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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Some Responses to Jesus Project(s)

There have been a couple of responses and I have a bit of spare time and, unusually for time and place, a wireless connection so...

1) Not all historical Jesus scholars operate with the "great man" view as evidenced by John Meier's "Marginal Jew" and Gerd Theissen's somewhat illusive "Galilean".

Actually, I think Meier is an important example of individual and great man history (so long as we don't take the great man too literally). The multi-volume project explicitly based on fact finding is a spectacular example of individualism and the individual as prime mover so to speak. This is very much a great man history (which can include those constructed as outsiders in their time).

(2) You cannot "explain" Christianity simply by reference to its socio-historical context and surrounding cultural currents because sooner or later you still need to do business with the text of the Gospels themselves: we need biography and sociology in our historical reconstruction! I assume that James would agree with me here, why else would you learn Aramaic unless you're prepared to go logion for logion and pericope for pericope.

Yes, certainly. I said challenge and test the dominant view and I think this is the key point. But yes. Also, we could look at broader issues on basically agreed points and try to explain...

(3) I also plea to James to be equally "deconstructive" to the Jesus Project as he is to other bastions of scholarship on the subject matter because he rightly recognizes how theologically and ideologically loaded all historical Jesus scholarship can be.

Yes, I have no problem with that. Indeed, my kind of thing actually. So yes, yes, yes. It may take a bit more time and hindsight before anything meaningful can be said. As a guess this Project looks like (as I think Chilton suggests) more a product of the harder secular/religious issue particularly in the States (and think also of Dawkins et al) more typical of this decade. Of course, as ever, this doesn't mean right or wrong but it is already possible to do a bit of historical and cultural contextualisation and deconstructing (sort of).

Interestingly, the Aramaic issue has been picked up by both Mike (comments on previous post) and Tom Verenna (I'll respond to his pretty detailed points in due course). I didn't really mean to stress this issue too much other than agree with Chilton so I won't add too much, other than refer, for now, to comments on Tom's blog

Jesus Project(s)

There's been a bit of discussion of the Jesus Project on the blogs and articles on Bible and Interpretation, including one by me (vaguely propagandist but who cares?). Sadly, I wasn't able to attend the big meeting so here are my suggestions for ways in which the Jesus Project can develop:

Jesus Projects and a Different Kind of Minimalism (Perhaps)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Temporary NT Post at Sheffield

I'll advertise this...

Lecturer (Part-time, Fixed-term) Biblical Studies

Ref No R06973

Closing Date:
19th January, 2009

£36,532 per annum pro rata.

The postholder will design, prepare and deliver teaching programmes including preparing and supervising different modes of assessment for the following modules;

* Level 1 Decoding the Bible: New Testament
* Level 1 The Biblical World (co-taught)
* Level 2 Paul and his World
* MA New Testament Language and Texts

Candidates will be able to demonstrate appropriate experience in teaching all levels of undergraduate and Masters Students. At level 3, supervision of a number of undergraduate dissertations on New Testament Topics will also be expected. The successful candidate will also adopt a pastoral role for a number of tutees and will undertake all relevant administration and assessment of modules taught and contribute as appropriate to departmental administration. Candidates should possess or be working towards a PhD in a relevant subject area (or have equivalent experience). The post is available 20 hours per week with a start date of 2 February 2009 and an end date of 30 June 2009.

Click here (jobs.ac.uk) for all the relevant links, details and contacts.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The End of Wrong?

Is it the end of NT Wrong? I hope not. In the words of KC and the Sunshine Band, Please Don't Go! There are many good reasons for Wrong to continue (arguably the smartest blog around is one) but one of the best has to be the relatively high level of swear words. But remember, Wrong's finished before and came back so there is hope...

Top 50 Ancient History Blogs

This blog and other biblioblogs were included in the Top 50 Ancient History Blogs. However, the link has gone down. Does anyone know anything about this?

I'm also curious because it seemed that the choices were those blogs without the confessional additions. I wanted to check this for curiosity's sake...

Starting points and the attack on Gaza

The general portrayal in the media, and some of the blogs, is that Hamas broke the ceasefire through launching amateur rockets and Israel had no choice and so they Israel had to lead this brutal attack…

From watching the media portrayal of what is happening in Gaza, this is the dominant narrative, though even the media can’t stop how disproportionate and brutal the US backed Israeli use of force is (the English tabloid, the Sun, is doing its very best in highlighting the threats from Palestinians or Hamas with some highly peculiar stories, from apparent threats to Apprentice star Alan Sugar to tunnels of terror in Gaza where the inhabitants will pop up and shock the tanks – another day). It is worth questioning this narrative and asking a few why questions.

Why begin with Hamas breaking the ceasefire? Why not go back a little further? Why not suggest that the Israel broke the ceasefire in November in one raid that killed six or later in November in another attack that killed four? November is another place we could start the narrative and certainly the narrative about the broken ceasefire.

Why not begin the narrative with the Israeli blockade of vital resources? That seems one reason why Hamas might react. To do this blockade in such a densely populated area like Gaza is deeply dangerous. Moreover, Avi Shlaim points out:
During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

Do we begin the narrative at the blockade then?

Or could we look at longer term issues? Some of the rockets were fired at Ashkelon. This was one of the areas where Palestinians were dispossessed in 1948 and moved on to Gaza. As Robert Fisk put it in the Independent, ‘They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza.’

Or why not go back to the origins of Hamas? In the 80s, Israel nurtured Hamas to function as an opponent against the secular nationalists/Fatah, a decision that has now come back to haunt them (very similar to US policy towards violent Islam previous decades which came back to haunt them). Of course Fatah, for some (e.g. Bush) are now the good guys.

We could look for more starting points on the (US and) Israeli government side (e.g. issues of cheap labour, general issue of settlements, water resources, various acts of state violence and so on) but it should be clear that it is nowhere near as simple as Muslim fundamentalists firing these amateur rockets therefore Israel had no choice but to engage in this brutal massacre. It is horrific that Israeli lives have been lost now and over the years in the regions near Gaza and beyond but then many, many more Palestinian lives have been lost in Gaza alone. Like any other state, Israel deserves safety and security but so does Gaza (and the West Bank). The way that the US and Israeli governments and certain figures in the media have portrayed the background to the destruction of Gaza strongly suggests (and this is a wider pattern in ‘western’ media) that Palestinians lives are not worth as much as lives of other human beings. They are presumably sub-human.

This is a crazy attack for several reasons. I don’t like to predict things but how such brutal killing of Palestinians is going to bring peace seems unlikely I do not know. It certainly has the potential to lead to suicide bombings and a recruiting sergeant for violence. This would hardly be good news for Israel. The US government are doing themselves, or perhaps their people, no favours by their actions/non-actions with the UN. Of course, one group of people this attack will please, no doubt, is the arms industry but if we stick to most human beings and citizens this is a disaster.

As for starting points, why is one being so heavily pushed?