The Underappreciated Story of the Samaritan Woman

There are precious few stories in the gospels in which Jesus converses with women. Even fewer are those that grant the woman conversant a voice. Among the latter examples are the conversations between Jesus and the sisters Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:21-27, 32). The conversation we are interested in today is the one …

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The Virginal Conception of Jesus: A Historian’s Assessment

You may already be thinking that if this is to be a “historical” assessment, then it is likely that the entire concept of virginal conception (not “virgin birth”; that is something entirely different) will be dismissed as a mythical fable. But not so fast. History may mean one thing to us today and another thing …

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The Twelve Apostles, Part 3: The Thunder Brothers, Sons of Zebedee

We continue with our series of historical investigations into the twelve specially-chosen followers of Jesus with this combined look at James and John, the sons of Zebedee. James, son of Zebedee             The New Testament features a number of men named James (Greek Iakōbos from the Hebrew Ya’akov or Jacob).  Most of what we know …

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The Twelve Apostles Part 2: Simon Peter

We carry on with part 2 of our historical investigation of the Twelve special persons chosen by Jesus to supplement his work. This blog will focus on Simon Peter. “Simon” is the Greek form of the Semitic name Šim`ôn, one of the most common Jewish names known to us from antiquity.  It means “Yah(weh) has …

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The Twelve Apostles: Who Were They?

In this series of posts, we will explore the history of Jesus’s closest followers as recorded across numerous ancient Christian traditions. Along the way, we will find that these traditions are often confused, contradictory, or seriously lacking in details. Nevertheless, we will attempt to distill all the historical data possible and, at times, risk delving …

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Which Gospel Came First?

Getting as close to the historical Jesus as possible has been a preoccupation with biblical scholars since at least the 18th century. Many questions must be asked. For example, which of the Jesus-traditions (sayings and stories) now appearing in the New Testament and elsewhere are the oldest? Which are most likely historical? Which gospel was …

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