History in the Bible Podcast


Here are all the published and forthcoming episodes in the History in the Bible podcast. Just right-click a link to download the podcast. Episodes are released fortnightly.

Season Two

Forthcoming Episodes

Here are the episodes I have planned to date. Believe me, there are a lot more coming.

2 September – 2.30 The Gospel of John and the Gnostics

19 August – 2.29 The Gospels of Matthew and Luke

5 August – 2.28 The Gospels of Mark and Matthew

22 July – 2.27 Searching for the Historical Jesus

8 July – 2.26 Christianity's Earliest Witness

24 June – 2.25 The Quest for the Historical Jesus

10 June – 2.24 Battle for the New Testament IV: Modern Times

27 May – 2.23 Battle for the New Testament III: The Reformation

13 May – 2.22 Battle for the New Testament II: Against Marcion

29 April – 2.21 Battle for the New Testament I: Earliest Times

15 April – 2.20 Herod and His Heirs.

1 April – 2.19 Jewish Religion and Society in the Pax Romana.

18 March – 2.18 Modern Debates: The Scandal of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

4 March – 2.17 Recovering the Bible: A Century of Revelations.

Released Episodes

2.16 Meet the Neighbours: Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.

As the Tanakh tells it, the Jewish nation comprised a united body-politic from the fall of the kingdom of Israel right through the return. The only division in Judaism was between those who followed God's laws, and those who strayed. From the time of the Seleucids on, the people fragmented into factions and religious renewal movements. Prime amongst these were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes: maybe.

2.15 The Rise and Ruin of the Maccabeans.

The Maccabeans reach their apogee under John Hyrcanus I, and his sons Aristobulus and Alexander Jannaeus. Alexander's widow, Alexandra Salome, became known as a ruler of wisdom and moderation. Her incompetent children and successors John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II blew it all in a fratricidal civil war. The Romans stepped in, ditched the Maccabean ditzes, and installed more reliable bureaucrats: one Antipater, and his son Herod.

2.14 Grappling with the Greeks V: Jubilees Reconstructs Judaism.

The Book of Jubilees was preserved by the Ethiopian Orthodox. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was held to be a parody of Jewish thought. Now we know the book was immensely popular with Jews and Christians until the early Middle Ages. The book re-writes Genesis and Exodus. Jubilees claims a higher authority than those books. It creates a new sacred calendar, and invents the figure we call Satan. I also have something to say about that odious book written at the same time, the Wisdom of Ben Sira.

2.13 Grappling with the Greeks IV: Daniel and the Book of Parables.

The book of Daniel is one-half comfy folktales, and one-half crazy. It was the only one of the many Jewish apocalyptic books to make it into the Old testament because it was the only book to talk of the resurection of the dead. It gets every historical detail wrong. Nonetheless, it can claim to be the founding document of the USA. Daniel's use of a common Hebrew idiom, "son of man", has created huge theological problems. That part of 1 Enoch called the Book of Parables re-creates the term for Christians.

2.12 Grappling with the Greeks III: The Maccabeans Revolt.

Rival high priests Jason and Menelaus plunge Judah into turmoil. Many Jews thought that both Jason and Menelaus were too Greek for their own good. Antiochus IV over-reacts and attempts to quash the civil strife. The Maccabeans stage a nationalistic rebellion. Judas Maccabeus reclaims the temple and creates Hanukkah. After Judas' death, his brother Jonathon transforms from insurgent to high-priest.

2.11 Grappling with the Greeks II: Jerusalem Against Athens.

The Judeans spent 120 happy years under the Hellenistic rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies. They chafed under the rule of the Hellenistic kingdom of the Seleucids, who faced severe geopolitical challenges. The social and economic tidal wave of international Hellenism challenged every aspect of Judean life and thought. A country Jewish priest called Mattathias revolted against this globalisation: Make Judea Holy Again!

2.10 Grappling with the Greeks I: Josephus and the Books of Maccabees.

First in a mini-series on the history of the Jews and the province of Judea under the Hellenistic empires, and under the Maccabeans. I start with a summary of the history I will expand on in the next few episodes. Then I present our sources for that history, Josephus and Maccabees. I conclude with a few notes about the oddities of the Ethiopian orthodox biblical canon.

2.9 The Apocalypse to End Them All: 1st Enoch.

Apocalypses were popular reading amongst Jews in the centuries they spent under imperial rule. Rabbinical Judaism blotted the apocalypses from its collective memory. Christianity incorporated them into its very soul. I cover the greatest apocalypse of them all, 1st Enoch. The book of Tobit is my special guest star.

2.8 Lost Books of the New Testaments.

The Jews wrote a vast amount of books between the time of the Return and the birth of Jesus. Since none made it into the Jewish and usual Christian canons, we call them parabiblical or pseudipigraphical. Their significance was not appreciated until the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

2.7 Under Persia: Farewell to the Tanakh.

The Jews have a placid existence under Persian rule, and create Judaism. They reconstruct their religion, one now without kings and prophets. From now on, the Law is all. I discuss the last of the books of the Tanakh: the romances of Esther and Judith, the hateful but mercifully brief prophet Obadiah, and the funniest book in the canon, Jonah. Daniel gets his chance in a later episode.

2.6 Leaving Babylon IV: Nehemiah and Ezra Stand Against Ruth.

Governor Nehemiah and priest-scribe Ezra finally bring the Jews back home from Babylon. Modern scholars reverse the Biblical order of the two, and so do I. The two institute a tax-payer-funded theocracy. Ezra rejects the old Hebrew religion and founds modern Judaism. Intermarriage is forbidden. Against that stance is the Book of Ruth.

The prophet Malachi, traditionally accounted the last author of the Tanakh, sticks his oar in.

2.5 Leaving Babylon III: The Enigma of Zerubbabel and Joshua.

After Sheshbazzar's failure, the second wave of returnees are led by the enigmatic figures of the supposed Davidic king Zerubbabel and the high-priest Joshua. Those returning spurn those who stayed behind, implying that the only real Jews are those who were exiled. Zerubbabel inexplicably disappears from the narrative at the moment of his triumph. The book of Esdras Alpha rehabilitates him.

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah are sources for the period. Zechariah writes the first apocalypse. I finish with the puny prophet Joel, who turns plowshares into swords, and pruning hooks into spears.

2.4 Leaving Babylon II: Cyrus and the Mystery of Sheshbazzar.

The Babylonian empire is rendered helpless when its king Nabonidus goes on a ten year holiday to Arabia. The best-ever benevolent autocrat, Cyrus the Great of Persia, has no trouble mounting a friendly takeover of the empire. Cyrus urges the Jews to return home under the mysterious Sheshbazzar. Cyrus is applauded by Second Isaiah, who introduces the Age of Aquarius, and some new theology.

2.3 Leaving Babylon I: The Ezra Muddle.

I provide an overview of the Return. Our most important sources for the Return are the books known as Ezra and Nehemiah in Catholic and Protestant bibles. The Jews have a single book, called Ezra. There a whole bunch of other books of Ezra, many to be found in Russian and Greek bibles. 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, 3 Esdras, Latin Esdras, Esdras Alpha, the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, the Latin Vision of Ezra, the Questions of Ezra, the Revelation of Ezra. What a muddle! Colombus used Latin Esdras to discover America.

2.2 In Babylon II: Ezekiel and Job.

In the book of Ezekiel God transforms from furious father to jealous husband. The prophet is commanded to protest against the Judeans with performance art. He has a few passages no can make head nor tail of. I also reluctantly tackle the book of Job, that most difficult of books.

2.1 In Babylon I: The Exile.

In the first episode of series two, I begin with the Judeans in exile in Babylon. We move from the prophet Jeremiah to the prophet Ezekiel, and his crazy imagery, imagery that has inflamed Christian iconography for centuries. But not only Christians. Ezekiel is the father of Jewish mysticism, a movement which the rabbis only quashed in the early Middle Ages.

2.0 A Sneak preview of Series Two.

A sneak preview of Series Two.

Season One

Season 1 was first broadcast between March 2015 and June 2017.

Keynote Episodes for the Casual Listener

If you are a new or casual listener, you may want to do a quick catch-up. I have identifed a few keynote episodes that lay out a lot of the ideas discussed in later episodes. I have identified these by marking them with a coffee-cup ☕ symbol, and bolding the episode title.


Bonus 17: A conversation with Dan Libenson of Judaism Unbound.

My special guest is Dan Libenson of the Judaism Unbound podcast. We talk about the Bible, the history of the Jewish religion, the difficulties of translation, how Jews and Christians think about God, and many other matters. All good fun!

1.57 Modern Debates: End of an Era.

In the final episode of series one, I explain why I am leaving the remaining books of the Old Testament to my second series. I introduce the lush literature of the Second temple period, and describe in detail the nature of Judean religion as it was at the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. I reflect on what I have learnt making this series, and what is coming in series two.

1.56 Modern Debates: Into Exile.

Scholars are divided about the Babylonian destruction wrought on Judah. The Biblical sources tell different stories. How many were deported to Babylon, and how many stayed behind? Was Judah left utterly desolate, as the Book of Chronicles says, or just reduced, as the Book of Kings says? Then we say goodbye to the prophet Jeremiah, kidnapped to Egypt.

1.55 Four Prophets of the Babylonian Crisis.

Four prophets lived in the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. In his short and miserable book, Zephaniah rails about the destruction to come. Jeremiah is a foreign policy advisor, and spreader of doom. We are all going to die! Surrender to your new overlords: Babylon! In a brief and nasty work, Nahum gloats at the fall of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, a victory he did nothing to accomplish. Habakkuk is a contemplative philosopher, with an important question for God.

1.54 The Babylonian Conquest of Judah.

The Egyptians kill Josiah, who is acting on behalf of Babylon against Egypt. They remove his pro-Babylonian son Jehoahaz from the throne, replacing him with the pro-Egyptian Jehoiakim. After the Egyptians are defeated, the Babylonians capture Jehoiakim and the city of Jerusalem, placing on the throne Jeconiah. King Nebuchadnezzar soon tosses him aside, settling on Zedekiah as the Babylonian puppet king. In a bad move, Zedekiah rebels. Nebuchadnezzar destroys Judah. The Jewish exile has begun.

1.53 Evil King Manasseh and the Reformation of Josiah.

The Bible tries to explain why the evil King Manasseh reigned for more than 50 years in peace and solitude, while his sublimely virtuous grandson, Josiah, was slaughtered in his prime. Josiah conducts a religious revolution and discovers the book of Deuteronomy.

Bonus 16: After Life - Surviving the Apocalypse.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I conclude (for now) our series on the apocalyptic literature, with a discussion of how views on the afterlife changed in the Second Temple period.

1.52 Isaiah and Micah, Prophets of the Assyrian Crisis.

Isaiah's ambiguity has made him a crowd-pleaser for over 2,500 years. He introduces a bunch of shiny-new theological ideas previously unknown in the Bible. Christians read into his book prophecies of the Christ. Micah is his counterpoint.

1.51 King Hezekiah, Father of Biblical Religion.

In 722 BC, Hezekiah of Judah faced his first great crisis: a mass of Israelite refugees fleeing from the Assyrians. He turned adversity into opportunity, strengthening his authority and using the Israelite intellectuals to create a nationalistic religion: Biblical religion. His second crisis was the invasion of Sennacherib of Assyria. The king saved his city, but lost the countryside.

1.50 The Fall of Israel.

King Ahaz of Judah calls on Assyria to save him from King Pekah of Israel and the kingdom of Aram-Damascus. That works out a treat: Aram-Damascus is left in ruins, and Israel left a rump state. The prophet Isaiah puts his oar in, to no effect. Pekah is followed by his son Hoshea, who makes a bad diplomatic move and is annihilated by Assyria. So begins the Jewish diaspora.

Bonus 15: Revelation- Apocalypse by Numbers.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I continue our series on the apocalyptic literature, with the second of two episodes on the earliest Christian apocalypse, the Book of Revelation. We find lots of magical numbers.

1.49 The Assyrian Storm.

In Judah, we meet a bunch of kings: Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz. Uzziah gets leprosy when he offends the priests. Jotham's reign is confused, just like I am. Ahaz is threatened on all sides. Back in Israel, Jeroboam II is followed by Zechariah, then in quick succession by Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, and Pekah. Israel is falling apart. King Retzin of Aram-Damascus hammers the Hebrews, but is squashed by the Assyrians.

1.48 Amos and Hosea, Hammers of the House of Jehu.

Amos and Hosea are the first two prophets who get their own books. They are also the last of the four northern Israelite prophets. Amos is the perfect prophet, the template for all later prophets. He launches a socialist critique on the Israelite upper-classes, and calls on the people to be righteous, and not just rule-followers. Hosea uses uncomfortable crazy sexual imagery to denounce the Israelites' worship of Baal. Hosea is nuts.

Bonus 14: What a Revelation! The Apocalypse of St John the Divine.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I continue our series on the apocalyptic literature, with the first of two episodes on the earliest Christian apocalypse, the Book of Revelation. It barely made it into the New Testament.

1.47 Calamities of the Two Kingdoms.

Under the house of Jehu, the northern kingdom of Israel is assailed by the big bully Assyria and the little bully Aram-Damascus. I follow Jehu's dynasty for 90 years, through the reigns of Jehoahaz and Joash to Jeroboam II. The famous Tel Dan stele has a lot to say about that. Meanwhile, in southern Judah: the kings get a big helping hand from the Assyrians in their squabbles against Israel. Athaliah, only queen regnant of a Hebrew kingdom, gets killed by the patriarchy. The priests destroy their own puppet King Jehoash when he stops the gravy train. But his son Amaziah gets his revenge.

1.46 Conundrums of the Kings Jehoram.

Two kings called Jehoram ruled in Israel and Judah at the same time. Many scholars think they were the same person. Their reigns were extinguished by the coup of Jehu, agent of God against the evil house of Omri. One of the few strong women in the Bible, Ahab's widow Jezebel, also meets her end. Athaliah becomes the only woman to rule Judah. Elisha works miracles.

Bonus 13: Satan and the Origin of Evil.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about Satan (ha'Satan, the adversary). In the Old Testament he is God's faithful prosecuting attorney. Only in the apocalyptic literature does he transform into the source of all evil. That is the Satan we find in the New Testament.

1.45 Last of the Omrides.

The Israelite King Ahab and the Judean King Jehoshaphat join in an ill-fated war against the Aramaeans. One battle not mentioned is the Battle of Qarqar, which we know from Assyrian records. Ahaziah follows Ahab on the throne. We start the second book of Kings. Elijah dies and passes his legacy to Elisha. I discuss Elijah's importance to Jews and Christians.

1.44 The House of Omri: Pinnacle of Power.

The House of Omri reigned for 140 years with four kings: Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah and Jehoram. They created the first sophisticated Hebrew state, and brought the kingdom of Israel to the height of its power and prosperity. During this period, the first great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, created the religion of Yahwism. We also meet Jezebel, the painted lady. Assyria makes an unwelcome appearance.

Bonus 12: A Very Merkabah Jubilee.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about the obscure Jewish movement known as Merkabah mysticism, and the influential and popular Book of Jubilees.

1.43 Forty Years of Trouble.

In the first decades after Solomon's united kingdom split, the two kingdoms spent their time in brush wars. The kingdom of Judah went through three kings: Rehoboam, Abijam, and Asa. In the northern kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam's dynasty came to an end with his son Nadab, overthrown by general Baasha. This was not a happy time.

Bonus 11: Apocalypses of Daniel and Enoch - Hiding in Plain Sight.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I launch into the earliest apocalypses: 1 Enoch and the Book of Daniel. The Book of 1 Enoch, older than Daniel, hid in plain sight in the Ethiopian Orthodox canon for centuries. Europeans only re-discovered it in the 19th century.

1.42 The Kingdom Sundered.

The policies of King Solomon's idiot son Rehoboam split the united kingdom in two: Israel and Judah. The fracture was permanent. I introduce the Biblical sources we have for this period, Kings and Chronicles and a few prophets; and the Assyrian and Babylonian records. I also introduce the archaeological evidence we have, and the very difficult chronological problems.

Bonus 10: Gnosticism: Gnowing Me, Gnowing You.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I introduce the rich apocalyptic literature that flourished after the canon of the Old testament closed. We get into Gnosticism, evil, and dualism.

1.41 Modern Debates: David and Solomon.

In this ripper episode I tackle the great raging debate in contemporary biblical archaeology. Traditionalist scholars believe that modern archaeological discoveries confirm the Bible's account of David and Solomon. Modernist archaeologists believe the exact opposite. Who has the evidence on their side?

Bonus 9: Portents of the Apocalypse.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I introduce our new series on the apocalypse. We talk about the little-known but rich literature that flourished between the closing of the Old Testament, and the opening of the New Testament; and how it influenced Judaism and Christianty.

1.40 Puzzles of the United Kingdom of the Hebrews.

Solomon, it is said, wrote books of Wisdom, Psalms, Odes, and a Testament. I discuss these, and then begin my survey of what modern scholarship has to say about the united kingdom. I start with Saul, and wonder why he is treated so differently in the books of Samuel and Chronicles.

1.39 Solomon's Legacy.

Solomon spends big time on his Temple and Palace. Hiram of Tyre bankrolls him. Solomon dies on the verge of a major rebellion led by his own slave-master, Jeroboam. I also discuss two works attributed to Solomon: Proverbs, and the Song of Songs.

1.38 Solomon's Magnificence.

David's son Solomon is the first Hebrew king we can assign reliable dates to. Or maybe not. Solomon is a dazzling glitter-ball on the international stage; the richest, wisest, and most awesome king in the entire Middle East. He marries an Egyptian princess. I go through the legends of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and investigate the role of Solomon's benefactor, King Hiram of the Phoenician city of Tyre.

Bonus 8: Yochi Brandes' novel The Secret Book of Kings, with Dan Libenson.

My special guest is Dan Libenson of the Judaism Unbound podcast. We talk about Israeli author Yochi Brandes' novel The Secret Book of Kings, set in the period of Saul, David, Solomon, and then the divided monarchy. It has been recently translated into English from the Hebrew. The novel was a smash hit in Israel. We discuss the novel and its impact in israel, and how it bears on Dan's quest to forge the next Jewish future.

1.37 David and the Psalms.

In this episode I finish my survey of the Book of Psalms. The psalms are replete with references to God as but one member of the pantheon of the ancient Canaanite religion, a god fighting the ancient sea monsters of the Canaanites: Rehab, Leviathan, and Behemoth. And we have some music.

1.36 The Last Days of David.

God commands David to conduct a census. God then punishes David for conducting a census. Like the rest of us, the Chronicler was mystified by this, and rewrote the story to introduce Satan. Modern archaeologists disgree with the numbers. Bathsheba, mother to Solomon, conducts a palace coup to put her son on the throne, allied with the prophet Nathan, the priest Zadok, and David's mercenary praetorian guard. David charges Solomon to dispatch David's most loyal servants, Joab and Abiathar. I also introduce the Book of Psalms.

1.35 Treachery in the House of David.

The final portion of David's story is told in the court narrative or succession history. Who will follow David as king? In this story of intrigue, David's woes start with his murder of Uriah, followed by familial violence, rape, and the terrible deaths of two of his sons, Amnon and Absalom. The Book of Chronicles mentions none of that.

1.34 David Triumphant.

David and his field marshal Joab defeats Saul's son Ishbosheth and his general Abner. David retrieves the ark from the Philistines, to the displeasure of his wife Michal. God forges his fourth and final contract with humanity, promising David and David's city of Jerusalem eternal divine protection. Scholars call this the Royal Zion theology. I also discuss David's special protection squad, and the sudden appearance of a new high priest, Zadok.

1.33 From Bandit to King.

With the support of the Philistines, David turns his bandit gang into a disciplined mercenary force. After Saul's death fighting David's patrons in battle at Mt Gilboa, David is made king of the southern tribes, but not the northern.

1.32 The Complicated Rise of David.

Samuel manufactures reasons to condemn King Saul, and supplant him with David. Our two great sources, the Septuagint and the Masoretic text, have very different versions of David's complicated rise.

1.31 Samuel and the Tragedy of King Saul.

King Saul becomes king of the Israelites, in four different ways. Samuel moves from being the last judge to the first prophet. I take the opportunity to introduce the Hebrew prophets, showing they were not fortune-tellers and sooth-sayers. They responded to political crises, and spoke about the here and now.

1.30 Eli and Samuel, Last of the Judges.

The priest Eli, guardian of the sacred Ark, sees his sacred charge captured by the Philistines. The Israelites are at their lowest point. Now arises Samuel to lift them from their moral depravity. In spite of his misgivings, God instructs Samuel to give the people a king: Saul. I also discuss the many textual problems in the books of Samuel, comparing the Septuagint to the Massoretic text.

1.29 The United Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon: Setting the Stage.

Introducing the Hebrew united kingdom. I set the stage upon which the Hebrew united kingdom was created. I explain the geopolitical situation, and the Biblical sources we have: the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

1.28 Modern Debates: Judging Joshua and the Judges.

In the 1970s, scholars demolished the credibility of the Biblical stories of the patriarchs. In the decades following, archaeologists threw out the Biblical history of Joshua and Judges. I present the current theories on the origins of the Israelites.

Bonus 7: Garry and Steve Talk Heresy.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about gnosticism and its origins in the Jewish apocalyptic literature. We have a few rants.

1.27 Judges II: Victory into Defeat.

The Book of the Rescuers was the heroic story of the northern Israelites. The later editors of Judges were all southern Judeans. They inverted the northern stories, turning triumph into disaster.

1.26 Judges I: the Book of the Rescuers.

I wrap-up the Book of Joshua, and rush right into the dark times of the Book of Judges. I start with the central and oldest chapters, called the Book of the Rescuers, the heroic epic of the northern kingdom of Israel.

1.25 Joshua Conquers Canaan.

The book of Joshua recounts the conquest of Canaan, the land promised to Abraham. For a few short years, the Israelites achieve a perfect relationship with their god.

1.24 Modern Debates: Disappearing the Patriarchs.

In 1970 most scholars thought that Genesis and Exodus were reliable guides to the history of the Israelites. Today, even the most traditionalist of archaeologists agree that the narratives of the Israelites' history told in Genesis and Exodus are just stories. In this episode I explore how the consensus of 1970 was overthrown.

1.23 God's Historian.

Modern scholars have identifed a single school behind all the books from Deuteronomy to Kings. This school wrote the histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, putting its own theological slant on that history.

Bonus 6: Priest-King Melchizedek, International Man of Mystery.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I discuss the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, and try to work out how he figures in the Jewish and Christian priesthoods.

Bonus 5: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period Part 3.

In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I finally conclude our discussion of James the Just. Check out Steve's new ventures at the Agora Podcast Network.

1.22 Deuteronomy II: The Death of Moses.

In the last half of Deuteronomy, Moses lays out laws on family matters. I compare these to the Mesopotamian law codes. He sets out a splendid set of curses on those would disobey, modelled on Assyrian curses. Polytheism sneaks through a few times.

1.21 Deuteronomy I: Moses Farewells his People.

Moses farewells his people in three great speeches and completes the law code of the Old Testament. Deuteronomy is the last book of the Torah, the Pentateuch, the books holiest to Jews. To many Jewish scholars, the Torah is where study of the bible stops. I discuss how Deuteronomy was modeled on Assyrian vassal treaties.

1.20 Numbers II: Out of the Wilderness.

While the Israelites are stuck in the wilderness they meet Balam and his talking donkey. They defeat King Og and the Midianites, and will never stop talking about it. Moses' siblings Aaron and Miriam die, and in a vicious plot-twist God tells Moses that he will never cross the Jordan.

1.19 Numbers I: Into the Wilderness.

It should have been but a few days march from Mt Sinai to the promised land. But the Israelite's kvetching annoys God so much he condemns them to spend 40 years in the wilderness.

1.18 Leviticus II: The Holiness Code.

The first half of Leviticus is preoccupied with the priests and the Tabernacle. The second half of Leviticus radically extends the idea of holiness to the whole people of the Israelites. It lays down a mass of laws, from what an Israelite can eat, to laws on menstruation.

Bonus Episode 4: James the Just in the Late Second Temple period (Part 2).

With Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy Podcast. In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra and I conclude our discussion of James the Just, and talk about blood pudding. You can visit Steve at the History of the Papacy podcast

1.17 Leviticus I: God's Barbecue.

In this episode we break from the narrative to examine the first great law code of the Israelites. The first part of Leviticus sets out the complex system of sacrifices that God demands of the Israelites, and describes how they must maintain the sanctity of God's holy abode, the Tabernacle.

Bonus Episode 3: James the Just in the Late Second Temple period (Part 1).

With Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy Podcast. Steve and I discuss James the Just, how he got to be called James rather than Jacob in English, why he was James the Awesome, his relationship to Jesus, how the Catholics and Orthodox think about him, and Jesus' family life and economic situation. You can visit Steve at the History of the Papacy podcast

1.16 Exodus IV: Origins of the Old Israelite Religion.

The major festivals of Judaism are created, the Tent of Meeting is designed, and the priesthood under Aaron established. God is outraged when the feckless Aaron makes two idols, but in a peculiar display of nepotism, Moses lets Aaron off the hook and instead consigns 3,000 Israelites to death. We also find the real Ten Commandments: they are not what you think.

1.15 Exodus III: The Contract with God at Sinai.

This is the defining moment in the history of the Israelites, where they swear allegiance to God in return for a special relationship with the divinity. I discuss how this contract follows the suzerainty treaties of the Hittites and Assyrians. I also throw in a discussion on the Ten Commandments, and how the Jews and various Christian denominations slice and dice them.

1.14 Exodus II: Leaving Egypt.

After ten rounds of unpleasantness, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt towards Mt Sinai. They don't yet know it, but they have begun 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

1.13 Exodus I: Egypt, Ho!.

We conclude the story of the patriarchs with a happy reunion between Jacob and his son Joseph, now an important minister in the Egyptian government. His family move to Egypt for a few centuries, a passage of time that passes in the blink of an eye. That concludes our survey of Genesis. We move on to the book of Exodus, and introduce the great hero of the Hebrews, Moses.

1.12 Genesis V: Jacob and Joseph.

Jacob is the great trickster in the Bible, outwitting his father Isaac, his brother Esau, and even his own children. The P, E, and J sources have several different versions of Jacob's stories. For example, Jacob visits and names Bethel twice. There is the unsavoury incident of the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah, met with a brutal and horrendous over-reaction from her brothers. We also have another unpleasant story about Jacob's son Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. We conclude with an introduction to Joseph.

1.11 Genesis IV: Trouble in the Family.

Abraham swindles the Philistine king Abimelech just as he did Pharoah, and almost kills his son Isaac, following God's commands. At the very last minute, God says it's all been a test. Was this a remnant of ancient Israelite child sacrifice? After a perfunctory chapter or two on Isaac, Genesis forgets about him to talk about the Bible's greatest and least repentant con-man: Jacob, later known as Israel. We meet yet another scheming wife, Rebekah.

Bonus Episode 2: Talking with Stephen Guerra about the Second Temple Period.

This is the second of an irregular series of bonus episodes. In this episode I talk with Steve Guerra about the Second Temple period, the time between the return of the Jews from the exile in Babylon in 538 BC to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. You can visit Steve at the History of the Papacy podcast

1.10 Genesis III: Abraham is Called.

After the primeval stories, Genesis introduces the man who dominates and forms the very heart of the book, Abraham. He is the first of the patriarchs. God makes a real-estate deal with Abraham, giving him Canaan for the small price of circumcision. Abraham has many adventures, meeting and swindling the Pharoah of Egypt; and encountering the mysterious Melkizedek, priest and king of Jerusalem. We also meet his scheming wife Sarai, his slave-wive Hagar, and his first-born son Ishmael.

Bonus Episode 1: Talking with Stephen Guerra.

This is the first of an irregular series of bonus episodes, in addition to my fortnightly installments. In this crossover bonus, I talk about history podcasting with Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast. Steve and the others at the history podcasters network have been a great help to me in getting this podcast going. You can visit Steve at the History of the Papacy podcast, and the history podcaster network at historypodcasters.com. Many thanks to Steve for doing the heavy lifting in recording and editing this episode.

1.9 Genesis II: Tales of the Flood.

Flood epics were a dime a dozen in ancient Mesopotamia. Genesis has its own version. This section of Genesis is full of puzzles: Cain's gift of tabouleh is rejected; the dating system is a complete mess; Noah was alive in Abraham's time; Enoch goes to heaven; the mysterious Nephilim make an appearance; Canaan is cursed for no reason and the slavery of blacks is justified.

1.8 Genesis I: Stories of Creation.

Genesis has always been more important to Christians than to Jews. The opening chapters recount two stories of creation, none of which involves Satan. One is from the J source, the other from the P source. I compare these to the creation stories from ancient Mesopotamian sources. I also discuss Jewish attitudes to IVF.

1.7 Writing the Pentateuch.

Work by scholars from the late 19th century had established that five sources lay behind the Pentateuch. They came to be known by letters: J, E, P, and D. These theories were a mainstay of biblical studies until recently. Although questioned in the past 20 years, the theory known as the Documentary Hypothesis is still accounted a firm starting place for any sort of examination of the text of the Pentateuch. I also find out why the Bible is divided into chapters and verses.

1.6 Canaan of the Patriarchs.

This potted history of the Middle East in the Bronze Age sets the background for the episodes that follow. It traces the story of Canaan as it was uncovered, and then reinterperted, by archaeologists from the 1930s to the present day. I introduce William Foxwell Albright, the most influential Middle Eastern scholar of the 20th century. I also cover the greatest catastrophe of antiquity, the Bronze Age Collapse, and how scholars construct chronologies.

1.5 The Names of God.

The finds at the ancient city of Ugarit in Syria provided us with our knowledge of the religion of Canaan, the land conquered by the Israelites. Some of this religion, such as the god El and the monsters Leviathon and Bohemoth found their way into the ancient religion of Israel and into the Bible. I also discuss the most common names of god found in the Bible (Yahweh, El, Elohim, Adonai), and what they mean.

1.4 Recovering Ancient Israel.

I trace the beginnings of biblical archaeology, from Carsten Niebuhr to John Garstang, the man who thought he found Joshua's city of Jericho.

1.3 Canons and Criticism

I conclude my tour of the canons, finishing with the zaniest of them all. I also get into the lesser known textual traditions: those of the Samaritans, and the Aramaic and Syriac translations. With that under my belt, I begin to explore the history of the history of the bible. I start with Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra and end up with Johann Semler. Along the way, I meet Archbishop Ussher, he who decided the world was created in 4004 BC, and decide he is not only over-rated, but a complete ditz.

1.2 What is the Bible?

The Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Church of the East all have different versions of the Bible, with dissimilar books, based on different ancient texts. I explain why. For a handy summary chart, check out my chart Canons of the Old Testament.

1.1 All the History, in all the books, in all the Bibles.

Introducing the podcast. I will present the latest research in the archaeology of the Holy Land, discuss every single book in all the various canons of all the Bibles, presenting the history in each book, and how each book is located in history. I will also explore the current state of Biblical criticism, and investigate what we know about the ancient Israelite religion.