Baker Academic

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Welcome Great Pumpkin!

Seasons greetings to those who celebrate other religious traditions today.

May your pumpkin patches be sincere and your co-religionists not lose faith!


Friday, October 30, 2015

The “Memory Approach” in Early Christianity 6.3—Chris Keith

The most recent issue of Early Christianity (6.3) is dedicated to the "memory approach."  It contains an editorial from Jens Schroeter and essays from Alan Kirk, Eric Eve, David du Toit, and me.  My contribution is part one of a two-part article, "Social Memory Theory and Gospels Research: The First Decade" and was my inaugural lecture at St Mary's in October of 2013.  I'm glad to see it published, and part two will be in the next issue.

Current Issue

Early Christianity (EC) Volume 6, Number 3, 2015
Jens Schröter, Jesus and Memory: The Memory Approach in Current Jesus Research; pp. 277-284(8)
New Discoveries
Jürgen Hammerstaedt, Neue Entdeckungen zur epikureischen Inschrift des Diogenes von Oinoanda; pp. 379-403(25)
New Books
New Books; pp. 407-442(36)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Best Not-new Books about Jesus?

Earlier this week I was emailing with a senior scholar in the field of historical research. S/he reminded me again of the value of including books from previous generations of scholarship in my classes. If you already know of whom I'm referring, then you've probably had similar conversations with him/her. In this particular conversation said scholar reminded me of two books that might be considered for a class on the "Sayings of Jesus."

T. W. Manson’s The Sayings of Jesus. This book focuses on material traditionally associated with Q, M, and L. It looks to have been recently re-published.

G. R. Beasley-Murray’s Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Not quite so old as Manson. But old-fashioned enough in approach (traditional historical-critical readings) to be included here.

Another book, recommended to me by a different person:

Eta Linnemann's Parables of Jesus: Introduction and Exposition. This is from her earlier form-critical years before she rejected historical-critical method. It also represents one of the earliest monographs by a female scholar in this field.

So now I put it to you. What is an older/oldish book that should be included in a Jesus class?


Monday, October 26, 2015

Amy-Jill Levine in Dayton (Nov. 4, 5)

Yesterday I announced that Amy-Jill Levine will be giving two public lectures at United Theological Seminary. These are free to the public and I encourage you to attend if you plan to be in the Dayton area on November 4th. Dr. Levine will also be an invited speaker the following day at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton. Here are the details:

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine Symposium 

Understanding Jesus Means Understanding Judaism 
A Workshop for Anyone Who Preaches, Teaches, Studies the Gospel

where: Westminster Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall

125 N. Wilkinson St. Dayton, Ohio 45402
(937) 223-7285

when: Thursday, November 5; 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

cost: $5.00 for Lunch, pay at the door.

● Free Parking
● Nursery Care for Infant through Pre-K provided

Sponsored by the Presbytery of the Miami Valley

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Public Lecture by Amy-Jill Levine in Dayton (37th Annual Ryterband Symposium)

37th Annual Ryterband Symposium: 

“Jesus, Judaism, and Jewish-Christian Relations”

Dates: Wednesday, November 4, 2015

3:30 p.m. Lecture 1
“The Bible and Israel/Palestine: Jewish and Christian Dialogue and Disputation”

7:30 p.m. Lecture 2
“Hearing Jesus’ Parables through First-Century Jewish Ears”

Speaker: Professor Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University

Co-Sponsors: University of Dayton, Wright State University and United Theological Seminary

United Theological Seminary
Whitney Lecture Hall
4501 Denlinger Road
Trotwood, OH 45426

This program is free and open to the public.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Portrait by Luca Del Baldo

In his 2000 electoral campaign, President Bush named the most important person in his life as being Jesus Christ. Now he has a unique chance to prove that he was serious: for him, as for all Americans today, 'Love thy neighbour!' means 'Love the Muslims!', or it means nothing at all.

                                         ~Slavoj Žižek

Friday, October 23, 2015

Syndicate Symposium—Chris Keith

The Syndicate Theology Symposium for Jesus against the Scribal Elite has now posted all four commentaries on the book as well as my responses.  I'd like to thank Dagmar Winter, Tobias Haegerland, Christopher Skinner, and Jason Lamoreaux for their insights.  We covered quite a bit of ground, ranging from methodology in historical Jesus studies and the usefulness of class-based interpretation of the Gospel to the book's usefulness in the university classroom and the very purpose of historical Jesus studies.  If you follow this link, you can access the entire symposium.

Thursday, October 22, 2015



The Jesus Blog is celebrating one million page views by hosting our largest book giveaway yet. Each of our six contributors is giving away one of their books supported by the generosity of de Gruyter, Baker Academic, Baylor University Press, Mohr Siebeck, Oxford University Press, and Bloomsbury.

You can enter in several ways: (1) share on any form of social media and comment below saying that you have; (2) visit the sponsors linked below and comment below saying that you have; (3) comment below with the title of a book in New Testament studies that impacted you in a meaningful way.

The winner will receive the following books:

Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: 
Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement

Oral Tradition and the New Testament: A Guide for the Perplexed

Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus? Analogien zwischen den echten Paulusbriefen und den synoptischen Evangelien

Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus

The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David

We'd like to thank our readers for checking in with us regularly. You make this fun.

Good luck!


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Who is Julian Castro?

Hillary Clinton with Julian [pronounced hool-YAHN] Castro.
It is no secret that America only elects presidents that have Jesus street cred. Even those who weren't great fans of Christianity had a mancrush on Jesus. So what hope does Bernie Sanders have? He's even more Jesusy than most Christians. But it remains to be seen whether modern America will elect a non-Christian. Most of our presidents have affiliated with some denomination of Christianity and every president since Andrew Johnson has.

But America's anti-Catholicism has deep roots. Historically Americans have been suspicious of kings and popes, often for the same reasons. Our first and only Catholic president was John F. Kennedy Jr. Who was our first Catholic Vice President? Joe Biden. America's acceptance of Catholics in the White House is very recent.

It was rumored yesterday that Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro is on Hillary Clinton's shortlist for running mate. Castro is the former mayor of San Antonio and looks to be an advantageous choice for two reasons: (1) Lone Star State votes; (2) Latino votes. Now, Texas is not likely to vote blue anytime soon. The real battleground is Florida, especially if Marco Rubio can beat real-life Biff.
Back to the Future predicted Donald Trump's rise to power.

If Julian Castro does indeed find himself on the Clinton 2016 ticket, much will be made of his ethnicity. Of course, a Latino VP would be newsworthy! My guess is that much less will be made of his Catholicism.

And if it is not newsworthy, that in itself is newsworthy! It might mean that we're finally leaving our anti-Catholic prejudices behind as we enter the voting booth. It will be no small progress if we elect a second Catholic VP. If placed on the ticket, Julian Castro will immediately become a viable option for the highest office. Even if Hillary can't McFly her way back the White House, Julian Castro will earn credibility by association.

America's anti-Catholicism is still a problem. But it is slowly—ever so slowly—becoming a part of our past. Maybe Churchill was right, "America always does the right thing after exhausting all other possibilities." I would only add that there are so very many possibilities to explore!

Chris from London writes...

I would like to thank The Jesus Blog secretary for extracting selected emails for me to read. Today’s email comes from Chris in London:

Dear James,

my first question is one I think lots will be thinking but just won't have the courage to ask. Namely, you don't really look like a normal NT scholar, more, if I may say, like a criminal. Not a small time gangsta, of course, more like a nemesis of Batman. Given this, have you at least thought about being a criminal and if so, perhaps we could go into business together, smuggling Routledge or Brill books into local theological libraries?

Second, in your view what is the next big thing in historical Jesus studies? Is there a movement or paradigms shift on the horizon, or perhaps already well underway, that will change the shape of this discipline?

Third, of all of your many and great books, which do you think has been the most important? Which one were you happiest to see in print, or which one “nailed it” best?


Dear Chris,

Thank you for your kind words.

Stealing, as I hope you are aware, is wrong. However, property is also theft and I understand that people now have ways of sharing electronic versions of books for free, much like people did with videos and pop music in the 1980s. Was it really stealing to record your favourite songs off the radio? I'm no ethical philosopher; I am merely the conduit for information. As for such master criminals, did Žižek not teach us that that, unlike the wealthy philanthropist, Batman, Bane represents authentic, revolutionary love, willing to make sacrifices, and is the personification of Occupy Wall Street?

The next big thing in historical Jesus studies? I think it will be, and perhaps already is, memory studies  of the sort that everyone on this blog bar me has made a significant contribution. For me, some of the general ideas have proven to be a helpful way of making ideas about what we mean about ‘the historical Jesus’ much clearer. Instead of being able to answer questions like ‘did he or did he not say or do this or that’ we might want to think more of a chronology of perceptions. So, were these perceptions present in the 20s/30s? Or were these ideas obviously later? I can’t prove whether Jesus did or did not argue about washing hands or plucking grain but it is easier to make a case that these were debates that could have been formulated in early perceptions of Jesus.

I think some of the older debates about Jesus in relation to material circumstances of Palestine will continue but underlying them are some fairly obvious and perhaps immovable ideological positions of left and right represented in the field, whether or not scholars realise it. I hope such debates go beyond ‘how oppressive or not were Antipas and/or the Romans?’ to an understanding of historical change where reactions and perception of material change can vary dramatically. The idea that bad/good shit happened and people did/did not react is not enough. That’s a change I’d like to see but I doubt it will happen because I don't think the interest is quite there.

My own books? I might say that I prefer whatever I have just written but really I prefer the more overtly political things I have written. At the moment I am probably most enjoying working on the Bible (including Jesus) in English political discourse, both what I published (Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse since 1968) and what I am continuing to do. There are plenty of reasons for this (no doubt many/all autobiographical) but I particularly enjoy working on, with or in: something which is pretty new in the field, loads of new data (for me and biblical scholars, anyway) and ongoing data to analyse; new debating partners in different fields; an area where I think biblical scholars are leading the way in the humanities; and freedom from the old battles we all know about in traditional NT studies where positions can be just too entrenched for debate.



Ps. readers might be interested in the free and legal material at Biblical Studies Online.

If you have a question to contribute to "Just Ask James" email

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

NEW FEATURE: "Just Ask James"

Ever wonder why Jesus praises the faith of women in Mark while the men all look like dunderheads? Just ask James. Ever wonder what Jesus really meant when he referred to a "son of man"? Just ask James. Ever wonder why Christian scholars use phrases like Jesus was "fiercely Jewish"? Just ask James. Ever wonder why MSWord autocorrect wants to render "Crossley" as "cross-eyed"? Just ask James.

Does Dr. James Crossley know everything about Jesus and Jesus scholars? Truly, only James knows what he knows. The only way for us to access this knowledge is to Just ask James.

Given the limitless possibilities, the Jesus Blog is adding a new feature called "Just Ask James." Here is how it works. Email James at this address:

Feel free to ask James anything about Jesus then or now. He will pick a question to answer with real words on this here blog!

James will be particularly interested in questions about the historical Jesus, historical Jesus research, or Jesus as an ideological construct in modern political thought. Like I said: then or now. This doesn't mean that James won't entertain questions about why he doesn't like Queen (one of the best bands ever); it's just more likely that you'll get your question answered if it's in his wheelhouse.

So go ahead:  Just ask James.

Monday, October 19, 2015

One Million Page Views

The Jesus Blog topped one million page views over the weekend! We'd like to thank our readers for affording us this opportunity to celebrate a completely arbitrary and mostly accidental achievement.

Stay tuned for an especially arbitrary and accidental book giveaway later this week to mark the occasion.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought.”

                           ~Augustine of Hippo

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

replacing effacement with exaltation

A couple weeks ago my wife and I took our daughters to the local library. While they were looking through volumes of Junie B. Jones and Diaries of a Wimpy Kid, I wandered off to browse through the shelf of biographies immediately across from the circulation desk. Tucked away between the biographies of Adolf Hitler and Sam Houston, I found a surprising title.
There, three shelves from the floor, was a translation of Adolf Hitler's autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf. Here I was, the nearest I had ever been (as far as I can recall) to the ipsissima verba Hitler. Again and again I glanced furtively at the black, image-less volume, fascinated that this book should live here, among the heroes and celebrities of American history and culture.

I took the book off the shelf and began to look through the Translator's Note. Ralph Manheim offers the appropriate historical judgments about Mein Kampf's author and its ideas; he also is appropriately negative about the rhetorical effectiveness of its prose. One gets the sense that Manheim rendered Mein Kampf for English readers under a sort of compulsion, obligated by the historical importance and tragedy of its publication but mortified that his name might come to be associated with its ideology. If translation is usually a labor of love, this perhaps should not be called a translation at all.

But what especially caught my eye was the design and layout of the book's cover. Stated bluntly: I have never seen a book like this. A glossy, all-black cover from front to back. No image, either of its author or of its ideas. An understated font, seriffed for the title but sans seriffed for the author and translator. The only color: the title of the work in red, evocative of the NSDAP Parteiflagge. Both the author's and the translator's names in an unadorned, white typescript. But here the similarities end. The author's name appears in thick, bold lettering; the translator's in smaller, narrower lettering that nearly disappears against the glossy, all-black background. The author's name appears closely associated with the book's title; the translator's, on the other hand, stands alone, separated by black space. This book, more than any other, is the author's; it is not the translator's.

This cover, on this book, was striking for its rhetorical power. "Never judge a book by its cover" might be popular wisdom, but it does not describe how people actually respond to book covers. Cover design explicitly aims to elicit positive judgments: attraction, interest, curiosity. This cover, however, refuses to call out to potential readers, to lure them to the ideas expressed within. It's appeal is entirely silent, rooted in what's not there rather than what is.

This book design brought to mind the rhetorical effect of crucifixion. Today, the cross is the symbol of Christian faith, hung around pious necks and displayed atop as well as within places of worship. In the beginning it was not so. Like Mein Kampf, crosses beside roads elicited furtive glances, engaging the gazes of passers-by but shaming them in the process. According to Mark's Gospel, everyone who looked upon Jesus either joined Rome in heaping shame upon him (Mark 15.29–32), or they looked on from a distance (15.40–41). This is the point. Crucifixion does not display its victims. Crucifixion effaces its victims, replacing them completely with the awful visage of Rome's power and resolve. Crucifixion paints a person's biography black.

David Kertzer, in Ritual, Politics, and Power (Yale University Press, 1988), defines ritual as "symbolic behavior that is socially standardized and repetitive" (9). As "symbolic behavior," rituals communicate; symbols, after all, are "tangible formulations of notions . . . extrinsic sources of information" (Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures [Basic Books, 1973], 91, 92; my emphasis). An all-black, aniconic book amidst shelves of colorful, illustrated covers communicates. In the same way, broken, suspended bodies amongst the living communicate. More than this, they communicate the same thing: Here is some-thing/-one important enough to merit attention, but on-lookers ought not find them attractive.

What's the point? In all of this, I think the most fascinating questions arising from the study of Christian origins are simply these: How did the earliest Christians manage to replace Rome's all-black, aniconic rhetoric of crucifixion with the culturally and theologically vivid account of the messiah's "parodic exaltation" (Joel Marcus, 2006; see also Anthony's discussion, here)? How did they convince themselves of this replacement? And how did they manage—ultimately very successfully indeed!—to convince others? The historical account of this replacement is, I think, the story of Christian origins.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rafael Rodríguez Joins the Jesus Blog—Chris Keith

I'm honored to introduce our final new cast member on the Jesus Blog, Rafael Rodríguez.  Rafael and I go way back.  As a transfer Sophomore, I took a Hermeneutics course in which an upperclassman was filling in for the professor.  Rafael was that upperclassman, so I suppose you could say that I'm actually a former student of Rafael's!

Since that time, we have become great friends and so I've had a front-row seat to see him rise from someone who was giving undergrad lectures while an undergrad to one of the most exciting and brilliant New Testament scholars out there.  Rafael has a distinct gift for reaching into a discourse, finding its beating heart, and then ripping it out and putting it on full display in such a way that makes readers wonder if, in reality, the discourse has been misguided this entire time.  Doubt me?  Read his chapter on the criterion of embarrassment in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.  (Yes, I confess bias since I was one of the editors, but I can also say that we approached Rafael about that chapter for a reason.)  One can agree or disagree with him on the criterion of embarrassment (I agree), but there's no doubt now that Rafael's treatment has surpassed John Meier's as the gate through which one must pass if he or she wants to comment on this criterion. 

But Rafael's contributions have not been limited to historical Jesus research.  He's written a wonderfully accessible introduction to oral tradition and the New Testament and his first monograph, Structuring Early Christian Memory, is the first sustained treatment of the Jesus tradition that brings oral tradition studies into discussion with social memory theory and one of the first two English monographs on social memory theory in New Testament studies.  Of late, Rafael has been in Pauline studies, having published a study on the audience of Romans (If You Call Yourself a Jew).

As should be clear from this all-too-brief description, Rafael is not afraid to tackle some of the big questions.  We couldn't be happier to welcome him to the Jesus Blog and look forward to his contributions.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Syndicate Theology Symposium on Jesus against the Scribal Elite—Chris Keith

Today begins the Syndicate Theology Symposium on my book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite.  Over the course of the next week or so, the symposium will feature responses to the book from four excellent scholars:  Dagmar Winter, Tobias Haegerland, Christopher Skinner, and Jason Lamoreaux.  I then respond to their comments and, as I understand it, they get to fire back again.  To say that I'm honored to have these four scholars reading and assessing my work is a serious understatement.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with them thus far in preparing for the symposium and look forward to the discussion this week.  If you click on the link now, it will take you to Chris Tilling's introductory essay.  I'm grateful to Chris Tilling for serving as editor of this symposium.  Cascade Press will be publishing the written version of the symposium in due course.

More about Christine Jacobi

The Jesus Blog recently added two new contributors (stay tuned for more news). Among these is Christine Jacobi. Wayne Coppins writes more about her work here:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Beardless Jesus

Image from
A burial site in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv has revealed several 4th-century Christian images, some including portraits of Jesus. These images are now available here. These are the oldest portraits of Jesus discovered in Bulgaria and among the largest (perhaps the largest) portraits from this period.

There are several fascinating features of these images. What I found initially striking was that Jesus is young, beardless, has short(ish) hair, and robed. All of these features parallel another 4th-century find.

This glass plate found in Linares, Spain shows a similar Jesus with the notable difference of an aureole (i.e. the plate shows Jesus with a halo; the painted tomb does not). Similar portraits of Jesus can be found in the Roman catacombs. So when did Jesus become the long-haired, bearded man, in a stolē rather than a chitōn (cf. John 19:23)? Joan Taylor's article surveys a few interesting developments in Jesus' appearance.

For an almost credible reenactment of what the early Christians thought about the importance of beards, see here.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Raymond Brown was Unimpressed with the Grand Canyon—Chris Keith

Fr. Brown (Photo courtesy of Beverly R. Gaventa)
Here's a little Friday Funny for you from the Jesus Blog.  I had the pleasure to chat with Marty Soards about a week ago.  Although I should have, I didn't know until then that Marty was a student of Raymond Brown's at Union.  I was telling him about how much I enjoyed the pre-SBL conference at St Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore back in 2013, which largely featured Brown's work and, at several points, turned into a big eulogy for him.  It was great to hear all the stories.  Brown was clearly a great man and quite a character.

Marty decided to share some of his own stories and I thought I'd pass along this one.  Apparently Brown was very financially frugal and hitched rides with people whenever he could.  On one occasion, Brown was going to St Patrick's Seminary and University in Menlo Park, CA.  They were taking the southern route and decided to stop and see the Grand Canyon.  According to Soards, who heard this from one of the other two in the car with Brown, when they pulled up to one of the parking lots that looks out over the Grand Canyon, Brown told his companions to go ahead without him.  He was going to stay in the car because he had seen it before.

According to Soards, his lack of enthusiasm for one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world had less to do with actually being unimpressed and more to do with the fact that he cherished his initial experience and didn't want to diminish it.  Still, this is pretty hilarious and I like to imagine Brown not even looking up from a Nestle Aland and a manuscript he was writing out by hand while he briskly brushed aside the Grand Canyon for a footnote that he had to get just right.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

No Controversy about the "Heresy" of the Quest for the Historical Jesus?

In a very interesting earlier post, Anthony opened up the discussion for responses Michael Bird’s quotation of a provocative statement from Luke Timothy Johnson:

“Since the time of the Enlightenment, the longest-running of all Christological heresies has deeply infiltrated the church with scarcely any protest or controversy, much less the calling of a council of bishops to clarify and defend the faith of the church. I mean the replacement of the Christ of faith with the so-called historical Jesus.” (Johnson, The Creed [2004], p. 300 [emphasis added])

Anthony took issue with Johnson’s statement about a lack of “protest or controversy” based on  recent experiences of professors who have been fired and/or silenced because of positions they have taken on the historical Jesus. As a Catholic, I found Johnson’s statement puzzling from a different angle: the history of Catholic biblical studies in the early 20th century.

The Modernist Controversy and the Excommunication of Alfred Loisy
Alfred Loisy
As Luke Timothy Johnson surely knows, in European Catholic circles in the late 19th and early 20th century, there was in point of fact an enormous controversy about the popular late 19th century antithesis between the “Jesus of History” and the “Christ of Faith.” I am referring of course to what came to be known quite simply as the “Modernist Crisis.” See C. J. T. Talar, ed., Prelude to the Modernist Crisis: The Firmin Articles of Alfred Loisy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Although the point is sometimes forgotten, the Modernist Crisis took place in large part in the wake of the publications on Jesus and the Gospels by the prolific French priest scholar Alfred Loisy (1857-1940). Although Loisy is all but unread by most New Testament scholars today, he was extraordinarily prolific (I think Loisy may even have written more than Michael Bird), very influential, and very controversial in his own day. (By the way, Loisy was taught by Ernst Renan.) Particularly significant in this regard were Loisy’s books L'Évangile et L'Église (1903; trans. The Gospel and the Church) and Les Évangiles Synoptiques (1908). In fact, it was precisely in the wake of his publications on the Synoptic Gospels that Loisy was excommunicated. I call that controversy.

The Syllabus of Errors and the Quest for the "Jesus of History"
Johnson also certainly knows that in 1907 Pope Pius X—largely in response the growing influence of Loisy’s views about the historical Jesus and the Gospels—promulgated a famous document entitled “Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists” (the Latin title is Lamentabili Sane). 

In keeping with the style of early twentieth century magisterial documents, the Syllabus is basically a list of propositions that are “condemned and proscribed.” One of these condemned propositions is formulated precisely in terms of the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith:

“It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ who is the object of faith.” (Holy Office, Lamentabile Sane, no. 29)

Notice here that what is proscribed is not "The Quest for the Jesus of History" per se, but rather the claim that the Jesus of history is "inferior" to the Christ of faith. Nevertheless, I call this protest. To be sure, Johnson is right that the publication of the Syllabus of Errors does not come close to the extraordinary act of calling an ecumenical Church council (like Nicaea). Nor does the joint publication of the the companion papal encyclical, On the Doctrines of the Modernists, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (1907). Nevertheless, in European Catholic intellectual circles in the early 20th century, the Syllabus of Errors and Pascendi were extremely controversial documents. Ask any Catholic biblical scholar in his 60s-80s if either one was controversial and you will get an earful. 

A Forgotten Chapter in the History of the Quest
In sum: in contrast to the impression created by Johnson's quote, there was in point of fact quite a bit of controversy and protest about replacing the Christ of faith with the so-called historical Jesus in early 20th century--at least in Catholic intellectual circles. To be sure, almost none of this makes it into standard overviews of "the Quest for the Historical Jesus", which continue to be written mostly by Protestant or secular scholars. (I for one can't think of the last time I read a major Jesus book that spent any serious time exploring the Modernist crisis or the controversy over Loisy's works on the Gospels, much less his excommunication.) But it remains an important chapter in of the history of the Quest nonetheless.

Now, whether to search for the historical Jesus per se is “heresy” (as Anthony put it in his original post) is another (very interesting) question altogether. The answer will, of course depend entirely upon what you mean by (1) the "historical Jesus" and what you mean by (2) "heresy." Those answers, we will have to save for a future post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Brant Pitre Joins the Jesus Blog

The Jesus Blog just got 20% more Catholic. This is a bit more Catholic than Bono but not quite as Catholic as Nightcrawler of the X-Men. It is my great pleasure to introduce Brant Pitre, Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Dr. Pitre is our newest contributor (only one week newer than Christine Jacobi) and brings serious papal gravitas with him. How Catholic is Brant? Well, if the rumors are true, he drives behind a modified Toyota Land Cruiser with a bumper sticker that reads Ab Apostolis Approbata.

Dr. Pitre studied under Amy-Jill Levine during his time at Vanderbilt and John Meier as he completed his doctorate at the University of Notre Dame. His dissertation (directed by David Aune) is published as Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile. If you'd prefer a shorter read, he's the author of the article on "Apocalypticism and Apocalyptic Teaching of Jesus" in Joel Green, Jeannine Brown, and Nicholas Perrin's Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2014). He writes of himself:
  • I am a Cajun boy from south Louisiana.
  • I bring a Catholic perspective to the Jesus Blog. 
  • My teachers Amy-Jill Levine and John P. Meier remain two of my favorite Jesus scholars.
  • I studied archaeology through a joint venture between Vanderbilt and Tel Aviv University under Israel Finkelstein and Baruch Halpern at Tel-Megiddo back in the late 1990s.
  • My newest book, Jesus and the Last Supper (Eerdmans, 2015), took about 4 extra years to write because Dale Allison's work, followed by Anthony and Chris's book Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity (2012) blew my previous methodological assumptions to pieces and forced me to rethink how Jesus research should proceed.
  • This SBL 2015, I'll be presenting a paper for the Historical Jesus section entitled: "Beyond the Criteria of Authenticity: Where Do We Go From Here?"
I'm thrilled that Dr. Pitre has agreed to be our fifth voice. Next week we will announce our sixth.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

I have been so great in boxing they had to create an image like Rocky, a white image on the screen, to counteract my image in the ring. America has to have its white images, no matter where it gets them. Jesus, Wonder Woman, Tarzan and Rocky. 

                     ~Muhammad Ali

Friday, October 2, 2015

Winner of Jesus and Brian Giveaway

The true random number generator has spoken, and the winner of the Jesus and Brian giveaway is the owner of comment 25:

True Random Number Generator 25 

That comment is from "slebyh": 

"slebyh," if you'll write to me at, I'll arrange for you to receive your book!  Congrats!