Author Archives: fepeters

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

Apostles and Apostolicity in Early Christianity

One of the remarkable things about the earliest history of what would become Christianity is the brief and largely unremarkable careers of the group known as the Apostles and their glorious, if mostly anonymous, afterlife in Christian tradition. The Church’s “Twelve Apostles” were in fact both “The Twelve” and “apostles,” so called after their two […]

Christianity as a “Made Thing”

In the simplest, if also the least useful, of definitions, Christianity is what people who call themselves Christians believe and how they act in accord with those beliefs. Today the beliefs held by Christians are so many and so diverse, and so too the acts performed in their name, that a descriptive approach to Christianity […]

Mike Francesa: First Time, Long Time, Fun Time

Let’s be honest, as the saying goes: Mike Francesa, the outsized personality who sprawls over five and half hours of afternoon radio airtime on New York’s WFAN, knows more about sports, what has happened, what might happen and, somewhat astonishingly, what should happen in that sweaty world than anyone on the planet. It has occurred […]

“He Says…They Say” — The Gospel, the Quran and the Mishna in Conversation

The assumption that sits beneath the monotheistic faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims is that God, the creator of the universe and of everything in it, has chosen, “at sundry times and divers manners,” to communicate with His human creatures. Early on the converse seems to have had a social quality, as when God strolled […]

Why Are There Gospels and How Were They Made?

The lives of the dead survive only as the memories of others. Those memories, along with the subject’s own reflections, are now preserved in a variety of mechanical forms: in writing, orally on recordings, and visually on film, but the memory of those who lived long ago is available only in the form of the […]

“That you might believe…”: Arguing With the Gospels

The Gospels are usually first and most often encountered in church. In that setting, where they are read out piecemeal, they sound like pastiches, anecdotal collections of Jesus’ miracle stories or parables. The listener is instructed, uplifted. Little wonder: they are being recited in effect to the choir. For someone who reads them through, however, […]

Why Is There a Trinity?

Why is there a Trinity? Or, more specifically, why is there a Christian doctrine that maintains that there are three distinct “persons,” as the Christians call them, who nonetheless constitute one God? If we attempt to open up that terse dogmatic pronouncement of three in one, what emerges is the conviction that the One True […]

Three Into One Won’t Go: The Mystery of the Christian Trinity

Fully loaded cargo planes lumber down the runway until they slowly and laboriously lift off. As they gain height they seem to lose mass until at 30,000 feet they appear to float lightly and effortlessly through the skies. The Christian Trinity is quite otherwise. What begins with the Gospels’ simple, clear and concrete assertion –Jesus […]

The Kindness That Kills — Adventures in Middle Eastern Hospitality 1970

As soon as I came out of my office I saw him at the end of the hall. He was standing at the elevator, waiting, waiting for me, I knew. I stepped quickly back into my office and closed the door before he had a chance to turn and wave. I waited ten minutes and […]

New Takes in Old Damascus 1982

We have crossed in from the Mediterranean at Latakia, taken a wide arcing turn south and are now slowly descending over the tan steppe into mankind’s favorite oasis. And at what appear to be an hour before schedule, if schedule is the proper word for anything gliding, tumbling, stumbling or crawling into the Syrian Arab […]