Propaganda of the Deed

Summarizing the lessons drawn from Steve Coll’s recent The Bin Ladens , Fred Halliday writes (in NYRB ), “although the attacks on Manhattan and Washington in September 2001 were direct hits on American soil, Osama bin Laden’s aims do not encompass the defeat of the United States, . . . . Continue Reading »

The flight of the Spirit

Ian McEwan’s NYRB remembrance of Updike is the best obit I’ve read. He gets the dynamic of Updike right, locating the “seriousness and dark humor” in a “tension between intellectual reach and metaphysical dread.” He understands the centrality of Updike’s . . . . Continue Reading »

Poetry’s Uphill Climb

I have had conversations with several people recently about the state of poetry, and I’ve seen other signs that there is a growing interest among Christians in reviving poetry. That’s great; the Bible’s written in poetry, and our un-poetic sensibilities have been one reason for . . . . Continue Reading »

Ecclesial aristocracy

Sean Mahaffey writes: “The story of Paul seems to end ‘wrong.’ Here is a classically trained bold and faithful preacher with a leadership resume chained in the emperor’s house. Paul seems another Joseph/Daniel/Mordecai/Nehemiah. He should have been raised to a position of . . . . Continue Reading »

Biting again

Philip Esler draws on the anthropological work of Anthony Cohen to suggest that Paul’s reference to “biting” and “devouring” may describe the actual internal life of Paul’s churches: “Anthony Cohen’s argument about the persistence of liminality among . . . . Continue Reading »


Paul contrasts fulfilling the law of loving neighbor with biting, devouring, and consuming. Love for neighbor is human behavior; anything else is feral. The verb “bite” ( dakno ) is used only in Galatians 5:15 in the NT, and only twice in the LXX (Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 8:15), both . . . . Continue Reading »

Linguistic reversal

Galatians 5-6 turns a number of Pauline terms inside out. After spending most of the letter polemicizing against seeking justification form the “works of the law,” Paul rehabilitates both “work” (5:6) and “law” (5:14; 6:2). After announcing that in Christ we have . . . . Continue Reading »

Chiasm upon Chiasm in Galatians 5-6

Galatians 5-6 is organized as a chiasm, with the exhortation to bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ, at the center. The structure suggests that that the freedom that the Spirit grants is precisely freedom to bear the burdens of others as Christ as done for us. A. 5:1-15: . . . . Continue Reading »


Freeman again: He claims that Constantine employed the image of the sun, used in both Christianity and paganism, to maintain “his neutral position between opposing faiths.” In part, his interpretation is based on HA Drake. But the neutrality that Drake talks about is a neutrality in . . . . Continue Reading »

Not so shrewd

Freeman says that Constantine’s “conversion” was a shrewd political act, basing this conclusion, he claims, on “recent research.” (Burckhardt is recent??) One sign of his shrewdness was his ability to satisfy both Christian and pagan: “Some very careful political . . . . Continue Reading »