Baker Academic

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Despite the tradition common to Matthew and Luke, nothing compels us to suppose that the Holy Spirit was a progenerative agent for Jesus' conception in the earliest form of the birth narratives. This is reflected in the earliest formal mentions of Jesus' birth, which were made by Paul in his letters to the Galatians and Romans. . . . Instead of being related to the birth, the Spirit is associated with the claim that Jesus was resurrected after his death; whereas Jesus' birth betrayed an ancestry that "according to the flesh" goes back to David, his status as Son of God is linked to the resurrection event in which the Spirit of holiness functioned as the divine agent.

                        ~Loren Stuckenbruck (The Myth of Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple                                           Judaism and New Testament Texts)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bauckham Second Edition Giveaway!—Chris Keith

Richard Bauckham's pot-stirring and thought-provoking landmark study, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, is now out in a second edition from Eerdmans.  Those good folks at Eerdmans have decided to do a giveaway of one free copy to a reader of the Jesus Blog.  We haven't done a giveaway in a bit, so here are the rules.  You can enter by (1) leaving a comment, (2) sharing on social media and leaving a comment saying you did, (3) signing up to follow the blog and leaving a comment saying you did, and (4) a wild card entry.  The wild card entry will be SBL-themed.  You can leave a comment stating any of the following:  your favorite thing about SBL; your least-favorite thing about SBL; how you describe SBL to people who don't know what it is; why you will never miss or never go to SBL; what lie you tell people about on the plane on the way to SBL; how many drinks you had with Anthony Le Donne at the last SBL.

We'll leave the giveaway open for a bit and then announce the winner based on the comments.

[UPDATE: This book will be released in the UK at the end of June and distributed by Alban Books.  Their link for the book is here.]

Friday, May 12, 2017

Social Memory: A Hermeneutical Reset

Yesterday Chris Keith treated me to breakfast at Taste of Belgium in Cincinnati. Wonderful frites with a horseradish aioli sauce. But fries served with an omelette? Has the world gone insane? Chris and I (as we tend to do) talked about the past, present, and future prospects of social memory theory in Jesus research. It occurred to me on the drive home that scholars with native fluency in New Testament studies continue to misappropriate the findings of social memory. Either they emphasize the creativity and instability of memory or they emphasize the regular reliability and stability of memory. Both are surface-level observations that fail to see the undergirding hermeneutical reset.

The key question is still "where is history?" If history is "back there in the past" and human memory is creative and and unstable, memory cannot provide access to history. Alternatively, if history is "back there in the past" and human memory is reliable and stable, memory can and does provide access to history. Both conclusions miss the point: history is not "back there." History relates to what is "back there" insomuch as it continues the mnemonic frames and interpretive perceptions of the past. But "history" (like everything under the epistemological umbrella) is something we encounter now. In my reading of him, Ruben Zimmermann (happy birthday!) gets this point. History (and on this point I depart from Maurice Halbwachs) is not something that precedes or undergirds memory.

In order for historians to utilize the findings of Social Memory we don't simply need a new method or new tools or new rules for the road. What we need is a hermeneutical reset whereby the human relationship to epistemology is reconsidered from the ground up.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Runesson’s Origins of the Synagogue for FREE!—Chris Keith

We at the Jesus Blog heard that your week was moving a little sluggishly and thought a free gift might make you feel better.  To that end, we pass along the fantastic news that Anders Runesson's groundbreaking The Origins of the Synagogue: A Socio-Historical Study is available for FREE on his site here.  If you're not familiar with Prof Runesson, who is also known as the father of The Angry Theologian (who, I'm told, might be heading to my alma mater, the University of Edinburgh), then start with this book to familiarize yourself.  For me personally, one of the most interesting developments in the last bit in NT studies is the explosion of synagogue studies, and much of that effort is related in one way or another to Runesson's work.  He's also just published Divine Wrath and Salvation in Matthew: The Narrative World of the First Gospel (Fortress, 2016).  I haven't read it yet, but will be soon thanks to the good folks at Fortress and will report back.  Thanks to Prof Runesson for alerting us that he is making The Origins of the Synagogue freely available!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Prof Steve Walton Inaugural Lecture at St Mary’s—Chris Keith

Please join us at St Mary's University, Twickenham on Monday, May 15 for Prof Steve Walton's inaugural lecture:  "Doing Theology Lukewise"!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month by Jesus for this Week

"It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick."


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Crowd-sourcing Purity

Jesus Blog readers,

I am tinkering with the following paragraphs about purity concerns in Jesus' context. Inevitably, I've found myself attempting to summarize a massive amount of literature dealing with Israel's Pentateuch reception and application. I'm looking for help. What would you add/subtract from the following? Where have I made missteps?



Many (perhaps all) of Jesus’ contemporaries who lived in and practiced day-to-day Jewish life believed that their God was transcendent. Not only was God separate from the created order, God was holy in a way that made God fundamentally distinct from the world of humans. In the priestly story of creation, the elements of the Earth are said to be good. But only God is holy. Thus we see a very ancient worldview distinction between that which is common and that which is holy.

Unfortunately, in this worldview, the common elements of creation are subject to disorder and eventual death. Humanity—while fundamentally good—is prone to disorder and dominated by death. Or, put another way, humans live in the reality of impurity. Impurity is a power opposed to life; it is an infection that results in, physical, ritual, and moral disease.[1] God, on the other hand, is holy.

The narrative of Exodus—the story that provided the foundation of Israel’s collective identity—claims that God is holy and that it is dangerous for humans to be in God’s presence. God, however, provides a way for the Israelites to participate in God’s life-giving holiness. This is accomplished by Moses who follows divine instructions for creating a space for the transcendent God of Israel to reside on the Earth. It is then imperative for the priests to prepare the common people to approach this holy space. Thus certain rituals are established to cleanse Israel from impurity. It is therefore integral for God’s holy presence to reside in the land with the people.

Eventually, this holy site where God resides is built up as a Temple. In this culture, Israel’s God was present in the Jerusalem Temple. Israel’s instructions for pure living helped to orient the people to God’s Temple presence. Everyday actions like food, sex, farming, care for strangers, etc. became ways to orient the people to the holy presence of God.

[1] It is important to make a distinction between impurity and sin. Ritual impurity was inevitable and in most cases had nothing to do with human error. Childbirth, disease, contact with the dead, and bodily fluid caused impurity. Such elements of human life and death were not necessarily sinful but required purification through rituals. Moreover, these rituals (like baptism) were not difficult to accomplish. Moral impurity, on the other hand, was indeed connected with human error: e.g. worship of idols (Lev 19:31; 20;1-3); sexual taboo (Lev 18:24-30); murder (Num 35:33-34). In very basic terms, most of the rituals practiced in Jewish life related to the maintenance of life and death. Or, at least the elements that seemed most related to life and death (e.g. blood, semen, menstruation, food production). Much of the first part of Leviticus deals with ritual purification as it relates to Temple worship (the place where God resides on Earth). Much of the second half of Leviticus deals with broader issues of purity in every-day life (what scholars call the Holiness Code). 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for This Week

The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish thinker and teacher appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed. That it became, through the intervening years, a religion of the powerful and the dominant, used sometimes as an instrument of oppression, must not tempt us into believing that it was thus in the mind and life of Jesus. 'In him was life; and the life was the light of men.' Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.

                         ~Howard Thurman

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Congratulations, Mike Holmes!—Chris Keith

Juan Hernandez shared on Facebook that Mike Holmes is retiring at Bethel University and also shared this video.

I'd like to take a moment and offer my sincere gratitude to Mike Holmes for his 35 1/2 years of service not only to Bethel but to the field of New Testament scholarship, especially text criticism.  Mike is a great scholar, but he's also an absolutely wonderful person.  He has encouraged me personally from the very beginning of my career and I've always been appreciative of that.  We've continued to be friends, and I was even honored to pose with him in 2015 at the SNTS in Amsterdam.  (Everyone was posing with their spouses.  Since our spouses weren't there, we posed together.)  Congratulations, Mike!!  Tell us where the SBL party will be, and we'll be there!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Render to Caesar....

Today friend of the program, Loren Rosen III posted this on Facebook. Not only is it an interesting conversation starter, I thought that his survey question summarized the various views quite nicely. He writes:

Happy Tax Day. I “rendered to Caesar” this morning.

But here’s something to ponder: Jesus command to “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, was... what?

(A) A clear distinction between religion and politics, implying that Caesar’s taxes were lawful and should be paid. Jesus was trying to transform the individual heart above all. While he opposed exploitation of the poor, he identified the problem not in sociopolitical structures but in individuals. (Martin Hengel, Victory over Violence.)

(B) An enigma which deliberately left the issue unresolved. Jesus wanted to make people think for themselves and decide on their own if Caesar and God were compatible. On top of this, he “probably slipped the coin into his purse while they were haggling over what he told them.” (Robert Funk, The Five Gospels.)

(C) A paradoxical command to revolt and pay taxes at the same time. Jesus was protesting both against Caesar as a false lord and against tax-evading revolutionaries. His punchline meant: “Pay back Caesar as he deserves, and give God the divine honor claimed by Caesar.” In so doing he was implying that tax-evading revolutionaries were the true compromisers with Rome. (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God.)

(D) A cryptic way of saying that Caesar’s taxes were unlawful but should be paid “with contempt” in order to rid the land of idolatry. Jesus’ punchline meant: “Give Caesar back his filthy coins, and give your total allegiance to God, so that Caesar and his coins may be removed from God’s land.” People should pay their taxes in contempt or as an act of non-violent resistance, meaning that Caesar had no valid claim on people, even if he was entitled to his filthy currency. (William Herzog, Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God.)

(E) A cryptic way of saying that Caesar’s taxes were unlawful and should not be paid at all. Jesus’ punchline meant: “Give Caesar nothing, God everything.” Jesus believed no one could serve two masters at the same time (Mt. 6:24/Lk. 16:13) and followed the early Israelite tradition that since God was king, no one else could be (Judg. 8:22-23; I Sam 8:4-7; Hos. 8:4). (Richard Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence.)

Thanks for your permission to repost this, Loren!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday Post: Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal?

One of the primary reasons it took me almost ten years to write Jesus and the Last Supper (Eerdmans, 2015), is because it took time to work through the complex debate over the date of the Last Supper.

Was the Last Supper a Jewish Passover meal? Or was it celebrated 24 hours in advance? Do John and the Synoptic Gospels contain different chronologies of the death of Jesus?

Here's an interview that I did for this year's celebration of Passover that gives an overview of some of my findings.

And to all those who celebrate, best wishes for a sacred Triduum.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Study of the historical Jesus belongs to the diversity and pluralism of modernity, or, if you prefer, postmodernity, and there can be no easy appeal to the consensus on much of anything. The biblical guild is not a group-mind thinking the same thoughts. Nor are the experts a single company producing a single product, "history." As Chesterton says somewhere: "There is no history; there are only historians." The unification of academic opinion would be almost as miraculous as the union of the churches. If you are holding your breath waiting for the consensus of the specialists, you will pass out.

   ~Dale C. Allison Jr.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Issue 14.3 of JSHJ

Check out the latest issue of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus.