Baker Academic

Monday, April 8, 2013

Jesus against the Scribal Elite—Chris Keith


I’m happy to say that I’ve submitted the manuscript for a new book to Baker Academic entitled Jesus against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict (due out in 2014). To my knowledge, it’s the first book-length study dedicated to answering the question of how Jesus got on the authorities’ radars in the first place.  I argue throughout the book that previous opinions on this issue that focus on Jesus’ different approach to the law or his exorcisms, miracles, and healings are not so much wrong as incomplete.  Jesus was not the only person in Second Temple Judaism who disagreed with Pharisees and others on the law.  He also was not the only performer of miraculous deeds.  I argue instead that a central component of the initial emergence of the conflict is that Jesus’ very status as a teacher was debated.  In other words, in addition to questioning the content of his teachings, they questioned whether he had the qualifications to be teaching in the first place.  To a certain extent, this book is an outgrowth of my argument in Jesus’ Literacy.  It takes that argument and applies it to the exegesis of the controversy narratives.  It further argues against a long history of research that attributes the creation of those narratives to the context of the early Church in its debates against non-Christian Jews, arguing that the types of debates over Scripture and authority that Jesus has with scribal-literate authorities in those narratives can be plausibly traced to the life of the historical Jesus.

7 comments:

  1. Congratulations! Can't wait to read it :)

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  2. Exciting! Looks like a great book in the making.

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  3. Also worth noting that "Jesus' Literacy" is now available in paperback at a reasonable (if not a popular) price.

    Chris, is the new book intended for a scholarly or a wider audience?

    I look forward to the new book. I think it can be argued that in Judaism (as in many other things), there's a tension between the established teaching authorities and the holy men who emerge from out of nowhere. I'm involved in a study project where we're looking at Talmud stories about who was worthy to pray for rain and have his prayers answered, and the stories often have the learned established sages discovering that the person who can successfully pray for rain is some holy nobody from the sticks. I'd never considered that Jesus might have been in this tradition ... are you arguing something like this?

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    1. Thanks, Larry. Yes, I have a post coming about the paperback of Jesus' Literacy coming!! You beat me to it.

      The new book is intended for a wider audience. It's pitched most directly as a textbook for an upper division undergrad course or a grad course; so, not directly for scholars, but also not for totally uninitiated. Both groups should should be able to benefit from it, though. Certain sections of it serve as something of a popularization of the main argument of Jesus' Literacy. You're dead on the money in terms of my argument, though. It's entirely concerned with how Jesus stood among the recognized authorities of his day.

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  4. Congrats Chris!

    Wondering if you'll look at the gendered aspect of the issue at all? Teaching, education, and rhetorical debate were not simply all-male preserves, but key arenas for proving one's manhood, for acquiring and exercising male authority. Neyrey's work on rhetoric and the controversy stories takes some steps in that direction, but not enough. Just curious.

    Eric

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    1. Thanks, Eric. You're right about the significance of the gender issues. Unfortunately, this was one of several issues that I could not address. I think Dr. Le Donne may have something coming on this, and Colleen Conway has something as well, in addition to Neyrey's work. I also didn't have time to dive completely into the honor/shame issues, although I touch on them briefly. I hope, though, that this book will make all the clearer why these issues are important and so open up some avenues for other researchers.

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