Baker Academic

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.


  1. I met Theissen once in Heidelberg. He was incredibly kind. Also, it's ironic that Sanders and Allison are mentioned so often in the answers to our survey because we will probably not see anything on Jesus from either again.

    1. Was E.P. Sanders' article on 'Jesus of Nazareth,' in The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism his final academic contribution?

  2. I'm thinking there should be a couple of posts on Theissen, Sanders and the other Fantasy team that are like VH1's "Behind the Music." Except of course, these would be "Behind the Scholarship."

    What kind of drugs were they snorting when they came up with all this brilliant stuff?

    Who were their influences?

    Where are they now? Rehab? Their own private islands? In massive debt from their out-of-control spending habits?