On June 21, King’s College, London hosted a day conference featuring presentations by James D. G. Dunn. Readers of this blog will recognize Professor Emeritus Dunn as one of the preeminent New Testament scholars of our day. He has made invaluable contributions to Pauline and Jesus studies. He is often also included in the “memory” trend because of his huge and hugely-important Jesus Remembered (though he never really engages memory theory in that book). Our own Dr. Le Donne has the honor of being Prof. Dunn’s final PhD student at Durham University.
I appreciated the kind invitation of the New Testament folks at King’s College to come along and it was well worth the time. Prof. Dunn gave two papers: “The Earliest Interpreters of Jesus Tradition: John and Thomas”; “A New Perspective on the New Perspective on Paul.” In the first lecture, he argues that the Gospels of John and Thomas represent different types of developments upon Synoptic (oral) Jesus tradition; John represents a development from within while Thomas represents a development from without. In other words, John expands upon what is already present in Synoptic (oral) tradition while Thomas simply adds stuff on top of it that he got elsewhere. He noted interestingly what he called “the paradox of John and Thomas”; namely, that John is in the canon, Thomas is not, but that Thomas is often much closer with the Synoptics than John.
The second paper argued that the New Perspective is not really all that new at all and is, essentially, precisely how Paul understood matters.
I hope that when my retirement comes, I can be half as productive and insightful and Prof. Dunn. He’s currently a visiting Professor at King’s College, London, so I hope the NT PhD students there are taking advantage of his presence. If not, my goodness, buy the man a cup of coffee!