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The Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting

The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS), is freely available online from Oct 20. JJMJS is a new interdisciplinary peer-reviewed online journal, published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns.

The purpose of the Journal is stated thus by the editors:

The purpose of the journal is, then,  to publish research on any topic that directly addresses or has implications for the understanding of Judaism and the Jesus movement from the first to the seventh century. We welcome the submission of studies within any of the following fields: Christian origins, New Testament studies, early Jewish studies including Philo and Josephus, the Dead Sea scrolls, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, rabbinic studies, patristics, history of ancient Christianity, reception history, and archaeology. Since methodological diversity is an important factor in interdisciplinary research, we encourage authors to apply any type of methodology that is effective for the task at hand, including but not limited to literary, rhetorical, linguistic, socio-historical, intellectual-historical, social-scientific, and archaeological approaches.

The editors are: Prof. Torleif Elgvin (NLA University College, Oslo), Prof. Paula Fredriksen (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Dr. Anders Runesson (McMaster University) and Dr. Alexei Sivertsev (DePaul University).
The first issue is available by going here.

Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

The book by Chris Keith; Jesus against the Scribal Elite (Baker Academic, 2014) is one of those standing on my preferred reading list this fall. And having a brief look last weekend at the first pages, I met the following description that I both found amusing, pertinent, and well formed. And it certainly wet my appetite to read on (p. 5):

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or a seeker-sensitive Jesus. That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed. His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground. He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt 19:14…). The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort. He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach. This Jesus’s hair is untamed. His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle. His face and neck are reddended by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused. There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23,25 ,27, 29; 23:16). His message ends not with a head pat to a child and and aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).
When you finish reading Jesus tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath. Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reasess wholesale their idea of Jesus. At the worst, we can point to thids text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.”

One of the reasons why I had to stop a moment at this description, is certainly that I on the one hand know the teddy-bear Jesus all to well, but also – in spite of some exaggerations- I found that author’s focus on Matt. 23 interesting and appealing.
I am loking forward to continue reading this book!

PS: On this link, you will also find some video presentations of the book by prof. Keith, and he is running a blog (The Jesus Blog) together with Anthony Le Donne (PhD, Durham).

Birger Gerhardsson 1926 – 2013.

Memory and manuscript By way of a note in Facebook (by Gunnar Samuelsson), I become aware of the sad fact that prof. emeritus teol.dr.  Birger Gerhardsson died the night between 24 and 25 of December.
Birger Gerhardsson was born Sept. 26th, 1926 in Vesterbotten. He was ordained as pastor in 1953, became teol.lic. 1956, teol.dr. in 1961 at Uppsala University, and professor in New Testament exegesis in at Lund University in 1965. He worked here until his retirement. Prof. Gerhardsson was to some extent influenced by Harald Riesenfeld (Uppsala) and his views of the gospel traditions, but developed his own viewpoints much further in his dissertation of 1961 : “Memory and Manuscript; Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity.” Thesis, Uppsala., 1961. In his thesis he argued for the need to take advantage of the views of the rabbis on how traditions were formed and transmitted, and applied this to the gospel traditions (cp 1 Cor 15:1ff). His views were further developed in his Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity, Coniectanea Neotestamentica, 20. Lund,: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1964, and these two works were later republished in one volume by Eerdmans (19 98; see picture above). Gerhardsson here argued for the use of memorization by the early Christians, partly influenced by rabbinic methods of learning in the transmission of the Jesus tradition. This thesis came under severe criticism claiming that he was guilty of projecting post-135 CE views on tradition back in to the pre-70 CE period. But Gerhardsson never claimed that the rabbinic methods as a whole could be traced back to before 70 CE, he always distinguished materials about education from the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods. Later scholars as M. Hengel, R. Bauckham and S. Byrskog have built further on some of Gerhardsson’s viewpoints. In order to understand the context and focus of this work of Gerhardsson, the interested readers should read his Preface in the reprint edition of 1998 (pp. ix-xxiii), as well as the Foreword by Jacob Neusner, one of his former critics (pp. xxv-xlvi). Both are very informative.
Prof. Gerhardsson also published several studies related to The Gospel of Matthew; e.g., The testing of God’s son. (Matt. 4: 1-11 & par.): An analysis of an early Christian midrash (1966); The mighty acts of Jesus according to Matthew (1979); The shema in the New Testament: Deut 6:4-5 in significant passages (1996). Several of his studies was also published in Swedish. To the general student of the New Testament Gerhardsson was probably best known for the textbook he edited but did not write, published first in 1969, and in several later reprints (En Bok om Nya Testamentet).
In 1996 he was honored by a symposium on Matthew and a Festschrift (Matteus och hans läsare – förr och nu : Matteussymposiet i Lund den 27-28 sept 1996 : en hyllning till professor Birger Gerhardsson som fyllde 70 år den 26 september 1996 / red.: Birger Olsson, Samuel Byrskog och Walter Übelacker (Series: Religio 48, Lund 1996), and in 2009 another volume was published (Werner H. Kelber, Samuel Byrskog, eds, Jesus in memory: traditions in oral and scribal perspectives. Waco, Tex. : Baylor University Press, 2009) that was both a dialogue and to a large extent an appraisal of Gerhardsson’s views.
Prof. Gerhardsson was an engaged Christian and a brilliant scholar; he will be missed by many, but his works will still be discussed for years to come.

Additions.

More words of tribute here.

See also here: http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.se/2014/01/rip-birger-gerhardsson-1926-2013.html