Oct 152013

AtlanticRoadIt’s a good question why an agnostic would study early Christianity. I can’t answer for everyone, but I can answer for myself. Even after I have disengaged myself from believing the content of the Christian faith, I have never fully given up the interest in it that was ignited in me through a Catholic education. I still remember fondly my first church history teacher, typically Dutch in his enthusiasm for the somewhat arcane and eccentric subject. This subject did not stop being of interest to me after I was no longer a believer.

I also remember sitting in another church history class while in college, when the news of the election of the successor to John Paul II was announced, with the tittering and excitement people felt, most of whom were not themselves Catholic. There is a certain fascination with the subject globally even in people who don’t believe. In Japan, fictional stories incorporate Christian beliefs as an exotic motif. In Russia, where grown men have gotten into barroom brawls over Kant, they also have interest in speculation on the subject, which casts its shadow over the whole history of the Western world. And in California, where I live, a Persian friend of mine who is a Muslim had been himself wondering whether he should rather be a Christian. Suffice it to say that people of many backgrounds have found the subject of Christianity interesting.

My wife, who has a Lutheran background, has a story not that much unlike my own, except for all of the most nerdy bits. She also had passionate involvement with the church in her youth. She also continues to have a level of attachment and fascination, as I do. She also has no desire to be a part of any church. Of course, she has even less a desire to take up the academic approach to the study of religion as a hobby. It takes a certain kind of nerd to appreciate that. Continue reading »

Oct 142013


I’m pretty stoked about the new blog series starting at Higgaion:

In the coming weeks, probably stretching into months, I plan to read as much as I can find of the published literature on gamification and blog about the experience. I will also share some of the practical lessons I’ve learned from gamifying my own Religion 101 course.

Chris Heard explains the concept of “gamification”:

In case you haven’t encountered gamification yet, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s 7 Things You Should Know About newsletter for August 2011 used the widely-accepted definition, “Gamification is the application of game elements in non-gaming situations, often to motivate or influence behavior.” Nick Pelling claims to have coined the word “gamification” in 2002, defining it as “applying game-like accelerated user interface design to make electronic transactions both enjoyable and fast” and primarily seeking to make electronic devices fun to use.

These interests are close to my heart also.

It’s common knowledge that “hearing” is not as effective a tool for learning as “seeing,” and that “seeing” is not as effective as “doing.” This needs an addendum: “doing” is not as effective as “playing.”

Continue reading »

Oct 082013

This gorgeous map of the Roman Empire at the end of Trajan’s reign is in the public domain.


The document below shows the languages of the Roman Empire around the same time. (Note the legend; “displaced” means that it no longer survived by the time of the dissolution of the western Roman Empire. That Celtic patch in Asia Minor is Galatian, as Jerome attests that the Gallic tongue was spoken in both regions in his day. The map shown below may not be completely accurate.) Continue reading »

Oct 042013

joinForumSeveral bloggers, including Roger Pearse and Neil Godfrey, among others, have used a venerable, ancient forum on the web to hash out issues informally in an open discussion format. This forum, over 10 years old, resided at the “Internet Infidels Discussion Board” as “Biblical Criticism & History,” where I moderated for a while.

Yesterday, that particular forum lived on at “Free Ratio” as the History of Abrahamic Religions & Related Texts. But today that forum got iced. Nobody can post anymore.

Since I see this as a tragic loss, given how few really active forums with quality discussion exist for our topic, I immediately responded by setting up its spiritual successor, the Early Writings forum.

I’m looking forward to the next 10 years of discussions, and to kick this thing off, I have alerted some of the notable posters from the old forum. I am also inviting everyone reading this to help give it a chance to grow by stopping by and posting. (And I will be putting some sneaky links on my other websites to get it rolling.)

Think of it as a place where you can float ideas, ask questions, or sound off with even less pressure than your blog’s “publish” button… which is something that I find valuable and that, for others, is the only way they prefer to get involved in the discussion: informally. Join us.

Sep 242013

I am starting back from nothing in two ways today. I am starting this blog, which launches into the biblioblog part of the blogosphere. While I will be writing about the themes of my existing websites (Early Christian Writings, Early Jewish Writings, and Christian Origins), I may stray into other topics and other projects. This will be my only blog, so it will be a reflection of what I’m thinking about or working on at the time. My blog is informal and may not even reflect my own views a week from now, so if you see something wrong, a comment would be appreciated. May I always be open to a change of mind and ready to admit a mistake!

I am also starting my library from nothing, or almost nothing, because I did have four books on the Dead Sea Scrolls that my sister had found left in her apartment. I had sold all of my books because I had been moving around a bit, most importantly to Norway where I met my wife and married her in 2012. Last year, we found out that I would not be able to immigrate to Norway to be with her, so I packed my life back into two bags, and now we have an apartment in California. Continue reading »