Many thanks to Cornelis Bennema and Albert Lukaszewski for their reviews of Jesus against the Scribal Elite in the most recent Review of Biblical Literature. Both offer ultimately very positive reviews of the book, for which I am grateful.
Bennema has, in my opinion, best understood and represented the book. His critical feedback is helpful. Enlisting Jeremias, he suggests that it might just be possible for an illiterate manual laborer to have climbed the educational ladder and eventually progressed to become a scribal-illiterate person, though he acknowledges that more evidence would be needed in the case of Jesus. He's right about it being technically possible, though I never denied that (Rabbi Akiva is said to have climbed up from poverty, but by marrying into wealth), and also right that more evidence would be needed to see Jesus this way. He also wonders if the association of Jesus with wisdom could have pointed to more educational qualifications on Jesus' behalf than I'm inclined to see. Bennema also asks if Luke really presents Jesus as a scribal-literate teacher. My answer, of course, is an unequivocal "yes" based on the fact that Jesus is portrayed as a reader in Luke 4, but Bennema appeals to the role of the Spirit and thinks it might not be as clear. I'm very honored that Bennema notes many positives in the book and concludes that it is "a very fine piece of work."
Lukaszewski also offers an ultimately very positive review, describing the book as "persuasive" and "the most innovative approach to the question." There are also a few things that need correction in his review, however. First, he criticizes me for placing Samuel in the Ketuvim. He does this because I mention 2 Sam 7//1 Chron 17 as a general background to the debate over Psalm 110 that Jesus initiates in Mark 12:35 (p.118). But I nowhere claim that Samuel was in the Ketuvim (because it wasn't), and only three pages before that discussion explicitly placed Samuel in the Nevi'im (p.115). Second, Lukaszewski claims that my presentation of memory theory is "overly general and . . . insufficiently comprehensive." I'd respond further, but there is no more specific criticism offered (other than that it is postmodern), which sure leaves this author feeling like the shot fired by his reviewer was also "overly general and . . . insufficiently comprehensive." Third, Lukaszewski butchers my claims about historical method and assumptions. He says, "[Keith] first states that he is assuming or affirming the historicity of the pericopae he discusses (8), then that the would accept the gospels as historical sources (102), then that he assumes that the actions of Jesus contained therein are historical (103), then that the historicity of the accounts is not important for his argument (111-12). This signifies methodological ambiguity that is unclarified in the present work."
Well, no, no it doesn't. The ambiguity is only in this muddled presentation of my claims. Let me take these in turn:
"He first states that he is assuming or affirming the historicity of the pericopae he discusses (8)...."
What I actually state on p. 8 is that I'm not arguing for the historicity of every single, individual conflict narrative, but rather "that debates of the sort occurred." It's precisely the historicity of each pericope that I don't discuss.
". . . that he would accept the gospels as historical sources (102) . . . "
I don't even know what to say about this one. Here's what I really say: "If one is to use the Gospels as historical sources, then, one must consider not just who Jesus was but also who he was perceived to be by those around him." So, yes, I do imply that I'm going to use the Gospels as historical sources in the sense that one would use any ancient text as a historical source. If Lukaszewski just doesn't think historical research is possible at all with the Gospels, fair enough. He should say that, though, instead of misrepresenting me as naively taking the Gospels as historically reliable.
" . . . then that he assumes that the actions of Jesus contained therein are historical (103). . ."
Again, I don't assume that he did everything attributed to him and don't say that. What I actually say on p.103 is more nuanced: "I here take it as a safe assumption that Jesus did at least some of these things in addition to teaching in synagogues."
". . . then that the historicity of the accounts is not important for his argument (111-12)."
Annnndddd, again, not . . . exactly . . . what . . . I . . . said. Here's what I actually say: "The historicity of each of these accounts is not important for my argument. . . . My concern is with the general claim of all four Gospels that the conflict between Jesus and the scribal elite centered predominantly on two issues: Scripture and authority."
So, in reality, I am consistent throughout the book that I'm not focusing atomistically on the historical value of individual pericopae but am looking at the historical value of broad claims that Jesus was in conflict with scribal authorities. One can, of course, disagree with those claims, but those are my claims, not what Lukaszewski reports. His failure to understand the memory approach does make a little sense in light of these misrepresentations, though.
At any rate, you can't win them all and I remain grateful for the attention given to the arguments by Bennema and Lukaszewski, and for their overall very positive reviews. I'm especially glad that both noted that the book is enjoyable to read.