A Biblical Mystery at Oxford

“I told my wife, Cindy, ‘If this proves to be first-century, I may be involved in researching one of the most important pieces of the Bible ever discovered.’ ” It wasn’t, and he didn’t.

Source: The Atlantic
Published: May 14, 2020
Length: 33 minutes (8,452 words)

The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife

A supposedly ancient scrap of papyrus, which suggests that Jesus was married, has shaken the world of biblical scholarship.

Published: Jun 16, 2016
Length: 44 minutes (11,229 words)

A King With No Country

How the last king of Rwanda ended up living on public assistance in Virginia:

“In 1990, under Western pressure, Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu who had ruled with an iron first for nearly two decades, agreed to share power with other parties. Seeing its chance, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the militant group of Tutsi exiles in Uganda, invaded, igniting long-dormant tensions between Hutu and Tutsi.

“Kigeli refused to endorse the RPF’s violent tactics, but a Rwandan journalist who interviewed him in Kenya was arrested upon his return to Rwanda on charges of harming state security. Kenya’s then-president, Daniel Arap Moi, had close ties to Habyarimana, and Kigeli and Benzinge began to fear for their security.

“The United States wouldn’t just be safer, they thought; its freedoms of speech would allow them to broadcast Rwanda’s plight to the world. They picked up the phone and called the one American they knew: Bill Fisher.”

Source: Washingtonian
Published: Mar 27, 2013
Length: 27 minutes (6,984 words)

The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus

Inside Harvard historian Karen King’s discovery of an ancient papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife'”:

“What it does seem to reveal is more subtle and complex: that some group of early Christians drew spiritual strength from portraying the man whose teachings they followed as having a wife. And not just any wife, but possibly Mary Magdalene, the most-mentioned woman in the New Testament besides Jesus’ mother.

“The question the discovery raises, King told me, is, ‘Why is it that only the literature that said he was celibate survived? And all of the texts that showed he had an intimate relationship with Magdalene or is married didn’t survive? Is that 100 percent happenstance? Or is it because of the fact that celibacy becomes the ideal for Christianity?’

“How this small fragment figures into longstanding Christian debates about marriage and sexuality is likely to be a subject of intense debate. Because chemical tests of its ink have not yet been run, the papyrus is also apt to be challenged on the basis of authenticity; King herself emphasizes that her theories about the text’s significance are based on the assumption that the fragment is genuine, a question that has by no means been definitively settled. That her article’s publication will be seen at least in part as a provocation is clear from the title King has given the text: ‘The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.'”

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Sep 18, 2012
Length: 25 minutes (6,366 words)

How the Pogo Stick Leapt From Classic Toy to Extreme Sport

How timing and creativity can reignite interest in a toy:

“Not long ago, three inventors—toiling at home, unaware of one another’s existence—set out to reimagine the pogo. What was so sacred about that ungainly steel coil? they wondered. Why couldn’t you make a pogo stick brawny enough for a 250-pound adult? And why not vault riders a few feet, instead of measly inches? If athletes were pulling ‘big air’ on skateboards, snowboards and BMX bikes, why couldn’t the pogo stick be just as, well, gnarly?

“When I reached one of the inventors, Bruce Middleton—who studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and describes himself as an ‘outcast scientist’—he told me that the problem had been a ‘conceptual basin.'”

“‘Normal people, someone tells them a pogo stick is a thing with steel springs, they go, “That’s right,”‘ Middleton said. ‘If that’s your basin, you’ll never come up with a very good pogo. An inventor is someone who recognizes the existence of a conceptual basin and sees that there’s a world outside the basin.'”

Source: Smithsonian
Published: Aug 21, 2012
Length: 18 minutes (4,508 words)

The Passion of John Wojnowski

Meet the man who’s been standing outside the Vatican embassy for 14 years—a vigil on behalf of the victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church:

“Time weighs on John Wojnowski. It wears him down. It winds him up.

“Time, for Wojnowski, is not just the half century since the priest in the mountains of Italy touched him. It is also the lost days since then, the wasted months and years when he is sure he let everyone down: his parents, his wife, his children, himself.

“Markers of time are there, too, in the ragged datebooks that cleave to his body like paper armor. While riding the bus late one night, after another of his vigils outside the Vatican’s United States embassy, he showed them to me: The 2010 datebook inhabits the right pocket of his frayed chinos, 2011 the left; the 2012 book, its pages bound by rubber bands, stiffens the pocket of his shirt.

“He has come to this corner and stood with his signs for some 5,000 days. In his datebooks, he records—a word or two, just enough to jog memory—the sights and sounds that keep one day from bleeding into the next.”

Source: Washingtonian
Published: Jun 25, 2012
Length: 41 minutes (10,471 words)