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Jesus and Brian!!!

I am pleased to be able to announce that a conference will be held this summer that looks to be outrageously fun and interesting.   It will be at King’s College, London.   And it will be on the Life of Brian and the Historical Jesus.   I have been asked to give one of the papers, and how could I refuse!   I’m going to have to cut short a family vacation in France, but there’s no way I’m missing this.  Here’s the publicity for it.

Jesus and Brian

Or: What have the Pythons done for Us?
A Biblical Studies Conference
King’s College London, The Strand, London WC1
Safra Lecture Theatre
Friday June 20th to Sunday June 22nd, 2014

Monty Python’s Life of Brian provoked a furious response in some quarters when it first appeared in 1979, even leading to cries of ‘blasphemy’. However, many students and teachers of biblical literature were quietly, and often loudly, both amused and intrigued. Life of Brian in fact contains numerous references to what was then the cutting edge of biblical scholarship and Life of Jesus research, founded on the recognition of the historical Jesus as a Jew who needs to be understood within the context of his time. Implicitly, in setting ‘Brian’ within the tumultuous social and political background of his age, Life of Brian sets Jesus within it also. It assumes the audience has some knowledge of the gospel accounts, which directly inform the comedy.

Ever since Philip Davies first wrote on the film 15 years ago, other scholars too have turned their gaze to consider exactly what Life of Brian does in regard to Jesus scholarship, and have increasingly delved into its curious corners to reflect on what it says both about the tumultuous times of Jesus and also contemporary scholarly discussions.  Biblical scholarship has moved on greatly in the past 25 years, and various aspects of Life of Brian correlate with themes now intensely explored. Every Bible scholar knows what ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’ means among us!

This conference opens up Life of Brian to renewed investigation, using it in an innovative way to sharpen our view. Papers presented by some of the world’s most eminent biblical scholars and historians will discuss the film’s relevance to history, biblical studies and Life of Jesus research (see below). There will be discussion of the socio-political context and Josephus; costuming and setting; and other topics. The aim is to use the film to reflect on history, interpretation and meaning, as a tool that can help us consider our assumptions and the historical evidence: a ‘reception exegesis’ approach. There will be a book produced with selected conference papers, with a publication date of mid-2015.

It is also a celebration of a British movie masterpiece. Photo used, The Life of Brian © 1979 – Sony Pictures.

Confirmed Speakers:

Dr. Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh
‘You’ll probably get away with Crucifixion’: How Brian (and Jesus) ended up on a Roman Cross’

Prof. George Brooke, Manchester University
‘Brian as a Teacher of Righteousness’

Prof. Richard Burridge, King’s College London
“The Church of England’s Life of Python – or what the Bishop saw” 

Prof. James Crossley, University of Sheffield
‘Monty Python’s Life of Jesus’

Prof. Philip Davies, University of Sheffield
‘Monty Python’s Life of Jesus’

Prof. Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
‘The Life of Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus’

Prof. Paula Fredriksen, Boston University
‘ “Are You a Virgin?”: Biblical Exegesis and the Invention of Tradition’

Prof. Martin Goodman, Oxford University
‘The Life of Brian and the Politics of First-Century Judaea’

Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University,
‘Brian, Gender and Sexuality’

Prof. Steve Mason, University of St. Andrews
‘What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?’Brian and Josephus on Anti-Roman Sentiment’

Dr. Aaron Rosen, King’s College London,
‘Laughing at Brian, Laughing at Christ: Some Reflections on Film and Modern Art’

Prof. Joan E. Taylor, King’s College London,
‘The Historical Brian’

Dr Bill Telford, Durham University
Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the Jesus Film’

Dr. David Tollerton, University of Exeter
‘Blasphemy!’ On Free Speech Then and Now


  • Conference registration fee: £180; students/unwaged £90
  • Day tickets may be available.
  • Conference dinner: £65
  • Strictly limited participation (220 places only). Early booking is essential. Participants will be responsible for finding their own accommodation in central London, for further information on local hotels, click here.
  • Bookings will open electronically in November 2013.
  • Tickets are available from HERE 

Conference Schedule

Friday, 20th June, 2014

From 4 pm, arrivals and registrations, King’s College London, Strand, entrance foyer

Safra Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, King’s Building, Strand

4.30-5 pm : Welcome and introduction: Prof. Joan E. Taylor, ‘The Historical Brian’

Session 1: Chair: Joan Taylor

5.00-5.45 pm : Prof. Martin Goodman, ‘The Life of Brian and the Politics of First-Century Judaea’

5.45-6.30 pm : Prof. George Brooke, ‘Brian as a Teacher of  Righteousness’

6.30 pm : Chapters, First Floor, King’s Building, Strand Reception and welcome from Prof. Rick Trainor, Principal   of King’s College London.

7.30 pm : Panel discussion with Mystery Guests, hosted by Prof. Richard Burridge, Dean and Prof. of Biblical Interpretation, King’s College London, followed by  screening of Monty Python’s Life of Brian (93 mins)

Saturday, 21st June, 2014

Safra Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, King’s Building

Session 2: Chair: Aaron Rosen

10 am-10.45 am : Prof. Bill Telford, ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the Jesus Film’

10.45-11.15 am : Prof. Philip Davies and Prof. James Crossley, ‘‘Monty Python’s Life of Jesus’

11.15-11.45 : Morning coffee

Session 3: Chair: Jonathan Stökl

11.45-12.30 : Dr. Helen Bond, ‘You’ll probably get away with Crucifixion’: How Brian (and Jesus) ended up on a Roman Cross’

12.30-1 pm : Dr. Aaron Rosen, ‘Laughing at Brian, Laughing at Christ: Some Reflections on Film and Modern Art’

1 pm -2.30 pm : Lunch

Session 4: Chair : Edward Adams

2.30 pm-3.15 pm : Prof. Steve Mason, ‘What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?’Brian and Josephus on Anti-Roman Sentiment’

3.15-4.00 pm : Prof. Paula Fredriksen, ‘ “Are You a Virgin?”: Biblical Exegesis and the Invention of  Tradition’

4.00-4.30 pm : Afternoon tea

Session 5 : Chair: Joan Taylor

4.30-5.15 pm : TBA

7.30 pm : Conference reception and dinner at the Hall at Inner Temple, London, hosted by Rev. Robin Griffith-Jones, Master of Temple Church, with Mystery Guests

Sunday, 22nd June, 2014

Safra Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, King’s Building

Session 6. Chair: Prof. Ben Quash

10 – 10.30 am : Katie Turner, ‘The Costuming of the Life of Brian and the Clothing of First-Century Judaeans’

10.30-11.15 am : Prof. Bart Ehrman, The Life of Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus’

11.15-11.45 am : Morning tea

Session 7: Chair: Prof. Paul Joyce

11.45 – 12.30 noon : Prof. Richard Burridge, The Church of England’s Life of Python – or what the Bishop saw

12.30-2 pm :  Lunch

Session 8: Chair: Rev. Robin Griffith-Jones

2.00 – 2.45 pm : Dr. David Tollerton, Blasphemy! On Free Speech Then and Now

2.45-3.30 pm : Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, ‘Brian, Gender and Sexuality’

3.30-4.00 pm :  afternoon tea

4.00 – 5.00 pm : End of conference wrap up and speeches

Organizing Team

Conference Organizer:
Prof. Joan Taylor, Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism
joan.taylor@kcl.ac.uk; tel. +44 (0)20 7848 2335

Conference assistants:
Katie Turner katie.turner2@gmail.com
Michelle Fletcher michelle.fletcher@kcl.ac.uk

Administration/Project Officer:
Matthew Claridge matthew.claridge@kcl.ac.uk tel. + 44 (0)20 7848 7080

Mail Address/Office:
Department of Theology and Religious Studies,
King’s College London,
22 Kingsway,
London WC2B 6NR
United Kingdom.

Amusing Fund Raising and the Blog
Is The NT Portrayal of Jesus Accurate? Debate With Craig Evans



  1. Robertus
    Robertus  November 20, 2013

    Always look on the bright side of life!

    Loved that movie, even own it on DVD. But I don’t recall any emphasis on an apocalyptic Jesus. Unless maybe you could count the sudden deus ex machina alien spaceship scene.

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    maxhirez  November 20, 2013

    Looks like there’s going to be a Python Reunion too!

  3. Avatar
    tawfiq  November 20, 2013

    just booked

  4. Avatar
    hwl  November 20, 2013

    I am a philosophy student at King’s College London. Just booked my ticket. See you at the conference!

  5. Avatar
    JTShaw  November 20, 2013

    Wow! That’s an all-star cast of lecturers at one conference. Including Amy-Jill Levine and Paula Frediksen, too. Dr. Ehrman, you’ll have to bring your “A” game to this one.

  6. Avatar
    Slydog1227  November 20, 2013

    Will you be recording your lecture for posting on your blog? I’m sure we’d all love to see it!

  7. Avatar
    bobnaumann  November 20, 2013

    Sounds like a ball! Wish I could be there. It’s been years since I saw the movie, now I will have to see it again with different eyes. My interest in the history the Christian religion and what was happening in first century Palestine was started when I saw Jesus Christ Superstar. I recently saw Book of Mormon and though many found it offensive, I not only found it hilarious, but saw a real theological message in it: you have to approach people with real problems where they are and not with some weirdly complex religious system.

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    Shubhang  November 21, 2013

    Is Brian’s insistence that he is not the Messiah an allusion to the Messianic secret?

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    RonaldTaska  November 21, 2013

    You have a really interesting life.

  10. Avatar
    Rosekeister  November 21, 2013

    Be sure to give us some tidbits of your paper before the conference. I enjoy when you give sneak previews of your books and papers.

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    SidneyFinehirsh  December 19, 2013

    For me your blog never required justification of its subscription price. The content is illuminating and the personal recollections are quite interesting especially the ruminations of what it takes and what it means to be a Bible scholar. But posting this notice of the upcoming conference on the “Life of Brian”— an event, I would have never known about if not for your blog — totally justified for me the price of membership in Ehrmanblog.com.

    So I have cashed in my flyer mileage, paid my registration fee, and am looking forward with glee to your presentation and all the others in London. All I can say is thanks.

    BTW: Since you are obviously a fan of Monty Python and Steven Colbert, I wonder if you are familiar with their predecessor “Beyond the Fringe”: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Jonathan Miller. Knowing your fondness for Edgar Whisenant and Hal Lindsey (as well as in commemoration with the recent passing of Harold Camping), I think you would enjoy their “End of the World”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSZ2by7M9NI.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 20, 2013

      No, I’m afraid I don’t know it! Thanks for the tip.

      • Avatar
        Richmondguy2  January 3, 2014

        I wish I could attend you UK conference on the Life of Brian. Never considered it “sacrelegious.” I don’t have the CV’s on the Pythons at hand but I think they are well-educated and their film(s) are well done. I wish you the best for the conference.

  12. Avatar
    Lee  April 3, 2014

    Is there any attempt for a London meetup for BartBlog people when the Prof is visiting? or are we strictly virtual?

  13. Avatar
    jnibert  May 4, 2014

    If ever there was a time for live-streaming of a conference on the internet, this is it.

  14. Avatar
    prestonp  June 16, 2018

    I have had comments blocked because they were too devotional in nature. Once, I described what Jesus’ torn and filthy corpse looked like glistening in the moonlight as they carried him to his tomb. This site, I was told, is not for anything but textual criticism and history, not for expressing admiration for Christ.

    Making fun of an innocent man who was brutally executed, is perfectly fine. I get the bit about pious folks taking offense. I also understand how Bart once loved and honored him, this one he followed with deep appreciation. If he is now the subject of hilarity and satire, I don’t understand why he can’t be referred to as a really great guy, too. A guy who loved everyone.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 17, 2018

      I approve all comments that are not rude, offensive, or irrelevant. True, it’s not a site for giving your testimony (plenty of others for that); but I don’t exclude comments that are speculative, as yours appears to have been. I don’t recall seeing it.

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