Baker Academic

Monday, December 31, 2012

Summing Up the "Mrs. Christ" Curiosity - Le Donne

As 2012 draws to a close (has anyone considered that the Mayans were the best pranksters in history?), it seems that the biggest news in Jesus studies was the "discovery", publicity, and accusations of forgery of the so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife".

Would it be fair to sum up the arguments for forgery in this way?:

(1) The direct-object marker m\ omission that seems to have been copied from Grondin’s page by page interlinear (pdf).  Add to this the curiosities in (2) penmanship, (3) text correction (to e), (4) the form of the name “Mary”, (5) the sheer quantity of potentially scandalous phrases contained on this small fragment, and (6) the mysteriously anonymous collector behind this papyrus.

Are there other arguments that I'm missing?  It is my understanding that ink results have not been released yet.  Have I missed any news here?

Also, what are the best arguments for authenticity?


Interview with James G. Crossley (Part Six)

This is the final part of my interview with James Crossley. My gratitude to James for his participation. Be sure to pick up his Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism. Don't read it, though.  It is perhaps the Frenchiest book ever to have been composed in English. Parts one, two, three, four and five are here, here, herehere and here.

AL: In what ways has the work of Alain Badiou influenced you? Do you anticipate bringing NT studies into dialogue with Badiou with your future projects?

JGC: Badiou has probably influenced me mostly indirectly. I like his more explicitly contemporary stuff, especially with a more historicizing emphasis (e.g. his nicely polemical book on Sarkozy). Where I find myself in agreement, though, has probably tended to be due to other influences. To take a straightforward example, the connections between identity politics and free markets (which he has made) seems right but where I’ve developed this it has been more deeply influenced by David Harvey and Fredric Jameson. To take another example of indirect
influence, Ward Blanton has had a long standing and ongoing interest in Badiou and I suspect there have been a number of unknown ideas I’ve absorbed via Ward. 
To make a general distinction, my emphasis has always strongly involved being a historian whereas Badiou would, of course, see himself as a philosopher. But, obviously enough, the philosophical and historical cannot really be separated, no matter where we place the emphasis. And it is in this sense that I do want bring Badiou into dialogue with NT studies in some forthcoming work, particularly his work more known to NT studies (i.e. his book on Paul) and as a dialogue partner to recreate a nineteenth century debate which has never really gone away: Marxism, totalitarianism, the “revolution that failed” and Bakhunin’s famous prophetic criticisms of Marx (and to some extent Orwell’s reading of the history of Marxism in Animal Farm). While Badiou (along with Žižek) have made wildly anachronistic claims (which they acknowledge as anachronistic) comparing Jesus and Paul with Marx and Lenin, I think there is something to this, if not taken too woodenly. Did not a message of radical overturning of the world with the Kingdom of God imply both a radical promise of reversal and a divine dictator? Did not the material attributed to Jesus become both Rome/Empire(s) and a message of liberation? 
That is, of course, playing around a wee bit and I’m not for one moment suggesting Jesus is a Marx, Che or whatever kind of revolutionary figure. In fact, I’m trying much less to work with Jesus the (radical) individual and with the general kind of views and traditions as products of social change in Galilee around the time of Jesus, whether they are appealing, horrific, boring, weird, etc. and how they were taken up, ignored, redirected, influential, changed, modified, became radically misinterpreted etc by the movement that would follow in Jesus’ name. 
Badiou and Žižek, and Marx more generally, will provide a helpful starting point for this, though Bakhunin’s chastening critique (and his associated tradition) will ultimately be more reflective of my ideological position. But all this also raises the question which should be constantly raised of how social upheaval can be significant in historical change in a variety of ways. This kind of history can help us understand much better, or at least more fully, the continuities, discontinuities, and questions of why things happen and change than the one dimensional approach of standard histories of Christian origins.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Jesus Blog 2012 Book of the Year

Prof. Dr. Keith and I are pleased to award our
2012 Book of the Year to Helen K. Bond for...

We are convinced that The Historical Jesus: A Guide for 
the Perplexed will become the standard primary text for
classes on the historical Jesus.

Helen discusses this project in her Jesus Blog interview.

And the Winner is...

Using the True Random Generator at the winner of our drawing is the mysterious person behind this comment:

Shared on facebook & twitter!

"SP", would you please comment on this post with your email address to receive a free copy of my The Historiographical Jesus. Your information will not be published.

My thanks to Baylor University Press for their generosity.


Interview with James G. Crossley (Part Five)

Parts one, two, three, and four are here, here, here, and here.

AL: In your book Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism you argue (among other things) that Jesus scholarship has traditionally constructed an ideologically "credible" centre. We tend to place the Lee Strobel-types on one end of an extreme and the Robert Price-types on the other end, then we situate ourselves next to E.P. Sanders as best we can to make ourselves appear sane. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Isn't the major reason why Sanders appears credible because his arguments make a great deal of sense?

JGC: Yes, certainly. While we should not automatically dismiss radical alternatives, there are historical reasons why a lot of Sanders’ arguments are appealing. But this question of historical right or wrong is not necessarily the way a reading of scholarship (at least as I put forward) functions (though it can). It is again helpful to think of reading scholarship on two levels: 1) reading scholarship as part of cultural history, irrespective of its rights and wrongs in terms of reconstructing ancient history; 2) reading scholarship as part of social history to see where or how errors in historical reconstruction were made. Taking the sense of 1), looking at the “credible” centre, and the how the extremes are constructed, can be a helpful way of analysing “common sense” ideological trends to which people refer. I think the best recent example is how scholars keep referring to how Jewish Jesus was, despite no one denying he was Jewish, and how certain other (“bad”) scholars apparently downplay his “Jewishness”. There’s a lot to work with there. Extremes are also helpful too not only in that they can be used to make the centre look credible but that a certain degree of explicitness can tell us about some of the implicit assumptions of the centre. This sort of analysis works particularly well with some of the more “extreme” racialized discourses on Jewishness (or: Israelite-ness) and Jesus because they shows just how much emphasis on race and ethnicity there is in scholarship and that even the benign emphasis on “Jewishness” is playing a similar game in that it keeps the focus on ethnicity. 
But this can overlap into the second sense of reading scholarship as cultural history: looking for errors in historical reconstruction. Again, the obvious case for us today is Nazi scholarship. But I think looking at the construction of “Jewishness” in scholarship has also meant (for me at least) that there is a problem in the way it is being used in historical reconstruction. This is not to say that we can’t answer the question of Jesus in relation to Jewish groups of his day. However, this is another area where I would like to see different questions being posed other than ones of ethnicity so convenient to modern liberal thinking. And this is why I would like to see more thoroughgoing materialist readings of Jesus in relation to historical change. We are back to where we were: potentially competing visions of history and ideology.
My sixth and final Q&A with James will be posted tomorrow...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What does it Mean to Say that Jesus was Jewish? (Part One) - Le Donne

Gerd Theissen's chapter in this book begins by discussing the so-called "German Christian" movement in Nazi Germany.  Famously, this group (Ludwig Müller, Walter Grundmann, Emmanuel Hirsch et al.) attempted to dejudaize Christianity with an eye toward dejudaizing Europe.  They argued that Jesus led his followers out of the shackles of Jewish legalism.  Over and against this program, Rudolf Bultmann argued that Jesus remained a Jew his whole life and did not lead any sort of exodus away from Judaism.  Rather Jesus critiqued a particular form of legalism (for more on Bultmann see here).

While Theissen disagrees with Bultmann's neat distinction between "law" and "legalism", he commends Bultmann for offering an alternative to the anti-Semitic theology of his context and for locating Jesus within Judaism.  After setting the stage in this way, Theissen observes:

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross. The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed; in other words, they must be conformed to his death (Phil 3.10, Rom 6.4). The Christian life is a life of crucifixion (Gal 2.19). In baptism the form of Christ's death is impressed upon his own. They are dead to the flesh and to sin, they are dead to the world, and the world is dead to them (Gal 6.14). Anybody living in the strength of Christ's baptism lives in the strength of Christ's death.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

How Does One Best Utilize Bible Software? - Le Donne

To follow up my post from yesterday, here are some more specific questions:

What are some tips for the pedagogical use of Bible software?  How soon should the teacher introduce it? Which aspects (if any) of the software are best left untouched?  Should one use it for verbs early on to allow students to contextualize their preliminary vocabulary words before they can translate?  It is helpful in class lectures?

Should it be left off the syllabus entirely?


Friday, December 28, 2012

To Software or Not to Software? - Le Donne

Introduction to Koine Greek is a identity-marking rite of passage for the undergraduate / seminarian who seeks to become conversant with New Testament studies.  In many cases, one's ability to achieve in this class answered the question of one's prospects for a PhD definitively.  This is not to say that every student with an 'A' in Greek has the work ethic, creativity, appetite, and discerning eye to pursue a PhD, but it used to force most folks who could not excel with languages into other occupations.  But has the information age robbed us of this rite of passage?

I remember thinking as an undergraduate that my generation might be the last generation of scholars to really learn biblical languages. It occurred to me in the late 90's that software like Accordance, Logos, and Bibleworks would provide crutches that might stunt the growth of would-be academics.  I can now reflect on this notion with a bit of hindsight.  Was I hasty to think this?

Helen Bond on Writing a Jesusbuch

Bond writes of Ten Things I Learnt about Jesus by Writing a Book about Him over at The Bible and Interpretation.



Interview with James G. Crossley - Part Four

Parts one, two, and three are here, here, and here.

AL: Who is smarter: Chris or me? - No, don’t answer; too obvious. If you could model your career after one religious scholar, past or present (excluding Chris), who would it be?

JGC: Who is smarter? I’m happy, and not scared, to answer that. It is indeed too obvious: the American one, you know, the dude with the facial hair. 
Who would I (other than the aforementioned) model myself on? I’m going to give a predicable answer here, I afraid: no one (is that allowed?). There is too much chaos and unpredictability, and difference from the scholarly contexts of the past, to even consider modelling myself on any particular scholar. There are also new things to be done and trying to emulate the past can be a hindrance. Certainly there are people who have traits I like but they are usually human traits I like. I also worry that concern for modelling one career on another leads to too much adoration of famous scholars which I really don’t like. Thinking about it, the question could have been reversed: if you could criticise one scholarly career which would it be? 
I could, and maybe should, point to those scholars (in religion) for whom I have some admiration, particularly those who have stood up against dominant scholarly orthodoxies. There are some scholars I won’t mention in case they read this but I have great admiration for some contemporary scholars who have taken some serious abuse for criticising (and criticising rightly, I think) powerful ideological trends at work in scholarship. I’ve also been promoted to look at JAT Robinson again in recent weeks and there were elements of his career I found particularly interesting. I liked his unpredictability and when Britain was facing some aggressive positions on anti-immigration and racism in the late 60s he wittily stood up against this trend (apparently saying immigration officers wouldn’t let Jesus into the UK at the Second Coming). These days, there are plenty of liberal types who will tell us how much they love multiculturalism and how Jewish their Jesus is (in both cases, there are always limits and implicit superiority) but Robinson did it before it was so fashionable.  
Having said all that, I really, really wish I had invented NT Wrong.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Other Shoe Drops at Emmanuel - Le Donne

After tons of fun speculation and cyberspace eye-poking, the other shoe has dropped.

Christopher Rollston is on his way to GWU after being run out of town. I'm sure that it is much more complicated than this... and I'm also pretty certain that my summary here is not that far off the mark.


Five Best Introductions to the Historical Jesus—Chris Keith

What, in my opinion, are the five best introductions to the historical Jesus?  This is a more difficult question to answer than one might first assume because most of the significant contributions to Jesus studies in the past one hundred years or so have not been introductions.  But this is a good question to ask because writing introductory material is extremely hard—it takes a very good scholar/writer to take complex issues and render them accessible to non-specialists.  The question is difficult to answer as well because some books aim to introduce the historical Jesus and others aim to introduce historical Jesus studies/scholars, and some try to do both.  I’ll aim to answer the question, though, with the following criteria:  the book has to have proven useful in the classroom or discussion with non-specialists; it has to aim for an introductory audience; and it has to aim to introduce the historical Jesus or historical Jesus scholarship.  (So, in light of the first point, readers will notice an obvious Anglo-American bent in my list.  In light of the last point, I can’t include Anthony’s Historical Jesus:What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?, which is really more about historiography, and a great introduction at that.)

So what are the five best?  Here’s my take.  I’m sure others will disagree, so make your own contribution to the list in the comments.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Interview with James G. Crossley - Part Three

I continue my interview with Crossley below. Parts one and two are here and here.

AL: I feel like I hear a version of this formula often: our discipline is in disarray because we've failed to produce a consensus portrait of Jesus. So first, is this what you're saying? Second, what is the virtue of a consensus portrait of Jesus? Why not keep experimenting? And third, are there really that many different portraits? It seems to me that there is a great deal of overlap among historians (really only three or four competing portraits) and that we make a living quibbling over nuances. Am I missing something here?

JGC: Yes, that formula is thrown around a lot and I was really just being flippant (I’ll come to that). On the first sub-question, I don’t think the discipline is in disarray because of a failure to present a consensus. The discipline-in-disarray may have been what the sarcastic version of what I was saying implied but not the serious version. To answer your final sub-question, I think the implied answer to your question is right: there are only a few competing portraits and that there is a lot of general agreement. I think this in terms of the portraits presented but it is also the case because of the standard questions repeatedly asked e.g. was Jesus an apocalyptic prophet…or not? It is no surprise that the answers to that are variants on a theme, or quibbling over nuances as you put it. The problems I have with the field are really more to do with the questions asked and the ideological positions they represent. 
On the second sub-question, I don’t know if there is virtue in a consensus portrait of Jesus, though I’d always be inclined to challenge a consensus. There are certainly ideas that remain in place through the generations but there are a number of ideas which just fall by the wayside or are even seen to be highly problematic. On the latter, just think of the different understandings of “the Jewish background” pre-and post- 1977. Both represent a consensus and the pre-1977 view (I would add post-1977 – see below) should at least make us a little sceptical when scholars resort to consensus views on anything. 
All this (and more!) is why I would strongly agree with the implication of the third sub-question: we do need to keep experimenting. Indeed even if consensus views got things historically right, experimenting would also open up new ways of looking at the historical Jesus. What the flippancy of my response was really supposed to imply (though it was far too cryptic) is that we should indeed be thinking of alternative ways of framing the questions about the historical Jesus and doing something a little differently.
...more to follow later in the next few days...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Bit of Holiday Music from Peter Mayer - Le Donne

As I've been making Christmas cards this morning with my little family, I've been enjoying Peter Mayer's Midwinter. It's not overtly Christmassy, but perfect for Christmas.  Not religioussy yet deeply religious.

If this name rings a bell, I used the lyrics from one of Mayer's songs in my Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

Peter Mayer is "folk" in almost every sense of that genre. But if you don't like folk, maybe this is more your speed.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Interview with James G. Crossley - Part Two

I continue my interview with James G. Crossley below. The first part of this interview can be found here.
AL: Assuming that none of us are immune to bias – that we have ideologies that guide our research and script our conclusions (to some extent), should we run from these scripts? embrace them? are there other options?
JGC: Yes and no. In historical Jesus studies (and history more broadly) ideological clashes are always at work at some level but also there are perspectives, whether we like them or not, that produce different questions and maybe even helpful answers. I don’t see much point in trying to run from perspectives as such. I still think Thomas Haskell’s claim that “objectivity is not neutrality” (partly generated, incidentally, in his review of Novick’s reading of American historians) is helpful. From this perspective, an ideological position (not neutral) can be guided by some degree of detachment and distancing which does not put the interpreter’s own perspective at the centre of the universe. I mean, many arguments still stand or fall by the evidence and that’s how we all try to work (even if some scholars still imply they are sufficiently detached from ideology). 
Having said that, there are a million and one contradictory Jesuses so maybe there is no future. But maybe there are ways around that too…
more to follow this week...

Was Jesus Born in a Barn? Probably Not - Le Donne

This link is to a nice synopsis of Stephen Carlson's thesis concerning Luke's account of Jesus' birth. I think I might have been present at an SBL session where Carlson presented this paper.  Or I might be making that up based on my vague memory of reading this essay a couple years ago.  Does anyone know if Carlson presented this paper at an annual or regional SBL... an affirmation it would help me improve my memory.

Anyway, really interesting thesis.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

E.P. Sanders and Gerd Theissen: My Man-crushes Revealed - Le Donne

As promised, today I answer this: If you could study under two (and only two) living historical Jesus scholars, who would they be? I'll place the strictures that I enforced with Chris upon myself.  I will avoid selecting the brilliant men who supervised my dissertation. I will also not select Dale Allison and Jens Schroeter since these names would simply duplicate Chris' answer.  So here are my selections:

If I could study with any two living historical Jesus scholars, I'd choose E.P. Sanders and Gerd Theissen.

Sanders may well be the greatest living New Testament scholar.  His research marks seachanges for both Jesus studies and Paul studies.  It is difficult to imagine what contemporary New Testament studies would look like without him.

No less important is Gerd Theissen. Theissen's Soziologie der Jesusbewegung was published the same year as Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977) and argued that Christianity began as a Jewish renewal movement.  Moreover, this argument was leveled in a context wherein such a statement was highly disputed.  While the "Jesus as Jew" era in Jesus studies is often credited to others, Theissen's work (translated as Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity) has never received due credit.  Indeed, his Wikipedia entry devotes only one line to this book: "His Sociology of early Palestinian Christianity (1978) is useful for interpreting intertestamental literature."  This is absurdly faint praise for a groundbreaking book.  Not only does Theissen anticipate the next forty years of historical Jesus research, he demonstrates how interdisciplinary use of sociology ought to look.  I also firmly believe that his analysis of rural attitudes versus urban attitudes within first-century Judaism has not yet been fully appreciated by historical Jesus scholars.  I suppose I also admire the gumption it takes to write for the popular level in ways that grind against the grain of most ivory tower folks.

Oddly, I have never met either one of these scholars face to face.


p.s. to see the full results from the Jesus Blog readers, see here.

A Warm Congrats to Catrin - Le Donne

I just learned from Crux Sola that Catrin Williams has taken over as the new editor of Journal for the Study of the New Testament. You will be hard pressed to find a finer scholar and person.



Jesus Blog Interview with James G. Crossley - Part One

Over the next couple weeks I will be posting parts of my interview with Sheffield University's James G. Crossley. I'd like to thank him for answering most of my questions honestly.

AL: Dr. Crossley, the Jesus Blog has taken a survey monkey poll and determined that you are the sexiest Jesus scholar who ever lived. You beat out Ernst Renan by a narrow margin. So let me begin by asking, what is your secret? 

JGC: Just for Men Touch of Grey

AL: Of the two main characters in the film Harold and Maude, with whom do you most identify?

JGC: After googling “Harold and Maude” and watching it on Wikipedia, I would like to think Maude and that I’d have a chirpy outlook on life in the face of death, though I’ve no desire to finish any earlier than I really have to. But, given the descent in to middle age, I’ll probably be more like Harold earlier on the film. But really wanting to be him in the end. Now that is an answer considering I’ve still not seen the film.

AL: Judging from that sulfurous-agnostic smell that you emit, my guess is that you’re into assessing “ideological underpinnings” and that sort of nonsense. Why should scholars care about our own life situations? If we just keep our eyes on Jesus, we should be able to just be objective, right?
JGC: Yes, but only 50-60% of the time because I still like ancient history, especially (and for reasons I cannot explain) details of purity law and language in the Mark 7. Still, I do enjoy that sort of nonsense to which you allude. Why should scholars care? Well, as I see it in part, ideological critique of scholarship is another part of human history (more contemporary obviously) so anyone interested in contemporary history and culture might care (or: enjoy) it. Other than enjoyment, ideological critique of scholarship can help unravel how we got here in the history of ideas and how the kinds of assumptions we hold might not be eternal and might just be a product of contemporary history. Certainly this sort of critique can also show us where scholars have gone wrong but I’m not against one eye on Jesus. Negotiating past and present (including asking modern questions) can also produce creative ways of understanding historical development and the ways in which the figure of Jesus fits in to historical change. We can use ancient history as part of a larger historical and genealogical narrative, just as we can use contemporary history.  
And who doesn’t want to be horrible to other scholars with the “get out clause” that we’re also part of the problem so that’s ok then, isn’t it?

More will be posted tomorrow...

Friday, December 21, 2012

PhD in New Testament at St Mary’s—Chris Keith

For those of you who are considering pursuing a PhD, I want to take a moment of self-promotion here on the Jesus Blog.  In my capacity as Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, I’m currently taking on new PhD students.  If you have a desire to pursue doctoral work, please get in touch with me at  We have an exciting Biblical Studies faculty with Philip Esler and me in New Testament and Dr. Katherine Southwood in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  At the end of this academic year, we will be launching the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible.

St Mary’s is located in an ideal part of Southwest London, about twenty-five minutes from Central London and six miles from Heathrow Airport.  Although we encourage students to join us in residential study here on campus, there is also the possibility of studying in a non-residential format.  Students can come for an intense period of initial study, and then finish from their homes abroad.  And, let me throw this out there, too—if you could talk him into it, there’s even the possibility of Dr. Le Donne being your PhD co-supervisor!  So if anyone has some exciting ideas for a PhD in historical Jesus work and would want to work with us, let us know about it.

Best Biography on Bultmann - Le Donne

This book was recommended to me by Gerd Theissen and I found it extremely helpful:

Hammann,  Konrad.  Rudolf  Bultmann: Eine  Biographie. Tübingen:  Mohr  Siebeck, 2009.

It is now available in English. Thank me later.


Introductory Book Recommendations? - Le Donne

In comment to Dr. Keith's "five books you should read" post, Ken asks:
What would you recommend for the non-theology student with a hunger for a deeper knowledge and understanding of the history, interpretation and context of the New Testament and it's origins? I have read many of Ben Witherington's books with great satisfaction but some of them are way beyond me. I have added several of your recommendations to my Amazon wish list hoping they are good for the serious but uneducated believer.
Any suggestions for books that cover "history, interpretation and context of the New Testament and it's origins" at a very basic level?

Fantasy Team for Jesus Nerds: Results

A couple weeks ago, the Jesus Blog asked this question: If you could choose only two living Jesus scholars to work with, who would they be and why?  After 50 entries, here are the results:

Dale C. Allison Jr. - 12
N.T. Wright - 10
John Dominic Crossan - 6
John P. Meier and E.P. Sanders - 5
James D.G. Dunn and Craig A. Evans - 4
Richard Bauckham, Craig Keener, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Amy-Jill Levine - 3
Paula Fredriksen and Gerd Theissen - 2
Twenty others tied with 1

Dale is the king of the world!  Perhaps he's en vogue because the world is ending and he is Dr. Apocalypto. ...or it could have something to do with his combination of brilliance, originality, and productivity.  His homeless-guy sweater helps the whole tortured genius persona too.

I must admit that I was surprised to see Tom Wright take second place here. I was happy to see Dale get his due (who could argue with this result?), but I was almost certain that the messianic cult that exists within the gravitational pull of Wright's star would eclipse all.  But hagiography aside, there is a reason that Tom has received attention that he has.  Like Prof. Dr. Keith told me long ago, "You don't get to be N.T. Wright without having a few good ideas."  

Crossan makes a great deal of sense.  Few have been more influential.  Again, I was surprised not to see Meier, Sanders, Evans, and Dunn a bit higher.  And there were several that only received one vote that were certainly deserving of more recognition. 

Tomorrow I will select my dream team and then ask a new question.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Matthew's "Death of Innocents" Episode Wholesale Invention?

Brian LePort referees opposing views on this question:  Is Matthew's "Death of Innocents" episode simply literary invention? James McGrath and Tony Jones hash it out.
Here is the link.

Loosely related observation:
In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Matthew 2:13-23 is getting more attention this Christmas.  On the one hand, I have often lamented that this important episode generally gets forgotten during Santa Claus season.  So perhaps we connect better with Matthew's good news once we are able to relate to Matthew's vision of darkness (i.e. exodus isn't "good news" unless one understands the utter horror of exile).  On the other hand, there is something unspeakable about this recent tragedy.  One wonders when it is appropriate to bring a singularly repugnant event into dialogue with larger cultural narratives.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "War" on Christmas

It seems that the Christians are pretty well off after all.  Like cockroaches in a dark room, we're ubiquitous. 

This will come as no surprise to the seminary-trained among us, but this Washington Post blogger is quite astounded.


Enter to Win a Free Book - Le Donne

No more entries will be accepted.

We’re continuing our giveaways of copies of our books here at The Jesus Blog. The winner this time around will get a free copy of my The Historiographical Jesus. My thanks to the folks at Baylor University Press for providing this free book!

There are four opportunities to enter this giveaway

1) comment here,

2) sign up to follow the blog (and leave a comment saying that you did), and/or

3) share this post on Facebook (and leave a comment saying that you did).

4) share this post on Twitter (and leave a comment saying that you did).

We’ll announce a winner in two weeks.

As to the book itself, it is the first full-scale application of social memory theory to the historical Jesus. It is also the most comprehensive treatment of the title "Son of David". It was also (I am told) the first dissertation to receive a dedicated panel review at the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting (founded in 1880). Here is the table of contents:


So You Need a Dissertation Topic, Installment VI: Josephus as Trickster

“Every good story deserves a bit of embellishment.” So says Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s retelling of The Hobbit (blaspheming at a theater near you). Of course, Gandalf’s words are uttered to meta-narratological effect, of which Tolkien was no stranger.  In other words, the story-teller has placed these words on the lips of the story-teller in the film to justify the creativity that will be employed in the film.  So the character, in this case Gandalf, has transcended the narrative to address the audience directly (sort of like an uber-aside and wink).  Quite clever for a cleaver.

In this installment of “so you need a dissertation topic,” I will suggest a look at Josephus’ autobiographical accounts (in this case, mostly Life and War) from a comparative-mythology perspective.  Much of the work of Steve Mason over the last decade has been to nuance the category of “history” as it is demonstrated by Josephus.  It seems absurd that this is true, but for much of 2000 years, historians have taken Josephus at face value except at points where there are contradictions or “interpolations”.  In other words, we have just assumed more often than not that Josephus is more facts and less revisionist history.  Notice the chief indicator of historical positivism here (I don’t think I’m building a straw-man here, but I can always revise this later if I find out that I am).  But what if Josephus has framed his own story in legendary categories?

... Over at Jewish-Christian Intersections

An interesting take on Allison's Constructing Jesus.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Living Messy as a Family - Le Donne

To follow up on my previous post about sermons, I figured that it is only fair that I put myself out there for critique. Here is a sermon that I preached recently. Feel free to have a copy of Game of Thrones handy in case this gets cringe-worthy.


Craig Evans video interview

Over at Near Emmaus, Brian has posted a link to a video interview with Dr. Craig Evans.  Craig is a walking encyclopedia on all things historical Jesus and a very gifted teacher to boot.

Treat yourself.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Jesus Blog Poll re: Constructing Jesus

Chris and I have been preaching the necessity of Dale C. Allison Jr.'s Constructing Jesus. Chris even used the phrase "game changer" recently and put it in his top five books in NT studies. With this in mind, I cannot help but wonder how long it takes for a "game changer" to change the game. The amazon ranking for this book is decent, but not nearly as I high as I might expect.

I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd vote in this anonymous poll. We see only the results, not the identity of the voters.



Don't Miss Out!

Don't miss out on the coolest giveaway ever at Exploring Our Matrix. be honest, I didn't think that these trading cards were real at first. But they're real and they're spectacular!


Church-going for the Educated - Le Donne

This is going to be one of those Jesus Blog entries for my co-religionists. I don’t do this often, but every now and again I will take a more “so how then shall we live” tone. I know that this will turn some people off. I don’t really care all that much, but rest assured that I’ll be posting on Jesus’ digestive system again very soon.

There is a question that I get from seminary students once and a while that I like very much. It goes like this: “How does somebody who has spent their life studying 'these things' ever sit through a sermon again without cringing?”

I like this question a whole lot for two reasons. One, it means that the seminarian has reached a level of intelligence that has ruined them for any sort of Joel Osteen/Kirk Cameron/Mike Huckabee tomfoolery. Two, I get to offer one of the few answers that I know of that is both pithy and true at the same time. Normally with fortune cookie wisdom, you get what you pay for - but not always. Here is my answer:

Whenever I sit in a sermon, or lecture, or presentation of any kind, I try to allow myself to be challenged by at least one thing.

I have had the privilege of learning from some fine preachers and teachers in my time, so perhaps it is easy for me to say this. I have highly intelligent friends who use the sermon time to read Game of Thrones. We all have our own survival mechanisms and all that I’m saying is that mine works for me. To each their own, but do my best to engage with the sermon on some level.

I say this because it is far too easy for critical minds to deconstruct. I often feel this way in films. I find myself critiquing the placement of a scene toward the development of the plot, or the delivery of a line, or the motivations of the character, etc. ("The Hobbit" almost broke me.)  And if I’m doing this, I wonder how trained film critics ever “lose themselves” in a story.  Well biblical scholars and theologians have a similar problem at church (and I imagine at synagogue, temple and mosque too, but I wouldn’t know).

By focusing on finding one acorn of nourishment, I am able let most of the other stuff drift past.  Now, on occasion, I find myself blindsided by some bit of premillennialism, American exceptionalism, or anti-Semitism that I cannot let go.  If so I become Dr. Grumpy in car-ride home as my wife can attest.  But I try.

Another bit of advice that I’ve appreciated comes from a friend of mine. He says that “Church really isn’t about feeding you; it really isn’t about you at all.” I take this to mean that Church is about worshipping and worship is an act of forgetting oneself long enough to focus upon something beyond you. This, of course, is easier for some than others.

This may or may not be helpful as you find yourself deconstructing traveling stars and Moses typology this advent.

Any thoughts on this? What is the best advice you’ve heard on this topic?


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Scot Offers an Overview of Horsley's Latest - Le Donne

Ah that old chestnut: Was Jesus an apocalyptic prophet? Dick Horsley suggests that this question is ultimately misleading and obscures the political realities that underpin Jesus' motives.

Read McKnight's overview here.


Week (or so) in Review - Dec 16

I reflect on my first year at Lincoln Christian University.

With the generosity of Baylor University Press, we give away a copy of my book. You can still enter to win here.

I ask who our followers would study with if given the choice of any two living Jesus scholars. We are still a handful of comments away from our goal of fifty. Comment here if you haven't already.

I discuss an early Christian controversy concerning Jesus' digestive system.

Dr. Keith notes an interesting change in the NA28... some enlightening comments follow alongside a variety of other sorts of comments.

I begin my series critiquing of the historical Jesus Wikipedia page.

I review a cool website for NT Greek called Great Treasures dot org.

Dr. Keith drools over Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung edited by by Christoph Markschies and Jens Schröter.

I pass along the news concerning a (probably) Hasmonean site discovery. My thanks to Jim Davila.

My question about memory and jurisprudence spurs an interesting conversation between Brett, Larry, and friends.

I discuss the highlights from Carrie Schroeder's fine presentation concerning the Jesus' wife controversy.

Dr. Keith alerts us to an deal from Fortress via Logos.

I reveal the top ten gifts that every Jesus historian wants for Christmas.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Goodacre is Always Worth a Listen - Le Donne

Richard Carrier is among the few folks in the world who think Jesus was myth from start to finish - never existed. Goodacre represents 99% of historical critical research spanning two thousand years on this one.


Talpiot Tomb Controversy - Le Donne

Here is the latest on the Jesus' Family controversy.

Question: what percentage of academia is made up of arguments over who is pretending the best?

If it's over 50%, can I suggest that we just play a good game of Settlers of Catan and get it out of our system?


BibleWorks Special—Keith

Just got this from Jim Barr at BibleWorks:

We haven’t offered a “sale price” in years, but we thought we would offer this special deal during the holiday season. Maybe some of your readers will want to take advantage of it:

12 day special

Through December 25, when you buy BibleWorks 9, we'll include the ESV Study Bible module for free ($20 value)! This is the full text of the ESV Study Bible, with high-resolution images and maps. (Offer does not apply to upgrades.)

Learn more about BibleWorks at our updated website:

To take advantage of this special order BW9, the ESVS module, and use the coupon code 12DAYS

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

"God is defined by Jesus but not confined to Jesus"

                         ~Huston Smith

Friday, December 14, 2012

Was Jesus Born in a Manger? ...and what exactly is a manger, anyway?

You might like what James McGrath writes about this... and you might not.


Only 10 More to Reach Our Goal - Le Donne

Recently I asked:

If you could study under two (and only two) living historical Jesus scholars, who would they be?  Would you choose two names that represent different ends along a spectrum? Would you choose two scholars with strengths that complement each other?

We currently have 40 picks.  Since we get 1000 views per day here at the Jesus Blog, this means that there is room for improvement. Please click here to enter your picks.


Antike christliche Apokryphen 7th edition—Chris Keith

Whoa Nelly!  I have on my desk the two-volume Antike christliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung, edited by Christoph Markschies and Jens Schröter and just published this year by Mohr Siebeck.  This is the seventh edition of the classic Hennecke and Schneemelcher collection of Christian apocrypha, which most English readers will recognize from R. McL. Wilson’s translation New Testament Apocrypha from WJK (I think).  With entirely updated essays and (German) translations of the texts, this is no doubt now the authoritative collection of early Christian apocrypha.  You can find it here on Amazon.  For those of you who are interested in Jesus studies, if you don’t know the name of Jens Schröter—and you should, we’ve mentioned him here in reference to his contribution to Demise of Authenticity—get ready to know it.  I’ve had confirmation that two of his important German books are being translated into English, including his Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament.

N.T. Wright Meme - Le Donne

Say what you will about Tom Wright, but he tends to frame things in a compelling way.
Even when you disagree with something he's said, you can't help but admire the way that
he said it.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ph.D. Funding for the Top-Ranked Religion Program in the UK - Le Donne

For those of you sending out PhD applications, this might interest you. My thanks to John Byron for alerting me to this.

NB: Durham’s Religion Department ranked first among all UK Universities by the Research Assessment Exercise for 2008. Durham was ranked at no. 1 among all departments of theology and religion in the UK in two categories: (a) the highest percentage of publications at 4 (world-leading research) and (b) the highest Grade Point Average for these publications.

Durham is sure to rank among the best (if not the best) in this years REF (formerly the RAE; assessed every three years).


Studies of Memory Distortion in Law? ...a little help here please - Le Donne

Working on an essay for the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus this morning.  I just wrote this: should be noted that what some have vaguely called “memory theory” represents work in cognitive psychology, sociology, political theory, anthropology, historiography, analytic philosophy, orality/aurality, and media studies (and there may be more related disciplines of which I am not aware).
This reminded me of a comment that Loren Stuckenbruck made to me in Durham. He suggested that "social memory theory" might have an important impact on the study of law. Of course, he is right... and right in a way that seems immediately obvious.

Well, it has been almost ten years since that conversation and I still do not know of any doctors of jurisprudence who have interacted with "social memory theory". (Of course there are essays that apply the cognitive part of this equation.)  So let me put it out to you: are there any applications of social memory theory in law? If so, are there a few titles that you (pl) might bring to my attention?


NB: for more on the many and varied applications of "memory theory" see this post.

James McGrath Cheats!

In answer to my recent question, McGrath writes:

It is tough to pick two. I would leave Jimmy Dunn out of it since I already studied with him and would not subject him to that again. I think that I'd make Rudolf Bultmann one of them, not just because I appreciate his approach to mediating Christianity to the present day, but because of his full-fledged skepticism about the Jesus tradition. Then I'd make the second one Dale Allison, who thinks that the gist of the earliest depictions of Jesus must be right or otherwise nothing else can be. Of course, I'd be able to get little done with my advisers squabbling constantly...
I mentioned this "fantasy team" in my post today about a giveaway of theologian trading cards, so please do spread the word about that!

This is an open disregard for the strictures set forth from the start. The two scholars must be "living" and Bultmann has not only passed but he has a Straße named after him.

I cry foul!


ps. to enter your revised selection, comment here.

Jesus Disrupts Darts Tourney

Love him or hate him, Jesus is always the center of attention this time of year.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Reminder to Weigh in on the Super-Nerd Contest of the Century - Le Donne

I got a very decent response from my post concerning this question:

If you could study under two (and only two) living historical Jesus scholars, who would they be? Would you choose two names that represent different ends along a spectrum? Would you choose two scholars with strengths that complement each other?

Even so, I'd like to get at least fifty comments to expand the sample size. I'm attempting to measure the difference between popular perceptions in the blogosphere and the ivory tower. To weigh in on this question click here. Feel free to email a friend who might have an interesting opinion.

Don't make me beg; I'm the most pathetic beggar you've ever seen.


ps. I've disabled the comments option on this post, so click here.

Hasmonean-era Site Discovered? - Le Donne

I just learned of this interesting news over at Jim Davila's epic blog.


Great Treasures Dot Org - Le Donne

I have been a Bible software guy for almost two decades now.  In my Mac days (yes, I used to be an elitist) I used Accordance exclusively.  My first love was Dead Sea Scrolls and Accordance was the only software that had what I needed.  When I switched to a PC (yes, I am now white trash - well, not really "white" but I am certainly trashy), I kept using Accordance with a Mac-emulator.  I also mixed in Bibleworks and found that it met most of my needs.  I am also very familiar with Logos. In fact, I recently wrote the entry on "The Apostle Paul" for their Lexham project.  I must say that Logos has come a very long way since I was first shopping around.

There is one thing that all of the above have in common.  They all cost monies.

A couple years ago I clicked on a google ad for this free online resource.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some Positive Reflections on My Time in Lincoln – Le Donne

As you might imagine, my departure from Lincoln Christian University and central Illinois was complicated. But, as odd as this might sound, my first year in Lincoln was one of the best years of my life. This post will only tell you half of the story, but I think it might be worthwhile to tell it. ...more...

Historical Jesus and Wikipedia Part I - Le Donne

Wikipedia is low-hanging fruit.  If there is some basic detail that you've forgotten, it is just a quick google search away.  The judicious scholar uses the Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyThe Catholic EncyclopediaThe Jewish Encyclopedia, etc, but there are times when that low-hanging fruit tempts us.  For example, I know that Spinoza was born in 1630-something, but what is the exact date?  It takes me four clicks and two fields to get to this information with the preferred resources... or I can be one click away from the answer with Wikipedia.   This is altogether shaming because, when one knows a subject well, it is quite common to find Wikipedia lacking (yeah, big surprise, I know).

A few days ago it occurred to me that I had never examined the "Historical Jesus" entry for Wikipedia.  I imagine that millions of interested searches have landed on that page.  I also imagine that most of these searchers took the low-hanging fruit on offer.  I was curious what I would find.  In many cases, the information represented is typical.  But not always and I thought it might be an interesting project to work through the content and point out strengths, deficiencies, and statements that I simply disagree with or would rather word differently.  I suppose that I'll try to take it a paragraph at a time and do something on this weekly.  It is also entirely possible that I will forget that I was ever interested in this.

Paragraph one:

The term historical Jesus refers to scholarly reconstructions of portraits of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. These reconstructions, which are distinct from the question of the existence of Jesus, are based on historical methods including critical analysis of gospel texts as the primary source for his biography, along with consideration of the historical and cultural context in which he lived.
I have no real problems with the first sentence. The term "historical Jesus" is misused by students and scholars alike.  It does not mean "Jesus, the man, as he was".  "The historical Jesus" is a scholarly construct; it is the Jesus that historians reconstruct.  If you want to talk about "Jesus, the man, as he was", just say "Jesus" and leave it at that.  So my first point of critique is to say that Wikipedia is helpfully correct here.

The second sentence is a nightmare.  Where to begin?  I do my best not to correct grammar - I know that I have my own problems - but how about working in a period every now and then?  "...which are distinct from the question of the existence of Jesus..."?  Does anyone have any clue what this is trying to convey?  Is this a way to distinguish the man from the reconstructions of the man?  Or is it a veiled nod to the conspiracy theorists?  Are historians not interested in Jesus' existence? 

Also, doesn't it go without saying that historians are interested in "historical and cultural" contexts?  This second sentence isn't misleading as much as it is ugly.  God Father, Part III-ugly; Reh Dogg "Why Must I Cry"-ugly.

Okay, more to come - I have a big problem with this whole "Quests" paradigm.  But do you (pl) have any thoughts so far?


Part II is here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fantasy Team for Jesus Nerds - Le Donne

Okay, this is for the Jesus studies nerds among us. If you could study under two (and only two) living historical Jesus scholars, who would they be? Would you choose two names that represent different ends along a spectrum? Would you choose two scholars with strengths that complement each other?

The rules are: (1) you must provide two names only; (2) they must be living (retired is okay); (3) you must give some rationale for your choice; (4) you may not choose "Dr. Keith" or "Dr. Le Donne" unless your name is James Crossley.

I'm very curious to hear what Dr. Keith says (and this is hypothetical, so he can't say Bond and Hurtado).... I'll provide my answer if we get over fifty comments.

have at it...


"Jesus Piece" by the Game - Le Donne

I am generally interested in a narrow slice of rap and this narrow slice does not normally include Christian-themed rap. So I am not quite sure what to think of this.

Are there any informed opinions out there in Jesusland?


What Did Jesus Do with His Food? - Le Donne

In the second century, Valentinus argued:
“He was continent, enduring all things. Jesus digested divinity; he ate and drank in a special way, without excreting his solids. He had such a great capacity for continence that the nourishment within him was not corrupted, for he did not experience corruption” (via Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 3.59.3; cf. also Miscellanies 3, 7).
To our credit, it only took Christianity 200 years to settle this debate:
Chalcedon: "Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin."
So relieved to have this settled.


Holiday Pleasure Reading - Le Donne

Mark Goodacre discusses the variance between Matthew's and Luke's Christmas accounts.  This is always a very instructive exercise.  For those of us who are subjected to annual Christmas Nativities and Pageants, we are quite used to the harmonized accounts of angels+star; magi+shepherds; song of Mary+flight to Egypt, etc. Never has this harmonization of the Gospels been so effectively critiqued than in A Prayer for Owen Meany; well worth a re-read this Christmas season.  John Irving at his best.

Also, my wife and daughter are both reading Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Junior fiction, really funny, great writing.

What are some other holiday-related fictions that should be on my list of pleasure reading? Favorites?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Getting into the Holiday Spirit with Bart Ehrman

Say what you will about Ehrman, he is always an interesting read:

What Do We Really Know About Jesus?

Expect more of the same in the next few weeks... tis the season.


Jesus Saved a People out of Egypt: Jude 5 in NA28—Chris Keith

At SBL this year, I finally picked up my copy of the new 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.  There are some interesting changes from the previous edition, one of which is important for Jesus Studies (albeit not really historical Jesus studies).  At Jude 5, NA28 finally succumbed to the manuscript witnesses’ strength and preferred “Jesus” to “Lord” as the one who “saved a people out of Egypt.”  Despite the fact that the “Jesus” reading has the support of B (Vaticanus, fourth century CE), A (Alexandrinus, fifth century CE), 33 (ninth century CE) et al., the previous editors had gone with “Lord,” which is supported by a (Sinaiticus, fourth century CE). 

The manuscript evidence is confusing but clearly in favor of “Jesus.”  Under normal text-critical principles one would go with the more difficult or unusual reading, assuming that scribes were more likely to alter a difficult reading to an easier one than vice versa.  Thus, since Jesus played no role in the Exodus in biblical tradition, one would assume that “Jesus” was the original reading and later scribes changed this to “Lord,” which would be more in line with the Exodus narrative.  The editors of the previous edition actually acknowledged that “Jesus” was the best reading based on this reasoning and the manuscript evidence, but printed “Lord” instead for the following reasons (from Metzger, Textual Commentary, 657–8).  First, “Jesus” may be due to a scribe reading the nomen sacrum  (“Lord”) for (“Jesus”).  Second, nowhere else does the author of Jude refer to “Jesus” with only the personal name, preferring instead “Jesus Christ.”  Third, this would be an “unparalleled” mention of Jesus in reference to the Exodus (but they cf. 1 Cor 10.4).  In short, they reasoned that the author of Jude just simply could not have possibly meant “Jesus.”  The committee knew these were not very strong arguments, which is why they gave the “Lord” reading a D rating.  The editors of the 28th revised edition, under the leadership of Holger Strutwolf (perhaps the coolest name in Biblical Studies), overturned their decision and went with “Jesus.”  I’d like to have heard the debate.

Interestingly, î72 (third/fourth century CE) has the reading “God Christ,” which the committee of NA27 determined to be a “scribal blunder.”

Regardless, does this mean that we can now speak of a “first exodus” theme associated with Jesus in the New Testament?!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“The nativity mystery 'conceived from the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary', means, that God became human, truly human out of his own grace. The miracle of the existence of Jesus , his 'climbing down of God' is: Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary! Here is a human being, the Virgin Mary, and as he comes from God, Jesus comes also from this human being. Born of the Virgin Mary means a human origin for God. Jesus Christ is not only truly God, he is human like every one of us. He is human without limitation. He is not only similar to us, he is like us.”

~Karl Barth

Did Jesus Encourage Dead-beat Dads? - Le Donne

There is a passage in Luke that has been a source of discomfort for my students and friends. Every now and again I get asked about this episode:

Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own and followed You.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” -Luke 18:28-30

So did Jesus encourage Dead-beat-Dadism? I tend to be cautious about sayings like this when I don't have an answer that seems compelling to me. I usually raise my eyebrows and cock my head and say something really patronizing and vague like, "That's one of those things, isn't it?" It is amazing that I still have any friends.

But I have become a bit more interested in this troubling saying of late. I occurs to me that Luke's portrait of Jesus also gives us this perplexing nugget:

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery." -Luke 16:18

So here is my question; and I will leave it open-ended: Could it be that a group of mixed-company disciples (men, women, young men who sprint away naked, a couple donkeys, etc.) who have left their families behind need to be reminded about fidelity?  If their families had been left behind, perhaps the severity of Jesus' stance on divorce was meant to maintain some degree of sexual restraint among his followers.  I suppose that I'm attempting to contextualize the dead-beat dad thing within the tradition that Luke has inherited.

Any thoughts?

Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity in Recent Blogs

Apparently Nijay Gupta reads five books simultaneously. I am honored to be represented on his desk.

My sincere gratitude to T&T Clark and Jim West for posting a giveaway of the Keith and Le Donne book.

Chris Skinner really has no business being that smart and this kind.


Jesus Weeps Sewage - Le Donne

I wish I were making this up...

So the short story is that yet another statue of a religious figure (it is normally Christ or the Virgin Mother) was weeping recently. This time it was in Mumbai, India. Hoping that these "tears" would have healing power, many folks drank the dripping liquid. A very brave atheist named Sanal Edamaruku demonstrated that a leaky sewage pipe was responsible for these so-called "tears". I want to cry just thinking about drinking sewage. But the really sad part of this story is that this poor fellow has been exiled to Finland for his observations.


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Top Ten Things Every Jesus Scholar Wants for Xmas – Le Donne

10) The Augsburg Fortress Jesus Studies Collection (19 vols.) – for Logos users.

9) All three volumes of Queens’ Greatest Hits – Don’t ask me why, but every published Jesus scholar since 1981 is a huge Freddy Mercury fan. Well, there was an exception once, but the scholar was ostracized and his books were banned. No dissenters have come forward since.

8) A new title from E.P. Sanders – A guy can wish.

7) Dynamite blurbs from Tom Wright and Bart Ehrman – Phrases like “the definitive treatment”, “standard text”, and “I’ve changed my mind about everything” would help.

6) A bottle of Highland Park – we don’t drink it; we use it to scent our libraries to highlight the musty, bookish aroma.

5) A professional relationship with James Ernest at Baker Academic.

4) An excessively positive review from James D.G. Dunn – he doesn’t provide these often, but when he does, it is for good reason.

3) A scathing review from James D.G. Dunn – people generally feel so bad for the author in question that they console him/her by purchasing the book.

2) A fragment of Q, dated to 30CE, and containing the phrase “Of course I am anti-Rome, what else would I be?” – oh, the fun we would have!

…and the thing most wanted by every Jesus scholar for Xmas:

1) This monstrosity.