Baker Academic

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jesus and Corporate Subsidies

My thanks to my sister, Lisa Le Donne, for pointing me to this political cartoon:


Monday, October 20, 2014

Regina Jonas and Social Memory - Le Donne

A couple days ago I was alerted to this short article by Rabbi Laura Geller. Geller showcases Regina Jonas (1902–1944). Jonas studied at the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin until 1930 in prelude to her ordination (conducted in a private ceremony). Until very recently Regina Jonas was all but unknown to historians. She is now commemorated as the first female rabbi. While her story began to surface in the 1970s, Katharina von Kellenbach (author of this amazing and devastating book) discovered documents that confirmed Jonas' ordination in 1991. For more on Regina Jonas, see here. But Rabbi Geller's article should be read in full too for a unique window into social memory.

Here are just a few aspects of this story that interest me:

1. Social Memory theorists tell us that memory is constructed and reconstructed within social frames. Certainly gender and gender privilege operate as social frames. The vast majority of history is framed socially by masculine remembrancers. Or as Rachel Adler told me earlier this year, "Those with the 'members' get to do the remembering." Do we witness in the story of Regina Jonas a case of repressed memory due to mnemonic power dynamics?

2. Rabbi Geller writes: "in my years as a rabbinical student at HUC-JIR, from 1971 to 1976, not once did I hear her name. It would have been helpful to me, the only woman in my class, to have known her story." Could it be that the memory of Regina Jonas has found a more advantageous mnemonic frame? I.e. are the social conditions now more conducive for her commemoration?

3. If the answer to 1 is yes and the answer to 2 is yes, are we not in a better position to remember her now than we were 80 years ago? Sometimes our memories improve over the course of two generations and with the help of new social constructs.

4. Regina Jonas' story is swallowed up by the Shoah. There are times when a significant historical event eclipses all other stories that orbit it. One would be hard pressed to find a more significant event within Jewish social memory. Geller writes, "Though her thesis—“Can a Woman Be a Rabbi According to Halachic Sources?”—received praise from her teachers, none of them agreed to ordain her, including Rabbi Leo Baeck, the leader of the Jews in Germany, who wasn’t willing to jeopardize the unity of the Jewish community as the Nazi threat was intensifying." Perhaps then, Jonas' story was in the process of eclipse even before the Shoah but already within its force of gravity.

5. Finally, it would be counterproductive to create an either/or with the mnemonic frameworks discussed above. We should not think that the framework of gendered commemorative practice will entirely explain the form and function of Jonas' story. Nor should we think that the framework of Shoah commemoration tells the whole story. Mnemonic frames overlap. Indeed whenever a historical figure occupies a monolithic frame in collective memory, you can almost always be sure that the memory of that figure has been unhelpfully reduced.

I am grateful to Rabbi Geller for her short but impressive article. I will be considering this fascinating story for a long while.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

God and His only Son
Paid a courtesy call on Earth
One Sunday morning
Orange blossoms opened their fragrant lips
Songbirds sang from the tips of Cottonwoods
Old folks wept for His love in these hard times

“Well, we got to get going,” said the restless Lord to the Son
“There are galaxies yet to be born
Creation is never done
Anyway, these people are slobs here
If we stay it’s bound to be a mob scene
But, disappear, and it’s love and hard times”

                          ~Paul Simon

Friday, October 17, 2014

AAR/SBL Gathering

If you plan on attending the AAR/SBL annual meeting in San Diego, stop by and introduce yourself. James McGrath has more details here:


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Joy in Mudville

Looking forward to Tuesday night:


The Allison Rule for Reading: Three New Books; One Oldie

In scholarship, and this has been true for a very long time, we are tempted to privilege newer research. There are good reasons for this. Old assumptions ought to be questioned, new material evidence ought to be considered, we ought to learn from interdisciplinary and previously ignored voices, etc. This, of course, does not mean that newer is better, only that rethinking old problems tends to be a good thing.

I learned recently that Prof Dale Allison instructs his students to find a ratio between old and new research to guide their reading. For example, you might decide to read one old book for every three new books, or one old article for every four new articles. I thought that this is an interesting way into the problem of media saturation. After all, it is impossible to read everything that is published. Even if you're able to read everything in your given field of research, the interdisciplinary nature of academia is means that you must discern which books to leave on the shelf. The danger, of course, is that books that are dated land at the bottom of the priority list.

A friend of mine just picked up Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative. This book was first published in 1981 (the same year that Ric Flair defeated Dusty Rhodes to win his first World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship, in case you forgot). This book is a must read for anyone who cares about the Bible. But unless it has been assigned to you in a class, you probably wouldn't know how important it is. Or consider the exciting new work on Jesus' parables being done by Amy-Jill Levine and Ruben Zimmermann (et al.). I would highly recommend the books produced by these fine scholars. But not if I thought that it meant that the masterful work of Klyne Snodgrass was in danger of being grandfathered. This book was published as recently as 2008 but fathers become grandfathers at an alarming rate these days. Given the ever-present danger of forgetting the scholarship of just a few years ago, one wonders whether the work of Joachim Jeremias will continue to be read. I think that the "Allison Rule for Reading" might help in this regard.

So I put it to you: what are some good books or articles in biblical studies that are "old" but should be prioritized on the reading lists of young scholars?


Giveaway of Jens Schröter’s Jesus of Nazareth

The good folks at Baylor University Press are allowing us to give away a copy of Jens Schröter’s Jesus of Nazareth.  You can sign up by doing any of the following:  (1) leave a comment on this post; (2) share this post on any social media, and leave a comment saying you did; (3) sign up to follow the Jesus Blog, and leave a comment saying you did; or, for the wildcard (4) provide some captions for the pictures of the Jesus Bloggers on the side of this blog wherein one seems sad and the other two are smiling.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New LNTS Board Members Lynn Cohick and Dale Allison—Chris Keith

Earlier this year, I succeeded Mark Goodacre as the editor of the Library of New Testament Studies (Bloomsbury T&T Clark).  One of the first tasks we undertook was to shift the editorial board just a bit and I was able to recruit two new members to the board:  Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and Dale Allison, Richard J. Dearborn Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary.  I want to recognize them officially today and formally welcome them.  They join fellow members of the editorial board John Barclay, Alan Culpepper, Craig Evans, Robert Fowler, Simon Gathercole, John Kloppenborg, Michael Labahn, Love Sechrest, Robert Wall, Steve Walton, and Catrin Williams.  We are always on the lookout for promising monographs in New Testament studies, so if you have an idea or a manuscript, please get in touch with me or a member of the board.

Monday, October 13, 2014

C. S. Lewis on Sacred Fiction

I've found myself revisiting C. S. Lewis again in preparation for a new project. Lewis remains an odd and fascinating figure to me. In more ways that I can number, Lewis helped to create the evangelical world into which I was born and would eventually need to deconstruct. In many ways, however, Lewis did not fit well within that world. I was reminded of his complicated legacy again when my mother showed me a quotation by Lewis (thanks Mom!). He writes this in a letter to Janet Wise, October 5, 1955:
My own position is not Fundamentalist, if Fundamentalism means accepting as a point of faith at the outset the proposition “Every statement in the Bible is completely true in the literal, historical sense.” That would break down at once on the parables. All the same commonsense and general understanding of literary kinds would forbid anyone to take the parables as historical statements, …. Books like Esther, or Jonah, or Job which deal with otherwise unknown characters living in unspecified period, & pretty well proclaim themselves to be sacred fiction. 
Such distinctions are not new. Calvin left the historicity of Job an open question and, from earlier, St. Jerome said that the whole Mosaic account of creation was done “after the method of a popular poet.” Of course I believe the composition, presentation, & selection for the inclusion in the Bible, of all the books to have been guided by the Holy Ghost. But I think He meant us to have sacred myth & sacred fiction as well as sacred history.
I think that many Bible professors wish that their students possessed the category of "sacred fiction" as Lewis did. For too many, the category of "fiction" precludes the qualifier "sacred." But until this category is in place, the category of "sacred history" will be misunderstood.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

"If Christians want us to believe in a Redeemer, let them act redeemed."


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rudolf Rocker on Houston Stewart Chamberlain and the Aryan Jesus

Rudolf Rocker
From 1977 onward and the work of E.P. Sanders (though not without precedent--see e.g. George Foot Moore), New Testament scholarship has become increasingly aware of previous stereotyping of Judaism as cold, harsh, legalistic, and so on. From the 1990s onward (though not without precedent--see e.g. Geza Vermes), it became increasingly common in New Testament scholarship to investigate or point out its Nazi and fascist past (largely) prior to WWII.

As a point of contrast, we might note Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958) who, during the rise of German fascism, was a fierce critic of what was happening in the place of his birth. Rocker was not a New Testament scholar but was fiercely critical of one of the more notable advocates of an Aryan Jesus, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and his now infamous book Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899). Despite being an anarchist writer who had little time for religion (he believed it underpinned state and political power), he was also critical of Chamberlain's understanding of Judaism decades ahead of much of New Testament scholarship.

The following was published by Rocker in 1937 and is dripping in sarcasm:
[According to Chamberlain] the German is the specially chosen minister of the Protestant mission, through which Christendom is first made aware of its true content. That the Christian had thoughtlessly chosen the Jew, Jesus, for his savior was surely a bitter pill; it was too late to undo that. 
But was it not written in the Gospel that Christ first saw the light in Galilee? And immediately the "instinct of the race" came to Chamberlain's aid and informed him that in just this part of Palestine extensive crossing of races had occurred and, above all, that in Galilee Germanic stocks had settled. Must one not, then, admit that Christ had been a German? It was, in fact, unthinkable that out of "materialism drunken Jewry" a doctrine could come to whose spiritual content the Jewish mind is completely opposed. 
Chamberlain revealed an utterly morbid hatred of everything Jewish. He even ventured to assure his credulous readers that a Germanic child, the keenness of whose senses had not yet been ruined or blunted by the prejudices of adults, could tell instinctively when a Jew was near him....To be sure, he based his preference for the Sephardim on the assumption that they were in reality Goths who had been converted to Judaism in large numbers--a recognition which came to the great master of unproved assertion rather tardily, as it first appears in the third edition of his book. How the Goths, those genuine branches of the noble tree of Germandom, in spite of their "mystic inclination" and their inborn sense of "religious profundity," which according to Chamberlain are the heritage of their race, could throw themselves into the arms of "materialistic Judaism" with its "dead ritualism," its slavish obedience," and its "despotic God" remains an unsolved mystery. In this case the "race in their own bosoms" must have failed outright; otherwise the wonder is not explained. There is hardly another work which reveals such unexampled unreliability in the material used and such reckless juggling with bare assumptions of the most daring type.

An expanded version of this is found at Harnessing Chaos.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jens Schröter’s Jesus of Nazareth—Chris Keith

Readers of the Jesus Blog may want to take note that Baylor University Press has now released the most recent Wayne Coppins (and Brian Pounds) translation of Jens Schroeter's work.  This book, Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World, is a more accessible and student-friendly study by Schroeter that starts with the historical Jesus and goes up through modern artistic representations of Jesus.  It's a little lighter on methodology than his From Jesus to the New Testament, but still includes a really good opening chapter on what we mean when we talk about the historical Jesus and what historians can hope to grasp in their efforts.  Another strength is that Schroeter often includes archaeological evidence in the discussion.  The German original, Jesus von Nazaret, was first published in 2006 and it has already gone through at least three editions.  For anyone unfamiliar with the work of Prof Dr Schroeter, this will be an ideal place to start.  I'm really happy to see Baylor University Press taking the initiative to bring this book out in English.  It's also featured in their ad on the side of this blog.  You can click through that ad to order your own copy.  I think as well that we probably need to have a giveaway of this book.....