What is the New Sheffield?

Professor Yvonne Sherwood with one of her PhD students

In 2014, the University of Sheffield closed what was arguably the most innovative and exciting Department of Biblical Studies in the United Kingdom. Sheffield Biblical Studies offered cutting-edge biblical scholarship in the subfields of literary criticism, cultural studies, political criticism, and Hebrew Bible/Old Testament historical criticism. Biblical Studies at Sheffield also boasted notable, colourful, and sometimes controversial scholars, including David Clines, Philip Davies, Keith Whitelam, Cheryl Exum, James Crossley, John Rogerson, Stephen Moore, David Gunn, Barry Matlock, Diana Edelman, Meg Davies, Andrew Lincoln, Yvonne Sherwood, and Loveday Alexander.

But now there is a …. New Sheffield!

In her introduction to the latest Biblical Interpretation, Yvonne Sherwood writes, “I say that our aim is to make Kent (in the south of England) a ‘new Sheffield’, and to draw on the ‘logo’ of this biblical studies city of the north” (“Futures, Presents and Gestures of Supersession: The Futures of Biblical Studies at the University of Kent“, Biblical Interpretation 25, no. 4-5 [2017], 436).  Sheffield has fallen to yet another supersession narrative in  biblical studies:

We are not saying that the north has fallen to the Assyrians (and you can allegorise ‘the Assyrians’ however you please), nor do we want to simply territorialise the new Sheffield exclusively here in some imperial gesture. The futures of ‘Sheffield’ are diasporic. But we feel a great need to strategically open up a new institutional space that specifically supports the kind of interdisciplinary work that Sheffield represented here in the United Kingdom. Our vision is to have a large international Ph.D. community, like the kind of community that met at the Monday weekly research centre and then went for lunch at the local pub, The Bathfield, in Sheffield’s pasts. Groups appropriate a name and a story for a reason. To us it seems important to define ourselves as one of ‘Sheffield’s’ futures: ‘Sheffield’ here signifying the kind of international and interdisciplinary biblical studies that is particularly open to other disciplines and that works between the biblical pasts and the futures of those pasts. (p. 436)

If it is objected that Sherwood’s aims are too bold, the retort must be that this type of chutzpah is ‘Very Sheffield’. In fact, Sherwood’s vision of an audaciously interdisciplinary biblical studies, one which combines the philosophical ‘turn to religion’ with a more metacritical biblical studies, seems precisely what was envisioned by the authors of the programmatic volume, The Invention of the Biblical Scholar: A Critical Manifesto (2011). Biblical Studies at the University of Kent successfully marries Sherwood’s literary criticism with Ward Blanton’s interventions in Continental philosophy.

And if there is any doubt, there’s this fact: the University of Kent now houses David Clines’ library. Boom.

The University of Kent: More Sheffield than Sheffield.

 

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Michael Bird: Jesus had multiple erections throughout his life

Theologian Michael Bird (Ridley College) appeared on Australian national television last night, talking about Jesus’ erections.

Here’s the rush transcript of Michael Bird discussing the rigidity of Our Lord’s penis with ABC interviewer, Tom Ballard:

Michael Bird: I’ll tell you a real funny story. I taught religious education to some students … and I asked them a very provocative question. I said to them, ‘Did Jesus ever have an erection?’

Tom Ballard: ‘Did Jesus ever have an erection?’?

Michael Bird: I believe he did.

Tom Ballard: Multiple erections.

Michael Bird: Throughout the course of his life.

Tom Ballard: Would he have had an orgasm?

Michael Bird: I don’t know. He may have had, he probably had a nocturnal emission as a teenager.

Tom Ballard: OK.

Michael Bird: We all have…

Tom Ballard: Would he have… helped that along, if he was a red-blooded, normal man?

Michael Bird: What do you mean by ‘helped it along’? You mean like…

Tom Ballard: Would he have…

Michael Bird: … choked the chicken?

Tom Ballard: Yeah.

Michael Bird: Ah. I don’t know about that.

Tom Ballard: Just to be clear, you brought up Jesus and erections. I wanna make that very clear. I know I’m from the godless ABC, but that was your call, Sir.

So Michael Bird has made the daring theological proposition that Jesus Christ had erections, even orgasms, while refraining from commenting on whether the Son of God ever had a wank.

On national television.

If you watch the video above, you will see that Michael Bird goes on to sing a few songs from Jesus Christ Superstar with Tom Ballard. But let’s try to put that to the side, to concentrate on the weightier theological ramifications of the alleged tumescence of Jesus’ penis.

As it so happens, one of my varied fields of expertise is the erections of Jesus, as the New Adam. I can confirm that it is theological Orthodoxy that a Perfect Man, as was Adam before the Fall, and as was Our Lord throughout his earthly life, would only have had an erection if he had willed it with his mind. Yes, the prelapsarian Adam and Jesus had perfect control over the stiffness of their penises. They could control their penises with their minds! The penis, in this respect was just like any other part of the body, say the hand.

As I documented in my recent article,

The Perfect Penis of Eden“,

St. Augustine considered that penises today are mere shadows of the perfect penis of Eden, ‘neither arising nor subsiding at the bidding of the mind’ (De pec. mer. 1.57). Jesus came to Earth for the purpose, among other things, to restore a perfect penis to man.

So for Michael Bird to suggest that Jesus himself would have unwanted erections and unwanted nocturnal emissions is blatant Heresy. It may be classified as neo-phallo-Ebionitism, a variation on what was a dangerous early Heresy. Christian Orthodoxy, with St. Augustine, rightly holds that Jesus exercised perfect control over his penis, having the mind of the prelapsarian Adam. Michael Bird makes the gravest theological error in thinking that it is ‘fully human’ for Christ to have unwanted erections and wet dreams. For Jesus was made incarnate in the body of the unfallen Adam, not the fallen Adam whose mind no longer had perfect control over his penis. And as Our Lord had no use for an erect phallus, he willed it not.

With the utmost sincerity, I call upon Michael Bird to recant his heretical neo-phallo-Ebionitism, and affirm Jesus’ perfect control over his penis.

 

 

Larry Hurtado versus Richard Carrier on Jesus Mythicism

There is a curious exchange going on at the moment between New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado and Jesus mythicist and historian Richard Carrier. “Jesus Mythicism”, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, is the position that there was no historical Jesus. Jesus never existed! Instead, Jesus was only ever a mythical figure.

The current exchange began with Hurtado’s largely positive review (27 Nov 2017) of Tim O’Neill’s site, History for Atheists. Hurtado drew attention to O’Neill’s post on Jesus Mythicism, “The Jesus Myth: The Jesus Myth Theory, Again” (31 May 2017).

In that post, Hurtado also mentioned his own earlier discussions of Jesus Mythicism, which he wrote following Bart Ehrman’s book-length response to Jesus mythicism, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (HarperOne, 2012). Hurtado’s posts at that time were as follows:

The ‘Did Jesus Exist’ Controversy and Its Precedents” (23 July 2012)

The ‘Did Jesus Exist’ Controversy–Encore” (27 July 2012)

On Competence, Scholarly Authority, and Open Discussion” (2 August 2012)

The Jesus-Discussion: Let’s Move On” (9 August 2012)

There were also some responses to Hurtado from Neil Godfrey (Vridar): “Larry Hurtado’s Wearying Historical Jesus Question” (26 July 2012), “Larry Hurtado’s Wearying (and Irresponsible?) Encore” (29 July 2012). Hurtado later posted on the same subject, in “Talking Sense about Jesus’ Historicity” (28 Jan 2014).

Since then, Carrier has published a book on mythicism with Sheffield Academic Press: On the Historicity of Jesus: Why we might have reason for doubt (2014). The book relies for its methodology on the discussion of Bayes’s Theorem in Carrier’s earlier publication, Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus (Prometheus Books, 2012). Sheffield Academic Press was a mainstream publisher of biblical studies, before its acquisition by Bloomsbury. Given the frequent mentions of Carrier’s book in published reviews and internet discussions, I imagine it sells very well.

So when Hurtado began his recent series of replies to Carrier, I was surprised to see this admission:

You don’t have to read the 700+ pages of Carrier’s book, however, to see if it’s persuasive.  To cite an ancient saying, you don’t have to drink the whole of the ocean to judge that it’s salty.

Yes, Hurtado has not in fact read Carrier’s book. And yet, Hurtado has now written an extensive series of posts in reply to Carrier:

The ‘Mythic’ Jesus’ Last Hurrah” (30 Nov 2017)

Why the “Mythical Jesus” Claim Has No Traction with Scholars” (2 Dec 2017)

“Mythical Jesus”: The Fatal Flaws” (4 Dec 2017)

Focus, Focus, Focus!” (6 Dec 2017)

Gee, Dr. Carrier, You’re Really Upset!” (7 Dec 2017)

The last of these posts was in reply to Carrier’s response to Hurtado, “The Bizarre Fugue of Larry Hurtado” (7 Dec 2017).

[Since then, Carrier replied with “The Difference Between a Historian and an Apologist” (9 December 2017), and Hurtado with “Greek Prepositions and Careful Exegesis” 11 December 2017), ““The Real Jesus”in National Geographic” (11 December 2017), and “On Accurate Representation of Texts” (11 December 2017).]

In addition, Neil Godfrey (Vridar) has posted comments on the exchange in “Reply to Larry Hurtado: ‘Why the “Mythical Jesus” Claim Has No Traction with Scholars’” (2 Dec 2017); “Thinking through the “James, the brother of the Lord” passage in Galatians 1:19” (3 Dec 2017); “On Larry Hurtado’s Response” (5 Dec 2017); “Focus, Focus, Focus — but Not Blinkered” (6 Dec 2017) [, and “The Hurtado-Carrier debate has become unpleasant” (11 December 2017], as has Nicholas Covington (Hume’s Apprentice), with full points for alliteration: “Hurtado’s Horrible Happening” (5 Dec 2017) [, James McGrath, “Richard Carrier as False Prophet” (10 December 2017), with a reply from Nicholas Covington, “McGrath’s Mythicist Gaffes” (12 December 2017)].

Hurtado makes many good points in reply to Jesus mythicism. But it is never responsible to comment in respect of a book which one has not even read. I can understand simply ignoring Jesus mythicism as an unfeasible position, and not deigning to comment on it. But to engage a specific author, and a specific book, without having read it, is indefensible practice. It can only lead to the response of ‘aha – I told you so!’ among Jesus mythicists. The error in judgment can be rectified though – by making a more informed reply after reading the book.

Lastly, Daniel Gullotta has just published an extensive critique of Richard Carrier’s book, “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts: A Response to Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 15, no. 2 (2017): 310 – 346. Here is the abstract:

The Jesus Myth theory is the view that the person known as Jesus of Nazareth had no historical existence. Throughout the centuries this view has had a few but notable adherents such as Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews, G.A. Wells, and Robert M. Price. Recently, Richard Carrier’s work On the Historicity of Jesus (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014) has attempted to reexamine the question in a rigorous academic fashion. According to Carrier, within the earliest days of Christianity, Jesus was not understood as a historic-human figure, but rather as a celestial-angelic being, akin to Gabriel in Islam or to Moroni in Mormonism, and only came to be understood as a historical person later. While Carrier’s hypothesis is problematic and unpersuasive, there are several key points related to his work that this article specifically challenges and critiques.

And there is a post in response to Gullotta’s article by Neil Godfrey (“Daniel Gullotta’s Review of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus“; 13 December 2017), who promises many more posts in response.

David and Goliath: The Very Scary Giant

Sunny Griffin (text) and Donna Lee Hill (illustrations),
David and The Very Scary Giant.
Ashland, OH: Landoll, 1994.

Some children’s books are quite oblique when it comes to explaining what happens to Goliath at the end of the story of David and Goliath. After a very slow build-up, with lots of background about David as a young boy and how he looked after his sheep – David and The Very Scary Giant suddenly gets to the climax:

The text explains that David’s stone killed Goliath. That is, however, the last page. There’s no actual depiction of David killing Goliath, just the expectation in Goliath’s eyes. And there is definitely no head-chopping.

David and Goliath: Toddlers Bible Library

My favourite David and Goliath children’s books are the ones aimed at very young readers. To be clear, they are my favourite. I wouldn’t let them near actual children.

Take this one, a short board book, in the series “The Toddlers Bible Library”: V. Gilbert Beers (text), David Fights a Giant. The Toddlers Bible Library (Wheaton: Paradise Press, 1993).

I dunno – something about that series title (The Toddlers Bible Library) might have perhaps provided a hint that the David & Goliath story wasn’t really suitable.

Yet the authors attempt to make it suitable for toddlers by making it obscure how exactly David killed Goliath. The two characters never appear in the same shot, but only on successive pages. So your toddler doesn’t get to see this whole scene, which I’ve spliced together for older readers (R18):

And then you get a shot of Goliath lying down. One is not quite sure why he is lying down. To sanitise it for toddlers, the authors have had to make the plot undecipherable. But they do make the reason clear for why David defeated the giant: because he asked God for help, whereas Goliath did not. (No mention that it was ‘help’ … to kill someone.)

This is either a very confusing story for toddlers, or – if their parents explain what’s happening – a very unsuitable story for toddlers. All this explains a lot about how Christians turn out, though.

New Book! Theologians and Philosophers Using Social Media

Theologians and Philosophers Using Social MediaHave you seen the #1 book on Amazon’s list of new releases in religious studies education?

Thomas Jay Oord, ed., Theologians and Philosophers Using Social Media: Advice, Tips, and Testimonials (SacraSage Press, September 2, 2017)

It includes a section by me on using social media, in which I discuss things like the Biblical Studies Online website, John Dominic Crossan’s holiday photos, online discussions that were very helpful in writing my recent article about Jesus turning into a Giant in the Gospel of Peter, a contribution to an engagement with Larry Hurtado, Sathya Sai Baba’s injunction to ‘Love all, serve all’, and some other words of sage theological advice.

The insights in these 90+ essays are nothing short of inspiring! Their tips on best practices for social engagement, time management, social media as a resource for scholarship or creativity, technology and pedagogy, etc. will help readers tremendously.

The contributors are diverse. They include….

– Public theologians like Ben Corey, Brian McLaren, and Richard Rohr

– Younger scholars like Tripp Fuller, Jorey Micah, and Alexis Waggoner

– Biblical scholars like Michael Gorman, Joel Green, and Daniel Kirk

– Philosophers like Helen De Cruz, Aaron Simmons, and Kevin Timpe

– Establish scholars like James Crossley, Kwok Pui-lan, and Amos Yong

– Scholars outside North America like Deane Galbraith, RT Mullins, Hanna Reichel, and Atle Sovik

– Pastoral theologians like Patricia Farmer, Len Sweet, and Kurt Willems

– Historical theologians like Kim Alexander and Christine Helmer

– Science and religion scholars like Ron Cole-Turner, Karl Giberson, Lea Schweitz, and Jim Stump

– Constructive theologians like Oliver Crisp, Grace Ji-Sun Kim, and Jason Lepojärvi

– Ethicists like Miguel De La Torre, David Gushee, and Michael Hardin

…and the list goes on!

Whether the reader is an armchair theologian, a professional scholar, a graduate student, or simply interested in how social media is changing religious and philosophical studies, that reader will find Theologians and Philosophers Using Social Media of great help.

 

Have a look on Amazon!