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Friday, January 31, 2014

Do you Go in for Some Variation of the "Sayings Source" Hypothesis?

In assessing the Synoptic Gospels, do you tend toward a "Q" solution or not? Or simplified, "Do You Q?" For this week's poll, the Jesus Blog is hosting an almost scientifickish survey.  If you solve your Synoptic Problem using some theory of a sayings source (oral or otherwise) shared by Matthew and Luke, vote yes. If you solve your Synoptic Problem some other way, vote no.

If you'd like to see the discussion that prompted this topic, see Chris' post here.

For the record: Chris doesn't Q. But I do. We are a house divided.


On the early returns of this poll, see my comments here.

Four Books for Four Stages in Biblical Studies

I can't take credit for this idea. It was suggested to me by a friend (and one who possesses a great deal of wisdom - must be nice). As with most careers, Biblical Studies is a progression of stages. What is helpful advice when you're a grad student may not be the best advice when you are an assistant professor... may not be the best advice when you're preparing for tenure, etc.

I remember receiving a single-page exegetical guide when I was a university sophomore. It was a brilliant checklist for completing a very basic literary-context sensitive, grammatical-critical exegesis of a NT passage. It was so helpful that I used the same guide for several other religious studies classes and did quite well. But as a grad student (actually, only 18 months later), my eyes were opened. What was great advice for me as a sophomore wasn't going to work for me in my grad-level class.

With this in mind, here are four books that target four different stages in the career of a Biblical Scholar:

1. Beginning in Religious Studies:
Margot Northey, Bradford A. Anderson, and Joel N. Lohr, Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). (Amazon)
2. Graduate work and getting a PhD:
Nijay K. Gupta, Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011). (Amazon)
3. Learning to write a lot:
Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007). (Amazon)
4. Getting the book deal:
Stanley E. Porter, Inking the Deal: A Guide for Successful Academic Publishing (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010). (Amazon)
Finally, I can imagine a fifth stage beyond those mentioned here. So I'll throw it out to our readers. Is there a good book that should be added to this list?


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Behrendt Reviews my The Wife of Jesus - Le Donne

Over at Jewish-Christian Intersections, Lovable Larry Behrendt reviews the first half of my The Wife of Jesus. He focuses on one of the key themes of my book that many other reviewers skipped: the complicated business of celibacy in early Christianity. Larry suggests (pace my chapters on Magdalene and Salome) that some early women in Church leadership might have aspired to celibacy. It is an interesting suggestion that allows us to see beyond the motive of misogyny (without entirely discounting the misogynistic tendencies of Early Christianity). I will emphasize that Larry simply suggests a possibility.

He promises to review the second half of my book in an upcoming post.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Giveaway!

Thanks to the fine folks at Baker Academic, you can enter to win a copy of Lee Martin McDonald's The Story of Jesus in History and Faith : An Introduction

You can enter up to four times:

(1) sign up to follow The Jesus Blog (comment below saying so)

(2) share by way of Facebook (comment below saying so)

(3) retweet the link to this giveaway @TheJesusBlog1 (comment below saying so)

(4) comment below with the saying(s) attributed to Jesus that you find most perplexing, or troubling

As always, we will use the true-random generator to select the winner. Just a tip: it is advantageous to enter multiple times by way of separate comments.


Q Survives Near-Fatal Attack from Goodacre, Remains in Critical Condition – Le Donne

Is the dominance of the four-source hypothesis in declining health? This week’s poll suggests that the assumption of a hypothetical sayings source (German for “source” is Quelle, hence “Q”) shared by the Gospels of Matthew and Luke is indeed declining. At least the assumption has declined in popular opinion among those who follow weblogs titled The Jesus Blog. It might be interesting to poll folks in the British New Testament Society or the Society of Biblical Literature and compare notes. My guess is that those in favor of Q might be more populous at professional meetings (just a guess). Even so, I don’t think we can use the term “dominance” or even “consensus” any longer relative to the four-source theory.

And that, gentle reader, is news. I will leave it to you to decide whether it is good or bad.

In 1998 I was an undergraduate studying the Synoptic Gospels in a class cleverly titled “The Synoptic Gospels.” I was introduced to two competing solutions to the Synoptic Problem. According to my professor (an extremely learned fellow and one who was observant of scholarly trends) there were only two solutions that held any sway in the guild:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rafael Rodriguez on the Criterion of Embarrassment--Chris Keith

In an earlier post, Greg Monette defended the usage of the criterion of embarrassment in historical Jesus studies.  Rafael Rodgriguez has now responded here.  Both posts are worth reading, as is Rafael's contribution to Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity, which Anthony Le Donne and I edited.  Elsewhere, Christopher Skinner shares some further thoughts on this book and the very entrenched ideas about the criteria of authenticity that it challenges. 

Is Mark Goodacre still in the minority on Q?—Chris Keith

I recently learned about the forthcoming John C. Poirier and Jeff Peterson co-edited LNTS volume, Marcan Priority Without Q: Explorations in the Farrer Hypothesis, which I look forward to reading.  In addition to Jack and Jeff both being great scholars, I really enjoyed Jack's contribution to the Goodacre/Perrin book, Questioning Q.  But, between these studies and random recent conversations at SBL and other places with scholars who are increasingly doubtful of the existence of Q, it made me wonder:  Is Mark Goodacre still in the minority?  I've heard Mark, on several occasions, refer to his stance on Q (most clearly articulated in his The Case Against Q), which is that there was no Q, as a "minority" position.  Historically he's right, but in my opinion--and I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts--although this may still be the minority, it is a growing and increasingly-vocal minority.  I have myself always been Q agnostic, leaning heavily toward all-out Q doubter.  I'm not a Synoptic Problem specialist, but for me the Q hypothesis makes sense only in a methodology (source and form criticism) that I think seriously misconceives the transmission of the gospel tradition in some ways (though correctly presenting it in others).  In other words, I often don't think Q is necessary, apart from whether it's possible.  Also, and I think this is a point that goes back to Goulder but I've read Mark make as well, I think the Q hypothesis underestimates the creative abilities of the Gospel authors, viewing them sometimes as nearly robots.  I'm still reserving judgement entirely until I read Alan Kirk's magnum opus on the Synoptic Problem from an ancient media and memory perspective, but I don't think Mark's position is quite the minority it used to be.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chris Keith's "Social Memory Theory and the Gospels"

In case you missed this, here is Prof. Chris Keith's inaugural lecture:

Prof Chris Keith, Chair of the New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, recently delivered his inaugural lecture called "Social Memory Theory and the Gospels: Assessing the First Decade" at the University College's Strawberry Hill campus.

Friday, January 24, 2014

John Byron's Public Lecture on Jesus

If you are near the Ashland, OH area next week:
Dr. John Byron, professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary, will present a lecture titled "Who is the Real Jesus and Why are We Looking for Him?" on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Smetzer Auditorium inside the Gerber Academic Building on the Ashland Theological Seminary campus.
For more details, see here.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Best Jesus Books for Class Use - Le Donne

A couple days ago I asked: if you were to teach a class on Jesus and the Gospels to novices (adult learners, university freshman, etc) what three texts would you use?

So far my favorite comment comes from Eric T.:
Eric Eve, Behind the Gospels (because recommended here)
Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus
Stephen Prothero, American Jesus
The wild card: Richard Horsley, Jesus and Empire 
So far it seems most choices are books on the historical Jesus, and only a few on the gospels. Not sure what, if anything, that says...
While I have not yet looked at Eric Eve's book (embarrassed to say!), I've been meaning to do so. By all accounts, it is up-to-date and takes the recent advances in social memory theory seriously. Although I can't speak to how accessible it would be for novices.  Stanton's book is a classic. I like to include at least one "classic" (defined according to my own whims). And I have indeed used Prothero's American Jesus with much satisfaction!

But what makes Mr. T's comment my favorite is his observation that most of our lists are "historical Jesus" heavy and "Gospels" light. Allow me to take this teaching moment to point again to Jesus Among Friends and Enemies by Larry Hurtado and (our very own) Chris Keith. This book is the best I've seen at balancing the historical-critical questions/themes about Jesus with the literary-critical questions/themes about the Gospels. See my full endorsement here. (And, no, I receive no royalties for book sales on this one.)


“The overall question is ‘How did it happen that the Jews became identified as enemies of Christians?’”—Chris Keith

The quotation in the title of this post is from Anders Runesson in an interview appearing on McMaster University's website, which announces his successful application for a massive research grant from the Swedish Research Council.  His colleagues on the project are Karin Hedner-Zetterholm, Magnus Zetterholm (both of Lund), and Cecilia Wassen (Uppsala).  Congratulations to each of them!  The project sounds extremely exciting and is nothing less than a re-consideration of five centuries of Jewish-Christian relations: 

"The four-year research project entitled Beyond Theology: Ancient Polemics, Identity Formation, and Modern Scholarship’ has received a grant totalling the equivalent of $1.8-million Canadian dollars from the Swedish Research Council. 

The research will be divided into four parts. Through sociologically informed studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the historical Jesus, New Testament texts and Rabbinic Judaism, the aim is to explain the origins of doctrines about ‘the other’ that have lead to antagonism, violence and persecution. In the process, light is shed on the very beginnings of Christianity and Judaism as we know these religions today."

This important project is one to watch and I know many of us will be.  Congrats, again, to Anders and team!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Jesus Books Would You Use? - Le Donne

Dr. Skinner, now blogging over at Crux Sola with Nijay Gupta (a blessing on their new union), gave me the gift of good news today. I consider it the highest praise when a member of my target audience finds one of my books useful:

I look forward to getting to know these bright (and well-read!) students at Mt. Olive College soon. But this conversation has got me thinking: if you were to teach a class on Jesus and the Gospels to novices (adult learners, university freshman, etc) what three texts would you use?

Let's make this interesting and exclude the texts that Dr. Skinner has already mentioned.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cue Two New Reviews - Le Donne

I was recently alerted to two more reviews of my latest book.

The first is a review in a series of three by Loren Rosson III. Sadly, I only wrote one of these books. I will try to do better next time. Read his review here.

The second is a review by Tania Moore. She compares and contrasts my book with Reza Aslan's ZealotRead her review here.

I am very grateful to both of these reviewers. It is clear that both took the time to read my book carefully. Even more, it is gratifying to get the perspectives of a professional librarian and a creative writer!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Conference on Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity at St Mary’s University College—Chris Keith

On May 23 and 24, the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St Mary's University College, Twickenham will host a conference on "Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity."  For more information and to register, please go to the centre's page here.  The conference is open to the public and costs £65 (£40 for students).  My colleague, Prof Steve Walton, and I have been working on this for some time and we're quite excited about the lineup of speakers.  I'll list these below, but please also note that we have room for a very few short papers.  The proceedings of the conference will be published in the WUNT monograph series of Mohr Siebeck press.

The keynote address will come from Prof Dr Loren Stuckenbruck (Munich):  "How Much Does the Christ Event Solve? Evil in New Testament Theology and Its Relation to Jewish Theology."

Other confirmed speakers are:

James Crossley (Sheffield): "Release from Satan in the Healings of Jesus"
Nicholas Ellis (North Carolina): "A Theology of Evil in the Epistle of James"
Chris Keith (St Mary's): "Evil and the Book in Early Christianity"
Jonathan Knight: "Evil in the Ascension of Isaiah"
Louise Lawrence (Exeter): "Evil and Disability in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament"
Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer (Aberdeen): "Evil at Qumran"
Susanne Luther (Mainz): "The Evil of the Tongue: Evil and the Ethics of Speech in the New
Lloyd Pietersen (formerly Gloucestershire): "Artemis, Demons, Mammon and Satan: The Construal of Evil in 1 Timothy"
Christopher Rollston (Tel Aviv): "The Rise of the Satan in Early Second Temple Judaism"
Dieter T. Roth (Mainz): "Evil in Marcion's Conception of the OT God"
Christopher Skinner (Mount Olive): "Evil and the Kosmos in the Gospel of John"
Chris Tilling (St Mellitus): "Evil and the Apostle Paul"
Steve Walton (St Mary's/Cambridge): "Evil and Acts 19"
Tommy Wasserman (Örebro): "Lectio difficilior and Evil in the Text of the NT"
Benjamin Wold (Trinity, Dublin): "Evil and Apotropaic Reversals in the Synoptic Gospels"

We look forward to an exciting two days of discussion featuring cultural, historical, textual, and theological approaches to the issue of evil in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.  Join us!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Andrew Zack Lewis

A good friend of mine blogs about fatherhood, theology, and other things in one of the poorest neighborhoods in North America. More importantly, he is just a really great writer. I benefited greatly from this post:

As a pro-tip for advanced users, check out his newly published book.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Peter Enns on OT/NT (Dis)Continuity - Le Donne

Pete Enns continues the always interesting and puzzling discussion of the portrayals of God in Jewish and Christian scriptures. He specifically addresses the continuity and discontinuity between the themes of exclusion/hostility/violence and their counterparts.

I chime in a bit in the comments below his post.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pericope Adulterae Book in Paperback—Chris Keith

I've just heard that Brill Academic Press has now published a paperback edition of my The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus.  It's availabe here.  In this study, I argue that the insertion of the story of the woman caught in adultery, typically printed in English Bibles at John 7:53 - 8:11, was inserted quite purposefully into John's Gospel in the second or third century by an interpolator who was paying attention to the narrative context of John's Gospel.  I was honored when the study won a 2010 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise.  The hardback version was really expensive, though, so I'm glad to see that it will now be available in paperback.  It's still not particularly cheap at $49, but it's significantly less than the hardback.  I'm going to see if Brill will let us give away a copy here on the blog.  I loved working with Brill and their team (especially Loes Schouten and Mattie Kuiper, as well as the series editors, Bart Ehrman and Eldon Epp), and am very glad that they've now started issuing some of their hardback monographs in paperback.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Free Online Lectures for New Testament Studies

In the last couple of days I've learned of a few (new to me) audio/visual links for students of the New Testament:

James McGrath points to a few lectures on historical-Jesus studies:

The helpful folks biblicalstudiesonline point to several lectures related to Pauline studies:

For those of you who teach online Intro to NT courses, these are invaluable resources.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

BREAKING: Gathercole's Monograph Unchanged!

I got this email from a colleague yesterday:

I was looking up Simon Gathercole and found his wikipedia page. I thought this line was great:

"His monograph Where is Boasting? (2002) was, and indeed still is, an examination of the theme of boasting in early Judaism and in Romans 1-5 against the eschatological backdrop of final judgement."

Glad it "indeed still is". It really sucks when monographs change unexpectedly
Dr. Gathercole, you will be relieved to learn that your thesis has not evolved post-publication.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Prof Steve Walton joins the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St Mary's--Chris Keith

I've let this slip once or twice already, but now I can formally announce that Acts specialist and new blogger Steve Walton has joined the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible here with me at St Mary's University College as a Professorial Research Fellow.  I couldn't be more pleased to have such an internationally-recognized New Testament scholar as a colleague.  It's just icing on the cake that he's also a great person!  Steve's big project at present is the two-volume Word Biblical Commentary on Acts.  We are continuing to take on PhD students in New Testament for anyone who is interested.  We'll also be working on some interesting conferences in the next couple years and will shortly announce one that will be held here at St Mary's in May.  Welcome, Steve!

More Hilarity from Dale Allison—Chris Keith

I’ve recently had reason to pull my copy of Dale Allison’s Resurrecting Jesus off the shelf and read through it.  I earlier shared some hilarity from one of his comments and feel the need now to collect some more truly funny statements (some funnier than others).  Make no mistake—in my opinion, Dale is the greatest living historical Jesus scholar.  His work is stuffed full of primary and secondary sources and he is as erudite as they come.  Furthermore, he is utterly self-conscious about his commitments as a Christian, his doubts as a historian, and the general limits of scholarly argumentation; so, in addition to his ideas, one often gets insight into how he came to them.  It’s refreshing.  But every once in a while, there’s a hilarious comment and I like to imagine (solely for my own entertainment) that he wrote this particular line after a Scotch too many encouraged him to state his opinions in raw sarcasm rather than polished academic-ese.  Comments like these are what make him so much fun to read, and I wish more scholars did it.

On hell:
“What good is a hell if one’s enemies are not in it?” (88)

On being a historian:
“In my defense, I am, as an historian, the victim of my own curiosity.”  (199)

On being a Christian:
“My own Christian tradition is just as full of similar nonsense.”  (221)

On the historical Bigfoot: 
“Certainly, unknown giant, hairy hominids, even if they exist, can scarcely exist in sufficient numbers to account for the numerous sightings of Bigfoot that people all over the world testify to every year.”  (207)

On rabbinic discussions of subterranean tunnels that will transport the righteous to Jerusalem at the resurrection, as well as rabbinic discussions of whether the resurrected will be clothed: 
“One finds it all but impossible to restrain a condescending smile.”  (221)

On the vexing question that cannibalism presented to early Christians who had to decide whose resurrection body the ingested human would belong to, and Athenagoras’s solution that human flesh cannot be digested:
“Is this not one theological opinion that science has indisputably falsified?”  (221)

Not letting Athenagoras off the hook yet:
“One wonders what, were he alive today, old Athenagoras would make of organ donation.”  (221)

On the theory that Jesus’ followers sometimes did not recognize him post-resurrection because the process had aged him:
“The only response to this can be dumbstruck admiration for human ingenuity, even when it is in the cause of nonsense.”  (228n.118)

And perhaps my favorite, concerning debates over eternal fate in light of multiple biblical statements and his own exegetical prowess:
“Although I have not seen this done, one could invoke relativity theory to show how the wicked will both suffer forever and be annihilated.  At the end of days, Captain Almighty God builds a celestial ark, puts the righteous in it, squishes the wick and some tormenting demons into the center of the earth, takes off at near light speed, circumnavigates the universe in five minutes, surpasses light speed for a few seconds (Captain Almighty, aptly named, can do anything), then decelerates and returns to earth.  According to relativity theory, five minutes and a few seconds of time on the ark are an eternity on earth, so when the ark docks, the wicked have spent forever in hell.  What then?  Having fulfilled the prophecies about eternal torment and still needing to fulfill those about destruction, Captain Almighty retrieves a mysterious box from the ark’s hold, carefully opens the lid, removes the holy hand grenade stored from the foundation of the world, utters a few solemn words, pulls the sacred pin, and tosses the thing out the window.  The wicked and the sin-wracked universe disappear, and now Captain Almighty can make all things new.  Alternatively, the good Captain might rather want, upon returning to earth, to save the wicked and so fulfil those Pauline texts that speak of all being saved, thus resolving a different contradiction.  This is all juvenile nonsense; but it is unclear to me how those who take the biblical statements about hell literally could recognize it as nonsense, or how they could fail to laud this brilliant resolution of a hoary exegetical conundrum.”  (91n.118)


Friday, January 10, 2014

Winner: Ken B!

The last shall be first!

The winner of our latest give away is number 62, Ken Berry who wrote:

Ken wins a copy of my book The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals. To claim your prize - and what a lucky fellow you are! - comment below with your email address. (This will not be published.)


Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Repent of My Kneejerk Dismissal of this Book - Le Donne

I really don't know how I could have been more wrong. I mean, it really isn't like me to be wrong about anything except important life decisions and whatnot.

A few years ago, back when I was devouring every book and article that dealt with "memory," I acquired a copy of Miroslav Volf's The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World.  I read a couple chapters and decided that it wasn't going to help me much.  I was looking for a technical discussion of theory and this book just didn't have enough gymnastics. To my detriment, it has sat on my shelf ever since.

Worse, I have been asked about this book by colleagues a handful of times. They would ask, "Hey, have you seen that book by Volf?" I would reply with a mild, "yes, not bad, but..." answer.  If you were one of those poor, misguided souls who took my faint praise as a poor review, I apologize.

This book is great. Great. I honestly think that I just needed more mature eyes by which to read the thing. Moreover, it is the model of great writing. Indeed, one would do well to read this book just to see what good academic writing looks like without jargon. It balances theology, memory theory, historiography and social/psychological dynamics quite well.

If you're already reading Kirk, Lowenthal, Schroeter, and Zerubavel, the theoretical contributions of this book are going to seem old hat. But if you're interested in how memory relates to forgiveness, trauma, loving one's enemy, worship, and other larger theological topics, I do hope that you have a look at this book. Buyer beware, however, you might end up thinking about your life differently after reading this book.

Suggest it to your book club. Use that gift card you got for Kwanzaa. Teach a Sunday school class with it. Make it required reading for your senior seminar. Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around while you read it. That's what it's all about.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Aposynagōgos and the Historical Jesus in John, Jonathan Bernier--Chris Keith

I've always found the argument that the references to expulsion from the synagogue in John's Gospel definitely refer only to the later experience of the Johannine community to be lacking.  It's not that this is impossible; quite to the contrary, it's utterly plausible that later Christians experienced friction in the synagogue.  But a later plausibility is not, in and of itself, evidence of an earlier impossibility.  To say it another way, I believe this argument, so forcefully articulated in J. Louis Martyn's History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, gets its grounding from the fact that it makes so much sense in the later context, not from its demonstration that there's no possible way it could have happened in Jesus' context.  This second issue still needed a thorough treatment.  I was thus excited to hear from Anders Runesson about his student Jonathan Bernier, who was working on this issue for his PhD at McMaster University.  Jonathan successfully defended and now his study is available as a Brill monograph, in which he argues against the reigning view of Martyn.  I'm happy to feature it here and have asked Jonathan to provide a synopsis of his study.  (Note that this is a McMaster study from top to bottom, as he draws from Meyer and Runesson!)  If he's right, then he has just opened up this important issue in Johannine studies to further discussion.  Jonathan has indicated that he's happy to interact with any questions in the comments section.

From Jonathan:
In Aposynagōgos and the Historical Jesus in John I survey a range of issues relevant to the historical study of the Johannine expulsion passages (John 9:22, 12:42, 16:2). I evaluate the long-standing supposition that it is implausible that any of Jesus’ followers could have experienced expulsion from the synagogue during his lifetime, and that as such the passages in question should be read as a two-level drama, one level ostensibly telling the story of Jesus and the other actually telling the story of the Johannine community (which is said either to have experienced expulsion under the Birkat ha-Minim, or to have experienced no expulsion at all but rather be engaged purely in identity-building). Against both I argue that such an experience of expulsion is quite plausible during the late 20s or early 30s, when Jesus was active.

I build my argument on the basis of both hermeneutical and empirical critique and investigation. On the hermeneutical side, aided by the critical-realism developed by philosopher Bernard Lonergan and introduced into New Testament studies by Ben F. Meyer, I conclude that there is no warrant for reading the aposynagōgos passages on two distinct levels. On the empirical side, aided by recent advances in our knowledge of the synagogue through the contributions of such scholars as Donald Binder, Lee Levine, and Anders Runesson (the latter of whom supervised the dissertation of which this monograph is a revised edition), I conclude first that the Birkat ha-Minim is of no relevance to the interpretation of these passages, and second that whilst there is no evidence for formal mechanisms of expulsions in the 20s and 30s there could well have been sufficient informal pressure such that Jesus’ followers found themselves effectively prohibited from synagogue participation.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hilarity from Dale Allison--Chris Keith

One of the great annual traditions of the SBL is the flight there and back when I inevitably get seated next to someone who asks the dreaded question "So what do you do for a living?"  I hate this question slightly less than I hate wet socks, which is a considerable amount.  (Why, when someone drops a piece of ice on the kitchen floor, is it impossible to pick it up and throw it in the sink?)  I've been tempted several times to lie and just offer an answer that will shut down the conversation immediately, such as "I kill kittens for animal hospitals."  It's not the question, really, and it's certainly not my (actual) job, which I love.  What's taxing is the navigation of the minefield of misunderstanding that resides on the other side of that question for those of us who are involved in the academic discussion of religion; for this is not one innocent question concerning your profession but rather one question that leads to no less than three and possibly eighty-three clarification questions that inevitably involve examples of brothers-in-law.  I may have shared on this blog before that one such conversation once resulted in my conversation partner saying, "So, like the Da Vinci Code?"  Yes, that's it exactly . . . like the Da Vinci Code.

So I couldn't help but pass along this gem from Dale Allison's 2005 Resurrecting Jesus (T&T Clark), where he's discussing the fact that one cannot assume that Jesus scholars inevitably produce a Jesus in their own image (p.133):

"Speaking for myself, although I have written a book with the title Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, I am no millenarian prophet; and a Jesus without eschatological error would certainly make my life easier.  I might, for instance, be able to tell some of my relatives, without them shuddering aghast, what I really do for a living."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Acts and More--Chris Keith

Steve Walton, Acts aficianado and my colleague at St Mary's University College, has started a blog called Acts and More.  Make sure to check it out!  Welcome to the blogosphere, Steve!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Giveaway - The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals

Didn't get enough fancy words this holiday season? Enter to win a copy of my The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals.

You can enter up to five times:

(1) visit the OneWorld Publications website (comment below saying so)

(2) sign up to follow The Jesus Blog (comment below saying so)

(3) share by way of Facebook (comment below saying so)

(4) retweet the link to this giveaway @TheJesusBlog1 (comment below saying so)

(5) comment below sharing your favorite blog other than this one (provide URL below)

As always, we will use the true-random generator to select the winner. Just a tip: it is advantageous to enter multiple times by way of separate comments.


Congrats Wenhua Shi! Noble Group Fellow, W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research

Wenhua ShiCongratulations to Wenhua Shi, friend and fellow Durham grad! Wenhua has developed a webpage that introduces archaeology and the New Testament to Mandarin readers.

You can read more about her project here.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An Interesting Historical Jesus Question - Le Donne

I had a nice visit with an old friend this week. He is a very thoughtful fellow, somewhat interested in historical-Jesus study, but his professional investments are elsewhere. This guy asked me a very carefully-considered question:
If I met Jesus in the flesh, he would affect me in a certain way. Which of the four Gospels would you expect would affect me in the most similar way?
This, of course, is an evolved version of the "which Gospel is most historically accurate" question that professors sometimes get from their students.  When we get this question, we tend to guide our students toward a better set of assumptions.  As you can see, my friend's new-and-improved incarnation of the question is a bit more nuanced.

Before I go further, I wonder how the readers of this blog would answer...