New Books in Biblical Studies

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-3-02-10-pmSince April 2015, I’ve been the host of New Books in Biblical Studies on the New Books Network, a consortium of volunteer podcasters who are “dedicated to raising the level of public discourse by introducing serious authors to serious audiences.”

On my channel, I interview authors of new books about the Bible—from modern-day commentaries and art books to scholarly monographs and reference works. Each interview is about an hour long, which allows for a more wide-ranging conversation than most interview programs.

There are many other podcasts on the NBN about religion and faith. You can browse a complete listing here.

This page serves as an index of my interviews to date. I will update it periodically as I add new programs. You can also follow the channel on Twitter @newbooksbible. Please let me know if you have a suggestion for an upcoming program.

As always, thank you for listening!

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BookExpo 2016

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 9.27.11 PMThis year’s BookExpo America was held in Chicago. While an unwelcome change for the New York publishers, everybody else seemed pleased by the change in scenery. While staffs and overall attendance were smaller (stats are lacking in published reports), the composition was different, drawing more heavily from publishers and book lovers in the mid-west.

I left breadcrumbs of my time at the show on my Twitter feed, which you can find here. I provide more substantial bites below. Pouring over the fall catalogs after the show certainly extends my excitement and anticipation for the forthcoming titles this fall. Perhaps a few will surely make excellent candidates for an upcoming podcast on the New Books Network.
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A Life Saver, Not a Noose

A year ago, Mary Eberstadt published an article called “The New Intolerance” in First Things. I encourage everyone to read it in full.
I cannot help quoting from its conclusion, which has stuck with me ever since. Few articulations about the future of the church have as much truth and resonance as this one:
Of all the witnesses that can be produced to shut down the new intolerance, the most compelling may be the most hitherto unseen. These are the former victims of the sexual revolution themselves—the walking wounded coming in and out of those proverbial field hospitals, the people who are believers not because they want to jettison the Christian moral code, but because they want to do something more radical: live by it.
The truth that has not been reckoned with by religion’s cultured despisers today is this: Christianity is being built more and more by these very witnesses—by people who have come to embrace the difficult and longstanding Christian rulebook not because they know nothing of the revolution and its fallout, but because they know all too much.
These are the heirs to St. Augustine and every other soul who ever found in Christianity’s tough code a lifesaver, and not a noose.

Interview with Marc Brettler

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cover of the second edition

This transcript is a lightly edited version of an interview that took place on September 1, 2015, and retains its oral style.

Interviewer: Hello. Welcome to New Books and Biblical Studies, where we look at New Books about the Bible—from modern day commentaries and art books to scholarly monographs and reference works.

On today’s program, I’m talking with Marc Brettler about the second edition of The Jewish Study Bible, published by Oxford University Press, which he co‑edited with Adele Berlin.

Professor Brettler is Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies at Duke University’s Center for Jewish Studies, and member of Duke’s Department of Religious Studies. From 1986 to 2015, he taught Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, and since 2001 was the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies. Continue reading

the church’s political actions

original book cover
original book cover

In a letter to “A.” on November 8, 1958, Flannery O’Connor wrote:

God never promised her political infallibility or wisdom and sometimes she doesn’t appear to have even elementary good sense. [The church] seems always to be either on the wrong side politically or simply a couple of hundred years behind the world in her political thinking. She tries to get along with any form of government that does not set itself up as a religion.

Communism is a religion of the state, committed to the extinction of the Church. Mussolini was only a gangster. The Church has been consorting with gangsters since the time of Constantine or before, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. She condemns Communism because it is a false religion, not because of the form of gvt. it is.

The Spanish clergy seems to be shortsighted in much the same way that the French clergy was shortsighted in the 19th cen­tury, but you may be sure that the Pope is not going to issue a bull condemning the Spanish Churches support of Franco and destroy the Churches right to exist in Spain. The Spanish clergy has good and bad in it like any other. If Catholics in Hungary fight for freedom and Catholics in Spain don’t, all I can tell you is that Catholics in Hungary have more sense or are more courageous or perhaps have their backs to the wall more than those in Spain.

A Protestant habit is to condemn the Church for being authoritarian and then blame her for not being authoritarian enough. They object that politically all Catholics do not think alike but that religiously they all hold the same beliefs.

You are good to ask these questions and in such a charita­ble spirit & I hope I can answer them in the same spirit.

Fall 2015 books

At BookExpo two weeks ago, I had a chance to preview some of the forthcoming titles in the fall 2015 season. Here is a select list of books that looked the most promising.


Raymond Tallis, The Black Mirror: Looking at Life through Death (Yale UP)—the author of Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity


Mark Edmundson, Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals (Harvard UP)

Aviya Kushner, The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible (Spiegel & Grau)

Candida Moss and Joel Baden, Reconceiving Infertility: Biblical Perspectives on Procreation and Childlessness (Princeton UP)


Leo Damrosch, Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake (Yale UP)

Harry G. Frankfurt, On Inequality (Princeton UP)—from the author who brought you On Bullshit

Philip Jenkins, The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels (Basic Books)

Tom Lewis, Washington: A History of Our National City (Basic Books)


Mary Beard, S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome (Liveright/Norton)

Craig Koester, Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries)—paperback release

Jon D. Levenson, The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Princeton UP)

John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume V: Probing the Authenticity of the Parables (Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)—in which he argues that only four parables—those of the Mustard Seed, the Evil Tenants, the Talents, and the Great Supper—can be attributed to Jesus with certitude.


Diana Fuss and William Gleason, The Pocket Instructor: Literature: 101 Exercises for the College Classroom (Princeton UP)

Early 2016

J. Richard Gott, The Cosmic Web: Mysterious Architecture of the Universe (Princeton UP)—the author of Sizing Up the Universe (National Geographic, 2012)

Leonard Sax, The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups (Basic Books)—the author of Why Gender Matters

Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World (Yale UP)

What I’ve Been Reading

9780374292980Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (FSG)

I had heard good things about Crawford’s earlier book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, which began as an essay he wrote for The New Atlantis. But I never got around to reading it. I should have. This new book, which builds upon the argument of the first, takes up very concrete examples of short-order cooks, motorcycle drivers, casino gamblers, and glass blowers to show the reader what’s lost when our attention is redirected away from physical objects and onto representations. I can’t do the argument justice in this short space, but it’s also about personal freedom and our connection to other people. It’s brilliant. Read an excerpt here. Continue reading