Peter: How a Flawed Disciple Became Jesus’ Successor on Earth

Before the cock crows, Peter thrice denies Jesus: “I do not know the man!” he swears as Jesus is being arrested (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74). Nevertheless, Jesus, with the simple command, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17), commissions Peter to lead the Twelve. In lists of the apostles, Peter’s name is invariably first. In art, […]

Let this Cup Pass!
The Futile Quest for The Holy Grail By Ben Witherington III

Most of us remember the dramatic ending of the last Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, when good-guy Jones confronts a wicked quester for the Holy Grail in a room full of cups. A Knight Templar is guarding the vessels, some of which are gorgeous, jewel-studded metal items, others rudimentary wooden cups. But which […]

Why Doesn’t God Answer Prayers?
How the First Christians Dealt with Divine Silence By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor

We are told that God hears our prayers. Then why doesn’t he listen? The most consoling words in the New Testament are, “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 = Luke 11:9). The absolute assurance of this promise is something everyone […]

Exorcising Demons

Pazuzu…Lamashtu…Khatyu…Sheseru…Sasam…Lilith…Asmodeus…Beelzebub…. Names to conjure with. Literally. Years ago, when I was a student at Harvard, my teacher Frank Moore Cross raised a puzzling question: Why do demons—so prominent in the greater Near Eastern world, in the New Testament and in the postbiblical world of Judaism and Christianity—play such a minor role in the Hebrew […]

Before Mary: The Ancestresses of Jesus

This article is based on the writings of Jane Schaberg and appears here with her approval.

For the Defense

Did the gospel writers whitewash the role of Pontius Pilate on Good Friday, portraying him as a magistrate who condemned Jesus only under pressure from a Jewish prosecution, when in fact Pilate really wanted Jesus on the cross? This revisionist portrait of Pilate—presented to BR readers by Professor Stephen J. Patterson in “The Dark […]

From Symbol to Relic
How Jesus’ Cup Became the Grail By Eric Wargo

Throughout the long history of Christianity, the Holy Grail has served primarily as a symbol. As Ben Witherington III notes in the preceding article, no early Christian writings indicate that the cup used at the Last Supper survived or was preserved as a relic. Jesus’ first followers regarded the cup as a symbol […]

John—Historian or Theologian?

Was John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, a historian or a theologian? Even in antiquity John was known as a theologian. Early Christians could easily see the differences between his gospel and the other three. John’s gospel deals explicitly with theology and Christology (the doctrine of Christ) in a way the others do […]

For the Prosecution

Professor Maier’s extensive rebuttal of my earlier essay is a most welcome engagement from an authority who has written widely on the figure of Pilate.1 I am happy to offer a reply.

The Private Sign of the Covenant By William H.C. Propp

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant … every male of yours must be circumcised. When you circumcise your foreskin flesh, it will become a covenant sign between me and you. Throughout your generations, each […]

Paul L. Maier Responds…

I thank Professor Patterson for his thoughtful response, to which several brief comments may be appropriate. I used the word “revisionist” as the neutral term it is for “one who,” according to the dictionary definition, “revises, or favors the revision of, some accepted theory, doctrine, etc.” Professor Patterson’s reappraisal of the Passion story would surely seem a fair example.

What’s a Pleasing Sacrifice?

The concept of sacrifice, and the problems inherent in its practice, greet the reader of the Hebrew Bible almost immediately with the rival offerings of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve.

Caleb the Dog
How a Biblical Good Guy Got a Bad Name By John S. Crawford

It’s hard to imagine any parents calling their child Dog. But that’s just what the Bible tells us Jephunneh and his wife did: They named their son Caleb—from klb, the Hebrew root for “dog.” Is it just an unfortunate appellation? Or did the biblical authors have a reason to identify this great leader, who […]

Thecla: The Apostle Who Defied Women’s Destiny

Who was Thecla? Little known today, especially in Protestant churches, Thecla of Iconium enjoyed fame perhaps second only to Mary, mother of Jesus, in the early Christian era. Thecla’s anonymity is all the more remarkable because women were so prominent in the formation of the church. The Gospels mention women who accompanied Jesus and […]

Peter in Rome

Every year millions of Christian pilgrims converge on the Vatican, the heart of Catholic Christendom, and its vast basilica bearing the apostle Peter’s name. The church, visitors are told, marks the site of Peter’s tomb. According to long-standing tradition, Peter was martyred in Rome during Emperor Nero’s persecutions of the Christians in the mid-60s […]

Dinner with Jesus & Paul
The Social Role of Meals in the Greco-Roman World By Dennis E. Smith

For Jesus and Paul, meals were not simply everyday events. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as teaching while at the dinner table, performing miracles at feasts and sparking controversy by his choice of dinner companions. In the churches of Paul, meals were the setting for most if not all church gatherings, whether in […]

Zephaniah: Prophet of His Time—Not the End Time!

The book of Zephaniah is easily overlooked and—I contend—misunderstood. It is only three chapters long, buried in a few pages of the so-called Minor (!) Prophets. many portions of the Prophets are read in the synagogue on Sabbath and festivals, but not Zephaniah. The book begins, prophetically enough, with a notice of Zephaniah’s prophetic […]

Samson et Dalila
What French Opera Reveals About the Biblical Duo By Dan W. Clanton Jr.

Few biblical women seem more scandalous than Delilah. A harlot and a temptress, she uses her beauty and her wiles to ensnare the mighty Samson. A great deceiver, she tricks her lover into revealing the secret source of his strength. For selling that secret to Samson’s Philistine enemies, she is thought of as a […]

How Hosea Transformed the Lord of the Realm into a Temperamental Spouse

The prophet Hosea introduced a radical change in the way people understood their relationship to God. Before Hosea, God was generally seen as an omnipotent king and Israel as God’s lowly subject. Hosea introduced a much more personal metaphor: He described the human-divine relationship as a marriage, and he used his own rocky relationship […]

Dealing with the Devil
How Adam and Eve Fared After the Fall By David R. Cartlidge

Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden serves as the foundation for Western theologies of the way we are: sinful and guilty. As the New England Primer of 1683 succinctly states: “In Adam’s fall, We sinned all.” For their sin, Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden in Genesis 3.

The Golden Calf
Made by Man...or God? By Victor Hurowitz

While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the first edition of the Ten Commandments, the people down below grew impatient and asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make them another god to lead them. Aaron instructed the people to rip off their gold earrings, which, the text tells us explicitly and unambiguously, “he made […]

Acting Like Apes
The Bible’s Alpha Males By William H.C. Propp

A few weeks ago, my family went ape. Literally. Within the space of seven days, we visited the primate exhibits at the San Diego Zoo, watched an IMAX film about Jane Goodall, borrowed an educational video about apes from the library and viewed 2001: A Space Odyssey. (We gave the Planet of the Apes […]

Is Psalm 45 an Erotic Poem?

You probably know the old joke about the psychiatrist who gave his patient a series of Rohrschach tests. The patient identified every single inkblot pattern as depicting a man and a woman copulating. The doctor then pronounced his official diagnosis: “You, sir, are obsessed with sex!” “But, Doc, you’re the one with the dirty pictures!”

What’s in a Name?
Early Evidence of Devotion Exclusively to Yahweh By Jeffrey H. Tigay

Idolatry is one of Israel’s most heinous sins, according to the biblical authors. The Tablets of the Law that Moses brings down from Mt. Sinai begin with the line: “I, YHWH (Yahweh), am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods […]


Amending Marriage
If we’re going to use the Bible as a model, why not go all the way? By Ronald S. Hendel
From Seraph to Satan
Shape-shifting in the Garden of Eden By Mary Joan Winn Leith
It’s in the Details
A rich portrait of Simon the Cyrene can be pieced together from the few facts the Gospels provide By Ben Witherington III
First Lady Jezebel
Despite her bad reputation, her marriage to King Ahab was actually a model partnership By Mary Joan Winn Leith
A God of Love and Justice
Jesus has more in common with the God of the Old Testament than popular belief has it. By Mary Joan Winn Leith
The Ten Commandments and the Courthouse
Legalizing the Decalogue would destroy freedom as we know it By Ronald S. Hendel
Was Paul a Pro-Slavery Chauvinist?
Making sense of Paul’s seemingly mixed moral messages. By Ben Witherington III
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
The Wanderings of Cain
Bible Books Movies
A Passion Play on film By Stephen J. Patterson
Bible Books
Flawed Heroes
Bible Books
Searching for Something More By Stephen J. Patterson