Sunday, December 12, 2010

Huffington Post

Friday saw the debut of a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post. Rather than just giving an overview of the Revelation of the Magi, I talked more specifically about the text's understanding of non-Christian religions.

I'm really happy with the piece, but the readers' comments were pretty disappointing overall (and I probably shouldn't have expected otherwise). Lots of proclamations about how Jesus never existed, that Christianity was based on ancient Egyptian mythology, and similarly ignorant stuff.

But, I *loved* this comment, since at least this conspiracy theorist actually read the article:
"The author ignores the possibility that the exclusion of "Jesus" or "Christ" did not appear in the original text, was because those concepts were named well after it was written."


  1. That would have happened on almost any post anywhere, not just HuffPo. I asked this on an earlier post, but since it was HuffPo that brought me to your blog, I'll ask it again here: Hi, Interesting work and looking forward to reading the book. I'm just curious as to your own faith and what role that might impact your scholarship. Might you be Orthodox Christian?

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, J! My apologies for not answering your question earlier.

    I am not an Orthodox Christian, although I am very fascinated with that branch of the Christian Church and don't know nearly as much about it as I should. I grew up Methodist and Presbyterian, but am now an Episcopalian.

    In terms of how my faith impacts my scholarship: I don't usually spend much time thinking about the implications of the scholarly work I do for my faith--not that there's anything wrong with doing that, it's just not something that comes naturally to me. But the release of the RevMagi, because it's aimed at a more general audience, has forced me to do some deeper theological thinking about this text and its possible meaning for contemporary Christianity. It's been fun to do this, since it's not my usual mode of thought.

    Of course, my childhood fascination with the Star of Bethlehem and the Christmas story has certainly played a huge role in what my life's work has turned out to be!

  3. Thanks so much for your response. Am enjoying your interview with Diane Rehm, too.

  4. "Lots of proclamations about how Jesus never existed, that Christianity was based on ancient Egyptian mythology, and similarly ignorant stuff."

    I can appreciate that many of the people making the comments were showing their ignorance, but that is not what this means. It says it is ignorant to imagine that Christianity might not be what it purports to be. Human culture is commonly built, it does not miraculously spring forth perfectly formed. Christians might believe that it is, but a scholar ought to first ensure that what purports to be a singular revelation is not, and could not possibly be, built from what went before. Determined enquiry might establish, or most likely will demolish, the miracle, but it will not do to dismiss those who ask the questions as ignorant without demonstrating it. Plainly, at present your main aim is to promote your book, but you have plenty of pages to fill, so perhaps you can fill some to educate the ignoramuses as to why it is ignorant to ask questions.

  5. @ Mike: thanks for your very thoughtful post. I think you're quite right that I was too casually dismissive of such tendencies, and I definitely do want to explore in the future where some of these assumptions in popular culture come from.

    One of the major problems, I fear, is that biblical scholars have not done an exemplary job of explaining their craft to laypeople, and also of addressing the questions that *laypeople* find to be important (AOT the questions that biblical scholars think are important).