Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Winner of Jesus against the Scribal Elite--Chris Keith

The true random number generator has spoken, and comment 19 is the winner of a copy of my latest book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite.

True Random Number Generator 19 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

The owner of comment 19 is "Paul A." and his comment is below.  Paul A., if you'll write me at, I'll arrange for you to get your copy of the book.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pericope Adulterae Conference—Chris Keith

Folks, in light of your unlimited travel budgets, after you go see Anthony Le Donne speak this Thursday at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary . . . come see me speak at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC!  I'll be speaking at the Pericope Adulterae conference on Friday and Saturday.  Other speakers are Jenny Knust, Tommy Wasserman, David Alan Black, Maurice Robinson, and John David Punch.  For registration details, you can go here.  I'll be arguing the party line that the account of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery in John 7:53-8:11 was a later addition to the Gospel of John.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Will Be Presenting in the Big Easy this Thursday - Le Donne

This Thursday (4/24/14) I will be giving a lecture at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. My presentation is titled "When Did Jesus Become Great?" The fun begins at 3 pm.

In this lecture I will discuss a few tendencies in historical Jesus scholarship. Many historians argue that Jesus' greatness was recognized during his lifetime. Categories such as healer, prophet, messiah, and Son of Man are often used as ciphers to interpret Jesus' public career. Many other scholars argue that Jesus became a "great man" in retrospect. In this view, Jesus was aggrandized by his followers using such titles. I will argue that several modern philosophical factors are at work in this scholarly divide. These include (neo)Romanticism, Christian supersessionism, the (re)emphasis of Jesus' Jewishness, and the ongoing influence of Albert Schweitzer. In keeping with my own tendencies, I will do my best resist either/or dichotomies.

If you're near the NOBTS campus, stop by and introduce yourself!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Interview with Maclean's Magazine - Le Donne

Last week I gave an interview with Brian Bethune of Maclean's Magazine. Bethune takes a more optimistic view of the Jesus' wife fragment than is warranted, but deals kindly with my latest book and does not misconstrue my words. This is really the most you can hope for in these cases. Please note also that Bethune had no say in the title or art used in this article. Both seem inclined to sensationalize the topic. That said, I am grateful for the opportunity.

Here is the link:


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homeless Jesus

Timothy P. Schmalz's "Homeless Jesus"; 2012
Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz invites us to meet the real Jesus again in his interactive statue titled "Homeless Jesus." Schmalz's statue brings together several levels of aesthetic realism. (1) On the face of this faceless portrait, Jesus is realistic. He is so real that he has caused concerns among neighbors of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina. (2) This leads us to ask the question, if homelessness wasn't a real issue in the first place, would anyone have called the police to have "Jesus" removed? (3) The only marks that distinguish this statue as "Jesus" are the nail wounds in both feet. But notice also that there is enough room on the bench to sit at these feet. Thus Schmalz's Jesus invites encounter and participation. Jesus becomes real on a fourth level as he is tactile.

But as the link above indicates, not every person in Davidson appreciates the invitation. Cindy Castando Swannack, a neighbor to St. Alban's Episcopal, found the statue off putting, "Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person, who needs our help."

In a way, Swannack interpretation falls in line with Christian orthodoxy. We Christians commemorate a risen Christ. John's Apocalypse guides us from a slain lamb to a victorious warrior. But even in our post-Easter reflections (and the biblical Gospels are just this) we see the image of a kingly judge who instructs:
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Matt 25:34-36.

Finally, as Christians commemorate Good Friday, we pause to remember the forsaken Jesus. Christians throughout the ages have created sacred space and time to encounter the forsaken Jesus. This is what Swannack misses in her rush to censor Schmalz's statue and thus "clean up" the neighborhood.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Passage from Elie Wiesel's Night

Akiba Drumer left us, a victim of the selection. Lately, he had wandered among us, his eyes glazed, telling every­one of his weakness: “I can´t go on . . . It´s all over.” It was impossible to raise his morale. He didn´t listen to what we told him. He could only repeat that all was over for him, that he could no longer keep up the struggle, that he had no strength left, nor faith. Suddenly his eyes would become blank, nothing but two open wounds, two pits of terror.

He was not the only one to lose his faith during those selection days. I knew a rabbi from a little town in Poland, a bent old man, whose lips were always trembling. He used to pray all the time, in the block, in the yard, in the ranks. He would recite whole pages of the Talmud from memory, argue with himself, ask himself questions and answer himself. And one day he said to me: “It´s the end. God is no longer with us.”

And, as though he had repented of having spoken such words, so clipped, so cold, he added in his faint voice:

“I know. One has no right to say things like that. I know. Man is too small, too humble and inconsiderable to seek to understand the mysterious ways of God. But what can I do? I´m not a sage, one of the elect, nor a saint. I´m just an ordinary creature of flesh and blood. I´ve got eyes, too, and I can see what they´re doing here. Where is the divine Mercy? Where is God? How can I believe, how could anyone believe, in this merciful God?”

Poor Akiba Drumer, if he could have gone on believ­ing in God, if he could have seen a part of God in this Calvary, he would not have been taken by the selection. But as soon as he felt the first cracks forming in his faith, he had lost his reason for struggling and had begun to die.

When the selection came, he was condemned in advance, offering his own neck to the executioner. All he asked of us was:

“In three days I shall no longer be here. . . . Say the Kaddish for me.”

We promised him. In three days´ time, when we saw the smoke rising from the chimney, we would think of him. Ten of us would gather together and hold a special service. All his friends would say the Kaddish.

Then he went off toward the hospital, his step stead­ier, not looking back. An ambulance was waiting to take him to Birkenau.

These were terrible days. We received more blows than food; we were crushed with work. And three days after he had gone we forgot to say the Kaddish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Larry Behrendt reviews Jesus against the Scribal Elite—Chris Keith

Friend of the Jesus Blog Larry Behrendt reviews my latest book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite, over at his blog dedicated to Jewish-Christian dialogue and aptly titled "Jewish-Christian Intersections."  Larry claims to be an amateur, but he gives a remarkably nuanced account of not only what I claim in that book, but also what I don't claim.  He adds a few further thoughts of his own.  I was particularly intrigued by his placement of Jesus within a larger "democratizing strain" of Jewish pedagogy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The King and I: Karen King Replies to My Reply - Le Donne

Professor Karen King refers to my The Wife of Jesus twice in her Harvard Theological Review essay. Before I address her comments, let's pause to consider how the internet has changed scholarship and scholarly dissemination. Prof. King published a draft of her essay in 2012. I discuss this essay in my 2013 book and she addresses my concerns in her 2014 essay revision. So she cites a book that cites the essay that she has yet to publish. And within this bizarre time loop of cyberspace, we've managed to find Jesus' wife. Let the wild rumpus start!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Who Arranged Jesus’ Marriage, When, and Why?

I would like to thank Harvard Theological Review for the considerate timing of their recent issue. You have no idea how much pressure I was feeling to go see a Russell Crowe flick. Luckily, Jesus' chuppah trumps hot-and-bothered rock monsters almost every time. I can now wait for it on Amazon Prime. I'm hoping for some targumic special features!

Karen King’s recent HTR essay suggests a later date than she originally guessed. Perhaps the fragment comes from the eighth century. Moreover, she suggests that (given the time period) this fragment might betray some Islamic ideology concerning marriage.

It is an interesting suggestion, but I will suggest three other ideological contexts that I think explain Jesus’ marriage better. But let’s be clear from the start, in all three of these options, Jesus’ marriage is arranged. The Jesus we find in the New Testament is not for traditional family values by anyone’s standards. If he was married or has become married in our collective imagination, it wasn’t something that Jesus pursued for himself.

Jesus’ marriage would have been arranged by his parents, probably between his 16th and 30th birthdays. In rabbinic literature the age of twenty is given as the upper limit of marriage (especially important for aspiring teachers and religious leaders). The Babylonian Talmud suggests that boys who want to avoid lust (cf. Paul’s rationale) should get married shortly after puberty. The Jerusalem Talmud offers a slightly later age range. By and large, the rabbis don't recommend celibacy as an option, much less see it as desirable. To pursue celibacy was tantamount to a disregard for family honor, fiscal wellbeing, and ancestral blessing. Rabbinic literature postdates Jesus by several centuries, but the issues of family honor, fiscal wellbeing, and ancestral blessing are very ancient. To the point, these issues are among the most important in Jesus' culture.

Larry Hurtado’s Summary of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Fragment—Chris Keith

Over at Larry Hurtado's Blog, Prof Hurtado gives a useful and concise summary of the Harvard Theological Review that contains the most recent assessments of the Gospel of Jesus' wife fragment.  He adds some further thoughts as well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Have Accepted a Position at United Theological Seminary - Le Donne

I have some very exciting news to share. Exciting to me, at least. I have accepted a position at United Theological Seminary to teach New Testament. My family and I will be moving to the Dayton, OH area this summer to begin in the fall term. I am looking forward to working alongside a stellar and gracious faculty at one of the largest and fastest growing seminaries in the UMC.

For those readers who have followed this blog for a few years now, you may recall that United Theological Seminary co-sponsored (with University of Dayton) the conference related to this book. This conference might have otherwise been untenable. Chris Keith and I were deeply grateful for the hospitality shown to us in Dayton. I should mention here that Joel Watts (a former student at United) went to bat for us. I don’t doubt that his efforts planted the seeds necessary for the 2012 conference and my recent good news. May his beard grow ever longer.

It has become clear to me that United is a place that values collegiality and academic freedom. These two qualities are becoming quite rare in the world of higher learning. Moreover, United’s continued investment in social justice was very attractive to me as I was weighing my options. All in all, I think that after (the better part of) ten years on the job market, I’ve found a home.

I will also take this opportunity to say that United boasts some of the best graduate-level online and hybrid courses in the field. I will continue to teach online and invite you to consider my course offerings at United. If you live in the Dayton area, I invite you to consider my brick-and-mortar classes where we will discuss Run–D.M.C., "Welcome Back, Kotter," good films by M. Night Shyamalan, the "Third Quest," and other old skool topics.

One last word on a serious note: I know all too well that there are hundreds of unemployed and (worse) underemployed scholars out there. I know well the feeling that comes from watching yet another job cycle pass by with disappointment and depression. My present joy has not wiped away my experiences—as unemployed, as adjunct, and as undervalued employee—of institutional dysfunction over the last decade. I know that those of you who have suffered most do so silently or in hushed commiseration. I offer no consolation to you who continue to be undervalued and abused. The problems are real and getting worse. I only offer understanding.