Panel discussion of James Crossley, 'Jesus and the Chaos of History' (OUP, 2015)
This is a joint session between the Jesus and Social World of the New Testament seminar groups.
“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”: A panel review of Joan Taylor (ed), Jesus and Brian: Exploring the Historical Jesus and his Times via Monty Python's Life of Brian (Bloomsbury, 2015)
Joint panel session between Jesus Seminar & New Testament: Use and Influence Seminar
Making Jesus’ Sayings
This paper examines the similar-but-different sayings on retaliation and love of enemies found in Did. 1.2-5a, Luke 6.27-36 and Matthew 5.38-48. It concludes that Luke made direct use of Did. 1.2-5a and that Matthew closely conflated the Didache with Luke’s reworked version. As well as having significant implications for the study of Luke, Matthew and the Didache, this outcome offers fresh insight into the survival and development of a particular group sayings attributed to Jesus.
Spirits in the Wind, Spirits in the Water: Contextual Interpretations of Jesus Calming the Storm [Mark 4:35-41] from Owambo, Namibia
This paper proposes an alternative approach to Mark 4:35-41, based on and enriched by ethnographic and contextual Bible studies undertaken in the village of Iihongo, Northern Namibia. The research conducted suggests that a closer focus on experiences of spirits as a’lived reality’ might be helpful in attempting to understand Jesus’ interaction with natural phenomena. In the cultural context of Iihongo, the natural environment is understood as a spirited, ‘living’ landscape. Likewise, individuals engage with natural phenomena as the activities enacted and inhabited by spiritual forces (which themselves form part of the wider community).
Scholars have often highlighted the potential similarities in worldviews in ‘traditional,’ agrarian contexts and those of biblical societies. I would argue, then, that the textual interpretations of those living within such a context might heighten our understanding of what seems unfamiliar or problematic about biblical material when considered through a contemporary, Western (industrialist, materialist) lens.
This paper focuses on the contribution of recent social-scientific approaches to gospel interpretation, contextualized within broader New Testament scholarship. I will argue that Western materialist perspectives are so influential in scholarly interpretations as to hamper appreciation of cultural realities in which engagement with spirit beings are ordinary events. A Western (rationalist) perception of reality tends not to accommodate (or at least finds highly problematic) the interference of non-material beings in everyday material existence. Social-scientific approaches have attempted to broaden our interpretive horizons by encouraging us to consider alternate realities and social-scientific models of cultural figures and contexts. However, I will argue here that these perspectives remain compromised by the Western interpretive lens in the way that they, for example, ‘other’ experiences of spirits by categorizing them as happening within Altered/Alternate States of Consciousness. I will illustrate how the Iihongo interpretations offer us a new lens through which to examine them.