[HJMatMeth] Seminar Instructions
- Dear HJM/M Seminar List Members,
Our Seminar with Dom Crossan is to begin shortly (Friday, Feb. 11th). And so it is time to let you know how the Seminar will proceed. To do this, I've set things out in a question and answer format. If there's anything I haven't covered here, or things that are still unclear, please contact me at the address listed below.
1. When may members begin to submit questions?
Seminar Members should feel free to begin sending their questions as soon as they receive this message, and anytime thereafter up until March 10th. But no questions will be forwarded to Professor Crossan until the Seminar officially begins on Friday, February 11th.
2. Where should questions be sent?
All questions should be sent to the following address:
3. What types of questions are acceptable?
Since the focus of the Seminar is the issue of how the particular materials used and the methods employed by Historical Jesus scholars bear upon the conclusions they come to in their reconstructions of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, questions sent to the Seminar should center on this issue, at least initially.
4. Any suggestions for the initial round of questions?
Though it is not imperative that anyone do so, it might be interesting and profitable if the first round of postings focuses on such topics as: What are the most valuable materials for Historical Jesus research? How do we decide? What presuppositions are involved in such decisions?
5. How many questions may anyone submit?
As many as one likes.
6. Will all posts submitted to the Seminar be submitted to Professor Crossan?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. We have over 130 subscribers, and if even only a quarter of the Seminar membership submitted only one question per day, Professor Crossan would be overwhelmed with e-mails that, given his time constraints, he could not possibly read, let alone answer.
7. Of all posts submitted to the Seminar moderators, how many posts WILL be submitted to Professor Crossan on a daily basis?
At Professor Crossan's request (which is born more from his desire to be able to deal adequately with any question he receives than from anything else), the maximum daily number of posts that will be sent on to him for his consideration will be limited to four.
8. What determines which four of all posts submitted on a given day will be selected for submission to Professor Crossan?
The short answer is, the judgement of the Seminar's moderators, Jeffrey Gibson and Mahlon Smith.
9. What criteria will the moderators use to determine which four of a daily batch of messages get sent on to Professor Crossan?
In general, we will be selecting posts on the basis of their
b. Relevance (see above)
c. Absence of grandstanding, self-promotion, confessional statements, ad
hominem remarks, rehashing points made previously, etc.
10. What if no posts are submitted on a given day?
The moderators will then select the "best" questions from the anticipated backlog of posts to which they are privy.
11. What happens when a poster feels that Professor Crossan's answer to his/her post needs some follow up? Will this be disallowed?
No. We want discussion to continue if it is warranted. So we will be open to allowing a poster to continue a thread he/she has begun, subject to our judgement that it is worthwhile doing so.
12. What happens when members of the Seminar want to comment on, or raise questions about, or otherwise discuss another member's question to Professor Crossan (or the points raised within it)?
In the best of all possible worlds we would welcome postings of this sort being sent to the Seminar for all to see, thus having a given thread, originally set out between a Seminar member and Professor Crossan, continued on the HJM/M List. But because HJM/M is a Seminar between posters and Professor Crossan, and not a forum for continued or extended discussion by Seminar members of these exchanges, we must prohibit such intramural postings on the Seminar itself. HOWEVER, nothing prevents Seminar Members from carrying out exchanges with one another on XTalk! Indeed, XTalk is exactly the place where such exchanges SHOULD occur. And we encourage Seminar members to do so there
13. How do I subscribe to XTalk?
Follow the instructions on subscribing that you'll find at the XTalk Home Page at
14. How do I contact the HJM/M Seminar moderators?
You may contact either of us either through our personal e-mail addresses:
or by through
I'm looking forward to a very interesting Seminar. I'm sure you are as well!
Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626
- Dear Prof. Crossan:
I have a question regarding the value of the genuine Pauline letters as
sources for the historical Jesus. I was struck by the statement early in
THE BIRTH OF CHRISTIANITY that "if you begin with Paul, you will interpret
Jesus incorrectly; if you begin with Jesus, you will interpret Paul
differently" (p. xxi). In one sense this is incontestable: if by "beginning
with Paul" one means beginning with Paul's developed theology, Christology,
etc. and attributing them to Jesus (as e.g. Jeremias did to a degree).
But in another sense it seems entirely proper to begin with Paul, as his
letters constitute our earliest extant sources for the character of Jesus'
ministry, written at least a decade before any of the Gospels (and arguably
a decade before Q, as well, since Q 13:34-35 may presuppose the fall of
Jerusalem). The half-dozen or so explicit references to Jesus' earthly
ministry in Paul's letters constitute the earliest securely datable pieces
of Jesus tradition we have. Further, whereas we have no really firm
information aobut the provenance of material preserved in the Gospels, we
know that the tradent who speaks to us in the Corpus Paulinum was in
personal contact with apostles of the earthly Jesus like Peter and John, as
well as with members of Jesus' family like James. Paul's reliability is
commended not only by Dodd's famous observation that one can't imagine him
spending the whole of his fortnight as Cephas's houseguest talking about
the weather, but also by the fact that to complete the collection for
Jerusalem Paul arranged to put those to whom he retailed his Jesus
traditions in close proximity with these very authorities and with the
community in which they were active (1 Cor 16:1-4). It's most unlikely that
Paul gave his churches a portrait of Jesus that could be falsified by
Peter, James, et al., and the house churches they nurtured.
It's routine to downplay the Pauline testimonia, but they yield a definite
profile: Jesus, born of Davidic ancestry (Rom 1:3) and reared under Torah
(Gal 4:4), executed some sort of DIAKONIA among Israel (Rom 15:8);
commissioned emissaries (1 Cor 9:14) among whom was a group known as "the
Twelve" (1 Cor 15:5); taught his followers about such matters as the
indissolubility of marriage (1 Cor 7:10-11), the conduct of their mission
(1 Cor 9:14 again), and -- perhaps most surprisingly -- his own
(posthumous?) return in glory (1 Thess 4:15-17); instituted a memorial
supper that bound his disciples together after his death (1 Cor 11:23-25);
and was ultimately executed as an enemy of the Roman order (1 Cor 1:23 et
al.), not without Judean involvement (1 Thess 2:14-15, if authentic). Paul
doesn't ascribe any wonders to the earthly Jesus, but he regards such as
the distinguishing marks of those sent in Jesus' name (2 Cor 12:11-12), and
it's not unreasonable to conclude that he understood their master to have
acted similarly. Had the Synoptics not been preserved, the Pauline evidence
would still allow us to reconstruct a figure congruent with their
protagonist, and to conclude that this representation of Jesus was current
in the first two to three decades of the Christian movement. And this is
the only representation of Jesus that we can so securely date to the
movement's first generation.
As BIRTH OF CHRISTIANITY amply attests, one of the principal challenges for
Jesus research is that the sources don't permit us to "begin with Jesus."
Instead, we must begin with surviving accounts of Jesus and weigh the
historical value of the traditions they preserve. My question, then, is
whether any reconstruction of Jesus that does not take account of the
Pauline testimonia -- either by making them foundational or by showing
cause for disregarding them -- can justly claim to be historical.
Associate Professor of New Testament
Institute for Christian Studies