The idea that someone has captured the truth of a period of time in a page or chapter of a book is cloyingly sweet. You want it to be true. We need it to be possible. There it is, without question or variation, and it reads the same to us every time. We pretend that history only started when folks started writing things down. As if that had any impact on whether folks did anything. We like to imagine we understand history, because we want to think we are prepared for the future.

We look to history to better understand the present. We need the certainty of historical records to balance our law and true our investments. We depend on historical accuracy and yet we know that perspective, timing, class, and politics all introduce variants, omissions, embellishments, and lies. So the study of history is either the blind acceptance of perfidy, or a careful review of conflicting and sometimes deliberately misleading accounts.

“History is not the past but a map of the past,
drawn from a particular point of view,
to be useful to the modern traveller.”

Henry Glassie, US historian

Most distressingly, there have been several notable times in European history in which vast quantities of written materials have been consumed by fire. The rare volumes that survived this were often scraped clean and used to capture church records. Consequently, there is a great deal of material we simply no longer have access to that would probably dramatically alter our perceptions of actors in and interactions of history. Instead we are left with materials both suspect and clearly fictitious.

My view of the past is obscured by what I think I know, and also by what I don’t know. How I decide to make sense of the materials I’m given is largely based on the materials I’ve seen previously — and this is true for everyone. I can disagree with an author that I am normally sympathetic to when I realize that I have been exposed to information they have not seen. And this different information can radically change ones understanding.

  • Stupefied


    The MAGA cult is every bit as dangerous and violent as the 4th century Christian cult, and is embedded in enough centers of authority to have the potential to ignite a civil war. The degree of calamity we face is extreme, especially if the precedents are followed to their natural conclusion.

  • Ides of March

    Ides of March

    The Ides of March has become the lead in to a host of jokes, but there’s a lesson from history here worth considering.

  • The Philistine and the Poet

    The Philistine and the Poet

    The story of David and Goliath plays an interesting role in the second verse of the Book of Mark, by identifying a specific localization of Yahweh, the God of War.

  • Icon and Text

    Icon and Text

    The mythology of the Bible is a set of stories told about what the Bible says or means, and these stories reflect elements of a creed […] Most of what is written in a creed isn’t actually in the Bible. Yet it is the creed that defines the denomination. Thus the iconic Bible represents not…

  • Purpose


    The question of why someone wrote the Gospels is fundamental to understanding the Gospels. These reasons are accessible through an understanding of the political history of the area.

  • Juegos


    I am fascinated by games. A thin cross-section of culture and interaction codified into a set of cards and position markers. Complex processes transformed into simple patterns through cooperative turn taking and competitive resource management. Epic historical events retold, asking new questions each time about the importance of cleverness and the value of courage. An…

  • Crossed


    It’s Lent, the season of contemplation and preparation for the holiest week in the Christian calendar, celebrating the supreme central mystery — the return from death of Christ and his promise to return again. The story of the last week of Christ is the primary topic of the Gospels, and is the focus for Christians…

  • Temple


    In the ancient world, sacred sites were relatively common, from roadside pagodas to great stone temples. The history of a pile of rocks or an ancient stone might be hard to trace, but the temples with an active priesthood and public interaction were social structures with beginning and end dates. They had distinct life cycles…

  • Returns


    A biographical reflection on a lifetime spent searching for the transcendental origins of Christian myth in the shadows of the mythical return of Christ.

  • Bible


    As an artifact of a period of European history, as a repository of stories and traditions of lost peoples, and as a talisman of authority, the Bible is an object unparalleled. It very clearly originates from a time thousands of years ago, and yet we know almost nothing about its creation. It tells many stories,…

  • Eden


    “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” In order to tell a story about how things changed, I have to speak first about the way things were. It was a very different time, and there isn’t much I can point to and say, this was consistent from era to era. Much less…