Saturday, December 17, 2016

"The Gospel of the Ebionites" in NTS

Honored to have been invited by Francis Watson, the editor of New Testament Studies, to contribute an article to the journal about my new book, Jesus and the Temple: The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context (SNTSMS; Cambridge University Press, 2016). My article, ‘“I Have Come to Abolish Sacrifices” (Epiphanius, Pan. 30.16.5): Re-examining a Jewish Christian Text and Tradition,explores how a particular passage from the Gospel of the Ebionites (a ‘text’ that exists only in fragments extrapolated from the writings of Epiphanius) raises a number of questions about the use of non-canonical gospel traditions in New Testament studies. Since the Gospel of the Ebionites is generally regarded as a "Jewish Christian" text - and ancient "Jewish Christianity" continues to be hard for us to grasp both historically and conceptually - the text raises some interesting historical and theological questions about Jesus’ relationship to the Temple cult, questions still at the very center of contemporary discourse on the historical Jesus as well as the relationship between Early Judaism, "Jewish Christianity," and (Early Gentile) Christianity. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New Article in JSHJ

My article, "Jesus and the Temple Incident: A New Proposal," has been published in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. The article was submitted in 2013 and accepted for publication in May 2014 - then expanded into a monograph, Jesus and the Temple: The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context - published by Cambridge University Press last year. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why Did Jesus Die?

The Gospels portray Jesus as deeply upset with the Temple's administration during the last week of his life: a pious and passionate Jew offended by corruption in the house of God. Jesus is said to have "overturned the tables of the money-changers" and even predicted the Temple's destruction, but we never quite find out exactly what Jesus objected to.

The Gospels point to Jesus’ relationship to the Temple for historical and theological reasons: both to describe the historical setting of the final events that led to his death - including his criticism of the Temple's administration, his demonstration in the Temple, and predicting the Temple's destruction - as well as to set the stage for identifying Jesus as a sacrifice that will ultimately replace the Temple’s sacrificial system. 

The idea that Jesus' death was a sacrifice is a pervasive theme in the New Testament (1 Cor 15:3; Rom 8:3; 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10; Gal 1:4; 1 Pet 2:21-25; 1 John 2:2; Heb 7:27; 9:14; John 1:29). Early Christians searched the Scriptures to make sense of their experience, convinced that even the details of Jesus’ death were foretold in them. For them, Jesus did not die because he was a controversial figure who engaged in religious conflicts with his contemporaries; Jesus died because he took on God's wrath as part of God's divine plan: The son of man must suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders. This explained why Jesus died ("for our sins"), but it did so by combining historical memory and theological innovation while constructing a conspiratorial narrative that implicated "the Jews" (Matt 27:25): setting the Jews against Jesus, and Jesus against Judaism, obscuring the original offenses that led Jesus to the cross in the first place.

A short excerpt ("Why Did Jesus Die?") from my book, Jesus and the Temple: The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context, which further explores these questions, can be read here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jesus and the Temple - The Expository Times Review

Paul Foster's review of my new book Jesus and the Temple: The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context succinctly re-presents the central thesis of this study: that Jesus' “understanding of the eschatological endpoint of the Torah is not exact observance, but radical reformulation that realigns it with God’s purposes in creation.”

Foster concludes: “Joseph presents a radical Jesus, who had a more wide-ranging programme of reforming Jewish religion than simply that of calling people back to wholehearted obedience. The ideas presented in this study are likely to generate significant discussion. Joseph presents a new way of understanding Jesus witihin Judaism, but which also means the divergence from normative Judaism found in early Christianity in fact is closely aligned with Jesus’ own critique of the parent religion.”

The full review can be found in the most recent issue of The Expository Times (“Why Did Jesus Die?,” 127 [2016], 509-10).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In Memoriam: James M. Robinson

(June 30, 1924 - March 22, 2016)

I met James Robinson in 2004, when I started my Ph.D. program in Religion (New Testament) at Claremont. Although this was my first meeting in person, I had known about him for a long time. He was an international star in New Testament studies. He served as the General Editor of the Nag Hammadi Library. He was the founder and director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity and the International Q Project, and served as co-editor of The Critical Edition of Q. I was thrilled when he agreed to direct my Q studies. Jim and I met every week in the IAC Library and worked through his collected essays on the Sayings Gospel Q. We would also meet at his house where he generously shared many of the insights, stories, and knowledge from his long career. Jim was a guiding force on my dissertation committee and graciously described my first book, Jesus, Q, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as "a new stage in the study of first-century Judaism and Christianity." A couple of years later, I dedicated my JBL article to him ("Why Do You Call Me 'Master?' Q 6:46, the Inaugural Sermon, and the Demands of Discipleship,"). He called it Jesus' "hardest" saying. He was a great scholar, mentor, and friend. I'm going to miss him.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bishop Steven Charleston on Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White

"As a Christian, I am vowed by my baptism to be aware of and responsive to injustice. As a bishop of the Church and a professor of theology, I am well aware of the historic injustice practiced by my faith against Native American people. As a Native elder myself and follower of our traditional ways, I am committed to healing the spiritual wounds inflicted by this continuing injustice. For all three of these reasons, I urge every person . . . to watch Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White. This film weaves together the threads of conflict between two religions, the tragic history of colonial oppression, the pervasive power of racism, and the ongoing suppression of Native culture by a government long corrupted by its own colonial legacy. Holy Man is a film about Douglas White, but it is a story as old as Jesus. It is an ancient narrative, acted out over centuries around the world, but it is as contemporary as the terror that haunts our daily news."

Steven Charleston, author of The Four Vision Quests of Jesus
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Nonviolent Messiah - CBQ Review

Stephen Finlan reviews The Nonviolent Messiah for the Catholic Biblical Quarterly:

“This is a mature and well-researched work that would be useful for doctoral seminars or higher-level courses on the Synoptic Gospels . . . Without apparent bias, J. argues for a nuanced reflection on these topics . . . Altogether an intriguing book.”

Read the full review here.