Baker Academic

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Celebrate Resurrection - Le Donne

Photo: Yes, resurrection actually happens.

Let it begin again; let it begin with me.


I Want to Say Your Name

I Want to Say Your Name

a love poem

I want to say your name
the way Jesus said, “Mary,”
at the unstopped tomb, when he was
halfway resurrected, unwrapped
but not ascended, spirit and body
in that fragile, persistent mix.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal - Le Donne

-my thanks to Rev. Almlie for this.

Ernest van Eck's Essay

If you're signed up with a free account, you can access this:

"Social memory and identity: Luke 19:12b–24 and 27" by Ernest van Eck (University of Pretoria)

Abstract: Based of a specific understanding of social memory, this article develops a social–scientific model of social memory. The model is then applied to three social memories of the events surrounding Archelaus’ journey to Rome to get his kingship over Judaea confirmed in 4 BCE: Josephus’ WAR (2.80–100), his ANTIQUITIES (17.208–323), and the social memory of the event in Luke 19:12, 14 and 27, as part of the parable of the minas (Lk 19:12b–24 and 27).

Friday, March 29, 2013

Question about Jesus and Buddha

Why is it that Buddha, who is known for a life of self-imposed starvation, is fat in popular images, while Jesus, who is known for feasting, is skinny in popular images?


Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for the Week

“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”

                                                                                      ~Rich Mullins

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Jesus Stomp - Le Donne

I'm not exactly sure why this is news, but it is.  Do we really need a remake of Dead Poet's Society? I hope not. Free speech is offensive speech. If it's not offensive to somebody, it's just called "speech".

Let's be honest:

1) Many Christian students experience overt hostility on many university campuses.  This isn't just an insecurity issue, there are professors who will take every opportunity to make religious folk feel stupid or responsible for the world's problems.  I sat in my fair share of these classes as a student.  This is not to say that other demographics don't also experience hostility; just to say that Christians are often targeted.

2) Many Christians are a bit Forrest Gumpy and feel deeply insecure about it.  So sometimes my co-religionists anticipate and perceive persecution where none is intended.  This can lead to vocal "defenders of the faith" who annoy the hell out of university professors.

3) Stomping on Jesus is kind of lame, but okay.  Couldn't get a burn permit?  Many professors feel that they need to deconstruct ideologies to build new paradigms.  Some professors try a bit too hard to be iconoclasts.  What amuses me is the obviously ironic message that the Jesus stomp conveys.  If anything, it demonstrates how relevant Jesus still is in America.  Nobody is stomping on images of Richard Nixon anymore and his era was like two minutes ago.  Believe me, my weblog dedicated to historical Nixon research was a total failure.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The First Pope: A Question about Celibacy - Le Donne

So I found myself on this webpage and I was reminded that Catholics commemorate Peter as the first pope (By the way, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is a must see; has a Grand Canyon quality to it).  I realize that I'm late to the party here, but it occurred to me that Peter was married. Of course, I knew both (a) that he is considered the first pope and (b) that he was married.... I guess that I've just never considered both at the same time.  I basically focus on historical Jesus and baseball... don't know much about anything else (I also tinker a bit with the ecological dynamics of medieval agrarian systems from various trubadorian perspectives).

To my Catholic and Patristics friends: Does the Catholic church teach that Peter was celibate?

If so, what does one do with Paul's assumption in this verse from 1 Cor 9: "Do we [Paul is speaking of himself] not have a right to be accompanied by a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?"

If we only had the Gospels to go by, we might think that Peter left his wife behind to follow Jesus. But here Paul assumes that Peter provides a precedent for being "accompanied by a believing wife".

Please indulge my ignorance of papal lore.


Bill O'Reilly says that Jesus was Killed for Being a Libertarian

It seems that Jesus was sent to foreshadow the coming of Papa Bear.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Five ways in which Christ should not be emulated by the likes of you

1. When someone asks you about a sabbatical law, don’t change the subject and compare yourself to King David (can come off wrong).

2. Don’t mind read to judge people’s motives so that you can start an argument…. that means you, anonymous internet theologian.

3. Don’t encourage your friends to leave their wives and children to come with you and hang out with hookers.  You wouldn’t think that there would be any repercussions with this one, but believe me: your friends' wives won’t like it.

4. When your friend dies, don’t go around saying that he’s just asleep. You may think you’re being witty, but you’re not.  First of all, it confuses people.  Second, it’s a bit unmannerly.  Even if his name is “Lazarus” so you think he’s only mostly dead, it’s really not the time to be clever.

5. Don’t attempt to die on a cross for the sins of the world.  Kind of a one-time deal.

Get Yours Today! - Le Donne

It's the cost of one Louisville Cardinals Basketball game.


Contra Barry Schwartz - Le Donne

Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat, p. 152

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jesus and the Double-Donkey Dilemma - Le Donne

Ever wonder why your average Palm Sunday service avoids Matthew's version of the story? Here is Matthew 21:
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion: Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How About This for a First Paragraph? - Le Donne

When I'm writing a book, I probably write two dozen openings.  That first paragraph of the book is so important. How is this for a first impression?
Before Jesus rode into Jerusalem, before his clever stories gave way to righteous indignation, before he marched hell-bent toward martyrdom, he was just another country boy from the North.  At least this is how he would have seemed to the people of Jerusalem.  Indeed, before his crew of castoffs entered the city, few people in Jerusalem knew much about him.  Chances are that they’d never heard his name before.  Those who wondered who he was and what he stood for wanted to know, “By what authority are you doing these things?”  Witty to the last, Jesus replied with a question of his own:  he asked them to account for the famous John the Baptist.  Was John’s authority endorsed by God, or not?  In other words, Jesus was asking, “Was John a prophet or a fake?”  The leaders of Jerusalem knew better than to disparage the recently executed Baptizer.  John, it seems, was the famous one.  Before Jesus was making outlandish claims in the holiest place on earth, he was  just another Galilean too far from home.
So, anything here that rings hollow?


ps. I can't really say what the book is about yet, but (big surprise) it relates to Jesus.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Let's Talk about Jesus

I suppose that this is how I'd feel if I ever went to a class reunion.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Peter Conference at Edinburgh—Chris Keith

Prior to International SBL in St. Andrews, the University of Edinburgh will be hosting a two-day conference on “Peter in Earliest Christianity.”  It will include presentations from Timothy Barnes, Markus Bockmuehl, Sean Freyne, Larry Hurtado, Peter Lampe, Tobias Nicklas, and Margaret Williams and cover the first three centuries of Christianity.  Those are some big names and a great venue.  If you’ve never been to Edinburgh, take this as the only excuse you need to go.  I’ll see you there.

For more information and to register (only £40 before April 15), go to

My Reply to Larry Behrendt's Review of my Book - Le Donne

Here is a guest post I wrote for Jewish Christian Intersections a few weeks back:

Larry, thank you for your thoughtful review of my book. I haven’t yet had a chance to read all of the comments, but I plan to soon. This post will simply respond to your review.

A few things come to mind. The first is that I think that Jesus is indeed a good topic for Jewish-Christian dialogue. But it is only one among many. It might also be worth pointing out that that the “historical Jesus” can be a precarious entry point.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

David Brakke on Valentinian Cosmology

You've heard about the Valentinians from your barber and you've seen them featured on the real gnostics of Atlanta... but you've never seen them like this!

This forty-minute lecture by David Brakke details the unique features of the Valentinian cosmology/theology.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

American Jesus Madness

This is really great. I have Joel Osteen's Mullett edging out Rob Bell's Missing Glasses in a barn-burner.


Calaway's The Sabbath and the Sanctuary

Can't wait to get my hands on this:

The Sabbath and the Sanctuary
The Sabbath and the Sanctuary
Access to God in the Letter to the Hebrews and its Priestly Context

Abstract: Who can enter the sacred and heavenly presence of God? And how? Various ancient Jewish and emergent Christian groups disputed these questions in the first century CE. Jared C. Calaway states that the Letter to the Hebrews joined this debate by engaging and countering priestly frameworks of sacred access that aligned the Sabbath with the sanctuary. From the Hebrew Bible through late Second Temple Judaism, the sanctity of the sanctuary could be experienced through the Sabbath, sacred space through sacred time. In its sweeping vistas of Sabbath rest and the heavenly homeland, the heavenly sanctuary and the coming age, and the heavenly priesthood, Hebrews reworked this priestly framework, showing familiarity with its traditional and contemporary forms, such as the "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice". In a manner resembling postwar layers of the emergent Christian tradition, instead of entering God’s sacred and heavenly Presence through the weekly Sabbath, one could only experience the heavenly realities of the Sabbath and the sanctuary through faithfulness and obedience to Jesus, the faithful and obedient heavenly high priest who purifies, sanctifies, and perfects.


Monday, March 18, 2013

L Yeah!—Chris Keith

The historical Jesus is interesting, but seriously . . . did you see Louisville’s defense in the Big East championship?! Congrats to the Cards, who are very deserving of the overall number one seed.

In other and completely unbiased and unrelated news, UK did not even make it into the tournament . . . a year after they won it . . . and restocked with a top recruiting class. The police in Lexington, KY better keep an eye on bridges.

New Testament, Its Context and Origins—Chris Keith

Following up on a question that Ken asked a while back:
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.
Ken, I just saw this post several months later. If you don't get this, I certainly apologize. I would recommend as a first port of entry David Aune's fabulous The New Testament and Its Literary Environment.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review of Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes

(Future) Dr. Brice C. Jones reviews The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research over at

The Quaternion

This the the first review I've seen of the book.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Congrats to Bloomsbury's Academic and Professional Division!

Bloomsbury's Academic and Professional Division has won both the flagship prize for Independent Publisher of the Year and Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year at the 2013 Independent Publishers Guild Awards.

Chris and I extend our warmest congratulations!  This honor is well-deserved.  We couldn't have been more pleased with the process and the final product of our Jesus, Criteria and the Demise of Authenticity.  From proposal to marketing, Bloomsbury's Academic is first-rate.

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

"When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord."

                                  ~Pope Francis

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Francis is a Good Name - Le Donne

"Francis", of course, brings to mind St. Francis of Assisi.  That Bergoglio will be "Francis I" may simply denote that St. Francis was not a pope (contra CBS news).

Both St. Francis and Pope Francis are known for strong views about celibacy.  Let's hope that our new Francis will also remember the impetus for the "Third Way".


Calaway talks Freud

I really enjoyed this reflection on Freud and nostalgia over at Antiquitopia.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Secret Mark as Gay Advocacy (Part Four) - Le Donne

My previous posts on Morton Smiths's Secret Mark are here, here, and here.  In my last post, I argued that the Mar Saba document (the letter to Theodore that contains Secret Mark) is an example of "counter memory".  But while it looks to be an ineffective second-century counter memory, it functions very well as a twentieth-century counter memory.  And if counter memory, then the discussion of motive and agenda become paramount.

To this end, it is worth reiterating that very few scholars on either side of the forgery debate think that Secret Mark is a historical account.  The account was decidedly black by Jesus Seminar standards (if that does anything for you).  Smith wrote that Secret Mark was “an imitation [of Mark] of the simplest and most childish sort” (Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973], p.76).  And yet, Smith's historical portrait of Jesus was gay nonetheless.

Abrahamic Religions / Levenson over at Marginalia

One the scholars who has shaped my thinking about inter-religious dialogue is Harvard Professor, Jon D. Levenson. Marginalia interviews him here.

If you're not familiar with Marginalia, it was recently launched by a team of professional religious studies experts and promises to be a fantastic resource for top tier reviews, interviews, and original articles.

About: The Marginalia Review of Books is an international review of academic literature from a range of disciplines along the nexus of history, theology, and religion. We publish reviews and a variety of contributions to intellectual culture – including essays, interviews, and op-eds – throughout the month. MRB aims to enhance the quality of the academic book review, to explore the creative possibilities of the web, and to help authors make their work more easily discoverable than in some traditional journals.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dibelius on Getting Behind the Earliest Tradition—Chris Keith

I have spent much effort in publications on detailing the ways in which the criteria of authenticity are outgrowths of form criticism.  In my contribution to Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise ofAuthenticity, however, I also pointed out a difference.  I noted how, although both the form critics and the criteria approach try to get “behind” the Gospel texts, what they sought was different.  The form critics sought the earliest oral tradition, which still reflected the interpretations of the Palestinian Christians.  The criteria approach sought something like uninterpreted tradition, raw access to the historical Jesus.  

Secret Mark as Counter-Memory (Part Three) - Le Donne

My first two posts can be found here and here.

As I argued in my last post, if this document reflects the pen of Clement of Alexandria, the text betrays a memory/counter-memory exchange.  The “memory” that best explains Clement’s counter-memory is the rumor that Jesus was known to have engaged his followers in “naked man with naked man” activity.  Of course, social memory is often self-correcting.  Sometimes the counter-memory reflects the best explanation (consider the “birthers” attack of Obama; it was the counter-memory that won the day).  In such cases, we might simply say that the rumors are not always the best explanations of the perceived past and sometimes they are crafted intentionally.

But here is the next question: is the rumor that the author passes to us a memory that he (a) betrays, or is it (b) something that he intends to pass on?  In other words, does the author of this document really want, as he claims, to keep this rumor a secret?  Everything about this document suggests otherwise.

The author of this document would have us believe that he is anxious to keep all of these rumors suppressed.  Theodore should deny the basis of these rumors even if it means denying a document that he knows to exist! He writes: “not all true things are to be said to all men”. This is not dissimilar to what Clement writes elsewhere, but the author (remarkably) instructs Theodore to deny it with an oath!  Does this lend credence to a conspiracy theory for Christian origins?  It seems so to me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Memory Refraction and Secret Mark (Part Two) – Le Donne

In my first blog post on this topic, most honorable Theodorus, I laid the groundwork for Morton Smith’s famous publication Secret Mark. See here.  In that post, I provided a large part of the letter to “Theodore” and all of what is extant from the so-called “Secret Gospel according to Mark”.  I hinted that my fascination has more to do with the letter and less to do with the content of the gospel.

Let's attempt a little thought experiment.  Let’s assume that the entire three pages represent an ancient correspondence and draw from an ancient “longer” and “more spiritual” version of Mark.  Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that this longer gospel was known to Clement of Alexandria.  Let’s further imagine that (according to the tradition Clement inherited in the late second century) this version of Mark was associated with Peter’s “notes” and Mark’s visit to Alexandria.  In other words, let’s swallow the whole story put forth by the supposed “Clement” in this letter to “Theodore.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mnemonic Triangulation and Secret Mark (Part One) – Le Donne

I’ve been tinkering with Morton’s Smith’s famous Secret Mark—at topic that I’ve never touched before—and I found that my take is a bit different from others.  My reading doesn’t provide any great new revelation, nothing worthy of a journal article, but perhaps interesting to work up for a couple blog posts.  This post will simply frame a few particulars.

According to biblical scholar Morton Smith (1915–1991) he discovered an ancient letter written by Clement of Alexandria (c.150–c.215), recopied in the 18th century onto the back pages of another book, and preserved in a Greek Orthodox monastery called Mar Saba (south of Jerusalem).  What would make this particular letter unique and what would bring Smith unprecedented notoriety for a biblical scholar was this: it included a previously unknown story about Jesus from a purportedly longer version of Mark’s Gospel.  Smith claimed to have discovered this document during his second visit to Mar Saba in 1958 and announced this find in 1960.  He didn’t publish his books on the subject until 1973.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Poll about Secret Mark

If you have an opinion, please take the above poll at the bottom of the page.  Please note the use of the word "probably" and keep in mind that you'll not be asked to give an account of yourself concerning this on judgement day.... well probably.  If you'd like to give an account of your answer, please do so by commenting on this post.


King Jesus.... literally?

Tom Verenna has brought a very original thesis to my attention. I can't wait for the documentary on this one!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hugo Chavez will Return on Resurrection Day with Jesus says Ahmadinejad

Hugo Chavez had a friend in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who apparently held the Venezuelan leader in such high regard that he believes he will "return on resurrection day" with Jesus Christ and will "establish peace, justice, and kindness" on earth.

Full story here.

I would like to formally request for someone to say this about me at my funeral... or, really, whenever.


Constructing Jesus, Now in Paperback

If you've been waiting for a reduced price, wait no longer:


Jesus the Polygamist, Part II - Le Donne

Yesterday I asked for help regarding Mormon patriarch Jedediah Grant's appeal to Aulus Cornelius Celsus to suggest that Jesus was polygamous.  Help I received!  The mysterious "Mark" writes:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jesus the Polygamist: A Riddle from the Annals of Mormonism - Le Donne

Allow me to apologize at the start to any Mormons who visit this site.  This post is going to cast a dubious light on at least one Mormon luminary.  I cannot claim to be an expert in Mormonism and (not that this matters much) I don't know any Mormons.  I have no reason to dislike Mormons or insult Mormons.  I have, however, spent the last week studying early Mormon views on "Jesus the polygamist".  This post is my attempt to enlist a bit of help from (a) my classicist colleagues and (b) experts on early Mormon chicanery.

I ask that your comments demonstrate civility.  All religions have embarrassing figures, doctrines, traditions, etc.  By pointing out this one bit of skullduggery, I do not mean to suggest that Mormons are unique.  I'm simply trying to get to the bottom of a riddle.  Also, I've been looking for a chance to use the word skullduggery.

When the early "Mormonites" emerged from the mainline/evangelical primordial ooze, there was no evidence of polygamy.  In fact, the Book of Mormon suggests that monogamy ought to be the default.  From 1829, through the 1830s: no plural marriage.  Then, in the mid-1840s, prophet Joseph Smith started acquiring "spiritual wives" in secret (polygamy was illegal in most states including Illinois where the sect was based).  It wasn't long before the cat was out of the bag and the sect was persecuted for this practice.  The first public advocate for the doctrine of plural marriage, Orson Pratt, made his case in a 1853 publication.  A year later, Jedediah M. Grant made a similar defense.  One of the standard arguments (and there were many) in support of the doctrine was that Jesus was a polygamist.  Here is a quotation from Grant:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Kyle Hughes on the Pericope Adulterae in NovT—Chris Keith

Kyle Hughes, a Dallas Theological Seminary student and soon-to-be PhD student at the University of Virginia, kindly sent me an early copy of his forthcoming Novum Testamentum article “The Lukan Special Material and the Tradition History of the Pericope Adulterae.”  Kyle argues from Lukanisms in the Pericope Adulterae that an early version of the text was in “L,” the source Luke allegedly used alongside Q and Mark.  In so doing, he adds further argumentation to a view associated at various times with Henry Cadbury, Bart Ehrman, and Josep Rius-Camps.  Hughes takes a couple shots at some of my publications on the Pericope Adulterae, specifically the fact that I don’t think arguments based on linguistic style are ultimately persuasive.  He hasn’t changed my mind there.  At the end of the article he agrees with my argument about the Pericope Adulterae’s insertion into John’s Gospel, so it all balances out!  All in all, this is an impressive contribution for a piece of work that I suspect was originally a ThM paper!  Dan Wallace is clearly investing heavily in his students, and he has bright ones in which to invest.  Congrats to Kyle. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Bible: Not as Bad as it Used to Be! - Le Donne

Peter Enns reflects on the new History Channel series:

If you got a chance to see it, chime in over at Pete's blog with your thoughts.  If, like me, you didn't watch it, chime in below and let us know what you did instead.  I played a board game called "Telestrations" with my wife, 8-year-old daughter, and 5-year-old son.  I'll admit to being unnerved when I was forced to draw the phrase "french kiss".  Here in America, we "freedom kiss" my friends.


Dedicated to Chris Keith:

~love anthony

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Holocaust Numbers Eclipse Previous Estimates

A few years back, I introduced a friend of mine who works at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to another friend who works in social memory and modern history.  The first guy asked the second, "Have you ever considered working on the Holocaust?" The second guy replied, "No, there really isn't anything more to say." The conversation that followed illustrated that there is very much more to say indeed.  Perhaps I'll detail it later this week.  Today, I'll just point you to this:

Still unbelievable after all these years.


Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“In the specially Christian case we have to react against the heavy bias of fatigue. It is almost impossible to make the facts vivid, because the facts are familiar; and for fallen men it is often true that familiarity is fatigue. I am convinced that if we could tell the supernatural story of Christ word for word as of a Chinese hero, call him the Son of Heaven instead of the Son of God, and trace his rayed nimbus in the gold thread of Chinese embroideries or the gold lacquer of Chinese pottery, instead of in the gold leaf of our own old Catholic paintings, there would be a unanimous testimony to the spiritual purity of the story. We should hear nothing then of the injustice of substitution or the illogicality of atonement, of the superstitious exaggeration of the burden of sin or the impossible insolence of an invasion of the laws of nature. We should admire the chivalry of the Chinese conception of a god who fell from the sky to fight the dragons and save the wicked from being devoured by their own fault and folly. We should admire the subtlety of the Chinese view of life, which perceives that all human imperfection is in very truth a crying imperfection. We should admire the Chinese esoteric and superior wisdom, which said there are higher cosmic laws than the laws we know.”                                                                        
                                                                                    ~G.K. Chesterton

Friday, March 1, 2013

From the Pen of Lord Byron

They say that Hope is happiness;
   But genuine Love must prize the past,
And Memory wakes the thoughts that bless;
   They rose the firstthey set the last.

And all that Memory loves the most
    Was once our only Hope to be,
And all that Hope adored and lost
    Hath melted into Memory.

Alas! it is delusion all:
   The future cheats us from afar,
Nor can we be what we recall,
   Nor dare we think on what we are.