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The Bible and Beyond

Religion & Spirituality Podcas

The Bible and Beyond podcast is a series of interviews with scholars who are able to unlock mysteries from extra-canonical books, forgotten scriptures, so-called 'gnostic' gospels, as well as the Bible. Host Shirley Paulson, Ph.D., and her guests explore historical and spiritual questions about Jesus, gender, women, salvation, healing, and the meaning of life. The discoveries these scholars share don’t always fit with what we've been told, but time and again they lead us toward a deeper intimacy with Jesus.


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The Bible and Beyond podcast is a series of interviews with scholars who are able to unlock mysteries from extra-canonical books, forgotten scriptures, so-called 'gnostic' gospels, as well as the Bible. Host Shirley Paulson, Ph.D., and her guests explore historical and spiritual questions about Jesus, gender, women, salvation, healing, and the meaning of life. The discoveries these scholars share don’t always fit with what we've been told, but time and again they lead us toward a deeper intimacy with Jesus.






The Bible and Beyond Podcast’s 50th Episode

Early Christian Texts is celebrating the 50th episode of our Bible and Beyond Podcast! We have collected snippets from ten episodes featuring several of our interviews since the podcast first aired in 2019. All fifty episodes have been quite unique and fascinating, but these ten excerpts exemplify the depth and breadth of the topics we covered — from why anyone should even look at extracanonical writings to the meaning of Jesus’ passion.


Is the Book of Acts Historically Accurate?

This month Shirley interviews Perry Kea, an expert scholar on the Book of Acts. Dr. Kea explains why the objectives of the author of the Book of Acts differ from simple historical documentation. The letters of Paul provide an excellent example of such differences and illustrate why the objective of the Book of Acts is inconsistent with historical facts. Stories in Acts were a means of using resources to address other questions, such as the source of authority for the new Christian movement.


A Jew and a Christian Discover Commonality

Dr. Jennifer Stollman, a Conservative Jew, surprised herself by discovering a couple of ‘game-changers’ in her reading of Paulson’s book, Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light. As a self-described activist, Stollman was startled to consider an elevated sense of God that challenges traditional beliefs in the permanence of evil. A second ‘game-changer’ for Stollman was the new interpretation of Eve as a partner for Adam, an idea lifting women from being complicit and...


The Magi and the Star in the Christmas Story

An interview with Dr. Eric Vanden Eykel 'The Magi' of antiquity were usually religious professionals who were almost always associated with people in power, such as kings. But they were not kings themselves. Therefore Dr. Eric Vanden Eykel thinks the author of the Gospel of Matthew uses the characters of 'the magi' (instead of the shepherds who appear in the Gospel of Luke) to make a political point about the kingly identity of Jesus. A close reading of the details about the star and the...


Mary Magdalene was Probably Not from Magdala

An interview with Elizabeth Schrader Polczer Elizabeth Schrader Polczer claims that there has always been controversy over Mary Magdalene’s name and birthplace. She argues that Mary Magdalene was probably not from Magdala. So the name we use to refer to her should be ‘Mary Magdalene’ and not ‘Mary of Magdala’ for both historical reasons and the fact that Mary appears in better light if she came from Bethany instead of Magdala. However, Polzcer discusses the conflicting evidence from...


Correcting the Mary Magdalene Smear Campaign

An interview with Rev. Kyndall Rae Rothaus Kyndall Rae Rothaus, a popular young female minister, tackles the ancient Mary Magdalene smear campaign as an example of the damage which can be done by mistaken assumptions. To her, it’s yet another example of the way people discredit strong women, both in the past and today. She believes that unraveling the Mary Magdalene smear campaign can help all people discover the divine feminine within.


Ancient Manichaeism: An Example of the Christian Insider-Outsider Debate

Scholar Jae Han describes the ancient Manichaean Christian religion as an outsider in the minds of Roman western Christians because it originated in Persia. Manichaeans considered themselves Christian, but heresiologists called them “Manichaeans.” In the same vein, Manichaeans called Catholic Christians “Jews.” From a Western perspective, if any religion originated in the East, it can’t be truly Christian. It was unnatural for Westerners (Romans) to consider a religion Christian if it...


An Ancient Gold Glass Challenges Biblical Boundaries

An interview with Eric C. Smith, PhD Eric C. Smith, a scholar of biblical studies, uses an ancient gold glass as an example of why we should expand our concepts of what we call ‘biblical.’ The Bible itself is an “assemblage” of people, history, geography, and oral traditions that contributed to the creation of some portion of the Bible. Objects of art depicting similar stories and events are also assemblages, in that the stories may have come from the same or similar sources.


The Secret Behind the Secrets in So-Called Gnosticism

An interview with Nicola Denzey Lewis Nicola Denzey Lewis helps crack the code on perplexing questions about so-called ‘Gnosticism.’ Where is it from? What is it about? Why the secrets? Her own story about how she got involved explains why it is appealing to some and unnerving to others. She explains why it was such an important part of the development of Christianity in the second century and how it wrestled with major philosophical questions related to creation and the meaning of evil.


Why Should We Believe Anything in the Secret Revelation of John?

A conversation between Dr. Shirley Paulson and Dr. Arthur Dewey When books like the Secret Revelation of John are not in the biblical canon, questions arise concerning their worth. The conversation between Shirley Paulson and Arthur Dewey includes reasons for the Secret Revelation of John’s extracanonical status as well as its intrinsic worth. They also discuss its unusual treatment of the Hebrew text, Genesis, its adaptation to the context of Platonism in Alexandria, Egypt, and how these...


What Kind of Person Was Judas Really?

In this interview with Dr. David Brakke, he discusses his new translation and commentary on the Gospel of Judas. The basic message is that Jesus is explaining to Judas why his own terrible sacrifice is necessary for God to set the universe right. In doing so, the author of the gospel is critiquing his contemporary Jesus-followers for their ritual practices of sacrifice. Such sacrifices distort the true relationship between the human (dying mortals) and spiritual (non-dying) part of one’s...


How Illness and Heresy Became Entangled in Christianity

An Interview with Dr. Jennifer Barry The dramatic story of Bishop John Chrysostom’s two exiles and subsequent death (in the 4 century) is tangled up with the Empress Eudoxia and her miscarriages. It was known that diseases spread the same way internal corruption spreads through communities rather quickly, so uncertainty of not knowing who is heretical and who has a disease made the easy association between heresy and disease. Therefore Eudoxia’s suffering and death became the scapegoat for...


Thecla’s Fight for Independence

An Interview with Dr. Deborah Niederer Saxon The story of Paul and Thecla, well-known in antiquity, indicates a diversity of viewpoints about women’s roles in the early Christian years. Her resistance to the cultural norm fits with the popular attitude among Christians toward dying the “noble death,—referring to those who stood firm upon their moral principles to the end. But Thecla’s willingness to die, as well as her victory over her oppressors, differs from the message of submissiveness.


Noncanonical Texts Illuminate the Bible

Dr. Brandon Scott interviews Dr. Shirley Paulson–the host of the Bible and Beyond podcast—about authoring a difficult chapter, “Jesus by Many Other Names,” in the new book, After Jesus Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements. Paulson speaks of her love for the noncanonical texts of the second century, and explains how they illuminate one’s understanding of Jesus, the Bible itself, and the debate over 'Gnosticism.' Shirley Paulson has a...


Finding Depth in Jesus’s Farmer Parables

Jesus was an educator who taught in the Greco-Roman mode the importance of morality, virtue, and goodness. Although his own trade was a carpenter, he used the better-known Greco-Roman farming parables to teach his deeper meaning. Of course, the specifics of Jesus’s education differed, but his common technique made him a recognizable teacher within the context of the educational system of the time. The parables in the Gospels of Mark and Thomas illustrate this point.


More Answers to the Question “Where is God When Things Go Wrong?”

James McGrath, a professor at Butler University, gives credit to several ancient thinkers for wrestling with the question of God in a messy world. Referencing Irenaeus, for example, he notes that it might be this way because we need to grow and develop. The question of evil, when we try to hold to a good God, is always with us, and we now have the privilege of building on the ideas of those early thinkers.


Marcion Answers “Where Is God When Things Go Wrong?”

Marcion, a popular but controversial early Christian leader, tackles the question of how to believe in a good God in the face of evil things happening. Plato introduced the idea, and other first- and second-century thinkers drew on the idea, of a ‘demiurge’ – a creator god who deals with the world. The perfect and transcendent God would never create a world of bad stuff but lovingly dispatched a savior to offer a way out of the world of suffering.


Early Christians Answer "Where Is God When Things Go Wrong?"

Dr. Jason BeDuhn studies ancient Christian, Jewish, and Manichaean thinkers, and in this podcast interview, he explores their common “tipping point”—the place where all these religious groups struggled to find answers to explain a perfect God who allowed bad things to happen. All of them did so by blurring the idea of monotheism to some degree. There was some other divine influence, commonly known as a ‘demiurge’ who became the source of evil in some manner.


What Is the Apocrypha and Why Read It?

Dr. Brandon Hawk’s new book, Apocrypha for Beginners: A Guide to Understanding and Exploring Scriptures Beyond the Bible, is an easy-to-read and indispensable book for people seeking to understand all the extracanonical writings—sometimes called apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, or deuteroncanonical writings. Although they are not in the Bible, they all relate to the Bible in some important way, from the earliest Hebrew texts through the Middle Ages and teach us something about the Bible’s impact...


Was Adam the Original Sinner?

Dr. Lance Jenott introduces the idea in early Christian writing that Adam was a victim, rather than the original sinner. As his ‘helper,’ Eve is Adam’s savior. Although the New Testament includes very little mention of Adam, other extracanonical texts envision another source of evil determined to make Adam submissive. Although 4 century Augustine interpreted Genesis differently, earlier writings show how a spiritual marriage to Christ unites “Adam” (humanity) with “Eve” (life in the spirit).