Baker Academic

Thursday, October 31, 2013

$10 Kindle Price for my The Wife of Jesus

*Not sure how long this offer will last.
So you prefer Kindle? So you prefer less expensive? You're one of those people, eh?

Click here:


The Best New Jesus Book that You Haven't Heard Of Yet - Le Donne

Today I received my copy of John, Jesus, and the Renewal of Israel by Tom Thatcher and Dick Horsley. My thanks to Eerdmans for publishing such a fine product. With all of the hype that Tom Wright is receiving these days, this title might be overlooked.  But ignore this book to your own deficit.  Here is the first page:
The title of this book, John, Jesus, and the Renewal of Israel, indicates both its focus and its thesis. We offer a new reading of the Gospel of John as a story of Jesus’ mission in the historical context of early Roman Palestine. We will argue that the Gospel of John portrays Jesus engaged in a renewal of the people of Israel against the rulers of Israel, both the Jerusalem authorities and the Romans who placed them in power.
           This book began in a conversation about the potential value of the Gospel of John as a source for the historical Jesus. We share a conviction that the relationships between John, the other Gospels, and the historical Jesus need to be rethought in the light of recent research. For some time interpreters have assumed that the Gospel of John sheds light on the history of Johannine Christianity and the development of early Christian theology but very little light on the historical Jesus. For access to the historical Jesus, interpreters focus mainly or exclusively on the Gospels as ancient texts. A more appropriate understanding of the Gospels and of how any of them can serve as sources  for the historical Jesus will require a substantial reconsideration of many standard assumptions, analyses, and approaches that have guided New Testament studies – many more, in fact, than we could possibly address here. For this project, therefore, we have narrowed the focus to John’s portrayal of Jesus’ mission. 

I'm hooked. Sometimes I wonder whether our grandchildren will look back on the history of Gospels research and call the period from 2005 to 2020 the "Tom Thatcher Era".


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kelber's Collection of Essays

Just learned about this today:

Imprints, Voiceprints, and Footprints of Memory: Collected Essays of Werner H. Kelber 

Jesus and his followers defined their allegiances and expressed their identities in a communications culture that manifested itself in voice and chirographic practices, in oral-scribal interfaces, and in performative activities rooted in memory. In the sixteen essays gathered in Imprints, Voiceprints, and Footprints of Memory , Werner Kelber explores the verbal arts of early Christian word processing operative in a media world that was separated by two millennia from our contemporary media history. The title articulates the fact that the ancient culture of voiced texts, hand-copying, and remembering is chiefly accessible to us in print format and predominantly assimilated from print perspectives. The oral-scribal-memorial-performative paradigm developed in these essays challenges the reigning historical-critical model in biblical scholarship. Notions of tradition, the fixation on the single original saying, the dominant methodology of form criticism, and the heroic labors of the Quest—stalwart features of the historical, documentary paradigm—are all subject to a critical review. A number of essays reach beyond New Testament texts, ranging from the pre-Socratic Gorgias through medieval manuscript culture on to print’s triumphant apotheosis in Gutenberg’s Vulgate, product of the high tech of the fifteenth century, all the way to conflicting commemorations of Auschwitz—taking tentative steps toward a history of media technologies, culture, and cognition of the Christian tradition in the West. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Great Baylor Giveaway Part Two: Kelber/Byrskog’s Jesus in Memory and Le Donne’s The Historiographical Jesus—Chris Keith

Today we continue the Great Baylor Giveaway with installment number two.  We continue the theme of new approaches to the Gospels and the historical Jesus that we started in part one with Schröter’s From Jesus to the New Testament.  In this installment, though, you have a chance to win two books.  The first is Kelber and Byrskog’s Jesus in Memory.  This book is a tribute to the work of Birger Gerhardsson.  If you just said, “Who?” quietly to yourself, then you definitely need to enter this contest.  Gerhardsson was one of the fiercest and most vocal opponents of form criticism and one of the very first scholars whose work prominently featured memory.  There’s been much advance in the discussion since then, and this volume tries to capture both Gerhardsson’s seminal contributions and the current state of discussion.  This book is worth it entirely just for Alan Kirk’s chapter “Memory” as well as Loveday Alexander’s chapter “Memory and Tradition in the Hellenistic Schools.”  There’s lots of other gems in here, too, though.  For those who continue to think of Werner Kelber’s work in light of his 1983 The Oral and the Written Gospel, I suggest his chapter in this book (“The Work of Birger Gerhardsson in Perspective”), which shows just how far he (Kelber) has moved since 1983.

The second book is also a memory-themed study and well-known to frequent readers of this blog:  Anthony Le Donne’s The Historiographical Jesus.  We’ve said lots about this seminal book on here and lots more could be said.  It was one of the most popular book giveaways we’ve ever done, so here’s a chance to win it if you weren’t that one person who won it last year. 

Together, these two books go a long way toward introducing newer students of the historical Jesus to the precise ways in which the methodology underlying the current trend of memory studies is both similar to and dissimilar to what has preceded it.

You know the rules.  You can enter in the following ways:  leave a comment; sign up to follow the blog (and leave a comment saying you did); post this on Facebook (and leave a comment saying you did); and tweet this (and leave a comment saying you did). 

In the last installment, I introduced a wildcard entry category in the form of your favorite Royal Tenenbaums quote.  This time, you can also enter again with your favorite quote from the years-ahead-of-its-time Leslie Nielson classic Naked Gun.  I’ll start again:  “Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50-50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that.” 

Facebook Reactions to the Wife of Jesus - Le Donne

My thanks again to Peter Enns for featuring my book on his blog yesterday by way of author interview. Thanks also to Brian LePort for his thorough review at Near Emmaus. See also the kind paragraph in Publishers Weekly by Kristen Swenson. 

As I mentioned to Prof. Enns, I'm not surprised at the various forms of hostility on Facebook. I knew going into this project that there are many who feel threatened by this topic. The topic of the wife of Jesus has typically attracted "cranks" and "sensationalists". Actually, I quite appreciate the honesty demonstrated on Facebook yesterday as it gives me an opportunity to address the most common concerns that people have.

Notice the first comment to Peter Enns post:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

The unique impression of Jesus upon mankind - whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world - is proof of the subtle virtue of this infusion. Jesus belonged to the race of prophets. He saw with open eyes the mystery of the soul. One man was true to what is in you and me. He, as I think, is the only soul in history who has appreciated the worth of man.

             ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Killed Jesus?

My thanks to James McGrath and Stephen Carlson for pointing me to this gem:


Sutton, Skinner, Rosson reviews

My thanks to Benjamin Sutton, Chris Skinner, and Loren Rosson for their close readings of my book. You can read their reviews via the following links:

My thanks also to Mike Bird who provided the venue for Ben to publish his review. I understand that Brian LePort's full review is coming soon, but here are a couple teasers:

I should also thank Jennifer and Missi at 45th Parallel who have secured book reviews in Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and The Chicago Tribune (all forthcoming).


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jesus, Women, and Self-projection - Le Donne

In researching for my chapter titled "Something about Mary", I committed myself to watching every film that featured and belittled Brett Favre. You may be interested to know that this is how 49er fans begin every writing project.

After completing this necessary task, I tried to read everything that I could get my hands on about Mary Magdalene. In doing so, I stumbled upon this line from April DeConick: "Jesus appears to have been something of a woman’s advocate during his era, and women were  present  in  his  mission  as patrons and  disciples" (Holy Misogyny, xi).  After reading this, I wondered how many of many folks perceived Jesus as generally progressive on matters related to woman's advocacy.  So motivated, I posted this poll:
As you can see from the final results, most people (74%) did see Jesus along these lines. The second choice here (to my mind) suggests that about one of four people saw Jesus as pretty typical on such matters as compared to his contemporaries.

This got me wondering: how much of our own reflection do we see in Jesus' ideology? Indeed, a couple commenters (including the erudite Pat McCullough) indicated a similar thought. This query led to an email to Jim West. I suggested that Jim post a similar poll on his blog a month or so later.  I suggested that his poll should assess how people see themselves along these lines. He did:

Now, there would be no way that this little test would hold up by any sociologist's standards. But it might be interesting to recognize a similar trend. Most people saw themselves (like Jesus) as "generally progressive"; fewer saw themselves as "pretty typical".  Two votes are always going to represent the anti-social among us (probably both registered by Brett Favre, under two different accounts).

I might also repeat a point that my friend Tim Stafford has made from time to time: the question "what would Jesus do?" tends to mean "what would I do if I were a better person?"  In other words, we tend to see in Jesus a reflection of ourselves, but without the acne.

Finally, I don't mind saying that I think that April is right.  I do indeed think that Jesus was "something of a woman’s advocate during his era".  I talk more about this in my latest book, so I won't detail my reasons for thinking so here. This, of course, complicates the historians task. We need to be aware that we're projecting our ideals onto Jesus.  We also should be willing to go in that direction anyway if that is where our research leads us.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ken Schenck's Essay

Ken Schenck offers a really interesting essay at 


And the Winner of the Jens Schroeter Giveaway is...

Mr. Hundley! In follow up to our giveaway of the recently-translated From Jesus to the New Testament by Jens Schröter, the true random generator has spoken:

And the winning comment was:

Will the noble gentleman please comment below with his email address?  This will not be published. Our gratitude to Baylor University Press for sponsoring this promotion!


First Pages (Free Peek) - Le Donne

The fine people at Oneworld Publications have posted the foreword and introduction to my The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals. If you're into free stuff, take a peek.

My deepest gratitude to Oneworld for their devotion and care for this product.  I am honored to have been included in their community of authors.


Monday, October 21, 2013

BibleWorks 9 Is Growing On Me—Chris Keith

I’m writing this post as I’m discovering something awesome about BibleWorks 9.  I had a colleague write and ask an interesting question about examples in late Christian antiquity where the transmission processes of the NT reflect a difference between what’s known to be written and what’s known to be read.  She also asked about Christians acknowledging plural forms of texts.  I gave her a couple examples that came to mind.  For example, in the late fourth century, Jerome acknowledges that some Greek and Latin texts have the story of the adulteress in John 8 while others do not, as does the Philoxenian Syriac tradition later around the sixth century.

Another example I gave her was Hebrews 1.3.  There’s an interesting example in Codex Vaticanus (B, fourth century) where the original text has phanerōn (“reflects”).  A scribe has then corrected the manuscript to the more common reading pherōn (“sustains” or “bears”).  Then a third scribe has come in, noticed the second scribe’s correction, and written a marginal note chastising him for daring mess with the text.  I’ll use the translation of the note in Metzger and Ehrman:  “Fool and knave, leave the old reading, don’t change it!”

The variant readings, but not the marginal note, are in the text-critical apparatus of NA and UBS Greek NTs.  When I was first responding to the original question, I couldn’t remember which reading is the original in Codex B and which is the correction.  I started to look in the critical apparatus, but since I’m trying to learn BibleWorks 9, I decided to put it in there and see.  As I suspected, when I adjusted all the settings to show me the manuscript of Codex B, it showed up with the different readings and clarified that “MS-03A” (the first hand) has phanerōn and “MS-03B” (the second hand) has pherōn.

What I didn’t expect, though, is that when I clicked on the “MSS” tab, it took me to a digital image of Codex Vaticanus itself where I could see the marginal note!
I’m fully aware that many, perhaps most, of you will regard this as completely old news and evidence that I’m seriously behind the times in terms of technology for Biblical Studies.  You would be entirely right and I’m not going to try and defend myself.  But for the others of you out there who, like me, occasionally enjoyed looking down your nose at people who use these programs instead of working straight with Nestle-Aland . . . well, I’m starting to think we were wrong.  I know it can be a crutch for students, but for scholars in the field there’s clearly a big advantage to having a program like BibleWorks 9 and having all that information in the same place.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Civic Masculinity - Le Donne

Here is an excerpt from my latest book. I would say that the research I did in this chapter was the most surprising to me. I had not anticipated taking the book in this direction, but my reading on various forms of masculinity compelled me to do so. Had I not built upon this research, the book would have gone in a completely different direction.  Pp 119-121:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Evolution of the Christian Mind - Le Donne

Today I am showing this TED Talk from moral philosopher James Flynn to the students in my ethics class.  It is an illuminating 18 minutes if you have the time (let's face it, if you're reading this ridiculous blog, you have the time).

Flynn surveys the cognitive history of the 20th century and explains why our IQ tests score so much higher than our immediate forebears. He begins with a couple questions:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dating Jesus' Death

My thanks to Joshua Paul Smith for alerting me to this.


Guest Post for Redemption Road - Le Donne

The second of my three-part series is available over at Redemption Road.


New Coptic Fragment of the Gospel of John Discovered - Le Donne

This morning I was emailed this by Brice Jones (PhD candidate at Concordia). Jones writes:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am happy to report that I have recently identified an unpublished Sahidic parchment codex fragment in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. In addition to being a copy of portions of John chapter 3, this manuscript, under the inventory number P.CtYBR inv. 4641, contains hermeneiai on both the hair and flesh sides. Thus, it is the first known example of a hermeneia manuscript of John where both the Johannine citation and hermeneiai are written solely in Coptic. The Yale fragment is significant, not least because only a handful of these enigmatic Johannine fragments are known to exist (see Metzger 1988; Porter 2007; Parker 2006). My edition of P.CtYBR. inv. 4641 is forthcoming in New Testament 
Studies 60.2, and in that article I also discuss hermeneiamanuscripts more broadly. I shall upload the article to my website once it is published, but in the meantime, please feel free to read a short post about the manuscript fragment here: 
On 4 October 2013, I made Professor Karlheinz Schüssler aware of this fragment, and he registered it in his Biblia Coptica with the call number "sa 972." Sadly, just days after our correspondence, Professor Schüssler died in a tragic car accident. Professor Siegfried Richter of Muenster has also been contacted about assigning this fragment a SMR number. If any of you should desire to see full images of the fragment, please let me know and I would be happy to send them along.

I trust you are well.
Brice Jones

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why We Should Commemorate Columbus Day - Le Donne

It is increasingly popular for Americans (and our closest frienemies) to give us a history "from below" on Columbus Day.  If you don't geek out about historiography, history from below is not a suggestion that some historians are demonic.  In fact, I know no professional historians who are Oakland Raiders fans.  This approach to history stands in contrast to histories that are oriented toward great cultural / political movers and shakers.  History from below is sensitive to the lives and perspectives of common and under-represented folk.

Last year on Columbus Day, I got this meme from my brother:

Today I was alerted to this meme by my sister:

Both get points for cleverness, but the best contribution to this growing zeitgeist today was this article.

Because my Ph.D. dissertation was in historiography and social memory theory, I can't help but be fascinated by this growing dissatisfaction with Columbus Day.  Some might point to these memes as anti-Americanism, but I don't think that this category gives us the best explanation.

To understand ourselves a bit better, it might be helpful to ask a primary question: why did we celebrate Columbus Day in the first place? Any good answer to this question is going to be long and complicated. But this is a blog, so allow me to give you the short, simplistic answer:

Columbus Day was inaugurated in 1906.  During this period, historians were invested in telling stories of "great men" who made new worlds possible.  This was the same year that Albert Schweitzer published his Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung.  In this book, Jesus looks forward to the end of the world. Although his apocalypse didn't come as expected, Jesus created a new world nevertheless.  Schweitzer also wrote a biography of Bach.  Although Bach was underwhelming as an "innovator", his genius was recognized a generation later and impacted a dramatic shift after his death.  Or read August Fournier's Napoleon the First: A Biography (1903) for another example of a "great man" in history.  In short, western story tellers were preoccupied with geniuses and heroes who transcended their eras and brought human history to a great advance.  Even characters in history who cannot quite measure up to the likes of Napoleon (e.g. Bach und Jesu) are measured by the epochs they inhabit.  If they stand on the cusp of two epochs, they can become "great men" in retrospect (androcentric language intentional). Why not Columbus, the visionary who "discovered" the "new world"?  This particular philosophy of history is often called "romanticism" (cf. Carlyle's On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History).

In 1906 another book was published called The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  This book would not have been considered a "history" by the standards of the day, but it might have done more for contemporary historiography than most "histories" written at the time.  The Jungle introduced many westerners to the perils of industrialization, democratic capitalism, and a host of other modern innovations.  I wouldn't want to overstate the impact of Sinclair (tempted as I am to fall into my own "great man" fetish), but The Jungle also introduced many historians to a different way of seeing the world.  It took decades before histories "from below" would become avant-garde. Now they are commonplace and pithified in Facebook memes.

This brings me to another question: given what we now know about the impact of Columbus and his fellow "visionaries", should we commemorate Columbus Day?  The answer is yes, of course.  I give this answer for two reasons: (1) I titled this blog post already and it wouldn't make much sense to change my mind at this point, and (2) Columbus Day has become our most postcolonial day of the year in America.

Columbus Day signals a shift toward postcolonial historiography.  Yet, the more our history changes, the more it stays the same.  We must revise our histories.  This is not an imperative; it is a reality.  Revisionist history is just something that we do.  It can be dangerous and false, but it is often just a subversion of a previously perilous and false narrative.  Indeed, in a way, revisionist histories can tell us something quite true. Christopher Columbus cannot be the person he once was, but he cannot be easily forgotten either... and shouldn't be.

This day on the calendar has become an opportunity for us to remember one of the least heroic elements of our cultural beginnings.  In this way, remembrance reflects a collective-identity shift and contributes to that same shift.  In short, we are no longer celebrating Columbus; we are commemorating Columbus.  We do well to remember our worst selves on this day with the hope that we can reinforce our aspirations to be truly democratic and less imperialistic.


p.s. If the Italian Americans among us lament the loss of a hero, can I suggest Tony Danza Day?

First Impressions of BibleWorks 9—Chris Keith

I’ve kindly been afforded the opportunity to review BibleWorks 9.  I confess I’ve never been entirely thrilled about Bible software but agreed to this opportunity because it would give me the opportunity to see if my initial concerns were warranted.  I gather that I’m not alone in this matter, but I’ve always been hesitant to use Bible software because I didn’t want it to become a crutch.  In undergrad and seminary, the students who used it all the time tended not to be the best at the languages.  Thus, I’ve never had BibleWorks or Logos on a personal computer until now!

I’ve got BibleWorks 9 loaded now, though, and I’m looking forward to becoming more acquainted with it.  When it opens up, there’s a nice set of tutorials that I’ll no doubt use.  I’m anxious to see what non-biblical primary texts they have.  I’ll report back soon, just in case any of the rest of you are as behind the time technologically as I am.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

"Jesus is far too important a figure to be left only to the theologians and the church."

~Jaroslav Pelikan

my thanks to Jared Calaway for this gem:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Peter's Wife and the "Wife of Jesus" - Le Donne

My new book The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals is now available at bookstores and on line.  Here is a free preview of pages 29-32 and page 38:

A Blog from Above - Le Donne

Another very good post on religion and politics from Christopher W. Skinner.  If his blog isn't my favorite on the web, it is definitely in my top one hundred and three.

Seriously, is one of the few blogs for which I drop whatever I'm doing to read the latest offering.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bultmann, Jens Schröter, and Facebook - Le Donne

It was not long ago that I was a Facebook persecutor.  Oh, wretched man that I am!  I thought that Facebook was for people who were too lazy, afraid, or ashamed to live their lives in the real world.  Now I know that I was quite right, but Facebook can - at rare moments - be quite helpful.

Consider this thread initiated by Chris Tilling today:

I have heard multiple critiques recently that NT applications of Social Memory do not do much more than echo Form Critical premises.  Paul Foster's recent essay in JSHJ makes this claim.  Kudos to Chris Tilling for reaching out and asking the question before he came to any definitive conclusions.  Scholarship is best when it is proactively conversant.  I have been quite surprised at how much scholarship is happening via social media.  I have seen the light.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway of The Wife of Jesus! - Le Donne

Interested in a free copy of my latest book? Click here:

Giveaway ends today.

- anthony

The Teaching of Jesus and Fiscal Conservatism - Le Donne

In a very thoughtful reflection on the U.S. government's ineptitude and Bill O'Reilly's over-spiritualized Jesus, Chris Skinner tells us "Why “Jesus” is to Blame for the Government Shutdown". Skinner exposes the fiscal-conservative incarnation of "Jesus" and shows this construct to be at odds with the Jesus we find the pages of the New Testament.

Skinner writes:
"Even in my own personal experience, the most outspoken opponents of universal healthcare have been self-proclaimed “born again Christians” who are quick to tell you that they read the Bible literally. Mind you, they don’t generally read the parts about caring for the poor and marginalized literally...
The Jesus I read about in the New Testament and more importantly, the one I attempt to follow in my own life, wants—I believe—to be taken seriously (and literally) on things like caring for the disenfranchised among us."
Those who know me well will know that I am very sympathetic with Skinner's critique.  Indeed, Christians generally cherry pick from the New Testament and have little rhyme or reason for which passages they take literally.  Moreover, when I hear platitudes like "lower taxes" and "smaller government" I tend to think in these terms and these terms.

It should be said, however, that there is another version of fiscal conservatism that Skinner's post does not represent.  Fiscal conservatives whom I have come to respect do indeed read Jesus' message about caring for the poor literally.  These folks believe that the Church can do more to combat poverty than government programs.  And (while many don't) many of these fiscally conservative Christians put their money where their proverbial mouths are.  I know lots of bloody-do-gooder Christians who want lower taxes so that they can do more for the disenfranchised, usually giving to places in the world where poverty is perilous. Now, I don't see the dichotomy between taxes and generosity like they do; I'm with Skinner on this one. There is a troubling inconsistency among many of my coreligionists.  So this post does not negate Skinner's; it just adds a small wrinkle.  Not every fiscal conservative is greedy and/or over-spiritualized in orientation.

Skinner makes another really good point and one that bears repeating.  O'Reilly, in his vague categorization of "parable", dismisses any literal interpretation of Jesus' fiscal ethics.  Skinner correctly points out that Papa Bear does not represent most conservatives on this point.  I would extend this further: Tea Party advocates in general do not represent most Christian conservatives.  In tone and content, the average Christian conservative has very little true representation in congress at present.  In this way, O'Reilly's "apolitical Jesus" fantasy mirrors the silent majority of Christians who choose to be absent and ignorant and therefore cannot hold their congress person accountable for willful negligence. I wish it weren't so, but Skinner is absolutely correct on this point.


Anthony Le Donne (PhD) is the author of The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jesus Was not a Romantic - Le Donne

The last book-length treatment of Jesus' marital status was written in 1970 by William E. Phipps.  In his Was Jesus Married?, Phipps imagined that Jesus and his wife were in a passionate tug-of-war between desire and commitment. Jesus’ wife turned to a life of prostitution in a tale of love lost and regained.  Phipps, of course, was projecting what has become commonplace in love stories in the western world.  In order to make Jesus' marriage seem authentic, Phipps appealed to the universality of love and marriage.

There are many problems with Phipps' book, but the assumption that first-century marriage was initiated and sustained by romance is the most problematic.

Why?  Because courtly love had not been invented yet. Here is an excerpt from my book The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals...

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Great Baylor Giveaway Part One: Schröter’s From Jesus to the New Testament—Chris Keith

To kick off our series of book giveaways sponsored by Baylor University Press, we’re giving away a copy of the recently-translated From Jesus to the New Testament by Jens Schröter.  Wayne Coppins has translated this version of Schröter’s Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament (originally published by Mohr Siebeck in the WUNT 1 monograph series).  Anthony and I have long claimed that Jens is the fountainhead of the New Historiography in Jesus studies, and this book is one of the prime places to find his work on this topic.  It also deals with many issues concerning the development of the NT canon.

From Jesus to the New TestamentYou can enter to win the typical ways:  leave a comment here; sign up to follow the blog (and leave a comment saying you did); post this on Facebook (and leave a comment saying you did); tweet this (and leave a comment saying you did). 

I’m also, however, adding another means of entering the contest.  Leave in the comments here your favorite quote from The Royal Tenenbaums.  It’s ok if someone else has already done it.  I’ll start:  “Well, Wildcat was written in a kind of obsolete vernacular” (Eli Cash).  Ok, there’s too many for any one favorite. 

Regardless, have at it.  We’ll count up all the comments, take them to the true random number generator, and find a winner and announce it on the blog.  Baylor University Press will then send you a copy.

Now Available: The Wife of Jesus - Le Donne

My book The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals is now available in the UK and USA. This book is a critical treatment of Jesus’ marital status in historical memory and popular imagination. I incorporate research related to sociology, media, and gender studies. I discuss Mary Magdalene's evolution from "disciple" to "wife" in the Christianized West and argue against her as the literal "wife of Jesus". I examine various attempts to sexualize and desexualize Jesus in works of popular imagination. I situate my take on the recently published fragment called the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" within this examination.

The Wife of Jesus provides what I consider the best arguments for and against a married Jesus. This book takes seriously the important role that Jesus' parents would have played in such a decision. Perhaps my most original contribution in this book relates to the connection between marriage, family honor, and economic security. I define and illustrate the concept of “civic masculinity” and demonstrate how Jesus’ economic collectivism relates to his aberrant stance on family honor.

Finally, this book is the most theologically oriented of any of my published works. I discuss Christianity's lingering asceticism and its awkward (often hostile) relationship with sexuality. I then discuss the Christian concept of the "Bride of Christ" and relate this to the symbols of food, community, and sexual intimacy.

Here are the blurbs from the back cover:

My thanks to Drs Green, Crossley, DeConick, Lerner, and Goodacre for their close reading and kind words.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

Paul Taylor: Does the Last Supper theme mean anything in particular to you?

Andy Warhol: No. It's a good picture.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Inaugural Lecture—Chris Keith

If you’re in or around London on October 16, you’re invited to my inaugural lecture as Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham. The press release and more information is here. The title of the lecture is “Social Memory Theory and the Gospels: Assessing the First Decade.” I’ll include the abstract below.
Formally introduced to English-speaking New Testament studies in 2005, social memory theory has quickly reached a position of prominence in New Testament scholarship. Many key questions in Gospels studies, especially with regard to the historical Jesus, the new historiography, and the transmission of the oral Jesus tradition, are now being answered in terms of this ‘memory approach.’ The lecture will assess the first decade of this interdisciplinary discussion.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jesus and Economic Collectivism - Le Donne

Bill O'Reilly maintains that "Jesus wanted to stay out of politics" in recent interviews. This is disingenuous. O'Reilly's Jesus is positively anti-government. Indeed, without the problem of big-government taxation (which is emphasized ad nauseum in Killing Jesus) he cannot explain where and how the conflict between Jesus and Rome began. In this way, the Jesus portrayed by Dugard and O'Reilly is proto-libertarian.  Their portrait of Jesus marginalizes the big government of Rome which is altogether evil.

Dugard and O'Reilly play down (almost entirely omit) Jesus' central message about the "Kingdom of God" to paint him as a preacher of love and hope.  This reading is understandable.  It is a common mistake in the Christianized West.  At the same time, it is indeed anachronistic (and "anarnistic" too, I suppose) to call Jesus a socialist.  Perhaps we'd do better to use the phrase "economic collectivism" for the disciples of Jesus.

I discuss this at length in my new book, The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals.

My full review of Killing Jesus will be published soon in the Los Angeles Review of Books.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why Bill O'Reilly's Book Stinks (Ten Examples) - Le Donne

Having just finished Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, my review is now in process.  Stay tuned.

Rather than citing scholarly literature directly, this book leaves the reader to guess where the authors have gathered their data.  Not every book needs detailed footnotes and a bibliography, but this book might have been helped by a bit more attention to source material.  I read this book with a perpetual stinkface (considering the deficits of my default face, my stinkface is really not pretty), often curious where and how Dugard and O’Reilly got their information.  Here are ten of the more curious statements in Killing Jesus.
“Jesus was executed. But the incredible story behind the lethal struggle between good and evil has not been fully told. Until now. At least, that is the goal of this book.” p. 4. 
“Soon will come the Passover feast, bringing with it tens of thousands of Hebrew pilgrims from all around Herod’s kingdom, eager to pay good money to purchase those sheep for a sacrificial slaughter in the great Temple. In many ways, the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem is no different.  They are being sacrificed for the good of Herod’s rule—which is the same as saying that they are being murdered in the name of the Roman Empire.” pp. 19-20 
“With a dark beard covering the tip of his chin and a thin mustache wreathing his mouth, Antipas resembles a true villain.” p. 88 
“Julia was a great beauty, which made it easier for her to indulge her base instincts.” p. 113 
“Holy men such as the Pharisees have filled that void by strictly interpreting the laws of Moses. They gained respect from the Jewish people by adding hundreds of new commandments and prohibitions to Moses’ original list of ten, then passing them on through an oral history known as the Tradition of the Elders. Few ever question these laws, especially not the uneducated peasants of Galilee.” p. 157 
 “But Jesus would be a fool to ride a donkey into Jerusalem. That would be a death sentence. For while the prophets have been very specific about the way the king of the Jews would be born and live his life, they are just as clear about how he will die. He will be falsely accused of crimes he did not commit. He will be beaten. He will be spat upon. He will be stripped, and soldiers will throw dice to bid for his clothing. He will be crucified, with nails driven through his hands and feet—yet not a single one of his bones will be broken. And those who love him will look on in mourning, unable to do anything to stop the agony.” [fn. “In order, these prophecies are: Psalms 27:12 and 35:11; Micah 5:1; Isaiah 50:6; Psalms 22:18; Psalms 22:16; Zechariah 12:10, and Deuteronomy 21:33; Numbers 9:12; Psalms 34:20, and Exodus 12:46; and Zechariah 12:10."] p. 177 
“In the village of Jericho, two blind men call out to Jesus, referring to him as ‘Lord, Son of David,’ a designation that could be applied only to the Christ.” p. 184 
 “Once again the group walks into Jerusalem and straight to the Temple. It has been three years since Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables, but now he plans to do it again. Only this time he has no whip, and he is no longer an unknown figure.” p. 192 
 “They are soon replaced by the Sadducees, a wealthy and more liberal Temple sect who count Caiaphas among their number.” pp. 204-205 
“Under the teachings of the Pharisees, there are 613 religious statutes. Even though each carries a designation marking it as either great or little, the fact remains that each must be followed. Asking Jesus to select one is a clever way of pushing him into a corner, making him defend his choice. But Jesus does not choose from one of the established laws. Instead, he articulates a new one: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” [fn. “Taken from Deuteronomy 6:5, which immediately follow Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema and cornerstone of Judaism.”] p. 205
Aside from these ten, there are some real problems with this book.  I’ll save these for my formal review.


Candida Moss on The O'Reilly Factor Part Two--Chris Keith


For those who haven't seen Dr. Candida Moss (Notre Dame) on The O'Reilly Factor, here's the video.  In an earlier post, Anthony pointed readers of the Jesus Blog to it but refrained from comment because he's actively writing a review of O'Reilly's Killing Jesus.  I thought I'd throw out a few of my thoughts in the meantime.

First, let me say that, in contrast to my hippy tree hugger partner in crime Dr. Le Donne, I'm not a particularly political person.  I never have been.  I don't love to hate Bill O'Reilly and I don't love to support him.  I usually pay no attention whatsoever, especially since I moved to London.  Also, I haven't read Killing Jesus and don't plan to do so; again, not because I hate or love O'Reilly but because there's a pile of about ten books on my desk by actual New Testament scholars.

Nevertheless, a couple things about this interview are noteworthy.  First, O'Reilly starts off saying that Jesus "stayed out of politics."  This surprised me.  We can (and have) debate(d) for a very long time about the precise ways in which Jesus was political, but whether he was is not really up for debate.  For goodness gracious, the man died in a manner reserved for political threats to the Roman empire.  Regardless of whether he was (in some existential way) political, he was definitely regarded as political by important authories around him.  Just looking at NT scholarship, though, Jesus scholars across the board agree that Jesus occupied an important place in the sociopolitical structure of Palestinian Judaism; it's a major feature of, for example, the work of Marcus Borg and NT Wright.  (As a plug, this is also an important theme in my forthcoming Jesus against the Scribal Elite.)  Just taking a guess here, I think O'Reilly seems to mean that Jesus wasn't interested in Roman politics, presumably because of the way he answers the question about paying taxes to Caesar.  But the Roman political structure was hardly the only political structure and, arguably, not even the most important one for Jesus' life, at least for every period of his life other than that last Passover.  Publicly debating groups like Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, etc., as well as a public demonstration in the Temple during Passover were all political acts at their very core in the Jewish context.  There's really no way around this.

I was also intrigued by the way in which one of Jesus' "hard sayings" played out in this interview.  In addition to citing the Lukan beatitude "Blessed are the poor" (which differs from the Matthean "Blessed are the poor in spirt"), Dr. Moss points out that Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to give away all his possessions in order to enter the kingdom (Mark 10//Matt. 19//Luke 18).  O'Reilly accuses her of reading this parable literally, and I couldn't help but think of the crowd listening to Jesus in Life of Brian ("What's so special about the cheesemakers?").  But the Gospels never present this story of Jesus as a parable; they present it as an event from his life.  O'Reilly responds the way almost all readers of this story tend to respond--surely that's not what he really meant.  But the text is on Dr. Moss's side here (assuming the text cares for a second about sides in this debate, which I doubt it does).  The Gospel authors sure seem to think that Jesus meant just what he said, as does the young man who walks away, regardless of how hard that is for us to swallow.  The very point is that this is impossible, which is why the disciples, who are also befuddled at who in the world, then, can be saved, get some further teaching from Jesus.  It's in this context that Jesus claims, "With God, all things are possible" (Mark 10.27//Matt. 10.26//Luke 10.27).  (So no, despite my pious expectations as a sixth-grader, it doesn't mean that if I pray hard enough I can have any girlfriend I want and will grow to 6'4" and play in the NBA.)  Any interpretation of this text that removes the impossible nature of Jesus' demand has a hard time squaring with the text itself because it was meant to point toward an impossibility.  What we do with this theologically and practically is a separate issue, and I'll be the first to own up to having a bank account and failing to give away everything I have, despite calling myself a follower.  But Jesus never said, "Well, of course, I don't really mean that."

Lastly, having watched The O'Reilly Factor who-knows-how-many-times at my parents' house, I was surprised also by how cordial the interview as a whole was.  I thought Dr. Moss did a marvelous job at keeping her cool and staying on the facts.  She represented us Neutestamentlers well and I offer my gratitude.  I think we should give credit to O'Reilly, too, for allowing her the last word.  From what I've seen, he doesn't always do that.  Hey, Jesus scholarship was on one of the most watched shows on television.  That's a good thing for all of us interested in this discussion.  Congrats, Dr. Moss!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Killing Jesus and Candida Moss - Le Donne

See the interview O'Reilly/Moss exchange here. I confess that I have not yet watched this interview nor read Moss' review. I am presently writing a review of Killing Jesus myself and have tried to confine myself from external interference.  Still, the topic deserves to be mentioned on any blog so titled.


Central Park Five and Generational Shifts - Le Donne

I'm a sucker for a good Ken Burns documentary and I've been waiting for his "Central Park Five" to be liberated by Amazon Prime from the constraints of monetary quid pro quo.  Thank you Amazon Prime! Where would I be without your quaint world domination?

The Central Park Five logo"Central Park Five" is a racial justice-motivated reflection on the tragic events related to this New York rape trial.  Burns leads with the confession of Matias Reyes, whose DNA has been definitively linked to the 1989 crime vindicating the five boys convicted and imprisoned.  The five boys are interviewed throughout the documentary, telling stories of coerced confession, loss of childhood, and eventual vindication in 2002.  This is a story (as Burns tells it) of a violent crime in a racially charged city leading to public outrage.  If Burns' compelling version of this narrative wins the day, it is an illustration of how one generation can see a case with such certainty that key elements of the narrative are obscured or suppressed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Guest Blog at Redemption Road - Le Donne

I had the great pleasure to read a remarkable work of fiction titled Codename Hannah. The author is a friend of mine and I was happy to give his draft a once over. I was not prepared at the time to be drawn into a world where meets Edward Snowden meets Breaking Bad.  After reading it, I offered to reflect a bit on the book's themes in a series of blog posts. Here is my first post.

Thank you Daniel Melligan for your wonderfully dark imagination!