How did the controversy between Jesus and the scribal elite begin? We know that it ended on a cross, but what put Jesus on the radar of established religious and political leaders in the first place? Chris Keith argues that, in addition to concerns over what Jesus taught and perhaps even how he taught, a crucial aspect of the rising conflict concerned his very status as a teacher.
Addressing an overlooked aspect in Jesus studies, this fresh and provocative work is the first book-length treatment of the origins of the controversy between Jesus and the scribal authorities. It exposes the broader significance of Keith's highly regarded technical work on the literacy of Jesus.
Chris Keith (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is professor of New Testament and early Christianity and director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St. Mary's University, Twickenham, England. He was a 2010 recipient of the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his book The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus and was named a 2012 Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholar. He is also coeditor (with Larry W. Hurtado) of Jesus among Friends and Enemies.
In this book, as lucid and accessible as it is compelling, Chris Keith exposes the issues that lay at the very heart of Jesus's engagement with the scribal elite. This is written for upper-level students, but scholars too will find much to consider in this excellent treatment.
University of Edinburgh
Chris Keith is one of the leading scholars of literacy in Christian antiquity, especially as it relates to the historical Jesus. In this new contribution, he makes his views accessible to the nonspecialist who is interested in knowing, was Jesus a well-educated teacher who could read and write? And if not, why did he fall afoul of the powerful scribes--the readers, writers, and teachers of his world--leading to his demise? Clearly written and coherently argued, this will be a book for scholar and layperson alike.
-Bart D. Ehrman,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Well informed by current academic discussions of historical Jesus research, memory, orality, and literacy, Chris Keith adds a very important social dimension to understanding the conflicts between Jesus and other teachers of his day. This fascinating book makes a new and welcome contribution to the discussion.
-Craig S. Keener,
Asbury Theological Seminary
With a readable style, deep engagement with other scholars, and an impressive grasp of the particulars of the ancient cultural situation, Keith offers a stimulating and creative proposal about the origins of tensions between Jesus and the scribal elite. Keith emphasizes Jesus's social status as a key contributing factor in these tensions. Along the way, Keith addresses questions about the historicity of the Gospels' portrayal of controversies with scribes and Pharisees, and a number of other issues, making this study well worth reading.
New College, University of Edinburgh
This is a fresh and fruitful approach to a key aspect of the historical Jesus by one of the more creative younger scholars in the field.
University of St. Andrews
In Jesus against the Scribal Elite, Chris Keith provides a distinctive angle to the controversy narratives by focusing on how the scribal elites perceived Jesus's literacy and authoritative status. Keith's research complements older approaches to the controversy narratives and their focus on the law, miracles, and exorcisms. The book is convincing, carefully argued, well-documented, and remarkably easy to read. It will surely prove its worth both in the classroom and in the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
University of Sheffield