The Gospel of Jesus according to the Jesus Seminar

I am writing today to congratulate Natalie Renee Perkins on producing her first episode of the Better Not Mention It podcast this week and encourage all of you to learn more and subscribe to new episodes here. In the inaugural episode, Arthur Dewey of Xavier University answers “the burning question” and discusses the book, The Gospel of Jesus: According to the Jesus Seminar. I’ve embedded the audio below, and you can read the transcript here.

About Natalie

Natalie Renee Perkins is a recently elected member of the Westar Board of Directors. She received her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, where she was awarded the Karen Ziegler Feminist Preaching Prize. As a writer, lecturer, preacher, chaplain and composer, she now intertwines early Christian material with contemporary society through a social justice lens. She is also a co-founder of the Tanho Center. Her involvement with Westar began in 2014 through the Young Leaders in Religion Forum. Natalie has performed professionally with cruise lines, national tours, symphony orchestras, and the USO. In her spare time she manages to keep her plant, Otis, alive.

Natalie Renee Perkins

About the Podcast

Better Not Mention It is a podcast that attempts to close the research gap between religious academia and the general population. Its focus is specifically on work that happens within the Westar Institute, the institute’s ongoing research seminars, and work/books written by Westar Fellows. Though at inception, Westar intended to examine all religions individually, its focus at this point remains the enormous body of work that is Christianity.

BNMI highlights information that is sometimes viewed as controversial and that thusly gets left out when the general population discusses religion, specifically Christianity. This pursuit strives to engage this information in conversation with scholars who are on the cutting edge of this research.

Art Dewey (bal)Episode 1:1 Let the Murmuring Continue

An Interview with Art Dewey

After introducing this new podcast project and explaining some of the background of the Westar Institute’s mission of advancing religious literacy, Natalie launches into a discussion with Westar Fellow Art Dewey that explores how the gospels were written and the legacy for, among other things, Jewish-Christian relations. Dewey shares his experience with modern attempts at Jewish-Christian reconciliation and how historical Jesus studies can aid in that ongoing dialogue. He also explores what it would mean to learn from the historical Jesus as a wisdom teacher in his own right, not strictly as a divine figure.

As regular readers know, I’m very concerned with the moral questions associated with the study of early Christianity. I always appreciate Art’s sense of humor and poetic turn of phrase. I found myself naturally drawn in his conversation with Natalie toward the Jewish-Christian reconciliation theme around the 42nd/43rd minute. I like that it comes specifically out of a conversation about the Good Samaritan parable in its original context and about what related sayings to “Love your enemies” existed (or didn’t) in other Greco-Roman lore. He turns to the question of why Mark in particular portrayed Jesus the way he did, and I find myself particularly loving this re-reading of Jesus’ significance:

What [Mark] does is to create a story that speaks to the experience, all the suffering of innocents and Jesus is an innocent sufferer just as the many hundreds who were killed in the Jewish war were innocent sufferer. And so the death of Jesus is not a solitary death but is a death in solidarity with all those who died.

Since I had the great privilege of editing Art Dewey’s forthcoming book Remembering the Death of Jesus earlier this year, I know that he will have a lot more to say on this subject very soon, and I’m looking forward to sharing more about it with you upon the book’s release. Until then, for an excellent preview, please enjoy Natalie’s interview with him!

Cassandra FarrinCassandra Farrin joined Westar in 2010. A US-UK Fulbright Scholar, she has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Lancaster University (England) and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Willamette University. She is passionate about books and projects that in some way address the intersection of ethics and early Christian history.

1 reply
  1. Gene Stecher says:

    Cassandra, you quoted Dr. Dewey: “And so the death of Jesus is not a solitary death but is a death in solidarity with all those who died.” This is profound, indeed.

    Dewey’s forthcoming book Remembering the Death of Jesus prompts me to also recommend James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews (2001) where he has a lot to say about the centuries of cross theology. Your readers may also be interested in Anthony Le Donne’s recent book Near Christianity: How Journeys along Jewish-Christian Borders Saved my Faith in God (2016).

    Coincidentally I’ve been reflecting on this very subject, and recently wrote: “Jesus was only one of tens of thousands of Jews crucified by the Romans. Were each of those lives any less valuable than his? I was looking at various hymns with “cross” themes and began reflecting on The Holy City (1892). One of the verses reads “As the Shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill. Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” Well, that’s not just Jesus’ cross shadowing Jerusalem but the crosses of thousands of Jews shadowing Jerusalem. Jesus does not hang alone, and I submit that the border created by his cross becomes destructive if it’s shadow blocks out the thousands of other crosses distributed along the line of demarcation.”

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