Monday, May 18, 2020

Religion(s) in State(s) of Crisis





I'll be doing a Zoom lecture for UCLA's Center for the Study of Religion this Wednesday (May 20). You can sign up, RSVP, and register for it here. Here's a brief description: 

The comparative study of religion provides multiple examples of how social, economic, and political crises have contributed to the transformation of cultural and religious systems in the past and can help us understand and anticipate how contemporary crises might be navigated in the future. Whether a crisis is envisioned as testing-by-trial, a punishment for disobedient violations of a covenant, the cause-and-effect results of karmic suffering, a convenient opportunity to transfer blame onto a scapegoat, a call invoking the need for “sacrifice,” or the apocalyptic solution of a battle between the forces of good and evil, it is to the language of religious discourse that we can turn to make sense and meaning of religion(s) in a state of crisis. This lecture will provide an exploratory, illustrative example of how different social groups responded differently to the catastrophic destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, responses which ultimately facilitated the birth of rabbinical Judaism and Christianity. 



Thursday, May 14, 2020

Book Review: Reading Mark in Context



My review of Reading Mark in Context has just been published in the Review of Biblical Literature. An excerpt from my review of this volume: 

"The Gospel of Mark simply cannot be read or understood without understanding Second Temple Jewish literature. Yet one gets the sense that while Mark situates Jesus within Judaism, it is a situation filled with tension, as the author seeks to forge a new sense of group identity through the central symbol of “Jesus’” conflicts with(in) Judaism, portraying Jesus in such a way as to construct a kind of “proto-Christian” difference from Judaism which would subsequently be mapped as Christianity’s “difference” from Judaism, and re-inscribed in generation after generation of Christian dissociation from Judaism. 

Re-locating the Gospel of Mark in its wider Jewish context, the essays in Reading Mark in Context introduce readers to the study of Mark within the literary, historical, and theological contexts that it both drew from and distinguished itself from. And while many of the essays re-inscribe Mark’s promise/fulfillment paradigm (in which Jesus “fulfills” Jewish messianic prophecies), that is to be expected given the authorial Tendenz of the Markan narrative . The goal of this volume was not to distinguish between the Markan Jesus, an historical Jesus, and the Jesus of history, but to illuminate the literary world of the Markan narrative. The editors and authors are to be commended for this collection of well-written and accessible essays, each of which illuminates the Markan context without unnecessarily complicating its discussion with questions of literary dependence. Readers will appreciate the Introduction outlining the volume’s methodological approach and structure, along with its brief overview of Second Temple literature, and a helpful glossary of key terms. I would strongly recommend these essays for “beginning and intermediate students” of the Gospels, not simply because they successfully contextualize the Markan texts in their wider literary contexts, but more so because they drive home the important message that a contextual reading of Mark requires attending to the creative complexity of its relationship with(in) Second Temple Judaism."

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The "Essenes" in ALNTS





Honored to be contributing the "Essenes" entry for the new Dead Sea Scrolls volume in the Ancient Literature for New Testament Studies (ALNTS) series published by Zondervan. Looking forward to seeing this volume in print! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Joseph's "Prayer of Joseph"





Honored to have been invited by Daniel Gurtner and Loren Stuckenbruck to contribute the Prayer of Joseph entry for the T & T Clark Encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Book Review: Mind the Gap





My review of Matthias Henze's Mind the Gap: How the Jewish Writings between the Old and New Testament Help Us Understand Jesus has just been published in Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, the journal of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, published by Boston College and the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning.

The journal is open-access. Read the review online here.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Jesus Mysticism and A Course in Miracles




A paper I presented at the "Gnostic America: The Afterlives of Gnosticism in American Religion and Culture" conference at Rice University in March 2018 has just been published in Gnosis: The Journal for Gnostic Studies. The article is entitled "American Gnosis: Jesus Mysticism in A Course in Miracles," and expands on my previous study, "'Knowledge is Truth'': A Course in Miracles as Neo-Gnostic Scripture," which suggested that the Course reflects significant trends in contemporary Western religiosity, especially the quest for alternative forms of esoteric spiritual knowledge, authority, and experience in a nominally Christian or post-Christian Western world. Since its publication in 1976, A Course in Miracles - a book allegedly received from "Jesus" and "scribed" by Dr. Helen Schucman - a research psychologist at Columbia Medical Center in NYC - has not received that much attention from scholars of religion. There may be many reasons for this, but one is surely the Course's implicit claim that it comes from Jesus, a claim also key to its contemporary success.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Prayer in Q





Happy to see a paper I presented at the "Prayer in Q" Conference in Graz in 2017 just published by Mohr Siebeck! My article is entitled "The Promise of Providence and the Problem of the Parables: Revisiting Prayer in the Sayings Gospel Q" and explores the relationship between the Enochic Book of Parables and Q in light of Q's prayer texts. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins - Revue de Qumran






“informed, intelligible, and compelling …. a worthy contribution to discussions about the origins of Christianity. It displays a remarkable breadth of scholarship and a mind that has deeply reflected on a great number of issues. Furthermore, this book’s copious footnotes make it an excellent guide for further research.”

Michael Flowers, Revue de Qumran

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins - Religious Studies Review




Delighted to read this new review of my book, Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins, in the Religious Studies Review:

“Since his first publications, Joseph has consistently advanced New Testament studies by merging the field’s cutting-edge scholarship (especially pertaining to Q and the historical Jesus) with the latest advances in the study of late second temple Judaism in a methodologically responsible framework. The present monograph, the author’s fourth one overall, marks the culmination of all that work. The book directly addresses pressing questions about the nature and extent of the apparent Essene-Christian relationship; and it does so with academic rigor, nuance, and confidence befitting one of the field’s leading scholars. Joseph puts forth a very sensible thesis: the movement behind the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls stands in ideological and sociocultural proximity to formative Jewish Christianity, at least partly informing some of the latter’s theological and literary features … Joseph’s work is necessary, highlighting parallels that can scarcely be ignored and that demand further investigation. The monograph is expertly written, persuasively argued, and logically organized … Joseph’s writing style and ability to unpack complex points also makes it an ideal point of entry for graduate students in pertinent research fields … Joseph’s best work yet, an important contribution to the field, and required reading for anyone studying the New Testament in its Jewish environment.”

Olegs Andrejevs, Religious Studies Review

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Jesus, the Essenes and Christian Origins - JSNT Review






“The author is a lucid and expert guide through debated issues, having written extensively already in the area . . . the book as a whole is judicious, clearly argued and well documented.”

David Wenham, Journal for the Study of the New Testament