Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Larry Behrendt reviews Jesus against the Scribal Elite—Chris Keith

Friend of the Jesus Blog Larry Behrendt reviews my latest book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite, over at his blog dedicated to Jewish-Christian dialogue and aptly titled "Jewish-Christian Intersections."  Larry claims to be an amateur, but he gives a remarkably nuanced account of not only what I claim in that book, but also what I don't claim.  He adds a few further thoughts of his own.  I was particularly intrigued by his placement of Jesus within a larger "democratizing strain" of Jewish pedagogy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The King and I: Karen King Replies to My Reply - Le Donne

Professor Karen King refers to my The Wife of Jesus twice in her Harvard Theological Review essay. Before I address her comments, let's pause to consider how the internet has changed scholarship and scholarly dissemination. Prof. King published a draft of her essay in 2012. I discuss this essay in my 2013 book and she addresses my concerns in her 2014 essay revision. So she cites a book that cites the essay that she has yet to publish. And within this bizarre time loop of cyberspace, we've managed to find Jesus' wife. Let the wild rumpus start!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Who Arranged Jesus’ Marriage, When, and Why?

I would like to thank Harvard Theological Review for the considerate timing of their recent issue. You have no idea how much pressure I was feeling to go see a Russell Crowe flick. Luckily, Jesus' chuppah trumps hot-and-bothered rock monsters almost every time. I can now wait for it on Amazon Prime. I'm hoping for some targumic special features!

Karen King’s recent HTR essay suggests a later date than she originally guessed. Perhaps the fragment comes from the eighth century. Moreover, she suggests that (given the time period) this fragment might betray some Islamic ideology concerning marriage.

It is an interesting suggestion, but I will suggest three other ideological contexts that I think explain Jesus’ marriage better. But let’s be clear from the start, in all three of these options, Jesus’ marriage is arranged. The Jesus we find in the New Testament is not for traditional family values by anyone’s standards. If he was married or has become married in our collective imagination, it wasn’t something that Jesus pursued for himself.

Jesus’ marriage would have been arranged by his parents, probably between his 16th and 30th birthdays. In rabbinic literature the age of twenty is given as the upper limit of marriage (especially important for aspiring teachers and religious leaders). The Babylonian Talmud suggests that boys who want to avoid lust (cf. Paul’s rationale) should get married shortly after puberty. The Jerusalem Talmud offers a slightly later age range. By and large, the rabbis don't recommend celibacy as an option, much less see it as desirable. To pursue celibacy was tantamount to a disregard for family honor, fiscal wellbeing, and ancestral blessing. Rabbinic literature postdates Jesus by several centuries, but the issues of family honor, fiscal wellbeing, and ancestral blessing are very ancient. To the point, these issues are among the most important in Jesus' culture.

Larry Hurtado’s Summary of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Fragment—Chris Keith

Over at Larry Hurtado's Blog, Prof Hurtado gives a useful and concise summary of the Harvard Theological Review that contains the most recent assessments of the Gospel of Jesus' wife fragment.  He adds some further thoughts as well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Have Accepted a Position at United Theological Seminary - Le Donne

I have some very exciting news to share. Exciting to me, at least. I have accepted a position at United Theological Seminary to teach New Testament. My family and I will be moving to the Dayton, OH area this summer to begin in the fall term. I am looking forward to working alongside a stellar and gracious faculty at one of the largest and fastest growing seminaries in the UMC.

For those readers who have followed this blog for a few years now, you may recall that United Theological Seminary co-sponsored (with University of Dayton) the conference related to this book. This conference might have otherwise been untenable. Chris Keith and I were deeply grateful for the hospitality shown to us in Dayton. I should mention here that Joel Watts (a former student at United) went to bat for us. I don’t doubt that his efforts planted the seeds necessary for the 2012 conference and my recent good news. May his beard grow ever longer.

It has become clear to me that United is a place that values collegiality and academic freedom. These two qualities are becoming quite rare in the world of higher learning. Moreover, United’s continued investment in social justice was very attractive to me as I was weighing my options. All in all, I think that after (the better part of) ten years on the job market, I’ve found a home.

I will also take this opportunity to say that United boasts some of the best graduate-level online and hybrid courses in the field. I will continue to teach online and invite you to consider my course offerings at United. If you live in the Dayton area, I invite you to consider my brick-and-mortar classes where we will discuss Run–D.M.C., "Welcome Back, Kotter," good films by M. Night Shyamalan, the "Third Quest," and other old skool topics.

One last word on a serious note: I know all too well that there are hundreds of unemployed and (worse) underemployed scholars out there. I know well the feeling that comes from watching yet another job cycle pass by with disappointment and depression. My present joy has not wiped away my experiences—as unemployed, as adjunct, and as undervalued employee—of institutional dysfunction over the last decade. I know that those of you who have suffered most do so silently or in hushed commiseration. I offer no consolation to you who continue to be undervalued and abused. The problems are real and getting worse. I only offer understanding.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Hate Chris

Today my wife sent me a link to this lovely note:

This made me think of the "Chris" in my life. We all have a Chris, don't we?


p.s. sorry Ben.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Keith Against the Duke Elite - Le Donne

Jesus was a troublemaker. This statement, of course, assumes that Jesus was on the radar of those who could make such pronouncements. Jesus and Chris Keith have this in common. In his book Jesus Against the Scribal Elite Keith offers a compelling explanation for how Jesus rose from obscurity in Galilee.

Was Jesus an authoritative interpreter of Jewish legal instruction and sacred texts? If so, what sort of education and social status would have been assumed of him? If not, how did Jesus convince so many people that he was indeed a legitimate teacher? In answering these questions Chris Keith places his finger on the very pulse of the earliest stages of Jesus' career. If you have any interest at all in the cutting edge of historical Jesus research or the emergence of Christianity, don't miss this book!

Here is just a sample from the book. In these pages, Keith takes on the venerable E. P. Sanders (who has attained almost canonical status among Jesus historians). Keith writes: "…in his 1985 Jesus and Judaism, Sanders pronounced against the historicity of the controversy narratives. Sanders [...] generally followed Bultmann’s insistence upon the 'imaginary' character of the controversy narratives. [Sanders: 13–18] He surmised, 'All the scenes of debate between Jesus and the Pharisees have more than a slight air of artificiality.' [265]"

Keith picks up his debate with Sanders a few pages later:

On the Fine Art of Eating Humble Pie—Chris Keith

Since I ran my mouth several weeks ago about loving the Louisville Cardinals and hating the Kentucky Wildcats, only for Kentucky to beat Louisville and end up tonight in the national championship (ugh, it pains me to write these words), I thought I should share some of the humble pie I've had to eat.  I made a bet on the Louisville/Kentucky game with my good friend and former teammate Andy Carter, who happens to be a lifelong UK fan.  The stakes were our Facebook profiles.  I lost, and so this is what mine has looked like.  The only great news about tonight is that, one way or another, my Facebook profile is changing here soon.  Go Huskies!  (Did I just write that?!  What is this basketball season
 coming to?  Has spring football started yet?  Yes?  Oh, good.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Quarterly Quote of the Month about Jesus for this Week

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne five children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?”

                                    ~Sojourner Truth

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ZOMBIES! - A Cultural Advantage that B. F. Westcott Did Not Enjoy

Whenever I want to remind myself of how good I have it, I like to think of the fact that my grandfather dropped out of school in the second grade to work in a coal mine. Sometimes I look at family photos of my hobbitlike great grandparents: sub-five-foot Italians. I don't know if their feet were furry, but there is a very good chance of it. By way of gene pool and education, I have advantages that were unimaginable to my grandparents.

I also have advantages that my intellectual forebears did not. C. F. D. Moule and Morna Hooker (the doctoral supervisors of my doctoral supervisors) entered the field without computers or word processors. On one level, this fact is so obvious that it is uninteresting. On another level, it baffles me. How might my brain work differently, more deliberately, more carefully if I didn't have spell check or a backspace key?

Jesus against the Scribal Elite Giveaway—Chris Keith

The good folks at Baker Academic are giving away a copy of my new book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite.  You know how to enter:  (1) leave a comment; (2) sign up to follow the blog and leave a comment saying you did; and (3) share this post on Facebook or any other form of social media and leave a comment saying you did (you can leave a comment for each place shared).  Don't forget to leave comments since that's how we determine the winner.  For the wild card category this time, you can leave your favorite quotes from either of two of my favorite movies:  Tombstone and Dazed and Confused.  Here's mine from the first, from a young Val Kilmer in the best role he's ever played:  "Why, Ike, whatever do you mean? . . .  Maybe poker's just not your game, Ike.  I know!  Let's have a spelling contest."  And here's mine from the second, from a young Ben Affleck:  "I'm sorry, ma'am, I was just escorting your fine young son home from school.  There's some ruffians about. . . ."  As a request, though, let's keep the quotations relatively clean.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

British New Testament Conference Call for Papers—Chris Keith

As a reminder, the Call for Papers for the 2014 British New Testament Conference closes on Friday, April 18.  The meeting this year is at the University of Manchester from September 4 to September 6.  Helen Bond and I convene the Jesus and Gospels Seminar, so you can send proposals to us at or  We will have one open session.  Our lineup for this year is below, and we're very excited to have Jens Schroeter, Eric Eve, and Rafael Rodriguez with us.

Session I: Panel Review of Jens Schroeter, From Jesus to the New Testament (Baylor, 2013).

Session II: Open Session. We welcome offers of papers from postgraduates and established scholars on any aspect of historical Jesus research.
Session III: Invited papers from Eric Eve and Rafael Rodriguez on "Orality and Media in Gospels Studies"