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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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.

Session 1:
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.


Session 2:
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)


Session 3:
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.

23 Comments:

Anonymous steph said...

Great, great, and ... oh.

The anticipation of that long flight again is making me queezy.

July 22, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Session 1 - What anthropological literature is Justin Meggitt referring to? Voodoo?

I wouldn't think he need refer to any literature for an explanation of the miraculous in the stories of Jesus.

July 22, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's lots of anthropological literature on healing and with the clear that such healing ISN'T miraculous. Jesus' healings are not necessarily always even portrayed as miraculous and there are similar practices in different cultures which are not miraculous. This different from nature miracles. What's your point, Geoff?

July 22, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

My point is that the 'healings' as portrayed in the gospels are miraculous, aren't they? Making the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, and the dead live surely fall into the category of the miraculous. For the skeptic this barely needs reference to any anthropological literature for an explanation. My favoured explanation is a natural one. It is that the extant miraculous accounts are the exaggerations of gospel editors who were not eyewitnesses of the real recorded events. Thus, in reality the blind stayed blind, the deaf deaf, the lame lame, the dumb dumb and the dead dead. But that didn't mean that something very important for these unfortunates was going on in a very Jewish context. This was not social healing because these folk were still as they were, rejected by the priests from the temple. Yet they rejoiced because they felt they were accepted by God as cleansed. The route was not cleansing by sacrifice, but cleansing of the person's spirit by the Spirit proclaimed by the prophet. What was required of an individual was obedience of the Spirit not the law related to sacrifice. I see the earliest christianity as the outcome of prophetic activity which was largely written out of the history going as far back as Onias and the sanctuary at Leontopolis.

July 22, 2008

 
Blogger Leon said...

I don't have a lot of confidence in the Jesus Seminar. They have always been so hostile to things Jewish. You can see this in some of their members and also in the notes of their translation of the Gospels.

On Jesus healing. People often miss certain things. Jesus heals with spit several times. The healing qualities of spit are also mentioned in rabbinic lit. Yet scholars have always ignored this. Also, there is a passage in the Gospels where Jesus talks about relapses. So he (and his culture, I suspect) knew that not all healings were permanent.

Finally, my own thought on some of this. At least some of the demoniacs must have been a result to severe abuse, probably in childhood. I'm not saying all of them, but it would be surprising if none of them were. I would speculate that the big thing they got from Jesus was a sense that they were loved and a sense of security from being loved. That would stimulate a cure. But did it last after he was gone? I suspect it often did not. Hence the relapses, and, as Jesus observes, relapses were a very real possibility.

Leon Zitzer

July 23, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

there's more than one Jesus Seminar. One is good and one is bad.... I think Leon is talking about the American one?

July 23, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

I think a laboratory analysis would show it wasn't a good idea to spit on (Mk.8:24.) or even put hands on (Mk.8:25) anyone's eyes. These were just an editor's dramatic exaggerations. I seem to recall spitting being frowned upon in the DSS.

More significantly, for two reasons, the prophet, "put his hands ON" (Mk.8:24) on the blind man. Firstly, the person would be regarded as having an unclean spirit by the priests. He probably lived in a/the house of the poor along with others in a similar 'unclean' state. It was his friend's request that the prophet pray for the blind man - I doubt if it was the blind man who "looked up" and "said" (Mk.8:28). In reality, the prophet put his hands on the blind man, looked up and prayed for him.

July 23, 2008

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

Leon: the BNTC historical Jesus seminar is not to be confused with the American Jesus Seminar of Five Gospels, Funk, Westar etc fame. The BNTC seminar is simply a seminar dedicated to historical Jesus issues just as there is a seminar dedicated to synoptic gospels, one for John, one for Acts etc.

Geoff: anon is right, the idea of analysing Jesus' healings and exorcisms in terms of similar things cross culturally is now an established scholarly tradition, so to speak. There are plenty of examples of psycho-somatic cases which echo gospel stories. Whether the gospel healings are historically accurate of course would still have to be established but there is not the philosophical problems associated with nature miracles.

July 23, 2008

 
Blogger Leon said...

My apologies for getting the two seminars confused. I had an acting teacher who used to say that your mistakes are your best friends. I'm always happy to learn something new. I hope this one is much better than our American one.

Still, these topics make me awfully suspicious about whether there is any real progress here. Since the 19th century, asserting that Jesus was from Galilee (a true enough fact) has always been a popular way to make him less Jewish or even not Jewish at all. Ernest Renan was glad to report an ancient rumor that Galileans were not pure Jews. The scholarly goal seems to be to find ways to make Jesus something (Galilean or anything else) which can then be seen as in deep conflict with the "real" Jews from Judea. I think this ulterior motive is always at work.

I will just make one point about Josephus. Josephus is eager to tell us about the sharp differences and conflicts between Pharisees and Sadducees. He never talks about Galileans and Judeans in a comparable way. In fact, he gives many examples of cooperation between the two. Recall that Judah the Galilean led a revolt over a tax that was imposed only on Judea. Josephus himself from the upper class of priests led a band of Galileans in the war against Rome. Are scholars paying attention to any of this evidence? In the UK? The US? Anywhere?

Leon Zitzer

July 24, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

James, when it comes to miracles being reported in other cultures, folk are reporting what they want to, and others are hearing what they want to hear. All very superstitious stuff. It happens today in some church communities. But it is very strange that miracles are not common across all cultures, or all church communities for that matter - and laws of nature are universal, according to Einstein.

Secondly, it is pretty clear from the remanent language that the text of the NT has been engineered to give the impression that miracles occurred, when they did not. The literal text of Mark 8:25has "he was restored" (or simply "was restored") not "his sight was restored" as in the NIV. To me this suggests that the 'restoration' was originally concerned with the man's spirit being cleansed or restored to God. The rest is exaggerrated interpolation.

With their literary skills, the gospel editors knew full well they were writing for a superstitious audience that was easily duped. Modern preachers do the same.

July 24, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

I think we are living in an era when people prefer to believe myth rather than reality. In fact I think we are at a stage where many cannot even discern reality.

July 24, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

...and you believe in your own myth, Geoff, the myth you create.

July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Steven Carr said...

I live in Durham. How come I didn't get an invite?


Session 1:
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?


-------------------------------------

Such is mainstream Biblical scholarship. No question unbegged.

No contemporary of Jesus ever claimed Jesus had been a succesful healer.

Even Paul did not go out on a limb to say that.

As can be seen from Miracles and the Book of Mormon the miracle stories in the NT are as much literary creations as the Book of Mormon.

July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

But Steph, to believe in a 'myth' that Jesus never existed, and that the real prophet of the NT was someone by the name of Judas (who was replaced in his place of leadership) does have some quite good arguments going for it. The former receives barely a mention in the writings attributed to Josephus, and the latter is the character around whom much of those writings hinges - and apprently, somehow, he was even the cause of Roman intervention in Judea. If Josephus admired Judas, his editors were certainly paranoid about him. As for the Gospel of Judas, the writer was well aware of the memory of Judas in the sanctuary, and of the priests being evil.

Secondly it is abundantly clear that much of the NT is the product of secondary creative writing - no myth here.

And thirdly, there are those miracles that James thinks can legitimatley be discussed (he means explained) in cross-cultural terms, never mind the obvious literary capability of the editors to fabricate such. I have never seen any such miracles, have you? So I go with Einstein, the laws of nature are the same throughout the universe - no miracles here, no miracles there, no miracles anywhere. Sorry to be such a killjoy, but that's how I see it. We are on our own sweet own. If the miracles were fabricated, what else in the NT was also? But that doesn't prevent me from thinking there was an original story that was different from that passed on by the tradents - a new word I learned recently from Mark Goodacre.

July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Killjoy? Not likely. You're a wonderful source of amusement.

July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Well Steph, as your comments are ususlly terse, I have no idea what you think or believe. In fact I might ask, who is Steph? You know how much I dislike aliases who are afraid to stick their heads above the parapet.

Stephen Carr amuses me because he seems to dismiss the lot as a complete fabrication. How he justifies that is a mystery. I prefer to think that original Jewish prophetic documents were hijacked by survivors and winners of the war against the Jews, and that these documents were subsequently expanded to create the cult of Jesus complete with miracles. This was to attract adherents who might have been tempted down the more ethereal, but more prophetic-like, gnostic routes. Clearly there was a competition for followers, or more likely subs.

July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

That's OK - if you come to the BNTC, particularly the JS, we can have the honour of meeting Geoff Hudson alias.

July 25, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Long flight! I am thinking it should be honor - a Freudian slip may be after a spell in the UK?. Somehow I don't think you will be there Steph, at least not as Steph.

Any road up, with regard to Session 2, I don't think the prophet went anywhere near Galilee in a month of Sabbaths. The scenes of the real action were moved from the temple as far away as seemed reasonable to the gospel editors -very much like the Flavian historians moved Vespasian's apparent military actions - you know to Jotapata and Gamala - where no-one would know anything about them, and the Flavian historians could have a veritable field day. Now there's some research for you. Prove that Vespasian actually fought battles in Galilee, or Judea for that matter. 'The saviour of the world', Vespasian, came out of Galilee, in the apparent history.

July 25, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

Well Geoff, I will be there and Steph is my name. And although I do travel there often, not only the UK spell correctly.

July 26, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Session 2

So given this great "explosion of studies on Galilee", is there any evidence of Vespasian actually fighting battles there? Is there archaeological evidence? Or are we just reading makebelieve in the writings attributed to Josephus. Thus we are led to believe that while Vespasian was sweating away in Galilee and Judea, his mate Nero was on holiday in Greece (where I am going tomorrow with a few family members). But in 66, Nero apparently went to Greece with a whole army, that is according to Dio who described Nero's army thus:"large enough, if it had been a hostile host, to have subdued both Parthians and all other nations." So was Nero's holiday just another piece of Flavian propaganda to cover-up the truth about who actually fought the war in Judea? Who did actually take all the Judean fortresses before Roman forces were let into Jerusalem?

July 26, 2008

 
Anonymous steph said...

I just accidentally came across photographic proof of the existence of Geoff (who doubts my existence) while searching for something else. I too have photo proof of my existence, up yonder in Oxford a few months ago, on Mark's blog. Not that I care but the irony was that I had doubted the existence of Geoff.

August 01, 2008

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Session 3

The lad has real problems, doesn't he Steph (the best looking in the photo)? He avoids the issue of the messiah as in the DSS and seeks to present a damp squib who apparently turned over a few tables in the temple and rode into Jerusalem on a donkey - a beast of burden that was more than likely used for the benign task of carrying palm branches cut during Succoth (might as well get real). But I can understand the prophet driving animals out of the temple, because he was against animal sacrifice as a means of cleansing from sin - sacrifice that failed to change behaviour, particularly of the priests among whom one should really be looking for the messiah responsible for the Roman intervention. A superb candidate is Ananus the son of Ananus (or Ananias), the destroyer of James. Ananus is an excellent match for the type of messiah expected by the DSS.

August 06, 2008

 
Blogger Anders Branderud said...

"Historical Jesus"?!?

Just using this contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes your Christian-blinkered agenda--dependent upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.

While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.

Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and ("spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.

There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with "30-99 C.E.").

Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.

Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.

What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period... in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.

The question is, now that you've been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?

February 16, 2010

 

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