Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

Are there stories about Jesus outside of the New Testament? Definitely! This week, Calogero Miceli will discuss such stories found in what is commonly known as Apocryphal Christian Literature. In particular, he will look at an apocryphal text entitled "The Epistle of Christ from Heaven". He recently published an article on this story of Jesus in a book edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures: Volume 1. (Eerdmans, 2016).

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This week again, we continue with our topic on "Assaulting Cultural Heritage: ISIS's Fight to Destroy Diversity in Iraq and Syria." A conference on this theme was organized by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) and held at Concordia University on September 25-26, 2016. This episode focuses on the Christian tradition and notes some of the recent destructive actions brought about by ISIS from a comparative perspective. We end with a few words on the shared apocalyptic worldview embraced by some religious extremist groups.

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In this last episode of series on the figure of Satan, we examine how the Gospel of John portrays this devilish character. A careful reading of the Fourth Gospel uncovers a parallel characterization between Satan, also known as the Devil and the Prince of the World, with that of Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. The close association between these two figures seems as if the author of the John's gospel wanted to depict Judas as some sort of earthly manifestation of Satan. This was how the Johannine community could make sense of the idea that Jesus was handed over to the Roman authorities by a close friend; an evil act which they could only understand as having been inspired by Satan himself.

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The second episode of our series on the figure of Satan in the Bible touches on how this figure is characterized in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Is Satan of the Hebrew Bible the same as that of the New Testament? Readers of the gospels first come across this figure in the testing of Jesus in the wilderness. Does Satan in this story work against God or on his behalf, and is the characterization of this personage consistent throughout the gospels? Can the role ascribed to Satan in these gospel stories shed some light on the ways early Christians tried to rationalize their faith in their struggle with evil?

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This episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast features Part 1 of an interview with Dr. Hector Avalos, professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, on his latest book entitled The Bad Jesus. The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015). Professor Avalos was a keynote speaker at a recent colloquium on religion and violence held at Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). During his visit to Montreal, Dr. Avalos graciously agreed to speak with us about his life story, his recent monograph, and his various research interests. Listeners will truly enjoy and learn from this exciting interview.

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This week, we speak once again with Brice C. Jones on his PhD experience and his work as a papyrologist. In our second interview, Brice explains the challenges of PhD comprehensive examinations, and we also discuss issues related to the current editions of the New Testament. We end the episode with his perspective on the Green Collection, especially in relation to the supposedly first-century fragment of Mark's gospel.

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Most people think that Christianity is non-violent. But such a perception is flawed, since the foundational event of the Christian religion - the sacrifice of the Son of God - is of extreme violence and has engendered some of the most horrific acts of violence in the history of humankind; actions which led directly to the Holocaust. In his book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, Hector Avalos discusses how Christianity also creates scarce resources. Even if there seems to be less violence stemming from the Christian religion at this time - this can be questioned since it depends on how one understands violence - Christians still cling to the hope of the New Testament authors, when God will establish his kingdom and bring judgment upon unbelievers. The New Testament clearly speaks of a "deferred violence" awaiting those who do not surrender to God and believe in Jesus Christ as their way to salvation.

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In our new series dedicated to the Religion and Violence, we will be discussing Hector Avalos' relevant book: Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence (Prometheus, 2005). Is religion is prone to violence? What are different theories of violence and how does one define religion? Is religion the cause of all violence? If not, what are the differences between religious violence and secular violence? According to Avalos, religion causes violence when it creates scarce resources. As a result, the benefits of that religion are not equally distributed among everyone, and this is what essentially lies at the root of religious violence.

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