Exit the ‘Great Man’: On James Crossley’s Jesus and the Chaos of History

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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In Jesus and the Chaos of History (JCH), James G. Crossley invites us to ‘rethink some of the ways we approach the historical Jesus.’ The result of many years of critical engagement in Jesus Research, JCH is a helpful overview of the current state of the field and a programmatic set of essays seeking to ‘redirect’ Jesus Research by finding new ways to account for the social, economic, and political factors inherent and implicit in ‘historical change.’ In this review, I would like to engage and think with four of Crossley’s proposals: (1) the concept of an ‘Earliest Palestinian Tradition’; (2) the construction of Jesus as a ‘Great Man’; (3) the Jewish Jesus’ Torah observance; and (4) Jesus’ relationship to politico-military revolution and ‘(non)violence’.


In Jesus and the Chaos of History (JCH), James G. Crossley invites us to ‘rethink some of the ways we approach the historical Jesus.’ The result of many years of critical engagement in Jesus Research, JCH is a helpful overview of the current state of the field and a programmatic set of essays seeking to ‘redirect’ Jesus Research by finding new ways to account for the social, economic, and political factors inherent and implicit in ‘historical change.’ In this review, I would like to engage and think with four of Crossley’s proposals: (1) the concept of an ‘Earliest Palestinian Tradition’; (2) the construction of Jesus as a ‘Great Man’; (3) the Jewish Jesus’ Torah observance; and (4) Jesus’ relationship to politico-military revolution and ‘(non)violence’.

* Cf. Ragnar Leivestad, ‘Exit the Apocalyptic Son of Man,’ NTS 18.3 (1972), 243–67.

** The author would like to thank the editors of JSHJ for this invitation.

Jesus Research has become an increasingly complex discourse. Since the 1980s, when the rise of The Jesus Seminar brought unprecedented media attention to the ‘Quest for the Historical Jesus,’ we have not had academic consensus, but rather further polarization marked by methodological uncertainties and theological/non-theological interests.1 This is not surprising given that the historical Jesus is widely regarded as providing the key to the story of Christian origins. The rise of social media, online forums, Jesus-Mythicism,2 and a politicized discourse about religion in a post-9/11 world has also made discussing Jesus more divisive than ever.3 In Jesus and the Chaos of History (JCH), James G. Crossley re-enters the fray, inviting us to ‘rethink some of the ways we approach the historical Jesus.’4 The result of many years of critical engagement in Jesus Research, JCH is a helpful overview of the current state of the field and a programmatic set of essays seeking to ‘redirect’ Jesus Research by finding new ways to account for the social, economic, and political factors inherent and implicit in ‘historical change.’ In this review, I would like to engage and think with four of Crossley’s proposals: (1) the concept of an ‘Earliest Palestinian Tradition’; (2) the construction of Jesus as a ‘Great Man’; (3) the Jewish Jesus’ Torah observance; and (4) Jesus’ relationship to politico-military revolution and ‘(non)violence’.

1 On ‘The Earliest Palestinian Tradition’

In recent years, sustained critiques of the traditional ‘criteria of authenticity’ have effectively undermined their reliability as historiographical tools.5 The utility of (some of) these criteria remains a topic of debate as it is not, for example, that the methodological principle of embarrassment is somehow faulty; rather, it is the lack of reliable cultural data about what was ‘embarrassing’ that prevents the criterion from being consistently effective.6 Similarly, it is not that the criterion of multiple attestation is methodologically invalid; rather, it is our inability to determine and compel consensual assent to any particular solution to the Synoptic Problem that renders the criterion problematic. Rethinking the periodization of Jesus Research is certainly one effective way of challenging the theoretical framework(s) within which the historical Jesus is studied,7 insofar as it recognizes that this so-called ‘Quest’ has been ongoing since the Enlightenment. Additional advances may include revisiting discursive concepts and categories.

One of Crossley’s major proposals in JCH is the reconceptualization of the Jesus quest as the identification of the general reliability of the ‘Early Palestinian’ (Jesus) tradition.8 The result is a more modest approach to (re)constructing Jesus that suggests ‘using the specific analysis of passages not to be precise … but to build up general pictures of plausibility.’9 Crossley reminds us that our efforts to reconstruct Jesus with the composite repository of the Jesus tradition by isolating distinctive and characteristic aspects of the man is simply not always possible. Crossley suggests adopting a more ‘old-fashioned’ historiographical approach: constructing hypotheses with arguments ‘to make a general case’ tested in public discourse.10 Crossley admits that some of ‘the Earliest Palestinian Tradition’ may be early,11 but it is the general contours of this tradition that are the most reliable: Jesus was ‘born and active in Galilee, attracted followers, clashed with people over interpretation of the Law, gained a reputation as a (sometimes) successful healer and exorcist, preached the coming of the kingdom, often spoke in parables, and went to Jerusalem where he died.’ I have no quarrel with the ‘gist’ approach and freely concede that biblical scholars are indeed less confident today about their ability to determine the precise things Jesus said and did even while there is widespread agreement that the Gospels provide generally reliable impressions of the kinds of things Jesus said and did.

A pertinent example of how Crossley’s ‘recurrent attestation’ works in practice is his (re)engagement of the Synoptic Problem. Adopting a more circumspect approach to Q, Crossley eschews any particular solution, reflecting what may be perceived as an increasing skepticism regarding the Two-Document Hypothesis.12 While Crossley’s Doktorvater, Maurice Casey, affirmed a ‘chaotic Q,’13 Crossley reconsiders the viability of the Farrer Hypothesis, allowing that ‘if we took the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis … this might involve using Mark and material particular to Matthew and/or Luke.’14 Similarly, when he discusses Luke 11:2–4, he leaves ‘to one side the question of whether it is a Q passage or Luke using Matthew.’15 When he discusses sayings about poverty and wealth, he makes ‘a point which stands irrespective of whether we accept some form of Q or not.’16 His discussion of the ‘twelve thrones’ passage works ‘irrespective of whether we work with the Q hypothesis or an alternative.’17

I appreciate this methodological candor. There is no denying that sustained critiques of the evidentiary presuppositions underlying the Two-Document Hypothesis have undermined (some) scholarly confidence in Q.18 Yet arguments from incredulity can be used to both affirm and doubt the existence of Q.19 It does not help that arguments about ‘Q’ are often confused with arguments about ‘Jesus.’20 Since the rise of ‘biblioblogging’ (a subject in which Crossley has been both interested and involved), the topic of Q has periodically come up for discussion. Mark Goodacre, for example, has played a major role in steering online discourse on Q, especially in developing his website (The New Testament Gateway, now called The Case Against Q), where he posts resources useful for questioning Q. There seems to be a correlation, therefore, between the rise of ‘biblioblogging’ and Q skepticism, a correlation borne out by a number of informal ‘polls’ taking the pulse of Q.21 Yet such polls of random blog-readers are – although entertaining and fun – also misleading and misrepresentative of the state of the field in the Academy, where ‘Quelle still reigns.’22

The Synoptic Problem does not lend itself to quick and easy soundbites. Internet-discourse not only over-simplifies complex technical discussions but appeals to facile solutions in order to score socio-rhetorical points. Recent Q studies tend to focus less on ‘Jesus’ and more on the compositional history and redactional modifications of Q as a literary work in its own right, effectively undermining any quick and easy use of Q in Jesus Research.23 To suggest that ‘Q’ is really all about ‘Jesus’ is not simply to discount the discursive history of Q Studies; it may also be an attempt to avoid accepting the fact that arguments against Q have so far failed to overturn the consensus.

Yes, Matthew and Luke both construct the beginning(s) of their Gospels in remarkably similar ways, but there are also substantial and extensive differences in the details of their respective infancy narratives (e.g., the genealogies). Yes, given Luke’s Prologue, there is a prima facie case that Luke knew (of or about) other ‘sources,’24 but it does not always seem possible to explain why Luke made his specific editorial decisions or whether Luke uses Mark, Matthew, his own traditions, other ‘sources,’ or sometimes just makes things up when neither Mark nor Matthew are sufficiently ‘Luke-pleasing.’25 The ‘Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis,’ in other words, ‘might be able to account for some of the Synoptic data in an efficient and credible manner,’ but ‘other data present far more difficult challenges.’26 In addition to the absence of much of Matthew’s ‘M’ material which must be explained (away),27 there are also a number of conspicuous instances of Matthean additions to Mark omitted by Luke.28

It would seem, then, that no specific Synoptic solution is sufficiently compelling to force universal consent and that scholars should consider which source-critical position they are adopting and respect the theoretical limits within which they are working by considering whether particular passages read differently based on different source-critical solutions. It may not always matter which particular Synoptic solution we adopt when it comes to constructing Jesus, but sometimes it does, as very different literary, sociological, and historical development(s) can be charted based on the source-critical theories one presupposes.29 A world without Q, after all, represents a very different theoretical trajectory of development(s), transferring what was once ‘Q’-source-material to Matthew’s chronologically later body of source-material (‘M+’?).30

In any case, Crossley’s emphasis on the ‘earliest Palestinian tradition’ – especially in cases where passages work ‘irrespective of whether we work with the Q hypothesis’ or not31 – rightly signifies and prioritizes the ethnically Jewish matrix of the ‘earliest Palestinian’ movement in distinction from the predominantly Gentile-audiences presupposed in Paul’s letters.32 Jesus Research does not depend on Q, but ‘the Q hypothesis’ does provide us with a theoretical window on early Jewish/Christian scribal reflection on Jesus’ life and teachings as well as a compositional window which may also reflect chronological shifts within the Jesus movement itself. We would do well then to continue attending to the hypothetical ‘difference’ Q makes and the discursive ‘trouble’ Q causes.33

2 Exit the ‘Great Man’

The idea that the historical Jesus was an exceptionally wise and/or righteous person has been questioned and criticized for its Romantic naivete and complicity in ideological constructs of ‘Great Man’ (hagio-)biography.34 In JCH, James Crossley echoes such sentiments, suggesting that ‘rather than seeing Jesus as a Great Man who, implicitly, changed history by himself, we should investigate … social upheavals in Galilee.’35 Crossley wants ‘to shift the focus to using Jesus as a means of understanding historical change.’ His goal is not to produce ‘yet another Jesus portrait for the marketplace’ (although that is ‘inevitably’ what he does, as he admits), but rather to use the early Jesus tradition ‘as a useful means of understanding human society and historical change.’36 Informing Crossley’s approach, as the title suggests, is ‘chaos theory.’ Chaos theory originated in mathematical systems, and is commonly known as ‘the Butterfly Effect.’ Here the term refers to an interdisciplinary theoretical framework modeling how apparently random, and often unknown, interplays of various forces and factors produce unpredictable events. Chaos theory encourages awareness ‘of the multiplicity of forces that play a part in the creation of a particular phenomenon,’ in this case the historical Jesus, to be investigated.37 The challenge of doing history, then, is that history simply does not follow ‘predictable’ patterns or disclose ‘the full range of variables’ at play at any time.38

According to Crossley, the rise of the Jesus movement can be explained – not necessarily by appealing to ‘the historical Jesus’ or any particular ‘Big Bang’ moment in Christian origins – but rather by a series of social upheavals in first-century Galilee, an environment prone to rebellion and millenarian group-formation(s) and subject to colonial urbanization – in the decades leading up to the Jewish War.39 As Crossley points out, however, this analysis does not preclude positing the historical Jesus himself as an independent agent of change.40 So while it is easy to agree with Crossley that we certainly do need to better understand, reconstruct, and contextualize the social, economic, and political forces that affected the first-century Jesus movement in Judea and Galilee in our historical reconstructions, it is not a question of either ‘Jesus’ explains the emergence of the Jesus movement (‘by himself’) or socio-economic causes do so; any balanced historical reconstruction would require both. I do not think that Crossley intends to reduce Christian origins to socio-economic causes as much as to emphasize the social, economic, and political processes implicated in every redescription of historical change. Yet one does not need to appeal to ‘Big Bang’ theories of Christian origins in order to posit that Jesus made an ‘impact’ on his followers irreducible to social and/or economic factors. For Crossley, this is where Jesus’ identification as a ‘Great Man’ – a concept plagued with Romantic anachronism and complicit in ‘Jewish-but-not-that-Jewish Jesus’ scholarship41 – facilitates the construction of a problematic polarity between Jesus and his ‘background’ and reinscribes ideological and theological distortions of the historical figure. Crossley’s case that European Romanticism has elevated the ‘Great Man’ archetype into a problematic trope that effaces contingent social, economic, and political factors in accounting for historical change is cogent, but I am reluctant to discount the idea that some men – whether social movement leaders, political activists, and/or religious figures – do stand out, inspiring, attracting, and repulsing others, and that Jesus was one such man.42 That is, I am reluctant to discount the idea that the historical Jesus was a man who witnessed firsthand the devastatingly violent after-effects of Jewish revolt in early first-century Galilee and developed his own distinctive worldview in light of his experience. We do not need to re-construct Jesus as ‘incomparable,’ ‘unique,’ ‘dissimilar’ to Judaism, or a ‘Great Man’ in order to appreciate Jesus, as Jewish scholar and ‘historian’ Geza Vermes did, as a great man:

Second to none in profundity of insight and grandeur of character … an unsurpassed master of the art of laying bare the inmost core of spiritual truth and of bringing every issue back to the essence of religion.43

While some might see ‘crypto-Christian’ sentiments in Vermes’s idealized portrait, perhaps carried over from his earlier days as a Catholic priest, it does not seem controversial to suggest that the historical Jesus, like so many of his contemporaries, was faced with the same cultural, political, and theological problems of maintaining ethnic dignity in the face of colonial oppression. Like many of his contemporaries, he could either participate in violent revolt, collaborate and compromise with the colonizers, do nothing, and/or to attempt to develop a different way that neither endorsed nor revolted against Roman rule.

3 The ‘Jewish Jesus’ Torah Observance

In a number of publications, James Crossley has effectively criticized the ‘rhetorical generalization’ of the ‘Jewish Jesus.’44 Following William Arnal, who published an incisive analysis of the historical, ideological, and political registers of Jesus’ ‘Jewishnesss,’45 Crossley also argues that Jesus’ Jewishness is often used as an ideological foil for various scholarly constructs that pay lip-service to Jesus’ ethnicity only to have Jesus ‘transcend this Jewish identity in some way,’ usually because he does something ‘new and unparalleled’ involving the Torah and/or the Temple.46 Like Arnal and Crossley, I have also been fascinated by rhetorical appeals to Jesus’ Jewishness when such appeals are implicated in discursive strategies claiming socio-intellectual power, capital, and authority.

An appeal to Jesus’ Jewishness is useful for rhetorically legitimizing one’s reading of a Jesus saying or deed. Yet Jesus’ Jewishness is also a somewhat malleable category. Beyond the relatively common assumptions about being ethnically Judean, monotheistic, and circumcised, there is the vexing question of identifying and delineating Jesus’ halakhah.47 The problem with the rhetorical appeal to Jesus’ Jewishness, therefore, is not that it is incorrect. The problem is that it is insufficient: it does not tell us enough. Moreover, facile appeals to Jesus’ Jewishness may also be deployed to authorize claims about Jesus while presupposing problematic normative definitions of ‘Jewishness.’

Let us take, for example, the historical Jesus’ relationship to the Temple. In a number of publications, Crossley has argued that the ideological and practical substratum of the early Jesus movement was characterized by a relatively strict level of halakhic observance. Normatively, this would involve Judeans participating in the Temple cult in Jerusalem. Crossley’s proposal thus serves as a helpful corrective to latent Christian accounts of Jesus ‘abolishing’ the Law and/or declaring ‘all foods clean.’ Nonetheless, any presuposition that Jesus’ first Jewish followers were fully Torah-observant (however that is conceived to be) and participated in the Temple cult may be problematic, not only because of the sheer variety of Jesus-followers, but also because the ‘early Palestinian tradition’ is polyvalent on that very note. Moreover, it might be presupposing more than we have evidence for and may even be contraindicated. After all, at least some Judeans in the Second Temple period withdrew from participation in the Temple cult for ideological reasons. Crossley maintains, however, that ‘there is not … sufficient evidence in the Synoptic tradition to suggest that this [Jesus’ call to repentance] involved people bypassing the Temple system or “ritual” repentance when it was required.’48 Crossley further claims that ‘such sentiments are absent from the Synoptic tradition, as are any such criticisms, and these absences are all the more striking in light of the Synoptic tradition remembering Jesus upholding the Temple.’49 I am not quite so sure that this argument from silence (‘there is not … sufficient evidence,’ ‘such sentiments are absent … as are any such criticisms’) fully takes into consideration a number of reasons why such silence might be found in the Gospels: namely, for example, because the authors wanted to portray Jesus as a substitutionary blood sacrifice ‘for our sins.’

There are a number of passages in which Jesus does not seem to ‘uphold’ the Temple. Mark 1:40–44, for example, can be read as either a pro- or an anti-priestly polemic (that is, as ‘a testimony against them’),50 although it seems best to read this passage with the narrative Markan grain in which Jesus advances toward his fate in Jerusalem. For Mark, the withered fig tree and the demonstration in the Temple signify Jesus’ symbolic abolition of the Temple cult. In this narrative context, Jesus’ apparent ‘endorsement’ of priestly authority actually complements the Markan Jesus’ declaration that the Temple has become a ‘den of robbers and thieves.’ The Temple is signified by the ‘withered fig tree.’ Its curtain is to be torn in two (Mark 15:38), its leaders (the ‘wicked tenants’) expelled from the ‘vineyard’ (Mark 12:1–12). Taken at face value, the Markan Jesus is set against the Temple. On the Two-Document Hypothesis, Q 11:49–51 and Q 13:34–35 also represent relatively early hostile attitudes toward Jerusalem, the Temple’s leaders, and its adminstration. On the Farrer-Goulder Hypothesis, it is not until Matthew’s attempt to correct Mark that we see pro-Temple Jesus sayings (Matt 5:23) and narratives. This then is an instance where an ‘old fashioned’ approach requires paying attention to the chronological sequence of the sources. After all, the author of Luke portrays the Jerusalem community in highly idealized terms sharing ‘all things in common’ with the disciples spending their days ‘teaching’ in the Temple (Acts 2:44; 5:42). Yet considering Luke-Acts’ narrative arc – envisioning harmonic continuity between Jews and Gentiles – it is not surprising that the Temple served as a focal point of the early church’s Jewish origins soon to be replaced by the Pauline mission to the nations.

My point here is simply that the ‘gist’ approach seems to suggest that Jesus criticized the sacrificial cult, a reading that is consistent with Jesus’ opposition to the Temple’s administration, some followers applying the language of ‘sacrifice’ to his death and adopting a substitutionary ‘sacrificial’ meal, and subsequent ‘Jewish Christian’ traditions asserting that Jesus opposed animal sacrifice.51 Crossley suggests that Jesus’ participation in the Temple cult led to a fatal conflict with the Temple’s authorities, perhaps initiated by an economic critique and a threat of destruction, yet Jesus’ first followers did not discontinue their sacrificial practice. Crossley simply does not find ‘sufficient evidence in the Synoptic tradition to suggest that this [Jesus’ call to repentance] involved people bypassing the Temple system or “ritual” repentance when it was required.’52 In fact, the Synoptic tradition ‘remember[s] Jesus upholding the Temple.’ I think there are other ways of reading the evidence, namely that Jesus’ criticism of the Temple cult led to his non-participation in the Temple cult, as well as to his death, and the non-participation of his followers in the Temple cult. This does not mean, of course, that they rejected the principle of ‘sacrifice’ or the Temple as an institution per se, but it does explain how Jesus’ death could come to represent a sacrificial substitute (an ‘atoning sacrifice’) for some of Jesus’ early followers.

4 (Non)Violent Revolution and/or (Non)Violent Revelation?

Was Jesus a ‘revolutionary?’ That would seem to depend on what one means by the word. Discourse depends on definition. Identifying Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet depends on how one defines ‘apocalypticism.’ Identifying Jesus as the ‘Son of Man’ depends on how one defines the term. So too with the categories of ‘violence’ and ‘revolution.’ If the latter is used to suggest that Jesus challenged the socio-political corruption of the Temple’s administration, or sought to reform Israelite society, or wanted people to treat each other better, then yes, Jesus was a ‘revolutionary’ figure.53 Crossley suggests that scholars have ‘bought into the rhetoric of Jesus too much’ and have ‘not been suspicious enough of the violence’ in Jesus’ kingdom-discourse.54 According to Crossley, ‘the earliest Palestinian tradition’ envisioned the kingdom tradition as a counter-imperial ideology that sought to replace the present world-order with ‘theocratic imperialism,’ with Jesus ‘leading the vanguard of the dictatorship of God.’55 In other words, ‘The earliest Palestinian tradition pitted the kingdom of God against Rome.’56 For Crossley, the Jesus movement effectively mimicked the domination/submission ideology and language of the Empire in appropriating the vocabulary of its opponents. The tradition fantasizes about world domination in which Gentiles worship the God of Israel and (presumably) pay taxes to their Jewish overlords so that ‘Far from advocating a world that removes imperial power, these descriptions of the kingdom of God champion little more than a changing of the guard.’57 Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Crossley’s Jesus is thus a kind of ‘revolutionary’ figure, but one who failed to usher in the kind of kingdom he had in mind. This kingdom may or may not have included promises of divine peace, providence, and forgiveness, but it certainly seems to have threatened divine judgment, punishment, and damnation.58 Crossley thus affirms the ‘general [apocalyptic] scenario’59 and seeks to analyze the ‘development of monarchical and imperial language and ideology’ in the tradition.60 Accordingly, he is more focused on how this kingdom-discourse ‘could lay the foundations for its own brand of imperial rule’ than in extended discussions on the specifics and particulars of Jesus’ kingdom teachings. Indeed, it does not take much more than a casual perusal of Jewish apocalyptic literature to note the triumphant fantasies that some Jews hoped for at the Eschaton. The evangelists of the ‘earliest Palestinian tradition’ deploy ‘Jesus’ to advance their agendas as well as counter, challenge, and condemn their perceived rivals, opponents, and enemies. This is almost certainly true in terms of how the apocalyptic drama of the great End-time reversal is envisioned (cf. Luke 16:19–31; Mark 10:23–31).61 Nor need anyone deny that post-Constantinian Christianity would come to realize some of this tradition’s latent imperialistic fantasies. This dream of world-domination would never have been realized without Constantine and ‘the early Palestinian tradition’ does appeal to the triumphant kinds of roles Jesus’ followers hoped to play in the eschatological future (Q/Luke 22:29–30). On Crossley’s reading, therefore, the ‘seemingly contradictory’ ideas of violence and nonviolence in the ‘early Palestinian tradition’ co-existed because they were and are inherently, even integrally, part of its apocalyptic vision. In other words, they cannot be placed in literary or historically chronological sequence. Rather, they reflect the ‘chaos’ of the apocalyptic worldview that could simultaneously entertain such ‘seemingly contradictory’ ideas.62 Consequently, the ‘Jesus’ who teaches ‘love your enemies’ can simultaneously consign them to oblivion.

To be sure, Crossley does not categorically deny the historicity of the nonviolent texts and traditions, but rather acknowledges their co-existence with less pacifistic traditions, since ‘simultaneous transmission of chaotic or incompatible ideas cannot be ruled out.’63 After all, millenarian groups can appeal to both violent and nonviolent forms of resistance in order to achieve their social, political, theological goals. Forms of violent and nonviolent resistance were also being practiced by first-century Jews under Pontius Pilate.64 There are Jesus traditions, in short, that represent an ideological stance that can be described as ‘revolutionary’ (insofar as they sought social changes) as well as ‘counter-revolutionary’ in so far as physical violence is eschewed altogether.

The problem, as Crossley’s study illustrates, is that we cannot conflate the historical Jesus with ‘the earliest Palestinian tradition’ without re-inscribing the contradictory expressions of ‘violence’ in that tradition. The composite ‘historical Jesus’ is the symbolic repository of everything recorded about Jesus between 30–100 CE, identifying him with the very kinds of violent insurrection he may have rejected. ‘Jesus’ apocalyptic rhetoric is indeed ‘violent’ insofar as it predicts and includes threats of severe eschatological harm,65 but the question is: Should we trace such intentional interpersonal threats back to the historical Jesus?

The question of Jesus’ relationship to violence represents a central issue of debate because it exposes the presuppositions with which different researchers hypothesize and theorize their own stories of Christian origins.66 Crossley’s chaos theory, for example, holds ‘violence’ and ‘nonviolence’ in a kind of irreconcilable tension. On a somewhat different note, Stephen Patterson has suggested that Jesus simply didn’t have enough time to make up his mind about this.67 Others have suggested that the historical Jesus was a ‘violence-prone’ revolutionary figure and that the ‘nonviolent’ stratum of tradition is apologetic and secondary.68 Still others have suggested that the ‘nonviolent’ teachings are primary and the rhetoric of apocalyptic ‘violence’ secondary.69 As with Jesus’ Torah observance, so here we would also seem to have yet another opportunity to exercise ‘old-fashioned’ historiography,70 a procedure which involves attending to ‘the rhetorical inscriptions of sayings and stories in later documents … which use[s] these inscriptions as an index of earlier, perhaps dominical usage.’71 In other words, the ‘chaos’ of the Jesus tradition could theoretically reflect chronological shifts within the ideological assumptions of the Jesus movement.

It also seems that we need to re-attend to our definitions of ‘violence.’72 Since rhetorical ‘violence’ seems to be ‘embedded within the very text of the New Testament writings,’ and there are contemporary temptations to construct and/or extract useful ethical ideals from these ancient texts, it is all too easy to perform readings that impose modern concerns onto ancient realities.73 Philip Tite suggests that shifting the conversation(s) away from ‘violence’ toward ‘conflict’ (theory) may ameliorate the negative connotations of the word ‘violence’ and perhaps reduce some of the ideological and discursive polemic around the use of the term.74 After all, there is some discursive confusion about the propriety of using the language of ‘violence’ to describe Jesus. John’s Gospel, for example, ‘remembers’ Jesus as an agent of interpersonal and institutional ‘violence’ in making a ‘whip of cords’ (φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων) in order to drive animals out of the Temple (2:13).75 Ye this reference to a ‘whip of cords’ is found only in the Johannine narrative, which should urge caution as to its historical reliability. Moreover, it serves a theological purpose: to illustrate Jesus’ abolition of animal sacrifice because he is both the new Temple and the sacrificial ‘Lamb of God.’

No, the historical Jesus was not Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. We will not find anachronistically principled affirmations of ‘nonviolence’ in the record nor should we appeal to the absence of modern principles of ‘nonviolence’ in the record to discount the principled positions Jesus does take on the topic.76 Beyond the fact that we do not possess detailed and reliable records of everything Jesus ever said and did, the Gospels ‘go out of their way to depict just such a [nonviolent] Jesus.’77 Is this a case, then, where the general ‘gist’ gets it wrong?

A good case can be made that some of the disciples may have been ‘armed’ at the time of Jesus’ arrest. Yet even if that were the case, what would it mean? There is no compelling reason to think that all of them, including Jesus, were ‘armed.’78 Perhaps the Gospels ‘go out of their way’ to depict Jesus as advocating nonretaliatory responses to violence because that is what he advocated.79 In any case, it is not apparent that the only reason Jesus or early ‘Christians’ practiced nonviolence is because they anticipated God’s greater violence on their behalf.80 It is one thing, then, to suggest that Jesus was ‘nonviolent’ (for now) because God’s infinitely more powerful, effective, and violent violence was imminently on its way; it is another thing to say that Jesus’ nonviolence was based on his understanding of the nature and will of God. In other words, the question of Jesus’ relationship to violence is related to very different narrative representations of Jesus’ aims and goals. One person’s ‘apocalyptic Jesus’ may have anticipated a violent imminent judgment, but another’s may have ‘revealed’ the will of God as nonviolence, as imitatio dei: the instruction to ‘love your enemies’ being based on God’s unconditional love, the instruction to be merciful being warranted because God is merciful, the understanding of God being a loving Father who loves everyone (Matt 5:44-45//Luke 6:27–28, 35c-d).

This may be another example of where attending to Q makes a ‘difference.’ The general ethos of the Inaugural Sermon (Q 6:20–49) is ‘characterized by nonviolence.’81 If it is reasonable to posit the historical Jesus as the expositor of the ‘gist’ of this instruction – and there is no compelling reason to suppose otherwise – then the historical theology of the historical Jesus (that is, Jesus’ theologically informed political ethic) should be considered part of any historical account of Christian origins.82 Jesus’ biographers ‘remembered’ him as a Teacher who eschewed interpersonal ‘violence.’83 The Matthean Jesus calls disciples to be ‘peacemakers’ (εἰρηνοποιοί) (Matt 5:9; cf. Matt 5:38-48//Luke 6:27–32).84 True, Matthew also envisions Jesus as the agent of End-time judgment, yet since the rhetorical tradition of apocalyptic judgment both preceded and succeeded the Jesus tradition, it seems evident that apocalyptic ‘violence’ is both Jewish matrix and Christian reception. Nonetheless, the sayings calling for ‘peace’ are there. How do we explain them? It seems to me that the idea that Jesus’ biographers turned Jesus into a critic of intentional interpersonal violence in order to plead ‘innocent’ before the Roman authorities runs aground on the fact that anti- and counter-imperial rhetoric runs throughout the Gospel tradition.85 On the other hand, turning Jesus from a critic into a perpetrator of intentional interpersonal violence would have left trace-elements of an anomalous ‘nonviolent’ tradition to be explained, trace-elements which Crossley identifies as the ‘chaos’ of ‘seemingly contradictory’ tradition. There is another way of mapping the trajectory of this tradition: the historical Jesus was accurately remembered as teaching ‘nonviolence’ as a theologically informed ethic. This would explain why these sayings were not omitted: because the ‘gist’ of the tradition was dominical. At the same time, it would model another development in the tradition in which some of Jesus’ followers – armed with centuries of apocalyptic Jewish tradition, empowered by their faith in Jesus’ vindication, and frustrated by their contemporaries’ continuing unbelief – used the language of apocalypticism to ‘remember’ Jesus as the once-rejected-but-now-vindicated Son of Man who would soon return to complete his once nonviolent, but now violent mission.

James Crossley’s Jesus and the Chaos of History represents a timely reassessment of the major achievements, challenges, and debates in contemporary Jesus Research. Crossley not only articulates many current consenses, but also seeks to ‘redirect’ Jesus studies along more potentially fruitful trajectories. The redescription of the Jesus tradition as ‘the Early Palestinian tradition’ reminds us that differentiating between the ‘historical Jesus’ and the ‘Jesus tradition’ is complicated and not always possible. There is epistemological humility in conceding that one simply does not know whether or not Q existed or whether or not Jesus was violent and/or nonviolent. It is enough, in many cases, to get the general ‘gist’ of Jesus. The conceptualization of an early, reliable ‘gist’-tradition is thus a helpful move away from the entrenched encampments of the intractable Synoptic Problem and a workable compromise (most of the time) even if the concept of a composite repository does not allow for the specific kinds of questions and answers which only sustained historical arguments can provide. Here Q continues to make a ‘difference’ and the limits of ‘gist’-arguments require interpreters to make more explicit, and hopefully more transparent, choices about their soure-critical assumptions. When it comes to social context(s), we need to heed Crossley’s call to pay closer and more sustained attention to ‘materialistic’ specificity and various ‘chaotic’ local-regional factors in our reconstructions of socio-historical change. We would also do well to remember that many factors other than ‘Jesus’ played significant roles in transforming the Jesus movement into ‘Christianity.’ The deconstruction and exit of ‘Jesus’ as the ‘Great Man’ of world history is yet another welcome development in critical historiography, even if it does not mean that we need to abandon the idea that the historical Jesus was a creative agent of change. The question(s) of Jesus’ own ideological-theological agenda, the nature of his ‘revolutionary’ impulses, and the ethical standards of instruction inscribed in the ‘early Palestinian Jesus tradition,’ however, remain. Here we have no easy answers, only seemingly ‘old-fashioned’ arguments that attempt to make sense of the chaotic evidence that remembers Jesus in ‘seemingly contradictory’ ways.


On the apocalyptic prophet/wisdom teacher debate, see, for example, Dale C. Allison, Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Stephen J. Patterson, The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate (ed. R.J. Miller; Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge, 2001).


On the Mythicist Jesus, see Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Whe We Might Have Reason for Doubt (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014). For criticism, see Daniel N. ­Gullota, ‘On Richard Carrier’s Doubts: A Response to Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt,’ JSHJ 15 (2017), 310–46.


On Jesus Research’s relationship to contemporary political discourse, see James G. Crossley, Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century (BibleWorld; London and New York: Routledge [2008] 2014); idem, Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship and Ideology (BibleWorld; London and New York: Routledge, [2012] 2014).


James G. Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus (London: Oxford University Press, 2015), 1.


Chris Keith, ‘The Indebtedness of the Criteria Approach to Form Criticism and Recent Attempts to Rehabilitate the Search for an Authentic Jesus,’ in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity (eds. C. Keith and A. Le Donne; New York: T&T Clark International, 2012), 25–48.


On the future of ‘criteria research,’ see Tobias Hägerland, ‘The Future of Criteria in Historical Jesus Research,’ JSHJ 13. 1 (2015), 43–65, 47–48. Hägerland concludes that the ‘traditional criteria still hold an indispensable place in historical Jesus research.’


See especially Fernando Bermejo Rubio, ‘The Fiction of the “Three Quests”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Historiographical Paradigm,’ JSHJ 7 no. 3 (2009), 211–253.


Cf. Dale C. Allison, Jr., Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 10–22.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 35.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 44–45: ‘Emerging from under the rubble … we are left with an old-fashioned view of interpretation, argument, and the combining of arguments for collective weight to make a general case.’


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 47: ‘It may well be that such traditions were generated from the Jesus movement whilst Jesus was alive.’


Giovanni Bazzana, Kingdom of Bureaucracy: The Political Theology of Village Scribes in the Sayings Gospel Q (Leuven: Peeters, 2015), 2: ‘scholars are becoming increasingly hesitant to make of the Sayings Gospel an object of sustained historical inquiry, since both the existence and the precise redactional contours of this writing must remain necessarily hypothetical.’ Bazzana suggests that ‘the proponents of such skeptical views can hardly hide the fundamentally ideological motives that motivate their objections. In particular, Q’s representation of a decidedly non-kerygmatic Jesus is obviously disturbing for traditional reconstructions of the historical development of early Christianity.’


P. Maurice Casey, An Aramaic Approach to Q: Sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (SNTSMS 122; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 44.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 45.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 70.


Cf. Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 82, in relation to Luke 11:20.


Cf. Mark S. Goodacre, The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002); Francis Watson, ‘Q as Hypothesis: A Study in Methodology,’ NTS 55 (2009), 397–415; idem, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013), esp. 117–55.


Jonathan Bernier, The Quest for the Historical Jesus after the Demise of Authenticity: Toward a Critical Realist Philosophy of History in Jesus Studies (LNTS 540; London and New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 90 n. 38 (emphasis added), for example, asks: ‘Are we truly to believe … It beggars any robust historical imagination to affirm such a narrative,’ in reference to Matthew and Luke’s ‘coincidental’ use of Q in constructing their own messianic Christologies.


For example, in an informal interview for the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, Mark Goodacre responds to the question ‘Why are scholars so keen on Q?’ with the following statement: ‘I think scholars love Q because it gives you a route straight back to the historical Jesus. It gives you the chance to hear the actual words of the real Jesus, hear his tones, so the Sermon on the Mount that’s in Q, the Lord’s Prayer, parables like the Lost Sheep, and so people love the idea that that gets you right back to the real Jesus of history.’ I am well aware, of course, that such offhand quips about Q do not give sufficient attention to the technical details that Goodacre has developed in his ‘case against Q.’ See ‘Why Are Scholars So Keen On Q?,’ CSCO, New College, University of Edinburgh, (November 25, 2017),[accessed January 11, 2018].


Anthony Le Donne, ‘Do you Go in for Some Variation of the “Sayings Source” Hypothesis?,’ The Jesus Blog (January 31, 2014), [accessed January 11, 2018].


April DeConick, ‘Synoptic Problem Poll,’ Forbidden Gospels Blog (May 31, 2007) [accessed January 10, 2018].


John S. Kloppenborg, ‘The Sayings Gospel Q and the Quest of the Historical Jesus,’ HTR 89 (1996): 307–44, 308: ‘Although it may appear to some that the primary interest in Q lies with what it can contribute to an understanding of the Jesus of history, such has not been the case for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.’


Paul Foster, ‘Is It Possible to Dispense with Q?,’ NovT 45.4 (2003), 313–337, 326, points out that the logic behind the assertion that ‘if Matthew and Luke are dependent at some points they cannot share a common source, is obviously false.’


Foster, ‘Is It Possible to Dispense with Q?,’ 322, suggests that this hypothetical multiplication of ‘source’-like possibilities renders the ‘Markan priority, non-Q’ theory less appealing.


John S. Kloppenborg, ‘On Dispensing with Q?: Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew,’ NTS 49 (2003) 210–236, 225 (emphases added). Kloppenborg suggests the designation the ‘Mark-without-Q hypothesis’ or ‘MwQH’ (213).


Kloppenborg, ‘On Dispensing with Q?,’ 223: the argument that ‘Luke’s tendency in not having Jesus come into direct contact with Gentiles would have been sufficient grounds for him to have omitted Matthew’s story of the magi … hardly suffices to account for Luke’s neglect of all of Matt 1–2.’


Kloppenborg, ‘On Dispensing with Q?,’ 219, citing Matt 12:5–7; 13:14–17; 16:16–19; 19:19b, and 27:19, 24.


Michael Goulder, ‘Jesus without Q,’ in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2: The Study of Jesus (4 vols.; eds. T. Holmén and S.E. Porter; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 2: 1287–1311.


Alan Kirk, Ancient Media, Memory, and Early Scribal Transmission of the Jesus Tradition (LNTS 564; London and New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 308, suggests that the FGH’s allegedly ‘greater economy is a sham: its claims for parsimony at one end must always be paid for by complicated accounts of Luke’s utilization at the other end.’


Cf. Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 82.


This is, incidentally, a significant contribution of Q Studies to the study of Christian origins: the identification of an early Jewish Palestinian Jesus tradition.


Kloppenborg, ‘The Sayings Gospel Q and the Quest of the Historical Jesus,’ 307–44; Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 62–97; William E. Arnal, ‘The Trouble with Q,’ Forum: Foundations and Facets 3 (2013), 7–79; cf. Daniel A. Smith, ‘What Difference Does Difference Make? Assessing Q’s Place in Christian Origins,’ in Scribal Practices and ­Social Structures Among Jesus Adherents: Essays in Honour of John S. Kloppenborg (eds. W.E. ­Arnal, R.S. Ascough, R.A. Derrenbacker, Jr., and P.A. Harland; BETL 285; Leuven: Peeters, 2016), 183–211.


Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation (New York: Continuum, 2000), 43, 48–51, criticizes Jesus Research insofar as it promotes views of Jesus as ‘the great exceptional individual, genius, and hero’ and calls for re-orienting Jesus studies toward the larger ‘emancipatory basileia-movement’ which Jesus represented.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 1.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 11, 13.


Richard Ascough, ‘Bringing Chaos to Order: Historical Memory and the Manipulation of History,’ Religion & Theology 15 (2008), 280–303, 291.


Ascough, ‘Bringing Chaos to Order,’ 297.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 76, 83, 163–64.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 27 (emphasis added), insists ‘on explaining historical development in terms of a mixture of individual influence and social context.’


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 13.


Heidi Wendt, At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 223, proposes the theoretical model of ‘freelance expertise’ as a more accurate representation of how ‘individual actors contributed to broader dynamics of change’ in the early Roman Empire.


Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian’s Reading of the Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981 [1973]), 224.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 4.


William E. Arnal, The Symbolic Jesus: Historical Scholarship, Judaism, and the Construction of Contemporary Identity (London: Equinox, 2005). For criticism, see Fernando ­Bermejo Rubio, ‘Agendas ocultas tras el “Jesús judío”? Reflexiones críticas en torno al libro de ­William Arnal, The Symbolic Jesus,’ Letras de Deusto 117 no. 37 (2007), 99–134.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 4.


Jesus’ halakhic observance is far too complex a topic to be properly treated in sufficient detail here. See the discussion in Simon J. Joseph, Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins: New Light on Ancient Texts and Communities (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018), 99–162; idem, Jesus and the Temple: The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context (SNTS MS 165; New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 111; cf. idem, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insights from the Law in Earliest Christianity (London: T&T Clark, 2004), 62–76, 83–84, 87–98, 107–110.


Citing Mark 1:40–45, Matt 5:23, and Luke 19:1–9.


Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel, 87–88, suggests that Mark 1:40–44 has Jesus ‘upholding the Temple system,’ but can also be read ‘in the sense of a witness against the priests.’


See esp. Joseph, Jesus and the Temple, 168–209.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 111.


John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright both use the term to describe Jesus, albeit to emphasize Jesus as a nonviolent revolutionary. See John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994); N.T. Wright, The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997). The term ‘revolutionary’ functions much like the term ‘subversive,’ as illustrated by Robert J. Myles, ‘The Fetish for a Subversive Jesus,’ JSHJ 14.1 (2016), 52–70. Myles focuses his critique on Crossan and Wright, both of whom appeal to Jesus as both ‘subversive’ and ‘revolutionary.’


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 86.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 71.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 162.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 75.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 83.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 65, emphasis added.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 64.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 70, surveys the Palestinian tradition’s sayings on the eschatological reversal of wealth and poverty, but ‘explains’ this as a theme ‘generated by the perception of what was happening as a result of the social upheavals in Galilee.’ I do not doubt that ‘social upheavals’ played a role in attracting followers, but I hesitate to adopt the language of causation if only because the language of reversal was common in Early Jewish apocalypticism. More significantly, we simply do not really know whether (and which) specific Jesus sayings were ‘generated by’ particular and specific social or economic crises in first-century Galilee.


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 1: the chaos of history might implicate ‘justifying things that are seemingly contradictory.’


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 65.


Josephus, War 2.169–174; Ant. 18.55–59; War 2.184–203; Ant. 18.261–309; Philo, Legatio ad Gaium 38.299–305. Cf. Catherine Hezser, ‘Seduced by the Enemy or Wise Strategy? The Presentation of Non-Violence and Accommodation with Foreign Powers in Ancient Jewish Literary Sources,’ in Between Cooperation and Hostility: Multiple Identities in Ancient Judaism and the Interaction with Foreign Powers (eds. R. Albertz and J. Wöhrle; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2013), 221–250.


Simon J. Joseph, ‘A Social Identity Approach to the Rhetoric of Apocalyptic Violence in the Sayings Gospel Q,’ HR 57.1 (2017), 28–49. Cf. T. Nicholas Schonhoffer, ‘The Failure of Nerve to Recognize Violence in Early Christianity: The Case of the Parable of the Assassin,’ in Failure and Nerve in the Academic Study of Religion: Essays in Honor of Donald Wiebe (eds. W.E. Arnal, W. Braun, and R.T. McCutcheon; Sheffield: Equinox, 2012), 192–217.


Gerd Theissen, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978), 64–65, 99–110, refers to the Jesus movement as the ‘peace party’ in first century Palestine.


Stephen J. Patterson, ‘An Unanswered Question; Apocalyptic Expectation and Jesus’ Basileia Proclamation,’ JSHJ 8 no. 1 (2010), 67–79.


Martin, ‘Jesus in Jerusalem,’ 3–24; Fernando Bermejo-Rubio, ‘Jesus and the Anti-Roman Resistance: A Reassessment of the Arguments,’ JSHJ 12.1/2 (2014), 1–105.


Simon J. Joseph, The Nonviolent Messiah: Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014).


Crossley, Jesus and the Chaos of History, 44–45.


Kloppenborg, ‘Sources, Methods, and Discursive Locations,’ 259, 262.


Philip L. Tite, ‘Violence,’ in Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, ed. Kocku von Stuckrad and Robert Segal (3 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2015), 3: 568–74, 569, identifies three methodological problems in the study of religion and violence: (1) the problem of definition; (2) the non-neutrality of the term ‘violence’ as inherently ‘negative’; and (3) the ‘symbiotic’ and ‘antithetical’ relationship between the terms ‘peace’ and ‘violence’ (so that ‘peace’ tends to be seen as the ‘absence of violence’ and ‘violence’ as the ‘disruption of peace’).


Philip L. Tite, Review of Violence and the New Testament, ed. Shelly Matthews and E. Leigh Gibson (New York and London: T&T Clark, 2005), JTS 58 no. 1 (2007) 260–63, 260.


Tite, ‘Violence,’ 572–73.


Tite, ‘Violence’ 569, notes that a narrow definition of ‘violence’ can refer to ‘the use of physical force against someone or something,’ with the object of violence being ‘either persons or property.’ It would follow, then, that John represents Jesus as ‘violent’ since Jesus’ ‘violation’ was intended to obstruct or disrupt ‘civil and moral codes.’ Broader definitions, in which ‘violence’ is understood as nonphysical ‘violations,’ make describing Jesus as ‘violent’ even easier, especially if we factor in ‘Jesus’ apocalyptic rhetoric of judgment.


Dale B. Martin, Biblical Truths: The Meaning of Scripture in the Twenty-First Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 219, claims that ‘a principle of nonviolence cannot be found, as far as I know, in the ancient world. It is a modern invention.’ While Early Jewish authors may not have developed a political ‘principle’ of nonviolence, Isaiah does envision a future ‘kingdom’ in which ‘the wolf will live with the lamb’ (Isa 11:6). Idealized visions of peace also characterize Philo’s Essenes who have renounced all economic activity related to war (Quod omnis probus liber sit 78). Josephus describes them as being ‘armed against brigands’ (B.J. 2. 125), but also ‘peacemakers’ (2.135) who swear loyalty to those in power (2.140) and regard slavery as an injustice (A.J. 18.21). We might also note Philo’s Therapeutae who ‘lived a life of the soul’ as ‘citizens of heaven’ (On the Contemplative Life 90).


Martin, Biblical Truths, 218.


Martin, Biblical Truths, 218. Cf. Dale B. Martin, ‘Jesus in Jerusalem: Armed and Not Dangerous,’ JSNT 37.1 (2014): 3–24.


Robert Knapp, The Dawn of Christianity: People and Gods in a Time of Magic and Miracles (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017), 127: ‘there is little hint in the tradition that he was … involved in action to hasten Yahweh’s rule in present time. Unlike the Sicarii, he did not combine an ideology of violence with one of social justice. In fact, he never called for violent action to redress broad social justice issues … Only working from a prior conviction of Jesus as political agitator can produce Jesus as a revolutionary from the evidence we have.’


Contra Martin, Biblical Truths, 219: ‘For all ancient Christianity I know about, some assumption of violence was very much retained. Sometimes a “strategic” adoption of nonviolence was advocated, but it always, as far as we know from our sources, functioned as a deferral of violence to the future or to divine prerogative. Christians did not mount open rebellion against Rome, but only because they expected God to destroy Rome in his good time. The earliest Christians didn’t build armies because they trusted that Christ would return with his own army.’


John S. Kloppenborg, ‘The Function of Apocalyptic Language in Q,’ in Society of Biblical Literature 1986 Seminar Papers (Atlanta: Scholars, 1986), 224–35, 235; cf. Kloppenborg, ‘Symbolic Eschatology and the Apocalypticism of Q,’ HTR 80.3 (1987), 287–306.


Sarah E. Rollens (review of Simon J. Joseph, The Nonviolent Messiah: Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition, RBL, June 2015, [accessed January 3, 2016]), insinuates that my study has ‘a certain endgame … to reveal a nonviolent historical Jesus,’ but does not deny that Q 6:20–49 is ‘characterized by nonviolence’ nor that Q 6:20–49 represents early evidence of the historical Jesus’ teaching, thus confusing the historical hypothesis that Jesus’ teaching was ‘characterized by nonviolence’ with a theological ‘endgame’ without ever engaging, contesting, or refuting the evidentiary basis of that historical hypothesis.


Bart Ehrman, Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior (New York: Harper One, 2016), 169: ‘throughout all of our traditions, Jesus is regularly and consistently portrayed as a teacher of nonviolence … Throughout independent accounts of Jesus’s life he is shown to promote loving and submissive nonviolence … the abundant number of such pacifist statements on the lips of Jesus should give us pause and make us suspect that they might well represent accurate memories of his teachings.’


Dieter Lührmann, ‘Lieber eure Feinde (Lk 6,27-36/Mt 5,39-48),’ ZTK 69 (1972), 412–38. Cf. Hezser, ‘Seduced by the Enemy or Wise Strategy?,’ 248: ‘By blessing peace-making and non-violence early Christians seem to have turned a necessity into an ideal.’


On the idea of the ‘pacifistic’ Jesus as gospel-propaganda, see Bermejo Rubio, ‘Jesus and the Anti-Roman Resistance,’ 15, 26, 63; cf. Dale B. Martin, ‘Response to Downing and Fredriksen,’ JSNT 37 no. 3 (2015), 334–45, esp. 340 n. 7; Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, 283–321.

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