Podcast recommendation: introduction to the historical Jesus in context

I was remiss in not sooner noting the recent completion of a podcast series by York University’s Philip Harland. It’s a recently completed set of fourteen lectures on many of the issues surrounding historical Jesus studies entitled The Historical Jesus in context.

Those brought up never questioning any aspect of the New Testament’s historicity should find it interesting to see how an historian approaching those texts without a presupposition of their divinely ensured accuracy, that is, as an ancient text, will evaluate the evidence about Jesus. (Hint: this type of historian won’t exactly come to the same conclusions as Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel!) This series is invaluable for giving you a glimpse into the ways that students of academic historical study approach the subjects of their inquiry, shedding some light on the kinds of historical information scholars find most compelling and the various ways of weighing evidence, in this case the evidence of the New Testament.

The series examines the evidence for Jesus as messianic figure, Jesus as apocalyptic prophet, Jesus as exorcist, and several other aspects of Jesus’ ministry that we find in the Gospels, attempting to situate him amongst other known religious leaders and groups in first century Judea. It will no doubt trouble some conservative listeners to realize the similarities between Jesus and other Jewish prophets, exorcists, and would-be Messiahs from the period, but I leave more aware of how astounding and suggestive the success of this particular peasant from backwoods Nazareth actually was.

I wish more instructors and professors would find ways of publishing their lectures for such wide consumption. It’s supposed to be fairly easy, I hear!

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  • Thanks for pointing this out! I’m definitely taking advantage of it.

  • imarriedaxtian

    Hi Steve,

    You might want to explore iTune University if you wish to look for more podcast (even videos) materiel on the Historical Jesus. I found these two gems there:

    A) Introduction to New Testament History and Literature by Dale Martin (Open Yale Courses)

    B) Historical Jesus by Thomas Sheehan (Stanford University)

    These two are well respected scholars in the mould of Bart Ehrman. Thomas Sheehan even wrote a book on the historical Jesus that have recently been released into the public domain.

    There are also offerings from more conservative institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminar, if your readers are so inclined.

    Grace and Peace

    • Good to see you here!

      I was familiar with Dale Martin’s iTunes stuff, but I hadn’t found Thomas Sheehan’s. I’ll have to check it out. When you say they’re “in the mould of Bart Ehrman”, I’m not sure what you mean. Ehrman’s more of a textual scholar than a historical Jesus scholar: he bugs me a bit because his stuff seems to be more energized by an attempt to debunk rather than offer much of a compelling alternative picture. Dale Martin struck me the same way: deconverts who want to convert. This isn’t to say that what they have to say is not correct or interesting, but what I find most helpful about Harland’s stuff, as well as what I’ve seen from Allison, is that it’s not telling us what not to believe as much as it is a dispassionate study of what we can know and how to come across it.

      • imarriedaxtian

        Sorry for being sloppy. What I mean to say (re Ehrman) is that these are in the historical-critical method of reading the Bible. There are other methods and I pointed out to podcasts from FTS as an example. I have two Introductions to the NT, one by Ehrman and the other by Carson and Moo. I had the Intro by Ehrman in mind when I wrote earlier. (Incidentally, this Intro by Ehrman is also used as textbook by Harland)

        Your readers might also want to visit Professor Harland’s website. He has 4 other series of podcasts. They are

        A) Paul And His Communities
        B) Early Christian Portraits of Jesus
        C) Diversity in Early Christianity – Heresies and Struggles
        D) Gods

        I am sorry if the style of Ehrman and Martin irritates you. As for offering compelling alternative picture, there are dozens of other books by different authors that offer fascinating portraits of Jesus, whether apocalyptic or non-apocalyptic, a Stoic, a Cynic, a Healer, Rabbi, or even a marginal Jew. (EP Sanders, Albert Schweizer, Marcus Borg, Geza Vermes, JP Meier, etc etc)

        If there is anything in Harland’s podcasts that bug me, it is his repeated use of the phrase “that peasant Jesus”. That is only his and Dominic Crossan’s take on Jesus, not mine. 🙂

        Grace and Peace

        • Yes indeed, there are many pictures and profiles of Jesus floating around these days, and many of them are probably true to varying extents at the same time.

          I will say, though, that the idea of Jesus as not moneyed or a product of a strong socio-economic position is hardly as marginal a position as your comment might have sounded to some readers. His hometown of Nazareth, disputed by few, would have made it hard to be much else, although the specific socio-economic designation of “peasant” may be overreaching the evidence. I also must note that Harland generally sides more with a Sanders-esque apocalyptic view than Crossan’s view (but that’s making it misleadingly binary, I know).

          • imarriedaxtian

            I think you may have misunderstood me. I was refering to the 4 volumes magnum opus of John P Meier “A Marginal Jew”.

            I also agree with you (along with Schweizer, Sanders and others) that Jesus was probably a failed apocalyptic prophet. There were many in Jewish history.

            Grace and Peace

          • Perhaps I did misunderstand. At any rate, thanks for referring me to Meier and Vermes, with whom I am not at all familiar.

  • Rasel224

    To find historical Jesus, for more answers you can see http://www.jesuspotterharrychrist.com

  • Sandra ChristianHeretic

    I just this morning finished Martin’s Intro to NT series. I listened to the Sheehan podcasts last summer. I found both to be illuminating and educational to this former in-the-box fundy. I agree with Steve’s opinion of both Ehrman and Martin as disillusioned. I look forward to starting this Harland series. Thanks for the link.

  • Thanks for this info. I love Podcasts so I am glad for this tip.