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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Jesus in Cultural Complexity

Via a very pleasant time at St Andrews, it's time for another installment of the Olso based project, Jesus in Cultural Complexity. All the details and links can be found here. The topic/title of this conference is 'Holy land as Homeland? Models for constructing the historic landscapes of Jesus'. Here s the conference outline:

What role do modern images of “land”, “landscape”, “nation”, “ethnicity ” etc. play in constructions of the landscapes of Jesus: Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine? There have been many discussions of how to describe e.g. Galilee at the time of Jesus, but few attempts to identify the models, ideological and cultural understandings of landscapes/ lands/ nations that underlie these descriptions.

It is the purpose of this seminar to undertake such an attempt, the goal is to combine substantial constructions and theoretical analyses. The presentations of Galilee/Palestine can serve as test-cases of many broader and more general discussions. They illustrate many of the issues that come up in discussions of archaeology and nationalism, of landscape and memory and identification for various groups with attachment to the same land.

In biblical studies landscape and space have recently become important as analytical as well as constructive categories, supplementing the traditional focus on time. This has led to an interaction between students of biblical literature and fields where place and space have been studied for a long time: geography, philosophy, cultural theory. Moreover, in the study of the social context of biblical studies in the 19th and 20th centuries there is also a growing awareness of how presentations of the “Holy land”, a very popular object of tourism, study and devotion, were shaped by pious memories and contemporary ideologies.

The papers are divided in several groupings: 1) present constructions of the space of Jesus in the Gospels/space in other Christian or Jewish texts, 2) constructions of Holy land(s) as homeland in the pre-modern and modern (19th century) period, and 3) post-modern period. 4) The historical and ideological context, particularly of 18th and 19th century Jesus/Bible studies.

And here's what's what:


Thursday, March 5:
9:00: Welcome and introduction by Halvor Moxnes
9:15-10:15: Leif E. Vaage, Emmanuel College, Toronto: Diogenes of Capernaum: Jesus the Cynic in borderland Galilee.
10:30-11:30: Karen Wenell, University of Glasgow: Land and Kingdom: Models, Boundaries and Responsibility.
11:45: Rene Baergen, Toronto School of Theology, Jesus on Water. In and Out of Place in the Lake Region of Galilee.
12:45: Lunch
14:15: Lecture at the Faculty of Theology: Burke O. Long, Bowdoin College: A real Jesus in a fake Jerusalem? Florida's Holy Land theme park. Discussion and coffee with faculty and students invited.
16:00-17:00. Liv Ingeborg Lied, PhD University of Bergen: Other lands - other stories? Reading Land in 2 Baruch.
17:15-18:15: Michael Jones, Dep. Of Geography, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU): Stiklestad and the cult of St. Olaf: Constructing a national-religious Landscape.
18:15-19:00. Concluding discussion of day one.

Friday March 6:
09.15-10:15: Ward Blanton, The University of Glasgow: The Politics of Homelessness in and Around Paul.
10:30-11:45. Adam G. Beaver, Harvard University: Nihil sub sole novum? Early Modern Approaches to the Holy Land.
12.00-13:00: Halvor Moxnes: Homeland and Holy Land – constructions of Galilee in the 19th century.
13.00-14:00: Lunch
14.00-15:00: Keith Whitelam, University of Sheffield, on the cartography of Palestine, 19th c. (title to be discussed)
15:15-16:15: James Crossley, University of Sheffield: Are Politicians Any Different When They Play Away from Home? Historical Jesus and the Land according to Recent British Members of Parliament.
16:15-16:45: Coffee-break
16.45:-19:00: Historical and ideological contexts for (18th)19th century constructions of Jesus and the Holy land.
16:45-17:20: Jonathan Birch, The University of Glasgow: The Road to Reimarus: History, Morality and Political Theology.
17:20-18:00: Todd Penner, Austin College: Landscapes of Nationalism and the Formations of Biblical Scholarship.
18:00-19:00: Concluding discussion of day two.


Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Who pays for this?

March 04, 2009

Anonymous The Hud said...

Not you. Why?

March 05, 2009

Blogger Leon said...

If you use the expression "Holy Land" in the title of the program, aren't you prejudicing the discusssion in a certain direction? Maybe "Holy Land" is not the best way to sum up how ancient Jews felt about their land. Maybe "Holy Land" has a very different connotation today.

The goal of all good scholarship is to get a fresh and clear look at the evidence. Terminology only (or mostly) tends to mess up any fresh look. Sometimes I think the purpose of terminology is to blind us to the actual evidence. Throw all terminology away and it is surprising how many new things you can see.

Leon Zitzer

March 05, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Dear The Hud Said: Quite frankly, I don't see why anyone should pay for what appears to be a jolly about high-brow topics that add little to knowledge. It is the modern fashion to contemplate other's navels instead of getting down to the nitty gritty of actually finding evidence in the sciences that might lead to real understandings, particularly say in archaeology, languages, engineering and the natural sciences. I really can't get my head around any of this social and memory stuff.

March 05, 2009

Blogger James Crossley said...

I'll be quick, not enought time...

Leon, you've missed the point. Part of the idea is to critique the term 'holy land'.

Geoff, funding from Norway. As for the rest I don't know what you are talking about. You'll have to give me a concrete example of the details of the papers and how they don't contribute anything.

March 05, 2009

Blogger Roland said...

Wise people, those Norwegians - put away a tidy sum from all that oil. Wish I was there (Norway or the conference, or both)

March 06, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

James, I am currently referring to a book called Sacrificing Truth - Archaeology and the Myth of Masada written by Nachman Ben-Yehuda who is professor and dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Hebrew University. It is a brilliant piece of investagative journalism - a good model to my mind, for the kind of thing this Cultural Complexity thing might be about. My only problem with Ben- Yehuda is his lack of questioning of the writings attributed to Josephus, but that seems to be common to most scholars. Take a look at the book and see for your self.

March 08, 2009

Blogger Leon said...

I'm glad to hear that some scholars will be questioning whether 'holy land' is an appropriate term. But this does conjure up the amusing spectacle of scholars holding a series of conferences for each and every term. What would future conferences bring? Perhaps:

Is the 'Law' good or bad?

Did Galileans have a 'Passion' for 'antitheses'?

Was the 'Cleansing' really in the spring?

Does the 'betrayal' make us happy?

I do not really care whether scholars correct any of this terminology. These would be just piecemeal corrections. Scholars are missing the point. What really matters is to understand the deep forces that push scholars (in the 21st century, no less!) to keep using Christian theological terminology and concepts in the study of ancient Jewish history and the NT. Examining that problem would be very much to the point. Will scholars ever take the plunge? I'm not holding my breath.

Leon Zitzer

March 09, 2009

Blogger James Crossley said...

Leon, again you're missing the point. The discussion included all sorts of things about the ways in which ancient and modern people (including C21) use (or not) and construct land, holy land etc, the social, political, theological etc trends behind these uses and constructions and so on. Sometimes this focuses on NT scholarship, sometimes it does not. Re-read the blurb. If not, and while I'm not a fan of relying on faith, but think about what Roland said: 'Wise people, those Norwegians'.

Actually, shame you weren't there Roland: your kind of thing.

March 09, 2009

Blogger Leon said...

I got the point long ago. I read your description of what would be presented the first time. Scholars are myopic. What else is new? Is dissent at all allowed in NT scholarship? Is there any academic freedom here? Judging from what goes on everywhere, the answer is no.

I hope someone discussed at this conference that some 19th century scholars were obsessed with Galilee because they thought it could be a way to make Jesus less Jewish. If someone did, that's good. Did anyone suggest that the same thing is going on today? Or is that a forbidden topic? Is there any real freedom to dissent here?

Judging from your own blog, the answer is no. As you know, I was recently berated here for making a very simple, rational point (you cannot use an accusation to prove whether the accusation had any truth to it). The abuse and hostility aimed at me was an attempt to intimidate me, and anyone who would listen to me, into silence. It was a direct attack on academic freedom. You were silent. On your own blog yet! You had no objection to this attack on the freedom to think differently. That shows a complicity in suppressing at least the type of dissenting view I represent. And my view is a highly rational one.

On another one of your posts, you asked me a direct question. You said you could not see any connection between the Bible and democracy, and why would it take 1500 years (until Tyndale) for this connection to be made visible, and you asked me to provide examples of democracy from the Bible. I responded with evidence. I pointed out that the relationship of Christianity to democracy in the Bible is a separate question, but the first question is whether the Hebrew Bible had a democratic effect (due process, constitutional government, majority rule) on ancient Jewish culture. I gave specific examples. Your response was silence. Is that because this approach to ancient Jewish culture has been sadly neglected by Christian scholars and would threaten the traditional story of how Jesus died? Silence is another way to suppress academic freedom.

In both these instances, you greatly missed the point. I expect this sort of nonsense from Sir Wrong and Steph, but not from you. I thought you were better than that. I thought you might respect evidence and reason. (I have since come up with more examples of due process in the Bible and ancient Jewish culture.) To paraphrase Frantz Fanon on blacks under white colonial rule, it seems that the message of Christian scholars to ancient Jews is: Turn Christian or disappear.

There is really only one major point that anyone should get and John Lennon got it right: "Just give me some truth." But NT scholars observe a different standard: Make me feel good, make me feel the superiority of Christian categories. The problem does not just apply to me and my work. Scholars have been doing this to Haim Cohn and William Klassen — i.e., using silence and ridicule as ways to intimidate anyone who might hear something rational in what they were saying. Intimidation of any sort is an ugly thing in academia. The point is that there is no academic freedom in NT scholarship. The "freedom" to tow the party line is not freedom, it's power. Freedom has meaning only if it applies to dissent and that seems to be suppressed at every scholarly conference and in every book and in every blog.

Leon Zitzer

March 15, 2009

Anonymous James Crossley said...

Leon, you've finally got my attention. There's no conspiracy and you haven't seen through the matrix. One reason for me not engaging with blog comments is very simple: I am extremely busy and this is shown by the fact that I don't post regularly. There are other reasons. I'm not interested in Judas at the moment. Please feel free to argue all you want but I can't referee arguments in, er, a blog comments section. If someone offends you, you'll have to defend yourself I'm afraid.

Oh and on democracy, I missed that I'm afraid (honestly). I checked it and I don't think you have supplied any serious evidence so as I have to be careful with my time, I won't bother with that one. Of course, I might just be working for The Man...

March 16, 2009

Blogger Leon said...

You have missed the point, Dr, Crossley. Completely. I was not complaining about any offense to me. I don't need you or anyone else to defend me. I can handle lightweights like Sir Wrong and Steph. What is offensive is their attack on academic freedom and your complacency and complicity with it by your silence. They deliberately use highly abusive tactics to intimidate dissent — in both the dissenter and anyone listening in who might be sympathetic. In a more polite way, the same has been done to Haim Cohn and William Klassen. This is not academic freedom. This suppression of dissent and the evidence to support it is ugly. But if that's your choice to go along with that sort of thing, then that's your choice.

Then you conjure up some kind of fantasy about conspiracy theorists. My point is simpler: There is a widespread prejudice in NT scholarship which mangles the evidence. It afffects the overwhelmingly majority of scholars. E.g., a majority (probably better than 90%) of historical Jesus scholars misrepresent ancient Judaism as being mainly about Temple, rituals, purity (sometimes they call these the identifying markers and sometimes they throw in other things like circumcision, dietary laws, territory). When a scholar as good as Elaine Pagels writes that ancient Jewish culture was defined by its rituals, we have a serious problem that someone so good can make such a biased and false remark.

A much better description of ancient Jewish culture is concern for constitutional government, due process, open debate with God, justice, and peace. You would be hard put to find any scholars who will emphasize this aspect of ancient Judaism. And if you could find one or two (for which I would be grateful; E.P. Sanders mught be a partial exception), it would still prove my point that better than 90% of scholars suppress this information. Is this academic freedom?

There is plenty of information for these things in the Bible, in rabbinic lit, and in Josephus — and in Jesus in the Gospels. I gave only a small taste of it on your other post. You make a blanket dismissal of it all with a wave of your hand. This desire to re-write and disappear the evidence of ancient Jewish culture is akin to corporate greed. It knows no bounds and will stoop to any low level to reach its goal which is a prejudiced understanding of 1st century Jews. If that is your choice to erase evidence, that is your choice.

I present specific evidence. You engage in blanket denial and a little bit of mockery. Everyone spends from what they've got.

Leon Zitzer

March 21, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leon: I don't comment on blogs but this time I feel I have to. James made it clear he was busy. Fair enough, I'm sure he is. Forgive me for speaking on his behalf, but that is not complicity in shutting down debate and he has no problem allowing all sorts of often quite crazy views on his blog.

Put it this way Leon, if he is too busy, he can't engage much and that too bad but that's life. That's one plausible option. Or if he is too busy, he can't engage therefore he's complict in shutting down academic debate. That's pushing it a bit Leon. Leon, I mean this kindly, but you ramble on, miss points and respond by (wrongly) claiming others miss points when they don't and making absurd allegations about academic freedom on a blog which is hardly (no offence bloggers) the most important forum. As far as I can see you missed every point James has raised and then come back firing with over-the-top alleagations. These allegations are made against someone who admits to being too busy yet you turn this into something against you personally. If it is against you, it is against Geoff Hudson, Steph, Bishop Wrong and all the others he doesn't get to responding. You also present arguments on topics that are not relevant then whinge when no one responds.

Leon, I mean this in the spirit of open discussion, you are rambling on and on and making no sense to anyone while 'endlessly talking about 'good scholarship'.

People may have been harsh to you - and I'm sorry about that - but James' silence is neither here nor there. He's right: respond to them instead of making absurd allegations against James because he is silent.

Instead of behaving like a spoilt child when no one will listen to your arguments, run your own blog. If you've already got one, ask people to look at it and publicize it. You certainly do not help yourself with the way you behave on others' blogs, that's for sure.

Concerned Academic

March 21, 2009

Anonymous AnotherBlogCommentingNutter said...

Leon: 'What is offensive is their attack on academic freedom and your complacency and complicity with it by your silence.'

WTF???? A touch OTT don't you think?

More questions for Leon. Why don't you answer this:

'One reason for me not engaging with blog comments is very simple: I am extremely busy and this is shown by the fact that I don't post regularly.'

Should everything be dropped to stand against being 'complicit' in such 'attacks' (again, Leon, WTF!??!)?

Leon: you really do not help yourself by going way, way, way over the top. And by not having a bloody clue about what's going on. I mean, wasn't this discussion meant to be about home land and holy land in modern constructions rather than Leon's hobby horse comments? Come on Leon, get a sense of perspective mate or least publish your ideas in some NT journal.

March 21, 2009

Blogger Leon said...

I never complained when no one responds to me. And harsh comments are not the same as attempts at intimidation. I pointed out that this does not just affect me. And if by things that make no sense, you mean that my comment that an accusation cannot be used as evidence for the truth of the accusation, then you are proving my point that academia has shut down rational debate.

If standing up for truthful discussion about the evidence of ancient Jewish culture is another thing that makes no sense to you, then that is your pure arrogance talking. I have never failed to be anything but rational and have behaved decently to all concerned. If you do not like it when scholarly arrogance is exposed, I suggest that you just suck it up and stop crying about it.

Leon Zitzer

Leon Zitzer

March 21, 2009

Anonymous hahahahaha said...

Oh Leon - get over yourself. Who is being arrogant? You are, Leon. Nobody is 'crying' except maybe you. I think you owe James an apology. If I were him, I'd delete your irrelevant comments. Then you could accuse me til the cows come home of denying 'academic' freedom on your OWN blog.

March 22, 2009

Blogger James Crossley said...

Leon, I'll indulge you for the last time because I'm curious how you'd answer some questions which you have avoided.

1. how am I complicit in shutting down academic freedom and debate because I am too busy to engage in blog comments? Should I drop everything and do...er, what? And if I am to drop everythign, I'll need a good excuse why I would have to waste so much time moderating blog comments and I'd love your help on this.

This was an interesting comment:
'If standing up for truthful discussion about the evidence of ancient Jewish culture is another thing that makes no sense to you, then that is your pure arrogance talking.'
So could you answer these:
2. What made you say 'If standing up for truthful discussion about the evidence of ancient Jewish culture is another thing that makes no sense to you'? What made you raise this suggestion? There is no evidence I know of that it might be true and plenty of evidence it isn't so why raise it? It seems to me to be as useful as saying 'If supporting the murder of babies....'

This too:
3)'If you do not like it when scholarly arrogance is exposed, I suggest that you just suck it up and stop crying about it.'
Give me some evidence of a) the exposed scholarly arrogance b) not liking it and c) crying about it.

Now Leon could you answer those questions? No diversions on other issues and no going off on one. Just the three issues raised and these three issues alone. Go on...

March 22, 2009

Blogger Leon said...

I will be glad to answer your questions Dr. Crossley, though I think you could drop the condescending tone.

1) As to academic freedom, there is a very hostile atmosphere towards any rational disagreement with certain mainstream ideas concerning the death of Jesus (relating to Judas, Jewish leaders, etc.) I made it clear that I was not complaining about mere harshness. The severe abuse and invective from people like Sir Wrong and Steph is clearly intended to intimidate anyone who expresses dissent and anyone who would listen to this dissent. I never even considered for a moment that their comments should be deleted or censored in any manner. They have the right to be obnoxious. What I believe is that when such intimidating tactics are employed on your blog, you should say something about it. I think that if people responded as Wrong and Steph did at a scholarly conference, the moderator would say something about it and ask for a more decent level of discussion. That is what you should do when such extreme hostility takes place on your blog.

Now I realize you are very busy. Okay. But you do join in with comments from time to time. We could quibble the day and night long about whether some of the things you choose to respond to are trivial or significant. But outright attempts at intimidation and pure, undiluted hostility are pretty significant and require some comment from you, if it takes place on your blog. And consider what brought on their wrath. I made a fairly logical point that a record of an accusation such as those at Luke 6:16 and Mark 14:1 cannot be used to prove the truth of the accusation because they could have been the result of slander; evidence outside and apart from the accusation is what counts. If I had said this at a conference and it elicited the kind of response I got here, the moderator would have been quick to jump in. Their attack on me was indeed an attack on freedom of rational dissent. This is a serious matter.

Your next 2 questions are a result of some confusion, perhaps partly caused by me. When I spoke about what makes no sense to you, I was not referring to you. I was referring to the anonymous blogger who said none of my comments make any sense to him. The comment in your 3rd question was also addressed to that anonymous commenter or the other one, and not to you. But I should say one more thing about your second question on evidence for Jewish culture.

Although I was talking to the anonymous guy, it was partly prompted by your recent response to me. I was always impressed that your view of ancient Jewish culture and Jesus' Jewishness is better than most scholars. If you recall, I have commended your work on previous occasions (and even in a book I am currently writing where I hold you up as an example of one who bucks the general scholarly trend to make Jesus anti-Torah and anti-Temple; you deserve all the credit in the world for that).

But on that other post, you asked me for examples of democracy in the Bible. I responded with a few and indicated one which had an effect on rabbinic culture to promote due process and constitutional government (I prefer these terms to the abstract 'demoncracy'). I even provided one example offered by a professor of law. (And there is much more.) You did not respond, which is your right, and I never complained about it, though I thought it odd since you had specifically asked me about it.

What got to me in your comments above was your response that you now took a look at it and you made the rather cavalier, blanket response that you were not persuaded. Well, that bothered me because 1) that is hardly a good response to specific evidence and 2) it is one of the atrocious aspects of NT scholarship that this aspect of ancient Jewish culture is erased by better than 90% of scholars. Due process, constitutional government, open debate with God, majority rule in debate, justice, peace — these are the really significant features of 1st century Jewish culture (and you can see some of it in Jesus' remarks in the Gospels). Yet 90 to 98% of scholars harp on some assortment of Temple, rituals, purity (e.g., Elaine Pagels, Ben Witherington III, Steve Mason, William Arnal, John Elliott, and so many more; E.P. Sanders is a partial exception to this bad trend). This is an outrageous misrepresentation of ancient Jewish culture. I was a little shocked that you could not see the problem here. Do we do this to Greek culture? The Greeks had temples, animal sacrifice, rituals, and no one reduces Greek culture to these things as the above scholars do for Judaism. The great Greek accomplishments are in language (philosophy, drama, etc.). What is good for the Greeks is good for the Jews. The great Jewish accomplishments are also in language, i.e., oral Torah, i.e. due process, etc. I was shocked that you did not get that.

But I apologize for the confusion that resulted about who I responding to above. The cowardice of anonymous commenters is a bit much sometimes, so I aimed a few barbs at them.

Leon Zitzer

March 26, 2009


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