BNTC Jesus Seminar (Durham, 2008)
The historical Jesus seminar at the British NT Conference has been posted. Should be good and the topics should spark some heated debated, I'd have thought.
Justin Meggitt (University of Cambridge)
'How did Jesus cure?'
Given the historical likelihood that Jesus of Nazareth was believed by many of his contemporaries to have been a successful healer, how did he effect such cures? It has become common in NT studies to avoid such questions by either declaring them inadmissible or providing supernaturalist explanations which would be unacceptable in any other discipline and are not usually considered appropriate when looking at comparable figures with reputations as healers in antiquity. In recent years scholarship has tended to focus increasingly on how Jesus healed the social experience of illness, whilst largely avoiding the awkward question of why recipients also believed that they had been physically cured of disease. It is true that a number of scholars, often when providing justifications for accepting the historicity of the healing traditions, do venture some non-supernaturalist explanations, alluding to possible psychosomatic factors, but these remarks, although often quite central to their arguments, are inchoate, ill thought through, and surprisingly anecdotal. However, by engaging with more recent anthropological literature we may be able to go some way to providing a more plausible understanding of the processes that led contemporaries to make this assessment about Jesus.
Halvor Moxnes (University of Oslo)
'What was Galilean Identity like? The problem of describing Galilee as a place for the historical Jesus'
Due to renewed historical interest, as well as many recent excavations, there has been an explosion of studies on Galilee, many of them with explicit discussion of their relevance for Historical Jesus studies. In this way the question of how to describe 1st century Galilee has been linked to discussions of how to understand the Historical Jesus in the Third Quest. This paper will investigate the assumptions and presuppositions that underlie the constructions of Galilee in recent studies. In its simplistic form the most important question has been "was Galilee Jewish?"
Recent studies have developed more sophisticated approaches: e.g. in his Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus, (2000), Jonathan L. Reed has a chapter on "The identity of the Galileans: Ethnic and religious considerations," and various arguments are developed one of the most recent collections of studies, edited by J. Zangenberg, H.W. Attridge and D.B. Martin (2007) is titled Religion, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Galilee.
Yet in studies of the historical Jesus and early Christianity the terms "identity" and "ethnicity" are much used, but seldom discussed with regard to their history, development and use in current studies in social anthropology and sociology. To place the studies of 1st century Galilee within a wider context this paper will explore, for example, essentialist versus more process oriented understandings of these terms, and the links between "ethnicity" and "race", which were much used in the 19th and earliest 20th century. The term "nation" as an important identity category belongs also in this context; however, it is not discussed in recent studies of Galilee. Likewise there is a lack of awareness of the role that archaeology and historical descriptions play in constructions and legitimations of modern, national identities, so there is no discussion of the relation between the construction of ancient identities in Galilee and that of contemporary identities.
Respondent: James Crossley (University of Sheffield)
Michael F. Bird (Highland Theological College)
'Jesus the Messiah: A Role Declined? A Response to non-Messianic Jesus'
This paper examines recent arguments against the historical Jesus as a messianic claimant including arguments based on (1) Messiahship inferred from the resurrection; (2) The 'Messianic Secret' as proposed by William Wrede; (3) The disciples' enthusiasm for and the authorities' perception of Jesus as Messiah; (4) An inference from the titulus on the cross; and (5) Scripturizing of the tradition. In sum, this paper endeavours to demonstrate that the case against a messianic is Jesus is far weaker than it appears to be.