Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Snap: L. Michael White's "Scripting Jesus"

I was asked to check this one out, and I’ll sum it up by saying it’s just your Ordinary Liberalism from the looks of it. I didn’t read the whole thing – just 5-6 chapters – because I had read one of White’s earlier works (a highly forgettable one) and didn’t see anything in it but regurgitated liberal thought, with no sustained argument being made for it. I figured if a selection of chapters here was the same, then there’s no need to read the whole 500 pages. I’m probably right anyway.

White does go into some depth on topics you might not expect, like Wisdom Christology and oral tradition, but nowhere near the depth he should. It is hard to see, for example, why White discusses the former while neglecting to discuss allusions to the Wisdom tradition in Paul. The oddity of this volume is illustrated by the section on the Lukan census, in which the recommended further reading offers no source dated later than 1982, and that being the Anchor Bible Dictionary. The oldest source recommended is from 1963. Huh? Nothing’s been done on the issue since 1982? To be fair, though, White is at least aware of some more up to date scholarship from conservatives in other chapters.

There’s not much to say otherwise. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before, though done better and in more detail by others. I might as well put that on a T-shirt as often as I’ve had to say it.


  1. what u think about paula fredricksen? in particular, her works "from jesus to christ" and "jesus of nazareth"

  2. I read the first one some time ago. Just a typical boring liberal there too.

  3. why don't you mention specifics, JP? Please mention one blatantly false or incorrect thing that Michael L White writes.

  4. Like you actually care, Vlad? You're a known nuisance who refuses solid answers for no reason; you're known for having multiple false accounts on TheologyWeb -- you really think you can pose as someone honestly interested in an answer?

    Tell you what. YOU pick a claim from White's book and I'll tell you if it is true or false. Make it worth my investment of time.

  5. I think White writes these kinds of books because of the classes he teaches. I took his "Rise of Christianity" class at UT Austin about 12 or 13 years ago. It was just a survey course. His book, "From Jesus to Christianity" was just a regurgitation of that class, and I suspect he wrote it to be used for that class. The following semester, he taught a class on the historical Jesus, which I audited. I suspect he wrote "Scripting Jesus" for that class. He said his purpose in "The Rise of Christianity" class was to familiarize us with the broad mainstream of what scholars were saying, not to go into any depth about the variety of views there are on various topics. In the book, "From Jesus to Christianity" he did go into more particulars of his own view. For example, in the class, we were told that most scholars think Jesus died in 30 or 33 CE, but his own view was that Jesus probably died in 26 CE. He didn't go into his reasons in class, but he did in the book. Also, most scholars date Luke to the 80's, but his own view is that Luke was written around 120 CE, which he went into in the book, but not in class.

    His heroes are Wayne Meeks (who he studied under) and Helmut Koester.