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.
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.
Series Two: Forthcoming Episodes
Series 2 launches on Sunday 23 July 2017. The first 12 episodes introduce the rich literature of the Second Temple period, and Ezra's re-invention of Judaism. Here are the episodes I have planned to date. Believe me, there are a lot more coming, when I finally get stuck into the New Testament. I have a few surprise bonus episodes and announcements before the series two premier. So don't abandon your RSS feeds on the show quite yet!
17 Dec – 2.12 The Fall of the Maccabees.
3 Dec – 2.11 Judas the Hammer.
26 Nov – 2.10 Jerusalem Against Athens.
12 Nov – 2.9 The Apocalypse to End Them All: 1st Enoch .
29 Oct – 2.8 Lost books of the New Testaments.
15 Oct – 2.7 Farewell to the Tanakh.
1 Oct – 2.6 Leaving Babylon IV: Nehemiah and Ezra Stand Against Ruth.
17 Sep – 2.5 Leaving Babylon III: The Enigma of Zerubbabel and Joshua.
3 Sep – 2.4 Leaving Babylon II: Cyrus and the Mystery of Sheshbazzar.
20 Aug – 2.3 Leaving Babylon I: The Ezra Muddle.
6 Aug – 2.2 In Babylon II: Ezekiel and Job.
Sunday 23 July 2017 – 2.1 In Babylon I: The Exile. Series Two opening show!
Series 1 was first broadcast between March 2015 and June 2017.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I trace the beginnings of biblical archaeology, from Carsten Niebuhr to John Garstang, the man who thought he found Joshua's city of Jericho.
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.
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.
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.