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History in the Bible

An Everyperson's guide to a 150 years of research into the history presented in the Bible, for people of all faiths and backgrounds. 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!

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Warning: This podcast is a series podcast

This means episodes are recommended to be heard in order from the very start. Here's the 10 best episodes of the series anyway though!

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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.


18 Feb 2018

Rank #1

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1.1 All the History, in all the Books, in all the Bibles

Introducing the History in the Bible Podcast, from www.historyinthebible.com.


24 Mar 2015

Rank #2

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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.


26 Aug 2018

Rank #3

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2.25 Quest for the Historical Jesus

Keynote ep: 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.


5 Aug 2018

Rank #4

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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.


24 Jun 2018

Rank #5

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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.


15 Jul 2018

Rank #6

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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.


25 Mar 2015

Rank #7

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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.


26 Nov 2017

Rank #8

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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.


27 Jan 2019

Rank #9

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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.


7 Jul 2019

Rank #10

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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.


12 Nov 2017

Rank #11

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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.


29 Oct 2017

Rank #12

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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.


23 Jun 2019

Rank #13

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2.35 Prologue to Jesus' Ministry

Keynote ep: 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.


17 Feb 2019

Rank #14

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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.


22 Dec 2019

Rank #15

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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.


3 Nov 2019

Rank #16

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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.


12 Apr 2015

Rank #17

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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.


9 Jun 2019

Rank #18

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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.


10 Mar 2019

Rank #19

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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.


21 Jun 2015

Rank #20