This week we will turn our attention to Jesus of Nazareth. We will focus on his life and ministry in context both of Roman rule in Judea and Palestine, and of the theological, cultural, and political trends that we have discerned in late-Second Temple Judaism. Drawing on Richard Horsely’s account, we will see that Jesus (and that more shadowy figure, John the Baptizer) emerges not only as a teacher of ethics, but, like John before him, as a popular leader and advocate for a new society, focused on the Galilean village as opposed to the Jerusalem Temple. His teaching work included a sectarian interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which brought his ministry into conflict with other sects in Judea. His popularity, with its messianic and prophetic tones, brought him into conflict with the Jerusalem elites and, ultimately, with the Roman authorities. The life and ministry—and death—of Jesus is the story of a prolonged and chosen conflict with Roman and Jewish authorities worked out through scriptural interpretation and Jewish sectarian practice.
For this week, we will focus on Horsley’s Jesus and Empire, but with reference especially to the Gospel of Mark as a primary text. We will also look at parts of the Gospel of Matthew. We will do some from the perspective of the “historical Jesus” approach, which—I hasten to add—does not inherently exclude other approaches. I do not expect you to agree with everything Horsley says, but rather I offer this short book as an example of a very large historical Jesus scholarship. Horsley’s point of view is certainly clear enough—even perhaps a bit overdrawn, but it is good to think with.
- Read Horsley, Jesus and Empire, chapters 2-5 in particular (they are short!)
- Also we will discuss The Gospel of Mark, The Gospel of Matthew (in Ehrman’s anthology of New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings).
- also highly recommended: re-read Cohen, chapters 5-6
- (coming soon this week), I will offer some short lectures on each chapter of Horsley, and then a discussion of the two gospel texts in relation to ideas in Horsley’s book. But you can start the reading today! Horsley is a pretty quick read.
- Q source or Gospel: A hypothesized collection of the sayings of Jesus thought to have been the source (Q<German Quelle “source”) of material in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke held in common, but not in the Gospel of Mark, which is taken to be the earliest of the 4 canonical gospels. You can find editions of this reconstructed Q if you are curious, but it remains just a hypothesis as no extant copy or fragment exists.
Please pick 2 of the following 4 questions and write a 400-word minimum response to both. Submit them to Turnitin.com by April 11. Write to me if you have questions or need more time!
1. Look at Matthew 12.1-13 and 22.15-45. What are the points of disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians? How are these disputes argued? How does Jesus’ ministry fit into the larger picture of “sectarian” Judaism?
2. Horsley’s Jesus and Empire, chapter 2, describes various forms of “popular” protest to Roman rule in Palestine that he sees as distinct from those of “scribal groups.” What are some of these popular forms, and why are they more troubling than “scribal” forms of protest?
3. Horsley pp. 91-98 outlines Jesus’ demonstrations and prophecies against the Temple. Why are these words and actions significant in relation to what you have learned about the Temple State, and also in relation to what happens to it in the first century CE?
4. In Horsley’s chapter 5, how does the paradigm of the “village community” work with the idea of Covenant renewal to shape a particular vision of Jesus’ message? What do you think of this idea?