Friday, January 28, 2011

Sanders and Crossan on Jesus and his Context (or Matrix)

Last year I mentioned an innovative piece of assessment, Sanders vs. Crossan through the Medium of Puppets. In my Historical Jesus course running at the moment at Duke, we came to both Sanders and Crossan this week. I decided not to share the puppet versions but instead played this excellent piece in which Ed Sanders explains his approach to Jesus and Judaism. It's about eight minutes long, just a bit shorter than your average NT Pod episode:

I think this is a fantastic way of introducing some of the central concerns in Sanders's approach to the Historical Jesus. It has a resonance with our students too because it is filmed here at Duke.

If we had had time, I would have loved also to have shown this similar length piece in which John Dominic Crossan explains his name and then his approach to the Historical Jesus, with stress on Jesus' "matrix":

I really like this piece. I am sympathetic with what he says about Jesus' "matrix", and especially avoiding the term "background". This goes back at least to Geza Vermes's insistence, in Jesus the Jew in 1973, that we avoid seeing historical materials as "background" to the New Testament and instead think of them as witnesses. I don't think the term "matrix" can ever quite catch on in this context, though, given the way that it makes us think of The Matrix. But perhaps James McGrath would disagree and perhaps today's students are not as familiar with The Matrix as students were a decade ago.

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