In "An Indigenous Jesus" - my new article just published in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion - I explore how the relational category of "indigeneity" draws our attention to the relationship(s) and power-dynamics between Native/Indigenous Peoples, cultures, and traditions and the colonial context(s) within which they continue to exist. I also explore how the term sheds light on the methodological and theoretical challenges associated with determining the historical Jesus's "Jewish" identity within a predominantly "Christian" discourse. Re-describing early (Second Temple) Judaism as an "indigenous" religion and the historical Jesus as an "indigenous" Judean does not mean that Jesus was an "Indian." What it means is that it is now possible to better understand the Jesus of history at home in and belonging to an indigenous culture characterized by the defining coordinates of land, kinship, and language. It also means that it is now easier to understand how his cultural re-location in(to) non-Jewish contexts changed the "Jesus tradition" over time.
Friday, April 2, 2021
Since the publication of my books, Jesus and the Temple and Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins, I have continued to explore the role(s) of sacrifice in early Judaism and Christianity. My article, "In the Days of His Flesh, He Offered Up Prayers”: Redescribing the Sacrifice(s) of Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews" - now published in the Journal of Biblical Literature - explores the Letter to the Hebrews, widely regarded as the most "sacrificial" text in the New Testament. Hebrews not only visualizes Jesus' heavenly "self-offering" as an efficacious sacrifice, it also re-conceptualizes Jesus' death as "sacrificial" by extending sacrificial language to the "prayers" that he "offered up" to God, introducing an expanded semantic range of "sacrificial" language into the early Jesus tradition.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is usually read as a "Christian" text advocating the superiority of Jesus' "sacrificial" offering to that provided in the Temple, thus implying "Christianity's" abrogation of "Judaism," I propose here that the Letter to the Hebrews reflects an alternative Jewish sacrificial system in competition with the Jerusalem Temple, that is, a Jewish text that envisions the "sacrifice(s)" of Jesus as an alternative sacrificial system within Judaism, not a "Christian" system that "supersedes" or "replaces" Judaism.
This article is dedicated to James A. Sanders (1927-2020)
Thursday, September 3, 2020
My new article, “‘I Shall be Reckoned with the Gods’: On Redescribing Jesus as a First-Century Jewish Mystic” - just published in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus - explores the redescription of the historical Jesus as a Jewish mystic.
Friday, July 17, 2020
In a review recently published in Dead Sea Discoveries, Cecilia Wassén notes that Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins “makes a strong case that Jesus . . . had ‘a relationship’ with Essene ideology and halakhah. The book as a whole provides many insightful analyses of Jesus’s engagement with different groups as well as appropriate analyses of Qumran texts . . . the study makes for a stimulating dialogue partner for historical Jesus scholars.”
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Pleased to see Émile Puech's review of Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins in the Revue Biblique. Puech notes that this book gives "a good idea of the contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the study of the Jesus of history and the Gospels." Puech also agrees that it is probable that a number of Essenes - although not Qumran Essenes - joined the Way of the Jesus movement, given the absence of any references to the Essenes in the New Testament or in rabbinic literature, yet their notable influence on the former.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
A new review of my book, Jesus and the Temple, published in Horizons:
“Overall, this is an insightful and original study about the historical context of Jesus’ death . . . comprehensive and convincing . . . an excellent scholarly work on the historical Jesus and an insightful resource for both undergraduate and graduate courses on the topic.”
Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society
(Cambridge University Press)
Monday, May 18, 2020
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
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."