Baker Academic

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Book that Drew You In? - Le Donne

Some folks who decide to pursue the critical/academic side of Christian origins are attracted by a class or a professor who opens up new avenues of thought.  For others, it is a book that does this.  The book that opened my eyes was Raymond Brown's Anchor commentary on John.  The Fourth Gospel is (perhaps more than any other in the NT) an entirely different read pre- vs. post-naïveté.  Opening Brown's commentary was something of an Alice in Wonderland experience for me.

Was there a book or author that invited you to critical thought? If so, what was it?


Monday, April 29, 2013

Hurtado on Jesus in EC Prayer - Le Donne

Nobody does what Larry Hurtado does as well as Larry Hurtado.


Memory Studies and the Historical Jesus at SBL 2013—Chris Keith

Some readers of the Jesus Blog will be interested to see this lineup for a special session on Memory Studies at the Historical Jesus group of the Society of Biblical Literature.  I’m excited to participate in this session and thank James Crossley and Bob Webb for organizing it.  No doubt, it will be lively, but all the people participating are excellent scholars and even better people.  We’ll include more information for the session later when it is available.

Historical Jesus
Time TBD
Date TBD
Room TBD
Memory Studies in Historical Jesus Research
James Crossley, University of Sheffield, Introduction (5 min)
Chris Keith, Saint Mary's University College (Twickenham)
The Past Approaching and Approaching the Past: The Contribution of Memory Studies to Historical Jesus Research (25 min)
Zeba Crook, Carleton University
Memory Distortion and the Historical Jesus (25 min)
Rafael Rodríguez, Johnson University
An Uneasy Concord: Memory and History in Contemporary Jesus Research (25 min)
Paul Foster, University of Edinburgh
Memory: Help or Hindrance in Historical Jesus Research? (25 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jesus’ Literacy Paperback Available for Preorder . . . and Giveaway—Chris Keith

I just received the paperback copies of my Jesus’ Literacy.  In this book, I argue that Jesus did not possess scribal literacy, but that many of his contemporaries probably thought he did.  I also have an entire chapter arguing against the usage of criteria of authenticity in historical Jesus studies, and instead proposing what I there term the “Jesus-memory approach.” 

Amazon has the paperback edition available for preorder here for about $30.00, significantly less than the hardback edition.  Fortunately, though, T&T Clark is a great press with great editors, and they’ve decided to let us give away a copy here on The Jesus Blog.  You know the rules.  You can enter in four ways:  (1) comment here; (2) share this webpage on facebook, then comment to let us know you did; (3) sign up to follow, then comment to let us know you did; (4) tweet this webpage, then comment to let us know you did.  We’ll announce the winner in a couple weeks!

Woman Ordained Catholic Priest in Louisville

Way to go Kentucky!


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus 
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand 
and I won't make it any other way

                               ~James Taylor

Lohr's Chosen and Unchosen - Le Donne

I got the Eisenbraun's Spring Catalog in the mail yesterday. This book by Steven Mann looks hot. It also reminds me how much I love this book:

You will not find a better treatment on the role of the outsider in the Pentateuch.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Jesus and Me: One Jew’s Encounter with the Christian “Other” (Part II) – guest post by Larry Behrendt

Part I was published yesterday and can be found here.
Like most Jews, I grew up knowing next to nothing about Christianity. So what caused me to take the New Testament off the shelf? Two events of little intellectual consequence: the publication of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”, and the release of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” The Brown book came first. I thought the book was a silly page-turner, but I wondered if there might be something to the story it told of Christian origins. Could it be that the real Jesus was just an ordinary human being, with a wife and kids, and that the history of Christian-Jewish enmity was based on a misunderstanding? Answer: hardly. But I’ll give Brown credit for planting an idea in my mind, that the real Jesus might have been different than the man-God portrayed by the church.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Assessing Jesus' Trial without the Talmud

I just got an email in my inbox from my friend Michael Cook. He writes:
Dear Colleagues,
I've been asked whether a Jewish scholar could assess Jesus' Sanhedrin trial with no recourse whatsoever to Rabbinic Literature -- to the discrepancies often tallied up between general capital trial procedures noted in the Talmud and those the Gospels specified in Jesus' case. 
I myself happen to deem rabbinic jurisprudence entirely irrelevant to this subject -- maybe that's why the question is sometimes posed to me. For those interested in my recommended alternative approach, please consult my brief 2,700 word essay just posted on the Internet, and titled: 
"Is Jesus' Nighttime Sanhedrin Trial anAggrandizement of Friday Morning's 'Consultation'"?
With all good wishes. Michael
(Rabbi) Michael J. Cook. Ph.D.

Jesus and Me: One Jew’s Encounter with the Christian “Other” (Part I) – guest post by Larry Behrendt

One of the best things about starting a blog is all of the wealth that it generates.  To be able to walk into Donut Hut and shout out Garsone, bring me your finest bear claw! is more than this boy from the apple orchards ever dreamed!  The second best thing is making friends that I would have never met otherwise. In the last few months I’ve benefited greatly from the wit and wisdom of Larry Behrendt. (Larry writes a really great blog at  Which is why I’m ashamed to say that it never occurred to me to ask him to guest post for the Jesus Blog. The idea was Chris'.  Every now and again, Chris has a really good idea (normally involving lunch).  Anyway, Larry graciously agreed.  His post will be twofold, published today and tomorrow.  I trust you will enjoy his writing as much as I have.  Take it away Larry!


Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible

The webpage for the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St Mary’s University College can be found here. Commendations to Prof. Keith for all of his hard work. Proud to be affiliated!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


In honor of our most recent giveaway of Prof. Keith's Jesus' Literacy, I thought I would re-link one of my earliest series: See here, here, and here. Ah, back when I was young and opinionated...  good times.


The Narrative Continues...

This article was sent to me yesterday by a friend.  Our little Ph.D. cautionary tale is global in scope:


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cat Humor and Jesus

I must thank Joshua Paul Smith for this one:

I've never really understood cat humor, which has pretty much alienated me from my siblings over the years, but this is really something.


A Kinder, Gentler World Domination

Are you sick and tired of the Roman Empire getting a bad rap?

See here:


Monday, April 22, 2013

Sandra Hübenthal on Social and Cultural Memory—Chris Keith

In an earlier post, I pointed out that some critics of memory theory appear surprisingly uninformed of the complexities of the theory itself and seem to be dependent simply upon second-hand applications of the theory in Biblical Studies, and only a fraction of second-hand applications at that.  One of the scholars I mention in that post who has been overlooked is Sandra Hübenthal of Tübingen.  I have just finished reading her essay “Social and Cultural Memory in Biblical Exegesis: The Quest for an Adequate Application” (in Niels Peter, ed., Cultural Memory in Biblical Exegesis, Gorgias Press, 2012) and recommend it enthusiastically to anyone interested in memory theory in Biblical Studies.  She shows precisely why generalized references to “memory” are inadequate—social memory, collective memory, and cultural memory all refer to different things.  Furthermore, and this is a particularly significant insight, in German discourse soziales, kommunikatives, and kulturelles Gedächtnis tend to mean something different than their English counterparts mean.  And, even further, Hübenthal notes something that several of us working with Jan Assmann have also noted, which is that his and his wife’s understandings of kommunikatives and kulturelles Gedächtnis have undergone changes just in the last several years.

Quite simply, Hübenthal’s essay is a must-read for anyone who wants to work accurately with the theory.  Her comments toward the end on the differences between approaching the New Testament texts as kommunikatives Gedächtnis and kollectives Gedächtnis indicate just why this approach contains so much promise for New Testament and early Christian studies.  We eagerly anticipate the publication of Dr. Hübenthal’s Habilitationschrift!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.”

                                    ―Woody Allen

Friday, April 19, 2013

Of Memory and Mother's Milk - Le Donne

Every now and again I like to remind my readers that I grew up in the hippie capital of the world (that's right Ibiza, Spain; you just got told!). In my bra-optional part of the planet, we're quite fond of the topic of breastfeeding.  Next to conversations about medicinal garlic oil, we talk about mother's milk more often than anything else.  How often should we protest applesauce?  How often should preachers breastfeed from the pulpit?  Should grade-schoolers nurse at recess or lunch time?  All these topics and more are hotly debated in most unisex bathrooms in Sebastopol, California.

So it was only a matter of time before I used this here blog as a platform for the topic.  (Chris opened this door when he posted about the defensive prowess of the Louisville Basketball team).

While the nursing Madonna became prominent in fourteenth-century Italy (cf. Marilyn Yalom, History of the Breast, p. 5), recent portraits of the Holy Mother and Child have shied away from this image.  But with the groundswell of interest in historiography and memory, the question "was Jesus breastfed?" becomes illustrative.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus - Le Donne

I have recently accepted an invitation to join the editorial board of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. I would like to thank Bob Webb for the invitation. The next issue will include an essay that introduces my work in social memory theory and critiques recent missteps within the guild.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Foucault on Truth and Subjectivity - Le Donne

Every now and then you have to bow your head and thank Jesus for Al Gore who made resources like this possible. A little bit of vintage 1983 for your listening pleasure.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Masculine was Jesus? - Le Donne

In her reading of Genesis in this book, Susan E. Haddox suggests four criteria for masculinity (pp. 6-7). While there are different ways to exhibit masculinity, a typical, "biblical" male:
1) avoids being feminized (especially avoids of excessive attachment to women);
2) displays virility and strength (including warfare);
3) acts with honor (including provision for family, especially the women);
4) speaks with persuasiveness, wisdom, honesty.*

Of course, these categories distill the ten or so criteria offered by David Clines years ago.  What intrigues me is the dissonance in our constructions of the historical Jesus versus the Gospel portraits of him along these lines.  Would it be safe to say that the New Testament portraits of Christ heighten his masculinity?  Concerning number two, I am reminded of the portrait of Jesus in John's apocalypse.

*The important distinction here is between “hegemonic” and “subordinate” masculinities.  These four criteria are generally associated with varieties of hegemonic masculinity.  Interestingly, the Lord seems to favor men with subordinate masculinities in Genesis to a surprising extent. 

Gospel of Judas as Early as 280 CE

April DeConick posted this a few days ago:

Here is the original link:


Monday, April 15, 2013

Does Assmann's Mnemohistory Program Have Antisemitic Undertones? - Le Donne

If you've been following this blog for any time at all, you know that we talk about "memory" here and there. Much of this interest stems from Jens Schroeter's use of Maurice Halbwachs via Jan Assmann. Assmann's Moses the Egyptian was intriguing enough to give Halbwachs second and third lives in religious studies.

In this article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Richard Wolin suggests that Assmann might be contributing to antisemitic sentiments.


On the Dangers of Googling Oneself—Chris Keith

I admit it. Every once in a while, I google myself. And sometimes what I find either amuses or frightens me, especially when I wonder whether others have confused me with some of these Chris Keiths.

For the sake of clarity, then, this Chris Keith who has written a bit of Christian fiction is not me, despite the fact that Amazon occasionally puts our books together under the common author “Chris Keith,” an understandable mistake for a computer to make.  Likewise, this Chris Keith who is a Christian music artist in Nashville also is not me, although at one time I too wore earrings.  This Chris Keith who is a lawyer in Panama City is not me, although I did spend some time in Panama City once where I attended a Too Live Crew concert at Club La Vela while wearing an Elvis t-shirt.  This Chris Keith who survived a terrible ordeal is not me, although people once contacted my former employer thinking that he was me.  This Chris Keith who is a professional bodybuilder is not me as well, although I can completely understand how easy it would
be for someone to make this mistake given our similarities! I know James Crossley at Sheffield University has this problem of mistaken identity as well.

I do sometimes laugh thinking that every once in a while one of these Chris Keiths gets a nasty email from someone who is disagreeing with something that he wrote about the New Testament and early Christianity!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“When Jesus tells us about his Father, we distrust him. When he shows us his Home, we turn away, but when he confides to us that he is 'acquainted with Grief', we listen, for that also is an Acquaintance of our own.” 

                     ~Emily Dickinson

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dale C. Allison Jr. and Method (Video)

If you'd like a slice of the cutting edge of Jesus studies, you might pick up Dale Allison's Constructing Jesus. In 2012, Chris and I were honored to have had a chance to discuss his latest and last (so he tells me) book about Jesus, specifically concerning his historiographical method.  To see this conversation, scroll to the bottom of this page. I'd like to reiterate my thanks to United Theological Seminary for hosting.

Dale presents a 20-minute summation of his chapter in this book. Chris and I both respond (10 mins each). You'll notice in these responses a disagreement between Chris and I on the logic behind the criteria of Multiple Forms, Multiple Attestation, and Coherence. Chris is, of course, wrong; whereas I am both right and handsome. You'll also see an interesting interaction between Allison (Jesus scholar par excellence) and Barry Schwartz (Lincoln / Social Memory scholar par excellence).



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Happens After the PhD? - Le Donne

This is my once a month discouragement to all those who are considering PhDs. A few highlights:

Fact: "76 percent of teachers in colleges and universities are what the organization calls “contingent,” meaning full-time faculty members who are off the secure and relatively well-paid tenure track or part-timers (often known as adjuncts) and graduate students."

Truth: “There are PhD's working as adjuncts and living in poverty, on food stamps, etc.,”

My reaction: "That sounds about right."


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Oldest Known Text of Ethiopic Enoch - Le Donne

There has been a story I've been following with interest on Facebook.  My friend and mentor Loren Stuckenbruck (and crew) has been coming and going from Ethiopia. His wife Lois (who blogs here) has been posting on FB daily about their trip. Loren, you may know, is working on what promises to be the best commentary to date on The Book of Enoch.  Why do I think so?  Well, first of all, he's Loren Stuckenbruck. Second, and further to the first point, he does things like this:

They are at a monastery, photographing the oldest known text of Ethiopic Enoch.  Of course, the Ethiopic Church has held Enoch as sacred scripture since they set up camp a couple thousand years ago.  So these monks do not take kindly to outsiders handling their God-given relics.

Somehow, Loren and friends have wiggled their way into their good graces. Loren is the man in the electric-blue shirt with a mop of hair that would make Justin Bieber slap his stylist. The monkish looking fellow in the background has appointed himself the gatekeeper of these texts. According to Loren and Lois, getting access to these documents has been very tricky. Getting permission to photograph them has been altogether Herculean.

Talk about rolling up your sleeves on a project!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Go Cards!

I want to congratulate my good friend Chris Keith on his Louisville Cardinals. If you know Chris at all, you'll know that he'd rather have a national championship more than almost anything else in the world.

It's just too bad that your daughter will be too young to remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Jesus against the Scribal Elite—Chris Keith

I’m happy to say that I’ve submitted the manuscript for a new book to Baker Academic entitled Jesus against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict (due out in 2014). To my knowledge, it’s the first book-length study dedicated to answering the question of how Jesus got on the authorities’ radars in the first place.  I argue throughout the book that previous opinions on this issue that focus on Jesus’ different approach to the law or his exorcisms, miracles, and healings are not so much wrong as incomplete.  Jesus was not the only person in Second Temple Judaism who disagreed with Pharisees and others on the law.  He also was not the only performer of miraculous deeds.  I argue instead that a central component of the initial emergence of the conflict is that Jesus’ very status as a teacher was debated.  In other words, in addition to questioning the content of his teachings, they questioned whether he had the qualifications to be teaching in the first place.  To a certain extent, this book is an outgrowth of my argument in Jesus’ Literacy.  It takes that argument and applies it to the exegesis of the controversy narratives.  It further argues against a long history of research that attributes the creation of those narratives to the context of the early Church in its debates against non-Christian Jews, arguing that the types of debates over Scripture and authority that Jesus has with scribal-literate authorities in those narratives can be plausibly traced to the life of the historical Jesus.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.

                                                         ~Mikhail Gorbachev

Friday, April 5, 2013

Was Jesus a Peasant? cont... - Le Donne

Yesterday Professor Keith addressed the question "Was Jesus a Peasant?"  He suggested a couple avenues toward an answer. On such matters I tend to defer to him.  Nobody is as conversant with the literature on social status in first-century Judea (his other specialty is late-80's WWF wrestling).  This is why I was a bit surprised when he appealed to Richard Bauckham's suggestion that Jesus' family owned farmland.  While the possibility shouldn't be ruled out, I find Bauckham's argument to be rather weak.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Was Jesus a Peasant?—Chris Keith

Anthony and I had an interesting email discussion on Jesus’ socio-economic status.  I can imagine that some readers of the Jesus Blog might want to contribute.  The question is whether Jesus was a peasant and, furthermore, whether that is a helpful way to describe him.  Some scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan, make a case that Jesus was among first-century Jewish peasants as a carpenter.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jesus Stomp cont...

In case anyone is still interested in this story, here is the latest.  For my part, academic freedom is a topic close to my heart.


Gathercole and Goodacre on Thomas

Simon Gathercole and Mark Goodacre can be seen here via live feed discussing Thomas. My thanks to Marginalia for hosting.