May 262024

Did you know?

The website at has been online since 2001.

I was only 20 years old when I put the website online. That’s right, not even old enough to get a drink!

The layout was designed by my brother-in-law Andy. It hasn’t been touched in over twenty years.

WordPress didn’t exist. Every single web page – hundreds of them – is hand-crafted HTML code.

Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with its comforting “DON’T PANIC” on the cover, the website has always had one simple advantage over all others. An orderly chronological listing on the homepage.

That website has served millions and has been linked or cited thousands of times online and in print.

But it’s been showing its age for a while, even in the basics. No SSL? No responsive layout? Yikes. Even enthusiasts of old websites built by hobbyists must admit it’s a painful experience on the phone.

It’s time for an upgrade!

Here’s what I am working on:

  • Creating a simpler look that puts the texts front and center for easy reading.
  • Adding more translations to the website.
  • Adding more original language texts to the website.
  • Using a responsive web design that works as well on the phone as on the desktop.
  • Securing the website with SSL and getting a faster hosting provider.
  • Using a modern web framework like Django, to make updates easier and faster.

The focus of the first update will be to get everything we currently have into the new website design. But I’ve been thinking about these things for a long time, and I have lots of interesting ideas for the website that I’d like to explore when that’s done.

For example, there’s been an e-Catena feature that I developed as a part of the website… but why shouldn’t these kinds of cross-references be built into the website and link you directly between reading the church fathers and reading the New Testament?

If you want to get an idea of my vision for the future of the website, the Gospel of Thomas Commentary is basically its prototype. Notice how each saying of the Gospel of Thomas is linked to other parallel passages, accompanied by the original language texts, and has additional commentary resources, even visitor interaction. This is the kind of thing that I’ve always wanted Early Christian Writings to be.

Joining the Waitlist

With early access to the upgraded website, you can test out the new features and the new design.

If you have ideas for the future of the website, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below or send me an e-mail at with your ideas!

Why Now?

Early Christian Writings has always been a labor of love and a one-man show. I developed most of it when I was young, in college, and had plenty of time. But then I graduated with a degree in mathematics and took a job at Apple, where I worked as a software developer and machine learning engineer. I learned a lot working for a big company on difficult projects, but it didn’t leave much time for developing the site.

In the back of my mind, I always wanted to take the time to do it right. Recently I left my job at big tech, moved out to Arizona, and set up a little home office where I can work on this full time. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now. I’m excited to get started.

Let me know what you think, and join the waitlist to follow along!

Jun 092015

featherOf all the techniques that could be used to study ancient texts, there are a few that stand out as being both very important and largely understudied, being either ignored in practice or taken on faith due to the lack of relevant expertise or accessible tools. The ones that come to my mind right now are these:

  • Paleography. Understood in general terms and largely regarded as a matter of deference to the experts, this may not have an abundance of practitioners but is at least widely respected and has a huge impact on historical studies. The other two mentioned may be envious of such wide respect and acceptance.
  • Computer-Aided Textual Criticism. There are those who truly believe that completely-thoroughgoing eclecticism is the only answer, there are those who would like to do something more but have no idea how yet, and then there are the few who come back from their tours through the land of “CoherenceBased Genealogical Method” textual criticism and try to convince the other two that it’s really worth visiting sometime.
  • Stylometry. Of the three, perhaps the most confusion surrounds these techniques, and a large part of it is due to the confusion and unresolved questions that still persist among the experts. Due to a combination of widespread superficial familiarity with the studies and the contradictions from those using some kind stylometric method to reach controversial conclusions, stylometric “results” are most often cited with some degree of skepticism (except, of course, when credulously cited as a conversation-stopper).

The first of these two subjects truly are fascinating in their own right, and there are no doubt some others like these that I didn’t mention. But let’s talk about stylometry.

Continue reading »

Mar 192015

whaddayadoWhen it comes to getting a professorship of biblical studies: Quite simply, I have enormous respect for anyone who is brave enough just to dare to try, and I have (naturally) great respect for those who have succeeded in the same.

At the same time, I don’t view it as a standard by which one can judge whether someone is mentally fit to have a competent opinion on the subjects of concern, any more than (to draw an analogy) being an Olympic athlete is a necessary condition of being physically fit and able to play a sport competently. In each case there is the plain truth regarding the large number of people who either do not make the cut (for whatever reason) or who self-select themselves out of the running (quite rationally).

On the rationality of avoiding the race entirely (and the possible ethical ambiguity, then, of encouraging people without much means to pursue it), one could read Peter Enns’ post, are PhD programs in biblical studies ethical?

Consequently, I don’t view it as a terribly important criterion for judging whether someone is worth hearing, let alone whether an opinion is worth consideration. Asking for university credentials (demonstrating an ability to analyze material at a high level of sophistication and/or facility with languages or other specific working knowledge) seems at least germane; asking for place of employment seems tantamount to a sort of social-positional snobbery rather than any attempt to get at the truth of things. Perhaps I’m biased, since I don’t have anything relevant to say to either question. But I am hoping that the people reading this blog find some value to some of it, so perhaps you already agree with me, to some extent.

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Feb 192015

google-power-searchI recently mentioned the search tools available here:

And they have already improved greatly.

The historical archive of the Biblical Criticism & History forum has been reindexed and checked so that it is indeed complete and unabridged.

The greater Blogosphere search function has been expanded with more websites and upgraded with “refinements,” which let you drill down by category into “biblioblogs,” “forums,” “books,” “articles,” “google-books,” “jstor-articles,” “resources,” or “websites” with just the click of a link.

Last but not least, an Early Writings search function has been created to allow you to use a Google custom search engine over online translations of early Jewish and Christian texts, which themselves are tagged for search refinement as “Early Jewish Writings,” “Pseudepigrapha,” “DSS,” “Talmud,” “Early Christian Writings,” “Apocrypha,” “NHL,” “Church Fathers,” or “Gnostica.”

Please have fun with these new toys! Let me know if you have any suggestions.

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Feb 062015

Biblical Criticism & History Archive SearchNow you can search the greater Biblical Criticism Blogosphere, a carefully curated collection of websites, blogs, books, articles, and resources containing about 30 billion web pages indexed and searchable with a Google Custom Search Engine. The search prompt can be found here:

This Google-powered custom Internet search engine was created to sit alongside two very specific site search engines, powered by open source software and opening up the full archives of the Biblical Criticism & History forum from 2001 to today. The archives themselves are hosted at (the historical portion, indexed using Gigablast search technology) and at (the forum today, powered by phpBB).

I encourage you to play around with these tools! Who knows what pearls you might find? Continue reading »

May 162014

New RuleIn the past, on this blog, I have defended the right of the public to weigh in on topics related to the history of early Christianity. It’s a topic with wide interest, and it would be a shame to limit input to those who have pursued a credential in history or in theology. Besides the fact that people with different academic specialties have real value to bring to the table, there is something unbalancing about allowing only the voices of those who have gone through a long and expensive credentialing process, usually with the hope of gaining employment either as faculty or in ministry.

That being said, I am proposing a new rule: If you haven’t got a degree in history or religion, make everything that you want other people to respond to you about available for free online. Otherwise, don’t expect anything but obscurity. You have only yourself to blame for the level of interaction with your published work.

Continue reading »

May 162014

People who grow up with no religion have a low “retention rate,” but, apparently, it’s getting better.

In what can be described as a turnabout-is-fair-play move, given the general decline in religious belief in America, several have noted recent studies showing that those who report being brought up without a religion in America usually don’t end up with no religion. There’s a graphic from the Pew Forum showing that only 46% of those saying that they were brought up with no particular religious affiliation still claim no religious affiliation.


It is, for reasons not really clear, even less predictive of atheism for one to say they were “raised atheist.” The 2008 Pew Forum survey had 162 survey responses (weighted at 430 statistically) in the continental U.S. saying that they were “raised atheist.” These survey responses have spawned several articles mentioning the statistics (albeit with little real discussion): most notably from Mark Gray in 2012, most recently from Jesus Creed and Exploring Our Matrix.

Let’s explore that a little.

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May 012014

2cents During the month of May, there is a little event going on at the Early Writings forum.

For each and every post to the forum in the month of May, 2 cents will go to charity.

So, if you’d like to make your two cents count, head on over to the forum and get posting! 🙂

And if you’d like to influence which charities receive the donations, there’s a poll underway for that.

In other news, I turned 33 years old today. Birthday cake and time with family are in my near future. 🙂

Dec 152013

choedrakDharmakirti was a seventh century Buddhist scholar and a founder of Indian philosophical logic. Dharmakirti taught at Nalanda, an ancient university in India that boasted thousands of students. Part of the curriculum consisted of oral discussion and debate. I found reading his Vadanyaya to be interesting in terms of observing the development of logic outside of the well-known European tradition. Studying logic in general is always profitable whether we are interested in philosophy or in history.

Dharmakirti says at the beginning of his work: “The wicked persons defeat even the one who argues rationally in debates by employing improper methods. We start this (work on the logic of debate) for repudiating them.” Dharmakirti thus believes that the disputant and opponent should not be desirous for victory but should rather want to correct misconceptions, to state the argument rationally, and to refute any irrational argument.

What follows is a description of Dharmakirti’s Vadanyaya, the “Logic of Debate.” Continue reading »

Nov 252013

wikipedia college creditNot just another Wikipedia rant: it’s worth thinking a little about what what makes the world’s largest encyclopedia tick, what’s different about academically-oriented writing, what the relative strengths of the two are, and why it matters.

In the words of Dr. House, “everybody lies.” When it comes to research, everybody has a bias.

Like the bacteria living in your stomach, some of them are the kind that are benign. These dispositions actually motivate you to digest information thoroughly, exercise critical thinking, and build a product of research that represents the subject matter faithfully and reflects on it intelligently. Others are less helpful and are the kind to consider as possible sources of error.

Continue reading »