I was delighted to have the opportunity to make a guest appearance in Matthew Korpman’s online class about the historical Jesus. Given my choice of topics, I asked to speak about John the Baptist. I also asked him and the students for permission for the class to be recorded. As I mention in the video above, there are multiple reasons why I try to record and share lectures and guest speaking appearances that I make. One is a desire to make academic perspectives available online, where there is so much information that does not reflect the work that scholars do at all, while some may mention what we do but not represent it accurately. More than that, however, I knew that I would be talking about the Mandaeans, and I am more aware since my visit to Australia that Mandaeans who are alive today appreciate my public speaking and writing about their texts and tradition. Indeed, even though I find it a terrifying thought, some have read things I’ve written and listened to videos I’ve made in order to learn about their own tradition, about which they were taught very little growing up. I want and need to learn from the Mandaeans, and yet they are turning to me as an authority! With so much less academic work having been done on Mandaean literature, rituals, and history than these deserve, I feel as though even well-informed scholars have to preface their statements with qualifications about how much is uncertain. Having turned my attention to this area relatively recently, and having had the opportunity to dig into research funded by NEH grants that allowed more time to be dedicated to it than would normally be possible, I still feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Be that as it may, I was excited to have the opportunity to share in one concentrated dose some of the many ideas that I have been thinking about in relation to John the Baptist. Some of what I shared with the class is widely-held consensus, while other things are ideas that I am trying out and exploring, still tentatively at this stage. Hopefully I made clear which is which. If you’re at all interested in this topic and would like a glimpse of some of the things I hope that this long-term book project will explore, have a listen to the video, and then please do let me know your thoughts and impressions.
Of related interest: