Category Archives: Christian origins and literature

Launch of Associations in the Greco-Roman World website

With the November release of Associations in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook (book info), Ascough, Kloppenborg, and I have been busy preparing a companion website that I think you’ll find of some interest:

http://philipharland.com/greco-roman-associations/

Basically, users of the site can browse through hundreds of inscriptions (450 so far) involving guilds, immigrant groups, and other associations in the ancient Mediterranean. The user can browse by geography or by topics (including gods) using the right side bar. There is also a feature we called “selected exhibits” on (hopefully) interesting topics to a general reader (with about 10 inscriptions in each exhibit). There are many documents with English translations, and the user can choose to view just those (in selected exhibits). One of the selected exhibits is for Judeans (Jews) in the diaspora. The plan is to continue to expand the website with more inscriptions relating to these groups.  There are already 100 inscriptions that do not appear in the sourcebook (marked with an asterisk).

The AGRW sourcebook itself goes beyond the inscriptions to include literary excerpts on associations (from, e.g., Philo, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Tertullian), descriptions of meeting-place excavations, and an extensive annotated bibliography (table of contents here).  The book has been designed to be used as a text in courses as well.

Update: I should also add that I have previously released a podcast series on associations and you can access that all in one place here: Podcast series 6: Associations in the Greco-Roman World.

Richard sends the latest from the Society of Biblical Literature conference in Chicago:

Podcast 6.12: Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 2

Here I continue to discuss groups of Jesus followers in Asia Minor with case studies of 1 Peter and Revelation (John’s Apocalypse), focusing on both indications of identity construction or maintenance and signs of assimilation or acculturation.  This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.12:  Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 2 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.11: Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 1

This episode introduces groups of Jesus-followers within the context of associations, Judeans, and cultural minority groups, setting the stage for case studies of Jesus groups in Asia Minor.    This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.11: Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 1 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.15: Jesus as a Messianic King?

Here I discuss first-century Judean concepts relating to an anointed one, or messiah, particularly a kingly messiah, and discuss contemporary figures who were viewed as kings. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.14: Jesus as a Messianic King? (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.14: Jesus as Prophet

Here I discuss first-century Judean concepts of the prophet and place Jesus within the context of other contemporary figures who were viewed as prophets. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.14: Jesus as Prophet (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.13: Jesus as Healer and Exorcist

Here I investigate the historical Jesus within the context of contemporaries who were viewed as healers and exorcists in Galilee and Judea. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.13: Jesus as Healer and Exorcist (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.12: Jesus as Teacher, part 2: Present or Future Kingdom?

This is the second of two episodes that consider the historical Jesus in the role of teacher. Here I discuss evidence regarding Jesus’ conception of the “kingdom of God” and the scholarly debates regarding Jesus’ present or (imminent) future focus. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.12: Jesus as Teacher, part 2: Present or Future Kingdom? (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.11: Jesus as Teacher, part 1 – Method and Content

This and the following episode consider the historical Jesus in the role of teacher. Here I discuss the form or method of his instruction, and begin to introduce the centrality of the “Kingdom of God” to his teachings.  This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.11: Jesus as Teacher, part 1: Method and Content (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.10: Jesus and his Mentor, John the Baptizer

Here I consider evidence from Josephus and the Gospels regarding John the Baptist and his importance for studying the historical Jesus. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.10: Jesus and his Mentor, John the Baptizer (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.9: Jesus in the Context of Educated Groups and Leaders

In order to provide a context for Jesus in the role of a teacher, here I discuss contemporary educated Judean groups and leaders, including Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and the Dead Sea sect. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.9: Jesus in the Context of Educated Groups and Leaders (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.8: Jesus, the Galilean and Judean

Here I discuss Jesus as a Galilean and a Judean.  I do so by looking at cultural life associated with the Jerusalem temple in the first century and the relations between cultures in Judea and Galilee. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.8: Jesus, the Galilean and Judean (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.7: Jesus, Galilee, and Israelite History, part 2 – To the Time of Jesus

Here I continue to place Jesus and Galilee within the broader context of Israelite history. This episode works through the Hellenistic and Roman periods, including the time of Jesus, and finishes with a discussion of social and economic life in first century Galilee and Judea. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.7: Jesus, Galilee, and Israelite History, part 2 – To the Time of Jesus (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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BAR’s second handwriting expert goes the other way

Timo S. Paananen’s blog now points us to the results for BAR‘s second handwriting expert.  Apparently the expert failed to meet several deadlines and has not yet submitted a written report.  Instead, through phone conversations he has communicated that he believes the Secret Gospel of Mark was forged by Morton Smith.  One wonders whether we will ever have a sufficiently definitive answer regarding the Secret Gospel of Mark.  This lack of clarity is very disappointing.  I will need to wait and read the full written report from that handwriting expert (if he does indeed submit it).  However, the reasoning of the expert as spelled out by Shanks in relation to phone conversations seems less than compelling as a definitive answer.

More on handwriting and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Probably not forged

When it rains it pours.  Biblical Archeology Review has hired an expert in Greek handwriting (Venetia Anastasopoulou) to offer her analysis of The Secret Gospel of Mark in relation to Morton Smith’s own handwriting.  You can access the BAR article here and you can directly access the very substantial 39-page report here.  Her main conclusion (p. 38) is as follows:

“OPINION

The following opinion is based upon an examination of the documents submitted to me for this purpose using the application of appropriate handwriting principles, and my experience and training as a forensic document and handwriting examiner. It is my professional opinion that the writers of the questioned document of “Secret Mark” on the document listed as Q1, Q2 an Q3 and Morton Smith’s handwriting on the documents listed as K1 – K27, are most probably not the same. Therefore it is highly probable that Morton Smith could not have simulated the document of “Secret Mark” .

QUALIFYING STATEMENT:

This opinion is based solely on the documents listed as having been examined. Due to the limitations imposed in examining document photographs, this opinion is highly probable. This opinion is subject to amendment if additional examinations are performed using additional exemplars which may exhibit evidence not observable in the documents upon which this opinion was based.”

As my review of Carlson’s book back in 2005 noted, the handwriting portion of his argument was among his strongest (the others seemed somewhat arbitrary to me).  However, I felt there were some key shortcomings regarding Carlson’s handwriting analysis and I did not find his hoax theory convincing.  Scott Brown and Pantuck’s recent post spelled out some other potential problems with Carlson’s approach, and now there is a properly trained expert in Greek handwriting who concludes that “it is highly probable that Morton Smith could not have simulated the document of ‘Secret Mark’” (p. 38).

Hopefully Stephen Carlson will offer his response to these developments, actively engaging the issues.  Hopefully others who have invested interests in seeing this as a forgery will fully consider  the evidence to the contrary.

I may post more once I’ve read through the whole report and through the recent article by Watson.

More on Stephen Carlson’s hand-writing analysis of the Secret Gospel of Mark

Further to some of my comments back in 2005 (see my post: The Secret Gospel of Mark and Carlson’s The Gospel Hoax: Smoking gun?), Scott Brown and Allan Pantuck have now written a rather damaging critique of Stephen Carlson’s work on the handwriting analysis of the Secret Gospel of Mark.

Thanks to Tony Burke for pointing me to the post on Timo Paananen’s Salainan evankelista blog and to Allan Pantuck for sending me a copy of the article.

Podcast 5.6: Jesus, Galilee, and Israelite History, part 1 – Until the Second Temple

This and the following episode place Jesus and Galilee within the broader context of Israelite history. This episode begins with the Assyrian period (700s BCE) and concludes with the Persian period, with the construction of the second temple (ca. 500 BCE). This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.6: Jesus, Galilee, and Israelite History, part 1 – Until the Second Temple (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.5: Scholarly Portraits of the Historical Jesus, part 2 (Sanders)

This is the second of two episodes that explore two contrasting scholarly portraits of the historical Jesus, those of John Dominic Crossan (Jesus as egalitarian peasant) and E.P. Sanders (Jesus as apocalyptic prophet). This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.5: Scholarly Portraits of the Historical Jesus, part 2 (Sanders) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.4: Scholarly Portraits of the Historical Jesus, part 1 (Crossan)

This and the following episode explore two contrasting scholarly portraits of the historical Jesus, those of John Dominic Crossan (Jesus as egalitarian peasant) and E.P. Sanders (Jesus as apocalyptic prophet). This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.4: Scholarly Portraits of the Historical Jesus, part 1 (Crossan) (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.3: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 3

This episode is the final of three that introduce key historical sources and problems in reconstructing the life of a peasant from Galilee, the historical Jesus. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.3: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 3 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.2: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 2

This episode is the second of three that introduce key historical sources and problems in reconstructing the life of a peasant from Galilee, the historical Jesus. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.2: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 2 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 5.1: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 1

This episode is the first of three that introduce key historical sources and problems in reconstructing the life of a peasant from Galilee, the historical Jesus. This is part of series 5 (The Historical Jesus in Context) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 5.1: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 1 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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You may also subscribe to this and subsequent episodes through iTunes or another podcatcher. View credits for my introductory music.

Historical Jesus and miracles – of course historians have to address miracles

Over on the new Duke Newt, Maxim Cardew has an interesting post discussing how and whether the issue of “miracles” can be addressed in historical Jesus studies.  I won’t take the time to fully engage the many issues Maxim raises in connection with Hume, Strauss, and others.  What I want to state simply and clearly is: of course an historian has to deal with “miracles.”  Who cares if this has to do with Jesus or with some other person or persons in another time period.

What I mean by that is that the historian of any period is focussed on understanding that particular period and the worldviews and practices of those living in that period (I would hope).  So, for instance, an historian studying relics in medieval England or Europe would have a hard time if she wasn’t permitted to discuss the notion of “miracles” or “healings” as though this was historically off-bounds.  In some respects, a person would be at a loss to explain things without the acknowledgment that the historical subjects in the medieval period did indeed believe that “miracles” took place and that there were people and objects with access to miraculous powers.  Similarly, if one is studying Lucian of Samosata’s critique of Alexander of Abonuteichos (in the second century), the historian has to face the fact that Alexander was viewed by some as performing “miracles” even though some contemporaries like Lucian (in a Hume like fashion) called it all bunk.  It even seems that Lucian is in the minority in rejecting Alexander’s supposed “miracles” (methinks he dost protest too much).  So there’s another “miracle-worker” from the perspective of the historian.

It is one thing to say people in a period believed that such and such could perform miracles (that he or she was a “miracle-worker” or “healer” or “god” by reputation among contemporaries) and quite another to say that the miracles did happen and can be confirmed historically (not at all what the historian can do, in my opinion). To turn to the modern period, would an historian of modern Christianity not be allowed to designate Benny Hinn (spelling?) a “miracle-worker” or “healer” or whatever insofar as his followers believe he can perform “miracles” and he is perceived to be a “miracle-worker” (or have access to miraculous powers from God, or whatever) by some of his contemporaries.  However, this is not to say that the “miracles” are real and that they really took place (I don’t always compare Jesus to Benny Hinn, so don’t worry).

The historian needs to deal with the fact that some contemporaries of Jesus believed that Jesus was a “miracle-worker” or “healer” (and we need to clearly define what we mean by those terms).  To avoid the subject because we (the modern historians) know or think we know that “miracles” don’t exist will lead us towards historical misunderstanding.  This is not to say that “miracles” exist for the historian (so Hume and Strauss can give a sigh of relief).  Nonetheless “miracle-workers” exist for the historian if historical subjects have the category (or one like it) and apply it to another historical subject we are studying (e.g. Jesus).

To clarify, I do not believe that the statement “Jesus was perceived as a miracle-worker” or “Jesus performed miracles from the viewpoint of some of his contemporaries” is in the least bit theological or problematic for the historian.  Historical Jesus researchers, just like historians of the Venerable Bede or Alexander of Abonuteichos, must deal with what they find in their sources and place that in cultural context, developing categories that work best for the period in question.

(We’ll see if this makes any sense in the morning — listening to Van Morrison’s Saint Dominic’s Preview with beer in hand here).

UPDATE: Maxim Cardew now has a second post further delving into the issue and clarifying Maxim’s points.  By the way, my post was never meant as a “refutation”; moreso these were my midnight ramblings in connection with the issue of miracles and Jesus;)  You may have noticed how much I avoided talking about Hume — he reminds me too much of my logic and argumentation course in second year undergrad (not that I have anything against logic).

Podcast series 5: The Historical Jesus in context

All episodes and series in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast are available on my podcast collection page on archive.org (in various file formats and sizes) and those already released are available under the podcast category on my own website here.   This is one of several posts where I gather together each of the individual series in the podcast so that you can access or link to a specific topic.

Here are the half-hour episodes (in mp3, about 40 MB each) in “The Historical Jesus in context” series in playable and downloadable formats:

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Podcast 5.1: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 1
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Podcast 5.2: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 2
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Podcast 5.3: Studying the Historical Jesus – Sources and Problems, part 3
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Podcast 5.4: Scholarly Portraits of the Historical Jesus, part 1 – Crossan
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Podcast 5.5: Scholarly Portraits of the Historical Jesus, part 2 – Sanders
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Podcast 5.6: Jesus, Galilee, and Israelite History, part 1 – To the Second Temple
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Podcast 5.7: Jesus, Galilee, and Israelite History, part 2 – To the Time of Jesus
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Podcast 5.8: Jesus, the Galilean and Judean
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Podcast 5.9: Jesus in the Context of Educated Groups and Leaders
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Podcast 5.10: Jesus and his Mentor, John the Baptizer
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Podcast 5.11: Jesus as Teacher, part 1 – Method and Content
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Podcast 5.12: Jesus as Teacher, part 2 – Present or Future Kingdom?
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Podcast 5.13: Jesus as Healer and Exorcist
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Podcast 5.14: Jesus as Prophet
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Podcast 5.15: Jesus as Messianic King?
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For reading suggestions on this topic, please see the course outline.

Podcast series 3: Diversity in early Christianity: “Heresies” and struggles

All episodes and series in my podcast (including some that are yet to be released) are available on my podcast collection page on archive.org (in various file formats and sizes) and those already released are available under the podcast category on my own website here.   This is one of several posts where I gather together each of the individual series in the podcast so that you can access or link to a specific topic.

Here are all half-hour episodes (in mp3, about 40 MB each) in the “Diversity in early Christianity: “Heresies” and struggles” series (covering the early Christian apocrypha, Nag Hammadi documents, and other non-canonical materials) in playable and downloadable formats:

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Podcast 3.1: Introduction to Diversity – A Schism in John’s Community, part 1
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Podcast 3.2: A Schism in John’s Community, part 2
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Podcast 3.3: Docetic and Judaizing Opponents of Ignatius
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Podcast 3.4: Docetic and Judaizing Opponents of Ignatius, part 2
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Podcast 3.5: Diversity in Asia Minor – A Regional Case Study
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Podcast 3.6: Sources for the Study of Diversity – Gnostic, Apocryphal, Patristic
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Podcast 3.7: Jewish Followers of Jesus, part 1 – Ebionites
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Podcast 3.8: Jewish Followers of Jesus, part 2 – Pseudo-Clement
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Podcast 3.9: Marcionites and the Unknown God
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Podcast 3.10 Introducing Gnostic Worldviews
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Podcast 3.11: Secret Book of John, part 1 – The Spiritual Realm
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Podcast 3.12: Secret Book of John, part 2 – Salvation from the Material Realm
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Podcast 3.13: The Wisdom of Jesus Christ and Middle Platonism
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Podcast 3.14: The Gospel of Philip, part 1 – Ideas of Salvation
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Podcast 3.15: The Gospel of Philip, part 2 – Ritual Enactments of Salvation
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Podcast 3.16: The Gospel of Mary – Secret Knowledge from the Ultimate Disciple
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For reading suggestions on this topic, please see the course outline.

Podcast series 2: Early Christian portraits of Jesus

All episodes and series in my podcast (including some that are yet to be released) are available on my podcast collection page on archive.org (in various file formats and sizes) and those already released are available under the podcast category on my own website here.   This is one of several posts where I gather together each of the individual series in the podcast so that you can access or link to a specific topic.

Here are all half-hour episodes (in mp3, about 40 MB each) in the “Early Christian portraits of Jesus” series in playable and downloadable formats:

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Podcast 2.1: Introduction to the Gospels as Portraits of Jesus
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Podcast 2.2: Mark’s portrait of Jesus – Suffering Son (part 1)
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Podcast 2.3: Mark’s portrait of Jesus – Suffering Son (part 2)
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Podcast 2.4: Matthew’s portrait of Jesus – New Moses (part 1)
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Podcast 2.5: Matthew’s portrait of Jesus – New Moses (part 2)
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Podcast 2.6: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus – Prophet Elijah (part 1)
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Podcast 2.7: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus – Prophet Elijah (part 2)
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Podcast 2.8: John’s Portrait of Jesus – Son and Word (part 1)
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Podcast 2.9: John’s Portrait of Jesus – Son and Word (part 2)
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Podcast 2.10: Hebrews’ Portrait of Jesus – Highpriest Melchizedek, part 1
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Podcast 2.11: Hebrews’ Portrait of Jesus – Highpriest Melchizedek, part 2
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For reading suggestions on this topic, please see the course outline.

Podcast 3.16: The Gospel of Mary – Secret Knowledge from the Ultimate Disciple

Here I discuss this dialogue gospel in which Mary Magdalene is presented as Jesus’ favourite disciple and the instructor of true knowledge. I explore notions of salvation in terms of the ascent of the soul, as well as the way in which this writing reflects struggles among different groups of Jesus-followers. This is part of series 3 (“Diversity in Early Christianity: ‘Heresies’ and Struggles”) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 3.16: The Gospel of Mary – Secret Knowledge from the Ultimate Disciple (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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You may also subscribe to this and subsequent episodes through iTunes or another podcatcher. View credits for my introductory music.

Podcast 3.15: The Gospel of Philip, part 2 – Ritual Enactments of Salvation

Here I finish the discussion of the Gospel of Philip by focusing on the way in which notions of salvation were enacted in the practices of the followers of Jesus who used this writing. In particular, rituals such as the “bridal chamber” illustrate the connections between sex (as a metaphor) and salvation in the mindset of this author. This is part of series 3 (“Diversity in Early Christianity: ‘Heresies’ and Struggles”) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 3.15: The Gospel of Philip, part 2 – Ritual Enactments of Salvation (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You may also subscribe to this and subsequent episodes through iTunes or another podcatcher. View credits for my introductory music.

Podcast 3.14: The Gospel of Philip, part 1 – Ideas of Salvation

Here I discuss the Gospel of Philip (perhaps best known in connection with the Da Vinci Code). This episode deals with the author’s worldview and ideas about the condition of humanity, preparing the way for a second episode on the practices and rituals that enacted salvation. This is part of series 3 (“Diversity in Early Christianity: ‘Heresies’ and Struggles”) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 3.14: The Gospel of Philip, part 1 – Ideas of Salvation (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You may also subscribe to this and subsequent episodes through iTunes or another podcatcher. View credits for my introductory music.

Podcast 3.13: The Wisdom of Jesus Christ and Middle Platonism

Here I use two related Nag Hammadi writings — Eugnostos the Blessed and The Sophia of Jesus Christ — as a window into forms of Christianity that were heavily influenced by Middle Platonic philosophy, particularly in regard to cosmology and the divine Triad. This is part of series 3 (“Diversity in Early Christianity: ‘Heresies’ and Struggles”) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 3.13: The Wisdom of Jesus Christ and Middle Platonism (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You may also subscribe to this and subsequent episodes through iTunes or another podcatcher. View credits for my introductory music.

Podcast 3.12: Secret Book of John, part 2 – Salvation from the Material Realm

Here I continue to explain the worldview of the Apocryphon of John, particularly its notions regarding the material realm, the inferior creator god (demiurge), and salvation from this realm. This is part of series 3 (“Diversity in Early Christianity: ‘Heresies’ and Struggles”) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 3.12: Secret Book of John, part 2 – Salvation from the Material Realm (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You may also subscribe to this and subsequent episodes through iTunes or another podcatcher. View credits for my introductory music.