Baker Academic

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hilde Moller and the Vermes Quest—Chris Keith

Readers of the Jesus Blog may be interested in this new book in the Library of New Testament Studies.  Hilde Brekke Moller has written the first full assessment of Geza Vermes's impact on historical Jesus studies.


From Bloomsbury T&T Clark:

About The Vermes Quest

Geza Vermes is a household name within the study of the historical Jesus, and his work is associated with a significant change within mainstream Jesus research, typically labelled 'the third quest'. Since the publication of Jesus the Jew in 1973, many notable Jesus scholars have interacted with Vermes's ideas and suggestions, yet their assessments have so far remained brief and ambiguous. Hilde Brekke Moller explores the true impact of Vermes's Jesus research on the perceived change within Jesus research in the 1980s, and also within third quest Jesus research, by examining Vermes's work and the reception of his work by numerous Jesus scholars.


Moller looks in particular depth at the Jewishness of Jesus, the Son-of-Man problem, and Vermes's suggestion that Jesus was a Hasid, all being aspects of Vermes's work which have attracted the most scholarly attention. Moller's research-historical approach focuses not only on the leading scholars of the field such as E.P. Sanders, J.D. Crossan, J.P. Meier and C.A. Evans, but also sheds light on underplayed aspects of previous research, and responds to the state of affairs for recent research by challenging the rhetoric of current historical Jesus scholarship.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Part I: Introduction
Ch. 1: The Significance of Geza Vermes for Jesus Research
Ch. 2: Vermes and Jesus Research
Ch. 3: The History of Jesus Research: Mapping the Quest(s)
Ch. 4: Vermes' Jewish Jesus (1973)
Ch. 5: The Significance of Jesus the Jew (The 1970s and 1980s)
Ch. 6: The Jewishness of Jesus Before Vermes
Ch. 7: The Significance of Vermes' Work on the Son of Man
Ch. 8: Final Considerations on the Jewishness of Jesus Within Jesus Research
Part II: The Significance of Vermes' Hasid Theory
Ch. 9: Vermes's Hasid Theory and its Precursors
Ch. 10: The Hasid Theory Within Jesus Research After 1973
Ch. 11: Hanina Ben Dosa Heals From a Distance: A Case of Christian Influences Upon Talmudic Judaism?
Part III: Conclusions and Outlook
Ch. 12: Conclusion
Ch. 13: Outlook
Bibliography
Index

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bultmannian Backlash

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book (an intro-level treatment) on Jesus. This is a short assessment of Eta Linnemann's reaction to Bultmann.

It would difficult to overstate the influence that Bultmann had on students of the Gospels, Christian origins, and the historical Jesus. Scholars endeavored to stratify the layers of the Gospels to discover what was original to Jesus, what was part of the earliest Christian preaching, or what was invented much later. The project was called “Form Criticism” and promised to apply a more scientific system of classification for the traditions of Jesus and the Gospels. For generations, historical-critical scholars were either motivated by Form Criticism or set against it in reaction to its success.

In some ways, Bultmann was a victim of his own success. Two related consequences of his project were: (1) Form Criticism became preoccupied with the social settings of the Church. Almost every word attributed to Jesus was thought to reveal something about a hypothetical community. Moreover, these communities were thought to be highly creative; they invented a mythology of Jesus based on their own religious experiences and social concerns. Rather than reconstructing a historical figure, these scholars began to reconstruct the imaginations of hypothetical communities. (2) Rather than making the “essence” of Jesus more attractive to modern folk, Bultmann became a villain to many Christians. His theories were so compelling that many people of faith had a visceral reaction to him. Some among the hyper-conservative rejected historical study altogether. This was the case with one of his own students: Eta Linnemann.

Eta Linnemann’s early work on the parables and passion of Jesus was much in line with her mentor’s project. She set out to explain the social settings that gave rise to the stories. The sayings of Jesus (for the most part) were composed by and for the early Christians. Supernatural accounts within the Gospels were wholesale invention. Linnemann did well in academia. Her books were widely read and she took a Professorship at Philipps University in Marburg. Indeed, she felt that her research was a service to God. But Linnemann had a crisis of conscience. After years of historical training and form-critical research, she concluded that no meaningful truth could come from her professional life. Worse, her research had created an obstacle to Christian preaching. She published the following reflection in 1985:


Today I know that I owe those initial insights to the beginning effects of God's grace. At first, however, what I realized led me into profound disillusionment. I reacted by drifting toward addictions which might dull my misery. I became enslaved to watching television and fell into an increasing state of alcohol dependence. My bitter personal experience finally convinced me of the truth of the Bible's assertion: “Whoever finds his life will lose it” (Matt. 10:39). At that point God led me to vibrant Christians who knew Jesus personally as their Lord and Savior. I heard their testimonies as they reported what God had done in their lives. Finally God himself spoke to my heart by means of a Christian brother's words. By God's grace and love I entrusted my life to Jesus.[1]

By her own words, Linnemann had “turned Evangelical.” By entrusting her life to Jesus, she was pulled from depression, idleness, and alcoholism. By any measure, her conversion transformed her with highly positive results. She, however, adopted an adversarial relationship with her past including her previous relationship with Jesus.

Linnemann spiritual encounter with Jesus, as she saw it, forced her to recant and repent from her former profession. She declared her historical study to be sinful and derided her former publications, “I regard everything that I taught and wrote before I entrusted my life to Jesus as refuse.”[2] She threw her books and articles away and invited her readers to do the same. Her new existential relationship with Jesus convinced her to throw away her previous portrait.

In my judgment, Linnemann’s experience echoes many students and seminarians who encounter historical Jesus research. It is common for these students to either embrace historical study (as Linnemann did in her early life) or choose an almost anti-intellectual path whereby faith and history compete (as she did in her later life). But it must be said that Linnemann’s particular reaction to her former life would not have been possible without a keen intellectual capacity to critique her own method. Her post-conversion publications take a bitter and hostile tone against university culture and historical-critical study more generally.

While her tone and rhetoric are extreme, Linnemann made an astute and necessary observation. The historian can only ever disguise her/his ideology with a veneer of objectivity. She argued that historical-critical study is not a method; it is an ideology rife with prejudice. Certainly she offers us a partial explanation for why historians continue to project their own biases and ideals onto Jesus.

While it would be misleading to label her as “postmodern”, Linnemann teaches us one of the most important lessons of the postmodern critique: scientific study tends to break down what it observes. The modern tendency is to parse, reduce, classify, and utilize. But what happens when the modern, critical eye turns inward? What happens when the intellectual mind begins to parse, reduce, classify, and utilize itself? The inevitable result is that we begin to critique the criticism.



[1] Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology: Reflections of a Bultmannian Turned Evangelical (Trans. Robert W. Yarbrough; Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990), 18.
[2] Linnemann, Historical Criticism, 20.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Memory Studies Association—Chris Keith

Some readers of the Jesus Blog with an interest in memory studies may like to know about the Memory Studies Association, recently launched by Aline Sierp, Jenny Wuestenberg, and Jeffrey Olick. 

They have a website at www.memorystudiesassociation.org
and are getting ready to have a major conference in Copenhagen in January.  Although the deadline has formally passed, I have word that they're still accepting some proposals for papers:

Second Annual Conference of the Memory Studies Association
Copenhagen, 14-16 December 2017
Founded last year in Amsterdam, the Memory Studies Association (MSA) aims at institutionalizing memory studies as a research field that is able to provide fundamental knowledge about the importance and function of memories in the public and private realm. The MSA’s objective is to provide a central forum for developing, discussing, and exchanging ideas about the methodology and theory of the inter- and multi-disciplinary field of memory studies.
By addressing crucial questions about the challenges and future of memory studies, this year’s conference will continue the fruitful debates that began in Amsterdam. A starting point of our discussions is to further define the ‘third wave’ of memory studies: One of the central problems of memory studies today is to adjust to the increasing heterogeneity of remembering without losing sight of national and local memory formations. Even in our globalized world, legal and mental borders are far from dissolved. The growing number of nationalist movements in Europe point to the continued virility of the national framework of remembrance.
This conference wants to address “memory unbound” as well as specific personal, familial or national memories and their mutual interrelations. It seeks answers to questions such as: How can memory studies continue to conceptualize the deterritorialized, fluid and transnational aspects of collective memory without abolishing the validity of the founding ideas of memory studies? Acknowledging the fact that memories relate not only to the presence of the past but also to imaginations of the future, how can we define the productive power of memory? Should memory studies merely be perceived as descriptive or should it also have an impact on actual political debates?
Confirmed keynote speakers and participants of this conference include: Marianne Hirsch (Columbia University), filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer (“The Act of Killing” and “The Look of Silence”), Jan Gross (Princeton University), as well as Ann Rigney (University of Utrecht), Fionnuala Dillane (University College of Dublin), Stef Craps (University of Ghent), Daniel Levy (Stony Brook University, New York), Siobhan Kattago (University of Tartu), Astrid Erll (Goethe-University Frankfurt), Jeffrey Olick (University of Virginia), Emilie Pine (University College of Dublin), Barbara Törnquist-Plewa (University of Lund), William Hirst (The New School, New York), Wulf Kansteiner (University of Aarhus).
 The Memory Studies Association aims to be the central forum for scholars from around the world and across disciplines who are interested in memory studies. Its goal is to further establish and extend the status of memory studies as a field.  As such, this second meeting of the association invites all those interested in being part of this important emerging enterprise. As an interdisciplinary forum for memory studies, we warmly welcome contributions from various research fields and explicitly invite transdisciplinary approaches.
Submissions of papers and panels can address but are not limited to:
  • Memory of migration of refugees and workers
  • Traumatic memories
  • Ethics of memory
  • Memory and the media
  • Memory and the global
  • Entangled or multidirectional memories.
  • Neuropsychological approaches to memory
  • Gendered memories
  • Geography and the memory of sites/spaces
  • Sociological approaches to memory
  • Memory in the digital age
  • Memory and cultural heritage
  • Teaching memory studies
We would like to encourage both the submission of “traditional” academic papers and full panels, as well as innovative proposals for workshops, film screenings, roundtable discussions and more. Please contact the organizers if you would like to discuss ideas or have questions.
The submission system is now open and will close on 1 July 2017.
You can find more information about the conference and venue at: http://www.memorystudiesassociation.org/call-for-papers-2017/.
 Further questions can be addressed to Tea Sindbæk Andersen nxr333@hum.ku.dk or to Jessica Ortner ortner@hum.ku.dk

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Eyeball Theology

Last week in my class on Matthew's Gospel, mine eyes beheld a wonderful student presentation on the form and function of righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount. This got us discussing the following saying:

"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light" (Matt 6:22).

In keeping with the view that purity is represented by what a person projects, we discussed the ancient view that eyes (rather than receiving light) project light. In this way, Jesus reminds his audience that eyes are literally biological lamps. This is somewhat different than our modern reading of the passage. The modern reader is inclined to think that the eye functions as a "lamp" insomuch as it illuminates our vision. Cf. the New Living Translation: "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. . . ."

The discussion led me to this very helpful summary complete with a few sources.