This spring, BAS is proud to offer the special virtual seminar, “Excavating Forgotten, Misrepresented, and Marginalized Figures of Earliest Christianity.” Led by esteemed scholars James Tabor (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) and Tina Wray (Salve Regina University), this six-session seminar will feature 12 thought-provoking lectures on intriguing but poorly known figures from the world of the New Testament, including James, brother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and even Satan himself. In the quest to unearth these forgotten figures, this seminar will explore a variety of sources beyond the pages of the Bible, including intertestamental literature, ancient historical texts, and the latest archaeological discoveries.
The Spring 2021 Virtual Seminar will be held Monday, May 24 to Saturday, May 29 via Zoom. The seminar’s daily, three-hour sessions will feature two stimulating lectures—one from each scholar—as well as ample time for questions and informal discussion. At the seminar’s conclusion, attendees will also be invited to join in a virtual reception where they can get to know a little more about the speakers, each other, and the fascinating topics covered during the lectures.
1. How and Why Jesus’ Mother was Marginalized
Mary, mother of Jesus, is the best known, least known woman in history. Surprisingly, she is not even mentioned by name in some of our gospel sources and in Paul, and as important as she is as Jesus’ mother, she is often muted or even marginalized, as she was transformed from Jewish mother of seven or more children to virgin Mother of God.
2. Was John the Baptizer “Greater than Jesus”? The Fading of a Prophet
Jesus, in our earliest gospel materials, declared that John the Baptist was “more than a Prophet” and the greatest of any human “born of a woman”—pairing him as a prophetic “Suffering Servant.” How was he transformed to a “wild man” who briefly introduced Jesus and then moved off the central stage as all focus turned to Jesus?
3. Mary Magdalene: Disciple, Companion, or Wife of Jesus?
The mysterious Mary Magdalene mysterious appears and then disappears in our Gospels—only to show up again as a prominent “founder” and follower of Jesus in second century sources. What is going on with Mary, what does her designation as “Magdalene” mean, and how are we to understand her role in the life of the historical Jesus movement?
4. How and Why James the Brother of Jesus was Nearly Erased from History
Recent New Testament scholarship has tried to recover and rehabilitate the towering place of James the brother of Jesus in our understanding of the Jesus movement. Who was he? How did he become so prominent—and then nearly forgotten, so that people today ask James who? Does the “James ossuary” contribute anything to our latest understanding?
5. In Memory of Her—Who? Sorting out the Women Who Anointed Jesus
Who is the mysterious woman (or women?) who anointed Jesus—when, why, and where? We have a tangle of traditions, from an unnamed woman, a sinner off the street, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany? Can these tangled traditions possibly be unraveled to reveal any kind of historical core?
6. How Did Satan Become the God of this World
How and when did Satan become so prominent in late 2nd Temple Judaism—and especially in the letters of Paul and some of the early sayings of Jesus? How was he viewed? What was his cosmic role and ultimate fate?
1. Sister, Sister! The Bible’s Forgotten Sisters
Most of us are familiar with the male sibling stories in the Bible—Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Aaron—but what does the Bible have to say about sisters? In this lecture, we will explore the role of sisters in connection to a well-recognized biblical character. Some of these sisters include the nameless grandnieces of Abraham, more commonly known as Lot’s daughters; the tenacious daughters of Zelophahad, and the sisters Mary and Martha, two of Jesus’ disciples. Outside texts and material remains offer us a unique glimpse into the world of biblical sisters and their often-overlooked roles in the biblical narrative.
2. Who’s Who? Sorting Out the Herod Family Chronicles
Herod the Great is often described as gifted architect and builder, remembered for his vast archaeological contributions, including Masada, the Antonia fortress, and the port of Caesarea Maritima. Herod is also a politically savvy Roman collaborator with a penchant for cruelty. In this lecture, we will explore the Herod family patriarch and the many limbs of his family tree as they appear in the Gospels, Acts, and other sources, sorting out the wives, children, and grandchildren of one of history’s most despised men.
3. Mary of Magdala: How A Hometown Girl Became the Apostle to The Apostles
The false image of Mary Magdalene as prostitute has been sketched and drawn, whittled and chiseled by countless artists, preachers, and teachers throughout the ages. Despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, most Christians today continue to ascribe to the false notion that Mary is a backstreet whore who is rescued and rehabilitated by Jesus. In this lecture, we will first decipher what the New Testament and other written sources tell us about this misunderstood biblical figure before shifting our focus to the various excavations conducted at her hometown, Magdala, particularly those conducted since 2009. Indeed, recent discoveries reveal a prosperous Roman city, replete with a large, well-preserved synagogue (including a bimah and ornate mosaics), a (then) modern marketplace, lavish homes, and scores of other significant features and artifacts that help to paint an authentic portrait of the woman whom becomes the Apostle to the Apostle.
4. Pilate’s Wife: From Sinner to Saint: How New Evidence Unravels One of the Most Twisted Tales Ever Told
Based on Dr. Wray’s recent research (published in the Holy Land Review, a journal of history, culture, and archaeology) this controversial lecture will explore the wife of Pilate and her role in the plot to destroy Jesus. The wife of a powerful and brutal man, she is remembered only as a nameless dreamer, briefly mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew. We will explore this marginalized figure, who was likely in cahoots with those who sought to eliminate Jesus and vanquish his followers. Viewed as an evil villainess during biblical antiquity, over time, however, Pilate’s wife is rehabilitated, and even elevated to sainthood!
5. Witches, Monsters, and Bogeymen: Exploring the Supernatural Figures in the Bible
Supernatural figures (especially monsters) in literature, art, and film function as a means to incarnate and confront human fears. Existential questions about life, death, God (or gods), and good versus evil take shape in the hero’s struggle against the beast. This lecture will explore the influence of ancient witches, monsters, and local bogeymen in ancient literature, particularly, the Bible, and their important role in the development of Jewish-Christian thought and religion.
6. The Manifestations and Metamorphosis of Humanity’s Greatest Foe
Known for centuries as the pitchfork-toting demon and concierge of hell, Satan evokes fear and fascination among the faithful and faithless alike. But how biblically accurate are the popular images of Satan? In this lecture, we will examine Satan’s biblical roots, from his humble beginnings as a rather low-level heavenly functionary in the Hebrew Bible to the Titan of Evil in the New Testament. Other topics include: the influence of biblical monotheism, religious syncretism, and apocalyptic literature, all of which helped Satan assume his final form.
For more information, contact:
Biblical Archaeology Society
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