John Dominic Crossan.
Dominic to his friends and John to the advertising agencies.
So he says.
Crossan is world-renowned in biblical archaeology, anthropology and a co-founder of the Jesus Seminar. Crossan in one of the leading scholars in the search for the historical Jesus and his immense knowledge of 1st century Palestine is almost, if not, uncontested in its contribution to Jesus scholarship.
The Jesus Seminar was a collection of over 200 scholars who debated and decided upon the historical accuracy of the figure of Jesus, Crossan being one of the many scholars who made an impact on the contemporary understanding of Jesus. As a member of the Seminar, Crossan may have been a part of decisions made over the authentication of Jesus sayings, whether Jesus actually said them or if they were sayings attributed to Jesus by early Christians.
Alongside being a world-renowned scholar, Crossan has published many books on the historical Jesus, one such book being God and Empire which I am currently studying in REL 313 "The Search for Jesus". Apropos, to say the least.
A central theme in Crossan's methodology is the provision of a matrix. Crossan uses the term matrix to set up all the information he will need to evaluate his particular figure of study. Background and foreground leave Crossan, well, cross over the implication set by some material being more essential while other material does not interact with his subject. Crossan sets up and sets out to discover the interactions that create connections between space, time, history, and humanity that contributed to the need for Jesus.
Lebanon Valley College hosted Crossan to give a series of lectures on his understanding of the Abba Prayer. Robert Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar, said in Mark Allan Powell's, Jesus As A Figure in History, "Christianity as we know it is wasting away...It is time to re-invent Christianity, complete with new symbols, new stories, and a new understanding of Jesus" (Powell 73). Entrenched in his quick wit and spritely nature was an insatiable quest to understand and redefine the way Christians, and I think specifically American Christians, in their understanding of the Abba Prayer. Yet, Crossan's scholarship is so interconnected that at the heart his question always seems to draw back to the figure and the purpose of Jesus.
Crossan's methodology in Chapter 3 of his book, God and Empire, is the creation of a necessary matrix that Crossan needs to understand why Jesus was so significant to shaping not only 1st Century Palestine but also the contemporary religio-political scheme. This matrix theme makes an appearance through much of Crossan's scholarship. His opening question is "Why did Jesus happen when he did?"
The religio-political climate was that of Rome, the greatest empire in the known world, and quite a pagen one, against a thinly established Jewish community. Yet, the Jewish community had faced oppression beofre under other conquering kingdoms. God had given them prophets and liberation but not quite a figure like Jesus. The gospels are rich with the implications that somewhere there is a need for or lack of fulfillment in the laws. After centureies of captivity and liberation, destruction and conquest, settlement and exile; the Jewish communities law code had been fractured from commandments and priestly authority to discourse and rabbinical interpretation. Yet, the community that Jesus came to had suffered from disrepect of God's law before. God had given them kings and covenants but not quite the figure of Jesus. What made the puppet rule of Herod Antipas different from the series proceeding him? What characterized Rome as the necessary motivation for the reformation and revolution of social and religious order that was the figure of Christ Jesus?
Crossan also questions the geographical implications of placing Jesus. This is not a new debate in authorizing Jand making legitimate the figure and message of Jesus by calling into question his locality. In Peter Jennings' documentary,The Search for Jesus, the debate over whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem or Nazareth is a notable focus of scholarship even among the locals. In ancient times, a man was identified by his place of origin and Jesus is often, is almost always, identified as 'Jesus of Nazareth' yet the messianic prophecy seemed to require that the Redeemer be born in Bethlehem. For some this creates a dissonance between history and faith.
Does Jesus have to be from Bethlehem to be the Messiah? Does his life mean any less to the shape of human history is irrefutable facts presented Jesus as born in some other town, like Nazareth? If he was well-versed in the Hebrew tradition and the prophecies would his responsibility include advocating his birth in Bethlehem? Looking at how Jesus and his message--social, religious, and political--would it really have been a necessary self-identification?
Crossan is questioning the persistant location of Jesus and Galilee. What did Galilee have to offer to Jesus' message that Nazareth could not perform? Not only does Crossen see the image of a fishing village as essential to understanding Jesus but also to understanding his disciples.
Crossan addresses Herod the Great as the catalyst for "Romanization by Urbanization for Commericalization" but also before the time of Jesus and John the Baptist (Crossan 101) . However, under the rule of Herod Antipas, these three dynamic movements collided.
Did Jesus happen at this intersection?