The Casey Colloquium: Excerpt Ten

The word "shlama" (peace) in Aramaic...

This is the last entry in my ten part series of excerpts from Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth (the whole series can be accessed here).

In the conclusion, Casey remarks, in part

To fit Jesus into his original context within first- century Judaism, we must reconstruct that culture too. I therefore surveyed the main sources which enable us to do this. I naturally drew attention to the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially those written in Aramaic. The scrolls have enabled scholars to greatly improve our knowledge of Judaism at the time of Jesus, and it is the Aramaic scrolls which have enabled me to work on Aramaic sources of the synoptic Gospels to an extent which was not previously possible. This is at the centre of the research which lies behind this book. I also drew particular attention to some features of this culture which New Testament scholars generally overlook, because we must be aware of the way in which secondary material may occur side by side with literally accurate traditions, to help us to distinguish between the two. Authors not only repeated accurate traditions about past events from their sources, they also rewrote them in accordance with the needs of their communities. They might also add stories, also for the benefit of the communities for whom they wrote. I drew attention to the concept of ‘social memory’, a useful term in helping us to understand how authors, writing for communities, do repeat authentic traditions from the past, but also update them with material useful for those same communities at the time of writing, and add helpful stories of their own.

The entire book is fascinating, though some of the conclusions may raise eyebrows among some conservative Christians. Especially his reflections on the resurrection (which I won’t spoil by citing).

This is a commendable volume demonstrating Casey’s grasp of the material and, indeed, mastery of it. As I suggested yesterday, no finer volume on the life of the Historical Jesus has been produced since Bultmann’s. Readers will learn – a lot – and that’s no small accomplishment.

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2 thoughts on “The Casey Colloquium: Excerpt Ten

  1. Doug 14 Oct 2010 at 8:15 pm

    You have really piqued my interest in this book. I am even more curious since you have said you did not think there was much more you could learn about the historical Jesus (I think that is what you said). If Jim West says that, then this must be a book to read.

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