Baker Academic

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hate Crime at Northeastern University - Le Donne

I just got word of the repulsive news reproduced below. I must say, however, that it is a very old story with new chapters every year. Worse, it happens everywhere. When I was 22, I lived at the Hillel House on the UC Davis campus. UC Davis is a bastion for enlightened, affluent, peace-loving bicyclists  (or this is how they like to think of themselves). The Hillel House just happened to be renting a room and I happened to need a room.  The house itself had once been owned by a few band members of the Grateful Dead (you get the idea).  ...more...

On Becoming a Tree-hugger - Le Donne

Trevor asks a question that I've heard often: which one of you is the treehugger?

True story: when I was in 1st grade, a guest presenter came to my classroom and taught us that if we were ever lost in the woods, it was best not to wander around aimlessly. Our rescuers would have a better chance of finding us, so I was told, if we just stayed put. And if we felt scared or lonely we should "hug a tree." case you were wondering, I quite literally hugged a tree once. I was curious and it was a phase. My wife knows and we've worked through it. How I do miss the California public school system!

But being a treehugger is a whole lot like covenantal nomism; what gets you in isn't what keeps you in.


My first day on twitter...

So I'm not too sure about tweeting etiquette, but I quite liked Joel Watt's offering:

if you don't follow  you don't love Jesus.

What do you say Chris, should this be our new slogan?


The Jesus Blog is Now Tweeting...

Follow us on Twitter:



Jim West Reviews Our Book

Over at Zwinglius Redivivus, Jim West reviews Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.

I have not yet read the review, so I'm not sure if I should thank him or not.


Morton Smith and "Secret Mark" - Le Donne

Craig Evans is one of the best teachers I've ever had. His classes were always fascinating and entertaining. I cannot think of another time in my life when a classroom experience was so much fun. One of my favorite elements was when Craig would reveal the bizarre politics, conspiracies, personalities in the field of biblical studies. The story of Morton Smith and "Secret Mark" is one of the most bizarre and entertaining.  If you're not familiar with this story, treat yourself.

Craig also reminds us of Paul R. Coleman-Norton's “An Amusing Agraphon,” CBQ 12 (1950): 439–49...

“Teeth will be provided.” That line never gets old.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oldest Sci-Fi continued...

James McGrath picks up our previous conversation. The link is here. He mentions the commonly held notion that Shelley's Frankenstein is the first sci-fi. Helpfully, he blurs the distinction between modern sci-fi and earlier incarnations.

I have long considered Frankenstein to be the first modern superhero story. While most films depict the monster as sub-human, the book clearly suggests the possibility that he is superhuman. Faster, smarter, stronger, and with an equal capacity for desire and pain. Definitely not "sub-human".

At this point, I should probably remind my readers of number 5 on this list. It was only a matter of time.


Suggestions for a Hebrew Textbook? - Le Donne

I got an interesting query today from a friend. The email was to a few folks who have taught intro to Biblical Hebrew. He wrote:
Hi fellas,
Hope you're all well. A quick question for you all: have any of you taught biblical Hebrew recently? If so, do you have any suggestions on textbooks? I'm teaching it next semester in kind of a strange format: an 8-week intensive class, with one two-hour session a week for the duration. Obviously not ideal for a language module. Anyway, I think I'll need something quite accessible as most are non-specialists and they'll need to do a quite a bit of work on their own.
Any suggestions welcome....
I replied:
I had to mix and match with several books and online resources. I leaned on Seow and Kelly et al. a great deal, but didn't like either of their first three chapters... I started with phonetics of proper names and went from there. You can recognize a whole host of Hebrew names with only about ten consonants and three vowels. So I tried to get my students over the hump of sight and sound recognition before I moved into alphabet and syllables, etc. Also, I like to start by showing the development of the characters from metanyms to metaphors.  
I even tried to use this book once, but I was a failure with this tool. The three times I tried it, most of my students learned almost nothing... so there's that. 

As with many other episodes in my life, I realized after I wrote the email that I was the absolute wrong person to weigh in on this query. Any suggestions?


My Sincere Apologies for My Insensitivity Yesterday - Le Donne

It is 7am in Berkeley, California. The doomsday-prophets are still fast asleep and I am enjoying a lovely Pike's Place Roast at the Double Tree Hotel on the marina. As I await a meeting with a publisher, I can't help overhearing this story on the lobby television. Yes, folks. There just might be DNA evidence for Sasquatch in Texas.  It seems that they even make Texas-sized humanoids in Texas these days.

After blinking in disbelief at the television (really fun to see this story reported by a guy in a suit and tie, attempting to sound erudite), I remembered that I wrote a post, just yesterday, insulting this DNA-challenged community.  Indeed, here in Berkeley, we don't take kindly to such insensitivity.  You can image my shame.

I would like to express my most sincere apologies to the Sasquatch community.  By lumping you fine people in with chupacabra and Bill Craig, I demonstrated my ignorance and hasty tendency to label.... wait, it has just occurred to me that my post might have also been insulting to Bill Craig. Oh geez! What if he turns out to be real too?  First the Shroud, now Big Foot!  Really, anything is possible at this point.  Oh, America, how I love thee!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Surprising New Proof for the Historicity of Jesus! - Le Donne

I apologize for the title of this post... I couldn't resist. This is a post about the Shroud of Turin, which is not "new" and I almost always avoid the use of the word "historicity". But boy howdy - the traffic it will generate!

I had the great pleasure of meeting a very fine Jesus scholar and film-maker last week: Simon J. Joseph. Here is his IMDb page for you documentary nerds. Simon is a Claremont grad and writes on a wide variety topics including Q, Jesus, and comparative religion. Today (by chance) I learned that he also has interest in the Shroud of Turin. This is a really fascinating read.

I confess that I've always avoided shroud talk for all of the reasons that Joseph lists in this paper. Perhaps I've associated the shroud with bogeymen like sasquatch, chupacabra, and William Lane Craig.

Full disclosure: a very prominent shroud scholar taught one of my almae matres and I've since had the impression that this was a topic for Christian apologists. I readily admit that my reluctance to taking the shroud seriously (while perhaps warranted) has been without due consideration. It has been a knee-jerk reaction on my part.  Simon Joseph is a serious scholar and not an apologist or (as I saw him drink liquid) an apparition.

I have no idea what to do with the shroud, but dismissing it altogether will not do either.


The First Science Fiction? - Le Donne

Here is an excerpt of a paper I presented in Chicago last week. I was drawing out parallels for an under-appreciated element in the Jesus tradition: a "greater-than" emphasis wherein a contemporary reality/figure could trump a earlier (often ancient) figure or tradition.

Examples" "greater works than these will you do" ... "something greater than the Temple"...."greater than Solomon" .... "greater than Jonah" .... "greater than John the Baptist".

I write:

This greater-than element would seem to run contrary to the general tendency to revere ancient traditions, texts, laws, and patriarchs in Jewish antiquity.  But we do not need to look far to find other examples of epochal aggrandizement in Jewish antiquity.  My favorite example of this comes from the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Menaḥoth 29b:

In perhaps the very first science fiction story ever told, God and Moses are discussing the future of Israel’s pedagogy on Mount Sinai.  God tells Moses of a future rabbi named Aqiba “who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws”.  Moses asks to sit in on one of Aqiba’s classes.  God permits Aqiba to time-travel into the future to witness the great rabbi and sit in the back of the classroom.  Moses is astounded at the level of linguistic and erudite interpretation of the Torah, not only by Aqiba, but also by his students.  What is more, Moses concedes that he is intellectually inferior to Aqiba and suggests that God might wait and give the Torah through the hand of Aqiba.  God refuses and the story ends by suggesting that Aqiba took his legislative creativity too far in the end.  But the story (creative in its own right, perhaps ironically so) takes for granted that even Moses paled in comparison to the students of Aqiba.
My question to you is a simple one: can you think of an earlier example of science fiction?  I suppose a circa 4th Cent. CE date would be conservative (go ahead and correct me if I'm wrong). Please don't point me to apocalyptic literature or fantasy. Of course, it would be misnomer to speak of "science" here, but Moses does time-travel so it counts in my book... and another question: does any biblical superhero have more powers than Moses? This guy is like the uber-mutant of the Hebrew Bible.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Day the Wheels Came Off at New College—Chris Keith

Academics is a funny business, and every once in a while it’s useful to laugh at ourselves, or others as the case may be. Along those lines, I want to share one of the funniest moments that I’ve ever been part of in New Testament scholarship. Before getting too far, though, I want to preface this by saying that the research seminars during my PhD were some of the highlights of the experience. There were always big names presenting on cutting edge work. Well, there was almost always big names presenting on cutting edge work. . . .

In the final year of my doctoral work at New College, University of Edinburgh, our Friday research seminar had a surprise guest one day. Apparently someone at the School of Law had made a request of someone at the School of Divinity that a visiting emeritus law professor (British-born, but had been teaching in the USA) present in our seminar, since this professor had an interest in NT studies (and had actually been one of David Daube’s students I later found out). They hesitatingly permitted it.


Monday, November 26, 2012

I am Scheduled to Present on the Jesus' Wife Controversy - Le Donne

Ever since Harvard professor Karen King announced the existence of a "gospel" wherein Jesus speaks the phrase "my wife", steady streams of news and social media have attracted audiences of all kinds. While many specialists have dismissed this fragment as a forgery, the controversy reveals - yet again - that the very idea of Jesus' married life is just too interesting to ignore.


Is it because it implies that Jesus had a sexual identity? Is it because it implies that there was an early Christian cover-up? It is because the most likely candidate (Mary Magdalene) has been sexualized in Christian tradition?

I have been invited to participate in a public lecture dedicated to these topics. While I deal with the notion of Jesus' matrimony in my little Jesusbuch, I have since given more thought to this very real possibility.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament - Le Donne

Last week in Chicago, I was involved in hosting a panel review of a landmark achievement. The Jewish Annotated New Testament is an NRSV, with notation, commentary, and short essays edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler. It represents something of a "who's who" in Jewish scholarship, at least related to the fields of ancient, Second Temple, and rabbinic literature. But this is not what makes the publication a "landmark" achievement. What makes this publication historic is that it is edited and annotated by 51 Jewish scholars who suggest that the study of the NT is important for the study of Jewish history and that such study has the potential to enhance Jewish well-being.

One of the panel reviewers asked whether something like this could have been achieved by previous generations of Jewish scholars.  I have wondered this myself.  There have been remarkable personalities in Jewish and Christian scholarship who have attempted to bridge the divide between camps, but have there ever been this many specialists willing and able to produce a Jewish Annotated New Testament? ...more...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“The figure in the icon is not meant to represent literally what Peter or John or any of the apostles looked like, or what Mary looked like, nor the child, Jesus. But, the orthodox painter feels, Jesus of Nazareth did not walk around Galilee faceless. The icon of Jesus may not look like the man Jesus two thousand years ago, but it represents some quality of Jesus, or his mother, or his followers, and so becomes an open window through which we can be given a new glimpse of the love of God.”

~Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I can take a hint...

What does it say about me that I cannot even give my books away?

If you entered the last book drawing, please see this link.


Holly Carey Reviews My Book - Le Donne

I was recently sent a book review of my Historical Jesus written by Holly Carey. Holly is a very gracious colleague and I’ve found her work to be insightful. So I was not surprised that her review was both gracious and insightful. I would like to bring a couple paragraphs to the table for discussion. She writes:

In a book which aims at a readership that is not familiar with much academic discussion of these issues (this is demonstrated, for example, by the in-text definitions and introductory explanations of the historical Jesus criteria), there are areas where Le Donne should have anticipated some hesitation or resistance to his arguments. To be fair, he does do this in a number of places, as in his replacement of the term “memory distortion” with “memory refraction” and the corresponding explanation (108).

It is hard for me to imagine a lay person reading this and not wondering how, for instance, memory refraction can be reconciled with the inspiration of Scripture. I have no doubt that Le Donne has considered this, but the absence of an explicit discussion of such issues might be troubling to the average reader.

So here is my question, must (or should) a historical Jesus scholar write every book about Jesus in service to the church? I ask because, in the book in question, I did not have the “average” church person in mind; I decided to write much more broadly. Even so, did I miss an opportunity to say something about inspiration in this book? And should I have, as she suggests, have said something on this topic to assuage the fears of biblicists?


Friday, November 23, 2012

BREAKING: JESUS HUNG ON A CROSS! – My Challenge to Gunnar Sammuelsson’s No-cross Theory

This week I had the great pleasure of presenting a paper alongside Gunnar Sammuelsson. You might remember Sammuelsson from Newsweek, The Telegraph, CNN, and almost every other major news outlet in 2010. His WUNT monograph, Crucifixion in Antiquity, gained him notoriety and created a bit of controversy a couple years ago. In Chicago on Tuesday, he presented a summary of his monograph (monograph is a fancy way to say “unethically expensive book”) alongside a very helpful power-point presentation. I read most of his very fine book a while back and was grateful for his distillation.

His thesis: There is no reliable evidence that Jesus was executed on a cross.  He examines a massive amount of data and concludes that most of our ideas of a †-shaped cross are based on medieval European art. Even worse, most of the dictionary and encyclopedia work done by generations of scholars have mostly assumed what a crucifixion looked like during the time of Jesus. Definitions of stauro_n have been mistranslated by centuries to mean “cross”. But a proper interpretation of the evidence from antiquity demonstrates that what we have thought of as “crucifixion” is only one narrow way to interpret this practice of execution. In fact, some examples show that being dismembered might have been considered “crucifixion”. Bottom line: being suspended by nails on a †-shaped structure was one way to "crucify", but it was by no means the only way. Given this, we don't really know how Jesus was executed. For a more detailed synopsis see here.

One bit of evidence discussed was the Alexamenos Graffito, a 2nd/3rd cent. inscription that insultingly portrays a Christian worshiping a donkey-headed man on a cross. Here is a photograph of the graffito alongside a cleaned-up drawing: 

Winner x3! - Le Donne

We are pleased to announce three winners for the Historical Jesus book drawing. 

If one of these three comments is yours, comment below with your email address. This will not be made public. We will contact you for your mailing address.

Using the True Random Number Generator at, the winners are 22, 19, and 31 :

Anton Jopko November 3, 2012 11:07 AM
Can't wait to get my free copy. anton

Chris Schelin November 3, 2012 9:34 AM
Thanks for doing another drawing!

Jeff Brickle November 7, 2012 7:26 PM
Please sign me up, Anthony! Thanks....and see you at SBL.

Our thanks to for supplying these copies and to all of you who read us regularly.

- anthony

Thursday, November 22, 2012

J. Christopher Edwards and the Scottish Universities Reception—Chris Keith

One of the highlights of the annual SBL meeting for me is the Scottish Universities Reception on Sunday nights. After the financial meltdown in 2008, all the presses and schools tightened their belts when it came to receptions and either canceled them or had cash bars. Being the imbibers that they are, the Scottish Universities maintained an open bar and, all of a sudden, that reception was one of the most popular ones. The last couple years it has been absolutely packed.

This provides for great conversation and the opportunity to meet new people and find out about new work. This year I had a particularly good conversation at the reception with John Edwards, Charles Huff, and Jody Otte. John’s published PhD thesis from St. Andrews has just been released by Mohr Siebeck in the WUNT 2 series. The title is The Ransom Logion in Mark and Matthew: Its Reception and Its Significance for Studying the Gospels, and you can find it here. Mohr Siebeck isn’t giving me a free copy for mentioning it here, but I hope they do. I say this shamelessly because I’m interested in this study. The Ransom Saying is interesting in itself, especially its verbatim re-presentation by Matthew, but I also think the reception-history trend in NT studies is a very fruitful one. I look forward to seeing how Edwards applies it here.

Jesus was Born before Year One Says Benedict XVI

The Pope is quite right. Jesus was probably born before year one.

You can email to congratulate him using:

See my very brief thoughts on this matter here.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New "No Quest" Era? - Le Donne

In a comment to my recent post "Both Bultmanns", Larry asks:

Anthony, I would love to read your thoughts on Bultmann in light of your thoughts (and those of Chris Keith) in your book "Jesus, Criteria and the Demise of Authenticity." While the book does not propose a single alternative to the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus, one alternative that springs to mind is a second period of No Quest ... which would inevitably lead to an encounter with Bultmann, no?

Thank you Larry,

I have heard from several people that our recent book marks a second "no quest" era in Jesus studies. While our egos are well-prepared (=over-prepared) for such praise, I think your comment is much more sober and closer to the mark. The book probably signals a shift already underway in Jesus research.

I don't go in for the "Quests" paradigm, but I think I take your meaning well enough. My opinion is that there never was a "No Quest", unless one confines the scope to Germany during the rise of national socialism. Dale Allison has suggested the phrase "no biography" for these years.

If the modus operandi of 1950-1990s Jesus studies is now outmoded, it is inevitable to want to return to a previous era's insights to find security. Notice the affinity between Scot McKnight's new view and that of Martin Kahler. I could say more about this, but I don't think that "no Quest" is the best way to think of the new directions in Jesus studies. For the sake of brevity and because these words are much better than anything I could come up with, I will quote the blurb by Alan Kirk on the back cover of Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity:
"Keith and Le Donne write the epitaph of the criteria-movement in historical Jesus research and the quest for 'authentic tradition.' But rather than retreating into a fashionable agnosticism, this volume points the way forward to a defensible historiography."
Alan Kirk, James Madison University, USA

Thank you Alan!


Cease Fire

So very thankful for this news:


Monday, November 19, 2012

SBL today

I've been talking with person after person in Chicago today who are all singing the same tune. It seems that most people have been utterly disappointed with the sessions they've attended.

My experience as been much different. My session today in the Historical Jesus unit was dynamite. Highlights will be discussed later, but Thomas Kazen's and James Crossley's papers were stellar. And the discussion generated after the papers in dialogue with Stephan Patterson was invigorating. Craffert had a very interesting analogy related to a visionary account written by a neurologist... that will be worth writing more about.

more later...


Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn’t possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.

And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections.

                                                                                        ~Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Both Bultmanns – Le Donne

Believe it or not, one of the most cited points of discontentment about my Historical Jesus was a footnote wherein I call Rudolf Bultmann “great”.  I called Bultmann “the late great scholar” or something like that.  This will come as no surprise, but Evangelicals really hate Bultmann.

I can relate, he was demonized or belittled in a few classes I took too.  It is an odd thing because, in many ways, Bultmann has much in common with contemporary Evangelicals.  Perhaps I’ll say more about that in another post.

Today my intentions are more modest.  My educated guess is that many Evangelicals have never read much of Bultmann.  I know that I didn’t until I was a PhD candidate at Durham and John Barclay learned me good.  I was studying theological German and I was determined to read and understand Bultmann’s program for “demythologization”.  I had only a vague notion about what this meant in my younger years.  In my simplistic caricature of him, I thought that it meant that Bultmann was out to cut away all of the supernatural elements from the Gospels.  While this might have been an apt description of Thomas Jefferson, this notion is only a shade of what makes Bultmann’s program so influential.

What is under-appreciated about Bultmann is that his program for demythologization cut in two directions: one theological and the other historiographical. Bultmann "the theologian" wanted to make the gospel intelligible for the modern mind. Consider the following summary of Bultmann’s theological agenda.  He argued that the themes and message of the New Testament were conveyed in the 
"language of mythology, and the origin of the various themes can be easily traced in the contemporary mythology of Jewish Apocalyptic and in the redemption myths of Gnosticism.  To this extent the kerygma [early Christian preaching] is incredible to modern man, for he is convinced that the mythical view of the world is obsolete." (Rudolf Bultmann, “The New Testament and Mythology,” in Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate [ed. Hans Werner Bartsch; New York: Harper and Row, 1953], 2-3)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More on the Controversy Related to Emmanuel - Le Donne

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Libby Nelson details the unethical events that led to Christopher Rollston's departure from Emmanuel:

Getting Around at AAR/SBL

This week many religion and Bible nerds are headed to Chicago to tell each other that we like each other and that we think that we are all quite brilliant. In my opinion, this is only half as well as we deserve, half of the time. Even so, it is a tradition and for many of us it is a chance to see old friends. In order to do so, folks have to look up from their iphones long enough to figure out how the floor plan works in Chicago. It is entirely possible that your hotel is a mile or more away from McCormick Place. If so, you might ask your hotel if they will have a shuttle service. Many folks will have to hoof it or take a cab (Tip: it will be cold outside.)

Once you're at McCormick Place, you'll realize that the complex is made up of five connecting buildings (if you include the Hyatt). Here is the floor plan. If you're a member of the multitudes who attempts to meet your friends out side the book room, you might consider a more specific location. The final page of this pdf will you a lay of the land in nerd paradise. I find that the University of Hawaii Press table is a nice quiet, almost tropical place to relax.


See here for more tips on how to enhance your AAR/SBL experience.

Tuesday at AAR/SBL - Le Donne

I'm very honored to be presenting in both Historical Jesus sessions at SBL this year. If you happen to be attending and have this slot open...

Historical Jesus
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: W375c - McCormick Place
James G. Crossley, University of Sheffield, Presiding
Anthony Le Donne, University of the Pacific
The Criterion of Coherence: Its Development, Inevitability, and Historiographical Limitations (30 min)
Brian Pounds, University of Cambridge
Uses and Limitations of the 'Criterion of Crucifiability' (30 min)
Gunnar Samuelsson, University of Gothenburg
Crucifixion in Early Christianity (30 min)
Michael Zolondek, University of Edinburgh
What Makes a Royal Messianic Claimant?: The Preliminary 'Messianic Question' (30 min)
David Shaules, California Lutheran University
The Institution of Communion (30 min)

By the way, you can always tell which paper will be the best by the length of the title.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Crossley Confesses that He is Not Wrong – my continued review of Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism – Le Donne

Parts I and II of my review are here and here. But those parts are pretty banal, so you might as well stick with this post.

Let me reiterate that I really can't put this book down. If ever I teach my class "Portraits of Jesus" again, I will photocopy this book in its entirety, scan it to pdf, and email it to my class. Then I will tell my students not to read it for fear that it constructs a narrative that they buy into. All the while, I will throw darts at my poster of Margaret Thatcher.

The book is both provocative and well-argued. It is not often that you find both together.  Like I said before, I'm swallowing about 80% of what Crossley is dishing out. In what follows, I'm going to focus (inequitably) on aspects of the other 20%.

In chapter three of Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism, Crossley discusses of the canon of religious and Bible-related bloggers, known in general as “bibliobloggers”. Crossley observes and analyzes two case studies within this largely conservative corner of the blogosphere: (1) various Christian reactions to natural disaster and (2) the “photo negative” persona of N.T. Wrong.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

over at the Jim West cult...

Ever the trickster, Jim makes a provocative observation... it is about time that we all came full circle.


The Impact of Memory: A Few Thoughts about Jesus Remembered - Le Donne

In a comment to my post on “memory” in Jesus research, Bobby Gerringer writes:
I note that memory studies applied to the Gospels seem to omit a due emphasis on the intentionality of the rabbi-disciple relationship of Jesus and the apostles. 
It is one thing to merely remember and another to be taught to remember, with a delegated -- and sacred -- task of conveying to others what is remembered. 
The generality of memory, in contrast with neglect of details, may have characterized the method of the rabbi as well as the character of memory generally.
First, I’d like to thank Bobby for his comment as it allows me to make a point about Dunn’s emphasis on the “impact” of memory. My reply to Bobby reads:
The point you are making is made in a very compelling way by Dunn in his Jesus Remembered. Jimmy emphasizes the impact of sacred memory. He speaks of it as the "life blood" of the disciples. It is the force of impact that made Jesus memorable, and worth remembering - thus it is not casual memory that we're talking about.

Southern Hemisphere Scholars

Last week I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is beginning a new book project. It is in infancy, so I will not say more about it except this: he is hoping to do a multi-authored book that includes several biblical scholars from the southern hemisphere. The usual suspects are from Australia and South Africa. But if we were to bracket these countries, who is left?
Can anyone help me name a few biblical scholars who represent the southern hemisphere (sans the two countries just mentioned)? Surely there must be several!



Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mrs. Christ Fragment Story is Far from Over

Over at the Boston Globe:

Lisa Wangsness continues to cover the Jesus' Wife Gospel "discovery" by Harvard Professor Karen King:

Harvard divinity professor relishes adventure, research

My thanks to Mark Goodacre for the heads up.


What has Memory Research to do with Form Criticism?

I just learned of the blog erected by Michael Kok. He asks a question that reflects on my recent summary of the various forms of memory applications in Gospels research. It is a question that I've heard often from New Testament students who are new to critical applications of "memory". Michael asks: some of the research on memory really so different from the insights of the form critics?

He also asks of the relationship with redaction criticism. Here is my answer:

I'm not sure if anything will replace the need for redaction criticism. As long as there is a market for commentaries, there will be the need to point out thematic tendencies and editorial agendas in the Gospels. As far as the similarity between memory studies and form-critical studies, it will be necessary to be more specific. Which brand of memory studies are we talking about?  As I hope my post shows, there are lots of brands.  Moreover, which brand of form criticism are we talking about?  The early critics and Jeremias seem to be doing something slightly different from the later (and more popular) form critics.

Kelber thought that what he was doing was a correction of the overly literary models of the form critics. Dunn claims to be returning to the interests of the "early" form critics, before they lost their way, but with a better "default setting". Chris Keith and Dale Allison claim to have a different starting point. In their case, they are not beginning by isolating and authenticating the traditions in question. I'd be really interested to hear from Rafael what he thinks about how his work relates to the classic form critics.

I, for one, am happy to affirm that a great deal of good work was done under the watch of the form critics. I do, however, think that what I'm doing is a bit different. You can see my critique of Bultmann's fatal flaw in The Historiographical Jesus, pp.35-38. I know that one isn't supposed to toot one's own horn, but I'd like to think that my critique of Bultmann is quite damning. I suppose that time will tell.

Thank you for your interest Michael. I'll be sure to keep your blog on my reading list.


A good reference from McGrath

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)

Listen to James McGrath's introductory lecture about the Fourth Gospel in relationship to the Synoptics here.

I always find James' work judicious.


Getting from O'Hare to the SBL Meeting in Chicago

This comes from my friend Charles "Jody" Otte III, by far, the smartest man in Chicago:

The easiest way is definitely to go by taxi. If it's not rush hour, probably the quickest as well. However, that's certainly not going to be the cheapest way. From Midway airport, the orange line runs directly to downtown into "the loop" where all the lines circle part of the city. You can take the blue line from O-hare to the loop. Transferring in the loop is easy and can get you to some of the more outlying hotels north of the river. To get to the Hyatt by the convention center, you can transfer from the orange to the red line heading toward 95th and get off at the cermak/chinatown exit. It's about 3/4 mile walk to the Hyatt from there. The orange line is about 40 minutes to downtown from Midway and the Blue line is about an hour from O'hare.
Average cab fare is probably about $25 from Midway to downtown and $40 from O'hare. (These are guesses verified by a quick google search to see if I'm still in the ball park.) 
The CTA is 2.25 for a ride. Pro-tip -- you can get passes at various places (pretty much any walgreen's or CVS and probably any grocery store in the city). Three day passes break even at about 6 rides, and seven day passes at about 10 rides (Elevated train or busses). If people are taking the Metra (different from the CTA) from downtown to the Convention center, save 10 percent by buying a 10-ride ticket.
Pertinent websites are and Googlemaps is the best for planning public transit trips in Chicago. It requires learning least about the system. 
Hope this is helpful,

See you in Chicago!


Must have...


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“Principles are what people have instead of God. To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God's or your neighbour's sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there's no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.

Jesus didn't forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them. 'Principle' is an even duller word than 'Religion'.”

                                                           ~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hebrew Matthew Shem Tob(v) - Le Donne

In preparing for my forthcoming Historical Jesus paper "Jesus and the Problem of Epochal Romanticism", I was in need of a digital copy of Shem Tob (a Hebrew translation of Matthew's Gospel).

I stumbled upon this very helpful resource. I know nothing of the ideology behind the website authors, but I checked their Hebrew against the scanned image of the British Library's No. 26964 Manuscript and (for the portion I was interested in) it came out clean.

The link is here.


In Defense of Revisionist History (Part III) - Le Donne

My first two posts on this topic can be found here and here.

In my first post on this topic, there were several helpful comments. Although his post was a bit more hostile than I would have preferred, I did appreciate C.J. Obrien’s comment. C.J. wrote:
It is a misuse of terminology to conflate the fact that history is always reconstructive with "revisionist history". That term has a meaning which you completely obscure. Revisionist history is tendentious. It begins with a conclusion and cherry-picks evidence to support it. It is pseudo-historiography with an agenda.
C.J., this is exactly how most Gospel scholars view the Gospels:

1. tendentious - i.e. they have a tendency to favor a particularly (Jewish/) Christian perspective.

2. They begin with conclusions concerning Jesus as the resurrected son of God and cherry-pick evidence to support this claim (because they honestly believed it was true).

3. They are pseudo-historiography with an agenda. - The term historiography has a fairly wide range of meanings, so I’ll leave this one be. But the Gospels certainly have agendas. Every commentary on the Gospels tells me so. The Gospel of John tells me that it is written so that I might believe – sounds like an agenda to me.

For the record, I’m not sure than the category of “revisionist history” is the most helpful modern analogue to discuss ancient biography for the very reason that C.J. illustrates. People generally prefer denotative and connotative values more than etymological values. But perhaps the category is sufficiently jarring for our purposes. A change in nomenclature is one way to get people to think about reality differently—but this isn’t the only way. For example, we don’t believe that the sun “sets” or “rises” anymore, but we keep those antiquated denotations around anyway. I tend to buy the general principle of “words shape worlds”, so I’m simply pointing out that the concept of “revision” might be useful.

Back to my main point: Even if the Gospels are “revisionist histories” (and I’m not saying that they are), they would still offer extremely valuable historical data.

Can you imagine if we found four revisionist histories of the life of Abraham, each at variance, but with significant overlap? And what if these were written within fifty years of his death? Nerds all over the globe would be jumping for joy! Or rioting in the streets, I suppose. Probably both. 

If we turned up four revisionist histories of the life of Abraham we would analyze them carefully, offer arguments about the tendencies, purpose, audience, themes, authorship, etc. of these documents. Then we’d come up with the best explanation of the relationship that these documents have with each other. There would be detractors, but eventually a few theories about their origins would emerge. 

At the end of the day, we’d know significantly more about the life of Abraham than we do now. And please hear my point: we could achieve all of this without having to prove the accuracy of these revisionist histories. It simply would not matter if these biographies were tendentious and fraught with agenda. As long as the agendas were discernible, we would be able to point out the literary tendencies of these documents. Even better, if these agendas were divergent, we could postulate the historical memory that most plausibly explains their divergent distortions. Or in simple terms, what portrait of Abraham bests explains the varying portraits of all four revisions?

This is what I've termed the triangulation of memory refraction. I do it by analyzing the title "Son of David" in this fancy book here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rob Barrett is a Good Man...

...and braver than most.

He happens to be one of the most creatively intelligent men I've ever met. PhD, Stanford in physics; PhD, Durham in Hebrew Bible; holds multiple IBM patents, fancy post-docs, etc. etc.

And he has chosen to spend his days creating space for heretics and holier-than-thous to sit down and have peaceable conversations.

Do yourself a favor and keep up with the The Colossian Forum.


Five More Tips to Enhance Your AAR/SBL Experience - Le Donne

See my first five tips here.

6) The book reviews are where the action be. These have the best give-and-take, the most humor (if nerd-jokes can be considered humor), and often have the most interesting content. There are several reasons for this: First, books that end up with panel reviews tend to be by established scholars who have come up with provocative theses (however, I am proof that this is not always true). Second, the planners for these sessions hand pick the respondents from the best and the brightest given the topic; i.e. there is no “open call” for reviewers. Third, you never get the sense that these presentations are “trial runs” for possible publications. Fourth, and most importantly, a thesis that has already been published must be defended… thus the rejoinder by the author is stronger than you might get from other sessions. I, of course, have a vested interested in this, but I promise that it will not disappoint: see here.

7) Food is worth thinking about ahead of time. Chicago has some of the best food on the planet. There are several options by the Millennium Park area, only about a mile from the convention center. But Chicago has a veritable smorgasbord of options on the cheaper side (think Templeton from Charlotte’s Web). Just put “cheap dinner North side" into yelp....[addition: see Andy Rowell's helpful list below!] You’ll spend the same amount of money on taxi+cheap food as you will on the expensive eateries near the convention center. So if you don’t care about have the “cultural experience” of Chicago, just pay the extra money and stay close (reservations are not a bad idea). Also, there is less of a chance of being gunned down. I used to just bring granola bars and bananas to eat until dinner. But this was before I realized my next point…

8) The chief virtue of AAR/SBL is networking. I’m not talking about introducing yourself to your favorite author after s/he presents. Nor am I talking about bumping into an old colleague in the book room. The best networking is intentional. If you don’t have an appointment or two planned before the meeting, you’re missing the most valuable element of the conference. It can be helpful to set up an appointment with an established scholar in your field (you normally need to email the person months in advance to make this happen - offer to pay), but it is just as important to meet and establish contacts with “younger” peers (offer to pay). Often, these are the folks with the most original ideas and are most likely to remember you when they are sitting on hiring committees, steering committees, editorial boards etc.

9) Further to number eight: Be content not to become best friends with N.T. Wright. Yes, you’ll see him and a few of your other favorite rockstars. He doesn’t want to shake your hand. He doesn’t want your affirmations. He doesn’t want a lock of your hair wrapped in a love poem (I’m looking at you Mark Almlie). This goes for almost every scholar who has ever published with HarperOne. You’ll respect yourself more in the morning if you don’t attempt to introduce yourself. On the other hand, most of us non-HarperOne mortals like connecting names to faces; John Byron likes to hug complete strangers… just walk right up and hug him. You won’t regret it!

10) If you cannot make a session, most presenters don’t mind being asked for a draft by email. Of course, you should promise not to distribute this draft and you should be open to the possibility that the “draft” is little more than an outline. In this case, you might be turned down. But if the presenter is willing, this can be an extremely helpful addition to a dissertation—you’re demonstrating that you’re up on the absolute latest work being done in the field. I know that John Byron loves to receive emails from complete strangers! Be sure to sign off with an OXOXOXO XXX!

My next purchase...

I am very happy to have learned of this book by Beth Sheppard.

The Craft of History and the Study of the New Testament

...and it's surprisingly inexpensive coming from SBL.


Thanks to Joel Watts

For those of you trying to complete your research papers: SAGE is running a free trial online access to their related journals. Find the link here:


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Five Tips to Enhance Your AAR/SBL Experience - Le Donne

1) I like to scope out sessions pretty far in advance and map them out on a spreadsheet. I know that this makes me seem like the ultra-organized type. I'm not. I learned this by watching the ever-OCD Andy Rowell and now I pretend to be him (I also vacuum my living room twice a day now). My guess is that Andy now has an app for this: Android, iOS. If you use one of these fancy devices, you might want to be ready for program changes (not represented in the physical program book). You might also want to be aware of the additional sessions that are otherwise hard to find. I'm never married to my schedule; I probably attend about half of the sessions that interest me initially. Marriage is bourgeois anyway.

2) This is admittedly rude, so don't take my advice here: I always have a back-up session in mind for every hour so I can sneak out if a session gets especially mumbly. But if you see me leaving during your paper, it's probably because I have a family emergency.

3) It used to be that the AAR/SBL annual meeting book room was a sweet temptress. Most book tables would discount their books significantly and folks would drop $500 on a couple bags of "must have" books. Moreover, said discounts would be the best you'd see all year. With the advent of all of those internets, the book room is now just business time. There are still a few good "conference rate" deals to be had, but it ain't the same. Judicious buyers do their research. And (just between you and me): - the theology/biblical studies books are in the location closest to the university: 1501 East 57th Street.

4) If you're hoping to interview at the employment center, you ought to register, and then register specifically for the employment center ahead of time. It also might be worth it to find a hotel room in or close to the employment center: McCormick Place Convention Center, 2301 South Lake Shore Drive. Many hiring committees have forsaken this meat-market for skype interviews, but I think we have a good five years left of the tradition.

5) The standard uniform for AAR/SBL is the pantsuit or the sport jacket with button down shirt. If you wear a three-piece suit with tie, Tom Thatcher will take you aside and suggest that you're dressed too formally. If you wear a ski-jacket and t-shirt, Chris Keith will take you aside... If you wear a backpack, Scot McKnight will take you aside... If you have any questions about what to wear, do a google image search for "Joel Lohr" (disregard the photos of men with state trooper mustaches). The notable exceptions to the standard monkey suit are for Orthodox Priests, Buddhist Monks, and Canadians. Also, section 40 / paragraph 613 of the SBL Dress Code exempts all those with ponytails from wearing khakis and/or tweed.

...see my next five tips here.

...Andy Rowell's are here.

Aurality in First John

Very interesting...

I've had the great pleasure of reading Dr. Brickle's work before. Does not disappoint.
Check out the free preview here. He also has a fantastic chapter in this book.

So What is All of This Business about “Memory” in Jesus Research? - Le Donne

As a general rule, it is not a good idea to write a blog post related to one’s dissertation topic. There are several reasons for this, not least which: there is the ever-present danger of lapsing into a research binge that lasts for weeks. I knew a dude who wrote an op-ed for once. He began typing in a café in Chattanooga and woke up in a Notre Dame gutter reeking of Marxist poetry. So it is with great reluctance that I begin this post concerning the many and varied attempts to apply “memory” to Jesus research. Out of respect for those whom I love, I will avoid saying much about my own work on this subject.

If you’ve been paying attention to Jesus studies even marginally in the last ten years, you’ve probably heard the terms social memory, cultural memory, collective memory, communicative memory, cognitive memory,  mnemonic frameworks, memory distortion, memory refraction, anti-individualism of mental content, autobiographical memory, and other permutations of the like.

First, let me say that there’s a large degree of overlap between these categories but they represent about five different fields of study. Rather than walking you from Jeremias to Dunn, or Halbwachs to Schröter, or Gerhardsson to Byrskog, or Kelber to Dewey, or Ebbinghaus to McIver, or Lord to Thatcher, or Ong to Mournet, or Zerubavel to Le Donne, or Schwartz to Keith, or Burge to whatever name picks up my suggestion and runs with it, I’ll cut right to the chase. Here are the major variations of memory applications in Jesus research over the past ten years (I risk over-simplifying at every turn):

Jens Schröter, Rafael Rodríguez, and Alan Kirk: These guys are influenced by Egyptologist Jan Assmann (among others). The key points to this application of “social memory” are that (1) all memory is constructed in social categories and interactions, (2) memory is not frozen and passive; it is fluid and ever-changing, and (3) memories tell us as much (or perhaps more) about the groups who remember as they do about the events/figures of the past. This is an adaptation of the work of French Sociologist Maurice Halbwachs but with significant alterations. Jens Schröter is the patriarch of Social Memory in Jesus scholarship. See more of my thought about Jens’ work here.

Tom Thatcher: Thatcher should also be included in the above paragraph. His work is focused specifically on John’s Gospel and incorporates folklorist studies to a greater extent. There are several elements of folklore that are interesting to NT scholars, including the ways in which oral (telling) and aural (hearing) cultures differ from textual/literate cultures. Thatcher and Alan Kirk introduced social memory theory (stemming from Halbwachs and Assmann and borrowing from Schröter) to New Testament scholars in the English-speaking world. See the Semeia volume related to the SBL Mapping Memory group for this seminal achievement. Abraham Lincoln scholar Barry Schwartz’s penultimate essay in this book is a must read. Thatcher is presently working on a really interesting volume that showcases Schwartz’s work. [Now available here.]

The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media (BAMM) group: this group has tended to emphasize folklorist approaches (see the synopsis of Thatcher above). Names like Lord, Kelber, Ong and Joanna Dewey are revered by this group. I’m connected to the “board of elders” of the BAMM group; basically I just show up, smile, and drink mimosas. Holly Hearon represents the backbone of BAMM; her work deals with the social dynamics related to the suppression of non-male voices and the political aspects of memory. Richard Horsley’s work with memory and politics belongs with this section. This group has tended to emphasize the group dynamics that best explain the Gospels and (to a much lesser degree) has shown interest in the “earliest memories” that might tell us things related to the historical Jesus. In simple terms, this group has tended to be wary of more conservative voices in the discussion of Christian origins.

Chris Keith: In a rare combination of ruggedly handsome, devastatingly charming, and phobic of toothy fish, Keith represents something of a departure from the usual BAMM steering committee member. He is more inclined to blur the distinction of oral culture and textual culture (a distinction that was made popular by Werner Kelber). He is also more inclined to discuss the connection between remembering groups and the events/figures of the past. Simply put, he thinks that the Gospels tell us about both the “historical Jesus” and the communities who conveyed the oral “gospel”. He has taken his cues more from social memory theorists like Barry Schwartz, Alan Kirk, Tom Thatcher (whom he wrote under at the graduate level while Kirk and Thatcher were putting together their Semeia volume), and Jens Schröter, and me, and (perhaps) less from folklorists and performance theorists, although Chris is fluent in both fields. My guess is that his foundations as a textual critic will open up new avenues for the discussion of textuality in primarily oral cultures.

James Dunn: When Dunn’s Jesus Remembered was written, “social memory” studies had not taken off in Jesus research. While Dunn was aware of Jens Schröter’s work, he was much more interested in the various permutations of “orality” and “aurality”. So when he uses the concept of memory in that book, he is talking about the vehicles of memory in a largely illiterate culture before the Gospels were written down. He builds from Kelber and Gerdhardsson in a number of ways, but is ultimately interested in what these memories tell us about the person of Jesus more so than previous studies on these topics. He emphasized the variability and stability inherent in oral tradition and, in this way, argues that the “stable” elements in the Gospels might be found with the “characteristic” Jesus (the Kingdom of God Jesus, the parable-preaching Jesus, the “son of man” Jesus, etc). I.e. the various details attached these bedrock characteristics are less reliable. Until his essay in this collection, he held serious reservations about “social memory” theory. He argues here that social memory theorists tend to be so enamored with the “creativity” of memory that they ignore the “retentive” elements (i.e. his same beef with the later Form Critics). As such, he was a very good conversation partner for me when I wrote my The Historiographical Jesus. It is sometimes very valuable to have a brilliant person who disagrees with you on your team. Noteworthy here is the published dissertation of Terence Mournet, who was also a Dunn student. Terry and Jimmy have a great deal of overlap (more so than Jimmy and myself). His dissertation applies orality/folklorist studies to the synoptic problem. It is also worth mentioning this book (although I have not read it).

Richard Bauckham: Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses might be the black sheep of this family. One could argue that he is doing something entirely different than the names mentioned above. Bauckham explores the idea of “eyewitness testimony” in the world that produced the Gospels. Further, he is interested in the relationship between eyewitnesses and historical reliability. He touches only nominally on the canon “social memory” theorists mentioned above and he is open to the possibility of note-taking among the disciples (i.e. he underplays the extremely oral character made popular by Kelber). Like much of Bauckham’s work, you can expect him to come to conclusions more in keeping to traditional Christianity, but his books are required reading anyway. He almost always suggests a point or two that reminds you that you are not nearly as smart or original as Richard Bauckham. That said, Judy Redman’s JBL critique of Bauckham points to the frailty of human memory that undermines the reliability of “eyewitnesses” building from the field of psychology. Robert McIver’s recent publication advances this discussion (with respect to cognition) by leaps and bounds. See more of my thoughts on McIver’s work here.

Dale Allison: In almost a full turn from Bauckham, Allison builds from the conclusions of psychology (cf. Redman) and social memory theorists (cf. Assmann) that memory is frail. It tends to be selective, adds details, subtracts details, confirms assumptions, and is wrong more often than we’d like to think. So even if the Gospels represent “early eyewitnesses” this really isn’t saying much. But what Constructing Jesus will be celebrated for 50 years from now is Allison’s thesis that even haggadic fictions can betray memory in ways that are helpful to the historians. There is a kinship between Allison’s wide-scope “impressionistic” approach to Jesus and Dunn’s “characteristic” Jesus. Hubris also demands that I break my vow and mention my own work. I will leave it to others to say how my work relates to his, but I will say this: Dale is still of the mind that historians cannot get behind memory to what actually happened. While there is a profound truth here, I do not lament “memory distortion” because I work from the premise that memory is what happened. In other words, historians shouldn’t be attempting to find something that preceded memory or lament that they can “only” get to what was remembered. Scot McKnight’s review rightly pointed out that there is a “melancholy” behind the voice of Constructing Jesus. I felt the same way. In any case, Allison’s revival and adaptation of CH Dodd toward a post-criteria method might be the new world order in Jesus studies. In short, I do not think that this book will be remembered for what he has to say about memory. Lumping Allison with the other names in this group obscures what is truly brilliant about his book.

In sum, there is about as much diversity in assumptions and agendas in memory research as there are in New Testament studies at large.

ps. Chris just put this on my radar: Ian H. Henderson, “Memory, Text and Performance in Early Christian Formation,” Religion und Bildung: Medien und Funktionen religiösen Wissens in der Kaiserzeit (eds. Christa Frateantonio and Helmut Krasser; PAwB 30; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2010), 157–84.

pps. I had intended to include Soeding's Die Verkündigung Jesu here and forgot. This inclusion probably gives Bauckham's camp a bit more company. Thanks to Chris Tilling for this reminder:

Read more about memory studies here.

Preliminary Bibliography here.

Anthony Le Donne (PhD) is the author of Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pete Enns at his best..

treat yourself:


Craffert's SBL Paper

I've been reading through an early draft of Pieter Craffert's upcoming paper for the Historical Jesus section. This session is themed "Jesus beyond the apocalyptic – non-apocalyptic divide: options and openings". Here is his abstract:

What Are Apocalyptic Gospel Texts Evidence For?  The debate in historical Jesus research regarding the apocalyptic/non-apocalyptic (or eschatological/non-eschatological) Jesus is characterised, like most other aspects of historical Jesus research, by two features. The one is whether such sayings are authentic; that is, whether the historical Jesus in fact made certain claims about the kingdom of God, the end of the world, God’s reign and the like. The other is to provide as clear a summary as possible of the authentic sayings; that is to say, to provide a description of the content of what is taken as authentic. In short, the authentic testimonies of the sources (after duly cleansed from unauthentic parts) serve the historian’s purpose of finding out what Jesus actually said about apocalyptic topics. An alternative way of doing historiography and asking historical questions are to analyse what the data about the rule of God, the son of man and the end of the world sayings are evidence for. In other words, in order to move beyond the apocalyptic/non-apocalyptic divide the first step would be to find meaningful categories in order to deal with the apocalyptic data in the Gospels. Is it possible to derive information about apocalyptic sayings from comparative material and to determine why such language was used? That would include questions such as: Who spoke about the rule of God and the son of man and towards which ends? What kind of people generated such terms and why were they used in Jesus' world? And, under which conditions were apocalyptic language generated? That is to invoke in the historical quest interpretive categories that are not derived from the informants (the content of their testimonies) themselves but to use their testimonies in order to establish what they are evidence for.

I am looking forward to discussing this very interesting topic.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Oh America, you're so cute...

My other favorite facebook comment on election night came from my friend Steve Ausburne:

Normally content to swim in a sea of snark and cynicism, I must say that I wear my "I voted" sticker with great pride. I am also excited for tomorrow when all the vitriol laden political posts are replaced by people content to lie about "totally moving out of the country." #iwillhelpyoupack that baseball and the 2012 campaigns are over, I'll have to find other ways to entertain myself.


Well worth a read...

Hurtado responds to Crossley.

My thanks to Jim West for this.


Congrats to Chris!

I was just flipping through the SBL/AAR program book for Chicago and I stumbled upon the page (p.64) that announces the SBL regional scholars for 2012. Notable among the winners is our own Prof. Dr. Chris Keith.

I remember now that I learned of this honor about eight months ago, but the guy wins so many damned awards, it's hard to keep track of them all.

By the way, I love that photo of him... love to the point of giggling.


Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“Lord Jesus, don't let me lie when I say that I love you... and protect me, for today I could betray you.”

~Augustine of Hippo

Monday, November 5, 2012

What more can be done for academics burned by Christian fundamentalists?

Over at NTweblog, Mark Goodacre reflects on the latest academic to be treated like garbage by an institution claiming to represent the Church. In this case, Mark witnessed one of his former students sent packing. One of the comments on Mark's blog noticed that, of late, this story is repeated almost monthly.

This leads me to ask: what more can be done for academics burned by Christian fundamentalists?

Yesterday my wife mentioned that there ought to be a retreat center specifically devoted to helping academics burned by the church to transition professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. After all, such unchristian administrative moves end up wounding more than just the fired employees. Such decisions can have devastating consequences for entire families.

Question 2: what sorts of resources might be tapped to build a ministry like this?


The Jewish Annotated New Testament (ed. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler; Oxford University Press, 2011)

Our new Jewish-Xn dialogue consultation will be hosting a panel review of this new volume. It is no hyperbole to say that this is a landmark study. It is the first New Testament that has been annotated and edited (including short topical essays) all by Jewish scholars. It will provide a fascinating opportunity to discuss sacred texts.

S19-317--Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Sacred Texts
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: W375c - McCormick Place

Theme: Panel Review: The Jewish Annotated New Testament (ed. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler; OUP 2011)
This session will review The Jewish Annotated New Testament edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler (Oxford University Press, 2011). In keeping with the aims of the newly formed Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Sacred Texts consultation, reviewers have been asked to focus in particular on the project’s implications for contemporary Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Anthony Le Donne, University of the Pacific, Presiding
Anthony Le Donne, University of the Pacific, Welcome (5 min)
Marc Brettler, Brandeis University, Introduction (15 min)
David Brusin, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Panelist (15 min)
Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh, Panelist (15 min)
Cynthia Baker, Bates College, Panelist (15 min)
Matthew Levering, University of Dayton, Panelist (15 min)
Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (55 min)


Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Defense of Revisionist History (Part II)—Le Donne

Part I is here—and I found the comments for that post particularly helpful.

All history is revisionist to some extent. Sometimes we revise our histories because we stumble onto better data. Sometimes we do it because we learn to understand human behavior better. There are plenty of reasons to revise previously well-regarded histories. I’m fairly confident that this is what Matthew was doing with Mark. Matthew’s Jesus just makes more sense in conversation with first-century Judean synagogue culture (at least this is what Matthew seems to think). This is not to call Mark better or worse. Matthew’s revision of Mark just shows us how historical memory works.

I am well aware (perhaps more than most) that talking about genre issues in the Bible can make many Christians uncomfortable. But look, it is an important topic and one worth a bit of give and take. Unless we can work our way to a more sophisticated understanding of these issues, we’re doomed to repeat our heresy trials about dinosaur bones, big fish, and how many women were present at the empty tomb. Far too many of us were taught to think of the Gospels as supernaturally accurate courtroom transcripts. This notion lurks behind much of the hostile insistence that the Gospels are historical. Don’t get me wrong, the Gospels are historical; I just don’t take my cues from von Ranke (or Lonergan for that matter) when I make this claim.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I'm Really Excited About This! - Le Donne

I've invested a great deal of time seeing this new SBL session to fruition. I can honestly say that this SBL unit is unique in that it is explicitly designed to speak to matters of contemporary religious identity. This session will be a departure from the usual guise of secular "neutrality" in most Society of Biblical Literature Meetings. If you are planning to be in Chicago and have this slot free, you really won't want to miss this:


Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Sacred Texts


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: W194b - McCormick Place
Theme: Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Teaching Biblical Literature
This session will introduce and explore topics related to pedagogy and teaching biblical literature as informed by professors’ experiences in the classroom with a diversity of students and through their study of and participation in contemporary Jewish-Christian dialogue. Participants have been asked to reflect on their experiences teaching biblical literature to students who are Christian, Jewish, or otherwise, and how Jewish-Christian relations (and related concerns) have come to the fore.
Joel N. Lohr, University of the Pacific, Presiding
Mary C. Boys, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Teaching and Preaching the Passion Narratives after the Shoah (20 min)
Bruce Chilton, Bard College
Analytic Comparison and the Challenge of Teaching (20 min)
Robert A. Harris, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Improving the Quality of Our Disagreements: the Potential of ‘Scriptural Reasoning’ for Helping to Repair the World(20 min)
Rachel S. Mikva, Chicago Theological Seminary
What Progressive Protestants Can Learn from Jewish Engagement with Scripture (20 min)
R. W. L. Moberly, University of Durham
Jews, Christians, and the Social Nature of Biblical Interpretation (20 min)
Leonard J. Greenspoon, Creighton University
Synopsis and Reflections (20 min)
Discussion (30 min)