Baker Academic

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Despite the tradition common to Matthew and Luke, nothing compels us to suppose that the Holy Spirit was a progenerative agent for Jesus' conception in the earliest form of the birth narratives. This is reflected in the earliest formal mentions of Jesus' birth, which were made by Paul in his letters to the Galatians and Romans. . . . Instead of being related to the birth, the Spirit is associated with the claim that Jesus was resurrected after his death; whereas Jesus' birth betrayed an ancestry that "according to the flesh" goes back to David, his status as Son of God is linked to the resurrection event in which the Spirit of holiness functioned as the divine agent.

                        ~Loren Stuckenbruck (The Myth of Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple                                           Judaism and New Testament Texts)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bauckham Second Edition Giveaway!—Chris Keith

Richard Bauckham's pot-stirring and thought-provoking landmark study, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, is now out in a second edition from Eerdmans.  Those good folks at Eerdmans have decided to do a giveaway of one free copy to a reader of the Jesus Blog.  We haven't done a giveaway in a bit, so here are the rules.  You can enter by (1) leaving a comment, (2) sharing on social media and leaving a comment saying you did, (3) signing up to follow the blog and leaving a comment saying you did, and (4) a wild card entry.  The wild card entry will be SBL-themed.  You can leave a comment stating any of the following:  your favorite thing about SBL; your least-favorite thing about SBL; how you describe SBL to people who don't know what it is; why you will never miss or never go to SBL; what lie you tell people about on the plane on the way to SBL; how many drinks you had with Anthony Le Donne at the last SBL.

We'll leave the giveaway open for a bit and then announce the winner based on the comments.

[UPDATE: This book will be released in the UK at the end of June and distributed by Alban Books.  Their link for the book is here.]

Friday, May 12, 2017

Social Memory: A Hermeneutical Reset

Yesterday Chris Keith treated me to breakfast at Taste of Belgium in Cincinnati. Wonderful frites with a horseradish aioli sauce. But fries served with an omelette? Has the world gone insane? Chris and I (as we tend to do) talked about the past, present, and future prospects of social memory theory in Jesus research. It occurred to me on the drive home that scholars with native fluency in New Testament studies continue to misappropriate the findings of social memory. Either they emphasize the creativity and instability of memory or they emphasize the regular reliability and stability of memory. Both are surface-level observations that fail to see the undergirding hermeneutical reset.

The key question is still "where is history?" If history is "back there in the past" and human memory is creative and and unstable, memory cannot provide access to history. Alternatively, if history is "back there in the past" and human memory is reliable and stable, memory can and does provide access to history. Both conclusions miss the point: history is not "back there." History relates to what is "back there" insomuch as it continues the mnemonic frames and interpretive perceptions of the past. But "history" (like everything under the epistemological umbrella) is something we encounter now. In my reading of him, Ruben Zimmermann (happy birthday!) gets this point. History (and on this point I depart from Maurice Halbwachs) is not something that precedes or undergirds memory.

In order for historians to utilize the findings of Social Memory we don't simply need a new method or new tools or new rules for the road. What we need is a hermeneutical reset whereby the human relationship to epistemology is reconsidered from the ground up.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Runesson’s Origins of the Synagogue for FREE!—Chris Keith

We at the Jesus Blog heard that your week was moving a little sluggishly and thought a free gift might make you feel better.  To that end, we pass along the fantastic news that Anders Runesson's groundbreaking The Origins of the Synagogue: A Socio-Historical Study is available for FREE on his site here.  If you're not familiar with Prof Runesson, who is also known as the father of The Angry Theologian (who, I'm told, might be heading to my alma mater, the University of Edinburgh), then start with this book to familiarize yourself.  For me personally, one of the most interesting developments in the last bit in NT studies is the explosion of synagogue studies, and much of that effort is related in one way or another to Runesson's work.  He's also just published Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew: The Narrative World of the First Gospel (Fortress, 2016).  I haven't read it yet, but will be soon thanks to the good folks at Fortress and will report back.  Thanks to Prof Runesson for alerting us that he is making The Origins of the Synagogue freely available!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Prof Steve Walton Inaugural Lecture at St Mary’s—Chris Keith

Please join us at St Mary's University, Twickenham on Monday, May 15 for Prof Steve Walton's inaugural lecture:  "Doing Theology Lukewise"!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month by Jesus for this Week

"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick."


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Crowd-sourcing Purity

Jesus Blog readers,

I am tinkering with the following paragraphs about purity concerns in Jesus' context. Inevitably, I've found myself attempting to summarize a massive amount of literature dealing with Israel's Pentateuch reception and application. I'm looking for help. What would you add/subtract from the following? Where have I made missteps?



Many (perhaps all) of Jesus’ contemporaries who lived in and practiced day-to-day Jewish life believed that their God was transcendent. Not only was God separate from the created order, God was holy in a way that made God fundamentally distinct from the world of humans. In the priestly story of creation, the elements of the Earth are said to be good. But only God is holy. Thus we see a very ancient worldview distinction between that which is common and that which is holy.

Unfortunately, in this worldview, the common elements of creation are subject to disorder and eventual death. Humanity—while fundamentally good—is prone to disorder and dominated by death. Or, put another way, humans live in the reality of impurity. Impurity is a power opposed to life; it is an infection that results in, physical, ritual, and moral disease.[1] God, on the other hand, is holy.

The narrative of Exodus—the story that provided the foundation of Israel’s collective identity—claims that God is holy and that it is dangerous for humans to be in God’s presence. God, however, provides a way for the Israelites to participate in God’s life-giving holiness. This is accomplished by Moses who follows divine instructions for creating a space for the transcendent God of Israel to reside on the Earth. It is then imperative for the priests to prepare the common people to approach this holy space. Thus certain rituals are established to cleanse Israel from impurity. It is therefore integral for God’s holy presence to reside in the land with the people.

Eventually, this holy site where God resides is built up as a Temple. In this culture, Israel’s God was present in the Jerusalem Temple. Israel’s instructions for pure living helped to orient the people to God’s Temple presence. Everyday actions like food, sex, farming, care for strangers, etc. became ways to orient the people to the holy presence of God.

[1] It is important to make a distinction between impurity and sin. Ritual impurity was inevitable and in most cases had nothing to do with human error. Childbirth, disease, contact with the dead, and bodily fluid caused impurity. Such elements of human life and death were not necessarily sinful but required purification through rituals. Moreover, these rituals (like baptism) were not difficult to accomplish. Moral impurity, on the other hand, was indeed connected with human error: e.g. worship of idols (Lev 19:31; 20;1-3); sexual taboo (Lev 18:24-30); murder (Num 35:33-34). In very basic terms, most of the rituals practiced in Jewish life related to the maintenance of life and death. Or, at least the elements that seemed most related to life and death (e.g. blood, semen, menstruation, food production). Much of the first part of Leviticus deals with ritual purification as it relates to Temple worship (the place where God resides on Earth). Much of the second half of Leviticus deals with broader issues of purity in every-day life (what scholars call the Holiness Code).