The Jesus and Brian Conference explored “the historical Jesus and his times, via Monty Python’s Life of Brian“. The conference was held on Friday 20 June to Sunday 22 June 2014, at the Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre, King’s College London. Videos from most of the talks are now available on YouTube (see below).
Monty Python’s Life of Brian provoked a furious response in some quarters when it first appeared in 1979, even leading to cries of ‘blasphemy’. However, many students and teachers of biblical literature were quietly, and often loudly, both amused and intrigued. Life of Brian in fact contains numerous references to what was then the cutting edge of biblical scholarship and Life of Jesus research, founded on the recognition of the historical Jesus as a Jew who needs to be understood within the context of his time. Implicitly, in setting ‘Brian’ within the tumultuous social and political background of his age, Life of Brian sets Jesus within it also. It assumes the audience has some knowledge of the gospel accounts, which directly inform the comedy.
Ever since Philip Davies first wrote on the film 15 years ago, other scholars too have turned their gaze to consider exactly what Life of Brian does in regard to Jesus scholarship, and have increasingly delved into its curious corners to reflect on what it says both about the tumultuous times of Jesus and also contemporary scholarly discussions. Biblical scholarship has moved on greatly in the past 25 years, and various aspects of Life of Brian correlate with themes now intensely explored. Every Bible scholar knows what ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’ means!
Professor Joan E. Taylor (King’s College London): Welcome Address and Introduction: ‘The Historical Brian‘
Professor Martin Goodman (University of Oxford): ‘The Life of Brianand the Politics of First-Century Judea’
Professor George Brooke (University of Manchester): ‘Brian as a Teacher of Righteousness’
Interview with John Cleese and Terry Jones, with Richard Bauckham
Professor Bill Telford (Durham University): ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the Jesus Film‘
Professor Philip Davies and Prof. James Crossley (University of Sheffield): ‘Monty Python’s Life of Jesus‘
Dr Helen Bond (University of Edinburgh): ‘You’ll Probably Get Away With Crucifixion’: Laughing at the Cross in Brian and the Ancient World
Dr Guy Stiebel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): ‘Romani Ite Domum: Identity and Expressions of Resistance in Judaea‘
Professor Steve Mason (University of Aberdeen): ‘What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? Brian and Josephus on Anti-Roman Sentiment‘
Professor Paula Fredriksen (Boston University): ‘Are you a Virgin? Biblical Exegesis and the Invention of Tradition’
Dr David Shepherd (Trinity College Dublin): ‘When Brian met Moses: The Life of Brian (1979) Wholly Moses (1980) and the ‘failure’ of biblical parody‘
Dr Aaron Rosen (King’s College London): ‘Laughing at Brian, Laughing at Christ: Some Reflections on Film and Modern Art‘
Katie Turner (King’s College London): ‘”The Shoe is the Sign“:The Costuming of the Life of Brian and the Clothing of First-Century Judaeans’
Professor Amy-Jill Levine (Vanderbilt University): ‘Beards for Sale: The Uncut Version of Brian, Gender and Sexuality‘
Professor Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill): ‘Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus‘
Professor Adele Reinhartz (University of Ottawa): ‘Hook-nosed Heebies: Brian, Jesus, and Jewish Identity‘
Revd. Canon Professor Richard Burridge (King’s College London):‘The Church of England’s Life of Python–Or, What the Bishop Saw’
Dr David Tollerton (University of Exeter): ‘Blasphemy! On Free Speech Then and Now‘
(no video provided by Kings College)
Update (September 10, 2015): The book of the conference is now available: