One of the Core Markers of Early Christian Identity

One of the most notable features of early Christianity is that it was a religion concerned with books. Particularly, scriptural books.

As Margaret Mitchell observed, “Christianity was a religious movement with texts at its very heart and soul, in its background and foreground. Its communities were characterized by a pervading, even obsessive preoccupation with and habitus for sacred literature.”

Now, to modern ears, this doesn’t seem all that noteworthy. Given our historical situation—a world dominated by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—it seems quite normal for a religion to be bookish.

But it was not always so. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, books were rarely used in religious settings. Other than …

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One of the Most Important Ministry Skills That Nobody Talks About

What’s the most important skill you need to be successful in ministry? Knowing how to run a good meeting.

Ok, that’s not really true. Many other things matter more (a lot more!). But, running a good meeting still matters.  And more than you think.

Even those who’ve only been in ministry a short time know that meetings dominate your weekly schedule.  Sometimes, it seems that more than half your week is spent in some sort of meeting.  During meals. Over coffee. In a conference room. With the elders. With ministry leaders. With support staff.

And here’s the other reality we all know. Meetings vary widely in their effectiveness. Some meetings

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Is the Book of James Really ‘An Epistle of Straw’?

We have a lot of books in our New Testament. All of them, we believe, are divinely inspired. And yet we don’t spend equal amounts of time reading them. For most of us, our reading pattern is profoundly lopsided, focusing mostly on Paul (especially Romans and Galatians) and the Gospels (with John leading the way). Indeed, some books (like 3 John) hardly get read at all.

This trend raises intriguing questions about why certain books were even included in the New Testament. What purpose do these less famous books serve? This becomes particularly acute with the book of James. Although 500 years have passed since Martin Luther called it …

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Recent Books on the Paratextual Features of Early Christian Manuscripts

There is more to a text than merely the words on the page.

This is a principle that is often missed, even by modern readers. When a person reads a book, of course the intellectual attention is primarily centered upon the words and the meaning of those words. But, most readers don’t realize that there are many factors beyond the words that affect one’s reading experience. Such factors often go unnoticed as they operate in the background, often imperceptibly.

Some examples of such “paratextual” features: the size of the page, the size of the font, the spacing between lines, the margins/borders, the use/non-use of color, section headings, chapter headings, the …

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Three Reasons the Old Testament is More Important than You Think

When it comes to the reasons people reject the Bible, the Old Testament might just rank near the top of the list.  Whether it’s just something confusing (the book of Leviticus), or something historically hard to believe (the “giants” of Genesis 6), or even something offensive (God’s supposed condoning of genocide), the Old Testament has it covered.

A number of years ago, Kristin Swenson published A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible. She covered a lot of ground in terms of what makes the Bible peculiar, and certainly some examples came from the New Testament. But most examples were overwhelmingly from the Old Testament. (For more, …

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