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.
Introduction: The Teacher from Galilee and the Origins of Controversy
1. Teachers in the Time of Jesus: Scribal Literacy and Social Roles
2. Jesus as Teacher in the Gospels: Questioning, Rejecting, and Affirming the Nazarene
3. Assessing the Texts: Authenticity, Memory, and the Historical Jesus
4. Jesus and Scribal Literacy: Possession and Perception
5. The Content of the Conflict: Scripture and Authority
6. The Emergence of the Conflict: Its Origins and Nature
Concluding Remarks: The Beginning, the End, and the Beginning of the End
"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."
Helen Bond, senior lecturer in New Testament and director of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins, University of Edinburgh
"This well-written study by Chris Keith puts Jesus as a public teacher into new light. The attention this book devotes to Jesus in relation to the social context of his day not only challenges assumptions about what it means for Jesus to be God's Messiah and Son of God but also offers a fresh way to understand what it meant for Jesus to have given instructions at all and to have debated them with his Jewish contemporaries. Readers with any interest in the historical Jesus will have a hard time putting the book down."
Loren Stuckenbruck, professor of New Testament and Second Temple Judaism, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
"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, professor of New Testament, 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."
Larry Hurtado, emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology and Honorary Professorial Fellow, 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."
Richard Bauckham, professor emeritus of New Testament studies, University of St. Andrews; senior scholar, Ridley Hall, Cambridge
"Building on extensive research in oral culture and collective memory, Chris Keith helpfully contextualizes Jesus's debates with the scribes and other experts on the Jewish Scriptures within the media culture of Roman Palestine. His readings of the Gospels offer new insights on those texts and on Jesus's teaching career, adding greater clarity to the ways that Jesus confronted the religious authorities of his own time and, ultimately, the reasons for his death."
Tom Thatcher, chief academic officer, professor of biblical studies, Cincinnati Christian University
"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."
James Crossley, professor of Bible, politics, and culture, University of Sheffield
"This work is a well-researched, well-written, and significant contribution to the discussions of literacy and conflict in Jesus's ministry and to discussions of the nature of the Gospels. Even if one disagrees with some of the conclusions, it offers a new perspective worthy of analysis and reflection."
Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park Theological Seminary
"Christianity was birthed from debate, conflict, and bitter rhetoric. Jesus against the Scribal Elite offers a realistic, often disturbing portrait of how this all began. Built from sound scholarship and great respect for the biblical Gospels, this book confirms what most New Testament scholars already know: Chris Keith is the best and brightest scholar of Christian origins in the field."
Anthony Le Donne, United Theological Seminary; author of The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David