Social-Scientific Criticism and Christian Origins: Past, Present and Future

On May 25, 2018, The Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St Mary’s University, Twickenham held a one-day seminar, “Social-Scientific Criticism and Christian Origins: Past, Present and Future”.

‘Social-Scientific Criticism’ now serves in New Testament studies as an umbrella term for a variety of critical approaches to early Christianity, which include cultural anthropology, social identity theory, social history, ancient and modern media studies, memory theories, human geography, ancient and modern politics, race theory, trauma studies, and others. This conference gathers leading scholars to answer that question and track the progress of the scholarly discourse from initial applications to the current state of the discussion, as well as offer thoughts about the future.

9.10-9.20am Introduction to the Conference
Chris Keith

Session 1 Theoretical Origins and Texts
9.20-9.50am ‘From Honour and Shame to Theorizing Christian Origins’
John Kloppenborg

9.50-10.20am ‘Competitive Textualisation in the Jesus Tradition’
Chris Keith

10.20-10.50am ‘The Letter to Titus as a Site of Memory’
Michael Scott Robertson

Session 2 Violence and Identity
11.20am-12.10pm ‘Violence as Social Currency in Early Christianity’
Sarah Rollens

12.10-12.40pm ‘The Death of John the Baptist and the Sociology of Beheading in the Ancient World’
Nathan Shedd

Session 3 Space and Language
2-2.40pm ‘Diverse Futures of Social-Scientific Criticism of the New Testament: Affective, Spatial, Cognitive and Digital Turns’
Louise J. Lawrence

2.40-3.20pm ‘Apocalyptic Language in the New Testament: Can Cognitive Linguistics Help?’
Jamie Davies

Session 4 Ethnicity, Race and Ideology
3.40-4.10pm ‘Whose Race Needs to be Noted? Further Reflections on Whiteness and Biblical Studies’
David Horrell

4.40-5.10pm ‘Social-Scientific Criticism and the Bible: Investigating Ideological Trends’
Taylor Weaver
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Session 5 Politics and Social-Scientific Criticism
5.30-6pm Keynote Address: ‘Cults, Martyrs, and Good Samaritans’
James Crossley

6-6.20pm Respondent: Hannah Strømmen

6.20-6.40pm Respondent: Yvonne Sherwood

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James Crossley on Cults, Martyrs and Good Samaritans

Professor James Crossley (St Mary’s University) presents a paper drawn from his book, Cults, Martyrs and Good SamaritansReligion in Contemporary English Political Discourse (Pluto Press, July 2018). The paper was presented at the CSSSB conference, Christian Origins and Social-Scientific Criticism, on May 25, 2018 (Crossley appears at 2:50)  There were two responses to his paper, from Dr Hannah M. Strømmen (University of Chichester) and Professor Yvonne Sherwood (University of Kent), not included in the video. 

Simon Gathercole on Crucifixion and Resurrection in the Gospel of Peter

Dr Simon Gathercole (Cambridge University) delivered the third Lagrange Lecture at the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem, on May 2, 2018, entitled “The Death and Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of Peter”.

Gathercole examines how the Gospel of Peter takes the traditions in the canonical gospels, and rearranges them, in part in order to blame “the Jews”.

 

Jörg Frey YDS Shaffer Lecture: Gospel of John

Jörg Frey, Professor of New Testament at the University of Zurich, gives his three-part Shaffer Lectures at Yale Divinity School on January 23, 25, and 30, 2018, on “Theology and History in the Fourth Gospel.”

The three lectures are as follows:

Lecture I: “Christology as Theology: The Johannine Approach as a Challenge Then and Now”
https://livestream.com/yaledivinityschool/events/8008919/videos/169152262
Lecture II: “The Quest for the Jesus of History and Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel”
https://livestream.com/yaledivinityschool/events/8008919/videos/169280011
Lecture III: “The Spiritual Gospel: John’s Reworking of the Jesus Story for Deeper Understanding”
https://livestream.com/yaledivinityschool/events/8008919/videos/169534880

https://livestream.com/yaledivinityschool/events/8008919

Biblical Scholars on the Christmas Story

There are a few podcasts and radio segments about on the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus. Here are three:

  • Dr Robert Myles (Murdoch University) speaks about the birth of Jesus on the Rev Bill Crews podcast.

“What Does History Say About the Birth of Jesus” (December 24, 2017)

 

 

  • Over the years, Mark Goodacre (Duke University) has provided a number of discussions of the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus:

Was Jesus born in a stable?” (December 15, 2010; 11 min)

Conflicting Christmas Stories” (December 6, 2012; 14 min)

Is the Virgin Birth based on a Mistranslation?” (December 20, 2012; 12 min)

The Magi in Matthew’s Gospel” (December 18, 2015; 14 min)

Christmas in John’s Gospel”  (December 14, 2016; 13 min)

Alan Garrow’s solution to Synoptic Problem: Matthew used Mark and Luke

Dr Alan Garrow presents a studio version of the paper presented at the NT Research Seminar of the University of Durham on Monday 12 January, 2015 (h/t: Chris Tilling):

“Streeter’s ‘Other’ Synoptic Solution: The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis”

matthew conflator

A published version of this paper is available here: Alan Garrow, “Streeter’s ‘Other’ Synoptic Solution: The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis“, New Testament Studies 62, no. 2  (April 2016): 207-226.

However, Mark Goodacre (NT Blog) points out a serious flaw in Garrow’s argument. Garrow argues that that when Matthew uses Luke alone, there is a high level of verbatim agreement; but when Matthew uses Luke and the Didache (which Garrow identifies with Q), there is a low level of verbatim agreement. According to Garrow, Matthew gets distracted when he uses two sources, and is less verbatim. However, Goodacre points out that we would then expect a similar pattern when Matthew uses Luke and Mark. But that is not the case. When Matthew uses Luke and Mark, there is still a high level of verbatim agreement – which is not what we would expect if Garrow’s theory were correct.

Carolyn Osiek on Women Disciples, Leaders, and Apostles: Mary Magdalene’s Sisters

On July 22, 2011, Professor emerita Carolyn Osiek (Brite Divinity School) delivered a lecture at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Continuing Education: “Women Disciples, Leaders, and Apostles: Mary Magdalene’s Sisters”.

Barbara Reid on Mary Magdalene and the Women Disciples in the Gospel of Luke

On July 21, 2017, Professor Barbara Reid (Catholic Theological Union at Chicago) delivered the lecture for the 9th Annual Mary of Magdala Celebration, at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Continuing Education: “Mary Magdalene and the Women Disciples in the Gospel of Luke”.

Click here for a transcript of this presentation.

William Loader on Jesus in John’s Gospel

William Loader, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Murdoch University, discusses his most recent book Jesus in John’s Gospel: Structure and Issues in Johannine Christology (Eerdmans, 2017) with Dr Robert Myles, current Lecturer in New Testament at Murdoch University (audio: 25:12).

Among other things, we talk about Rudolf Bultmann’s influence on the study of John, the relationship between John and history, and recent political interpretations of John’s Jesus.

h/t: Robert Myles’ Blog

André Gagné speaks on the Gospel of Thomas

André Gagné speaks on the Gospel of Thomas in a series from the Inquisitive Minds Podcast:

June 5, 2017: Introducing the Gospel of Thomas (mp3)

In this week’s episode, André Gagné will be giving a basic introduction to the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus attributed to a certain Didymus Judas Thomas. This enigmatic text is part of a series of tractates called the Nag Hammadi Codices and was found in Egypt in 1945. Since its discovery, scholars have endeavoured to uncover the place of writing and the sources of these sayings, which in many cases are similar to those found in the Synoptic gospels and other New Testament writings, as well as in several early Christian texts.

June 19, 2017: Interpreting the Gospel of Thomas (mp3)

This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, André Gagné continues his series on the Gospel of Thomas and will focus on the question of its interpretation. Since its discovery, most scholars have studied Thomas from a diachronic perspective, in order to uncover its sources and milieu. Unfortunately, very little research has been done on the possible meaning of this collection of saying.

Sandra Huebenthal – Another Jesus Remembered: How The Third Gospel Narrates Jesus

On March 9, 2017, Professor Sandra Huebenthal delivered the lecture, “Another Jesus Remembered: How The Third Gospel Narrates Jesus,” at New College, Edinburgh University.

Bart Ehrman debates Robert Price and the Milwaukee Mythicists: Did Jesus Exist?

On October 21, 2016, Professor Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) debated Dr Robert Price (Centre for Inquiry Institute) on the topic, Did Jesus Exist?

The debate was hosted by the freethought group Mythicist Milwaukee, at their 2016 Mythinformation Conference.

Debate Format:
Opening Presentations:

Speaker for the affirmative: Bart Ehrman
30 minute presentation
Speaker for the negative: Robert Price
30 minute presentation
10 minute break
Discussion:
Bart Ehrman
10 minutes of questions for Robert Price
Robert Price
10 minutes of questions for Bart Ehrman
This repeats 2 times for each speaker for a total of 60 minutes
10 minute break
Audience question and answer period
40 minutes

Immediately following the debate, James Crossley, Daniel Gullotta, David Fitzgerald and James McGrath discussed it with Arick Mittler and Matt Kovacs. The discussion is available in two mp3 files:

Martin Hengel – 1987 Stone Lectures: “The Johannine Question”

Professor Martin Hengel (1926-2009) delivered the 1987 Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary, on the topic of “The Bible as the Scriptures of the Church”.

The four lectures are available in mp3 (audio) format:

  1. “The Historical Background of the Author and His Gospel, and Questions of HisIdentification”
  2. “The Elder John and the Second and Third Letters of John”
  3. “The First Letter of John and the Schism of the School”
  4. “The Beloved Disciple, the Johannine School, and the Unity of the Gospel”

Memory and the Reception of Jesus in Early Christianity

The Memory and the Reception of Jesus in Early Christianity Conference was held on Friday 10th to Saturday 11th June 2016, at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Some of the lectures from this conference are now available on YouTube:

Day 1

Chris Keith (read by Steve Walton), “The Memory Approach and the Reception of Jesus”

Christine Jacobi, “The Reception of Jesus in Paul”

Discussion after Keith and Jacobi

Richard Bauckham, “The Psychology of Eyewitness Memory”

Helen Bond, “The Reception of Jesus in the Gospel of John”

Discussion after Bauckham and Bond

Jens Schroeter, “Memory and Theories of History” [lecture is incomplete: cuts off early]

Day 2

Samuel Byrskog, “Memory and Narrative”

Sandra Hübenthal, “The Reception of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel”

Discussion after Byrskog and Hübenthal

Alan Kirk, “Memory and Media”

Joan Taylor, “The Reception of Images of Jesus Prior to Constantine”

Discussion after Kirk and Taylor

Ruben Zimmermann, “Memory, Identity, and Mimetic Ethics”

James Crossley, “The Reception of Jesus in Talmudic Literature”

Discussion after Zimmermann and Crossley

Rafael Rodríguez, “Memory and Liturgy”

Anthony Le Donne, “Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future of the Memory Approach”

Panel Discussion