Deconstructive analysis assumes that every text inevitably contains within itself the seeds of its own rhetorical self-destruction. The Matthean Gospel threatens to undermine its own rhetorical legitimisation in its depiction of evil, the cohorts of evil and evil's strategic incoherence. In Matt. 12:22-29 the story's central protagonist (Jesus) and his main antagonists (the Pharisees) are shown to hold different views on the character of evil. Within the course of the Matthean narrative, the view of the antagonists proves itself to be accurate, with the protagonist's view proving itself to be deficient. The reliability of the protagonist's discernment of things central to his own career and identity is thereby undermined. Comparison of the Matthean narrative with that of Mark suggests that this deconstructive tendency is to be credited to the Matthean evangelist in his efforts to demonise the synagogue of his contemporaries by means of a rhetoric of evil.
If humour is uncharacteristic of the texts of the early Christian movement, sensitivity to rhetorical patterning in oral/aural contexts permits the recognition of innocuous sexual humour in one of the parables attributed to Jesus. Whether or not the humour originates with Jesus, it is suggestive of the way that Jesus was remembered by some of his earliest followers, and lays down a guidepost as to how he might profitably be rendered in modern portraiture or characterised in modern narrative. To that end, this study closes with an assessment of four Jesus novels of the past decade in relation to their depiction of Jesus and humour.
The aphorism 'context is everything' has been a guiding principle in many studies of Jesus' parabolic sayings. This is true, for instance, of studies attempting to recover a parable's significance in relation to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, or in relation to its literary placement and function, or in relation to its polyvalent potential. It is also true of this study, which examines Jesus' narrative of the Samaritan—usually referred to as the 'parable of the good Samaritan'. It suggests that, when the Samaritan story is placed within a certain contextual configuration, its narrative features align themselves in ways that have either been conspicuously neglected or consciously avoided in the history of the story's interpretation. Rather than neglecting or avoiding the significance of these narrative features, this essay seeks to exploit their interpretative significance in a fresh manner, entertaining possibilities of meaning beyond the Lukan interpretative framework. In particular, consideration is given to the relationship between the Samaritan and the innkeeper as representing an exceptional partnership that testifies to the reign of God in making each party vulnerable to loss while promoting goodness towards others.
Certain Pompeian artifacts have drawn debate as to whether they might be the product of Jesus-devotion within the walls of that small town. This article overviews the context for considering that issue in accordance with the best forms of current historiographical analysis and in light of the full spread of the evidence. To do otherwise is to mire the debate in a problematic web of outdated assumptions. When those assumptions are purged from the interpretive process and the full spread of evidence is taken into account, new interpretive possibilities open up, with important historical implications for our understanding of early forms of Jesus-devotion.