“Cory and the Seventh Story” Review!

If you’re seeking a story friendly enough for children that’s also packed full of meaning for kids and adults alike, take a peek inside Cory & the Seventh Story. Authors Brian McLaren (of progressive Christian renown) and Gareth Higgins (writer and co-founder of the Wild Goose festival) teamed up to challenge us to consider the “seventh story” that provides a more compassionate, life-enriching path than the six stories our society has handed down to us.

Cory the raccoon and the other critters wrestle with how to navigate life in the village where the following six stories entrap: domination, revolution, isolation, purification, victimization, and accumulation. Each of those “stories” (ways of finding security in the world) is told in narrative form so that even kids can grasp the concepts. Things are looking pretty dreary due to this life-draining stories when a messiah-like figure in the form of a horse shows up. She offers a seventh story of reconciliation and of believing that we are better together than we are divided. Of course, as it goes with messiahs, some animals really don’t like this, and we start to get nervous about what will happen to her…

This is a timely book for our era (or any era, as we see how each of these stories have been around for a long time). It’s a beautiful and sensitive way to introduce kids to challenging topics they might hear about on the news or that happen globally, while giving them hope for something better. Illustrator Heather Harris creates charming and imaginative scenes that are a treat for the eyes. I highly recommend this book, whether you have kids or not. It would make a great resource for home, school, and churches / houses of worship alike.

Check out these sites:

About the book: https://www.theseventhstory.com/kids
Brian McLaren’s website
Gareth Higgins’ website

Intra- and inter-faith conversation in an age of division

Our world is undeniably diversifying. Our “tribes” of people who used to be separate and not in contact with one another are now rubbing shoulders more often, working at the same workplaces, living down the street from each other. There is still resistance to this encounter with the other, of course, but it seems inevitable that this pattern will only continue this way in the long run. One question this can raise for people is: what do we do about encounters with people of other faith? Do we pretend they don’t exist? Do we convert them? Will they convert us? Or is there a way to engage in productive conversation and respectful learning from one another?

Susan Strouse, author of INTRAfaith Conversations: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves About INTERfaith Matters?, has created a guide for church members and leaders who are interested in doing the work of inter- and intrafaith learning. Strouse was (at time of writing her book) a Lutheran minister in California who is passionate about facilitating interfaith conversations. She has her DMin (doctor of ministry degree), and it appears much of her research for her doctoral thesis made it into the book. The pages are replete with all kinds of references and there are helpful appendices at the end. That being said, her writing is scholarly but not stuffy, and the book is very approachable. (My regret is I wish I had the hard copy version instead of the electronic version, because there’s so much information packed in!)

Having an interfaith conversation, or learning about interfaith matters, is altogether distinct from having an ulterior goal of wanting to convert the other faith-holders. Thus, for Christians (for whom evangelizing is often a big concern), there are many resistances that might be had about doing interfaith conversations. Strouse adeptly addresses questions that arise, such as “How do I stay true to my faith if I’m not trying to convert the other person?” or “But what about how the Bible says, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?” She encourages the questions to be vocalized in congregations, because that is the whole point of an intrafaith dialogue. There are no single answers to the questions; no one “right” perspective to hold.

Strouse lays out some different frameworks for thinking about religious diversity. One such framework is pluralism spectrum: one end being exclusivist (e.g., faith in Jesus as described by Christianity is the only way for salvation); a middle ground of inclusivism (e.g., other faiths can hold their own beliefs, but it is the saving grace and way of Jesus that ultimately saves them, for that grace is for all regardless of if they choose it), or pluralistic (other religions are authentic paths on their own terms, regardless of if they include Jesus or not). Simply to have a framework to form one’s thoughts within can help people identify more clearly where they are at and be able to communicate to others their stances on issues. No position is declared right or wrong in the interfaith dialogue, but the intrafaith conversation allows for deeper self-understanding.

Strouse goes much further into other issues on the interfaith and intrafaith landscape, including the rise of the spiritually independent, how to do theology in an interfaith context, mysticism and the contemplative heart, and more practical aspects of how to actually host the dialogues.

I strongly believe one of the best antidotes to fear and hatred of the other is having actual person-to-person contact with the other, or at least taking the opportunity to be directly educated by the other (letting them teach you about their experiences. We can do this through reading if need be.). Strouse points out that we must not compare our best with their worst, but our best with their best. In an era seeming beset by division and skepticism about the “other side,” I wish that we could all be as humble and gracious to learn from others different us, yet as grounded in our own tradition to teach others the best of our best.

I wonder what you, my reader, think of the inter- and intra-faith dialogue. I wonder if these are issues you have thought about, or if you have wrestled with the theology behind it (I’m aware not everyone gets as excited about theology as I do…). What symbol might you choose to represent where you are? Would it be a picture with multiple religious symbols? A symbol of only your particular religion? Maybe a cross-shaped umbrella, sheltering all other religions (the “inclusivist” position)? Wherever you find yourself, this is a conversation worth having!

This is a book review for Speakeasy. I receive certain books for free in exchange for providing an honest review. If you have more curiosity about joining Speakeasy yourself, leave me a comment!

Find INTRAfaith Conversation on Amazon
Check out the website

A monk, a monastery, and a picture book?!

The day is rare when I give an unqualified “that was so good!” review for the Speakeasy books I read and review. Well, Brother John most certainly deserves such an accolade.

Just a taste of the gorgeous illustrations.

I selected this book to review because my heart loves the Abbey of Gethsemani, monks in general, and Thomas Merton in particular (for prior posts I’ve written about this magical place, click here, or here, among others). I was under the impression that since it was an illustrated picture book, it would be more geared for children, and I imagined reading to my future kids one day about Brother John. In case you’re wondering, it’s not written for children. It’s about the meaning and purpose of life and being the best human we can be.

The book is authored by August Turak, a man in crisis, in deep despair and depression. He is sorting things out at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. There he has a heartfelt encounter with Brother John, who is one of those people whose purity, goodness, servant nature, and love for God just emanate from their very being. This encounter transforms his life.

It’s a beautiful book, short (which means I can regularly reread it) and moving. I can’t do enough justice describing it, so I will quote some pieces and just encourage you to check it out yourself, soaking in the oil paint illustrations and the rich yet simple message.

On our fear of failure (p. 26): “I imagined dedicating my life to others, to self-transcendence, without ever finding that inner spark of eternity that so obviously made Brother John’s life the easiest and most natural life I had ever known. Perhaps his peace and effortless love were not available to all, but only to some. Perhaps I just didn’t have what it takes.”

On taking the first step (p. 30): “Acknowledging that fact [that something’s twisted], refusing to run away from it, and deciding to deal with it is the beginning of the only authentic life there is… We lie to ourselves because we’re afraid to take ourselves on.”

On trusting (39): “We must resolve to act decisively, while trusting in the aid of something we don’t understand and can never predict. We must open ourselves up to the miraculous, to grace.”

I promise I didn’t give away the whole book. If you’re still looking for something for that spiritually inclined yet hard to shop for person on your Christmas list, or maybe you want to get something spiritually moving that you’ll actually read, instead of getting something to collect dust on your shelf – this is your book. I’m going to revisit it repeatedly!

Links: Brother John on Amazon
Author’s website for Brother John

This shows the inner page of the book. Title of the book: "Brother John: A monk, a pilgrim, and the purpose of life." Beneath is a picture of the Abbey of Mepkin, a tall spire of the church with the warm glow of buildings underneath it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“Confessions of a Funeral Director” whaaat?

This sounds like a morbid post, but hang in with me here. This book is a memoir of sorts of 6th generation funeral director Caleb Wilde. He shares his thoughts about death, life, love, and heaven – but perhaps not in the way you might think.

If you think about it, the descent into fall is a good time to write about death. Here in Ohio, the leaves are pretty much entirely off the trees. It is cloudy and gray most days. We have to gear up for a long winter ahead of us. Luckily, we still have the excitement of the holidays ahead of us, but most of us carry the awareness that winter will keep stretching out long after that. Moreover, for many, the holidays are a painful reminder of losses and people who are not with us anymore.

This is not a book about grief exactly, though it does go there at times. It is more a book about the theology of life and death. It is for people who have ever questioned the common American Christian narrative of being saved so God won’t send you to hell, and then when you die, getting to join God up in heaven. If the thought of questioning the simplicity of that narrative makes you uncomfortable, this book is probably not for you.

Caleb himself transitioned from that narrative, which he posits is a “death-negative” narrative, to finding a more open and death-positive narrative. A narrative where our own mortality is not something to be ashamed of, associated with Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden, but as much a natural and necessary part of life as birth is. As with birth, through death, it is possible to find genuine love and community.

I really enjoyed many of the points he makes in his book. Through watching many grieving families and communities, Caleb has witnessed how a heart broken open by death is able to love those who are different from them. Death is a great equalizer of sorts. Caleb theologizes how the pain, openness, and vulnerability a person experiences in death and grieving is really a form of worship. He asks what kind of a God we really believe in. Is it a God immune to our sufferings, who feels no grief about loss? Is it an immovable, invulnerable God? Are we too, to be stoic and strong in the face of death? Or is God perhaps deeply connected to our sufferings, grieving with us when we are in pain, vulnerable to sorrow? We can choose to believe in either God, but one might find that believing in one of those Gods leads to a more humane existence than the other.

The challenge we must confront is how to allow death to help us live more open-hearted and full lives. No one will escape it, so how will it shape how we live? The grief and mourning we encounter through others’ death can serve to break us open to our own selves and have compassion toward others. We do not have to “get over” grief: there is no timeline for healing. Caleb suggests doing “active remembering” as a way of acknowledging that the ones who have left us physically never really leave the ones they loved.

This book is heavy at times but also surprisingly manageable, considering the subject matter. It feeds the theological mind and the griever alike. I hope it helps all of us mortals approach the lives we have with freedom, love, and compassion.

This is a book review for Speakeasy. I receive certain books for free in exchange for providing an honest review. If you have more curiosity about joining Speakeasy yourself, leave me a comment!

Other links:

Confessions on Amazon
Youtube trailer (it’s actually worth watching, I promise!)
Caleb featured on NPR’s WNYC Studios

“Credulous” is worth the read

Andrea Lingle – mother, writer, lay theologian – has written the book I hoped to write. (Also that I still hope to write). It is a memoir of faith, filled  with personal stories as well as her own theological ponderings that meander through quantum physics as easily as they do the Bible. She believes in expansive, abundant grace. She has managed to hang on to Christianity in a deep way even through her grief, challenges with the church, and faith deconstruction. My favorite parts of the book were her honest and raw descriptions of being human and a mom, particularly around the tensions between our dreams and ambitions versus how our lives end up looking — but how grace and peace are found even in that. I also enjoyed her creative renditions of gospel stories with Jesus interacting with his disciples. Those well-known stories suddenly leapt off the page for me as she imaginatively described the very human interactions among Jesus, Peter, the people begging him for healing. I was so inspired, actually, that I wrote a separate post about it here.
The book is organized along the lines of a church bulletin, as she dives into a different life or theology area with each section of a church bulletin (anthem, children’s moment, sermon, etc). Even though I sometimes found myself annoyed at the theological meanderings and the occasional far-fetched attempts to tie her thoughts in to the chapter she was supposed to be writing about (perhaps that tendency hits too close to home!), I also couldn’t stop reading the book. It was relatable because it was not perfect. Because of that, I also secretly want to be friends with her and “do life” together. I recommend checking it out yourself – you won’t be disappointed you did!

Find it on Amazon here
Learn about Andrea on her website

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

From Genocide to Generosity

Sometimes books about issues halfway around the world have a remarkable ability to speak to us just how we need to hear it. From Genocide to Generosity is a well-written, moving book about the reconciliation efforts happening in post-genocide Rwanda. Author John Steward (who holds a PhD in soil science, of all things) goes on a mission to interview Rwandans, both Tutsi and Hutu, and try to understand how they are able to bear and process through the traumas they endured in 1994. The whole book is full of their powerful stories.

The messages we can gain from the stories and experiences are so important – especially in times like this. I can relate it to my work as a therapist, in my interactions with kids who struggle to verbalize or think about the traumas they have endured, but who need to find ways to cope with what has happened to them.

But I also relate it to issues happening in our ever-more-divided country. The distance between “sides” usually feels like it only grows bigger, and nobody is interested in really listening to the other. How can you have compassion for… them, and the vile things they believe? But as I heard on a podcast today (“We live here” is awesome btw; thanks NPR St. Louis!), racial justice advocate Amy Hunter had compassionate words for people like racists / white nationalists — they are living a broken, fragmented view of the world, and they didn’t choose this for themselves (presumably) but were formed that way from how they grew up. Oh… and Amy herself is African-American. Not afraid to call people out, but also incredibly compassionate about it.

Back to Rwanda. The book weaves tales through the complexities of trauma (especially when it is not only on an individual level, but nation-wide trauma) and the importance of actually facing one’s trauma. And it also takes a close look at some of the steps of reconciliation – how hard it is, how important it is, how complex it is.

I can’t do it justice to summarize the book, so I’ll just say… go and read it yourself!

website for From Genocide to Generosity: http://2live4give.org/

genocide to generosity

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Jihad of Jesus book review


Dave Andrews’ The Jihad of Jesus hooks the reader with a seeming paradox, as he suggests you cannot have neither Jesus without jihad, or jihad without Jesus. If you are open enough to not write him off immediately, you can quickly discover that after Andrews finishes walking us through a very sobering journey of all the terrible violence that Christians and Muslims have done to each other in the name of their religion, he is mostly playing with words and ideas to make this title feasible.

Jihad and Jesus, you say? Many Judeo-Christian Westerners are under the impression that it is inherently violent, a holy war, terrorism, killings in the name of Allah. However, Andrews re-examines the meaning of jihad and gives us another – truer – definition: jihad means “struggle” in Arabic, and has two components, the inner and outer struggle. The inner struggle is the greater jihad, and is the struggle to fulfill one’s religious duties. The outer struggle is the lesser jihad, which is a physical struggle against opponents. Some, but not all, Muslims would interpret this as “holy war,” but Andrews takes care to emphasize that there are nonviolent ways to interpret both the lesser and greater jihads.

Ah. Well, with this new definition of jihad, you can probably guess how the rest of the book goes, and if you are willing to go with this definition (as I and probably a good number of you readers are), Andrews is preaching to the interfaith choir.

I am tempted to sum up the rest of the premise of this book with two quick sentences. First, he asks if the construction of these religions is not just an excuse for the terrible violence, but the actual cause of it, a question he daringly answers with yes. Gasp! How can you say that? Well, like his reconstruction of jihad, he defines two “constructions” of religion, the word around which that first sentence pivots. My second summary sentence: One must distinguish between “closed-set” religion, which is boundaried, black-white, insiders-outsiders, right-wrong, and “open-set” religion, which is (as you could guess) open to all, seeking the heart of God and encouraging others to do so as well, instead of defining itself by rules, beliefs, and dogma.

With this wordplay, with new definitions for ideas we had preconceived notions of, jihad and Jesus can fit together much better. Jesus, through his words and actions, took on the struggle (jihad) to fulfill his religious duties, and likewise we need to, or at least can, embody the spirit of Jesus in order to fulfill our own religious duties and quest for nonviolence.

There are other interesting tidbits in this book, including some really fascinating studies about violence and the human capabilities for evil, but the main points of the book are above. I found that Andrews seemed repetitive, which grated on me by the end of the book, but his message is especially important for those not in the interfaith choir… if they are willing to pick up this book and give it some real consideration before throwing it out of their closed-set circle.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“Who do you say I am?” Summary of five scholars’ views

Summary of The Historical Jesus: Five Views, edited by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy

Much as it would be convenient, history is not something that we can go back and neatly uncover, as if it were a very dusty shelf or a frog’s insides. Rather, history can perhaps be approximated using the best data we have available, and interpreted based on the various viewpoints presented from the data that we can gather. The same goes for “uncovering” Jesus. There has long been a so-called “quest for the historical Jesus,” in which scholars use information from sources like the Gospels, the other letters of the New Testament, non-canonical gospels, and the rare non-Christian source available to make their best guess about who Jesus was and what he did. However, scholars ought not to be the only ones on this quest. It is vital that people of faith with a desire to be intellectually honest also engage in this pursuit. One’s notions about Jesus may necessarily change in this process, but if the end result is being more informed and hopefully closer to the truth, it is a good change. I also believe that Jesus will not disappear as a result of this study, but that the student may come to a deeper and more complex appreciation of the man and his works on earth.

In the book Historical Jesus: Five Views, five biblical scholars present their diverse viewpoints, ranging from the claim that Jesus never existed at all to an evangelical who reads the Gospels as though they had unique access into the inner workings of Jesus’ mind. While these five do not represent the full possibilities of theories about Jesus, and none of them, in my opinion, present a completely satisfactory option, they at least serve to expand our thinking about Jesus.

Robert Price writes the first essay (Jesus at the Vanishing Point), holding the view that Jesus is not a historical figure but that he was invented as a mythic hero, similar to Greek and Roman gods of the time. He claims that there is no real historical support outside of Christian sources for Jesus’ existence, and describes how Jesus’ characteristics (e.g., born of a virgin, reputed to be the son of a god, goes to a future kingdom) fit the mythic-hero archetype. Thankfully, for all of those who were worried that maybe Jesus was going to disappear as a result of this study, the other contributors dismiss Price’s ideas fairly easily, as this is quite a fringe idea even in scholar-land. The first-century writer of Jewish Antiquities, Josephus, is regarded by scholars to be a legitimate non-Christian source that mentions a Jesus who performed “unusual” (miraculous?) deeds. Also, one cannot ignore the enormous effects of Jesus’ legacy, quite a feat for someone who would have supposedly never existed. The strongest part of Price’s essay, I found, was how thoroughly he combed through the Gospel of Mark and demonstrated how much of the book is a midrash (that is, written interpretation of Hebrew scriptures) on the Old Testament, like Joshua and Psalms. It is fascinating to see how passages we might just skim over as being original Markan echo passages that we, as New Testament-focused Christians, may have never even read in the Old Testament.

John Dominic Crossan, a co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, writes the second essay (Jesus and the Challenge of Collaborative Eschatology). The Jesus Seminar is essentially a group of scholars who gather together and vote on which sayings of Jesus are historically true. They often use the “criterion of dissimilarity” to determine this. This means that among other things, the Seminar is looking for sayings that do not just reflect the “post-Easter” Jesus or the “Christ of faith” (they believe that ideas about Jesus changed after the church experienced him after his resurrection. They would say the church essentially made up a bunch of events and sayings about Jesus before his death to suit their post-resurrection theology). Bear Crossan’s setting in mind is light of what he writes. In his essay, Crossan emphasizes that we must understand Jesus in his setting: a Jewish peasant living in Galilee under the rule of the Roman Empire, which profoundly impacted Jesus’ mission. He theorizes that Jesus started out as a follower of John the Baptist, who preached that the Kingdom of God was coming but not here yet (“imminent”), but that Jesus split off from John and began preaching that the Kingdom of God was actually here, right now. The kingdom simply requires us to bring it in (hence the term collaborative or participatory). Crossan summarizes Jesus’ main program points as: healing the sick, eating with those whom he healed, and announcing the presence of God’s kingdom through doing both of those things. However, Crossan seemed to say that Jesus’ healings were more of the spiritual or emotional variety (not miraculous or physical), which I have a hard time buying based on how well Jesus was known for his healings and exorcisms. Crossan believes Jesus was trying to demonstrate that this world was owned by God, not the Roman empire, and that much of Jesus’ actions were non-violently anti-imperial in this way. He cites Pilate’s killing of Jesus, but not Jesus’ followers, as proof that Jesus was rebellious enough to be considered a threat, but that his non-violence made it unnecessary to put his followers to death as well. I appreciated his inspiring take on a Jesus who was bold enough to challenge the ruling empire of his day all while remaining peaceful and even sacrificing himself for this cause. The weakest part of his arguments is what we can humorously think of as crafting a “Jesus in our own image,” that is, we modern-day folks love the idea of a liberal Jesus standing up to the powers that be, defending the poor, and attempting to subvert the oppressive systems of his day. Crossan acts as though he has privileged insights into Jesus’ motives, thinking, and how he perceived himself compared to other messiah-types of his day.

The third essay (Learning the Human Jesus), is by Luke Johnson. He holds that historiography (trying to understand events in the context of changing interpretations about them) leaves us limited in what we can know. He suggests that we try reading the Gospels literarily instead, with an eye to what the literary elements that have been included can tell us about how the writers interpreted Jesus. He acknowledges that Mark, Matthew, and Luke are dependent sources (general consensus is that Matthew and Luke used Mark when they set out to write their own gospels), but then he asks what, considering all the points at which these writings diverge, the points of convergence can tell us about Jesus. Based on this, he gives a modest list of what we can be pretty sure we know about Jesus: he proclaimed God’s rule as connected to his own words and deeds, he performed healings, he taught in parables and interpreted Torah, he associated with the marginalized in Jewish society, and he chose 12 followers. Johnson also says Jesus probably was baptized by John, performed some kind of prophetic act in the Temple, and perhaps interpreted a final meal with his followers in light of his coming death. Johnson was my favorite contributor, because of his moderate approach to the Jesus inquiry and the accessibility of his approach to the layperson: all you need to do is open a Bible and read and compare the gospels. I was inclined to do that before I ever read Johnson’s essay, and it has been a fruitful endeavor even with limited background information. The weakest part of his essay, I found, was that he did not acknowledge enough the literary dependence of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and so may have made more of the significance of the “convergences” than he really has liberty to do. Given the evolution of theology and emphases even within those three gospels, and especially between John (generally thought to be written later) and those three, how much may theology have been shaped in the period between Jesus’ life and when Mark was written?

James Dunn is the fourth contributor (Remembering Jesus), writing about how he thinks the current quest for the historical Jesus has lost its way. His three main points of contention about the quest are: they assume that faith clouds judgment and historical reliability; that they focus almost entirely on the literary dependence of the gospels, disregarding the oral tradition; and that the “criterion of dissimilarity” is greatly overused. I agree with him that Jesus somehow evoked faith from his followers and that this is a genuine point of evidence that we must take into account when trying to uncover the historical Jesus. Somehow, as well, a quester of faith will perceive different things about the Jesus tradition than one without, but having faith does not make you wrong about your findings. I also agree that the criterion of dissimilarity is given too much emphasis, in that scholars are trying to find a Jesus who is different from his contemporary messiah-type figures and the Christ of faith, as if the real Jesus couldn’t possibly be similar to either of those. However, I did not find his argument about the oral tradition to be particularly strong. Indeed, it was an oral culture and very few people were literate then, but if, as he pointed out, you can account for nearly every variation in the gospels through literary editing, then why spend so much time trying to defend why an oral tradition accounts for these variations? Even if there was a strong oral tradition, it seems more logical to me that the written tradition of the gospels was passed down in just that stream: literarily.

The final contributor is Darrell Bock, who presents an evangelical view on the historical Jesus. He argues that the historical Jesus study can only give us a “gist” of Jesus, but that this gist sketches the same person that the gospels outline. Most of his essay is spent outlining themes of Jesus’ ministry and the vindicating events showing that Jesus was who he (or the Gospels) claimed to be. However, although he carefully outlines a Jesus well-supported with details from the Gospels, it is not done in a historically critical way. He seems to have the assumption that the Gospel writers had privileged access into Jesus’ thoughts and intentions, instead of reading the books neutrally and carefully, with an eye to what might be historically accurate and what might be a literary modification. Thus, it is hard to read his essay with much academic respect. In the field of biblical scholarship, one must honestly engage the Gospels in a historically critical way and let the chips fall where they may, requiring faith on the part of the Christian that there is still a Jesus to believe in and follow once the dust settles.


Canonical/non-canonical gospels: Canonical gospels include Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The church was in agreement about which books were canonical, or belonged as Scripture in the New Testament, by/in about the 4th century. Non-canonical gospels include the Gospels of Peter, of Judas, and of Thomas, among others.

Midrash: commentary on the Scriptures. Often a Jewish method of interpreting and rewriting scriptures with modified or added theological meaning.

Eschatology: Having to do with the end times: regarding death, judgment, and what happens to the world/souls.

Historiography: The study of how history has been written (leaving room for changing interpretations of history).