Baker Academic

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dialoguing about Dialogue (the Plain Truth podcast)

In a southern Ohio roadshow this month, Larry Behrendt and I made several stops in Dayton and Cincinnati to talk about our new book, Sacred Dissonance: the Blessing of Jewish-Christian Difference. One of these stops was at the recording studio located in United Theological Seminary (in Trotwood). We got to talk about talking with folks who love to talk: David Watson, Scott Kisker, and Maggie Ulmer.

Their new podcast is called "Plain Truth: a Holy-Spirited Podcast." You can listen on one of two platforms:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Very, Very Simple Introduction to the Gospels

As you know, Dr. Peter Enns is a very, very simple person. So as my gift to him, I gave golden nuggets, frankenberry, and mere basics. If you haven't yet followed the Bible for Normal People podcast, maybe start here:

The pod is hosted by Pete and Jared Byas (Jared's solo podcasts are my favorite) and they interview really impressive people like Jon Levenson, Beverly Gaventa, and Walter Brueggemann. I am thrilled be be included if only to bring a bit more normal to the normalcy.

We start by discussing Mark's multiple endings. We reflect on the fact that there are four canonical Gospels rather than one official story about Jesus. I also talk a bit about how human memory reconstructs our perceptions of the past via story-telling.


An Authentically Fourth-Century Tomb

This week National Geographic published an article revealing the age of Jesus' tomb. No, scientists haven't proved that the traditional site, enshrined beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is actually the place where Jesus of Nazareth was laid after his crucifixion. But scientists have dated a broken marble slab, which was found beneath the marble cladding visible to visitors resting on the original limestone "burial bed" in October of 2016 when the tomb was opened, and confirmed that "the lower slab was most likely mortared in place in the mid-fourth century under the orders of Emperor Constantine."

For the earlier report of the opening of the traditional tomb of Christ, see here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

You Should Read This Book

Now that the 2017 SBL Annual Meeting is behind me, I'm beginning to look forward to the week ahead. This week:
  • my family will travel to Phoenix, AZ, for Thanksgiving;
  • Ohio State will continue to celebrate Coach Harbaugh's tenure Up North;
  • and I'll finish reading Bruce Longenecker's recent book, Hitler, Jesus, and Our Common Humanity (Cascade, 2014).
Longenecker tells the compelling and touching story of a Jewish family in Germany: Rolf Gompertz and his parents, Oskar and Selma. Rolf was ten—almost eleven—on the night of 9–10 November, 1938. Kristallnacht. The Night of Broken Glass. Shortly afterward, the Gompertz family fled Nazi Germany and landed in Los Angeles. From there, Rolf Gompertz has spent the life he was privileged to live—a life denied to so many of his fellow German Jews—confronting the ideology of hate, of the Nietzschean will to power in which the pursuit of one's or society's ends are freed from the bonds of any notion of morality.

Longenecker's story turns on Rolf's "most powerful memory." On the infamous Kristallnacht, as Nazi thugs pounded on the door of the Gompertz family's home, demanding to be let in, the then-10-year-old Rolf told his father, "Vati! If they take you, I'm going with you!" In that moment, a little boy's stand against evil seems small and ineffectual. Nearly eighty years later, that boy's enemies have faded into history while he himself continues to speak life into the world.

I've not finished reading Hitler, Jesus, and Our Common Humanity, but I've read enough to recommend it to all of you. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. GO BUCKS! O-H!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jewish-Christian Dialogue at SBL Boston

Hi all,

If you have been following this blog for the last few years (and have not completely written us off) you will know that I (Anthony) has been very invested in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Specifically, I have tag-teamed with Larry Behrendt of Jewish-Christian Intersections on a new book. We will be featuring a dialogue related to our book on Sunday at 3pm in Boston.

Come one, come all!

If you are feeling even more nerdy than usual, you might consider attending this session:

Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Sacred Texts

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Room: Provincetown (Fourth Level) - Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP) 
Leonard Greenspoon, Creighton University, Presiding
André Villeneuve, St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Israel’s Eschatological Destiny in the Catholic Interpretation of the Prophets (30 min)
Stephen D. Black, Codrington College
The Merit of Abraham and the Christ Follower: The Purpose of Paul’s Use of Abraham in Romans 4 (30 min)
Adam Gregerman, Saint Joseph's University (Philadelphia, PA)
Catholic Statements about the Status of the Biblical Promise of the Land of Israel within the “Unrevoked” Jewish Covenant (30 min)
Rebecca Esterson, Graduate Theological Union
What Do the Angels Say? Scripture, Identity, and the Ascents of Emanuel Swedenborg and Baal Shem Tov (30 min)
Michael T. Graham Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
To David? Paul's Use of Composite Quotations in Romans 3:10-18: Taking the Context into Account (30 min)
Andrew W Higginbotham, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Jacob...or Jacobs?: Discerning the Judeo-Christian Interlocutor "Jacob Kfar ..." in Rabbinic Context (30 min)
As Lennie G. will not be able to attend, I will be moderating in his place. And if there is a lull in the program, I will offer an interpretive dance inspired by Romans 11.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Schröter and Jacobi’s Jesus Handbuch—Chris Keith

Jens Schroeter and Jesus Blogger Christine Jacobi have edited a brand new Jesus Handbuch with Mohr Siebeck in the Handuecher Theologie series, and readers of the Jesus Blog will be interested in this.  I contributed an essay on the Gospels as kerygmatic narratives and the development of the criteria approach in the work of Kaesemann, Bornkamm, and Hahn.  See the description of the full volume below along with a Table of Contents.  I'm also told that an English edition will be coming out.  The Jesus Blog will be publishing a full review of the book in due course.

"The Handbook of Jesus („Jesus Handbuch“) provides an outline of current international Jesus research. It presents interpretations of the figure of Jesus in history of Christianity from its beginnings until the first decades of the 21st century. Furthermore, the activity, teaching and fate of Jesus in its religious, social and political context are dealt with. Thereby, actual discourses in hermeneutics of history as well as recent archaeological findings are considered. The last part of the Handbook is devoted to receptions of Jesus in early Christianity. The Handbook therefore provides an overview on the person of Jesus, his activity and fate as well as the receptions of Jesus in the history of Christianity. The contributors to the Handbuch are internationally renowned scholars from different countries. Therefore, the compendium also provides an overview on the current state of Jesus research."

A.Jens Schröter/Christine Jacobi: Einleitung 
B. Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Jesusforschung Jens Schröter/Christine Jacobi: Einführung – Martin Ohst: Der irdische Jesus in der antiken, mittelalterlichen und reformatorischen Frömmigkeit und Theologie – Albrecht Beutel: Das 18. Jahrhundert als Entstehungskontext der kritischen Theologie – Eckart David Schmidt: Die kritische Geschichtswissenschaft des späten 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts und ihre Auswirkung auf die Jesusforschung – John S. Kloppenborg: Die Einführung des MythosbegriEs in die Jesusforschung und die Entstehung der Zweiquellentheorie – James Carleton Paget: Das »Gottesreich« als eschatologisches Konzept: Johannes Weiß und Albert Schweitzer – Reinhard von Bendemann: Historischer Jesus und kerygmatischer Christus – Cilliers Breytenbach: Die literarischen Entwürfe der Evangelien und ihr Verhältnis zum historischen Jesus – Chris Keith: Die Evangelien als »kerygmatische Erzählungen« über Jesus und die »Kriterien« in der Jesusforschung – David du Toit: Die »Third Quest for the Historical Jesus« – Jens Schröter: Der »erinnerte Jesus«: Erinnerung als geschichtshermeneutisches Paradigma der Jesusforschung 
C. Das historische Material I. Jens Schröter/Christine Jacobi: Einführung II. Literarische Zeugnisse 1. Christliche Texte John S. Kloppenborg: Die Synoptischen Evangelien, die Logienquelle (Q) und der historische Jesus – Jörg Frey: Johannesevangelium – Christine Jacobi: Sonstige Schriften des Neuen Testaments – Simon Gathercole: Außerkanonische Schriften als Quellen für den historischen Jesus? 2. Nichtchristliche Texte Steve Mason: Griechische, römische und syrische Quellen über Jesus – Steve Mason: Jüdische Texte: Flavius Josephus III. Nichtliterarische Zeugnisse Jürgen K. Zangenberg: Archäologische Zeugnisse – Jürgen K. Zangenberg: Inschriften und Münzen 
D. Leben und Wirken Jesu I. Jens Schröter/Christine Jacobi: Einführung Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co. KG Postfach 2040 D-72010 Tübingen II. Politische Verhältnisse und religiöser Kontext Daniel R. Schwartz: Politische Verhältnisse: Römische Herrschaft, Herodes der Große, Antipas – Lutz Doering: Religiöser Kontext III. Biographische Aspekte Stephen Hultgren: Jesus: Herkunft, Familie, Geburt, Kindheit – Stephen Hultgren: Die Bildung und Sprache Jesu – Lutz Doering: Jesus im Judentum seiner Zeit (Die jüdische Prägung Jesu) – Jürgen K. Zangenberg: Galiläa und Umgebung als Wirkungsraum – Jürgen K. Zangenberg: Jerusalem und Judäa als Wirkungsraum IV. ÖEentliches Wirken 1. Der soziale Kontext Jesu Knut Backhaus: Jesus und Johannes der Täufer – James G. Crossley: Jesus im politischen und sozialen Umfeld seiner Zeit 2. Das Handeln Jesu Joseph Verheyden: Jesus als Wanderprediger – Joseph Verheyden: Gründung einer Gemeinschaft: Ruf in die Nachfolge und die Bildung des Zwölferkreises – Hermut Löhr: Mahlgemeinschaften Jesu – Annette Weissenrieder: Heilungen Jesu – Bernd Kollmann: Exorzismen – Bernd Kollmann: Totenerweckungen und Naturwunder – Christiane Zimmermann: Frauen im Umfeld Jesu – Christiane Zimmermann: Jesus und das Volk – Darrell L. Bock/Jens Schröter: Jesu Perspektive auf Israel – Yair Furstenberg: Zöllner und Sünder als Adressaten des Wirkens Jesu – Martina Böhm: Jesu Verhältnis zu den Samaritanern 3. Die Reden Jesu / Das Lehren Jesu Christine Gerber: Das Gottesbild Jesu und die Bedeutung der Vatermetaphorik – Craig Evans/Jeremiah J. Johnston: Gottesherrschaft – Ruben Zimmermann: Gleichnisse und Parabeln – Michael Wolter: Gerichtsvorstellungen Jesu – Karl-Heinrich Ostmeyer: Das Beten Jesu, Vaterunser – Thomas Kazen: Jesu Interpretation der Tora – Martin Ebner: Jesus als Weisheitslehrer – Michael Wolter: Jesu Selbstverständnis 4. Das Ethos Jesu Friedrich Wilhelm Horn: Nächstenliebe und Feindesliebe – Friedrich Wilhelm Horn: Besitz und Reichtum – Michael Labahn: Nachfolge, radikaler Verzicht, »a-familiäres« Ethos – Michael Labahn: Jesus als »Fresser und Weinsäufer« 5. Die Passionsereignisse Markus Tiwald: Einzug in Jerusalem, Tempelreinigung (Jesu Stellung zum Tempel) – Hermut Löhr: Das letzte Mahl Jesu – Sven-Olav Back: Die Prozesse gegen Jesus – Sven-Olav Back: Kreuzigung und Grablegung Jesu 
E. Frühe Spuren von Wirkungen und Rezeptionen Jesu Jens Schröter/Christine Jacobi: Einführung – Christine Jacobi: Auferstehung, Erscheinungen, Weisungen des Auferstandenen – Samuel Vollenweider: Frühe Glaubensbekenntnisse – David du Toit: Christologische Hoheitstitel – Markus Öhler: Ausbildung von Strukturen: Die Zwölf, Wandercharismatiker, Jerusalemer Urgemeinde und Apostel – Tobias Nicklas: Jesus in außerkanonischen Texten des 2. und 3. Jahrhunderts – Katharina Heyden/Rahel Schär: Bildliche Darstellungen Jesu bis ca. 500 n.Chr. – Ulrich Volp: Ethik (Bergpredigt)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

BOOK GIVEAWAY - tell a joke, win a book

The upstanding citizens at Hendrickson Publishers are giving away three copies of my latest book. Sacred Dissonance is coauthored by Larry Behrendt and me, with a foreword from Amy-Jill Levine.

Rabbi Dana Kaplan writes of the book:
“Conversations between Jews and Christians have never been more productive. So, aren’t we done with Jewish-Christian dialogue already? In this book, Anthony Le Donne and Larry Behrendt answer this question with an emphatic “no.” By embracing rather than papering over the complex differences between Christians and Jews, Larry and Anthony show how an exploration of the things that divide us can lead to deeper faith and friendship.”
How to win? It's simple. To enter . . . 

1) repost this on social media (and comment below to say you have);

2) tell your favorite religious joke in the comments section (jokes of good taste have a better chance of being posted);

3) do both and double your chance of winning!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Was Joseph a Perv?

Was Joseph, the husband of Mary, a perv?

No. But Jim Zeigler might be. That is to say Zeigler's logic and assumptions about Joseph are altogether perverted.

Two days ago Zeigler, the Alabama State Auditor, defended the alleged sexual misconduct of Roy Moore. Moore is accused of initiating a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl.

According to the Washington Post Zeigler said, “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus . . . There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Let's not bury the lede. Zeigler's historical assumptions are wrong. His justification of Moore's alleged pervitude is repugnant. Lamentably, sexual abuse by a male in power is anything but unusual. That said, it might be worthwhile (secondarily) to answer a few questions about the characters we meet in the New Testament named Joseph and Mary.

Historically speaking, we know almost nothing about Joseph. He is not featured in the Gospel of Mark (our earliest narrative about Jesus) and Matthew and Luke are more interested in Jesus's heavenly Father than his mother's husband. The key literary point that both Matthew and Luke make is that Joseph was not Jesus's biological father but acted honorably toward Mary. We do not know how old Joseph was when he was betrothed. But the relevant cultural norms considered 20 years (or thereabout) to be the ideal age for men to marry. The average life expectancy was 40-45 years and the demand for progeny was paramount. So most men were arranged to wed shortly after puberty. For agrarian cultures in the Mediterranean this meant around 20 years old.

We also don't know how old Mary was when she was betrothed. Any assumptions based on her status as a "virgin" are without historical warrant. She was probably younger than twenty but there is no reason to think she was a "child" by the standards of her culture. It is possible that Joseph was older and that Mary was younger. Arranged marriages sometimes take this shape. But a large age gap is not supported by the evidence in this particular case.

Given how very little we know from history, we might address the question literarily and theologically. According to Matthew and Luke, Joseph and Mary had not consummated their betrothal. This is an important point for these narratives because the reader is supposed to believe that Mary's pregnancy was an act of God.

So unless Zeigler is trying to say that Roy Moore is the Holy Spirit (who would be much, much older than 20) his analogy is incoherent. Historically speaking, Zeigler's statement is in error. Literarily and theologically speaking, Zeigler's statement is perverted. Finally, and most importantly, Moore is not accused of pursuing a betrothal; he is accused of pursuing statutory rape. To justify such behavior by appealing to an ancient literary precedent—one that is not analogous anyway—shows just how much perverted justification goes into enabling sexual predators.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Christopher Rollston on the Jefferson Bible—Chris Keith

Over at Huffpost, friend of the Jesus Blog and friend of the Jesus bloggers, Christopher Rollston, has part one of a two-part article on the Jefferson Bible:  "Jefferson's Jesus: the Jefferson Bible Part 1, Gospel Texts that are Absent."
Dr Rollston speaking at St Mary's University

Here's a snippet:

"In the narratives of the canonical Gospels, there are multiple stories about Jesus raising the dead, people such as Lazarus (John 11:28-44), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the daughter of Jairus the ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:40-56). All of these narratives are absent from Jefferson’s Bible. And within the Gospel narratives, Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52; cf. Matt 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43), but this narrative is absent from Jefferson’s Bible. And in the Gospel narratives, Jesus casts a demon out of the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30), but this narrative is not present in Jefferson’s Bible. And in the Gospel narratives, Jesus cleanses ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), but this too is absent from Jefferson’s Bible. And in the Gospel narratives, Jesus heals a man at the Pool of Bethesda, a man who had been unable to walk for some thirty-eight years (John 5:1-9). But this narrative is absent from Jefferson’s Bible as well. In fact, all of the Gospel narratives about the miracles of Jesus are absent from the Jefferson Bible. Entirely. In short, Jefferson’s Bible is without miracles."

Friday, November 3, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

I think that if Jesus was American and had a gun he'd still be alive today.

             ~Judah Friedlander

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rachel Adler to Speak at Wright State

If you are traipsing through Ohio this afternoon, or even if you are meandering through Ohio, stop by Wright State University to hear Rachel Adler. Adler is among the first to interpret Jewish texts from a feminist perspective. Adler's 1971 essay, "The Jew Who Wasn’t There," is now celebrated as the first work of Jewish feminist theology. This event is jointly hosted by Wright State, University of Dayton, and United Theological Seminary. Here is the announcement from the Wright State webpage:

The 39th Annual Ryterband Symposium will be held on Thursday, November 2, 2017, in E163 Student Union, Wright State University.

Keynote speaker, Professor Rachel Adler, from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles will focus on Jewish Feminism. The first lecture, which begins at 4:00 pm, is titled “Women, Lament and Social Grief: An Historical Perspective” and the 7:30 pm lecture will be "From Feminism to Gender: The Evolution of a Jewish Feminist."

Both lectures are free and open to the university community and general public.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Remembering Luther Righteously

One of the points that James Dunn underscores with considerable force is the idea that "righteousness" in the Pauline thoughtscape should be thought of as "right-relationship." This is the sort of righteousness that I will advocate as I encourage my readers to remember Martin Luther righteously.

Like any historical figure, Luther is only intelligible within the network of relationships, power dynamics, and social possibilities of his time. He is embedded within his culture, therefore, and not transcendent. This may seem obvious to the readers of this blog because I've gone on and on about neo-Romanticism in western historiography. But given the level of hero-worship I'm hearing from Protestants these days, I need to risk another boring but true statement: the "great man" approach to history is almost always the wrong way to think of "great men." The common notion that every new era is launched by a great mind that envisions a new world order—a man who rises up above the myopia and social rigidness of contemporaries—is almost always misleading. Luther is not a singular hero. Indeed, his "great mind" was rarely heroic. Unless we remember Luther within the network of relationships that made him possible, he is not worth remembering at all.

One of the problems with thinking of Luther as a singular epoch-making hero is that this approach leaves little room for his anti-Jewish agenda. Those who celebrate his legacy are happy to forgive his belligerent hostility to systemic corruption. They are willing to laugh at his derisive humor aimed at other ideologues. And they tend to humanize Luther with foci on his married life, his general moodiness, and his struggle with Augustinian angst. It is more difficult, however, to deal with his anti-Judaism with a light chuckle and a shrug. Any serious attention to this feature of his agenda would render the hero narrative ignoble (and therefore nonfunctional). Perhaps this is why (this week) I see daily 5-10 Facebook posts about Luther and the 500-year commemoration of the Reformation but I see very few posts about his relationship with Judaism. There are exceptions but I find that most Christians either do not know about Luther's anti-Judaism or don't want to talk about it. Yes, Luther's legacy is connected to the advent of the printing press and a democratizing of Christianity. But his legacy is also connected with the ideological landscape of the Holocaust. The larger cultural network of relationships that made Luther possible also made it possible to dehumanize and commit violence against European Jews.

In my book, Near Christianity, I lean on the work of David Nirenberg:
David Nirenberg writes, “Luther launched an armada of arguments whose force led to the acceptance of his way of reading [Scripture] by many and its violent rejection by many more. It was the active prosecution of this conflict of ideas that reshaped the ways in which European Christians experienced their world, and heightened the dangerous significance of Jews and Judaism in that world” (David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition [New York: Norton], 256). Also: “Luther’s reconceptualization of the ways in which language mediates between God and creation was achieved by thinking with, about, and against Jews and Judaism. Insofar as these reconfigurations diminished the utility and heightened the dangers Jews posed to the Christian world, they had the potential to transform figures of Judaism and their fates. How powerful this potential might be, and what work it might perform in the future, were not Luther’s to control” (267). Nirenberg rightly draws a connection between Luther’s (hermeneutic toward the) reading of Scripture and the foil he creates in Judaism. To his credit, Nirenberg also avoids a simplistic distinction between the so-called “early Luther” and the “later Luther.” Helpfully, he begins by examining Luther’s anti-Jewish work on the Psalms, a work representing the so-called “early Luther.” (Near Christianity, p. 220) [SEE ALSO]
My coauthor of Sacred Dissonance, Larry Behrendt, notes that "Martin Luther’s ally, Philipp Melanchthon, described Luther’s struggle against the Catholic Church as a triumph over law, works, and Pharisees" (Sacred Dissonance, p. 200). But Luther's ideological construct had real-world consequences too. Nirenberg explains that even before Luther published On the Jews and Their Lies, he "directly provoked the expulsion of the Jews from the electoral of Saxony in 1537 and from the towns of Thuringia in 1540, and sparked riots against the Jews in Brunswick in 1543" (Anti-Judaism, 262).

It seems like Jewish historians tend to be the ones to fortify Christian memory on this point. But why should this be? Why should it always fall to the historically persecuted to remember the network of power dynamics rightly?

To be fair, I imagine that professional, Christian historians are also interested in this topic but I don't see this work finding its way into Christian collective memory. Granted, historians of all kinds tend to have difficulty of all kinds disseminating their work to layfolk of all kinds. Such is the divide between seminary and pew. It just so happens that because of this 500-year celebration of the Reformation, pastors seem to be eager to preach about the beginnings of Protestantism. Wouldn't this also be an opportune time to network our collective memories toward righteousness?