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My Imaginary Jesus

sometimes sounds like a few of Matt Mikalatos' Imaginary Jesus... es... do. I admit it. Of course he does.

I finally started my kindle version last night, and couldn't stop reading until I'd finished the whole thing. I can truly say I both laughed and cried. It's a wonderful book.

Beg, borrow or buy a copy somewhere soon, if you can. Easy reading, too. Really a great book...

Imaginary Jesus

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on Jesus' Obedience in Tasks

Here's a multiple choice question. How old was Jesus the first time God asked him to DO something specific and significant task?

A) Twelve
B) Younger than twelve
C) About thirty
D) We don't know

In some ways, a case might be made for all four.  In adulthood, Jesus definitely seems to have some specific instructions from God, at least at some times.  Many assume God directed the 12-year old Jesus to stay in the Temple, but the scripture itself doesn't say so.  Likewise, we don't know what God might have told Jesus to DO during his teens and twenties.

Then again, depending on how we define this question, the best answer might be: B) Younger than twelve.

Think about what I mean.  It's a blessing, and yet one of the more frustrating aspects of spiritual life, that God's prompting us towards action doesn't have to come with particular instructions.  It certainly doesn't come very often with particular words.

There is one form of God's directive communication which speaks simply to us all in our consciences, even as children, but usually without words. When/If the nine year old Jesus was tempted to sass his parents, but his knowledge of the Shem'a and the Ten Commandments brought him back into temperance, that simple awareness was - in that moment - Jesus' sincere, loving obedience to God.

Getting back to the question above, however, if we're talking about Jesus receiving direct and explicit communication with God, tantamount to words in his mind, then in that case I don't think it's heresy to suggest that this probably didn't happen for Jesus early in life.  I do think that whenever this did happen for Jesus, it came largely as a fruit of that early and beginners-level experience.  The advanced ability (if we want to put it that way) came in time as the payoff for earlier (countless hours and years of) spiritual exercise.

In other words, in short, I think Jesus grew.  I believe Jesus learned how to sense His Father's presence at a very early age. He found comfort. He found conscience-bracing firmness. He found companionship. But I do not necessarily think that *hearing direct words from His Father* came anywhere near the beginning of their earthly relationship. The notion that Jesus got marching orders from age twelve onwards is unnecessary, and seems unnatural.

So.  How long before the Jordan Baptism was Jesus hearing directly from God?  I don't know.

If I ever live enough years with the devotion that little Jesus had there in Nazareth, and if my pursuit of God's presence ever lasts as long as Jesus' did between 4 BC and AD 29... then maybe I'll get to that point myself.

Until then, let's not try to put a clock on anything.  Let's just seek out spiritual nourishment that results in some positive growth.  Yes, for many of us, at times, some growth would be something to shoot for!

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The Jesus Diaries: a hypothesis

Sure, Ancient Literacy was near 10%, but ancient life was communal. If a Synagogue housed at least one scroll, the whole community owned that scroll. If a few people - or several - had a particular urge to hear those blessed words once again, they could schedule an evening and call in one of their literate townspeople to read for them. Although less than 10% of each city was literate, nearly all the Jews everywhere loved literature.

Thus, every literate man was obliged to his Synagogue. Thus, every Jew could be literarily minded. To put that another way, all Jews were communally literate, if not personally literate, to some degree or another. It's no accident they ALL came to be known as "The People of the Book", instead of "The People with some Book People among Them".

Now, it is these people to whom Jesus grew up with and to whom He eventually began preaching. It was of such a people that Jesus selected his disciples, of whom he appointed twelve to be special envoys of the approaching Kingdom. And of these twelve, who saw Him as their incoming King, we ought to suppose perhaps one or two may have been literate. Perhaps more, if Jesus deliberately selected somewhat capable men.

Probably Levi (Matthew) was at least able to keep basic records, in his work as a Publican, but the four fishermen were almost surely illiterate (Acts 4:13). We've not much to go on beyond that, apart from wild guesses like - Thomas, who doubted, may have been somewhat more educated than others. Yes, that's a joke. We have no idea, except that statistically, we might guess that at least one of those twelve should have been able to read.

And don't forget, Jesus also could read. If he could also write basic words, perhaps Jesus tutored his lone literate(s?) towards basic competency in composition. Or perhaps not.  However, Jesus also had others who followed along with the twelve for good stretches of time, especially after Joanna and Susanna began paying for everyone's food. Perhaps Joanna also paid for a transcriptionist.  Perhaps not.  But I hope you see my point.  Honestly, speculation isn't what I'm after here.

Overall, these people provide Jesus with more and more opportunities to take on ONE person who could have taken initiative by their own literacy level to start putting down a few written notes, producing early written sources for the Gospels.  Yes, that's hypothetical, but so is treating Oral Tradition as if there were no early writings whatsoever.

It's a simple thought, really.  Which is more statistically likely?  That there were no writings because soemthing like 90% of the population was illiterate?  Or that, among the literate folks who did follow Jesus, at least one of them took some pains to keep a journal?

Among known associates of Jesus, historically speaking, I still think Matthew and Nicodemus are the most likely candidates to have actually done so.  A Nicodemus journal in the hands of the beloved disciple could explain quite a lot about John's composition.  And if Mark had both Matthew's original notes and/or Matthew's finished Gospel to work from, it could help explain at least some of the textual variances among Matthew, Mark & Luke.

Just a theory, but one I continue to like infinitely more than vague "Oral Tradition" alone, or worse, OT with "Q".  Although something like a "little q", I can totally see.

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Two Questions, on the Bethsaida controversies

Reading Fred Strickert's piece at B&I today has me finally digging a bit harder since last this came up.  Back then, Todd Bolen assured us that R. Steven Notley "demolished" the otherwise prevailing opinion.  Having read Notley (2007, Strickert's 2nd citation today), I'm not yet convinced that Todd's right.  But then, what's at stake?  Why of course, scripture's accuracy.  Maybe.

First, on today's article, let me say that I'm completely persuaded by the geological assessment which concludes land silted up below the present[ly-believed-to-be] site of Betsaida, a spot called "et-Tell".  This happened elsewhere in antiquity, as with Macedonia's capital Pella, and the harbor of Miletus, near Ephesus.  In each case, the town's prominence declined as its shoreline got farther and farther away.  So it makes perfect sense, for the two competing candidates in question, that the northernmost site was the eldest, and the southernmost would have replaced it.  But how soon replaced it?  And how much so?  In all ways, immediately?  No.

To compare:  Alexander's successor Cassander moved the Macedonian fleet to Thessalonica, a city he must've founded partly for that purpose, which tells us that Pella's harbor had probably begun silting up prior to 314 314 BC.  However, no Macedonian King is recorded as [possibly?] taking up residence in Thessalonica until Philip V, or his successor Perseus, about a hundred to 140 years later.  Point:  in a situation like this, the old town doesn't entirely dry up overnight.  Pun, I guess, intended.

Obviously the harbor activity moves on about as quickly as harboring becomes crowded, or difficult.  However, most of the socio-political, economic and cultural-religious infrastructure (which had grown up slowly around the harbor, over many years) would naturally be far too invested (and very likely too cash-strapped, due to a gradually dwindling population) to simply move right on downstream.  Besides, ancient land didn't just go up on the MLS for perusal by realtors.  Land was either seized or handed over between business associates, the latter mostly by inheritance.  Point:  shipbuilders might have moved on sooner than others, but upstream pub [sic] owners and innkeepers had no better option than to ride their diminishing returns all the way into obscurity.  Yes, their grandchildren were being doomed to a much smaller inheritance, but they'd keep the roof and the locks for as long as they beat open road.  In ancient business, exponentially moreso than today, present needs necessarily trump.

In its turn, the downstream town would have to be settled entirely 'from scratch'.  Whatever lord there was of the land would determine a time at which newly silted up territory had become suitable for building.  That lord would decide whether and when to run out the squatters, and to whom he might parcel out the (literally) new lands.  Again, this shows the inhabitants of the old town were in no hurry to move on.  If the King/Tetrarch of their day had some reason to favor them, they could move when he deigned fit and not earlier.  But if they had no favor from him, they wouldn't likely risk everything (however dwindling) for the promise of nothing.

Conclusion:  In the case of the present controversy, the full replacement of one fishing village by another, more downstream, didn't happen overnight.  Therefore, I suggest my TWO questions, as promised above:
(1) When did the harbor activity begin moving south?

(2) When did the old town lose prominence to the new?
At the moment, it seems to me that the question of what these towns might have been called at some point or another is of less primary importance.  But these are just preliminary thoughts.  I've got a lot more reading and thinking to do.  Your critical feedback is eagerly hoped for, in the comments below...

Quote of the Decade

Of the past decade, that is, for me, personally:
History does not teach lots of little lessons. Insofar as it teaches any lessons, it teaches only one big one: that nothing ever works out quite the way its managers intended or expected.
That, of course, comes from Gordon Wood's wonderful essay collection, The Purpose of the Past.

As many of you will recall, I blogged excerpts from several TPotP chapters, since last summer:
The Battle for History
Narrative History
The Lessons of History
the task of a historian
on 'the New Historicism'
History as Fiction
Microhistory
Truth in History
History vs. Political Theory
History and Heritage
There were a few chapters left to go, but I may just rest with those. If you're engaged by any of these quotes, I highly recommend picking this up.  Enjoy.

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Bauckham explains "Microhistory"

An excerpt from his recent lecture in Waco, TX, The Gospels as Microhistory and Perspectival History, hereby transcribed by moi:
Microhistory is a reduction of scale, narrowing the historian’s scale to a specific small social group. But this reduction of scale is not meant simply to make it possible to observe the same things at a micro level that one can perceive at the macro level. The micro studies are not to be mere case histories illustrating what macro history already claims to know. The rationale for the micro history is that at the micro level one will see different things.

Another of the Italian microhistorians Giovanni Levi, says, “The unified principle of all micro-historical research is the belief that microscopic observation will reveal factors previously unobserved. Phenomena previously considered to be sufficiently described and understood assume completely new meanings by altering the scale of observation.”

So the microhistorical studies are not examples for macrohistory, but experiments in search of what can only be seen at the micro level – in particular, what from the macro historical perspective is anomalous and discontinuous.
This from around the 11 or 12 minute mark, perhaps.  I'm not sure, because Baylor's video has been misbehaving a bit. Tonight, I had to close all other windows - AND be patient - to get the video to buffer and play.  And Baylor's videographer seemed like such a capable guy.  Meh.

As for how this applies to the Gospels as examples of Microhistory, for now, I'll merely direct you back to the video (or audio).  But you know I'll be back to offer more here, in time...

Soldiers in Jesus' Times

Gary Manning has posted a helpful survey on military presence in Palestine during the NT era, including references from the Gospels themselves.

The piece is called Soldiers in the Gospels, and it's cross-posted at Talbot Seminary's faculty blog (which is a great undertaking, but which really needs to shrink its header drastically) and also at Gary's personal blog, Eutychus.

Well worth checking out.  (H/T Charles Savelle)

What kind of dancer was Salome?

According to Jesus, Galilean street children would play flutes and expect other children to dance (Mt.11:17, Lk.7:32).  Matthew (14:6) uses this same word (orcheomai) when Salome dances for her stepfather, as does Mark (6:22).  In its only four NT appearances, the same word refers to a dance kids can do in the street, and to whatever Salome did.  We can only imagine the details.

Shamefully, however, many commentators have assumed Salome's dancing was lascivious, and Herod's "pleasure" was improper.  Of course, it wasn't so long ago in the Puritan USA that any dancing was considered lewd, except perhaps childhood jigs.  To be fair, though, Matthew's account does seem to set both the dance and its offered rewards in a private one-on-one setting.  Or, does it?  We don't know what Matthew's audience would assume about a "birthday" celebration - but it's possibly NOT the same thing modern hedonists might be thinking today.

Fortunately, Mark's account implies something much more specific, which also happens to seem much more innocent.  Mark puts both dance and promise in the middle of a party, says plainly that Salome's dancing pleased both "Herod and his dinner guests", and cites the oath as a phrase from the Esther story.

Furthermore:  Since this "birthday" feast likely fell soon after Purim, and if Herod's remark came down accurately, it seems the dinner host was cleverly referencing that prior feast night, where a professional orator would have given the traditional Purim tale.  All that may seem by the by, but if valid it helps complete the picture of what may have been going on.

Put together, all of this clearly suggests that a harmless, plafull interaction is what probably happened here.  Salome's dance need have been nothing more than a preteen or young girl performing her tricks for the family's guests.  That is all.  Neither Matthew nor Mark suggests that Herodias had anything to do with promoting the dance.  Neither Gospel paints this as a plot from the beginning.  In both Matthew and Mark, the mother's scheme begins only after the girl doesn't know what to ask for.  That itself might possibly speak to her age... but we have better recourse than that.

In considering Salome's historical age on that night, we actually do have some slight clues.  First, since the girl was still strongly influenced by her mother, she must not have been married, and thus cannot have been very old.  But since her future husband, her uncle Philip, dies in AD 33/34, we must also presume Salome was at least 13 by that year.  Thus, if John is beheaded in AD 31 (or AD 29, or AD 32(*)), the dancing girl may have been as young as 11 (or 9, or 12, respectively(*)).  At least, those are the early limits.

Interestingly, these competing chronologies (*below) all agree in making Philip's marriage fairly brief - only about 2 years (or 4, or 1(*)).  What we don't know is how old Salome was when she married him.  But just for example, let's suppose she was married by seventeen, at the latest.  If so, and if she married Philip as late as possible, in 33, then Salome's infamous dance would have occurred at age 15 (or 13, or 16(*)).  But supposing she married at seventeen, and married just after dancing, then she would have been 17 when she danced.

This all seems simple enough.  If Salome married young, then she danced even younger.  Still, the early part of our range here seems surprising.  Could the dancing girl really have been so young as 11 (*or 9, or 12)?  It's an age worth considering, at least as likely as the older end of our range, and it could help some to imagine a more innocent context for Antipas' appreciation of her performance, which - whatever Salome's age - is probably more fitting to what the Gospel accounts offer, anyway.  On the odds alone, Salome was probably midway between 11 and 17 when she danced.  (And 11 to 15 on my own preferred chronology.)  But anywhere in this range, we should not assume Herod was pleased because of improper thoughts.

There are dancers who dance for lascivious men, and there are dancers who dance for the sake of the dance, but a class above all these are rich daughters who get called upon to entertain family guests at a party.  If this particular girl's most showcase-able talent was dancing, then we ought to be confident she took some care for performing it well, and that to some degree she probably regarded it as her art.**  In other words, some of us need to exorcise what those old dance-o-phobes passed down about this passage, for as much as it's still in our memories.

Historically, I'd guess Salome was 13 when she danced, simply because I don't think Uncle Antipas would have waited much longer than that to "sell" her to his brother Philip.  But even at 15 or 17, I suggest all evidence leads us to conclude that the evening's entertainment was in some style of dancing that would have been considered completely appropriate for a large gathering, in those days.  Herod's showy largess could have been customary or spontaneous, but Herodias couldn't have known he would offer her "anything".

Mommy just took advantage of a nice little surprise.  The dance wasn't calculated to exact a beheading.

Bravo?

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*On the competing chronologies, referenced above:  The first numbers listed, before each parentheses, correspond to my own timeline.  After that, the asterisked, parenthetical numbers correspond to Meier's [the standard two-year] & Hoehner's Chronologies, respectively.


**Full disclosure:  my own daughter, age 9, is a budding dance artist, and has loved taking dance for six years.  In my early life, the only dancing I saw was on MTV and during halftime shows.  Ballet was a snoozer back then, but it's not any more.  It's like any other art, or sport.  Once my dad taught me golf, I found an appreciation for watching (!) golf.  So, back to my dancing daughter - as grateful as I am for this wonderful girl, I must confess that her influence did not occur to me until after the first draft or two of this post.  At least, not consciously.  But she has taught me a lot about dance.  PTL.

Why Pastors Fail

In my opinion, but in Seth Godin's terms, it might be because:
You think you're being a leader, but you're probably being a manager.  Managers figure out what they want done, and try to get people to do it.  ...  Leadership is finding the right people, agreeing on where you want to go, and getting out of the way.  Leadership means embracing the failure of your people if it leads to growth.
After the 1:08 mark, things veer directly towards business and marketing, but the first 67 seconds apply directly to any group effort, imho.  Of course it's all worthwhile, because Seth's a genius.  Enjoy - then scroll down for my commentary.


Exclusive interview with Seth Godin from GiANT Impact on Vimeo.  (H/T Michael Hyatt)

First and foremost, I hope this kind of thinking gets into the Epic Fail Pastor's Conference, happening next month in Philadelphia. It's one thing to embrace the fact that Pastors often fail. It's another to shift into a lifestyle of encouraging failure, as a purposeful part of individual and congregational growth.

It's sad that, in some ways, the world knows this much better than Christians do. But it may be that church dynamics are much more complicated than business groups, or artistic teamwork.  (Hmm.  Or maybe not.)  Either way, all of us need to think deeply on this.

Are we seeking to inspire and empower others, so *they* can find ways of contributing, to make our mutual life in Christ become better and better?  Or are we merely attempting to ride herd, or enact our own vision for how things should go?  Are we trying to maintain some particular status quo or a personal vision?  Or are we promoting the growth of others' contributions to the joint effort, come what may?

Perhaps it's not our own failure we're most afraid of; perhaps what we fear most is the failure of others (to live up to our expectations).

And yes, of course, these are difficult questions for me also, in my own church context.  Moreso recently than ever.

Lord, hear our prayer...

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Surely Jim knows better

My response to Jim West, who says my last post was "wrong".  Comment left on his blog:
Apparently you missed the part where I said, “the human institution of Pastoring has some grounds for justifying itself based on the extraction of scriptural principles and the application of those into differering contexts. Which is fine.” Or were you just deliberately overlooking that point for the sake of this response?

At any rate, you exegete out of context. Again, re-apply those principles in your own context if you prefer, but don’t imply that you’re following those principles sans anachronism. To wit: Your first quotation above refers to a plurality of shepherds, not to sola pastora. The Baptist model of elder board and teaching/preaching elder – it just so happens – is not matched in the NT itself. Your second quotation refers to a travelling apostle receiving an income. Peter’s travelling ministry precedes his visit to Corinth by many years, and poor Paul had to start a new business in every town he arrived at – not that he had much time for business, while he was mothering a new baby church.

You’re right, Jim, that I do respect the men and women whose hearts are drawn to pastoring, and that includes you as well. My critique of pastoring is simply that I find the structure to be counterproductive; it seems to inherently inhibit what Ephesians 4 builds towards, “that which every joint supplies”.

But I do respect your heart, Jim. You shared once about your upbringing, and it gave me new sympathy for your total depravity posts. At the bottom of Jim West – it appears – there is someone who simply hates to see sinful behavior causing pain, destruction and hurt to other folks. And Pastoring does limit that. It absolutely does.

In sum, I respect and affirm your right to Pastor as you do. I just don’t think you should imply that your kind of pastoring is structured at all like the NT’s pastoring. It’s not.
Seriously, we just need to embrace this, y'all. Keep on pastoring. Better yet, start finding better ways to pastor. (Some of y'all might start with Michael Hyatt's post on the difference between Leading and Managing.) But don't get your hissies in a fit because somebody says it's not scriptural. It's not. Neither are church buildings.  But really, so the heck what?

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Scriptural Warrant, Pastor Jim?

I don't hold to Lent or Pastoring, not because they're "unscriptural", but because I've not found either practice conducive to my spiritual life (such as it is).

But Jim West? He condemns Lent as a "human institution", and yet holds a salaried post as Pastor of Petros Baptist Church. Which is fine. But there's no Christian person in the entire New Testament whose ministry fits the job description Jim holds there on the edge of the smokies.

Historically, the institutionalized practice of Protestant Pastoring is based on the traditionally pastoral duties of Catholic Priesthood. Which is fine. But neither Peter, Paul, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla, Aquilla, nor even Apollos engaged in the daily activities of Pastors/Priests as we know them today. Jesus' brother James comes the closest, in Jerusalem, but where do we see him (or anyone else) preach once a week? Preside over the sacraments? Legally preside over all administrative business, while being supervised by an elder "board"? Etc...

Again, the human institution of Pastoring has some grounds for justifying itself based on the extraction of scriptural principles and the application of those into differering contexts. Which is fine. But if so, Jim, then why isn't Lent?

As a final note, I appreciate what Pastor Mark Stevens said at the Near Emmaus blog: "Lent isn't about giving up..." I do believe I'd like to dwell more on that notion. Yes, and I may... perhaps even during Lent.

Look, the only thing ANY Christians can do while on Earth here is improvise, and that's true whether we've got Pastors & Pews or Couches & a travelling apostle coach/umpire. Personally, I'd be thrilled to try out a head minister who facilitated more than s/he dominated.  (Can't find one, so far.)  And no, that's not anywhere in the Bible. But - his officialized title aside - neither is what Jim does.

Anyway, my point is about "scriptural warrant". One of these days, we Protestants really should quit pretending we do everything just like the Bible says.

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Paul's First Shipwreck

may have caused John Mark some Deuteronomical angst - as in, sensing God's judgment for Paul & Barnabas' failure to circumcise Sergius Paulus.

That is, the voyage from Paphos to Perga was already one of the top candidates for Paul's first shipwreck (2.Cor.11:25 almost surely refers to three of the seven sea voyages between Acts 13 and 18 - and John Mark's departure at Acts 13:13 has always suggested resistance to hardship). But on top of that, Moises Silva has teased out some reasons why John Mark's desertion may have been bigoted. (H/T Matthew Crowe)

That Sergius Paulus was converted but not circumcised, that John-Mark went back to Jerusalem (not to Antioch), and that Luke pointedly takes this moment to mention Saul taking the name Paul - these points may underscore Mark's opposition (at this point) to a non-Judaizing mission. Again, so says Silva. Personally, I'm buying it. Except for one little thing.

If Silva is right, then why didn't John Mark just take a separate ship from Paphos? If the reasons for leaving were all found on Cyprus, then why sail over to Pamphylia at all? Ah, but add in this shipwreck, and it looks as if John-Mark was still conflicted about things until the moment he received sudden clarity on the issues, right after their whole mission team was apparently punished by God with a nearly fatal disaster!

Quick aside: Long ago, I used to read Acts as if Peter and John Mark had been enlightened much earlier than others, and that Acts 15 was all about getting James and his hard-line constituency to come over to that way of thinking. However, for a while now, I've been convinced that Peter barely changed his beliefs at all, after visiting Cornelius. Pre-Cornelius, Gentiles had to be circumcised before receiving the Holy Spirit. Post-Cornelius, the Holy Spirit could come when he willed, but the knife and Moses' Law were still expected to follow.

Bottom line: teasing out John-Mark's bigotry in Acts 13 fits perfectly into the context of Palestinian Christendom, before AD 50. But that brief delay between Paphos and Perga means that Paul's first shipwreck is very likely what scared John-Mark into sticking with the old ways, and fleeing from God's wrath. This immature judgment Paul may have forgiven, but understandably remained wary of working alongside in his mission to Gentiles... at least, in the years soon thereafter.

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Home from Waco

where Richard Bauckham's lecture this morning (audio) just about made my year.  Alas, no time to report at the moment, but yes, the audio has been posted on Baylor's website.  No video yet.  The whole series can be found here, if you scroll down.

Tonight I've got chores to do, papers to grade, and family to be with.  Plus, this weekend is the regional SBL (SWCRS).  Hopefully, I'll post something on the Waco lectures some time next week.  (By the way, they were WONDERFUL!)

Oh, yeah.  I also got picked up several times in the Carnival this month.  That Matthew Crowe is okay in my book.  I don't care what Rodney says!  ;-)

Roman Emperors (Short Video Summaries)

Suetonius wrote of the first Twelve Caesars, but Adrian Murdoch has done a wonderful thing by skipping uncle Julius and beginning with Augustus - who was, of course, the first "Emperor". 

Chronologically, Adrian has already video-posted about: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, & Vespasian.  Those first nine, plus uncle Julius, are most likely the Ten Caesars represented in more than one part of Revelation.  But let's not get into that kind of thing just at the moment!

These are phenomenal videos for historical research.  Go enjoy!  Or read on, for a bit more detail:

Newbies should bear in mind these are Murdoch's own reconstructions, and other scholars naturally disagree on some points.  Also, be warned Adrian's YouTube page could use a bit of organization, but of course it's going to be under construction for a while.  Adrian's still got about 400 years of Emperors left to go, at the rate of one per week.  Here's how he set out his goal, early this year:
The idea is to cover every Roman emperor from Augustus to Romulus Augustulus in under two minutes. A new episode will be published on a Monday morning. By the end of the year we should be in the middle of the third century.
He then included this hysterical thought:
I originally wanted to call the series "Who the hell was Nerva?" on the basis that while most of us have a fair idea of what big name emperors like Augustus, Hadrian and Constantine were up to, many - myself included - have only the haziest idea of the reign of emperors like Nerva.
Nothing against Nerva, but I've basically no idea who the heckfire he was, either.  ;-)

At any rate, these videos really are a tremendous public service. Here's hoping Adrian Murdoch inspires other professional scholars to post comprehensive collections of summaries like this one.  We could all stand to benefit.  Besides, a good summary can be just the incentive someone needs to start digging into things a bit more deeply.

And yes, some of you can take that as a warning.  If you like.  ;-)