Baker Academic

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jesus and Memory at SNTS Amsterdam—Chris Keith

At the general meeting for the Society for New Testament Studies in Amsterdam next week, I am presenting a paper at the invitation of the "Memory, Narrative, and Christology in the Synoptic Gospels" seminar organized by Jens Schröter, Samuel Byrskog, and Stephen Hultgren.  Its title is "The Kerygmatic Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates, and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research."  Here are the opening lines:

This essay will argue that several recent debates in contemporary Jesus studies have at their base a rather simple disagreement over whether the interpretations of Jesus in the Gospels enable or inhibit a quest for the historical Jesus.  This disagreement is, however, only seemingly simple  It masks complex and interrelated methodological and epistemological issues concerning (1) the nature and development of the Jesus tradition and (2) the task of the historian employing that tradition in order to approach the historical Jesus.

As some readers will note, this will extend some of my previous work.  It will do so with sustained engagement with several recent scholars as well as a group I'm calling the "post-Bultmannians": Ernst Käsemann, Günther Bornkamm, and Ferdinand Hahn.  I'm convinced that the post-Bultmannians have much to say to contemporary Jesus research.  I'll also be responding to some critical reactions to my work and others', though hopefully and intentionally in a way that progresses the discussion.

It should be an excellent seminar, though I'm of course anticipating some push-back.  The other invited papers are Francis Watson, "Social Memory and Writing in the Early Jesus Tradition" and Christine Jacobi, "Memory and Discourse: What Has Paul to Contribute to the Debate about Jesus and Memory?"


  1. It sometimes seems that Q scholarship sees a first, simple, grumpy, threatening Jesus. And all the rest, the commentary, was later, efite topspinning. What is your take on that?

  2. Q scholarship is probably too diverse right now to paint with generalizations. I think the status of Q itself is probably more open to debate now than any point in the recent past. Mark Goodacre has many converts.

  3. An original sophisticated Jesus, corresponding to a single, original, sophisticated gospel like Mark, is an interesting hypothesis. Though given signs of redaction in Mark, much of the more polished theology attributed to Jesus seems later than Jesus himself. Though separating the original from later redaction is to be sure. quite problematic.

  4. Chris,

    Is there any chance that you'd be willing to share a little bit about how this session went for those of us who weren't able to make it to SNTS? These sound like very papers.
    - Jordan Ryan