Shared posts

04 Apr 14:46

Preventing sexual abuse in your home

by Maralee

In my last post I wrote about how worries regarding the potential for sexual abuse can keep people from providing foster care. I provided some background information it’s good to know before providing foster care for a child who may have been sexually abused. I think having a healthy perspective about this issue is very important. I also think it’s vitally important to create a safe environment in your home with the potential for sexual abuse in mind. For us, that has been striking the right balance between openness, honesty, and privacy. Here’s how we do it.

Specific to foster families:

Respect birth order when taking foster kids. I know not everybody is going to agree with me about this and I’m okay with that. God has blessed the ministry of many families who have chosen to take kids out of birth order. I’m not arguing against that if you feel called to that and you have the skills and resources to ensure the safety of all kids in your home. But for our family, respecting birth order has been a big part of how we prevent sexual abuse from happening in our home. We always want our kids to be big enough and old enough to know what is appropriate and be able to say “no” to things they know are wrong. This is a decision we make for the protection of our kids and we don’t let pressure from an agency that wants to place older kids in our home push us into something we aren’t comfortable with. If you feel called to take kids older than your kids, do it with much prayer and with honest conversations about how you’ll protect your kids. If you don’t feel called to take kids older than your kids, don’t be pressured into it and work to recruit foster families who are in a position to take those kids you can’t.

Ask about a foster chid’s history. When you are called about a child who may be placed in your home, you need to ask very specific questions. Don’t feel bad about being nosey. If a caseworker can’t give you that information for whatever reason, they will tell you that. You also need to assume that nobody has the whole story on this child yet. Even if nobody knows about a history of sexual abuse, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one. It’s good to have a plan for how to help that child with healthy boundaries and be sure they’re getting the counseling help they require. Because you may not always know the full story, it’s important to have good boundaries in place for your family in general.

Have a safety plan. If you become aware that a child in your home had been abused and sexually acting out, how would you handle it? You need to think through your resources and how you’re going to keep everybody safe. Do other children in the home know what is appropriate and inappropriate? Do you have counseling help available? Do you have a respite provider that can handle children with those issues when you need a break? Are you able to adequately supervise interactions between children? Does every child have privacy in the bathroom and when they get dressed? You need to have answers for these kinds of questions before you take a placement if there’s any potential for issues (which you may or may not know ahead of time).

For every family:

Talk honestly with your kids about their bodies. Bodies are not shameful. The words we use to identify our body parts are not shameful. Use the correct words with your kids from as early a time as possible. Tell them those parts are special and private. There is never too young an age to start having that conversation. There shouldn’t be one special day where you have the birds and bees talk and expect that to cover it. This is an ongoing conversation you have with a child about the beauty and functionality of their body from their infancy through their young adulthood.

Be a person your kids can talk to. Create times for your kids to ask questions that may be on their minds. Let them know that you aren’t embarrassed to talk about sex. Tell them that if they saw something, heard something or had something done to them that they felt uncomfortable about, they need to talk to you about it. Create a climate in your home where a child would feel safe coming to you without fear.

Identify other safe people your kids can talk to. If something happened at school, they can talk to a trusted teacher. Talk about what relatives or family friends or leaders at church would be okay to talk to if they had a question or didn’t feel comfortable coming to Mom and Dad. Ultimately we want them to talk to us, but there may be a reason why that doesn’t feel safe to them or they are in an environment where we aren’t present, so it’s good for them to know there are other people that we trust who could listen to them and help them know how to talk to us.

Tell them what response would be okay if they were inappropriately touched. Have you ever had a fire drill at your home? Have you talked to your kids about the escape routes from your house if there were a fire or about your safety plan if there were a tornado or earthquake? In the same way, you need to talk to your kids about what they should do if somebody tries to touch them inappropriately or asks to see parts of their body that should be kept private. My kids know that they should say “no” and run to Mom or the nearest trusted adult. I’ve also given them my okay to push or kick to get away. That has helped underscore to them how serious this is since we usually emphasize peaceful responses. Even my four year-old knows what parts of her body are private and what to do if someone wanted to see or touch them. I can’t ensure they would do the right thing in that situation, but I have no doubt that they would know what I would expect them to do.

Talk about who can see their body. My kids know that I am allowed to see their body. The doctor is allowed to see their body if I am present (I love that my pediatrician always tells the kids, “This is only okay for me to do because your mom is here.” We may tell our kids that it’s okay for the doctor to see them naked, but fail to think about a person who could claim to be a doctor and prey on that level of trust.). If Grandma is watching them while I’m away or the trusted babysitter is there, there may be a reason they need to see them naked depending on their age (to help them change clothes or bathe them) but outside of those reasons they don’t need to just be naked around those people. Other children do not need to see you naked. Other grown-ups do not need to see you naked. If someone asks, you come tell Mom.

Respect privacy and teach your kids to respect privacy. In our home we draw those privacy lines pretty early. Once a child is about two, I do not allow them in the bathroom with me. We do not allow kids to be in the bathroom together if one of them is bathing or using the toilet, especially kids of different genders. Once kids are out of the toddler years and able to dress themselves, we ask them to get dressed in their own room. I do not have kids in the room with me when I get dressed. (Of course there are exceptions, but these are the guidelines we try to stick to.) In all of these things, we emphasize that those body parts are special and it’s important to keep them private. It isn’t about shame or making them embarrassed, but about saying we don’t show those parts to just anybody. This is also why I do my best to limit who can change my children’s diapers, especially as they get older. I don’t want them to be in the habit of just letting anybody see them naked or touch those parts of their body. I am particularly persnickety about this with our foster kids, which is why I prefer to be called out to change diapers even when my kids are in the church nursery. It is also why I’m a big fan of early potty training.

Be observant. Do your kids seem guilty? Are they sneaking around? Do you feel like they’re hiding something? Is there a friend you don’t trust. You need to listen to your parenting gut. Know what is going on the lives of your kids. Talk to them honestly about the dangers and temptations out there. Not talking about porn won’t keep porn from being on your computer, on your tv, or at the neighbor’s house. We need to equip our kids in age appropriate ways to know how to deal with their own curiosity and help them understand that sexual desire isn’t shameful, although there are wrongs ways to try and get that desire fulfilled. It’s okay to be a little suspicious of your kids and their friends and to be observant about any changing behaviors.

Don’t overreact. Your kids are likely going to come across something you wish they hadn’t seen or heard or experienced. They need to know that isn’t a deal breaker as far as them being people of worth. They likely feel guilty and you need to help channel that guilt into repentance and forgiveness or righteous anger depending on the situation. Don’t jump to conclusions about what kind of people they are because they made a mistake. Don’t let them jump to conclusions either. Remember that if they’re coming to you to confess, you don’t want to discourage that courageous act. If you caught them doing something dumb, remember that they may feel some relief at being caught and need to know you still love them.

In this day and age, choosing not to be a foster family doesn’t protect you from the possibility that sexual abuse can impact the life of your child. We can’t prevent every negative influence or experience. But we can do our best to give our kids the tools to know how to handle these kinds of situations. By talking openly and honestly with our kids we help prepare them and create a safer environment for our children and for children who may enter our home.


13 Mar 17:14

Two Differing Points of Departure for Jesus and Memory - Le Donne

by (..............)
Yesterday I posted this reflection on the so-called (and perhaps misnamed) "Blow Up in Baltimore." My post basically questioned Paul Foster's conversational focus. I did also refer to Zeba Crook's paper indirectly. Zeb helpfully commented on this post regarding his thesis that memory studies leads to a new "No Quest" of Jesus research. I am quite happy that he chimed in because I think his comments reveal a great deal about our two different defaults.

Put simply: Zeb ends with the realization memory is problematic (at best) and "false" (at worst), and that people sometimes cannot tell the difference; whereas this realization is where I begin. He writes:

Thanks for this Anthony. Let me say a few things about my own paper.

a) I did not think of my Baltimore as a fortification of my previous paper. "New No Quest" was a new position for me, and what I did in my JSHJ paper was different.
b) I believe that Paul made the point in his response that his paper was *not about* the people he wasn't talking about. It was about Bauckham and Dunn (or whatever). My point here is that it's not fair to criticism people for what they do not argue. I can be faulted in my JSHJ article (and accepted the criticism) that "consensus" was hasty language. Chris objected that people who use memory theory aren't good memory theorists, and on this I'm sure he and Paul and I (and you Anthony) agree. But they are using memory theory, and as such they're fair targets. I say this more about my own work than Paul's, since I don't need to defend Paul.

c) I was asked to talk about how I feel memory theory intersects with HJ studies, and I presented my personal and emerging position. Again, Anthony, you assume that because I don't cite the scholars you name, or actually because I don't agree with them on every point, I haven't read them. I have read them. They didn't alter my growing pessimism about the Quest.

d) For example, I'm pretty sure I referred to "gist" memory in my paper. I don't see evidence that "gist" memory is more reliable than detail memory. Gist memory can be distorted beyond recognition too. So no, "gist memory" does not *necessarily* (or obviously) get us closer to historical material.

e) Neither in my opinion does triangulation, which is really just Multiple Independent Attestation combined with memory theory. It's a provocative idea, and not without its strengths.
I'd like to close with a re-iteration of my Baltimore paper, because it doesn't feel like (from what you wrote here) there I was understood. I said many many times there that what was driving me to the a no quest was NOT the belief that memory is hopelessly unreliable. It's that people are *unable to distinguish* between reliable and unreliable memory. That for me is the kicker. Then in my paper I presented 10 memories of Matthew, each of which he presents exactly like any other, but which some cannot possibly be actual memories of Jesus. Finally, my point was not that memory theory leaves us with nothing to say about Jesus. It's that it leaves us with more to say about his followers than him. I do not think that manufactured memories (of which there are many in Matthew) tell us anything about Jesus. They tell us about how his followers felt about him. That's valuable, but that's not the Quest for the historical Jesus any more. I am well aware some people disagree. That I don't agree with them doesn't mean I haven't read them.
My reply:
a) I quite appreciated the difference between your two essays. 
b) As you say, you cannot speak for Paul. 
c) If you have read the scholars that I mention and have simply chosen to neglect them, you've clearly under-appreciated their importance. Moreover, we will continue to disagree about your general representation of the field. 
d) Your suggestion of a dichotomy between "gist memory" and "detail memory" and your phrase "closer to historical material" deepens my suspicion that your default tends toward historical positivism. My guess is that this is precisely where our assumptions of what constitutes "historical Jesus" research diverge. 
e) Triangulation as I've adapted from Theissen and Winter and (yes, put in conversation with memory distortion patterns) does not get us "closer to historical material." It is valuable not in isolating an authentic core (cf. Multiple Independent Attestation), but in measuring trajectories of evolution from mnemonic pre-event orientations, through memory events (including "false" memory, however rare), to multiple and varying commemorative practices. 
Finally, my post above wasn't meant to take you on in a direct way (as opposed to my response to your JSHJ essay). I will say, however, that I don't think that a "No Quest" ever happened outside of Nazi Europe and is simply not possible in historical Jesus studies. One last point, it seems that your entrée into this discussion is focused heavily on a few studies that examine the most extreme possibilities of false memory. Most of the time (and the work of Ebbinghaus et al. should fill out any appeal to Loftus on this point) the qualifier "false" is not a helpful way to refer to memory. False memory does indeed happen. No doubt. Further, memory is only possible in a world of evolving intelligibility. So there is no memory that corresponds to the actual past in a way that engenders certainty. The positive element of this is that the continuity of memory distortion is the rule, not the exception (you wouldn't get this impression from Loftus et al.). And if memory is most often continuously intelligible, and if (a la Schudson) memory distortion moves in typical patterns, the evolution of memory can be charted. 
To say "people are *unable to distinguish* between reliable and unreliable memory" (as you do) and allow this notion to be the "kicker" is to become disinterested in a fascinating topic prematurely. I do hope that I was able to convey in my The Historiographical Jesus that there is much and more to be gained after the false dichotomies of historical positivism have been exposed. Any discussion of memory that ends with the realization that memory is distorted is superficial. This is only where the discussion begins for me.
My continued hope is that this conversation about Jesus and Memory is just beginning. I also hope that my conversation with Zeb is just beginning.

27 Mar 13:47

Thate on the Criteria of Authenticity Doubters—Chris Keith

by (Chris Keith)

social memory

In a post yesterday, Michael Halcomb drew attention to Michael Thate's argument that the contributors to Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity are really just forwarding a program that is the criteria of authenticity in drag.  I first saw Thate's study at SBL this past year and was excited to start reading it.  Unfortunately, I was quickly disappointed in his assessment of Demise, and me in particular, because I didn't, and don't, feel that we were accurately represented.  I'm still going to finish Thate's book, which is a social history approach to "memory" in Jesus work.  I'm sure it's important and it seems promising.  He's a very interesting writer, but I'll mention just a few things that led to my disappointment.

Thate employs the Derridean term of "outbidding" to contextualize our opposition to previous historical Jesus methods (13).  I suppose this is true, but I'm not entirely sure what form of critical scholarship that entails disagreement with what-has-gone-before wouldn't qualify as "outbidding."

In a footnote on the same page (13n.86), Thate says regarding "post-criteria historical Jesus research":  "Later Keith attempts to mitigate the mounting suspicion one has while reading his chapter by stating that a 'post-criteria quest for the historical Jesus is not a post-critical quest' (p.205). It is not clear to me how this can possibly be the case given his lack of explication of what this might mean and how 'post-criteria' yet still critical engagements functionally differ from the post-critical convictions of say, Kaehler and McKnight."  He then proceeds to cite two publications of mine, a ZNW article and my monograph, Jesus' Literacy, but no pages for either. 

I have no idea what Thate's "mounting suspicions" might be, but it sure seems that he's insinuating that I'm not being honest when I say that a post-criteria quest is not a post-critical quest.  If this is the case, I can only say two things.  First, I think it's more professional to stick to someone's argument instead of what one suspects his or her motives to be.  Second, I really meant it when I said that a post-criteria quest is still critical, as I have argued both for and against the historicity of aspects of the gospels based on a post-criteria approach, which brings me to my next point. 

I'm particularly confused by his statement that I haven't given an explication of what post-criteria Jesus research might look like in light of the fact that he then cites two of my publications wherein I do precisely that.  One can argue about whether I am convincing, but I don't think it's up for debate whether I at least have made the effort.  Other scholars, at least, have not missed this.  For example, I quote Christopher Skinner's review of Jesus' Literacy:  "In my estimation, the WHAT of this book is not as important as the HOW. Here’s what I mean: Keith’s research topic (viz., did Jesus hold status as a scribal literate teacher?) is likely not as earth-shattering as some other questions we could ask about the historical Jesus (though I do believe he has demonstrated its importance relative to other questions). Rather, the strength of what Keith has done in this book is that he has provided us with a very good model of how to do responsible Jesus research on a specific issue using a social memory approach. Aside from his conclusions (which I think are plausible), I believe that the employment of his method is the greater contribution of the book."  I'll add that Dale Allison's foreword to Jesus' Literacy notes similarly that the book as a whole is an effort to make judgements about the historical Jesus sans criteria of authenticity.  Again, I could be completely wrong in my arguments, but I have at least made an effort to show examples of what post-criteria Jesus research could look like.

I suppose the oddest statement for me is on p.17:  "Though certainly promising on many counts, the purported 'post-criteria' approach adopted here cannot escape the erotics of 'authenticity' or the gaze of the originary.  This is a Quest for the pure genre; the authentic genre; the real genre.  As such, this amounts to little more than the criterion of authenticity in drag."  Hmmm.  Alrighty then.  As to the "erotics" and "drag" comments, I think this is a very strange way to sexualize one's interlocutors and I don't really think I have much more to say about that.  I am confused further, though, that Thate seems to think we have simply redressed the criteria of authenticity.  Speaking for myself, I think that he is discussing a different "authenticity" than I am.  I mean it specifically as the New Questers defined it--bits of the past detached from interpretive frameworks.  I don't think such a thing ever existed; so I certainly have not tried to redress it or apply it at a generic level, and I note that Thate provides no example where I have called upon a criterion of authenticity and cites no example to demonstrate that any of the contributors "cannot escape the erotics of 'authenticity.'"  I guess he means that we're still interested in "authenticity" in some way, but again, for me, I'm dealing with a very specific type of "authenticity" and one that's not possible in my opinion.  And to my knowledge, not a single contributor to Demise ever makes any reference at all to an "authentic genre." 

I'm sure I'm misunderstanding something here and I'm open to correction.  But I can't help the sense that I've been misrepresented, and at least join company with Dale Allison who, as Thate notes on 217n.235, also believes Thate had not understood him.

I should emphasize that I raise these issues mainly out of disappointment in light of the fact that the book shows great promise.  I think Thate's book could be very important, and I use the subjunctive there only because I haven't read it all yet.  Maybe I've misunderstood his misunderstanding, however, and I'd welcome clarification.
15 Mar 00:06

2014.03.02. Kuma, The Centrality of Αιμα (Blood) in the Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews

by (Bob Buller)
07 Mar 16:25

Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew: Adding Word Lists

by Jonathan Watson

We are pleased to bring you a new app for Android and iOS devices, Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew. This is a new and powerful tool for students of the text. Its flexibility ensures that whether you’re studying for a test or preaching through the book of Ruth, Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew will help you drill precisely the words you need to learn, wherever you go.

Importing word lists

When you sign into Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew with your account, it syncs up your word lists documents right to the app. If you have existing word lists, they will be automatically imported. To create and import new word lists, follow these simple steps:

1. Click the Documents menu in Logos on your desktop

2. Select Word List from the column on the left

3. Rename your new Word List at the top of the newly-opened window






4. Click the Add button, and select which resource you’d like to add lemmas from. In this case, we’ll choose BHS









5. In the Reference field, type the reference or range you’d like to pull in lemmas from. We’ll be using the book of Ruth






6. A word list of all the lemmas in the book of Ruth from the BHS has now been generated, and will be available automatically in your Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew app

6There are many other ways to create lists in Logos, and a lot more you can do. We encourage you to explore the Word List feature in Logos, and try merging different lists, creating lists from selected portions of text, and creating lists from a certain highlight style.

No matter how you create them, they are always synced through the cloud right to your Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew app on your mobile device, ensuring that you can study the original languages in whatever way you need.

Original language resources

If your Logos library doesn’t have the original language books and Bibles you’re looking for, don’t miss a few of these key resources:

Original language texts are included in Logos 5 Bronze base packages, and up. Consider upgrading or getting a base package to take full advantage of the tools and resources Logos has to offer. Learn more about Logos 5 base packages.

12 Mar 22:05

The "Blow Up in Baltimore": Why It Was Disappointing - Le Donne

by (..............)


A couple months ago I posted a recording of a much-discussed recording of the papers and conversations of Paul Foster, Chris Keith, Zeba Crook, and Rafael Rodríguez. You can access the audio (albeit it faint - headphones will help) here. I was very grateful to have most of this Historical Jesus session recorded (thanks to James Crossley) because I was unable to attend.

After all of the discussion of this session, I was eager to hear what I missed. But I must say that I found it ultimately disappointing. The discussion was lively, but it could have been better informed. I'm thinking specifically of the paper by Paul Foster. I don't begrudge Paul for taking a skeptical position as to the value of "memory research" for the study of ancient history. Skepticism has always been a part of the game in Jesus studies. Par for the course, really. Most disappointing is that Paul had published his paper previously and was criticized for his deficiencies. Yet many of these deficiencies remained unaddressed in his presentation.

Chris Keith wrote a rebuttal to Foster's “Memory, Orality, and the Fourth Gospel: Three Dead-Ends in Historical Jesus Research,” JSHJ 10 (2012): 191–227. One of Chris' main criticisms was that Paul neglected many of the important voices in NT and memory studies (see further here). Paul's essay, instead, focuses on Bauckham and a few others who do not represent the wider conversation. Importantly, Paul read a draft of Chris' rebuttal before his presentation in Baltimore. Yet rather than fortifying his presentation by interacting with the wider field, Paul simply reiterated much of the same content and thus repeats errors of oversight made the first time around. What struck me most was that instead of thanking Chris for his critical engagement, Paul derided him (mocking tone noted) for suggesting that some of Chris' own work might have been addressed. I have absolutely no reservations when I say that no New Testament scholar has written more about social memory theory than Chris Keith. Moreover, Chris' work is among the most erudite in the field. Lest you think that I'm simply defending a friend, consider:
Keith, Chris. “The Role of the Cross in the Composition of the Markan Crucifixion Narrative.”  Stone-Campbell Journal 9.1 (2006): 61–75. ———. “The Claim of John 7.15 and the Memory of Jesus’ Literacy.” New Testament Studies 56.1 (2010): 44–63. ———. “A Performance of the Text: The Adulteress’s Entrance into John’s Gospel.” Pages 49–69 in The Fourth Gospel in First-Century Media Culture. Edited by Anthony Le Donne and Tom Thatcher. European Studies on Christian Origins/LNTS 426. London: T&T Clark, 2011. ———. “Memory and Authenticity: Jesus Tradition and What Really Happened.” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 102.2 (2011): 155–77. ———. Jesus’ Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee. LHJS 8/LNTS 413. London: T&T Clark, 2012. ———. “The Fall of the Quest for an Authentic Jesus: Concluding Remarks.” Pages 200–05 in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. Edited by Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne. London: T&T Clark, 2012. ———. “The Indebtedness of the Criteria Approach to Form Criticism and Recent Attempts to Rehabilitate the Search for an Authentic Jesus.” Pages 25–48 in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. Edited by Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne. London: T&T Clark, 2012. ———. Jesus the Controversial Teacher. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014. ———. “Prolegomena on the Textualization of Mark’s Gospel: Manuscript Culture, the Extended Situation, and the Emergence of Written Gospels,” forthcoming.
And more is on the way soon. One would think that Paul, who is a very intelligent and kind person, might have fortified his deficiencies by interacting a bit with his co-presenter's primary area of research. I find it quite strange that he chose otherwise.

While I still have serious problems with Zeb's assessment of the field, his presentation was a model of professionalism. Crook had previously published a similar essay on memory distortion. I took him to task quite directly in my response essay (“The Problem of Selectivity in Memory Research: A Response to Zeba Crook.” JSHJ 11 [2013]: 77-97). Zeb remained courteous in his rejoinder and conceded a few points. I don't retract any of my criticism of his essay, but I should say that I regret the tone that I sometimes take in that essay. I'm sure that I could (and should) learn more from him. To his credit, Crook took the time and effort to fortify his Baltimore presentation to include a wider range of research.

Crook's thesis is that serious study of "memory" leads us to another "no quest" in Jesus research. I still maintain that he needs to interact more fully with Barry Schwartz, Rafael Rodríguez, Jens Schroeter, Alan Kirk, Tom Thatcher, etc. While none of the scholars I've listed are confident in the Gospel's reliability by default or overlook the features of memory distortion, none of them would argue that historical Jesus research is futile, or impossible, or hindered by memory research.

It was clear by the end of this session that Paul Foster and Zeba Crook (I'm thinking specifically of the Q&A) continue to misrepresent the wider field of social memory theory. This conversation might have been much more constructive if one or either had simply interacted with Barry Schwartz or Jens Schroeter. Indeed, they both had ample time to do so between the publications of their initial papers and their presentations in Baltimore. The result was that Chris and Rafael (both experts in memory) and Zeb and Paul (both new comers) talked past each other.

I would have liked to hear Paul and Zeb interact seriously with mnemonic triangulation. It has been my project for sometime to demonstrate that (1) all memory is refracted, (2) much of memory refracts in ways that can be charted, (3) the episodes in the Gospels where refraction is most pronounced can provide clues as to the tendencies of the remembrancers. Finally, if we find evidence that multiple episodes in the Jesus tradition are explicit attempts to create counter memories, we can postulate the common sphere of intelligibility for both mnemonic trajectories. If so—and here we depart from previous stages in historical Jesus research—the episodes that are the most clearly "redacted" can give us the most to work with toward historical reconstruction.

Or, in lieu of triangulation, perhaps Paul and Zeb might have addressed the gains and losses of Dale Allison's attempt at mnemonic impressionism. Dale had argued that even passages that have been traditionally labeled "fiction" can contribute to a general impression (cf. Dunn's idea of impact) of Jesus' historical teaching and character. As such, instead of bracketing out the fictitious or panning for nuggets of "historical" material, we get the "gist" of Jesus first and foremost. I have found Allison's method quite helpful in recent years.

The observations that memory "distorts" and that the Gospels are therefore "distorted" are much too superficial to be helpful. Chris Keith, Barry Schwartz, Rafael Rodríguez, Jens Schroeter, Alan Kirk, Tom Thatcher, etc. are all very well aware that the proof of eye-witness testimony does not support a conservative notion of reliability. It was clear that Paul Foster was hoping to have an argument with Richard Bauckham on this point. If he had prepared to discuss the wider work of social memory theory, I have no doubt that the conversation would have been richer.

For more on social memory, see here. See also this recent exchange (both the post and the comments are quite interesting).

07 Mar 05:00

When You Assume

You know what happens when you assert--you make an ass out of the emergency response team.
10 Feb 06:05

So, What (or Who) Are We?

by Scot McKnight
“According to, a human being consists of the following elements: oxygen (65%), carbon (18%), hydrogen (10%), nitrogen (3%), calcium (1.5%), phosphorous (1.0%), potassium (0.35%), sulfur (0.25%), sodium (0.15%), magnesium (0.05%), along with copper, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, fluorine, chlorine, iodine, manganese, cobalt, iron (0.70%), plus trace amounts of lithium, strontium, aluminum, silicon, lead, vanadium, arsenic, [Read More...]
25 Jan 21:05

Chris Keith's "Social Memory Theory and the Gospels"

by (..............)
In case you missed this, here is Prof. Chris Keith's inaugural lecture:

Prof Chris Keith, Chair of the New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, recently delivered his inaugural lecture called "Social Memory Theory and the Gospels: Assessing the First Decade" at the University College's Strawberry Hill campus.

16 Jan 20:55

Robot Super Hero on a Rocket Surfboard. a request from the first...

Robot Super Hero on a Rocket Surfboard.

a request from the first graders I talked to today.

28 Nov 14:40

Social Memory Theory and the Gospels: The First Decade--Chris Keith

by (Chris Keith)
I'll shortly get up some thoughts about the SBL session on memory and historical Jesus studies.  On that topic, though, I can now share that video is available for my inaugural lecture as Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary's.  You can access it here.  The lecture is entitled "Social Memory Theory and the Gospels: The First Decade."  My presentation at SBL was based on it, and the published version will appear as a two-part article in the journal Early Christianity.
29 Nov 11:21

The SBL Memory and Historical Jesus Session--Chris Keith

by (Chris Keith)
I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Historical Jesus program unit session on social memory theory this past SBL alongside Rafael Rodriguez, Zeba Crook, and Paul Foster.  It was no doubt lively, as Foster accused me of being thin-skinned and I accused him of publicly shining his halo. 

To a large extent, though, I confess that it felt like two groups talking right past one another.  Someone on Facebook or the blog said we have different views of "history" and "truth" and I think this is accurate.  Rodriguez and I both gave overviews of social memory theory, arguing that it is not a replacement for historiography but has implications for it because it addresses the nature of "tradition."  Those implications are not insignificant, as they indicate to us that the game of historical Jesus studies as it has been played is broken; thus we are not interested in playing that particular game anymore.  We both believe that historical Jesus studies is still vibrant and possible, but we dismiss the attempt to quest after the historical Jesus by atomistic approaches to the tradition that attempt to separate the past and the present in the tradition too neatly.  Crook argued that experimental psychology indicates that memory distortion means that we cannot quest after the historical Jesus at all and are thus at a New No Quest.  Foster argued that Rafael and I are not doing historical Jesus research as defined by Meier, Crossan, Sanders, et al.  Jens Schroeter made a cameo from the audience, dropping some thunder from on high and reinforcing the point that social memory theory is not antithetical to historical critical research; rather, it provides hermeneutical perspective on what it means to transmit and write "history."

Like I said, it was a lot of two groups talking past one another.  This was perhaps especially true with regard to my and Foster's interactions.  I would say, "The old game is broken and we're not playing it anymore."  He would respond, "But you're not playing the old game."  These aren't verbatim quotations but it's certainly the gist and we seemed to move in more than one circle of this nature.  And this wasn't the only circle.  Rodriguez would say, "We only have interpretation."  Crook would respond, "That's the great postmodern cop-out."  Rodriguez would say, "It's not a cop-out if it's true."  And so it went....

The debate really crystallized for me in a series of interactions during Q&A, however, and I regret not pointing out their significance then.  Foster had earlier asked how social memory theory addresses the question of the saints rising from the tombs in Jerusalem in Matthew (the so-called Matthean zombies of Matt 27.52-53).  I said that, of course, I did not regard this as historical but that there is still a lot of historical information about the historical Jesus to be gained from the question "Why did Matthew commemorate Jesus in this manner?" rather than simply "Did this happen?"  In other words, we should still try to explain historically why Matthew thought what he did about Jesus because these thoughts are related to the historical Jesus in one form or another.  (This doesn't mean that they're automatically historically accurate; only that they're on an interpretive trajectory that started with Jesus' life.  Dale Allison has recently approached the temptation narratives similarly in his Constructing Jesus, and it's convincing to me.)  Paul was, of course, unsatisfied with this answer, saying that this is not historical Jesus research as defined by Meier, Crossan, Sanders, et al.  And he's right about this.  Rafael and I both said at the beginning of our presentations that we weren't doing business the way it's been done, and I agree with what Rafael said during the session--it was maddening that it seemed the debate never involved our proposals about the nature of the tradition but only whether this was old-school historical Jesus work, which we'd already said it wasn't.  Then, later in the discussion, Greg Monette, who provided the image attached to this post, asked Paul how he would deal with the Jerusalem saints.  Paul went on to make a series of comments that could have come straight from Bultmann's History of the Synoptic Tradition.  One of the first things out of Paul's mouth was, "Well, this is Matthean redaction, so this is the first issue" or something to that effect.  As far as I understood him, Paul's point was that since this seems to be the interpretive work of Matthew, this is one strike against the possibility that it's historically accurate.

This right here is where Rodriguez and I would disagree with Foster in terms of method and where Foster reveals himself as a historical positivist.  This approach assumes some historical baseline (Mark? Q?) from which Matthew has departed, and that by departing he has moved away from the historical truth.  "Matthean redaction" here then disqualifies the tradition in some way from historical Jesus discussion, or at least renders it suspect.  To say it again, such an approach is essentially still reflective of historical positivism because it assumes that there is some neutral historical baseline. 

In my opinion, though, Foster never really answered Greg's question.  He only made comments about the nature of the tradition.  But labelling something "redaction" only names the problem; it does not solve it.  For, what in the Gospels is not ultimately redaction?  What isn't the interpretive work of an author (or community)?  Once one strips away the redaction, what is it that is supposedly there?  These are rhetorical questions because there is no neutral historical baseline to be excavated.  Labelling something as the interpretive work of early Christians cannot rule something out of historical discussion because the interpetive work of early Christians is all that we have and all we've ever had . . . even for eyewitnesses.  More to the point, the interpretations are the only way that we can have the historical discussion at all.  From our perspectives, then, the interpretations of the evangelist are what enables the work of the historian, not what militates against it.  The historical work still must be done on any particular issue, and this is why, as Schroeter forcefully emphasised in the style of Thor among mere mortals, historical-critical discussion is not antithetical to memory approaches and actually works hand-in-hand with them.  "Memory" only gives a hermeneutical perspective on what it means to approach the past.  In other words, Rafael and I are both also interested in asking whether Jesus really did say or do things and believe we can, in many cases (but not all), come to firm conclusions.  We're just not naive about the nature of the Jesus tradition that we have to use in order to come to those conclusions. 

For example, and to answer the question about the Matthean zombies from a memory perspective, I would say that this stems from the author's (or "community's" if your prefer that) conviction that Jesus raised from the dead and thus inaugurated the expected end-time resurrection.  It's probably not historical and stems from their present beliefs and a scriptural lens BUT--and this is the important difference--those beliefs and the conviction that they should use a scriptural lens are themselves connected to the past and indicate that the historical Jesus did certain things (i.e., did and said things in the actual past) that lead some people in some circumstances to believe that he had inaugurated the end.  Those interpretations thus ask for us to commence the historical work of asking what types of things he could have said and done and how they might have been received by various audiences in various ways (that is, how different groups could have understood or misunderstood him) in order to lead to the convictions we see in Matthew's Gospel.  In short, and to repeat again, the interpretations allow us to commence asking questions about the historical Jesus.  But they do not predetermine our answers and scholarly proposals, which will inevitably be based on historical-critical argumentation in light of the socio-historical circumstances and judged by our peers as more or less plausible.  The important thing, though, is that a particular tradition need not and should not be exiled from the historical Jesus discussion altogether just because it's "redaction" . . . everything in the Gospels is "redaction" in one form or another.

I have little doubt that Foster would respond to this by saying that this isn't historical Jesus work as it's always been defined.  We would then agree, but assert that it's how historical Jesus work should have been defined and should now be defined.  He would line up Meier, Crossan, and perhaps Sanders behind him.  We would line up Hooker, Allison, and Schroeter behind us.  Like I said, it's largely two groups talking past one another and I really think it simply boils down to whether a given scholar believes he or she can uncover a historically neutral image of the past.  Rafael and I don't think a scholar can.  But we aren't paralyzed by this conviction or think, as does Zeb Crook, that we've entered a New No Quest.  We think this simply indicates that we need to be more sensitive to the nature of the tradition that we're using in putting our questions to it and to think more intricately about what it means to write "history" in the first place.
13 Dec 18:23

"Memory Studies in Historical Jesus Research" - audio

by (..............)
Thanks to the miracle of modern technology and ears, you can listen in on the recent SBL panel on the topic of "Memory Studies in Historical Jesus Research".
[Two unfortunate caveats: the first paper is missing the first four minutes (sorry Chris); and the sound quality is somewhat poor throughout - I had better luck with headphones].
Chris Keith, "The Past Approaching and Approaching the Past: The Contribution of Memory Studies to Historical Jesus Research"

Zeba Crook, "Memory Distortion and the Historical Jesus"

Rafael Rodríguez, "An Uneasy Concord: Memory and History in Contemporary Jesus Research"

Paul Foster, "Memory: Help or Hindrance in Historical Jesus Research?"

Discussion of panelists moderated militantly by James Crossley

I am just now listening to these. I will probably have some reflections once I've had a chance to digest.


05 Jan 15:50

01/03/14 PHD comic: 'Grad School New Year Resolutions'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Grad School New Year Resolutions" - originally published 1/3/2014

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

12 Dec 13:30

It's Either This or Your Sofa, Hoomin

09 Dec 20:51

The Love of God Made Visible: Francis J. Moloney and Dorothy Lee teach eConference on the Gospel of John

by Matthew D. Montonini
Some time ago, I discovered that the Australian Catholic Bishops conference featured an e-conference on the Gospel of Mark taught by eminent NT scholar, Francis Moloney.

I have now discovered that Frank is at it again, as he joined another excellent Johannine scholar in Dorothy Lee in teaching an e-conference on the Gospel of John.

Frank Moloney and I in my study.
One will need to download the video player for the site in order to watch the videos. It is remarkable how much material is covered in such a short amount of time, speaking to the mastery over this material that both of these scholars have over the contents of the Fourth Gospel.


04 Dec 12:48

12/02/13 PHD comic: 'Your Academic Forecast'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Your Academic Forecast" - originally published 12/2/2013

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

26 Nov 08:36

11/22/13 PHD comic: 'What to do when you're overwhelmed, Part 2'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "What to do when you're overwhelmed, Part 2" - originally published 11/22/2013

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

24 Nov 13:00

I Hope the Wolf Gets Here Soon...

I Hope the Wolf Gets Here Soon...

Submitted by: Unknown

25 Nov 12:00

I'll Tear Any of You Soft, Juicy Berries Apart!

I'll Tear Any of You Soft, Juicy Berries Apart!

Submitted by: Unknown

21 Nov 16:02

Two penguins, all alone I put up drawings yesterday at...

Two penguins, all alone

I put up drawings yesterday at

11 Nov 05:40

11/04/13 PHD comic: 'A Guide to Academic Relationships'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "A Guide to Academic Relationships" - originally published 11/4/2013

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

15 Nov 13:51

11/08/13 PHD comic: 'Spousal Ignorance'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Spousal Ignorance" - originally published 11/8/2013

Get the new Thesis Fuel Mug, only at the PHD Store

15 Nov 05:00

Shoot for the Moon

Shoot for the Moon. If you miss, you'll end up co-orbiting the Sun alongside Earth, living out your days alone in the void within sight of the lush, welcoming home you left behind.
08 Nov 05:00


04 Nov 07:54

Will Rodgers

05 Nov 14:39

It’s National College Application Week! Go Get Schooled.

It’s National College Application Week! Go Get Schooled.

05 Nov 04:04

11/01/13 PHD comic: 'Peak Panic'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Peak Panic" - originally published 11/1/2013

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

01 Nov 05:05

5 Questions with an Emmy-Winning Illustrator

by Bethany Jenkins

Norman Rockwell was horrified when a fellow illustrator suggested that their craft was a way to just make a living—"You do your job, you get your check, and nobody thinks it's art." He replied, "Oh no no no. How can you say that? No man with a conscience can just bat out illustrations. He's got to put all of his talent, all of his feelings into them."

Illustrators are image-makers. Their craft employs the imagination to create the visual equivalent of a verbal idea. When illustrators pick up their markers and draw "good" pictures, they bear the image of God as Creator. I recently corresponded with Amanda Geisinger, an Emmy Award-winning illustrator and interactive designer, currently on staff at Nickelodeon in New York City. We talked about how illustrations were a part of her journey from atheism to Christianity and about how her faith intersects with her work.

You can find all of her assorted creative wanderings  at

You can find all of Amanda's assorted creative wanderings

When did you first become interested in illustration and design?

I seem to have come pre-programmed with a super strong appetite for creating, which is odd, given that I was born blind. Fortunately, with time and a slew of surgeries, I gradually gained enough eyesight that my lifelong dream of becoming a visually impaired visual artist wasn't so absurd. I marched merrily off to college to study design, the major I had declared to my parents in kindergarten.


How were illustrations a part of your coming to faith?

When I graduated from art school, I fell into editing and production design for Nickelodeon Magazine's comic books. I knew very little about comics going in, and yet I was given the amazing opportunity to be involved in every step of the comic creation process with some of the best artists and editors in the field. The work I was seeing happen on a daily basis was so extraordinary (and so novel an art form to me) that I couldn't help but to start experimenting on my own with my newfound knowledge.


The Mark of Cain?

It just so happened that at the time I was exploring something else for the first time—Christianity. As an angry atheist who grew up completely outside the church, I was encountering an overwhelming amount of information that was super weird, generally incomprehensible, and extremely frustrating. Without realizing what was happening, I started processing this new world, in part, through my comics.

A succinct synopsis

A Succinct Synopsis

My distaste for this God-I-wasn't-sure-existed was pretty evident in those early wanderings. He showed up on the scene as a sullen, angry looking cloud who perpetually glared out of his furrowed brow with a frown (although I did give him the benefit of occasionally having a sense of humor).


Inside God's Public Storage Unit

They're not comics in the traditional sense, in that they usually aren't trying to be funny or clever. I was mostly interested in the process of creating my own highly efficient, clear visual language. The first drawings were just responses to things I encountered in church. I was also doing a ton of reading and note taking at the time. I kept a list of things that weren't necessarily compelling arguments for the existence of a God, but were things that I felt were not being successfully refuted by my compadres on Team Atheism. I started to accompany those with drawings, too.

"If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning." C. S. Lewis

"If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning." C. S. Lewis

Eventually, though, Cloud-God and Nail-Holes-in-His-Hands-Jesus were not necessarily appealing, but there were enough of these notes that I was ready to concede that the logical bet was that it was more likely than not that Jesus had literally risen from the dead. Sitting at home one night with that little notebook, I made the decision to switch cosmic teams.

Ouch (my first drawing post-Jesus befriending)

Ouch (my first drawing post-Jesus befriending)

Not much later Nickelodeon "exited the print industry," and our entire department was laid off. And as I left the world of print and comics at Nick Magazine for the world of interactive design at Nick Digital, and put away the notebook and picked up the Bible, I put the cap on my markers for a while. I'd occasionally draw, but for the most part I had lost interest in the visual processing.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12

But because I think visually rather than in words, these little pieces were actually pretty helpful in enhancing my comprehension and retention of what I was encountering. However, it wasn't me who noticed this. I was seeing a counselor at the time, and she asked me if I might meditate on Psalm 139 in pictures. I agreed to try.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

It was here that cartoon Amanda appeared on the scene. For the first time, I was starting to explore what it meant for me to have a relationship with this character I was trying to understand.

". . . when I awake, I am still with you." Psalm 139:18

". . . when I awake, I am still with you." Psalm 139:18

I drew every verse, multiple times and ways, trying to understand every possible way each one could be represented visually.

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place . . ." Psalm 139:15

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place . . ." Psalm 139:15

The exercise helped me understand, spend time with, and think out the implications of what I was reading as I wandered through more of the Bible. I didn't realize it at the time, but I can see now that the more than 420 drawings helped me to document the progression of my conception of God's character. As you follow cartoon Amanda through her adventures, you can see God's character softening. You can see cloud-god start to act more like the real God.


Three years in, cloud-god finally cracked his first smile.


Jesus started showing up more, and he got a smile, too.


Gradually, cloud-god's fierce brow started to soften. And then he became empathetic. He delighted in me. He grieved with me. And I guess it was not really cloud-god that was softening.


So essentially, I found illustrations to be a language that helped me explore the claims of Christianity, and then the character of God, the practice of prayer, and the discipline of meditation. It helped me not only with my comprehension, but also my affections. I don't know if I will always find it this useful, but for now I'm keeping my markers handy.

Did your work (or how you approach your work) change after you became a Christian? If so, how?

Losing my dream job shortly after I became a Christian was a hard-and-fast lesson about attaching my hopes to my career instead of Christ. But shortly thereafter I landed my present gig, which I'm pretty sure is as close to an ideal work environment as you can get. I respect and enjoy all my colleagues (the combination of talent and character on our team is somehow extraordinary), our department takes seriously the issue of work-life balance (very rare for New York City), and, because we make stuff for kids, the integrity level of the content we produce is generally pretty high. I haven't encountered many situations where my ideals blatantly clash with what is happening in front of me.


The dangers of being too proud of your skill seem pretty obvious to a lot of people, but one of the less obvious temptations I see in the field of design, which I really fell into hard in art school, is pride in your formally cultivated taste. In order to refine my visual discernment skills and help me understand the rules behind what makes things aesthetically pleasing, I was taught how to recognize, diagnose, and fix bad design. As a highly analytical person, I easily got caught in an incessantly critical visual mindset that I somewhere along the way lost the capacity to shut down. But, unexpectedly, I also completely lost my ability to enjoy things that actually were beautiful. Also, when you've got a huge gap between your taste and your skill (which I don't think is uncommon) and excessive confidence in your taste, you tend to be devastated by all of the work you do because it never lives up. It took realizing that I had turned into something of a pride-monster and a pretty long time of deliberately choosing to focus on beauty rather than blemishes to get me some of my interest in art-seeing and art-making back and beat down some of the snobbery I was unaware I was mired in.

Can you tell me about the app for which you won an Emmy?

Our app, which won the Emmy for outstanding creative achievement in interactive media: user experience and visual design, was a huge undertaking. It has original short form content, games, blogs, polls, interactive elements, original animation, and all sorts of other content that is refreshed on a daily basis. It took more than two years and a large team of people to build. I was fortunate to get to be involved in the initial phases; I helped do a bunch of the first style guides (which evolved dramatically), and, like everyone else on our team, have worked pretty extensively on a whole ton of different aspects of it since. We are still engaged in the daily content updates now.

What's it like to win an Emmy?

Winning an Emmy, for me, was pretty weird. Fun-weird, but still weird. It's one of those things that I never actually imagined intersecting with my experience when I trotted off to be a graphic designer. My favorite part, I think, was that my art director got to go to the ceremony in Los Angeles. I admire her so much, and it was super cool to get to see her go get our statue. It was also pretty fun for all of us to take selfies with it in the office the next day.

I don't know if this is a rule for every designer, or it's just me that happens to think this way, but it's hard to draw too much of your significance from your awards. Because we produce tangible things where our skill, or lack thereof, is pretty obviously displayed, designers tend to judge other designers primarily on the quality of the actual work that they produce. It's, therefore, much easier to get your identity caught up in what your work actually looks like rather than what awards you've won for it.

I still think it's pretty neat though.


31 Oct 16:00

This Dog Has Jokes!

This Dog Has Jokes!

LoL by: chianty

Tagged: bar , dogs , jokes , funny