Chris Scarre, “Chronicle of the Roman Emperors”

This is sort of a slightly undersized coffee-table book (lots of white space, sidebars, illustrations), but the author is a real academic. Anyway, here’s a thought:  After reading about these bloodthirsty, sex-crazed tyrants, it occurs to me that  perhaps all that would have given Christianity some reactive appeal.  (Also, it should caution us Westerners from … [Read more…]

Elizabeth Powers, “Nero”

This young-adult book discusses the special status the Jews had under the Romans (91).  It’s interesting that they lost that status, with a vengeance, in the period when Jerusalem was destroyed, so I wonder if their fall made Christian persecution more likely, with it being viewed as just another Jewish sect (Nero’s reign was A.D. … [Read more…]

David B. Ruderman, “Between Cross and Crescent: Jewish Civilization from Mohammed to Spinoza” (audio lectures, parts 1 & 2)

These lectures were okay, focusing as you would expect on Jewish history, mostly in Europe, during this time period; few insights into Christianity.  He notes that Judaism was not static/established but was evolving, just as Christianity was.  Also:  Old Testament is to New Testament as Old Testament written is to Old Testament oral (I don’t … [Read more…]

A Good Point by William Gladstone

I plucked this nugget from the Weekly Standard (Wray Herbert, “Faith of Their Fathers,” December 7, 2015, reviewing Private Doubt, Public Dilemma:  Religion and Science Since Jefferson and Darwin by Keith Stewart Thomson):  William Gladstone, the longtime British prime minister, responded to the emerging fossil record by noting that “the order of origins was identical … [Read more…]

Hermann Diem, “Kierkegaard: An Introduction”

This 1966 book is only 124 pages; the author — a bravely anti-Nazi Protestant pastor, by the way — acknowledges (89-90) that Kierkegaard is hard to summarize (and I bet not all that easy to understand in the first place).  Some notes: Kierkegaard is extremely Protestant and un-Catholic in his insistence on individual grappling and … [Read more…]

Luke Timothy Johnson, “Early Christianity: The Experience of the Divine” (Teaching Company CD, parts 1 & 2)

Some notes: The patronage system was embedded not only in the culture generally but in the religion (polytheism) specifically. Religious strife and division for Jews, with each other and with Rome, was a big deal in the first century, including how to relate to Gentiles. Jews and the early Christians thought that the Septuagint was … [Read more…]

Harold Bloom, “The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible”

Bloom is a traditionalist when it comes to criticism, but he is not a believer.  He takes issue with C.S. Lewis a few times; Lewis apparently objected to the whole enterprise of reading Scripture as literature.  I read only the introduction and the New Testament part (not the Old Testament or Apocrypha, which are by … [Read more…]