Five Jesus Books

There are quite a few different ideas about the “Historical Jesus”. I run into people who know just one of them and think it’s the only one. Almost always they’re surprised and disappointed that this is an open question. Reza Aslan. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Random House, 2013. John Dominic … Read more

Laurasian Novel

Have you ever had the feeling that the religious stories we have might be older—far older—than anyone imagines? “Focusing on the oldest available texts, buttressed by data from archeology, comparative linguistics and human population genetics, Michael Witzel reconstructs a single original African source for our collective myths, dating back some 100,000 years. Identifying features shared … Read more

Cosmic Aeroplane

I have fond memories of the Cosmic Aeroplane in Salt Lake City. Many times, I lived only a block or two away, and years at a time I was there almost every Saturday. “Salt Lake’s Cosmic Aeroplane (1967-1991) was a major nexus of cultural changes that were rippling through the youth culture in America in … Read more

Genealogy & Public History

A few days ago I wrote about public history (Defining Public History, May 22, 2020). Now I’m thinking about the relationship between genealogy and public history. Remember, public history is typically defined as history work prepared for a non-professional audience. It’s implied that the public historian is a professional, applying professional standards. So, what about … Read more

Medieval Irish Genealogies

A good orientation to the problem of trusting medieval Irish genealogies. Don’t make the mistake of copying what you find online. It’s all very interesting, but it’s not vetted genealogy. Donnchadh Ó Corráin, “Creating the Past: The Early Irish Genealogical Tradition” in Chronicon 1 (1997) 2: 1-32. ABSTRACT: Traditionally Irish early medieval genealogies were seen as the … Read more

Talking about Mormons

I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle on this madcap idea of not saying “Mormon” when you mean “Mormon”. That’s President Nelson’s personal demon. My gut says be polite and look the other way. Now, we have some guidance from the Associated Press, via the Salt Lake Tribune, and in my case found on … Read more

Quitting Mormon

I don’t remember exactly when I left the Mormon church. 1982 or 1983, probably. I was living in the Avenues area of Salt Lake. The Home Teachers stopped by for the first time ever. I tried to put them off. They weren’t having it. They got pushy. I pushed back. We got to the point … Read more

Defining Public History

Maybe it seems odd to call someone a historian who is not a professor of history giving lectures and writing books. It’s not odd at all. There is academic history, and there is public history. Not really different things, but broadly different ways of engaging with history. “Academics tend to think of public history as … Read more

Old Ballads; Oral History

Milman Parry was a Harvard professor. In the 1930s he traveled through Yugoslavia, collecting ballads and folk songs. As a result of his research into these particular forms of oral history, he developed the idea that Homer’s poems have a formulaic structure that shows they were originally oral compositions. This is one of the stories … Read more