Our discussion with Maurice Casey on his very soon to be published volume commences in a week so this week I’m going to begin posting excerpts- so participants (and others) can get a sense of where Casey is coming from and where he’s going.
I’m also doing something of a ‘double posting’- offering the excerpts here and on the List. I’ll not comment on the excerpts (at this point) but will just let them speak for themselves.
The purpose of this book is to engage with the historical Jesus from the perspective of an independent historian. I do not belong to any religious or antireligious group. I try to use evidence and argument to establish historically valid conclusions. I depend on the best work done by many other scholars, regardless of their ideological affiliation. I also make abundant use of one relatively recent discovery which should help us to go further than ever before in reconstructing the Jesus of history in his original cultural context. That is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and above all the eventual publication of all those which are written in Aramaic, the language which Jesus himself spoke. In two complex technical books, I have shown how genuine sayings of Jesus, and the earliest narrative reports of his deeds, can be reconstructed in their original Aramaic versions in a manner unthinkable before the publication of the Aramaic scrolls.2 As all students of language and culture in general are very well aware, language is a central part of culture. Accordingly, the reconstruction of the Aramaic sources of the synoptic Gospels is an essential step in understanding him against the background of his own culture, that of first- century Judaism. All the details of this technical work cannot be presented in this book, but it lies behind it, and I present Aramaic reconstructions of the Lord’s Prayer and of Jesus’ words interpreting the bread and wine at the Last Supper, so that everyone can see what this work looks like, and experience something of what he really said. I also refer to this kind of work at other crucial points (p. 2).