Your Questions to Paula Fredriksen

Q1. Submitted by J. Bosman:

Please comment on the role of women in the life of Jesus and Hisrelationships with them. Was His treatment of them as unusual as Hisapproach to the poor and outcast?


One of the standard ways New Testament scholarship operates is toattribute some admirable ethical principal to Jesus, and then to explain hissignificance byattributing the opposite to his Jewish contemporaries. Thus: Jesus was niceto sick people, while the Jews were mean to them (Jewish purity rules areusually, andwrongly, dragged in here); or, Jesus emphasized personal prayer, while theJews emphasized empty ritual; or, especially since the 1960s Jesus wasegalitarian and welcomed women followers, while the Jews had a sexistsociety and didn't treat women well. This mode of thinking has more to dowith identity and invidious comparison than with reconstructingfirst-century history. For an excellent book containing the most recent workon the issue of Jesus and women, See Women and Christian Origins, ed. RossKraemer and Mary Rose d'Angelo, Oxford 1999.

Q2. Submitted by E.L. Van Laningham:

I appreciated the program very much. It seemed that your answers wereedited to "soundbites." Which of your answers that appeared on the finaledit would you like to be able to expand for our benefit and your personalsatisfaction?

Smart question. I was very distressed by the way I was edited so that itsounded as if N.T. Wright and I agreed on fundamental points when we, infact, disagree energetically.

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First, on Jesus' arrest and subsequent execution: I disagree with Crossan,Borg, and Wright, in that I hold that there was little reason for thepriests of their own initiative to want Jesus dead. Even if Jesus had turnedover some money-changers' table, that would not have affected the priests,and if you imagine how congested the Temple was in the days before Passover,hardly anyone would have noticed, so it could hardly have occasioned muchdisturbance. (If you have kids, and they have Where's Waldo? books, you'llsee my point). Thus, I think the priests acted to help Pilate arrest Jesus,in order to avoid one of Pilate's typically heavy-handed police actions;they were not themselves "against" Jesus for religious reasons, as theprogram implied.

Second, on the resurrection: Wright referred to the Gospel Resurrectionaccounts. My remark was scissored out of context where I was speaking aboutthe Resurrection witnesses Paul lists in 1 Cor 15: "He [the risen Christ]appeared first to Peter, then to the 12, and then to 500 brethren, some ofwhom have died, then to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all tome." The verb 'orao' means "to see." Here it's passive; he was seen. That'swhy I said "they saw something"--to be more precise, I should have said"they thought they saw something." But that's the referrent: thefirst-generation followers to whose report Paul, also first-generation,relates. And, of course, a report of something is not itself evidence thatsomething happened as the report says--in this case as in any other.

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