CNN News ran a story today on John Dominic Crossan’s “Blasphemous views” on Jesus. Since this is a news story, there is little substantive here. The emphasis is more on reactions to Crossan and his personal struggle with his scholarship and faith. In the interest of full disclosure, I have always enjoyed reading Crossan. My interest in Historical Jesus studies and Christian Origins was sparked largely by his Historical Jesus and the Birth of Christianity. I do find myself at odds with him on virtually every point, however. In a Gospels class, a student once called Crossan “my favorite whipping boy.” While I am not sure I ever whipped him, I do use him as a foil too often in dealing with Historical Jesus issues. But then that is the nature of John Dominic Crossan, he says things boldly and attracts attention.
I have several observations on this article. First, the article is out of date. For example, the author cites his Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography as “recent” (my copy is the 1995 edition from Harper). My guess is that the writer of this piece has the 2009 re-packaging of the book in mind, failing to notice that it is now over 15 years old. Second, the article mentions his association with the Jesus Seminar, despite the fact that this too is old news. As is well known, the Jesus Seminar has always been on the fringe of scholarship, even in Jesus Studies. Third, while his involvement in A&E Bible programs is mentioned, there is nothing on the more substantive debates with N. T. Wright. These were significant dialogues and were both friendly and scholarly. The impression I get from the article is that the Christian community only pours out hate and derision on Crossan. This is not the case at all, the dialogue has been positive for more conservative scholars (which is just about everyone when you are talking about the Jesus Seminar. Last, I think it is good that the article used a quote from Ben Witherington in the SideBar, although there is no indication when or where Witherington said this. There is also no distinction between Witherington the radical conservatives who threaten Crossan at the beginning of the article. For the writer of this article, there are only two options, but Ben Witherington is (in reality) not one of the knee-jerk conservatives who vilify Crossan (or anyone for that matter).
My guess is that this sort of article pops up in March since the Easter Season is starting. Nothing generates page hits at Easter like saying that Jesus was taken down from the cross, thrown in a garbage dump and eaten by dogs. But there is nothing new here, certainly nothing which is News. Glad to see Crossan still getting media attention, I just wish the media paid attention to a broader spectrum of scholarship.