Category Archives: The Gospels

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 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. […]

The Limbo of the Theologians

By the Middle Ages the theologians of the Catholic Church had constructed an elegantly coherent model of the universe: it explained the nature and existence of our world, the church and the individual believer’s place in it. It was a beautifully crafted cathedral of logic, each element neatly dovetailed with the next. The foundations were […]

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 […]

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, […]

Jesus, Paul and the Earliest Christian Church

According to the Gospels’ earliest and most primitive summary, of Jesus’ message, the Good News (euangelion) as it was called, was: “The opportune moment is now and the Kingdom draws near. Reform yourselves and put your trust in the Good News” (Mk. 1:15). How that message was understood is quite clear from our earliest preserved […]

Habent sua fata libelli: The Gospels and the Quran in Mortal Hands

The Gospels and the Quran are the emblematic books of two of the world’s most widespread and influential religions, past, present and future. They have been read and heard by billions of people who have regarded their contents as a manifestation of God’s will, expressed in the Quran in God’s own words and in the […]