Baker Academic

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More Videos from the 2016 Memory Conference at St Mary’s—Chris Keith

More videos from the 2016 Memory Conference at St Mary's University, Twickenham are now available online.  For the sake of convenience, I'll post here also the links that I earlier posted.  Make sure to check out Crossley's especially, since this is where he reads the paper in his skull and crossbones shirt.  He's bound to break out a Misfits t-shirt for his forthcoming inaugural lecture.

DAY ONE
Chris Keith (read by Steve Walton), "The Memory Approach and the Reception of Jesus"
Christine Jacobi, "The Reception of Jesus in Paul"
Discussion after Keith and Jacobi
Richard Bauckham, "The Psychology of Eyewitness Memory"
Helen Bond, "The Reception of Jesus in the Gospel of John"
Discussion after Bauckham and Bond
Jens Schroeter, "Memory and Theories of History"

 DAY TWO
Samuel Byrskog, "Memory and Narrative"
Sandra Huebenthal, "The Reception of Jesus in Mark's Gospel"
Discussion after Byrskog and Huebenthal
Alan Kirk, "Memory and Media"
Joan Taylor, "The Reception of Images of Jesus prior to Constantine"
Discussion after Kirk and Taylor
Ruben Zimmermann, "Memory and Jesus' Parables"
James Crossley, "The Reception of Jesus in Talmudic Literature"
Discussion after Zimmermann and Crossley

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the videos of Rafael Rodriguez's and Anthony Le Donne's papers, and I'll update this list when they are ready.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

just an amusing observation

I'm reading through Joan Taylor's edited volume, Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and his Times via Monty Python's Life of Brian (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015). This is such an interesting book. As with any edited volume, some of the essays exhibit higher quality than others, though judging between them probably also depends on the reader. But in her essay (one of the best I've read so far), Helen Bond examines two different kinds of humor in relation to crucifixion in the ancient world: parody/mockery of the victim, on one and, and gallows humor, on the other.

In her discussion of "gallows humor," Helen Bond relates a story told by Strabo (Geography 3.4.18), in which "Spanish prisoners after the Cantabrian wars who continued to sing victory songs, even when nailed to their crosses" ("'You'll Probably Get away with Crucifixion': Laughing at the Cross in Brian and the Ancient World," 113–26 [p. 121]). For Strabo, the victims' singing is a sign of their madness, but Bond offers a different perspective: "[F]rom the prisoners' point of view, it's easy to see their songs as a final act of defiance, as a way of strengthening morale, and a last laugh in the face of Roman oppression. There's something heroine about these wild Cantabrians, unwilling to be snuffed out by Rome" (121).

Okay, here's the observation promised in this post's title: In Spanish, canta is an imperative verb that means, "Sing!" (the exclamation point meant to convey a sense of command), and so "canta, Brian" would be a command to Brian: "Sing, Brian!"

Cantabrian victims of crucifixion singing while on their crosses, in the context of a discussion of Monty Python's Life of Brian and the crucifixion victims' singing, "Always look on the bright side of life," and the Spanish phrase "canta Brian"; it all just fits together nicely . . .

The Conservative Case against Trump

Allow me to apologize for liberals, progressives, and bed-wetting treehuggers everywhere. I will affectionately call this group the LPBT+ community. (The plus symbol here represents me, as I am fond of simple addition and tiny Celtic crosses.) It is quite common that we in the LPBT+ community are downright rude during election cycles . . . . which is another way to say all of the time. Rude might be an understatement. We are condescending, self-righteous, elitist, and other big words. Among our many moral failures this year is our inability to discuss Donald Trump with civility.

So allow me to try to convince you that Trump is unfit to hold public office without using the standard LPBT+ talking points. For all of my political proclivities, I have come to respect a number libertarian ideals by sitting down with my more conservative friends. I demur more often than not, but I've learned a great deal too. I would encourage my progressive friends to consider these arguments as common ground.

Using a more conservative lens, consider the topics of

WAR CRIMES: "Donald Trump on terrorists: 'Take out their families'"

TORTURE: "Trump on torture: 'We have to beat the savages'"

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: "Is Mr. Trump a threat to democracy?"

EXECUTIVE POWER: "Trump: Obama 'led the way' on executive orders"

Photo credit: donaldjtrump.com
1. War crimes. Mr. Trump, if elected, would command the U.S. military to murder the family members of suspected terrorists. As noted by Rand Paul, such an action would be a war crime. When pressed, he doubled down on his original statement: "they may not care much about their lives . . . they do care, believe it or not, about their families' lives." When it was suggested to him that U.S. soldiers might refuse on moral grounds, Trump said, "If I say do it, they’re going to do it." He has made many over-the-top statements. He makes them so often that this one seems to have been buried in a heap of social media vitriol, comedy bits, and political fatigue. I will admit to making light of Mr. Trump myself. But this particular campaign promise (empty or not) is a clear statement in support of war crimes. It has not been taken out of context. Mr. Trump has clarified it, repeated it, and owned it.

We Americans are a polarized people. We disagree ardently and often on any number of issues from healthcare to hamburgers. Can we at least agree to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions?

2. Torture. Mr. Trump supports torture. He realizes that this is illegal but proposes to make physical assault legal. In explaining his position, Trump argues that American foreign policy ought to mirror the practices of ISIS. "We have to play the game the way they're playing the game." Whatever you might think of John McCain's politics, can we agree with him that torture ought to be contrary to America's ideals?

3. The First Amendment. Mr. Trump proposes to weaken the first amendment. He intends to use the government to discourage newspapers from writing critical articles about him. In his words, "I'm gonna open up the libel laws so that . . . when they write hit pieces, we can sue them, and they can lose money." He also supports "closing that Internet up in some way." He continues, "Somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people." When asked to comment on Vladimir Putin's murder of journalists, Mr. Trump answered "at least he’s a leader."

Also protected by the first amendment is the freedom of religious expression. But Mr. Trump suggests limiting such freedom by closing places of worship. Chief among conservative American values is a commitment to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. In stark contrast, Trump's proposals would set dangerous precedents for religious liberty as defined by the first amendment.

4. Executive power. My chief criticisms of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been in their military objectives and methods. I tend to get less worked up about domestic policy (I realize that this is a deficit on my part). But my conservative friends have been most dismayed over President Obama's expansion of executive power (tip of the hat to Dick Cheney). If indeed you hold conservative values, you ought to be deeply troubled by Trump's intention to expand executive power. Indeed, we all should be.

This is the point in the program where my progressive friends will want me to call out Mr. Trump's misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. Many of my Christian friends will want me to call out Mr. Trump's lack of humility, greed, vulgarity, and immorality. But I offer the four points listed above as a way to begin a civil conversation.

Finally, if you are willing to grant that this short article as been civil (and I hope you will) I will ask that you return the favor in your comments. I would ask you to avoid the distraction of changing the conversation to Hillary Clinton. This is conversation about Mr. Trump and nothing else.

Anthony Le Donne, PhD
author of Near Christianity: How Journeys along Jewish Christian Borders Saved my Faith in God

Friday, September 23, 2016

Continuing Inter-religious Dialogue

Larry Behrendt reviews Near Christianity: How Journeys along Jewish-Christian Borders Saved my Faith in God. Larry was an important conversation partner for me as I wrote this book so his review reveals a few longer dialogues between us. I continue the conversation in a guest post.

Larry and I are both committed to inviting more (and more diverse) voices to the table of Jewish-Christian dialogue. Do please take this as an invitation to visit Jewish Christian Intersections and comment as often as you will. We believe that this is an important practice and that it can impact larger multicultural relationships.


-anthony

Thursday, September 22, 2016

2016 Memory Conference Videos are Available!—Chris Keith

I'm delighted to inform readers of the Jesus Blog that videos of some of the lectures from the conference are now available at YouTube and the Conference Highlights page of the CSSSB website.  (If you go to the latter, note that it will look like only one video from the conference is available but you can navigate to seven total.)

If you wish to go directly, here are the links:

Chris Keith (read by Steve Walton), "The Memory Approach and the Reception of Jesus"
Christine Jacobi, "The Reception of Jesus in Paul"
Discussion after Keith and Jacobi
Richard Bauckham, "The Psychology of Eyewitness Memory"
Helen Bond, "The Reception of Jesus in the Gospel of John"
Discussion after Bauckham and Bond
Jens Schroeter, "Memory and Theories of History"

These are the lectures from only the first day.  The sound is not always perfect, and for a reason that I'm not quite sure, Jens's lecture cuts off just a bit early.  I'll share the other videos when they're available.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Near Christianity

I am told that my book, Near Christianity: How Journeys along Jewish-Christian Borders Saved my Faith in God, is on Barnes & Noble shelves in places as exotic as Springfield, IL! The generous folks at Zondervan would like to celebrate the occasion by giving away a copy. You can enter in four fun-filled ways:

(1) follow me on twitter (and comment below saying that you have) @AnthonyLe_Donne

(2) visit www.NearChristianity.com and sign up for a free sample chapter (comment below saying that you have)

(3) share www.NearChristianity.com on any form of social media (comment below saying that you have) #nearchristianity

(4) comment below with your favorite line from a Coen Brothers flick

Sensible contestants do all of the above and comment below four times. Thus they increase their chance of triumph fourfold. And that, my friends, is very gospelish.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week


This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.

                         ~Karl Barth

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

PhD Studentship in NT at St Mary’s—Chris Keith

I happily announce a PhD studentship available for a NT student who wishes to do a PhD in the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible.  See here for the information and full announcement.  Application deadline is Nov. 7, and this is for someone starting in Fall 2017.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

JSHJ Welcomes New Board Additions

This announcement is long overdue. But it is with no less pleasure that I welcome the following scholars to the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus editorial board:

Helen Bond
Thomas Kazen
Chris Keith
Annette Merz
Halvor Moxnes
Jens Schröter
Joan Taylor

The expertise they bring to this publication is invaluable. James and I look forward to working with them!

-anthony


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Me Talk on Radio


A couple weeks ago I was interviewed on "Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand." You can listen to it here.

If the sound quality is poor, it is because your world frightens and confuses me.




I will also be on "A Show of Faith" with David Capes next week. More details to follow.

-anthony


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Al from Florida Writes... (Summer Edition)

Dear James,

As we approach what you Brits call "autumn", please could you tell us what you've been doing this summer?

Yours, 
Al

Dear Al,

Great question! I won't go over growing vegetables, PES or No Man's Sky because there aren't many biblical references there (though one day I'd like to grow a garden of biblical plants). I have, however, been interviewing people from a place called "Barrow-in-Furness" about the Brexit and the Bible, the results of which have just been published in Relegere where you can download the article for free. While I maintained a professional distance, some of the subalterns did use a lot of idiomatic cusswords, just like the "weapons of the weak" were used in Galilee. If that's not your thing, you've been warned; if it is you're thing, hopefully they won't disappoint.

Enjoy your fall,
James

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mother Teresa (and Jules Winnfield): A Reflection on God's Silence

Unlike some of my colleagues in biblical studies, I do not experience miracles. Or at least I don't perceive most things that I witness in my day-to-day experience as God's intervention. I'm usually the guy sitting across the table from Jules, eating filthy pig meat and challenging the claim that God came down from heaven and stopped the bullets. John 12:29 says, "So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, 'An angel has spoken to Him.'" Had I been there, I would have probably heard thunder.

I readily acknowledge that the limits of my own perception and my presuppositions color my experience. I'm no authority on what can and cannot happen in the universe. Even so, I am much more inclined to experience God in small things: beauty; unlikely spiritual transformation; a pennant race. But I just don't encounter the supernatural or I don't interpret it as such if I do. This I call my experience of "God's silence" and am convinced that many, many Christians experience this silence more often than not. . . . even if they don't talk about it. This topic is one of the major motivating factors behind my new book: Near Christianity.

Today on NPR I learned that Pope Francis will declare Mother Teresa a saint. This short podcast is worth a listen: "How The Catholic Church Documented Mother Teresa's 2 Miracles." This, of course, means that the Church must verify at least two miraculous encounters associated with Teresa. I am not the sort of person that rejects the experience of others out-of-hand as fraud, fiction, or foolishness just because I do not understand it. And so I find this story intellectually fascinating rather than intellectually repulsive. This story is even more fascinating to me because Teresa's journals reveal that she (for almost 50 years) experienced God's silence.
[James] Martin, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, notes that in a posthumously published collection of her private journals and letters, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the nun so widely revered for her spiritual purity acknowledged that she did not personally feel God's presence. "In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss," . . . . Martin says Mother Teresa dealt with such pain by telling God, "Even though I don't feel you, I believe in you."
The NPR story then goes on to describe Teresa's sense of numbness as "doubt." But I think that we ought to differentiate a lack of feeling of God's presence (what I am calling "silence") from doubt. The two can be related. I imagine that doubt can lead to a lack of experience and vice versa. But God's silence and doubt of God are not the same in my experience.

I talk more about this in the book, but allow me to make three points. (1) I used to think that my experience of God's silence was a deficit in me, as if I required fixing. I now see this as a valuable difference among people of faith—one that contributes to a necessary diversity. (2) We do Teresa a disservice in collapsing doubt and God's silence into a single "problem." I see St. Teresa as an exemplar of faith. She is someone who could experience (even if uncomfortably) God's silence for 50 years and remain faithful to her mission. (3) What a tragedy that Teresa had to keep her experience of God a secret for all of those years. Surely there is a place for God's silence in the Psalms. Even Jesus experienced God's silence. Why are Christians so reluctant to discuss this openly? What a loss to others who might have benefited from Teresa's witness.

I admire the Jules Winnfields of the world—folks who encounter the Divine differently than I do. Who am I to begrudge such a transformational and powerful experience? But I also admire saints who remain faithful because there is something bigger at stake than one's own experience.


Anthony Le Donne, PhD is the author of 
Near Christianity: How Journeys along Jewish-Christian Borders Saved My Faith in God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins at Edinburgh—Chris Keith

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins over at my alma mater, the University of Edinburgh, has sent the following two flyers to us and we're happy to share them.  CSCO will be sharing content this Autumn on social media and invites any former or current students to contribute, and invites everyone else to stop by their website (www.christianorigins.co.uk) to check in with them.