Monday, May 30, 2005


Here is my once-a-month book recommendation. It is Schussler Fiorenza's "Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation" (2000).

If you are not fond of books that challenge mainstream scholarship, you will not like this book. If you do not like any sort of feminist critique of scholarship, you will not like this book. One critic found this book too harsh.

On the other hand, if you like thought provoking comments, whether you agree or disagree, you will find a lot here to stimulate you. I value the book for wonderful insights and for her citation of so many other writers so that you can have other material to follow up with. I agree with much of what she says, and disagree with some of it. My one major complaint is that she does not present the evidence to back up most of what she says -- and I know from my own work that the evidence is there.

Here are some of the nuggets you will find in this book:

Today's quest for the historical Jesus is just like the older quest in that it still portrays Judaism in a negative light as a foil for Jesus (43). Very true. My book, which is on the road to publication, will make the same point but with the evidence to prove it.

She cites the Chinese theologian Kwok Pui-Lan who connects the origins of historical Jesus scholarship with European colonial expansionism in the 19th century (44, 89-90). Apparently, this theologian believes that European anxiety about the Other influenced their portrait of Jesus who must not be allowed to be Other. I don't know if she connects this with making Judaism the Other, but Schussler Fiorenza does (90).

An excellent quote from Renate Nestvogel who pointed out that scholars are afraid to discover their own racism (120). Schussler Fiorenza also quotes Amy-Jill Levine who blames anti-Judaism on scholars (141).

Revolutionary poses can serve conservative agendas (13, 46, 73). She sees a connection with some radical reconstructions of Jesus and the fundamentalist agenda.

Her comments about remembering and possibilities are also interesting (52-55, 61, 64, 66, 75, 78-79). She is much less interested in probability which she ignores (104).

These are just a few points of interest. On the whole, she has valuable things to say about the underlying motivations of the scholarly world.

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