Book Review: Chris Keith’s Jesus v. Scribes (Part 4: Lay Piety)

grahambotterilLet’s conclude my long-running review of Chris Keith’s Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict. I won’t try to summarize everything I’ve written so far – you can read it in all of its wordy detail here, in parts one, two and three. But briefly: Keith argues that Jesus’ teaching in synagogue drew comparison to the Jewish scribes, because it generally fell to Jews who were scribal-literate to read and explain Torah in synagogue. But Jesus was not scribal-literate (according to Keith), and this raised questions about his ability and authority to teach in synagogue. This questioning eventually became pointed and hostile and grew into full-blown conflict, with the result that Jesus wound up on the “radar” of the Jewish authorities as a potential troublemaker. Keith is quick to point out that he is looking at the issues that first brought Jesus to the attention of the authorities, which are certainly not the same issues that precipitated Jesus’ execution. Or as Keith bluntly put it, Jesus was not crucified “because of confusion over scribal literacy and scribal authority.”

I’ve already posted that I don’t fully agree with Keith’s take on “the origins of the conflict.” Nevertheless, I’m enthusiastically positive about Keith’s subject matter and the way he approaches it. Why? Because the topic of “Jesus Against the Scribal Elite” addresses one of my big New Testament questions: what’s so terrible about being a scribe?

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Quest for the Historical Jesus (Part 4: Allison, Memory and Lincoln’s Watch)

Let’s conclude the series here on the Quest for the Historical Jesus. We’ve looked at Quest history, some common Quest portraits of the historical Jesus, and the criticism leveled at the Quest by its most determined recent critics. We have two posts left to go. In these last posts, I’ll look at a technique that has emerged in recent studies of the historical Jesus: the effort to understand Jesus history as a product of human memory.

Your response here might be a resounding “d’oh!” Of course history is a product of memory – it’s impossible to imagine a history of something that no one remembers. Moreover, even if things other than memory can be used to create a history — audio and video recordings, original documents in archives and libraries, stuff dug up by archeologists – we’d still need access to things remembered in order to complete the history, fill in the gaps and explain the other source material.

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