Baker Academic

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Francis Watson on Jesus and the Gospel Tradition

For the last few weeks I've been working through Francis Watson's massive and magisterial Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013; pp. xiii + 665; $48.00). I say "working," but this book is surprisingly easy to read despite its intimidating size. There is much to learn here, and yet (as with every helpful synthesis on a scale such as this) there is much work left to be done. Watson helpfully emphasizes the significance reception ought to have on our historical analyses, whether of one author's "reception" of another's text (e.g., Luke's use of Matthew, which Watson advocates in chapters 3–4) or of the fourfold Gospel canon as "reception" of the Jesus tradition as a whole. front cover of Francis Watson, Gospel WritingWatson's focus, however, is not limited by canonical delimitations; his unit on "Reframing Gospel Origins" includes significant discussions of the Gospel of Thomas, the Egerton Gospel, and the Gospel of Peter, and he spends multiple chapters also on the writings of the early church fathers (Augustine in chapter 1, but also Clement, Eusebius, Irenaeus, Origin, and Jerome in the chapters of Part 3: The Canonical Construct). This is nothing short of an amazing work, and scholarship is hugely indebted to Watson for bringing such a breadth of material together within the covers of a single volume (even if those covers are widely separated from each other).

I want especially to highlight an extended quote from late in Watson's chapter on "Luke the Interpreter" (pp. 156–216), in which Watson focuses especially (and sometimes unhelpfully) on Luke the interpreter of Matthew. Watson snaps his readers' focus back onto Luke as interpreter of Jesus just at that point where we may have lost that angle in our efforts to see how Luke interprets the written Matthean tradition:
The dynamic of tradition would also be lost if we concluded that Luke and not Jesus is the author of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Lost Coin. That would be an utterly misleading claim. Luke composes these parables not as an independent author but as an interpreter, responsible for articulating the tradition that begins to form around Jesus during his ministry and that communicates him to ever-widening circles in the decades that follow, through preaching and writing. If oral and written tradition communicates Jesus, then it is also the case that Jesus communicates himself through the tradition. (208; italics in the original)
This perspective is revolutionary; just two decades ago it would have been inconceivable to associate the historical Jesus so strongly with texts that bear such distinctive marks of Lukan redaction. These words, however, do not so much effect a revolution in Gospels and Jesus research as much as they reflect the revolution that has been taking place in the last decade or so, especially in that work that has emphasized memory—and especially social or collective memory—in the historical analysis of the Jesus tradition.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Very Happy Christmas!

To our friends who celebrate it, we wish you a very happy Christmas Day!

To all of our friends, we hope that your day is filled with love, peace, and a sense of possibility!

-anthony and friends

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Jesus' Physical Appearance

The old forensic-artist depiction of Jesus has been circulating again suggesting what Jesus' mugshot or driver's license might have looked like. But if you're really interested in knowing everything that can be known about Jesus' physical appearance, Joan Taylor is who can tell you. Joan addresses the forensic-artist depiction but brings in a dozen (or so) other elements from her archeological research: eye-color, hair, sleeves, shoes, etc.

A great read!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who is the "Young" Theologian?

Last week I posted a quotation from the late Robert Guelich, "No young scholar should ever write a book about Jesus." This was taken from a recent public lecture by Marianne Meye Thompson (which I enjoyed greatly). She added to this quotation an addendum by Jimmy Dunn: "....or a commentary." (All by way of oral tradition, mind you.) So with the Dunn redaction, we have the following dictum:

"No young scholar should ever write a book about Jesus or a commentary." ~Robert A. Guelich / James D. G. Dunn

In a recent phone conversation with Leonard Greenspoon, I made the mistake of saying ".... but I wrote that when I was young" to which Leonard replied, "You still are young!" I agreed that because of my chosen occupation I am (at 40 years) still young. If, however, I had chosen a life in the National Basketball Association, I would not be considered young.

It all seems very arbitrary. Or at least it did until today. Today I was given a definitive number as I was reading Richard Rubenstein's classic, After Auschwitz. Rubenstein explains:
By the nature of the discipline, theologians remain young at least until their fiftieth year. There is simply too much to be learned, pondered and finally synthesized; hence early statements of the theological enterprise appear to be no more than prolegomena. (177)
So please check back with me in a decade or so. At that point I will have something synthesized.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars, Gratitude, and Goodbye

On November 22nd my friend and brother-in-law passed due to complications related to cancer. Travis Keenan Tiffin was among the most talented, generous, and free-spirited persons I've ever known.

Travis was a graphic artist and helped with the early design of this blog and in a number of other ways. He never wanted public recognition then so I am thanking him now.

I would also like to express my gratitude to J.J. Abrams for a tremendous and unexpected gift. Travis was an avid fan of Star Wars. Somehow (I still don't know how) Mr. Abrams heard about Travis' condition and reached out to him. I wasn't able to speak with Travis after his special viewing of The Force Awakens. But I have no doubt that it brought my friend a great deal of joy in his final days.

Travis never felt entitled to anything special. This was part of what made him so especially fun to be around. He was always genuinely surprised when something good happened. His presence made World Series games more exciting, good comedy better, and unexpected gifts more fun.

Goodbye, my friend. You are especially missed today.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Memory and Reception of Jesus in Early Christianity Conference—Chris Keith

Re-posted with correct dates.

I'm very happy to announce the "Memory and Reception of Jesus in Early Christianity" conference in the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible, which will take place at St Mary's University, Twickenham on June 10 and 11, 2016.  More information is below, including the speakers and how to register.  I hope to see many readers of the Jesus Blog there, as several of its bloggers and guest bloggers will be there.  The direct link is here.