History in the Bible Podcast

Welcome to The History in the Bible Podcast

G'day! I'm Garry Stevens. Welcome to my podcast, the History in the Bible. In my three seasons I presented a layman's guide to a century and more of research into the Biblical texts and the archaeological evidence behind them. I explored the religion of ancient Israel, the development of Christianity, and the co-evolution of Judaism and Christianity.

News

Spanish language translation now available

Thanks to the kind offices of Mr José Rivera, you can now download a Spanish language pdf of seasons one and two. He did the work for free and without telling me! Thanks, José.

Putting the Podcast into Print

I am excited to announce that I have begun the process of putting the podcast scripts into print, using Amazon self-publishing. There will be four volumes, one for each season, and a special volume tentatively entitled "A Bible Home Companion". This fourth volume will comprise all the maps, tables, charts, and diagrams I have on the supplementary pages on this website.

It may sound odd, but I will release the fourth volume first, in early 2024. I figure that while many listeners may have no interest in a written version of the podcast audio, they may be interested in having a physical copy of all the visual elements that are impossible to communicate in a podcast. The volume will be in full colour, and about 150 pages long. I only have a limited say in the price Amazon charges, but I assure you it will be as cheap as possible

The Revolutions in Biblical Studies

We have learnt a lot in the past century. The revolution comes in two parts:

The Old Testament/Tanakh

Until the 1970s, archaeologists of Israel and Palestine saw their job as demonstrating the historical validity of the Bible. A new band of archaeologists and scholars has overturned that notion. The Bible is no longer seen as a document whose words must be proven, but as a starting point in providing a new and reliable history of the Jews, and the development of Judaism.

Their conclusions are radical: that the Israelites are Canaanites who forged a new identity, that there was no Exodus, that King David was not much more than a bandit, that the empire of Solomon never existed, and that the God of Israel may have had a wife, Asherah. All this, the new wave say, was whitewashed by the authors of the Old Testament (Tanakh), who only put pen to papyrus centuries after the events they wrote about.

As you can imagine, the work of the new wave of scholars has been immensely controversial. Let me make one thing clear: the new wave are not complete crazies. They hold eminent positions in prestigious universities. Many are Jewish. But, as Philip Davies explains, their work is fraught with political implications:

Debate about ancient Israel is also debate about modern Israel, and in the eyes of many people, the legitimacy of the latter depends on the credibility of the biblical portrait. Still, what is worrying to many Israelis and Jews about the “ancient Israel” debate is that biblical studies, having for so long been a natural advocate of the land always being “the land of Israel”, is now (and I think rightly) bringing the notion under critical scrutiny that Israel was the natural or rightful owner of this piece of land.

What is important is not to politicize biblical studies but to de-politicize it, to distance it from any political stance…. Israel is part of the history, as well as the present, of Palestine. I think the Bible should not interfere in this way with modern politics. … But this does not entail being anti-Jewish…. The State of Israel was the result of things more tangible and imperative than divine promises and ancient occupations.

The New Testament

A quite separate and distinct re-evaluation of the New Testament has been bubbling along since the late 1700's. The archaeologists have little do with this. This battle has been conducted on a literary level, between people sitting in comfy chairs; not trench-workers in the desert heat digging in the dusty earth for weeks at a time. I will explore the exotically named Third Quest for the Historical Jesus, and the New Perspectives on Paul approach.

The Third Quest kicked off 50 years ago. Before the Third Quest, the Jewishness of Jesus was a real matter of dispute. Throughout the entire history of the Christian church, Jesus' Jewish identity was downplayed, if not denied. Today, no few scholars see Jesus’ Jewishness as contentious. Jesus was a Jew, and any evaluation of his words and deeds must keep that in mind. The Third Quest scholars were the first to mine books outside the canon. Previous generations had poo-poohed any source outside the NT. Contemporary scholars embrace every papyrus find.

About the Podcast

In the History in the Bible Podcast I took you inside these revolutions in Biblical studies in a series of podcasts. Each episode is a 20 or 30 minute chunk just right for your morning or afternoon commute.

Season 1: From Genesis to Babylon

Season 1 logo
Season one logo. Sacrifice of Isaac, Andrea del Sarto (1527)

The first season consists of 57 episodes. I covered the history and archaeology of the Old Testament (Tanakh); from the Patriarchs and the origins of the Hebrews; then the Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan; through David and Solomon, to the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah and their prophets.

I showed how scholars think that the various threads of the books we now know as the Bible came together, and what the latest archaeological discoveries and controversies can tell us about this long history.

The first season ends at the beginning of the Exile.


Season 2: Age of the Second Temple

Season 2 logo

Season two logo. God of Hosts, Viktor Vasnetsov (1896)

The second season consists of 61 episodes. I discussed the Babylonian exile, the return, and the subsequent history of the Jews from the Persian period through the Hasmonean kingdom, to conclude with Judea as a Roman province. I also covered the vast literature that was produced after the Babylonian Exile, sometimes called the pseudepigraphical works. None of these works made it into either the Old or New Testaments but they influenced both of the daughter religions of the ancient Israelite faith: rabbinic Judaism, and Christianity.

I then launched into the history chronicled in all the versions of the New Testament. I stuck my teeth into the gospels, the letters, and Acts; showing what modern scholarship has to say about their complex history and interrelationships. I made of a point of looking into the books that only the Ethiopian Orthodox church includes as canonical.

The second season ends with the New Testament as we have it. But I am not finished yet!


Season 3: The Heirs of Abraham

Season 3 logo

Season three logo. Last Day of Pompeii, Karl Bryullov (1833)

The third and final season is an extended denouement to the show. The first episode was published in March 2021, and the last in January 2024. It contains 34 episodes.

I explored the co-evolution of Judaism and Christianity in the 150 years after the death of Jesus, and the destruction of the Temple.

I also covered the many books that almost made it into the New Testament. I presented the latest scholarly explorations and re-interpretations of the origins of the Great Jewish Revolt of 66 AD/CE, and how Christianity was not just a new religion in the Roman empire, but a novel social phenomenon.

Living Bibliography

Online English translations of the Bible

The premier site for Biblical translation into English is the brilliant site Bible Gateway. This astonishing resource provides English translations from so many bibles your head will spin. It is without doubt the world's greatest English-language resource for this material. And all for free.

Written English translations of the Bible

I rely on these scholarly and authoritative translations into English:

  • New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011), Harper Collins [NABRE]. The text is approved by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops under the Catholic Code of Canon Law 825. The scholarly apparatus it provides is rather thin, and has been criticised by Catholic conservative priests as dangerously radical. I suppose it would be churlish to mention that these are the same conservative clergy who spent decades covering up sexual abuse claims.
  • Jewish Study Bible (2004), Oxford University Press [JSB]. There is no authorized translation of the Tanakh (the Hebrew for what Christians know as the Old Testament) into English. This edition provides an extensive academic apparatus to accompany the translation often referred to as the NJPSV: the New Jewish Publication Society Version, 1985/2006. I thoroughly recommend this edition of the Old Testament to anyone, Jew, Christian, or atheist. It is available online from Sefaria.
  • Schocken Bible (2 vols) (1995-2014), Schocken Books/Random House. This is a translation by the scholar Everett Fox, published in various forms since 1983, culminating in the two volumes I cite here. Fox has attempted to produce a translation that reproduces the language, intent, and cadences of the original Hebrew as far as possible, without sacrificing intelligibility. The consensus is that Fox has done a masterful job, even if often the English is Yoda-like. Fox changed his translation practices between the two volumes, only for the better, in my opinion.
  • The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), Oxford University Press [JANT]. This work contains the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) English translation of the New Testament. The NRSV is often regarded as the premier translation into English (although you can find plenty who would beg to disagree—and I get into that debate in one of my episodes). You can find that text in many other editions. What makes this edition really stand out, is the outstanding critical commentary on the NRSV text by eminent Jewish scholars. Considered a landmark in Jewish NT scholarship.

English translations of other primary sources

  • Bart D. Ehrman (2015), After the New Testament, Oxford University Press (2ed). Documents from the 200 years after the death of Jesus.
  • Herbert Danby (ed.) (1933, 2013), The Mishnah, Hendrickson. Dated but classic.
  • James H. Charlesworth (ed.) (1983, 2015), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols, Hendrickson. An essential reference.
  • Geza Vermes (ed.) (1987), The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Books (3rd edition, and many others). Translations from one of the foundational scholars of the scrolls.
  • Robert M. Price (ed.) (2006), The Pre-Nicene New Testament, Signature Books. An eclectic and quirky selection and translation from a scholar who is either quirky or barking mad. Take your pick.
  • Paul L. Maier (ed.) (1994), Josephus: The Essential Works, Kregel.
  • R. Bauckham, J. R. Davila, A. Panayotov (eds.) (2013), Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Books, 2 vols, Eerdmans.

Courses

I heartily recommend the free course materials offered by Prof Barry Wimpfheimer of Northwestern University. First is his course materials for Introduction to Judaism. Second, his free Coursera course The Talmud: A Methodological Introduction.

Books

Novels

Christopher Stanley is a professor at St Bonaventure University in the USA. He's writing a trilogy about a slave's journey in the early Roman empire. Come meet the Christians in the turmoil before the Great Revolt!

  • Christopher D. Stanley (2020), A Rooster for Asklepios, NFB Publishing.
  • Christopher D. Stanley (2020), A Bull for Plato, NFB Publishing.

Books for the Interested Reader

  • Anonymous (2003-2010), The Timechart of Biblical History, Chartwell Books [ISBN 978-0-7858-753-6]. I mentioned this book in the very first episode of the show. It folds out to a whopping two m / seven ft timechart. The original glorious edition was written by Sebastian C. Adams in 1871. It has been republished and reprinted dozens of times since it passed into the public domain decades ago, often with different titles, and poor old Sebastian unacknowledged. When I bought a copy, it was only $20. You might find a copy on Abebooks.
  • Lawrence Schiffman (1991), From Text to Tradition, Ktav Publishing.
  • Shaye J. D. Cohen (2014), From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, WJK (3rd ed). Very readable.
  • Bart D. Ehrman (2016), A Brief Introduction to the New Testament, Oxford University Press (4th ed). I rely on Bart a lot in my show.
  • Bart D. Ehrman (2003), Lost Christianities, Oxford University Press.
  • Keith Hopkins(1999), A World Full of Gods, Plume.
  • Michael Grant (1984), The History of Ancient Israel, Scribners. The David Attenborough of historians of ancient history.
  • John Rogerson (1999), Chronicle of the Old Testament Kings, Thames and Hudson. A handsomely illustrated coffee-table book.
  • John Rogerson (1986), Atlas of the Bible, Equinox/Facts on File.
  • Eric H. Cline (2014) 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Princeton University Press.
  • Joseph Rhymer (1982) Atlas of the Biblical World, Hamlyn/QED Publishing. A magnificent large-format book.
  • Harold Bloom (1990), The Book of J, Grove Weindenfeld. Some interesting theories.
  • John Romer (1988), Testament, Michael O'Mara Books.
  • Colin McEvedy (2002), The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, Penguin Books. A classic with wonderful maps.
  • Paul Barnett (2005), The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years, Eerdmans.
  • Donald Akenson (1998), Surpassing Wonder, Harcourt Brace. An intricate book with surprising insights. But he does use a lot of long words you will have look up.
  • Richard E. Friedman (1987), Who Wrote the Bible?, Jonathan Cape. An easy-to-read classic.

More Academic Books

  • Quentin Deluermox and Pierre Singaravelou (2005), A Past of Possibilities, Yale University Press. The historiography of counterfactuals and alternative history.
  • Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev (2005), Diaspora Judaism in Turmoil: 116/117 CE, Peeters. Contains all the literary and epigraphic sources we have on the Kitos War/War of the Diaspora, and a commentary.
  • W. V. Hariss (ed) (2005), The Spread of Christianity in the First Four Centuries, Brill.
  • Lawrence Schiffman (1991), Texts and Traditions, Ktav Publishing. A book of sources to accompany Schiffman's book mentioned above.
  • Allan Barr (1976), A Diagram of Synoptic Relationships, T & T Clark. A whopping great fold-out chart on reinforced cotton paper, showing how each verse in one gospel relates to those in the others. Very hard to find.
  • Christine Hayes (2012), Introduction to the Bible, Yale University Press. Hayes is a brilliant populariser. Her insights have proved invaluable to the podcast.
  • Dale Martin (2012), New Testament Literature and History, Yale University Press. The counterpart to Christine Hayes, but a lot crustier. Another major resource.
  • Mark S. Smith (2001), The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, Oxford University Press.
  • Michael Coogan (ed.) (2011), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible (2 vols), Oxford University Press. A magisterial set of books. This is another of the major sources I have used for my commentary.
  • Thomas L. Thompson (1999), The Mythic Past, Basic Books.
  • Roland de Vaux (1978), Ancient Israel, Darton, Longman and Todd. This weighty tome by Father de Vaux wreaks of authority and scholarship. Then you learn that he spent decades suppressing the Dead Sea scrolls. Not a nice man.
  • Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman (2002), The Bible Unearthed, Touchstone. Finkelstein, now retired, is my favourite archaeologist.
  • J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes (2006), A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, SCM Press. A very readable classic, for so academic a book. Jam-packed with information.
  • Amon Ben-Tor (1992), The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, Yale University Press.
  • Megan Bishop Moore and Brad E. Kelle (2011), Biblical History and Israel's Past, Eerdmans.
  • Reinhard G. Kratz and Hermann Spieckermann (eds.) (2010), One God One Cult, De Gruyter.
  • Tom Higham and Thomas Evan Levy (eds.) (2005), The Bible and Radiocarbon Dating, Equinox Publishing.
  • F. E. Deist (1978), Towards the Text of the Old Testament, D.R. Church Booksellers. Very boring.
  • Helmer Ringgren (1974), Israelite Religion, SPCK.
  • Alan Avery-Peck and Jacob Neusner (eds.) (1999), Judaism in Late Antiquity, BRILL.
  • James D. G. Dunn (ed.) (2003), The Cambridge Companion to St Paul, Cambridge University Press.
  • Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz (1998), The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, Fortress Press. A slog, oddly-translated, but considered a classic textbook.
  • Devorah Dimant (ed.) (2012), The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective, Brill.

Fun Books

  • A. J. Jacobs (2007), The Year of Living Biblically, Simon & Schuster. A real hoot.
  • David Plotz (2009), Good Book, HarperCollins. Wonderful fun.

Crazy Books

  • David Rohl (1996), A Test of Time: Volume 1 The Bible From Myth to History, Century Random House. You can get the short version from Wikipedia. Rohl has argued that academics have it all wrong. The standard dating of Egyptian history is off by 350 years. Rohl is certainly not a quack. He was a professor of Egyptology at Liverpool University in the UK. The academic community has spent 25 years ignoring him. Could Rohl be a victim of entrenched interests? Perhaps. We will have to wait for Kenneth Kitchen to die before we can unravel that mystery.

Journals

Unfortunately, most of these journals are behind pay walls, and part of the international academic publishing rort

Websites

  • Sefaria. A massive living library of fundamental Jewish writings, many translated into English.
  • A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry. An eccentric blog by the historian Bret C. Devereaux, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Explores the craft of the historian.
  • The Bart Ehrman Blog. Gazzillions of posts on the New Testament by one of my favourite scholars. Updated every few days.
  • Early Jewish Writings. An introduction and links to translations of the Old Testament parabiblical literature. Simply a wonderful resource. You should also investigate it's companion site the New Testament equivalent.
  • The Bible and Interpretation. Latest advances, discussions and controversies.
  • Mark Poyser's Bible Diagrams. A vast collection of timelines and diagrams on biblical history.
  • Encyclopedia Judaica.
  • Judaism 101. A great introduction to Judaism.
  • Mahlon H. Smith, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, has a great website, Virtual Religion Network, with buckets of info: from the timetable of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to a detailed study of the synoptic gospels. He also has a staggering amount of links to other trusted resources. Mahlon has a lot to teach all of us.
  • I have used Orbis: Stanford Geospatial Network of the Ancient World for my data on Roman travel times.
  • Mark Goodacre's site NTGateway is a veritable treasure trove of information about the earliest days of Christianity. Updated every so often.

Big Charts

Why not download my free poster-sized chart of Old Testament history?

Our New Understanding of the Bible's Old Testament

And there is my poster on Early Christianity.

A Timeline of Early Christianity

Podcasts Worth Visiting

Check out these podcasts.

Podcasts About Matters Covered in the Podcast

  • Gregg Gassman's The Popeular History Podcast Proportions. Gregg is off and running on a show about the popes and cardinals.
  • Gil's A Podcast of Biblical Proportions. This works it's way through the Tanakh (Old Testament). Gil approaches each show with a critical and quizzical eye and a lot of laughter.
  • W. Scott McAndless' Retelling the Bible. Scott provides imaginative dramatisations of the Bible stories. His reconstructions go way, way beyond the barebones accounts in the Bible, to really bring the stories to life. If you like my show, you will love his.
  • Bart Ehrman's blog in audio form. Each show has readings from two blog posts, curated and read by John P. Mueller.
  • Mark Goodacre's NT Pod, on the New Testament and Christian origins. Mark is a Brit at Duke University in the USA, a colleague and frenemy of Bart Ehrman. Episodes are in short 15 minute chunks, and very nicely done. Unfortunately, he only releases a new episode when he feels like it. Which is not often.
  • Stephen Guerra's History of the Papacy. A podcast about much more than the history of the popes. Stephen lets his muse take him where he will. He has produced eleven episodes just on the First Council of Nicaea. You would not get that amount of information if you were doing a Master's in the subject.
  • Robert M. Price's two podcasts The Human Bible and The Bible Geek. A dotty compendia of all things Biblical. The History in the Bible Podcast is in a very different style, and complements nicely Dr Price's zany topical shows.
  • Philip A. Harland's Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean. An excellent source on many advanced topics in Israelite religion and early Christianity.
  • Scott Chesworth's The Ancient World. A rollicking survey of almost 3,000 years of history.
  • Peter Adamson's History of Philosophy Without any Gaps. A magisterial work that he actually gets paid to make. The bastard.
  • Lance Ralston's Communio Sanctorum. A long-running labour of love on the history of Christianity. Lance is so dedicated that he reworked and re-recorded his entire first 35 episodes into better versions. You have to admire that sort of commitment.

Fun Podcasts

  • John Brooks' podcast Pod Only Knows. With his new podcast, “Pod Only Knows”, John is off to fresh ventures, along with Dr. Kelly J. Baker. They are both from the serious world of religious studies. In their new show, they take a sometimes serious, sometimes irreverent, and always curious, look at the way religion shows up in our world. Kelly and John invite other people from the wide and wild world of religious studies to talk to them about why and how they do what they do and why their work matters to us all.
  • Gil and Rutger's Pod Academy. A Dutch professor and an Israeli with a mysterious background launch into films and popular culture. Jolly good fun!
  • Dan and Bernie's Fan of History. An American and a Swede walk into a bar, and decide to make a podcast about ancient history, one decade at a time. A real hoot!
  • Ray Belli's Words For Granted. This podcast is about words and language, not history. But hang on to your hats folks, he has a lot of episodes about the language in the Bible.
  • Steve Guerra's Beyond the Big Screen. A jolly lot of fun where the host and his guests (such as me) review a whole host of movies about historical subjects.
  • Don Falkos' Two Minute Bible. The Bible, told as a continuous story in short chunks each episode. Don rightly calls himself a story-teller, not just a podcaster. His mellow voice is a delight to listen to.
  • Ryan Stitt's The History of Ancient Greece Podcast. Beautifully told, a definite keeper.
  • Andrew Vahrenkamp's Wonders of the World. I think Andrew could well be the USA's answer to BBC 4's Melvyn Bragg. Each episode mixes cooking and recipes with a take on one of the world's great marvels. A real treat while you are on daily commute, and inspiration for dinner.
  • Brother Brewer's (David Adkins) Skeptic's Brewpub. A well-blended potpourri of talk and guests on religion, nerdy things, Episcopalians, gnosticism, and beer. Lots of beer. Jolly good fun.
  • Dan and Lex 's Judaism Unbound, about re-imagining Jewish life in modern America. Good-natured and thoughtful talk, with great guests.
  • Doug Metzger's Literature and History. I'm having a lot of fun listening to Doug Metzger's podcast. Doug's delivery, and editorial use of music is so smooth and professional. Just gorgeous to listen to.

Can I use material from the podcast or show notes?

Sure!

The History in the Bible podcast and website by Garry Stevens is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You can read the full details there.

In brief, you can copy and redistribute my work in any medium. You can even transform and build upon it. And all for free! How good is that? Ok, there are conditions.

You must give me and my podcast credit, not use my work for commercial purposes, and not apply legal terms or other measures that restrict others from doing anything my license permits. So you cannot use an audio clip from my show in any work that you sell; or any material from my show notes in a medium that you make money from. The copyright laws in your country may change all that.

Contact

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We acknowledge the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of the land upon which this podcast and website is produced.

The musical theme in season one of the podcast is Five Armies, and in season two is Take a Chance, both by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0: By Attribution licence. In season three I used Inspiring Teaser by Rafael Krux, licensed under the Filmmusic.io Standard license.