Show cover of History in the Bible

History in the Bible

A guide to the history presented in the Bible, for people of all faiths and backgrounds, presented by an independent podcaster, and biblical studies buff. I explore the religion of ancient Israel, the beginnings of Christianity, then finally the evolution of the heirs of Abraham to the year 200. I discuss every single book in every Bible (there are more than you think!). Lightly garnished with a dash of drollery, a soupçon of scrutiny, and not one ounce of objectivity. Not one ounce! The main narrative will conclude in January 2024. Bonus episodes will continue indefinitely.


1.1 All the History, in all the Books, in all the Bibles
Introducing the History in the Bible Podcast, from
25:40 3/24/15
1.2 What is the Bible?
The Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Church of the East all have different versions of the Bible, with dissimilar books, based on different ancient texts. I explain why. For a handy summary chart, check out my chart Canons of the Old Testament at
22:23 3/25/15
1.3 Canons and Criticism
I conclude my tour of the canons, finishing with the zaniest of them all. I also get into  the lesser known textual traditions: those of the Samaritans, and the Aramaic and Syriac translations. With that under my belt, I begin to explore the history of the history of the bible. I start with Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra and end up with Johann Semler. Along the way, I meet Archbishop Ussher, he who decided the world was created in 4004 BC,  and decide he is not only over-rated, but a complete ditz.
24:52 4/12/15
1.4 Recovering Ancient Israel
I trace the beginnings of biblical archaeology, from Carsten Niebuhr to John Garstang, the man who thought he found Joshua's city of Jericho.
23:09 4/26/15
1.5 The Names of God
The finds at the ancient city of Ugarit in Syria provided us with our knowledge of the religion of Canaan, the land conquered by the Israelites. Some of this religion, such as the god El and the monsters Leviathon and Bohemoth found their way into the ancient religion of Israel and into the Bible. I also discuss the most common names of god found in the Bible (Yahweh, El, Elohim, Adonai), and what they mean.
17:59 5/10/15
1.6 Canaan of the Patriarchs
This potted history of the Middle East in the Bronze Age sets the background for the episodes that follow. It traces the story of Canaan as it was uncovered, and then reinterperted, by archaeologists from the 1930s to the present day. I introduce William Foxwell Albright, the most influential Middle Eastern scholar of the 20th century. I also cover the greatest catastrophe of antiquity, the Bronze Age Collapse, and how scholars construct chronologies.
25:08 5/24/15
1.7 Writing the Pentateuch
Work by scholars from the late 19th century had established that five sources lay behind the Pentateuch. They came to be known by letters: J, E, P, and D. These theories were a mainstay of biblical studies until recently. Although questioned in the past 20 years, the theory known as the Documentary Hypothesis is still accounted a firm starting place for any sort of examination of the text of the Pentateuch. I also find out why the Bible is divided into chapters and verses.
25:06 6/7/15
1.8 Genesis I: Stories of Creation
The opening chapters of Genesis recount two stories of creation, neither of which involves Satan. One is from the J source, the other from the P source. I compare these to the creation stories from ancient Mesopotamian sources. Genesis has always been more important to Christians than to Jews, who regared Exodus as telling the central story of Judaism.  Naturally, that leads to a discussion of Jewish attitudes to IVF.
25:38 6/21/15
1.9 Genesis II: Tales of the Flood
Flood epics were a dime a dozen in ancient Mesopotamia. Genesis has its own version. This section of Genesis is full of puzzles: Cain's gift of tabouleh is rejected; the dating system is a complete mess; Noah was alive in Abraham's time; Enoch goes to heaven; the mysterious Nephilim make an appearance; Canaan is cursed for no reason and the slavery of blacks is justified.
26:30 7/5/15
Bonus 1: Talking with Stephen Guerra of the History of the Papacy Podcast
This is the first of an irregular series of bonus episodes, in addition to my fortnightly installments. In this bonus, I talk about history podcasting with Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast. Steve and the others at the history podcasters network have been a great help to me in getting this podcast going. You can visit Steve at, and the history podcaster network at Thanks to Steve for doing all the heavy lifting in recording and editing this episode.
25:41 7/12/15
1.10 Genesis III: Abraham is Called
After the primeval stories, Genesis introduces the man who dominates and forms the very heart of of book, Abraham. He is the first of the patriarchs. God makes a real-estate deal with Abraham, giving him Canaan in return for eternal fidelity. Abraham has many adventures, meeting and swindling the Pharoah of Egypt; and encountering the mysterious Melkizedek, priest and king of Jerusalem. We also meet his scheming wife Sarai, his slave-wive Hagar, and his first-born son Ishmael.
29:40 7/19/15
Bonus 2: The Second Temple period, with Stephen Guerra
This is the second of an irregular series of bonus episodes, in addition to my fortnightly installments. In this bonus episode, Stephen Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I talk about the Second Temple period.  This was the time between the return of the Jews from the exile in Babylon in 538 BC to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. You can visit Steve and the History of the Papacy podcast at, or you can listen to him on iTunes. Again, thanks to Steve for doing all the editing and recording work.
53:37 7/26/15
1.11 Genesis IV: Trouble in the Family
Abraham swindles the Philistine king Abimelech just as he did Pharoah, and almost kills his son Isaac, following God's commands. At the very last minute, God says it's all been a test. Was this a remnant of ancient Israelite child sacrifice? After a perfunctory chapter or two on Isaac, Genesis forgets about him to talk about the Bible's greatest and least repentant con-man: Jacob, later known as Israel. We meet yet another scheming wife, Rebekah.
30:05 8/2/15
1.12 Genesis V: Jacob and Joseph
Jacob is the great trickster in the Bible, outwitting his father Isaac, his brother Esau, and even his own children. The P, E, and J sources have several different versions of Jacob's stories. For example, Jacob visits and names Bethel twice. There is the unsavoury incident of the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah, met with a brutal and horrendous over-reaction from her brothers. We also have another unpleasant story about Jacob's son Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. We conclude with an introduction to Joseph.
32:47 8/16/15
1.13 Exodus I: Egypt, Ho!
We conclude the story of the patriarchs with a happy reunion between Jacob and his son Joseph, now an important minister in the Egyptian government. His family move to Egypt for a few centuries, a passage of time that passes in the blink of an eye. That concludes our survey of Genesis. We move on to the book of Exodus, amd introduce the great hero of the Hebrews, Moses.
31:04 8/30/15
1.14 Exodus II: Egypt, No!
After ten rounds of unpleasantness, Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt towards Mt Sinai. They don't yet know it, but they have begun 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
30:54 9/13/15
1.15 Exodus III: The Contract with God at Sinai
This is the defining moment in the history of the Israelites, where they swear allegiance to God in return for a special relationship with the divinity. I discuss how this contract follows the suzerainity treaties of the Hittites and Assyrians. I also throw in a discussion on the Ten Commandments, and how the Jews and various Christian denominations slice and dice them.
30:33 9/27/15
1.16 Exodus IV: Origins of the Old Israelite Religion
The major festivals of Judaism are created, the Tent of Meeting is designed, and the priesthood under Aaron established. God is outraged when the feckless Aaron makes two idols, but in an astonishing display of nepotism, Moses lets Aaron off the hook and instead consigns 3,000 Israelites to death. We also find the real Ten Commandments: they are not what you think.
29:32 10/11/15
Bonus 3: James the Just in the Late Second Temple period (Part 1)
Steve Guerra and I discuss James the Just, how he got to be called James rather than Jacob in English, why he was James the Awesome, his relationship to Jesus, how the Catholics and Orthodox think about him, and Jesus' family life and economic situation. You can visit Steve at the History of the Papacy podcast
56:25 10/18/15
1.17 Leviticus I: God's Barbecue
The first part of Leviticus, which comes from the P source, sets out the complex system of sacrifices that God demands of the Israelites, and describes how the Israelites must maintain the sanctity of God's holy abode, the Tabernacle.
27:37 11/8/15
Bonus 4: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period (Part 2)
In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I conclude our discussion of James the Just, and talk about blood pudding.
68:47 11/16/15
1.18 Leviticus II: The Holiness Code
The first half of Leviticus is preoccupied with the priests and the Tabernacle. The second half of Leviticus radically extends the idea of holiness to the whole people of the Israelites. It lays down a mass of laws, from what an Israelite can eat, to laws on menstruation.
28:28 11/22/15
1.19 Numbers I: Into the Wilderness
It should have been but a few days march from Mt Sinai to the promised land. But the Israelite's kvetching annoys God so much he condemns them to spend 40 years in the wilderness.
28:23 12/6/15
1.20 Numbers II: Out of the Wilderness
While the Israelites are stuck in the wilderness they meet Balam and his talking donkey. They defeat King Og and the Midianites, and will never stop talking about it. Moses' siblings Aaron and Miriam die, and in a vicious plot-twist God tells Moses that he will never cross the Jordan
27:15 12/20/15
1.21 Deuteronomy I: Moses Farewells His people
Deuteronomy is the last book of the Torah, the Pentateuch, the books holiest to Jews. To many Jewish scholars, the Torah is where study of the bible stops. I discuss how Deuteronomy was modeled on Assyrian vassal treaties.
30:23 1/3/16
1.22 Deuteronomy II: The Death of Moses
In the last half of Deuteronomy, Moses lays out laws on family matters. I compare these to the Mesopotamian law codes. He sets out a splendid set of curses on those would disobey, modeled on Assyrian curses. Polytheism sneaks through a few times.
29:26 1/17/16
Bonus 5: James the Just in the Late Second Temple Period (Part 3)
In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I conclude our three-part discussion of James the Just. Steve is launching a bunch of new podcasts. Check him out at the Agora Podcast network.
13:28 1/23/16
Bonus 6: Priest-King Melchizedek, International Man of Mystery
In this co-released episode, Steve Guerra of the History of the Papacy podcast and I discuss the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, and try to work out how he figures in the Jewish and Christian priesthoods. Check out Steve at the Agora Podcast Network.
52:40 1/24/16
1.23 God's Historian: The Deuteronomist
Modern scholars have identified a single school behind all the books from Deuteronomy to Kings. This school wrote the histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, putting its own theological slant on that history.
25:20 1/31/16
1.24 Modern Debates: Disappearing the Patriarchs
In 1970 most scholars thought that Genesis and Exodus were reliable guides to the history of the Israelites. Today, even the most traditionalist of archaeologists agree that the narratives of the Israelites' history told in Genesis and Exodus are just stories. In this episode I explore how the consensus of 1970 was overthrown.  
27:58 2/14/16

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