Baker Academic

Sunday, June 30, 2013

James Dunn Day Conference at King’s College—Chris Keith

On June 21, King’s College, London hosted a day conference featuring presentations by James D. G. Dunn.  Readers of this blog will recognize Professor Emeritus Dunn as one of the preeminent New Testament scholars of our day.  He has made invaluable contributions to Pauline and Jesus studies.  He is often also included in the “memory” trend because of his huge and hugely-important Jesus Remembered (though he never really engages memory theory in that book).  Our own Dr. Le Donne has the honor of being Prof. Dunn’s final PhD student at Durham University.

I appreciated the kind invitation of the New Testament folks at King’s College to come along and it was well worth the time.  Prof. Dunn gave two papers:  “The Earliest Interpreters of Jesus Tradition: John and Thomas”; “A New Perspective on the New Perspective on Paul.”  In the first lecture, he argues that the Gospels of John and Thomas represent different types of developments upon Synoptic (oral) Jesus tradition; John represents a development from within while Thomas represents a development from without.  In other words, John expands upon what is already present in Synoptic (oral) tradition while Thomas simply adds stuff on top of it that he got elsewhere.  He noted interestingly what he called “the paradox of John and Thomas”; namely, that John is in the canon, Thomas is not, but that Thomas is often much closer with the Synoptics than John. 

The second paper argued that the New Perspective is not really all that new at all and is, essentially, precisely how Paul understood matters.

I hope that when my retirement comes, I can be half as productive and insightful and Prof. Dunn.  He’s currently a visiting Professor at King’s College, London, so I hope the NT PhD students there are taking advantage of his presence.  If not, my goodness, buy the man a cup of coffee!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Post-Holocaust Era in New Testament Studies - Le Donne

Several months ago, I argued that the standard "Quests" paradigm is misleading. You can read my thoughts herehere and here. Yesterday, as a follow up to the comments on this post (and the comments is where the action be), I suggested that the so-called "Third Quest" had a few interesting quirks, but wasn't all that innovative.  It could be that the most innovative thing that happened in Jesus studies during this period was the love affair that we had with the word "Quest".  Referring to this essay, I wrote:
'Jesus the Jew' has the been the key to rendering Jesus as a historical construction from Augustine onward. When we take a long view (one that includes Josephus, the Talmud, Spinoza, Ya'avetz, Joseph Klausner, David Flusser, etc.) the non-Jewish portraits from Renan to Kasemann do not represent an era before the "Third Quest". These non-Jewish portraits are failed attempts to hold back a 2000-year tide.
To this, Larry the likable Lawyer loquated:
...the Third Quest would be important as a repudiation of the anti-Jewishness of the Second Quest. We're well rid of the idea that the "authentic" Jesus can be found in his least Jewish sayings and doings.
I think Larry is absolutely correct on this point. In fact, I think that we've arrived at the heart of the issue. Perhaps we should be talking about modern Jesus research in terms of pre-Holocaust and post-Holocaust eras.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Post-Third Quest Quirks; or, Have We All Stopped Medicating? - Le Donne

For me, talking about a post-Third Quest (as I did in my last post) is problematic.  It is sort of like asking a friend who has been acting funny, “Have you stopped taking your medication?!”  This, of course, is a much different conversation if you really think that said friend has stopped medicating.  But, in colloquial English, this question can also mean, “Gee, you seem to be acting funny!”

In the latter case, both parties can know all-too-well that said friend was never on any medication.  Similarly, talking about a “Third Quest” is indicative of a particular era of Jesus research and will continue to be indicative of this period long after nobody believes in this whole tripartite Quest business anymore.  So are we in a post-Third Quest era?  Well, I never really took any medication, but I get your meaning – we’ve all been acting a bit funny for about forty years.

Quirks of The Artist Formerly Known as the Third Quest:  

From the mid-1970s to the early 2000s, historians were fond of talking about “Quests”.  So what most marked out this period from others is that this “Quest” language got really popular.  This was due to N. T. Wright’s massive influence on the discipline and (my guess) had something to do with Monty Python. This is a point that I haven't seen anywhere and that bears repeating: the key distinctive of the Third Quest was that scholars beat the "Quest" horse to death and then kept beating it. This, of course, was okay because we were all riding imaginary horses in the first place (à la Monty Python).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Sea Change in Jesus Studies: Fare Thee Well, Ipsissima Verba! - Le Donne

My introduction to historical Jesus studies was in the mid-Nineties.  For those of you who measure by “Quests”, this was the height of the so-called “Third Quest”. Consider this selection of titles written from 1989 to 1994: Meyer’s Critical Realism and the New Testament, Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Dunn’s Jesus, Paul, and the Law, Crossan’s The Historical Jesus, Meier’s A Marginal Jew: Vol. 1, Dahl’s Jesus the Christ, N.T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God, Evans’ Life of Jesus Research, Horsley’s Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, Sanders’ The Historical Figure of Jesus. And the list goes on.

In 1994, I took my first academic courses in Biblical Studies.  I took a class on the “Old Testament” and I took a class called “Jesus Seminar”.  In the latter, I attended a handful of lectures and voting sessions at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa (the longtime meeting place of the Jesus Seminar fellows). I was too naïve at the time to know how celebrated/infamous this group was. It wasn’t like Salmon Rushdie was presenting or anything.

The Jesus Blog is Now Even More Nerdy - Le Donne

I'm not quite sure what a biblioblogger is or how one joins this coven of ubernerds, but it seems that this here blog is now considered among the top 20 biblioblogs.

I would like to thank my agent, Snuffy Hoggeltweinschaefer; my parents, Gary and Patty; my taxidermist, Little Burt; my co-blogger, Chris Keeth; and Jim West's cat, Mr. Darcy. Finally, I would like to thank Jesus and Al Gore for making the internet possible.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Top Ten Titles That Didn't Take - Le Donne

Authors get to have some input concerning the titles of their books. For my latest project: The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals, I suggested several titles that didn't make it out of committee. Here are the top ten:

10. The Wife and Teachings of Jesus

9. If the Chuppah’s a’Rockin, Don’t Bother Knockin

8. Mary, Mary, Why You Buggin? : A RUN DMC Approach to Jesus’ Martial Status

7. The Salome You Never Knew

6. Modern Scandals about a God in Sandals

5. The Mohar-lem Shake : Greet One Another with a Holy Tryst

4. The Last Privation of Christ : Jesus and the Dead-beat Dad Brigade

3. The (Plausibly) Real Housewives of Galilee

2. Hodor

…and the number one title that didn't take for my forthcoming book:

1. Jesus and the Victory of God (co)authored with N.T. Wright

Monday, June 24, 2013

Child Sacrifice: Our Latest Poll

Feel free to vote above. You are also welcome to provide your rationale by way of comment to this post.  Do please keep in mind that Christians hold that Jesus is the Son of God and most interpret his death on the cross to be sacrificial in some way. With this in mind, I would ask that you keep your comments civil and respectful.


Constructing Jesus paperback edition winner—Chris Keith

As the true random number generator screen shot below shows, the winner of the paperback edition of Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus is “Eric,” who posted comment 7:


I have posted this once, here where only true Bible nerds will see my loyalty. Send the book my way and I promise to consider it for textbook adoption.


Eric, could you write me at so we can arrange to have your book sent to you?  (Bryan Lewis, you were so close!)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Yeezus Typology - Le Donne

If you love typology (and who doesn't?) perhaps you'll like this:


Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for the Week

"[T]he Christian proclamation that God became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is but a development of the basic thrust of the Hebrew Bible, God's movement toward humankind... At least in this respect, the difference between Judaism and Christianity is one of degree rather than kind."

~Michael Wyschogrod

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In Praise of Jon D. Levenson; or, The Least Obvious Choice of Textbook for My Jesus Class - Le Donne

Among the handful of required books for my Portraits of Jesus class is this: The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity by Jon Levenson.  Admittedly, this is a less-than-obvious choice for a course on Jesus.  There are literally thousands of books about Jesus and some of these books are really quite good. So why require a book that is primarily about the evolution of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) in Jewish and Christian thought?  This was the question posed to me by a student of mine a couple days ago.

I was very impressed with my answer to this student so I thought I would share it with you, oh beloved blog reader.  In all honesty, I gave him three short reasons and I'm giving you three longer reasons.  This only goes to show that I continue to impress myself with myself.

So why require this book for my Portraits of Jesus class?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Congrats to Chris Keith! - Le Donne

More power to Professor Chris Keith and the students of St. Mary's who received research awards! See more about his LeBron-like dominance here.


This is something like his sixth funded award. At this rate, his friends and family will have to stop confusing his last name for his first name.


F. F. Bruce on Inspiration and Fundamentalism - Le Donne

I've never been a big fan of F. F. Bruce (not that I ever had reason to dislike him), but I began to appreciate him a bit more last year.  At the height of the inhospitable campaign that resulted in my departure from Illinois, a handful of supportive colleagues - indeed friends - posted the below quote on their office doors. It is from F. F. Bruce's autobiography In Retrospect (pp.188-189) :
When a man’s standing in the constituency which he serves, not to speak of his livelihood, depends on his reputation for fidelity to the truth of Scripture, it is a very serious matter for anyone else to broadcast doubts about his fidelity or orthodoxy. If he himself statedly renounces something which is of the essence of the historic Christian faith, he will be prepared for the consequences, but he should not be held responsible for the inferences which other people may draw from his statements. Most deplorable of all is the launching of a whispering campaign to the effect that So-and-so is ‘going off the rails’ or is ‘getting away from the Lord’.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Christopher Hays’s “Toward a Faithful Criticism” and Theological Institutions—Chris Keith

I’ve just finished the opening essay in Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism (SPCK 2013).  It’s by Christopher Hays and is a thoughtful statement on why (evangelical) believers in Jesus should engage in historical criticism.  It gives a bit of an overview on the current state of things and also why they wrote this book.  He says, “This volume is . . . the book that the authors very much wish they had as a companion text when they were students sitting in lectures on biblical criticism” (19).  Essentially, Hays forwards the two-sided argument (1) that evangelicals must engage with historical criticism and acknowledge that historical critics are right about some things and (2) that this engagement “does not jeopardize one’s Christian confessions” (18).  Hays sets the stakes high by noting that, by choosing not to engage with historical criticism, professors at evangelical institutions are essentially “preparing the next generation for apostasy—or at least preparing them to leave evangelicalism” (8). 

Hays is a great writer who aptly uses good turns of phrase.  Plus, he makes some really important points about the relationship between Christian faith and historical criticism.  For example, he insists rightly that a particular view of inspiration is not—and never has been—the litmus test for Christian identity.  I can see that this book is not only timely but also critical for the classrooms of evangelical institutions because there’s no doubting that these institutions are, in general, in an identity crisis.  By and large, this chapter has the feel of what it is:  Hays was groomed at Wheaton and went on to become an excellent scholar engaging with historical criticism; he’s now returning to tell the fold that it’s not all that bad out there and that students don’t have to shun the critics as they have often been told.  This is a good thing.

Are Under-Employed Folks Like Me Better Off? - Le Donne

Over at Pete Enns' blog, he lists half-a-dozen virtues of being Other-than-fully-employed as an academic.

I have, as you might guess, mixed emotions about this. So much of what Pete says is right on... but I register my quibble with his post (see the comments below his post).


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Public Retraction Concerning Luther's Anti-Judaism - Le Donne

Almost every Paul course I've taught has included a class devoted to Luther's anti-Judaism. Today I must apologize for a statement about Luther that turns out to be misleading. I have, in these contexts, spoken of the "early Luther" and the "later Luther" concerning his anti-Judaism. The early Luther (or so I thought) seems to have more respect for the kinsmen of Jesus. Although, I suggest in this work that it was Luther's intention to proselytize that fueled his superficial respect.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Allison's ICC James Commentary - Le Donne

Got my hands on this today:

Sixteen years in the making and well worth the wait.

My gratitude to T&T Clark for the review copy.


Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism—Chris Keith

I’ve recently received from SPCK a copy of Christopher M. Hays and Christopher B. Ansberry’s Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism.  I haven’t gotten to read it yet but will post some thoughts here as I do, as I hope Anthony will also.  I’m excited as it seems to be an important book on a topic that has received much attention of late due to something of a renewal of anti-intellectualism in American (evangelical) Christianity.  The authors discuss topics such as the fall, the exodus, prophecy, pseudepigraphy, and the historical Jesus, among others.  At first glance, what seems to set this book apart from some other studies is that it takes seriously and accepts many of the conclusions of historical criticism rather than seeking some apologetic knee-jerk reaction to them.  That’s the initial impression at least, and I hope it holds true.  I’m looking forward to the chapter on the historical Jesus, but also the editors’ contributions:  Hays’s “Towards a faithful criticism” (Chapter One) and both of their “Faithful criticism and a critical faith” (Chapter Nine).  More to come....

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Rise of the Quest of an Authentic Jesus - Le Donne

Last week, I published an excerpt of my introductory chapter in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.  Thereafter, I received a request to make the whole chapter available. Rather, than reproducing it here, I have provided a pdf of it on my personal webpage.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Constructing Jesus Paperback Giveaway!—Chris Keith

On several occasions, we have discussed the significance of Dale Allison’s tome Constructing JesusWe’re happy to announce that it’s out in paperback, but more importantly that we’re giving a copy away courtesy of the fine folks at Baker Academic.  You know the rules. 

You can comment here, tweet this (and comment to let us know),

post it on facebook (and comment to let us know),

and/or sign up to follow the blog (and comment to let us know). 

In case I wasn’t clear, whatever you do, comment to let us know.  We determine the winner by entering the number of comments into the random number generator.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Who Started the Conflict in Mark's Gospel? - Le Donne

Over at Mark Goodacre's blog, he asks for a bit of input about online resources for teaching Mark. After commenting there, I thought I'd expand my suggestions here.

One of the points that I try to make in Jesus among Friends and Enemies (eds. Hurtado and Keith) is that as the plot of Mark unfolds, the Jewish leadership is revealed as adversaries of Jesus. This much is old hat. But if one looks more closely, these supposed "enemies" are narrated as asking questions about Jesus' peculiarities. I.e. it is not necessary to read these early exchanges as charged with animosity. As these "controversies" escalate, it is Jesus who provokes the conflict.

Here is an excerpt from my chapter, titled "The Jewish Leaders":

The Improper Temple Offering of Ananias and Sapphira - Le Donne

As promised, I have posted the pdf of my New Testament Studies essay on my personal webpage:

I first started thinking about this text (or at least seriously so) about four years ago. I was living in the Sacramento area at the time when I got a call from Dr. Chris Keith. Chris and I had met once before but I didn't like him very much. You really can't trust an American who doesn't follow baseball. After all, besides baseball, there is really no good reason to be an American.

Chris asked me if I could take his place at the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures. His paper "Sinners in the Hands of a Deadly God" had been accepted for that conference, but he couldn't attend.  Chris had recently been invited to Heidelberg to accept the Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his monograph: The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus. When 10K of award money is on the line with another 10K in travel and honoraria cash, one tends to be motivated to change one's schedule (or so I am told).  Now that knew that Chris didn't follow baseball and that he was rich, I really didn't like him at all.

But I am generous beyond measure - really, a pushover. So I agreed to take on his paper topic, complete with his proposed title. It might have helped if he had started writing the thing so I didn't have to start from scratch. Fortuitously, I found my own reading of the text.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My NTS Essay on Ananias and Sapphira - Le Donne

I am pleased to announce that my essay "The Improper Temple Offering of Ananias and Sapphira" is now in print with New Testament Studies.  At the risk of too much self-disclosure, I feel as proud of this essay as any other project I've completed.

In this business, nothing is quite as satisfying as taking an age-old puzzle and solving it to one's own satisfaction.  I'll try to remember to post a pdf of the essay on my personal webpage ( ) later this week. For now, here is the abstract:

In Acts 1–7, the Holy Spirit functions as the restored temple presence of the Lord that will restore the kingdom to Israel via the Ekklesia. The Holy Spirit acts through the Ekklesia as one would expect the Lord's temple presence to act. When Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira bring their offerings to the temple, they place them at the feet of the leadership of the new religio-fiscal center of restored Israel. As proof that the Lord's presence has indwelled this eschatological temple community, an improper act can, and does in this case, result in immediate death.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Congrats to Manfred Lautenschläger Award Winners—Chris Keith

Congratulations to New Testament colleagues who won a 2013 Manfred Lautenschläger Award:  David Lincicum; David Moffitt; Michael Peppard; and Ruth Sheridan!  See an announcement of the award here.  The Manfred Lautenschläger Award is given to ten scholars across the theological and religious studies disciplines and involves a cash prize of $10,000 to each of the winners.  It’s given by the Forschungszentrum Internationale und Interdisziplinäre Theologie at the University of Heidelberg and replaces the previous John Templeton Award for Theological Promise.  Congrats to the winners!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Two Authenticities - Le Donne

Below is an excerpt from my introductory chapter in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. This particular section was written during a time a social conflict in my life. In researching for this, I was hoping to understand better evangelical aversion to and general misunderstanding of historical Jesus research.  While many evangelicals whom I've known have voiced an interest in the topic and voice their support of historiographical rigor, there is an equally disturbing hostility to the discipline. Sometimes these two faces of evangelicalism can manifest simultaneously. These are dangerous waters to navigate I have found. What the below excerpt demonstrates is that sometimes scholars and churchmen use the same words and do not realize that they define these words much differently.  Shenanigans ensue.

Here it is:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Selectivity in Jesus Research and Memory (JSHJ) - Le Donne

Further to my previous post, here is my abstract:

Zeba  Crook  argues  that  there  is  an  emerging  consensus  that  the  Gospels  are reliable historical narratives by those to have applied ‘memory’ theories to historical Jesus research. Crook argues that this emerging consensus betrays a selective reading of research done on ‘memory distortion’ in interdisciplinary study. This essay demonstrates that Crook misunderstands and misrepresents social memory theory both in and outside Jesus studies. A better understanding would have properly represented the spectrum from theoretical ‘presentism’ to ‘continuitism’ in memory applications/adaptations.

My JSHJ Response Essay - Le Donne

The latest Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus issue is now available.

This issue features a critique of "conversative" scholars applying (or misappropriating) memory studies by Zeba Crook. I offer a response essay and he offers a short rejoinder.


More on this exchange here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nice Post by Jack Daniels

I am appreciating the blog of Jack Daniels over at Studying Jesus and the Gospels of late. That he quotes me appreciably only appreciates my appreciation. Nice turn of phrase from Dr. Whiskey:
There are no primordial events in history, only events experienced and re-membered by various socio-cultural processes – gossip and rumor, story-telling, performance, liturgy, inscripturation, gossip & rumor, story-telling, performance, liturgy, and so on, and all of this, of course, involving interpretation.
Check him out.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jesus and Divorce (Part II) - Le Donne

Last week I asked a general question about Jesus' seemingly over-the-top stance on divorce. In short, Jesus seems to take a more rigid stance on divorce than any of his Jewish contemporaries (cf. Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-11).  The discussion that followed was interesting, if at times off topic.  Here is, perhaps, a novel take on the topic.  I trust my readers to let me know if I'm unwittingly echoing someone else.

If we accept (a) that many of Jesus’ disciples had left their wives behind to follow him and (b) that women were included in Jesus’ following (some known in their own right; not attached to a particular male), could this provide the context for Jesus’ strange teaching about divorce?

Given Jesus’ praise of eunuchs and those who have left their wives and houses behind, it comes as no surprise to hear him discourage remarriage. After all, Jesus seems to have an aberrant view on marriage and family.

Could it be that he was discouraging his male disciples (who had left wives behind) from marrying the female followers with whom they traveled?  In other words, perhaps Jesus is saying, “So you’ve left your wives behind to follow me; great!  But don’t use that as justification for divorcing your wives to marry one of your new traveling companions!”  Please keep in mind that "leaving" one's wife behind and legally divorcing one's wife were two very different things - the latter being devastating for many women.

This possible reading would also help to explain this saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman [or just "wife"] with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:27-28).  Dale Allison has suggested that this saying suggests a moderate form of asceticism on Jesus' part.  But maybe Jesus is just trying to keep his disciples from exploiting their newly formed "family".


Monday, June 3, 2013

Lightfoot's notes on Acts - Le Donne

I've been following Ben Witherington's chronicle of his time in Durham (with no little nostalgia).  This piece might be his most interesting entry yet.  He's (re)discovered J. B. Lightfoot's unpublished commentary notes on the Acts of the Apostles. They seem to have been misfiled in the Monk's Dormitory - a library adjacent to the cathedral cloisters (where I worked on my dissertation quite often).


Sunday, June 2, 2013