A Jesus Conference

We will be participating in an upcoming conference that focuses on the traditional methods and criteria employed by Jesus historians.

From the conveners: The thesis that drives this conference is that business as usual in Jesus studies is over.   This conference will be hosted by Lincoln Christian University (central Illinois) on October 4-5, 2012.  It will feature Dale Allison, Chris Keith, Mark Goodacre, Jens Schröter, Loren Stuckenbruck, Rafael Rodríguez, Dagmar Winter, Scot, Anthony Le Donne and others.

For specific details about the conference and to register, you can check out this website: http://www.lincolnchristian.edu/JesusConference/

The following is by Anthony Le Donne:  Before I had taken my present post at LCU, Chris Keith (who already taught there) was kind enough to look through my (then unpublished): Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? (Eerdmans, 2011). Chris and I met for coffee in San Diego and he brought a marked copy of my manuscript.  He offered me several helpful suggestions for improvement, most of which I accepted happily.  This occasion was the first time he challenged me on my use of the traditional authenticity criteria.  I argued that, with a redefined notion of ‘authenticity’, criteria like ‘Multiple Attestation’ and ‘Embarrassment’ might still have a place in the Jesus historian’s toolbox.  Chris was adamant that these traditional criteria are in utter disrepair, to a degree that no amount of ‘redefinition’ could help.  We both agreed that the criteria of ‘Dissimilarity’ and ‘Semitic Influence’ were broken.

This began a three year debate (often heated but always good-natured) between Chris and myself on this topic, especially after I joined him as a colleague at LCU.  Chris’s side of the argument calcified into this essay: “Memory and Authenticity:  Jesus Tradition and What Really Happened.” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, 102.2 (2011): 155-77.

As our conversations about historiography in Jesus research intensified and was carried out at various conferences and other academic gatherings, we realized many, many folks within the field of New Testament studies were eager to chime in.  It occurred to us then that we had hit a nerve within NT studies.  Jesus historians are divided on how to use these criteria; some have discontinued their use altogether.  Others (following Morna Hooker) have always viewed them with suspicion.  Moreover, a host of literary, Pauline, and Second Temple specialists have held strong misgivings toward historical Jesus research part and parcel with their misgivings about these criteria.  About a year ago it became clear that this swelling discontent needed a pressure valve.

The result is this T&T Clark publication of Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.  The link to the book is here (Amazon is here).  The book will be available for the first time at our conference (at a discounted rate).  And, as all of the book’s authors will be presenting, the conference will function as a live book review.

We expect a very lively conversation and are inviting in several respected respondents such as Tom Thatcher, Clare Rothschild, and James McGrath, inter alia.  While all involved with this project acknowledge that business as usual in Jesus studies has failed, most of us have a fairly optimistic outlook for the future of the discipline.  We heartily welcome you to come and participate as we clear away a few of the crumbling foundations of previous generations.


"While George Yancey is not wrong in his perception, I think he makes a similar ..."

Weekly Meanderings, 26 May 2018
"Thank you for this interview. I heartily agree with all four points Litfin mentions at ..."

Interview: Duane Litfin
"Yes, and it is worth reading other entries and comments on Throckmorton's new blog site ..."

Weekly Meanderings, 26 May 2018

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dana Ames

    I get the premise of this conf. If it wouldn’t take too much time, could you summarize the criteria in question and give some definitions, for us interested folk who are, however, not in the middle of this discussion?

    I find it interesting that yet another publisher has chosen the icon of Christ Pantocrator for the cover of a book about Jesus 🙂


  • scotmcknight

    Dana, and I like the icon because my paper will argue the historical Jesus enterprise does not do much help to the church.

    Criteria: the historical factors used, arguments used, etc, to decide where the Gospels are accurate or not, with the goal of forming a new picture of Jesus that is historically verifiable and in critical interaction with the church’s Jesus. Classic criterion: double dissimilarity. If the saying/event is not found in Judaism or in earliest Christianity, then it can be argued to be historically reliable.

    This conference will call into question that sort of criterion.

  • Dana Ames

    “If the saying/event is not found in Judaism or in earliest Christianity, then it can be argued to be historically reliable.”

    Well, that’s just sort of backwards, isn’t it!

    I do see how people working on “the historical Jesus” enterprise got there from the history of Jesus studies in late 19th/early 20th C. Europe (what little I know of it). Ecclesiology sure makes a difference.

    If you get some time, you might find P. Sherrard’s “Church, Papacy and Schism” (3rd edition) to be a good read. It’s a slim volume and won’t take long to get through, but man is it ever packed with things to consider about the nature of the church.

    Thanks again-

  • AT

    Thank you – I believe this is desperately needed.

    I believe that the average evangelical or Pentecostal is suspicious of the conclusions of authors such as Enns, Sparks and Christian Smith because they see ‘a slippery slope’.

    Many young evangelicals see Atheism, ‘God is dead’ Deistic Liberalism or ‘flattened literalism’ as the only options.

    The question on everyone’s lips is:
    If I accept:
    Genesis as non literal, the flood as local, the exodus being a different ‘recollection’ of the historical event, Jonah as non literal….

    How can I confidently trust in a literal, historical Jesus that literally rose from the dead, wiped away sins and promises a new heaven and a new earth?

    Can I historically and literally trust the raising of Lazarus, the Gospel of John, the fish and the coin, the ‘raising’ of other dead heroes that is only mentioned in one gospel, the virgin birth, the ascension (to the sky)….

    If there are inconsistencies in the number of times the rooster crowed why can I trust that there aren’t inaccuracies in the reporting of the Sermon on the Mount.

    I think that many evangelicals think that if we accept any historical critical conclusions than we are left with a mess.

    I believe that ‘clarity’ needs to be communicated.

    Solid biblical scholarship revealing an historical and biblical Jesus that we can trust is essential. And the scholarship needs to filter quickly to pastors and congregations.

    Thanks for engaging in this and I hope it continues.

  • nathan


    have any of the conference participants interacted with AJ Levine at Vandy? She’s quite critical of the Jesus Seminar.

  • LeslieS

    So excited to welcome all of you to our campus.

  • Susan N.

    Would the content of the seminar be remotely comprehensible and helpful to an ordinary lover of Jesus who wishes to learn more about the Bible?

    I’m probably getting way ahead of myself… But, I’m not getting any younger! If I wait for “trickle-down economics” to take effect among the general congregation, I am afraid that I will have long ago departed this earth. Change is soooo slow to come to the masses. But alas, I do not have a seminary degree (as is most likely evident in my commentary on a daily basis.)

    Reading Peter Enns’ new book ‘The Evolution of Adam’ at the moment. Fascinating! Who knew???

  • I don’t mind answering your question Susan.

    Quite a bit of the discussion will be comprehensible (and I think very relevant) to the non-PhD crowd. There will be a couple lectures that deal with topics that are demanding and require some knowledge of ancient languages. But most of what we cover will be accessible. No presentation will be over 30 minutes and there will be lots informal conversation between the speakers.

    At least half of our presenters are folks who write/speak capably for popular audiences (like Scot, Dagmar Winter, Mark Goodacre, just to name a few).

    …Nathan asked if any of us have interacted with A.-J. Levine. Dale Allison has collaborated with her quite a bit and I have done so as well.

    thanks for the space!

    we’re looking forward to hosting this event.

    Anthony Le Donne

  • Susan N.

    Thanks, Anthony. These details inform my decision. It isn’t often that a conference of this type is offered in my neck of the woods (and outside of a major metropolitan area), so the proximity alone is a “pro” for me. I had worried, in fact, that all of the content would be “Greek” to me (and naturally, I’m not fluent in Greek!)

    Thanks so much for responding.

  • Chris Criminger

    Here are my first two questions for others to answer or discuss?:

    1. After many decades of historical criticism, are we better off or worse off from it?

    2. What kind of disciples are we getting from those utilizing Higher Critical Studies (HCS). Is it giving us better insights into Scripture and discipleship today?

    Maybe in a more general way, what kind of Christians is the academy producing and how is the church better off or worse off from academic studies of scripture? Do we truly understand Jesus better from academic studies? Would Jesus promote these academic studies himself today?

    Just asking . . .?

  • Judy Diehl

    Interesting that there are no females on the program. Was this planned??

  • Chris Keith

    There are females on the program. Dagmar Winter is a contributor to the book and will be there. Clare Rothschild will also be participating. Yes, it was all planned.

  • Anthony Le Donne

    I would add that Morna Hooker writes the foreword for the related book. We were absolutely over the moon to include her as she is the senior voice in this discussion.