Amy-Jill Levine to speak at Butler University

Amy-Jill Levine to speak at Butler University March 6, 2018

I am delighted to be able to share information about this upcoming event at Butler University. You can find a poster of the above image in pdf form online on the Congregation Beth El-Zedeck website.

Here are some additional details taken from the blurbs and other publicity materials you can find online about the event:

“Jesus the Jewish Storyteller: Of Pearls and Prodigals”
Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the Reilly Room in Atherton Union, Butler University

Storytelling is central to our religious traditions. Renowned biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine will help us understand the original setting of these stories and correct their frequent anti-Jewish interpretations. Her work on this subject provides a grounding for better Jewish/Christian understanding and offers profound insight into both ancient and contemporary social relations. Dr. Levine will answer questions from the audience and sign copies of her books.

Dr. Levine is a renowned New Testament Scholar who orients to the text through a Jewish lens.  Her scholarship is insightful for understanding Judaism, Christianity, and how the two relate to one another.  She is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University and is the co-editor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament.

This program is supported by the Beth-El Zedeck Judaism, Arts, Interfaith and Civic Engagement Fund in Honor of Rabbis Dennis and Sandy Sasso.

Those familiar with Levine’s publications will recognize the connection to one of her recent books, Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi, about Jesus as Jewish storyteller understood in an ancient Jewish context. I have to say that, with the religion program at Butler being a relatively small one, we don’t bring New Testament scholars to speak on campus very often. And so this is doubly a treat from my perspective, since a visit by Levine would be something fantastic in any context – but in my own, it is all the more so. Indeed, I hope that the event is so successful and well-attended that it inspires organizations at Butler to plan more such events in the future!

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  • Jim West

    A-J really is a genuinely genius lecturer. If you are within driving distance you really should go to this. You will NOT regret it. She’s fantastic.

  • Neko

    She’s so great. Wish I was within distance!

  • John MacDonald

    I am familiar with Dr. Levine as editor of the 2nd edition of The Jewish Annotated New Testament. One issue I find particularly interesting is scriptural fulfillment surrounding the crucifixion account in Mark. Regarding this, the 2nd edition of “The Jewish Annotated New Testament (text box, pg. 99) ” points out:

    “Mark highlights a number of events in such a way as to fulfill passages from Psalms and Isaiah:

    14.1 Kill by stealth, Ps 10.7-8
    14.10-11 Betray him, Isa 53.6, 12
    14.18 The one eating with me, Ps 41.9
    14.24 Blood poured out for many, Isa 53.12
    14.57 False testimony, Ps 27.12; 35.11
    14.61;15.5 Silence before accusers, Ps 38.13-14? Isa 53.7?
    14.65 Spit, slap, Isa 50.6
    15.5, 39 Amazement of nations and kings, Isa 52.15
    15.6-15 Criminal saved, righteous killed, Isa 53.6, 12
    15.24 Divided his clothes, Ps 22.18
    15.29 Derided him and shook their, Ps 22.7; 109.25
    15.30-31 Save yourself!, Ps 22.8
    15.32 Taunted him, Ps 22.6
    15.34 Why have you forsaken me, Ps 22.1
    15.36 Gave him sour wine to drink, Ps 69.21
    “These connections call into question whether the events Mark depicts actually occurred or whether they were introduced into the narrative to establish that Jesus died in “accordance with the scriptures (1 Cor 15.3-4).”

    It is interesting that the JANT doesn’t identify Psalm 22:16 b in this regard. There is a possible derivation of the implicit piercing of hands and feet from the Septuagint Psalm 22:16 b = ωρυξαν χειράς μου και πόδας (“they have dug my hands and feet”). When translated into English, the syntactical form in the Hebrew phrase of Psalm 22:16b appears to be lacking a verb. In this context the phrase was commonly explained in early Rabbinical paraphrases as “they bite like a lion my hands and my feet.”

    Also, Paul’s understanding of the crucifixion as Christ dying “according to the scriptures” is one of Jesus being “hung on a tree” in the sense explained in the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul writes:”Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13).” This is Paul’s interpretation and application of Deuteronomy, which says “His corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:23).”

    Paul may have recorded no narrative details of that event because there were no narrative details at the time he was writing. That is quite possible, because Mark tells us that when Jesus was arrested ALL the disciples “took flight and fled (14:50).” There is no reason for Mark to recount the embarrassing abandonment if it were not true. This would mean Jesus in all probability died alone, without any eyewitnesses. This would, of course, have made the details of the crucifixion impossible to record, since no one witnessed the event. The story also seems fictional because of us being told what Jesus said from the cross, but also what Jesus and the high priest said to each other, and what Jesus and the crowd said to each other (who would have been around to record these conversations?).

    Perhaps Jesus’ followers didn’t know what happened to Jesus after he was arrested and so just assumed he was crucified because that would fulfill an allegorical reading of Deuteronomy 21:23.

    • I doubt that the Deuteronomy text would inspire an allegorical reading, and given how shameful crucifixion was designed to be, it doesn’t seem like the sort of things those who wanted to honor Jesus would choose to fill in a gap in their knowledge.

      • John MacDonald

        I think it would fit in with demonstrating how noble Jesus was. What better way would there be to demonstrate Jesus’ nobility/piety than to endure the worst scourging/death possible by flogging and crucifixion in order to fulfill God’s plan. I think it fits in with the theme of the desperate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane – how much more impressive Jesus is to continue on with God’s plan despite terrible fear, as opposed to someone who went merrily to his death!

        I’m nasalized. Something doesn’t smell right. Jesus was going around prophesying the apocalypse, and then right after his death his followers were proclaiming, not only that Jesus had been raised, but that this event was the first stage of the eschaton, and in fact this entire drama was unfolding according to scripture.