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The Life of Brian & The Apocalyptic Jesus

On the blog some months ago I mentioned the "Jesus and Brian" conference in London this past summer, devoted to exploring the Historical Jesus in light of Monty Python's Life of Brian. The event was held at the King's College London, Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre, King’s Building, Strand, London WC2R 2LS on June 20-22nd, 2014.   I gave one of the talks at the conference, and it is provided here thanks to the labors of the audio-video team at Kings College and our support person, Steven Ray who had to manipulate it to improve the quality. Further details about the event can be read here: Following is the abstract that I gave of my paper, in advance: When the Life of Brian first came out, I was a gung-ho, born-again, evangelical Christian in seminary, studying for ministry. Even though I found parts of the film hilarious (I tried not to laugh), other parts – not. Some of these were predictably offensive to a pious sensitivity (“Always look on the bright side of life”!); but one was [...]

2017-12-14T10:32:53-05:00October 20th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Public Forum, Video Media|

Violent Opposition to the Romans in the Days of Jesus (or Brian)?

This will be my last post on the conference dealing with the Life of Brian and the historical Jesus.   Here I would like to summarize one paper that I thought was unusually insightful, to give you an idea of the kind of thing that could be done on a topic like this.  As it turns out, it was the opening paper of the conference, and it was delivered by Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford. I should begin by saying that scholars have their own internal ranking systems for who the really good scholars are, who the pretty good ones are, who the OK ones are, and who the rather miserable ones are.   It’s like most fields: outsiders have trouble knowing which is which.  (I couldn’t tell a mediocre physicist from a top-flight one if my life depended on it.)   With that said, Professor Goodman is at the top of the heap, a world-class scholar who is unusually gifted and knowledgeable about both Jewish and Roman antiquity.  He is the real item – [...]

2020-04-03T16:50:52-04:00June 30th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Jesus and Film, Public Forum|

Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus Part 3

Here is the third and final section of the paper that I read at the Life of Brian conference.  The entire paper tried to argue that parody can be an effective historical method.  By providing a caricature of a narrative or an alleged historical event, the film was able to highlight some very important historical realia that otherwise are too easy to miss, or that have not been given enough prominence by biblical scholars and historians. This third part of my paper is the really controversial one (although part 2 raised some concerns as well!).   Here is where I argue that Jesus was not given a decent burial, and I use the film to explain why. I should say that in a few days I am going to be devoting a sustained thread to just this issue, of why I think the story of Joseph of Arimathea in the NT is legendary, that Jesus was almost certainly not given a decent burial on the day of his crucifixion.  My thread will be a response [...]

2020-04-03T16:51:02-04:00June 29th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Jesus and Film, Public Forum, Video Media|

Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus Part 2

Here I give the second of three installments of the paper I read at the Life of Brian and the Historical Jesus conference.  In this portion I deal with an issue that I have been spending a lot of time reading and thinking about over the past couple of months: the value of eyewitness testimony for establishing what really happened in the past.   The reflections here are inspired by the first episode of Brian's adulthood in the film, where he is present, at a distance, at Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount, and the people around Brian cannot make out exactly what Jesus is saying since they are so far away from him.   Rather than "Blessed are the Peacemakers," Jesus is thought to have said "Blessed are the Cheesemakers"; and it was the Greek, not the meek, who will inherit the earth.  And so it goes.  It's the sort of scene that is both funny and insightful -- what *was* it like to hear a public speaker back in the days before there [...]

2020-04-03T16:51:12-04:00June 28th, 2014|Jesus and Film, Public Forum|

Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus Parts 1

I have decided to give, in three installments, the paper that I read for the  Life of Brian conference.   It was written for a general audience, even though scholars were in the crowd as well.   It includes some short clips from the movie, which I showed by way of Power point, and which my computer assistant on the Blog, Steve Ray, managed to load up here for us.  What I have to say makes better sense with the clips (there is one in this installment and two in the third), so I recommend looking at them at the proper time in the paper.   The rest is self-explanatory: so here is the opening bit of the paper. ************************************************************************************ When the Life of Brian came out in 1979, I was an earnest and devout 23-year old student at Princeton Theological Seminary, studying for ministry.   Even though Princeton Seminary at the time was not, on the whole, strongly conservative in its theological orientation, I was.   I had come to the school from Wheaton, an evangelical [...]

2020-04-03T16:51:20-04:00June 27th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Jesus and Film, Public Forum, Video Media|

Day Two of Jesus and Brian

I continue this coverage of the Life of Brian and the Historical Jesus conference with the second-day post by Mark Goodacre. - Mark Goodacre is the author of several books, including The Case Against Q, and Thomas and the Gospels. ********************************************************* Jesus and Brian Conference, Day 2 William Telford and Mark Goodacre After a wonderful first day, the Jesus and Brian conference began again on Saturday morning with a paper from one of the real gurus of Jesus films, William Telford. He had a superb series of reflections on the ways in which the Life of Brian parodies the Jesus films, and his paper was superbly performed.  He does not just read his paper, in the manner all too common in the guild, but he acts it.  It was compelling stuff. Just as compelling was the second paper, "Monty Python's Life of Philip Davies and James Crossley Jesus", in which first Philip Davies and then James Crossley took a more subversive look at the film and argued that it is not quite so benign [...]

2021-01-29T02:21:54-05:00June 25th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Jesus and Film, Public Forum, Video Media|

Day One of Jesus and Brian

As indicated yesterday, I will now give a couple of play-by-play accounts of the Life of Brian Conference held this past weekend in London.  Luckily, I do not need to write up an account myself.  My friend and colleague from Duke, Mark Goodacre, also attended the conference and produced a very useful two-part account, the first of which I give here.  I have taken this from Mark's blog, with his permission:   So, these are his words: ****************************************************************** It's not every day that you get to go to a conference on Monty Python.  Jesus and Brian Or: What Have the Pythons done for us? is the mastermind of Joan Taylor at Kings College, London, with support from Richard Burridge.  The focus isMonty Python's Life of Brian (dir. Terry Jones, 1979), and how it interacts with scholarship on the New Testament, Christian Origins, the Historical Jesus and the history of early Judaism.  The conference began today at King's College London and continues for the next two days. As a long time fan of Life of Brian, and with an [...]

2017-12-14T23:02:08-05:00June 24th, 2014|Historical Jesus, Jesus and Film, Public Forum|

The Life of Brian Conference

I need to take a hiatus from my thread on textual alterations of the NT (you may be relieved to know!) in order to make some posts on the Life of Brian Conference, called “Jesus and Brian” that was held this past weekend at Kings College London.   I will not be giving my personal blow-by-blow account.  One of the attendees, Mark Goodacre, a friend and colleague who teaches New Testament at cross-town rival Duke, who has been a huge fan of Monty Python as well as the genre of the “Jesus film” for most of the years of his conscious being, is himself doing so, and has given me permission to use his account to inform you of what happened each day (although he had to leave before the third and final day, which happened to be the day on which I read my own paper). After this present short introductory post I’ll provide Mark’s post(s), and then possibly over the course of three posts or so give you the paper that I read. For [...]

2020-04-03T16:52:07-04:00June 23rd, 2014|Historical Jesus, Jesus and Film, Public Forum|

Jesus and the Life of Brian Conference

I have been asked to post the following, and gladly do so! Some of you should try to come!! (What's a mere plane ride over the pond???) ****************************************************************************** The Jesus and Brian conference is nigh. There are still tickets available for this unique, bold and ground-breaking conference on the historical Jesus and his times, looked at via Monty Python's Life of Brian. It will be taking place at King's College London, on 20-22 June, and catered bookings close June 13th. Student/unwaged day tickets are available for £32.50. Other day tickets £65. Three day tickets are also still to be had. If you will be in London, go to it. Unbelievably, the director of the film Terry Jones (and other mystery guest) will be there for a talk on the film and its reception on Friday night, 20 June. The remarkable John Cleese will give an after-dinner talk at the conference dinner at great hall of Inner Temple on Saturday 21 June (kosher meals on request). On Sunday 22 June there will also be discussion with [...]

2017-12-14T23:08:06-05:00June 3rd, 2014|Historical Jesus, Public Forum|

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 [...]

2017-09-16T22:57:38-04:00November 20th, 2013|Jesus and Film, Public Forum|
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