Baker Academic

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Crossley on the Crucifixion—Chris Keith

Jesus Blogger Prof James Crossley blogs for the OUPblog on the crucifixion of Jesus here.  I especially appreciate his comments on method and the need to keep in mind that multiple interpretations of Jesus, and especially his crucifixion, would have existed from the beginning.  Here's a sample: 

"But at the same time we might embrace the role of relentless interpretation and reinterpretation in historical reconstruction, even when ostensibly discussing the historical Jesus. For instance, once the potentially controversial idea of the death of the elevated figure was known then how was this to be interpreted? One way (and one that the earliest followers obviously chose) was the idea that, borrowing from long-established ideas of martyrdom (e.g. the celebrated Maccabean martyrs), Jesus’ death had some sort of redemptive function. Much, of course, has been written on this.

Other interpretations were happening too. Part of the problem was that Jesus’ death involved questions of masculinity, as Coleen Conway has shown in detail. Jesus could, after all, be understood as another emasculated, passive victim at the hands of the Empire. There are indications of this sort of understanding in Mark’s Gospel. Others were less prepared to present Jesus so emasculated; Paul, for instance, constructs Jesus in more manly and heroic terms. And we should not necessarily succumb to the old temptation of layering these interpretations, as if the emasculated construction came first, followed later by the masculinizing of Jesus’ death. This theoretically could have happened, and indeed may have happened for all we know. Nevertheless, different, perhaps contradictory constructions could have co-existed from the moment that Jesus’s crucifixion became clear. This sort of scenario has to be taken as a serious possibility given that so much interpretation of Jesus’ death was happening so soon and among different audiences."

I suspect there's more where this came from in Prof Crossley's new book, Jesus and the Chaos of History.


  1. But as Jesus is found more and more socially constructed, any presumed surviving historical or individual remnant shrinks.

    1. Anonymous, your statement implies that "historical" is something other than "socially constructed." I think that's a fundamental mistake. Do you assume that there is historical material that is not socially constructed? What does it look like? Where does one find it?

    2. Likely there are at least degrees of subjectivity. Some efforts seem less true to nature than others. Or are all human thoughts equally true?

  2. I agree, Chris. As far as the gospels go, they can be described as social-cultural stories about social-cultural events - the texts themselves are socially & culturally specific "artifacts" in which Jesus is "re-membered" as being socially construed.