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The Bentley Lecture 2005:

John Dominic Crossan:

Empire and the Bible: From Ancient Rome to Modern Washington

September 24 & 25, 2005

Join us for a weekend of world-class biblical scholarship and cultural commentary featuring one of America's most well known scholars of the Bible. Professor Crossan makes the world of the Bible come alive and very compellingly relates scripture to our modern culture and society. He will be delivering four lectures including the Bentley Lecture on Sunday, September 25. Tickets for some or all of the lectures can be purchased at the First Church or the Salem Athenaeum.

Saturday, September 24

The Past of the Historical Jesus and the
future of American Christianity


1) The Life of Jesus 1:00 to 2:30 pm
2) The Death of Jesus 4:00 to 5:30
3) The Resurrection of Jesus 7:00 to 8:30

Sunday, September 25

The Bentley Lecture for 2005: "Empire and Bible: From Ancient Rome to Modern Washington
4:00 PM at the First Church

John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan was born in 1934 in Ireland. His parents lived in Portumna, County Galway, a town too small to have a good hospital. So he was born in Nenagh, Country Tipperary. He is the descendent of farmers and urban shopkeepers. His father was a banker, and that entailed frequent relocations. Grade school was in Naas, County Kildare. From 1945 to 1950, he attended St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny, County Donegal, where all classes were taught in Gaelic and where he heard many representatives from monastic orders

A representative from the Servite Order, a 13th century Roman Catholic order, especially caught his attention. In 1951, after graduating from high school, he came to the United States to study at Stonebridge Seminary, a Servite major seminary in Lake Bluff, Illinois near Chicago. He was ordained a priest in May, 1957.In 1957, he went to Maynooth College, the national seminary of Ireland, for his theological doctorate. In 1959, Dr. Crossan went to the Biblical Institute in Rome to specialize in the Bible for two years.

He returned to the United States in 1961 to teach at the Servite seminary from which he had been ordained. As an assistant professor of Biblical Studies, he taught the complete Bible over a four-year cycle. In 1965 he went for a two-year sabbatical to the Ecole Biblique, the school of archeology run by the French Domonicans in East Jerusalem. Then it was in Jordan. He took trips to Jordan, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

In 1967, he returned to the United Sates to teach with the Servites as Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mudelein, Illinois near Chicago. In 1968, he resigned from the priesthood to marry Margaret Dagenais, the founder of the Fine Arts Department at Loyola University in Chicago and to move from seminary to university teaching. In 1969, he married Margaret and began teaching at DePaul University.

In the years since, he has distinguished himself as an outstanding scholar and teacher, involved with advancing the field of Biblical Scholarship through his involvement with the well-known Jesus Seminar and his own research and writing. He broke into prominence in the field of New Testament studies in 1991 with the publication of his book, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. It is a demanding book, but rewarding to the serious reader.

It has been widely accepted in the scholarly community for quite a long time that much in the New Testament is of challengeable historical credibility, and that the Gospels contain many passages created by people in the first and early second centuries, C. E. – passages that do not report or record actual acts and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospels are polemical documents written as aids to conversion, not scientific biographies.

The very terseness and lack of contextual information in the Gospels makes it easy (but erroneous) to read our own culture into them. One of Crossan’s major contributions has been to dig into what is known about the eastern Mediterranean in the first century and use material from archaeology, anthropology, classics, and other disciplines to delineate the social organization, economy, politics, and religious character of Jesus’ time to see him in his own time, not in ours.

Since The Historical Jesus was very detailed, Crossan wrote a shorter, more accessible, less demanding version published as Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. After reading either of these books, it is useful to read Crossan’s The Essential Jesus which presents those sayings that Crossan believes are genuine to the historical Jesus and couples them with the most common iconic images of Jesus in the first century C.E.

In The Birth of Christianity, Crossan tackles an exceedingly complex and difficult question: How did the work of Jesus of Nazareth – centered in teaching and healing and carried on entirely within the framework of first century Judaism – develop into a separate religion that we have come to know as Christianity? Crossan takes on a question sharply argued by scholars for a long time and difficult to resolve: Did Paul just further develop something central to the historical Jesus, or did he really bend this nascent religion in a new direction of his own definition?