By the end of the nineteenth century, the stereotype of the ugly American – voracious, preachy, mercenary, and bombastically chauvinist – was firmly in place in Europe.
It’s not right to think about all of Jewish-German history as shrouded by the smoke of the crematorium.
The Book of Revelation is the strangest book in the Bible, and the most controversial. Instead of stories and moral teaching, it offers only visions – dreams and nightmares, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, earthquakes, plagues and war.
Growing up in Britain as a rather loose Jew, the two things that didn’t belong together were freedom and religious intensity. In America, they do. The Founding Fathers made a bet that if you didn’t force everyone to profess religion in their own particular way, you could protect intellectual freedom, and religion would flourish.
For nearly 2,000 years, most people assumed that the only sources of tradition about Jesus and his disciples were the four gospels in the New Testament.
The Elephantine papyri – written as some of the books of the Bible are being written – is true social and legal documentation, and to historians overwhelmingly powerful and moving, even when ostensibly about trivial things.
History is admirably dangerous. It is not the soft option. Teachers need to be grown up and brave. Sensitivity is fine, but it stops at the door of honest narrative.
We don’t actually know if the person who wrote the Gospel of John had a written copy of Thomas because we don’t know exactly when it was written.
The default mode of modern writing about art is to despise any notion of singularity as so much overheated genius-fetishism.
I have this magpie instinct for the next glittering object. There are one or two things I know I can’t write about, though: DIY, cricket, automobile repair. I could study it for a lifetime and not produce a word on the carburettor.