Baker Academic

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jesus against the Scribal Elite—Chris Keith

I’m happy to say that my new book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict, is now available for preorder on Amazon thanks to the great team at Baker Academic.  You can follow the image below.  The book is, I think, scheduled for publication in April 2014.

To my knowledge, this is the first book that deals with the very early period of the conflict between Jesus and authoritative Jewish teachers, asking how it was that Jesus came to be on their radars in the first place.  Most historical Jesus studies consider the controversy as a starting point itself that eventually led to the crucifixion.  This is correct, but overlooks the interesting issues involving how there came to be a conflict at all.  How is it that Jesus, unlike thousands of Second Temple Jews, came to gain their attention and concern?  Several chapters function as a more accessible version of the argument I forwarded in Jesus’ Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee concerning the historical Jesus’ scribal-literate status.  But this book moves beyond that argument and considers the broader exegetical and historical implications of it, specifically as it relates to the controversy narratives where Jesus argues with scribes, Pharisees, and others.



  1. "Most historical Jesus studies consider the controversy as a starting point itself that eventually led to the crucifixion."

    What do you think was the connection between the controversies in Galilee and Jesus's death? Many accounts of the historical Jesus I have read have found it very difficult to connect Jesus's actions in Galilee to his crucifixion, considering that different elite groups are Jesus's opponents in Galilee and Jerusalem respectively (i.e. the Pharisees do not seem to be involved in the plot to arrest Jesus in Jerusalem).

    Some scholars have used this discrepancy to deny the historicity of the majority of the controversy traditions, and extreme views like that of Burton Mack argue for the complete dismissal of the gospels' framing narrative of ministry followed by plot and crucifixion because of the evangelists' (purportedly) rather strained efforts to connect persecution in Galilee to persecution in Jerusalem.

    With that in mind, do you discuss in the book at all what the connection was between the conflicts in Jerusalem with the controversies in Galilee? Although I don't share the skepticism of scholars like Mack, I have to admit that the relationship between the Galilean ministry and the final days in Jerusalem has always been pretty puzzling to me.

    1. I don't think Jesus was crucified for the same reasons that he gained attention in the first place. The entire development is far too complex to make that type of assertion to my mind. The parties and issues involved changed over the course of time. That doesn't mean that the two issues are entirely unrelated, though, so I also wouldn't assert complete discontinuity. The final chapter deals directly with this issue and is titled "The Beginning, the End, and the Beginning of the End."

      Throughout the book I argue against Mack and others who assign the controversy narratives no historical value at all.

    2. Sounds great! I'm looking forward to reading the book.

  2. I'm very excited about the price of this book!