Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins





I am happy to announce that my new book - Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins - will be published by Baylor University Press next year! This is my most recent work on Christian origins - a topic I have devoted much of my scholarly career to - and this study focuses on the relationship between the Essenes and the historical Jesus, a subject I have been fascinated with since I began graduate work in religion. It also gives me an opportunity to assess and discuss various critical responses to my work over the years. 

Although it has now become something of a truism to say that the study of Christian origins should be framed within Second Temple Judaism (since Jesus and his first followers were Jews), there is no denying that Christian origins also represents a complex, multifaceted, dynamic process of social, cultural, and theological change. In this light, I think Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins breaks new ground in locating and situating the historical Jesus within the context(s) of his "halakhic" discussions while simultaneously exploring how that original cultural matrix developed over the course of the first century to become what is commonly known today as "Christianity."

Here is the publisher's description:

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves near Qumran in 1947 sparked near endless speculation about the possible connections between the Essenes—purportedly the inhabitants of the settlement—and the birth, nature, and growth of early Christianity. Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins sheds new light on this old question by reexamining the complex relationships among Qumran, the historical Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian origins within first-century Palestinian Judaism. 

Author Simon J. Joseph’s careful examination of a number of distinctive passages in the Jesus tradition in light of Qumran-Essene texts focuses on major points of contact between the Qumran-Essene community and early Christianity in four areas of belief and practice: covenant identity, messianism, eschatology, and halakhah (legal interpretation), placing the weight of his argument for continuity and discontinuity on the halakhic topics of divorce, Sabbath, sacrifice, celibacy, and violence. 

Joseph focuses on the historical, cultural, chronological, and theological correspondences as convergence. This not only illuminates the historical Jesus’ teachings as distinctive, developing and extending earlier Jewish ethical and halakhic thought, it also clarifies the emergence of early Christianity in relationship to Palestinian Essenism. By bringing this holistic analysis of the evidence to bear, Joseph adds a powerful and insightful voice to the decades-long debate surrounding the Essenes and Christianity.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Jesus and the Temple - JTS Review





"Joseph argues an intriguing and innovative thesis . . . Joseph's thesis is cogently argued throughout . . . Joseph has performed a helpful service to scholarship in making this innovative and thoughtful proposal. Many will benefit from critically engaging with this volume."

David W. Chapman, Journal of Theological Studies

Friday, August 4, 2017

Jesus and the Temple - JSNT Review





“Joseph demonstrates a remarkable knowledge of the scholarly material, and the erudition on display means that his study will undoubtedly serve as a core resource for all subsequent work on sacrificial imagery in the NT.”

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Jesus and the Temple - JETS Review





"There is much to be commended in this book. Jesus and the Temple is a very readable and well-researched investigation into the circumstances of Jesus's death. The argument is easy to follow, and Joseph's analysis of both the primary and secondary literature is salutary. Even better, Joseph produces a consistent argument . . . an engaging read and one full of tantalizing possibilities. Joseph's arguments deserve to be taken seriously by anyone interested in the study of the historical Jesus and the question of why he died." 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Q, Social Identity, and Apocalyptic Violence in History of Religions!




In the summer of 2009, I presented a paper on the rhetoric of apocalyptic violence in Q during the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. The meetings were held at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, just down the street from the Trevi Fountain and a short walk from the Pantheon! One of the highlights of the trip was being invited to submit the paper for publication in a special issue on Violence and Identity in History of Religions. Happy to say it just got published ("A Social Identity Approach to the Rhetoric of Apocalyptic Violence in the Sayings Gospel Q")!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

New Article in Harvard Theological Review!






Happy to say that an expanded version of a paper I was invited to give in the Q Section at the annual meeting of the SBL (Atlanta, 2015) will be published in the Harvard Theological Review (2018)! The title is “The Quest for the ‘Community’ of Q: Mapping Q Within the Social, Scribal, and Textual Landscape(s) of Second Temple Judaism.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Prayer in Q - Conference 2017 (Graz)




I was honored with an invitation to present a paper on "Prayer in Q" at the 2017 Q Conference in Graz, Austria (March 23-25). My paper was entitled "The Promise of Providence and the Problem of the Parables: Revisiting Prayer in the Sayings Gospel Q" and explored the literary and historical relationship between the Enochic Book of Parables and Q in light of Q's prayer texts. I've written on this topic in The Nonviolent Messiah: Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition, but it was great to be able to discuss this with Q specialists in more detail and hear some excellent papers! Many thanks to Christoph Heil and the Dept. of Catholic Theology at the University of Graz for the invitation and hospitality! I look forward to seeing the published papers in Mohr Siebeck's WUNT series!




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Article in Gnosis!




Happy to say that my new article, "'Knowledge is Truth'': A Course in Miracles as Neo-Gnostic Scripture," has just been published in Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies! The article discusses A Course in Miracles - a book allegedly received from "Jesus" by Helen Schucman, a psychologist at Columbia Medical Center in NYC in the 1960s - as an example of what can be called "Neo-Gnosticism." I suggest that the Course represents a modern-day neo-Gnostic scripture that reflects significant trends in contemporary Western religiosity, especially the quest for alternative forms of esoteric “spiritual” knowledge and experience in a nominally Christian or post-Christian Western world. Many thanks to April D. DeConick and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Nonviolent Messiah (Review)




Pleased to find this review of The Nonviolent Messiah by Kelly Denton-Borhaug in the journal Dialog: A Journal of Theology

“Simon Joseph develops a biblical hermeneutic of nonviolence derived from his textual analysis of messianic portrayals in Judaism and early Christianity. His investigation leads him to assert the originality and centrality of Jesus’ command to love enemies . . . In this extensively researched and comprehensive study . . . Joseph encourages a recovery of the importance of Jesus traditions of nonviolence as a hermeneutical key for a better understanding of the historical Jesus . . . Joseph carefully builds his argument in a way that is very accessible to nonspecialists, almost as if he were writing a mystery novel. At the same time, this book’s detailed footnotes and bibliography demonstrate his meticulous care to address the concerns, intricate analyses, and discoveries of a diverse group of biblical scholars . . . Joseph notices that not only are the consequences of Jesus’ nonviolence ignored and marginalized in mainstream contemporary society, even in historical Jesus research there is surprisingly little attention to this subject.”

The full article, "Christianity: Maidservant to War?," can be read here.