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."