to the earliest audiences of the Gospels or so inconsequential to the master narrative that they required no elaboration. […]