One of the great annual traditions of the SBL is the flight there and back when I inevitably get seated next to someone who asks the dreaded question "So what do you do for a living?" I hate this question slightly less than I hate wet socks, which is a considerable amount. (Why, when someone drops a piece of ice on the kitchen floor, is it impossible to pick it up and throw it in the sink?) I've been tempted several times to lie and just offer an answer that will shut down the conversation immediately, such as "I kill kittens for animal hospitals." It's not the question, really, and it's certainly not my (actual) job, which I love. What's taxing is the navigation of the minefield of misunderstanding that resides on the other side of that question for those of us who are involved in the academic discussion of religion; for this is not one innocent question concerning your profession but rather one question that leads to no less than three and possibly eighty-three clarification questions that inevitably involve examples of brothers-in-law. I may have shared on this blog before that one such conversation once resulted in my conversation partner saying, "So, like the Da Vinci Code?" Yes, that's it exactly . . . like the Da Vinci Code.
So I couldn't help but pass along this gem from Dale Allison's 2005 Resurrecting Jesus (T&T Clark), where he's discussing the fact that one cannot assume that Jesus scholars inevitably produce a Jesus in their own image (p.133):
"Speaking for myself, although I have written a book with the title Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, I am no millenarian prophet; and a Jesus without eschatological error would certainly make my life easier. I might, for instance, be able to tell some of my relatives, without them shuddering aghast, what I really do for a living."